Gerrit Cole, while loaded with stuff, has much work to do if he wants to reach his No. 1 starter ceiling.
Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
No. 1 overall pick to Pittsburgh in 2011 MLB draft; 6'4", 240 pounds; Previously drafted by the New York Yankees in the 28th round of the 2008 draft but chose to go to college at UCLA for three years; Born Sept. 8, 1990 (22 years old).
Gerrit Cole made his first Triple-A start of the 2013 season for the Indianapolis Indians on Friday night against the Columbus Clippers, Cleveland's Triple-A affiliate. This was my first time seeing him live since the Futures Game in Kansas City last July, which isn't a strong way to gauge a pitching prospect since they will be airing it out working one or two innings.
It was very much a mixed bag of good and bad, with the power right-hander throwing just 63 pitches in four innings and allowing three runs on five hits with just two strikeouts.
When will Gerrit Cole make his debut in Pittsburgh?
Let's start with what worked. Cole came out of the gate in midseason form, throwing his fastball for strikes at 94-97 in the first inning before settling in at 93-95. He touched 98 a couple of times, but the fastball is very straight out of his hand and Triple-A hitters can time it.
After throwing all fastballs in the first inning, including on his strikeout of Matt Carson, Cole started to mix in a straight changeup that was 86-88 mph. It was a little too firm on this night, but the arm speed was good and had enough separation from his four-seam fastball to be effective.
As far as stuff goes, Cole looks the part of a potential top-of-the-rotation starter. He didn't show all of his pitches tonight, but the fastball is easily plus-plus and changeup will flash plus. He worked primarily with his fastball and changeup, mixing in a couple of sliders around 88-89 that did have hard tilt at the end.
Now for the bad. Cole still struggles commanding the fastball in the zone. There were a few times when he was ahead of hitters with two strikes and failed to put them away because he leaves the fastball up and in the middle of the zone.
The best example of this came in the fourth inning, when Cole had Mike McDade down in the count 0-2 with two outs and runners on first and second.
Instead of throwing his fastball in the 93-94 range, or even mixing in a two-seamer that would move, he reared back and tried to throw his four-seamer at 98. He left it belt high on the outside part of the plate and McDade hit it to the wall in left field for a two-run double.
Command and deception are two areas where Cole has struggled in the past—it is also a big reason why his numbers at UCLA weren't as dominant as one would expect from a No. 1 overall pick and a pitcher with his combination of size and stuff.
This was just one start, on what turned out to be a very cold night in Indianapolis, so it is hardly time to hit the panic button. But there is plenty that Cole has left to work on before the Pirates can even think about making him part of their rotation.
Note: All 2012 stats courtesy of MiLB.com unless otherwise noted.
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