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Gerrit Cole: Here Comes the Heat

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Pirates top prospect Gerrit Cole is on the cusp of making his big league debut, and once he does, he will settle in as the Pirates #1 starter, so move over A.J. Burnett, Cole is ready to bring the heat.

Gerrit Cole
Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole was selected with the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, with scouting reports indicating that he will be a future ace with three plus pitches and a fastball that reaches triple digits. Some felt that he would not need much time in the minors, and his performance there is making all of those scouting reports prove accurate.

Below is a look at his minor league stats, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:

Year Age Tm Lev W L W-L% ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 21 3 Teams A+-AA-AAA 9 7 .563 2.80 26 26 132.0 113 55 41 7 45 136 1.197 7.7 0.5 3.1 9.3 3.02
2012 21 Bradenton A+ 5 1 .833 2.55 13 13 67.0 53 24 19 5 21 69 1.104 7.1 0.7 2.8 9.3 3.29
2012 21 Altoona AA 3 6 .333 2.90 12 12 59.0 54 28 19 2 23 60 1.305 8.2 0.3 3.5 9.2 2.61
2012 21 Indianapolis AAA 1 0 1.000 4.50 1 1 6.0 6 3 3 0 1 7 1.167 9.0 0.0 1.5 10.5 7.00
1 Season 9 7 .563 2.80 26 26 132.0 113 55 41 7 45 136 1.197 7.7 0.5 3.1 9.3 3.02
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/11/2012.

Cole made just five starts in 2011 in Rookie ball, going 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA, 2.73 FIP and a 4.00 K/BB rate in 15 innings or work. But 2012 brought out the real Gerrit Cole, as the Pirates started him at High A Bradenton, skipping Low A altogether, and lasted just 13 starts before a promotion to AA Altoona.

In High A, Cole made 13 starts, going 5-1 with a 2.69 ERA, 3.19 FIP and a 9.27 K/9 (69 strikeouts in 67 innings) while keeping his BB/9 just under 3.00 at 2.82. He gave up 5 home runs in 67 innings of work, good for a 0.67 HR/9. In summary, he dominated High A hitters, who hit just .213 against him, and needed the challenge of AA hitters. Not only did he whiff a bunch of High A hitters, he also kept the ball on the ground, as his 1.63 GB/FB ratio indicates. The ability to strike out a lot of hitters and keep the ball on the ground at a high rate usually results in good things for any pitcher and Cole is not just any pitcher.

Some video of Cole vs Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts:

At AA Altoona, Cole continued his dominance making 12 starts, going 3-6 with a 2.90 ERA, 2.88 FIP, a 9.15 K/9 and a 3.51 BB/9 in 59 innings pitched. The strikeout rate remained relatively the same (60 strikeouts in 59 innings), but the walk rate inched up into the 3.50/9 range, which was certainly not a good sign. Double A hitters were more successful at the plate against him, hitting .238 against him in his 12 starts.

Cole appears to have the ability to limit the home run ball, as he gave up just 2 in his 59 innings pitched in AA, good for a 0.31 HR/9. He continued to do a good job keeping the ball on the ground as his GB/FB rate remained above 1.0 (1.26). The Pirates front office felt Cole was ready for another promotion due to his performance in AA, so off he went to pitch for AAA Indianapoli in the International League.

Cole made just one start at AAA Indianapolis, and what a start it was. He lasted six innings, giving up 3 runs on 6 hits, a walk and 7 strikeouts. I think Pirates fans will see plenty of those kind of pitching lines from Cole when he is eventually called up to the big league team in 2013. I see Cole making a handful of starts in AAA, and if the Pirates start off the season hot, he will be called up and slotted into their rotation as soon as May 2013.

Cole made a total of 26 starts across 3 levels in 2012, tossing 132 innings, or about 5 innings per start. I see the Pirates allowing him to work deep into several of his AAA starts to see how he fares going through lineups more than twice per start, with a call up in May, or June at the latest.

Fantasy owners, and Pirates fans, will welcome Cole to their roster in 2013, as he should provide solid strikeout totals, albeit with a low 4.00 ERA and a 1.25-1.35 WHIP. He won't go all ace on us in 2013, but I see him getting there within the next 2-3 years. Once he gets called up to the majors, he will immediately become the Pirates best starter. Dynasty and keeper league owners should hold onto him as he is too close to the big leagues to even consider trading at this point.