The New York Yankees lacked adequate starting talent in 2023, but a severe need for depth became a priority this off-season. General manager Brian Cashman has solved two starting outfield spots, notably with Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo. However, preparing for the worst and stashing some competent deaf pieces was always a focus.
The Yankees have Trent Grisham, who was acquired in the deal for Soto, Everson Pereira, who could transition back to Triple-A, and Estevan Florial, whose time with the team may be running out. That’s not to mention super-utility man Oswaldo Cabrera, who can play all over the field but still needs to work on his offensive contributions.
The Yankees See Upside in Newly Acquired Outfielder Via Waivers
Recently, though, Cashman picked up 25-year-old right-handed outfielder Oscar Gonzalez off waivers from the Cleveland Guardians. Gonzalez is coming off of a down season, hitting .214/.239/.312 across 54 games. He played 83 games in Triple-A, but he’s only one year removed from a fantastic 2022 season that saw him collect a 125 wRC+, indicating he was 25% better than the average hitter.
During his 2022 campaign, Gonzalez played 91 games, hitting .296/.327/.461. While he features a terrible walk rate at a career 3.6%, he struck out at a 19.6% clip in 2022, which is decent. He hit 11 homers with 43 RBIs during his best professional season, but the Yankees are trying to find his potential after picking him up.
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Interestingly, he featured a 40.6% hard-hit rate, a 7.8% barrel rate, and an 88.5 average exit velocity last season for Cleveland. He has decent slugging metrics but struggles to make consistent contact. He’s an aggressive hitter, which is advertised by his low walk rate, but he struggled enormously against fastballs and offspeed pitches. Oddly, he posted a .246 batting average against breaking balls last year but a .197 average against fastballs and a .188 average against offspeed pitches.
Gonzalez seems to have a difficult time against velocity, as opposing pitchers threw fastballs 50.1% of the time, recording a 27.3% whiff rate and 20.4% put-away rate. Obviously, that is not ideal since fastballs should sport better averages in comparison to breaking balls. For example, he has the opposite problem of a player like Anthony Volpe, who hit .248 against fastballs and .147 against breaking balls.
One important thing to note: Gonzalez was fantastic against fastballs in 2022, his best professional season. He hit .313 against them with a .438 slugging rate. The drastic falloff could be an anomaly in his story and something the Yankees feel as though they can tweak and fix long-term.
Fortunately, he has two minor league options left, and the Yankees may want to see if he can turn things around with their Triple-A affiliate in Scranton. At 6’4″ and 240 pounds, he has an intimidating frame, and there is still plenty of value to be had here. The Yankees just need to unlock it.