Daniel Gossett will be promoted by the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday to make his major-league debut as a starter against the Miami Marlins.
After three strong seasons with Clemson University, Daniel Gossett went to the Oakland Athletics as the 65th overall selection (second round) in the 2014 MLB Draft. Gossett checked all of the boxes the A’s generally look for when selecting pitchers high in the draft: he was a polished starter with a deep arsenal of pitches and the ability to miss bats. He also kept the ball in the park, allowing just 15 homeruns in 283 innings for the Tigers.
Shortly after the draft, A’s Scouting Director Eric Kubota told me what the A’s liked most about Gossett in college.
“Right off the bat, the first thing you notice about him is his stuff. When I saw him, he was 93-94 for seven innings,” Kubota said in 2014. “He flashes an above-average breaking ball. It’s kind of a hybrid; some might call it a slider, some might call it a curveball. And he has a pretty good change-up. He locates well. He throws strikes and he has a very repeatable delivery. There is a lot to like about him, but first and foremost, it was the stuff you notice about him.”
Gossett signed quickly and reported to short-season Vermont for his first taste of professional baseball. The A’s kept Gossett on a strict innings limit after he threw 107 innings for Clemson, but the 24 innings he pitched for Vermont were very impressive. He allowed only 16 hits and six runs and he struck-out 25 while walking just one. Going into the 2015 season, Gossett was one of the A’s top starting pitching prospects at the lower levels of their organizational depth chart.
Things changed for Gossett when spring training rolled around in 2015. Gossett’s velocity was down from the 91-93 MPH he sat at in college to 88-91 and the fastball was straight. The A’s also spent a lot of time working on Gossett’s delivery to smooth out his unorthodox mechanics. When camp broke, Gossett reported to Low-A Beloit, where he got off to a slow start.
During the first half of the season, he had a 5.57 ERA and a 57:33 K:BB in 64.2 innings. Gossett started to turn the corner in early July and he had a much better second half. In 80 innings, Gossett posted a 4.05 ERA with a 55:19 K:BB. Although his overall numbers that season were poor (4.73 ERA and a 112:52 K:BB with 151 hits allowed in 141.2 innings), Gossett made significant advancements that season, according to then-Beloit pitching coach Steve Connelly.
One of the changes Gossett made during the season was using his two-seam fastball more often. Connelly felt that the two-seamer helped to off-set the straightness of the four-seam.
“He really struggled [the first half]. His fastball was as straight as an arrow and it got hit. His secondary pitches are great. They are always going to play. He is always going to have a chance because of those secondary pitches. That kid worked hard on a two-seamer and by the end of the year, it became a really good pitch for him but he still wasn’t using it like he should,” Connelly told me after the 2015 season.
“We had a conversation towards the end of June where I said, ‘okay, you have a good two-seamer now. You can use it. Do you feel comfortable spotting it up?’ He said, ‘yes.’ And he started using that. He kept his four-seamer because it plays well off of the two-seamer because it stays true. He can throw this sinker that is running away from a lefty and running into a righty and they see that. Then he can leverage a four-seam that’s true and he can tie hitters up a little bit more with that. Instead of his fastball always being straight and them jumping on it, now they have something that they are rolling over the top and they are getting groundballs with. That was a big key for him. That was when things started changing for him. He had a really good second half.”
Gossett told me for an article I did on him for 2080baseball.com that some of his early struggles in 2015 could be attributed to spending too much effort focusing on his mechanics and not on getting hitters out.
“I learned a lot [in 2015]. The biggest thing was understanding that the point is to get hitters out, not to throw with perfect mechanics,” Gossett said. “I let the mechanics part go and just focused on getting the hitters out, which is obviously the point of the game.”
Connelly said that the changes Gossett did make to his mechanics that season were helpful once he had committed them to muscle memory.
“He’s got a non-traditional delivery. It’s herky-jerky. That being said, he’s calmed it down a lot over his three years in professional baseball,” Connelly told me during the 2016 off-season. “If you looked at it the first time, you’d say, ‘that’s a lot of moving parts.’ But if you compare it to how he was throwing when he first came into the system, it’s completely different. He can repeat it better. He stays online better. He can get behind the ball and get it where he needs to.”
Armed with smoother mechanics and a more useful two-seam fastball, Gossett arrived at spring training in 2016 with confidence. That confidence grew when his velocity returned to his college levels. Gossett immediately impressed A’s minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, who had Gossett add one more weapon that spring: a cut-fastball.
“Wait until you see Gossett’s cutter. Oh my gosh,” Patterson told me at the end of spring training 2016. “It was actually him who came up to me to ask if he could learn it. He had heard that I like to teach the pitch. I told him, ‘you know what, if you can prove to me you can throw your other pitches for strikes, let’s go for it.’”
Both Gossett and Connelly made the jump to High-A Stockton to start the 2016 season. Gossett got off to a fast start with the Ports and never looked back. He posted a 3.33 ERA and a 53:13 K:BB in 46 innings with the Ports before earning a promotion to Double-A Midland. Gossett found even more success with the RockHounds, posting a 2.49 ERA and a 94:25 K:BB in 94 innings. The A’s rewarded Gossett with a taste of Triple-A at the end of the season, and he posted a 1.98 ERA in two regular season starts with the Nashville Sounds. He then allowed just two runs in 5.1 innings in a post-season start for Nashville.
Gossett says the cutter made it easier for him to get through starts when he might not have had his best stuff.
“Some days my best pitch may be my changeup, but what if my changeup isn’t working? Or some outings I can throw my two-seam with good depth, but some days it might come out flat,” Gossett said. “So now I have another option with the cutter when that happens.”
Connelly agreed that the cutter made the biggest difference for Gossett, but also noted that Gossett’s work ethic set him up for success.
“He’s one of the strongest guys we have even though he’s on the smaller side. He’s very strong and he’s got a tremendous work ethic,” Connelly told me last November.
After the 2016 season, Patterson made a bold prediction about Gossett’s future.
“[If] you told me, that in May or June [of next season] that Gossett was up in the big leagues and having success, I would not be surprised,” Patterson told me last November. “He’s athletic. He challenges the strike-zone. He’s got swing-and-miss pitches. He believes in himself. All of the qualities that you look for in a successful major league pitcher, he has. He was just great this year.”
During the off-season, the A’s extended Gossett an invitation to big league spring training. He impressed the A’s major-league coaching staff during his time in big league camp. After a strong spring, he was the Nashville Opening Day starter this season.
Gossett got off to a bit of a slow start with Nashville. He walked five on Opening Night but limited the damage to one run allowed in five innings. In his next start, Gossett struck-out eight but allowed three earned runs in four innings. After allowing six runs in four innings in his third outing of the season, Gossett’s ERA was at 6.92.
Gossett began to turn the corner after that. He allowed three runs in 5.2 innings on April 24 and, since then, has allowed three runs or fewer in every start but one. Gossett has also walked only 12 in 47.2 innings over that stretch while striking out 42. Gossett has brought his ERA down from 6.92 to 3.41.
Gossett admitted early in the season that he was occasionally pressing to be perfect.
“I was trying to be too fine and trying to be cute. I was trying to throw that perfect two-seamer, that perfect cutter,” Gossett told me after his second start of the year.
In late May, Nashville manager Ryan Christenson said the key to Gossett’s improvement with the Sounds was his fastball command.
“I think Gossett this last couple of outings is starting to find his groove in terms of his fastball command,” Christenson said. “That was what was missing in those first couple of outings when he struggled.
Gossett joins the A’s rotation as the first member of Oakland’s 2014 draft class to appear in the big leagues. The right-hander will feature a two-seam and four-seam fastball, a cutter, a change-up and a curveball. He will make his debut in a National League park, meaning that he will likely receive his first big league at-bats in the same game as he throws his first big league pitches. Considering the somewhat unconventional route he took through the A’s system, hitting in his big league debut seems only fitting.