Second Base - Nick Gonzales
It's hard to think that Nick Gonzales could be considered underrated. He was an early first-round selection who has done well throughout the minor leagues. But some prospect publications are not placing him in their top 100 lists, with one of the main reasons having a good explanation of why the issue is not as bad as it seems.
Last year, Gonzales batted .264/.382/.435 on the season. The second base prospect walked at an outstanding 13.5% rate, and while he saw a dip in ISO compared to last year, he still had an above-average .171 mark. Where Gonzales struggled was his 28.4% strikeout rate, but overall, he was still a well-above-average hitter. Gonzales registered a .367 wOBA and 121 wRC+.
Every detractor of Gonzales first points to that strikeout rate, and while it is poor, let's give it some context. After starting a hot streak in May that lasted through the end of the year, Gonzales had a much more manageable 24.2% strikeout rate. Overall, he hit .306/.411/.506 with a .403 wOBA, and 150 wRC+. 24.2% still isn't anything to boast about, but Gonzales missed about two months. After returning in early August, the second baseman cut his strikeout rate down even further to 22.7%. Gonzales struck out at a 20.7% clip in his final month of the season.
Gonzales has hit for power at both Altoona and Greensboro and each year has gotten off to an ice-cold start before hitting his stride. He's considered a quality runner but has made noticeable strides to improve his second-base defense. He did play a few games at shortstop, but the keystone is his home. He probably won't play much short, unless it's in emergency duty, or a short-notice start. He also saw some games at the hot corner in the Arizona Fall League, but again, likely isn't going to see much, if any time at the position outside of a potential emergency start.
If Gonzales keeps hitting like he was in May-through-September at Triple-A next year, he might be one of the first big prospects the Pirates promote to the big leagues. The Pirates don't need to rush him with Rodolfo Castro, Tucupita Marcano, and Ji-Hwan Bae (although he'll likely get a decent amount of playing time in left field), but keep an eye on Gonzales. He might just be one of the most underrated potential National League Rookie of the Year candidates if he gets the chance to play enough.