To the casual observer, Hickory Crawdads outfielder Pedro Gonzalez had a disappointing 2018 season. But for him, it was anything but disappointing.
Traded by the Colorado Rockies to the Texas Rangers in August 2017 for major-league catcher Jonathan Lucroy, Gonzalez brought lots of promise to his new organization. As a 19-year-old, the native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic posted a .321/.388/.519 slash line in 45 games with the Rockies’ rookie-league affiliate at Grand Junction (Colo.) with 25 extra-base hits.
Given his age, numbers and build (6-foot-5, 190 pounds), Gonzalez rose up to become the Rangers’ 10th-best prospect according to MLB.com at the start of the 2018 season.
However, the year didn’t pan like Gonzalez hoped. The slash line dropped to .234/.296/.421 with 17 doubles, five triples and 12 home runs. Injuries played a part in a tough season as he battled through quad injuries to play 92 games for Hickory.
Still, Gonzalez felt the 2018 season was a year of personal growth.
“I don’t complain,” Gonzalez said. “If that’s what I had, you have to take it. It could’ve been worse, where I didn’t play for the whole year. I got to play, and I got to hit a couple of homers, so I’ll take it. Like I said, it was a learning season for me. It’s not like I’ll take it as a negative one.”
There were stretches during last year when Gonzalez would take over a game in the outfield and at the plate. He spent much of his time in center field, where he showed good range and a strong arm, as his 10 assists proved. While his quads limited some of what he could do, so did making the adjustment to full-season pitching for the first time.
Part of the learning curve, Crawdads manager Matt Hagen said, was Gonzalez learning how to handle being pitched to as a big-time prospect that could slug the ball out of the park and change the game.
“I think it’s par for the course for athletic players, who happen to be 6-foot-5 and possess a lot of power,” said the Crawdads’ skipper. “They’re going to get pitched like a Double-A hitter would get pitched in Low-A baseball. They’re not, ‘Here’s three fastballs’ within the at-bat with something to hit… Him and guys like Sam Huff (14 home runs in 2019) and Curtis Terry (six home runs) are going to get pitched the same, no matter what, because everybody knows what they can do with one swing of the bat.”
For his part, the Crawdads outfielder is looking to maintain a steady consistency at the plate and to do what he can to stay on it. That is a combination hitting coach Jared Goedert sees as the key for Gonzalez to stay in the mix as a potential major-league outfielder someday.
“It’s in there,” Goedert said of Gonzalez’s potential. “But we need to help him get that out on a consistent basis. Not results, but just being healthy and having consistent quality at-bats. If we can get that, those are controllable, I think the numbers are going to be where we would all like them to be.”
Gonzalez is currently fourth in the South Atlantic League with seven home runs and is slugging .500 in 25 games (through May 6).
While he still sees himself as a high prospect, Gonzalez said he’s not worried about where he is on any given list. If he is consistent, he says, the rest will take care of itself.
“I don’t care if I’m on that list or not,” Gonzalez said. “I just need to do my job and take care of my things. It’s not really on my mind. I just want to stay healthy and play the game the way I know how to play it. If I’m healthy, I know I’ll do a great job.”
After a day of rest Tuesday, Hickory starts a six-game homestand Wednesday night with the first of three games against Asheville. Below is a preview of that homestand with daily promotions, top prospects and additional notes.
Wednesday: Asheville at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. (Kids Win Wednesday, Teacher Appreciation Night, Wine Wednesday)
Thursday: Asheville at Hickory, 7 p.m. (Thirsty Thursday, Teacher Appreciation Night, U.S. Air Force Night, Napoleon Dynamite Night)
Friday: Asheville at Hickory, 7 p.m. (Postgame Fireworks, Dodgeball Night, Teacher Appreciation Night)
Saturday: Charleston (S.C.) at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. (Replica jersey giveaway to first 1,000 fans, Teacher Appreciation Night, Murder Mystery Night)
Sunday: Charleston (S.C.) at Hickory, 3 p.m. (Church Bulletin Sunday, Teacher Appreciation Night, Crawmoms, Carnation Giveaway, Pink Bat Silent Auction)
Monday: Charleston (S.C.) at Hickory, 10:30 a.m.
Hickory Crawdads (MLB.com rankings) (Texas Rangers affiliate): RHP Hans Crouse (1), SS Chris Seise (12, currently on injured list), IF Jonathan Ornelas (18), C Sam Huff (21), 3B Sherten Apostel (22), RHP Ronny Henriquez (30)
Asheville Tourists (Colorado Rockies affiliate): 1B Grant Lavigne (4), RHP Riley Pint (7), SS Terrin Vavra (13), OF Daniel Montano (18), RHP Ryan Feltner (23), C Willie MacIver (27), RHP Mike Nikorak (28)
Area connections: 2B Kyle Datres (UNC)
Charleston RiverDogs (New York Yankees affiliate): RHP Roansy Contreras (10), RHP Luis Gil (13), RHP Luis Medina (14), C Josh Breaux (15), OF Josh Stowers (25)
NOTES OF INTEREST
Hickory has suddenly become the walking wounded. Four players hit the injured list over a four-day stretch to start the recent road trip. Starting pitcher Jean Casanova went first with an undisclosed injury, followed by reliever Hever Bueno. The oddest injury occurred on the first night of the trip last Tuesday in Greenville when outfielder Miguel Aparicio was hit in the right eye by a warmup toss between innings. Of bigger concern is shortstop Chris Seise, the Rangers’ first-round pick from 2017, who has been out since last Friday’s game...
Right-handers Sean Chandler and Abdiel Mendoza, already on the team this season, were re-activated from the Rangers extended spring training roster. Also joining the Crawdads are outfielder Tanner Gardner and shortstop Tyler Depreta-Johnson...
Gardner was the Rangers’ ninth-round pick in 2017 out of Texas Tech. The Frisco, Texas, native hit .217 with one homer and 13 RBIs for Hickory after his selection. He spent all 51 games a year ago at short-season Spokane. Depreta-Johnson was the Rangers’ 35th-round pick in 2018 out of Houston Baptist. The native of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., played in 46 games at Spokane last year and hit .230 with eight doubles and five RBIs.