Photo credit: Zachary Lucy

2017 IBI Top 75 Prospects: #28 Oscar Gonzalez

The 2017 countdown continues with a newcomer to the top prospect scene who was the MVP in the Arizona League last year and really brings a ton of upside with the bat, but also has a very low floor as well considering how raw and inexperienced he still is....

28. Oscar Gonzalez - Outfielder

Born: 01/10/1998 – Height: 6’2” – Weight: 180 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right

Facts & Info: Gonzalez was signed by the Indians as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic on July 2, 2014 for $300,000. He had a breakout showing in Arizona last year finishing 11th in the Arizona League in batting average (.303), 11th in runs (30), tied for 1st in home runs (8), tied for 13th in RBI (26), tied for 3rd in total bases (82), 4th in extra base hits (20), 9th in strikeouts (57), 1st in slugging percentage (.566), 2nd in OPS (.907) and 1st in home run per at bat ratio (1/18.13). His performance earned him the MVP award in the Arizona League.

Offense: Gonzalez has a big, strong frame that should provide durability and has the potential for a lot more strength gains in the near future. He is a physical player with a very aggressive swing and has some good raw power that already shows to all fields, and projects to be plus as he matures and learns to tap into it more consistently. The approach needs a lot of work as he strikes out at a very high rate (36.8 K% in 2016) because of his overaggressive swing and some struggles with pitch recognition. His hit tool has some upside and he could be a solid average or better hitter as he learns to develop his approach, show more patience at the plate and continues to refine his mechanics.

Defense: Gonzalez is a raw defensive player and needs a lot of work but he has the upside with the skills, athleticism and body to be a solid average defender. He profiles as a right-fielder because of some good athleticism to go along with a strong throwing arm that rates as above average. There is not a lot of versatility to move around the outfield as he’s mostly just a corner outfielder, but the Indians could always explore some first base for him down the road if they wish to deepen his defensive skillset.

Speed & Intangibles: Gonzalez is a fringe average runner and shows some good athleticism and a developing feel for running the bases. He is very raw and experienced and is still working to refine his routines, but shows a willingness to work and be coached.

Focus: There is no denying his power as 20 of his 44 hits last season went for extra bases and he put up a .263 isolated power percentage; however, the plate discipline needs a ton of work as he had a rough 57:8 strikeout to walk ratio in just 145 at bats. As much as the power impresses, the strikeout rate brings just as many concerns, so the Indians are really working with him to develop a better approach at the plate so he is shorter and quicker to the ball, more patient to wait for a pitch he can drive and learns to better identify offspeed so he is not so susceptible to chase. The hope is as he learns to control the strike zone better he will impact the baseball on a more consistent basis. He has a tendency to try to muscle balls so the Indians want him to relax a little more and add a little more finesse in his swing which they believe will free him up to be more consistent offensively. His defense is a work in progress as he needs to get better with his first step quickness, his reads and the routes he takes to balls.

Future: Gonzalez had a very impressive stateside debut, especially after a forgettable pro debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2015. As always, we have to take offensive numbers in the Arizona League with a grain of salt, but the home runs and power he showed bring some excitement and cautious optimism. It remains to be seen if he will ever develop his approach well enough to consistently tap into his power and put up quality at bats on a regular basis. This is a player who is going to take some time to develop and one the Indians will probably take a level by level approach with early in his career in order to continue to build his foundation and add confidence to his swing and approach. This is a high risk-reward player because the ceiling is so high but the floor is so low, which means he could end up as another Juan Romero-type who impresses some in rookie ball but fizzles out at higher levels or he takes a considerable step forward and really establishes himself as the next big prospect in the organization. He should open the season in extended spring training before going to Short-A Mahoning Valley in June – though there is a chance he could get to Low-A Lake County at some point if he forces the Indians to challenge him at a higher level.

Ranking History: Unranked

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