No. 14: Red Sox starting pitching prospect Wikelman Gonzalez
Wikelman Gonzalez burst into the hearts of a lot of fans at the end of the 2021 season with an impressive showing in a short Low-A stint. Suddenly, he was one of the most exciting pitching prospects in the entire Red Sox system.
2022 may not seem like it at first glance, but it was a strong season that should reinforce those beliefs for a lot of people. The right-hander posted a 4.21 ERA, .212 BAA, and 1.32 WHIP between Low-A and High-A. The ERA and WHIP aren’t great, but the BAA was phenomenal. Mainly, there was an issue with walks. In 98 1/3 innings, Gonzalez allowed 54 free passes. Although, his eye-popping 121 strikeouts helped limit the damage.
The most important takeaway from the 2022 season, is that Gonzalez posted better numbers in High-A than he did Low-A. Getting promoted near the end of the year, Wik made four starts with Greenville. He posted a 2.65 ERA, .213 BAA, 1.12 WHIP, and had 23 strikeouts compared to six walks in 17 innings at the level.
The 20-year-old has a four-pitch arsenal, that is headlined by a nasty fastball. He has a four-seam fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a two-seamer that drops into the low-90s. There’s some great movement on the two-seamer, and he seems to never really lose either pitch. The command isn’t always perfect, but it’s improving. It should also be mentioned that he was throwing his fastball in the 80s back in 2019. So there’s been a significant velocity increase. Could we see it tick up a little more even?
The curveball is somehow his worst pitch, and I say that because it’s still a solid offering. Gonzalez throws a sweeping curve pretty similar to Rodriguez-Cruz. It tends to sit in the high-70s and low-80s. Good break, that can look incredibly sharp at times, which will definitely cause hitters to flail at it. The issue here is consistency. He’ll lose the pitch at times. This causes him to leave it flat over the plate, or to have it never even look like a potential strike as it sails high or buries into the dirt. When it’s on, it’s nasty though. So if the control increases, watch out.
Finally, Gonzalez has a great changeup. Sitting in the mid-to-high-80s, it features a devastating drop. It looks just like his fastball out of his hands, but the slower speed and heavy late drop will force a lot of hitters to swing early and overtop of it. He has a pretty good feel for the pitch too. Not too many mistakes are made with it. The only real issue is sometimes his delivery looks different, telegraphing the pitch a little bit.