Marco Gonzales (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Lefty Marco Gonzales should be ready to roll in 2017 with an eye toward getting back into the rotation mix.

The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2017 continues at #23 with a very familiar name who is working his way back from two years of misfortune. Details for TCN members.

http://www.scout.com/player/177985-marco-gonzales?s=321

2016 rank Pos. DOB Signed Round
3 LHS 02 16 92 2013 1st

Selected 2016 stats

Tm W L ERA FIP G GS SV IP H ER HR BB SO AVG G/AO BABIP
DNP                                

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (22):  During the community vote, Marco Gonzales finished as the 22nd highest rated player. Gonzales received a lot of support early in the vote from Brianpnoonan and desmetlax12 at pick #15.

Desmetlax12 gave a nice detailed post about Gonzales. He stated that he could support Gonzales despite the injury history since he is essentially major league ready and is still only 24 years old. Brianpnoonan backed him up saying that he isn’t married to this pick due to the Cardinals’ obscene minor league depth, but Gonzales being ready for the big leagues right now puts him at the top of his list at #15.

Mudville believes that Gonzales has enough of what is needed to have a successful career; it is just that his injury is holding back his ranking this year. 14NyquisT thinks Gonzales had his chance and has now been passed by on the depth charts. – Jeremy Byrd

 

Derek Shore (34): Another year, another injury-plagued season for the Cardinals former 2013 first round pick after missing the entire 2016 season going under the knife due to the infamous Tommy John surgery.

The season of Gonzales, 24, was over before it even began. The lefty was slated to open the year with Triple-A Memphis before the club announced he would go under the knife a week after Opening Day.

The former Gonzaga product was expected to be one of St. Louis' first call ups to fill in for a rotation injury. For the second consecutive season, however, Gonzales found himself dealing with health issues. He also missed considerable time in 2015 with left pectoral and left shoulder injuries that limited him to 80 2/3 innings.

After two straight lost seasons, Gonzales' prospect stock took a step downturn, dropping to #24 after ranking as our #3 prospect just twelve months ago. The only reason he is still prospect eligible is because of his uneven health to both his shoulder and elbow which has inhibited him from exceeding his rookie status.

When healthy, Gonzales profiles as a #4 starter with a 45 fastball that plays well beyond that grade via above-average command and perhaps a top-of-the-scale changeup once regarded as the best off-speed pitch of any in the Cardinals system. He will also throw a serviceable curveball to keep hitters honest and continues to toy with a sinker and cutter combo to make him more effective against both lefties and righties.

Ultimately, Gonzales is expected to be ready and healthy come spring training with a reasonable shot at cracking the big-league roster, but is likely slated to reestablish himself back at Triple-A Memphis with a fourth option year.

 

Brian Walton (15): Well, it seems I am again slow to react to player misfortune – or more likely my confidence in Gonzales is just less shaken. I am clearly ranking Gonzales more on his success before his injuries set in. He has demonstrated the capability to pitch successfully in the majors and I will continue to believe he can – until he proves he cannot.

My main concern is the breadth rather than the depth of his injuries. First, it seemed to be the shoulder, then the forearm which often proceeds the need for ligament replacement in the elbow. But, did Tommy John cure everything that ailed him - or not?

Really, this ranking for Gonzales is not going to be accurate. If healthy, he is a top five prospect in the system, where he was placed a year ago. But if he is not ok, he may no longer be a top prospect at all.

One thing is clear – the lefty has been on a downward spiral for much of the last two years.

It is quite ironic, as his rise to the majors was even more meteoric than his fall. The now-24-year-old was St. Louis’ first pick, 19th overall, in the 2013 Draft. Just one year and two weeks later, the left-hander made his MLB debut with five innings pitched against his local team, the Colorado Rockies.

But that is getting to be quite far in the past. What does the present and future hold?

Let’s take a look at the Cardinals’ actions this winter. They tell us quite a lot. Faced with a roster crunch, the club could have risked trying to pass Gonzales through waivers - but it was fellow lefty Tim Cooney who ended up being lost instead.

In addition to Cooney, the Cardinals recently divested themselves of their only left-handed starter in the major league rotation in Jaime Garcia. Ideally, I imagine the club would prefer not to have an all-right-handed starting five, but that is where they are currently.

Yet, the path is not entirely clear even if Gonzales is healthy and effective. As noted above, the competition has not stood still. The team has five starters plus Michael Wacha, Luke Weaver and perhaps even Trevor Rosenthal in contention for a rotation spot. And from the left side, Austin Gomber has significant momentum, so even that advantage for Gonzales could be eroding.

Perhaps more than any pitcher on the 40-man roster, this spring will be important for Gonzales to fully re-establish his standing. Success in Memphis should get him back in the mix when the call from St. Louis is made to the Triple-A club for help.

TCN Scouting Grade: 5, Risk: Medium (click here to review scales)

 

Our 2017 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. Thank you for being a member!

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