The Pirates farm system has suddenly become filled to the brim with talent, even with the late season graduation of Starling Marte. The top talent they have sit on the mound, which is a good thing since that is currently the team’s biggest need. If they want to be a perennial winner they are going to need to build a rotation they can count on. They may not be far off, and the anchor of the staff could arrive by mid-year.
Gerrit Cole, who was selected first overall in 2011, was stellar in his professional debut in 2012. He pitched mainly in Single-A (67.0 innings) and Double-A (59.0 innings), though he did make one start at Triple-A. Drafted out of UCLA, having briefly reached Triple-A would indicate that he is close to reaching the Majors. The numbers drive it home.
All told he posted a 2.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 9.27 K/9 and 3.07 BB/9. Before we jump to the conclusion that the numbers were lucky, keep in mind his BABIP overall was .299 (and .317 at Double-A). Also take into account his strand rate at each level:
- Single-A – 75.7%
- Double-A – 66.9%
- Triple-A – 57.1%
The numbers look even better now, don’t they?
It looks even better when you see he posted a 47.5% groundball rate for the season, while also limiting the line drives to 15.7%. Last season PNC Park yielded 0.631 HR/game, fourth fewest in the league (in 2011 it was at 0.799, seventh fewest). In other words, he is already going to call a pitcher’s park home, so his ability to induce groundballs makes him that much more enticing.
Even better s his repertoire, which Baseball America described by saying:
“Cole is a power pitcher with a pair of devastating offerings. He can effortlessly throw his four-seam fastball up to 101 mph, sitting at 96-98 mph and carrying that velocity deep into games. He also throws a two-seamer with sink at 93-95. His slider is a wipeout pitch with very hard tilt and he typically throws it at 88-90 mph, topping out as high as 93. When he stays on top of the slider, it’s almost unhittable for righthanders. He also has a solid upper-80s changeup that keeps improving, and he’ll mix in an occasional slow curveball for show.”
By all accounts he is one of the premier prospects in the game. Jonathan Mayo of mlb.com has him at number nine overall. Keith Law of ESPN has him eighth.
He has the talent to thrive and, in Pittsburgh, it shouldn’t be long before he gets an opportunity. Who knows if James McDonald will be able to rediscover his early season success from 2012. Does any team really want to count on Jeff Karstens? As it is, the team looks to be trying retreads Erik Bedard and Jonathan Sanchez, but we all know they can’t be counted on.
Cole will likely face an innings limit in 2013, in the 165 range, so that needs to be considered. That said, when his opportunity comes he should be able to excel. There will be some bumps, as with any you g pitcher, but he is well worth stashing in all deeper formats and eyeing in all formats.
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Make sure to check out the rest of our 2013 Prospect Reports: