2013 Top Prospects #25: Tyler Gonzales
Through the first five prospects on the 2013 top prospects list, we’ve already looked at two relievers in Griffin Murphy and Danny Barnes. The number 25 prospect on the list makes it three relief prospects, but while the other two relied on deep arsenals and location, this Texan features power, power, and even more power.
Gonzales pitching for his high school team, James Madison (Image via MLBDraftGuide.com)
Name: Tyler Gonzales
Position: Right Handed Pitcher
Date of Birth: 1/22/1993 (20)
Acquired: Selected in the supplemental 1st round of the 2012 draft ($750,000 USD)
High School: James Madison (San Antonio, Texas)
College: Had commitment to Texas
Height/Weight: 6’2”/180 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Unranked on 2012 Top 30 prospects list (not in organization)
- 2012 Rawlings 2nd Team All American
- 2012 Texas All Region 1st team
2012 Statistics and Analysis
1-1, 15.0 IP, 20 H, 14 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 7 K
8.40 ERA (4.33 FIP), 1.60 WHIP, 4.20 K/9, 2.40 BB/9, 1.50 GO/AO
Gonzales’ career couldn’t have started off much worse than it did. After agreeing to terms with the club in mid June, he made his professional debut on June 27th. Over his first three appearances, he retired a total of 5 batters. Gonzales was legitimately abused in those 1.2 innings; he gave up 12 runs on eight hits and three walks, while hitting two batters. He struck out one and gave up a home run. The organization gave him five days to settle down after the third debacle, and it appears to have been exactly what Gonzales needed to get his mind right. He concluded the season with an impressive 1.35 ERA over his final six games, with six strikeouts against one walk over the 13.1 innings pitched. The strikeout rate was worse than expected given his power arsenal and the level of competition, but with such a small sample size it’s impossible to read too much into the numbers. As an interesting aside, Noah Syndergaard struck out just six over 13.1 innings in his debut season, but has recorded 190 K’s in his 162.2 innings pitched since.
Video (via BaseballFactory.com)
In addition to pitching, Gonzales was a shortstop in high school, as he’s an exceptional athlete. That athleticism translates to the mound, as he has lightning quick arm speed coming from the traditional 3/4 arm slot. The mechanics themselves, however, leave a lot to be desired. The delivery isn’t easy as there’s a considerable amount of effort, and Gonzales takes his eyes off the catcher with a head bob immediately before releasing the pitch which is a hindrance to his command. His line to the plate is clean and his lower half is smooth, but his leg strength appears a little under-utilized.
Pitch Arsenal Breakdown
For all intents and purposes, Tyler Gonzales is a two pitch pitcher. His best offering is a plus or potentially even plus-plus slider. The velocity of the breaking ball has improved significantly over the last couple of years, as after originally throwing it in the 80-83 mph range when he began focusing on pitching prior to the 2011 season, the slider now regularly clocks between 84 and 88 miles per hour. According to Baseball America, the slider has touched as high as 90 mph, which is devastating, particularly when you consider the movement. The pitch has impressive shape and peels down and away from right handed batters with simply nasty late bite. Gonzales is more than willing to throw it against left handed hitters as well, as he’s shown the ability to scrape the outside corner or drop the slider in on the batters’ back foot.
Gonzales’ fastball has made strides as well, currently sitting at 92-95 miles per hour, touching as high as 97 out of the bullpen. He maintains fastball velocity well, but the heater has very average life and his present command is well below average, bordering on non-existent. Gonzales can get it into the strike zone, but the location at which it will cross the plate is a mystery to him after he releases the ball. The third pitch Gonzales will throw is a changeup, but he uses it so rarely – occasionally in bullpen sessions, almost never in game action – it’s nearly impossible to evaluate at this point. If the Blue Jays hope to keep him in the rotation, he will need to develop that third offering, as he’s currently throwing his slider roughly 50% of the time. If anyone can make the necessary adjustments it’s Gonzales, as he comes from a baseball family, understands the game, and reportedly has off the charts makeup. I have yet to read the comparison from any established evaluator, but I see a lot of Carlos Marmol here.
The perfect world projection for Tyler Gonzales would be a high end closer.
2013 Outlook, Risk, and ETA
With just 15 career innings under his belt, Gonzales should be ticketed for short season Bluefield in 2013 regardless of what role the Blue Jays envision him in. However, with his predominantly two pitch repertoire, questionable command, and high-effort delivery, the bullpen would be the more logical situation for Gonzales, for both his long term health and success. As a reliever he could move considerably faster through the minor leagues, with a big league ETA at some point in 2015. As a starting pitcher, the road would have far more uncertainty. His changeup and command would both need to significantly improve, and perhaps just as importantly, Gonzales would need to constantly work on cleaning up his mechanics, which is often easier said than done. As the Blue Jays saw with Asher Wojciechowski in 2011, converting a high-effort delivery into to a mechanically sound version can often result in diminishing velocity and a less crisp breaking ball. The most optimistic timeline for Gonzales as a starter might be late 2016, but no matter how you look at him, the risk is extremely high.