Kevin Gausman was drafted out of Grandview High School (Centennial, Colorado) by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth round of the 2010 MLB Draft. He had already been awarded a scholarship to play NCAA baseball at Louisiana State University, and chose to honor that commitment rather than begin his professional career early. By doing so, he greatly improved his own stock as he now projects to be a top five pick as a twenty-one year old sophomore in the 2012 MLB Draft. On his decision to remain at LSU, he says, "It is the best atmosphere in the country for college baseball. I wanted to go to a place is very rich in baseball tradition and LSU is definitely the right place for that." As a former LSU grad myself, this statement indicates to me that Gausman has makeup and intelligence well beyond most draft-eligible ball players.
In High School, Gausman was well-regarded and projectable, with a lanky frame that promised velocity, but scouts were concerned about his ability to control his breaking pitches. With two years of experience pitching in the SEC, Gausman is now a top-3 pitching option in this draft class, along with Mark Appel and Kyle Zimmer. Scouts have varying opinions about which of the three is best, so it seems to be a 1A-1B-1C scenario, with other pitchers falling below the trio.
Gausman stands 6’4", approximately 185 lbs. He throws his fastball in the mid 90’s with movement but has been clocked as high as 100 mph. He already has a good changeup and a "plus" curveball that is aided by a smooth delivery. His height and build indicate that even more velocity and stamina may be added as he bulks up in his early 20’s. This season, he is 11-1 with a 2.72 ERA in 115.2 IP. He’s given up only two home runs, and he has a strikeout to walk ratio of 128/27 (4.7:1). Opponents are hitting only .231 against him this season. In 2011, his opponents only hit .215 off of him.
Major League comparisons include Josh Beckett and Max Scherzer.
Usual health caveats aside, Kevin Gausman projects to be a good back-of-rotation starter at the least due to his easy delivery and projectable frame. Due to his likely high draft position (and subsequent large bonus), it is unlikely he ends up in the bullpen unless he is unable to develop his secondary pitches and/or suffers injury.
Most scouts agree that Gausman’s ceiling is "ace", particularly noting that it is possible for him to add velocity to his already impressive mid-90’s fastball and that he already has a plus breaking pitch. His delivery appears effortless, giving him as good a chance as he can have at remaining healthy. He is more raw than other college pitchers, meaning he might require some extra time in the minors.
It is very possible that the Astros draft Gausman 1st overall, though most experts seem to believe that if they take a pitcher, it will be Appel. However, Gausman has similar numbers against strong competiion and also has a local connection with nearby LSU. Additionally, there are those who think that although Appel might have a slightly higher ceiling, Gausman has a higher floor. If the Astros go in a different direction, Gausman still should be one of the first pitchers taken, and likely in the top 5 of the draft. Baseball America ranks Gausman as the 5th best player available in this draft, and Baseball Prospectus has him seventh. John Sickels at www.minorleagueball.com (a SB Nation site) has Gausman being taken fourth by the Baltimore Orioles.