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Colorado Rockies prospect Pedro Gonzalez has the potential to be a star

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Purple Row Prospect No. 16, Pedro Gonzalez

16. Pedro Gonzalez (431 points, 32 ballots)

Pedro Gonzalez is a player who has an extremely wide range of outcomes. With his tools and potential, he could become an All-Star at the major league level. Or, he could flame out before Double-A ball.

Gonzalez was the big international signing during the 2014 period, receiving a $1.3 million bonus from the Rockies. A 6'3" shortstop when he was signed, Gonzalez has now sprouted up to 6'5" at least and may still be growing. As a result, Colorado moved him off the position before 2016, placing him in center field. You heard me: a right-handed hitting outfield prospect!

In the Dominican Summer League last year, Gonzalez started off gangbusters before settling into a .251/.318/.418 line with eight homers (rating him 4th overall in the DSL) over 282 plate appearances—good for a 108 wRC+. Unfortunately, the now 19-year-old Gonzalez struggled in 2016 in his stateside debut in Grand Junction. Against pitchers who were on average 2.5 years older, Gonzalez posted a .230/.290/.394 line (69 wRC+) with 25 extra base hits in 258 plate appearances. Thirty one percent of his plate appearances ended in strikeouts.

That’s disappointing, but there is some encouraging news here. Gonzalez had a .261 BABIP, indicating he might have deserved better results. More encouraging was his post All-Star Break line of .276/.336/.500 in 104 plate appearances (though the strikeouts remained).

So what’s the big fuss about with Gonzalez? Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs ranked Gonzalez 7th in the system recently:

Gonzalez has already converted from shortstop to center field, where his precocious instincts have impressed scouts. A below-average runner from home to first, Gonzalez is a plus runner underway and his gargantuan strides cover plenty of ground in center field right now.

He has incredible physical projection. The on-paper measureables alone indicate this, but the breadth of Gonzalez’s shoulders and the size of his hands are particularly stunning. I’m setting the over/under on Gonzalez’s prime weight at 230. For reference, Jayson Werth is 6-foot-5, 235. There’s a chance Gonzalez can retain the speed for center field at that weight and his surprising instincts for center field give him some margin for error down the line in that regard.

With that weight should come big raw power. Gonzalez isn’t making loud contact right now but he has loose wrists, some natural opposite-field ability and picturesque loft and extension through his swing. There’s a chance for plus raw power at peak.

Of course, with levers this long, there are holes in the swing. Gonzalez has shown some ability to adjust his hands but is a long way from being able to punish velocity on the inner half. His breaking-ball recognition was spotty during instructs. Because the future of his hit tool is quite volatile, so is Gonzalez’s overall profile. He’s a potential star but light years from the majors.

Gonzalez is currently ranked 23rd on MLB.com's list, though the note is from before the 2016 season:

With bat speed and a 6-foot-5 frame that provides terrific leverage and hints at future strength, Gonzalez has tremendous power potential. Though his right-handed swing naturally gets long and he had a 29 percent strikeout rate in his debut, he shows feel for hitting with his ability to use the opposite field and make adjustments. Considered a below-average runner when he signed, he now flashes plus times but figures to lose a step as he matures physically.

Gonzalez has grown two inches and added 15 pounds since signing, and he has room to put on 50 more. The Rockies figured he'd outgrow shortstop, where he made his debut, so they're moving him to center field in 2016. He figures to eventually wind up in right field, where his strong arm would be an asset, and one club official says Gonzalez reminds him of a young Alex Rios.

John Sickels had Gonzalez just missing the top 20 before the 2016 season:

When signed, he was listed at 6-4, 160, lean, lanky, and projectable. He's up to 6-5, 175 now and could very well end up at 6-6, 200+ as he matures. His power potential is excellent and he demonstrated what he can do with his long levers in the Dominican Summer League. He also demonstrated the downside of his size with a very high strikeout rate, a long swing, and issues with strike zone judgment. The Rockies hope those issues will subside as he gets at-bats and irons out his swing mechanics. Gonzalez was used at shortstop and third base last year with poor results so he's moving to the outfield, supposedly in center though my guess is that he ends up in right field eventually. Grade C+, high ceiling but with unanswered questions.

A gigantic power-hitting center-fielder? Yes please! Obviously the strikeouts and lack of dominance to date are a huge red flag and there’s a long way to go with Gonzalez before he gets to the Show. Still, if Gonzalez does make the Show (it’s still a big if) he's a very intriguing player whose plus power potential that will play up in Coors Field. We’ll see if the Rockies test Gonzalez out in full season ball initially in 2017 or if they have him repeat in short season ball—hopefully it’s the former.

I'm aboard the hype bus for Gonzalez, placing him 13th on my personal ballot, which equated to a 45+ Future Value as a high potential MLB contributor.