Anyone who watched his performance against TCU in the semi-finals of the 2010 College World Series knows the kind of serious game he brings. Looking like a man possessed, Cole struck out 13 Horned Frogs in eight magnificent innings. Just when it looked like he was going to crack in a TCU three-run seventh-inning, he settled back down, ended the threat and secured a Bruins victory.
And if his performance wasn't incredible enough, he somehow managed to maintain his velocity into the late innings, frequently touching 97 and 98-mph in the eighth, making everyone in attendance, and those watching at home, stand up and take notice.
Cole epitomizes the term "power pitcher," with his nasty heat that sits in the mid- to high 90s. He sometimes reaches 99 and even 100-mph. He complements his fastball with one of college baseball's best breaking pitches, his slider, a devastating pitch that Cole used superbly for 153 strikeouts in only 123 innings last year. He also mixes in a change-up that has above-average potential, giving him three potential above-average pitches.
The six-foot-four, 220 pound righty also offers true inning-eating capability. He’s an absolute horse on the mound, and when he’s on his game there’s nobody better in all of college ball. He has no real injury history to be worried about, although scouts will tell you that thanks to his amazingly quick arm action, it's only a matter of time.
The whizzing arm action has done nothing but help him in college, though. He's proven to be as hard to hit as...dare I say it...Stephen Strasburg. The 2009 number-one overall pick is the easiest comp for Cole, although the latter is missing the secondary stuff to compete with Strasburg's ridiculous four plus pitches.
Pitching for UCLA, and alongside fellow first-round talent Trevor Bauer, Cole has sparkled, maturing from a supposed selfish loner to a team-first player who is praised as an excellent teammate.
Cole almost wasn't the stud pitcher for the 2010-2011 Bruins though. Once upon a time (back in 2008), he was a first-round pick by the Yankees, who are most certainly still kicking themselves for not giving him whatever he wanted.
The sides weren't able to agree on a deal, and Cole happily trotted off to UCLA. While there were a few that believed he could boost his stock for the 2011 draft, nobody could have seen how much of a beast he would become.
Cole is off to a great start so far in 2011. He's pitched in three games, and struck out 25 batters in 23.1 innings, walking only four. He only has one win to show for his efforts, but that lone victory was a beauty, a tense 1-0 complete-game shutout victory against San Francisco in the season opener. Cole struck out 11 and allowed only four hits, paving the way for the Bruins' three-game sweep.
Even more impressive was his most recent outing against Nebraska. Cole toyed with the Cornhuskers for seven perfect innings. He went another two after the no-hitter was broken up, but the game wasn't resolved until the 11th-inning. Cole pitched nine shutout innings, allowed two hits and two walks, and struck out eight, needing only 101 pitches to do so.
Needless to say, Cole would be an awesome find for any team in the top five, but he won’t come cheap.
Especially after his performance for the Team USA Collegiate National Team, whom Cole pitched for this past summer. He went 2-0 with one save in five games, striking out 23 batters in a team-leading 25 innings. His best performance came in Team USA’s gold-medal game, where Cole pitched seven scoreless innings.
As a projected top-five pick, he’ll most likely command a bonus in the $4-7 million range.
With Anthony Rendon the projected top pick, Cole would slot in nicely for the Mariners at number two. They hit paydirt with another seasoned college vet two years ago (Dustin Ackley), and snatching up Cole would give them another stud to join King Felix and 2011 rookie Michael Pineda in the rotation.
You can follow Cole and the Bruins 2011 season here.