Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Stock Watch: Jacob Gonzalez

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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Jacob Gonzalez had a decent season for the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league affiliates after being selected in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft

The Rule 5 Draft does not produce good players often. During the last offseason, the major league portion of the Rule 5 Draft was canceled because of the lockout. However, the minor league phase occurred, and the Pittsburgh Pirates took first baseman Jacob Gonzalez from the San Francisco Giants.

So, what is his future outlook look like?

Gonzalez was formerly a second-round pick by the San Francisco Giants back in 2017. The son of Arizona Diamondback All-Star outfielder Luis Gonzalez, Jacob was considered a top 150 prospect going into the draft. He was praised for his high offensive ceiling but lacked the tools to be a good defender at third base or left field, meaning his future was going to be at first base likely.

But Gonzalez would never make it past High-A for the Giants. He struggled so much that he even went back to rookie ball in his age-23 season, which was last year. His overall numbers with the Giants consisted of a .251/.322/.373 slash line, .321 wOBA, and 97 wRC+. But his days in rookie ball were the only times he posted an OPS over .700.

There weren’t too high of expectations for Gonzalez when the Pittsburgh Pirates selected him, but he would far exceed what anyone could have predicted. He started the year with Low-A Bradenton, where he batted .393/.477/.652 with a .504 wOBA and 214 wRC+. Gonzalez only struck out 13.1% of the time while having a solid 8.4% walk rate. He also hit four home runs in 107 plate appearances.

Gonzalez’s amazing start to the season earned him a promotion to Greensboro, where he saw a down-turn in production, but overall was still a decent bat. He hit just .281/.349/.407 with a .346 wOBA, and 108 wRC+. He still only struck out in just 13.1% of his plate appearances, but his walk rate dipped to 7.2%. His ISO also dropped to .126 after being at .258 with Bradenton. Gonzalez became much more line-drive-centric, which is why his power decreased. His fly ball rate dropped 7.6% from Bradenton to Greensboro.

Overall on the season, Gonzalez batted .305/.377/.459 with a .381 wOBA and 132 wRC+. His 13.1% strikeout rate was the lowest among all Pirates minor league hitters who collected at least 300 plate appearances. Gonzalez also ranked top 5 among Pirate minor leaguers in OPS, wOBA, and wRC+.

Gonzalez’s swing includes a small leg kick but has decent bat speed. He generates a ton of raw power but has never been able to put it together fully. He stands at 6’3″, 190 pounds, and only played first base last season for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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Although Gonzalez might not be the best first-base prospect in the system, he could be a nice bench bat in the near future. I don’t think many fans would complain if he became Colin Moran 2.0 off the bench. Moran batted .277/.331/.419 between 2018 and 2019, which isn’t terrible for a platoon/bench bat. Rule 5 Draft picks are usually a shot in the dark, and even finding a platoon/bench player isn’t the easiest task. But Gonzalez could be a decent platoon hitter who starts once a week and comes in to pinch hit vs LHP every now and then.

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