- Rating: 3.61
- Age: 29 by Opening Day
- 2022 Stats: 0-3, 5.24 ERA, 1.252 WHIP, 34.1 IP, 77 ERA+
- 2022 Earnings: $700,000 (via Spotrac)
- 2023 Status: Pre-Arbitration Eligible
Randy Johnson. Edwin Jackson. Tyler Gilbert. One of these things is not like the other. And yet, all three have made indelible marks on the Diamondbacks franchise. Of course, I’m talking about the fact that all three players were drafted after the third round. Wait, that can’t be right. *Checks notes*. That’s right, they all happen to have no-hitters for the D-Backs. That’s much more noteworthy. In some ways, I feel a certain level of sympathy for Gilbert; until and unless he hits another level of performance (or has the longevity of Jackson), every article about him will be headlined by that fateful day on August 14th. Indeed, as our own Keegan Thompson noted in Gilbert’s 2021 Review, it’ll be nigh on impossible to overcome that incredible performance.
Originally drafted by the Phillies in 2015 in the sixth round (ironically, the same round as the indomitable Randy Johnson) out of the University of Southern California, Gilbert bounced between the rotation and the bullpen as he advanced through the Philadelphia minor league system. But after an abbreviated stint in the Dodgers’ system following a swap with Philadelphia, the D-Backs claimed Gilbert and quickly stretched him back into a starter with the Reno Aces. He posted solid (if unspectacular) numbers there in 10 starts with a 3.44 ERA and 1.242 WHIP in the oft-mentioned hitter friendly confines of the Triple-A West. Even better, once he was stretched out to a starter’s workload he was able to eat up valuable innings in those starts as he averaged over 5 IP per start.
It also shouldn’t be terribly surprising that Gilbert was given an opportunity given the lack of pitching depth for the 2021 version of the D-Backs. And, even excluding that one shining moment of no-hitter on August 14th, Gilbert mostly delivered on some of the promise he had shown throughout his minor league career. He was able to keep batters guessing and induce weak ground ball contact that allowed him to pitch deeper into games despite being on a very strict pitch limit for each appearance. Unfortunately, like so many modern pitchers, Gilbert suffered from the dreaded elbow fatigue that sidelined him for a couple weeks towards the end of the 2021 season. Even still, he had clearly demonstrated that he could compete on the major league level and could work through some of the struggles that come with the increased quality of play at that level.
As a result of that positive momentum, you would be forgiven for having some genuine optimism for Gilbert to cement himself as another young starter on a team looking to start moving around the proverbial competitive corner. Alas, that momentum and optimism were severely blunted by Gilbert’s 2022 campaign even as other young pitchers took significant steps forward. In seven starts, Gilbert only managed to pitch five innings or more in four of them while seeing almost all of his peripherals take nosedives including HR% (5.5% from 2.6%), SO% (13.7% from 15.9%), and BAA (.250 from .200) respectively. Essentially, Gilbert went from being a ground ball pitcher that relied on his defense to a flyball pitcher, which understandably increased the number of homers he gave up to hitters. In all fairness, that lack of positive momentum could be fairly placed on any number of hypotheses: being yo-yo’d between Reno and Phoenix five times throughout the season, injury as he spent the latter half of the season on IL, or just plain old regression to the mean.
Thus, we and the D-Backs are left with a number of question marks around the still relatively young southpaw. Namely, which version of Tyler Gilbert is the real one – 2021 where he kept batted balls on the ground or 2022 in which batters simply tee’d off on a relatively weak fastball and underwhelming offspeed pitches? What exactly is the role that Gilbert can carve out for himself – is he a rotation piece or a longman out of the pen? And finally, can Gilbert pick up the pieces from a forgettable 2022 season to make a substantive contribution to a D-Backs team with real potential in 2023? For whatever it’s worth, I’m going to continue to hold out hope for him to regain the form he demonstrated in 2021 and throughout his minor league career, even if it’s a reduced role out of the bullpen. And clearly, Mike Hazen and the front office see some kind of potential in the lefty as they kept him on the roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft. As it stands, we just have to sit back and hope his rest and rehabilitation clear up whatever issues he’s suffering on his elbow.
P.S. Can you spot the musical references I left? Hint: it’s the same number of baserunners he allowed in that magical no-hitter against the Padres!