This one, even if you were paying attention, was a bit of a surprise.
I’m as guilty as anyone in “pigeonholing” prospects. Shoot, just a couple years ago, Ryan Martin’s son asked me if Tyler Payne (Strasburg 2013-14) would ever make the major leagues. I said no- he didn’t hit enough. (Guess who made his major league debut in 2021?)
Romy Gonzalez came into the 2021 minor league season with a .245 career batting average. After being drafted in 2018, he had hit 14 home runs in roughly 550 pro at-bats. If you had asked me what his chances were… well, that’s answered above.
Gonzalez opened his 2021 season at Double-A Birmingham, which might have seemed aggressive after he hit .244/.329/.364 in Low-A in 2019. Even with a year’s worth of rust, Gonzalez started hitting, and just never stopped. At Birmingham, he hit .267/.355/.502 in 303 at-bats, with 11 doubles, 20 home runs, a 38/97 BB/K, and even 21 stolen bases.
He was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte at the end of August, and went 20-54, with six doubles and four more home runs. He slashed .370/.417/.704! So the White Sox called him up, and he made his major league debut on September 3. He went 8-32 in 10 games. He wasn’t included on Chicago’s postseason roster, but he’s hit enough to quite possibly carve out a role in the major leagues.
Well, milb.com has named Gonzalez the White Sox’s All-Star at shortstop. I don’t know if he gets a plaque or anything, but it’s more vindication that he’s turned his career in the right direction.
Oh, by the way, Gonzalez played for Staunton in 2016. He hit .234/.253/.442 in 77 at-bats that summer, along with four home runs.
Great reporting, as always, John. Romy Gonzalez’s performance improvements at each higher level seem counter-intuitive, but he proves it does happen. Here’s an excerpt from the MiLB article on the White Sox: “In total, Gonzalez led all non-complex qualified White Sox Minor Leaguers with a 144 wRC+ and an .896 OPS. In the Minors, Chicago’s No. 20 prospect reached career highs with 24 homers and each part of his .283/.364/.896. His 43 walks were a personal best, but so were his 112 strikeouts.”
So, Gonzalez is a great example of “If you love baseball, keep playing and refining your skills, and stay healthy [as long as you can find housing and meals] you might experience success.” I suppose that holds true until about age 27 or 28. I suppose Gonzalez now ought to be rated higher than “No. 20 prospect.”