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Kevin Gausman Would Like Your Attention

The young hurler was expected to play a prominent role in the Baltimore rotation this year. Alas, Ubaldo Jimenez has spoiled the fun. But the Orioles are playing for September. You should be as well.

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

If the melting of the polar icecaps is due to human activity, Kevin Gausman's fastball may be the culprit. In his relief appearance on Tuesday, Gausman touched 100 mph on the radar gun twice and routinely worked in the 97-98 mph range. Gausman escaped a jam in the fifth inning but allowed a two-run shot to Kevin Kiermaier in the sixth. Thankfully, the rest of the Orioles' bullpen stopped the bleeding and Gausman escaped with his first victory of 2015.

This type of relief appearance is a pretty static thing for Gausman for the moment, as the Orioles seem intent on giving Ubaldo Jimenez some run as their fifth starter. But not to worry. This is simply an organization that is saving one of their best young weapons for September and October. The early games count the same, of course, but the kid only threw 156 2/3 innings across two levels last season. The Orioles want to ease him into action this year in order to have him available for another postseason run. Love it or hate it, that is the reasoning out of Baltimore at this time. And it's not all bad for the fake game, folks.

One immediate benefit to Gausman's "demotion" is his current availability across the major sites. Gausman is 16 percent owned on Yahoo, and a miniscule 2.3 percent owned on ESPN. That is too low for a player of his caliber, but understandable given his current relief role. Still, Gausman is largely considered to be an ace-in-waiting, and he will not remain in the bullpen forever. If he can harness his secondary offerings, he should be an effective starting pitcher--and that is how the Orioles view his future. His manager, Buck Showalter, said as much to the Baltimore Sun following his Tuesday appearance. Here are some key comments from Showalter:

"Kevin’s leap is going to be if he can command the secondary stuff," Showalter said. "If he can do that, he’s got a chance to be a quality starting pitcher down the road, but he’s not going to sit out there and throw 96-mph fastballs by major league hitters if that’s all he can do."

And that is Gausman in a nutshell. The man can bring the heat but he must improve his secondary stuff. Luckily, he knows it. On Tuesday, Gausman brought a curveball out of his bag of tricks, a pitch he has not used since his college days. This all a part of a larger, master plan with Gausman. The curveball will ideally be used alongside his fastball--except Gausman is being encouraged to elevate his fastball more instead of pounding the bottom of the zone so much. For more on why, read an excellent piece by Jeff Sullivan over at Fangraphs. He discusses this idea at length, and Showalter himself referenced Sullivan's piece following Gausman's Tuesday's appearance.

Basically, Gausman needs to mix it up a little since major league hitters have the ability to hit his fastball low in the zone. Both Sullivan and Showalter believe that elevating the heater and using the curveball effectively will lead to big-time results.

My rudimentary understanding of all of this is that Gausman is one pitch away from being flat-out filthy. For a guy who was already plenty useful last season (3.57 ERA across 113.1 big league innings) I am paying attention early this season. Blocked by only Ubaldo Jimenez, the young hurler could force the organization's hand sooner rather than later. And Ubaldo needs zero help imploding on his own, of course.

At the very least, Gausman is someone to watch in redraft leagues. But in formats with deeper benches or rosters, I believe you should already own him. Don't let Ubaldo implode in his first start and then have to blow some budget to acquire Gausman from waivers. Get him now and stash him for later. You should always be looking to drop your boring Dan Haren type for some upside. Buf if you aren't prepared to take a shot on this potential ace just yet, just know that he is out there. And that he will be arriving soon.