30 Prospects in 30 Days: Gerrit Cole – SP – Pittsburgh Pirates
If you want to see what makes baseball scouts drool, look no further than Gerrit Cole, the No. 1-ranked prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization. Cole, 22, was the No. 1 pick in the 2011 Amateur Draft out of UCLA. He’s listed at 6’4″ and 220 pounds. Cole only pitched 15 innings in the Arizona Fall League in 2011, but in his first full season in the minors he pitched very well at three different levels – High-A, AA and AAA. Cole projects as Pittsburgh’s future ace, and he could very well see time in the majors this season.
Cole spent most of 2012 at High-A Bradenton and AA Altoona. His stats at both levels are fairly similar with his numbers falling a bit at AA. In his lone AAA start he struck out seven, walked one and pitched better than his 4.5 ERA suggests. In his first year playing professionally Cole struck out a batter an inning in each stop, which is a positive sign given his relative inexperience compared to most of his opponents’ experience.
Cole’s tabbed as a near-unanimous top-10 MLB prospect, and he’s only not unanimous because I don’t know of every prospect list and there might be someone out there who listed him 11th. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him eighth this year, while MLB.com ranked him ninth. Baseball America ranked him the highest of the three – seventh. Cole has an impressive fastball, which he flashed in last year’s Futures Game. It reaches triple digits consistently and “up to 98 mph with ease,” according to MLB.com. He throws four other pitches – a plus-plus changeup, according to Law; a plus slider, according to MLB.com; a two-seamer; and a curveball.
On the 2-8 scouting scale Cole’s fastball is already an 8, and he’s projected to have four above-average pitches. Cole started for three years at UCLA, so this isn’t some 19-year-old who’s a few years away from making the big league club. Add in the fact Cole pitched at three levels last year, and pitched well in his two extended stops, and it’s very reasonable to expect he’ll start the year in AAA. Unless he struggles mightily for a lengthy portion of the season Cole should see time in the Pirates’ rotation sometime this season especially considering who the Pirates have penciled in to fill in the four and five spots in their rotation.
With the amount of pitching help available on waiver wires throughout the season in 10- or 12-team leagues, Cole isn’t worth rostering in those formats. But in deeper leagues he’s worth a last-round pick or $1 buy in an auction because of the good possibility of a mid-season call up and probable help in strikeouts and the ratio categories.