In our latest installment of minor league prospects who are getting some ink this offseason, we have the former Luray Wrangler Austin Gomber (2012)!
Austin, who pitched for Luray in the Valley in 2012, was drafted in the 4th round out of Florida Atlantic by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014. Ever since his pro career started at State College of the New York-Penn League, Austin has performed exceptionally well, even though his “stuff” generally rates as average. His “makeup,” though, is a different matter altogether. It’s off the charts.
Anyway, let’s start with looking at his stats at various levels, and then we’ll look at what a couple outlets have to say.
- In Luray in 2012, Austin only threw 9 innings, but what a performance: 9 IP, 3 hits, 0 runs, 5 walks, 15 strikeouts. It’s unclear if he left because he had other plans, or if he just got bored. (That’s a joke.)
- College (3 years at FAU): 14-14, 3.27, with a 1.25 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, and 8.7 K/9 in 245 total innings. He started 41 out of his 44 games.
- After the 2014 draft, at State College: 2-2, 2.30, 1.553 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, 6.9 K/9 in 47 innings. He gave up 55 hits in those 47 innings; the worst rate of his career to date.
- 2015: Peoria in the Midwest League: 15-3, 2.67, 0.970 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, 9.3 K/9 in 135 innings. He was easily ATVL’s Full-Season A-Ball Pitcher of the Year.
- 2016: Split between Palm Beach of the Florida State League and Springfield of the Texas League: 7-8. 2.69, 1.063 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, 8.2 K/9 in 127 innings pitched.
- After the 2016 season, Austin was sent to the Arizona Fall League, where he dominated: 5-1, 2.14, 1.129 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, and 8.8 K/9 in 33 2/3 innings.
- 2017: Back at Springfield, he went 10-7, 3.34, with a 1.168 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, and 8.8 K/9 in 143 innings.
- Minor League Career So Far: 34-20, 2.85, 1.119 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 8.6 K/9 in 452 innings.
First of all, Austin, as of this writing, is listed as the Cardinals’ #15 prospect (although 3 ahead of him have just been traded to Miami for Marcell Ozuna) (Now he’s #14). MLB’s writeup goes like this:
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 45
In his first full season, Gomber led the Cardinals organization in wins, WHIP and batting average against. It was more of the same in 2016, his second full season, as he topped the system in ERA and batting average against, then capped it off with an outstanding performance in the Arizona Fall League. Year three, his first full season in Double-A, has been less consistent.
Gomber takes the mound with a lot of confidence, and as much as his results were impressive in the AFL, how he carried himself, like he owned the place, stood out even more. His fastball is just average velocity-wise, in the 90-92 mph range, but he commands it extremely well. He has a solid average changeup, but what really has helped him progress has been the development of his curve. It’s now a plus pitch he throws with consistent shape for strikes. He has a good sense of sticking to his game plan, mixing his pitches and preparing for each start.
Big and strong, Gomber has all the makings of a workhorse starter, one who can pitch in the middle or back of a rotation for a long time.
“Can pitch in the middle or back of a rotation for a long time.” Not bad at all. In fact, I imagine Austin will most likely make the major leagues at some point in 2018.
Secondly, Milb.com named Austin an “Organization All-Star” as the top lefthanded starter in the system in 2017. This is what Kelsie Heneghan wrote:
After a tough first half in which he posted a 5.09 ERA in 12 starts, Gomber settled in. The 24-year-old finished 10-7 with a 3.34 ERA and 51 walks over 143 innings, leading all Cardinals southpaws with 140 strikeouts.
“His breaking ball has always been his potential as a swing-and-miss pitch and yet, ironically, he gets his share of strikeouts against right-handed hitters,” LaRocque noted. “He’s got a fastball that’s very effective as well.”
Command remains the key to Gomber’s development. The 6-foot-5 hurler cut his walks per nine innings from 4.6 to 2.4 in the second half.
Congratulations on the press, Austin, and good luck in 2018!