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Q&A with Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU (2012 Draft)

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May 29, 2012

Any high profile high school right-hander that chooses college over professional baseball for any reason is taking a risk. That’s my opinion, pure and simple. I’ve been to this rodeo long enough to have seen some pitchers go in to college with a 70 fastball and come out with a 50, or a 60 and come out with a 40. College baseball isn’t always the place where dreams come true, sometimes it’s the place where pitching careers go to die, with bad instruction, bad reasoning, bad influences, and the all-around placement of someone else’s priorities over a kid’s priorities. Any time the dollar sign is deemed more valuable than professional development, you take a risk, period.

Usually, it’s the luck of the draw on who comes out better, only that and nothing more. Not everyone is a Trevor Bauer, a guy who was defiantly hands off. Mike Leake was the same way – don’t tell me, I’ll tell you. But some guys fall victim to bad advice or bad coaching, even at very big name places. As scouts, we know this to be true. We won’t tell you the names we have seen this happen to. But we know it happens. We call it going backwards.

Which makes the case of a guy like Kevin Gausman all the more impressive. Always gifted with a wiry and whippy frame and a fast and strong arm, he turned down the Dodgers in 2010 and went to Louisiana State. (Zach Lee ought to send Christmas cards to Gausman for the rest of his life, but that’s another story.) Gausman and I have a little bit of history, and we caught up again a week before that…thing…where the teams pick…you know…ah, nobody gives a shit where you were drafted when you’re between the lines.

Klima: It’s been a while since we talked. Tell us about the development you’ve made at LSU the past two seasons.
Gausman: The biggest thing for me, I always had the strong arm and the good fastball. In high school, I threw at a lower arm slot. I was more mid ¾ and on the side of the ball than I am now. Now I am pretty much over the top, which has allowed me to become more deceptive. The fastball jumps more than it does. In high school, for the velocity I had, I didn’t get deception and swings and misses. Now I feel like I can throw my fastball past a guy in certain situations.

Klima: So that’s an improvement. What kind of secondary stuff have you worked on?
Gausman: I had a slider and got away from it this year and started working on a power curveball. That was a big thing for me. Alan Dunn, my pitching coach, he came in here, he saw my high arm slot and said a power curve would be a lot better. So that’s become a big weapon for me.

Lately we added a split-change, it’s a lot like the Tim Lincecum change. It has good fade and I try to throw it as hard as I can so it looks like a fastball out of my hand. As of late in the season, I went back to my slider, but it’s a different slider. Last year it was loopy and like a slurve. I was a fastball-change guy and I needed another pitch. Now it’s more of a power slider, it has real tight spin, way more than any slider I have had before. The big thing is letting it go as late as I can.

Knowing the situation and throwing it outside and the back foot to the left side. That’s been huge.

Klima: When I saw you on TV, the thing that struck me was the improved fastball control. Not command now, I’m talking control, the ability to spot-up good velocity with good life on both halves. You can have all the electric stuff in the world, but if you can’t put the good fastball exactly where you want, you’ll always be one step behind.
Gausman: Yes, fastball control with me has come a long way. I definitely have a lot more confidence, throwing to both sides of the plate now. I always felt comfortable pitching away, but I never wanted to throw it inside. Now one of my biggest pitches is fastball in and dominating that inner half.

Klima: The inner half is the key to it all.
Gausman: That’s what they stress in pro ball, and you’re right, dominating the inner half of the plate. I think that’s what separated me this year.

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Klima: What else have you worked on?
Gausman: I have been throwing a one-seam fastball which is a sinker, and that’s been a new pitch for me. I’ve been getting swings and misses from, 92-95, where it’s not as hard as my four-seam, but it also sinks about a foot. It’s really great to throw away to lefties when you need a weak ground ball to get that double play.

Klima: Again, that goes back to the inner half. Doesn’t going inside make the breaking stuff away play up?
Gausman: I think it definitely opens up the outside part of the plate and why my breaking balls have been good for me. I always tell people, one thing I do that a lot of other pitchers don’t do, even in the big leagues, is throw my change up to right-handed hitters. I love doing it. Hitters are really thrown off. Most of the time they don’t expect it.

Klima: OK, I’m not going to ask you what you can make it do, but can you make it move?
Gausman: I can make it move. I’ve probably had more strikeouts with that than any other pitch. One is my arm slot and two is I throw it just like my fastball, as hard as I can. It’s real late, pretty much like a split but doesn’t have as much pull on the arm as the split would.

Klima: How close do you think you are to the big leagues without saying how close you think you are to the big leagues?
Gausman: I think I have some qualities that could play at the next level but I also don’t think I have the efficiency that guys in the big leagues do. I have the fastball and the change. I think the big question for me is which one of the breaking balls is going to get me there or if it will be one or the other. I think I’ll kind of be pretty polished, I think I’ll be able to compete at that level and I’d like to get there as soon as possible. Get through those days in the minors.

Klima: So sign, get in the minors, and sift through the weapons.
Gausman: That’s what the minors are all about. Not really winning games, but polishing stuff.

Watch Kevin Gausman Scouting Video
Read Summer 2010Kevin Gausman Scouting Update
Read Kevin Gausman Q&A
Read April 2010 Kevin Gausman Scouting Update
Read Kevin Gausman Scouting report
Watch Kevin Gausman Scouting Video

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