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Encouraging Early Sign for Nick Gonzales in Indianapolis



Pittsburgh Pirates' Nick Gonzalez bats during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Friday, June 23, 2023, in Miami. The Pirates called up another first-round draft pick, selecting touted infielder Gonzales from Triple-A Indianapolis. Gonzales made his major league debut Friday night, starting at second base and batting seventh against the Marlins. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Nick Gonzales, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first-round draft pick in 2020, has been off to a scorching start with Triple-A Indianapolis.

Through his first 11 games played, Gonzales carries a staggering .391 batting average to go along with a .451 on-base percentage and a .609 slugging percentage. His 178 wRC+ indicates that he’s 78% above league-average through the early portion of the season.

Throughout his minor-league career, Gonzales has done some things really well. He’s shown the ability to take his walks and get on base and he has deceptive power from his 5-foot-10 frame. Both elements are on display to begin 2024.

However, Gonzales has been hampered by a high-strikeout clip throughout his career in the Pirates’ organization.

In his debut season with High-A Greensboro in 2021, Gonzales struck out in 27.4% of his plate appearances. Last season with Indianapolis, he struck out 118 times in 377 plate appearances (26.6%).

After he was promoted to the big leagues for the first time, strikeouts continued to be a problem. In 35 games with the Pirates in 2023, Gonzales struck out over 28% of the time. The swing and miss issues limited Gonzales to a .209/.268/.348 slash in his rookie season — a 64 wRC+.

A major reason for Gonzales’ hot start this season, and even more encouraging than the eye-opening, albeit unsustainable results is his improved ability to put the ball in play.

Through his first 51 plate appearances, Gonzales has only gone down on strikes eight times, which equates to a 15.7% strikeout rate. That’s a notable improvement and it’s no coincidence that it’s translates to better results.

The question remains is whether it is sustainable or not. While it’s an encouraging early sign, early is they key word. It will take more than 51 plate appearances for anyone to believe that what’s he shown in the early-going will carry throughout the season.

But if Gonzales can prove it’s for real, he could force his way back onto the Pirates’ roster.

The Pirates haven’t received much contribution offensively from their second basemen so far this season. Most of the playing time has gone to Jared Triolo, who is an excellent defender with a questionable bat.

Through their first 13 games to open 2024, Triolo and Alika Williams, the only other player to spend time at second, the duo have combined for a .654 OPS.

Even with the quality defense provided by both Triolo and Williams, Gonzales offers the possibility of providing more thump in the lineup.

Whatever may happen as the season unfolds, Gonzales gives the Pirates an intriguing insurance policy should they need it, made possible by his improved ability to make contact.

Gonzales is one to watch during the minor-league season.

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