It’s been an interesting couple of years for Nick Gonzales.
Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round in 2020, injuries have limited him to 151 non-rehab games over the past two seasons. He has sometimes looked like a completely different player than originally thought coming out of college.
Scouts can watch a player for hours on end, but it’s far from a perfect science when it comes to that player reaching the professional ranks. Once a player starts pro ball, they can take on a completely different approach as they look to work their way through the minor leagues.
Sometimes what worked for them in high school/college doesn’t work once they hit the pro ranks, so they have to adjust and adapt.
Gonzales was one of the top college hitters available in the 2020 draft, putting up some eye-popping numbers, not only with New Mexico State, but also in his time in the Cape Cod League.
Most scouts believed he would carry that plus hitting ability to the next level, with mostly average power. While he played shortstop in college, the consensus was he’d switch over to second base after turning pro, putting more emphasis on the bat.
— Anthony Murphy (@__Murphy88) August 18, 2022
Now two full seasons in the Pirates system, Gonzales has flashed a bit more power than maybe some expected, while struggling a little with making contact.
He has now struck out 27.9% of the time in his two years in the minors, but improved his walk rate up to 13.6% this past year with Altoona.
The strikeout issue stems mostly from some swing and miss issues that have taken place, mostly due to breaking pitches. His 16.3% swinging strike rate over the past two years is the sixth highest mark in the Pirates system of all players with at least 500 plate appearances in that span.
What kind of player Gonzales is going to be at the next level is still anyone’s guess. He’s shown more power than maybe was expected, so now it will come down to trying to solve his swing and miss issues.
Gonzales spent 14 games at shortstop in Altoona this past year, and extended his range to third base while playing in the Arizona Fall League. The added versatility could help him find a home easier than being 100% reliant on the bat, even if that is what made him a first rounder.
There’s still potential with the bat, he still finished with a 127 wRC+ in Double-A, it’s just a matter of continually to find the approach that best fits him.
Highlight of the Day
Pirates Prospects Daily
By Tim Williams
**My prediction is that Nick Gonzales is the starting second baseman in Pittsburgh by the end of the 2023 season. I think he’s already started to turn around the swing-and-miss issues, which I detailed last August.
**In my return to First Pitch, I looked at how the Pirates have added veteran leaders who can play.
**John Dreker has the bonus information for five international signings, including Jun-Seok Shim.
**The Pirates have hired Blake Crosby, brother of Bobby Crosby, to serve as a special assignment scout.
**Sammy Siani is the latest Pirates prospect to have a big day in winter ball in Australia. John Dreker has the recap in the latest Pirates winter league update.
**Missed yesterday? Anthony broke down the aggressive first day for the Pirates in the 2023 international market.
Song of the Day
Pirates Prospects Weekly
I took a few weeks off to start the year. Literally one day after returning last week, the Pirates added Andrew McCutchen.
My original plan for First Pitch was to detail the plans for Pirates Prospects in 2023. I pushed that back to next week, which is actually the site’s 14th anniversary.
This week, I looked at the impact that McCutchen, Carlos Santana, Rich Hill, and Austin Hedges could have on the Pirates in 2023.
We’ll have our first article drop of the year tomorrow at noon, with articles from John Dreker, Wilbur Miller, and Anthony Murphy.