Name: Harol Gonzalez
Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired: IFA, March 26, 2014 (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic)
2019 Season: 17 G (16 GS), 97.1 IP, 83 H, 37 R, 34 ER (3.14 ERA), 23 BB, 89 K, 3 HBP, 0 BLK, 6 WP, .269 BABIP (Double-A); 8 G (7 GS), 40.1 IP, 33 H, 12 R, 12 ER (2.68 ERA), 10 BB, 23 K, 3 HBP, 0 BLK, 1 WP, .200 BABIP (Triple-A)
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014, Harol Gonzalez has been a case study of a player making steady improvements since making his professional debut. After having a solid professional debut with the DSL Mets that year, Gonzalez put himself on the map in 2015 thanks to a combination of stuff and personality, playing for the Kingsport Mets. The undersized right-hander began realizing some of that potential as the 2016 season progressed, and by the time the year was over, had one of the most statistically dominant seasons in Brooklyn Cyclone history. He ended the year with a 7-3 record, posting a league-leading 2.01 ERA in 85 innings, walking 18 and striking out a league-leading 88. His stuff looked sharper and his fastball faster when he was promoted to the Columbia Fireflies in 2017 but the numbers trended in the wrong direction, as he posted a 3.53 ERA in 137.2 innings, most of them in Columbia but a handful in St. Lucie. He began the 2018 season with St. Lucie and seemingly righted the ship, posting a 2.82 ERA in 73.1 innings there, allowing 62 hits, walking 19, and striking out 59. After being promoted to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies midseason, things fell apart, and the right-handed posted a 7.79 ERA in 52.0 innings in the Eastern League, allowing 79 hits, walking 17, and striking out 30. Gonzalez began the 2019 season in Binghamton, but unlike his time there in 2018, Gonzalez pitched well, posting a 3.14 ERA in 97.1 innings, allowing 83 hits, walking 23, and striking out 89. While he already had experience pitching in the International League, as he made a spot start earlier in June, he was promoted to the Syracuse Mets at the end of July and remained there until the end of the 2019 season. Gonzalez was very effective for Syracuse as well, posting a 2.68 ERA in 40.1 innings, allowing 33 hits, walking 10, and striking out 23.
The biggest knock on Gonzalez is his size and lack of fastball. The right-hander stands an even six feet tall and weighs just 160-pounds, making it unlikely he adds more muscle to his frame, helping his fastball. The pitch is fringe-average for a right-handed pitcher, sitting around 90 MPH, though it has progressively gotten better as he as aged, holding velocity- as minimal as it may be- deeper into games. Velocity is only one component of a successful fastball, and while Gonzalez may be lacking in that regard, the pitch has a bit of arm side life, and he is able to command it. He pairs his fastball with a curveball, slider, and changeup. Of the three, his changeup is his most effective pitch and his slider the least. Nothing in his pitching arsenal projects to be better than average, leaving Gonzalez with a wide array of weapons but no true out-pitches. Despite his somewhat diminutive size, Gonzalez has been a starting pitcher his entire career and has pitched 130 innings plus in three consecutive years.
The development and maturation of Harol Gonzalez from one year to the next has been one of the more fun things for me to watch over the last couple of years. Knocking on the door of the majors, it’s still a very fringy profile, but it’s gotten less and less fringy as the years have gone on, as his fastball has improved a bit, his curveball has progressively improved, his slider has progressively improved, and his changeup as progressively improved. If Harol gets a large amount of MLB innings next season, something has either gone very right or horribly wrong, but I think there is a very good chance that he throws at least a few innings next season.
When Harol first started getting buzz as a low level arm to watch, I don’t think anyone expected him to stick around this long. Still rocking the mini-Pedro look, Harol now finds himself somewhere in the 7-10 range on the Mets current starting pitching depth chart. The peripherals in Triple-A were not pretty in his 40 inning sample and it’s possible his grab-bag of average-ish offerings just isn’t good enough. He’s also very likely to get some starts this season regardless of what the answer to that previous possibility is.
At this point it feels like Harol has been around forever, and we may actually be getting close to seeing him finally make the majors, even if he ends up just getting called up for a couple of days. While he’s not a terribly exciting pitcher to watch, there’s enough of a four pitch mix here at present to merit him being in the Mets plans as an occasional spot starter if a couple of injuries occur at the big league level this season. He’s roughly as good as a lot of the guys the Mets have slotted into the rotation at various points over the last two seasons, and I think I trust him a little more than Walker Lockett at this point in time to give the Mets quality innings if a few starters end up missing time to injury. It’s entirely possible Harol gets a big league cup of coffee in 2020, but he will need to pitch well for Syracuse before he gets a chance at the next level.
Gonzalez has been good at every level he has been with as a Mets prospect since he debuted, and his 2019 was no exception, even when he got called up to Triple-A. He is simply someone who has constantly performed and deserves to be on the list due to that. While I do not know how his stuff projects to the next level- mostly because he does not have that one explosive pitch.