The 2011 draft class was special, to say the least.
For what it lacked in projectible, impact position prospects, it featured an unprecedented amount of promising high school and collegiate arms. At the time of the draft, it seemed as though a team could do no wrong by selecting either Gerrit Cole, Danny Hultzen, Trevor Bauer, Dylan Bundy or Archie Bradley—each of whom could have been a legitimate No. 1 selection in any other year.
And after the first week of the minor league season, such a notion has only been reinforced, as all of the five aforementioned, Top 10 draft picks have been superb to begin their respective professional careers and, at times, even un-hittable.
Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Cole was impressive in his professional debut after struggling in the Arizona Fall League. Making the start for High-A Bradenton on Monday, the hard-throwing right-hander—his fastball was reported to have touched 100 mph, once again—allowed one run on four hits over four innings.
The biggest concern with Cole, Prospect Pipeline’s No. 13 prospect, has always been his command, so it was encouraging that he struck out seven hitters compared to only walk.
Danny Hultzen, LHP, Seattle Mariners
The line from Hultzen’s pro debut on Sunday isn’t a fair representation of his actual performance. Starting for Double-A Jackson against the Birmingham Barons, the left-hander—the No. 23 prospect—surrendered five runs on four hits over four innings, while striking out seven batters and walking three.
While his 11.25 ERA after the outing isn’t easy on the eyes, Hultzen’s 1.95 FIP suggests that he threw the ball well.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Yes, Bauer could have probably started the year in the Diamondbacks’ rotation and been fine. But the organization made the wise decision in sending him to Double-A, mainly to refine his fastball command. In his season debut last Thursday, Bauer scattered two hits over five shutout innings, while walking three and striking out seven.
On Tuesday against Pensacola, the No. 8 prospect had the best outing of his young career. In five-and-two-thirds innings of work, Bauer yielded two hits and four walks while fanning a career-high 11 batters. He left the game after exactly 100 pitches (59 strikes), so he definitely could have been more efficient.
However, that’s merely a petty grievance when considering his line after two starts: 10.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 18/7 K/BB. Bauer will continue to make it difficult for the Diamondbacks to keep him in the minors.
Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Where do I even begin? In his professional debut for Class-A Delmarva, Bundy—the No. 9 prospect—fired three perfect innings with six strikeouts using almost exclusively his 94-98 mph fastball. He absolutely dominated the Class-A hitters, at times appearing to toy with them.
Somehow, it gets better.
Bundy made his second start of the season of Wednesday with the same result—seriously, the exact same result. The right-hander was once again perfect over three innings while tallying six strikeouts.
“I’ve seen some really good performances in the minors. This topped them all. This was a man-versus-boy scenario. It took about 15 pitches to realize that Bundy does not belong in Delmarva. He probably doesn’t even belong in A-ball.”
In the wake of his back-to-back perfect outings, Bundy has become the most talked-about player in the minors (yes, that means more than even Bryce Harper and Mike Trout). Hell, I’m even tempted to hop in my car and go see his next start.
I seldom make such bold claims, but I have a feeling that I may be writing about Bundy as the No. 1 prospect headed into the 2013 season.
Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Poor Archie. The No. 7 overall draft pick has been just as impressive as the other prospects on this list—okay, maybe not Bundy—but obscured by their successes.
In his Class-A season debut against Bowling Green last week, Bradley—Prospect Pipeline’s No. 18 prospect—allowed one run on four hits while walking one and striking out seven over five innings. He showed excellent command of both his fastball(s) and off-speed pitches, especially the breaking ball, and needed only 40 pitches (34 thrown for strikes) to get through five innings.
In his second start of the season on Wednesday, Bradley issued two walks and allowed a run in the first inning but dominated the Fort Wayne offense for the next five innings to notch his first career win on Wednesday. In six innings of work, Bradley scattered two hits while fanning seven and walking three. Much like his fellow Oklahoman, Dylan Bundy, Bradley is too advanced for an average stay at Class-A.
Each Pitcher’s Stat Line Through Week 1
Gerrit Cole (A): 4 IP, 4 H, ER, 1 BB, 7 K
Danny Hultzen (AA): 4 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 7 K
Trevor Bauer (AA): 10.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 7 BB, 18 K
Dylan Bundy (A): 6 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K
Archie Bradley (A): 11 IP, 6, 2 ER, 4 BB, 14 K