Pittsburgh Pirates: Five Surprising Prospects This Season

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
4 of 6
Pittsburgh Pirates
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Jacob Gonzalez

With the offseason held at a standstill because of the lockout, the major league portion of the Rule 5 Draft was postponed. However, the deadlock didn’t stop minor league transactions from being made. This included the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft continuing as planned. The Pittsburgh Pirates decided to take a flyer on Jacob Gonzalez, and he’s been a decent contributor this season for Bradenton and Greensboro.

A former second-round pick, Gonzalez struggled to find success with the San Francisco Giants. From 2017 through 2019, Gonzalez hit just .251/.322/.373. Of the few positives, Gonzalez had a robust 17.8% strikeout rate. But he walked just 7.1% of the time while having a sub-.700 OPS, .321 wOBA, and 97 wRC+.

For a guy who was drafted for his power potential, Gonzalez hit for a .123 isolated slugging percentage. He struggled so much for San Francisco’s Low-A affiliate he was demoted to Rookie-Ball. Keep in mind that this was his fourth professional season and third full season. It was a no-brainer for the Giants to leave Gonzalez unprotected.

But Gonzalez has found an abundance of success for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 451 plate appearances, Gonzalez has hit .311/.386/.461. While his 7.8% walk rate is still nothing to write home about, his strikeout rate of just 13.1% is a massive improvement from 19.2% last season. He’s hitting for more power with a .149 ISO as well. All told, he has a .386 wOBA and 137 wRC+.

Granted, Gonzalez has seen his wRC+ fall to 110 since getting promoted to Greensboro. But that’s still well above average. He is 24 and still below Double-A, but for a minor league Rule 5 selection, he’s done a whole lot better than anyone expected. If he hits at Altoona next season, you might see him try and push for some major league playing time at some point.