After a season where he led all of minor-league baseball in homers and set a new Cardinals single-season minor-league record with 39, who could have predicted the breakout performance from outfielder Moises Gomez?
Could Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque have predicted the 24-year-old’s success?
“Well, you don’t know when you started in April what any players going to produce,” LaRocque said during an August interview in Springfield, Missouri. “You’re always hopeful. He (Gomez) certainly has always had… an outstanding work ethic. He came here and just did everything asked.
”He did a good job in the outfield, obviously did a great job offensively, (and) got off to a very good start. A credit to him.”
How about Gomez himself?
“No,” Gomez said in Spanish when asked if he thought his season would play out the way it did. “I was really focused on getting my work in and just having fun at first. And, wow, the success has come through. I’m very happy and happy with what has happened.”
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In his first year in the Cardinals system, Gomez batted .294 with a .996 OPS. He began the 2022 season with Class AA Springfield where he hit 23 home runs and slugged .705 in his first 60 games. He earned his first promotion to the Class AAA level on June 28 and, after some initial struggles, Gomez ended the season with Class AAA Memphis where he hit 16 homers and posted an .881 OPS in 60 games.
“He was just on fire from the beginning,” Class AA Springfield manger Jose Leger said. “And he’s a positive kid. He believes in himself. He believes in what he’s got. And he got in a good rhythm and, as a result, he just ended up with a really productive season.”
While the high slugging led to offensive success for Gomez, it also brought with it 174 strikeouts — tied for the 11th most by any minor-leaguer — and 35% percent strikeout rate. Gomez had the fourth highest slugging percentage (.624) among qualified minor-leaguers and ended the year with 149 weighted runs created-plus (wRC+). wRC+ measures runs created by an individual player and is adjusted for ballpark factor. 100 is league average.
On top of his 39 homers leading all of minor-league baseball, Gomez passed former Cardinals farmhands Tyrone Horne (1998) and Felix DeLeon (1962) for the most in a single season by a Cardinals minor-leaguer.
Prior joining the Cardinals, Gomez spent his first seven years if professional baseball with Tampa Bay. He was signed by the Rays as a 16-year-old and released in October 2021. Gomez, a native of Venezuela, batted .246 in six seasons in Tampa Bay’s farm system. He ended the 2021 season with a .171 average and .565 OPS in 76 Class AA games leading before getting released.
“I think in baseball in general everybody was amazed how he (Gomez) was able to take it all in and take the most out of the opportunity he was given when we signed him and he never looked back,” Jose Leger said.
Gomez’s production inserted him into the conversation for the Cardinals plans beyond 2022. Gomez can elect free agency this winter if he is not added to the Cardinals’ 40-man roster within five days after the World Series ends. As of Tuesday, the Cardinals had not announced a roster move in regard to Gomez.
When the 2022 minor-league season was in its final few games, Gomez expressed optimism on the impressions his breakout year might’ve left within the Cardinals organization. Though, with games still left to be played at the time, he remained focused on what he could control.
“I’m just focused on getting my work in and trying to get better every day,” Gomez said during a September interview in Memphis, Tennessee.
For Gomez to have his breakout season, he said it took some mechanical changes at the plate.
He eliminated a leg kick which he said helped him find a consistent point of contact with his swing and helped him improve his pitch recognition. That change put more of a focus for him to become more relaxed in the batter’s box to help him get rid of wasted movement while putting more trust in his hands.
Perhaps more than anything, Gomez attributes the mental adjustments he made as to what helped him find success in 2022. Those shift in mentality started before he and other Cardinals minor leaguers reported to Jupiter, Florida for spring training in early March.
“I came focused on doing my job. It didn’t matter if that was on the field or off the field,” Gomez said of his mindset in early spring. “When they say ‘play ball,” I’m already locked in... That’s helped me a lot. I’m not looking to be better than anyone else nor am I better than others, but I wanted to be better for myself and that’s why I focused 2,000% more so I could be better each day.”
Gomez, who has described himself as someone who just looks to enjoy the game of baseball, shifted that focus to other aspects of his game including his defense.
As primarily a right fielder, Gomez had nine assists and turned three double plays in 197 total chances. He committed seven errors and ended the year with a .964 fielding percentage.
The universal designated hitter at the major-league level provides another avenue for a power-hitting prospect like Gomez, but he still used his time during pregame batting practice to get work in at multiple outfield positions including center field, which he played six times this past season.
“He’s got a work ethic and a routine that is really in line with what it needs to be,” Class AAA Memphis manager Ben Johnson said during an interview in Memphis, Tennessee. “You see him out here today, he was out there taking fly balls and he didn’t have to be, you know what I mean?
”That was optional for him today and he’s out there getting fly balls in a different position because he knows that something that can serve him in the future.”
Where that future could be for Gomez had not been announced as of Tuesday. While some may not have seen his breakout year, some who saw the 24-year-old firsthand hope to see him stay within the organization.
“I think there’s a lot of upside there,” Johnson said of Gomez. “And I hope we continue to see this young man here in a Cardinal in uniform because he brings a smile and brings a work ethic to the group and he’s a pleasure to manage.”