Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Nick Gonzales is the Best 2B Prospect

Mar 1, 2021; Sarasota, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates Nick Gonzales (81) poses during media day at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: MLB Photos via USA Today Sports
Mar 1, 2021; Sarasota, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates Nick Gonzales (81) poses during media day at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: MLB Photos via USA Today Sports /

Pittsburgh Pirates 2020 first round pick Nick Gonzales is arguably the franchise’s best prospect. But is he the best prospect at his position?

Nick Gonzales is arguably the best prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system. The second baseman had a strong 2021 season posting a 150 wRC+, .405 wOBA, and .950 OPS. The Pirates picked Gonzales with the 7th overall pick in 2020. He was the best pure hitter, having been highly praised for his strong contact-hitting ability and plate discipline, but also displaying plus power.

He isn’t the fastest prospect in the system, but he isn’t slow either. He can make his way around the bases at a good rate. His defense is also decent. There’s nothing he truly lacks in doing. Second base has some pretty good prospects, but is Gonzales the best?

Well, what is the rest of his competition look like?

According to MLB Pipeline, St. Louis Cardinal infielder Nolan Gorman is the only second base prospect who ranks higher than him. Now Gorman isn’t a slouch. He’s a very powerful prospect. Has 60-grade power per MLB Pipeline, and projected 60-game power and 70-grade raw power. He also has a solid hit tool. Though he’s not very fast and isn’t projected to be a good fielder.

The thing is, Gorman is more of a third baseman by trade. He just moved to second this season to accommodate Nolan Arenado. Arenado looks like he’ll be the Cardinal third baseman for quite some time, so it makes sense for Gorman to take up some second base. But in my opinion, Gonzales is still the better second base prospect. He’s more well-rounded, and the only other position he has played with any regularity is shortstop. This is the first time Gorman has ever played a middle infield position.

Another prospect that gives Gonzales a run for his money is Vidal Brujan. Brujan is one of the Tampa Bay’s best farmhands. He’s extremely fast, has a good hit tool, is a plus fielder, both at second base and shortstop and isn’t weak by any means. He’s probably the only prospect one could rank over Gonzales.

Like Gonzales, there’s nothing that Brujan does noticeably poorly at. Maybe power, but it’s not like he’s a weak hitter. FanGraphs projects his game power to be a 45-grade and his raw power at a 50. While not stand out, it’s not bad either. He’s faster and a better fielder, but Gonzales brings more power. It’s not a clear win, but I’d still take Gonzales over Brujan. He’s still a good enough defender at second base and fast enough that I’d sacrifice a little of each to give me a much higher offensive ceiling.

Some other prospects do have some merit to go off of. One is San Diego’s  Xavier Edwards. While Edwards does have much better speed and slightly better defense, he has a similar hit tool, but much less power. Edwards has never put up an isolated slugging percentage above .100 in a single season yet. If this were after the 2019 season, then Boston Red Sox’s infield prospect Jeter Downs would have a significant case to make. Though after a down 2021 season, I think there are still some questions about Downs that need to be addressed, more so than Gonzales.

Cleveland Guardians infield prospect Tyler Freeman is another notable second base prospect. He has a better hit tool than Gonzales, but walks less, hits for less power, and is similar in speed and fielding to the Pirates’ second base prospect. Another Red Sox prospect in Nick Yorke may also be in consideration. Though while Yorke has a similar hit tool, he has less power and a worse glove. Though he did have a fantastic season in his first taste of professional action.

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I think it’s very reasonable to say that Nick Gonzales is the best second base prospect in the sport. There’s nothing he does poorly when it comes to his game. He has a good offensive ceiling, isn’t slow, and isn’t a bad fielder either. There are no switch-hitting uber-talents at second base like Wander Franco or Adley Rutschman at second base so while Gonzales might not be way out in front as the best second base prospect, I still think he has a lead over the rest of his competition.