Gohara comes to the AFL as one of the youngest hurlers in the league, and after a second season of development between Short-Season A and Class A ball in the Northwest and Midwest Leagues, where he posted a combined 1.81 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 13 starts, while striking out 81 and walking 23 over 69.2 innings of work
Originally signed by the M’s as an international free agent in August, 2012, Gohara ‘s erratic control issues have stayed with him in the AFL thus far, though the raw stuff is impressive. In his 8.2 innings of work over five appearances, he is pounding the zone with mixed results – racking up 15 strikeouts against two walks, while also allowing 11 hits on 102 total pitches, 70 of which were strikes.
Gohara is a big man, with a large frame reminiscent of C.C. Sabathia (LHP, Yankees) that includes broad shoulders and a thick chest and lower half, though he is carrying extra weight around the belt and playing above his listed weight by 20-25 pounds at present. Working from the first-base side of the rubber, his mechanics had some inconsistency to them, showing a more balanced finish with his slider, but a tendency to finish to the third base side when reaching back for velo on the fastball. He has a full arm circle and small leg lift from the stretch, and he comfortably separates his hands and gets a big drive off the rubber into a 3/4’s arm slot, landing stiffly on his plant foot with moderate arm effort. The stiff front side gives him solid downhill plane, and that, along with the angle he creates on the rubber, help play the stuff up, though his thick frame and long arm action seem to throw off his timing on occasion, which in turn throws off his command.
To-date, Gohara has been used exclusively as a starter, but in AFL action he’s only been used in relief over his first six appearances. In the shorter stints, he was able to dial up his fastball mostly in the higher band of the 94-to-98 mph range, and hit 99 mph in my first look on 10/11, with enough downhill plane to change eye levels while flashing some arm-side run in the higher velo range, though with below-average command. He challenged hitters aggressively with the offering up in the zone with some swing-and-miss success when commanded to the edges of the plate, but his misses leaked into the middle of the plate, leading to hard contact.
His slider, sitting 83-to-86 mph, looked to be a future above-average offering that was thrown with average command in these views, showing 3/4’s depth and hard bite that looked best when buried as a chase/putaway pitch, and with some added sweep at the higher velo range to get swing-and-miss. He was able to subtract from it to throw it for strikes when he needed to, though I did make a note that he got away with some called strikes in the meatier part of the zone that more advanced hitters might have jumped on. In two views of Gohara I did not see his changeup, which was probably more due to his aggressive approach in these short relief stints than anything else.
Gohara is a high-risk prospect in the truest sense of the word, and it’s easy to forget that he has yet to throw a pitch at the High A level. He is a work in progress right now, and if anything, his AFL innings give him a better sense of what adjustments he’ll need to make to keep moving through the M’s system. He’ll need to pay extra attention to his weight and overall fitness, and smooth out his mechanics to show that he can get the command up to at least an average grade, while developing his changeup as a third offering. At 20 years old, the Mariners will show plenty of patience with Gohara’s development as a starter. He shows in small spurts that he can be dominant when the control and command are on, and he’ll have a durable starter’s build if he can maintain a healthier weight and add some leaner muscle. With a plus to double-plus fastball and future 55-grade slider that can both generate swing-and-miss, and plenty of time to develop his changeup and refine his mechanics, there’s a floor of a number-four or number-five starter in his future.