Prospect spotlight: O's like Gonzalez's power

May 18th, 2021

Over the past several years, the Orioles have worked to stockpile prospects via the Draft, international signings and trades, bolstering their Minor League system into one of the sport’s best. These days, Baltimore’s system boasts headliners like Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez but also considerable depth, in the form of exciting players who have the chance to grow into the club’s Top 30 rankings -- and impact big leaguers -- in the near future.

Consider it the result of Baltimore’s expanding efforts in the international market after years of eschewing Latin America under previous regimes. All summer at and MLB Pipeline, we’ll be spotlighting these prospects, many of whom are on the verge of beginning their professional careers in earnest.

In this installation, meet outfielder Luis Gonzalez:

Age: 18
DOB: 11/02/2002
Hometown: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 200 lbs
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Position: OF
Prospect ranking: Orioles No. 30 per MLB Pipeline
MLB ETA: 2025
MLB comp: Gregory Polanco

What’s his backstory?

Gonzalez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where he began playing baseball informally at age nine. One year later, he met Freddy Guzman, who played parts of five big league seasons with the Padres, Rangers, Yankees and Rays. Under Guzman’s tutelage, Gonzalez began taking baseball seriously around age 12, competing as both a pitcher and outfielder. That was also when his power started to show up.

“That was when the hitting part became more interesting,” Gonzalez said, through team translator Ramón Alarcón.

These days, that ability to drive the baseball is the bedrock of Gonzalez’s skillset. At the Orioles’ instructional camp in Fall 2020, Gonzalez stood out by routinely reaching the center field batter’s eye during batting practice, which many players much older than him could not do. Those displays reminded evaluators of another tall, left-handed hitting Santo Domingo native -- Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco, whom Gonzalez considers a role model.

“I like his power,” Gonzalez said. “I like his ability to hit, the good arm that he has and I like the way he handles himself.”

What are his tools? (20-80 grading scale)

Hit: 40
Power: 50
Run: 40
Arm: 40
Field: 40
Overall: 40

Scouting report:

Physically advanced for his age, Gonzalez uses his left-handed swing and tall, strong frame to produce some of the most precocious power in the Orioles system. That power ability is still raw and most prominent to the pull side, but it shows up to all fields. Gonzalez’s hit ability is less advanced and is prone to a fair amount of swing-and-miss, but that isn’t uncommon for players his age and development level. How far he rises likely depends on how he can improve his approach and decrease strikeouts as he matures.

Gonzalez profiles as a prototypical corner outfielder, with a good enough arm to handle right field. He may never be more than passable defensively, but he has a bat-first profile with a projectable body and tools. If it all clicks, Gonzalez could grow into a middle-of-the-order hitter and everyday right fielder in the big leagues.

How did he arrive in the organization?

Even before Mike Elias became Orioles general manager in late 2018, Gonzalez was on his radar. Elias targeted Gonzalez that year as Astros assistant general manager in charge of player development and Minor League operations, and by the time Elias arrived in Baltimore -- intent on revamping the O’s presence in the international market -- Gonzalez was widely considered the best eligible prospect still uncommitted.

He signed for a $475,000 bonus as the headliner of Baltimore’s 2018-19 international signing class that, at the time, was the largest in franchise history. Gonzalez’s bonus was also the most lucrative given to an international prospect in franchise history at the time.

What are they saying about him?

“He has a lot going for him … The headliner is the big raw power from the left side. He throws well as well, so he profiles well as a right fielder. He’s a kid who keeps growing into his body. Even the power we saw as a kid continues to improve as he fills out. His exit velocities are pretty exciting for such a young kid.”

-- Orioles senior director of international scouting Koby Perez

2021 outlook:

After signing, Gonzalez began his career at the Orioles’ Dominican Academy in 2019, and was one of the youngest players they brought to the U.S. for instructional camp in 2020. When the academy re-opened for training in 2021, Gonzalez was part of the first wave of prospects to return. He progressed to extended Spring Training in Florida with an eye toward getting his first official professional at-bats this summer in the Gulf Coast League.

“I want to be better every day,” Gonzalez said. “I want to work every single day, get myself ready in the best shape that I can until the callups come, until there's an advancement to the next level. I want to keep working and hopefully advance to the next level soon as possible.”