Prospect Watch: Gerrit Cole

Last week I promised another Prospect Watch feature especially for all the Pirates fans out there. Obviously I’m not one to go back on my word so, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to another player from my PC and the #1 overall pick in the 2011 Draft, Gerrit Cole.

While doing my research into Cole I’ve found that there don’t appear to be enough superlatives around to describe this young pitcher, and despite being such a hard thrower of the baseball he has proven himself to be incredibly durable during his time pitching in college.

Back in 2008 Gerrit Cole turned down the chance to be taken by the New York Yankees in the first round of that years draft. Instead he opted for college at UCLA where he came to dominate through the college ranks. The Bleacher Report has noted that throughout his college years Cole’s commanding stuff was almost as hard to hit as Stephen Strasburg’s, but that Cole was “missing the secondary stuff to compete with Strasburg’s ridiculous four plus pitches.”

In his article for Project Prospect, Lincoln Hamilton examines Cole’s pitches in more detail, and notes that despite having an overpowering fastball, his best pitch is actually his change-up (“already a big league out pitch”), which clocks in between 83-86 mph. The effectiveness of his fastball and change-up stems from the fact that his arm speed is virtually identical between the both pitches, making a devastating combination of the two together.

Here’s the February 2012 scouting report from Baseball Prospect Nation, who describe Cole as a “potential ace” who just needs to add polish to his “enormous raw stuff”. Interestingly his change-up isn’t rated as highly as in the Project Prospect scouting report!

Body: Classic power pitcher’s body. Broad shoulders, strong torso, thick and powerful legs.

Makeup: Impressions of his competitiveness and makeup varied from start to start last year. Some scouts believe he lacks the fire to be a truly great pitcher, noting he has a tendency to pack it in when things don’t go his way. Needs to prove mental toughness on the mound but is still young with plenty of time to do just that.

Delivery/Mechanics: Much smoother than in high school. Deliberate and balanced through his windup. Gives hitters a peak of the ball behind his back, losing some deception as a result. Will show good extension out front but cuts himself off at times, coming up a little short and not following through. Good drive off back leg taking some stress off his arm.

Fastball (FB) Velocity (Wind-up): High – 101, Low – 92, Average – 95-96, Grade – 70/80

Fastball (FB) Velocity (Stretch): High – 99, Low 92, Average 95-96, Grade – 70/80

Fastball (FB) Movement: Has explosive life on 4-seamer when he doesn’t overthrow it. Can get a little straight when he reaches back for more but pure velo can overcome this most of the time. Hasn’t developed ability to manipulate the ball at lower velocities but really hasn’t needed to either. Grade – 50/60

Overall Fastball: Outstanding velocity. Could sit as an 80-pitch in the future. Has toyed with a 2-seam FB that has some sink and run on it and if that comes it could be unhittable in the 92-95 range. Potential elite pitch with minor refinement. Grade – 70/80

Slider (SL): Throws it very hard with outstanding bite. Generates foolish swings with plus-plus two-plane bite. Must improve ability to keep it down in the zone. Already understands how to use it as a chase pitch to both righties and lefties. Not much room to add much more to the pitch. Grade – 70/70

Change-up (CH): Started throwing in college. Doesn’t always maintain arm speed and has a tendency to guide it to the plate rather than trusting the grip. Has some fade when he’s throwing it well. Still a work in progress but flashes as a nice third pitch. Grade – 40/50

Control: Throws a lot more strikes after three years in college but will still lose the zone. Loses it most frequently when he falls in love with the radar gun and tries to blow hitters away. Needs to trust himself and throw strikes. Raw stuff is good enough to miss bats and get outs in the strike zone. Grade – 40/60

Command: Not really a part of his game right now and may never be. Will flash ability to paint the outside corner and elevate the FB when he wants to. Doesn’t show consistent willingness to work inside on hitters, which would be a huge help for him. Grade – 30/40

Summation: Some of the best raw stuff in the minor leagues. Can dominate inexperienced hitters by just blowing it by them and feeding him his filthy SL. Needs to learn how to pitch and utilize different parts of the strike zone better. Questions about his competitiveness on the mound can’t be ignored until he goes out and disproves them. Pure ceiling is that of a number one starter but he’ll fall short of that without some kind of command. Still learning the nuances of the game such as controlling runners and fielding his position but those should come fairly quickly once he starts working on them more heavily.

Relative Risk: High. He’s close to the big leagues but his lack of command and character questions leave his risk level elevated.

Future: To date the Pirates have pointed toward High-A Bradenton as his likely 2012 starting point. He could reach Double-A in extremely short order and it wouldn’t be entirely surprising he received a September call-up. His timetable is easily in the 2013 season and it would take some significant setbacks for him to be delayed beyond that. Cole has the potential to be one of the game’s elite starting pitchers in a few years.

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The Pirates have a number of exciting Prospects coming through their farm system and, coupled with one of the best players in the game in Andrew McCutchen (in my humble opinion, of course), are primed to challenge in the newly structured NL Central for a good few years to come.

And Gerrit Cole is just the player to help them finally snap their crazy streak of losing seasons going back to 1865, or something like that!!! It really does seem that long!

In terms of his cards Cole is a player whom I have coveted for some time now, and his 2012 Bowman Chrome Prospect Autograph is one card I’d love to get my hands on at some point. However there are a number of Prospect-related releases over the last couple of years, along with college-related releases from around 2009 and 2010, that feature Cole’s cards so he’s pretty easy to track down for base cards as well as numerous autographed inserts!

2013 could well see Cole’s MLB debut and if he is half the pitcher that a lot of scouts are predicting then it’ll be worth keeping an eye on his cards over the coming years, particularly those 2012 Bowman releases!

OK – we’re done!!

Coming next time – a young speedster for the Reds!

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