UCLA's Gerrit Cole top pick in MLB draft

Updated: June 6, 2011, 9:48 PM ET
By Blair Angulo | Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com

UCLA junior pitchers Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer were selected first and third overall, respectively, in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft on Monday. Cole, taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates, becomes the first ever Bruins player to be chosen first overall. Bauer was picked by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Cole said the Pirates called him about 30 minutes before the draft began to tell him he was their choice. Cole gave Bauer a call right after Bauer was selected.

"We were both ecstatic," Cole said. "It was congratulations back and forth, really. I had a little more time to think about the conversation than he did because I jumped on him pretty quick. There wasn't a lot of substance because both of us were pretty much speechless."

Cole, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior, posted mediocre numbers this season for the Bruins (6-8, 3.31 ERA), but has what many consider to be the best pure stuff in the draft.

It's the second time Cole has been drafted in the first round. He was the 28th overall selection by the New York Yankees in 2008 but never negotiated, instead opting to attend UCLA.

The Pirates, picking No. 1 for the fourth time in franchise history, are hoping Cole ends up being the ace of their pitching staff.

"Gerrit Cole has the size, strength, overall package of stuff and mentality to develop into a top-of-the-rotation major league starting pitcher," said Greg Smith, the Pirates' director of scouting.

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Cole's mediocre numbers were not a concern when making the decision.

"Scouting is about projection," Huntington said. "It's about what we believe a player can be two, four, six years from now. We're looking at a big, physical right-hander with quality stuff."

A 21-20 career record and 3.38 ERA in Westwood wasn't what earned Cole the top spot. The right-hander's repertoire -- high-90s fastball, sharp slider and improving changeup -- drew swarms of scouts to each of his starts. He had 376 strikeouts in 322.1 innings over three years.

While Cole was always pegged as an elite, can't-miss prospect, Bauer -- a year younger than most draft-eligible college players because he graduated from high school early -- had to work his way up the board. Before the season Bauer, known more for his faded cap and quirky, Tim Lincecum-like delivery, was projected as a late first round choice by ESPN senior baseball analyst Keith Law. But an eye-opening junior campaign -- 13-2 record, 1.25 ERA in 16 starts -- catapulted Bauer, the Pac-10 Conference pitcher of the year, to the No. 3 spot.

Bauer led the nation with 203 strikeouts. The right-hander capped the season with a string of nine straight complete games and is one of three finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which is given annually to the nation's top amateur player.

In three years, Bauer set UCLA records in career strikeouts (460), wins (34) and innings pitched (373.1).

"I was very happy about it and I was hoping it would turn out this way," Bauer said. "I've wanted to be a Diamondback for a while. I can't wait to get going. ... The organization is based close to home, it's in the National League West. They play in a warm weather climate, I love pitching in warm weather."

As sophomores, Cole and Bauer led the Bruins to their first trip to the College World Series since 1997. This season they guided UCLA to its first outright Pac-10 title since 1986. They became the first pair of teammates to be taken in the top three picks since Arizona State's Bob Horner and Hubie Brooks in 1978.

"In the trip to Omaha I think everybody saw how talented both those guys were," UCLA head coach John Savage said. "It just goes to show that going to school can be very beneficial for players."

Blair Angulo covers UCLA for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Blair Angulo | email

Reporter, WeAreSC.com

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