The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted one of the best collegiate hitters during this past June’s draft. So far, he has shown off his strong bat out in Altoona.
Ben Cherington’s first draft class with the Pittsburgh Pirates should have a very high expectation. As fans, we have been told that one of the biggest differences we would see with Cherington were more aggressive drafts, and in turn, more effective draft classes than the previous regime. Beyond that, he earned that reputation because that is exactly what he did in Toronto as the Vice President of Baseball Operations.
Cherington, along with Steve Sanders, who is now one of Cherington’s Assistants in Pittsburgh, quickly built a really impressive farm system for the Blue Jays. He was hired in 2017 by the Blue Jays who were basically on the brink of a rebuild. Fast-forward just a few years later, and the Blue Jays are right back in the middle of things.
This is the hope for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The expectation is that Ben Cherington will be able to come here and identify, draft, and develop players just as effectively as he did in Toronto. This starts with the Major League Baseball Draft. With his first draft class, Cherington may have landed the second best pure bat in the whole class after Spencer Torkelson. The team used the seventh overall pick on New Mexico State infielder Nick Gonzales.
This was a pretty exciting pick, as Gonzales at one point was projected to go as high as number two overall to the Orioles. As I mentioned above, he has one of the most pure bats in the class and being a college hitter would allow him to move up the system much quicker, especially if the bat played liked many projected. It sounds like this very well could be the case, and Gonzales is catching a lot of attention in Altoona right now. Rob Biertempfel, of The Athletic, caught up with “Altoona Manager” Brian Esposito and asked him about all the different offensive prospects at the Alternate site. Here is what they had to say on Gonzales going forward:
"Outlook: Esposito agrees with evaluators who expect Gonzales will be a fast riser in the minors. His defensive skills are solid and there’s a high level of professionalism in his offense.Esposito’s take: “This kid swings an angry bat. You can see why he was highly touted coming out of school. He lets it eat, man. He’s got some really good hands. He can take you boneyard to the pull-side but he can also drive a ball through the middle with some authority. A lot of backspin, a lot carry.”"
These are obviously all the things you want to hear about a first round pick. The bat sounds like it is living up to the hype thus far. The fact Esposito says Gonzales swings an “angry bat” is interesting. On one hand this could be a negative, being too aggressive can lead to swing and miss issues. However, I do not think that is what Esposito was meaning, but rather he puts max effort and meaning into every swing. He wants to hit the ball as hard as possible every time.
This is what the Pittsburgh Pirates need in a future star. They are seeing it with Ke’Bryan Hayes already, that natural ability to hit the baseball hard. If this holds true, and Gonzales continues to look advanced at the plate, then there is a real possibility he could move up the system much quicker than normal. The team has a completely new Front Office and the game of baseball is changing, the Front Office may be more determined to move prospects quicker and get back into contention.