Marco Gonzales reached the majors quickly, drafted June 8, 2013 and debuting on June 25 the next year. He showed promise, particularly in the postseason when he had five straight scoreless outings out of six total appearances in the bullpen. He began 2015 with an outside shot at a rotation spot in Spring Training which ultimately went to Carlos Martinez. It was a lost year for Gonzales as he suffered from shoulder trouble all season long. Unfortunately, Gonzales will lose another season as those shoulder troubles turned into elbow troubles and Gonzales will undergo Tommy John surgery.
Heading into Spring Training this year there was a three-man race for the sixth starter role--the pitcher who will be called upon first when one of the first five starters goes down with an injury. Tim Cooney had a setback in Spring Training and is still working his way back into form. Tyler Lyons, out of options, has found a home in the bullpen in the early going. Gonzales was again the presumptive sixth starter, but again he will not be able to fulfill that role.
Gonzales is a very athletic lefty who specialized with a fastball and plus change. He was working on expanding his arsenal and figured to play a role on this year's team. While some prospect services were down a bit on Marco Gonzales this year, Keith Law still had him ranked 76 overall. I asked Law what he saw in Gonzales and he had this to say:
I saw him on Team USA, saw him take batting practice, like who the heck is this guy, he's out‑hitting a lot of the hitting prospects, and then I saw him pitch the next spring, and I thought, I love this guy. I could watch that every day. A guy who's got ‑‑ yeah, the fastball is a little short for you, but it's the plus‑plus changeup, he's got a breaking ball, he goes right after guys. He pitches like he's built like Aaron Judge, and he's the little guy who I'm sure has been underestimated his entire life.
Typical recovery for Tommy John surgery is around 15 months so right now we can hope he can come back in the summer of 2017 with an eye on battling again for a spot in the majors in 2018. It is a really disappointing development for a player with a lot of promise. Recovery is not a guarantee and the lost time will hurt his development. That said, he is still just 24 years old and even in 2018, he will still be young at 26 years old.
On the Cardinals side, pitching prospects have been a strength of the team over the past few years, and this season is no different. The Cardinals still have one of the best prospects in all baseball in Alex Reyes, and he could be ready for the the big league club this summer. Jack Flaherty is further off, but is a consensus Top-100 prospect. Luke Weaver has shown some promise and further down the system there are pitchers like Junior Fernandez and Sandy Alcantare who could take the next step forward.
Of a more pressing matter, it is not entirely clear who would start should one of the Cardinals five starters go down early in the season. The Memphis rotation consists of Arturo Reyes, Thomas Lee, Deck McGuire, J.C. Sulbaran, and Jeremy Hefner, none of whom are on the Cardinals 40-man roster. The team could turn to Tyler Lyons if a starter was going to be out for an extended period an promote Sam Tuivailala or Miguel Socolovich to the bullpen. If only one start is needed, Lyons or Matt Bowman could do a bullpen game of sorts.
If Tim Cooney can get healthy, he would be a candidate as well. Lurking in Jupiter, serving a suspension for marijuana, is Alex Reyes. While he is not likely to get a call early, as the Cardinals depth gets tested later in the season, Gonzales' injury increases the chances we will see Reyes in the St. Louis rotation at some point this season. That is more silver lining of a bad situation as a healthy Marco Gonzales is a solid pitcher. Hopefully his recovery goes smoothly and he can come back healthy sometime next summer.