Let's Go Tribe is putting together its own ranking of the top Indians prospects. Here are the previous entries in the series:
- Francisco Lindor
- Clint Frazier
- Bradley Zimmer
- Giovanny Urshela
- Francisco Mejia
- Tyler Naquin
- Bobby Bradley
- James Ramsey
- Justus Sheffield
The vote for #10 was a runaway, but given the totals of the next four guys in the balloting, things could be pretty close for the next couple spots:
- Erik Gonzalez 53%
- Mitch Brown 16%
- Mike Papi 13%
- Luis Lugo 1%
- Yu Cheng Chang 9%
- Jesus Aguilar 9%
Erik Gonzalez was signed by the Indians as an amateur free agent back in 2008, when he was only 16 years old. He didn't come to the U.S. to play until 2011 though. His first couple years in the minors here were not especially impressive; he showed no power and no real ability to draw walks. In 2013 with Lake County those things began to change. He struggled after a late-season promotion to Carolina, which is where he began 2014.
Gonzalez hit .289/.336/.409 in 74 games with the Mudcats last year, and he stole 15 bases, more than he had in any previous year since being signed. With five weeks left in the season he was moved up to Double-A Akron, and instead of struggling to make quick adjustments, the way he had a year earlier, Gonzalez' play just got better with the RubberDucks, as he hit .357/.390/.473 in 136 plate appearances, with 10 extra-base hits and 6 more stolen bases. An unsustainable .429 BABIP explains some of that, but he also cut his strikeout rate, so even with the same BABIP he'd posted before, his line would have improved.
Gonzalez is rated as a decent defender, but not in the same league as Francisco Lindor or Jose Ramirez. If he's going to become a starter at the MLB level, he's going to have to hit, and so it's encouraging that he's started to do that.
Gonzalez will begin the year back in Akron, where he'll try to prove his strong finish to 2014 wasn't a fluke. No matter how well he plays, he's almost certainly not going to move up the ladder again until Lindor is called up by the Tribe, freeing up the shortstop spot in Triple-A Columbus. At one point that seemed likely to happen by the end of April, but Ramirez's strong play for the Indians last August and September seems to be impacting Lindor's ETA, and so Gonzalez could find himself in Akron for most of 2015. Either way, Lindor and Ramirez's presence makes it hard to see where Gonzalez might eventually fit in for the Indians. One of the other two might flame out, or be switched to a different position, opening up a bench role for Gonzalez, but otherwise someone would have to be traded in order for Gonzalez to make an MLB roster.
That he's played well enough to put fans into a position to care what happens with is good news though.
Who do you think should be the #11 Indians prospect?