Waiting in the Wings: Kevin Gausman

USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Gausman will make his first MLB start tonight. What does he bring to the table?

I'll refrain from my usual backstory on the prospect, as Gausman is extremely well known at this point as one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Let's get down to what he's done thus far as a pro and how he's done it, before he makes his professional debut tonight.

While most teams took advantage of the signing deadline being bumped up to June (from July), the Orioles took it easy with the 4th overall pick, having him throw only 15 innings in 2012. Gausman was the talk of Spring Training though, generating incredible buzz amongst scouts and fans alike. He looked so strong in the offseason/Spring Training that some were bold enough to claim they preferred him to fellow uber-prospect Dylan Bundy. Thus far in 2013, Gausman showed he was well prepared to handle his assignment to Double-A Bowie, throwing 46 innings in eight starts, logging 49 strikeouts against only five walks. Yes, that's a K/BB of 9.8, highlighting his terrific fastball command, though it's worth noting that Gausman did uncork seven wild pitches in his time in Bowie. Despite being a college arm, Gausman wasn't old for the level, as he was drafted as a draft-eligible sophomore (he was 21 at the time of the draft) and 76% of the batters he faced were older than he was.

Gausman goes right after hitters, showing complete confidence in his mid-to-upper 90s fastball, and can touch triple digits. The pitch isn't just hard, it's heavy (no, it's not your brother), showing big life and late, explosive movement towards the arm side. Coming out of the draft, Gausman has two plus to plus-plus pitches. You've met the fastball, and it's lethal nature allows his change up to play up even more. The change features terrific separation from the fastball, fade, sink and he has the confidence to throw it in any count or even double up on it. He can spot both the fastball or the change to either side of the plate and goes after hitters aggressively on both. I originally had some minor concern's on Gausman out of the draft, in that his fastball and change were great but he didn't have a reliable breaking ball. That's not a huge concern given the quality of his other pitches, but we saw what a missing breaking ball could do to a pitcher in Julio Teheran. Well, it might lag behind the other two pitches (it's hard not to), but Gausman has been showing a slider that flashes depth and bite but lacks consistency. It's currently a fringe-average pitch, but shows enough to project out as above-average down the line. Gausman has an aggressive mentality on the mound, and puts his 6'3 frame to use, creating good angles for his pitches.

What separates Gausman from some other pitchers with the potential for three plus pitches is his demeanor on the mound and his aggressiveness in going after batters. He's a potential ace if the slider comes into it's own and we need to give it time to develop as the curveball was his primary breaking ball in college. I'm torn in what to expect from Gausman right away. I love that he trusts the fastball, and it's a monster pitch but major league hitters can hit major league fastballs, so a pitcher relying on that pitch could face some issues. I also fall back to Julio Teheran's initial struggles in the majors as a fastball/change up-based pitcher. I do think that Gausman's breaking ball has more hope than Teheran's did at the time of his call up, but a few bumps in the road wouldn't shock me, even if that road does end in dominance. I predicted before the season that Gausman would get his first call up in June, only to be sent back down for a bit before re-emerging for good in July. I missed the June part of that prediction by eight days, but I am sticking to the overall prediction. I think Gausman gets the boot from the rotation when Wei-Yin Chen returns to health, as long as Freddy Garcia doesn't bomb entirely (no sure thing), only to return later in the season when Garcia or one of his other rotation mates turns back into a pumpkin. He's a must grab in just about any fantasy league on the off-chance he does stay in the rotation for the rest of the season, and the upside he contains while he is in the majors.

Source Material
Baseball America
Baseball Prospectus

You can follow me on Twitter at @cdgoldstein
You can find more of my work at The Dynasty Guru and MLB Draft Insider

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