Padres Pitching Prospect Robert Gasser Doesn’t Believe In Being Bland

© Jeffrey Nycz, Visit Fort Wayne, Palm Springs Desert Sun via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Robert Gasser is emerging as one of the most promising pitching prospects in the San Diego system. Over his last six starts with the High-A Fort Wayne TinCaps, the 23-year-old southpaw has fanned 47 batters while allowing just six earned runs in 36-and-two-third innings. On the season, Gasser has a 3.76 ERA to go with a 3.09 FIP; the latter is the third-best mark in the Midwest League.

He isn’t the same pitcher the Padres drafted 71st overall last summer out of the University of Houston. Gasser still throws from a low three-quarters slot, but his arsenal has changed, and to a certain extant, so has his attack plan. Armed with a more diverse mix that includes tweaked grips, the 6-foot-1 El Dorado, California native doesn’t believe in being bland.

Gasser — No. 13 on our San Diego Padres Top Prospect list — discussed his evolving arsenal in late June.


David Laurila: What is your M.O. on the mound? In other words, how do you get guys out?

Robert Gasser: “Honestly, just keeping them off balance. I think that’s the most important thing for me. Throwing all of my pitches in the strike zone consistently gives me an opportunity to miss barrels while I’m changing speeds and location.”

Laurila: Which of your pitches grade out the best?

Gasser: “My cutter and my slider both have really good spin. The cutter has more induced vertical and a little bit of horizontal, while my sweeping slider has around 17 inches of horizontal break. That’s really good, especially if I can get it on the outside part of the plate and bring it across to get underneath bats.

“My changeup works really well against righties. It’s got good separation from my fastball, and I’m able to tunnel those pretty well on the outside part of the plate. I’m throwing the cutter backdoor off of those. I feel like those pitches emulate each other pretty effectively.”

Laurila: Can you elaborate on the movement profiles of your cutter and slider?

Gasser: “The sweeping slider is around zero to six vertical break. It’s definitely not negative, but it does get a little bit of depth. The cutter is a pitch where I’m usually trying to get to the inner part of the plate against righties and just miss a barrel, get it on the skinny part of the bat. I’ll also throw it trying to get a back-foot swing-and-miss, because I’m throwing a lot of fastballs inside. It’s late, hard, and sharp, so I can get those swings and misses.”

Laurila: It almost sounds like you’re describing a short slider, and not a cutter…

Gasser: “Yeah. That’s kind of what it is, but since I throw the sweeping slider, I like to call it a cutter. With the movement profile, it probably could be considered a slider.”

Laurila: Which of the two pitches have you been throwing longer?

Gasser: “Man, they’re honestly both fairly new. My arsenal has changed a lot since college. Some of it is finding what grip is comfortable. I would say the cutter is an older grip, although in terms of ‘finding’ the pitch — how I want it to move and how I want to use it — that’s come more recently. The slider is a new grip that I got during the spring. From the moment I picked it up… I’ve always had the ability to spin the ball pretty well, but holding that grip and just pulling on it, it moves so much. I’m able to create so much horizontal.”

Laurila: You were drafted last year in the second round. Is it maybe a little surprising that your arsenal has changed as much as it has?

Gasser: “No, honestly. As a pitcher, you have to evolve. You can’t just stay the same. To grow, you have to change. If I stay the same person, with that same repertoire, it’s almost like I’ve become bland. I need to keep everything sharp and always be refining my tools. If I can add a weapon, that’s great. The more the merrier.”

Laurila: And again, the changes were this spring, not at instructs or over the winter?

Gasser: “Yes, just this spring. We have a new minor league pitching coordinator, Rob Marcello, and he came in with a lot of new ideas. Pitch grips is one of them. He feels that many of them will work. Some stick for some guys, some stick with others. It’s all just trial and error with grips, so it’s all about what’s comfortable.”

Laurila: Arm slots can factor in, as well…

Gasser: “Knowing that my arm angle is pretty low three-quarters, I had a pretty good idea that I was in need of a sweeping horizontal pitch. That’s what I would naturally get throwing a breaking ball. Throwing a gyro is pretty hard, and I think that’s where my cutter comes in. I guess I’m getting somewhat close to a gyro pitch, but really, pitch grips are kind of, ‘What the ball does, it does.’”

Laurila: Is there anything unique about your changeup?

Gasser: “It’s pretty hard, to be honest. Some people say it’s almost like a hybrid sinker, a power sinker. Earlier this year I was trying to work on taking some velocity off, kind of tinkering with the grip and trying to feel out what’s going to work best. But it’s a decent pitch for me. I think it averages around 18 inches of horizontal break. I have a lot of pitches that are moving sideways. Basically, I’m trying to start them in the middle and have them all move off each other, some one way, others the other way.”

Laurila: Jumping over to your fastball, do you throw a four- or a two-seamer?

Gasser: “I throw both. The four-seam is more prominent than the two-seam. With the uptick in throwing fastballs high in the zone, I’ve started to rely on the four a lot. In college, it was predominantly two-seams — two-seams and sliders. Now that I’ve come into pro ball, I’ve learned that the whole arsenal is valuable. Four-seams up, two-seams down and away, cutters down and in, sweepers off of that, changeups down and away. It’s about using the whole arsenal.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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1 year ago

His name makes me think of a pretty vivid scene from Trainspotting. It’d be nice if he got some kind of a nickname from that movie.