In 2014 the Cincinnati Reds brought a 19-year-old shortstop to the United States to play in the Arizona Rookie League. That player was Luis Gonzalez and he went on to hit .277/.292/.362 for the Reds in Goodyear. He walked just two times and had 22 strikeouts in 99 plate appearances.
His offense didn’t stand out at all, but the reports from multiple sources all indicated he was someone to watch for because of what he was able to bring with his defense. Gonzalez split time at shortstop and third base in 2014, but his future is at shortstop.
During spring training, despite never playing even as high as Billings, much less anywhere in a full season league, the Dominican Republic born shortstop started showing up in big league games. It was a sign of just how highly the organization felt about him.
Over the weekend I got my first in person look and I left quite impressed. I showed up early to Dayton to take in batting practice. While I had talked with some people about Gonzalez’ offense, people got excited when they talked about his defense, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from him at the plate. Here’s a quick video from one of his rounds of batting practice:
The first thing that jumped out to me was how quick his bat was. Gonzalez isn’t a big guy, he’s listed at 6′ 0″ and 175 lbs, but he’s got a quick bat and while it was just batting practice, he put more than a few balls into the seats with ease.
I went back and watched some highlights from the opening series on MiLB.tv of the Dragons games and one hit for Gonzalez was an opposite field double off the right-center field ball. For a small guy, it was an impressive sight to see a line drive to the wall on a fly in the gap.
He’s off to a slow start offensively, hitting just .190 through five games. The promotion from the Arizona Rookie League to Dayton may have been aggressive, especially for a hitter who had two walks against 22 strikeouts against the lowest level of pitching offered in the United States.
On the flip side, his defense is something to behold. He’s got soft hands, good range and a big arm. His defense is carrying his game right now, but there’s plenty to like from the offensive side of things as well, though it’s more on the potential than the realized side of things at this point in his career.