Minnesota Twins lefty prospect Stephen Gonsalves made up for lost time at the beginning of the season with an elite 2017!
The Minnesota Twins drafted Stephen William Gonsalves in the 4th round of the 2013 draft out of Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, California.
Gonsalves made an impression in his draft season, moving past GCL after just 14 1/3 innings and moving up to throw another 14 innings with Elizabethton in the advanced rookie Appalachian League. In total, he threw 28 1/3 innings, with a 0.95 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and a 11/39 BB/K ratio.
In 2014, Gonsalves opened the season back with the Appy League, moving up to low-A Cedar Rapids for 8 starts at the end of the season. In total, Gonsalves had a 14 starts, throwing 65 2/3 innings, allowing a 3.02 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and a 21/70 BB/K ratio.
Again in 2015, Gonsalves opened where he’d finished the previous season, starting the year in Cedar Rapids before moving up to high-A Fort Myers. He really began to turn heads with 24 starts, 134 1/3 innings, a 2.01 combined ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 57/155 BB/K ratio.
Gonsalves did exactly what you’d guess by now in 2016, spending about half the season at Fort Myers and half at AA Chattanooga. Combined, he made 24 starts, throwing 140 2/3 innings, with a 2.06 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and a 57/155 BB/K ratio. The Twins sent Gonsalves to the Arizona Fall League, and he struggled in the hitter-friendly environment, throwing 8 2/3 innings, allowing an 8.31 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, and a 4/7 BB/K ratio. Even with his AFL struggles, Gonsalves got notice in the national rankings for the first time, ranking #99 with Baseball America and #92 with MLB Pipeline.
Injury delayed the opening to Gonsalves’ 2017, which meant his typical heavy amount of time spent at a higher level after promotion didn’t really happen. Gonsalves was quite good with AA Chattanooga, but he struggled a bit with AAA Rochester in 5 appearances. Overall, he made 20 appearances, 19 of them starts, throwing 110 innings, with a 3.27 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and a 31/118 BB/K ratio.
He was rated the team’s #3 prospect in the Minnesota Twins system in the recent top 100 Twins prospect list released here on Puckett’s Pond!
Size – Gonsalves is listed at 6’5″ and 213 pounds, and he looks spot on with that listing (which an accurate number like that makes sense for!). Gonsalves has long arms and legs that he can leverage into his pitching.
Delivery – Gonsalves, like many young pitchers, has a simple lead into his delivery, starting from a position with his right shoulder already pointed at the catcher. From that position, he takes a straight step back, comes forward with a knee lift and uses his long legs to generate good push toward the plate.
Gonsalves’ long arms end up leading to some issues as he lets his pitching arm fall behind his body in his delivery in a “cocked” manner, though that does give the batter a longer time to see the ball moving in arm and possibly time Gonsalves up.
He comes through with a 3/4 to low-3/4 arm slot. With the length of his arms, Gonsalves can often seem like he’s coming more side arm or even “slinging” the ball, but he does have a very good arm movement within his delivery. He repeats his delivery well and rarely is off in his release point more than a pitch or two.
Control (50) – Gonsalves has the ability to control three of his pitches very well in general, but one of the concerns with him is the long arms as they do take a long path to delivering the ball, and that’s where he can find some inconsistency, leading to some issues with his arm slot moving slightly and, most common, his arm coming through at a different pace in his delivery, which can really lead to control issues.
Fastball (60) – Using his height to come downhill with his long arms and 6’5″ height, Gonsalves gets good heavy action out of both his 4-seam and 2-seam fastball. He seems to spot the 4-seam better throughout the zone, but he gets more movement and more swing on the two-seam fastball. He works 89-92 typically, topping out in the 94-95 range, depending on the gun you believe (AA stadium guns were reported to be considerably inconsistent this year).
Change Up (60) – If I were to grade each pitch in the minor league system of the Twins by who had the best of each pitch, Gonsalves may have the best change up of any starter. He uses excellent arm deception, with his pitch looking precisely like his fastball up to the point of release, and he gets excellent sink and action in the low part of the zone on the pitch when he can really stay on top of it. I was tempted to go to a 65 on the pitch, but I did note in his AAA starts especially this season that when he struggled, his change became his “get over” pitch, and he often would lose a ton of the action on the pitch at that point, and while it’s excellent that he has that much confidence in the pitch, that’s a dangerous way to pitch as it’s a lot easier to tag a change than a fastball or breaking pitch.
Slider (45) – Gonsalves continues to try to develop a slider, something he seems to work on almost every season in fits and spurts. The slider has too much smooth movement in its break rather than a clean, sharp break, and there’s a very slight tell in Gonsalves’ hand as he throws the slider as well. I honestly think if he could get the hand to mimic the fastball coming out, even the more sloped break would be effective, but that’s going to require some continued “tinkering”.
Curveball (55) – This is where Gonsalves definitely has seen improvement this season. The curve seems to get a touch better every season, and I wouldn’t fault anyone who wanted to go a pure 60 as it’s borderline for me. Gonsalves tosses the ball up there seemingly slower and slower just to toy with hitters, with a big, slow loop that has all the same arm speed until the moment it leaves his hand as his fastball or change.
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MLB Player Comp
While he has a longer build, I think the Twins had a brief introduction into the type of pitcher that Stephen really has a good similarity to in their one-start pitcher this summer, Jaime Garcia.
Garcia had worked with a similar pitch mix, splitting his fastballs almost evenly between two-seam and four-seam, averaging around 90 miles per hour. Garcia’s also an interesting comparison as he was a guy who was still developing his slider when he reached the major leagues. Interestingly, after coming out with his slider at the major league level as a positive value pitch, Garcia saw the pitch take a step backward in 2017. His sinker, change, and curve are all consistently good pitches, however, and I could absolutely see Gonsalves fitting that same pitching approach.
Of course, many would hope that Gonsalves can avoid the injury issues that Garcia has dealt with in his career.
Gonsalves should start in AAA most likely to open 2018, but he could push quickly to the major league level. He certainly is one of the best lefty starters near the major leagues at this point for the Twins, though I do believe his likely projection is as a good #2 to a solid #4. He’s definitely among the elite in the Twins system.