They say first impressions last the longest, but what about second impressions?
In his second start as a member of the Athletics organization, right-handed pitching prospect Jharel Cotton nearly threw a Triple-A perfect game Tuesday night. He lost it on a triple with two outs in the ninth inning. Cotton finished the shutout and struck out 12 in the one-hitter (box score).
Cotton, 24, was one of three pitchers the A's acquired from the Dodgers in last week's Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade. MLB.com currently ranks him as the 16th-best prospect in Oakland's system. Here's a snippet of their scouting report:
Cotton began to take off when his fastball velocity spiked from 88-91 mph to 92-96. He gives hitters fits by mixing four-seamers up in the zone with plus changeups in the lower half. Those are his two main offerings, as he also has a curveball and a cutter/slider but neither grades as average ... There's some effort in his delivery, which doesn't prevent him from throwing strikes but does hamper his command. He could be a mid-rotation starter, though some scouts project him as a reliever because of his size and mechanics.
In his first start with the A's last week, Cotton allowed one run in six innings and struck out five. He has a 4.33 ERA with a 133/33 K/BB ratio in 112 1/3 total innings this season, all at the Triple-A level.
Considering Cotton's instant success with the Athletics and Hill's continued blister problems with the Dodgers, it's fair to wonder whether Los Angeles was better off simply not making the trade. They're still in need of rotation help, after all.
Me? I say no. Cotton is not a tippy-top prospect -- as the scouting report says, it's not clear he'll even be a starter long-term -- and Hill is only dealing with a blister. It's not like his elbow or shoulder are barking. Hill has been excellent this year and once the blister heals up, he'll help the Dodgers far more than Cotton would have.
That said, the A's must feel pretty great about the early returns from Cotton. They weren't going to retain Reddick or Hill long-term, and they turned them into three pretty good pitching prospects. Cotton could help them as soon as September.