I apologize for starting the week with a math problem, but…
Really busy baseball watching weekend +
Blue Screen of Death seconds before I hit post +
stupidly trying to type a post directly on site and not in Word doc +
Wordpress autosave feature not quite living up to my misguided hopes =
A really quick uncut summation of what I’ve seen out of Anthony Rendon’s biggest competitor for the draft’s number one spot, UCLA JR RHP Gerrit Cole. This is a rare case where I can combine all sorts of fun factors (video, three separate years of live personal “scouting,” and, as always, all of the written and spoken information from people way smarter than I am about this stuff that I could possibly digest) into formulating an opinion on a prospect. Here’s what I’ve got…
UCLA JR RHP Gerrit Cole (2011): 4-seam: really easy 92-96 four-seam FB, 97-99 FB peak; 98 on last pitch of opening day complete game; told by scout that he is unique in that he appears to hit 98 “whenever he wants” with FB; between velocity, movement, and improved command, the FB is a legit plus-plus pitch; speaking of command…relatively poor FB command through middle of sophomore season, but the improvement in this area has been nothing short of remarkable; holds velocity exceptionally well; 2-seam: 92-94 two-seam FB with above-average sink; Cutter: not personally 100% sold on the difference between the two-seam and the cutter (remember: I’m no professional, just a guy with a hobby), but enough smart people are labeling the pitch as a cut fastball at 87-91; Slider: plus 81-87 SL (more commonly and more effectively thrown harder at 86-88); was clocked harder still (consistently 87-89) on SL this past summer; Change: personal favorite offering is his excellent sinking extra firm 83-87 (!) CU with plus upside; pitch seems to get better with every outing;
By now regular readers know that I love forcing comps where they don’t necessarily belong. In the unlikely scenario I am ever forced to give a comp for Gerrit Cole or be forced to watch Miguel Cairo swing at the first pitch in what seemed like every single at bat during his Phillies tenure on loop, I’d throw this one out there as a potential ceiling: potential future teammate Felix Hernandez. Both have/had explosive fastballs, plus upside with unusually hard slider and changeup, similar enough builds (this one might be a stretch…), early questions about command and delivery…obviously this isn’t a perfect comp, but it is a rough outline of what kind of package Cole will bring to whatever pro team is lucky enough to draft him.
What are the odds that Cole overtakes Rendon for the first pick? The Mariners are going to have probably the easiest decision to make, taking whichever of the two the Pirates don’t select.
I’d say it is about 50/50 at this point. Interesting to note what two of the draft experts are saying here. Keith Law is firmly on the Cole bandwagon at this point, while Jim Callis merely acknowledges that some teams might consider Cole the top player in the class. Earlier today Callis said he’d taken Rendon during his weekly chat at BA.
Quick tangent time! I personally trust Callis above any other source when it comes to the draft because he has the best contacts in the business by far. Law’s insight is always appreciated, but I think he believes his own hype as a scout far too much and judges players unfairly on the one or two games he sees them in person. Within a tangent, a mini-rant: one of the goals of this site is to serve as an extension of the admittedly superior work Callis does – I’m far more interested in presenting information that comes backed up by reputable sources rather than offering declarative statements on player value as if the handful of games I see in person makes me an authority. That’s not to say I bow to the altar of the work “real” scouts do; quite the opposite really, as I think scouts tend to protect their own self interests by acting as though what they do is some kind of mystical talent that can only be done by trained professionals. I don’t blame them for this, but I do think that even any reasonably intelligent fan can watch enough baseball with a critical eye and pick up on many of the things scouts look for.
However, and this is big, the best scouts do a lot more than just evaluate players on the field. The forging of personal scout/player relationships is something that some internet loudmouth like me can’t replicate in any meaningful way. And, yes, in many instances the better scouts do see things, especially in terms of physical projection and mechanical issues, than I know I’d ever notice. If it seems like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth here it’s because I am. Scouts are really good at what they do, but not so good that fans shouldn’t even bother trying to “scout”…just as long as they don’t go around calling themselves “scouts.” That last part is a personal pet peeve. When I worked for one of the big boys in the industry a few years ago, my roommate at the time would catch me before I’d head out to a game and ask, “Going out scouting today?” I’d always correct him, because, yeah, I’m that annoying, by saying something like, “No, just going to watch some baseball!” He’d then introduce me to people as the guy with the part-time job of “baseball watcher.” There really is a different to me. I’m not a scout nor do I ever want to be a scout. I’m a guy who watches baseball, reads about baseball, and tries to pass along as much accrued information on baseball as I can.
Alright, tangent over. Sorry about that. I think Rendon has done enough to keep his spot atop the board and will continue to hold down the number one position the spring. Phenomenal year to be picking in the top two, though.