There are many great starting pitchers in the National League. Clayton Kershaw is unhittable at times. The St. Louis Cardinals have several top of the line starters, all of whom have electric stuff that can keep bats silent. Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez showed he has the arsenal to be dominant for a long time. And then there is Gerrit Cole, who I believe will be the Cy Young Award winner next season, becoming Pittsburgh’s first Cy Young winner since Doug Drabeck in 1990.
Cole was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates as the number one pick of the 2011 MLB draft. He was selected over fellow UCLA teammate Trevor Bauer, and other pitching phenoms Danny Hultzen and Dylan Bundy.
Coming out of college, scouts raved about him having the best fastball in the draft class which occasionally touched 100 miles per hour. His fastball and slider were already viewed as plus pitches and with a little work on his changeup he would have three plus pitches.
Big league minor leaguer
During his first and only full minor league season, Cole advanced three levels advancing all the way to AAA Indianapolis to pitch his final game. While his record is a pedestrian 9-7 during this time, Cole proved to be dominant at times.
Cole’s stat line through three levels looked more like future ace stats. In 131.2 innings pitched, hitters had just a .230 batting average against Cole. He struck out 136 batters and walked only 45. That is an astonishing 3:1 strike out to walk ratio. His fantastic 2.47 ERA also looked much stronger than win loss record, too.
After his great first year, Cole entered the season as the number nine prospect in all of baseball according to MLB.com. There were many questions as to whether he would have a second minor league season or head straight to the Pirates rotation. Eventually, Cole lost his battle for the fifth starter spot, partially to get past his super two status and went back to the minor leagues for the start of the season.
With Francisco Liriano and others on the Disabled List, the Pirates needed a pitcher to step in and help right away. Often this is a time when teams make moves to bring in a veteran. Instead, on June 11th, the Pirates went with Cole.
Cole did not disappoint. He immediately stepped in and was successful, winning his first four decisions. He finished the year with a 10-7 record and a 3.22 ERA. Pitchers coming up from the minors would give anything to debut with numbers like that.
The best and most positive stats come with his final month of the season. With questions surrounding the team about Cole being shut down early, he had brilliant September. Throughout the month of September, Cole had a dazzling 1.77 ERA, struck out 39 batters (including a career high 12 vs. San Diego on September 19th) in 32 innings of work.
Finally, Cole showed he belonged in the post season as he stepped in and pitched like an ace. In front of a roaring St. Louis crowd Cole pitched as if he had ice water in his veins throwing six innings of one run ball against the potent Cardinals lineup.
Cole pitched so well that he earned a second start in the game five elimination game against the Cardinals. The Pirates showed trust in Cole over veteran starting pitcher A.J. Burnett. Cole went five innings in game five allowing two runs on a one fateful pitch which resulted in a homerun off the bat of Cardinals third baseman David Freese. Cole did not let the pitch get him down, but instead he moved on setting his sights on getting better next time.
At just 23 years old, the expectations for Cole will be higher than ever. He is set to be the anchor of the rotation for the next decade. With a repertoire just as good as the top pitchers of the league, Cole will show he has what it takes to win his first Cy Young next season.