Name: Brandon Gomes
DOB: July 15, 1984
A 17th-round draft pick in 2007, Gomes spent just four games in short-season Eugene before being the first player from his draft class to travel to Low-A Fort Wayne. After not surrendering a run in four frames with the Emeralds, the right-hander went 1-4 with a 4.68 ERA across 14 games, including 11 starts, with the Wizards. In 59.2 innings, he allowed 65 hits, walked 11 and struck out 44.
The Tulane alumnus returned to Fort Wayne to begin 2008 – moved to a more permanent relief role. He went 4-2 with a 3.49 ERA across 29 games – making two spot starts. In 56.2 innings he yielded 63 hits and 19 walks while fanning 45.
Gomes was moved up to Lake Elsinore and the California League to finish the season. He went 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA across 22 games. Striking out 36 in 28 frames while holding the opposition to a .241 average.
Double-A was his starting and finishing place in 2009. Gomes went 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA across 65 games for San Antonio. In 72 innings he allowed 54 hits and walked 28 while striking out 100 – the only reliever in the minor leagues to record triple-digit strikeout totals.
"I think that Brandon applied – he was just faster than the other guys at understanding the league and the kind of hitters that are in the league," former San Antonio and current Portland manager Terry Kennedy said. "In the end, he had three power pitches that were getting people out, and he was by far our best pitcher in the last six weeks."
The opposition was limited to a .206 average against – the lowest tally amongst all Texas League relievers – and that number dropped under .200 with runners in scoring position. Gomes stranded 12 of the 18 runners he inherited on the year.
The leader in appearances in the entire minor leagues, Gomes allowed just three earned runs over his final 30 outings, notching a 0.78 ERA across that span. He kept the leadoff hitter of an inning to a .258 on-base percentage and 65 percent of his pitches went for strikes. His 15 holds were the third best mark in the Texas League, and his 12.50 strikeouts per nine innings led the circuit and were 11th amongst all minor leaguers. He also placed second in the league in the fewest base runners allowed per inning at 10.50.
"Just becoming comfortable at the next level and realizing that his stuff's going to work," former San Antonio and current Portland pitching coach Steve Webber said of his second half success. "It's going to work very well. He was able to make his delivery a little more compact. By that I mean, we did something similar to him to what (Matt) Buschmann did; eliminate the windup and it's given him some more consistency."
After throwing four scoreless innings during the Texas League playoffs, Gomes went on to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 3.00 ERA across 11 appearances and 15 innings. He stranded three of the five runners he inherited and held the opposition to a .241 average.
"He has a good way of staying down in the zone and gets a lot of strikeouts," former Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "Gomes had a very good year, kept the ball down and has good velocity and a splitter."
"He struck out 100 as a reliever," Kennedy said. "I think he's the only non-starter in the top ten guys. So, it was fantastic. He could have closed, but we have our system, and he just did a great job."
The difference for Gomes through the years has been the added velocity on his fastball. When he first entered the organization, Gomes was throwing high-80s. That number is now low-90s with the ability to hit 94-95 mph. A change in arm slot is all it took to add velocity to his pitches. His ability to keep the fastball down with quality strikes limits the opposition's ability to make solid contact off him.
His splitter is also a plus-plus pitch. Thrown with the same arm action as his fastball, it has late break that is significant. Hitters thinking fastball have a tough time holding their swing and many flail over top of the pitch. Its precipitous drop can also catch hitters napping, as Gomes can throw it for a strike just as easily as allowing it to drop out of the zone for a swing-and-miss.
Gomes' slider has also improved and its break is sharp. The natural tilting action gives him a third pitch to keep hitters off-balance. He prefers to throw it to righties because of its movement down and away from their strength, but it would be effective against left-handed hitters as well. The slider is a good 20 mph slower than his fastball and more than 10 mph slower than the split.
"He was able to locate his fastball down in the zone," Webber said. "His slider is very sharp. The pitch that probably improved the most was his split. It's a well above-average pitch and very deceptive. It's a late break and very hard for the hitters to pick up.
One of the things that helped him was eliminating the windup entirely. By pitching solely out of the stretch, his delivery became more repeatable. Another year with the lower arm slot also improved his consistency.
As the year progressed, Gomes gained more and more confidence in his repertoire. At the beginning of the 2009 campaign, he gave a little too much credit to the hitters. Adapting, Gomes began to infiltrate his gameplan on the opposition with success. It was a simple thing that required a change in his mental approach.
"He became more comfortable in late inning roles," Webber said. "I don't think he had that much experience in that segment of the game and he was very successful seventh, eighth and even ninth inning, holding leads, especially, as you mentioned, in the last half of the season. His stuff is good. His fastball is live and his slider is above average and his split is well above average."
Gomes could use improvement in holding runners close. He does not vary his looks much, allowing runners to get a beat on his move towards home plate. With his focus on the hitter, runners with speed can take advantage.
Conclusion: There aren't any real glaring weaknesses in Gomes' game. He has three plus pitches that he can use and works ahead in the count. Experience out of the bullpen may be the sole area of concern. Another year and that, too, will fade. It would not surprise to see Gomes up in San Diego before the year is out. He has the talent and moxie to stick.
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