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2011 MLB Draft: Gerrit Cole Joins Unfortunate Line Of First-Round Pirates Pitchers

I found myself nodding in agreement through Grant Brisbee's writeup on UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole and the struggles the Pirates have had with pitchers they've taken in the first rounds of the MLB Draft.

I and many other Pirates fans wanted Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon instead, but I noted several times before the draft that my interest was based on the relatively good health of his shoulder. Teams had access to medical reports on Rendon; we in the public did not. Judging from the fact that four other teams passed on Rendon before the Nationals took him at No. 6 overall, it appears likely that what those medical reports said was that his shoulder wasn't healthy. Maybe all five teams had some other reason to pass on him; I suppose we'll see.

If Rendon wasn't healthy, though, the Pirates almost had to consider taking a pitcher first overall. The only other position player in the picture was high school outfielder Bubba Starling, who's light years from the big leagues and is arguably at least as risky as most of the top-of-the-first-round pitchers.

The Pirates took Cole - it's not yet clear what led them to do that, but judging from the way Rendon dropped, it's nearly impossible to blame them for it. Cole has tremendous upside.

The problem is that he's a pitcher. And when you pick early in the first round, you want safety in addition to upside. Pitchers get hurt all the time, and their stuff can be here today, gone tomorrow. That's how the Pirates ended up stuck with guys like Bryan Bullington, John Van Benschoten, Bobby Bradley, and all kinds of other first-round pitchers who didn't produce. For every Paul Maholm, you have to deal with a Bullington. 

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.