Age: 22 (DOB: 7/8/94)
2016 Stats (High A/AA): 140 IP, 2.06 ERA, 155/57 K/BB, 1.02 WHIP
2016 Ranking: 6
National Top 100 Rankings
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.
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: #2 Stephen Gonsalves
TD Top Prospects: #1 (Coming Friday)