Edwar Gonzalez Was Money In The Clutch
"Splitsville" is a series of articles on the Yankees' prospects that we'll be doing throughout their minor league careers. In version one/chapter one (v1.1) of Edwar Gonzalez, we'll look how he did against the right-handed pitchers versus the southpaws, how he hit with runners in scoring position, and more.
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Career Year: Edwar Gonzalez was signed as an International free agent out of Venezuela back in 2002. After spending his professional debut season with the Gulf Coast League Yankees in 2002, Gonzalez played in the NY-Penn League the following two years with Staten Island. He entered the 2005 season with a career average of .232 with just six home runs in 440 at-bats. Gonzalez, who began the season as reserve outfielder with the Charleston Riverdogs in 2005, chipped in with a career year once he starting receiving regular playing time. He finished the season hitting .286 with 10 home runs and 52 RBI, all career highs.
Joseph P. Riley Park Power: Joseph P. Riley Park, home of the Charleston Riverdogs, was a safe haven for Gonzalez in 2005. He hit just .250 on the road in the South Atlantic League this past season, but performed like an All-Star at home. Gonzalez hit .326 at Joseph P. Riley Park, scoring more runs at home than he did on the road despite playing fewer games at home.
But while there was a 76 point difference in his road and home batting averages, Gonzalez also hit for more power at home. He hit 7 of his 10 home runs at Joseph P. Riley Park, traditionally known as a hitter's friendly ball park. It will be interesting to see if Gonzalez' power numbers remain constant in the future or if his 2005 breakout campaign was somehow aided by his home surroundings.
Consistency Was His Key: One of the more impressive signs among his splits this past season was his consistency all season long. His highs weren't too high and his lows weren't awful. Gonzalez began the year hitting .280 in his first 29 games and after heating up slightly, hitting .308 in his following 28 games, finished the year hitting .270 in his final 32 games.
While he was a consistent power hitter all year long, his power wasn't as even-keeled. Gonzalez hit six of his ten home runs in July, including knocking dingers in consecutive games twice during his hottest month of the year. So while his increased power was a welcomed sight, 2006 will be a better test to see if his 2005 power numbers were more of a product of a hot streak.
More Power Against Righties? Gonzalez finished the season hitting .315 against left-handed pitchers and just .276 batting against righties. And while at first glance it would seem that he faired better against southpaws, hitting three home runs in 148 less at-bats against them, his peripherals tell a different story.
32.9% of his hits against right-handed pitchers in 2005 went for extra bases, compared to 26.1% against lefties. While it is not a demonstrative difference, it does show that the right-handed hitting Gonzalez does not need to be platooned. His favorable stats against righties will only aid his cause as a developing outfielder in the Yankees' system.
Middle Of The Order Hitter? Edwar Gonzalez does not have the sexy power numbers at all. In fact, as mentioned above, his ten home runs in 2005 were a career high. But as unlikely as it would seem, Gonzalez is actually very productive hitting in the middle of the order despite the lack of plus power.
Just a combined .223 hitter batting either sixth or seventh in the Charleston lineup this past season, Gonzalez was as dominant as they come batting cleanup or fifth. Hitting fourth or fifth in the lineup in 2005, Gonzalez batted a combined .347, proving to be one of the best clutch hitters on the entire Charleston squad.
Much Clutch: As mentioned above, Gonzalez proved to be one of the elite clutch hitters for the Riverdogs in 2005. While his .273 batting average overall with nobody on base was nothing to sneeze at, Gonzalez preferred hitting with runners on base, hitting .299 in those situations this past season.
However, as the pressure mounted, Gonzalez continually rose to the occasion. He hit .341 with runners in scoring position and when runners were in scoring position and with two outs, Gonzalez was even better, hitting .348. Despite the lack of plus power in his game, if Gonzalez can continue to provide in the clutch like that throughout his minor league career, he'll find a place in the Major Leagues as a reserve player. Clutch hitting of that capacity is not easily found.
Not A Right Fielder? Edwar Gonzalez arguably has one of the best outfield arms in the Yankees' farm system. As a result, Gonzalez should be primed to be one of the better right fielders. However, judging from his 2005 splits, Gonzalez appears more comfortable at the plate when he's not playing right field.
He hit just .264 in games in which he played right field, spanning 178 at-bats, which accounted for over 60% of his at-bats in 2005. But when he played either first base or left field, Gonzalez' offense perked up immensely. He hit a combined .327 with 8 of his 10 home runs when playing first base or left field.
His versatility on the field is a great sign for his future, and judging from his production playing in spots other than his natural position at right field, Gonzalez could wind up being a key contributor as a reserve player in time.
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