How Far Away is Nick Gonzales From Entering the Second Base Mix in Pittsburgh?

BRADENTON, Fla. – Nick Gonzales is usually one of the first players on the field, and one of the last ones off the field.

“I think I’ve always had a pretty good work ethic for baseball,” said Gonzales. “It’s not really work when you really love it.”

What Gonzales appears to love doing is hitting. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ 2020 first rounder had a 1.249 OPS in three seasons at New Mexico State, then made his debut this year in High-A Greensboro with a .950 OPS. The Pirates sent him to the Arizona Fall League to wrap up the year, where he added on a 1.032 OPS in 87 plate appearances.

Gonzales didn’t take too much time off this offseason after the fall league results went well. He comes into camp this year trusting his preparation and what he’s learned so far in his pro career.

“You go out there and put so much work in, and so much work in, and you kind of just go out there when the season comes and you’ve got to trust it,” said Gonzales. “You’ve got to make the adjustments. Definitely, you’ve got to learn from last year, take what I did well, keep doing it.”

One area to focus on with Gonzales is his home/road splits from 2021. Greensboro is a hitter friendly stadium, and the middle infield prospect took advantage with a .322/.393/.673 line in 191 plate appearances. His results on the road weren’t bad, but were different. He had a .265/.373/.435 line, making less contact and with less power.

Gonzales has been praised the most for his contact ability, so seeing that number low away from a hitter-friendly environment raises a red flag. That’s compounded by the Arizona Fall League and New Mexico State also offering hitter-friendly environments that Gonzales didn’t have any statistical issues with.

The Pirates feel that Gonzales just needs more experience.

“There’s certainly some things and numbers that we’re looking at and trying to get out in front of,” said Pirates’ hitting coordinator Jonny Tucker. “Some of it is he doesn’t have a dense enough library of competition.”

If there is an issue with his hitting ability in the higher levels, you can rest assured that Gonzales will be addressing it with his work ethic.

“What this guy did this year was exceptional,” said Tucker. “The sky is the limit for that dude. We have really good problems, man. I think most of it is let them play. They haven’t played enough. Those are much of our problems. Nick is married to the game of baseball. Much to the same beat as Henry Davis, you’re never going to have to pull these guys ear to get them to work hard. Probably the opposite.”

The Pirates have openings at both of their middle infield positions in Pittsburgh for the long-term. Gonzales has played more second base, and profiles as the future starting option at the position for the Pirates. He’s been getting work at shortstop this spring, helping to improve his footwork and arm anywhere on the field.

Gonzales will go to Altoona in 2022, which will be a big test for his contact skills. Altoona will represent the most pitcher-friendly home park that Gonzales has played in to date, and at a level with more consistent pitchers than he’s ever faced. That combination will provide a challenge that will test the top 100 hitting prospect, and show how far away he might be from helping in Pittsburgh.


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Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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