Picture by Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans
When the Cubs traded Mychal Givens to the Mets, I was pretty happy but my wife was even happier because she did not care for for Givens at all. But the return of pitcher Saul Gonzalez is one that I find more and more intriguing as each week went by in the season. The Mets used him as a short reliever. The Cubs, I have a sneaking suspicion, might be stretching him out as a starter.
Height – 6-foot-7
Weight – 225
Throws – Right
Age – 22
Drafted in the 23rd round in the 2018 draft
From Puerto Rico
Gonzalez’s first year as a pro is not something you want to write home about. He played three games and only pitched 2.1 innings and gave up three runs and only made 30 pitches. That’s it. When 2019 came, Gonzalez missed the entire season after he was placed on the disabled list in June of that year and would not return until 2021.
When he returned in 2021, he threw a total of 40 innings over two levels. The Mets had him start a total of seven games of the 12 that he appeared in. In rookie ball he threw 29.1 innings with a 3.68 ERA. When he made the jump to Low-A, he only threw 10 innings but he also struggled with an 8.71 ERA in four games, two of which he started. He struck out 41 batters on the year, which was a little more than one batter per inning and he only walked 12. That’s almost a 4 to 1 ratio which is quite excellent.
This year, he was back in Low-A St. Lucie where he appeared in 14 games before coming to the Cubs. He posted a 2.81 ERA and struck out 29 in 25.2 innings. Again, his walk rate was pretty low as he only allowed seven free passes.
Since coming to Myrtle Beach, the Cubs have slowly been stretching him out and he’s actually done OK. I’m sure that with an off-season development plan, he might be a little different next year depending upon what the Cubs have him work on this winter.
As for where he will begin next year, that question might not be as important as his role. I don’t know if he’s fully ready to start at South Bend in the rotation, but he’s more than hold his own as a reliever in Myrtle Beach. He might end up being a guy who is more of a piggyback starter and then works his way up to being a starter. We shall see in the spring just exactly what plans the Cubs have for him.
This will be one of the more intriguing storylines of next spring.
Whether it will take or not, I haven’t a clue, but I expect much of his off-season training program will focus on his strength and conditioning in attempt to coax out another 4-5 mph on his fastball.