Highly touted right hander Kevin Gausman made his first start for Double-A Bowie on Saturday, but things didn’t quite go as planned for Baltimore’s number two prospect.
Gausman certainly flashed the overpowering fastball that made him the top collegiate arm in last June’s draft, when the Orioles used the fourth overall selection to grab him up after a couple of outstanding seasons at LSU. Taking on the Harrisburg Senators, Gausman struck out eight in just four innings of work and didn’t walk a batter. Unfortunately, he did yield six runs (four earned) on eight hits; three of which went for extra bases. He took the loss in a 6-1 decision.
Gausman had just 15 innings of professional experience entering the season, making five starts after signing last year. With all the usual disclaimers about small sample sizes, Gausman did show excellent control both in his two stops last year (two starts at Aberdeen of the NY-Penn League and three starts at High-A Frederick) and in his start on Saturday. All told, he has just issued just one walk in his 19 inning Minor League career.
Gausman has also shown that he can be hittable as well, however, suggesting that he may be catching too much of the plate instead of pitching to the corners. As an amateur, Gausman was used to being able to overpower the majority of the hitters he faced, so precise command wasn’t necessarily required to do well in his starts. It’s an adjustment he’ll need to make as his young but extremely promising career progresses. Young hitters will chase, but Gausman has yet to do a great job of expanding the zone consistently. That will come with innings.
We ranked Gausman as the 54th-best prospect in the game entering the season, which was significantly lower than most other outlets. We do expect, however, that Gausman will make a significant jump up our list for next year and he can do so simply by continuing to develop an off-speed repertoire that features a solid change, but a curve that looks average at best at this time.
Nothing that happened in Harrisburg on Saturday is enough to base any kind of judgements on, but the outing does highlight where the 22-year-old can improve. In order to make the strides needed, Gausman will have to refine his approach to hitters and keep the ball out of the middle of the plate.