One of the big moves this offseason for the Atlanta Braves was to acquire prospect Luiz Gohara from Seattle for OF Mallex Smith and reliever Shae Simmons. Many scouts wondered why the Mariners would part with such a promising arm, but they felt he was expendable and used the pieces to acquire veteran Drew Smyly from Tampa. The Braves continue their rebuild and continue to stockpile prominent arms in hopes that several work out and become key pieces of the future.
Tonight in Florida, Luiz Gohara, 20, made his debut in the Braves' organization, earning the Opening Day nod for the Florida Fire Frogs, the new Braves affiliate in the Florida State League. Gohara impressed scouts last year in the Arizona Fall League after striking out 19 in 11 innings of work and the Atlanta organization has high hopes for the young lefty from Brazil that he can continue to develop into a front-line starter.
He did not disappoint in his debut, striking out 7 in 5 innings of work. He didn't walk any batters and gave up just 4 hits. The bullpen eventually yielded three runs in 7th inning and the Florida ended up dropping the game to Daytona, but Gohara was the star of the night, showing poise and commanding his repertoire in dominant fashion. He reportedly hit 99 according to Ben Badler of Baseball America and also featured a wipeout slider.
Ranked as the 10th best prospect in the Atlanta organization by MLB.com, Gohara is a well-built lefty that was signed as an international free agent out of Brazil by the Mariners back in 2012. Some scouts have likened his power lefty arsenal to that of Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, while he has also drawn comparisons to Sabathia for his build. In order to maximize his potential, many scouts have said he would need to keep his weight under control and get in better shape. The stuff is there and he has the makings of a front-line starter or power reliever, but the rest would be left up to him.
Last season in Class A ball with the Clinton Lumberkings, Gohara made 10 starts, going 54.1 innings and producing a 5-2 record with a 1.82 ERA. He struck out 60 batters and walked 20, surrendering one home run on the season. He also made 3 starts in short season A ball with the Everett AquaSox, throwing 15.1 innings and striking out 21, while walking just 3.
Gohara made big strides last year and Atlanta is hoping that he will continue to build on last year. They will remain patient with him with so much top-end pitching depth in the minors, but he has a chance to be an absolute steal for the Braves in the future, especially if he continues to pitch as he did tonight in Florida.