Gerrit Cole, Starting Pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates
2013 season (minors): 12 G, 68 IP, 2.91 ERA, 1.059 WHIP, 5 W, 47 SO, 28 BB
2013 season (majors): 19 G, 117.1 IP, 3.22 ERA, 1.168 WHIP, 10 W, 100 SO, 28 BB
One of the more anticipated mound debuts in recent years happened last June when Gerrit Cole started for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the San Francisco Giants. He allowed seven hits and two earned runs in about six innings of work to earn the first of 10 wins he would have in 19 starts.
The first overall pick in the 2011 draft soared through the Pirates’ minor league system, striking out 183 with a 2.84 ERA and 1.059 WHIP in 200 innings of High-A, Double-A and Triple-A ball. Last season in Triple-A his strikeout numbers didn’t match what he did at the lower levels, but that didn’t really affect his success.
He continued to put up very impressive numbers after transitioning to the majors, showing enough seasoning to compete and win at the major league level. Cole looks to take the next step — becoming the Pirates’ ace — this season.
Cole throws a four-seam fastball that consistently hits 96 mph and can reach 100 mph when he needs it to. It rates as a perfect 80 on the 20/80 scale organizations use to measure a player’s tools and ability, and could be one of the best in the league. He also throws a two-seamer, which comes in on right-handed hitters. Each of his two breaking pitches — a curveball and a slider — shows up about 13 percent of the time, according to PITCHf/x data. Cole will often go to a changeup against left-handers too.
The Pirates pitcher had similar success against lefties (.245 BAA, .296 OBP) and righties (.252, .306), actually faring slightly better against the former with 47 strikeouts in 52.1 innings. His K “slump” that began in Triple-A did continue into the majors for a while. But in four of five starts (including one postseason start) near the end of the year, he struck out more than a batter per inning, something he did just twice in the previous 15 starts.
All the tools are there as he enters the season as either the No. 1 or No. 2 starter behind Francisco Liriano. One thing to monitor is how he handles an increased workload. The young pitcher had just 200 minor league innings to his name before throwing another 117.1 in the bigs last year. It will be interesting to see how he responds to throwing every fifth day throughout the entire season.
The Pirates showed confidence that he can handle it by not shutting him down late last season and even putting him on the mound twice in October. He wasn’t on any sort of stringent limit last season either, as he threw at least 90 pitches in all but three of his final 16 regular season starts. While they will obviously keep a close eye on their prized arm, the Pirates seem to have a good handle on Cole as he enters the 2014 season.
Next up: Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds