Pittsburgh Pirates: Under the Radar Prospects Pushing For a Promotion

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Pittsburgh Pirates
Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

First baseman Jacob Gonzalez

When the Pirates selected Jacob Gonzalez in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, they probably didn’t expect anything significant. After all, it was only the minor league phase. Rarely do you find players in the Major League phase, let alone the minor league phase. But so far, Gonzalez has been more than what the Pirates could have asked for.

Between A-Ball Bradenton and High-A Greensboro, Gonzalez has collected 227 plate appearances, batting .360/.423/.590. Gonzalez’s 6.6% walk rate might not be too impressive, but he’s kept his K% below 15%, coming in at 11%. He has also hit for a decent amount of power. He has nine home runs and a .230 isolated slugging percentage. His well-rounded performance has earned him a .450 wOBA and 177 wRC+, both of which lead all Pirate minor leaguers (min. 150 PA’s).

Gonzalez has been a great line-drive hitter, having a 25.9% line drive rate. His ground ball rate is a little high at 45.4%, which can still be improved upon. His flyball rate is still below 30%, sitting at 28.7%. If he can get that above 30% without affecting his line drive rate much, he could significantly increase his power output.

Notably, Gonzalez’s batting average on balls in play isn’t significantly ahead of his actual average. His BAbip is currently at .373, just 13 points ahead of his batting average. So even if he does regress, he should still be a productive hitter.

Gonzalez is a late bloomer. He’s 23 years old and will turn 24 on the 26th. But so was his father, Luiz Gonzalez, who didn’t make his first all-star game until he was 31 years old and took until his 9th and 10th season in the bigs to have back-to-back, .800+ OPS seasons. Jacob was also a second-round pick by the San Francisco Giants years ago, so it’s not as if he was never seen to have talent or ability. He’s probably the next guy up from Greensboro when the Pirates start getting active in moving prospects up through the system.