It’s still almost unfathomable that, at one point during the 2013 season, the Phillies were set to sign Cuban pitching prospect Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to a 6-year/$48 million deal. After further medical testing knocked down the contract to a more reasonable 3-year/$12 million contract, one could have hoped that maybe Philadelphia was finally able to track down a Latin American player with the type of elite talent that is making such a huge impact on the league. As has often been the case with the Phillies transactions in the recent years, things were not looking that way for some time. Between injuries and erratic demonstrations of his pitching acumen, Gonzalez looked to be a vast overpayment even at the watered-down deal. To this point, MAG has spent his entire professional career at the minor league level, bouncing back and forth between stints on the disabled list as he tries to develop some consistency as a legitimate pitcher. It would appear, at least to an extent, that Gonzalez may be starting to figure things out.
Since hitting the disabled list during Spring Training with shoulder soreness, Gonzalez has not even sniffed the possibility of joining the MLB club. With his arm strength returning at a steady clip, the Cuban prospect who wowed the scouting departments of several teams last season with video footage alone is starting to do so in front of the right people within the Phillies organization. After throwing just over 15 innings with Single-A Clearwater, Gonzalez joined the Reading Fightin’ Phils as a member of their bullpen. Since doing so, Gonzalez has been effective against more competent competition, demonstrating the sort of stuff that the Phillies hope one day will translate to the major league level. CSNPhilly.com released an article earlier this week, noting that Gonzalez had been flirting in the 96-97 MPH range with his fastball and demonstrating the repertoire of pitches that made him such an attractive option to a team notorious for their lack of international talent.
The following video includes some brief highlights of some of Gonzalez’s work with Reading.
With the Phillies most likely set to sell off substantial pieces of their last-place club, one has to imagine that there will be plenty of opportunities for players currently at the minor league level to get their shot at the MLB level. Ironically, it is the bullpen that has emerged as one of the few bright spots for the Phillies as they meddle in the cellar of the less-than-spectacular NL East. With that being the case, it might be difficult for Gonzalez to unseat the likes of Ken Giles or even Justin De Fratus at this point. That being said, considering the investment put forth by the organization on Gonzalez, they will most likely have to give the righty a shot at a substantial role with the big club.
Phillies Director of Player Development Joe Jordan offered his take on Gonzalez and where he sees his trajectory as it pertains to the 2014 season.
“I think right now, what we’re trying to do is get him in a role where he can have some success because his arm strength is coming back — it’s back…I saw him up to 96-97 miles an hour last week. So, I think right now, that’s a good place…He’s got a changeup, he’s got a breaking ball, but we’re just trying to get him in the middle of the action…The bullpen’s the easiest place to do it right now — we’re not trying to lengthen him out right now.”
One would have to hope that, eventually, Gonzalez can get to the point where he can join the Phillies starting rotation as a significant piece. Until then, we’ll have to hope he can continue to impress in the bullpen and demonstrate the sort of skills that he parlayed into a multi-year deal.