When the Pirates elected to take Gerrit Cole in the first round of this year's draft, much of Pittsburgh, including myself, seemed skeptical of the pick. One reason was that the Pirates had already loaded up on right-handed pitchers last year. They selected Jameson Taillon, a prep player from Texas who had the size, strength and talent to be the future Ace of the Pirates. The Pirates also selected Stetson Allie, a major work in progress as far as pitching, but arguably the best pure stuff in the 2010 draft class. Another point of skepticism, was that Cole had mediocre numbers for a first overall pick in comparison to his UCLA teammate, Trevor Bauer.

Cole finished his Junior season 6-8 with a 3.31 ERA 119 K's 24 BB's in 114.1 innings. His teammate Bauer, who was selected two picks later by the Arizona Diamondbacks, went 13-2 with a 1.25 ERA 203 K's 36 BB's in 131 innings. The disparity in ERA and strikeouts is so vast, it would appear drafting Cole was the wrong decision and, to be fair, that hypothesis could be correct. The baseball draft is a crap shoot more than anything. Taking one pitcher over another could reap benefits for both teams if they both maximize their potential. But, in the same vein, one arm injury could dictate the career and fate of a franchise. While Bauer pitched better in college, Cole is more projectable given his size and arm strength. When selecting players at the top of the draft, there has to be a focus on what can he do rather than what he did do.

Here's an example of two teammates who played college ball back in the early 2000's:

Player A 7-6 3.49 ERA 151 K's 43 BB's

Player B 6-2 2.29 ERA 99 K's 21 BB's.

Player A was selected with the second pick of the 2004 draft. That player was Justin Verlander. Player B, Donnie Smith, was selected in the fourth round by the St. Louis Cardinals. Verlander, standing at 6'5 230 pounds, had more size and stuff than his teammate, Smith who had converted from catching to pitching two years earlier. Verlander is on the verge of winning his first Cy Young while Smith is playing in the Independent League. His pitchability is poor in comparison to Trevor Bauer, but the numbers Smith put up at Old Dominion were convincing.

Bauer, whose fastball sits at 93-94 mph, is 6'1 175 lbs with a maximum effort delivery. He tries his best to not only pitch like Tim Lincecum, but resemble everything he does. To me, that's a little risky, considering players like Tiny Tim don't grow on trees. With that size, durability is always going to come into question especially since Bauer already threw 136 innings this year in college.

Looking at Gerrit Cole, 6'4 220 with a fastball that sits in the upper 90's through all nine innings, the stuff is better with the assumption that he can stay healthy. Cole's biggest problem, this year, was that he was catching too much of the plate with his pitches and that is offspeed was coming in flat. A slight tweak in his mechanics could correct those problems. He has a plus slider and a plus-plus changeup, a pitch that usually takes the longest to develop for amateur pitchers.

Looking beyond the numbers is key to deciphering top round talent such as Cole versus Bauer. Just looking at the numbers, Cole had a lower walk rate and ERA while pitching in a significantly better conference (Cole: Pac 10, Verlander CAA) than Justin Verlander. While Cole lacks the devastating breaking ball that has racked up hundreds of strikeouts for Verlander, he still has the stuff to become an elite level pitcher. There is still plenty of time for speculation as to whether or not either Cole or Bauer will become front line starters, as their respective teams are hoping, because they have so much to learn. The Pirates are asking for 200+ innings from Cole each year in the majors, hoping that he can become an elite level pitcher as icing on the cake.

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