Orioles take Gausmasn with fourth overall pick (updated)
Right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman admits he’s always been a little weird, as the Louisiana State University sophomore has a ritual of eating four powdered donuts in between innings, enjoys science fiction movies and prides himself on living life a little differently.
The Orioles can only hope those quirks will someday become etched into Baltimore lore, as the organization made Gausman its first overall pick –fourth overall—in Monday night’s First-Year Player Draft.
The O’s had long been rumored to be in on Gausman, who fell to them after the three clubs before them all went with position players, and they chose him over Stanford arm Mark Appel –who was highly regarded as the Draft’s No. 1 pick.
“There were appealing things about both pitchers, although we feel we got the one we really wanted,” amateur scouting director Gary Rajisch said of Gausman, who is his first pick since being hired by Baltimore this winter.
“He’s pitched on Friday night in one of the best conferences in the country at a high level and that was very appealing to us. Everything we know about him is great. He’s an outstanding citizen, a good teammate and fierce competitor.”
Gausman, who is slated to pitch for LSU in the NCAAs Super Regionals later this week, is 11-1 with a 2.72 ERA, including 128 strikeouts, over 115 2/3 innings. A fairly highly-regarded prospect as a Colorado high schooler in 2010, Gausman was drafted in the sixth round by the Dodgers but elected to go to college and improve.
And improve he did, developing into a more polished arm with electric stuff, including a fastball that runs up to 94 mph an above-average changeup and a smooth and easy delivery.
“It’s been huge for me,” Gausman said of his two years at LSU, in which he also added 30 pounds to his once-wiry frame. “I couldn’t imagine being in the Minor Leagues when I was 19. I was pretty immature and really didn’t know anything about pitching. And I didn’t have a pitching coach, so that was something that was huge. Just coming in here and playing two years in the SEC, honestly I think it’s the best conference in all of college baseball. I think it’s been huge for me just to get the experience and get to play in front of these big crowds.
I’ve matured leaps and bounds since high school, not just on the mound, but as a person and my faith and really every aspect of my life.”
Gausman’s breaking pitches are still a work in progress with both the 21-year-old pitcher and Rajsich confident that he can establish more consistency. What isn’t a question is the work ethic of Gausman, whose makeup and maturity got rave reviews and helped him land a spot atop the Orioles draft board.
“Our area scout, Dave Jennings, gave the all clear on his makeup,” Rajsich said. “He’s tremendous. And Dave has drafted several players on our roster already like [Nick] Markakis, [Matt] Wieters and Xavier Avery. We’re pleased Dave was able to identify another super player for us.”
Rajsich wasn’t sure if Gausman would play for an Orioles affiliate this year –saying the organization would assess how many innings he’s thrown and where he’s at when his season concludes – although both sides seem optimistic that they can strike a deal to keep Gausman with Baltimore.
“I think that they feel strongly about me, they wouldn’t have picked me if they didn’t,” said Gausman, who is excited for, among other things, a chance to try Baltimore’s crabs.
“I think they are going to get a deal done, I feel real confident about it. I just feel real honored to be selected by Baltimore and by an organization that is so well known around the game of baseball for so long.”
Added Rajsich: “Everything we have heard is he’s ready to go out there and begin his pro career. What we have for him is an opportunity to move through our system very quickly and pitch in Baltimore very soon.”
The Houston Astros select Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa with the No. 1 overall pick in the Draft with the Minnesota Twins taking high school outfielder Byron Buxton and Seattle picking University of Florida catcher Mike Zunino. That left the Orioles free to take the best pitcher in the Draft, and they feel they got him in Gausman.
“Kevin Gausman is one of the premier power pitchers in all of college baseball,” Rajsich said. He’s pitched at a high level in front of a lot of people every Friday night for the past two years and very successfully. He has a power arm and power arsenal that he commands and we’re excited to have him.”
This is the second consecutive year the Orioles have taken a pitcher with their first round pick as the organization selected high school righty Dylan Bundy fourth overall in 2011. Gausman is the third Orioles’ first round pick out of LSU, joining Mike Fontenot (2001 – 19th overall) and Ben McDonald (1989 – 1st overall). The Orioles will pick again in the second round at 65th, with Day 2 of the Draft starting at noon.