Prospect Retrospective: Alex Gonzalez the Devil Ray
Alex S. Gonzalez was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 13th round of the 1991 draft, out of high school in Miami. He was considered a much better prospect than most 13th round picks, but most teams were afraid that he would go to college and didn't want to take a chance early in the draft. The Jays managed to sign him. Sent to the Gulf Coast League, he hit just .209/.265/.277 in 53 games for his pro debut. At this point he would be a Grade C or C+ prospect, toolsy but needing to show he could hit.
Moved up to the Sally League in 1992, he improved a great deal, hitting .271/.325/.402 with 10 homers. His plate discipline was shaky, as shown by a 38/119/535 BB/K/AB ratio, but he showed some pop, good defensive skills, and had obviously hit much better than he had in rookie ball. Given his improvement, a Grade B rating would have been appropriate.
The Jays bumped him up aggressively to Double-A in '93 and he continued to improve, hitting .289/.340/.451 with 16 homers. He also reduced his strikeout rate, and continued to impress defensively. At this stage, as a 20-year-old in Double-A with improving offense, he'd be a Grade B+ prospect.
In Triple-A in '94, Gonzalez hit .284/.365/.435 with 12 homers. He also increased his walk rate by nearly 50% compared to previous seasons. Given a normal growth curve, he looked like a future star. Eddie Epstein gave him a straight Grade A rating in the 1995 Minor League Scouting Notebook, and I agreed with this rating.
Gonzalez hit .243/.322/.398 with 10 homers as a rookie with the Blue Jays in 1995. But he never showed the kind of skill growth that would have made him a star. His plate discipline has never been more than barely acceptable, and he is basically the same player now that he was as a rookie ten years ago. His current career numbers: .243/.303/.392. Compare those to his '95 rookie season above and you'll see what I mean. He's been completely stagnant as a player for a decade. Given how dramatically he improved in the minors between '92 and '94, it is rather puzzling that he didn't improve at all once reaching the Majors.
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