Prospect Watch: Can Marco Gonzales Be the Next Wacha?

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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Marco Gonzales, LHP, Cardinals (Profile)
Level: A+/AA   Age: 22   Top-15: 6th   Top-100: N/A
Line: 76.1 IP, 67 H, 78/18 K/BB, 1.89 ERA, 2.34 FIP

Summary
Can lightning strike twice for the Cardinals? After seeing 2012 first rounder Michael Wacha rocket to the Majors in 2013, Marco Gonzales — the 19th overall selection of the ’13 draft — will attempt to duplicate his injured teammate’s success.

Notes
If we’ve learned anything from Michael Wacha it’s that a starting pitcher can dominate without an above-average breaking ball. That’s good news for the Cardinals’ most recent call-up. Southpaw Marco Gonzales was drafted just a year ago out of Gonzaga University and now finds himself counted on to help fill part of the void in St. Louis’ depleted (battered and bruised) starting rotation.

Unlike Wacha, Gonzales lacks a plus fastball. His heater sits in the upper 80s and can work into the low 90s. His curveball lacks consistency but could be a decent third offering once he learns to command it. The reason the breaking ball would be an important development would be to create a change of eye level. Currently, the lefty relies on his heater to change minor league hitters’ eye sights but 87-91 mph fastballs up and over the plate could be a tantalizing treat for big league hitters. The good news is that he shows above-average control of the pitch but he does struggle to command it at times.

Gonzales’ bread-and-butter weapon is his changeup, which is truly nasty. It has outstanding fading action — which can generate a lot of swings and misses, as well as weak ground-ball outs. The off speed pitch is so effective because it comes from the same arm slot, although he does slow his arm down at times when throwing it. Because he lacks a go-to breaking ball, his numbers have been better against right-handed hitters than lefties during his career; his K-rate drops from 10.35 to 5.25 K/9. It bears noting that the lefty is also a strong athlete and moves around the mound very well.

The 22-year-old hurler has made just 21 big league appearances — and has just seven games of experience above A-ball. He might have some success against big league opponents during the first one or two times during the batting order but the big test for Gonzales will come once hitters have had a good look at him and his repertoire.

Gonzales will make his MLB debut this evening (Wednesday night) against the Colorado Rockies. It’s a curious assignment considering the butterflies will be in full effect; the young pitcher is a Colorado native and was drafted out of high school by the Rockies (29th round in 2010).

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Brad Glenn, LF, Blue Jays (Profile)
Level: AA/AAA   Age: 27   Top-15: N/A   Top-100: N/A
Line: 245 ABs, .302/.373/.490, 9 HR, 26-69 BB-K

Summary
Brad Glenn doesn’t possess the same ceiling as Anthony Gose or even Kevin Pillar but he’s been swinging a hot bat at the Triple-A level and could perhaps offer a spark to the Jays’ lineup — if only for a short period of time.

Notes
The first-place Toronto Blue Jays have dealt with a number of injuries in 2014 — especially in the outfield with both Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista missing time. As a result, the club has heavily relied on two young outfielders in Kevin Pillar and Anthony Gose. The club has received mixed results from both of the outfielders and it may soon be time for the organization to try something — or rather someone — unconventional.

Outfielder Brad Glenn has never been one of the club’s top prospects despite playing in the system for parts of six seasons. The former University of Arizona player was selected in the 23rd round of the 2009 draft as a college senior. It took him until his fifth pro season to reach Triple-A and even that was a short stay as he returned to Double-A to open the ’14 season.

The big league injuries opened up a spot for Glenn in Triple-A once again and he’s taken that opportunity and has run with it. Through 30 Triple-A contests, the 27-year-old outfielder is hitting .381/.421/.575. Known for having big right-handed pop, the Georgia native gets too aggressive for his own good at times and has some significant holes in his swing.

However, he’s been stinging the ball and is hitting .400 through his past 10 games. The club could potentially catch lightning in a bottle with Glenn for a short period of time, similar to how the Jays benefitted from waiver pick-up Juan Francisco during the month of April and into May. Glenn is primarily a right-fielder but he can also play both left field and first base (and was a college third baseman) so he could offer some versatility off the bench.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


4 Responses to “Prospect Watch: Can Marco Gonzales Be the Next Wacha?”

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  1. tomholzy says:

    The Cards/Rockies game is an afternoon game. 3:10 Eastern time start

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  2. tomhaywood says:

    Marco Gonzales

    *The 22-year-old hurler has made just 21 big league appearances.

    Should that be minor league?

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  3. Emcee Peepants says:

    Gonzales college stats for Gonzaga in 2013:

    W L ERA FIP APP GS IP R ER H
    7 3 2.80 3.15 17 16 106.0 41 33 102

    HR BB K AVG BABIP WHIP HR/9 BB/9 K/9
    0 25 96 0.256 0.338 1.20 0.00 2.12 8.15

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