This is one in a series of stories breaking down members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster.
As a prospect coming out of New Mexico State in the 2020 draft, Nick Gonzales was considered one of the top position players available.
Gonzales ended his collegiate career with video game-like numbers. In three college seasons, Gonzales slashed .399/.502/.747 with 37 home runs and 152 RBIs in 128 games.
The Pirates ended up selecting Gonzales with the seventh-overall pick in that year’s draft. It was the first draft card Ben Cherington ever turned in with the Pirates.
As he entered the Pirates’ minor league system, Gonzales had a hit-over-power profile with a 60-grade hitting tool and 45-grade power. Since climbing the ranks, Gonzales no longer fits that profile, but it’s not to say he still doesn’t possess upside.
There’s currently more confidence in Gonzales’ power than his pure hitting ability. Though he carries a career .284 batting average in the minor leagues, he also strikes out at an alarmingly high clip. In 1,139 career plate appearances in the minors, the 24-year old has struck out 312 times (27.4% of the time).
Even with the high strikeout rate, Gonzales still possess an impressive .284/.382/.506 slash in the Pirates’ farm system. He has 71 doubles, 39 home runs, 140 RBIs and 17 steals in 253 games.
Gonzales received his first taste of the big leagues this season. The Pirates originally selected his contract on June 23, and Gonzales finished the season having played in 35 games with Pittsburgh across two different stints.
At times, Gonzales looked good at the plate. Through his first 13 games, Gonzales hit .333 with a .989 OPS and seven extra-base hits (two home runs) to pair with 11 RBIs. The 2020 first-rounder scuffled down the stretch, though, and finished the season with a .209/.268/.348 slash.
This year’s spring training will be a big one for Gonzales. He has a chance to earn the starting second base job and will be in a competition with other young players Liover Peguero, Jared Triolo and Ji-Hwan Bae to try and earn it.
Gonzales will need to make adjustments at the plate, particularly agaisnt off-speed pitches. He already has a sweet-looking swing, so if he’s able to put the ball in play more, Gonzales could emerge as an important player for the Pirates both in 2024 and beyond.