Kevin Gausman is an arm I am on the fence about. For most of his career he was just an arm on a bad Orioles team eating innings.
Since heading to San Francisco, it seems like everything changed. Gausman put up a 3.62 ERA in 10 starts during the shortened season. In that season, he struck out 11.9 batters per nine, walking just 2.4 And he only allowed 1.2 HR/9. He posted a 3.09 FIP showing that his lowered ERA really wasn't a fluke.
In 2021, he had his best season yet. Gausman was an All-Star for the first time. He went 14-6 with a 2.81 ERA in 33 starts. He struck out 10.6 batters per nine, and only allowed 0.9 HR/9. Gausman finished sixth in the National League Cy Young voting and will get paid in free agency.
However, there are some red flags. Gausman's first half and second half were very different. In the first half, Gausman went 9-3 with a 1.78 ERA in 18 starts. In 15 second-half starts, his ERA ballooned to 4.42.
Gausman allowed 64 hits in 114.2 innings pitched in the first half. In the second half, he allowed 86 hits in 77.1 innings pitched. He went from allowing 50 fewer hits than innings pitched to 9 more hits than innings pitched.
While that's not great, his strikeout rate actually improved in the second half from 10.4 K/9 to 10.9 K/9. One reason Gausman really improved was because of how successful his splitter was. He had a 45.9% swing and miss rate on that pitch in 2021 and is key to his success.
Overall, I believe there is definitely some risk with Kevin Gausman, but he's shown an ability to at the bare minimum eat innings and if he can improve or repeat what he did in 2021, that will almost certainly be an upgrade over Noah Syndergaard.