Photo by Kimberly Contreras

Oakland A's breakout candidate: Daniel Gossett, RHP

As the regular season nears, we will take a look at Oakland A's minor leaguers who are poised to take leaps forward from their 2015 performances. First up, right-hander Daniel Gossett.

The 2015 season was an ugly one for Daniel Gossett. The right-hander was the Oakland A's second-round pick in 2014 out of Clemson. He dominated during his pro debut season, walking only one and striking out 25 in 24 innings in the New York-Penn League. With his experience pitching in the ACC and his performance with the Vermont Lake Monsters, Gossett had all of the makings of a pitcher on the fast-track through the minor leagues.

The first full chapter of Gossett's career didn't go according to script, however. He came into last year's spring training with diminished velocity and was struggling to locate his pitches when camp broke. He was assigned to the Midwest League to start the year. The Midwest League is generally considered a pitcher-friendly league, but the MWL was anything but for Gossett, at least in the early going. He posted an ERA of 5.57 in April and followed that up with a 6.04 ERA in May. Gossett improved as the season went on, but his overall numbers at the end of the year were still underwhelming: 4.73 ERA, 112:52 K:BB, 16 HRA in 144.2 innings.

Steve Connelly, who was Gossett's pitching coach with the Beloit Snappers last season, said that Gossett made significant strides midway through the season. Gossett's second-half ERA was a full 1.5 runs lower than it was during the first half (5.57 to 4.05), but ERA doesn't always tell the entire story. Gossett's strike-out totals went down during the second-half of the year (from 18.87% to 16.64%), but his other numbers showed significant improvement. His walk percentage went from 10.93% to 8.19% and his line-drive percentage went from 18.13% to 15.5%.

If we compare the spray charts on MLBFarm.com for Gossett from April 1-June 23 (the first half of the season) and June 24-Sept. 14, we can see that hitters were having a tougher time making hard contact against Gossett during the second half of the year. 

First half

Second half

Courtesy MLBFarm.com
Courtesy MLBFarm.com

As you can see, during the first half of the year, Gossett was seeing a lot more balls reach the outfield than he was during the second half of the year. This is a strong indication that he wasn't locating nearly as well during the first half of the year and that hitters were far more likely to barrel the ball on the bat during the first half of the year.

Taking it a step further, one can see Gossett's improvements from his Batter results charts, as well.

First half of the season

Courtesy MLBFarm.com

Second half of the season

Courtesy MLBFarm.com

As you can see from the two charts, Gossett did a good job generating groundballs throughout the season. However, he allowed a lot more hard-hit groundballs and line-drives during the first half, resulting in a lot more singles than he allowed in the second half. Some of that improvement may have to do with an improvement in the defense behind him, but it is also another sign that Gossett was missing the sweet part of the bat more frequently during the second half of the year. Gossett's decreasing homerun-allowed rate and his increase in catchable flyballs are also good signs that he was getting the upper-hand on hitters during the second half of the year.

Gossett was much more efficient with his pitches during the second-half, as well. He averaged a little less than 5 innings per start during the first half of the year but upped that to 5.2 innings per start during the second half. 

Connelly said in his post-season interview with OaklandClubhouse that Gossett began to incorporate a two-seam fastball during the second half. That gave Gossett a pitch with more movement than his four-seamer and something to compliment the four-seam and his secondary pitches. Connelly said that before Gossett began using the two-seamer, hitters were sitting on his four-seam fastball because it was true and easy to square-up. With the addition of a fastball with movement, Gossett was able to keep hitters more off-balance.

Gossett is likely to start the 2016 season with High-A Stockton in the California League, where he would be paired with Connelly again (Connelly is the new Ports' pitching coach). The California League is a hitter's league, but Gossett could out-pace his Midwest League numbers thanks to the improvements he made midway through last season. A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman also noted that Gossett was throwing a bit harder this spring than he was last spring. That uptick in velocity should help Gossett build off of what he accomplished during the second-half of 2015.


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