He’s not a scout, a pitching coach or someone that works in a baseball front office. But he’s got an interesting perspective and I’ve known that since the first time I interviewed left-hander Brian Gonzalez, which was probably not long after the Orioles drafted him in 2014.
After seven seasons in Birdland, Gonzalez left the flock recently to sign a minor league contract with the Colorado Rockies. He said it was very hard to leave the Orioles, the only pro team he ever knew. And make no mistake, the Orioles wanted him back. It was his decision to go as he explained in this entry, mostly because he feels his big league chance is better with Colorado.
In a sense, that certainly speaks well of the players and organization he leaves behind.
And knowing this young man has always provided both articulate and well thought-out answers, I asked him one final question recently on his way out of town. I asked him who impressed him this summer at the alternate camp at Double-A Bowie.
On Aug. 7, the O’s added the 25-year-old Gonzalez to their 60-man player pool at Bowie, so he spent nearly two months there. Plenty of time to take a good look at others who were impressing coaches and players alike at Prince George’s Stadium.
“It’s tough not to say (Ryan) Mountcastle,” Gonzalez stated. “The kid is special. He plays the game fun and always has a smile on his face. He’s super relaxed and laid back. He doesn’t put a lot of pressure or things into his head to make him tense up. He just lets the game flow and I think that is what I admire the most about him.”
That relaxed approach no doubt helped Mountcastle hit .333/.386/.492 with an OPS of .878 in 35 big league games.
Gonzalez had this take on some of the pitchers at Bowie.
“Every pitcher there was honestly talented as hell. You see Grayson (Rodriguez) and DL (Hall) and you see their stuff - you can’t teach that. There are a lot of guys that threw the ball really well. Dean (Kremer) looked great and that cutter he developed was an unreal pitch. Adley (Rutschman) was swinging the bat real well. This club is set up for the future and an exciting next couple of years.”
I asked Gonzalez to talk further about Rutschman, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft by the Orioles. He is ranked as the club’s No. 1 prospect and is No. 2 in the MLBPipeline.com top 100 and No. 3 via Baseball America.
Did Rutschman look like a 1/1 pick in the Bowie camp?
“Yeah, I think so. He has everything,” he said. “The biggest thing that I saw was his willingness to learn and to listen. He’s super comfortable and was real fun to throw to. He was the one asking questions. I think that is unique, being around guys picked that high and that are that talented. They know what they are good at and they keep doing it. But for him to really want to learn and listen and get every pitcher’s feedback and even when he was hitting he would ask questions.
“It’s constant learning and that is why he is special. You know his bat is incredible and his defense got better and better every time I threw to him. And he is just learning the game a little bit at that pace and facing a lot of Double-A and Triple-A guys and guys with big league time. His pitch calling got better and better, too. The willingness to learn though was the biggest thing.”
After talking briefly about those players, Gonzalez told me he forgot to mention one other pitcher that stood out to him: right-hander Kyle Bradish, one of the four pitchers the Orioles got from the Los Angeles Angels for Dylan Bundy.
On Aug. 3, Bradish, 24, was added to the O’s Bowie site. Bradish was drafted in round four of 2018 by the Angels out of New Mexico State. He made his pro debut in 2019 as a starter for high Single-A Inland Empire in the California League. Bradish went 6-7 with a 4.28 ERA. Over 101 innings, he walked 53, fanned 120, posted a .235 opponent batting average and a 1.42 WHIP.
“That kid has some unreal stuff. If he can just get the experience at the upper levels and still continue to work on his stuff, I think he’s going to be unbelievable,” Gonzalez said. “He has some nasty stuff. He’s quiet and calm and then he gets on the mound and it’s like thunder out of his hand. It’s nice and easy and it explodes. Great guy, super nice guy. Calm and just goes about his business. On the mound, it’s 94-96 (mph) with some cut and ride and this hammer curveball. That’s why the O’s got him. They saw something special and that is a credit to the organization in knowing what they want.”