Gerber saved eight games as a sophomore at Illinois then 14 more as a junior at Illinois, tied for second for the single-season record and third in career saves. That led to him being taken by the Mariners in the eighth round of the 2018 Draft. He saved eight more games during his pro debut, reaching full-season ball, then continued on the fast track by pitching his way to Double-A during his first full season.
Gerber is a big, 6-foot-4, come right at you pure reliever with a nasty two-pitch mix. His fastball is 95-97 mph consistently and it plays up even more because of its spin rate and action, giving it a chance to be a true 70 fastball on the 20-to-80 scouting scale in the big leagues. The velocity plus the life led to a 28 percent whiff rate on his fastball. His slider flashes plus and he took a big step forward in 2019 in terms of landing it for strikes, making adjustments quickly when hitters stopped chasing it out of the zone. Like his fastball, the slider has a high spin rate and misses a lot of bats.
Overall command has been a bit of an issue for Gerber, both in college and at the start of his pro career, though his walk rate improved when he got to Double-A and learned the traits of upper-level hitters. He doesn’t need pinpoint control to be an impactful reliever who pitches late in big league games.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 55 | Control: 45 | Overall: 40
While Gerber racked up 14 saves as a junior reliever at Illinois, giving him 22 for his career, he didn't have nearly the Draft profile as former Illinois closer Tyler Jay, the school's career saves leader who was the No. 6 overall pick by the Twins in 2015. But Mariners scout Ben Collman liked his size and stuff, leading to his selection in the eighth round of the 2018 Draft. If his summer debut, which included reaching full-season ball, saving eight games and striking out 15.1 per nine, is any indication, the Mariners might have gotten a steal.
Gerber goes right after hitters with a two-pitch mix and an intimidating mound presence, thanks in part to his strong 6-foot-4 frame. His fastball was up to 96 mph at Illinois and he's now up to 95-97 mph as a pro with premium spin rate, with some thinking he could end up with a legitimate 70 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. He backs up the fastball with a slider that flashes plus and he gets swings and misses with both pitches. Gerber's funky delivery creates deception, but it also leads to command problems. He'll have to continue to work on keeping his walk rate down in order to pitch late in games in the big leagues.
In addition to the stuff and physicality, the Mariners knew Gerber's plus makeup -- he graduated in three years with a degree in accounting -- would serve him well. His work ethic, smarts and conviction in his pitches should allow him to move quickly.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 55 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
Tyler Jay set an Illinois record with 14 saves in 2015, when the Twins made him the No. 6 overall choice in the Draft. This spring, Gerber matched Jay by the end of the regular season and also climbed to within two of his Illini career mark of 24 saves. Though he didn't go as high in the Draft as Jay, Gerber's impressive career still netted him a sixth-round selection and $167,400 signing bonus in June.
A pure reliever who has never started a game in three years of college or during summer ball, Gerber attacks hitters with two pitches. He has sat at 92-96 mph with his fastball throughout the spring, even when working on consecutive days. Gerber's sharp 82-85 mph slider can be a plus pitch at times and is especially tough on right-handers.
Gerber has a lot of flying parts in his funky delivery, which provides deception but also hampers his command at times. How well he can locate his pitches ultimately will determine if he reaches his ceiling as a set-up man. Gerber's strong 6-foot-4 frame and resilient arm make him a durable bullpen option, and he should be one of the first 2018 draftees to reach the big leagues.