Usually with the MLB Draft, there is a consensus number one player. The past two years, the Washington Nationals selected Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, respectively. Last season, it looked as if Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon would be the first overall selection in the 2011 draft. However, Rendon suffered a shoulder injury that scared off some teams. Going into the draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates held the first selection and without a clear-cut number one pick, they had some decisions to make. The Pirates narrowed it down to Rendon, UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole and Virginia pitcher Danny Hultzen. General manager Neal Huntington decided to take Cole with the first pick.
Cole, who many compare to Strasburg, fits the bill for the Pirates and is Huntington’s type of player. He loves a strong-armed, power pitcher and Cole is just that being clocked at 102 mph and throwing 95-96 consistently. What isn’t discussed is Cole’s changeup, which keeps hitters off balance with its drop in velocity and has been compared to Johan Santana’s changeup with respect to the movement. It is alarming that Cole’s numbers have dropped substantially this year from last, going from an 11-4 record in 2010 to 6-8 this year. Cole statistically wasn’t even the best pitcher on his own staff this season, but that didn’t scare off the Pirates. Cole sported a respectable 3.37 ERA and 153 strikeouts, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3-to-1 in 2010, and has an ERA of 3.31 this season. Cole recently got hammered by University of San Francisco in the opening game of NCAA regional play giving up 3 runs on 11 hits.
With the struggles this past year, the 6-foot-4, 225 pound Cole, remains the top prospect according to ESPN’s Keith Law. However, the Pirates haven’t always made the right decisions in the past when it came to the draft (two examples: Brad Lincoln over Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum, and Daniel Moskos over Matt Wieters and Jason Heyward), so how will this one pan out? The fact is, the Pirates aren’t the only ones to pass over the aforementioned players, but with the top pick, the light will shine on them the greatest. The Pirates took the top pitchers in the draft last year in Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie, so they are showing they want to build the team the right way. Cole will join an impressive pitching core of Taillon, Allie, Luis Heredia, Bryan Morris, Lincoln, Tim Alderson and Joe Martinez already in the minors.
Going into the draft, I wanted the Pirates to take Rendon and I still think they should have. Current third baseman Pedro Alvarez is thought to be the long-term solution at first base and with taking Rendon, the Pirates could have started that transition after this year. Of the stable of pitchers the Pirates have, it’s no guarantee that half of them, if any, will live up to expectations, so I understand the old phrase that you can never have enough pitching. Pitching is at a premium and if some of them do live up to expectations, they could always fetch a solid major league bat in a trade.
“While the Pirates could have had a core of Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Tony Sanchez and Rendon, the thought of a pitching staff with Taillon, Allie, Cole, Charlie Morton and another pitcher, seems quite enticing”, said Pirates fan Phil Dillon.
Rendon’s success or failure will forever be linked to the Pirates passing him up as the number one pick. The Pirates’ front office is counting on Cole to make Pirates fans forget the name Rendon.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com