Pittsburgh Pirates Gerrit Cole: Was 2015 a Fluke?

Pittsburgh Pirates Gerrit Cole had a career year in 2015. However, was it just a one-time thing or will 2016 be more of the same?

The Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff was good in spurts, but a disappointment overall. There were only two starters that had at least 12 wins. Two others had an ERA over 4.00. Luckily, the offense was able to score enough runs to win 98 games. The fifth, and best, member of the rotation was dominant and had a career year. Gerrit Cole had an amazing season, but can he replicate his numbers in 2016? 

Gerrit Cole made 41 starts before last season. In those starts, he finished 21-12 with a 3.45 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.4 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. The numbers aren’t bad, but it’s not eye-popping. He had a 3.65 ERA and 1.21 WHIP last season, but fantasy owners were still on the Cole Train (sorry Gears of War fans).

He entered the 2015 season as an eighth-round pick (78.4 ADP), as the 21st starting pitcher drafted. He pitched way above his value and finished as the No. 8 pitcher on the Player Rater, between Madison Bumgarner and Jacob deGrom. Cole went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.7 K/9 (202 strikeouts) and 1.9 BB/9 in 208 innings.

So what changed from 2014 to 2015?

Gerrit Cole had more control of his pitches and lowered his walk rate from seven to 5.3 percent. He’s also kept his pitches down in the zone, lowering his fly ball rate from 31.8 to 29.6 percent. Batters hit just as many home runs in 2014 as they did in 2015 in 70 more innings, 11.

Cole had the benefit of pitching in the National League Central. The four division teams he would face finished 14th or worse in hits, 16th or worse in RBI and 12th or worse in batting average. This division was more about the pitching than impressive hitting, team wise. There are select hitters on each team that can do damage, but the overall lineups can be handled.

Gerrit Cole, in his third year, pitched out of his mind. I don’t think he will put up the same numbers like he did in 2015, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be great. I see him as a middle-of-the-draft pick as an SP2/3 in standard league. He will be able to balance your ratio stats while helping your counting stats. He’ll be the Pirates best pitcher in 2016, and could be yours as well.

Projections: 15-9, 3.19 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 170 strikeouts

Draft: Round 10