Minor League Stats Don't Excite Me But Nick Gonzales is Impossible to Ignore

(Associated Press)

I do not pay attention to the minor leagues.  We, as Pirate fans, have been burned time and time again by paying attention to the minor leagues.  Due to that, I just can't get excited over minor league stats anymore.

Hype for El Coffee

The last time I really focused on a player’s minor league career was in 2014.  Gregory Polanco was absolutely tearing up the minor leagues.  He had moved from A ball to AAA at a lightning-speed pace.  Every night for a few years I would see the either the Altoona Curve or the Indianapolis Indians twitter account tweet something with the hashtag #ElCoffee promoting something awesome he did during the game that day.

Expectations for Polanco's major league career were through the roof.  Pirate fans know he never quite lived up to them.  This is timely as Gregory Polanco’s career with the Pirates has come to a disappointing end, and he just recently signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Nick Gonzales

However, this long-winded explanation of how Gregory Polanco killed any excitement I had for minor league stats has a point.  The point is, despite past heartbreak, Nick Gonzales cannot be ignored.  Even though he is only at High-A playing for the Greensboro Grasshoppers, he deserves your attention.  

Gonzales has 5 homeruns and 15 RBI….this week.  This includes a walk-off grand slam just last night.  As of this writing, Gonzales is batting .303 with a .936 OPS for the 2021 season.  In just 277 at-bats he has compiled 84 hits, 16 of them homeruns, and 47 RBI. 

In the month of August his Slugging percentage finished at an extremely impressive .757.  To put that into perspective, Fernando Tatis leads the majors this year with a .640 slugging percentage.  I know, I’m looking at a smaller sample size for Gonzales, and Tatis is in the major leagues versus Gonzales at High-A, bleh bleh bleh.  I’m trying to prove a point.  Don’t @ me.

The point is, Nick Gonzales had a legendary August.  Among High-A East players in August, he led the league in Runs, Hits, Doubles, and Homeruns.  On the season, he is 2nd in OPS, 3rd in batting average, and 2nd in slugging for the season as a whole.  Funny enough, he trails in two of these categories to Pirate  outfielder Matt Frazier. I imagine Matt Frazier will show up in a lot of future articles down the road.  However, this particular article only has room for one upcoming superstar.

Power Hitting Second Baseman

The reason I am higher on Gonzales than other past prospects is that he is producing this power as a second baseman.  Good teams have power hitting corner infielders.  Great teams have power hitters up and down their entire lineup.   The last time the Pirates had a “power hitting” second baseman was Neil Walker.  When the Pirates had Neil Walker they made the playoffs three years in a row.

Additionally, Nick Gonzales has always graded out extremely well.  He hit a ridiculous .448/.610/1.155 in his shortened junior year at New Mexico State.  He followed it up in the Cape Cod League when he hit .351/.451/.630 in his first season using a wooden bat.  Gonzales consistently registers exit velocities in the 100 mph range.  Not to mention, he runs very well and accumulates stolen bases as well as homeruns.  The guy is a star in the making.

Gonzales is getting me excited for minor league stats and tweets again.  I’m falling for it.  Hopefully, Nick Gonzales can live up to the hype that so many Pirates prospects in the past have not.