Right-hander Jharel Cotton made his major league debut for the Oakland Athletics last night, throwing 6.1 effective innings against the Los Angeles Angels, giving up one run on two hits and two walks, fanning three and winning the game. Cotton was in the news a few weeks ago, being a main component of the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Let's take a look.
Jharel Cotton, RHP: From the Virgin Islands, Cotton was drafted by the Dodgers in the 20th round in 2012 from East Carolina University. Before the trade he spent 2016 with Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League, posting a 4.90 ERA with a 119/32 K/BB in 97 innings with 80 hits allowed. After the trade he moved over to Nashville and pitched brilliantly down the stretch, going 3-1 in six starts with a 2.82 ERA and a 36/7 K/BB in 38 innings. His strikeout and hit rates for Oklahoma City were more indicative of his potential than his ERA and Oakland picked up on that.
Cotton is 5-11, 195, born January 19, 1992. His best pitch is an excellent change-up but he's not a soft-tosser, working consistently in the low-90s with peaks at 95-96 when used in the bullpen; he topped at 93 in his MLB debut last night. His slider and curveball are not as good as the change-up but both pitches have progressed significantly over the last two seasons. At this point I am optimistic that Cotton can start and his performance this year is that of a pitcher with a full arsenal at his command. With the Dodgers he might have been relegated to bullpen work so the switch in organizations is to his benefit.
When I say the change-up is excellent, I really mean it. The pitch has so much movement and deception that it can be mistaken for a breaking ball. This clip from Carson Cistulli at Fangraphs illustrates the pitch quite well.
There's also this clip from a 12-strikeout game he pitched for Nashville.
Don't overlook this guy. Cotton was on my sleeper alert list back in 2013 and he has a fine chance to live up to it.