Cole Irvin to rejoin Oregon’s formidable pitching squad to finish out his senior year
Five of the six Ducks selected in the 2015 MLB Draft elected to forgo their senior seasons and sign with professional teams. In total, Oregon lost its best hitter, best base stealer and three flame-throwing bullpen arms.
Fortunately for head coach George Horton, his trusty ace is returning.
Starting pitcher Cole Irvin will stay in Eugene and play his senior season, he announced July 11 via Twitter.
— Cole Irvin (@cole_irvin19) July 12, 2015
Irvin, Matt Krook and David Peterson are the pitchers to beat for a spot in the Ducks’ 2016 starting rotation. Horton raved about the prospect of having three left handers over 6’3” in the mix.
“That might be the most special rotation I’ve ever had, if they reach their potential,” Horton said after last season.
The Ducks have a surplus of talented starting pitchers, but pitching coach Dean Stiles stressed the three southpaws have yet to secure their starting roles.
“We’re not going to hand those positions to those guys,” Stiles said. “That’s obviously something they’ll have to earn in the fall, but certainly if it pans out they will be a pretty formidable group.”
Irvin’s draft stock has fallen since 2012, when the Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in the 29th round. Irvin was selected in the 32nd round by the Blue Jays this year but turned down the offer, presumably to boost his draft stock and help the Ducks win their first NCAA championship.
The Ducks have reason to be concerned about their starters’ durability. After standout rookie campaigns, both Irvin and Krook redshirted their sophomore seasons to undergo Tommy John surgery. In the past four years, five Oregon starting pitchers have gone under the knife for the same procedure, which normally requires at least a year to recover.
Irvin didn’t miss a start in 2015 but also didn’t make the same impression he made as a freshman. He only produced two wins compared to 12 in 2013. Irvin returned to the mound in 2015 and was limited by a stringent pitch count regimen in order to ease his way back to freshman form.
Irvin had a hard time maintaining his velocity and saw the speed of his fastball drop. His opponents’ weighted on-base average, a comprehensive stat which measures overall offensive value, increased from .275 to .303.
The Miami Marlins selected Krook out of high school in the first round of the 2013 MLB draft, but a post-draft MRI revealed a slight tear in his throwing shoulder. Miami reduced its offer by more than half and Krook chose to pitch at Oregon instead.
Krook struck out 60 batters in 45 innings and groomed a 1.79 ERA before he threw his season-ending pitch on April 5, 2014, an 0-1 slider against Washington’s Braden Bishop. Krook immediately dropped his glove and grabbed his elbow; he was subsequently pulled from the game.
Nevertheless, Stiles’ forecasts for Irvin and Krook are optimistic.
“They both have gone through the entire rehab process, and have both shown they’re working back to the pitchers they were prior to their injuries,” Stiles said.
Stiles noted that Irvin’s velocity got back to the 91-92 miles-per-hour range toward the end of the 2015 season, and Krook has shown no velocity decrease in his bullpen sessions thus far.
Follow Kenny Jacoby on Twitter @KennyJacoby