The Perils of Young Pitching, Featuring Skaggs & Gausman

Young pitching is killing it this year. My staffs, full of Matt Harvey, Shelby Miller, Jose Fernandez and David Phelps are treating me very well right now. From one standpoint, it makes a lot of sense to plan this kind of staff. The work done by Bill Petti and Jeff Zimmerman shows that, as a pitcher, you’re busy dying as soon as you’re born. So get the younger pitchers!

The problem is the lack of track record. In the case of two hot young things, we’re left with one start and a decision. When it comes to a redraft at least — in dynasties, those dudes are long gone.

So. Tyler Skaggs or Kevin Gausman? For this year.

By the minor league stats, it’s Gausman, but maybe not by the mile you might think. He showed a strikeout per inning on the farm, and didn’t even walk a full batter per nine, but Skaggs almost struck out double-digits per nine on the farm, and averaged fewer than three walks per nine. Gausman came out of college, and Skaggs out of high school, so the Oriole is actually a year older, and that could bring the numbers a teeny bit closer.

Then again, the prospect prognosticators have fairly divergent opinions about these characters. Skaggs, in the consensus list put together by Chris St. John, was ranked 13th. Gausman showed up later on the list, 24th, but he also showed on my list of volatile prospects that I derived from St. John’s data. Gausman ranked as high as sixth on one prospect list, in other words, and Skaggs was 25th on one list.

We’re still relatively in the dark. Let’s delve into the actual reports.

From what I had seen, Marc Hulet’s description of Skaggs was apt:

When I saw Skaggs pitch at the end of the 2012 season, he showed signs of fatigue. He was drifting towards first base during his delivery when his hand (and ball) was making separation from his glove. It causes his command to slip. When couldn’t throw his curveball, hitters were sitting on his fastball. His delivery has some deception to it. His fastball was mostly 91-92 mph and he had good separation between his heater and curveball. Skaggs’ two secondary pitches have similar speeds.

I didn’t like the changeup much myself. He threw 88-89 in the majors last year.

Watching Gausman, you can easily hear what J.D. Sussman was saying. It’s all 96-98 and then

Gausman has command of an elite fastball, but his changeup is his best offering. He maintains his arm speed on the 82-84 MPH pitch, which features a massive velocity differential from his fastball. The change is not only deceptive, it has exceptional movement. Its drop and fade are so dramatic they mimic a breaking ball. In the first inning, scouts questioned whether he threw the change or whether all of his secondary offerings were sliders. After vigorous debate, they decided he threw an equal mix.

It’s glorious enough to set to Van Halen.

If I’m willing to give stuff to Gausman because his third pitch is probably better than Skaggs’, and because he has more gas, Skaggs is in the weaker league on a team that has gotten good seasons from underwhelming stuff before (cough cough Wade Miley cough).

We saw this, to some extent, in their first matchups. Skaggs ran all through the Texas Rangers in a an NL park, with nine strikeouts and three walks in six innings. Two of those strikeouts were Martin Perez. Gausman faced a tough Toronto offense and allowed a home run and four runs, even though he struck out five in five innings and generally looked impressive. Still Team Gausman for me.

I was talking about this on twitter, and @asianbillyhole pointed out a pitch:

So I made a GIF of the pitch.

And I’m totally confused.

That looks way better than the changeup I remember. It’s not the best changeup in baseball or anything, but when put up next to that curve, it’ll beat a lot of players. And the velocity on his fastball was 92-93 at times (91 average on the day). And he’s a lefty, in the National League. Sounds like a decent pickup if he keeps his job. Sounds like he’s better than I gave him credit for.

I’ve still got Gausman, from what I’ve seen. I guess I can’t ignore the velocity. And Skaggs didn’t really keep his velocity late into the game. Courtesy BrooksBaseball:


But it’s also probably closer than I thought. And, since the sample is so tiny, I’ll be watching both of their next starts. That’s just how it goes with young pitching.

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With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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Would you trade Gausman for Wacha?


No. I wouldn’t. While Wacha is a very highly regarded prospect I think that Gausman is a bit more polished and has a better K rate than Wacha. I was suprised with only 34 K’s in 52.2 IP for Wacha at AAA this year. You gotta love the 49K’s to only 5 BB’s for Gausman in 46.1 IP in the minors for Gausman this year. I don’t think it can really be argued that there is too much of a gap between these guys, but I’m taking Gausman over Wacha.