The reports have been glowing so far for second baseman Nick Gonzales.
Drafted out of New Mexico State with the seventh overall pick in 2020, Gonzales has consistently drawn rave reviews for his batting potential. He hit .432 to win the Division I batting title as a sophomore in 2019 and then claimed Cape Cod League MVP honors that summer.
Scouts who love Gonzales see a future major league batting champion.
The 21-year-old Gonzales has plenty of offensive upside, fueled by elite contact skills. He hits to all fields and has the chance to add double-digit home runs in the future. His bat is advanced and could allow him to reach the majors quickly. Before that happens, he must settle on a position.
The Pirates are in rebuilding mode, and Gonzales was drafted as a shortstop after playing the position in college. But he lacks the first-step quickness associated with the position and could ride a fast track to Pittsburgh at a less-demanding position.
The Pirates plan to focus on developing Gonzales’ versatility in the field.
“I think Nick will definitely get exposure across the infield—at shortstop, maybe at third,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said. “He’s gotten more of his work at second (base) since he signed. At some point in the minor leagues, opportunity and playing time and at-bats does impact it a bit.”
The move to get Gonzales experience around the field is in part due to modern fielding alignments. As Cherington puts it, a shortstop is no longer “standing in the typical shortstop position as much as they might have in 1977.”
“The more reps guys get from different angles across the infield in the minor leagues, we see the benefit in that,” Cherington said.
If Gonzales realizes his offensive upside, he could move rapidly to the big leagues, with a decision on his defensive position made closer to that time.