CURVE, Pa. – In a talented field of hurlers, it was Gerrit Cole who came out on top in last fall’s voting for the Fans’ Choice All-Time Curve Team Starting Pitcher.
He put up decent numbers during his time in Altoona in 2012, but the accolades he’s collected already in his Major League career separated him from the rest of the pack.
The list of finalists included Bronson Arroyo (1999), Sean Burnett (2003), Zack Duke (2004, 2010), Jared Hughes (2008-2011, 2013), Justin Wilson (2010), Rudy Owens (2010), Jameson Taillon (2012-13, 2017), Steven Brault (2015) and Chad Kuhl (2015), a solid group of pitchers who have gone on to varying levels of success in the majors, with many of their career stories yet to be written.
Cole is currently in his sixth season in the big leagues, playing his first with the Houston Astros. He had five strong seasons in Pittsburgh prior to being traded in January, including a 2015 season that saw the first All-Star selection of his career and a fourth-place finish in the National League Cy Young Award voting.
But before Cole reached MLB stardom, he was a shining prospect rocketing through the Pittsburgh minor league system. The top overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft out of UCLA, Cole came to Altoona less than a year into his professional career with a June call-up in 2012 after being named a Florida State League Mid-Season All-Star with the Bradenton Marauders.
That year, he was ranked as the No. 12 overall prospect in baseball by Baseball America and the Pirates’ No. 1 prospect.
He made his Double-A debut in Altoona on June 20 against New Britain, striking out six over five innings and allowing two runs to pick up a win. Over the season, he never allowed more than three earned runs in a single start with the Curve.
Cole made just 12 starts in a Curve uniform, combining to go 3-6 with a 2.90 ERA.
He was selected to pitch in the prestigious All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City that summer, part of MLB’s annual All-Star festivities. Although he allowed two runs in his one inning of work that day, it did not derail his first full year as a professional baseball player.
On August 16, 2012 at Portland, Cole tallied a Double-A career-best nine strikeouts. Over his final five starts Altoona starts, he posted a 1.67 ERA. The Pirates quickly moved him up to Triple-A Indianapolis on September 1 of that year.
Cole reached the majors the following year, making his debut on June 11 against the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park That night, he bested two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum by working 6.1 innings and allowed two runs with a pair of strikeouts for his first big-league win.
That 2015 season would go down as his best with the Pirates, going 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA. After two more seasons in Pittsburgh, Cole was dealt to Houston on January 13 of this season for third baseman Colin Moran, pitcher Joe Musgrove, pitcher Michael Feliz and current Altoona Curve outfielder Jason Martin.
Curve fans in Altoona only got a brief glimpse of Cole on his way to the big leagues. Only four of his Double-A starts came at Peoples Natural Gas Field, and he made eight starts on the road. But Cole put on a show in those few starts in Central PA, combining for a 1.64 ERA and striking out 21 batters in 22.0 innings.