Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole and D-backs left-hander Tyler Skaggs -- MLB.com's No. 9 and 10 prospects respectively -- were cut from big league camp Monday with the former being sent to Minor League camp and the latter being optioned to Triple-A Reno.
Cole had hoped an impressive spring would place him in the big leagues for the first time in his young career. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 Draft scattered four runs on 10 hits over 13 innings in four appearances for the Bucs this spring. He struck out 13 and walked three over that span.
Still, the move wasn't altogether unexpected, given that the 22-year-old only pitched one game above Double-A ball last season. He was 9-7 with a 2.80 ERA with 136 strikeouts and 45 walks between Class A Advanced Bradenton, Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis in his first pro season a year ago.
"I sort of knew [this was coming], but it's pretty disappointing," Cole told MLB.com. "I pitched really well. I tried not to give them a whole lot of opportunity to make this decision."
Meanwhile, the Pirates weren't discouraged by making that move with their top prospect.
"We're excited about it. He showed up great here in camp," said general manager Neal Huntington. "There's still a checklist for him to work on, and we're very confident he will get it accomplished. He has the stuff you hope to build a rotation around."
Huntington, however, did shoot down rumors that the team cut Cole in order to delay his possible free agency. (If Cole plays for the Pirates before June, he would be eligible for free agency one year sooner.)
"Everybody is going to speculate why he is being sent out -- and they're wrong," Huntington said. "He's being sent out because in our minds he's not ready to compete, to be successful at the Major League level, to be one of those top-of-the-rotation starters, our goal for him."
While Cole was looking at perhaps an outside shot of making the big club, Skaggs found himself squarely in the race for the fifth spot in Arizona's upcoming rotation. He did not perform well during the spring though, giving up 16 runs -- 11 earned -- on 11 hits in nine innings. The southpaw displayed difficulty with command with eight free passes and just five strikeouts.
Patrick Corbin and Randall Delgado continue to push for the last spot in the rotation.
"He just wasn't ready," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson told MLB.com. "We felt it was being counterproductive him being here. I think he was a little bit relieved, to be quite honest with you. We'll get him back on track."
Skaggs will instead start the year in Reno, where he went 4-2 with a 2.91 ERA over nine starts last season. He combined to go 9-6 with a 2.87 ERA in 22 Minor League starts, but struggled in six late-season Major League outings, going 1-3 with a 5.83 ERA.
"If you can't command your fastball, it's not going to cut it," Gibson said. "He knows what he has to do. We'll get him down there, we'll get him on track, he'll make some adjustments and hopefully he'll relax a little and throw the baseball the way he's capable."