In their 129 year history, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been known for their hitting more than their pitching. The biggest names in the franchise are encased in the Hall of Fame for their efforts at the plate and in the field; position players. Look at the names: Wagner, Kiner, Clemente, Stargell, Parker, Bonds, Bonilla; immortals of Pittsburgh's past. In the 70's they were nicknamed the Pittsburgh Lumber Company, backed by their strong lineup and an above average pitching staff. That hasn't changed over the years.
The Pirates selected Gerrit Cole, a 6'4 220 lbs right-handed pitcher from UCLA. Cole is a power pitcher in ever sense of the term. Armed with a fastball that has reached triple digits (as high as 102) with the endurance and strength to maintain velocity throughout the game. Cole also possesses a sharp slider and a plus-change up. He's projected as a front-line starter who should easily handle a 200+ inning workload per season.
However, these tools come with some concern. With a 6-8 record 3.31 ERA, Cole did not exactly dominate in his final year at UCLA due to lack of control. Yes, the walks were low (24), but Cole's fastball was catching too much of the plate due to a few mechanical flaws and he was getting hit. The high workload is also a concern as Cole threw 114 innings this season, averaging 15 pitches per inning. Also, given Cole's high velocity, the risk of injury is always going to prevalent. Stephen Strasburg, the first overall pick in 2009, required Tommy John Surgery last year despite having no previous history of arm issues. His velocity was in the same range as Cole's. For once, the Pirates need to get lucky with a first round pick.
One thing is certain, the Pirates are serious about building up their rotation. They took 7 prep pitchers in the first 10 rounds last year, including first round pick, Jameson Taillon. Taillon was labeled the future ace of the Pirates' rotation and now he has competition with Gerrit Cole. Although hitting on all of these prospects seems unrealistic, it's hard as a Pirates' fan, to not picture a future rotation of Cole/Taillon/Heredia at the top with Stetson Allie closing. With some of the aforementioned draft picks starting off quickly (Cumpton, Waldron, Mcpherson), the Pirates are certainly building their staff into one of baseball's best, down the road. With Starling Marte and Tony Sanchez approaching their major league debuts, the Pirates are quickly building a competitive team. With these last two drafts, Huntington has shown he's looking for something bigger.
If defense wins championships in football, pitching wins championships in baseball. The San Fransisco Giants won the World Series last year with one of the best rotations in the league. Their rotation was constructed with 4 former first round draft picks (Cain, Lincecum, Zito, Bumgarner). The Philadelphia Phillies have loaded up on their pitching staff, acquiring Cliff Lee to accompany Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. As the steroid era dies down, pitching becomes as important as it ever was. The Pirates are constructing their team to the strength of the era: power pitching with Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia, Stetson Allie and Gerrit Cole all projecting to have plus fastballs (cruising 94-97). While they may have missed Anthony Rendon, the best bat in the draft, they have built up their staff to a point where they will be allowed to make a trade for a big bat, if needed. At this point it is impossible to project how this team will look two years from now, however, for the first time in a long time Pirates fans have a reason to be excited. The days of the Pittsburgh Lumber Company are gone, replaced by a potential pitching rotation that could be among the best in baseball. Since nothing is guaranteed, please hold off on the nicknames.