Marco's father, Frank, was a lefthanded pitcher and a 16th-round pick by the Tigers, out of Colorado State in 1989. He spent 11 years in the minor leagues.
Marco's mother, Gina, was a firefighter and first responder.
"Our first house was kind of on a plateau and there was a hill sloping down the street," Marco recalled. "My dad would set a bucket at the top of the hill and we'd throw bullpens, or play catch, or whatever it was. Once we got to making pitches, my dad would hold the glove up and if I missed my spot, he wouldn't move his glove, he would just let it go by him.
"So, if I threw it outside of his body, unless it was going to hit him, he let it go and I'd have to run down the hill and get it and run back up the hill and continue to throw. It never made me mad that he did that. I was mad at myself that I was the one making myself run."
Marco's father was instrumental in giving his son an edge on his peers while growing up in the game.
"It's meant the world because of the start I had compared to most kids,” Gonzales said. “A lot of coaches have commented on my maturity and pitch-ability and things like that, and that’s all from my dad. I don’t have the size and the strength most pitchers have, but I think as far as pitch-ability and mechanics and hard work and conditioning and things like that, I’ve got all that from him.”
Gonzales said his father has been helping him with his mechanics, his accuracy, and his poise on the mound since he was 10 years old.
Gonzales was the winning pitcher in the state title game all four years at Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins, Colorado. He was a three-time all-state selection and the state player of the year as a senior. He posted an 11-0 record and hit .486 his senior year, but he says only Gonzaga offered him a full scholarship or a chance to hit as well as pitch.
In 2010, the Rockies drafted him in the 29th round, out of high school, but he chose Gonzaga instead.
Gonzales pulled double duty for Gonzaga. When he did not pitch, he played first base and was one of the team's top batters. He led the team with a .311 batting average. He also had two home runs and 26 RBIs.
During his sophomore year, he had an 11-2 record with a 2.57 ERA and 90 strikeouts. On offense, he batted .325. As a freshman, he had an 8-2 record with a 1.55 ERA and 92 strikeouts. Batting wise, he had an average of .291.
Gonzales has also excelled on the international level. In 2012, he was on a Team USA Baseball squad that played in Cuba and the Netherlands. In fact, he was the Most Valuable Pitcher during the Netherlands series.
- At Gonzaga, Marco was no stranger to the Dean's List for his high grades in the classroom.
As a freshman at Gonzaga, Gonzales started 15 games, won 11 of them, and became the first player in program history to be named to four West Coast Conference postseason accolades. He went on to become, as coach Mark Machtolf describes, "the most decorated" player in Machtolf's 11 seasons at Gonzaga. (He had already become something of a legend in the Colorado high school scene. Four times in four years, he started and won the 5A championship baseball game.)
"He was the one who came right in from the start as a winner and a guy we could count on to win games for us," Machtolf said. "He helped put us on the map. Hopefully in the future, people will realize their dreams can come true by coming to play up in the north. He showed what is possible."
Gonzales passes credit for his professional preparation to a few different places. The lessons came early from his father, Frank, who followed an eight-year Minor League journey with a career in coaching. He is now the pitching coach for the Rockies' short-season affiliate and his son's go-to resource for help.
Then came the seasoning at Gonzaga, where Gonzales said he learned the importance of trusting the process. (Langosch – mlb.com - 2/22/14)
In both 2015 and 2016, Baseball America had Gonzales as the 5th-best prospect in the Cardinals organization. After Tommy John surgery cost Marco the 2016 season, he was at #13 in the winter before 2017 spring training.
Because of his skills and leadership on the field and his easy-going nature off of it, Gonzales is a favorite of coaches, teammates and scouts. He is intelligent, has a good sense of humor and is down to earth. And he has the heart of a lion.
2014: The Cardinals called up Marco. And the day before that he made his MLB debut, he was named to the 2014 All-Star Futures Game at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
"Marco is a quality athlete with high character and a strong pitching pedigree who we feel fits our roster well in both the near and long term," said Mariners' GM Jerry Dipoto. "We find his current performance, preparedness and proximity to the Major Leagues to be very appealing traits in a pitcher, particularly a young lefty who is now under club control through the 2023 season." (Johns - mlb.com - 7/21/17)
MLB Debut (June 25, 2014): Gonzales made his debut at Coors Field. Marco grew up a Rockies fan, and thousands of friends and family made the hour drive from his hometown to see him pitch just a few blocks from where he helped his Fort Collins, Colo., high school win four consecutive state championships.
His father Frank Gonzales was allowed to leave his job as pitching coach in the Rockies’ minor league system to attend. It was Frank who urged his son to learn the changeup—the off-speed equalizer a mile above sea level—but the son didn’t commit to pitching full time until turning pro. He led Gonzaga in hitting as a junior and gained recognition as one of the top two-way players.
During that debut, he flummoxed Troy Tulowitzki with a series of changeups for a strikeout.
June 25, 2014: It had already happened once during the 2014 season in a Mets-Yankees game; and it also happened back in 2009.
Prior to that, only three other times in Major League Baseball have two pitchers faced each other in their big league debuts. Marco started for the Cardinals and Yohan Flande started for the Rockies. But neither pitcher got a decision in a 9-6 Cardinals win.
In his first MLB at-bat, Marco hit a double off of Flande. At the end of the season, he had a .300 batting average with two doubles.
In 2014, the Cardinals selected Marco as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award.
June 16, 2019: For Marco, the baseball dream started early, courtesy of his dad. Though truth be told, his dream might have been skewed just a little by the stars in his eyes at age 5 when he got to travel with Frank Gonzales while his dad was pitching in the Minor Leagues.
“He tells a story that is pretty funny,” Marco recalled. “He was in Triple-A with somebody and we were showing up to a hotel, a Motel 6 on the side of the road someplace. And we got in there and the beds were creaking and the mattresses were horrible, the carpet was horrible. He said the dresser drawer fell off when he opened it.
“And he looked back, and I was lying in the bed with my hands folded behind my head and my feet kicked up saying, ‘Ahhh, this is the life!’”
For young Marco, it was the only life he ever wanted. And he’s followed in his dad’s footsteps and beyond, turning into a first-round draft choice and in his fifth year in the Majors.
“There are a lot of things like that where he just got me on board with being passionate about baseball,” said the 27-year-old southpaw, whose dad now is a Minor League instructor with the Rockies’ Class A Advanced Lancaster club. “He will forever be one of my coaches. It’s a great thing to have him always in my corner.” (G Jones - MLB.co - June 16, 2019)
Marco was asked what career he'd choose if he were not a baseball player?
"I would want to be an Athletic Director at a University" Gonzales said.
He says that Kobe Bryant is his favorite athlete to watch play.
Gonzales says, "I'm a pretty good Ping Pong player—definitely the best in this (2019 Mariners) clubhouse."
Feb 4, 2020: For Gonzales, a contract extension that will keep him with the Mariners through at least 2024 makes perfect sense.
“We’ve found our home,” said the former Gonzaga University standout, who has lived year-round in Seattle since 2016 with his wife Monica, a native of nearby Redmond, Wash.
And for the Mariners, it sends the perfect message.
“We want to start putting together this foundation and this is, for lack of a better way to put it, a sign that we're putting our money where our mouth is,” GM Jerry Dipoto said at the press conference announcing Gonzales’ new deal. “We want to be about this young group of players and make sure this group understands they are here, and our fan base understands that these are the Mariners.”
After the press conference, Dipoto indicated more similar long-term deals could be in the offing with other young players.
“Yeah, that’s absolutely the idea,” he said. “I won’t say who they are, but the thought is to keep this core of players together and make that our theme. This is our story. These are our guys, and we think this is going to be a championship club.”
Gonzales had no hesitation in casting his lot with a rebuilding club that went 68-94 and was projected for similar results the following year, with even more young prospects arriving.
“For us moving forward here in Seattle, to be with our family and a ballclub that is trying to build a championship team, to have a chance to be at the forefront of that is a huge opportunity for me,” Gonzales said.
The lefthander was born and raised in Fort Collins, Colorado. And his dad, Frank, is the Double-A pitching coach for the Rockies. But after meeting his future wife at Gonzaga, he’s adopted Seattle as his new hometown.
“It’s a perfect fit for us,” he said. “We love to call this home. We always knew we wanted to raise kids and eventually settle down here. After I got traded here in 2017 and we were up with the team, Monica and I kind of looked at each other and were like, ‘Well, this is as good as any reason to know this is our home.’ We were very, very proud.”
The Mariners acquired Gonzales from St. Louis in July of 2017 in a trade for outfielder Tyler O’Neill. At the time of his acquisition, Gonzales was in his first season back from Tommy John surgery and he struggled in 10 late-season outings that year.
But over the past two seasons, the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder has been the Mariners’ most-consistent starter while posting a 29-22 record and 3.99 ERA in 63 starts. He took over from Felix Hernandez as Seattle’s No. 1 starter last year and went 16-13 with a 3.99 ERA while throwing a career-best 203 innings.
“Marco has been as consistent a pitcher every fifth day as we could have hoped for these last two years,” Dipoto said. “Along the way, we found out a lot about who he is as a person and player and how much he relishes that leadership role.”
Seeing the impact Gonzales had on young pitchers like Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn at the end of last season and how he stepped up further into a leading role as established veterans like Jay Bruce, Edwin Encarnación and Mike Leake were traded away sealed the desire to make him part of the long-term future.
“That’s really when Marco started to rise,” Dipoto said. “It was especially notable when Justus Sheffield got here and Justin Dunn, or even the week he spent with Logan Gilbert and seeing the impact he had on those guys. What we think of those players and their character and personalities, Marco is the perfect leader for that group. And you don’t run across too many guys in baseball with that skillset and the want to employ it. Marco has the skills and the want-to.”
Part of that leadership role is knowing the young Mariners are likely going through more struggles and understand the big picture, without accepting that losing is inevitable. That bulldog mentality and focus is what has allowed Gonzales to be successful and he isn't about to change now.
“To be honest, I don’t think it’s my job to know where this is headed,” he said. “It’s my job to go out and win ballgames. I don’t think Jerry and the front office and Scott [Servais] want me to be worried about where we’re going or what are we doing. They want me to win and I want to win.
“I think everybody knows what they’re going to get from me every fifth day. They’re going to get someone who is not going to take a loss easily. That’s what it’s going to start with. We’re not going to be OK with a loss. We understand it’s a process, but it’s not our job to worry about where the ship is being steered. We’re just rowing the boat.” (G Johns - MLB.com - Feb 4, 2020)
May 15, 2020: Gonzales and his wife, Monica, are looking to pitch in for the growing number of families and children dealing with financial struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic by leading a virtual fundraising drive for Northwest Harvest, a statewide non-profit hunger relief agency. The Gonzales Family Peanut Butter Drive began with a goal of raising $40,000 to make 400,000 peanut butter sandwiches for families in Washington. The effort is being supported by the Mariners and Northwest Ford Dealers.
All donors will be entered in a drawing for a volunteer opportunity with Marco and Monica Gonzales at a Northwest Harvest facility, as well as a surprise experience, courtesy of the Mariners, during the 2021 season.
The Gonzaleses live year-round in Seattle and were at Northwest Harvest’s SODO Community Market, helping make 500 peanut butter sandwiches for distribution to families in need.
“This is a virtual food drive, so we’re looking for monetary donations,” Marco said. “The goal is $40,000, but I think we can get more than that. The amount of peanut butter we can get through donations and turn that into sandwiches and meals is incredible, and I think people will see they can do a lot of good with just a small donation.”
With the increasing number of people out of work and needing assistance, Northwest Harvest has needed to dramatically increase its distribution to partner food banks and meal programs. Hearing about the number of families struggling to put healthy food on their tables hit home for Monica Gonzales, a personal trainer and nutritionist.
“It is heartbreaking and scary to see how much our state is affected,” she said. “It definitely sparked action for ourselves, and we’re hoping to spark others, as well.”
The Gonzaleses will match a portion of the donations made to the peanut butter drive. Mariners Care, the team’s nonprofit foundation, also will match a portion of donations.
Marco hopes to return to baseball soon, but he said helping with Northwest Harvest and other charities is a commitment he and his wife plan to continue long beyond his playing days. For now, that means helping those dealing with the COVID-19’s financial impact.
“We recognize this time is really difficult for a lot of people for a lot of reasons,” Monica Gonzales said. “The need to have food on the table is a completely different situation. If there’s anything we can do to help, we feel it should be our priority. The families struggling to put food on the table will be recovering from this pandemic for a lot longer than others.” (G Johns - MLB.com - May 15, 2020)
2020 Season: Gonzales was unanimously named the Mariners’ most valuable pitcher by the Seattle chapter of the BBWAA. In the 60-game season and with the Mariners using a six-man rotation, he posted a 7-2 record with a 3.10 ERA in 11 starts. He pitched 69.2 innings, striking out 64 batters and issuing just seven walks.
He led American League starters in walks per nine innings (0.90) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (9.14). He tied for the second-most wins (seven) and finished third in WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched, at 0.95).
He was one of four pitchers to rank in the top 10 in the AL in wins, innings pitched (seventh) and ERA (eighth), joining Shane Bieber, Gerrit Cole and Lance Lynn.
“Marco’s been a solid above-average performer since playing his first full season here in 2018,” Dipoto said. “He got better in 2019, and this year, he took it to a whole new level and became something more than just a solid, above-average performer. I think he took it personally that people (national writers) were looking at him not as an ace. And how many references were made, especially at the trade deadline, about how we could move Marco Gonzales but he’s just the back of the rotation guy for a championship team, which, I’ll be honest, I think that’s laughable. If that’s what pitches at the back of championship rotations, I’m surprised. I’ve seen every World Series for the last 50 years.”
It may not seem possible, but Gonzales did just as much off the field for Seattle’s young starting staff that featured rookies Justus Sheffield (age 24) and Justin Dunn (25) and second-year pitcher Nick Margevicius (24).
“You know what you’re going to get from Marco every time out,” Servais said. “His ability to make adjustments based on who we’re playing, what the game plan looks like, is as good as anyone we’ve got.”
That’s something the Mariners wanted the young pitchers to grasp, to the point where each of them took turns sitting in on Gonzales’ game-preparation meetings on days he started.
“He’s as legit as they come,” Sheffield said. “It’s no surprise. Honestly, the work that he puts in on the field, off the field and scouting guys, his intellect of pitching and being able to get guys out and pitch to guys, it’s incredible. It’s something that in the future I want to strive to be able to do because it’s special. The way he game-plans and the way he knows the game and knows how to pitch those guys — you can tell that he does his work and he’s continuing to get better, game by game and year by year. Marco has been a great leader for the staff and for this team.”
Since being handed the role of leader, Gonzales has tried to embrace it, first leading by example and then becoming more vocal this season. (Ryan Divish - Oct. 14, 2020)
March 13, 2021: For most pitchers, the presence of their father in the opposing dugout would naturally evoke added jitters. But for those closest to Marco Gonzales, even with his dad watching intently from the Rockies’ bench, the intensity that Gonzales brought to a Cactus League game was akin to his demeanor for any start, whether it be a simulated game on a backfield or in front of a sold-out crowd in the postseason. Frank Gonzales, Marco’s dad and pitching coach for Colorado’s Double-A affiliate, knows best.
“I think the intensity and routine he has as a pitcher and professional has upgraded since I’ve known him as a youngster,” Frank Gonzales said. “I think he would appreciate that; how he prepares the night before, three days before, the bullpen, the side [sessions], shaping pitches and understanding what he can do and control in the game and understanding hitters and how they’re reacting. I think that’s a big part of who he is. It’s really intense.”
It wasn’t always that way for Marco, however, Frank says. As an amateur growing up in hitter-friendly, high-altitude Colorado while embarking on Minor League circuits with his dad, baseball was laughs and fun. It remained that way during a three-year run at Gonzaga University, where Gonzales was a two-way player, hitting .311/.382/.402 in 500 plate appearances. He was good enough to be a first-round Draft pick by the Cardinals in 2013 as a pitcher.
The turning point, in Dad’s eyes, was Marco’s Tommy John surgery in 2016. Even Marco admits that he became far more deliberate after the elbow procedure. Health, he says, is the most paramount factor to how he’s blossomed into one of the American League’s most productive left-handed starters. He’s rigorously motivated to make every start, and his determination in his durability is part of why he’s shown pause to the Mariners deploying a six-man rotation.
“Honestly, after Tommy John, a lot of certainty in trying to figure out, ‘Who do I need to become? How am I going to attack my career? What's my routine? What am I going to do three days before? The night of? The night before?’” Frank said of Marco’s mental development. “And I think he’s embraced that. He’s stuck with it. And he’s not going to leave it.”
June 26, 2021: Marco and his wife, Monica, welcomed the birth of their first child, Grace Linda - 7lb 4oz. Marco's Twitter stated: "Our world has forever changed and our hearts are so full as we welcome our beautiful baby girl, Grace Linda, into our family".
June 2013: The Cardinals made Gonzales their #1 pick in the draft (#19 overall). And Marco signed for $1.8 million, via scout Matt Swanson.
July 21, 2017: The Cardinals traded LHP Gonzales to the Mariners for RF Tyler O'Neill.
Nov 1, 2018: Gonzales will receive a hike in pay after agreeing to a two-year, $1.9 million deal.
- Feb 4, 2020: Gonzales signed a contract extension that will keep him with the Mariners through at least 2024. He will make $1 million this year under his current deal, with the extension running from 2021-2024 for $30 million. He’ll receive a $1 million signing bonus, then make $5 million in 2021, $5.5 million in 2022, $6.5 million in 2023, and $12 million in 2024 in what would have been his first year of free agency. There also is a $15 million club option for 2025.
|DOB:||2/16/1992||Agent:||CAA Sports - Ryan Hamill|
|Birth City:||Fort Collins, CO|
|Draft:||Cardinals #1 - 2013 - Out of Gonzaga Univ. (WA)|
|2016||-||DL - Tommy John|
Gonzales has an 89-93 mph 4-seam FASTBALL and an 88-92 mph 2-seam SINKER with late natural tailing movement (a 50 grade). He also has a 78-81 mph CURVEBALL (a 45 or 50 grade) that flashes good depth. And a fading/disappearing 83-86 mph circle-CHANGEUP (rated at 70) with very good arm speed.
That change is kind of like a screwball. He pulls the string at the last second and makes guys look silly with his changeup. It's his best pitch. And he once said he knows his change as well as his handshake.
He reminds some people of Tom Glavine, with his pitching savvy and the fact his fastball/changeup is not overpowering, but it is fastballs to the corners each time and changeups to both sides of the plate. And his curve has good action and depth.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 45.2% of the time; Sinker 7.3% of the time; Change 31% of the time; and Curve 16.6% of the time.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 9.1% of the time; Sinker 23.4%; Change 23%; his Curve 22.3%; and Cutter 22.2% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 90.9 mph, Sinker 90.8, Change 84.3, Curve 78.7 mph, and Cutter 87.8 mph.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 18.2% of the time; Sinker 21.4%; Change 24.1%; his Curve 15.9%; and Cutter 20.5% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 89.3 mph, Sinker 89.2, Change 81.6, Curve 76.6 mph, and Cutter 85.6 mph.
2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 24% of the time; Sinker 21.2%; Change 14.4%; his Curve 16.1%; and Cutter 24.3% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 88.6 mph, Sinker 88.8, Change 81.1, Curve 75.7 mph, and Cutter 85.3 mph.
Gonzales once joked that his changeup “is as much a part of me as walking.” He can find the circle-change grip in the dark and never doubts his feel for what is a true swing-and-miss pitch. It has a late drop, and he adds to the deception by not varying his delivery speed or arm angle from changeup to fastball.
Marco repeats his effortless, easy to maintain, a classic delivery. He has a loose, free, easy motion. It's clean and it's repeatable. He gets a 60 grade for his plus control.
Gonzales is a performer. He knows how to pitch, has above-average control (rated at 55) and throws strikes. While his stuff might be a little short, his command, mound presence, and athleticism stand out.
Before 2015 spring training, the Cardinals were envisioning Marco as a spot starter and part-time reliever in St. Louis.
June 29, 2018: Marco breezed through his first complete game in a 4-1 win over the Royals at Safeco Field. Gonzales was drawing the rave reviews with his most dominant performance yet in an outstanding season.
Gonzales said, "It's just great to be able to contribute to a team like this. You look at these guys and the way they're playing and the fun we've been having and I can't wait for my fifth day to come. So to be able to go out there and contribute in a positive way and have these guys rally behind you is pretty incredible. I'm very blessed." (Johns - mlb.com)
In 2018, Gonzales put the American League on notice. He had come a long way since Tommy John surgery in 2016 and then making stops with 5 clubs at 3 different levels across the Mariners and Cardinals organizations. The lanky lefthander was acquired by Seattle in 2017. And in 2018, Gonzales took a big step forward, going 13–9 with a 4.00 ERA while ranking second on the club in starts (29) and innings pitched (166.2).
His 166.2 innings were his most for a full season at any level of his professional career. Gonzales, who makes his home in Seattle during the offseason, was 1 of only 7 lefthanders in 2018 to earn at least 13 wins while working 165 or more innings. He was joined by fellow southpaws Kyle Freeland, J.A. Happ, Jon Lester, David Price, José Quintana and Blake Snell.
Among AL leaders, Gonzales ranked 4th in walk-per-9.0-innings (1.73), 18th in ERA (4.00), 18th in WHIP (1.22) and 25th in innings (166.2).
March 9, 2019: For the first time since then-manager John McLaren tabbed Erik Bedard for the first game of 2008, the Mariners will have a different Opening Day starter than Felix Hernandez when they kick off their season on March 20 against the A’s in Japan.
Marco Gonzales will be first up on the hill in the Tokyo Dome in the Opening Series, manager Scott Servais announced. (Editor's note: The Mariners defeated the A's and Gonzales got the win.)
Marco pays attention to the opposing pitcher during many of his starts.
"We're in a duel," Gonzales said early in the 2019 season. "We're trying to kind of match each other's innings. I try to set the goal of however many pitches and however many batters he faces, I need to be under that. So, I do find myself competing with the other guy, especially if he's doing well."
When Marco has all of his pitches and is able to use them on both sides of the plate and in any count, he can match up against anyone. He always competes on every pitch.
Sept 28, 2019: When the Mariners installed Gonzales as their No. 1 starter this spring, they couldn’t have asked for much more than what the 27-year-old delivered in a difficult season for the rebuilding club.
Gonzales wrapped up his 2019 campaign with seven innings of one-run ball in a 1-0 loss to the A’s on a chilly evening at T-Mobile Park. Lack of run support left him on the losing end in his finale, but the former Gonzaga standout finished with a 16-13 record while setting career bests for wins, ERA (3.99), innings (203), strikeouts (147) and starts (34).
“My main motive was just to go out and show my teammates and coaches and fans and the city just kind of what I’m made of, how I finish strong,” said Gonzales, who went 2-2 with a 1.61 ERA in 28 innings over his final four starts. “My plan is to have more starts after this some day, so I want to show everybody I’m capable of doing that.”
On the heels of a 2-1 loss at Baltimore in his previous outing, Gonzales easily could have bumped his win total up to 18 with a little help his past two starts. But still, his value is clear when noting the Mariners went 17-17 in games he pitched, compared to 50-77 with anyone else on the mound.
Reaching 200 innings and staying healthy and strong for a full season were Gonzales’ primary goals after he totaled 166.2 frames (and hitting the wall with a rough August) in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.
Gonzales is one of 14 MLB pitchers to have reached 200 innings this season and he's the first Seattle pitcher to achieve that mark since Félix Hernández in 2015. (G Johns - MLB.com - Sept 29, 2019)
2020 Season: Gonzales is an ace, and it’s about time the baseball world took notice.
“We feel like Marco is one of the most underrated starting pitchers in this league,” Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto said.
Marco grew up in Colorado, but pitched at Gonzaga University in Spokane, and settled in Seattle, so he’s a Seattle-ite through-and-though now. But, most importantly, he is a Seattle Mariner, and when he’s on the mound, the Mariners are going to win. Over his last 32 starts when receiving 3 or more runs of support, Marco is 28–0. Read that again. He is undefeated when the Mariners can muster any semblance of an offense while he’s on the mound.
In fact, since the start of the 2018 season Marco has tallied 36 wins, more than any other pitcher in the American League, aside from Justin Verlander (38) and Gerrit Cole (42). Luckily for Mariners fans, things are just getting started for Marco in the winning department.
“This organization has a vision for winning a championship, and I am honored to be a part of their plans,” said Gonzales after signing a contract extension with the Mariners last February. “This will only further motivate me and the passion that I have to compete and win. I do not take their commitment to me lightly, and I will always represent this team and this city with honor and pride.”
There isn’t much more Marco could have done to honor his promise in 2020. In a wacky 60-game season, Marco finished 7–2 with a 3.10 ERA (24 ER, 69.2 IP) with 64 strikeouts and 7 walks in 11 starts. He became just the 9th pitcher in the modern era to tally as many wins as walks in a season (min. 10 starts). He was one of four pitchers in the American League to rank in the top 10 in wins, innings pitched and ERA. He led the American League with a 0.90 BB/9 and a 9.14 SO/BB.
Yet, Marco finds his success differently than other elite pitchers in today’s era. Marco relies heavily on two fastball-type pitches, his sinker and his cutter. Combined, he throws them about 70 percent of the time, complimented by his changeup and his curveball to fill out the remainder of his repertoire. The difference between Marco and other fastball-reliant pitchers? His velocity tops out around 90 mph, sitting in the 3rd percentile of all Major League pitchers. Marco relies on pinpoint command and keeping opposing hitters off-balance. But, like every elite pitcher, Marco has a signature pitch.
In 2020, Marco’s sinker was tied for the 2nd-best pitch in all of baseball, in terms of Statcast’s Run Value metric. Over the course of the season, Marco’s sinker was worth -13 runs, trailing only Dinelson Lamet’s slider (-19) for the best run value by any Major League pitcher. Despite Marco’s sinker averaging a velocity of 88.2 mph, opponents hit only .195 against the offering. Pair that with his cutter, which opponents hit only .188 against, and Marco has about as lethal a one-two punch as a pitcher can have.
Put it all together, and you have one of the most valuable pitchers in the American League. (MarinersPR - Oct 27, 2020)
Marco’s value isn’t limited to when he’s on the mound. He has drawn consistent praise from coaches and teammates as the leader of the pitching staff, setting the tone each time through the location and mentoring the young pitchers that will be vital to the success of the Mariners future.
“Marco brings a ton of leadership, on the field and in the clubhouse” said manager Scott Servais. “But the biggest thing he does is lead by example. Sheffield, Dunn, all of those guys are up on the rail, and they’re watching, they’re seeing the results and they’re learning. Marco, that’s what he’s about. He does not back off. He does not throw 95 miles-per-hour, but he doesn’t care. He’s going to compete, he’s going to fight you, and he’s going to find a way.
“Every time he steps on the mound, you feel like you’re going to win the ballgame,” Mariners first baseman Evan White said. “And I feel like that’s the best compliment you can give a starting pitcher.”
Now, as the Mariners transition their focus to 2021, they will lean heavily on Marco’s leadership, while learning to win together as they take the next step in a rebuild that began showing results over the last month of the 2020 season.
“I’m just here to win,” said Gonzales “We’re just trying to light that fire. It feels good to win here, and that feeling is contagious. I hope that we got a little bit of a taste, and I hope that inspires some guys and shows everyone in this locker room where we could be.” (MarinersPR - Oct 27, 2020)
2020 Season: Marco led the Mariners in starts (11) and innings (69-2/3) during the shortened 2020 season, and posted a 7-2 record and career-best 3.10 ERA.
March 13, 2021: It was a trademark Gonzales outing when he’s at his best, one that alluded that he’s well on his way to being ready for his third straight Opening Day start.
His sinker sat at 88 mph, he generated whiffs in and around the strike zone and his secondary pitches were all polished. Gonzales struck out five, including three on his sinker, one on his cutter and an impressive breaking ball to Garrett Hampson. He also overcame a leadoff triple in his fourth and final inning to retire in order Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon and C.J. Cron—the heart of the lineup. Gonzales looked like he was in midseason form. What’s next for Seattle’s No. 1 starter, the team leader on the field and club ambassador off of it?
Gonzales is one of just three players left from the 2018 team before general manager Jerry Dipoto’s “stepback” that led to the multi-year rebuild that the club is looking to emerge from in the coming seasons. He was far from a leader back then, when he was a 26-year-old on the AL’s oldest roster. But his production since and his tenure, going on five seasons in Seattle, has enhanced his credibility.
The Mariners have gone 24-21 with him on the mound since 2019 and 71-106 with everyone else. Nobody can speak better to that than James Paxton, whose November 2018 trade to the Yankees essentially launched the aforementioned “stepback.” Big Maple said that he saw a much more confident Gonzales from afar, and Gonzales was one of the key figures in lobbying him back to Seattle.
“He's fantastic. He's a great leader. He’s done a great job with that,” Paxton said. “And his pitching, I mean, he's just so much more confident now. You can see it. And he knows exactly what he's doing out there. He knows who he is. He knows what he needs to do, and I'm loving just watching him pitch right now.”
When discussing his goals for 2021, Gonzales is ambiguous. He’d like to improve on his “command and conviction in his pitches,” he says, “and my consistency between starts.” Frank says that those comments are genuine, and that Marco doesn’t consider mainstream attention, though his numbers suggest that his first All-Star selection might be in the making.
Gonzales has shown that he will likely continue to get better on the mound. And this year, he’ll be much stronger—fueled by “girl dad” muscle. Gonzales and his wife, Monica, recently announced that they will be expecting their first-born this summer. “He’s been saying that quite a bit lately,” Frank said. “Gosh, we're just so excited and can't wait. The whole family, it’s just a blessing to experience this. And to do it in baseball, it’s just kind of cool.” (D Kramer - MLB.com - March 13, 2021)
- 2021 Season: There were plenty of positive developments for the Mariners along the way, and the continued emergence of Marco Gonzales was one of them. The lefty had another solid season in 2021, and it’s probably safe to call him an integral part of Seattle’s rotation.
- Gonzales made 25 starts in 2021.
- He wasn’t flashy by any means, but he certainly got the job done.
- He pitched to a 3.96 ERA and 105 ERA+ over 143.1 innings.
Gonzales isn’t an ace, and the Mariners don’t expect him to be. If the 28-year-old can simply serve as a middle-of-the-rotation arm, then Seattle will be satisfied.
Having said that, Gonzales pitched like an ace over the final few months of the 2021 season. His year got off to a rocky start, but over his final 15 starts, he posted a 2.83 ERA.
At one point, he had an eight-start stretch in which he pitched to a 1.95 ERA. (Sam Leweck - October 26, 2021)
Marco holds baserunners well and fields his position very well.
He has a great "snap" move over to first base that catches a few runners off-guard. In Baseball America's 2018 Best Tools Survey, Gonzales had the Best Pickoff Move in the American League.
- Spring 2012: Gonzales missed a start with some shoulder inflammation and then was out for about a month after tearing the meniscus in his right knee in the middle of the season.
April 22-May 9, 2015: Gonzales was on the Triple-A disabled list due to tightness in his left shoulder. At first, the diagnosis was a shoulder weakness, and he went through a program to strengthen his left arm, the shoulder, and area around it. But as a younger player, he wanted to get back on the mound and went faster than he should.
May 26-July 2015: Marco was on the D.L. with an impingement in his shoulder. He received a cortisone injection for the left pectoral shoulder injury.
April 2016: Gonzales underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left elbow.
April 2017: Marco missed the first month of the season on the DL when his elbow started "barking."
Aug 24-Sept 11, 2018: Marco was on the DL with cervical muscle strain.
April 28-June 1, 2021: Marco was on the IL with a left forearm strain.