Cole Irvin was an afterthought heading into spring training. He had been acquired from the Phillies for cash considerations before the Oakland A’s started their offseason spending spree, his place on the roster hardly secure. At best, he was considered to be a depth option, not a realistic option for the major league roster.
But someone forgot to tell Irvin that. He impressed throughout spring training, allowing just two runs on ten hits and three walks in his 18 innings, striking out 18 batters. His final outing, where he allowed just one hit in six innings against the Dodgers, provided the final push he needed to beat out top prospects A.J. Puk and Daulton Jefferies for the fifth starter role.
What should the Oakland A’s expect from Cole Irvin?
Irvin’s inclusion on the Opening Day roster was certainly an upset. His major league career has not exactly been filled with success, as he has posted a 6.75 ERA and a 1.544 WHiP in his 45.1 innings. His performance last year, where he allowed seven runs on 11 hits and a walk in 3.2 innings, did not exactly portend that he would be a viable major league option.
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However, he always had the type of stuff that intrigued scouts. His fastball can reach 95 MPH and has impressive sinking action, making it difficult to put the ball in the air against him. While he uses that fastball approximately half the time, he has a plus changeup that can generate some swings and misses. Irvin also mixes in the occasional slider and curve.
His command is his greatest attribute, as Irvin had posted a 1.9 BB/9 rate in his 452 minor league innings. That command allows his somewhat fringy stuff to play up, making him a bit more effective that one would expect from his arsenal. But it is still a matter of being able to get major league hitters out.
At his best, Irvin could be a back of the rotation arm, someone who can generate a solid amount of ground balls and produce decent results. Having the A’s stellar defense behind him should help, but it would be foolish to expect that Irvin can be the pitcher he was in March during the regular season.
Cole Irvin could fill a need for the Oakland A’s as a back of the rotation arm. But it would be foolhardy to expect anything more from him this year.