Pirates “very likely” to promote Gerrit Cole for Tuesday

This news comes from Michael Sanserino of the Post-Gazette.

Gerrit Cole, who was the first overall pick in the 2011 draft out of UCLA, is in line to start Tuesday against the Giants after Wandy Rodriguez left his start against the Braves in the first inning on Wednesday.

It is unclear whether Rodriguez will be shelved on the disabled list for forearm tightness — the same injury that sidelined Jeanmar Gomez on June 2nd — but he has been ruled out for his next turn in the rotation.

As for Cole, the 22-year-old right-hander is considered the Pirates’ top prospect by Keith Law, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. Each of the sources also pegs him as a top-20 farmhand in all of baseball.

The 6-foot-4 hurler has posted a fantastic 2.91 ERA in 68 innings at Triple-A Indianapolis, but his peripheral numbers suggest that figure is a tad lucky. Despite possessing an upper-90s fastball and wipe-out slider, Cole is striking out just 6.22 batters per nine while walking 3.71 per nine. (His career totals in 200 career minor league innings are 8.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9.) Add in an absurdly unsustainable .216 batting average of balls in play and Cole’s FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is an unspectacular 3.99.

So what can we expect from the Pirates’ prized pitcher once he finally debuts?

I suspect a good number of walks — more than the almost four he’s issued per nine in the minors this year — but also an increase in strikeouts.

Though there’s likely a pretty deep scouting report on Cole — given his pedigree, this shouldn’t be a surprise — it won’t be the same for hitters once they dig into the box. Unfortunately, the Giants are the least prone in all of baseball to whiffing, doing so only 362 times in 59 games (6.14 per game) so far. (Kansas City is next on the list with 376 punch-outs.) So it’s plausible Cole may see his walk rate climb before his strikeout rate does. Luckily, though, San Francisco is ranked just 21st in MLB when it comes to drawing a base on balls.

Regardless of his immediate success, Cole is going to play a huge role in the future of the organization. He’s certainly a step behind previous No. 1-overall picks like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, but those two players made immediately positive impacts in the Nationals’ improvement as a club and Cole is expected to add slightly similar value for Pittsburgh.

Cole’s long-anticipated journey toward such a feat is most likely going to begin Tuesday at PNC Park, but the crucial thing is that he starts improving from that night forward.

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