What to expect from Braves' Gohara in big leagues

September 5th, 2017

There have been four players born in Brazil to play in the big leagues. All have come from between 2012 and 2017, with three of the four seeing time at the highest level this season. When lefty starts for the Braves on Tuesday night, he will become number five.

There's a good chance the 21-year-old lefty, who is currently No. 8 on the Braves Top 30 Prospects list and No. 91 on the Top 100 Prospects list, will get more than one start this month for Atlanta, though that remains to be determined. For however long this first audition lasts, Braves fans should expect to see a big southpaw with tremendous power stuff and a bulldog mentality on the mound, albeit with command that can be spotty at times.

Braves Pipeline

Gohara's ability to throw strikes has improved tremendously over the past two seasons, a major reason why he has jumped on a fast track. Since he signed with the Mariners back in August of 2012 for $800,000, he's teased fans and evaluators with tremendous pure stuff. But a lack of commitment to conditioning held him back and also contributed to his inability to repeat his delivery, which led to extremely high walk rates.

Things started to click for Gohara in 2016 as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League, and he really jumped onto a bigger stage by pitching well as one of the youngest players in the Arizona Fall League. It was the January after that showing when the Braves acquired Gohara from the Mariners as part of the Mallex Smith/Shae Simmons deal.

Gohara used the AFL as a springboard into his first season in his new organization, starting with his first taste of Class A Advanced ball. He made quick work of the Florida State League, earning a bump up to Double-A after just seven starts, a 1.98 ERA, 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings and just 2.5 walks per nine. He continued to throw well over 52 innings in the Southern League, posting a 2.60 ERA and a .218 batting average against (better than his .243 BAA in the FSL), while still missing bats (10.4 K/9) while not walking too many (3.1/9).

Next came a climp to Triple-A, where the 6-foot-3 lefty threw well, especially considering he was nearly 6 1/2 years younger than the average pitcher in the International League. Over seven starts, Gohara had a 3.31 ERA and .230 BAA, while striking out 12.2 per nine. The one thing to keep an eye on is that the walk rate did creep back up (albeit in a small sample size), at 4.1 per nine.

So now the 21-year-old will face big league hitters for the first time. He'll do so with one of the bigger left arms in the Minors, capable of getting hitters out at any level with his fastball-slider combination. As Gohara took conditioning more seriously, he was able to maintain his fastball more consistently. It now gets a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, sitting in the mid-90s with ease and approaching triple digits at times. His slider has trended upwards as well, and it's at least an above-average breaking ball, one that misses a lot of bats. He has an improved changeup, giving him three usable options each time he takes the mound.

It's probably fair to expect Gohara to be a bit amped up when he first gets the ball in a big league setting, so don't be surprised if that walk rate creeps up, leading to higher pitch counts and, as a result, not being able to pitch too deeply into games. The Braves should be understandably cautious with his workload as his previous career high in innings was 69 2/3 in 2016 (81 1/3 if his AFL stint is added) and he's currently at 123 2/3 IP. That said, he's big, strong and durable and should be able to handle a starter's workload long term. Some pro scouts see a future No. 4 starter in Gohara, but it's possible he could be more than that if he can continue to refine his command.