Besides being blessed with an incredible nickname, what else does 2013 Texas first-rounder Alex “Chi-Chi” Gonzalez have? Lots of promise, it turns out.
The 22-year-old righty started his professional career with the short-season Spokane Indians last summer, after being drafted in June out of Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma. He pitched in nine games with the Indians, compiling a fairly unimpressive 4.36 ERA across 23.2 innings, but showed enough polish to be promoted to Myrtle Beach in August, where he helped replace Luke Jackson and Nick Martinez following their promotion to Frisco. With the Pelicans, Gonzalez appeared to come into his own, though the small sample size of 19.0 innings prohibits any major conclusions being drawn from his lowered ERA. Chi-Chi also threw a maximum of four innings in any of his 14 professional starts, a precautionary measure as he threw an entire collegiate season before being drafted.
According to reports, Gonzalez throws a low-to-mid-90s fastball with some cutting action, a high-80s slider, and a hard changeup at 85-87 MPH. Though he currently struggles to command all of his pitches at times, the raw movement of all three enabled him to begin to suppress runs towards the end of the 2013 season. His fastball, in particular, has fairly pronounced action that Gonzalez has showed a capability to vary, and the hard slider plays well off it. While the changeup is still developing, it has a possibility to become a strong third pitch, especially against left-handed hitters.
Though Gonzalez appears to be more developed as a pitcher than even the usual collegiate prospect, it’s hard to currently say what his future will look like with any certainty. He threw a grand total of 42.2 innings in professional ball in 2013, and collegiate box-scores are difficult to turn into a picture of upcoming seasons. If he keeps his current mix of pitches and velocities, Gonzalez could resemble Tigers’ starter Anibal Sanchez, who sported a 9.00 K/9 in 2013, and has a track record of above-average pitching. If Chi-Chi hits his ultimate ceiling, he could be a top of the rotation pitcher, a very good no. 1 or no. 2 pitcher on a contending team, and even if he doesn’t realize his full potential he could have a long major league career. This season will go a long way towards showing what Gonzalez’ true upside is, and where his future place in the organization could be.
Chi-Chi could start in either Myrtle Beach or Frisco in 2014. Due to his age and college experience, it wouldn’t be impossible for him to be a RoughRider come April, especially since the Rangers development team has showed a willingness to aggressively promote pitchers in the past. If, however, they want him to have more lower level innings, he’ll start the season with the Pelicans. Either way 2014 begins, it is not unlikely that Gonzalez ends the season in Frisco.