UPDATE: Gonzalez was selected in the 15th round by the San Diego Padres, No. 473 overall.
The Major League Baseball draft begins today and Greg Gonzalez isn't likely to get a call. He probably won't on Tuesday when the second round begins either. Hopefully, the former Capuchino High School and Skyline College standout will get a call by Wednesday when the later rounds are held.
That's pretty amazing considering that Gonzalez was one of the best pitchers in Division I this year. He finished the season 11-1 for Fresno State, leading the Bulldogs into the NCAA Tournament. His lone loss came on Friday in the opening game of the UCLA Regional when UC Irvine spanked Fresno State, 12-6. Gonzalez allowed 10 runs (five earned) on 12 hits in 4 2/3 innings, spiking his ERA to 1.79, which just goes to show how dominant he was this season.
He struck out 124 batters in 105 1/3 innings against just 28 walks and 76 hits.
One would think some team would take such a pitcher with a high pick. One would be wrong. Teams have had two chances to draft Gonzalez – out of Capuchino and after his junior year at Fresno State – and both times they said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Not that Gonzalez is too worried about it. Late in the season, he said he wasn't paying too much attention to it.
“That would be nice,” he said about getting drafted. “We get little letters. They like to know a little bit about the kids they are looking at. I've seen a couple of those but it's nothing major. It's nice to know they're watching though.”
One of the reasons Gonzalez hasn't attracted the attention of too many scouts is that the NCAA changed the bat rules this year, which led to fewer home runs and a drop of about 1 ½ runs per team per game. Professional teams aren't sure how to evaluate the change in numbers.
Another reason is that Gonzalez's season seemed to come out of nowhere. He was a part-time pitcher at Capuchino and didn't take to the mound full-time until his freshman year at Skyline.
“Mostly I was a shortstop and catcher,” he said. “I would pitch once in a while. When I got to junior college, they thought my future was probably better as a pitcher.
“I liked pitching but it wasn't what I was trying to pursue. It was the best thing for me and I'm thankful for the decision now but I probably wasn't too grateful for it at the time. I just wanted to play every day, be playing in every game. Then I was cut down to once, maybe twice a week getting to play. That was the only thing I didn't like.”
Gonzalez grew up in San Bruno, playing baseball every chance he got.
“Baseball was really a priority in my life,” he said. “I tried to play as much as I could. There were always coaches around that wanted to take a team and wanted to give kids a chance to play, and I was very thankful for that.”
He played football as a kid, but after breaking his collarbone, his gridiron career ended. He also played basketball through junior high. From then on, it was baseball, baseball, baseball.
In two years at Skyline—he gray-shirted in 2008 due to a torn ACL—Gonzalez went 21-12 and set a school record for wins and strikeouts (312). That earned him a scholarship to Fresno State.
“I got a lot of time there, I got a lot of innings, probably something that I wouldn't have got in Division I,” he said of his Skyline years. “That really helped me develop to getting to Division I and being able to produce.”
He went 8-2 as a junior at Fresno State, although his ERA was a lofty 6.54. He appeared in 21 games including eight starts.
Then came this special season. Gonzalez said he is more of a strike-thrower now but mostly it's his approach that is the difference.
“I can throw my fastball for a strike a lot more consistently, and that really helps me with the rest of my pitches,” he said. “Physically, I feel the same but my approach, my preparation, it's all taken a step up from last year.”
He's changed his repertory as well.
“I always had a pretty decent curveball but couldn't command it,” Gonzalez said. “I'm still working on it, getting better. I actually learned a changeup when I got out of high school. And this year I learned a cut fastball, which has really helped. I actually use the cut fastball pretty exclusively now.”
That cut fastball has made the difference.
“Gonzalez by far I think is the best pitcher in the WAC,” Fresno State first baseman Jordan Ribera said. “He's got great fastball command and he's (got) great command of his other two pitches. He's got a good changeup and a very, very good cut fastball he throws which looks just like his fastball and keeps all the hitters off balance. I think that's what makes him so successful.”
Or, as Hawaii left fielder Sean Montplasir put it, “That pitcher Gonzalez, he's dirty.”
Major League Baseball should be able to find a place for a pitcher that dirty.