One of the more debated prospects in the system since being drafted back in 2020 has been Nick Gonzales. One of the best college hitters in his draft class, he’s flashed some of that ability in two seasons with the organization, but has also struggled to stay on the field.
Injuries have limited him to just 154 games over his first two years in the system. He has played just 71 games in Double-A, and he will turn 24-years-old during this season.
He’s shown maybe more power than was originally projected, but that has come at a cost of a lot more swing and miss. Gonzales’ swinging strike rate was among the worst in the system among players with at least 200 plate appearances.
Gonzales struck out 28.5% of the time in Altoona during the 2022 season, after also posting a 27.4% rate in Greensboro the year prior.
What’s added to the debate has him improving upon his walk rate last year, going all the way up to 13.4%.
The issue has been his ability to make contact with breaking pitches, especially sliders low and away. Despite his plate awareness that allowed him to post a .383 on-base-percentage last year, it couldn’t help him lay off when chasing pitches.
In a big year for the former first round pick, staying healthy and getting as many reps on the field as possible is key for Gonzales. He will be Rule 5 eligible in the off-season and almost certainly protected, but there isn’t a rush to get him to Pittsburgh in 2023, as he continues to work at fine tuning his game this season.
Gonzales got a big league invite to training camp this year. He has seen plenty of playing time as a late game replacement, playing all over the infield, including second, third, and shortstop. He’s hit well despite the plate appearances coming here and there. Subbing in later in the game doesn’t really get you a full day’s worth of at-bats to find a rhythm.
After Wednesday’s action, Gonzales has gone 7-for-19 (.368/.429/.526), with a home run and two RBI. The seven hits are tied for the third most on the team currently (two players have eight), while his at-bats are also in a tie for the 16th most.
Such a small sample size can be dangerous to buy into, especially in spring training. There’s a lot of factors that could play into such a small sampling, but Gonzales has shown encouraging signs at the plate. He struck out in his first two at-bats of the spring, but has done so just two more times since.
Maybe the most encouraging sign from Gonzales this spring has been that four of the six hits, including the home run, came off of breaking pitches. The whiff rate is still something to watch, thanks to the small sample size, as he has missed on four of the 11 swings he’s taken on breaking balls.
He’s done better as of late, so it will be interesting to see how he finishes out the spring should he continue to get opportunities.
You can see in the video just how fast Gonzales’ hands are, turning on a couple of fastballs. This wasn’t really a surprise, as most of his power numbers were from doing so. The impressive thing has been him waiting on those pair of breaking pitching against the Detroit Tigers and driving them up the middle and the other way.
Gonzales finding his pure ability that made him such a high draft pick would be huge for the Pirates. Seeing time around the diamond also helps get him into the lineup more, but in the end it was his hitting ability that will make him a difference maker.
It’s been a small sample size, and he’s had stretches like this before, but getting off to the right start and staying healthy could set Gonzales off for that season the Pirates have been waiting for since they drafted him in 2020.
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.
Last year ZZZ had the worst scouting report
This year it’s Nick Gonzales
Across all of his MILB games, he has a 139 wRC+
And he’s now considered a 40-grade prospect by FanGraphs
Oddly enough he’s now compared to this Brewer
Where does he start the season? Altoona or Indy?
After the AFL performance he is ready for Indy
unless they want him and peggy working together
Pegggy was optioned to aa
My guess is altoona
Be looks like such a dunce in that photo lol
How long did it take Marte to learn how to lay off the low and away slider? I say cut Nick some slack and hope what we’re seeing this Spring is a taste of what’s to come for him.
Go to Indy & find your groove, Nick!
I am groot.