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Three lefties from the 2014 draft: Austin Gomber, Eric Skoglund, Seth Varner

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Three lefties from the 2014 draft: Austin Gomber of the Cardinals, Eric Skoglund of the Royals, and Seth Varner of the Reds are off to strong starts in 2015.

Austin Gomber
Austin Gomber
Rob Kinnan, USA Today

Three lefties from the 2014 MLB Draft have caught some attention in the early part of 2015: Austin Gomber of the St. Louis Cardinals, Eric Skoglund of the Kansas City Royals, and Seth Varner of the Cincinnati Reds. Here's a quick summary.


Austin Gomber, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals:
Gomber was drafted in the fourth round last June from Florida Atlantic University. He is a lanky 6-5, 205 southpaw with a low-90s sinking fastball and two secondary pitches, a curve and a change-up. Reports on these are mixed: in college the change-up was said to be ahead of the curve, but the breaker has apparently made significant progress while the quality of the change-up seems to vary from start to start. He is off to a good opening this year with Low-A Peoria in the Midwest League, with a 3.52 ERA in 31 innings and a 28/5 K/BB. He has been particularly sharp in his last two outings, with an 11/0 K/BB and just two runs allowed in 15 innings.

If the secondaries continue to progress Gomber projects as a strike-throwing number four starter. There are several videos of Gomber on Youtube but this one from Fangraphs gives a good general idea of his delivery and overall approach.

Eric Skoglund, LHP, Kansas City Royals: The Royals drafted Skoglund in the third round last June from the University of Central Florida. He is similar to Gomber in many respects: a tall and lanky college lefty from Florida with good arm strength and promising, if still somewhat inconsistent, secondary pitches. The initial results from 2015 are also solid, with a 2.40 ERA in 30 innings for High-A Wilmington, with a 19/4 K/BB and 26 hits.

The stuff is rather similar too: low-90s fastball with movement and a change-up which isn't perfect but is steadily improving. However, Skoglund uses a slider rather than a curveball. Both pitchers throw strikes and have had little trouble with A-ball hitters to this point. Another parallel: both were physically under-developed in high school and threw just in the 80s, went to college, got stronger, ironed out their mechanics, saw their velocity increase and their stock with scouts rise.

And also like Gomber, Skoglund projects as a number four starter if things continue to come together. Some video from "Scout":

Seth Varner, LHP, Cincinnati Reds: Like Gomber and Skoglund, Seth Varner is a college lefty from the 2014 draft class, although his stock wasn't as high with scouts. A college senior at the University of Miami-Ohio, Varner put up some outstanding numbers last spring (2.85 ERA, 123/25 K/BB in 104 innings) but lagged behind Gomber and Skoglund on prospect lists due to A) not throwing as hard; B) being older; C) from a less-competitive conference (although he was conference player of the year); D) not throwing as hard; E) not having a lanky athletic body; F) not throwing as hard.  The Reds liked him though: he was a local kid and showed that he knew how to pitch so they drafted him in the 10th round.

Varner is age 23, shorter and stockier than Gomber and Skoglund at a listed 6-3, 225. He does not have the same type of fastball but his curveball and change-up are effective and his control is exceptional: he currently boasts a 33/zero K/BB ratio in 28 innings for Dayton in the Midwest League with a 2.57 ERA. Command, pitching instincts, and mound presence are the by-words here. They will serve him in good stead at the lower levels but we'll have to see if he has enough stuff to survive when he reaches Double-A.

This is a back-end starter or reliever profile, however occasionally someone like this makes it work and turns into Dallas Keuchel. Keep an eye on Varner as he moves up.