With the 2020 Major League Baseball Draft slated to begin Wednesday, June 10, at 7 p.m., it's firmly Mock Draft season, Lunatics.
Recently, we've taken a look at several mocks, seeing a variety of players being linked to the Pirates at their No. 7 overall position in the process. There's right-handed pitcher Emerson Hancock out of Georgia and lefty Reid Detmers from Louisville.
There's a whole lotta Heston Kjerstad, a power-hitting left-handed masher out of Arkansas.
Noticeably absent from most mocks, though, is a guy considered a lock for the top 10 — but not necessarily top five. That puts him right in range for the Pirates to strike at No. 7. That player:
NICK GONZALES, 2B/SS, NEW MEXICO STATE
If Gonzales makes it to the Pirates at No. 7, most experts feel he won't fall to No. 8. Gonzales is an animal, slashing .399/.502/.747 with 37 home runs, 152 RBIs and a 1.249 OPS throughout his three-year collegiate career.
And remember, as is the case with all collegiate players this year: Saying "three-year career" is misleading. It's two full seasons and less than 20 games in Year 3 before the coronavirus pandemic swept the nation and shut down sports. So really, these stats reference two-and-one-thirds seasons for Gonzales.
So, yeah. Not bad.
Gonzales was the WAC Freshman of the Year in 2018 then a unanimous All-American and NCAA batting champion in 2019, when he slashed .432/.532/.773. He was off to an even better start in 2020, too, hitting .448/.610/1.155 before the season came to a halt. He's carried that success over at every level, too, slashing .340/.439/.610 in two seasons in the Cape Cod League, a collegiate summer league.
SO WHY IS THIS GUY NOT A SURE TOP-FIVE PICK?
A second base/shortstop prospect who hits like that and has done so consistently throughout his collegiate career has to be a top-five, slam-dunk pick, right?
Not so fast.
Gonzales is small — 5-foot-10, 190 pounds — and he's not exceptionally quick. He's smart on the bases and brings great baseball IQ, but his limited size and pure speed likely will prevent him from projecting as a shortstop at the MLB level. So he's an MLB second baseman. Not a huge deal — until you consider his arm isn't great, either. While his hitting is elite, the defensive limitations add up, generating some concern among scouts.
Plus, facing Asa Lacy, a top-four pick in the 2020 MLB Draft by almost every mock draft on the planet, this past season, Gonzales looked a little overwhelmed:
Match up of Top 5 picks in #MLBDraft
Round 1 goes to Asa Lacy vs Nick Gonzales pic.twitter.com/CB4EKqaqRl
— 11Point7: The College Baseball Podcast 🎙 (@11point7) March 7, 2020
Not a great look in a marquee matchup that ended up being one of few chances scouts received to see Gonzales against elite pitching in 2020.
Look, these are small, picky issues with Gonzales. He projects as a stud, and there's little doubt he'll be a fine, if not great, major-league player someday. But with his size and limited defensive range, there is a chance he'll fall out of the top five in the 2020 MLB Draft. His power's ridiculous, but what happens when he needs to face Lacy-caliber competition every day?
These are the concerns.
And those concerns should breed hope for the Pirates.
If Gonzales is there at No. 7, he should be an easy selection for Ben Cherington and company. Hancock, Kjerstad and Detmers provide nice fall-backs if Gonzales is gone, but this, to me, is the ultimate pick for the Pirates at No. 7.
Gonzales has hit efficiently and powerfully at all levels, making him simultaneously a safe pick and a pick with great upside. That power may not completely translate, but there's little chance he'll suddenly forget how to hit altogether at the big-league level. At his worst, Gonzales should still be a "good" MLB hitter. And, oh yeah, he's working on this too:
“I thought I knew all of my players’ swings by sight and so I wanted to get a closer look,” Gonzales' coach Mike Kirby told Baseball America in January 2020. “Once I get closer, I see it is Gonzales working on switch-hitting. And he isn’t just making contact, he is hitting missiles. I was completely blown away.”
The defense is concerning, but getting more experience at second base (along with some pro-level coaching) could serve him well and allow him to flourish.
If he slides, that's the call.
To continue reading, log into your account: