At Twins Daily, we spent a lot of time preparing for the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft. The Minnesota Twins had the #2 pick and we spent more than a month, behind the leadership of Jeremy Nygaard, considering who the options might be for the Twins. After the Astros selected Carlos Correa with the first pick, the Twins drafted outfielder Byron Buxton, a prep star from Appling County High School in Georgia. Two picks later, the Baltimore Orioles drafted right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman from LSU.
I really liked the idea of the Twins drafting Gausman then. Now, you can count me as someone who would love to see the Twins sign Gausman now that the Cincinnati Reds have non-tendered him.
With a quick look back at the days leading up to the 2012 draft, it was pretty apparent that Byron Buxton was the best athlete in the draft. The Twins were in need of a catcher, and Mike Zunino was early the top college catching prospect in the draft. Gausman, along with Kyle Zimmer (University of San Francisco) and Mark Appel (Stanford, and the #1 overall pick the previous year) were the college pitching names to know.
Many were surprised when the Astros took Carlos Correa from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy with the first overall pick. Of course, we have since learned that the Twins had Correa in ahead of the draft and most believe that he was Number One on their draft list as well. The Twins took Buxton. The Mariners drafted Zunino next and then the Orioles selected Gausman one pick before the Royals selected Zimmer.
In mid-May of 2012, Jeremy posted an interview with Kevin Gausman while he was still pitching for LSU.
While I am always intrigued by immensely athletic baseball players from the prep ranks, as we got closer to the draft, I admit that I went public with the thought that I would like to see the Twins draft Gausman.
Several reasons. First and foremost, he was a college pitcher who could be ready for the big leagues very quickly. And he was. He debuted with the Orioles less than a year later, on May 23rd, 2013.
But it wasn't just that. It was reports of his stuff. Not only was he consistently working with a fastball in the mid-90s, but he sometimes had games where he reached 98 mph regularly. In addition, he had a really, really good changeup and great makeup. There were some concerns about his ability to spin the ball but there was hope that he could develop his curve ball and his slider.
A college pitcher at one of the best baseball schools in the country who throws in the mid-90s with five pitches and plus-plus makeup.
His career to date
Gausman debuted in 2013 and spent parts of six seasons with the Orioles. He pitched in 150 games and made 127 starts. 15 of those 23 relief appearances came in his rookie season. In 2016, he worked 179 2/3 innings and posted a 3.61 ERA while pitching mostly in the AL East. The following season, he made 34 starts and posted a 4.68 ERA in 186 2/3 innings. In 21 starts at the beginning of 2018, he was 5-8 with a 4.43 ERA.
At the July trade deadline in 2018, he was traded to Atlanta with reliever Darren O'Day in exchange for four minor leaguers and some international bonus pool money. He went 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA in ten starts.
Last season, he earned $9.35 million in his second year of arbitration. But 2019 did not go well for Gausman. He made 16 starts for the Braves and went 3-7 with a 6.19 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP over 80 innings. He had a couple of stints on the injured list with plantar fasciitis. Atlanta DFAd him and Cincinnati claimed him in early August. He made 15 appearances for the Reds (one start) and went 0-2 with a 4.03 ERA in 22 1/3 innings.
That brings us to Monday when the Reds non-tendered him, making him a free agent.
In 2019, 57% of Gausman's pitches were fastballs which averaged 94.0 mph. That is up slightly from where he was in 2018. From 2013-2017, his fastball averaged between 94.7 and 95.9 mph. In college, his "typical" fastball was about 94 mph but he threw it anywhere from 92 to 98 mph.
After throwing his slider about 13-14% of the time between 2016 and 2018, he threw just his slider just 2% of the time in 2019.
He threw his changeup about 5.5% of the time the last couple of seasons. The pitch has consistently been ten mph slower than his fastball, which is a good differential.
In 2019, he threw his split-finger pitch 35% of the time after it has been between 16-22% previously in his career.
I won't pretend to be an expert or a video guy, but he continued to throw hard and throw pitches in the strike zone. He got equal or even higher percentages of swings and misses. In other words, he has the same or at least similar stuff now as he had at the beginning of his major league career.
I do know who has a good reputation for being able to find the strengths of a pitcher and even add some velocity. That's the reputation that Wes Johnson has, and with the help of the Research and Development group, just maybe they can find the key to getting Gausman to top form.
Gausman has the pedigree, the high draft pick status, and the stuff that earned him that spot. His arm has remained pretty healthy through his first seven big league seasons. That report of "plus makeup" certainly indicates his ability to work and to work within a team environment. And, he won't turn 29 until days after the calendar changes to 2020.
Seven-and-a-half years later, I would love to see a scenario where the Twins have Byron Buxton manning centerfield and Kevin Gausman on the mound.
Teaming the duo with another 2012 first-round draft pick in Jose Berrios and the team might have three strong 5.5 players.
If Johnson and company can work their magic on Gausman and just get him back to his peak performance, the Twins could have found a very solid #3 starter to fall right between Berrios and Odorizzi in the rotation. Even if they can just get him to his career average numbers, he would make a solid #5 starter for 150 to 170 innings.
Because of his relative youth, I don't expect that Gausman's services will come terribly cheaply. I would also expect that he might prefer a one-year, make-good deal. The Twins made a similar deal a year ago with Jonathan Schoop. Schoop was coming off of an injury-plagued season which followed a solid career. Schoop played well for the Twins and would have played more if not for the emergence of Luis Arraez.
Personally, and admittedly, I'm probably a bit high on Gausman and believe in his stuff and the makeup he is touted for. I would be willing to get a little creative. I'd consider offering a one year, $5.5 million deal. I would structure it such that Gausman would make $4 million in 2020. I'd include a team option for 2021 at about $8 million but have a $1.5 million buyout. In fact, I would love to include a second option year, at about $10 million, but in that, I would prefer the buyout drop to $1 million. That would mean Gausman could then become a free agent at age 31, the more "normal" free agency age.
At those numbers, it would be fairly low risk but there could be some relatively high reward. Even better, it wouldn't keep them from going after he upper-echelon free agents that are out there this offseason.
In my mind, of all of the non-tendered free agents, I think that Kevin Gausman clearly has the highest potential.
This story first appeared at Twins Daily and was re-shared through a collaboration with Bring Me The News.