LOS ANGELES — Gavin Lux and Tony Gonsolin were both drafted by the Dodgers in 2016 and although both took different paths to get here, both were celebrated at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night after a mostly shared experience in 2018.
Lux and Gonsolin were honored for winning the Branch Rickey minor league player and pitcher of the year in the Dodgers minor league system, given annually to the top minor league performers in the system.
Tuesday was Gonsolin’s first visit to Dodger Stadium.
“Seeing this and experiencing the dugout and the view of what could be, it’s definitely something that I want to do,” he said.
Lux has been to Chavez Ravine before. First when he was drafted in the first round in 2016, then again at various times last offseason, working with hitting coordinators and consultants after hitting .244/.331/.362 in Class-A Great Lakes.
“I was pretty mad with how my first full season went,” Lux said.
He made changes to his swing during the offseason, not all launch angle focused though Lux noted, “There’s not a lot of hits on the ground.”
“I stayed in my legs more, and with my swing path trying to get the ball in the air more,” Lux explained. “It allowed me to hit breaking balls, changeups, more pitches better than just the fastball.”
After a 12.1% line drive rate in 2017 with the Loons, Lux nearly doubled it in 2018 (23.7%). His ground ball rate went down from 52.7% to 41.7%, the latter the same with both Class-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa this season. The consistency helped Lux, whose worst month this season was hitting .269/.345/.481 in June.
On the season Lux hit .324/.399/.514 across both levels, with 15 home runs, 27 doubles, eight triples and 57 walks. He trusted the offseason changes he made to his swing, resisting the temptation to tinker.
“I told myself I wasn’t going to play too much with the mechanics because that’s what I fell into last year,” Lux said. “I just stayed consistent with it, and it turned out alright.”
Lux and Gonsolin in July were both named California League All-Stars. Gonsolin was promoted to Double-A on July 14, and Lux joined him on Aug. 1.
Lux was ranked the Dodgers’ No. 6 prospect at midseason by our David Hood, with Gonsolin rated 17th.
Gonsolin was also drafted in 2016, though in the ninth round, out of St. Mary’s. He pitched in relief in his first two years as a pro, then switched to starting for 2018. The right-hander had a 2.60 ERA in 26 starts with 155 strikeouts and 42 walks in 128 innings, leading the entire organization in strikeouts.
Gonsolin held his strikeout rate from relief in 2017 (29.1%) to starting in 2018 (29.4%), but credited his resurgence in 2018 to work with the help of pitching coaches Connor McGuinness and Dave Borkowski, roving coordinators Don Alexander and Gabe Ribas, and director of player development Brandon Gomes.
“I learned how to pitch, how to mix, how to use everything as opposed to relying on pitches to be good or stuff to be there when it’s not going to be there all the time,” Gonsolin said. “It’s about being put in the fire, going out there I have to start and throw 100 pitches when I’m in the bullpen and nothing is working. I have to find a way to go out there and get at least five, and grind it out.”
Gonsolin was 6-0 in nine starts after joining Tulsa, and started Game 1 of both Drillers postseason series, striking out 10 with a 3.09 ERA in 11⅔ innings in a pair of no-decisions.
“He was awesome,” Lux said of Gonsolin. “At Rancho he dominated, and when he got to Tulsa it’s the same thing.”
Lux was a key factor in Tulsa’s Texas League Championship as well, hitting .424 (14-for-33) with two home runs and five walks, scoring eight runs in eight games.
Lux split time between second base and shortstop in 2017, but this year after briefly doing the same with Rancho Cucamona he played shortstop every game in the field with Tulsa. On the season he played 92 games at shortstop and 17 at second.
“I still have a lot of work to do on defense at short. It’s probably going to be one of my main focuses this offseason,” Lux said. “When you’re playing one position primarily, you get a better feel for it. But I enjoy playing second. As long I’m getting at-bats it doesn’t really matter to me.”