AFL Recap: Nick Gonzales Helps Saguaros to AFL Championship

The Surprise Saguaros played in the Arizona Fall League championship game on Saturday night against Glendale. The Pittsburgh Pirates were represented in the starting lineup by Nick Gonzales and Blake Sabol. Colin Selby came in for the 11th inning. Here’s a quick recap of their day.

Gonzales batted second and served as the DH. Gonzales had four hits in the final game of the regular season on Thursday. In this game, he singled on a grounder to right field in the first. He hit a solo homer in the third, which can be seen below. He reached on an infield single in the fifth and scored a run. He was hit by a pitch in the sixth, then got called out on strikes in the eighth. He had a chance to walk it off in the tenth with a tied score and the winning run on third base, but he struck out to end the inning. That meant that he was the ghost runner in the 11th and he scored a run.

Sabol batted sixth and caught. He struck out swinging to end the first inning. He lined out to first base in the fourth. He singled in the sixth, stole a base and scored a run. He struck out swinging with the game-winning run on second base in the ninth. Since he made the last out in the ninth, he was the free runner in the tenth and scored on a double.

Colin Selby took the 11th and struck out the first two batters. He issued a walk, then allowed a single that scored the free runner. Selby struck out the next batter, giving him an unearned run and three strikeouts on 20 pitches. He took the win when Surprise walked it off in the 11th.

Here’s the boxscore

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John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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The two analysts had differing opinions on Hank’s future position. One analyst believes he’ll be in RF due to his defense at C. Dan ODowd stated that guys can get better at catcher D if you are just patient with them. Sabol had a lot of trouble containing balls in the dirt, he got beaten up back there on wild pitches, but he’s gotta keep some of them in front of him which he rarely was able to do.


Nicky G exuding a lot of confidence in his AB’s in Championship game. Quite a compliment by coaches to give him the DH spot. He did get totally overmatched by one pitcher who had awesome stuff and threw him 3 sliders for a backwards K on 3 pitches. But hopefully this AFL experience will put him in a good place for 23 season. If BC wants higher OBP batters, Nicky should make it to the show in mid/late 23.


Gonzales seems like he barrels a lot of balls; nice compact stroke, keeps the barrel in the zone.

What’s the knock on him again: below average bat speed and trouble with offspeed leading to swing and miss?? I don’t see how he can be this productive of a hitter, posting excellent on base skills while having such a fundamental flaw.


I don’t see how he can be this productive of a hitter, posting excellent on base skills while having such a fundamental flaw.”

Quality of competition.

You can put up huge minor league numbers without ever succeeding against big league-quality pitchers you’ll face night in and night out in the show.

The two recent prospects NickyG gets comped to most, based on swing type and profile, are Keston Hiura and Carter Kieboom.

Hiura put up a .407 OBP in AAA as a 22 yo yet just a .318 OBP across a thousand at bats in the show. His K rate ballooned 10% higher than any number he posted in the minors.

Kieboom put up a .409 OBP in AAA as a 21 yo yet just a .304 OBP so far in the show.

All three have the type of short, quick loop to their bat path that pulls it out of the zone quickly and makes them particularly susceptible to sliders.


I think John is right. Bat speed has never been an issue for Gonzalez,


Wasn’t he the one who’s bat was in and out of the zone too quick? Whichever one it was made some adjustments to try and keep his bat in the zone longer.

Last edited 10 months ago by john_fluharty

I dont know that i have heard bat speed as a problem, but swing and miss/strikeout rate definitely is. I don’t think there’s much doubt if he could K ~25% of the time that he will be a productive big leaguer, but the 30% he tends to roll with is a bit tough to swallow


Did Davis get shut down? Injured? Didn’t play in fall star game or last weeks games including last night.


This Pirates fan can’t wait to watch Nick play pepper with the Clemente Wall.

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