Brandon Gomes: The Epitome of a Scouting Conundrum

Few Padres fans have heard of minor league reliever Brandon Gomes, who pitched for the Double-A San Antonio Missions last year.

However, he’s an interesting case study as a classic “performance guy that scouts ignore.”

Let’s take a quick look at Gomes’ positive and negative attributes.

On the Plus Side: Gomes was the only reliever in Minor League Baseball to record 100 strikeouts last year, and he did it in just 72 innings, for a 12.50 K/9 rate.

He has solid control, walking just 28 batters last year, for a 100/28 ratio.

Gomes also pounds the lower part of the zone, so he’s tough to lift. He allowed only four homers all season in 2009.

Stuff-wise, Gomes has an 88-95 mph fastball, a heavy splitter in the low-80’s that serves as his out pitch, and an average sweeping slider.

With average-plus stuff and great results, what could the problem be?

On the Minus Side: Gomes is a short righty, at 5’11” 175.

His K/9 split was fairly drastic, as he posted 9.00 K/9 against lefties and 14.36 against righties; it’s possible that MLB lefties will be pretty successful against him.

And the big issue: He turns 26 in July and hasn’t seen Triple-A yet.

So, what does this add up to? Well, scouts look at Gomes and see him as a trash-time relief arm, while the numbers show him to be a closer-in-waiting.

I’d imagine the truth lies somewhere in between. It’s not like Gomes is an R.J. Swindle-style trick pitcher: he has legitimately above-average stuff. He was drafted at age 23 (2007; 17th round), so he can’t be expected to be young for his levels.

Gomes has succeeded everywhere he’s been since signing. He’s likely to post more earthly numbers as he moves up, but there’s no reason he can’t be an effective major leaguer.

I see Gomes as a solid strikeout-oriented middle reliever or setup man, and possibly a closer if everything breaks right. After all, nobody thought Mike Adams or Luke Gregerson would be dominant MLB relievers; why not Gomes?