By Contributing Writer: Nick Stevens
At just 21 years of age, Frederick Keys starter Brian Gonzalez is finding out how challenging the Carolina League can be. Gonzalez, a 2014 3rd round selection of the Orioles, is currently 2-3 on the year, with a 5.70 ERA. He has not had a winning outing since May 2nd against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
Photo: Baby Birdland
Thursday night’s start in Salem, VA against the Red Sox was the 10th of the year for Brian Gonzalez. In 5 innings of work, Gonzalez gave up 11 hits, 7 earned runs, and 1 walk while striking out 5. What troubles me the most about the start is that Gonzalez recorded only two outs on ground balls. The Keys would go on to lose 8-9 in the bottom of the 9th on a highly questionable call at the plate.
Gonzalez (6’3”, 230 pounds) is a left-handed pitcher who came into this season ranked t-14th on Baby Birdland’s top prospect list after a tremendous season last year with the Delmarva Shorebirds. After investing such a high draft pick in Gonzalez out of high school and rebounding nicely between 2015 and 2016, you have to figure Brian has a longer leash when it comes to development. Is he progressing though? Gonzalez has increased his strikeout rate from 6.77/9 IP in 2016 to 7.65/9 IP this year. While that is something all Orioles’ fans love to see, the rest of the story may not be as promising.
Walks per nine innings have jumped from 3.53/9 IP (2016) to 4.68/9 IP in 2017. Gonzalez starts his delivery from the first base side and plants his front foot closer to the first base side as he brings his arm across his body. This delivery style could explain some of the control issues. It also leads to very minimal deception on his pitches, as hitters have ample time to pick up the ball. Even left-handed batters are picking up the ball much easier off Gonzalez. Last season, Gonzalez owned left-handed batters, who hit just .193. This season tells a much different story. Left-handed batters are currently hitting .362.
Believe it or not, we are already approaching the All-Star break across the minor leagues. Players have settled in and now we have a better picture of these prospects. However, to be honest, the picture of Gonzalez is fuzzy. His best start of the season was that May 2nd outing against Myrtle Beach. Brian finished with seven strikeouts in six and two-thirds innings while giving up just five hits, two walks, and one earned run.
With about 15 or so more starts this year, Orioles fans can only hope Brian Gonzalez can start to show some improvement. Ofelky Peralta is the only pitcher on the Keys’ roster younger than Gonzalez, while Cody Sedlock and Keegan Akin skipped full-season A ball in Delmarva. All of these guys are still trying to make their own adjustments while adapting to the toughest competition they have faced in their professional careers. The second half of the Keys’ season should provide even more excitement than the first half. Hopefully, that excitement is led by the southpaw, Brian Gonzalez.
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