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TD Top Prospects: #2 Stephen Gonsalves

Expectations and excitement can get sky-high when a 22-year-old pitcher wins his organization’s minor league pitcher of the year award and dominates two levels in which he is one of the younger players. Among the Twins fan base (and certainly in the Twins Daily forums) that is the case for Stephen Gonsalves, but the national outlook for him is more tempered. Why is that?
 Age: 22 (DOB: 7/8/94)
2016 Stats (High A/AA): 140 IP, 2.06 ERA, 155/57 K/BB, 1.02 WHIP
ETA: 2018
2016 Ranking: 6

National Top 100 Rankings
BA: 99(2) | MLB: 92(2) | ESPN: 91(4) | BP: NR(5) Gonsalves slid to the fourth round of the 2013 draft, thanks to a suspension during his senior year in high school, and the lack of innings that resulted. That tumble was softened somewhat by the $700,000 signing bonus the Twins gave him, which would have slotted a round or two higher, but that extra investment looks like money well spent. Gonsalves has steadily climbed through the minor league by posting impressive numbers at each stop. Last year was his most eye-popping season yet, with a 1.82 ERA and 89K in 74.1 IP after a midseason callup to AA-Chattanooga. That earned him the Twins Minor League Pitcher Of The Year Award.

What’s To Like
The hard data is all good: he’s a 22-year-old southpaw with a career minor league ERA of 2.13 and 396 strikeouts in 368.1 innings. He’s jumped up a level midseason in his three full years in the system. Nobody denies that the results so far have been impressive….

What’s Left To Work On
…but there are doubts about how his “stuff” will play at higher levels. His best pitch is his changeup, but a pitcher’s changeup is only as effective as his fastball, and Gonsalves’ mid-to-low 90s fastball needs to find the edges of the plate to be effective. His control of that pitch is good, but it likely needs to be great to thrive.

There is also the question of a third pitch. His changeup is effective versus right-handers, but he needs something to keep the easier side of the plate honest. Indeed, each of the last two years, left-handed hitters have had more luck against Gonsalves than right-handed bats. Keith Law reports that Gonsalves' cutter is his best bet in that regard.

Finally, there was a health scare last fall. After pitching a career high 140 innings during the regular minor league season, the 22-year-old was send to the Arizona Fall League to get more innings. He suffered a shoulder strain, threw just 8.1 innings, and his velocity was down in the high 80s per Mike Berardino.

What’s Next
I count only 48 optimistic words versus 176 cautious words in the above two sections. I should be embarrassed by that ratio considering how much success Gonsalves has had so far in his minor league career. His rise through the system has been swift and dominant; there have been no bumps in the road of his ascension.

That said, Gonsalves is approaching the levels that worried scouts. It’s a very good sign that he experienced immediate success at AA, though the higher walk rate (4.5 BB/9) he posted is a little worrisome.

He’s started each year at the same level that he ended the last one, so expect a start in AA-Chattanooga with (hopefully) a fourth midseason jump to the next level. If he can stay healthy and keep proving his doubters wrong, whether it’s by developing a third pitch or tightening his fastball control or voodoo magic, he’ll find himself in the middle of the Twins rotation for a long time.
 Read up on our previous installments in the Twins Daily top prospects series:
TD Top Prospects: #20-16
TD Top Prospects: #15-11
TD Top Prospects: #10 Lewin Diaz
TD Top Prospects: #9 Travis Blankenhorn
TD Top Prospects: #8 Kohl Stewart
TD Top Prospects: #7 Adalberto Mejia
TD Top Prospects: #6 Wander Javier
TD Top Prospects: #5 Tyler Jay
TD Top Prospects: #4 Nick Gordon
TD Top Prospects: #3 Alex Kirilloff
TD Top Prospects: #2 Stephen Gonsalves
TD Top Prospects: #1 (Coming Friday)


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43 Comments

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Tom Froemming
Feb 22 2017 10:00 PM

I think Gonsalves has pretty good deception in his delivery, and that's what helps the stuff "play up." He's got one of those crossfire deliveries, kinda like Madison Bumgarner.

    • glunn, bluechipper, nytwinsfan and 2 others like this

ETA 2018 seems pessimistic given the Twins "staff". It's refreshing to see a pitcher succeed by "pitching" rather than on brute force of a great fastball--though of course it would be super if he had one! Gonsalves sounds like he'll be the kind of pitcher who will have a long career.  I sure hope he gets promoted to the Twins this summer.

    • glunn, bluechipper and BoofBonser like this

He'll likely start the season and spend 1/3 to 1/2 the season in Chattanooga. He'll spend the final 3-4 months in Rochester.

 

He'll need to be added to the 40-man roster following the season. 

 

He threw 140 innings, plus about 10 more in the AFL... So, if he were to move up 25% from 150 innings, that'd be about 185 innings that could be his max this year. I would guess that a lot will depend on his innings. But I think mid-2018 is probably the most likely scenario for his call up. 

    • glunn, Taildragger8791 and MN_ExPat like this
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FormerMinnasotan
Feb 22 2017 11:19 PM
I feel like whatever holds true for Kohl Stewart is true for Gonsalves. I mean if people can hold out hope that Stewart can improve a bit why can't Gonsalves? Perhaps I missed it but it seems like the concenous is Stewart could improve a bit, and Gonsalves isn't as good as his stats show. It is perplexing how much "love" a pitching prospect like Kohl Stewart can get and how much "hate" a prospect like Stephen Gonsalves gets when they have pitched the same amount of years in the minors and are the same age.

 

I feel like whatever holds true for Kohl Stewart is true for Gonsalves. I mean if people can hold out hope that Stewart can improve a bit why can't Gonsalves? Perhaps I missed it but it seems like the concenous is Stewart could improve a bit, and Gonsalves isn't as good as his stats show. It is perplexing how much "love" a pitching prospect like Kohl Stewart can get and how much "hate" a prospect like Stephen Gonsalves gets when they have pitched the same amount of years in the minors and are the same age.

People tend to be that way about top 5 draft picks... if the two's situations were switched around you'd see the same thing

 

I feel like whatever holds true for Kohl Stewart is true for Gonsalves. I mean if people can hold out hope that Stewart can improve a bit why can't Gonsalves? Perhaps I missed it but it seems like the concenous is Stewart could improve a bit, and Gonsalves isn't as good as his stats show. It is perplexing how much "love" a pitching prospect like Kohl Stewart can get and how much "hate" a prospect like Stephen Gonsalves gets when they have pitched the same amount of years in the minors and are the same age.

I don't see it that way at all and the rankings reflect how much "love" each get. Gonsalves appears to be more polished so Gibson has more room for improvement. I wonder where Thorpe would have been ranked if not for his surgery. What is his prognosis?

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HitInAPinch
Feb 23 2017 02:56 AM

I'm a 'wait and see' on Gonsalves.A great changeup can make a bunch of MiLBer's look bad.MLB, probably not so much.Better fastball and a sharp breaking pitch [slider, hard curve] would make a big different.

 

AFL has never meant that much to me...

    • mikelink45 and Taildragger8791 like this

Any reports on how his shoulder is doing this spring? Hopefully he has no lingering issues with it.

    • gunnarthor and Tom Froemming like this

 

Any reports on how his shoulder is doing this spring? Hopefully he has no lingering issues with it.

 

So far so good. He was in his regular routine right when he started this spring. I believe it was a relief that he was able to make two more starts in the AFL after the injury last year.

    • nytwinsfan, Tom Froemming and MN_ExPat like this

 

I don't see it that way at all and the rankings reflect how much "love" each get. Gonsalves appears to be more polished so Gibson has more room for improvement. I wonder where Thorpe would have been ranked if not for his surgery. What is his prognosis?

 

Thorpe should be ready to go this spring, though they'll likely have him start in EST just to keep him in Ft. Myers and be able to control his work load a bit before sending him to either Cedar Rapids or with the Miracle. 

 

He was close to the Top 20, strongly considered. If healthy, he could rise again, but they are going to be cautious with him. Just like they were with Romero this year.

    • MN_ExPat likes this
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John Bonnes
Feb 23 2017 07:20 AM
Re: 2017/2018. I could've gone either way; there's a decent chance of a Sept callup. But that's if he thrives again this year, stays healthy & they don't sweat his innings much. It was a close call, but I felt like the more conservative estimate was more likely.

 

Gonsalves’ mid-to-low 90s fastball

How often is Gonsalves actually hitting 94+ with his fastball? This seems like a very generous description. If he was regularly hitting the mid-90s, I think there would be a lot less concern about how his stuff will play in the majors.

    • Thrylos and Eephus like this
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John Bonnes
Feb 23 2017 07:27 AM
I like the Stewart/Gonsalves comparison. You're absolutely right that the narrative on each is the opposite & also at odds with their results so far.

The reason why is that Stewart's pitches were initially graded higher by scouts and have only slipped a bit, so he's seen as having room left to have his results match his tools.

Gonsalves is the opposite. His pitches were initially graded a bit lower and have already been upgraded, so the sense is he's already at his ceiling.

Whether or not that is fair is debatable but also, mostly irrelevant. Both are positioned to get every opportunity, so perception isn't going to hold them back. They're on the doorstep. Now each must continue progressing if they want to enter.
    • ThejacKmp, Taildragger8791 and MN_ExPat like this
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John Bonnes
Feb 23 2017 07:30 AM
Re: his fastball. I don't think he's hitting 94 often. I think BA's description said he "touches 95" so allowed the description to include "mid".
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FormerMinnasotan
Feb 23 2017 08:58 AM

Thorpe should be ready to go this spring, though they'll likely have him start in EST just to keep him in Ft. Myers and be able to control his work load a bit before sending him to either Cedar Rapids or with the Miracle.

He was close to the Top 20, strongly considered. If healthy, he could rise again, but they are going to be cautious with him. Just like they were with Romero this year.

Seth, just curious but do you think Thorpe can repeat the same type of success that Romero had last year? I mean with having 2 years off should help in getting Thorpe's velocity back to where it was prior to his Tommy John surgery, but I suppose the real test is how well Thorpe can use his secondary pitches.

 

Any reports on how his shoulder is doing this spring? Hopefully he has no lingering issues with it.

 

Fun fact I learned from talking with him at the Winter Meltdown: He signs all his autographs right-handed.

 

Also said his arm is good to go, and that they were overly cautious with him in the AFL. 

 

I really would like to see him in AAA to start, but if he's in AA and even remotely repeats his results (or improves his walk rate) over the first month or two, I hope he gets the bump right away.

    • gunnarthor and nytwinsfan like this

I like Gonsalves but I'm not sure he's more than a legit 4/5 type pitcher.  That's not a bad thing.  He might be a 95-105 ERA+ type with 180 ip or so for a few years in the majors once he gets acclimated.  But I like Romero, Stewart and Jay more than him and if Thorpe can get healthy, I like Thorpe more, too.  

    • ThejacKmp likes this

Gonsalves's fastball is 88-91 usually.  It might drop to 86, it might hit 92.  That's about it.  The problems I have with Gonsalves are:

 

1. He has maybe one plus pitch (his changeup), the rest are average/below average

2. His command is problematic.  12.5 BB% in AA is worrisome 

3. He has survived by generating bad contact because of his FB "high spin rate".  This translates to BABIPs in .250s and very low HR/9 (0.12 in AA last season.) When those numbers go back to reality/league average in the majors, his WHIP will jump to 1.400ish and FIP to 4ish.

 

He is a back to rotation starter in a competitive team maybe.  A step above the Alberses and the Deans of the world.  Think Scott Diamond's career season or Glen Perkins as a starter.  Not bad, but not that great.

    • ThejacKmp, mikelink45 and Taildragger8791 like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Feb 23 2017 09:30 AM

 

I like the Stewart/Gonsalves comparison. You're absolutely right that the narrative on each is the opposite & also at odds with their results so far.

The reason why is that Stewart's pitches were initially graded higher by scouts and have only slipped a bit, so he's seen as having room left to have his results match his tools.

Gonsalves is the opposite. His pitches were initially graded a bit lower and have already been upgraded, so the sense is he's already at his ceiling.

Whether or not that is fair is debatable but also, mostly irrelevant. Both are positioned to get every opportunity, so perception isn't going to hold them back. They're on the doorstep. Now each must continue progressing if they want to enter.

 

I'd like to see that walk rate drop, but lefties in the majors don't have to rely on speed quite the same that a righty does. I think Gonsalves has potential to be better than average, perhaps not that ace, but he could be a 2/3 for years. He's certainly exceeded expectations, but do remember he was considered to be a potential first round pick until he fell.

 

I'd like to see him in AAA this season, and I wouldn't be against an aggressive move here to start this spring. He's a 40 man add guy for next year, so giving him some time at the highest ML level should give us a good picture as to his readiness in 2018.

    • MN_ExPat likes this

Perkins as a starter is an interesting comp -- I primarily remember him as a low-K starter in MLB, but he did rack up 9-10 K/9 as a starter in his early minor league seasons.  Perkins was older as a college draftee, of course, but he was a faster riser so they are pretty much on the same timeline now -- Perkins was only a few months older than Gonsalves when he made his AA and AFL debuts.

 

Gonsalves is notably taller, though. :)

    • HitInAPinch likes this

Perkins 08 season isn't a horrible comp but I think Gonsalves would have better peripherals and, if fip matters to you, a better fip.   

 

Perkins 08 season isn't a horrible comp but I think Gonsalves would have better peripherals and, if fip matters to you, a better fip.   

 

As I indicated earlier, his FIP is artificially low because of his low HR/9 numbers. I project those  to jump to MLB-average levels in the majors, giving him mid 4 FIPs as an average.

 

The reason why is that Stewart's pitches were initially graded higher by scouts and have only slipped a bit, so he's seen as having room left to have his results match his tools.

 

This. Stewart has the stuff that should result in a higher ceiling - it's truly baffling and worrying it hasn't yet. Gonsalves has less tools but uses them better.

 

It's the old adage of the coach who watches two guys run to first in the same amount of time - one with terrible form and the other with perfect form. When told he can have one he takes the guy with terrible form. That guy can be coached to be better, the other guy has already peaked.

    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this

I like any thread that devolves into a discussion of the Thorpedo.

    • James likes this

This guy is going to front our rotation, Radke style, for the next decade.  

 

I said style, not substance.  Meaning results, not peripherals.  So just hold onto your numbery rebuttals.  I already know that Radke walked way fewer batters.  And that he was right-handed.

 

Houston was all over spin rate, weren't they?  Didn't Castro work in Houston...with a lefty with a high spin rate who went on to win the Cy Young or not?  Connect the dots, people.  You don't need a computer program named Carmine or Beacon to figure this stuff out.  Castro + Gonsalves = Ace, for under $30 million.  Round One goes to Falvey.

    • Wyorev, twinssouth and MN_ExPat like this

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