Pittsburgh Pirates: Projecting the Team’s 2023 Line Up

BRADENTON, FL- FEBRUARY 22: Oneil Cruz #61 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws during a game against the Minnesota Twins on February 21, 2020 at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
BRADENTON, FL- FEBRUARY 22: Oneil Cruz #61 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws during a game against the Minnesota Twins on February 21, 2020 at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Second Base: Nick Gonzales

2023 Opening Day Age: 24

Nick Gonzales could have a short trip through the minors if he can continue to crush the ball like he did in college. The Pirates’ selected Gonzales in the first-round =during the most recent draft. Gonzales was obliterating the ball before the season ended short. Through his final 82 NCAA plate appearances, Gonzalez had 26 hits. 12 of which were home runs, and three were for doubles.

All told throughout his college tenure, Gonzalez hit .399/.502/.747 with 37 home runs, 39 doubles, and 13 stolen bases through 128 games and 596 plate appearances. Now, sure, he was hitting in a hitter friendly environment. But you don’t just have a .747 slugging percentage and average 47 home runs per 162 games on favorable conditions alone.

Plus, he only struck out 13.2% of the time and walked 15% walk rate, which already goes to show he has incredible pitch recognition and plate discipline. He’s already appearing on prospect radars as FanGraphs has him ranked as the 91st best prospect in baseball already.

While the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Gonzalez as a shortstop, he isn’t necessarily an Andrelton Simmons-level fielder. However he would probably grade out as an above average defensive second baseman. Gonzalez has power, a great hit tool, Juan Soto-level plate discipline, and isn’t a bad runner. Is it too early to call him a potential MVP candidate?

Other possible options: Ji-Hwan Bae, Kevin Newman