2018 Orioles preview: Kevin Gausman

March 06, 2018 | Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than a month away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2018 Orioles every day as they try to bounce back from a disappointing last-place finish a year ago.

March 5 – Manny Machado

SP Kevin Gausman

Opening Day age: 27

Contract status: Under club control through the 2020 season

2017 stats: 11-12, 4.68 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 29 HR, 186 2/3 innings

Why to be impressed: One of the worst statistical starters in baseball over the first few months of 2017, Gausman tweaked his mechanics and rediscovered the feel for his split-changeup to post a 3.41 ERA after the All-Star break. The right-hander also struck out an impressive 9.6 batters per nine innings in the second half and reached career highs in starts and innings.

Why to be concerned: Gausman finished with markedly-worse numbers in the first half than the second half for the third straight season, making one skeptical that he’ll build on last year’s second half and take the much-discussed next step. He’s allowed 1.4 home runs per nine innings in three straight seasons, his biggest weakness that isn’t helped by pitching at homer-friendly Camden Yards.

2018 outlook: The 2012 first-round pick has a career 3.29 ERA pitching to Caleb Joseph and hit his stride last year when Joseph became his personal catcher over Welington Castillo. Continuing that combination will improve Gausman’s fate, but he’s deep enough into his career now to wonder if he will ever become much better than league average, especially without further development of his slider.

Not-so-scientific projections for 2018: 13-11, 3.76 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 27 HR, 184 1/3 innings