The Pittsburgh Pirates selected hard-throwing UCLA right-hander Gerritt Cole as the No.1 2011 MLB draft pick. Some believe Cole's UCLA teammate Trevor Bauer, the Golden Spikes Award winner (collegiate baseball's national player of the year) was the best pitcher available.
So, why did the Pirates select Cole instead of Bauer?
Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com wrote in her June 2011 article "UCLA's Cole goes to Pirates at No. 1" that Pirates general manager Neal Huntington felt Cole had the biggest impact for the Pirates of anybody on the board.
"Our focus is selecting the player that we believe is going to be the best for the organization two, four, six, eight, 10 years from now," said Huntington.
While Cole is highly talented and certainly will have a big impact on the Pirates, Bauer did post much better numbers at UCLA, and the Arizona Diamondbacks feel they got the best pitcher.
The chart below shows the career numbers of Cole and Bauer at UCLA, and supports the Diamondbacks feeling.
Pitcher Wins Losses ERA WHIP K's
Cole 21 20 3.38 1.14 376
Bauer 34 8 2.36 1.03 460
By the numbers, the Diamondbacks did get a better pitcher, and according to Stan McNeal of The Sporting News, Bauer is who they preferred.
"He has the body and style of (Tim) Lincecum, the stuff of (Roy) Oswalt and the mind of (Greg) Maddux," Diamondback CEO Derrick Hall said.
In addition to having worse numbers, Cole is more likely to be injury-prone. Cole is a hard thrower, according to MLB Prospect Portal—his fastball consistently reaches the mid 90's and has touched 100 mph several times, and hard throwers tend to be injured more often.
Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today reported in his June 3, 2011 article "Baseball's hardest throwers also among injury-prone" that six of the eight hardest throwers in the game last year are either currently on the disabled list, or have spent time there this season.
In addition to this, Langosch wrote in her article "Selection of UCLA star hurler confirmed by baseball source" that the Pirates are aware of a mechanical flaw with Cole, but believe they can correct it.
Ortiz also reported that mechanics are a big red flag to Glenn Fleisig, research director at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala., who studies the biomechanics of pitching.
"A mechanical flaw or pitching too much or not proper strength and conditioning or proper resting—with a little error you have a high chance of getting hurt," said Fleisig.
Combine their career numbers, the injury factor and known mechanical flaw of Cole, and you are left questioning why the Pirates selected Cole over Bauer.
Bauer may have answered this question in his prospect Q&A with David Heck of MLB.com. Bauer was asked if before the draft he had talked to teams about his unique throwing routine.
I expressed the concern that I found something that has worked for me, and I'd like to go to a team that was going to try to help improve me and enhance what I already do instead of work to change me. That's how I expressed it to teams. I was looking for a marriage of sorts. I was willing to go part way if they were. I wanted to make an agreement instead of them saying, "This is how we do things and this is how you're going to do them or get out."
All the talks I had with teams were very much in that vein. There were some reports of me telling teams not to draft me, and that really wasn't true. I was just kind of interviewing teams just to figure out philosophies and get as much information as we possibly could to be as well prepared to negotiate with whoever.
So, now the question is, did Bauer tell the Pirates not to draft him?