Following his selection in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB Draft, St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect Austin Gomber was sent to the State College Spikes (Short-Season A) for his professional baseball debut. While his performance with the Spikes was rather ordinary (keep in mind, he had already thrown 77.1 innings with Florida Atlantic prior to joining St. Louis), there was no denying the potential housed inside the southpaw's 6'5" frame.
We began to witness this potential in 2015 as Gomber was simply spectacular in his first full season as a professional. Unofficially dubbed the staff ace of the low-A Peoria Chiefs, Gomber attained three notable league honors in 2015: pitcher of the week in May, mid-season All-Star, and post-season All-Star. His performance did not go unrecognized by the front office staff, either, as he was named the organization's minor league co-pitcher of the year, along with top prospect Alex Reyes.
Minor League Statistics
Viva El Birdos: Last year, you incorporated a newer curve into your fastball-changeup arsenal. Will that remain the same for this season?
Austin Gomber: Yes, my arsenal will be pretty similar to the one I used last year. Of course, in the offseason you always play around with grips and what not, but there will be no major changes in my game.
VEB: How involved are the Cardinals in your offseason workouts, diet, etc.? What did they tell you to work on before spring?
AG: The Cardinals are very involved. They send us workout templates. Kind of a base product, and then of course you may add or subtract whatever you think is necessary. We meet at the end of the season to discuss nutrition and supplements, but most guys already have an idea of what works for them and what they like to do. As far as for me personally, I worked to just develop more physically. You can't really tell by looking at me because of my size, but I have a lot of room to grow and add strength, so that was my main focus this offseason.
VEB: You were able to command your fastball much better last year than in your debut season as a professional. How do you work on command and what has been successful?
AG: In my case, it was all a mentality thing. My whole career through high school and college, my strength was always fastball command and pounding the strike zone. In State College in 2014, I put a lot of pressure on myself to try and be so good that I got away from attacking hitters and it really hurt my game. Last year going into camp, I made a point of really being the guy who attacks hitters relentlessly and makes them beat me. I think the results showed that.
VEB: Do you have any idea what level you will be sent to start the season? Any goals for the end of the year?
AG: No clue. Obviously I hope I move up the chain. As far as goals go, I set numerous goals for myself—some more realistic than others. Some people may think it's far-fetched, but I go into camp every year with the goal to make it to St. Louis. A more immediate goal, though, is to get through camp feeling strong and healthy and just do everything I can possibly do to win a spot in the Springfield rotation. My number one goal is and will always be to continue to get hitters out. If I can achieve that, the other goals will take care of themselves.
VEB: Piggybacking off that last question, the Texas League is notoriously hitter-friendly, particularly Hammons Field. What about your repertoire makes you confident you’ll succeed once you reach Springfield? Which areas do you feel need more improvement?
AG: I don't really worry about what parks are "pitcher parks" and what parks are "hitter parks." If you execute good pitches, then you will get outs and vice versa. If you don't, then you will struggle. I really believe pitchers control the game, and if I'm able to execute my plan and what I'm trying to accomplish, success will follow.
VEB: You are heading to big league camp this year. What was your reaction to finding out you were invited? What do you hope to gain from the experience?
AG: Humbled and honored to receive the invitation, obviously. I am really looking forward to just watching how those guys go about their business. Whenever you get the opportunity to spend a few weeks around veterans like Wainwright, Rosenthal, Lynn, etc. you can't help but learn. Those guys have not only mastered the craft of getting big league hitters out, but I think, more importantly, mastered the art of consistency. It is one thing to have success. It's another animal to be able to do it consistently.
VEB: How was the Cardinals Caravan and Winter Warmup experience?
AG: Incredible. To be able to get a taste of what Cardinal Nation is all about firsthand was truly amazing and something I definitely didn't take for granted. The fans were in full force as always and made my time up there a time I'll never forget. The BBWAA dinner was also a great experience, and to be recognized [as 2015 co-pitcher of the year]on the same night as the 2006 World Series champion team was surreal. I can't thank the Cardinals enough for giving me the opportunity to experience such a great event.
Now, to the important questions...
AG: Hahaha, awesome. I really can't pick one. I'm a huge fan. The guys I played with in Peoria can tell you that. She's awesome, and I really hope I get the chance to meet her one day.
AG: Another tough one. House of Cards was great. Recently, I might have to give the nod to Narcos. Arrested Development is another good one.
I thank Austin for taking the time to answer these questions for Viva El Birdos, especially considering this is now his second Q&A with the site. We will look to stay in touch with him as he continues his ascent of the minor league ladder. While Gomber may start 2016 with High-A Palm Beach (which is apparently less than one hour away from where he went to college), I would not be surprised if the Cardinals push him to Double-A Springfield quickly so they can get a better gauge on his development as a professional.