Fantasy
Getting the call
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - You never know when you're going to get called into action.

Ron Burgundy got the phone call while drowning his sorrows in liquor at the local watering hole.

RON: Ed! Ed, hello!

ED HARKEN: Listen, Ron. Our Miss Corningstone disappeared in the midst of the biggest story of the year. We need you down here right away.

RON: Wait, Ed. Does this mean you're asking me to report the news again?

ED (after a long pause): Yes.

RON: Ed, that's wonderful! Thank you. Ed, hold on. I just want to say a few words. You've always been a good friend.

ED: Ron ...

RON (sobbing uncontrollably): I love you. I love you, Ed.

ED: Get down here as quickly as you can.

Top pitching prospect Gerrit Cole got the call on Saturday. That's when the Pirates announced that the former No. 1 pick would be making his major league debut Tuesday versus the Giants.

Meanwhile, it's been rumored that Mets prospect Zack Wheeler (rated as the No. 8 prospect by MLB.com and 11th by Baseball America), will report for duty on June 18th against Atlanta. Wheeler was chosen with the sixth overall selection in the 2009 draft.

Both players have the potential to be future aces. And when I say future, I mean by the end of this month.

Cole, a superstar during his three years at UCLA, should be especially appealing to fantasy owners. The tall righthander owns a 5-3 record in 12 appearances for Triple-A Indianapolis this season.

Using a three-pitch repertoire (fastball, changeup and slider), the 22-year- old has dominated the International League to the tune of a 2.91 ERA and a .190 opponent batting average.

That 2.91 ERA is good for fifth-best in the league and the crazy thing is, it could be even lower. If not for a brutal eight-run outing against Pawtucket on May 19th (basically the fantasy equivalent of having your dog punted off a bridge), Cole's ERA would be in the low twos (2.02 to be exact). Cole's WHIP (1.06) is also among the league's best (second in the IL).

Fantasy owners can expect a steady diet of 96 mph fastballs when Cole takes the mound Tuesday against the defending champs. Sometimes if the adrenaline's pumping, he can get that fastball up to 100.

As promising as it all sounds, Cole definitely isn't perfect. Few players are just two years out of college. Cole isn't getting many strikeouts (just 47 in 68 innings) and he's walking almost four batters per nine innings (3.71).

The good news is that when Cole gets himself into a jam, he can usually work his way out of it. More than three quarters of the base runners Cole has allowed this season have been stranded (75.3 percent). To put that in perspective, Tigers ace Justin Verlander's left on base percentage this season is only 72.6. Stephen Strasburg is stranding 71.4 percent of base runners in 2013.

Matchups are important in fantasy and luckily, Cole won't have many tough ones in the early going. Assuming Cole pitches every fifth day, only one of his first five games will come against a team with a winning record (the Giants on Tuesday). If the schedule holds, four of those first five starts would come at home. The lone road game would be against the Angels on June 21st.

Wheeler's numbers (4-1, 4.14 ERA in 12 starts for Triple-A Las Vegas) haven't been as good as Cole's but his upside is similar. His fastball can reach 97 and his curveball (usually thrown in the 75 mph range) is spectacular. He's seventh in the Pacific League in strikeouts with 66 K's in 63 innings.

Wheeler doesn't have much left to prove in the minor leagues. Last season while splitting time between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo, Wheeler earned 12 wins in 25 starts while limiting opponents to a miniscule .221 average. He struck out about a batter per inning (148 K's in 149 IP).

While Cole has only been pitching professionally since 2012, Wheeler already has four years of minor league experience, logging 385 2/3 innings in 80 appearances. That experience may have been why MLB.com ranked Wheeler higher in its preseason rankings, though Baseball America gave the edge to Cole.

Not every first round pick has success in the majors but many of them do. David Price (2012 AL Cy Young winner), Stephen Strasburg (NL All-Star in 2012), Matt Harvey (undefeated this season) and Madison Bumgarner (won two World Series) were all drafted in the top ten. Most of them turned out alright, wouldn't you say?

If Cole and Wheeler are half as good as them, fantasy owners should be in great shape.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.