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In Ashton Goudeau, Rockies Hope To Find A Late-Bloomer

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Ashton Goudeau (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Fall League featured several No. 1 draft picks and big-name prospects. Salt River Rafters righthander Ashton Goudeau (Rockies) was not one of them.

At 27 years old, Goudeau was not a typical AFL prospect. A 27th-round pick by the Royals in 2012, Goudeau bounced around Kansas City's farm system for six seasons before being traded to the Mariners in March of 2018. In that time, Goudeau posted lackluster stats as he cycled through various Rookie-level, Class A and Double-A teams in the Royals' and Mariners' farm systems.

The transaction that sent Goudeau to the Mariners was notable for its price tag. As Corey Brock noted in The Athletic, the Royals unloaded Goudeau, along with three other minor league pitchers, for the hefty sum of $1 per player.

Not exactly a high-stakes deal.

Although the 12-to-6 arc of Goudeau’s curveball could make any pitching coach drool, his ERA hovered above 8.00 by the end of the 2018 season. He wasn’t making the kind of consistent progress needed to advance toward playing in the big leagues.

When the Mariners didn’t re-sign him at the end of last year, Goudeau became a minor league free agent. The Rockies expressed interest, and he signed a contract with the organization last November.

“I was fortunate to have the Rockies pick me up,” Goudeau said. “I started having a little bit of success toward the end of last year, and (the Rockies) have given me an opportunity to build on that coming into this year.”

Perhaps the Rockies saw untapped potential in Goudeau, who went on to have a breakout season this spring with Double-A Hartford. But just as Goudeau was finding his groove, he fractured the fifth metacarpal on his pitching hand in early June while gesticulating excitedly in the dugout, causing him to hit his hand on the bench.

Notably, Goudeau struck out 12 batters over six innings, a Yard Goats record, in his last start before going on the injured list.

The unusual injury sidelined him for six weeks. Fortunately for Goudeau, the rehab process went smoothly. His hand healed up well, and he was able to return to the mound before the end of the Yard Goats’ season. That Arizona Fall League offered him an opportunity to build on the success he had in Hartford.

“Coming here is a real confidence boost, but I’m still figuring out how to use my stuff,” Goudeau said. “But it’ll be good to get more innings in. I love coming to the field and feeling like, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

His performances in relief for the Rafters were impressive. Goudeau did not allow a run in 13 innings, and his ability to confound some of the AFL's most talented hitters earned the 6-foot-6 righthander a spot on the annual Fall Stars Game roster.

Goudeau, it seems, is just hitting his stride. So, what changed for him? What underlies the late bloomer’s success after half a dozen up-and-down years in the minors?

Goudeau says his coaches and mentors deserve a lot of the credit. Ethan Katz, Goudeau’s pitching coach in the Mariners' organization, and Hartford’s pitching coach Steve Merriman have been particularly helpful for him.

“I worked with (Merriman) at the beginning of my career and it’s like our roads met again. He’s been able to help me a lot,” Goudeau said. “We were able to have a really good year looking at numbers and developing pitches.”

Streamlining his repertoire has worked in Goudeau’s favor as well. After throwing four different pitches for most of his career, he recently decided to eliminate his slider to simplify his approach.

“I actually got rid of one of my pitches. Now I’m just focusing on my fastball, changeup and curve,” Goudeau said. “I’m focusing on those three and just making them the best they can be.”

With more confidence and a slimmer repertoire, Goudeau made the most of the platform the Arizona Fall League provides. As long as his command stays consistent and his streak of dominance continues, scouts in the stands at Salt River Fields should take notice.

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