Jacob Gonzalez SS Mississippi
Of the nine players we’ve looked at so far as options for the Cubs, Gonzalez strikes me as the most likely based on the scouting reports that are out there. Everyone raves about his defensive abilities, his leadership skills, and his innate ability to help his teams win, and all of those are attributes that the Cubs have been known to covet.
Personally, I don’t love the bat. He’s had an OPS over 1.000 just once in his career and it came during the National Championship season his freshman year. This year he batted .327/.435/.564 and hit 18 doubles and 10 homers while walking (35) more often than he struck out (28). That being said, when you’re looking at college players the goal is to see something that stands out. A tool so loud you can’t ignore it. He went 0-for-2 in stolen bases this year to take him to a career total of 6-for-14. His 10 homers and 35 walks both marked career lows.
That being said, you’ve got to assume that the scouts know what they’re talking about when they hype his defense and leadership skills. MLB.com argued that he may be the best shortstop in the class:
"Gonzalez earned national freshman of the year recognition in 2021 and helped Mississippi win its first-ever College World Series championship last June. As a junior, he has a chance to pass Drew Pomeranz (fifth overall in 2010) as the highest-drafted player in Rebels history. Some clubs consider him the best shortstop in the Draft and he has started there for the U.S. Collegiate National Team the last two summers."- MLB.com
Keith Law thinks he can definitely stay at shortstop but doesn’t expect him to have real high end upside:
"Gonzalez projects to stay at short with great instincts and soft hands, although he’s a fringy runner and some scouts use that as a proxy for a player’s ability to handle shortstop long-term. I think he’s a solid regular at short, not a star, and in some drafts that’s a top 10 pick, but this year it’s probably less."- Keith Law
Jim Bowden definitely seems to be the highest on Gonzalez (to the point that I was concerned he may have been talking about a completely different player):
"He’s a left-handed hitter with elite bat-to-ball skills that include electric bat speed, consistent barrel contact and the ability to spit on pitches out of the zone. He has tremendous power to pair with his on-base skills. He’ll probably end up at third base but could stay at shortstop initially and has a strong arm from deep in the hole at short. He’s probably the best shortstop prospect since Alex Bregman was drafted by the Astros at No. 2 in 2015."- Jim Bowden
All that being said, Fangraphs gave an extremely deep dive into what they believe we can expect from Gonzalez and where his deficiencies are:
"Gonzalez is a really tough evaluation because he performed for three years in the best conference in the country, but his swing and the way he plays defense are both atypical of a good big leaguer…- Fangraphs
He shares many similarities with Bryson Stott: a left-handed hitting shortstop with a swing geared for low-ball contact and secondary skills that have allowed him to get by on defense despite his non-traditional style of throwing and middling range...
His level of statistical performance is rare and Gonzalez will barely be 21 on draft day, but his swing has a huge hole at the top of the zone that I fear will be exploited in pro ball."
Gonzalez is the kind of player that I’d probably be disappointed to see the Cubs draft. The scouts are all so divided on him in every aspect. Some believe that he has the skill to stay at short, some think he’ll be at second or third base. Some scouts think he has a hole in his swing and others think he has the best bat at shortstop since Alex Bregman. Regardless, he’ll be a top-15 pick. He’s won meaningful hardware as the National Freshman of the Year and National Champion at Ole Miss and he’s been a contributor for the US National Team for two years in a row. Whether he can hit or not, whether he can play short or not, it’s all irrelevant because during the draft every team is trying to find the guy with the skills they think are mandatory and they’ll worry about teaching the rest later. I just don’t feel super confident placing that bet with my first-round pick.