Can Alex Chi-Chi Gonzalez Crack the Texas Rangers Opening Day Rotation?
Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels has said the Rangers will fill one of three open 2015 rotation spots with an in-organization arm. In the minors, Alex “Chi-Chi” Gonzalez has moved through the system quickly and posted a 2.70 ERA with the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders. Will the top-100 prospect be ready to compete for and grab an MLB job come next spring?
Standing at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Chi-Chi Gonzalez has the frame to withstand the rigors of a six-month season. The 2013 first-round pick keeps his hands chest-high as he rocks back and brings his leg to the lower portion of his chest. Gonzalez then fully straightens his leg at a 45-degree angle with the plate as he separates his hands. The top-5 Rangers prospect utilizes a 3/4 delivery point and finishes very balanced and within himself, allowing him to jump quickly on bunts and soft grounders. Though his motion may lack deception, the ease of it allows him to repeat on a consistent basis.
The best pitch, or in this case set of pitches, owned by the Oral Roberts product is his fastball. Gonzalez throws a cutter, a two-seamer and a sinker, all above average or better pitches. His fastball sits at 92-95 mph and can touch 97. The cutter darts late and hard, with enough break to flash as a poor slider with fastball velocity. And While Chi-Chi Gonzalez’s cutter has the ability to succeed against a batter in either box, the pitch is especially devastating to lefties. The two-seamer also features late, hard break, moving almost exactly the opposite of the cutter, but with less run. While the sinker has the least movement of the three fastballs, it is also an effective pitch due to its downward break directly in front of the plate. This leads to a high ground ball percentage with the pitch. What really makes the 22-year-old’s fastballs deadly is the inability of hitters to pick up which type it is until the ball is on the plate. Plus, he can hit spots.
The Florida native improves his fastball effectiveness by using identical arm action on both his change-up and slider. Of the two, the slider is the better pitch. Despite a lack of eye-popping break, the slider presents as plus due to a very late bite and an advanced ability to keep the pitch low. It may not be a dominant punch-out pitch, but consistently misses barrels and to a lesser extent bats.
The change-up, which sits at 85-86 mph, shows arm-side fade. Command of the pitch is less advanced than of his fastball and slider, but the 2014 Carolina League All-Star’s changeup possesses the elements of an above average changeup with both the necessary deception and movement to be a successful pitch. Gonzalez also throws a curveball sparingly which tends to show itself early and projects as fringe.
In an organization which has been very cautious with pitcher assignments since the mess which came of the aggressive Spring Training invite sent to Cody Buckel, the chances of Gonzalez cracking the Opening Day rotation are slim. However, it would be a surprise if the former 2010 Orioles draft pick did not debut at some point in 2015. Like many pitchers drafted out of college, he has moved through the minors quickly and has shown no reason to believe his progress will stall. With three legit future big league pitches and above average command, Chi-Chi Gonzalez will be a viable middle-of-the-rotation arm with the ceiling of a number two.
Tool Present Future Projected Role Number 3 Starter On First Division Team Fastball 60 65 Slider 50 60 Curveball 40 45 Changeup 45 55 Control 50 55 Command 45 50
Owning Chi-Chi Gonzalez
With a second report on Gonzalez as a safe third starter, consider the right-hander a safe dynasty league play. In Double-A, his 7.85 K/9 and 3.07 BB/9 are solid peripherals if able to translate them to MLB. Plus, a fastball/slider heavy mix will result in a high ground ball rate, meaning Chi-Chi has the potential to develop into a “sweet spot” pitcher who turns in a strong MLB career — better than many pitching prospects ranked above him this winter. With an arsenal built for the Rangers Ballpark At Arlington, signs point to him as an undervalued asset. Scoop him in dynasty leagues soon. And since he’ll come relatively cheap, consider Chi-Chi Gonzalez a complementary pitcher who’ll save auction dollars which can be used to secure a fantasy baseball ace. – Mike Newman
26 Sep 2014 / Grant Schiller /
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