Prospect Notebook: Cole Goes Five Innings, Hafner’s Spring Debut
Right handed pitcher Gerrit Cole pitched five innings today at Pirate City, going up against the Philadelphia Phillies’ A-ball team. Cole gave up just one run on five hits, with the run coming in the first inning. The top prospect didn’t issue a walk and struck out three.
Cole threw 65 pitches, with 45 going for strikes. His fastball speed ranged from 91-98, with his two-seam fastball being responsible for the lower half of that scale, and the four seam fastball touching the top part. He mostly sat around 95-96 MPH with his fastball, hitting 97 a few times.
He displayed his sharp slider, a few nice change-ups, including one that drew a strikeout, and his slurvey curveball. All of Cole’s pitches have so much movement that it’s hard to tell what he’s throwing, even to the players who are charting pitches behind the plate. At one point he threw a change-up to get a strikeout and end the inning. There was debate over whether the pitch was a change, or a slider, because of how sharp of a cut the change had. The debate was resolved when a player went over to Cole and asked him what pitch he threw.
Overall the start was pretty uneventful in the sense that it was Gerrit Cole being Gerrit Cole. He showed why he was taken first overall, and the key here was that he got up to five innings and 65 pitches one week before the regular season begins.
RYAN HAFNER MAKES SPRING DEBUT
Ryan Hafner has been nursing a hamstring injury throughout camp, which prevented him from making his debut in a game until today. Hafner started an intrasquad game, throwing an inning of live batting practice, followed by a normal inning.
Hafner threw the live batting practice in front of an L-screen. During his second inning he threw mostly fastballs, with one curveball. The right-hander sat 90-92 MPH, and touched 94 MPH once.
“Everything felt good, and it’s just about staying healthy and getting back in to the swing,” Hafner said of his stuff today.
The velocity is a good sign, not just because Hafner hasn’t pitched much this off-season, but also because it’s a continuation of where he left off last year. When I saw him at the start of the State College season he was throwing in the 88-91 MPH range. When I saw him in instructs, he was throwing 90-93 MPH. Hafner attributes the added velocity to throwing everyday, which made his arm stronger. With his size and lean frame, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him add more velocity as he moves forward.
JARED LAKIND IMPROVING AT FIRST BASE
The Pirates have a lot of first base prospects with power potential and poor defense. There’s Matt Curry in Altoona, Alex Dickerson in Bradenton, and Jose Osuna in West Virginia. Then there’s Jared Lakind. Lakind has actually looked strong defensively so far in camp, showing the ability to make a lot of difficult picks at first base.
“I’m feeling real comfortable on defense, on offense,” Lakind said about his spring progress so far. “Whether I get two strikes, or don’t have any strikes on me. Feel real comfortable being on the field period.”
When it comes to first basemen, defense is the icing on the cake, and the real value comes from offense. Lakind has shown his power potential in camp, and has been hitting well. The Pirates paid him a $400 K bonus as a 23rd round pick in 2010, mostly due to his power potential and potential to be a good hitter at first.
“When I get the pitch I’ll barrel it up, but my main focus is staying in the middle of the field, line drives, and just hit it hard anywhere, just barrel it up,” Lakind said about his power this spring.
He is slated to start the year in extended Spring Training, moving up to State College by mid-season.
There were a few highlight reel plays at Pirate City today.
Drew Maggi made a nice diving catch on a soft liner at second base. The ball was hit to the edge of the infield dirt behind the pitcher’s mound, with Maggi playing back. He was able to dive forward, getting a good angle on the ball and catching it before it hit the ground. It was the only play he could have made to get an out.
Dilson Herrera and Stefan Welch had a rare 6-5 out. A hard grounder was hit to the hole between third and short. Welch ranged to his left, but was unable to make the play. Herrera ranged backwards, and fielded the ball right at the outfield grass. The runner on second started running to third, and Herrera turned and threw to Welch, who was running back to the bag. The throw got to Welch at the same time as the runner, who was tagged out as he passed Welch, trying to slide in to third. It was a good play by Herrera, and a good heads up move by Welch to get back to the bag after missing the grounder to his left.
Kirk Singer might have had the play of the day. With a runner at third base and no outs a chopper was hit directly to third base, where Singer was playing today. Singer jumped up to field the ball, tagged the runner at third as he was sliding back in to the bag, then fired a strike across the diamond to get the force at first. The next batter flied out to left-center, which probably would have scored the runner from third if Singer didn’t make the tag.
DYLAN CHILD ADDING VERSATILITY
Today I noticed Dylan Child playing second base in the intrasquad game. Child is a catcher in the lower levels of the system, signed out of Australia prior to the 2010 season. He’s very athletic, and played in the infield prior to moving behind the plate. He grew up playing shortstop and third base, and moved to second and first base as he got older, while playing a bit of outfield. The Pirates liked his athleticism and thought he would be good behind the plate.
Child has played first base, second base, and third base so far this spring. The move is to add some versatility to his game. Part of that is to help get him more at-bats, especially in camp. There are a lot of catchers in camp trying to get playing time, so by moving Child to other positions, the Pirates can keep him in the lineup every day, focusing on his hitting.
“This year it’s going a lot better, a lot more comfortable,” Child said of his hitting. “Just trying to get more at-bats, see more pitches, and see how I go from there.”
Child will remain in extended Spring Training, and could have a shot at moving up to State College this year. Despite the added positions, the Pirates still see him as a catcher, and will play him at that spot during the season. However, the extra positions will give them some options for him to keep him in the lineup.
**Alex Dickerson had three hits today, with two doubles and a single. He started off with a double to right field. Later he hit a hard roller down the third base line. Dickerson has surprising speed for his size, and used this to easily stretch the single in to a double.
**Zack Dodson threw five innings, allowing no runs on three hits, with a walk and three strikeouts. He was going up against the short-season players, but got up to 72 pitches, with 42 going for strikes.
**Dan Gamache had a double today. He’s been hitting well this spring.
**Zac Fuesser pitched five shutout innings, allowing one hit, walking three, and striking out four. He threw 77 pitches, with 53 strikes. He was 86-89 MPH with his fastball.
**Quinton Miller went 2.2 innings, allowing three runs on five hits, with two walks and two strikeouts. His stuff looked good, throwing 90-94 MPH today. He gave up two hard hit balls, one of them going for a homer, but the other hits were cheap hits. Miller looks improved this year over previous years. He just needs to stay healthy.