Scouting Gerrit Cole, UCLA

Trip Somers • March 6, 2009 • Scouting

In the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Gerrit Cole was drafted 28th overall by the New York Yankees but ultimately chose to go the college route at UCLA.

According the the Major League Scouting Bureau's pre-draft report, Cole has the ability to throw three pitches for strikes: a mid-to-upper 90s fastball, a firm change up, and a slider with future plus potential. The report also warned about Cole's poise and his tendency to throw across his body.

The 6' 4", 215 lb Cole pitched against Baylor University at the Houston College Classic on February 28, 2009. Here's what I saw.

Game: February 28, 2009 vs. Baylor University

Pitcher IP H R ER BB K
Cole, Gerrit 6.0 2 1 0 5 8

Fastball. Cole's most effective pitch was 95-97 mph through the first couple of innings and hit 99 more than once. The pitch had strong arm-side run, but the "plus sink" mentioned in the Scouting Bureau report was non-existent, replaced by more of a rising action. As evidenced by the 5 walks, Cole's command was not as sharp as advertised, but with 8 strikeouts and only 2 hits allowed, he was effectively wild.

Slider. Cole was throwing a very hard slider in the mid to upper 80s. The potential of this pitch is obvious, though he has a long way to go before it can be called a plus pitch. Too often, the pitch was flat with a lazy break, but the pitch did reveal its promise on occasion with a sharp, late break when he kept it in the 84-85 mph range. He needs to improve both his command of the pitch and its consistency.

Change up. The Scouting Bureau reported this pitch as "too firm at 79-80 mph," which is a funny statement since that represents a 15 mph separation from his fastball. I was actually shocked by his feel for this pitch and by the confidence with which he threw it. In this game, it had good fade and sink, and he clearly commanded it better than his other two pitches. His slider has better potential, but this day, his change up was the better pitch.

Mechanics. According to the Scouting Bureau, Cole has "some mechanical issues" and frequently throws across his body. Let's have a look.

Starting at his legs, you can see a little bit of why he throws so hard. After gathering himself, Cole has a powerful forward stride. He drives through his landing and then pulls his back hip and leg forward, allowing him to continue rotating his hips. This is great action from his back leg.

He lands on a slightly flexed front leg, from which he gets a strong push back to help rotate his hips. This is good for generating a high rate of hip rotation, but it halts the forward movement of his center of mass.

He stands far to the glove side of the rubber and strides slightly toward the third base line, landing slightly closed. Landing closed tends to cut off hip rotation and shoulder rotation, generally forcing the pitcher to throw across his body to get the ball to the plate. In Cole's delivery, it doesn't really cut off his hips or shoulders, but he still throws across his body.

Cole breaks his hands near his belly button but has a pretty healthy pick up. It isn't quite a pendulum swing, but his elbow and hand reach shoulder height at approximately the same time. After his front foot lands, he really begins to accelerate the baseball.

Thanks to his pick up, Cole does not have an active external rotation component to his late forearm turnover. This allows his forearm to turn over with less violence and results in a rather mild-looking reverse forearm bounce.

Cole's shoulders have only a small reverse rotation, but when coupled with his slightly off-line stride, it results in a long arc-shaped path for his elbow. Acceleration through this arc causes forearm flyout which precludes a kinetic contribution from the triceps brachii muscle.

He pronates after release as most pitchers do, but only on his change up does he actively pronate through his release. He turns his change up over very well as a result.

After primary deceleration, Cole's arm coils back up by his side. This indicates that his arm is powerfully braking itself during deceleration. More than anything, this is a reaction to the violence with which he throws across his body. In the video, you can see Cole's arm finish across his body and immediately bounce back up. The violence in the follow-through could lead to injuries to the infraspinatus and/or supraspinatus muscles of the rotator cuff.

Overall. Prior to the 2008 draft, Cole's makeup and poise were my biggest concerns with him as a prospect. After breezing through the first batter of the game, Cole had some command issues. A walk, a double, an error, a walk, and a wild pitch followed in close succession, but Cole held it together much better than his high school scouting reports suggested. He got through the inning, and threw 5 more very solid innings.

There are still some mechanical issues for him to work on, namely the way he throws across his body and his violent follow-through, but even if he were draft eligible this season, these issues wouldn't likely affect his draft position.

Gerrit Cole has an elite fastball, a solid change up, and a slider with plus potential. His command was off in this outing, but it is typically very good. He's already on the short list of potential #1 overall picks for the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft. Over the next two years, he'll stay on everyone's watch list.