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Gerrit Cole: 2011 MLB Draft First Overall Pick?

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.

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Three More Quick Thoughts on College Baseball’s Third Weekend

1. The elite college pitching is really hard to keep up with. On Friday night, the trio of Andrew Chafin (10 K’s), Gerrit Cole (8), and Tyler Anderson (14) combined to total 24 innings of shutout, 9-hit baseball between them. Not to be outdone, Sonny Gray (9 IP 3 H 1 ER 0 BB 15 K) and Danny Hultzen (7 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 11 K) also dominated in their Friday night matchups. Hultzen, the early favorite for the Golden Spikes Award, helped himself at the plate and on the base paths yet again, this time by walking three times and stealing two bases. On the year he has allowed 9 base runners in 20.2 innings on the mound while reaching base twice as often (13 hits and 5 walks in just over 40 plate appearances) at the plate. On the other end of the spectrum, it was disappointing to see Nick Tropeano struggle a little bit on the big stage against North Carolina, but, in what could be definitely be considered a silver lining (or grasping for straws at a really tiny sample size), he did manage to keep UNC’s best hitter Levi Michael quiet. Also disappointed to see Taylor Jungmann throw 120 pitches. I’ve been hesitant to downgrade Jungmann, but, in a year with so many premium college arms tightly bunched at the top, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility to see Jungmann dip below similarly, or in some cases slightly less, talented arms with more favorable college usage patterns.

2. Remember Player A from Friday? The guy who fit the following description: potential plus hit tool; line drive machine; gap power upside; leadoff man profile with above-average speed and good plate discipline; solid defender in CF; average at best throwing arm that grades out higher in terms of accuracy than strength; good track record with wood; great athlete with a pro body; 6-2, 175 pounds? That guy? His line for the weekend (6-9, BB, 2 RBI, 3 R, 2 SB, K) fit in nicely with his scouting report. 6 hits, all singles. Player B, meanwhile, was described like this: great physical strength; plus raw power; plus bat speed; average speed; average arm; good range in a corner; pitch recognition, or lack thereof, could make or break him; 6-2, 195 pounds. His line (7-12, 2 HR, 3B, 2B, BB, 6 RBI, 4 R, 2 SB, K) was also in line with the scouting reports (especially the power outburst), except with improved plate discipline. All in all, good weekends for both Johnny Ruettiger and Jason Coats.

3. No rhyme or reason behind the methodology of choosing players for this list, other than the desire of wanting to spotlight batting lines that intrigued me enough to jot down. As a draft-eligible sophomore coming off of an uninspiring freshman campaign, Andrew Susac was a prime “wait and see” player for me heading into 2011. It is still early, but, man, it is easy to like what the guy has done so far. All stats are from the weekend of 3/4 to 3/6…

  • Oregon State SO C Andrew Susac (7-13, 2 HR, 2 2B, 4 BB, 8 RBI, 9 R)
  • Bethune Cookman JR C Peter O’Brien (6-11, 2 HR, 2B, 6 RBI, 4 R, K)
  • Connecticut JR SS Nick Ahmed (4-5, HR, BB, RBI, 3 R, 2 SB on Saturday followed by 0-4 on Sunday)
  • St. John’s JR SS Joe Panik (7-11, 2B, 4 BB, 4 RBI, 7 R, 2 SB, K)
  • Virginia JR LHP/1B Danny Hultzen (2-4, 3B, 4 BB, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 SB)
  • LSU JR OF Mikie Mahtook (3-9, HR, 2B, 4 BB, RBI, 5 R, 3 SB, 2 K)
  • Oregon State SO OF Garrett Nash (5-12, 2B, 2 BB, 4 RBI, 9 R, 3 HBP, 2 SB, K)
  • Rice JR OF Jeremy Rathjen (4-12, 2 2B, BB, 3 RBI, SB, K)

Another draft-eligible Oregon State sophomore is primed to rise up draft boards if he can keep stringing together weekends like this past weekend’s. The biggest questions Nash needed to answer this spring surrounded his hit tool and the early returns, from a scouting perspective anyway, are positive enough. The big weekend only brought his season line up to .200/.409/.233, but the plus-plus speed and potential for plus defense in center remain strong points in his favor.

Batted Ball Data 2011

Requirements for this are super simple: 1) pitchers must be eligible for the 2011 MLB Draft, 2) pitchers must have allowed 15 batted balls in play, 3) pitchers must either be above or below my arbitrarily decided upon standards (over 75% ground ball percentage, under 40% ground ball percentage). It should also be noted that it has only been two weeks, so, really, we’re going on about as little meaningful data as possible here. First, the ground ball machines…

Arizona JR RHP Kyle Simon: 92.0%
Texas A&M JR RHP John Stilson: 91.3%
Oregon State JR RHP Sam Gaviglio: 80.8%
Villanova JR RHP Kyle McMyne: 77.8%
Connecticut SR LHP Elliot Glynn: 77.3%
Oregon JR RHP Madison Boer: 75.0%
UAB SR RHP Ryan Woolley: 75.0%

Simon and Stilson have combined for 44 ground balls out of 48 batted ball outs. That’s crazy. Stilson’s power stuff has gotten plenty of pub, but Simon’s underrated grounder-inducing repertoire (plus fastball movement, good splitter, much improved slider) should have him moving up draft boards this spring. Extra credit for the lefthanded Glynn cracking the list.

UCLA JR RHP Gerrit Cole: 38.1%
Alabama JR LHP Adam Morgan: 31.3%
North Carolina SR RHP Patrick Johnson: 30.0%
North Carolina State JR RHP Cory Mazzoni: 29.6%

I have no explanation why Cole doesn’t get more ground ball outs. Going off memory, I’m pretty sure he had a very low ground ball percentage last year as well.

Quick Statistical Look at 2011 MLB Draft Pitching Prospects

In absolutely no particular order, 2011 draft prospects that finished last season with over 10 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, minimum 50 total innings pitched. For reference’s sake, prospects expected to go in the top three rounds are in bold…

Kentucky JR RHP Alex Meyer

Missouri State JR RHP Dan Kickham

Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Noe Ramirez

Virginia SR RHP Tyler Wilson

Maryland SR RHP Brett Harman

Vanderbilt JR RHP Sonny Gray

Texas A&M JR RHP John Stilson

Texas JR RHP Taylor Jungmann

Baylor JR RHP Logan Verrett

UCLA JR RHP Gerrit Cole

UCLA JR RHP Trevor Bauer

Washington JR RHP Andrew Kittredge

Georgia Tech JR LHP Jed Bradley

Virginia JR LHP/1B Danny Hultzen

Mississippi JR LHP Matt Crouse

Stanford JR LHP Brett Mooneyham

Arizona State JR LHP Mitchell Lambson

TCU SO LHP Matt Purke

Northeastern JR LHP Andrew Leenhouts

Friday Night Lights – College Baseball’s Best Pitching Prospect Performances (2/18/11)

1. I am a long way away from actually finalizing my college pitching rankings, but I’m pretty much locked in on who will sit atop the list. As impressive as Texas Christian SO LHP Matt Purke (4 shutout innings) and Texas JR RHP Taylor Jungmann (9 IP 5 H 0 ER 1 BB 9 K, only 95 pitches) performed, UCLA JR RHP Gerrit Cole (9 IP 4 H 0 ER 1 BB 11 K) is the man. Better believe they’ll be more on him to come over the next few weeks.

2. Texas A&M JR RHP John Stilson was only omitted from the previous entry because he slipped my mind, but, really, the guy belongs in the top college arm discussion with the likes of Cole, Purke, Jungmann, et al.  Perhaps it is for the best that the least well known major college pitcher gets his own space, so we can fully appreciate his sustained run of dominance. Stilson’s 2010 season (14 K/9) was the stuff of legend, and his transition to starting on Friday nights (6 IP 3 H 0 ER 1 BB 9 K) has started with a bang. My favorite part of his Friday line: 18 outs recorded, 9 via strikeout, 9 via groundball, 0 fly balls. He’s a starter all the way for me, despite the sentiment that he is too much of a two-pitch thrower to get through the lineup multiple times. I’ve heard too many positive things about both his changeup and his slider to believe differently.

3. Washington State JR LHP Adam Conley opened some eyes by peaking at 95-96 MPH on Friday. My earliest notes on him have him sitting 86-88 with a peak between 90-92. Amazing what some time working with a great college staff can do for a kid. Credit should also be given to Conley (by all accounts a really hard worker), as well as the natural maturation that comes with growing into a sturdy 6-3, 185 pound frame (up 15 pounds from his freshman year).

4. The Cole Hamels’ clones just keep coming. It isn’t just Conley with the mid-90s heat and a plus changeup. Virginia JR LHP Danny Hultzen (check out his Friday night two-way line: 2-4, BB, 3 RBI and, more importantly, 6.2 IP 3 H 1 ER 1 BB 10 K) and Georgia Tech JR LHP Jed Bradley (he pitched Saturday, but I’m cheating to make a point…5.2 IP 4 H 1 ER 2 BB 10 K) both offer outstanding four-pitch arsenals that include that magic mid-90s fastball and plus change combo that I love. Heck, all three of these guys were big favorites before they bumped up their velocity because of the way they reminded me of Vanderbilt’s Mike Minor, one of my favorite draft prospects of the past few years. Here’s what I said about Minor on his draft day, by the way:

LOVE Mike Minor – good enough velocity, plus change, either the curve or the slider will be a plus pitch down the line (I think), great command, very good athlete, smooth delivery, repeatable mechanics, pitched at an outstanding program. This pick will get panned by everybody, but they are wrong – Minor is an absolute keeper. I had him at 18 on my big board, so maybe I’m full of it by saying he was a great pick at 7…but, factoring in signability, it’s a very good, very safe pick.

5. Hultzen may be the best junior two-way player in the land, but Florida SO LHP/1B Brian Johnson has to be tops of the sophomore class. His Friday looked very similar to Hultzen’s: (2-4, 2 2B, RBI, R and 6 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 6 K. Bonus fact: Johnson faced the minimum number of batters in his 2011 debut. Hultzen is a pitcher all the way, but Johnson is seen as talented enough to go either way at this point.

6. Really happy to see Notre Dame SR RHP Brian Dupra healthy and pitching well (7 IP 7 H 2 ER 0 BB 5 K) once again. Dupra looked like a top five round lock heading into his junior year, but injury and ineffectiveness forced him into returning for his senior year in an attempt to reestablish his draft stock. I haven’t heard anything about his stuff on Friday, but if it reached pre-injury levels (mid-90s FB, hard cutter, good low-80s SL), then he could position himself as one of the top college power pitching prospects, as well as easily the most desirable college pitching senior sign.

7. Another interesting draft prospect and college senior, Oklahoma SR RHP Michael Rocha, put on a show this Friday: 7 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 7 K. Rocha doesn’t have near the velocity of Dupra at his best, but thrives on his funky breaking stuff, good command, and high pitching IQ. Rocha’s one-hit performance was matched by Alabama JR LHP Adam Morgan, who put up the following line: 5.1 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 6 K. Unlike the power fastball lefties mentioned above, Morgan instead follows in the footsteps of the more typical, pitchability style of crafty college lefties. The lack of a big fastball stings a little less when you have a plus curve, a pitch that I think ranks in the top ten of its type amongst 2011 college draft prospects.

8. The college pitching in Texas this year is Gottfried Leibniz level deep. Jungmann and Stilson may be the headliners, but fellow Lone Star ballers Texas State JR RHP Carson Smith and Baylor JR RHP Logan Verrett could wind up at the tail end of the first round with big springs. Their respective debuts (Smith: 2 IP 3 H 1 ER 0 BB 4 K; Verrett: 3 IP 6 H 4 ER 1 BB 3 K) weren’t as pretty as I’m sure they would have liked, but both continued to show the first round quality stuff they’ve grown famous for. Smith has the frame (6-5, 220) and a fastball to dream on, while Verrett potential for four above-average pitches is tantalizing.

9. Two of my favorite Conference USA prospects put up unique lines that deserve a little love. Check out the Friday line for Southern Miss SR RHP Todd McInnis: 8 IP 5 H 0 ER 0 BB 7 K. Very good line, right? What makes that performance truly exception, assuming there wasn’t a typo on the box score, is the following: he threw 45 pitches! Is that even possible? At least 21 pitches were thrown to get those 7 strikeouts. That leaves 24 pitches to get the 17 remaining outs. Incredible, if true. The line for Central Florida SR LHP Nick Cicio was impressive, if significantly less rare: 3 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 5 K. That’s an example of how a college lefty straight out of central casting (mid-80s fastball, good change, slurvy breaking pitch) can dominate out of the pen.

10. Think we could all agree that a line of [9 IP 5 H 0 ER 1 BB 8 K] would make for a darn fine outing by any starting pitcher. It also works as a pretty great combined line shared by two legit mid- to late-round 2011 draft prospects. In a performance reminiscent of peak years Legion of Doom, or, my sentimental personal favorite, The Natural Disasters, Wichita State SR RHP Tim Kelley (5 IP 3 H 0 ER 1 BB 6 K) and SO LHP Brian Flynn (4 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 2 K) tag teamed to shut down the opposition on Friday night. Both pitchers profile best as middle relievers professionally, with Flynn getting more current buzz due to his readymade WWF size and strength (6-8, 240…so big I had to double check on the website to make sure I didn’t copy it wrong in my notes).

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Bonus! Stanford SO RHP and potential 2012 top ten pick Mark Appel (5.2 IP 8 H 2 ER 1 BB 4 K) didn’t quite light the world on fire with his opening night line, but the velocity pickup in his stuff (FB now peaking in the upper-90s, SL now peaking mid-80s) had everybody taking notice. If he can integrate his changeup (plus potential there) more as the season goes on, he’ll head into 2012 on the short list of candidates to go in the top three. Back in February 2009 I had him as the 9th best prep righthander, sandwiched between Daniel Tuttle and Matt Graham. This was his quick writeup:

Appel’s strong verbal commitment to Stanford will drop him down draft boards, but he is a great athlete, with a wiry frame with room to fill out, an impressive hard slider, solid change, and the ability to play around with his fastball (mostly by cutting and sinking it). The Cardinal normally get their man, so Appel’s signability will be something to keep on eye on.

GO/AO Data Update – May 20, 2010

The plan is to start with pitchers who took the mound last Friday night and update the rest of the weekend totals throughout the day. No special order to the pitchers listed, just throwing them up based on where their name falls on my spreadsheet. GO/AO data has now been updated to include all starts (when applicable) through May 20, 2010.

Missouri JR RHP Nick Tepesch: 54%
Louisville JR RHP Thomas Royse: 53%
Mississippi JR LHP Drew Pomeranz: 47%
Florida Gulf Coast JR LHP Chris Sale: 61%
LSU JR RHP Anthony Ranaudo: 37%
Georgia Tech JR RHP Deck McGuire: 49%
Notre Dame JR RHP Brian Dupra: 61%

Vanderbilt SO RHP Sonny Gray: 70% (!)
UCLA SO RHP Gerrit Cole: 53%
Stanford SO LHP Brett Mooneyham: 61%
TCU FR LHP Matt Purke: 63%
Kentucky FR LHP Taylor Rogers: 56%
TCU SO RHP Kyle Winkler: 54%

Data – Friday Night Starting Pitchers

Something about Clemson’s Friday night lineup caught my eye recently. Anything about the following configuration of names look unusual?

Chris Epps
Mike Freeman
Jeff Schaus
Kyle Parker
Wilson Boyd
John Hinson
Brad Miller
John Nester
Will Lamb
Casey Harman

No? How about when you look at it from the official Clemson baseball website? Anything?

It is entirely likely that I’m 100% insane, but the way the names are configured in that lineup is just a little bit too perfect. You could draw a line down the right side of the last names and almost get a perfectly straight line. It would look darn near perfect if not for Mike Freeman near the top and starting pitcher Casey Harman at the bottom; their names each have 11 letters total, first and last.

The entire lineup in total letters (first and last name, including the pitcher):

9 – 11 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 8 – 11

The third through eighth batters in the lineup all have exactly ten letters in their names! Amazing!

It’s the little things in life we find amusing sometimes, right? Thank you all for humoring me, now please do enjoy some exclusive ground out percentages from a sampling of college baseball’s finest Friday night starting pitchers.

School – Year – Pitcher – % of batted ball outs classified as “ground balls”

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North Carolina JR RHP Matt Harvey – 69%
Notre Dame JR RHP Brian Dupra – 65%
Miami JR LHP Chris Hernandez – 64%
Kentucky JR LHP Logan Darnell – 64%
Florida Gulf Coast JR LHP Chris Sale – 62%
Mississippi JR LHP Drew Pomeranz – 52%
Tennessee JR LHP Bryan Morgado – 51%
Ohio State JR RHP Alex Wimmers – 50%
San Diego JR RHP Kyle Blair – 50%
Georgia JR RHP Justin Grimm – 46%
Missouri JR RHP Nick Tepesch – 45%
Louisiana State JR RHP Anthony Ranaudo – 41%

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Vanderbilt SO RHP Sonny Gray – 72%
Texas SO RHP Taylor Jungmann – 69%
UCLA SO RHP Gerrit Cole – 59%
Rice SO LHP Taylor Wall – 55%