Today was my first day covering the Fall Instructional Leagues this year. It turned out to be a good day to be at Pirate City, as top prospect Gerrit Cole was on the mound. Cole was going up against the Philadelphia farm system, and ended up throwing five innings of shutout ball.
I was bouncing back and forth between the two fields, so I didn’t see every pitch Cole threw. I did see four strikeouts, with a few coming on the slider. His fastball was in the usual range, starting in the 96 MPH range, and moving up to the upper 90s as the start went on. He hit 99 MPH at least twice. Cole gave up a few hits, including a line drive right back to the mound to start off the game. The runner was erased when Elias Diaz gunned down a runner trying to steal second. Cole allowed two runners to reach third base in the start, both reaching with two outs, but he stranded them both.
On the opposite field, Jake Burnette, Adrian Sampson, and Joely Rodriguez combined for five innings while Cole was pitching, to give an idea of how Cole’s start was a bit longer than the average outing. He was efficient in the start, needing only 56 pitches to get through five.
Other Player Notes
**Jin-De Jhang looks a lot slimmer than when I saw him at this time last year, and even compared to when I saw him about two months ago. The catcher connected for a home run to right field today. I was taking a picture of him while he hit it and started running to first. I wouldn’t have known the ball was gone based on his reaction. He sprinted down to first and took a hard turn to second before the coaches told him to slow down to a home run trot. That’s one thing that has always impressed me about Jhang. He’s an all out player that’s always running full speed.
**Right after Jhang homered, Dilson Herrera connected for a stand up triple to left field on the opposite field. Herrera hit a liner that went over the head and out of reach of the leaping left-fielder. The ball rolled to the wall and Herrera turned on the speed going from first to third, making it standing with an impressive display of speed.
**Today was the first day I saw John Kuchno, who was drafted in the 18th round and given $125,000. He’s a very tall, very big pitcher that looks bigger than his listed 6′ 5″, 210 frame. He was advertised as throwing up to 95 MPH in the draft, and I saw him working 93-94 today with good movement on the pitch. He had a quick inning, so I didn’t get to see too many pitches.
**This was also the first day I saw Adrian Sampson. He was mostly sitting 90-91 MPH, with good movement on his pitches. He also threw a few good breaking pitches, including a low 80s slider. He had good strikeout numbers in State College this year, but I didn’t see much today that made him stand out. It was only two innings, and he was throwing at the same time as Cole, so my attention was split. He has been inconsistent in the past, throwing 87-91 at times, and throwing 90-94 at other times, so this could have been chalked up to one of the poor outings.
**Joely Rodriguez has always been one of my favorite pitchers to watch. The left-hander has a ton of movement on his pitches, and throws with some decent velocity. He was 90-91 MPH today, and was throwing an 86 MPH changeup that looked the same as his fastball coming out of the hand. There wasn’t a lot of difference in speed between his fastball and change, but his change had a good cutting movement. He also threw a low-80s slider which he used for a strikeout to end his one inning. The slider was sharp and caught the backdoor to get the batter looking.
**Cesilio Pimentel, one of the guys brought up from the Dominican leagues, threw an inning. He has an erratic delivery, which could add deception, with a lot going on during his wind up. He was mostly upper 80s with his fastball.
**Jordan Steranka, who was drafted in the 21st round but didn’t play this year due to mono, was playing first base. Steranka had some nice speed for a guy his size, legging out a triple on a line drive to the right-center field gap. On the other field, Stetson Allie was playing first base. I only saw a few swings by Allie, and the plate patience issues were still there.
**Anthony Norman, who spent the last two years with Altoona, is back in the system as a coach.
UPDATE: Photos can be found on the Pirates Prospects Facebook page.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Tim: Thank you for the coverage. I was wondering why the Pirates group in the AFL was so thin, but it must be that they feel comfortable with the exposure in Instructs, and they also have more control of the environment. Our group of SP’s is a little thin next year, and many of us will be looking for possibly both Cole and Taillon to move up.
Thin Jin? Kewl!
They might just have something in that Cole guy…
Hope you’re getting photos . . . . (-: