Under the Radar details players in the Chicago White Sox system who may have suffered setbacks, gotten lost in the shuffle, or just haven’t surfaced as significant prospects as of yet. Next up is Romy Gonzalez, who was an extra base machine for Great Falls in 2018.
Romy Gonzalez (OF) Great Falls Voyagers
Romy Gonzalez, a native of Hialeah, Fla., had an interesting career for the University of Miami. He struggled badly in his freshman year, where he slashed just .173/.215/.280, with just one homer in 75 at bats. Gonzalez improved mightily the next year, to the tune of .265/.344/.462 while hitting 11 homers and stealing 13 bases; many preseason scouting reports projected him going in the top five rounds for the next year’s upcoming MLB draft.
However, in his junior season for the Hurricanes, his power went south. Although successful in 22-of-26 stolen base attempts, he hit just four homers in nearly 200 at-bats, with a slash line of .273/.358/.394 — not exactly the marks of a high-round draft pick. The White Sox opted to buy low and drafted him in the 18th round, and reeled him with a signing bonus of $125,000. Shortly after the draft, GM Rick Hahn was asked who may be the sleeper pick of 2018, and he immediately referred to Gonzalez.
Although Gonzalez’s power numbers fell in his junior season with Miami, they rebounded in the higher altitude of the Pioneer League. He hit .254/.323/.498 with Great Falls in his first minor league campaign, and he hit 10 homers, 15 doubles, and two triples in 201 at-bats. He also continued to efficiently swipe bases, successful in 10-of-11 attempts. Gonzalez especially improved his power numbers as the year progressed; of his 26 hits since August 1, 17 were of the extra-base route: nine doubles, one triple, and seven homers. His bugaboo, as it was during his collegiate career, was strikeouts. He walked 18 times for the Voyagers but struck out 65, constituting a nearly 30% punchout rate.
Gonzalez spent the majority of the season as the Voyagers DH due to elbow soreness, but played center field exclusively at the end of the year. He played 14 games of errorless ball there, but didn’t have any assists. It’s possible that he either didn’t have many opportunities to throw out base runners, or he was simply not overexerting himself on the long throws due to his injury. All previous scouting reports, from Perfect Game to 2080 Baseball, indicate that his arm is plus to double-plus.
Gonzalez primarily played second and third base with Miami, but his arm strength and size (six-foot-one, 210 pounds) indicate he’d be a better fit at the hot corner if he had to play an infield position. He, of course, could also play first base, but that would underutilize his speed (he ran a 6.83 60-yard-dash in the 2015 World Showcase) and range.
Provided his arm is healthy, Gonzalez profiles best as a right fielder, where he can show off his cannon arm; with that said, he does have the athletic ability to play all three outfield positions — at least until his range declines due to age and/or increased bulk.
When looking for a Gonzalez comparison, former White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin instantly comes to mind. Gonzalez has similar (albeit relatively untapped) power, lightning-quick bat speed, and build. While Gonzalez may actually have more athletic ability and range (not to mention efficiency on the basepaths), he lags behind Quentin with the hitting tool. Gonzalez’s collegiate career batting average was .254, which eerily matched his average with Great Falls. Though Romy (who just turned 22, on September 6) does have terrific bat speed, his plate discipline is lacking in comparison; even in college, Gonzalez failed to put the ball in play 25% of the time. Quentin, on the other hand, struck out far less (12%) and hit much better (.350/.435/.568) at the collegiate level.
I project Gonzalez to begin 2019 as an outfielder for Kannapolis, although I expect him to share some time at third base with young phenom Bryce Bush. Gonzalez, if unable to improve his hit tool, projects as a more athletic version of either Matt Davidson or Daniel Palka. Even if he struggles to consistently hit for a high average, he has enough speed and defensive acumen to make it to the majors in perhaps a platoon role. However, if he can maintain his power while improving his contact skills, his ceiling could indeed be as a starting corner outfielder or third baseman at the professional level — perhaps a better defensive version of Avi Garcia.