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Prospect Instinct | Gerrit Cole, RHP Pittsburgh Pirates

Gerrit Cole, RHP Pittsburgh Pirates

9/8/1990

Height: 6’4″ Weight: 220

Pittsburgh PiratesGerrit Cole was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates as the #1 overall pick in the 2011 draft and signed for a whopping $8mm at the deadline. Because he signed so late, it didn’t give the Pirates much reason to gear him back up and toss him into the mix in the FSL. So they waited and got him his first taste of pro ball in the Arizona Fall League.

Cole has been on the radar since he was a senior at Orange Lutheran High School and was a favorite of mine coming into the 2008 draft. He passed on signing, spurned the Yankees and decided to head to UCLA instead where he became the team Ace. He compiled a 21-20 record over the next 3 seasons, striking out 376 of the 1348 batters he faced in 322.1 innings.

Coming into the 2011 draft our Baseball Instinct staff had him ranked as the #4 overall talent available:

#4 Gerrit Cole RHP UCLA - Cole was a top pick of the Yankees a few years ago and has done his best to make the Yankees regret not being able to lure him away from UCLA. He’s the concensus #1 as a college Friday starter. Plus fastball that he gets into the high 90s, plus slider in the 80s and has developed a plus changeup to give him the 3rd pitch needed. He’s the closest to the bigs comparing him to Bundy but will need time to adjust to the higher level. He’s by no means MLB ready despite all of his talents.

Since being drafted, Cole, has only pitched in a few Instructional League innings and has had 4 appearances in the Arizona Fall League. It’s a very small sample size, but let’s take a look at the pitching arsenal and the mechanics in some video (updated 4/29).

The Stuff

Cole has upper 90s velocity with his 4 seam fastball. It’s also the pitch that he commands the best at this time. Using it in all 4 quadrants when his mechanics are in sync. It’s elite level velocity and makes his other pitches more effective.

His 2 seam fastball sits in the low 90s and has good sink. It’s a notch below his 4 seamer, but still a solid average offering.

Cole scrapped the curveball that he used in High School for a slider while at UCLA and the pitch has become an above average offering. It has hard, late break and he can bury the pitch when needed. When matched with his 4 seam fastball working the corners, the slider is an out pitch.

Cole’s second borderline plus offering is his changeup. The pitch has upwards of 15 mph of separation from his 4 seam fastball and when Cole is coming from a high 3/4 arm slot the pitch has plus tumble and fade, making it both a groundball and strikeout pitch.

The Mechanics

Baseball Instinct Video

Cole has a big frame and pretty clean mechanics. His windup is average effort with a medium leg kick.

Two areas that I see as reasons for him losing his command at times in the past are his foot plant. Since he starts his delivery so far off to the 1B side, he tends to foot plant in a closed position instead of straight at home plate. That causes him to come more cross body. It also leads to him bringing his arm through just a millisecond late.

Luckily he generates a lot of his power from his thick lower half, so he isn’t trying to sling it.

They are really two easy adjustments and I’ve seen Cole be very clean at times. So it’s more a case of him losing his delivery than it is just a case of poor mechanics.

I have to believe that had he signed after being drafted these mechanical flaws wouldn’t be an issue. But they are and that has to be taken into consideration when deciding if Cole is the Ace the Pirates have been seeking or another injury risk.

Our Instinct

Cole certainly has the pitch mix to be a well above average starter in the majors. He has the fastball to be an ace and if he can make his command an above average tool he can be the ace the Pirates have been looking for.

I don’t however expect him to be the dominant high strikeout total ace type that most are expecting. At least not yet. Cole still has a lot to learn about the nuances of pitching and using his natural ability to its fullest extent. If he’s rushed through the minors he’s going to struggle with his command in the majors and high level hitters are going to turn around his high 90s heat and find the seats a lot more than college hitters were able to do.

Cole is still a Top 25 prospect because a 4 pitch mix like this with a frame like his doesn’t come around often and you still have to remember that despite going to UCLA he is still only 21.

Check back soon as we profile many more Top MLB Prospects and also get our baseball geek on and take a look at some of the later draft picks from the 2011 draft that we think could be big names on the prospect radars in the near future. While you’re here, take a look at our on going series 2011 MLB Draft | Shortstops Review Part 1 and be a step ahead of the game. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be. So don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at mailbag@baseballinstinct.com.


I was born and raised in NYC. My father was a diehard Yankees fan but not biased and raised me to love the game more than any one team. For that I'm truly thankful to him. My love for the game runs deep, and after crunching numbers all day long, I tend to spend my nights at the FSL ballparks.

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