After taking at look at Frisco RoughRiders Nick Williams and Nomar Mazara, two of the Texas Rangers’ top outfield prospects, it’s now time to turn our attention to one of their top-ranked pitching prospects.
Chi Chi Gonzalez: On the fast track to the major-leagues
Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez, the Texas Rangers Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2014, might be making a name for himself on the big league roster sooner rather than later.
Last season was his first full year as a professional pitcher, after appearing in 14 combined games, and he impressed not only with his talent, but also with his command and composure – no easy task for a 22-year-old facing professional hitters.
Drafted in the first round (23rd pick) of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Oral Roberts University, Gonzalez flashed two plus big league pitches from the get-go. His sound mechanics, coupled with his smooth, repeatable delivery, have made his segue into the professional pitching ranks an easy one.
Spring Training 2015
Used just once, with disastrous results, during last year’s Spring Training, Gonzalez has been steady over his three appearances this spring. Over 8 2/3 innings, he has gone 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA, striking out nine, while walking four. An obvious improvement over last year’s lone appearance, where he surrendered two hits, three earned runs, and lasted just one-third of an inning.
Perhaps more telling than his statistics is the fact that Chi Chi has survived the latest round of minor league demotions. With fellow RoughRiders teammates Alec Asher and Luke Jackson being reassigned to Minor League camp, Gonzalez represents the lone long-shot contender for a spot in this year’s Texas Rangers rotation. Should Gonzalez continue to effectively retire hitters, don’t be surprised if he makes the rotation out of camp, a la Nick Tepesch in 2013.
With a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s and tops out at 95 mph, Gonzalez has an edge over fellow rotation combatants Nick Tepesch and Nick Martinez. Chi Chi also “cuts” his heater which takes a few mph off the offering, but results in an abrupt dip as the pitch nears the plate. And thanks to a still-developing changeup that flashes “plus” potential, and the use of an occasional curveball, Gonzalez possesses a legitimate four-pitch arsenal, and could project as high as a number two starter in the big leagues.
The calling card for Gonzalez, since his days at Oral Roberts University, has been his advanced feel for pitching, coupled with his plus fastball, and true swing-and-miss slider. The life of his slider is why many talent evaluators rank him ahead of other blossoming stars such as Luke Jackson and Jake Thompson. Chi Chi also does well with throwing his changeup out of the same arm slot as his heater, which adds an extra layer of deception.
Although Gonzalez won’t overpower you with his fastball, its late, arm-side run and movement more than compensate for any lack of velocity. In fact, this is a theme with all of his offerings: everything bites and moves, making it that much more difficult for batters to discern which pitch is coming their way.