Nick Gonzales had cleaned up his swing a bit in pro ball.
Drafted seventh overall in 2020, Gonzales is still using the same approach that led to him being so highly regarded as a hitter coming out of New Mexico State.
“In college, I didn’t really think about the swing much,” Gonzales said. “There are things that get cleaned up as you face better pitching and better velocity, so that’s one of the things that’s been cleaned up.”
Gonzales has always had short arms and a quick swing, which allow him to see the ball longer than other players. He does a good job creating momentum from his smaller, 5-foot-10 frame.
“He’s a strong kid,” Pirates farm director John Baker said. “I think he’s very coordinated. Nick, as he swings the bat and the lower part of his body decelerates up to the next part of his body, he can transfer a lot of energy.”
The Pirates have been focusing on more in-game training, forcing players to make adjustments to live pitching, rather than operating in a simulated environment.
“His best version of himself as a hitter emerges through that training, without a lot of explicit instruction or directions towards what he needs to do,” Baker said. “As long as we keep providing that appropriate sparring partner and training stimulus, we’re confident that his body will make the right solutions.”
Gonzales is a hard worker. He’s the first player to the park, and the last one to leave the field. He’s the Pirates’ second baseman of the future. Last season with High-A Greensboro, he compiled a .950 OPS with 18 home runs, though a lot of the power came in the hitter-friendly home park.
That park factor raises questions about Gonzales’ power potential going forward. But so long as he transfers energy efficiently, his quick swing should allow him to maintain solid contact skills, with the hope that the contact comes with above-average exit velocities to generate power.
— Righthander Mitch Keller has been recorded recently hitting 100 mph in bullpen sessions with a cleaner delivery. Keller worked out with Tread Athletics in North Carolina this winter. The Pirates are looking for someone to step up as the leader of the long-term rotation, and Keller still has that upside, despite poor results in the majors to date.
— The Pirates ranked third in Baseball America’s farm system rankings, and had six prospects inside the Top 100 Prospects. That group includes Oneil Cruz (No. 14), Henry Davis (41), Nick Gonzales (49), Liover Peguero (78), Roansy Contreras (80), and Quinn Priester (88). This is the highest rank for the farm system, and the most prospects inside the Top 100, since 2014. Back then the Pirates were the top overall system with seven Top 100 Prospects.