The Pittsburgh Pirates, though they have four starters currently on the disabled list, have enjoyed strong depth and success from the starting rotation in 2013. A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez have anchored the staff, while Jeff Locke and Francisco Liriano have added innings and production. While the last two are well overdue for staunch regression, their rotation spots are relatively secure. The fifth starter spot, something the Pirates will not need to fill until June 15, will be easily filled by one of many options. The Pirates currently have Charlie Morton, Jeanmar Gomez, Jeff Karstens and James McDonald on the disabled list, with the first of those the most likely to start on June 15. These eight starters may never all be healthy simultaneously. They’ll never all be on the roster at the same time. They may not all even start a game this season. They do, however, provide sufficient depth and talent for the Pirates to not need to call up top prospect Gerrit Cole.
Cole, the Pirates top-ranked prospect and one of the top-10 in baseball, has a 3.25 ERA in AAA. His 6.49 K/9 rate has been underwhelming. He has had control problems – en route to four walks per nine innings – while flashing his plus-plus stuff. Cole pitched 132 innings last year – over three levels – in his first full season in pro ball. Cole would be on an innings limit, if called up to the major leagues, likely around 160. Cole has already pitched 61 innings for AAA Indianapolis, and he should pitch more as his promotion is not imminent. If Cole pitches approximately 100 innings at AAA, he could offer the Pirates about 10 starts before he reached his innings cap. It would not be worth the negligible improvement that Cole could offer the team – over one of their eight alternatives – for such a short period of time.
Cole would be best suited to spend the entire season at AAA, with the potential for a September call-up. If Cole gets a “cup of coffee” in the majors next season, it would be reasonable to expect him to break camp in the starting rotation in Spring of 2014. Starting his service time clock in 2013, having likely already lost over have of his potential innings, would be unnecessary.
Gabe Isaacson is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter: @gabeisaacson.