The Texas Rangers acquired Pedro Gonzalez, a nineteen year old outfielder, from the Colorado Rockies as the player to be named later in the Jonathan Lucroy trade, the team announced yesterday. Gonzalez, who had been playing for Grand Junction, a Rockies rookie league team, is being assigned to Spokane in the Northwest League by the Rangers.
Gonzalez was the prize of the Rockies’ 2014 J-2 international class, receiving a $1.3 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic. The Rangers had exceeded their spending limits in the 2013 J-2 period — their big signings that year included Marcos Diplan, Jose Almonte and Michael De Leon — and so they could not sign anyone in 2014 for more than $250,000. As a result, whatever their interest level the Rangers had in Gonzalez as an amateur, they were not going to be able to sign him under the limitations they were working under.
Gonzalez was the #12 player in the Baseball America international free agent top 30 rankings in July, 2014, praising his “high baseball IQ and tremendous physical upside.” He was listed as a shortstop, but at 6’5”, and a frame that figured to fill out, Gonzalez was moved to the outfield when the 2016 season began. He has spent all of his time in the outfield in the minors playing center field so far.
After putting up a .251/.318/.418 slash line in the Dominican League as a 17 year old, Gonzalez played just a handful of games there in 2016 before getting sent to Grand Junction in the Pioneer League. He struggled there, going .230/.290/.394, with 77 Ks in 248 plate appearances. He’s shown significant improvement in his slash line in his return to Grand Junction this year, with a .321/.388/.519 slash line, though he still has 53 Ks in 209 plate appearances, against 18 walks.
Gonzalez came into the season with a wide variation of opinions about him from prospect mavens, but everyone seemed to agree his ceiling is impressive. In his Rockies top 10 prospect chat in January for Baseball America, Tracy Ringolsby praised his intelligence and said “he might have the highest ceiling of any player in the organization.” Fangraphs had Gonzalez at #7 in their Rockies prospect rankings this offseason — they appear to be the high folks on him -- with praise for his “precocious instincts,” noting that he should have “big raw power” as he grows. Fangraphs also says that Gonzalez is a plus runner once he gets going (though below-average home to first), and that, plus his instincts, may allow him to stay in center as he fills out. John Sickels had Gonzalez at #15 coming into the season, putting him in the high-risk, high-reward category.
The consensus on Gonzalez is that he’s got great instincts and baseball IQ, has a lot of raw power potential, and the arm to play either center or right, with the big questions being whether he’ll iron out the issues with his swing so that he’ll make enough contact to be productive, and how much he will fill out. He is seen as having star potential, but also being so far away, and with so much refinement needed, that his bust potential is very high as well.
This is a surprisingly good return for Jonathan Lucroy, who the Rangers had clearly decided to move on from, and who was having a very disappointing walk year. Gonzalez certainly could flame out in A ball, and end up being another one of the toolsy guys that the Rangers love who couldn’t hit, but he also could be a legitimate impact player at the major league level. I expect to see him in the 8-15 range on Rangers prospect listings this offseason.