Gerrit Cole is coming off a historic pitching run in Houston, and the New York Yankees paid big money for his services. The Yankees were expected to have a very strong staff, but Luis Severino is already done for the year, and James Paxton is dealing with injury problems. Cole will need to hold down the fort. As far as fantasy goes, Cole is the first pitcher off the board, and is hovering usually in the range of 5-7. While there are a few other aces like Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander close by, Cole is a unanimous number one after the past two seasons he has put together. His rise to fantasy stardom started in Houston and he will look to carry that momentum to New York.
Last Three Years Stats
We have to think Gerrit Cole was only in Houston two years, so the last three numbers stack up with an average year in Pittsburgh back in 2017. His numbers got better every season, and Houston really turned him into a true ace. His pitches all evolved to elite levels, and we saw the results because of it. Cole ranks third in total strikeouts over the last three years (798) behind Verlander and Scherzer. He has 47 wins in that span, which is second to Greinke and Verlander.
2020 Fantasy Projections
Out of all starting pitchers, Cole projects for the most strikeouts by almost 20 over the rest of the starting pitchers. However his ERA, WHIP, and wins are projected very close as well. Cole is going to be the first pitcher off the board. His ceiling numbers are a bit higher as well, and the likeliness of his upside is a bit higher than the others as well. Heading to the Bronx doesn’t drop his projections down one bit.
Gerrit Cole, 97mph Fastball and 90mph Slider, Overlay (with tails).
That’s. Not. Fair. pic.twitter.com/x88tmAEZdC
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) February 29, 2020
The move to New York isn’t going to have a huge effect. Cole’s production in Houston is likely headed over to New York. Cole projects for over 250 strikeouts, and honestly that is a floor for him. His ERA shouldn’t move above 3.30, and obviously can get back into that two range. The thing is he just was posting such elite numbers, projecting for historical type seasons is always tough to do in multiple years.
We saw that ceiling year last season, where he went 20-5 with 300+ strikeouts and a 2.50 ERA. That is in his range of outcomes again. He has elite strikeout stuff, and he should find a median between 2018 and 2019. That is where a slightly higher projection would go. Cole has the highest ceiling of any pitcher in baseball right now, especially with strikeouts.
Cole is the first pitcher off the board, and brings a very stable floor. The upside is also what you are getting drafting him as the 5th or 6th name off the board. The fantasy value is there, and he is a strong option at this ADP. I am happy starting off the rotation with him and then coming back around with two strong hitters. If you are in a league that values pitchers higher, then of course this is a no brainer.
We have not seen any sort of injury issues with Gerrit Cole, as he has been extremely durable. He also does not throw heavy off speed or in a motion that is extremely taxing on his elbow. Cole is a safe and durable option, which is baked into his ADP and auction value prices.
Park Factors & Divisional Opponents
None of this is to be weighted too heavily with Gerrit Cole, as he is an elite pitcher. He will move his home starts from Pittsburgh to Houston to now New York. He has worked his way up the ladder in terms of offensive hitters parks. Yankee Stadium plays small, especially to left-handed hitters with the short porch. While not as severe, Houston was friendly to left-handed power as well. Looking at the rest of the division, Fenway Park is its own beast in terms of right-handed bats having an advantage for power, but left-handers have a long ways to go. Baltimore is an above average hitters park, where Toronto is more league average. Tropicana Field is the only strong pitchers park in the division. The AL West stadiums had four parks below average in runs, with Texas being the only above average one.
Gerrit Cole will have to face a strong Boston team every now and then, but they took a slight dip sending Mookie Betts out west. Toronto is on the come up with a lot of young talented names. However Cole is going to be too much for them to handle. Tampa Bay and Baltimore will be two offenses for Cole to handle as well. Overall this isn’t that drastic of a division switch.
Gerrit Cole threw five pitches last year, although he rarely throws his sinker. Overall he has a power fastball, slider, and curveball. Cole is averaging 97mph on his fastball over the last two seasons. He had a 38% whiff rate on it, and a 32% put away rate. His slider and curveball are also very strong. Both had put away rates higher than 25% and whiff rates over 30%. He won’t throw the changeup a ton, but he had over a 40% whiff rate on his changeup. Cole doesn’t rely on his slider like some others, and his power fastball with movement is enough for him to either get ahead in the count, or put guys away with it.
He had a 39.9% strikeout rate last season, and just a 6% walk rate. Hitters had a .238 xwOBA and .184 xBA. Cole is in the 96th and 97th percentile in fastball velocity and fastball spin. His curveball has a 94th percentile spin rate. He was tops in K% and all his expected stats were at 95th percentiles or better. Cole is the best pitcher in baseball right now.
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