It takes someone pretty interesting to get us to do a post on the Oakland Athletics, in any form. Finally they have a guy who intrigues us a little bit. Meet Jharel Cotton, former Los Angeles Dodgers prospect.
He was a 20th round pick out of the Virgin Islands that came to Oakland Athletics in the Rich Hill-Josh Reddick trade late last year.
When he debuted in Oakland, Baseball Prospectus had their usual nice scouting report on him:
Cotton has progressed to the majors at a slow-and-steady pace. The 24-year-old fights standard stigmas as an undersized right-hander without great feel for a breaking ball, but he has consistently made it work on the back of a solid top-two, and some recent development with a work-around third pitch gives rise to optimism that he can stick as a starter.
He’s well-built, with broad shoulders, a thick chest, and a sturdy base that can hold some innings. The delivery begins with a loose progression through his early rock and takeaway check points, and, coupled with some rigidity in his leg kick, there are some early timing inconsistencies in the delivery that can sidetrack his command when he gets unbalanced. He’s fairly closed into a mild back-side collapse, with an uphill arm path to a higher three-quarters slot. The higher angle helps offset some of his not-there inches, and he employs a fairly short, closed stride that helps him come up and over to create a later pickup for hitters.
His fastball will sit in the 92-94 range with a couple miles-an-hour in the tank, and it’s a north-south four-seamer that can get on hitters quickly. It doesn’t have a ton of horizontal movement, but it does feature above-average “rise” to stay on plane longer and get above barrels. It plays up in the zone thanks to the deception and velocity, though his command of the pitch will wander, and the frequency with which he attacks above the belt leaves him vulnerable to the long ball.
He pairs the fastball with a truly devastating changeup, which he sells with excellent arm speed. The pitch has excellent plane from his arm slot, and he generates extreme tumble and velocity separation, often running 15-plus mile-an-hour differentials. It’s an easy plus pitch, and when he has feel for it and keeps it down consistently it’ll run double-plus.
In almost 30 innings last year and five starts, big league hitters struggled against the 24-year old. Small sample size, but the WHIP was 0.81, the ERA 2.12, and he went 2-0 with 23 strikeouts and just four walks.
It’s more gut feeling than anything at this point – but some respected guys in the industry have Cotton doing huge things in 2017. Eno Sarris boasts a great change-up and fastball speed difference as well as no real innings limit as reasons he’ll have success.
Either way, he’s one of the guys we have a close eye on as we enter the 2017 season. The world needs to know about Jharel Cotton.