On Friday, August 3, the Blue Jays will play the second game of a four game series against the Seattle Mariners. Ryan Borucki will take the hill for the Jays while the M’s will counter with Marco Gonzales.
Marco Gonzales was originally drafted 19th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2013 amateur players draft. After being developed by the Cards, he was shipped off to Seattle last season.
Jerry Dipoto, the Mariner general manager—and the most trade-happy GM in all of pro sports—dealt Tyler O’neil in return for the lefty’s services. O’neil was the Mariners second best prospect—and a native of British Columbia.
Seattle must have seen something that they really liked in the youngster, as he was terrible in the major leagues to that point. Through eleven games and eight starts for the Mariners and Cards last year, the left-hander posted a 6.08 ERA and 5.06 FIP.
However, this year the young starter has followed through on his expectations, posting a 3.37 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 1.162 WHIP, and 120 ERA+. In just his first full major league season he has been worth a good 2.6 fWAR.
The 26-year-old has mixed through a fairly large selection of pitches to produce outs. Through 21 starts this season he has alternated between a change-up, sinker, curveball, cutter, and four seam fastball.
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Gonzales has, interestingly, used his change-up the most—to the tune of a 23.4% use rate. The change averages a velocity of 84.67 mph, with slight finishing drop. Despite its high use rate, the off speed pitch has not been good this year, allowing a .284 BAA with three home runs.
The left-handed hurler has thrown his sinker 23.2% of the time this season. The sinking-fastball is not that fast, maintaining an average velocity of 91.05 mph. As well, the pitch has not done its job that well, producing ground balls on just 38% of balls in play—but has allowed line drives on 38% of balls in play. Indicative of these poor results, the sinker has allowed a .293 BAA this season.
The Colorado native has broken off hooks 22.68% of the time this season. The curve averages a velocity of 78.93 mph, with decent sweeping movement. Surprisingly, the curve has produced the most ground balls in his repertoire, achieving the result at a crazy rate of 67.44% of balls in play. Despite holding this great rate, the breaking ball has allowed a .255 BAA with three home runs.
Gonzales has thrown his cutter 20.62% of the time this season. The cut-fastball is a little slower than the sinker, posting an average velocity of 88.06 mph. The cutter has been by far the lefty’s best pitch, producing 40 strikeouts and a paltry .190 BAA. Interestingly, despite punching out 40 batters, the pitch has also given up three home runs this season.
The young starter completes his pitching repertoire with a four seam fastball—a pitch he uses 10.1% of the time this season. The heater is just a few ticks faster than the sinker, maintaining an average velocity of 91.12 mph. The four seamer has given up line drives at a poor rate of 33.33% of balls in play. As well, the pitch has been roughed up to the tune of a .533 SLGA and three home runs.
While the southpaw has good surface numbers, some of his underlying numbers are concerning. This season he has allowed a 25.5% line drive rate and 35.1% hard hit rate. Both numbers are above average and show that he may be getting some help from the Mariner’s defence. While his FIP sits just a little below his ERA (3.35 VS 3.37), one has to believe that some of these hard hit balls will eventually do more damage.
One of the lefty’s strengths this season has been his ability to avoid walks. Through 21 starts he has posted an above average 4.9% BB-rate and 1.79 BB/9. As well, he has struck out a fair amount of batters, maintaining an above average 21.9% K-rate and 7.95 K/9.
No Blue Jays on the active roster have ever opposed Gonzales. However, after loading up on a few Cardinals bats this off season, the Blue Jays will have some experience on the bench with respect to the left-hander’s pitching repertoire.
The Blue Jays will look to provide some run support for Ryan Borucki on Friday night. Despite a great start to his career (2.83 ERA), he has yet to achieve his first pitcher win. Beating the Mariner’s starter will be a tough task, though, as the M’s have been great recently—and the young starter is having a career year.