Ace Rising? Is Kevin Gausman Going To Finally Breakout In 2016?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Fantasy owners have long waited for the rise of Kevin Gausman, but to date it simply hasn’t come. There are a lot of arguments to be made as to the cause of his problems, mostly centered on the Orioles and the way they’ve handled him, but at the end of the day the results haven’t been there. In 2016, however, things should be different.

He no longer should be on the shuttle between Triple-A and the Majors… He no longer should be spending time in the bullpen… There is no question, Gausman is a starting pitcher and before long could emerge as the ace of the Orioles’ staff.

Last season’s 4.25 ERA may make that hard to believe, but look at his underlying metrics as a starting pitcher (100.1 IP) from 2015:

  • Strikeouts – 8.07 K/9
  • Control – 2.15 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 45.2%

Over his minor league career he owns a 9.0 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9, so neither mark is unbelievable. In fact, there’s reason to believe the strikeouts will rise.

Last season he posted an overall 10.9% SwStr%, which alone would imply nearly a strikeout per inning would be possible. His fastball averaged over 95 mph and generated more swings and misses (10.62% Whiff%) than it previously had. However it’s his split-fingered fastball (which by many is considered a type of change-up), with a 21.56% Whiff%, that’s his true bread and butter out pitch.

He’s also working on his breaking ball, which should help him improve against right-handed hitters. Here’s a quote from Gausman, courtesy of Roch Kubatko of MASN (click here for the article):

“If you look at my last start, my percentage of throwing breaking balls was I think the highest that it was the whole year and that was my best outing. I just think I need to throw it more and trust it. I didn’t really start throwing my curveball until about the last week of spring training, so I didn’t really feel like I got those reps that you need in spring training to go into the season. And then also pitching out of the bullpen, I didn’t want to get hurt on my third pitch coming into a key situation, so I just never really threw it very much.

“As a starter, that’s something that I really focused on, and it’s something that I definitely feel like is going to benefit me going into camp, having those reps in the offseason and early in spring training and bullpen sessions to really kind of fine-tune that.”

It’s important, as right-handed hitters slugged 12 of the 17 HR he allowed last season. It’s spring training time and we are going to get a lot of quotes like this, but in Gausman’s case this isn’t inventing something new. It’s simply utilizing and trusting something that’s already in his arsenal.

Last season he threw his curveball/slider a total of 10.73% of the time. Increasing that number will help keep opponents off guard, and improve his performance overall.

He brings the potential to post a strikeout per inning and is one of the better control pitchers in the game. That alone should put him on fantasy maps, especially with his pedigree. While it’s going to be tough to depend on him, pitching in the AL East, there’s too much upside to ignore. Draft him for the back of your fantasy rotation and reap the rewards, as he has the upside of a Top 30 starting pitcher.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference, MASN

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9 comments

  1. BJ says:

    Thanks, great piece! I’ve owned Gausman in a long term dynasty league for years now. Now that he’s locked in as a member of the rotation for this year, I’ve gotten some interest from other owners on Gaus in trades. If I can use Gaus in a trade (along with some other pieces) to acquire a frontline arm like Matt Harvey or Gerrit Cole, is that worth it? I’ve gotten a bit emotionally attached while dreaming on his upside, but Harvey and Cole are obviously already aces, everything Gausman could be and possibly more. Am I selling at the wrong time after holding him so long? I also have another scenario that would get me Addison Russell and several other young pitchers.

    Here are my three scenarios:
    1) Gausman and other pieces -> I receive Matt Harvey
    2) Gausman and other pieces -> I receive Gerrit Cole
    3) Gausman and other pieces -> I receive Addison Russell, Dylan Bundy, Zach Wheeler, Tyler Skaggs

    I’m finding myself strongly tempted by all of them, and could use advice on which to pursue. Thanks!

    • jrob23 says:

      It’s very difficullt to give you advice without knowing what other pieces are involved. Def not scenario 3. I see Gausman being a very good #3 starter this year. A #2 for a year or two and then around that or below for several more. Those pitchers are aces right now and I can only imagine what else they are asking for. In points leagues I see Cole and Harvey at around 600 points give or take. Gausman prob around 480. He’s not in their leagues. I know he was hoped to be a stud but it just won’t ever happen. He doesn’t have the “stuff” the others have. So without knowing what the pieces are I would suggest going for it.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      As jrob said, not knowing who the “other pieces” are makes it tough but there’s little chance I’d do #3. #1/2 I’d probably pull the trigger on, depending on what else you’d have to kick in

      • BJ says:

        Thanks both, I appreciate your input. The other pieces are mostly inconsequential, lesser prospects that I’d like to move or redundant lineup pieces, which is why I didn’t really go into detail. The talks with the Harvey owner are more preliminary at the moment, he may end up wanting better prospects, but Harvey can be owned for a very long time, so that’s worth it, IMO.

        #3 is definitely not worth it? Russell seemed like a good get, he can also be owned for a long time, and getting several young bounceback arms – do Bundy and Wheeler’s combined potential not seem worth giving up Gausman? I had it listed as my #3 for a reason, but I am surprised to see it dismissed so quickly.

        • jrob23 says:

          Scenario three. Hmmm, let me see. I don’t view Skaggs as anything special. Bundy? I was never high on him. His FB was always too straight and now after TJ he isn’t the same. Wheeler (if staying in NY) could be the deciding factor. I have a feeling he is goiing to get dealt to a team that doesn’t play in a pitcher’s park and his value plummets. Russell is really nothing special. So that’s why I dismiss Scenario 3. If you can get Harvey or Cole for Gausman and throwaways as you say? Do it. I have a feeling those throwaways are actually pretty good prospects though. If not, get either of those players. It serves two purposes. YOu get their production and you have a hot name for trades in case you win your league and need to replenish the youth on your team. BTW Gausman has had the dredded shoulder inflammation in the past. This is worse than a tight forearm. TJ (still probability for a young kid who throws hard) is more successful than shoulder surgery imo. Good luck. Tough decision. Could help make or break you. I’d just talk Gausman up and worry you will miss the upcoming Harvey esque years. lol.

          • BJ says:

            I mean, you’re correct that it’s not quite “throwaways,” I guess a better way to characterize it is “pieces I don’t mind giving up,” haha. I have Kyle Seager and Nick Castellanos on my team, and have been including Seager in trade offers to teams that need a 3B; the 3B FA market in our league is weak this year and I think Seager could help me fetch in Cole or Harvey, and I’m comfortable moving forward with Castellanos since I think he’s close to making the next step forward, where Seager seems to have stalled. I’ve also been shopping Aroldis Chapman since I have some other good RP.

            Full Scenario 1: Gausman, Seager, A. Chapman, Roman Quinn, Luiz Gohara -> G. Cole, Conforto, Wil Myers
            Full Scenario 2: Gausman, Seager, D. Norris, A. Chapman, Kyle Tucker, Edwin Diaz -> Harvey, Schwarber (the other owner seems to be more resistant, seems like a longshot at this point, but he’s going to see if other prospects I have interest him more)

          • Rotoprofessor says:

            There is a major difference between throwaways and players you don’t mind giving up. Throwaways, who cares? Players you don’t mind giving up could have significant value in other deals, or on there own, so they shouldn’t just be dismissed and ignored.

  2. BJ says:

    I see your point, but I was trying to specifically get opinions on Gausman and his ultimate potential as compared to current aces.

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