The Situation: The Rangers are calling up Alex “Chi-Chi” Gonzalez to start, as they continue to search for someone to replace Ross Detwiler in the rotation. Detwiler is on the disabled list, but isn’t expected to be ready for Saturday’s game. While this might be a short stint in the big leagues, if he performs well, he could extend his stay.
Background: Drafted out of the bastion of baseball that is Oral Roberts, Texas popped Gonzalez at pick No. 23, the highest overall selection from ORU since Mike Moore was selected first overall. Never afraid to challenge a prospect, the Rangers moved Gonzalez through their system at an accelerated pace. While he made a stop at every level above the complex leagues, he will have made it to the majors within two years of being drafted. Gonzalez’s sheer domination of High-A and Double-A in 2014 likely give the Rangers confidence in his ability to adapt to the major leagues despite lacking the same production (only a 13 percent strikeout rate) thus far in Triple-A.
Scouting Report: Everything works of the fastball for Gonzalez, which doesn’t make him an exception. What does is that he’ll throw not one, not two, but three different fastballs, as he manipulated the pitch to cut or run at will. An athletic player, he repeats his simple mechanics well, especially in regards to his release point, making it hard on hitters to know which way a pitch will move until it’s too late. He commands his fastballs well, as you might imagine someone with his ability to manipulate pitches might. Gonzalez shows impressive feel on the mound, with the ability to add and subtract velocity, as well as reach back for a little more when he needs it.
His top secondary offering is a mid-80s slider that features bite and tilt. It’s a swing-and-miss offering that Gonzalez commands to both sides of the plate, as he is willing to back foot it, or back door it depending on what the situation calls for. With his ability to repeat his release point, hitters struggle to identify the slider out of his hands.
Rounding out his four-pitch mix are the curveball and changeup. The curve is something in between a show-me pitch and a below average offering – something to change the pace of an at-bat and mix in now and then, but it lacks the consistency to be thrown without getting punished. His changeup is a viable third pitch that grades out as plus in time. He gets fade and tumble on the pitch, but doesn’t command it as well as the fastball or slider, often catching too much of the middle third when it’s in the zone, rather than consistently working the bottom third.
Gonzalez’s refined command has helped push him through the system, but there’s still some growth to be had there. His straightforward mechanics and athleticism should get him there in time, and as the command improves, the secondaries will follow suit. Those secondaries will be crucial as Gonzalez navigates big league lineups for the second and third times, though it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him rely on the fastball/slider combination in his first few starts.
Immediate Big-League Future: While Ross Detwiler’s health could be a determinant in how long Gonzalez’s trial lasts, it would be a surprise to see the Rangers let Detwiler be a serious obstacle. If Gonzalez performs, the organization will let him develop at the major league level. —Craig Goldstein
Fantasy Impact: Since the season has started, Gonzalez has been floating around the back-end of the Stash List, as it was pretty predictable that he would get a shot in Texas at some point this season. Given the slow start he had to the season, it was certainly realistic that he would spend the entire first half of the year in the minors; however, the Rangers' rotation is somewhere between a M.A.S.H. unit and a post-apocalyptic abandoned steel mill. I mean, they've given Phil Klein two starts. Phil Klein!
If he's at least competent in his debut, and subsequent starts, there's a very good chance that Gonzalez will stick in the rotation for the remainder of the season (at least until he hits whatever innings limit they set out for him). His selling point in fantasy has always been his floor–which is basically an SP4, even in a difficult hitters' park. This doesn't mean he has no ceiling, but it does mean that he's pretty unlikely to be the type of pitcher who is going to come up and start striking out a batter per inning immediately. If you're looking for what a realistic successful rookie campaign might look like from the right-hander, think along the lines of Mike Leake. He can flirt with a sub-4.00 ERA and hover between six and seven strikeouts per nine–which would be a welcome site for the Rangers. I mean, they've given Ross Detwiler seven starts. Ross Detwiler!
Beyond that, the development of the changeup is going to go a long way towards determining his final fantasy future. For Gonzalez, the development of his changeup into a consistent bat misser is going to be the key to tapping into the type of performance that even shallow mixed leaguers can get excited about. If he continues to make those strides, he can be a strong SP3 at peak with the bulk of his value coming via ratios and wins. The strikeouts will never be Gonzalez's selling point, but 170-175 is within range given the bulk of innings he could provide. And bulk is certainly what the Rangers need, given the incredible amount of injuries they've dealt with. I mean, they gave a start to Anthony Ranaudo. Anthony Ranaudo!
Right now, in redraft formats, Gonzalez is worth owning in 16-team mixed leagues and deeper–though he should be monitored in almost all leagues. In AL-only, he's worth a healthy FAAB bid, as he's a comparatively safe option even among just back-end starters, let alone rookies. It will likely take a bid of $16-20 to get him, and getting slightly more aggressive than that may be called for if you have a struggling pitching staff. In keeper/dynasty formats, Gonzalez should be owned almost universally, save the shallowest of mixed leagues. And while he's not someone to use an elite waiver priority on, the back-half teams should find that he'll slip through those teams waiting on the likes of Corey Seager or Carlos Correa. —Bret Sayre