Oscar Gonzalez, like many young players, has been revelation for Cleveland Guardians
Rookie Oscar Gonzalez has been a big reason why the Cleveland Guardians have recently surged into first place in the AL Central.
The Cleveland Guardians are no doubt thanking their lucky stars that the 2021 Rule 5 Draft was canceled. There’s no guarantee Oscar Gonzalez, left off Cleveland’s 40-man roster last fall, would have been selected by another team, but imagine if he was and was still having this type of start to his career.
Gonzalez played a huge role in Wednesday’s wild 11-10 victory over the Minnesota Twins, going 2-for-5 with four RBIs. He hit a two-run homer that put Cleveland ahead 7-6 in the seventh inning, and then followed that up with a two-run single that tied the game in the ninth.
His surprising start in the majors is what allowed the Guardians to also DFA the struggling Oscar Mercado this week as pitcher Aaron Civale and designated hitter Franmil Reyes were re-activated off the IL.
It’s safe to say that even with his 31 home runs in the minors last year, nobody could have seen this type of run by Gonzalez. The 24-year-old is hitting .333/.363/.500 with two home runs and ten doubles, now finding himself in the middle of Cleveland’s lineup each and every night. His wRC+ is a hilarious 146 and, perhaps most importantly, he’s striking out just under 20%. Keeping that strikeout total down will be the key to any success Gonzalez has moving forward.
He’s also absolutely tattooing baseballs, as to be expected with his size. His max exit velocity of 113.1 mph puts him in the 91st percentile, while his average exit velocity of 91.3 mph puts him among the top 40 hitters in the game.
One shudders to think where this team might be if Gonzalez hadn’t been there to fill the void Franmil Reyes has left in the lineup this year with both his struggles and recent injury. Amazingly, the two have essentially flip-flopped their positions in the order, and the Guardians are now incredibly lucky to have someone like Reyes – or Gonzalez – hitting sixth or seventh in the lineup on any given night. That’s a luxury just about any team would kill to have.
It’s honestly doubtful any team would have taken Gonzalez in the Rule 5 Draft last year. Sure, he hit those 31 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A, but he also had 112 strikeouts, including 76 in 290 at-bats in Columbus. He was still something of an unknown commodity, but to his credit, he made the proper adjustments and has quickly become a vital contributor at the major-league level.
You might not see Gonzalez walk very much anytime soon, but if he’s going to keep making contact, taking what pitchers give him, and occasionally tearing the cover off the ball at 113 mph, the Guardians will absolutely take it.