CITI FIELD - Which former No. 1 overall prospect would you rather have – and try to be objective here - Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg?
Considering everything, the contracts, club control, skill sets, age, physical characteristics, Jonah Keri ranked Cole as the 26th most valuable property in baseball, Strasburgh 15th in his trade ranking sin December. I think that’s fair – but I think Cole has also closed the gap. I think you can argue the Pirates now have two of the top 20 assets in baseball in Cole and Andrew McCutchen.
Strasburg and Cole are both prototype right-handers with 95+ mph fastballs and an assortment of off-speed stuff. Cole actually throws slightly harder at this point than Washington’s ace. Strasburg has superior off-speed offerings.
Strasburg is still very, very good but he’s not the guy we saw in his first major league start against the Pirates when he struck out 14 and averaged 98 mph – averaged 98 – with his fastball. Tommy John surgery robbed him of a tick of stuff.
Do the Pirates possess something more valuable than this guy? And should we all practice some restraint with our “once-in-a-generation” label-makers. (AP photo)
Still even with Strasburg’s slightly diminished stuff, he’s still one of the game’s best pitchers most teams would gladly have him headline their staffs. That a Pirate asset is in the same conversation as Strasburg is a big deal
If Cole’s changeup becomes the equal of Strasburg’s, then he can become Strasburg’s equal.
Cole’s changeup was tremendous at times in New York and Milwaukee but Ian Desmond ripped it for a solo home run on Saturday. It still needs some maturation but it has flashed plus. I think that’s the biggest separator right now.
The other thing is Strasburg has an injury history and Cole does not. Does that mean Strasburg’s simply just got his Tommy John out of the way and Cole has coming at some point down the road or that Cole is a better bet to stay healthy? Through the injury lens I could see a strong argument for Cole.
Interesting debate. What we do know is Cole got the better of Strasburg on Saturday in their first meeting.
STARTING NINE THOUGHTS
9. Brandon Cumpton has a chance to stick in the rotation for a while not only this season but going forward. There could be as many as three rotation spots open next year with Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez free agents, and Wandy Rodriguez having already been DFA’d. Cumpton’s two-seamer has touched 95 mph in recent starts. His stuck has ticked up this season.
8. Pedro Alvarez has always been a perplexing player but he’s never been this perplexing.
For the first time in his major league career, Alvarez has shown real improvement in some areas of his approach. Alvarez entered Saturday’s game with a career-best walk rate (11.2 percent) and a career-low strikeout rate (21.8 percent). Alvarez is striking out in eight percent fewer of his plate appearances compared to his career average.
But Alvarez also has low batting average, and was moved out of the cleanup spot for a fourth straight game Monday.
Alvarez has bought into the all-fields approach but it sounds like he’s growing frustrated with it even after his home run Saturday. Alvarez and Jeff Branson met earlier in the week to discuss that all-fields approach and Alvaerz’s struggles.
“He revisited his approach with Branson, about what (Branson) wants him to do at the plate. Branson asked for a specific time to stay with it,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We revisited some of the things last year that had success. (Alvarez) thought he was still doing them, we revisited, and maybe he wasn’t quite in alignment with some of those things.”
7. Maybe Alvarez is thinking too much. Or maybe PNC Park is not the best place for a lefty hitters to go the other way with its deep left field. Alvarez entered Saturday with almost as many balls hit to left field (38) as right (45), which is a pretty remarkable buy-in. He’s been robbed of some extra-base hits to left due to the depth of the fences.
Just look at Jose Bautista, not everyone was meant to use the entire field. I though Alvarez could begin Chris Davis 2.0 with a better all-fields approach, cutting down on Ks and adding BBs. He’s done all of that — but the quality of his batted balls has declined. Alvarez is hitting fewer line drives, more pop-ups and converting fewer of his flyballs into home runs. Bad luck or a product of the new approach?
It sounds like Branson wants Alvarez to not go away from approach just yet. But how long should he wait?
6. Neil Walker best 2B in the National League? He smashed a 95 mph Strasburg fastball on Saturday for his team-best 10th homer of the season.
5. One encouraging thing from last week? Charlie Morton‘s fastball velocity. Was it a coincidence that Morton’s first victory came when his average fastball velocity was up and he touched 95 mph? His two-seamer averaged 92.5 mph in line with his 2013 velocity.
4. Hey, I haven’t even mentioned Gregory Polanco‘s name yet.
It must have been a better week for the Pirates.
3. Ike Davis has done a nice job of using the whole fields and getting on base. While he hasn’t brought a lot of power yet, he’s brought some profession Justin Morneau-like at bats to the cleanup position. Davis returns to Citi Field this week.
2. Has to be nice for the Pirates to see the bats of Reese McGuire and Alen Hanson come alive this month. The club is counting on both to be important middle-of-the-field contributors in the not too distant future. Most important is McGuire’s defense and throwing arm has come as advertised, he has an all-star ceiling.
1. Is Tony Watson the Pirates’ closer in 2015? (or later this season?). Skills have really jumped up and he has neutral platoon splits.
HE SAID IT
Biggest different between playing in Pittsburgh vs. New York?
“I can go get a coffee and no one is giving me hitting tips.”
- Ike Davis
STAT OF THE WEEK: .347
Josh Harrison‘s OBP. Is Harrison the unlikely savior at the top of the lineup. Or is this really not that unlikely since he had a minor league .359 OBP over five seasons. He’s also made two of the better catches you’ll ever see in a six-day span.
STAT OF THE WEEK II: 112
Career-high pitches by Cole on Saturday.
The kid gloves are slowly coming off …
NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK
Finished up Homeland Season 3. Rent it. Stream it. Buy it. … just watch it.