While the Mariners' organizational strength is cultivating up-the-middle talent (C, 2B, SS, CF), there are some intriguing corner players to watch for in 2024. One of those is our 4th-rated prospect, Gabriel Gonzales.
The 19-year-old right fielder joined the Mariners' farm system in 2021 through the Major League Baseball international signing period. Scouts' initial takes included recognizing his seasoned approach to hitting, but they also noted a few plate discipline issues and a need for better conditioning. Three years later, the contact is still Gonzales' carrying tool, as evidenced by a career .302/.377/.860 slash line across three system levels (Dominican Summer League, Low-A, and High-A). The Mariners have aggressively promoted the Dominican-born outfielder, as they do with all their top prospects. Gonzales met the challenge every step of the way until this season when he suited up for the Everett Aquasox.
While Gonzales had a tale of two seasons, there are a few reasons for optimism. First, he was one of the youngest players in the Northwest League, playing the entire season at the ripe old age of 18. This means he has plenty of time to develop both physically and from a skill perspective. The upside is immense because the hit tool is one of the highest in the system.
Second, even though opposing pitchers made his 43-game stint with Everett challenging, he still struck out below the league average. That performance means Gonzales didn't press with his approach. Batting Average on Balls in Play is another telling stat. Gonzales ran a .379 BABIP in Modesto; in Everett, he finished with a .233 BABIP. The baseball gods weren't smiling at him at the tail end of the season.
Gonzales will probably repeat the 2024 season in Everett to continue developing his in-game power and finding his footing. Once the talented outfielder turns the corner, he could finish the season in Arkansas with yet another aggressive promotion.