When the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Gerrit Cole first overall in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of UCLA, they thought they drafted a future ace for the starting rotation. According to a few scouts that have scouted Cole recently, that may or may not still be the case.
I first read about this story on Pirates Prospects written by a very smart man in Tim Williams. The first of the scouts to report on Cole, Mark Anderson of Baseball Prospectus, noted that while Cole’s pitches are very good, he lacks command with all of his pitches. To be specific, he noted that Cole’s fastball command and slider command is average, while his changeup command is below average. To go along with the lack of command, Anderson also pointed out that Cole can get too emotional on the mound, including getting frustrated with his teammates when they make mistakes.
The other scout to report on Cole, Al Skorupa of RotoGraphs also said that Cole gets too emotional while pitching and that his command is below average at times. The troubling thing that Skorupa said is that Cole still has the potential to be a one of the best starters in all of baseball, but Skorupa personally projects him as a number two starter or even as low as a high-end number three.
Yikes. This doesn’t necessarily mean Cole is going to be a draft bust or anything like that, especially since these guys haven’t seen all of Cole’s starts, but it a bit of a concern. Cole’s lack of command has been evident all season in Triple-A. Cole is 3-2 on the season with a 3.75 ERA with 23 walks in 48 innings (4.3 BB/9).
Everyone has their own opinions on what is wrong with the Pirates’ top prospect. I personally think he just needs more time in the minor leagues. I originally thought before the season started that Cole should be a true contender for a rotation spot by June, but not anymore. Some people think Cole is just bored in the minor leagues, but I don’t buy that. If he were striking everyone out, then I would think he was bored. However, I don’t if he is struggling.
The bottom-line is that whatever is causing Cole to struggle, he needs to find a way to fix it because the Pirates can’t afford to have him not reach his potential, or at least get close to it. If he really is bored and frustrated to be in the minor leagues, he needs to grow up and get over it because he’s not helping himself this way.