MINNEAPOLIS -- Stephen Gonsalves has established himself as the Twins' top pitching prospect and is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 9 left-handed prospect in baseball, as announced on Wednesday.Gonsalves, ranked as the club's No. 3 prospect and the No. 64 overall by MLB Pipeline, will head to Spring
MINNEAPOLIS -- Stephen Gonsalves has established himself as the Twins' top pitching prospect and is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 9 left-handed prospect in baseball, as announced on Wednesday.
Gonsalves, ranked as the club's No. 3 prospect and the No. 64 overall by MLB Pipeline, will head to Spring Training with a chance to compete for a spot in the rotation, although he's expected to open the year at Triple-A Rochester.
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Gonsalves, 23, reached Triple-A for the first time last year, posting a combined 3.27 ERA with 118 strikeouts in 110 innings between Double-A Chattanooga and Rochester.
"I just need to be a little more consistent," Gonsalves said at the Rookie Career Development Program in early January. "I've been working on my slider a little bit. That's going to be huge for me, hopefully, just staying with that curveball and trusting it. Big leaguers need four pitches to have a long career."
As Gonsalves noted, his slider and curveball remain behind his changeup, which is his best pitch. His fastball sits in the low 90s, but he locates it well and it has one of the highest spin rates in the Minors.
Gonsalves has a career 2.39 ERA in 478 1/3 innings in the Minors, but he struggled a bit in his first taste of Triple-A. He had a 5.56 ERA with 22 strikeouts, eight walks and four homers allowed in 22 2/3 innings. Gonsalves will need to put up better numbers there to get called up, but he's considered close to being Major League ready.
The 6-foot-5, 213 pounder will also have to stay healthy, as he's dealt with shoulder issues in recent years and threw only 110 innings last year. His career high in innings pitched is 140 in 2016, so the Twins are likely to be mindful about his innings total in '18.
Gonsalves, though, said he's fine with whatever the Twins have planned for him, as he has trust in the organization and is focused on getting better instead of worrying about when he'll make his debut.
"You just have to take it one step at a time and know it's a learning process," Gonsalves said. "You have to trust the club and the future they have in mind for you."
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and **Facebook**.