Austin Gomber, a left-handed pitcher for the Palm Beach Cardinals has been a consistent force in Single A, projecting as a solid middle-tier starter somewhere down the road in St. Louis.
As it stands today, the status of the Cardinals top pitching prospects is far from uniform. Most notably, Alex Reyes, the most talented prospect in the organization, is currently serving a suspension for a second failed drug screening. At the same time, the organization’s number 3 ranked prospect, Marco Gonzales, is on the shelf for the remainder of 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
With prospects number 1 and 3 currently inactive, the Cardinals expected big things out of right-handed pitcher Jack Flaherty, a 2014 1st round pick. In reality, though, the beginning portion of Flaherty’s 2016 campaign has been a struggle. After posting a 9-3 record, along with a solid 2.84 ERA in middle A, Flaherty has digressed since his promotion to high A. As a member of the Palm Beach Cardinals, Flaherty has an ERA of 5.97, yielding a .308 average to opposing hitters. Yet to win a start on the year (0-4), Flaherty’s BB/9 ratio has increased from 2.94 to 3.41, while his strikeout percentage has decreased from 23.7% to 20.0%.
Whereas Flaherty has been struggling thus far for Palm Beach, his teammate Austin Gomber has continued to improve, showcasing a polished repertoire during his time at the high-A level.
Gomber is a product of Florida Atlantic University, where he enjoyed a successful three year career. During his time in college, Gomber posted a 3.27 ERA and 238 strikeouts. As a result of his success, the Cardinals selected him in the 4th round of the 2014 amateur draft with the 135th overall pick. Gomber played the 2015 season with the Peoria Chiefs, where he posted an impressive 15-3 record, paired with a 2.67 ERA.
— MiLB.com (@MiLB) April 21, 2016
In 2016, Gomber was promoted to join Palm Beach, where he has continued to improve in the early stages of the season. Unlike Flaherty, Gomber has improved in the most important statistics, showcasing an ability to smoothly transition through the increasing difficulty of the minor leagues. Despite pitching to superior talent, Gomber has lowered his Fielder Independent Pitching statistic (FIP), going from 3.06 in 2015 to 2.88 in 2014. Furthermore, Gomber has also improved his walk percentage from 6.3% to 5.4%, proving an ability to pitch to contact despite facing more dangerous hitters. Despite a more direct pitching style, Austin has yielded less home runs per 9 innings in 2016, decreasing from .67 to .44.
Standing at a sturdy 6’5″, 235 pounds, Gomber is a work horse from the left side. While he may not have the overpowering stuff of Reyes or Flaherty, Gomber has proven his ability to consistently produce quality starts, while simultaneously developing as a pitcher. With solid movement on a low 90s fastball, along two quality off speed options (curve and change) Gomber has sneakily put together an impressive minor league campaign.
While Gomber still has a ways to go prior to seeing his first big league action, it is encouraging to see such an imposing, left-handed arm thriving in his development. One of few heralded left-handed starters in the system at the moment, he could greatly accelerate his journey to Busch Stadium if he continues to smoothly develop through the process of minor league promotion. Once there, Gomber will hopefully contribute quality starts on a regular basis, stifling left-handed batters and maintaining a clean, efficient approach to his craft.
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