Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/14/14
The obvious headliner at Pirates instructs was 2011 #1 overall pick Gerrit Cole. Cole has been on prospect radars for some time, as he went unsigned out of a southern California high school in 2008 when the Yankees made him a 1st rounder despite being an obviously tough sign. Negotiations never got started and Cole decided he wanted to go to UCLA, where he cleaned up his delivery and command while adding a plus changeup to his power fastball-slider repertoire. Three years after turning down a potential multi-million dollar bonus, Cole signed with the Pirates for $8 million. Cole’s professional career has been mostly ho-hum. No arm injuries or real struggles while also not quite dominating the way his stuff probably should. He signed late in 2011 then had a successful if short stop in the Arizona Fall League followed by a debut season starting in Hi-A and ending in AAA with basically the same numbers at all four stops: a K/9 in the 9’s and BB/9 around 3. A notable event happened in late June when Cole was hit in the face with a liner while with AA Altoona, but he returned later in the season and looked fine in instructs. Those numbers will obviously play in the big leagues but there’s math that we do looking at minor league numbers, expecting some regression at each level. One thing to keep in mind is the Pirates organizational development plan for pitchers. They heavily stress fastball command and in the first full season in the system. Pitchers are instructed to throw primarily fastballs, usually over 70% per game. In instructs, Cole threw one off-speed pitch in two innings and in a game I saw in Hi-A earlier in the year, I counted 7 off-speed pitches in a full outing. That will obviously affect Cole’s feel for these off-speed offerings and make projecting him a little more difficult. Back in May, Cole was sitting 94-97 and hitting 98 mph with his four-seamer that had some run to his arm side. He would also occasionally throw a sinker at 91-93 with heavier movement that could be a useful weapon going forward. His slider was nasty even in limited use, ranging from 86-91 mph with sharp, late break that darts from one end of the plate to the other with ¾ tilt. He wasn’t very consistent with the tilt for obvious reasons but one of his plus-plus sliders actually looked almost identical to Red Sox prospect Matt Barnes’ plus curveball, except Cole’s slider was 90 mph. Cole threw one curveball at 81 that he should scrap, just a slower version of the slider and only threw two changeups in the low 80’s. The changeups showed plus potential, turning over with fade and bottom but the changeup is a pitch that comes with feel, something Cole can’t have throwing it twice a game. His command was fine for the level, but would waver more than you’d like, usually missing up in the zone. More recently in instructs, Cole only went two innings but put up the big numbers on the radar gun you hope to see. He was 96-99 in the first inning, hitting a 101 and then sitting a paltry 96-98 in the second inning. Cole got two strikeouts, two groundballs, elevated with purpose and his fastball had life down in the zone and cut to his glove side. He threw one slider, a plus-plus yakker at 88 mph, but more importantly he subtly improved his delivery. Cole has a big, sturdy frame at 6’4, 220 pounds that looks like it was designed to absorb thousands of innings. He creates velocity by breaking his hands late, loading his hips and front shoulder before exploding to the plate with a lightning quick arm. It’s amazing how good Cole is at keeping his arm in sync with his body. You’ll notice that most of the time when I write about pitchers with mid 90’s velocity I mention how their arm is late to catch up with their body and it drags behind, causing control issues and heightening injury risk. This is because most people aren’t gifted with a mid 90’s fastball but many more can throw in the low 90’s and so they do things to juice their velo. Cole has a true 80 fastball but he doesn’t cheat at all—his arm starts exploding when his hips do, he takes a direct path to home plate, his elbow stays low relative to his shoulder at foot plant, he has only slight head movement and good posture at release, a solid front side, an arm that works well out front all with good enough balance to not spin off to first base. Much the same way that I wrote about Marcus Stroman as a genetic freak that I want to bet on because he keeps beating expectations, I don’t want to bet against a guy with clean mechanics and the level of genetic gifting of Cole. Back to the subtle improvement Cole made late in the season. One reason I think his results weren’t matching his stuff beyond pitch usage was that his aggressive stride would often be too long, causing him to overextend his front leg and throw against that leg rather than over it. In instructs, Cole’s stride was shorter and he consistently got over his front leg. This allows him to control his body better and have an easier time getting the ball down in the zone. His power fastball with lively movement should be a groundball machine and break bats left and right, which I think he’ll be doing more in 2013. Cole also appeared to raise his arm slot slightly to a consistent high ¾. In the full outing from May, I noticed his slot would lower occasionally to a ¾ slot, a sign of fatigue that leads to less command that could also just be a byproduct of a lack of focus or a slight posture/balance change. There are some other things scouts don’t like about Cole, such as his stiff, un-flexed throwing arm in the beginning of his arm stroke and his no better than average deception. Neither of these really bothers me as his arm gets into a much better position by the time it starts accelerating and throwing 100 mph with a 70 slider tends to keep hitters on their toes as much as a deceptive delivery can. Cole turns 23 at the end of the upcoming season, so everything is pointing at a big league debut sometime in 2013 as he continues progressing toward his ceiling of a true #1 starter.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao close to deal for fight

TJ Lang: Suh wanted to fight me after stepping on Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Hernandez jurors allowed to watch Super Bowl

Tiger misses cut: ‘I’m only doing this so I won’t get fined’

Roger Goodell grilled on Deflategate during presser

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Rex Ryan: Seahawks need to ‘take the air out of the football’

J.J. Watt buys cabin in the middle of nowhere to train

Six teams have done background work on Peterson

NBA set to earn $700M through streaming deal in China

Wade Phillips is the best coordinator hire this offseason

Bill Belichick gives understated scouting report of Tom Brady

WATCH: Jimmy Butler throws down half-court alley-oop

President Obama zings Patriots over Deflate-gate

Each major conference's Player Of The Year candidates

Super Bowl XLIX preview and predictions: Patriots-Seahawks

49 Stops to Super Bowl XLIX

Most unexpected MLB free agent signings of past 10 years

Five most villainous Super Bowls of all time

Super Bowl ad focuses on acceptance of gay athletes

Foster says UT boosters paid him $40-50K while in college

Ranking the repeat Super Bowl champions

Eric Decker to Sherman: Time your conception a little better

Could Katy Perry and Russell Wilson be dating?

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Obama zings Pats over Deflate-gate

Each major conference's POY candidates

Super Bowl XLIX preview and predictions: Patriots vs. Seahawks

The 13 things we want to see in Super Bowl XLIX

49 Stops to Super Bowl XLIX

Tiger Woods, misses cut: ‘I’m only doing this so I won’t get fined’

Ranking the repeat SB champions

Roger Goodell grilled on Deflategate

Katy Perry, Russell Wilson dating?

Rex Ryan has advice for Seahawks

Super Bowl: Things you can't control

LeBron and the Cavs are ready to make a run

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.