Sunday, February 4, 2007

Prospect Profile: Alberto Gonzalez

Age: 23 (24 in April)
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 165 lbs
Drafted: Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Diamondbacks in 2002
Position: Shortstop
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Tools: Any discussion of Alberto Gonzalez begins with defense. Alberto Gonzalez has one of the best infield arms in the minor leagues: a certified cannon. I heard one person compare his arm to Cal Ripken's. He doesn't have phenominal range, but he is above average to both sides. Combined, Alberto Gonzalez is one of the top defensive shortstops in baseball. On the other side of the ball, Gonzalez isn't as bad as other defensive wizards of the minors. He has been very good at limiting the strikeout, striking out just once every two and a half games in three minor league seasons. To put that in perspetive, that rate is somewhere in between Melky Cabrera and Robby Cano. He doesn't hit for much power but he's no Joey Gathwright either. He hit 6 home runs in 2006, and has consistently put up .100 ISOs in the minors. Gonzalez isn't particularly fast on the basepaths.

Performance: Alberto hit .290/.356/.392 at AA last year, and .318/.359/.426 in Low A ball in 2005. These numbers interest me. First off, Gonzalez was able to maintain high averages for both years. He puts the ball in play enough with his line drive swing that he may just hit .290 in the bigs. He also seems ready to take 40-50 walks a year, which will make him a useful little player. If he hits .290/.350/.390 in the majors and plays the kind of defensive game that is capable of, Gonzalez would be a viable major league regular. On a team like the Yankees, he'll be a great defensive replacement and utility infielder.

Health: Gonzalez is a perfectly healthy 24 year old.

2007 Outlook: Alberto may just bump Andy Cannizaro from his hard earned AAA starting spot. I feel sorry for Andy, but Gonzalez is better than Cannizaro in all aspects of the game. Cannizaro might be pushed to another position (although he's not much worse than Gonzalez at shortstop) to prepare for a role as a utilityman. Gonzalez is on the 40-man roster and is first in line for a call up if Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, or Miguel Cairo get injured. Gonzalez has been push aggressively through the minors, so he could require some AAA adjustment time,

Comparison: The conventional comparison is David Eckstein, and I agree. Gonzalez looks to hit better than guys like Adam Everett or Alex Gonzalez, by virtue of a higher batting average. Eckstein makes contact, takes the right amount of walks, and will hit the occassional extra base hit.

My take: At first, I wasn't sold on Gonzalez. He looked like the typical Neifi Perez or Alex Gonzalez defensive wizard who hits like a pitcher. Then I took a closer at his batting line and saw that he had a little stick in him. I was impressed about how he skipped A+ ball entirely, and then put up a very similar batting line at AA. This tells me that he knows how to make adjustments and figure out his competition. In addition, I found it interesting how Gonzalez batted better when the pressure was off him to produce. In 2006, he hit .236/.314/.324 batting 2nd, but .333/.390/.425 batting 8th. A lot of that OBP is fueled by the pitcher behind him, but still Gonzalez hit a similar line to his 2005 A- totals. I think that Gonzalez is the reason that the Yankees got Ross Ohlendorf instead of Micah Owings, and Brian Cashman may just have made the right decision. If I reranked the prospects, Gonzalez would probably be in the middle teens.