2020 MLB Draft Stock Watch: Nick Gonzales Never Stops Hitting
Welcome to Baseball America’s Draft Stock Watch. A recurring feature throughout draft season, we’ll use this space to explore rising and falling prospects in the 2020 draft class and also dive into various themes and topics at greater length. You can see previous installments below:
There's not much of a preamble today, we're just going to dive straight into the player notes.
In case you missed it, we had plenty of draft content last week, including a feature on Emerson Hancock and Zac Veen. We also had a new mock draft with the help of an industry insider, held a draft chat and had Q&As with Georgia RHP Cole Wilcox and Arizona C Austin Wells.
Notes From The Field
At Baseball America, we travel around the country throughout the season. Here are notes from our in-person looks. This week we checked out a top 25 matchup between Dallas Baptist and North Carolina, which featured a lot of impressive pitching, in addition to the big bat of Aaron Sabato.
Aaron Sabato, 1B, North Carolina (No. 41)
The highest-ranked player involved in the top 25 matchup, Sabato had two disparate days at the plate, with a strong day during Saturday’s double-header and a disappointing one Sunday in front of a larger contingent of scouts.
On Saturday Sabato looked like the best player on the diamond, going 4-for-6 with two doubles, three walks and no strikeouts. He barreled a 92-mph fastball for a hard-hit double to left-center and looked in control of every at-bat, showing a discerning eye at the plate, patience and the ability to drive the pitches he wanted with authority.
Outside of a blooped double that fell into a hole in shallow right field, all of the balls he hit came off the bat loud. He also showed an ability to work back from an 0-2 hole, spitting on a few close breaking balls before drawing an impressive walk.
Sabato said he knew pitchers would try to attack him inside this season, so he’s standing off the plate in an attempt to get more pitches away, where he prefers to hit.
“That doesn’t change where the plate is, so if I’m standing off it and they want to come inside they are coming into my batter’s box,” Sabato said. “Those are just pitches that I can take and lay off. If they’re going to do that, they are going to be balls all day. So I’m just trying to make them push it back away from me where I like the ball. By standing off the plate it allows me to get my hands extended.”
Things changed on Sunday however, where Sabato went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and a tremendous amount of swing-and-miss—though he did face two electric DBU arms who we’ll touch on below. Sabato swung through eight fastballs that ranged between 92 and 95 mph and also whiffed at an 82-mph slider.
Those strikeouts will be a concern for Sabato, as a player with his profile—where almost all of his value comes from the bat—will be asked to control the zone better than he has in the past. Last season he struck out 20.6 percent of the time, and so far this season he’s hit .214/.371/.429 with six walks and nine strikeouts.
Sabato wasn’t too noticeable at first base this weekend, though he won’t offer a team much defensive value. He made one solid scoop at first base to bail out a low throw from his infielder, but let another similar throw get past him.
Burl Carraway, LHP, Dallas Baptist (No. 64)
Carraway entered this series as the top-ranked pitcher of both teams, checking in at No. 64 on our top 200 draft prospects list. He lived up to his billing and proved to be unhittable in 2.2 innings of relief, striking out five batters and walking none in two appearances.
“He's as good as advertised,” said UNC coach Mike Fox. “That kid could close in the big leagues right now."
That was the sentiment among scouts in attendance, and while the actual track record of college relievers flying to the majors isn’t strong, Carraway’s stuff itself is overwhelming.
Carraway is listed at 6-foot, 173 pounds and he has a super quick arm, while exploding off of the rubber with his lower half as well. He throws from the far third base side of the rubber and features crossfiring action, which creates some deception that only adds to the difficulty of barreling up his pitches.
Carraway was up to 97 mph at his best, but his fastball ranged mostly from 92-96, with exploding life out of his hand. He paired that with a knee-buckling curveball in the 74-78 mph range with sharp, 1-to-7 shape and impressive depth—it looked like a legitimate plus offering in this outing.
Carraway was slightly erratic with his fastball command at times, but he kept the pitch around the zone enough to generate plenty of whiffs, particularly in his final inning on Sunday, where he got five swings and misses on his fastball. Strike throwing is likely the biggest question with Carraway for scouts, but he was solid in that department this weekend.
Dominic Hamel, RHP, Dallas Baptist
A transfer out of Yavapai (Ariz.) JC, Hamel put on a show for scouts in the rubber game against UNC Sunday, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning. Hamel was pulled in the eighth after UNC DH Joey Lancellotti led off with a single through the left side of the infield and finished with 10 strikeouts to just one walk.
Hamel put himself solidly on the draft radar with his outing, showing four pitches, headlined by a fastball that sat in the 90-94 mph range for the duration of his start, touching 95 mph at its best. Hamel also mixed in two breaking balls, a slider that had solid 10-to-4 shape and good horizontal movement to the glove side and a curveball that was more top to bottom, with 11-to-5 shape and solid depth. His slider got slurvier as the outing wore on, but he showed good feel to land the pitch throughout the outing, and also painted the corners with his fastball.
Later in the outing, Hamel started to miss up and to his arm side with both his fastball and his slider, and it’s possible that the crossfire action in his delivery could hurt him in that regard. Hamel has a fast arm and works from the first base wide of the rubber, with an average, 6-foot-2, 206-pound frame. His arm dangles a bit in the back of his arm stroke, but he showed above-average control on the whole in this outing.
Hamel did break out a mid-80s changeup in the sixth inning, which was solid, but for the most part he went after hitters aggressively with his fastball and breaking balls. Hamel was particularly impressive against Sabato, whom he struck out three times—all swinging—and got him swinging on five fastballs, each in the 92-93 mph range and one 82-mph slider.
Joey Lancellotti, RHP, North Carolina
Lancellotti’s role has increased dramatically for the Tar Heels this spring. After being used as a reliever in 2018 and 2019, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound righthander has stepped into starting role and also hits in the middle of UNC’s lineup.
In the first game of a double-header against Dallas Baptist on Saturday, Lancellotti threw seven shutout innings and struck out seven batters, while walking just two and allowing four hits. The fastball velocity wasn’t quite as loud as he’s shown out of the bullpen—he’s touched 97 in that role before—but he held 89-93 mph throughout the duration of his outing and finished four of his strikeouts with the fastball.
The other three strikeouts came courtesy of a 78-82 mph slider that shows plus at times, with late biting action at its best and impressive horizontal movement. Lancellotti has impressive feel for the breaking ball, and can use it for strikes early in the count or bury it below the zone as a chase pitch when ahead.
Lancellotti liked to attack hitters up in the zone with his fastball, and it worked in this outing—he got 11 fly outs to three ground outs. He showed an 84-86 mph changeup as well, but didn’t have the same feel for that pitch as his fastball and slider. He frequently missed below the zone and spiked the pitch and also missed to his arm side on occasion.
Lancellotti’s pitch-mix and size still portend a future bullpen role in pro ball, where everything will tick up and he won’t need to worry as much about a third offering. Lancellotti talked about the process of transitioning from the bullpen back to a starter role:
“It’s basically been routine finding,” he said. “Finding my routine has been everything. I was kind of able to have that little bit in the fall, just simulated. They would throw me in a starting role every Friday in the fall… I was able to figure out what worked for me, what days I wanted to throw my bullpens and lift. And stuff like that. That was the biggest thing.”
Jimmy Glowenke, SS, Dallas Baptist (No. 107)
Glowenke had arm surgery over the offseason, so he’s not throwing yet, but was still in the lineup as the team’s DH. He went 3-for-11 over the series with two walks and a strikeout, showing a backside-heavy approach, with a few sharply hit balls but limited power. Scouts think of Glowenke as a player who’s greater than the sum of his parts, without any carrying tools but a solid all-around game and impressive track record of hitting. There are questions about whether he’s a long term shortstop or second baseman and his arm injury won’t help answer those anytime soon, but he looked fine with the bat over the weekend.
Blayne Jones, SS, Dallas Baptist
Jones is a three-year starter with Dallas Baptist, and is filling in at shortstop with Glowenke injured. He showed well at the position this weekend and also showed some impact with the bat at the plate—which is encouraging considering his otherwise disappointing offensive track record with the Patriots.
Jones hit .206 /.280/.294 as a freshman with 53 strikeouts and 19 walks. As a sophomore he ticked up to .254/.354/.392 with 63 strikeouts and 36 walks. Over the weekend he went 4-for-12 with a home run, two doubles and four strikeouts. Jones ran into a 93-mph fastball that UNC righty Austin Love left up in the zone, hitting it over the left field fence on Sunday.
Defensively, Jones made a number of impressive plays throughout the series, showing an ability to field and throw on the run fluidly and with good arm strength and accuracy. He’s a slick defender who showed he was capable of throwing from several different arm slots and after making the MVC All-Defense team as a second baseman in 2019, looks like a capable shortstop as well.
Austin Love, RHP, North Carolina (No. 180)
A draft-eligible sophomore, Love had an impressive freshman season for the Tar Heels, posting a 3.22 ERA over 67 innings out of the bullpen with 67 strikeouts and 25 walks. He’ll be an interesting prospect for teams to evaluate, as predominantly a fastball/changeup reliever who has more leverage thanks to his sophomore status.
Love entered Sunday’s game in relief with around 100 pitches to work with, and used 90 of them over 5.2 innings. Love was exceptional, allowing just two hits and one earned run—which came on a solo home run from Jones—with nine strikeouts and one walk.
Love has a filled out, solid 6-foot-3, 232-pound frame and throws from the far third base side of the rubber with a short arm action and some effort in his delivery. In this outing, Love threw a 90-93 mph fastball that was mostly straight, but his weapon of choice was a devastating, 86-88 mph changeup that fell off the table with terrific tumble.
He used the pitch to rack up nine whiffs and finish four of his strikeouts. It’s easily a plus offering thanks to the depth, his ability to land it consistently and the fastball arm speed he throws the pitch with. However, Love infrequently used a low-80s slider and when he did the breaking ball was a below-average that lacked much bite or sharp movement, backing up on him at times.
Notes From The Phone
We are constantly checking in with scouts throughout the season. Here are notes from those conversations.
Nick Gonzales, 2B, New Mexico State (No. 5)
Elevation or not, Gonzales has been punishing baseballs early this spring. Through eight games, the infielder is hitting .567/.698/.1.433 and leading the nation with seven home runs. He also has 10 walks, three doubles and a triple. He hit for the cycle—with two home runs—in Sunday’s game against Iona, was just named the Western Athletic Conference Hitter of the Week for the second time in the first two weeks of the season and has extended his on-base streak to 74 games, which dates back to his freshman season. While critics will continue to point to the fact that he plays in one of the more hitter-friendly environments in the country, it would be difficult to hit like Gonzales is doing off a tee, let alone against live pitching. He leads the country in total bases (43) and his gap over the No. 2 hitter in that category (Tennessee Tech’s Jason Hinchman, with 33) is as big as the gap between No. 2 and No. 23. Scouts voted Gonzales as the best pure hitter in the country, and he’s more than living up to the billing thus far. He'll get his first real challenge of the season Tuesday night in a matchup against Arizona State, which will put two of the very best hitters in the country on the same field thanks to 1B Spencer Torkelson, who is hitting .333/.568/.917 with four home runs and 13 walks.
Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville (No. 11)
Our preseason pick for the Pitcher of the Year in the ACC, Detmers has been lights out during his first two starts for the Cardinals. In his most recent outing against Valparaiso, Detmers threw six shutout innings with 14 strikeouts and no walks, while allowing three hits. So far through two starts, Detmers has allowed just one earned run and has racked up 23 strikeouts to only two walks. Detmers’ fastball has been in the 90-93 mph range mostly, he’s incorporated a slider/cutter breaking ball more into his pitch mix so far this spring, and he continues to show that he has outstanding control and command.
CJ Van Eyk, RHP, Florida State (No. 37)
Van Eyk’s second start of the season—3.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 3 K against Cincinnati—wasn’t as impressive as his first—5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K against Niagara—but scouts have been impressed with the stuff that he’s shown in both outings. Currently ranked just outside of the first round, scouts have talked about him as more of a middle or back of the first round type of arm lately.
Bobby Miller, RHP, Louisville (No. 89)
The dropoff in talent from Friday arms to Saturday arms this spring in college baseball is negligible at a large number of programs. That’s true for Louisville as well, with Miller showcasing some electric stuff over the weekend against Valparaiso. Miller struck out 12 batters and walked two over six innings this past weekend—an improvement over his first weekend against Mississippi, where he allowed three earned runs in four innings. Miller has a big, physical frame at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, and he backed that up with impressive stuff, including a fastball that was in the upper-90s as well as a mid-80s slider and changeup. All three pitches in this outing were reportedly above-average, as was his control, which has been one of the bigger questions with Miller to this point.
Jackson Miller, C, Mitchell HS, New Port Richey, Fla. (No. 92)
Miller already ranks inside the top 100 so he’s certainly not a sleeper, but it’s safe to say that he’s gotten less fanfare than prep catchers like Drew Romo and Tyler Soderstrom. While pushing Miller into the first would likely be a stretch at this point, he’s getting late Day 1 chatter. He’s the type of player who scouts seem to like the more they see him. He has no super loud tools, but as a lefthanded hitting backstop with a chance for an above-average hit tool and average defensive skills it’s a solid profile despite the prep catching demographic being a risky one. He’ll have a chance to further raise his stock by playing in Florida as well.
Bryce Jarvis, RHP, Duke (No. 195)
We mentioned Jarvis in yesterday’s Off The Bat, but a perfect game is no easy feat, so it’s worth touching on Jarvis again today. Jarvis’ perfect game was all the more impressive because it also qualified as a ‘Maddux’ (a complete game shutout with fewer than 100 pitches). The 6-foot-2, 185-pound righty used just 94 pitches to navigate the first perfect game in Blue Devil history, with 15 strikeouts, 10 groundouts and two fly outs. Scouts were impressed last fall with the uptick in Jarvis’ fastball velocity—which got into the 95 mph range—and he’s only adding to an already strong resume of performance.