Top pick Gonzalez gets first taste of Majors

September 19th, 2023

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.

CHICAGO -- How did Jacob Gonzalez spend his first day in the Major Leagues with the White Sox?

The organization’s top pick in the 2023 Draft and No. 4 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, toured Guaranteed Rate Field with his family, spoke to members of the front office, manager Pedro Grifol and a few White Sox players, bought White Sox merchandise and took in a victory over Minnesota Saturday. Of course, the 21-year-old didn’t officially join the White Sox roster, but it was his first visit to Chicago since the Draft.

“Today was pretty cool,” said Gonzalez during a Saturday media session.

“I spent about 20 minutes with him and his dad. Seems like they’re having a good time,” Grifol said. "It’s good to have him part of the organization. Looks like a really good baseball player.”

Gonzalez was selected 15th overall from Mississippi, and the left-handed-hitting shortstop had a brief four-game stop with the Arizona Complex League White Sox before playing 30 games for Single-A Kannapolis. Gonzalez finished with a .207/.328/.261 slash line for the Cannon Ballers to go with one home run, 13 RBIs and 20 walks against 23 strikeouts.

Defense has been the concern brought about previously to Gonzalez in regard to staying at shortstop. He stands at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, and by his own admission, isn’t “the fastest person in the world.” But he looks at the Rangers’ Corey Seager, who checks in at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, and gains inspiration. It was the same basic topic he addressed via Zoom on the Sunday night in July featuring the first round of the ’23 Draft.

“He’s doing it, so I can do it too,” Gonzalez said. “Everyone questions my defense, always. I always keep wanting to get better. I think ground balls are a lot of fun. It’s fun to get better that way. 

“This past season I didn’t hit that good. It’s not going to be the same. I’m going to hit better than that. Just working on how my body moves when I’m hitting and perfecting it so that it’s easier. There are already too many disadvantages while you are hitting.” 

During this first professional season, Gonzalez was just left to play, but the organization will be working with him more this offseason. He’s open for anything and quickly made the adjustment from the college on-field life, albeit at a championship-level program such as Ole Miss, to the almost everyday Minor League work existence. 

“Yeah, it felt like in college, the off-days you needed to go in and get work done,” Gonzalez said. “You need the extra work. But then I feel like in the Minor Leagues, the off-day is like, let’s just calm down for a second. And then get back to it the next day. That’s the biggest difference.”

“I know nowadays Minor Leagues have a day off on Mondays, which makes it easier for them,” Grifol said. “But it doesn’t make it easier to graduate to this, every day mostly. There’s a lot to it. That first year is always a learning experience on and off the field, how to really get through a Minor League season, a professional season.” 

A plethora of talented shortstops continue to suit up throughout the White Sox system. Tim Anderson is the All-Star-caliber, Major League incumbent, having gone 7-for-9 over his last two games with a .354 average over 50 plate appearances since Sept. 3. The team has a $14 million option for 2024 on one of their more dynamic players, despite this uncharacteristic rough campaign, and a $1 million buyout. 

Colson Montgomery, the top White Sox prospect and No. 17 overall, per MLB Pipeline, has an .827 OPS for Double-A Birmingham and figures to make his big league debut in 2024. It’s a good problem to have with Gonzalez in the mix, but for this past weekend, his first Guaranteed Rate experience was more of a family affair.