Gonzalez pleased but not satisfied with high praise at Minors camp

February 27th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Scott Merkin's White Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The phrase “talk of Minor League camp” was invoked by White Sox general manager Chris Getz in speaking about Jacob Gonzalez during the Cactus League media day on Feb. 20.

Those words of praise were conveyed last week to the White Sox top pick in the 2023 Draft and No. 15 overall. His reaction? Pleased, but certainly far from satisfied.

“I don’t really think too much about it,” Gonzalez told me. “Just trying to get better and play good.”

Gonzalez, 21, wasn’t great offensively during his short stint with Single-A Kannapolis after he arrived from Mississippi. The left-handed-hitting shortstop and No. 4 White Sox prospect per MLB Pipeline slashed .207/.328/.261 with one home run, three doubles and 13 RBIs over 30 games.

There were 20 walks produced against 23 strikeouts, which gave Gonzalez some sense of accomplishment.

“Then I played good defense,” Gonzalez said. “It could have been worse, I guess. I hope I don’t play that bad ever again.”

Changes followed for Gonzalez’s hitting approach, as implemented during instructional league action after that inaugural 2023 season, which also included 12 at-bats in the Arizona Complex League. It was just a little adjustment involving his direction and getting out from his back leg.

“I started with my weight back and my direction was going toward first base. I stood up more and then fixed my direction trying to go more middle toward the field,” Gonzalez said. “I’m glad that they are trying to help me get better and hopefully it works out. Big things to come.”

“It’s a much simpler approach and simpler swing, very repeatable,” Getz said. “He’s in great shape. Then you look at, mechanically, what he’s doing in the box, and his confidence, and I think there’s going to be a lot of good that comes out of the 2024 season.”

Offseason work with his dad, Jess, who has been a baseball coach for Downey High School in Southern California for 23 years, followed the changes. It’s odd to do something one way your whole life and be successful, and then have to switch once your pro career began.

But Gonzalez was prepared by his dad for such a possibility at an early age.

“He’s told me that someone is going to want to change me, so we’ve been ready for it since I was 12 years old,” Gonzalez said. “I figured out a comfortable way to do it.

“When I first started, I was doing generic stances to figure it out. And then when I went home, I messed with it, getting more comfortable with it. In batting practice, it feels completely normal. In games, that’s when it’s a little weird, but it’s getting better. It feels easier to hit the ball harder.”

Passing judgment on any player based solely on his immediate post-Draft season would be very premature. That’s especially true for a player of Gonzalez’s skillset.

He played a key role in 2022 as a sophomore shortstop for the first College World Series title in Ole Miss baseball history. He has an advanced plate approach similar to Colson Montgomery, the No. 1 White Sox prospect and No. 9 overall, per MLB Pipeline, who currently is in big league camp. So, the White Sox are going to trust Gonzalez’s ability, trust his changes and let him play.

“His hit tool is going to be something that will be real,” White Sox director of player development Paul Janish said. “He has a good eye, he sees the baseball, diagnoses pitches early. He’s been good at baseball up to this point, so we are going to give him the chance to be good at baseball.”

Added Gonzalez: “Everyone has been saying it looks good. I’m still getting used to it. I’m glad everyone is saying it’s on the right track. It feels better than it did in Instructs. So, I’m happy it looks good and it’s getting better.”