With arms like Kevin Gausman's fighting for a rotation slot, the Orioles are poised to stay near the top of the AL East in 2014 and beyond. Photo: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

2014 MLB players to watch: Baltimore Orioles RHP Kevin Gausman

The Baltimore Orioles farm system is loaded with fantastic pitching prospects, and it’s no secret around the greater Baltimore area that RHP Kevin Gausman is near the top of that list.

The propensity for most baseball fans is to immediately flock to the web and check out what he’s done. I should warn you — Don’t let his minor league numbers fool you. The kid has some electric stuff.

To truly gain a perspective on Gausman’s talent, it’s best to look back at his collegiate career. His sophomore season (his last before being drafted) was dazzling. The Centennial, Colorado native recorded 135 strikeouts in 123.2 innings and held opposing hitters to an average of just .229 while surrendering just three home runs. He ended the year with a 12-2 record, leading the LSU Tigers to a Super Regional appearance in the 2012 NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament.

That season certainly caught the attention of the Baltimore scouts. Gausman was selected #4 overall in the first round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft. After just one season in the minors, Orioles management felt it was time to get him up to the bigs as soon as possible.

While Gausman didn’t fare that well in his MLB debut on May 23 against the Toronto Blue Jays (5 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, Loss), his third start showed his potential. Despite a no-decision for his efforts, Gausman went toe-to-toe with the eventual ALCS runner-up Detroit Tigers for six innings, surrendering just one run on five hits with four strikeouts. He later earned his first big league victory in September against the New York Yankees with two shutout innings.

While mainly working from the bullpen, Gausman finished the season strong with great performances against the Blue Jays and playoff-bound Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox. He’ll enter the spring with an opportunity to earn a spot in the regular starting rotation.

Scouting Report

Reports on Gausman speak very highly of him. Baseball Prospectus’s Nick J. Faleris states that Gausman has “enough nasty in him to stare down the game’s top bats without fear.” Meanwhile, Baseball Prospect Nation calls Gausman, a “fastball-heavy guy with the ability to miss bats with his number one.”

What they also both agree on is his command. If Gausman is able to harness some of it, the Orioles could have a very nice starter on their hands with some firepower off the mound. It all comes down to control

2014 Prediction

I foresee Gausman earning a spot in the back of the O’s rotation. That could be exactly what he needs as well, and if the Baltimore bats continue to support their pitching staff the way they have the last two seasons, it could bode well for the team as a whole. If things go right for Gausman, he could finish the season with approximately 25 starts, 12 wins, 6 losses and a respectable 3.70 earned run average. It’s also conceivable that he could wrap up 2014 with 140 innings pitched and 125 strikeouts.

Tags: 2014 MLB Players To Watch Baltimore Orioles Kevin Gausman MLB MLB Prospects MLB Rookies 2014