Marwin Javier Gonzalez
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 195 lb.
Originally signed by the Chicago Cubs and scout Hector Ortega, Gonzalez made his pro debut in 2006, which he split between the AZL Cubs (.198/.266/.267 in 24 G) and the DSL Cubs (.265/.265/.485 in 18 G). After missing most of 2007 with injuries (he hit .288/.391/.492 when healthy for the AZL Cubs). He began 2008 with the Peoria Chiefs but was overmatched (.224/.240/.294 in 33 G), before joining the Boise Hawks, whom he led with 43 RBI despite not hitting a home run. He hit .279/.318/.365 for Boise and was 4th in the Midwest League in RBI, behind Mike Loberg, Dan Robertson and David Paisano. He was 0 for 4 for the Leones del Caracas that winter, his debut in the Venezuelan League.
In 2009, Gonzalez hit .241/.287/.309 as a utility man for the Daytona Cubs. He played 20+ games at shortstop, third base, second base and left field and 10 games in center field. He tied for 4th in the Florida State League with 8 sacrifice hits. He batted .313/.361/.493 for Caracas in winter ball, though, and was 0 for 2 in the 2010 Caribbean Series. The next summer, he appeared for both Daytona (.271/.330/.306 in 23 G) and the Tennessee Smokies (.246/.284/.341 in 86 G), moving from a utility role to a starting shortstop one.
The summer of 2010-2011 was a good one for Marwin, who hit .324/.416/.424 with 33 walks and 41 runs in 59 games for Caracas. He was among the Venezuelan League leaders in average (4th behind Josh Kroeger, Cesar Suarez and Alex Romero), OBP (5th between Gregor Blanco and Jackson Melian), runs (tied for first with Alexi Amarista) and walks (7th, between Melian and Kroeger). The switch-hitter spent the summer with Tennessee (.301/.359/.421 in 64 G) and the Iowa Cubs (.274/.326/.376 in 60 G), with a combined 30 doubles. He tied Steve Clevenger and Justin Bour for 7th in the Cubs chain in two-baggers. In winter ball, he fell to .292/.339/.337 for the Leones.
Following the 2011 season, Gonzalez was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 2011 Rule V Draft and in turn traded to the Astros for Marco Duarte. He made the Houston roster out of spring training and was the club's Opening Day starter at shortstop in 2012, going hitless in 3 at-bats against the Colorado Rockies. In his first MLB at-bat, he flew out against Jeremy Guthrie. He got his first hit the next day, doubling off Jamie Moyer in the 5th inning and later scoring on a hit by Jordan Schafer. Moyer had already pitched for three seasons in the majors before Gonzalez was born! He was one of two Rule V picks to make the Astros, a rarity; Rhiner Cruz was the other one. On August 30th, he made the highlight reels for a spectacular fall, when he tripped over the first base bag in trying to beat out a ground ball against the San Francisco Giants. He was called out, but went airborne as he hit the bag oddly, and fell hard on his left shoulder; stunned, he managed to walk off the field under his own power, having suffered a sprained ankle. Overall, he hit .234/.280/.327 in 80 games as a rookie, playing 47 games at shortstop, 14 at third base and 6 at second base. Jed Lowrie got the bulk of playing time at shortstop.
Gonzalez had the inside track to be the Astros' regular shortstop for 2013, after Lowrie had been traded, until Houston signed veteran Ronnie Cedeno in the waning days of spring training. Cedeno got the start on Opening Day, but Gonzalez managed to get his name in the news when he started the team's second game on April 2nd. Batting ninth, he drove a single up the middle with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning to break up Yu Darvish's bid for a perfect game. However, it was his team's only highlight in a game it lost, 7-0. He hit .221 in 72 games that year, with 4 homers and 14 RBIs. He played mainly shortstop,but also a bit of second and third base. He seemed at that point to be destined for a career as a utility infielder more valuable for his glove and versatility that for his bat, but major improvements over the next few seasons changed that outlook.
In 2014, he played 103 games while splitting time at shortstop with Jonathan Villar. He improved his batting average to .277 and his slugging percentage to .400, thanks to 15 doubles and 6 homers. He only had 23 RBIs, the result of usually batting 9th in a weak batting order, but his OPS+ was a commendable 105, very good for a player of his type. In 2015, the Astros suddenly became good, and he continued to improve, batting .279 and slugging .442 in 120 games. He had 18 doubles and 12 homers, scored 44 runs and drove in 34. He ws now a full-fledged utility player, seeing significant playing time at 1B, SS, 3B, 2B and LF. However, he was on the bench in the postseason, going 0 for 1 in the Wild Card Game against the New York Yankees, and 0 for 2 in the ALDS against the Kansas City Royals. By 2016, his main position was first base, with 92 games and 74 starts, although he continued to be used all over the diamond. He played 141 games and hit .254 with 26 doubles and 13 homers, scoring 55 runs and driving in 51. Gone was his image as a good-field no-hit middle infielder, as he was now displaying consistent enough power to be used in the middle of the batting order.
Marwin's metamorphosis became complete in early 2017. He was back to being used all over the diamond, but was now in the starting line-up virtually every day, as manager A.J. Hinch wanted his potent bat in the line-up one way or another. He hit only .204 in April, but with 5 homers and 12 RBIs, both totals putting him among the team leaders alongside CF George Springer. In early May, he went on a tear, hitting 5 homers and gather 12 RBIs in a span of 4 games starting on April 30th.
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Why Marwin Gonzalez is 'an absolute dream' for MLB-best Astros", USA Today Sports, June 21, 2017.