Name: Clint Goocher
Position: Left handed Pitcher
History: When a left handed pitcher out of a Junior College falls to the 31st round, frankly the expectations are low, which makes exceeding them easy, but offers a long road to actually breaking into the big leagues. Clint Goocher doesn't look like a pitcher who is going to intimidate, he doesn't have a fastball that is going to strike fear in hitters hearts. He doesn't have Barry Zito's monster curveball or Tom Glavine's devastating change up. Goocher's first year in pro ball was a nice one, going 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA in Yakima, but most wrote it off to Goocher playing against players far younger than him. When he moved up to Hi-A Lancaster, in the hitter friendly California League, the next year and when 9-2 with an ERA under 4.00 the Diamondbacks suddenly took notice.
Lefties are notoriously hard to find. While 95+ fastballs are nice, natural movement and pin point accuracy are far more common, and far harder to recognize. Even as Goocher moved up to Double-A and struggled, it was control and movement that the Diamondbacks preferred to focus on, and Goocher has placed himself near the top of a crowded field of contenders to fill out the D'Backs rotation and bullpen in the next three years.
Pitches: One of the reasons his success at Yakima was written off is that he came to the Diamondbacks already throwing four pitches for consistent strikes. While it may be the only situation in history where being prepared was actually a detriment, the Diamondbacks didn't really even start working with Goocher until he first ran into trouble in Double-A.
"This is a kid who has been throwing the same way for probably 10 years," a scout who has watched Goocher pitch for much longer than just his time in the D'Backs organization, "and suddenly he got to Double-A and started struggling, but he was still open to making changes, and working on things even when it would get him into trouble in games."
Specifically what Goocher has been working on is throwing his slider to right handed hitters. It's an approach that could make or break Goocher's chances. Because his fastball is average (sitting in the upper 80s) and his change up lacks movement, throwing the slider backdoor to righties can be the equalizer Goocher needs. The problem is when you miss with the backdoor slider, it breaks into a right handed hitter's wheel house, resulting in a lot of hard hit balls. Goocher gave up 20 homers in 140.2 innings last season at Double-A Tennessee, that number will have to drop dramatically.
Prediction: Perhaps the biggest thing standing in Goocher's way is his similarity to pitchers ahead of him in the system. Goocher, Michael Gosling, and Brad Halsey all have very similar repertoires, meaning to have a legitimate shot at the bigs, Goocher will not only have to improve, but become clearly better than the two pitchers ahead of him. Still, coaches have always praised him for his approach, and his willingness to fail in the pursuit of getting better.
"One of the biggest things you see with young pitchers is that when they are trying something new in games, and it isn't working, they tend to revert back to what they were doing," our scout said, "Goocher never did that. Last year he'd try to throw that slider and it would get hard, but he'd go right back to it on the next righty. That's a good sign, it means he understands what he needs to do."
ETA: Goocher will start '06 back at Double-A, and his success will be based as much on Gosling, Halsey, and Bill Murphy as it will be on himself. If any of the three falter Goocher's stock will rise, and rise exponentially if he comes into camp with more control of that slider. Reports have him changing the grip on his changeup in an attempt to get more movement as well. He may have already reached his peak, and if that's the case Goocher may end up being an organizational pitcher, but if he comes back with those two pitches firing on all cylinders he could be ready for big league action as early as the 2007 season.
Want to write for FutureBacks.com? FutureBacks is now opening internships for the upcoming 2006 season. If you live in or near one of the six minor league affiliates, have a knowledge of, and love for, baseball, and a writing background, send resumes and two sample pieces of writing (at least one of which must be a journalistic piece about baseball) to email@example.com, subject line 'INTERNSHIP APPLICATION'. Applicants must be able to attend a minimum of three games per homestand and students looking for course credit must get approval from their instructors. Schools or professors looking for class projects may also contact FutureBacks. Please do not include pictures, ages, or any biographical information beyond the standard resume.