Our old friend Jeffrey Paternostro heard that no one had claimed our Harol Gonzalez write-up and volunteered his services. Thanks, Jeffrey!
Signed at 19 years old out of the Dominican Republic in 2014, Harol Gonzalez was a long shot to even make the upper minors. He was an undersized righty even in his late teens, and sat mostly in the upper-80s with his fastball his first few years in short-season ball. Gonzalez’s deep arsenal with multiple breaking ball and change-up looks were enough to keep minor league hitters off-balance and even miss enough bats to carve that path to Triple-A. Along the way he filled out a bit more, and is probably 25 or so pounds heavier than his listed 160 (although I’m still not entirely sure he is 6-foot).
The Mets never seem particularly interested in pushing Gonzalez as a prospect. He didn’t even make Double-A until the 2018 season, and promptly got shelled there. A second pass at the Eastern League in 2019 went better, and he had continued success for Syracuse despite missing perilously few bats. The Mets have left him exposed to the Rule 5 draft multiple times now, and as a non-40-man arm, he was never really in line for a call up, stuck behind the Corey Oswalts and Walker Locketts of the world. Gonzalez was not invited to the alternate site in 2020, and while eligible for minor league free agency after last season, chose to re-sign with the Mets. That made sense at the time given his upper minors experience and the org’s lack of pitching depth, but since then the Mets have once again shoved him behind a new crop of 40-man arms like Joey Lucchesi, Jordan Yamamoto, and Sean Reid-Foley.
To be fair, unlike with the previous set of arms blocking him, you can’t really argue Gonzalez is likely to be a better major league starter than this group (well, maybe Reid-Foley). But he’s improved as a pitcher throughout his minor league career. He sits in the low-90s now and will touch 95 early in starts. He holds his fastball velocity better in general as well. He offers a full four-pitch mix that can be a bit fringy, but did flash an improving slider this spring. Gonzalez is comfortable using his whole arsenal—the old cliche “he knows how to pitch” applies here—but may lack a true swing-and-miss offering. And while his command is above-average, it may not be quite fine enough to consistently miss the fat end of major league bats.
Unsurprisingly, Gonzalez was in the first round of major league cuts, but this time around he will at least get a shot at the alternate site and eventually slot into the Syracuse rotation. It’s unlikely he gets a shot in Flushing given the Mets newfound pitching depth, but sometimes you line up on the right day when the team needs an extra arm for length or to take a start in a doubleheader. It’s impressive Gonzalez has made it this far at all, and I’ve never been one to bet against him.