The 2011 MLB First Year Player Draft gets underway on Monday night, and there's been lots of debate over the past few weeks over who the Pittsburgh Pirates are selecting with the first overall pick. Until this morning, that is, when Jonathan Mayo reported that the Bucs are going to take UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole with the first overall pick tonight.
Cole has pedestrian numbers (for a number one overall pick, that is) on the season, but that shouldn't matter, right?
In this case, I think it does matter, thanks to Cole's UCLA teammate Trevor Bauer.
Cole's scouting report is great - he's got a lively fastball that sits in the mid 90s, and a good two seamer that, naturally, sits in the lower 90s. Cole's strikeout pitch is his slider, and some scouts seem to believe that Cole's changeup could eventually develop into a plus-plus pitch as well.
For UCLA this season, Cole went 6-8 with a 3.31 ERA, striking out 119 and walking 24 in 114.1 innings, while holding opponents to a .242 batting average against. While they're just collegiate numbers and there's not a whole lot to read into them, it just doesn't feel like the type of numbers that the top overall pick in the draft should be putting up - especially one who is supposedly the can't-miss starting pitcher of the draft.
It's usually difficult to compare pitchers in the draft as well, since usually they'll be coming from different schools, playing against different competition in different conferences. Or, at the high school level, God knows what 14 and 15 year olds that the top high school arm in a draft is blowing away.
In this case, though, there's Trevor Bauer, Cole's UCLA teammate. Bauer went 13-2 with a 1.25 ERA, with a ridiculous 206 strikeouts in 136.2 innings of work. Further, Bauer only walked 36 and held opponents to a .154 average against.
Of course, they're just collegiate numbers, right? What about the scouting report? What does Bauer throw? Bauer throws a fastball that can still reach and sit in the low-to-mid 90s late in a game and already has a plus-plus curveball. Bauer also has a slew of other pitchers, including a slider, 'reverse slider', and changeup.
The big knock on Bauer, of course, is his size. UCLA lists him at 6'2", 175, while Cole is listed at 6'4", 220. That must mean Cole is the better bet, right? Bauer's the little guy with crazy mechanics, so he's the one that's going to get hurt and flame out, right?
Luke Hochevar, Greg Reynolds, Brad Lincoln, Andrew Miller and Clayton Kershaw. All those pitchers were picked before Tim Lincecum in the 2006 draft, thanks in large part to Lincecum's size and mechanics. Granted, Kershaw is excellent, but Lincecum has already racked up two Cy Young awards and probably should have been the 2010 World Series MVP as well.
Point is, I don't think I'd be scared off by Bauer's size. I'm not saying Bauer is comparable to Lincecum, either. Sure, a bit wonky mechanics, lighting up the Pac-10 with strikeouts are similarities, but Lincecum had a better fastball and curveball coming out of college. They're comparable in the fact that scouts and teams seem to be turned off by the strange mechanics and their size.
Either way, if I were going to take a collegiate pitcher first, call me crazy, but I'd take Bauer over Cole. Of course, I'd probably pick Anthony Rendon over either of them.