Getting to know your prospects: Erik Gonzalez
Name: Erik Gonzalez
Current team: High-A Carolina Mudcats
Facts & Info: Gonzalez was signed by the Indians as an undrafted free agent in August 2008 out of the Dominican Republic. He was added to the Indians 40-man roster in November. He played winter ball in the offseason for Leones del Escogido and in 45 games hit .325 with 1 HR, 20 RBI and .795 OPS. He had a 3-47 walk to strikeout ratio.
The Offense: Gonzalez is an athletic and toolsy player who has made strides since the start of last season. He consistently put his work in the past few years though the results never showed, but things finally clicked for him last season and he jumped onto the scene as a legit middle infield prospect for the Indians. He has some power and life in his bat and has really started to put it all together at the plate. He added a little bit of a leg kick last season which helped him out with his timing and his shift into a load position. He refined his swing and has become more consistent with his bat path and it in turn has helped unleash some of his raw power.
The Defense: Gonzalez has made huge strides as a defender. He shows outstanding range, good side to side agility, a strong arm and very good hands along with exceptional athleticism, jumping ability, and a solid average run tool. While the Indians are concentrating on developing him as a shortstop this coming season, it is his versatility that makes him valuable as a utility player as he can play any position on the diamond except catcher.
The Focus: Gonzalez definitely has some adjustments to make at the plate, not necessarily mechanically, but more approach-wise. His strike zone discipline has to improve. He just does not walk much and he strikes out a decent amount. His approach and pitch recognition skills still need a lot of work, but they are something that can be lived with if he continues to hit for some power — though it has not fully come out as expected yet.
The Future: Gonzalez was one of the more hyped Latin prospects that came stateside in 2011 after a strong showing in the Dominican Summer League in 2010. After significantly underwhelming in 2011 and 2012, he put it all together last season and has firmly established himself as yet another shortstop prospect for the Indians. He ended up being added to the 40-man roster in November and could be a major league option for the Indians as a utility player starting sometime next season.