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2009 Impact Rookie: Gio Gonzalez

Gio Gonzalez has no doubt seen his fair share of U-Haul trucks. The former supplemental-first-round selection out of a Miami high school during the 2004 draft has played for the White Sox, Phillies, White Sox again, and the Athletics organizations. He has been traded for Major Leaguers, including designated hitter Jim Thome, starting pitcher Freddy Garcia, and outfielder Nick Swisher.

The constant moving for Gonzalez has not been due to a lack of talent; he’s been a popular commodity because he’s young, left-handed and has put up some solid minor league career numbers, including 476 hits allowed in 582.2 career minor league innings.

Gonzalez has missed his fair share of bats in the past three seasons (two years at Double-A, one at Triple-A), and has struck out more than nine batters per nine innings. At Triple-A in 2008, Gonzalez allowed 106 hits in 123 innings and posted rates of 4.46 BB/9 and 9.37 K/9. He obviously needs to shave down the walk rate, especially after his MLB debut late last year that saw him walk 25 batters in 34 innings (6.62 BB/9). After allowing just 12 home runs in Triple-A, Gonzalez was lit up for nine (2.38 HR/9) in the Majors.

Yes, the southpaw had a rough introduction to the Majors, but his minor league numbers suggest he should be just about ready to secure a No. 4 or 5 spot in a Major League rotation in 2009. His command/control are the biggest question marks at this point, as the 23-year-old hurler learned the hard way. Major League hitters swung at just 18.2% of his pitches outside the strike zone, a tiny percentage even in a small sample size.

Gonzalez’ fastball averaged around 89 mph in the Majors, and he also showcased a curveball and a change-up. His biggest competitions for pitching time in 2009 include fellow top prospects Brett Anderson, Vince Mazzaro, and Trevor Cahill, whom I wrote about recently.