The 2021 MLB Draft begins on July 11, 2021, and unlike in 2020, this will be a twenty round draft — shorter than the forty rounds the draft has been in the most recent years prior to 2020, but longer than last year’s five round version. The Rangers’ top three picks are at #2, #38, and #73.
In the coming days, we will be doing write-ups of potential Texas Ranger draft picks, looking both at players who are in the mix at #2 and players who would be candidates to be picked in the second or third rounds. Today we are looking at University of Houston pitcher Robert Gasser.
Robert Gasser is a 6’1”, 190 lb. lefthanded pitcher who is a senior at the University of Houston. Gasser is an interesting case — he played his freshman year at the University of New Mexico, put up a 7.05 ERA in 52 innings, then transferred to Delta Junior College for the 2019 season and pitched well. Gasser then moved to UofH for his junior year, but only had 7 innings in 4 games (allowing 9 runs) before COVID-19 shut the season down.
So heading into 2021, Gasser wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. He had been undrafted out of high school in 2017, was undrafted out of junior college in 2019, wasn’t drafted in 2020’s five round draft, and never made any of Baseball America’s top 500 draft prospect lists.
In 2021, however, Gasser took a huge step forward. He established himself as Houston’s top starter, putting up a 2.63 ERA in 85.2 IP over 14 starts, with 105 Ks against 25 walks (albeit with 14 HBPs). His velocity increased to where he was sitting low-90s and touching mid-90s, and his secondaries also were, better per the scouting reports.
Gasser’s best secondary is his slider, which is Baseball America describes as above-average and which MLB Pipeline says could be plus. Gasser’s changeup trails his fastball and slider, though that is a pitch that needs improvement. Gasser also has a curveball that he apparently mixes in.
Gasser has shot up the boards over the course of the 2021 season from a starting point where he had the dreaded “NR” designation. Baseball America has Gasser at #64 on their current top 500 draft list. MLB Pipeline has Gasser at #87 on their board. Over at ESPN Kiley McDaniel has Gasser at #51 on his current board, though his former home, Fangraphs, doesn’t have Gasser ranked. Keith Law has Gasser ranked #45 on his board.
Kiley McDaniel’s most recent mock draft does not have Gasser going in the first round, but he does mention him as someone who could go higher than expected as an underslot pick. None of the other mocks I’ve seen out there have Gasser projected in the first round.
Gasser is an interesting prospect, a pop up guy who, per Baseball America, spent the COVID shutdown times improving his body in the weight room and doing long tossing, making himself significant stronger than he was pre-COVID. He doesn’t have much of a track record pre-2021, but there’s reason to believe that the improvement he has shown is real and sustainable.
Gasser isn’t a high ceiling guy, but he does have a starting pitcher projection despite the improvement needed on his changeup. He brings to mind UCLA pitcher Ryan Garcia, a guy who was talked about in 2019 at draft time as someone who would likely go higher than folks expected, and who ended up being taken by the Rangers in the second round. Like Garcia, Gasser isn’t real big and isn’t overpowering, but has a starter projection with, as BA puts it, “a high likelihood of success thanks to his work ethic and steady improvement.”
Gasser is a senior, and while he has an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic resulting in the premature cancellation of the 2020 season, he still is on the older side for a high round college pick (he is 22), and likely isn’t going to be in position to leverage returning to school to try to extract a higher bonus. That is why Kiley mentions him as someone who could go off the board earlier than expected, and it may well be that he’s already been taken by someone on a below-slot deal before the Rangers pick at #38.
If he is there at #38, he’s someone you could see the Rangers selecting — they took another high-makeup University of Houston pitcher, Jacob Lemoine, in the fourth round in 2015, though Gasser’s situation is obviously different due to his greater success in his draft season as well as the fact Lemoine was dealing with injury issues. The Rangers will most likely go below slot at #2, and so they could opt to go above-slot at #38 with someone who drops, but if they choose to go underslot to moneywhip guys later in the draft, Gasser is a pick who would make a lot of sense.