POSITION: Left-handed starting pitcher
BORN ON: May 23, 1987
AGE: Turns 21 next May
BORN IN: Medford, Oregon
SCHOOL: Western Nevada Community College
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 22nd round, 2006 draft
SIGNED BY: Tim Moore
STATISTICSClick here for Rohrbough's 2007 stats
SCOUTING REPORTThe Braves believe Rohrbough is special. He had a dominating season in JUCO ball (10-3, 1.34 ERA, 64 hits in 99 innings, 19 earned runs, 26 walks, and 132 strikeouts) and then signed with the Braves as a draft-and-follow before the 2007 draft. If he had not signed and gone back into the draft, the Braves are convinced some team would have taken Rohrbough late in the first round.
Rohrbough got to Danville after throwing all of those innings in JUCO and pitching coach Jim Czajkowski noticed he was dropping his arm down a bit in the bullpen and was almost slinging the ball. When Cole would raise his arm slot up he would dominate, so the Braves encouraged him to keep doing that and it produced terrific results.
Cole dominated the Appalachian League (3-2, 1.08 ERA in eight games, seven starts, 20 hits allowed in 33.1 innings, four earned runs, eight walks, and 58 strikeouts). The Braves sent him up to Rome and Rohrbough did well again in the Sally League (2-0, 1.29 ERA in six games, 13 hits in 28 innings, four earned runs, 12 walks, and 38 strikeouts).
So his combined 2007 stats (JUCO, Danville, and Rome): 15-5, 1.52 ERA, 97 hits allowed in 160.1 innings, 27 earned runs, 46 walks, and 228 strikeouts.
The comparisons range from Steve Avery to Barry Zito to Scott Kazmir. You rarely find lefties that can spin a breaking ball like Rohrbough can. It was the best curveball the Braves' scouts saw all year. Coaches say he doesn't spike it completely; he has his index finger on it almost like a knuckleball, so it's not your traditional two fingers on the ball. His curve has a sharp break and he can control it very well. It's just a hard, sharp curve with two speeds. In the big leagues they change the speeds of a breaking ball and Cole can do that now with a more advanced skill and has the command as well.
The fastball continues to improve. He threw 80-82 in high school, got it up to 86-89 in his first season in JUCO, and then this past January was throwing 93-94. The Braves saw him at 92-95 when he got into the system and he topped out at 96. They believe he'll stay in the 92-94 mph range in the big leagues. It has good movement and he keeps it down in the zone.
Rohrbough is working on his changeup, which he will need as his third pitch. Coaches believe it's a major league changeup. Cole has the confidence in the change to throw it to right-handed hitters. But he has his breaking ball right now, and that's more than most prospects with his experience can say.
One coach said, "he makes hitters look sick with that curveball. It is phenomenal."
Rohrbough's work ethic is exceptional and he's a competitor. Even his so-so games were pretty impressive last season. He's a big lefty who is very durable and strong. Rohrbough's confidence is what also sets him apart from others.
2008 OUTLOOKRohrbough will start out in Myrtle Beach. Do not be surprised if he is in Double-A by the end of the season. If he has a season anything like he did in 2007 the Braves will be wondering how close this kid will be to making an impact in the big leagues. He could come really quickly. This is the best candidate to be a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher for the Braves.
ADDITIONAL STORY LINKSThe Braves Show: Rohrbough Interview
The Braves Show: Rohrbough Signs
The Mail-Tribune: Rohrbough Signs
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.