Height: 6’4″ Weight: 210
Darin Gorski was drafted by the Mets in the 7th round of the 2009 draft out of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. He was drafted with little fanfare and spent his first two seasons with the Mets between Rookie ball in Brooklyn where he went 3-4 with a 4.91 ERA and then in Low-A Savannah in 2010 he went 6-8 with a 4.58 ERA.
Had the big lefty been young for each level, his solid K rate and walk rates may have put him on more radars. But he was 23 entering the 2011 season and had yet to put up any statistical lines that would make him stand out even in an already thin system.
So what happened in 2011? Well, he was named the Florida State League’s Pitcher of the Year of course.
Let’s take a look at how he did it and what he did it with.
Gorski is a big lefty at 6-4 and 210 lbs, so one would surmise that he would have some pretty legit power with that frame. But his fastball clocks in at around 90 mph which would be below average for a prospect of his age and size normally. But we need to take a look at how he uses the pitch as well as the velocity. I got the chance to see Gorski on two occasions for the STL Mets this season and while Gorski doesn’t get you excited watching him pitch, he does attack hitters like a professional, working both sides of the plate, and his control is well above average at this point.
He uses a breaking pitch that has been called a curveball, but is more of a slider as far as plane and break. That’s actually a good thing, because with his lack of dominant velocity it’s necessary for him to use the same plane on his fastball and breaking pitch to induce swings and misses. It’s an average pitch at best right now.
His third pitch is a changeup that is a work in progress. The pitch works well with his 3/4 release point though, because he tends to drag his arm through the zone and it makes it difficult to determine fastball from changeup. At this time there isn’t enough separation in velocity between fastball and changeup though and that will lead to problems when he moves away from the cavernous pitchers league that is the FSL.
Gorski’s mechanics are pretty clean but more suited for the bullpen rather than the rotation. There are two weaknesses mechanically in his delivery. The first is that he doesn’t get enough length in his stride, which leaves his arm dragging through the delivery and forces him, at times, to be more upright than I would like to see. It may limit his velocity by a tick or two as well.
The same flaw that keeps his arm a tick behind the front leg plant also gives him some deception and with the lack of power velocity, deception will be important for him.
Both the leg drive and timing could be fixed with a couple of mechanical tweaks and the second time I got to see him it looked like that was already in progress. The Mets do have a great pitching coach in Phil Regan in St. Lucie, so I’m not surprised.
The second flaw, for a power pitcher, would be a red flag. Gorski does squeeze hard in his scap load, bringing his shoulders together in the middle of the delivery, just prior to his arm coming forward. That puts some extra stress on the shoulder and could lead to issues in the future, even for a pitcher like Gorski who is less than all out effort in his delivery. The scap load is actually new for Gorski and was not prevalent in his pre-draft mechanics.
The pitcher that Gorski of 09-10 was and the 2011 version were very different when it came to the final stat lines. After going a combined 9-12 with a 4.50+ ERA in 09/10 he was able to achieve an 11-3 record with a micro 2.08 ERA in 2011. It was good enough to win him the FSL pitcher of the year honor, as I mentioned earlier.
What happened? What clicked? While I tend to be a believer that a combination of velocity and strikeout rate are very important factors in determining the potential for major league success, they are not the only factors, obviously.
Gorski’s numbers include a strikeout rate of 25%+ which is well above average and an elite walk rate of just 5.2% in 2011. The walk rate is nearly half of his career mark and the strike out rate is a boost as well. His ERA was almost 3 full runs per 9 lower than his career mark as well. Some will point to his 43% GB% and say that it will be a major problem in the future. But as a starter he was actually closer to 50% which is more than passable.
When we published our Top FSL pitchers in August, Darin Gorski did not make an appearance. That was due to 2 factors. One was a lack of SP innings at the time I started the Statistical Analysis of the league and the other factor was, that while he was on the radar, he wasn’t overshadowing other starters with more pure stuff. But Gorski deserves mention and deserved a closer look.
I spend a lot of time around the FSL ballparks and log a lot of innings here. So I have a good understanding of how FSL production correlates to the other leagues. With that said, I believe that Gorski’s breakout campaign of 2011 is a nice story for the Mets organization as a whole, in a year that produced more questions than gave answers. While Gorski is a nice story, I’m not sold that his transition to Double-A at the Bing will be a smooth one.
The FSL allows pitchers to utilize the vast outfields and heavy air to keep balls in the park. I’ve seen pitchers get shelled in quality starts. I’m not going to downplay Gorski’s 2011 campaign, but there will be some adjustments he will need to make in 2012 if he is going to be the 2011 version again or he will revert back to something closer to his first two seasons. He is going to need to make his changeup a plus pitch so he can better battle right-handed hitters. He will also need to work much more exclusively at the bottom quadrants of the strikezone or the 5% HR rate on flyballs could very well double simply by leaving the confines of the FSL.
His .270 BABIP and his 3.18 FIP both indicate that there is already some regression to the mean that will take place for Gorski. He was a bit lucky on both counts. Add in that he will leave the FSL, he will begin to face more patient hitters and he will be 24 when he enters 2012 spring training and you have a very limited upside for the big lefty.
If all breaks right and he’s able to master the changeup and work more exclusively lower in the zone then he does have an upside of a back of the rotation starter. Unfortunately, his downside, if he can’t make it long term as a starter, is falling off of the map. Because while we now know that he’s more successful as a starter, we know this because he’s not very successful as a reliever.
2012 will be very telling for Gorski as he enters Double-A. If he can continue anywhere near his 2011 performance he could be in Flushing by 2013. I just don’t know if that’s going to happen and I’m not in the crowd that has the confidence to say that it’s possible.
Check back soon as we profile many more Top MLB Prospects and also get our baseball geek on and take a look at some of the later draft picks from the 2011 draft that we think could be big names on the prospect radars in the near future. While you’re here, take a look at our on going series Touch’em All | Appalachian League and be a step ahead of the game. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be. So don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at firstname.lastname@example.org.