Gerrit Cole #5 – 2013 Top 100
Date of Birth: September 8th, 1990(age 22)
Origin: 1st Round Pick(#1 overall) in 2011 out of the University of California, Los Angeles
Steve Fiorindo: Gerrit Cole is a bit of an enigma. Depending on when you see him pitch, you could see an array of plus offerings from the powerful righthander. In the college starts I saw, I didn’t see the big change up that I had read about just a week earlier. I saw a power breaking ball that was pretty nasty and a pretty good change up, but I didn’t see him featuring the change and going to it as his out pitch. I saw an explosive fastball too, that was the feature, yet I never really saw him dominate a college lineup the way I saw his teammate Trevor Bauer do. I kept waiting for that, I kept expecting that, and, though I only saw three starts, I thought I would see that at least once. I never did.
This seemed to be the same Cole in the minors too. Big fastball, more refined offspeed pitches, but still not the dominance that you would expect out of that stuff. I don’t really have an answer as to why, and I think that dominance may come, I’m just not sure when.
Jeff Reese: ‘May’ is the key word. Gerrit Cole certainly has the pure stuff to be one of the most dominant starters in the league. Tremendous arm speed produces a fastball that explodes out of his hand, sitting in the upper 90s with a bit of arm side run; the 90MPH slider – that’s right he throws 90 MPH sliders – has consistently sharp, late break; and the changeup features good late drop and fade. But for as electric as his fastball may be, hitters seem to see the pitch well out of his hand. This factor along with his pitching approach and command are the primary sources of his underwhelming results.
His fastball command has improved but it remains inconsistent; as a way to minimize walks, Cole contents himself with challenging hitters to catch up to his fastball – often located towards the heart of the plate in the upper region of the strike zone. That’s a dangerous area no matter how elite of fastball. The slider is used primarily as a chase pitch, making his changeup the secondary with the most utility. Command and control can deteriorate rapidly when a couple of runners get on base; things snow ball from there. A light bulb could come on at any point and launch Cole into superstardom, or he may simply be of that frustrating genus of pitchers who just pitch below their pure stuff.
Evan Rentschler: I can only concur with Steve’s assessment of Cole as an enigma, and with Jeff’s typically sagacious explication of why. Cole has been much discussed here the last two years, and in exactly the terms you read above. The change-up is a perfect example, as I was treated to the plus version in a 2010 Super Regional start versus Cal State Fullerton (a start in which Cole succumbed to his initimitable hittability, and which was eventually lost). The pitch was marvelous, coming in on the same plane as his two-seamer before falling off the table with splitter action. I’ve also never seen it since.
I’ve never seen Cole when he wasn’t comfortably pumping FBs at 96/97, and as Jeff says, the arm speed is plus; so fast that it can register as a blur on video. So why so hittable? Again, Jeff is spot on, as the pitch is often up in the zone and catching far too much of the plate. The last college start I saw of Cole’s was a late May outing against Arizona St., and it was like he’d learned nothing since the first time I saw him. Same plus velo, same good life on the FB, same letter-high plane, same results as it got turned around for inning after inning. In his defense, he did find an extra gear in that game around the fifth, and starting throwing so hard that hitters began swinging through it, but that’s not really the lesson one wanted him to take away.
Considering Cole’s tools, anything less than a true ace result has to be considered a disappointment, but I’m equally at a loss to predict an outcome. Dylan Bundy is the only minor league pitcher with the stuff to rival Cole’s arsenal, but it says something that many would now have taken Bundy 1-1 over Cole in the 2011 draft, and that the confidence in Bundy’s likelihood of achieving ace-hood seems so much greater than the gap between a #2 and #5 prospect should logically support. Like the man said: enigmatic.
Fantasy Outlook by David Wiers:
Outside of a single start in Triple-A, Cole has a few concerns about him. From High-A to Double-A we saw his K% take a dip and his BB% increase. Both of these were marginal changes of less than 2% each way, but as he advances, be sure to track those strikeout and walk numbers. Mild concerns aside, Cole did manage to post an impressive 2.61 K/BB ratio in Double-A. Even more impressive was his ability to limit damage via the long ball. Cole threw 132 innings across three levels in 2012 and gave up a mere seven home runs. His home park in Double-A Altoona, did suppress home runs — especially against left-handed hitters — so how he fares in Triple-A at Indianapolis should be much more telling of his ability to suppress home runs.
Throughout Cole’s (admittedly small) minor league history, he has shown an ability to keep his FIP low and to get a strikeout when he needs one. At no point in any level has his K/9 been below 9.15. Between his frame, his stuff, and his prospect pedigree, Cole is an easy pitcher to pick as an up-and-comer. I don’t expect a ton out of him in 2013 but to grab him in the final few rounds of a standard re-draft league is defensible. Be aware that he only has six innings pitched above Double-A, so don’t expect Cole to break camp with the Pirates.