It’s time to talk about Logan Gilbert as he made his MLB debut for the Seattle Mariners. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound right-hander has impressed with ~30% strikeout rates and even more impressive sparkling ERA and WHIP marks through the minor leagues. The quick report is Gilbert throwing slightly crossbody with a mid-90s heater with solid command and an affinity for throwing strikes. It’s a trio of secondary pitches with a slider, curveball, and changeup in his utility belt, and I’m not sure which will show itself as the primary secondary pitch.
I was excited to see what the much-hyped prospect could do and I sat down to watch his performance against the Cleveland Indians. Here is Logan Gilbert‘s MLB Debut in 25 GIFs.
If earning your first out was always as easy as it was for Gilbert’s first pitch of the game:
That’s 96 mph over the middle of the plate and Cesar Hernandez skied it to center for a quick out. They often say the hardest is the first one and “just pump 96 mph down the pipe” is easier said than done.
I’m not sure we’ll see that velocity through the start, though — MLB debuts often come with elevated velocity early and fade as the game goes on.
His second batter was Amed Rosario, who stood and watched 96 mph land at the bottom of the zone, then pushed the 95 mph heater on the outer edge into right-field for a can of corn. Two away.
That’s three pitches, two outs, and three strikes at 95+. Pretty impressive and I’m loving how Gilbert seems to be in full command of his heater. Yes, it’s three pitches, but I’m used to missing wildly with at least one early fastball from MLB debuts.
With Jose Ramirez stepping into the box, I expected at least one take from Ramirez — as a hitter, you need to recognize that your team just got two outs on three pitches. It’s your job to make the pitcher work as much as possible and not allow for a possible four-pitch inning.
Gilbert fired 97 mph that missed just off the plate away — still close to the target and far from chaotic — but the second pitch was an obvious “miss”:
I normally don’t feature balls in these breakdowns, but I feel this was an important one. I made the GIF longer so you can see his full mechanics, and he did overthrow this one a touch with his top half, leading to him rushing the arm forward and pulling it down. It’s a rare thing, of course, just something to note.
After a ball, what I look for is a pitcher to adjust. His 1-0 pitch landed low as he rushed his arm, and seeing the mitt located up-and-in at 2-0, I was hoping Gilbert would recalibrate and hit his spot. He did.
Love it! Pitching up-and-in with 96 mph heat is glorious and the camera angle makes this pitch so smooth and dare I say delicious as it zoomed like a laser to the spot. If he can locate his fastball like this consistently, he will dominate, but that will take a lot of time for us to learn. In the meantime, I haven’t even seen the secondary stuff yet and I wonder if he’ll throw it now at 2-1 or go back to the same spot.
Nope, it was another heater, this time right down the middle that Ramirez couldn’t handle and fouled off. You’d think this would the time to whip out whatever off-speed he likes, on the other, Ramirez just displayed an inability to hit his fastball …
There it is, one inning in the books as Gilbert needed just eight pitches (six strikes) and only his fastball to earn three outs. I couldn’t help but feel a little sad about how boring of an inning it was, but any good pitcher will tell you: “Boring is good.”
I wonder when we’ll see his secondary stuff — he can get away with just his fastball against Cleveland and sadly for him, there are other teams in the majors.
Kicking off the top of the second was Eddie Rosario, who took a 95 mph heater up-and-away for ball one. Come on Gilbert, your fastball is clearly good enough to survive in the zone, just pump in 96 mph and get ahead!
Which is exactly what he did at 1-0, as Rosario fouled it off for strike one. Gilbert clearly has a hard to hit heater, possibly a product of his lanky delivery and likely above-average extension. Throwing over 95 mph helps, too.
I saw the first true wild pitch from Gilbert at 1-1 as the ball sailed well above the strike zone. I didn’t pick up anything dramatic on his delivery and after seeing his adjustment against Ramirez, I imagine he can climb back into the count from 2-1. The result was … not quite that:
That’s ball three most of the time, but Rosario hasn’t met a high fastball he doesn’t like, allowing Gilbert to end the at-bat unscathed. When we talk about offenses being weaker than others, it’s not always about their walk rates or how often they whiff. It’s also about the little things like ending at-bats too soon or giving pitchers outs they shouldn’t earn.
Franmil Reyes stepped in, presenting a situation where I felt a secondary pitch was coming. This is Cleveland’s mightiest slugger and generally speaking, sluggers see slower pitches.
And right on cue, Gilbert threw his first non-fastball of the evening:
Ah! Gilbert is telling us that his curveball is A) his favorite breaker against right-handers and B) He’s comfortable throwing it for a strike. I wouldn’t say this is the meanest curveball you’ll see, but being able to flick this into the zone 22 mph slower than your fastball is a beautiful change of pace that will earn plenty of called strikes. Maybe we’ll see if it can become a proper chase pitch, too. I’m guessing his slider is more for that, but we’ll see.
Just as I finished typing about that slider, I saw it thrown by Gilbert. It wasn’t at all what I expected:
Yikes. that’s hung like a suspect’s mugshot, and after seeing the first pitch breaker, Reyes adjusted to expecting off-speed. It’s easy to criticize the break as it floated into the middle of the zone, and I won’t rule out that Gilbert will use it in two-strike counts, but yeah, this ain’t great.
You have to think Gilbert will return to the fastball after that experiment and that’s exactly what Josh Naylor saw for strike one. Love the location of this one:
Perfectly spotted, down-and-away at 96 mph and a near auto-take for any lefty in the box. I felt as if I could hear Gilbert’s inner monologue at the moment: Why did I ever stop throwing you?
He tried to jam the pitch up-and-in for strike two, but it peeled middle-away as Naylor fouled it off. Once again, a batter shows he can’t hit a very hittable heater and you can expect Gilbert to throw another one; hopefully it will a better location this time.
They elected to go with high heat, and while it’s better than the previous offering, it wasn’t quite as high as you want for an 0-2 offering:
And look at that, his fastball isn’t immortal after all. At 0-0? That’s an excellent pitch. At 0-2? It gave Naylor an opportunity in a count where he was already looking to speed up his bat as he was trying to prepare for heat. If that’s located out of the zone, it likely gets a whiff, but hey, mistakes happen.
Two hits already in this second frame as Gilbert tried to center himself. He started right-hander Harold Ramirez like he did with Reyes: a 74 mph curveball that barely nipped the zone:
Hey, that nipped the lines, that’s a strike. With Reyes’ 0-1 slider residing in his mind, Gilbert avoided the pitch here, going back to the curveball and missing with it badly. I mean, badly:
I should note, this is Gilbert’s first batter throwing from the stretch. We often see a few pitches of adjustment as pitchers get into a rhythm with their adapted motion toward home and we’re certainly seeing some rust with these first two pitches.
At 2-0, Gilbert was granted a gift, tossing a 94 mph fastball well out of the zone (in the opposite batter’s box!) that was poked foul down the line. It was a terrible swing by Ramirez and I’m a bit surprised he offered at it (Cleveland!) and now Gilbert can attack with two strikes:
Attacking to Gilbert would be that slider and it acted exactly like the one to Reyes — flat and sitting in the heart of the plate. He was fortunate here to earn the loud out and I have to believe that sweeper can be located better than this. It has to, right?
I was also hoping for the pitch to be a bit harder and with tighter break. Seeing a mid-90s heater often turns a slider into a mid-to-high 80s breaker, but we’re seeing a floating slider thus far, and paired with a loopy mid-70s curveball, I’m not as excited as I want to be about Gilbert’s secondary stuff so far.
With two away, Jake Bauers had his chance to deal with Gilbert. After two heaters established an 0-2 count, Gilbert missed poorly up-and-away, setting up a 1-2 count: a slider bounced well in front of home, allowing Naylor to advance to second.
The break was more aggressive than I saw with his first two, and the fact he tried to execute a back-foot slider to a left-hander is encouraging — sliders located down-and-in to left-handers can be devastating and this may be a weapon Gilbert is used to featuring in the minors. Hopefully it’s hinting at plenty of well-commanded ones in his future.
Now at 2-2 and failing to come through with his slider, Gilbert turned back to the heater to the surprise of few:
It was a bit hittable on the outside part of the plate, and Bauers did a good job anticipating heat and going with the pitch. Not establishing your secondary pitches can turn these fastballs from outs into hits.
Gilbert missed at 94 mph away to Austin Hedges and turned to the fastball a second time, aiming for the outside corner but instead jamming Hedges inside for a foul ball. He doesn’t have the same command so far from the stretch.
At 1-1, Gilbert tossed his best slider of the game for the final out of the inning:
Much better. This one landed away for what would have been a well-earned called strike, sweeping across the zone with better horizontal movement. It was enough to avoid Hedge’s barrel and sealed the inning at it found the end of the bat.
After two frames, I have mixed feelings about Gilbert. It’s a strong fastball that will keep the walks down and set a solid foundation, though I want to see a bit more out of his secondary stuff. The curveball looks like a called strikes machine without major whiffability, while the slider doesn’t have the ferocious bite we take for granted. It’s a terribly small sample size, though, and maybe that slider will show its lovely self more in the coming frames. And don’t forget, he apparently houses a changeup as well.
Here I am, telling you that his curveball may not have whiffability and after a first-pitch fastball for a strike, Gilbert proved me wrong:
It has been the clear #2 for Gilbert so far, and maybe it can be that major O-Swing pitch as well. The velocity gap is massive and there is a sizeable amount of drop.
Now at 0-2, I was wondering if he would pair it with a high heater, but instead it was the slider, failing to go back-foot but still getting the whiff as he placed it below the plate.
It still doesn’t quite look like an electric slider and it came with less horizontal bend than the three we saw land in the zone. Great to see the result, though, and hopefully it can stick.
Gilbert started off Amed Rosario with another curveball, landing just below the zone but getting the generous strike call. I’m all for Gilbert’s approach to start with curveballs and I don’t see a reason why this wouldn’t work constantly.
He paired it with a high heater up-and-out of the zone for a foul ball (BSB!), leading to an 0-2 slider bounced in the dirt. I still want to see that pitch located right off the outside corner to see if he pull it off.
He tried again with that slider at 1-2, but left it up and Rosario tapped it foul, and then teased me one more time, tossing the slider and missing it on the inside corner which, shockingly, Rosario tapped foul.
This is torture. I just want to see that slider executed once according to plan. JUST ONCE.
Instead of throwing his fourth slider in a row, Rosario earned himself a fastball and he poked it to right-center field.
Once again, it wasn’t a bad pitch from Gilbert and it’s a product of failing to come through with his secondary pitches. Keep that in mind when you see BAA or wOBA on pitch types: sometimes they are a result of the rest of their repertoires and not just the pitch themselves.
Gilbert went back to the deuce against José Ramirez, missing down for ball one. He spotted a fastball away for strike one as Rosario stole second on the pitch. Now with a man in scoring position, Gilbert missed high-and-away for ball two, and casted a curveball above the shoulders for ball three, effectively telegraphing this 3-1 fastball to Cleveland’s most dangerous hitter:
Oh no. Gilbert hasn’t been able to find his rhythm from the stretch, but this is another situation where he didn’t have a strong secondary option to turn to, allowing the hitter to look fastball and take advantage of it. It doesn’t seem as though this is standard for Gilbert, though, and it may just be the nerves of an MLB debut at play.
Eddie Rosario stepped and promptly took a first pitch fastball for a strike before popping out on a curveball he had no right to swing at:
It is a gift. This is a badly thrown curveball that could have even returned a HBP and instead, Gilbert got a much-needed out. That’s baseball, Suzyn. Or maybe just facing Cleveland.
The terrifying Franmil Reyes came up to the plate with two gone and fouled straight back a 94 mph fastball up-and-in — the first heater he’s seen from Gilbert. Logan followed with a curveball down for another weak foul ball, then finally showed what I’ve been waiting for:
Okay, okay! This has some solid depth and sweep to it and nearly earned the whiff. There’s room for a touch better location, too, and this one nearly got the whiff he’s looking for.
After just missing the strikeout, Gilbert went back to it again, this time putting it in a slightly better spot, but Reyes managed to get a piece to stay alive:
I love these pitches, but I am a little annoyed this one didn’t get the results we want. Maybe it’s not the major strikeout offering we want it to be?
Gilbert was stubborn, tossing the slide piece a third time in a row, inducing yet another foul ball, keeping the count at 1-2. Keep in mind, Reyes hit his HR off one of Gilbert’s slider and Logan simply just doesn’t care. Gotta love that grit at the very least.
Gilbert went back to the heater and Reyes served still as the nuisance, fouling it off. Remember, Rosario saw three sliders followed by a heater and was able to do more with his. It’s possible the improved sliders had a larger effect, or maybe, you know, baseball isn’t an exact science (as much I want it to be).
Now with the heat established, Gilbert took one more stab at perfecting that slider:
AH! There it is! Well spotted, solid movement, and inducing a breeze from Reyes’ bat, ending the third frame. Phew, I was getting worried we wouldn’t see a slider whiff against a right-hander.
After three frames, Gilbert has been burned by a pair of home runs, showing off a solid but a bit inconsistent repertoire. Maybe he’s found his slider and can cruise through the fourth or maybe I can finally see that dang changeup.
Gilbert came out firing in the fourth, overpowering Josh Naylor with 96 mph for his first strike of the inning:
Right, right, he has a great fastball. It’s all about those secondaries coming together to make him great.
Speaking of which, he went to the curveball after, and while it failed to fall back into the zone, Naylor chased it and popped it foul, setting up an 0-2 slider that Naylor looped to right-field for an out.
It wasn’t the back-foot pitch I wanted, landing down-and-away, and it doesn’t seem like Gilbert has his approach as polished at the moment as we’d like. I have to say it again: small sample & MLB debut. These things can change.
After getting ahead 1-2 to Harold Ramirez with a pair of fastballs and a curveball (I’m digging these two working off each other!) Gilbert allowed his first runner of the inning:
This is what we’re looking for against right-handers — the ability to get whiffs on sliders down-and-away — and while he reached first, this should have been the clear first out of the inning. It wasn’t his best swing-and-miss slider, but great to see the result.
Logan’s first two pitches to Jake Bauers came at 94 and 93 mph, each earning strikes as Gilbert continued to confidently pound the zone with heaters. His fastball command isn’t elite, but it’s at the place where he’s rarely making wild mistakes with the pitch and that’s a positive in my book, especially with a fastball that is clearly hard to handle.
It doesn’t surprise me to see the pitch come in a little softer than what we saw in the first, though. 93/94 may be what we end up seeing over the long haul when he doesn’t have that MLB debut first inning adrenaline working.
His next pitch came in at 92 mph and it made me also wonder if he simply expended his energy too quickly — it’s possible he is 94/95 instead and just didn’t manage his stamina well in this game.
Gilbert tried to feature that back-foot slider at 1-2 and missed terribly into the opposite batter’s box, reinforcing the idea that Gilbert is getting a bit tired — a poor arm-side miss on a breaker often indicates a lagging arm.
But then Gilbert surprised me:
This is the best pitch of his evening. The perfect slider as it started well inside the zone before dying into the “no fly zone” for left-handers as Bauers was dead to rights. It made thrilled to see Gilbert make that adjustment from the horrendous pitch prior and have the confidence to do it right at 2-2.
With two away, Gilbert faced Austin Hedges and fired a trio of 93 mph fastballs, returning a 2-1 count as he missed a pair high. It does seem like he’s missing a little extra as he’s past 65 pitches.
Another heater followed at 92 mph, popped foul by Hedges, who likely wanted it back. Now at 2-2, a breaker was calling, but Gilbert leaned into his heater, adding a touch more to get it to 94 mph. He overthrew it slightly, missing the outer edge and sending him to a full count.
After another fastball was swatted foul, Gilbert elected not to give into Hedges, throwing this slider to end his MLB debut:
This should have been ball four as it bounced well in front of the plate, but it’s Cleveland’s #9 hitter, what did you expect?
You could feel Gilbert’s labor through the fourth inning and I breathed a sigh of relief to see the inning come to a close. I still feel a touch of anxiety thinking how that inning could have gone had Hedges resisted.
I don’t think we saw the real Logan Gilbert in this debut. There were moments of bliss with heaters at 95/96 mph early in the game, curveballs landing perfectly at the bottom of the zone, and a few sliders finding their way under bats. There were plenty of struggles as well with the fourth inning bringing heaters down to the 92-94 mph range, a constant battle getting his slider where he wanted, and a good number of curveballs slipping out of his hand. When it all comes together for Gilbert, that heater sets a great foundation for his two breakers and it’s just a matter of getting into form with the entire repertoire to return outings that match the hype.
Meanwhile, I’m still waiting to see what his changeup looks like and I wonder how long it will take for Gilbert not only to be properly stretched out pitch-count wise, but also how soon he can develop the stamina to make few mistakes deep into games while keeping his velocity up. His next stop looks to be Detroit and I’m curious to see how he’ll progress against another comfortable lineup.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)