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March 4, 2022 at 8:00 AM

Scouting Report Updates: Wilkelman Gonzalez, Chih-Jung Liu and more low-minors starters

For the last few months, we've been updating the scouting reports of many players in the system. Over the next few weeks, we will highlight these updated reports, starting today with starting pitchers from last year's Salem Red Sox. These scouting reports are written by Director of Scouting Ian Cundall.

Wilkelman Gonzalez, Right-handed pitcher

Physical Description: Slightly undersized frame. Sturdy lower half with remaining projection in his upper body. Not that tall, looks heavier than listed weight of 167 pounds. Solid athlete.

Mechanics: Throws from a three-quarters arm slot. Some effort in delivery. Does not use a wind-up. Loose, quick arm. Rotational delivery. High leg kick. Stiff arm action with a slight stab behind. Front side deception. Arm action is a little violent and can get out of sync from the rest of his delivery at times.

Fastball: 92-95 mph. Tops out at 97 mph. Live arm. Velocity drops considerably the deeper he works into games. Will come out 95-97 mph and eventually settle in at 92-94 mph, topping out at 95 mph, by the third inning. Fastball has shown bat-missing ability even in the zone. Pitch shows all types of movement: life, tail, cut, and sink. Variety of movement is a result of him being very raw and still learning how to pitch. Command and control are works in progress. Has flashed the ability to locate on occasions, but is wild at present. Will often yank the pitch to the glove side when his arm gets out ahead of the rest of his delivery. Potential plus offering with refinement.

Changeup: 84-87 mph. Deceptive arm speed. Flashes late, splitter-like drop where it falls off the table. Has feel and confidence in the pitch. Will throw in any count to hitters from both sides. Will telegraph on occasion by slowing delivery. Pitch is somewhat inconsistent and at times will be on the firm side. Potential plus offering.

Slider: 84-88 mph. 10-to-4 shape. Length varies. Has shown some ability to spin, but is inconsistent. Needs a lot of refinement, but it is encouraging that the pitch already will show flashes. Potential average offering.

Curveball: 75-78 mph. Long, 11-to-5 break. Work-in-progress pitch that is inconsistent at present. Does not always get over the pitch and too often gets on the side, pulling it to the glove side. On some occasions, pitch will flash tight break and has an above-average spin rate. Did not show the pitch at instructs in 2020; is in the early stages of developing it. Potential fringe-average pitch, but with a wide range of potential outcomes.

Career Notes: Opening Day starter for the DSL Red Sox 1 in 2019. Participated in Fall Instructional League in 2019 and 2020. Had a breakout 2021 season with a strong showing in the FCL and Low-A, jumping from the back-end of the SoxProspects rankings into the top 15 by season's end.

Summation: Great arm with a wide range of potential outcomes. Ceiling of a solid mid-rotation starter, but size and delivery could push him to the bullpen potentially. Great arm strength with a lot of development remaining. Fastball and changeup show the most potential right now. Breaking balls and command and control need work. Still learning how to pitch, but is not as raw as some comparable arms age-wise in the system.

Chih-Jung Liu, Right-handed pitcher

Physical Description: Average build. On the thin side. Above-average athlete. Has some projection left in his upper half and should add strength as he matures.

Mechanics: Throws from a high-three-quarters arm slot, starting on the first base side of the rubber. Pronounced leg kick with large stride towards home plate. Short arm action and hides the ball behind. Falls off to the first base side post-delivery, sometimes significantly. Effortful but not violent arm mechanics. With runners on base, uses a much shorter leg kick.

Fastball: 91-94 mph, topping out at 95 mph. Has average life and is on the straight side. Below-average command at present. Sat 88-92 mph at Fall Instructs in 2020, down significantly from where he reportedly sat before signing. Also showed a two-seam fastball with late downward movement. Reportedly sat 93-96 mph and topped out at 97-98 mph with his four-seam fastball prior to signing. Potential average offering.

Changeup: 82-84 mph. Pitch shows late, downward movement. Can pull the string on it and have it fall off the table late. Throws with deceptive arm speed. Shows feel and confidence in the pitch. Will throw to both righties and lefties in any count. Used to throw a splitter also, but shelved that pitch in 2021. Potential above-average offering.

Slider: 83-86 mph. Shorter, 10-to-4 shape. Pitch is inconsistent; does not always snap it off. When he does, pitch has flashed bat-missing ability. Can land for a strike or bury down and out of the zone. Potential solid-average offering.

Curveball: 80-82 mph. Vertical with longer break. Potential fringe-average offering.

Career Notes: Two-way player in high school who was also a switch-hitting shortstop. Showed great range and athleticism at short. Was reportedly overused on the mound. Pitched for Taiwan in the 2017 U-18 World Cup. Went to Culture University out of high school rather than enter the CBPL draft. Took a break from pitching for two seasons to rest his arm. Returned to pitching in 2019, dialing his fastball up to 98 mph. Was named MVP of the 2019 Asian Baseball Championship, where he was a teammate of Tzu-Wei Lin. Did not pitch much in 2020 spring training because team had him quarantine after arriving in Fort Myers during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and camp was ended before he could really take the mound. Participated in 2020 Fall Instructional League, essentially his stateside debut. Was promoted from the FCL to Low-A Salem after a single start, largely based on a strong Extended Spring Training showing.

Summation: Potential up-and-down swingman type with the chance to develop into a depth starter. Ceiling of a back-end starting pitcher. Still has a wide range of outcomes, as his stuff and arsenal are constantly evolving with each new look. In the 2020 Fall Instructional League, his velocity was down and none of his pitches projected as better than average. In 2021, velocity started to tick back up and secondaries showed more potential, but his velocity was still down from where he was reportedly at before he signed. Has the potential for three at-least-average pitches, but his frame is fairly slight to handle the rigors of starting long-term and he has not yet shown consistency with stuff from outing-to-outing and year-to-year.

Bradley Blalock, Right-handed pitcher 

Physical Description: Average frame. Has room to fill out, especially in his lower half as he physically matures.

Mechanics: Throws from a high three-quarters arm slot. Some effort in delivery. Does not use a wind-up and has minimal movement before coming forward. Medium leg kick, but shortens it from the stretch. Long arm action with a slight stab behind. Will come across body at times. Front side deception. Typically stays on-line to the plate, but will fall off to the first base side at times when he lands off-balance.

Fastball: 90-94 mph, touching 95 mph. Has added velocity from sitting 87-91 when he was drafted, and has the frame to add more as he fills out. Pitch comes in downhill and shows some sink. Will show cut on some occasions when he pronates his wrist. Advanced control for his age, but command needs refinement. Potential average offering.

Slider: 83-85 mph. Plays well north/south in conjunction with his fastball, throwing fastball up in the zone and slider down. Will show bat-missing ability. Lacks tilt. Potential average pitch.

Curveball: 79-82 mph. Long, vertical breaking ball. Inconsistent. More of a spinner at times than a power breaking ball with tight rotation right now. Shape will vary at times. Inconsistent feel and will sometimes cast the pitch when he does not snap it off. Potential average pitch.

Changeup: 85-87 mph. Good arm speed. Work in progress. Inconsistent feel. Will show drop on occasion, but throws sparingly. Potential below-average pitch.

Career Notes: Committed to Kennesaw State before signing for $125,000 over "slot" for a late-round draftee. Participated in Fall Instructional League in 2019 and 2020.

Summation: Potential up-and-down swingman type. Ceiling of a back-end starter. Shows confidence and pitches with some swagger on the mound. Velocity has already ticked up and could continue to do so. Development of secondary pitches and command will be key for him to reach his potential. There is a question of whether his delivery will play in the rotation given it has some effort. Likely will rely on his fastball/slider combination at higher levels unless he makes improvements with his other pitches. Those two pitches could play in a bullpen role if development necessities a move.

Shane Drohan, Left-handed pitcher

Physical Description: Tall, athletic pitcher's frame. Some remaining projection. Long limbs. Room to add strength. Looks the part.

Mechanics: Throws from a three-quarters arm slot. Free and easy delivery. Short stride and arm action. Hides the ball well behind. Delivery works. Controlled and repeats it well, especially considering he did not commit fully to baseball until college.

Fastball: 88-92 mph. Tops out at 94 mph. Pitch shows natural sink and has a good spin rate. Has some life up in the zone; hitters seem to pick up the ball late. Has the delivery and athleticism that lend to a solid command and control profile in the future, but right now both are works in progress. Should add velocity as he physically matures. Potential average offering.

Curveball: 75-78 mph. Pitch has 1-to-7 break and will flash depth and tight rotation when he finishes it. Power breaking ball with a plus spin rate. Throws often; solid feel. Will start at-bats with it or use it to put hitters away. Throws to hitters on both sides. Potential average offering.

Changeup: 78-81 mph. Pitch shows fade down and away from right-handed hitters. Feel is inconsistent. Throws with good arm speed; does a good job of not telegraphing the pitch. Pitch improved in college. Potential fringe-average offering.

Career Notes: Father, Bill, was a pitcher in the Royals organization from 1987-1990. Was highly regarded coming out of high school and was selected in the 23rd round of the 2017 draft by the Phillies. Successful quarterback in high school and did not commit fully to baseball until he was in college. First professional experience came in the 2020 Fall Instructional League.

Summation: Potential emergency swingman type. Ceiling of a back-end starter. Athletic left-hander who will show a three-pitch mix, but needs to develop physically and add velocity. Has more upside remaining than a typical college draftee. Has the type of athleticism you look for in a pitcher. Has shown a general feel for pitching and a repeatable delivery. Fastball command needs improvement and he needs to continue to refine his secondaries.

Wyatt Olds, Right-handed pitcher

Physical Description: Slightly undersized with an average frame. Minimal remaining projection. Athletic.

Mechanics: Throws from a three-quarters arm slot. Effort in delivery. Pitches exclusively from the stretch. Medium-high leg kick, long arm action. Solid front-side deception. Has had trouble repeating his delivery in the past.

Fastball: 93-96 mph. Tops out at 97 mph. Will sit lower when pitching in a starting role. Has shown the ability to miss bats with the pitch. Pitch will show sink sometimes, arm-side run at others. Command and control need work. Has the tendency to yank the pitch glove-side when his arm gets out ahead of the rest of his delivery. Potential above-average offering.

Slider: 85-88 mph. Hard breaker with tilt. Pitch shows sharp 10-to-4 shape and depth. Has shown the ability when ahead in the count to land it in the zone or bury it down and away from righties or in on the hands of lefties to generate swinging strikes. Will flash plus potential, but needs to improve consistency.

Changeup: Clear third pitch that he has not incorporated often. Will need to develop the pitch to stick as a starter. Did not throw in three-inning scouted in 2021.

Career Notes: Was selected to the Big-12 All-Freshman Team in 2019 and was a top high school prospect in Oklahoma in 2018. Started 2021 in Sooners' rotation, but was moved to the bullpen after he struggled. May have changed his pitch mix in 2021 in an attempt to move into full-time starting role, but team liked his 2020 pitch mix better when drafting him, combined with his ability to turn a lineup over shown at times in 2021.

Summation: Potential up-and-down relief arm. Ceiling of a middle reliever. Size, delivery and arsenal point to bullpen role long-term. Has a quality fastball/slider combination and could move quickly in a pure bullpen role. Current projection is driven by how far he is from the majors, but if he stays healthy, he has definite major league potential. Needs to improve his changeup and show he can stay healthy over a full season as a starter to be considered in that role. Will likely be developed in the rotation initially to force him to use all of his pitches and refine his fastball command.

Photo Credit: Wilkelman Gonzalez, Chih-Jung Liu and Bradley Blalock by Kelly O'Connor.

Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.