Two different reports went up this morning about Pittsburgh Pirates top prospect Gerrit Cole. Both reports were similar, possibly seeing the same start from the right-hander, and the takeaway from both reports could challenge the idea that Cole is the top prospect in the system.
**Mark Anderson of Baseball Prospectus scouted Cole on Sunday (h/t Ed Giles), which was his worst start of the year. Cole gave up eight runs on six hits and three walks in 5.2 innings. Anderson noted that Cole has good pitches, but had command issues with his fastball (average command), slider (average), and changeup (below average). He also noted that Cole looked emotional on the mound, and showed frustration with his teammates and umpires who did him no favors. Anderson said that Cole’s stuff got better when he was angry, which makes me think a Gerrit Cole/Incredible Hulk photoshop from Rumbunter is in our future. Overall Anderson said that Cole could be a number one starter, but something was holding him back, and projected him as a high number two starter.
**Al Skorupa of RotoGraphs also scouted Cole recently, and while he doesn’t note which start he saw, the reports sound the same. Skorupa noted that Cole was easily rattled on the mound when calls went against him. He also noted that Cole was missing his spots, and said he needs to tighten up his command and control. He says that the potential is there for Cole to be one of the best starters in the game, but projects him as a number two starter or a high-end number three.
I’ve been talking about Cole’s lack of command all season as the reason he’s been struggling, so it’s not a surprise to see both reports mention that. Both reports are the same in that they say Cole has the stuff to be a number one starter, but both feel something is holding him back and have him as a number two. It’s possible that both reports came on the same day. Having two reports saying Cole is a number two starter draws concerns, but if it’s two reports on the same start, it might as well just be one report.
That’s not discrediting either report. Cole definitely has some command problems, and I agree that something is holding him back. I’ve been saying for weeks that he’s not ready right now. The Pirates also don’t need him with Charlie Morton and Jeff Karstens returning soon. At this point they should focus on the 2014 season for Cole. Don’t even worry about trying to get him up in 2013 just because that’s what people want to see. There’s a bigger need for Cole in 2014. There’s more value in Cole working on his command in 2013, rather than getting a few extra starts in the majors and adding to what will soon be a crowded pitching staff.
I still think Cole has number one upside, and he definitely has number one stuff. As for whether he can get there, I think there’s less optimism on that front now than there was in previous seasons.