Entering the 2021 MLB Draft many scouts had infielder Nick Gonzales as a top five player in the draft. Gonzales wound up going undrafted through the first six picks of the draft, which allowed him to fall into the lap of the Pittsburgh Pirates at number seven.
With no minor league season to go play in, Gonzales spent the rest of his summer and early fall in the Pirates’ alternate training site in Altoona. While in Altoona, it did not take Gonzales long to start impressing the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The 21-year-old Gonzales is a hitting machine. FanGraphs already ranks him as the organization’s 5th best prospect, and 80th best in all of baseball. These are high praise for a player who has yet to play professional baseball.
During his collegiate level at New Mexico State University all Gonzales did was hit. In 596 plate appearances with the Aggies, Gonzales hit for a .399/.502/.747 slash line. He collected 83 extra base hits (17.6% extra base hit rate), including 37 home runs. He also demonstrated a great eye at the plate with a 14.9% walk rate and a 13.2% strikeout rate. Gonzales also led the NCAA with a .432 batting average in 2019.
The most impressive work Gonzales has done in his baseball career came when he shined in the Cape Cod League in 2019. In the Cod, Gonzales slashed .351/.451/.630 with 7 home runs, 25 extra base hits, a 10.8% walk rate, and an 11.9% strikeout rate. This performance led to Gonzales being named league MVP.
Gonzales is much more advanced than most hitters are entering professional baseball, even most college hitters. This paired with his success in the Cape Cod League and his time at the alternate training site last season are reasons why the Pittsburgh Pirates should be aggressive with Gonzales.
Even though he has yet to play in a professional baseabll game, Gonzales should start the 2021 season at least with Low-A Bradenton. Ideally, you would like to see him reach the High-A level sooner rather than later.
Wherever Gonzales starts his season at, the Pittsburgh Pirates should also be aggressive to promote him to the next level if he is hitting well. FanGraphs currently has Gonzales’ ETA as 2023, but reaching the Majors during the 2022 season may not be out of the question.
In a dream scenario, Gonzales will be in a postion to start the 2022 season with Double-A Altoona. If this happens, not only does it mean that Gonzales has been hitting the ball well it means that he could reach the Triple-A level during the 2022 season.
While Gonzales played primarily shortstop in college, his future home is at second base. He is undoubtedly the second baseman of the future the Pittsburgh Pirates, and that future could be sooner rather than later.
Once Gonzales does reach the Triple-A level he will be on the dootstep of the Majors. At that point, Gonzales could be MLB ready at any point. With all of this being a realistic possiblity, as well as his advanced hitting tools and past success, the Pittsburgh Pirates need to be aggressive with Gonzales.