As the Pittsburgh Pirates prepare to call up top prospect Gerrit Cole from AAA to the major league team, many fans in Pittsburgh are very excited. Some are familiar with his story and pedigree, but many casual observers do not know about Cole’s stuff, command, and tendencies. Cole will start on Tuesday, and it is unclear if he will remain with the major league team much beyond that. With Charlie Morton due off the disabled list soon to fill the team’s fifth starter void, Cole’s spot in the rotation would exist only if Wandy Rodriguez had to miss more time.
Cole, the number one overall pick in the 2011 Rule 4 Draft – also known as the Major League Entry Draft – has enjoyed success at AAA this season. Cole’s pedigree matches the success. With an 80 fastball and a 70 slider, on the 20-80 scouting scale, Cole has elite stuff. He has, however, struggled with commanding his elite stuff. The main criticism of Cole is that he does not miss enough bats, get enough strikeouts, or avoid enough hard contact.
Cole could immediately dominate on the senior circuit. He has better pure stuff than a number of pitchers, and he could learn to channel it appropriately. However, that is unlikely, as he has not done that yet at any level. The real concern is that Cole continues this tendency to give up too much contact and never emerges as an ace.
For some pitchers, they must be challenged at new levels to fully cultivate their skills. The Pirates are hoping that will happen for Cole. While he has a strong ERA – including an active 19 inning scoreless streak – he has just 47 strikeouts in 68 innings. This is well below the expectation and goal for him, but they will hope that facing superior talent will force Cole to truly challenge these major league hitters.
Gabe Isaacson is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter: @gabeisaacson.