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We're continuing the draft preview with perhaps the biggest head-scratcher at the top of the board: UCLA power right-hander Gerrit Cole. He is probably giving some scouting directors ulcers right now.
Connolly's take: Cole is the prototypical power pitching prospect. He's big, strong, poised, consistently throws his fastball in the upper 90s and has three other pitches he can throw for strikes. He was a first-round pick of the New York Yankees in 2008, but walked away from the money to pitch in college. And he has been the No. 1 – or Friday night -- starter for a strong Bruins program since he stepped on campus as a freshman.
Yet his numbers during the 2011 regular season, including a 6-7 record, were not indicative of a dominant pitcher. He had several games where he got rocked, primarily because he left too many pitches over the plate. And his first start of the postseason, on Friday in a 3-0 loss to the University of San Francisco, was in-line with his season: He went 7 1/3 innings, allowed three runs and one walk and struck out 11. But he gave up 11 hits and got the loss.
I talked to one talent evaluator that says Cole's stock has dropped and he'll be available for the Orioles at No. 4 or Kansas City Royals at No. 5 after many thought he'd be the top pitcher taken on Monday.
I am not sure I am buying it, though. Guys with that kind of arsenal and size are rare. The Orioles have no one like him in their entire system. And I don't think they'll get the chance to change that – unless Seattle or Arizona makes a surprise pick and takes high schoolers Dylan Bundy or Francisco Lindor. If not, Cole is gone in the Top Three.
Name: Gerrit Cole
Hometown: Santa Ana, Calif.
Position: Right-handed pitcher
2011 regular season stats: 6-7, 3.28 ERA in 15 games. 107 IP, 92 H, 39 ER, 23 BBs, 108 Ks
Skinny: Consistently in the high 90s with his four-seam fastball, occasionally reaching triple digits. … Has a high-80s changeup that could be his best pitch; also has a biting, high-80s slider and late-breaking curve. … Posted nearly a 5-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. … 2011 record and ERA disappointing for someone with his ability, which may have dropped him from No. 1 overall pick. … In several games, his pitches found too much of the plate, so he is working on better command of edges. … High energy and emotional, has improved on keeping his emotions in check. … Was the New York Yankees' first-round pick (28th overall) in 2008 but did not sign. … Baseball America listed Cole as USA National Team's best pro prospect. … Battle-tested, he's been Bruins' ace for most of his collegiate career. … Some evaluators believe he may be a better fit in the majors as a closer.
The quote: "If he is not the No. 1 pick, I'd anticipate he'd be the second or third. There are not many guys in the seventh inning that are throwing 98 mph and still throwing strikes. He has plenty of experience, international experience, Omaha experience. There's not a lot he hasn't done. I just can't think of who would pass on that type of pitching prospect."
John Savage, UCLA head baseball coach