Were it not for one Francisco Lindor, Erik Gonzalez may have found himself starting the 2015 season with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers. Prior to the season, Indians manager Terry Francona had nothing but praise for Gonzalez, calling him an "elite prospect," and noting how well he has matured in his time in Cleveland Indians organization. Unfortunately, for Gonzalez, even after being promoted to Triple-A halfway through the season, Lindor blocks his path to the Majors yet again.
Gonzalez’s season in Double-A did not start as intended. The defensive-minded shortstop is not known for an excellent bat, but he racked up only 21 hits and 2 doubles in 87 plate appearances in the month of April while also striking out 18 times.
His bat would start to heat up, however, and by the time Indians called Lindor up to the Major league squad on June 14, Gonzalez raised his wRC+ to 97, just below league average. A slightly-below-average bat can get you by when you play shortstop defense as well as Gonzalez, and that is what carried him until his eventual promotion to Triple-A on June 29.
Gonzalez hit considerably worse for the International League Champion Clippers--hitting only a .226/.281/.315 slash in 64 regular-season games--but he was huge for the Clippers in their championship run. His wRC+ skyrocketed to 174 (and his BABIP to .394) in the playoffs, including a six-game hit streak and four straight multi-hit games in the early rounds. All while hitting second in the lineup.
By season’s end, Erik Gonzalez is marked as the Tribe’s #10 prospect, sandwiched between 2015 second-round draft pick Juan Hillman, and catcher/DH Francisco Mejia. Year-over-year he has been flying up the Indians prospect list, but again, his way to the Indians is likely blocked by Lindor. If Gonzalez can prove he can play a different position and also keep up the offensive production that he showed towards the tail of 2015, he may have a shot on the Indians. Otherwise, look for the Indians to dangle him as a minor piece of a trade with another team in need of a defensive-minded shortstop.
But for as long as the Indians hold onto him, he will be fun to watch develop.