Braves lefthander Luiz Gohara was advertised as a potential surprise All-Star before last season. First baseman Freddie Freeman spoke glowingly of the hard-throwing 22-year-old, and conventional wisdom plugged Gohara into the fifth slot of the rotation.
In Oct. 2017, Baseball America rated Gohara the Braves’ No. 2 prospect. He’d leaped from high Class A to the majors in less than half a season, making five impressive September starts. But in a 2018 season full of pleasant surprises, he became one of the few disappointments.
Gohara battled recurring injuries, couldn’t earn a consistent role and endured a bevy of unfortunate circumstances. His father died last offseason, and Gohara was placed on the bereavement list while visiting his mother in Brazil following her heart surgery last May.
There are concerns about Gohara’s conditioning, though he dropped 35 pounds earlier in the offseason and the Braves say he’s lost more since. He’s drawn comparisons to CC Sabathia for his build and projected strikeout acumen, and Gohara says he tries to emulate Sabathia’s delivery.
Today, Gohara has quite the hill to climb to reach anywhere near Sabathia’s level. He appeared in just nine major league games last season, allowing 13 runs and striking out 18 in 19.2 innings. The Braves tried him in the bullpen, hoping they’d unlock another weapon for their stretch run, but he wilted with the opportunity.
He’ll now compete with several other young starters, and if he’s healthy and dedicated, it’s not far-fetched to see him contributing to the 2019 Braves. He’s lost luster, but the Braves are still happy to see his work ethic this winter.
Gohara stayed in Florida following the minor league season. His commitment to working out in Orlando at the Braves’ facilities was an encouraging development, as were his lifestyle changes, weight loss and clean bill of health.
“I’m excited that we’re potentially going to see the guy we saw in September 2017,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos said at the GM meetings. “In shape, ready to go, having a normal offseason. … We’re encouraged.”
Didder, 24, stole 27 bases in 32 attempts last season across two levels. If he makes it to the show, it will be because his premier tools are impossible to teach.
“That’s my tool. I need to use it,” Didder said. “If we’re down by one or it’s a tie ballgame, I want to be the guy at first who steals second to tie the game or go ahead.”
His offense is likely never going to be a strength, but he did hit seven triples in 2018 and has 21 over the past three seasons. His speed and athleticism are among the best in the system despite his fringe-prospect status. He could be a guy who eventually earns a look as a bench piece.