Nick Gonzales was drafted as a hit-first infielder in 2020, and then had a non-season like everyone else. When 2021 began, he put up a modest .333 OBP in May and June. What happened next?
- Born: May 27, 1999
- B/T: Right/Right
- 5’10”, 195-lbs
- Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft out of New Mexico State University
His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:
As we see, that .333 OBP early in his High-A season didn’t last. He finished the year with a great .385 mark, the kind of mark we’d expect of the batter who put up video game numbers at New Mexico State.
His power was quite good at Greensboro too, though his Hard Hit% was only 27.7%, not all that high. In fact, when he goes to the Arizona Fall League, notorious for big batting numbers (so ignore that .483 OBP), his ISO drops to .169. He has power, to be sure, but he won’t be a big slugger.
He struck out a bit much at High-A, something which the relatively poorer pitching of the AZFL cured. A 16% strikeout rate and a 15% walk rate is sort of what we thought we’d get from Gonzales.
Looking at his month-by-month split, his OBP climbed steadily throughout. His walk rate jumped in September, but he was good all year long. It was his strikeout rate that was too high, despite that good August. He should have the bat skills to not strike out nearly 1/3 of the time. But until we consistently see that skill, we reserve judgment.
He clearly hit lefties better, but he was certainly good enough against righties to not worry about a platoon situation. He can hit.
- Rotowire: #21 on their Top 400
- BaseballHQ: #30 on their Midseason Top 50
- Fangraphs: Not on their Top 133
- Fantasy Six Pack: #144 on their dynasty baseball rankings
- Imaginary Brick Wall: #46 on the Top 473
- Fantrax: #27 on the Top 250
- PARSlist: 77.9 on the PARS list (long Major League career potential)
He lost a year in 2020, and he still hasn’t shown what he can do at Double-A. Let’s not get too carried away until we see that.
He had a 30%+ strikeout rate every month but one at High-A. Is that going to be a thing?
He has power, but not a .263 ISO power.
BaseballHQ’s scout Chris Blessing gave an eyewitness account of Nick Gonzales at the end of June, 2021. If you are a BaseballHQ subscriber, you can read all the details at that link. If you are not a subscriber, here is an excerpt:
“The carry tool is Gonzales’s hit tool. He has an adjustable swing path, which allows for him to cover the plate well, regardless of where a pitcher is throwing him. It’s a short, compact explosive swing, incorporating a gap-to-gap approach. It is average over-the-fence power, almost exclusively to the pull side, consistent with college reports too. Gonzales’s biggest impact in power output will be his ability to line balls into outfield gaps with enough speed to occasional stretch doubles into triples. Overall, it’s average foot speed and shows an aptitude to react well on his first step off the base.
Drafted as a SS, Gonzales is playing 2B in deference to Liover Peguero, a much better defensive player. At 2B, he’s an above-average defender with solid reactions and good range. Gonzales likely can work into a UT role, in a similar vein as former Pirates 2B Adam Frazier filled when team needs pushed Frazier to the OF.Chris Blessing
Chris points out that a broken finger no doubt contributed to his earlier struggles, and to his timing issue leading to higher strikeouts. August, September, and October were better months for Gonzales, after this scouting article was written.
In short, this is a good prospect but who carries some risk. Oh, he is likely to make the majors, and within a year or so if he starts Double-A hot and gets promoted by summer. But what role will he play in the majors? He’s already moved from SS to 2B, and if the power doesn’t stay consistently high, he could be a utility role. Hey, it’s a risk.
On the other hand, maybe the pull power is enough for a 2B batter, and he cuts the strikeouts down, and he has a good starting career putting up, as Chris suggests, a .280+ batting average, maybe 20 HR, and a few SB. Not a star, but a very solid player.
The scouts believe in his skill, and so do I. Now he just needs to show it in Double-A for everyone to believe. From one Nick to another, go for it!