Gerrit Cole Struggles in Last Outing Before Draft

Cole allowed three runs on 11 hits in 7.1 innings in his final start before the draft.

Turn back the clock almost four months to February 18th, the start of the college baseball season.  Gerrit Cole went up against the University of San Francisco, at home, to kick of the season for UCLA.  Cole was dominant, pitching a complete game shutout, allowing four hits, one walk, and striking out 11.  Best of all, he only needed 104 pitches to do all of that.  If there is a Gerrit Cole bandwagon, that outing might have signaled the keys turning in the ignition.

Tonight, Cole went up against the University of San Francisco again, once again taking them on at home, in what will be his final outing before the Major League baseball draft on Monday.  Cole ended up throwing 7.1 innings, allowing three runs on eleven hits, with one walk and 11 strikeouts.  He needed 119 pitches, and left in the eighth after giving up a leadoff double, a sac bunt, and an RBI single to put UCLA down 3-0.

Maybe it’s only fitting that Cole got his season started against San Francisco, because you could make an argument that the bandwagon for him being the number one overall pick crashed tonight.

The reports from the game tonight said that Cole was only topping out around 96-97 MPH, which is down from last week’s reports that he was hitting 100 MPH.  The reports also said that his fastball was straight and elevated, which explains the 11 hits, a season high for Cole.  His secondary stuff was reported to be looking good, with his changeup was back to the good version we saw early in the year.

Keith Law held a chat the other day, and in it he was asked if Cole would become the Pirates’ top prospect over Jameson Taillon if he was drafted.  Law’s response:

Cole > Taillon for me, which is no slight to Jameson.

I was asked if I agreed with that response.  Despite the late season struggles, and tonight’s outing, I probably would place Cole ahead of Taillon as the top prospect in the system.  However, I think Cole and Taillon ultimately have the same upside, and Cole is just further along than Taillon.

Cole got a lot of attention early this year, mostly because his changeup was looking great, and borderline as a plus pitch. He hasn’t been as effective recently, and the change has fallen off a bit, which do raise some concerns. There are some “ifs” with him, but I think it’s mostly a question of whether his changeup was for real, and I don’t think you can flash a plus changeup for most of the year and say it’s not legit.  It was encouraging to hear that his changeup was looking good tonight, which only supports the theory that his change really is the real deal.

I’d agree that Cole is ahead of Taillon right now, especially if you consider his changeup a plus pitch. It’s basically a case where Cole is ahead of Taillon as far as development goes. They both have the same ceiling, but Taillon has some work to do to get to where Cole is at right now. He has work to do with his changeup, which is expected, since high schoolers who can throw 99 MPH don’t really need a changeup.

As for the fastball issues tonight, they’re very similar to what we heard about Taillon last year.  Taillon didn’t exactly dominate the high school ranks, getting hit around at times due to an elevated fastball.  I was big on taking Taillon last year, mostly because of the velocity and the polish.  The tendency to put the ball up in the zone didn’t concern me.  There are things you can teach.  You can teach a pitcher to keep the ball down in the zone (and that’s exactly what the Pirates have been working on with Taillon this year).  You can’t teach a pitcher how to throw in the upper 90s.  That’s why I liked Taillon, and I’m not as concerned with Cole for the same reason.

I would say their ceilings are about the same, but Cole is farther along right now, which puts him slightly ahead of Taillon in my book.  The fact that his changeup is looking like a borderline plus pitch at times this year also gives him an edge.  Taillon has time to get there with his changeup, but if I had a choice, I’d take the pitcher who already has the pitch.

My biggest issue with Cole, and this is something I’ve talked about all year, is the workload.  Cole has seen a heavy workload this season, including a few starts with 120+ pitches, and one outing with 132 pitches in seven innings.  The thing is, the season isn’t over.  UCLA is in the post-season now, where Cole will be relied on heavily.  College coaches don’t get paid to develop players for the majors.  They get paid to win.  If Cole is throwing 122 pitches in mid-April, how many is he going to throw in a close game during the College World Series?  If the Pirates draft Cole, they’re not getting him signed until the deadline, which means they will be stuck watching his fate controlled by coaches who are looking out for themselves, and not for Cole’s long term development.

Cole struggled tonight in what is his final start before the draft, but the struggles shouldn’t be an issue, since ultimately they’re fixable.  He’s definitely a talented pitcher, and a guy who would jump to the top of the Pirates Prospects rankings if he were selected by the Pirates on Monday, which seems to be the current consensus.  Whether you take him first overall on Monday really depends on how comfortable you are with the heavy workloads imposed upon college pitchers.

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

Share This Article

Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

Pittsburgh Pirates Mock Draft Roundup and Analysis

Next Story »

DK: Pirates Will Take Gerrit Cole

  • williamv

    According to Dejan it sounds as if Cole will be the pick. Not totally against this but with this be a pitching heavy draft I would prefer Rendon. We will know on Monday but I remember how hard I rooted for the #1 Pick to get Rendon.

  • Anonymous

    Tim if possible could talk in a post about how Cole’s delievery has changed from his soph. to junior year? He has really changed his mechanics and I was wondering if you watch the videos of him on youtube what you thought. Really love the site!

  • Nate

    Odds on Tommy John surgery?

  • Anonymous

    No Nate!  No!  You don’t mention a no-hitter while the no hitter is taking place.  Same principle applies when discussing the Pirates drafting a pitcher in the first round.  You don’t mention TS surgery.  How did Jameson get past you last year?  You just threw a black cat on Cole’s career before it even started.  OK, OK.  I was thinking it too about the possibility of arm trouble, but I didn’t post it.

Latest Analysis

  • Keller Supak Hinsz

    Even With the New Draft Rules, the Pirates Are Still Loading Up on Projectable Pitchers

    2 days ago

    From 2008-2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates spent a lot of resources on projectable pitchers out of high school. So far, this approach has led to breakout performances from ...

    Read More
  • Josh Bell made the move to first base over the off-season. (Photo credit: David Hague)

    Why Should You Care About Prospects?

    3 days ago

    Yesterday I had a shorter day than usual. The Pirates had cuts at the MLB level, and a road game. The day was shortened at Pirate City, ...

    Read More
  • Gregory Polanco

    Q&A: Trading Prospects For Rentals, Polanco Concerns, Meadows vs Appel

    4 days ago

    I missed the Q&A last week due to a common problem in Spring Training: I forgot what day it was. It was around 6:00 that I was ...

    Read More
  • Nick Kingham f

    Improving His Two-Seam Fastball will Make Nick Kingham a More Effective Pitcher

    5 days ago

    With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero 3

    The Roster Situations That Could Impact the Makeup of the Pirates Bullpen

    7 days ago

    There are less than two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the one area where the Pittsburgh Pirates had actual position battles is heating up. There were ...

    Read More
  • Jordan Luplow

    How the Pirates are Trying to Stay Ahead of the Curve With the New Draft Rules

    1 week ago

    The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement brought a lot of changes to Major League Baseball. The biggest change for the Pittsburgh Pirates came in the draft. From 2008-2011, ...

    Read More
  • Alen Hanson

    The Key For Alen Hanson to Help the Pirates in the Majors This Year

    1 week ago

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at ...

    Read More
  • Tyler Glasnow 2

    What the Stats Don’t Tell You About Tyler Glasnow

    1 week ago

    The stat line for Tyler Glasnow’s start at Pirate City yesterday looked great: 3 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. The lone run ...

    Read More
  • JaCoby Jones Josh Bell

    JaCoby Jones Did Fine in the Move to Shortstop, But Needs to Cut Down on Strikeouts

    2 weeks ago

    The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted JaCoby Jones as an outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft, then surprised everyone the following year when they moved him ...

    Read More
  • Cody Dickson is a lefty with the upside of a middle of the rotation starter. (Photo Credit: Mark Olson)

    The Mental Adjustment that Led to Cody Dickson’s Dominant 2014 Second Half

    2 weeks ago

    Trusting his stuff and not trying to do too much — that has been the key for left-handed pitcher Cody Dickson so far in his professional baseball ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles