Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Top Prospects: #1 – Gerrit Cole

Today we wrap up the top 10 countdown with our number one prospect. If you’ve enjoyed the countdown and the reports on each player, you’ll also enjoy the 2012 Prospect Guide, which features similar reports on the remaining top 50 prospects, as well as over 250 prospect reports and a feature on the top four pitching prospects in the system. You can purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site.

To recap the countdown so far:

10. Nick Kingham

9. Kyle McPherson

8. Stetson Allie

7. Tony Sanchez

6. Robbie Grossman

5. Luis Heredia

4. Josh Bell

3. Starling Marte

2. Jameson Taillon

We conclude the countdown with the number one prospect, Gerrit Cole.

Gerrit Cole was given $8 M as the top pick in the 2011 draft.

1. Gerrit Cole, RHP

The Pirates took Cole with the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, adding a top of the rotation starting prospect for the second straight year. The addition of Cole gives the Pirates one of the best pitching prospect duos in baseball, with Cole and Taillon both likely to end up in a lot of top 20 prospect lists.

Cole features an upper 90s fastball which can hit triple digits on a regular basis. He carries his velocity in to the late innings, even hitting 98 MPH after 100 pitches. He pairs his plus fastball with a plus slider and a plus changeup, with both pitches sitting in the upper 80s. Cole has also been working on a two seam fastball which has a lot of movement, sitting in the lower 90s. He draws comparisons to Justin Verlander, profiling as a future ace.

His numbers in college weren’t as dominant as expected for someone who has his arsenal. That’s due to his fastball being elevated at times, making the pitch much more hittable than it should be. He’s also been inconsistent with his off-speed stuff, specifically his changeup, which really showed major improvements in 2011.

The Pirates have already started working with Cole on some of his issues, specifically trying to keep the ball down. The changes have been minor, and the result is that his pitches have seen a lot more life.

Cole is more advanced than most pitchers out of the draft, and could start his career at the AA level if the Pirates wanted to push him. They could start him off in high-A to avoid the cold April in Altoona. There has been some talk that Cole could arrive in the majors during the 2012 season. That would require some dominating numbers from Cole, and some aggressive promotions from the Pirates. The more conservative projection has Cole arriving in the majors in the middle of the 2013 season.