After a dominant showing during September last year, big things were expected for Oakland Athletics pitcher Jharel Cotton. Instead, he has struggled to open the 2017 campaign, and has been sent down to AAA to work on some issues.
It did not take long for Jharel Cotton to make an impression with the Oakland Athletics. Acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of the package for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick, Cotton made his debut on September 7. He acquitted himself well in his five starts last season, posting a 2.15 ERA and a 0.818 WHiP. In his 29.1 innings, Cotton issued just four walks while striking out 23 batters. He certainly appeared to have a bright future.
Expected to help solidify the A’s rotation this season, Cotton has struggled. While he has had his moments of dominance, Cotton has also been thoroughly hitable at times. Overall, Cotton has posted a 3-4 record with a 5.68 ERA and a 1.526 WHiP. His walk rate has increased, as he has issued 16 walks, and 42 hits, in 38 innings. This was not the start that the A’s expected.
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As such, it is not much of a surprise that Cotton has been sent down to AAA. According to Susan Slusser, the A’s are looking to have Cotton work on his consistency while in Nashville. However, this may not be a long demotion, as it is expected that he will return once Oakland has a need in their rotation.
The Athletics front office also feels that Cotton has pitched better than the numbers would indicate. General Manager David Forst had nothing but praise for the young starter, saying “Even on Tuesday, his stuff was excellent as evidenced by the strikeouts; he just needs some more consistency with his performance.”
The underlying numbers appear to back up that assertion. Cotton posted an identical 20.5% strikeout rate thus far, and his line drive rate dropped to 22%. However, he has seen a spike in his batting average on balls in play against, as he has allowed a .330 BAbip. That has led to a .282/.353/.477 batting line against Cotton, helping to lead to his struggles this year.
While cotton does, indeed, need to work on being more consistent from one start to the next, it may be a matter of having his luck with the batted ball normalize. Of course, getting his command back in check would help, as his walk rate has increased, causing those extra hits to be even more costly. And, with better command, Cotton may not get as often by missing his spots in the zone.