As we all know, pitching depth is the primary strength of the St. Louis Cardinals. Thus, despite being drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB Draft, 6'5" left-handed starting pitcher Austin Gomber has managed to stay out of the prospect limelight during his first two seasons as a professional baseball player. Given his stellar performance for the Peoria Chiefs (Low-A) this season (capped by a Midwest League All-Star nomination), this will likely all change going into the 2016 season. In fact, it already has changed as our newest editor John Nagel (of @CardinalsFarm) rated Gomber as the organization's 16th best prospect in his midseason top 20 prospect report.
- Throws: Left
- Height: 6'5"
- Weight: 205 pounds
- Born: November 23, 1993 (Age 21)
- College: Florida Atlantic University
Of note, at the time of publishing, Gomber's Fangraphs' page had not yet updated to include last night's outing. In a 7-1 Chiefs' victory, Gomber pitched 6.2 innings, allowed five hits and zero runs, issued one walk, and notched five strikeouts (lowering his season ERA to 3.03).
Viva El Birdos: As a pitcher, I bet it had to be a cool feeling to be drafted by the pitching-rich Cardinals. Can you take us back to draft day when you heard the news that the Cardinals selected you in the 4th round?
Austin Gomber: Like you said, the Cardinals are historically a pitching rich organization and do a great job at developing young arms, so really, it was an awesome opportunity for me. I was listening to the draft and heard my name called and it was an instant thrill. Seconds later, my scout Charlie Gonzalez called me to welcome me. It was just a surreal day and one I surely will never forget.
VEB: At 6’5", you have the frame scouts desire in a pitcher. What benefits do you utilize most from being that tall?
AG: For me, I don't really think about it that much. I obviously know it's a positive, but when I'm pitching, I really just focus on trying to execute the game plan I come up with before the game. Being so big, I really just think it's helped my stamina and durability the most.
VEB: Despite being a fourth round draft pick and having early success as a professional, I feel like you have flown under the radar a little bit (despite making our mid-season top 20 prospect list, of course). What do you make of that?
AG: I would tend to agree to that. This offseason and coming into this season, I really felt like I had a lot to prove, especially with there being so many great pitchers in the organization. It doesn't bother me, though. I just try to pitch my game every time out, and I'm confident that if I do that I will have success and get opportunities to move up through the organization.
VEB: What is your take on advanced metrics (i.e. FIP)? Do you pay attention to them at all or is it brought up by anyone around the organization?
AG: I don't know much about them. For me, I just try to have as many 1-2-3 innings as possible. Get in the dugout as fast as I can and give my team a chance to score. I know that the front office looks at all those stats when evaluating us, but it's not something I worry about while on the mound.
VEB: What is the one piece of advice given to you by a coach in the Cardinals organization that has helped you most?
AG: Last season in State College, Tim Leveque showed me a different curveball grip and I worked a lot with it this offseason, and I really think that was the turning point for me. Adding a pitch to my arsenal that I can count on in big situations to get a swing and miss. It's really helped me out this year in some tough spots.
VEB: Your repertoire is most similar to which current big league pitcher?
AG: I try to be realistic when comparing myself. I obviously love watching the greats compete but for me, a guy like Mike Minor from Atlanta is a guy I see a lot in myself.
VEB: You’ve experienced an uptick in strikeout rate and conversely a decrease in walk rate this season. What has been different for you this year compared to last?
AG: Like I said earlier, adding the curveball to my arsenal has really helped me miss bats this year. Combining that with better fastball command and a changeup has really worked for me.
VEB: I saw a video of you talking about hitting with Nathan Baliva a few months ago. What would it be like to step in the batter’s box against Carlos Martinez?
AG: Wow, I probably would try to get out of that if I could. He's unbelievable and his stuff is just ridiculous. Very few people throw that hard with that kind of movement. He's filthy.
VEB: How important is pitch sequencing to your success as a pitcher? Do you actively utilize set-up pitches by changing speeds or the eye level of hitters?
AG: Pitching is a game within a game. It is so challenging and you have to love the competition. As far as pitch sequencing goes it's a must. You have to be able to mix pitches with different locations to keep them off balance. It's something that you can never stop improving on, and for me, just trying to learn and get better every day at it is what I'm trying to do.
VEB: If you could take one pitch from a current Cardinal, which would it be and why?
AG: Again, going back to Carlos Martinez, it would be his fastball. That thing by itself could dominate hitters so that would be a game changer.
I thank Austin for taking the time to answer these questions for Viva El Birdos, especially regarding his repertoire because I feel like his comments are enlightening for those of us who have not yet been able to see him live all that much. I wish him the best going forward as he climbs the organizational ladder of the pitching rich Cardinals.