Friday, March 2, 2012

#2 Prospect - Gerrit Cole

As bad as the Pirates have been over the past two decades, it's actually shocking they haven't had the first overall pick in the draft more often.  Unfortunately, it means they've missed out on some incredible talent, most notably Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.  I'm not at all bitter though.  Nope, not at all.  That aside, they did have the first overall pick in 2011 and with it they selected my #2 Pirates Prospect, Gerrit Cole.  With the Pirates selecting him actually marked the second time Cole was drafted in the first round of the rule 4 MLB draft.  In 2008, the New York Yankees drafted Cole with the 28th overall pick.  He reportedly turned down four-million dollars and instead elected to attend UCLA.  For Cole, it was a risky maneuver, at least financially, but ultimately it paid off.  The Pirates offered Cole eight-million dollars and this time he didn't turn down the money. 

From a scouting report standpoint, Gerrit Cole can make a scout drool.  He has a lean, muscular 6'4, 220 frame that screams rotation workhorse.  Just looking at those measurables, it's possible to infer Cole may still have the ability to add velocity, but that's ultimately irrelevant.  Cole's bread-and-butter is his fastball. According to this article, he actually throws three fastballs, a 4-seamer, 2-seamer, and a cutter.  The 4-seamer is his feature pitch as it sits in the upper 90's and routinely hits triple digits.  It's a true 80 pitch.  In addition to his fastball, Cole possess two breaking balls, a slider and a changeup.  The slider is an excellent pitch by all accounts.  It has significant two plane bite, meaning it breaks both horizontally and vertically.  Velocity-wise it ranges from the high 80's to the low 90's.  It's a true swing-and-miss pitch that generally earns a 65-70 grade from observers.  The big divide between Cole supports and detractors lies in his changeup.  Currently, the generic scouting report on Cole's changeup is an above-average to plus pitch that needs refinement to reach a consistent plus level with a chance for more.  However, there was a different buzz about the changeup mid-season last year.  This article highlights that buzz.  Keith Law, noted expert for ESPN is quoted as saying the following about Cole's changeup, "Cole came out throwing . . . a plus-plus changeup -- I'm talking Clay Buchholz/Johan Santana good -- at 84-87.  Ultimately, that seems to speak about the inconsistency of Cole's changeup.  It obviously flashed tremendously when Law was present at one of Cole's outing but other observers have came away less than wowed.

Cole's changeup, along with his command, are the biggest knocks against the pitcher.  If he truly does possess and is able to harness his almost mythical changeup, Cole has the best stuff of any pitching prospect in baseball, even better than Matt Moore's.  Essentially he'd be working with two 80 pitches, a fastball and changeup, and a third, "weaker"  pitch in his 70 slider.  Mix in two other fastballs - both of which are relative unknowns but have amazing potential - for better variety and Cole's arsenal is flat out insane.  On the other end of the spectrum, if his changeup is merely above-average or even just plus and Cole's pitching repertoire loses significant luster.  It would still be impressive but rivaled by other pitching prospects.  The changeup debate aside, Cole has noticeable command issues.  His control is fine - he's able to avoid walking too many batters - but he has trouble hitting spots and leaves his fastball up in the zone.  When that happens, Cole's fastball flattens out and becomes much more hittable.  This was evident his junior year at UCLA when, despite his amazing stuff, he mystified scouts and experts by posting a 3.28 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP and only struck out 119 batters in 114.1 innings.  Those numbers would look great at the major league level, but this was college ball.  For comparison, Cole's teammate, Trevor Bauer, posted a 1.25 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP and struck out 203 batters in 136.2 innings.  Bauer went third in last year's draft to the Arizona Diamondbacks and is now considered by many to be a better prospect than Cole despite the way their names fell on draft day. 

Ultimately, Cole has a massive ceiling due to his stuff.  If he really does have an 80 changeup, then it becomes nearly unfathomable.  However, he won't be able to hit either ceiling if he's unable to refine his command.  There is a solid chance of that happening; Cole has clean, repeatable mechanics and by all accounts is a hard worker who is very teachable.  If he does show improved command out of the gate, and especially if he flashes that seemingly elusive changeup, Cole could quickly shoot up prospect lists and be the number one overall pitching prospect by mid-season.  I wouldn't be at all surprised, even if this list would then look very foolish.  For now, however, Gerrit Cole is my #2 Pirates Prospect.

Added note: I meant to put this factoid in the post while writing it but unfortunately forgot. Rather than trying to naturally insert into the write-up I will take the lazy route and add it here.  To those of you with disapproving looks on your faces, it is Friday. I want to mindlessly sit and watch TV or play video games for a few hours, so give me a break.  Anyway, the promised factoid:

Gerrit Cole was an incredibly young college junior.  He won't even turn 22 until after his first full professional season is in the books.  To provide more context, Cole is only 14 months older than fellow Pirates pitching prospect Jameson Taillon, who was drafted in 2010, out of high school.

8 comments:

  1. Did you get a sense of his command in the AFL, particularly in games that weren't the Rising Starts doohicky?

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    1. Haven't seen any footage or anything but I read somewhere that in the games other than the Rising Stars game he just threw naturally rather than trying to overthrow. As a result, his fastball stayed down and didn't flatten out, and he pitched well until the disastrous start in the RS game.

      Sounded promising, although not a breakthrough.

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  2. well being that i don't pay you anything to post my dribble. i can allow this but just this once. i will also forgo allowance any and all times in the future, for reasons such as stated above. i would say due to the law of averages, i hope our number comes in on this kid. we are always on the outside looking in. hopefully cole and tallion and luis pan out. as often as we have been snakebit, we should have some tolerance to venom.

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  3. Off-topic, but you may want to check out the top story at Bucs Dugout right now.

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