If you watched the playoffs like me, you know that Oscar Gonzalez was making a name for himself. Not nearly in the dramatic fashion that Arozarena did in 2020, but never-the-less still eye-catching. What I didn’t realize before was just how big he is… he’s 6’4″ 240 lbs, almost as big as Franmil. Oscar is a big athletic player with a lot of natural power and he has stage presence.
Oscar Gonzalez was called up last year for the Guardians after hitting a combined 27/75/.273 across 464 ABs at AAA Columbus between 2021 and early 2022 before being called up for his first taste of the majors at the end of May. 27 HR is quite the accomplishment for a player still on the fresh side of 25. The power and contact skills he showed ended up making Franmil Reyes dispensable. He didn’t come up hitting the cover off the ball mind you; but as the season went on, he got better.
After a small sample of games in May, he played consistently through June and hit a respectable .255 in his first full month. The power didn’t translate much at first but at least he was getting hits. Oscar went down with an abdominal strain on June 29th, costing him the month of July. Then in August when he came back healthy he began to hit more consistently. Finally, in September the power he displayed in the minors showed up. Giddy up.
And that’s the real draw here. Not only did the power show up, but he also gets hits. His OPS grew each month of play even with the injury in the middle. And with that, the production of his hitting increased too; he was hitting more, and more when it mattered. Oscar Gonzalez finished the season with a wRC+ for September of 138. That’s all-star-level hitting. And, he had trimmed down his strikeout rate to a very reasonable 15.9% on the month with positive splits against RHP.
But the thing I’m most interested in is this… WHY the home runs started coming:
After he came back from the IL, He started elevating. Oscar was hitting fewer groundballs and more flyballs. On top of that, he was converting those flyballs to home runs. Some of those deep doubles were finally clearing the wall. And the most encouraging part of that is that 42.5% of his hits were now going to centerfield. That’s a good sign that a player is seeing the ball well and making good contact in the zone.
Much like Rengifo whom I covered last week, Gonzalez does have the blemish of a low walk rate and an aggressive swing-happy approach.
Oscar’s one flaw that led him into slumps is the low walk rate and a 45.7% swing rate on outside chase pitches. This could very well lead to some poor contact and outs; but much like Rengifo, I don’t think it will cost him too much in the form of Ks as he makes a lot of contact as evidenced by the 84% rate in zone. The test for him will be his ability to be more selective on his swings.
Currently, with an ADP of 178, I like the price for what could be a solid hitter with power. And if the version of him we saw in September is the real deal, we are looking at 25 HR with a .275+ AVG with a chance for more and a healthy array of counting stats on a contact-first team that will put people on base ahead of him.
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