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Thoughts on St. Louis Cardinals rookie Austin Gomber

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Successful season from rookie Redbird lefty. . .

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Colorado Rockies Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Cardinals rookie left-hander Austin Gomber will make his 11th start of the season tonight against the Milwaukee Brewers. Gomber has had a reasonably successful rookie campaign; what might come in the future? Here’s a quick take on my current thoughts.

Gomber was a college pitcher at Florida Atlantic and a successful one, posting a 3.27 ERA in 245 innings over three seasons with a 238/76 K/BB. Drafted in the fourth round in 2014, he advanced steadily up the ladder and had a solid campaign in Double-A in 2017.

Gomber ranked 13th on the pre-season St. Louis Cardinals Top 20 Prospects for 2018 list with this report:

13) Austin Gomber, LHP, Grade B/B-: Age 24, fourth round pick in 2014 from Florida Atlantic University; 3.34 ERA with 140/51 K/BB in 143 innings in Double-A, 116 hits; posted 0.91 ERA in August with 44/12 K/BB in 40 innings; reports indicate fastball improved from 88-92 early in season to 90-94 by August; curve and change seem average by themselves but play up in aggregate due to control and deception; margin for error thin if velocity ticks down but track record is quite good, one of my favorites in number four lefty starter category; ETA late 2018.

He opened 2018 with Triple-A Memphis, posting a 3.42 ERA in 68 innings with a 76/20 K/BB. He’s spent much of the season in the majors, making 10 starts and 17 relief appearances for a 3.63 ERA in 69 innings, 59/31 K/BB. His K/BB isn’t as good as it was in the minors but overall he’s held his own and had had several impressive outings, putting him the rotation mix for 2019.

I liked Gomber in college and made him a member of the Shadow Twins organization in the ‘14 draft so I’ve tracked him closely over the years and am happy to see him do well. But beyond the personal interest what can we expect here for the future?

If he stays where he is now, Gomber should have a long career as a fourth starter and long relief type but there’s at least some chance he can get beyond that.

Over at Viva El Birdos, Bclemens6 broke down Gomber’s arsenal back in August with this detailed post that is well worth your time. He focuses in particular on Gomber’s curveball, an unusual pitch which has blossomed from average ratings in the minors into a key reason for his success this year. His slider and change-up are more consistent, too; indeed his weakest pitch is his fastball but some adjustments there are possible too.

Bclements6 concludes:

Austin Gomber is an effective major league pitcher right now. That in and of itself is a crazy sentence, but let’s try a crazier one. Austin Gomber has the stuff to be an All-Star. I’m serious! He has one plus-plus pitch and two solidly plus pitches. His worst pitch, his fastball, is also the 12th-fastest lefty fastball in baseball. We could legitimately be two changes (curveball location and fastball type) away from Austin Gomber being a terrifyingly good lefty starter, the kind of guy who moves from depth meme to mid-rotation starter with upside to more. In a year, we could be talking about a guy with four plus pitches and excellent control.

As noted above, I am not particularly objective about Gomber so you can take this with a grain of salt if you like, but I think Bclements6 is right and Gomber will continue to improve.

I think the key to watch on the surface for the first sign of further breakout would be an improvement in K/IP ratio. If you see that, especially with any simultaneous lowering in walk rate, look out.