Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Future Is Now

On Tuesday, June 11th, 2013, the long, long, long suffering Pittsburgh Pirate fan base saw their equivalent of Halley's Comet.  They were able to witness the debut of an actual homegrown, bonafide ace #1 pitcher in the form of Gerrit Cole.

Cole was the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, just two short years ago nearly to the day.  There were many good choices at the top of that draft in the form of Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, Dylan Bundy, Danny Hultzen, and Archie Bradley.  Bundy and Bauer already reached the majors in 2012 (Bundy is out this year with elbow issues already in his career), but Cole was the overall best mix of pure stuff and proximity to the majors.

Cole's arsenal consists of four pitches, three of which are either plus pitches or have the ability to be plus pitches: He starts and ends every conversation with a 97-99 mph fastball (an 80 on the 20-80 scale), his 90 mph slider (already plus), an 88-90 mph changeup, and a functional curveball.

His debut was against none other than the defending World Series Champs, the San Francisco Giants.  His mound opponent was 2-time (but on the wane) Cy Young Winner Tim Lincecum.  And Cole upstaged both of them.  His final line betrays how dominant he was in this game -- 6.1 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, and 2 K.  The outing got away from him in the 7th inning, where his two runs scored, but he completed his debut in just 81 pitches.  His command was faltering, but not his stuff -- his fastball was still sitting 95-96.

According to Fangraphs, Cole threw 80% fastballs (65 pitches), 17.5% sliders (14), and 2.5% changeups (2).  Obviously those numbers are going to regulate over time to around 65% fastballs and more changeups.

Cole didn't seem overwhelmed at all by the moment.  Not after striking out the first batter he faced in 3 pitches, not after driving in the first 2 runs with his first hit since high school (seriously), and not during his post-game interview with the media.  He's ready.  He's able to shoulder the burden of a downtrodden franchise on his 6'-4", 240 pound frame.

Cole is bushwhacking through the forest, clearing a path for the potential stampede of pitching prospects coming behind him.  This time next year, Jameson Taillon should debut and become a solid #2-level pitcher, just a shade in ceiling behind Cole.  Nick Kingham, recently promoted to Double A Altoona, may see the majors in late 2014.  Tyler Glasnow is breaking out in a huge way at West Virginia, but he's probably 3 years away.  Luis Heredia has yet to debut in 2013, due to conditioning issues, but he's in the mix too.

There may be no flying cars, but the future is here.  June 11, 2013 was the start of a new era of hope for the Pirate franchise.  The debuts of McCutchen and Alvarez were extremely important, but Cole symbolizes the transition from pretender to contender for the Pirates.

1 comment:

  1. I want the flying cars. Until then, GTFO, Garrett.