Dear Mother Nature, please do not drop 10 inches of snow on my Atlanta suburban neighborhood. It causes havoc and delays Fifty Prospects in Fifty Days.
Andy, and his dozen or so loyal readers
3. Luiz Gohara, LHP
Age: 21 | Throws: L
2.47 ERA | 2.54 FIP | 26 G, 25 GS | 123.2 IP | 3.20 BB/9 | 10.70 K/9
Current Assignment: MLB – Atlanta
Acquired: Trade w/Seattle Mariners – 2017
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: 8
Superlatives: OFR Starting Pitcher of the Year, Baseball America’s #5 Prospect of the Southern League, MLB Pipeline Left-Handed Pitcher of the Year
History: Gohara was an international amateur free agent signee by the Seattle Mariners out of Brazil in 2013, receiving a record $880,000 signing bonus for a player out of that country. Gohara was rated as the Mariners #3 prospect by Baseball America after a short but dominating stint in class-A Clinton, but new Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto was looking to compete immediately. The Mariners packaged Gohara with lefty reliever Thomas Burrows in exchange for outfielder Mallex Smith and reliever Shae Simmons.
Gohara was initially assigned to the class A+ Florida Fire Frogs and was dominant in 7 starts (1.98 ERA/1.99 FIP). The Braves were not shy to promote top prospects this season and Gohara was no exception. Gohara made his AA debut on May 15, but suffered his only real set-back of the season when he had to leave his start after 2 innings for what was diagnosed as biceps soreness. Gohara returned to the mound in a 2-inning relief appearance 15 days later and was pronounced good-to-go. Gohara proceeded to pitch to a 2.44 ERA/2.28 FIP with a 27.4% K rate in his next 10 starts. Gohara was then promoted to Gwinnett, making his AAA debut on July 28. While his 3.31 ERA in 7 AAA starts is a little higher than in his prior two minor league stops this season, his strikeout rate rose even higher, to a 31.2% rate. Gohara completed his climb up the organizational ladder by making his major league debut in September. In five starts with the big league club, Gohara pitched to a 4.91 ERA/2.75 FIP (the Atlanta defense was particularly brutal during several of his starts), striking out 31 in 29.1 innings.
Pitching: Despite arriving in Atlanta having already well exceeded his career high in innings pitched over the course of a season, Gohara was the hardest-throwing left-handed pitcher in the major leagues in 2017. Gohara’s fastball sits in the mid ’90s, but he can push up to the 98 mph range with minimal effort, and it has been clocked at 100 mph. Gohara combines that with arguably the most devastating slider in the Braves organization (only A.J. Minter might have a claim to the otherwise). It’s effective against both lefties and righties, and can back-foot the pitch to righties or sweep it to the other side. The slider comes in at the high-80s, a true power swing-and-miss offering. Gohara also made a lot of progress with his change-up over the course of the year, and right-handers actually fared worse against Gohara in the minors than lefties.
The main issue with Gohara is the occasional loss of control. This mostly was an issue in Gwinnett as he reached his season high in innings, but he seemed to hurtle that wall before the end of the season. Gohara battled conditioning issues in his early minor league career, and looks bigger than than his 210 pound listed weight by around 40 pounds. This is not necessarily a concern as Gohara moves well around and off the mound and certainly has the frame to accommodate the weight, but it’s something for the club to keep an eye on as Gohara moves into his second decade.
What’s Next: Gohara goes into spring training penciled in as one of the starting pitchers for Atlanta. He will have to fend off challenges from other young starters, but his performance in 2017 certainly gives him a leg up. Gohara has the stuff to be a front-of-the-rotation pitcher given health and experience.
2. Mike Soroka, RHP
Age: 20 | Throws: R
2.75 ERA | 3.19 FIP | 26 G, 26 GS | 153.2 IP | 1.99 BB/9 | 7.32 K/9
Current Assignment: Class AA Mississippi
Acquired: Drafted, 1st Round – 2015
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: 4
Superlatives: Atlanta Braves Organizational Pitcher of the Year, Southern League All-Star, Baseball America’s #4 Prospect of the Southern League
History: Mike Soroka was a 1st-round pick compensation by Atlanta in the 2015 draft. Soroka impressed in his pro debut in the rookie leagues, pitching to a 3.71 ERA with 37 strikeouts to five walks in 34 innings, but he took up another level at Rome in 2016. Despite being the fourth youngest player in the South Atlantic League, worked 158 innings total (including playoffs), which was the highest workload by a high school first-rounder in his first full season in 10 years.
Soroka, along with teammate and friend Kolby Allard, were bumped up to AA Mississippi to start the 2017 season, the two of them raising the number of teenagers to play in the Southern League in the last ten years to four. As in Rome the year before, Soroka got off to a great start and put up strong performances all season, generally getting results similar to Rome, just against much more advanced competition. He maintained his efficiency as well and finished fourth in the league in innings pitched while finishing second in ERA. Soroka also wasn’t just a “Steady Eddie”, but showed flashes of dominance; Soroka lead the Braves organization in starts with a game score over 70 by two over the next on the list.
Pitching: Soroka is listed as 6’-4” and 195 pounds, though he looks to have filled out and is likely in the 210 range. He has a very clean 3-quarters delivery that he both repeats well and has some deception. Soroka has two different fastballs, a two-seam sinker that helps generate groundballs, and four-seamer that he can spot anywhere in or around the zone, both typically in the 90-92 range but can hit 95 when he needs it. Soroka saw his breaking ball from last season, a slurvy slider, morph into two distinct separate pitches. His slider now is a mid-80s hard breaker that he can throw to lefties or righties for strikes. The curveball is more of a change-of-pace pitch at this time. Soroka also has a change-up that also has natural sink and can be thrown against righties or lefties. All-in-all, his “stuff” seemed to tick up over the course of the season, and it further plays up due to his excellent control and command. Soroka also gets high marks on poise and leadership.
What’s Next: After mastering the Southern League, Soroka should get an invite to big league camp and a shot at the Atlanta rotation, though the smart money is that he’ll start the 2018 season with the AAA Gwinnett Stripers. In any case, it’s probably a better than even bet that he makes his major league debut at some point in 2018. Once considered to have a mid- to back-end rotation ceiling, Soroka looks to be busting out of that pigeonhole in a big way.