by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Marco Gonzales surprisingly joined the Cardinals’ rotation when both Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia hit the DL. While his first start was hardly impressive (5 ER on 7 H and 2 BB over 5.0 IP), it also came in Coors Field which certainly has to be taken into account.
While he’s scheduled to make two starts this week, as of now, the first question we need to answer is if he’s going to stick or not. Joe Kelly has started his rehab, though it’s just beginning. He threw 41 pitches in his first outing and is scheduled to throw 60 pitches on three days rest today (according to Jennifer Langosch of mlb.com (click here for the article).
That tells us that the Cardinals are lining him up, in case Gonzales struggles once again and needs to be replaced. At the same time, you would think they’d want him stretched out a little bit more, otherwise bringing him back could significantly tax the bullpen.
You also have to take into account that Shelby Miller has struggled and also dealing with back issues. Is that the cause if his problems? It’s possible, but it definitely can’t be helping. Who knows if the Cardinals will decide to give him a little extra time, turning to Kelly in that spot of the rotation.
That brings us back to Gonzales, who is scheduled to face the Giants on the road today and Marlins at home on Sunday. The 2013 first round pick only threw 99.2 innings in the minors, with a 2.17 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. He’s certainly not a big-time groundball pitcher (42.1%), but showed strikeouts (9.12 K/9) and control (2.35 BB/9).
Can he replicate that success, however? Let’s turn to the experts to get a better idea of his stuff.
“With Wacha’s promotion, Gonzales has the best changeup in the system. The lefty pitches with purpose, starting with a fastball that hums in the 88-91 mph range with late tail. He’s improving two breaking pitches to give him something else to play off the command of his fastball, flashing an average curve with depth. Gonzales has an easy, refined, metronome-like delivery that he can repeat, adding to above-average command of his pitches.”
Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 (click here for the full Top 10 list):
“At 6-foot and 185 pounds, Gonzales doesn’t have the frame nor the arm speed of a power pitcher as his velocity sits 88-90 MPH. He is able to locate and keep the ball down and most importantly, throw it for strikes. His curveball grades out as an average offering but the change-up is his money pitch as it grades out to a plus offering. It’s a really nice pitch with nice fade and should keep glove side batters honest.”
That seems like an arsenal that should surprise some teams, especially initially. Neither of the matchups this week appear particularly scary, with the Giants owning a .388 SLG at home (20th) and the Marlins a .367 on the road (23rd).
That’s not to say that there isn’t risk involved, as there is with any rookie pitcher. We also have the potential of him making just one start, with Kelly working his way back, though that seems a little bit unlikely for this week (and if Gonzales pitches well in San Francisco it’s a complete non-issue).
He is unlikely to be a long-term answer in the Cardinals rotation in 2014, so he’s more of a streaming play for this week and while he remains up. That said, don’t be afraid to take the gamble if you are in need. If he pitches well today, he’s an easy streaming option on Sunday against the Marlins.
Big risk, big reward, right?
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Minor League Central, Baseball America, Prospect 361