St. Louis Cardinals rookie left-hander Marco Gonzales made his major league debut yesterday against the Colorado Rockies. Results were mixed: five innings, seven hits, five runs, two walks, three strikeouts. Nonetheless, it has been an extremely rapid rise: he was fresh out of college a year ago. Let's take a look at Gonzales as Thursday's Prospect of the Day.
Marco Gonzales pitched high school baseball at Fort Collins, Colorado. He was drafted by the home state Rockies in the 29th round in 2010 but did not sign, choosing to attend college at Gonzaga. He was immediately successful in the NCAA, going 11-2, 2.57 with a 90/21 K/BB ratio in 105 innings as a freshman and 8-2, 1.55 with a 92/23 K/BB in 93 innings as a sophomore.
He remained efficient and effective as a junior, going 7-3, 2.80 in 16 starts with a 96/25 K/BB in 106 innings. Considered one of the most polished pitchers available in the 2013 draft, he was selected in the first round, 19th overall, and signed for $1,185,000. He was kept on a short leash due to his college workload and threw just 23 innings after signing last summer, but they were effective (2.70 ERA, 23/8 K/BB between rookie ball and High-A).
Gonzales has been excellent in 2014, starting off with a 1.43 ERA in six starts for High-A Palm Beach, then punctuating that success with a 2.33 ERA in seven starts for Double-A Springfield. In 76 total innings he has a sharp 78/18 K/BB ratio. Texas League hitters were providing no more challenge than Florida State League hitters.
Listed at 6-1, 195, Gonzales was born February 16, 1992. His father Frank is a coach in the Rockies system, so Marco has baseball pedigree. He is a stereotypical polished college lefty with an 88-92 MPH fastball that averages 90, along with a curveball, slider, and changeup. His breaking pitches are behind the changeup (this was clear last night), but he usually makes adjustments quickly. He's athletic and is makeup is universally well-regarded. Joe Schwarz interviewed Gonzales for Viva El Birdos back in February. His favorite toy as a child was a stuffed Barney.
With the Cardinals rotation in flux, Gonzales has an opportunity to make an impression now. In the big picture he could probably use some additional time in the minors to refine his breaking ball, but overall I think he has a good shot at being a command-oriented number three starter.