The 2011 MLB Draft is fast approaching and all signs point to the Pirates deciding between UCLA right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole or RIce third baseman Anthony Rendon. Both players have the tools that project them to the big leagues in the near future, albeit in different roles. Cole has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s coupled with a filthy change-up and above average slider.
ESPN.com's Keith Law went as far to compare Cole to Strasburg at the time he was drafted, but it is hard to put anyone on Strasburg's level after the amount of publicity he received. Either way, were looking at a pitcher who won't fall pass the top five.
Rendon, a junior at Rice, was drafted out of high school by the Braves but chose to go the college route instead. He is hitting .329 this season with 5 home runs in 51 games, but averaged a .392 average and 23 home runs in his first two seasons.
Now the question for the Pirates: Who do you take number one?
You could really make arguments for both players. And the Pirates would benefit from either player. They lack a top of the line rotation starter, and when it comes to offense, if you hit you will be found a place to play. That being said, an infield with Pedro Alvarez and Anthony Rendon has the potential to be dangerous, and Alvarez has the power and size to fit the profile of a first baseman.
Cole has tremendous capabilities as a pitcher, and would be the closest to major league ready of any pitcher in their organization, including 19-year old Jameson Taillon.
Cole has compiled a 20-18 record with a 3.42 ERA in 49 appearances with UCLA. Not considerably overwhelming on paper, but he strike outs hitters with great consistency, and has been able to limit his walks this season, showing an improved command.
The Pirates have flopped on some draft decisions in years past, namely picking Bryan Bullington with the first overall pick in 2002, but recently have rewritten some past mistakes and are seeing quality young prospects becoming major league players. (side-note: B.J. Upton, Zach Greinke, and Prince Fielder were taken in the top 10 that year).
Executives from both leagues believe either player could go number one, and say it is too early to rule everyone but them for the Pirates. The 2011 MLB Draft will begin on June 6th and run through June 8th.