Hey Sam from Amazin' Avenue here. I live in Nashville and blog about the Sounds (the Brewer's AAA affiliate) sporadically, so I thought I'd throw in my two cents about TGJ. I wrote this about him before the season:
Gwynn continued his trend toward total slap hitter for the Sounds last year, hitting a career high 62.1% of batted balls on the ground. The result was a modest .275/.328/.331. He’ll need to raise that average this year, if he has any aspirations of a career with the Brewers. Defensively, he was a solid 4 runs above average in center. Unless he enjoys a real breakout in 2009, look for fan-favorite Gwynn to spend the majority of his season with the Sounds.
Well Tony obviously reads my blog, and took it to heart, because he does look much better. After hitting just 14.1% Line Drives in AAA the year before and 11.4% in 2007, Gwynn raised that number to an excellent 20.1%. In 2008, he posted a 56.6% GB, which is good if you're Carlos Gomez or the Luis Castillo of old, but Tony's not that kind of burner. He's fast, and a good basestealer, but he needs to hit more line drives to stay successful, and he is.
Luckily, the improvement seems to stem from a genuine change in approach, not just a sample size fluke. He's swinging less (37.7% of pitches swung at vs 43.4% the year before) and he's missing less: 88.7% contact, which is up about 3% from his career norm. The result has been more walks and better contact.
If he sustains these improvements, he could be a .360-.370 OBP leadoff man, with good speed and centerfield defense. Last year, this move would have been just to get Tony, but this year it's a trade that makes sense, and makes the Padres younger and, maybe, better.