Prospect Spotlight – Severino Gonzalez

There have been a lot of questions about Severino Gonzalez so I thought it was time to write him up.  There isn’t a lot about him or his stuff, but now that he is in the Lakewood rotation there are more reports trickling in.

The Scouting Profile:

Fastball: The reports are that it is mostly 89-91 touching as high as 92.  There is not much about the movement on the pitch, but he can consistently throw it for strikes.

Curveball:  By most reports his best pitch, it is a low 70s breaking ball with good break.

Changeup/Cutter:  There is not much known about these pitches except that they are in his arsenal and he has enough feel to throw them in the zone.

Control:  It is an elite skill, all he does is throw strikes.  Over 3 seasons and 172.2 IP he has walked 12 batters (he has hit 15 batters because he does try to work inside), this gives him a BB/9 rate of 0.6 on his career.

Command: Unlike many pitchers his age Gonzalez has feel for pitch command, he can get pitches inside and can work all four pitches around the zone.

Frame: Gonzalez is listed at 6′ 1″ 153 lbs, and while there is room to add some muscle it is a narrow frame overall that raises questions of whether he can handle innings and hold velocity.  Also because he is short he is not going to get natural downward plane on his pitches so you worry if he is going to home run prone.

What it Means:

There are some definite things to immediately like abut Gonzalez.  The first is that he does not walk anyone, a fringy fastball can get hit hard by anyone, to limit that damage by limiting walks is big.  The next thing is that he can miss bats, I am a believer that if you miss bats (not just strikeouts), then there is a place for you somewhere, even if it is a limited bullpen role.

Having a four pitch mix that he can throw for strikes is also important.  If everything but the fastball moves in some way it can allow the fastball to play up some and keep hitters honest.  Too often a young pitcher will be unable to throw their breaking pitches for strikes and will be reliant on their fastball to get strikes in the zone and it can lead to mistakes, which end up in the OF bleachers.

The big problem with Gonzalez is the fastball.  It is fringe average for a RHP and looks at best like a 45 pitch.  It is nice that he can throw it in the zone consistently but it worries me that advanced hitters will be able to sit on it, and just crush it.  He is going to have to be perfect at every step along the way in order to be successful.  The raw stuff is a small step above Cloyd or Julio Rodriguez, but both of them have had large struggles in the upper minors once hitters adjusted to them.

Unless the fastball velocity goes up a grade and the changeup develops into at least an above average pitch, Gonzalez’s profile is going to be limited.  If the frame can hold up he could be a back of the rotation starter, but otherwise it is more the arsenal of a long man or middle reliever.  That being said, if he continues to just put up video game numbers through AA and AAA he his definitely someone to really watch out for.

About Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has previously appeared on Phuture Phillies and The Good Phight. You can read his work at Phillies Minor Thoughts

65 thoughts on “Prospect Spotlight – Severino Gonzalez

  1. I dont get why they brought him back to Lakewood. He needs to be challenged with more advanced hitters. Let him build up his arm strength in CLW with a possible look-see at AA at the end of the season. Even in the BP role. We need to know what we have here, and we can’t answer that if he’s toying with hitters in Lakewood.

    1. Maybe the plan is try him as a starter and they’re using Lakewood to stretch him out and get innings? Or maybe given the fact that he was basically triple jumped past the GCL, Williamsports, and Lakewood into Clearwater he is more than age appropriate for starting in Lakewood?

      1. They originally had him pegged for WPT or the GCL after XST. So he’s already at least a level higher than where they thought he’d be at this point. It’s as good a place as any to stretch him out as a starter and have him work on his repitoire.

        1. That is right though I think he could be back at Clearwater in a month if he keeps it up. I think Clearwater was originally one of those “need a body from extended” assignments that the Phillies often do for a few games, though he pitched so well it was hard to justify sending him back to extended.

    2. In an article on the Lakewood site, Morandini said that he was sent there to be stretched out.

  2. Informative (and timely) write-up.

    Having a 20 year-old develop a few ticks on the fast ball and improve a change up and cutter isn’t much to ask for really. In a lot ways he is already far more developed than most pitchers his age.

    1. I just don’t see where the velocity is going to come from. At 20 he has past the point where a lot of guys put on that muscle, and he is going to need to bulk up to be a starter as well. The report was that he only hit 92 in the first inning so I already worry about him holding velocity.

      As for the developed, it will be interesting if they start working on things with him like building arm strength or secondary pitch development.

      1. I agree. But (without knowing his history in Venezuela and Panana) this may be the first year he is getting high level instruction, so there may be room for mechanical changes to develop velocity.

        Either way, we have a new guy to follow closely.

        1. Isn’t Severino the guy who threw a perfect game or a no-hitter in Venezuela last summer? From Matt’s summary, he is not an automatic success. We’ll get to see his skill play out when he hits Reading and Allentown.

      2. I almost never disagree with you but 25 is like the limit for muscle development . Improved circulation takes time. Hell I am nearing 71 and adding muscle (along with some non-muscle). Severino Gonzalez could make AA this year especially if there is a sell off.

  3. With regards to velocity – can we remember that some of the best pitchers EVER rarely broke 90 MPH, like Maddux. Now I am by no means saying this kid is the next Maddux, but CONTROL is far more important that a 95 MPH fastball. The ability to paint the outside of the plate, then move inside or change eye level up and down is the primary way to get bats to miss pitches. Velocity can be useful, but control is far more important.

    1. OMG I hate this comparison and myth. First, you cannot compare a prospect to arguably one of the greatest pitchers of our generation and of all time. And yes by dropping his name you are trying to draw a comparison. Second, it’s a myth to say he rarely broke 90. Maddux regularly threw in the mid 90’s in his prime. People seem to only remember early 2000’s Greg Maddux.

      1. Mark, Maddux fastball touched 93 occassionally in his year LESS successful years, Gonzalez has touched 92 – we can probably say their velocity is in a similar space. The point was NOT to say that Gonzalez is comparable to Maddux as I stated in the note, but rather to highlight that moving inside and out, up and down on purpose is a WAY more effective way to pitch than just raw velocity. So no, I’m not comparing him to Maddux and No Maddux never regularly threw in the mid 90’s in his prime.

      2. Maddux relied on his command, composure, and guile to outwit hitters. Though his fastball touched 93 mph in his early years,[22] his velocity steadily declined throughout his career, and was never his principal focus as a pitcher. By the end of his career, his fastball averaged less than 86 mph.[23] Maddux was also noted for the late movement on his sinker (two-seam fastball), which, combined with his peerless control, made him known as an excellent groundball pitcher.[24] While his strikeout totals were average, hitters were often unable to make solid contact with his pitches. Maddux alternated his two-seam fastball with an excellent circle changeup. Though these served as his primary pitches, he also utilized a four-seam fastball, a cutter, a curveball, a slider, and a splitter.[23][25]

        1. I really don’t think you should double down on the Maddux argument, even if you don’t, strictly speaking, mean it as a comp. Mark is correct.

          I realize, I do, that you’re “NOT . say[ing] that Gonzalez is comparable to Maddux” But Maddux’ very unique career gives us no insight – none – on “highlight[ing] that moving inside and out, up and down on purpose is a WAY more effective way to pitch than just raw velocity*” either. I referred to Utley earlier as sui generis, and I realize that there is no such thing as “more unique,” but Maddux is even further removed from the norm. Comparisons with him are useless for all purposes.

          Now, it’s tempting to get into specifics. For example, Maddux’ success was not JUST a matter of his preternatural command and control (and while I guess it’s possible that someone could come along and have that same level of command and control, it’s possible only in the sense that even trillion to one events SOMETIMES happen), I think people forget that, as your quote states, a big part of Maddux’ success was the late movement on his fastball. Something that, per this scouting report, Gonzalez lacks.

          But even that kind of comparison is a mistake. Relevant comparison is to mortal pitchers with low velocity and good command and control. And those kind of pitchers DO occasionally have success, but they tend to walk a very thin line (and often rely upon good movement on their fast ball). IF Gonzalez is to succeed as a starter (even setting aside the limitations on his physique) he’s going to either have to have the velocity tick up OR develop a lot more movement on his fast ball. And of course continue to develop his other pitches.

          *This isn’t really true. That is, not only doesn’t Maddux’ career prove its truth, but it isn’t true on its own terms. Velocity tends to be more important that command control, or at least AS important, though obviously both are important and the best pitchers, almost without exception, have both. Add in an arsenal of other plus pitches and movement on the fast ball. Again, the very best starting pitchers tend to have ALL of that going for them.

      3. Funny you mention Maddux….Ryne Sandberg compared Tyler Cloyd to Maddux last August.

    2. The problem is that you need precise command (just having control is bad, you need to locate in the strikezone). The other unknown here is the fastball movement. The guys you see with average to below fastballs all have good movement on the pitch.

      Here is the list of major league RHP averaging under 90 mph on the fastball:
      Jason Marquis, Bronson Arroyo, Dylan Axelrod, Doug Fister, Kris Medlen, Dillon Gee, Kevin Slowey, Joe Blanton, Ryan Dempster, Kyle Lohse, Tim Hudson, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ian Kennedy, Scott Feldman

      1. That’s one hell of a good list. I don’t know what Lee is averaging, but it isn’t much more than 90 mph. I agree with the comment that Command & Control is much more important than speed. Every hitter has a hole. And if you can put the ball where you want, the hitter’s weakness will show at 90 or 93. Won’t matter. And vice versa. If you can’t stay away from a hitter’s hot zone, then the difference between 90 and 93 doesn’t matter. If you can get it into 98+ then control matters a little less, but still is important.

        1. FanGraphs has Lee’s fastball around 90.5 mph – not far off from his career norm but a mph less than the past two years

        2. Except not, for two reasons.

          (1) As Matt stated, and as people tend to ignore in these kinds of arguments, movement matters. A slow, straight fastball is going to get hammered by major league hitters even if a pitcher ” stay away from a hitter’s hot zone,”

          (2) Maddux aside, even the best command/control pitchers miss sometimes. Players wait on those pitches and hammer them.

          Now, all that said, I think this argument tends to be framed improperly by people on both sides of the debate. It isn’t primarily a question of which is more important, velocity or command/control. The best pitchers have both, as well as movement and plus secondary pitches (plural). It’s possible to be very good lacking one of these four elements, but most of the time (absent, e.g.,a Rivera, who lacks plus secondary offerings but has arguably the best single pitch in baseball history – and even he is a reliever) lacking one of these four things means you’re looking at best at a guy who is good rather than very good.

          And if that’s Gonzalez’ future. that would still be more than fine. But let’s temper the enthusiasm a bit, especially given that at this point we don’t know about the movement and the other pitches. And because, historically, there are a LOT of pitchers who have dominated in the low minors because of good command and control who get hammered when they face more advanced hitters.

          1. That comment completely ignores the liste posted right above it. There are several pitchers on that list that are multiple time all stars. Lee at 90.5 is the leading cy young candidate. of course everyone loves the Strasbergs/Harveys of the world, but that type of velocity isn’t required to be a very, very good pitcher.

            *** there are a LOT of pitchers who have dominated in the low minors because of good command and control who get hammered when they face more advanced hitters.*** before I challenge this statement, can you give me some examples? I can come up with a ton of example of the opposite (meaning, throws hard but lacks command/control) and gets exposed in the majors. but i can not think of examples of pitchers with Elite command/control who aren’t at least quality pitchers.

            TO BE CLEAR – no one is ready to say that Severino is an elite pitcher. At least not yet. But I also don’t see casting him off as a 6th inning guy.

            1. Except Matt’s list is for this year. Who’s pitching well out of that group this season? Medlen kinda; Fister and Iwakuma, yes, but off the top of my head I can’t think of anyone else. Tim Hudson is probably the best pitcher on that list career-wise and he threw in the 90s until last season. He’s at 89.6 now.

              If you’re going to use all star appearances as your criteria, can you name one non-knuckleball pitcher in the last 10 years who’s made multiple all star appearances in years where his velocity was under 90 MPH?

            2. Even the people that are cautiously excited about Severino Gonzalez I don’t think anyone is projecting him as a multiple all-star. Are people not allowed to be excited about a young player doing well who has potential as a back-end starter? It’s not like if he’s not a multiple all star he’d crap.

            3. I’ve never argued against him being a back end starter. That wasn’t what the post was saying that I replied to.

            4. please stop including left handed pitchers (lee) in this discussion they are irrelevant

            5. I’m not going to beat this topic into the ground as I sometimes do. I think we’re talking past each other to some degree. The list tells me that what I said earlier – if he can develop some movement (or more velocity, less likely) and some secondary pitches (not to mention a starter’s stamina, problematic because of his frame), then he could be good (not great – adding Lee into the conversation is silly). Remember this started as a response to the Maddux comments, which remain irrelevant. No one is saying people shouldn’t be happy, and even a little excited, about his performance.

              Briefly on your second paragraph, the opposite type of pitcher – blazing velocity but no control – often struggle a bit at the lower levels. There is a disconnect here – in the lower minors, good command control really does have a disproportionately positive effect on results. That’s such a well known fact that I’m not going to waste a lot of time constructing a list of specific players.

    3. Hah, I called it in the previous thread. Let the (imo erroneous) Maddox comparisons begin! Maddox was not a soft tossing control pitcher in the minors or when he came to the majors.

    4. Its pretty much impossible to ever take someone seriously when they try to compare a fringy prospect in the low minors to an inner-circle HOFer.

      FWIW. It also breaks a cardinal rule of PhuturePhillies from back when James ran the site to do so.

  4. Right now sound like a 6 or 7th inning guy, love the great control. Last night hated when in the eighth they walked two guys. Bastardo drives me nuts with his control. especially to weak hitters.

  5. Since there are a lot Julio Rodriguez comps out there, and I did use him as an example, here are some differences:
    Fastball Velocity – Gonzalez is 89-91, JRod was more 87-88 (but could tocuh 93 at times)
    Frame – Rodriguez is 6’3″ 215lbs, a big projectable frame but it didn’t fill in
    Control – JRod has a career 3.9 BB/9 rate
    Deception – I haven’t gotten a chance to see Gonzalez’s delivery, but a big part of JRod’s success was a really deceptive delivery

    1. Since Phillies had Julio it does draw a similar comparison.
      I find it difficult to decide what to do with guys like Rodriquez and now Gonzalez. The upside is limited based on ‘talent’ but the stats are crazy good.
      Do Phillies try to trade them on ‘the numbers’ with the expectation the player cannot maintain them knowing that the return will be more like a fringe prospect than a possibly elite one?
      Or since the return may be low, do the Phillies just move them up the ladder with the hope that they might continue that success to the majors. If they max out then they will be worth nothing as a prospect, so Phillies may have lost on the option of ‘trading high’.

      Personally, I always like these types of players (I’d include Ruf as well) who have limited talent but produce huge numbers since they are great to root for. Even if they never make the majors I figure they have to be an excellent counter balance to the ‘high talent’ struggling prospects to show it takes more than talent to be great. How awesome was Jamie Moyer?

    2. I think Cloyd is probably a better comp than JRod. It’s difficult to dismiss control when comparing players particularly with such a wide difference in BB/9 between the two. Then again, I also felt player comps in general were kind of silly and add very little value when valuating a player

      1. On the comp issue, my thinking tends to be that they are not useful in projecting a player so much as they are illustrative. E.g. – I don’t think it makes much sense to compare (say) Hernandez’ minor league performance with Altuve’s minor league performance, and then project Hernandez to develop into Altuve. But it is perfectly legitimate to say “this is the type of player that I think prospect x can develop into.”

        And in that sense, the Cloyd comp makes sense, as being illustrative of what Gon=zolez could become. Of course hope springs eternal, and it’s nice to hope that he becomes MORE than that, but certainly that’s the type of pitcher he could turn into.

  6. Wake me up when he is dominating AA. Until then, I’ll focus on guys with more obvious upside. It’s sort of like big, older minor league sluggers – I can’t take them seriously until they pass a certain set of tests I have in my mind. For example, if, next year, Jim Murphy is dominating Lehigh Valley, then, and only then, will I start to take him seriously as a player. Until then, he’s just another guy playing out the string. Sorry to be blunt, but it’s true.

    1. I hate to say it, but I agree with you 100% here.

      I started seriously following prospects around 2008, and there are a ton of guys who put up decent numbers at Rookie, A, and A+ ball that end up flaming out at Reading that quite frankly, unless you are a round 1-5 guy, it’s not even really worth getting excited about.

      Produce at Reading at an appropriate age, and then I’ll get excited.

  7. The reality is that the Phils are surprised by his early dominating success. His numbers last year were pretty amazing also. I haven’t seen the kid so I’m going off of the reports but there’s not too many 153 lb starting pitchers in the majors. However, he’s throwing the ball so effectively, if he keeps getting outs at this rate, he’ll move up quickly. AA is the place where most junkballers meet their Waterloo…

  8. I know he doesnt have a huge frame, but I really do think he is still capable of adding enough muscle to the point where he is sitting at 92-93. Everyone has to remember that this kid is only in his second season in the states. Until last year, he had probably never seen a real weightroom. Im not expecting him to pack on muscle and become the hulk, but give him a year or two of proper offseason training to really try. Most people take for granted that US born players came up through high schools that to some extent had weights. Even alot of the Dominican and Venezuelan prospects have had more time to train as they have been groomed earlier with coaches and leagues that work on it. What matt said above is that we basically dont know anything about his scouting report yet. Its not that he doesnt have movement, we just dont know if he does. We dont know much yet about his mechanics either. What if he is a pitcher that is using mostly his upper body at this point. A better leg drive and some added muscle in the largest muscle groups of the body (and the easiest to add strength to ie the quads, gluts and hamstrings) could easily bump his speed up another 1-2 mph. Lets have a little bit of patience and see what develops. Im not getting into the comparison game of wether he is greg maddox or julio rodriguez. Its way too early to tell either way. Julio came out of Puerto Rico, which has much better HS and development, he had also been in the states for 4 years by the time he got to clearwater. All im saying is give the kid some time to work on his body, work on his craft, and lets wait until we get some more definitive scouting reports on his body composition, movement, and mechanics before we pigeon hole him.

    1. Some very valid points. Obviously, he could fill out and gain a little velocity which would help him a lot and, for sure, there are rare pitchers who can dominate with pinpoint control and multiple pitches that, while not thrown particularly hard, move like crazy. One day there will certainly be another Greg Maddux.

  9. Baseball Ross compared him as a “RHP of Jesse Biddle”. I like the guy, if they work on adding a tick or two on the FB and his CH and Cutter continue to grow he could be a big bright spot for this sytems lack of pitching depth. He’s only in Low A now so let’s give him time and hope for the best.

    1. He sounds more like a RH version of Cliff Lee honestly. 4-pitch mix. Fringe average velocity. 70+ control? That sounds like Cliff Lee. I’m not saying he’s going to BE Cliff Lee, but that’s what he sounds like.

    2. while i love reading baseball ross’ blog, he tends to be wildly over-optimistic about the players he sees.

      1. and that really is the beauty of reading his articles…its takes you away from reality of it for few minutes.

  10. Open question for Matt, or really anyone, can you give me the name of a 20 year old pitching prospect in A/A+ who had a K/BB ratio as good as his? How about 21 year olds in AA, can you think of any?

    The tools for pitchers are velocity, command, control, secondary pitches, and movement right?

    So he projects as a 45, 75, 75, 65, 60?

    Or is the argument that his secondaries won’t be as good because they don’t play off good velocity? So we’re looking at more like 50/55 on secondary pitches?

    1. If I was going to do those grades I would say it is more.
      45,60 (hard to put a command profile too much higher), 70, 55 (60+ CB, 50 changeup), ? (we really don’t know the fastball movement right now)

      On the secondaries we don’t know how the changeup plays and the curveball will play down if the fastball isn’t good enough. If he hits those numbers above, that is a #4 or so starter, but I also have a height bias when the fastball itself could be home run prone.

    1. 20 years old and they already have him working on a cutter says everything I need to know about the guy.

      1. youre aware Taijuan Walker and Dylan Bundy throw a cutter…. I am btw not putting Severino even in that zip code. Gonzalez could be a back of the rotation arm if genetically his arm holds up.

    2. “huge upside”?? Little surprised he used those comments. I think at best he is end of rotation starter. I didn’t hear they mention alot of movement so at this point we just have to assume he works both sides of plate well and that alone generally gets exposed. But the numbers are eye dropping..so I will just enjoy the moment.

  11. Back end starter is the max, but even in low A his tools show AAA as his floor due to elite command and control a nice mix of pitches. The change-up will probably determine how good he ends up being – and developing the change-up happens to be one of the Phillies biggest development strengths.

    This system needs a lot of help and Sev-K coming from basically nowhere is a nice development.

  12. Im sure he can add a few ticks to his FB. Pettibone was said to have an fringe average FB but in his last start he was hitting 95.

  13. His weight is not 153. He weight about 167 pounds. That information is not updated. DTB hno.! Bendiciones

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