In 2013, Stephen Gonsalves fell to the 110th pick of the draft. He promptly struck out more than 35 percent of hitters in Rookie ball that summer and, arguably, became one of the most overlooked young arms in baseball.
When I began writing this profile, Gonsalves had yet to appear in a major publication's top-100 list (he made it to MLB.com's later Saturday) despite elite-level strikeout rates at every level of minor league ball and holding an average FIP of 2.58 in his short pro career.
For the Twins, Gonsalves shouldn't be much of a surprise. Entering his senior year he was a projected first rounder but was shelled, and with it went his draft stock. Maybe his under-the-radar status is by design, though MLB.com reports he was the target of several trade offers, so perhaps he's not a well-kept secret.
Scouting report: At 6'5" 213 pounds, the 22-year-old lefty passes the eye test and could add more to his fastball as he reaches peak age. He hasn't logged a great deal of pro innings as Minnesota is taking its time with him. From available scouting reports he has a plus fastball and changeup with a curveball that has taken a positive turn this year. His slider remains in development stages.
Gonsalves is fairly polished for someone just reaching Double-A earlier this season, but he's shown some erratic control at this level. A glance through his numbers shows an erratic streak isn't uncommon for him, nor is it for most young pitchers developing their arsenal. When Gonsalves is on, he can dominate, and even when he's off there's no evidence that he becomes a pinball machine.
By the numbers:
Gonsalves has maintained strong strikeout rates throughout his time in pro ball even in larger sample sizes. His performance in High-A to open this year showed a promising adjustment after not finishing 2015 strong. While walks are up in Double-A, Gonsalves is displaying an ability to overmatch hitters at a higher level.
With limited batted ball data available, we can gather a few things from the chart above: Home runs are hard to come by and Double-A is providing a true (read: not luck-based) glimpse of the prospect. His .291 BABIP against is within the realm of sustainable as evidenced by the 2.87 FIP (2.62 ERA).
What Gonsalves is able to maintain in higher levels will ultimately determine his success. A high strikeout pitcher, prone to streaks of bad control, that can limit hard contact and home runs is what the base numbers tell us about him. That may not be sustainable at higher levels where hitters take advantage of mistakes more often.
How he fits: Twins pitching again ranks in the bottom-five of the league in K/9 and dubiously sits as the sixth-worst team in FIP this year. Adding a high strikeout starter to the rotation from the lower levels is critical for the mid-budget Twins, who can't afford to spend on a proven strikeout pitcher.
Gonsalves figures to debut in 2017 and challenge for a rotation spot in 2018. At this rate, that timeline is on track. He projects as a mid-rotation starter, but his strikeout skillset should separate him from the Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes types Minnesota typically employs in the rotation.
His upside could be a No. 3 behind Jose Berrios, but if he adds muscle and hits the 94-95 mph range with improved control, he could become a legitimate top-end starter that the Twins stole 106 picks after the struggling Kohl Stewart.
Jerry Burnes is a contributor Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @jerryburnes.