With Jake Westbrook on the DL, the St. Louis Cardinals Promote John Gast to Join the Rotation

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday morning, the St. Louis Cardinals announced that veteran sinkerballer Jake Westbrook was being placed on the disabled list due to right-elbow inflammation and that lefthander John Gast would be promoted from Triple-A Memphis to fill in as a starter during Westbrook's absence.

John Gast was a high school pitching prospect out of Florida who underwent Tommy John surgery after his senior season. The Rangers selected Gast 170th overall with their fifth round pick in the 2007 amateur draft and made a run at signing the southpaw. In the end, however, Gast elected to attend Florida State University. Unfortunately, as Baseball America remarked prior to the 2010 MLB amateur draft, Gast's "career never quite got going in the right direction" with the Seminoles.

Based on the stats available at Baseball Cube, Gast worked primarily as a reliever for FSU in his first two years with 42 of his 45 appearances being in relief. In 2008, he posted a 2.70 ERA over 13 1/3 IP. In 2009, Gast totaled 38 2/3 innings with an ugly 5.12 ERA over 28 games that included three starts. Gast made 13 starts in 2010 for the Noles and eight appearances in relief. His ERA was 5.30 for the season. Gast struck out 102 batters in college and walked 60.

The Cardinals selected Gast in the sixth round of the 2010 draft and sent him to the New York-Pennsylvania League where he played for the Batavia Muckdogs. In Low-A, Gast threw 35 innings over six starts and two relief appearances. The southpaw posted a healthy 27.9% strikeout rate and a good 6.2% walk rate. His 1.54 ERA sat below his 2.29 FIP.

Gast started the 2011 season assigned to the Cardinals' High-A club in Palm Beach. The southpaw made 12 starts and one relief appearance in the Florida State League, tallying 82 innings. Gast's K% fell, BB% rose, and LOB% evened out. The result was an underwhelming line. Nonetheless, St. Louis promoted Gast to Springfield during the 2011 season and he would finish the year in the Texas League, where his K% further eroded, BB% swelled a bit more, and FIP grew correspondingly.

St. Louis started Gast out in 2012 where he finished 2011: Springfield. The southpaw's second tour of duty in the hitter's haven of the Texas League went better than his first half-season. Over six starts that consisted of 32 2/3 innings pitched, Gast increased his K%, shaved a full three percentage points of his BB%, and posted a 1.38 ERA that was over two points lower than his solid 3.69 FIP.

After his good start in Springfield, the Cardinals promoted Gast to Triple-A Memphis where he logged 109 1/3 innings in 20 starts. His K% drooped a bit, BB% ticked upwards, and his fortunate Double-A ERA became unlucky in Memphis. Despite a respectable 4.02 FIP in the PCL, Gast's ERA sat at 5.10 when the season ended.

The lefty started out the 2013 season with a vengeance for the Redbirds. Gast didn't allow a run in the month of April. 23 2/3 innings, 24 strikeouts, six walks, and zero runs. His April shutout earned him Minor League Pitcher of the Month honors from the Cardinals. Gast's May has been a big rockier. He allowed a run against Omaha on May 3 and then was beat up in his last start, allowing five runs (four earned) in just four innings against Sacramento.

JOHN GAST CAREER MINOR-LEAGUE STATS

Year

Level

G

GS

IP

K%

BB%

HR/9

LOB%

ERA

FIP

2010

A-

8

6

35.0

27.9%

6.2%

0.26

86.7%

1.54

2.29

2011

A+

13

12

82.0

16.6%

7.9%

0.77

72.8%

3.95

4.19

2011

AA

13

13

79.1

15.7%

9.6%

1.02

71.8%

4.08

4.71

2012

AA

8

8

51.1

20.9%

6.6%

0.88

86.7%

1.93

3.69

2012

AAA

20

20

109.1

17.8%

8.7%

0.82

64.3%

5.10

4.02

2013

AAA

6

6

32.2

22.9%

9.2%

0,00

84.2%

1.38

2.65

Not found on the chart above is a stat for pick-offs. Picking baserunners off first is Gast's calling card (which should perhaps raise a red flag). Azru addressed Gast's pick-offs after the 2011 season:

[M]uch of the allure of Gast stemmed from his pickoff move. At one point in 2011's spring training, Gast had picked off four baserunners in 5.1 innings. It was fun to watch and it was clear he had a better move to first than many of the pitchers in the big leagues. His pickoff moves were good enough for Dave Duncan to suggest that Jaime Garcia try and learn the art of the pick off from Gast.

In Marc Hulet's post at Fangraphs on the top 15 Cardinals prospects, he writes the following regarding Gast's repertoire:

One talent evaluator I spoke to said the southpaw has a solid fastball-changeup combination but he's still working to develop a reliable breaking ball. "The encouraging things is that his slider improved as the season progressed, so assuming that progression continues.... (it gives) him improved weapons for use as a starter." Gast's fastball velocity also improved by 1 to 2 mph between 2011 and 2012 and is now average for a southpaw.

I'm told his fastball command is above-average but his changeup remains his go-to pitch, with his slider the distant third offering. "The slider is improving -- he'll flash some really good ones, so it becomes a matter of consistency with that pitch."

Another of general manager John Mozeliak's Faberge eggs has hatched and a Redbird chick is now a Cardinal. Gast is a perfectly serviceable replacement pitcher. He isn't going to wow you with his fastball or his breaking ball. However, his changeup receives nearly universal praise. And then there is his pickoff move, which is the stuff of myth and legend. I'll honestly be hoping runners reach first base against Gast just so we can all see his pickoff move in high-definition slow-motion.

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