The Dodgers made one of the biggest splashes (that you probably were not aware of) this past offseason with the international free agent signing of 26-year-old Australian pitcher Cameron Gibbens. We’ve covered the surprise breakout prospect a few times here at Dodgers2080, but for those of you who haven’t heard the story yet: Cameron Gibbens may very well be one of the better pitching prospects within the Dodgers organization.
You don’t even need to read too deep into his stats to find this out for yourself; across his first Minor League season so far Gibbens has maintained an astronomically ridiculous 17.2 K/9 across 28.1 innings. Of course, expectations do need to be held with some sort of temperance when it comes to prospect development, but at the same time when you factor in Gibbens age plus the consistency in which he performs at you have to realize that he is simply developed to a finer degree than his current MiLB peers.
Not only is Gibbens talent top of the line, but he is currently blazing through his road to the Majors and very well could be performing with the Dodgers big league club by season’s end. Cameron Gibbens started 2021 in Low A with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and dazzled to such a degree in 10.1 innings of work (0.87 ERA, 23Ks) that the Dodgers brass decided to test him at the next level up before his first full month was over. Gibbens is currently with the High A Great Lake Loons, where he is honestly putting up what looks like video game numbers. Through 18 innings of work Gibbens has amassed 31 total strikeouts. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, we can see that Gibbens is developed far beyond the current hitters he’s facing and it’s only a matter of time until the Dodgers want to see what he can do against Double-A hitters.
The fact of the matter is that there is really no rush for Gibbens. He doesn’t need to be fast-tracked to the Majors so the Dodgers will likely take their time rising him through the ranks until possibly the last quarter of the season. It looks as though the Dodgers will want Gibbens to season a bit in the Minors before getting MLB looks to end the season. It would be most pertinent for the Dodgers to evaluate Gibbens Major League readiness before the season ends however and there is a very specific reason for this. The Dodgers are going to head in 2022 with a reconfigured closer situation given that current closer Kenley Jansen is looking less and less likely to be brought back for another extended go around and Gibbens right now stands as the best internal option for full-time closing, or at least for back-end bullpen work, in terms of talent.
We all know that the true mark of an organization ready to head into the future is when that organization starts to trust its young stars to carry them into the promised land. A big portion of the Dodgers’ success comes from adeptly developing their prospects for MLB work and trusting that they will perform up to the standards they’ve shown to perform to in the Minors. I know that sounds obvious enough, but there are plenty of teams in the current MLB climate that hold themselves back through their reliance on veterans and refusal to hand over the reins to the youth (I’m looking at you Angels). That being said, I don’t think Gibbens will be a “plug-and-play” option to open the 2022 season, but I think that in some form he will be ready to handle a portion of the back-end responsibility in the bullpen.
We still have two more levels of the Minors to watch Gibbens work through, but so far his development and talent set has spoken for itself. Double-A will be a different monster than Low-A or High-A because as it stands Double-A is the truest filter of “can they or can’t they” in terms of looking for prospects to break through to the next level. At this current rate it wouldn’t be surprising to watch Gibbens bust through Double-A at the same fiery pace he has blown both through both Low-A and High-A, but in the same vein I wouldn’t be surprised if Gibbens somewhat met his match with the wall of talent in Double-A.
It’s a strange situation as a talent evaluator; while you do want to see Gibbens meet equal talents and watch how he develops against adversity, but at the same time, it would be wonderful to watch him continue to blow through talent all the way to the MLB. That’s the dream situation, but at some point, you really want to see players handle palpable adversity at the Minor League level so they don’t become overwhelmed when they are suddenly struck by adversity at the Big League level.
But then again who is to say we aren’t already in the dream scenario? Cameron Gibbens has already overcome massive odds after receiving a Dodger contract with less than 20 IPs of professional work in Australia. He is quickly making his way to the front of the line to replace the Dodgers longtime closer Kenley Jansen after only just half a season in the Minors. We’re already in dream scenario territory and if he continues this torrid path he may very well be one of the most memorable Dodgers stories of the recent decade. Everybody loves the story of a nobody underdog who rises from nowhere to become the biggest somebody anybody can be.
There is no bigger somebody in baseball than being a superstar closer for the Dodgers, and Cameron Gibbens is already well on his way to securing that legacy.