Every weekday for the next few weeks you'll find a look back at the 2014 season for one of the Indians or Indians prospects, as we sort out what happened and what it means for the franchise going forward.
- Position: SS
- Age: 23
- Acquired: Signed as amateur free agent in 2008
Gonzalez began 2013 with Single-A Lake County, where he showed more power than he had in any previous season and eventually earned a promotion to High-A Carolina, where his production dipped. Still, it was a solid year, and he was placed on the Tribe's 40-man roster, to keep him safe from the Rule 5 Draft.
He began 2014 back with Carolina, and the results were good. He hit .289/.336/.409, cutting down on his strikeout and more than doubling his walk rate (taking it from awful to below average), and more than tripling during his final month in High-A (to above average). When Francisco Lindor was promoted to Triple-A following the All-Star break, Gonzalez was promoted to Double-A. Whereas the year before he'd struggled after his promotion, this year his performance improved against the tougher competition.
In 136 PA over the final five weeks of the regular season, Gonzalez hit .357/.390/.473. His walk rate declined a bit, but his strikeout rate improved again. His power this season (at both levels) wasn't quite where it jumped to in 2013, but he did manage 20 doubles and 10 triples for the year, which is a pretty good showing. Meanwhile, his base running improved. In 2013 he was 11 for 17 on stolen base attempts; this year he was 21 for 28, 10 extra steals with only 1 extra out.
Gonzalez had a pretty large platoon split, with an .834 OPS against righties and only .628 against lefties. If he's going to become a productive MLB hitter, he'll have to learn to do better against southpaws, but that's a pretty common place for prospects to be. At the same time, Gonzalez can be a productive MLB player without hitting lefties that well, because his speed and defense both project as pluses. He has a strong arm (strong enough to handle third base) and scouts like his movement from side to side, meaning he's got good range.
2014 grade: B
Gonzalez will almost certainly begin 2015 as Akron's shortstop. His numbers there were great, but it was a fairly small sample, and the front office will want to see if he can sustain that. Lindor should be in Cleveland by the start of the second half (he could be there before the end of April, depending on how things go), and at that point I would think Gonzalez would be promoted to Columbus, if he's doing well again. Long-term it's not clear what his role with the team might be, as shortstop is theoretically spoken for, and Jose Ramirez (who'll likely be the Tribe's starting shortstop come April will remain in the mix. Injury, ineffectiveness, a trade... positional logjams have many ways of sorting themselves. One way or another though, if Gonzalez keeps doing what he's been doing, he'll be holding down an MLB roster spot within the next couple years.