Most of the top 100 prospects in baseball make it known when they are ready to make the jump to the MLB. When making a significant call-up, there is only a select few reasons to do so; desperation is not one of them. Taking into the account how volatile the pitching position is, the Orioles may be making a drastic mistake with Kevin Gausman.
Most players are at least awarded a full season in the minors (and especially pitchers), before making their way to the big leagues. Yet Gausman has a total of 60. 4 innings logged between Low A, High A and AA ball, with the team. He has only amassed over seven innings twice in that span; a situation the Orioles are hoping to generate on a regular basis with him.
There is only a select few pitchers to make a major impact with such little seasoning in the minors, namely Stephen Strasburg; who was arguably the greatest pitching prospect to ever enter the majors. Since his 2010 debut as starter, he had Tommy John surgery, had his innings limited so much he did not appear in the Nationals first playoff appearance and is performing well under expectations in 2013 (2-5 W/L record).
Gausman is nowhere near that type of talent and has not dominated the minor leagues, to think he could ever get to that level. His most recent start has been the best of his professional career, going six innings, with ten strikeouts, one walk and one earned run. But before that, he only went 4.2 innings with three walks and three hits on April 5th.
The Orioles knee-jerk reaction to one good start, a stretch of six straight losses for the big league club and a depleted pitching staff, have led to Gausman’s debut on Thursday night in Toronto. They will say there were no other options, but they recently sent down Steve Johnson and Jair Jurrjens, after one underwhelming start. Both should get another shot with the club, but the team seems insistent on generating some buzz during their low point of the season.
This move is in direct correlation with the Orioles lack of production in the offseason. With key subtractions to the rotation and bullpen, a once deep pitching core lacks arms to fill in. Thrusting Gausman into action early could have been avoided with keeping their playoff team intact or making price-effective pitching options that flooded the market before the season started.
The argument that Manny Machado was successful in his early call-up last year is a moot point, because most of his success in 2012 came because of his fielding prowess, not his ability at the plate. If he were a below-average fielder, people would have questioned the move to risk their future franchise player. Machado also spent over a full season in the minors before his call-up, just like other phenoms like, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.
Gausman has yet to face failure in his baseball career, like most high prospects, which is an attribute every player must learn to adjust to before becoming successful. How will he react after getting hit up for more than two runs or having to get out of inning with RISP and one out? If he is not mentally ready to take on those daunting tasks, which even great pitchers face on a regular basis, his development could be set back drastically.
In Baltimore, they should be all too familiar with these situations, watching pitchers like Zach Britton and Brian Matusz display early success, to only be demoted after not handling adversity. Will the Orioles have to send Gausman back down after a few starts?
Gausman could help the Orioles get back on pace but the odds are against him. The Orioles are putting a player, they are dependent on for their long-term future, in a bad spot and risking his career over a bad week of baseball.