Baseball America released their All-Rookie team for the 2013 season, and Gerrit Cole was named as one of the top five starters. That’s not a surprise, as Cole was fantastic in his rookie campaign, especially during the month of September when he started looking like an ace. The other four starters were Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Julio Teheran.
BA noted that Cole’s average velocity of 95.5 MPH ranked second of all rookie starters with 50+ innings. They also noted that his performance with the Pirates, especially his 3.57 K/BB ratio, was the best of his pro career.
A big reason for that is probably that the Pirates have a different focus in the minors than they do in the majors. The minors is all about development, specifically focusing on fastball command. Cole probably could have had some dominant numbers in the minors by using his slider more often. However, the focus was on the fastball, and the end result is that his fastball command and movement improved enough that he could use the pitch at the major league level to set up his plus slider for strikeouts.
Another reason Cole’s minor league numbers looked worse was the nature of the minors and promotions. Like most players, Cole was promoted once he adjusted to a specific level. That meant he didn’t get much time to dominate at a level before moving up to the next one. We saw that adjustment in the majors in September, with Cole posting some dominant results. The difference is that Cole will remain in the majors next year, and will have a full season where he is adjusted to major league pitching. That is opposed to the minors, where he moved on quickly after adjusting to the level, and never had an extended time where he dominated hitters at a specific level.
That’s something to consider with Jameson Taillon as he makes a similar jump next year. Taillon hasn’t posted numbers that would make you think he can be an ace, but just like Cole, the focus has been on the fastball. Once Taillon is fully unleashed, and once he adjusts to the majors, he could also look like an ace, with numbers we haven’t seen so far in his minor league career.