Braves excitingly anticipating Luiz Gohara as spring training nears

  • Gabriel Burns
2:00 p.m Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 Atlanta Braves
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 29: Luiz Gohara #64 of the Atlanta Braves pitches during a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on September 29, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Luiz Gohara’s late-season stats probably don’t stand out. His presence on the mound is another story.

The Braves’ towering lefty debuted Sept. 6 and showed the makings of a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, an asset the team has longed for during its four-year retool.

Gohara made five starts, putting up a 4.91 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings. But he impressed with the eye-test with dominant flashes that teased a potential ace.

He’s one of several reasons the Braves haven’t signed Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn, or someone like that; or swung a prospect-heavy package for Chris Archer. They’re banking on their young arms, with Gohara possibly the most important.

The organization speaks in unison about the 21-year-old Brazilian: They can’t wait to see him.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing Gohara for a whole season,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “That’s a special arm right there.”

“We really liked what we saw of Gohara,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Not knowing him and getting to know him. He had a good work ethic here, competed very well. As a person, he was a fun guy to talk to. You just hope a guy like that continues to develop, grow as he learns to be a big leaguer.”

Gohara swooped under the radar as a late addition to baseball’s best group of pitching prospects. The Mariners had an agreement to send Gohara to the Reds for shortstop Zack Cozart, but medical red flags with Gohara’s shoulder canceled the deal.

Instead the Mariners traded him and reliever Thomas Burrows to the Braves for outfielder Mallex Smith and reliever Shae Simmons last offseason.

Simmons is a free agent. Smith was flipped to Tampa Bay for starter Drew Smyly, who missed the entire season and signed with the Cubs this winter. He’ll miss 2018 as well following Tommy John surgery last June.

The scout who texted Fox’s Ken Rosenthal a year ago saying “Giving up Gohara, worst move EVER,” might have a point.

Gohara pitched a career-high 153 innings in 2017 across three minor league levels and Atlanta. While the questions around his shoulder and conditioning may prove valid, the season was a resounding success and made him arguably the Braves’ best pitching prospect.

“He’s been in Brazil, so it’s hard to keep tabs on him (this offseason),” Snitker said. “But you hope the kid comes into camp in good shape and ready to go. He was pretty impressive last year. That stuff’s real. It’s top-of-the-rotation real, for me. And he competes. Big guy, he’s athletic. 

“All the guys I asked over the summer in Triple-A, the players I’d had, asked about him, and they said you want this guy on your side on game day. He gets after it. His stuff, it plays. He’s impressive. It makes you feel good to have him on your side, for sure.”

Before his second major league start, Gohara already had a long-term goal planned out.

“I’m ready to just show I can make the starting rotation with the other guys,” he said. “That’s my goal for next year. To break with the team in spring training and make the rotation.”

By the looks of it, that goal is within arm’s reach. The Braves would be thrilled if he achieves it.