Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez (RHP, Myrtle Beach Pelicans)
One of Myrtle Beach’s eight Carolina League All-Stars, Alex Gonzalez has spent the beginning of 2014 showing why he was the the Rangers’ first round draft pick in 2013, and why some projected him to see Frisco from the beginning of the season. In his 61.1 innings with the Pelicans so far, Gonzalez has only given up three home runs, and has struck out 47 batters, walking 15, putting together an ERA of 2.49, fifth lowest in the Carolina League (according to Fangraphs.)
Gonzalez relies on a low-to-mid 90s fastball that has an extreme amount of movement, a pitch that hitters can usually only beat into the ground. His slider has a reputation as his most-developed breaking pitch, and he’s shown the ability to deliver it with the same arm speed and motion as his fastball. Gonzalez also throws an average changeup and a curveball, both of which have room to improve. If he can work with a true four-pitch mix that he has command of, Gonzalez could hold down a no. 3 rotation spot quite successfully.
Gonzalez could move up to Double-A as soon as the end of June, as his results have shown he can handle the level of hitting talent available in the Carolina League. If he continues to limit hitters’ production with Frisco, he could be in the mix for a rotation spot with the major league team in spring training 2015.
Travis Demeritte (IF, Hickory Crawdads)
The South Atlantic League leader in homers, Travis Demeritte already has three infield positions to his name, though some think his future could be at third base. Last year’s (second) first-round draft pick, Demeritte seems to be following the same route as the 2013 Crawdads: Hitting for power, but not for average, and striking out an abnormal amount.
In the Arizona Rookie League last season, Demeritte hit .285/.411/.444 with four homers through 39 games playing shortstop and third base, and this performance and a good spring training earned him a place on the Hickory Crawdads in 2014. So far, Demeritte has put up a line of .225/.310/.483 with 12 homers and six doubles, proving right the power projections many predicted, but also showing a free-swinging approach. In 52 games, Demeritte has 69 strikeouts for a 33 percent K-rate, numbers reminiscent of Nick Williams and Joey Gallo a year ago. Some of this is due to the qualities that have allowed him to hit his 12 homers: his very quick bat. According to observers, Demeritte’s bat speed, while good for hitting for power, does mean that he gets in front of offspeed or breaking pitches regularly. Fortunately, Demeritte is still a teenager, and should have plenty of time to mature in his approach at the plate and his batting eye. His natural power should then be even more evident.
In the future, Demeritte could be a good defensive 3B with a quality arm who can play some second when called upon. Of course, to reach his full potential as a third baseman, he’ll need to make adjustments to his swing and show that he can hit for both enough average and power to fit in at the hot corner, but that’s well within his reach. The Rangers up-the-middle (and over-to-the-side) depth chart keeps growing, with Demeritte one of the more recent additions to a very long list.