Gerrit Cole, the young man who was the subject of so much sturm und drang on Facebook's Pirate Chat and other social media when he was sent to the minors at the close of Spring Training, will make his debut as a Pirates this coming Tuesday when he starts against the San Francisco Giants. This start will come just a little over two years after Cole was selected by the Pirates with the overall Number One selection in the major league entry draft. Despite all the criticism - much of it coming from this particular Grandstand, I admit - of the Pirates and the NHR for keeping guys in the minor leagues too long, Cole's ascension to a starting pitching assignment, against the defending World Series Champs, no less, has been remarkably swift. In the grand scheme of things, Cole's "long-awaited" debut, will not have taken all that long after all.
I had promised myself that when Cole did make his first start, I would be at PNC Park to see it. Turns out that Tuesdays happen to be our Caring Place night, so, alas and alack, I will not be there to usher in the Gerrit Cole Era. Perhaps this is a good thing, because I recall being at Three Rivers Stadium for the debuts of both Doug Frobel and Chad Hermansen, so Cole doesn't need that particular mojo going for him. The DVR will be cranked up and I will rush home to see what I hope will be the first of Cole's 200 wins, give or take a few, that he will register for the Pirates over the course of his career.
It was a tough week for the Bucs who after taking 3 of 4 from the Tigers, were swept by the Braves and lost 2 of 3 to the Reds. At the beginning of that stretch, I had wished for a 5-5 record, but I'll take 4-6. They will have to do better against the Reds in future match-ups, but the important thing is that there WILL be more games against the Reds this season, and remember, the Pirates are 4-3 against them so far in '13. And, of course, there are still a lot of games to be played against the Cardinals, who don't seem to ever lose a game.
It also looked like the best cure for such a stretch was a three game series against the Cubs, as the Pirates go for a sweep today.
Speaking of the Major League Entry draft, the Pirates selected 41 players this week, many of whom will be selling insurance or coaching high school baseball five or so years from now (as will most guys drafted by the other 29 MLB teams), but it will be fun to see which guy drafted after the 30th round will catch fire and become the Next Big Thing in the Pirates system and, we hope, at PNC Park someday. Wasn't Dave Parker drafted after the 30th round? And, of course, all eyes will be on the two first round choices, OF Austin Meadows and C Reese McGuire. As high schoolers, they are a long way from Pittsburgh and PNC Park, but the potential of big things lie ahead for both of them, and, as I said, it will be fun following them along the way.
I am ready for the following headline when young Mr. Meadows becomes a Pirate and has his first multi-home run game:
AUSTIN POWERS BUCS TO BIG WIN
Of course, by the time Meadows finally does arrive in Pittsburgh, the pop cultural reference to "Austin Powers" will be completely lost to everyone reading the newspaper, if, indeed, there still are newspapers then.
Sticking with the theme of Pirates draft choices, one of the more intriguing story lines over the past two seasons has been that of Stetson Allie. You all know the story, a high school pitcher who could throw at close to 100 mph, Allie was drafted in the second round in 2010, right behind Jameson Taillon, given first round bonus money ($2 Million) to sign, but then bombed as a pitcher to the point where the Pirates decided to make him a first baseman. In 2012, Allie didn't do much of anything, and he was starting to look like another very expensive bust of a draft pick, but in 2013 playing in Low Class A West Virginia, Allie has become Babe Ruth:
AB - 224
BA - .326
HR - 16
RBI - 55
OPS - 1.016
But here is the curious thing. If you go to the Pirates website, you can link into the the Pirates "Top 20" minor league prospects to follow how they are doing, and Allie does not appear in the Top Twenty. I am not sure what this means. It could be that he is #21 on the list and will crack it once Cole get promoted, or it could mean that he is the next Brad Eldred. Whichever it is, it will be fun to watch the Stetson Allie Story play out over the next couple of seasons.
One of Allie's teammates in West Virgina, OF Josh Bell, is on that Top 20 list, and is ranked at Number Six. His numbers in 231 AB's are as follows...BA of .277 with 8 HR, 45 RBI, and an .815 OPS. Good, but not as good at the numbers Allie has posted. Again, I don't know what it all means.