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Your Draft Day chant, baseball fans:
Two UCLA pitchers will paint blue and gold onto the top of the upcoming major league draft.
The Pirates will select Bruins junior Gerrit Cole first overall Monday, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bruins teammate Trevor Bauer, also a junior righthander, will go among the top-10, perhaps as high as third to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Which UCLA pitcher would you draft first? West Coast Bias put that question to five scouts and a major league executive Saturday and expected Cole to get all six votes. But two scouts chose Bauer, the NCAA's strikeout leader the last two years.
It isn't much like choosing between Bruins basketball stars Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton. They left Westwood a few years apart, and pitchers aren't slam dunks to become pro stars the way those John Wooden-trained, 7-foot athletes were.
Bauer has had the better college career statistically. The faster fastball belongs to Cole, whose No. 1 sits at 94-97 mph. Six-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Cole is two inches taller and 35 pounds heavier than Bauer, who, young for his college class, is nine months younger than his fellow 20-year-old. Bauer went undrafted out of his Southern California high school north of Los Angeles, while Cole, an Orange County dude, was a first-round choice of the Yankees who opted for UCLA. An engineering major, Bauer draws delivery comparisons to son-of-an-engineer Tim Lincecum, the Giants ace and another West Coast gift to baseball.
Scout One: "I take Cole. In three years, he will be the better pitcher. He's got bigger weapons. Bauer has outpitched him this year, but I just think the future Cole has -- up to 101 miles per hour, power slider, power changeup -- is going to work better, and I think he's going to throw more strikes. Bauer, when he goes from pitching every seven days to every five days, I don't think his delivery's going to be as conducive to throwing strikes. Don't get me wrong. I really like Bauer. But when people compare him to Lincecum, that's not even fair. It's a whole different flexibility and athleticism. And Bauer kind of recoils and runs away from his arm."
Scout Two: "Cole. Are there things he has to come a long ways with? Without a doubt. But it's hard to walk away from a 98 fastball and a hard slider that has good break to it. Cole has been a gifted arm guy who's been very erratic at times -- that's been his M.O. since high school. But if you watch pieces and bits, he has improved. Bauer, he's got some unique things, which I don't find disturbing. You can think this guy is really focused in his own way about pitching, or you think he's a nutcase. But Bauer has a big arm, and he's probably got the best breaking ball in the country, and this kid has dominated college baseball."
Scout Three: "I take Bauer. I like his breaking ball better. Cole is a great pitcher too. But I don't like his arm angle as much. Where he throws there, his breaking ball is a little flat. And I just think Bauer is going to win more games. Bauer is a year younger, he's always succeeded, he's done more and I just think he'll continue to do more. With Bauer, there is some concern that a lot of the pitches the guys swing at aren't strikes. I understand why people say Cole is the guy, but I'd take Bauer. I just think Bauer is going to win a lot of games."
Scout Four: "As easy as it is to jump on Bauer for what he's done this year statistically, I still think the conventional wisdom is Cole is still the better major league prospect. That's not saying Bauer is not going to get there faster. He might have some more impact early. This isn't something you evaluate in a year or two from now. I still think when you look at Cole you could be talking about a Verlander-type guy -- something that holds up year in and year out for a period of time. We're in such an era now where people want to evaluate stuff the minute it happens. Both guys are good. No question, they're good. I still think the ultimate ceiling and impact still leans a little more toward Cole."
Scout Four (part two): "I think development's going to come into play with Cole. I think it's going to be more pitching plan for him, pitching inside more. I think he'll probably move closer to the middle of the rubber (he's on the extreme first-base side). I think the pro game is going to allow Cole to pitch at a faster tempo, which I think is going to suit his game, instead of waiting for them to call pitches from the dugout."
Scout Five: "I'd be tempted to take Bauer, and I absolutely love Cole's stuff. Bauer's different, he's unique. God, he wins. The more pro ball I watch, the more I keep saying that velocity isn't the be all, end all that everyone says it is. I think Bauer is extremely focused. He's bleepin' weird, but he's extremely focused, and he knows what he wants to do. I saw him pitch a one-hitter as a freshman when he was (as old as) a high school senior."
Club executive: "My scouting background would have me lean more toward the clean delivery and size of Cole for long-term success. A lot of people look at Bauer's delivery and compare it to Lincecum because of the deception that comes along with it. However, I think that deception and success of Lincecum is much more of an exception than the rule."
Just goes to show you that scouting is far from a perfect science. Another concern I've read about Bauer has been the excessive work load while at UCLA. I guess his pitch counts have been quite high in many of his outings.
I read a Jim Bowden piece on ESPN that suggests it's much safer to select hitters within the top five picks rather than pitchers. The research showed only a handful of the hurlers selected since 1990 1-5 lived up to their potential whereas hitters had a much higher success rate. Of course injuries to pitchers are more common than they are in hitters.