St. Louis Cardinals: The next left-handed specialist

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St. Louis Cardinals
Oct 11, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Marco Gonzales throws a pitch against the San Francisco Giants in the fifth inning in game one of the 2014 NLCS playoff baseball game at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

2. Marco Gonzales

There is still a lot to be learned about the now 23-year-old former first round draft pick from the University of Gonzaga. Marco Gonzales burst onto the scene in the 2014 playoffs, less than a calendar year removed from winning the John Olerud Award (best college two-way player) for his efforts as a first baseman and staff Ace with the Bulldogs.

Gonzales picked up two wins in relief during the 2014 NLDS, showing off his promising command and makeup that John Mozeliak fell in love with when he took him 19th overall in 2013.

Arm troubles blew up Marco’s 2015 campaign as he was expected to compete for a fifth spot in the rotation or a long-relief/spot start role. Coming back in 2016, Gonzales is looking to bounce back and have an impact with the big club, and he says that he won’t confine himself to any particular role.

Many would say that it is way too early to give up on Gonzales as a starter, and I would have to agree. There isn’t anywhere near a large enough sample size to determine whether or not Gonzales could be successful as a big league starter.

Gonzales’ numbers against lefties were good in 2014, albeit with just 32 plate appearances to go off of. Lefties slashed just .143/.219/.179 against Gonzales in those at-bats. He did not surrender a long ball and he did have a 2.5 K/walk ratio.

Again, though, Gonzales’ changeup has the potential to be devastating against right-handed batters, and his makeup really lends itself to projecting out as a starting pitcher. There are similarities across the board between Gonzales and Jaime Garcia, making bullpen relegation an unlikely scenario.

The question to be asked is what the nature of Gonzales’ arm problems might be. If it was overuse-type issue, meaning that perhaps his arm couldn’t handle starting pitcher innings, would the bullpen be a better fit? In that scenario, would Gonzales be able to handle pitching back-to-back games or three days in a row?

We will find out a lot about Gonzales this spring and into the season, but a lefty-specialist role doesn’t seem particularly likely.

Next: The next LOOGY