Marco Elias Gonzales
Height: 6'1" Weight: 195
Bats/Throws: Left / Left
Born: 02/16/1992 in Fort Collins, Colorado
Offseason home: Seattle, Washington
College: Gonzaga University
Family: Wife Monica
Acquired: In trade from the St. Louis Cardinals, for Tyler O'Neill (07/21/2017)
MLB Debut: 06/25/2014
Free Agent after: 2023 season
Twitter handle: @MarcoGonzales_
Seattle's new ace started his season in fine form, then hit a few bumps in the road. He won his first four starts, including one of his best games yet, 81⁄3 innings against the Angels that included a stretch of 20 of 25 batters retired, including 17 consecutive. By the end of April, he was 5-0 with a sparkling 2.80 ERA, but then came a few bumps in the road. He got tagged for six runs (three earned) by the Cubs in an inning and two-thirds for his shortest outing of the year, had some more defense-exacerbated issues with the Red Sox, who scored four (two earned) in four innings off of him at Fenway, and got roughed up by the Twins. He then lost two straight starts vs. the Rangers, one a hard-luck L (one earned run over seven innings), the other the worst start of his season, then had an even worse start in Anaheim before he righted his ship. Since then he's been his old self; overall he's thrown eight quality starts, and if you were to remove those two brutal games against Texas and the Angels, he'd be sporting a season ERA of just 2.86.
Marco's formula for success is not overwhelming force, but pinpoint control and deceptive movement. Weak contact is the name of his game, meaning the anxiety-inducing Seattle defense needs to be on its toes. So far this season, his outstanding curveball needed a few innings to get sharp, but that may be just a little more rust from the long offseason; he can get by without it with good control on the fastball, but when the curve is working he ascends to a whole 'nother level.
After a breakthrough year in 2018, the decline of Felix Hernández, and the departure of James Paxton, Gonzales has assumed the mantle of staff ace for the Mariners. By the numbers, it's a modest achievement; none of the Mariners' current starting five have ace-like records in the big leagues, and in the aggregate, Marco's '18 stats are just decent. But for a stretch last year, he was among the elite. For the span of a month in midseason—June 29 through July 29—Gonzales made five starts, won all five, threw a complete game, held the opposition to a batting average under .200, and posted an ERA of 1.57 and a WHIP of 0.845. To be fair, he followed that up with a miserable August that included time on the DL with a strained neck—0-4, 10.35 ERA, 2.050 WHIP—but the team as a whole was in free-fall then and he turned it around in September.
He isn't using the "ace" label himself, though. "I have to earn everything I get," Gonzales said. "I'm going to do everything I can to help us win games. Whatever you want to call that, that’s what I’ll be doing." He'll be doing it with control of his four-pitch arsenal and help from his defense; Gonzales relies on precise location with his fastball, a sharp break in his curve, and weak contact from the batter. Don't expect huge strikeout numbers or free passes. "If I’m going to get beat, I’m going to get hit around," he said. "I make guys swing the bat."
The Gonzaga alum is a steady presence on social media, often bantering via Twitter and Instagram with teammates; his exchanges with fellow southpaw Wade LeBlanc made the rounds last year, with the blogosphere enjoying the goofy simplicity of their "Neato!" and "Yay sports!" posts. You can follow him on both platforms @marcogonzales_.