First Pitch: Is It Time For Cole to Move Up?

On Tuesday, Gerrit Cole had his latest strong start, giving up one earned run in six innings, with four strikeouts and two walks. One the season Cole has a 2.47 ERA in 51 innings, with a 50:15 K/BB ratio.

I tweeted the question of whether Cole should be moved up yesterday, which was a completely stupid thing for me to do. There’s no way Pirates fans are going to say “no” to that. I’ve been getting the “When will Cole move up” question all year.

One comment I frequently get is that the Pirates are slow to promote players. I addressed this a few weeks ago, pointing out that the Pirates are actually pretty aggressive with player promotions, and stick to the industry norm with player promotions.

Gerrit Cole is always going to be compared to his UCLA teammate Trevor Bauer, who was recently promoted from Double-A to Triple-A. But Bauer is the exception. As I pointed out in my last article, it’s not uncommon for a college pitcher to spend some time in high-A. Brian Matusz spent 66.2 innings at the level. Drew Pomeranz spent 77 innings. Alex White had 44 innings.

When I wrote that, Cole was at 36.2 innings. He’s now over 50 innings, putting him in that range with Matusz, Pomeranz, and White.

But let’s forget other players and just focus on the only one that matters here: Cole. Just looking at the numbers, it’s hard to argue in favor of keeping him in high-A. In his last six starts he has a 1.32 ERA in 34 innings, with a 27:9 K/BB ratio. He’s pitched 5+ innings each time, and has given up two or fewer runs. After giving up three homers in his first three games, Cole has given up two homers in his last seven. His strikeouts have dropped a bit in the last three starts, but that certainly hasn’t hurt him, with two earned runs in 17 innings.

Statistically, it doesn’t look like Cole is having any issue with high-A hitting. He’s in that range for an expected promotion. It’s not yet to the point where the Pirates are moving him slow. John Lembo of the Bradenton Herald had a recap of Cole’s last start, and in the story he had a few quotes from Cole admitting that the starts were getting easier. It’s certainly looking easier on the stat sheets. At this point, a Cole promotion would be justified.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates beat the Reds 2-1 today. Kristy Robinson’s notebook looks at A.J. Burnett making an impact on and off the mound.

**Prospect Watch: Alen Hanson homers, and Matt Curry hits three doubles.

**Brad Lincoln is gaining confidence on the mound.

About Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He is a credentialed media member with every team in the Pirates’ system, including the Pirates themselves. He’s a regular guest on Extra Innings on 104.7, and makes regular appearances on ESPN 970, 93.7 The Fan, and TribLIVE Radio in Pittsburgh, as well as ESPN 1430 in Altoona and ESPN 1450 in State College.
  • Anonymous

    I like your plan but I can easily see the FO trying to fill Duke’s spot with Morton, Hart, McCutch etc. I would be all for letting Duke go if we fill the spot externally with a decent FA pitcher, but I have a hard time seeing us chasing one since other teams will be more aggressive and drive the price tags up out of our price range.

    Signing a Adam Dunn type player is almost as high a priority as a SP imo. We desperately need better bats in the lineup.

  • Anonymous

    Good reading Tim as usual. I understand the need to acquire young prospects like McDonald but the Pirates need to add some ” honest to gawd major league talent ” so that these young guys can expierience some team success while they figure out the ML game. The problem is getting really good talent to agree to come to this team.

    • http://twitter.com/tbucey Tim Bucey

      I’d like to see what Clement could do the rest of the year. Is he another Neil Walker — an afterthought who finally figures it out? Power hitter needed at 1B so could move G. Jones to RF and bat him sixth. Those two positions MUST provide power. Brandon Moss? Did you mention him?

  • Anonymous

    Good stuff. I’ve been reading for a while but finally decided to start posting. If you have the time I would like your opinion on two things.

    Myself and a handful of other fans have been discussing this topic on a forum. We all think Jorge Cantu would be a nice fit at 1st base for this team next year and beyond. Do you agree with this?

    Also are there any Shortstops out there the Pirates could try to make an Aki-like trade for?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7DUH3NYFN7R6HT6346DVGLZJHU Drew H

    I think we should get Jayson Werth in free agency because we need a right-handed bat to split up the walker jones alvarez spot in the order because a left handed pitcher hurts us there

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

    Agreed. I’d take the ERA with a grain of salt if it was for his peripherals (K/BB, WHIP, HR/9). However, it just doesn’t seem as though anyone has the ability to consistently hit off of him throughout the course of a game.

    Now, taking that into consideration, the only other factors that I would personally consider in his move would be,

    A.) What does he look like in games, or rather…..is he doing what’s necessary or conducive to getting batters out at the next level, and not just getting by with pure stuff. Now, I realize there are even guys in the major league level that sometimes get by on stuff alone. However, if you have the ability to grow out of that, and especially when you’re in your first professional season, you should be given the time to work on things. Then,

    B.) Is he mentally and emotionally prepared for the next level and the likelihood that he’s actually going to face some adversity. Given he’s not a head case to the point where it’s been mentioned on the site or any other publication, I’ll wager that’s not enough of an issue to hold him back at this particular point in his career. Also, considering he came from the major D-1 path, he’s seen pressure.

    I contend there’s no purpose in keeping him in Bradenton at this point. If he’s improved upon getting the ball down, and not over powering his pitches, move him up. As of right now it seems as though he’s not going to be able to learn much more except for exactly how slow bats still are in high-A.

  • john.alcorn

    Bauer isn’t the only exception, Hultzen is in AA too and had zero innings at A ball. Cole will forever be compared to those two (and Bundy), so why would it be unfair to do so now?

    No offense, but Cole is/was much more highly regarded than Pomeranz, White, or Matusz. You’re comparing an ace potential with #2-3 SP potential.

  • Lee Young

    As long as he gets promoted to Altoona BEFORE June 26th I will be happy. Why that date? That is when he ‘comes to town’ (Harrisburg) as a member of the Curve. I WILL be there!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Vince-Riedy/100002800992567 Vince Riedy

    Make it June 6 I have tickets for the Reading/Altoona game.

  • Lee Young

    that’ll work…:)