Breaking down Kevin Gausman's debut 

May, 24, 2013

So many eyes in the real and fantasy baseball world were on young Baltimore Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman Thursday night as he made his much-awaited big league debut in Canada against the Toronto Blue Jays. Gausman, the team’s No. 2 preseason pitching prospect behind Dylan Bundy, and No. 26 overall on colleague Keith Law’s board in February, got the call after a mere eight starts at Double-A Bowie (3.11 ERA, 49 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings) but was deemed ready. It also didn’t hurt that the Orioles desperately needed rotation help, and hey, a quick promotion worked with Manny Machado a year ago, didn’t it?

Gausman reminds me a bit of New York Mets top prospect Zack Wheeler in build (each is 6-foot-4, roughly 185 pounds) and stuff, as they seem to effortlessly hit the mid-90s on their fastball and touch 98 mph, and they have the nasty off-speed stuff to thrive as well. Gausman looked strong through three innings against the Blue Jays, permitting two hits and missing bats, but his command wasn’t perfect. Then things fell apart in the fourth inning as Jays hitters squared him up. Adam Lind and J.P. Arencibia doubled to lead to two runs, and in the fifth inning, two more runs scored when Arencibia followed a Lind single with a long home run. Arencibia does have 11 home runs, after all, but also an incomprehensible two walks and 55 strikeouts in 165 at-bats. Gausman didn’t need to challenge him, but his command should improve and he’ll get wiser with experience.

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Kevin Gausman
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette Kevin Gausman struggled with command at times in his debut, but his talent is obvious.
That was Gausman’s night, a mixed bag of sorts and 89 pitches, 58 of them for strikes. Gausman certainly didn’t look overwhelmed on a night when he had every reason to be. The fastball velocity is one thing, but his changeup is so tremendous that he’ll pile on the strikeouts. The slider might be a bit of a work in progress, but the Orioles are doing the right thing. There’s next to no upside with Jair Jurrjens or Steve Johnson, and this Freddy Garcia situation is suboptimal. Gausman’s final line doesn’t seem special, but you had to see how it happened. Don’t be the fantasy owner who cuts him so quickly; Gausman is perhaps the most-added pitcher over the past 48 hours, but keep the 22-year-old and give him another month of starts to see what he does. This isn’t like Tony Cingrani of the Cincinnati Reds, when eventual demotion was expected; Gausman is a better prospect, and the Orioles don’t possess great rotation depth. His next outing is scheduled to be a short bus ride south against the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, and then perhaps the following Sunday at home against Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers. OK, so the Tigers game is potentially scary for anyone, but the Nationals matchup, go for it! Only two teams have scored fewer runs.