Petco Park will no longer restrain Adrian Gonzalez from becoming a fantasy monster.

You can just picture him ripping the chains away from Petco Park in a surge of glory. He is free at last.

It has long been the hope of those who owned Gonzalez in a keeper league for him to be dealt to another team. Almost any team. Even in non-keeper leagues, people have been waiting for him to be dealt just to see how he will produce.

Despite the fact that his home park has held him back, Gonzalez has still managed to produce Top 30 numbers.

It’s not just Petco, either. He has been the centerpiece of a very weak lineup since arriving in San Diego. Because of this, Gonzalez rarely saw anything worthy of hitting and he was often pitched around.

Opposing managers won’t have the same luxury of pitching around him in a loaded Red Sox lineup. He could very well be in for a career year.

In 2009, Gonzalez finished the year with 40 homeruns and a .277 batting average. He hit twenty-eight of his 40 homeruns on the road. His batting average away from Petco was .306 and he finished the season with more walks (119) than strikeouts (109).

The splits between home and away tell the story.

Home Away
AVG .263 .303
HR 61 107
HR/AB 25.7 / AB 15.4 / AB
SLG % .440 .568
OPS .800 .943


So how much better can a career .284 hitter get?

It’s easy to get carried away making gaudy projections for a guy like Gonzalez.

Gonzalez will play pepper with the Green Monster and rack up doubles. The short porch in right field (302″ down the line) is a slugging left hander’s dream and it could increase his homerun totals. He’s not a dead pull hitter, but 22% of balls in play to the outfield go to right field, according to Inside Edge.

He was already an RBI machine in San Diego, averaging 104.8 RBI the past four seasons in a mediocre lineup. His RBI totals could approach the 140-150 range with the Red Sox.

We’re talking about a potential MVP candidate for 2011. Gonzalez flies under the radar in San Diego, but his keen batting eye and mighty bat should almost certainly make him worthy of a first round selection.

How high do you draft him?

Last season, Gonzalez had an average draft position of 29.1 in ESPN leagues. That placed him as a late second-early third round choice at first base.

Notable first basemen who were selected ahead of him were Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira and Prince Fielder. Gonzalez was the sixth first baseman off the draft board in an average draft.

I rate Gonzalez as the third best 1st baseman now—even ahead of Joey Votto. It’s close, though.

I would have no problems drafting Gonzalez late first-early second, even with first base being a deep position. He’s going to produce—there’s no question about that.

What Does This Mean for the Rest of the Red Sox Lineup?

The Red Sox lineup was already quite beneficial to the fantasy game, but it has quickly turned into a gold mine with the recent signing of Carl Crawford. 

It remains to be seen if the Red Sox will keep Jacoby Ellsbury around, but Crawford will certainly hit near the top of the lineup and score a ton of runs.

Dustin Pedroia will also reap the benefits of hitting at the top of the lineup as well. He has yet to top a .300 average since his first two full seasons in the majors, but I can certainly see him going over .300 in this lineup—so long as he stays healthy.

I think the biggest beneficiary of the Gonzalez trade will be Kevin Youkilis. He will gain third base eligibility early in the season and that will give him a spike in value. He’ll be a nice option to consider on draft day, especially given the possibility of a discount due to his injury shortened 2009 season. What’s not to like about .300-25-95-90 from a third baseman?

The 2011 Boston Red Sox lineup will be a fearsome foe, of which I daresay cannot be matched.

2011 Forecast for Adrian Gonzalez: .310 / 40 HR / 125 RBI / 100 R

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