Drafted in the 1st round (19th overall) by the St Louis Cardinals, Marco Gonzales will be summoned from AA to make his major league debut before he hits the 100 IP mark at only 21 years of age. A 6’1” left-hander, he was tabbed as one of, if not the safest prospect in the 2013 draft class. He has a clean, repeatable delivery that involves minimal effort – a great thing to see from a young pitcher. Watching him throw, you can see he hides the ball quite well from hitters, which is definitely one of the aspects of his game that keeps him successful.
His repertoire consists of a fastball (topping out at about 92 mph), curveball (approx. 80 mph) and changeup (approx. 76 mph). His changeup is widely considered to be his best weapon. Scouts already call it “plus”, with the potential to evolve into one of the league’s best should he continue to mature and hone his craft. He has great control of his pitches, always around the strike zone. His command is also quite highly-regarded, as he changes speeds and moves well throughout the zone. For current MLB comparisons, think about fellow lefties Jason Vargas, Roenis Elias, and maybe even Hyun-jin Ryu in a best-case scenario.
His numbers tell us his promotion is well-deserved, sporting a 2.08 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 99.2 minor league innings. What fantasy owners will like to see is that he can strike batters out (9.1 K/9) and keep walks in check (2.3 BB/9) – good for almost a 4:1 K:BB ratio (3.88:1). What is a bit concerning is the lack of experience as a professional, with under 100 innings pitched thus far. He most likely was not tabbed for a mid-2014 arrival coming into the year, but baseball is a long season, and things can change in the blink of an eye. Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia have both hit the DL, leaving the Cards short-handed in the starting 5. They’ve already promoted former top prospect Carlos Martinez from the bullpen to the rotation, but they need more reinforcements and are looking to the farm for some help.
The key question to ask is if Gonzales is ready to contribute at the big league level? The Cardinals seem to think so, and I happen to trust their decisions thanks to a great track record of developing young players. Michael Wacha was a quick-mover in the Cards minor league system – and he was touted for many of the same aspects in his game as Gonzales. Good command, control and a plus changeup. Like anyone, my concerns lie with his lack of professional experience. But, his rating as a top prospect with a high floor, a plus changeup, good command and a great minor league system make him a guy that is worth consideration in most fantasy leagues.
I don’t expect him to be in the rotation for more than 3-4 turns this time around. He’s likely to be the first guy to go back down once Wacha and/or Garcia get healthy, but could easily be the next guy to come back up if he shows well. But for the time being, he should be owned in deep leagues (14+ teams) as well as NL-only formats. As a young pitcher with upside, his value gets a nice little boost in keeper and dynasty leagues. Those of you in 12-team leagues probably have better options sitting on the waiver wire, but if you’re desperate for an injection in pitching categories – you can’t go wrong by rolling the dice on Marco Gonzales.
2014 Rest of Season MLB Projections:
8 GS, 45 IP, 36 K, 4.12 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 4 Wins
Way too early 2015 MLB Projections:
22 GS, 130 IP, 118 Ks, 3.9 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 9 Wins
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