Written By: Matt Heckman
Follow Him on Twitter: @Heckman_Matt115
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The Pirates took Gonzales in the first round of the 2020 draft. Although he was a top 10 pick, he has not received some of the hype other top picks often have, through no fault of his own, as Gonzales has done nothing but hit since being drafted. In 2021, the Pirates sent Gonzales to High-A where he dominated. Across 80 games, Gonzales hit .302 while slugging .565. He hit 18 homeruns, demonstrating excellent power for a middle infielder. Despite standing at only 5’10”, Gonzales showed that he is not a player that will only have gap to gap power. He showed a real ability to drive the ball out of the park. On top of this, he is not just a power guy, but a player who has real control over the zone. He walked over ten percent of the time and showed an excellent ability to make contact.
While the stats for the entire season are impressive, perhaps what is even more impressive are the adjustments that Gonzales was able to make during the season. Through his first 30 games, Gonzales hit a measly .225. He showed
an immaturity at the plate striking out over 30% of the time. Although he was just 22 years old, the Pirates were looking for a player that they could move quickly through their system. The first small sample size made it seem as though Gonzales would take some time to develop. Scouts seemed to be fading on the idea of Gonzales being a star prospect despite only playing in 30 professional games.
Instead of folding under the pressure and doubting himself, Gonzales pushed through the adversity. Across the next 50 games, Gonzales had one of the best stretches a minor league player had in 2021. He gained a stronger understanding of the strike zone and how pitchers were attacking him. His strikeout rate dropped to 23.7% and the walks rose to 11.9%. As pitchers began being forced to throw him more pitches to hit, Gonzales punished them. He hit .348 and slugged a robust .642. He posted a wRC+ of 181 across those 50 games and looked like a completely different hitter. Gonzales then proceeded to follow up his outstanding second half with a dominant performance in the Arizona Fall League. Across 19 games, he hit .380 with an OPS of 1.032. He looked to be in a different league than the pitchers in the AFL. Gonzales used the AFL to prove that his second half breakout was no fluke. The changes he made during the season are for real and could propel him to the top of prospect lists by the middle of 2022.
I think that Gonzales has a real chance to be ranked as high as number 1 on many prospect lists at the end of 2022. He is a can hit for average, power, and is a solid fielder at second base. Although he was only ranked 62nd on MLB.com and 98th on Fangraphs top prospect list’s, Gonzales needs to be selected in dynasty drafts this year. Waiting on Gonzales would be a failure to realize the strides he made during the second half and could eliminate your opportunity to get him cheap. He still has a long way to go, being that he has not even reached AA, but I would expect for the Pirates to move him quickly through their system. The upside for Gonzales is a star middle infielder and this might be your last chance to grab him before he garners even more attention!