Philadelphia Phillies Prospect Countdown #9: Severino Gonzalez

Severino Gonzalez

DOB: 9/28/1992 – ETA: 2016

Position: RHP - Bats: RH

Picked: Signed out of Panama

Strengths

Severino Gonzalez came out of nowhere last season to win the Paul Owens Award, given annually to the organization’s top pitcher.

A Panamanian native, before coming to America he spent two years embarrassing batters in the Venezuelan rookie league – and subsequently becoming Carlos Ruiz‘s favorite player.

In 2013, he began in the A+ Clearwater bullpen, and in 27.1 innings, he achieved a 1.65 ERA, 10.86 K/9, 0.98 BB/9 (not a typo), and a .538 OPS against.


He was then sent to Class A Lakewood, converted to a starter, and ended the season in AA Reading, earning a 2.09 ERA, with 9.97 K/9, 2.20 BB/9, and a .576 OPS against in his remaining 77.2 innings.

What made him stand out, really, is his control, which is certainly the best in the system and probably some of the best in the majors. Over the 239 innings of his professional career, he’s walked exactly 31 batters. That’s a rate of 1.2/9.

He generates his outs with that command, and three average pitches that he throws for strikes. A lot. In short bursts, his fastball hits as high as 94, which means he’s probably best suited for relief long-term.

Weaknesses

During starts, Gonzalez’s fastball is fringe-average at best. This is a significant problem for a young starter, and to this point, his pinpoint control is really what has carried him.

At the higher levels, batters are not going to be as easily fooled by his pitches, don’t be shocked if he starts to get hit a lot more frequently at AA out of the gate. The closer he gets to the majors, the more likely it will become that he either flames out, or is converted back to a reliever.

Additionally, he’s pretty small overall, and to this point he’s never pitched a full season’s workload (he maxed out this past year at 103.2 innings). It’s very possible that the physical toll of pitching will keep him from even being capable of a full season  as a starter.

Projection

Long term, he strikes me as an obvious reliever. His small size makes it immediately seem more likely, and his lack of velocity makes him ill-fitted to be a starter. His ridiculous command, combined with a higher short-burst velocity make him appear to be a perfect fit for the bullpen.

Not to speak too much about make-up or intangibles, but a 20-year old dominantly pitching above his age, thriving in a change in role (from reliever to starter), and seamlessly handling the massive cultural transition attached to coming to America in the same year, he at least seems to comfortably handle pressure well.

Given all this, I feel like we could be seeing another late inning relief candidate (along with Ethan Martin, Jake Diekman, Ken Giles, et. al) in the making. It wouldn’t shock me if he completely flamed out, but I do feel like there’s a lot of promise in this one – you can’t argue with the results he’s shown so far.

Just don’t think that because he’s starting in the minor leagues, that he will be starting in the majors.

2014 Assignment: Double-A Reading

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