Editor's Note: Red Baron has compiled this year's top prospects in three parts, which can be found by clicking on Part I, Part II, and Part III. The post below is a portion of those massive posts, focusing in on a single prospect at a time, which should make a search of any one prospect easier to find. All of our 2016 prospect coverage and write-ups can be found at the Viva El Birdos 2016 Prospects hub.
#6A: Marco Gonzales, LHP
Opening Day 2016 Age: 24
2015 Level: High A Palm Beach, Double A Springfield, Triple A Memphis, MLB
Relevant Numbers: 5.08 FIP (Mem), 1.30 HR/9 (Mem), .358 BABIP (Mem)
So, what's so great about this guy?
Okay, so here's the thing: I hesitated for awhile about putting both Gonzales and the next player on our list on here. Marco because I barely think of him as a prospect, even though he very much still fits into the prospect rubric, and the next player because, technically, I believe the standard for whether a player is considered for most of these lists tends to exclude international players outside the bonus pool system, i.e. former pro players from Cuba, Japan, etc. In the end, I decided to include both players, in order to try and give a fuller picture of what's going on in the organisation. Technically, that actually makes this a Top 22 list, rather than 21 (at the time I wrote the first installment I had decided to exclude the next player to keep with MLB style guidelines, but then decided that's stupid), but I'm not going to go back and change the title of the first post at least to reflect this fact. With that said, moving on...
Honestly, there isn't a whole lot to say about Marco Gonzales at this point. Everybody here know the story on him, and the story is this: Gonzales was drafted out of Gonzaga in 2013, blasted through the minors, reach the big leagues in mid-2014, and then spent much of the year in 2015 on the shelf with a pectoral/shoulder injury. When he came back, he wasn't good.
This ranking reflects my own best feeling for where Marco stands in the organisation right now. He still has the potential to be a dependable, reliable #4 starter, with a plus changeup and three other average pitches that give him enough weapons to be effective at the major league level. He's also a risk at this point, having suffered one serious arm injury already and struggling to keep the ball in the ballpark when he was on the field.
In fact, keeping the ball inside the stadium has been an issue for Marco in general to this point in his career; he's been homer-prone in both Triple A and the big leagues, and I wonder if his style of pitching is just always going to be vulnerable to the long ball. He's more of a flyball pitcher than I expected him to be, and he can't overpower hitters up in the zone to make up for it.
Overall, the simple truth of the matter is this: if Marco Gonzales is healthy, he's probably still what we thought he was. If not, well, he wouldn't be the first pitcher to see his career derailed by injury.
Player Comp: Mark Buehrle is still the player who comes to mind first when I watch Gonzales pitch, but the flyball tendencies and pitch mix also make me think of Eric Milton.