School: Florida Atlantic University
Selected 2015 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (11): During the community vote, Austin Gomber finished as the 11th highest rated player. Bccran voted for him first, selecting Gomber as his sixth best prospect during the vote. MagnoliaCardFan thought highly enough of Gomber to pick him eighth as well.
Lrcardinal spoke of Gomber first during the vote, adding a name to the mix who was 15-3 for the year at Class A. SoonerinNC remarked that Gomber had a sensational campaign and dominated opponents. Desmetlax12 said the only thing that prevented Gomber from getting his vote was that Gomber is a little too old for his level. Blingboy posted that besides the superb stat-line, Gomber is a 6-foot-5 lefty and that will help his potential. Scadder21 said that Gomber doesn’t have dynamite stuff, but he just gets guys out, reiterating a take that Blingboy also mentioned. Wileycard said he is not sure how much more Gomber can do to impress, noting that production is everything in baseball. - Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore (18): Gomber had as good of a season as anyone in the Cardinals organization. In fact, it was so good that the Cardinals couldn't decide on an individual recipient for the Minor League Pitcher of the Year honor as the tall southpaw shared the honor with top prospect Alex Reyes.
“Got in the groove May-August and won 15 straight," Peoria Chiefs manager Joe Kruzel, who worked with Gomber all of 2015, told the Peoria Journal Star. "His curve(ball) improved as the season went on. When he went out there, we knew the team had an opportunity to win every time.”
I expect that Gomber, 22, will be placed in the 11-15 range on many major Cardinals prospect rankings this winter. That can be credited to improvements in his breaking ball as mentioned earlier while continuing to pound the inside part of the plate at will, regardless of the handedness of the batter. This type of left-handed pitcher brings up the comparison to the system's next Tim Cooney, perhaps?
The 2014 fourth-rounder from Florida Atlantic University has an average fastball at 90-92 with sinking action he pairs with a deuce (can mix a harder one at times) and a changeup that plays up because of a good arm angle and pitching savviness ala Cooney. While he doesn't have a single plus offering, Gomber has to pound the strike zone to stay ahead. That was evident as he beguiled Midwest League hitters with his ability to throw any pitch for a strike in any count last year.
However, it wouldn't be surprising if Gomber - like many who have a track record of success in college - suddenly faces adversity in the upper levels. Without premium "get it by you" stuff, his margin for error is slim as the amount of mistakes he faced in the lower levels compared to the higher levels will be greatly magnified. His projection suggests #4 starter, but one scout told me he likes Gomber, but is not sure he can start.
I could envision Gomber opening his second full season in High-A Palm Beach with an assignment to Double-A Springfield lingering. If he impresses in spring training, then it very well could be Springfield to see what they have in him.
Brian Walton (14): I split the difference between the other two voters, which helps to explain why Gomber landed at number 14 overall. Obviously, I agree with this placement, though I have to wonder if Gomber would have shared Cardinals organization Pitcher of the Year honors had Reyes not stumbled off the field in November.
In terms of prospect ceiling, there is major gap between the two. That spread in these rankings include the likes of Jack Flaherty, Luke Weaver, Marco Gonzales and Tim Cooney, the latter two who like Gomber, are left-handers. Still, it was a breakout 2015 for Gomber, who went unranked in our top 40 one year ago.
This ranking is not a fluke. In addition to his system-leading 15 wins, Gomber was second in the organization with his 140 strikeouts and was fifth among qualifiers with his 2.67 ERA.
When I asked Cardinals minor league pitching coordinator Tim Leveque which of his 100-plus pitching charges made the most progress during 2015, Gomber was one of three he singled out.
Consistency was one of Gomber’s strengths. Here is why, according to Leveque.
“A lot of it was his routine, in how he went about each start with his intensity and conviction and his preparation,” Leveque said. “He got better as the season went on in terms of being able to command his fastball and his curveball got a lot better as the season went on, which I think really helped his success in terms of strikeouts and developing a consistent secondary pitch.
“He was a guy that was pretty consistent throughout the season. He really had a plan and was able to execute it,” Leveque said.
One of the reasons Gomber kept his ERA so low was that he excelled at keeping runners off base in the first place. His batting average against of .196 made him the only qualifying starter in the system under .200. That helped translate to a WHIP (walks plus hits allowed per inning pitched) of 0.97, again the only sub-1.00 mark among Cardinals farmhands.
Leveque explained how that came about.
“He was getting a lot of guys out, getting his fair share of strikeouts and weak contact and not beating himself a lot,” the pitching coordinator said. He did a nice job in that way, attacking the strike zone and having confidence in his pitches, which is a big reason for his success.”
Regarding Gomber’s assignment to open 2016, I would think it will almost certainly be Palm Beach. Unlike other prospects who opened 2015 in Peoria’s rotation (Will Anderson, Daniel Poncedeleon, Luis Perdomo), Gomber was kept in the Midwest League for the entire season. That stability had to contribute to his success, which included MWL all-star selections at mid- and post-season, but rapidly accelerating past A-Advanced entirely in the spring seems unlikely to me.
The recent departure for Japan of the system’s Pitcher of the Year from just two years ago, Zach Petrick, reminds us that minor league stardom does not always translate to even receiving a chance in the bigs. There is plenty of work ahead as Gomber still has three more levels of increasingly-challenging competition to master before earning consideration for St. Louis.
Our 2016 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.
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