Yankees: Revisiting New York Drafting Gerrit Cole in 2008

Gerrit Cole, finally joining the New York Yankees (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Gerrit Cole, finally joining the New York Yankees (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

In 2008, the Yankees drafted Gerrit Cole, who attended UCLA instead.

The Yankees thought they’d taken a major step towards fixing their future rotation issues by taking hard-throwing Bronx Bombers fan Gerrit Cole at the tail end of the first round in 2008, signabilty issues be damned.

Turns out, New York had found their future ace, but the path Cole took to get there was far from linear.

When you’re stuck at the back of the first round, sometimes you need to take chances on impact talent rather than settle on easy, low-ceiling signs, though, and New York gambled on Cole (Baseball America’s 17th-ranked prospect) at No. 28. Regrettably, the eternal Yankee fan still chose to attend UCLA and start a feud with Trevor Bauer, instead of joining his dream team.

Was it the right call? Probably. Three years later, he went first overall to the Pittsburgh Pirates, became a world-beating superstar in Houston, and made $324 million (though the 2020 season will mess with those totals) to join the Yankees this offseason.

“We knew it was going to be a tough sign,” GM Brian Cashman told Tyler Kepner in 2011, “but we also were told in pre-draft meetings with the family that he was willing to play pro ball and forgo college. We rolled the dice and took our chances.”

The Yankees’ 2008 draft class featured plenty of talent behind Gerrit Cole.

Did the Yankees pile up worthwhile pieces behind Cole, knowing that his signability would be an issue, though? Well…somewhat. Unfortunately, most of them didn’t sign, either.

Second-rounder Scott Bittle, a righty out of Mississippi, didn’t pass medical inspection after his selection, and never signed. Stanford lefty Jeremy Bleich, chosen in between Cole and Bittle, blew out his shoulder, too.

The best arm, by far, in this class was 14th-rounder…David Phelps, a worthwhile Yankee during the transitional years before the 2017 roster fully rounded into dominant form.

Overall, 2008’s draft marked a depressing moment for a Yankees team that thought it was about to receive the crown jewel of a young rotation helmed by Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy, only to see all three shuffle around unceremoniously in the years to come. The other notable name in this draft also prevented the Yankees from boosting their rotation in the next few seasons — third-rounder David Adams’ bum ankle killed the Cliff Lee trade with the Mariners in 2010.

Next. Revisiting the 2013 Draft. dark

Let’s move on. Gerrit Cole’s a Yankee now, after this draft whiff and the ill-fated 2017 trade talks with Pittsburgh. All is well. The 2008 draft can’t hurt you anymore.