For the last few weeks, UCLA starting pitcher Gerrit Cole has been getting more and more attention for the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, thanks to his strong start to the 2011 season, and struggles from Anthony Rendon. As I’ve pointed out many times, Cole’s talent is definitely there, making him worthy of consideration for the first overall pick, over Rendon. However, there’s a huge risk with college pitchers, and despite his big 6′ 4″, 215 pound frame, Cole is no exception.
It’s easy to forget the risks involved with college pitchers when looking at Cole. In his first game he threw a complete game shutout, needing just 104 pitches. Later he threw a complete game shutout, needing just 101 pitches this time around. Cole hasn’t had any alarming starts, so the high pitch count factor has been removed from the equation. That wasn’t the case last night.
I’ll admit that Cole is getting closer to a 50/50 battle with Rendon in my book, but last night’s start reminded me why Rendon is my clear favorite. It wasn’t because Cole allowed four runs on seven hits in 6.2 innings. It was because Cole threw 116 pitches in those 6.2 innings. Throwing 116 pitches in a complete game isn’t that bad, since it’s a very efficient pace. Throwing 116 pitches in 6.2 innings is a concern.
The bigger concern is that it’s only March, and Cole is already topping 100 pitches in non-complete games. Don’t expect that to be a one time thing. UCLA’s offense has been horrible. During yesterday’s start, Cole completed a stretch where he went about 20 innings straight with no run support. UCLA is out to win, and if their offense continues to struggle, don’t expect Cole to be pulled early. He will be in the game longer, to allow them the best chance to win, or stay in the game. With two months until the draft, that could be a huge concern.
For a good, first hand report on Cole’s start yesterday, check out this post on Bucs Dugout.