LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) – The pick is in. The Pittsburgh Pirates have selected New Mexico State shortstop Nick Gonzales with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft on Wednesday night.
Gonzales becomes the highest drafted player in New Mexico State’s program history, taking that title from his former teammate, Joey Ortiz, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2019 MLB Draft.
“It was just pure joy for everyone around me and I’ll never forget that moment. It’s very special to everyone,” said Gonzales.
Gonzales took the road less traveled in becoming a top 10 pick. He played his high school baseball at Cienega High School in Arizona. After hitting .543 his senior year, he was not highly recruited out of high school. Former NMSU head baseball coach Brian Green, who is now the head coach at Washington State, offered Gonzales an opportunity as a walk-on. He never looked back.
“It’s kind of a comeback story,” said Gonzales on a Zoom conference call shortly after being drafted. “To start as a walk-on and to lead into this is just awesome for me and awesome for kids who aren’t highly recruited in college or highly recruited out of high school. With hard work and determination, it can really happen.”
Standing at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds — Gonzales is a projected second basemen at the next level. However, he was referred to as a shortstop when MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the pick.
“I’ll play anywhere on the diamond. Anything to help the team win is where I’ll be,” said Gonzales. “I’m just super excited to develop with professional players and professional coaches all around me.”
Gonzales began receiving interest from major league scouts after leading the country in batting in 2019. He then went on to be named the MVP of the Cape Cod Baseball League later that summer and was selected as a unanimous Preseason All-American going into the 2020 season. He did not disappoint. Gonzales was named Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of the Year in a shortened 2020 season due to COVID-19. He batted .448 with 12 home runs and 36 runs batted in. He finished his Aggie career with a .502 on-base percentage in 128 games. He wants to do the same in Pittsburgh.
“I plan on doing the same thing the rest of the way, working hard,” Gonzales said. “It’s not the true underdog story anymore but I still have that chip on my shoulder a little bit.”
Gonzales’ signing bonus slot value at No. 7 overall is $5.43 million, however, he will only get $100,000 of that in 2020. The rest of his signing bonus will be spread out in 2021 and 2022 due to the financial hardships of the coronavirus pandemic.
With the 2020 MLB and MiLB seasons currently suspended due to COVID-19, it is unclear where Gonzales will head to after the draft. He is currently training in his hometown of Vail, Arizona.