Threshers Spotlight: Cole Irvin

In his first full pro season, the Threshers lefty is in the zone

By Kirsten Karbach / Clearwater Threshers | May 18, 2017 1:49 PM ET

Cole Irvin is in command when he steps to the rubber.

The 6'4" southpaw throws six pitches, counting his three fastballs. He works quickly, varies speeds, pounds the strike zone.

"Cole is an advanced guy," Phillies Director of Player Development Joe Jordan says.

"He knows what he's doing."

Through his first seven starts with the Clearwater Threshers, the 23-year-old left-hander has been consistently effective in his first full professional season, going five innings or more and allowing three earned runs or less in each appearance. At the mid-mark of May, Irvin ranked sixth in the Florida State League with a 2.14 ERA.

Perhaps more impressive - Irvin had issued just seven walks through 42 innings. In his first 17 professional outings, only twice had he permitted more than one walk in a game.

He throws strikes, and he does so quickly. Irvin, a fifth-round draft pick out of the University of Oregon last June, is arguably one of the fastest workers in the FSL.

"The faster you work, the less time you have to think and second guess yourself," Irvin explains.

"That's where I get caught up in bad starts for myself, or me not getting off to a good start. I might be over-thinking."

Irvin bypassed Low-A Lakewood, having made 10 appearances for the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters last summer before jumping to Clearwater to start 2017.

"He knows who he is," Jordan says. "That's why he's here, that's why he skipped Lakewood. We felt like that after last summer in instructional league, that we could do this with him. And he's responded.

"He's going to pitch and use his mix, knows how to attack hitters."

His mix includes a changeup, slider, and curveball, in addition to a selection of fastballs.

Along with the traditional two-seam and four-seam offerings, Irvin also works in a lesser-known one-seam fastball.

"I learned the one-seam from a teammate in college," Irvin says. "He just always threw it and I was like, 'Why is that ball moving so much?' And he finally showed me and introduced me to a couple different grips on a one-seam.

"You can go in between the seams, you can go across one seam, literally. You're just not throwing a traditional fastball, so the ball's going to naturally move more."

Video: Threshers Spotlight: Cole Irvin

His go-to secondary offering is his changeup, a pitch Irvin learned the importance of while watching former Phillies All-Star - and former Clearwater Thresher - Cole Hamels.

Hamels pitched in five games for the Clearwater Phillies in 2003, and made a handful of starts for the Clearwater Threshers during the 2004, 2005, and 2006 seasons. Hamels, of course, went on to make his Major League debut for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2006, on his way to becoming a four-time All-Star and 2008 World Series MVP.

Across the country at Servite High School in Anaheim, California, Hamels' dominance inspired the development of another promising lefty.

"I think it's just his command, his demeanor," Irvin says.

"My mechanics resemble a lot of what he does, so once people started telling me that in high school I started just taking that to another level," Irvin explains.

"I started watching what he did in sequences, in terms of pitch-to-pitch; what was so distinct, what was so different, what made him so good."

A big part of that, of course, was the changeup.

"You know, I don't want to be a Cole Hamels, I want to be a Cole Irvin. But at the same time, he did a lot of things I liked which is, when you're behind in the count, pitching with a changeup. Or when you're ahead in the count, pitching with a changeup.

"The changeup command was so unique and so great that it was hard for me to not put that into my repertoire."

The Toronto Blue Jays selected Irvin in the 29th round out of high school, but Irvin was intent on continuing his development while pursuing a degree at the University of Oregon. After an impressive debut season in which he went 12-3 with a 2.48 ERA on his way to being named a Baseball America, Perfect Game, and Louisville Slugger Freshman All American, Irvin underwent Tommy John Surgery and missed the entire 2014 season.

"Luckily for me, despite having Tommy John Surgery, I ended up getting my degree in three and a half years, and majored in sociology, " Irvin says.

He returned to the mound in 2015, posting a 4.10 ERA in 16 starts as a redshirt sophomore. Again, the pros began calling.

This time it was the Pittsburgh Pirates, who selected Irvin in the 32nd round.

"When Pittsburgh rolled around it was really hard, because I was a quarter away from graduating. But at the same time I didn't feel like I had a good enough year, so I said you know what, I'm going to go back to school and finish my degree and play baseball."

That decision paid off. After lowering his ERA nearly a full run in 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies made Irvin their fifth round draft pick.

Irvin, along with ninth-round pick Blake Quinn, has been the quickest riser of the Phillies 2016 draft class, and has not missed a beat in his fast ascension. His ability to control the game has impressed in his first year in the Phillies system.

"The kind of personality that he has, he wants to do everything right," Threshers manager Shawn Williams says.

"He's got a great tempo, he can field his position, you can't run on him. He does a lot of good things. He's not going to give you any extra bases by giving up stolen bases, things like that.

"He's got good stuff, and he knows how to pitch."

 

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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