Anthony Gose may never play in center field again.
It’s the kind of pronouncement a lot of people expected, given his subpar performance from seasons past. In his 2015 season, where he was the Detroit Tigers’ go-to guy in centerfield, Gose had a DRS of -12 and a UZR of -10.4. He was, for lack of a kinder term, terrible. So, it was unsurprising when the Tigers went for outside help, bringing in Cameron Maybin for the 2016 season as the starting center fielder.
Gose started in only 30 games in the 2016 season, filling in for an injured Maybin. After spring training in 2017, it was clear he would not play a part in the makeshift squad who would patrol center field for the Tigers.
Rather than fall back and become a minor league outfielder, though, Gose was presented an opportunity, one he hadn’t been considered for since high school: pitching. He through a spring training session for Brad Ausmus, who at the time was impressed with what he saw. During extended spring training, Gose continued to garner attention, especially for his high-90s fastball. Now, he’s been assigned to the High-A Lakeland Flying Tigers, as a left-handed pitcher.
Is this new chapter of the Anthony Gose story where we discover his true calling? Is this the moment he shapes himself into the next great reliever in Tigers’ franchise history?
No. Calm down.
He has a fastball that touches 99 miles per hour. Yes, that’s impressive. It’s great, especially for a guy who hasn’t done any serious pitching since high school. But what it is not is a sign that Gose is on his way to replacing Joe Jimenez as the Tigers’ future closer. As wonderfully cinematic as that story would be, it just isn’t likely.
Let’s just look at his first professional inning of baseball. Inning, singular. His first pitch in the ninth touched 99 mph, the big thing everyone is focused on. He also gave up a run, a hit, and a walk, with one strikeout to show for his efforts.
This is something we see all too often, especially with prospects. A pitcher’s ability to creep up towards that mythic 100 mph zone creates an illusion of quality. It is undeniable that it takes power to get to 99 mph, and skill to make a pitch that fast arrive anywhere near its intended target. But a fastball alone isn’t going to get Anthony Gose back to the big show.
To be a quality bullpen pitcher, Gose will need to be able to harness that speed and show control, and an ability to command his fastball as a weapon, over and over. He’ll need more than just one quality pitch, as well. It’s said he is working on his curveball, a pitch he did well with in high school, and is also hoping to add a slider to his repertoire. If he’s able to do this, and to throw three distinct pitches with quality and command, then perhaps he will continue to grow. If not, this is just a high-velocity sideshow.
It’s exciting to see a player excel somewhere no one thought they would play. Taking a below average center fielder and changing his narrative into that of a pitcher is the kind of thing baseball reporters go wild for, especially if he can touch numbers like Gose seems to be doing. However, it’s important to temper expectations.
Anthony Gose isn’t going to save the Tigers bullpen. He might not ever get beyond High-A ball. And until he shows something more than just an occasionally stupid-fast fastball, it’s a bit too early to buy into the hype.