Last night the Atlanta Braves promoted left-handed pitching prospect Luiz Gohara to the major league roster; he’ll make his MLB debut this afternoon against the Texas Rangers. Gohara is probably the top left-handed pitching prospect in the minors. His main competition would be A.J. Puk of the Oakland Athletics and Kolby Allard of the Braves, but Gohara is in the most advanced of the group and ready to contribute now. Here’s a quick take.
Originally signed by the Seattle Mariners out of Brazil in 2012 for $800,000, Gohara struggled initially at the lower levels of the Mariners system with a satanic 6.66 ERA in 2014 and a 5.54 ERA in 2015. He improved dramatically in 2016, posting a 1.81 ERA in 70 innings in Low-A, then was traded to the Braves in the Mallex Smith deal this past January.
Gohara ranked eighth on the Atlanta Braves Top 20 prospects for 2017 list pre-season with the following outlook:
8) Luiz Gohara, LHP, Grade B+/B: Age 20, signed by Mariners out of Brazil in 2012, traded to Braves on January 11th in Mallex Smith deal; posted 1.81 ERA in 70 innings between Northwest League and Midwest League with 81/23 K/BB, 57 hits; looked like disappointment until huge step forward in '16; got in much better physical condition, fastball increased to 93-96 with reported peaks at 99-100 in Arizona Fall League; very good slider but change-up is inconsistent; number two starter upside if he stays healthy and maintains his control; ETA late 2019.
The question entering 2017: would he maintain the progress he made in ‘16? The answer: a resounding yes.
Gohara opened in High-A, posting a 1.98 ERA in 36 innings over seven starts. Promoted to Double-A, he rang up a 2.60 mark in 52 inning over 11 starts, then concluded with a 3.31 ERA in 35 innings in Triple-A. He maintained strong component ratios at all levels, finishing with a 147/44 K/BB in 124 innings, allowing only 106 hits with a 2.62 ERA.
The numbers are obviously pretty; numbers can be deceptive, but in this case the scouting reports back them up. Matt Powers at Talking Chop (one of our newest contributors here at Minor League Ball) posted a detailed scouting report on Gohara yesterday, noting a “frontline starter package” built on a mid-to-upper-90s fastball, a plus slider, and an improved change-up.
Listed at 6-3, 210, the sturdily-built Gohara will have to watch his weight as he gets older. Mound presence and overall conditioning were problems earlier in his career but these issues have eased with maturity. Likewise, his control has improved dramatically over the last two seasons, and while it could use some further sharpening, his progress has been undeniable.