Career Years: Who's having them? (Part 2) By Luke Garrison (Monday July 23rd, 2018)
Photo by www.oregonsportsnews.com
TORONTO—The last of our breakout monsters plays his game from the mound. Marco Gonzales, a starting pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, appears to have finally reached his potential after being selected in the first round (19th overall) of the 2013 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Gonzales only had to wait a year and a bit after being drafted to reach the majors. Due to an injury to Jaime Garcia, Marco was thrust into his first big league start on June 25th, 2014. He had pitched well in both Single-A and Double-A that season; however, he was still making his major league debut at just 22 years old. In other words, he was set to start a game in the MLB before even touching Triple-A.
As one could expect, it was a poor start for Gonzales (who allowed five earned runs through five innings) however; it was an admirable effort given the abruptness of his call-up combined with his lack of pro baseball experience. It certainly seemed to impress some of the Cardinals’ brass as he made ten total appearances over the rest of that season (five starts) and had a 4-2 record with 31 strikeouts and a 4.15 earned run average through 34.2 innings pitched.
Next season was a significant step backwards for the young pitcher as much of 2015 was spent on the shelf with a shoulder injury. In the 14 starts (69.1 IP) he did make for Triple-A Memphis that season, he was 1-5 with a 5.45 earned run average. He was called up to the Cardinals to make a start on September 1st but allowed four earned runs and seven hits over 2.2 innings pitched and was promptly sent back down to Triple-A.
Just as things seemingly couldn’t get worse, he was diagnosed with a torn UCL on April 13th, 2016 and had to miss all of that season in order to receive Tommy John surgery. Fortunately, he was able to rebound nicely as the 2017 season began by making 11 starts (68.1 IP) for Triple-A Memphis resulting in a 6-4 record, a 2.90 earned run average, and 57 strikeouts.
His impressive early-season performance earned him another start with the Cards on June 13th (his first since that September 1st call-up in 2015) but it was similarly terrible as he allowed five earned runs on six hits (three being home runs) and was chased after 3.1 innings pitched.
He was sent back down to Triple-A before being traded on July 21st (five weeks later) to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for outfielder Tyler O’Neill. He made two starts for Seattle’s affiliate (Triple-A Tacoma) before being called up to the majors for the remainder of the season. He recorded 10 appearances (7 were starts; 36.2 total IP) registering a 1-1 record with a 5.40 earned run average and a 1.74 WHIP (walks/hits per innings pitched).
It seemed as though the change of scenery wasn’t what Gonzales needed. Maybe the former 2013 first-round pick just didn’t have the skills to succeed at baseball’s highest level. But the Mariners stuck with him and it seems as though it has paid off in spades this time around.
He earned the fourth rotation spot to begin this season after an impressive spring where he posted a 2.08 earned run average through seven starts (26 IP) along with 21 strikeouts. He hasn’t looked back in 2018 and has an 11-5 record over 20 starts (119.2 IP) accompanied by a very impressive 3.38 earned run average and 104 strikeouts.
With King Felix having a down year, a combination of Gonzales, James Paxton, and Wade LeBlanc has been just what the Mariners rotation needed. The M’s can only get much scarier if Hernandez returns to form at some point before the playoffs.
Now, let’s quickly take a look at two young pitchers who were standouts over a half season or less in 2017. They should have come on and taken the league by storm this year; however, both have significantly regressed. Their names are Luis Castillo and Lucas Giolito.
Castillo is 24 years old and made his MLB debut for the Cincinnati Reds last season on June 23rd, 2017 against the Washington Nationals.
He then became a rotation regular for the rest of the year and finished with a 3-7 record. He had 15 total starts (89.1 IP) and amassed a promising 3.12 earned run average and 98 strikeouts.
All signs pointed to him exploding as a dominant starter in 2018; however, he has been anything but. Over 20 starts (103.1 IP), Castillo is 5-8 with a 5.49 earned run average and is tied for 6th in the league in home runs allowed with 19. He’s been very bad, and the 43-56 Reds have been debatably worse.
Lucas Giolito experienced a similar fall from grace. He just turned 24 on July 14th so he’s quite young as well. Through seven starts last season (45.1 IP) he recorded a 3-3 record to go along with a 2.38 earned run average and 34 strikeouts for the Chicago White Sox.
Although 45 innings is a small sample size, his numbers looked solid. Giolito’s only concerns were the eight home runs he allowed and his 4.94 FIP. It seems as though his luck has run out this season and the most prevalent factor appears to be his control. Through 19 starts (103.1 IP), he has a BB/9 of 5.2, a K/9 of 5.5. Not to mention he’s hit 11 batters.
Luckily, it doesn’t matter as much since the 34-64 White Sox are terrible as well. Both pitchers certainly look to bounce back during the second half of this season and beyond. They’re still young, so all hope is not lost.