Gonzalez Could Be Utility Man of the Future

Although his batting statistics are not very impressive, shortstop Alberto Gonzalez compensates for his offensive shortcomings with tremendous defensive ability. He has the physical tools necessary for an ideal defense-first infielder: above average range, soft hands and a cannon arm. With his superior glove work, Gonzalez could end up being an important part of the Yankees' bench.

"I grew up in Venezuela, and young kids playing ball idolize players like Luis Aparicio and Omar Vizquel. We take a lot of pride in our defense and always work to improve it," Alberto Gonzalez said through an interpreter.

"The defense of the shortstop was always the most important. They would have to make the most plays and act as the captain of the infield. You could have a guy who could not hit that good there because he would help the team with his defense."

Gonzalez has the right to take pride in his defensive ability; he has been rated as one of the best defensive shortstops in the minors since being signed by the Diamondbacks in 2002.

He burst onto the scene in 2005 when he played 54 straight games without an error. Prior to that, he was only considered to be minor league roster filler.

One of four players acquired in the Yankees' trade of Randy Johnson back to Arizona, he faired well in Double-A last season, hitting a solid .290 with six home runs and an impressive .356 on-base percentage.

Gonzalez was invited to big league Spring Training with the Yankees and responded with a .313 batting average and spectacular defense. He was subsequently awarded the starting shortstop job for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

So far this season, Gonzalez is struggling at the plate, hitting .244 in 52 games with only 14 extra-base hits. Even more alarming than his lack of power is his .279 on-base percentage, an indication that he may be overmatched by Triple-A pitching.

"My season is not what I want it to be right now, so I'm going to have to work harder to finish strong," Gonzalez said of his struggles at the plate. "My defense has been good, but I really need to work on my hitting."

His weak bat may be a blessing in disguise, however. While most middle infield prospects with above average defense and a solid bat will end up being a starter, Gonzalez may be the ideal utility player and backup infielder for the New York Yankees.

"If you can play short, you can play anywhere, and that's how baseball works," said infield coach Alvaro Espinoza. "Alberto plays great short, and he could probably make a really good utility player, thanks to his range and arm alone."

"He can make the routine plays with ease. If he keeps doing that he will have a great shot of getting up to the big leagues," Espinoza added.

As far as playing other positions goes, Gonzalez feels very comfortable with the idea.

"I feel really good about playing other positions; I've spent some time learning other spots on the infield, especially second and third base. I'm best at shortstop right now, but I can play all three."

A good utility player must bring more than just great defense to a team, but Gonzalez has that covered as well.

"I'm trying to be more aggressive on the base paths this year because the coaches want me to learn to be a better runner so I can help the team more."

Although he is still working on his base running, Gonzalez has five stolen bases this year and plans on running more often. "It will make me a more valuable player," he added.

If Gonzalez heats up at the plate, you can bet that he will surely be in the running for a spot on the 2008 Yankees' roster. Until then, he just wants to finish the season strong.

"I have a lot of work to do for the rest of the season, especially with my batting, but I will be happy if can just finish the year and show people what I can really do."

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\"I grew up in Venezuela, and young kids playing ball idolize players like Luis Aparicio and Omar Vizquel. We take a lot of pride in our defense and always work to improve it,\" Alberto Gonzalez said through an interpreter.
\r\n
\r\n\"The defense of the shortstop was always the most important. They would have to make the most plays and act as the captain of the infield. You could have a guy who could not hit that good there because he would help the team with his defense.\"
\r\n
\r\nGonzalez has the right to take pride in his defensive ability; he has been rated as one of the best defensive shortstops in the minors since being signed by the Diamondbacks in 2002.
\r\n
\r\nHe burst onto the scene in 2005 when he played 54 straight games without an error. Prior to that, he was only considered to be minor league roster filler.
\r\n
\r\nOne of four players acquired in the Yankees' trade of Randy Johnson back to Arizona, he faired well in Double-A last season, hitting a solid .290 with six home runs and an impressive .356 on-base percentage.
\r\n
\r\nGonzalez was invited to big league Spring Training with the Yankees and responded with a .313 batting average and spectacular defense. He was subsequently awarded the starting shortstop job for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
\r\n
\r\nSo far this season, Gonzalez is struggling at the plate, hitting .244 in 52 games with only 14 extra-base hits. Even more alarming than his lack of power is his .279 on-base percentage, an indication that he may be overmatched by Triple-A pitching.
\r\n
\r\n\"My season is not what I want it to be right now, so I'm going to have to work harder to finish strong,\" Gonzalez said of his struggles at the plate. \"My defense has been good, but I really need to work on my hitting.\"
\r\n
\r\nHis weak bat may be a blessing in disguise, however. While most middle infield prospects with above average defense and a solid bat will end up being a starter, Gonzalez may be the ideal utility player and backup infielder for the New York Yankees.
\r\n
\r\n\"If you can play short, you can play anywhere, and that's how baseball works,\" said infield coach Alvaro Espinoza. \"Alberto plays great short, and he could probably make a really good utility player, thanks to his range and arm alone.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"He can make the routine plays with ease. If he keeps doing that he will have a great shot of getting up to the big leagues,\" Espinoza added.
\r\n
\r\nAs far as playing other positions goes, Gonzalez feels very comfortable with the idea.
\r\n
\r\n\"I feel really good about playing other positions; I've spent some time learning other spots on the infield, especially second and third base. I'm best at shortstop right now, but I can play all three.\"
\r\n
\r\nA good utility player must bring more than just great defense to a team, but Gonzalez has that covered as well.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm trying to be more aggressive on the base paths this year because the coaches want me to learn to be a better runner so I can help the team more.\"
\r\n
\r\nAlthough he is still working on his base running, Gonzalez has five stolen bases this year and plans on running more often. \"It will make me a more valuable player,\" he added.
\r\n
\r\nIf Gonzalez heats up at the plate, you can bet that he will surely be in the running for a spot on the 2008 Yankees' roster. Until then, he just wants to finish the season strong.
\r\n
\r\n\"I have a lot of work to do for the rest of the season, especially with my batting, but I will be happy if can just finish the year and show people what I can really do.\"
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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\r\n

\r\n

Become an annual subscriber today!

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