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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