Atlanta Braves RHP-Tim Gustafson is the fourth player profiled here on Kings of Kauffman that is eligible for the Rule 5 draft held on December 10th. Like the three before him, my decision to write about Gustafson is based largely on his solid performance thus far in winter ball.
RHP-Tim Gustafson (24) was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 9th round of the 2006 draft. The Braves like to build with local talent when possible and Gustafson is a perfect example. He was born in Lilburn, GA and played college ball at Georgia Tech University. While Dayton Moore was no longer with the organization at the time the pick was made, he was part of the Braves’ draft decision-making leading up to it and therefore has a solid working knowledge of the player Gustafson was coming out of college.
Tim started his professional career in 2007 pitching for the Rome Braves in the South Atlantic League. It was a rocky beginning to say the least. That season he started in 20 of his 22 appearances and had a 5.01 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 111.1 innings pitched. He allowed 135 hits and 31 walks to go with 93 strikeouts. He was placed on the disabled list on August 1st and had Tommy John Surgery just over a month later on September 7th. He got back into game action late in the 2008 season for the Braves in the Gulf Coast League. He threw 5.0 innings with a 3.60 ERA and 1.40 WHIP.
Gustafson started off the 2009 season back with the Rome Braves. He had a 7.36 ERA and 1.90 WHIP after 7.1 IP when he was promoted to High-A Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League. As a member of the Pelicans he started to round back into form throwing 13.1 innings with a 2.02 ERA and 1.650 WHIP. At the start of June he was bumped up to the Double-A Mississippi Braves and continued to progress. He finished the season in Double-A with a 3.79 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 61.2 IP. Seven of his 20 appearances came as a starter. Rolled up together he pitched 82.1 innings in 34 games and made 8 starts. He finished 2009 with a 3.83 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 83 H, 42 BB, and 61 SO. Suffice it to say, his first full season back from injury was a very successful one.
After 82.1 innings, the Braves felt good enough about the health of his arm that they allowed him to pitch in the Mexican Winter League for Mayos de Navojoa. He has made nine starts thus far. In 54.1 IP he has a 2.98 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 52 H, 20 BB, and 31 SO. In his last start, he threw six shutout innings allowing eight hits and one walk while striking out three batters. His Winter League game log shows a pitcher who is still working to harness his stuff and his control as his walks and strikeouts have fluctuated wildly.
As far as a Rule 5 pick, Gustafson would be a much bigger unknown than the the other players I have profiled so far in the last couple of days. Because of that, he probably is not the right player for the Royals to take a chance on. However, he might be worth a selection by another team banking on the fact that he will continue to improve as he will be another year removed from his surgery in 2010.