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Ep. 12: ‘The Stars Aligned’

The following is an excerpt from the script to Episode 12. Click on the embed above to listen to the full episode, or you can subscribe to Razed Sports on your favorite podcast app.


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I caught up with Cole Uvila on Oct. 28, as he and his fiancée Kayla Andrus worked their way back home to Western Washington.

The Arizona Fall League had ended two days prior, and with it, the 2019 season. The Surprise Saguaros had reached the championship game, losing to the Salt River Rafters, 5-1. Cole didn’t pitch in the game, but that was OK. Overall, the six weeks or so he had spent in the league had been a success. He had faced some of the best baseball prospects in the world and shown that he belonged among them. Now, it was time to head home.

COLE: “Kayla and I are driving through Boise. After the championship game we drove up to Vegas stayed the night in Vegas. You know went out and got some nice dinner together and just enjoyed each others’ company, saw the city. Then we got up yesterday morning and drove all the way through Nevada up through Twin Falls, Idaho and into Boise and stayed last night in Boise.”

We talked for a bit as they drove and Cole reflected on the Arizona experience. The cell connection would occasionally cut out, but one thing came through crystal clear – the 2019 season had been an eye-opening experience for Cole, and one moment in particular had been eye-opening for many others who follow minor league baseball.

That moment came in the Arizona Fall League All-Star game.

Being chosen by the Texas Rangers to play in the Fall League was a huge honor for Cole. Being selected to the All-Star game was even bigger. As Cole said in Episode 11, the league itself is an All-Star game, now he was deemed worthy of yet another challenge – playing against the best of the best. It was a thrill for him, and in the lead-up to the game on Oct. 12, Cole felt something he says he doesn’t usually feel when it comes to baseball games …

COLE: “I was like actually for really the first time all year, like, really nervous. Like the day leading up to it, I had butterflies and kind of like, some, anxiousness about it. It was exciting and really cool. I think there was like over 3,000 fans there, which most of the Fall League games got like 300, so that was really cool.”


Cole was told he would enter in the fifth inning, and he was anxious. But once it came time for him to pitch, the nerves kind of just melted away.

COLE: “Once I got out there I wasn’t really nervous, I actually was very calm and it was weird because the outing actually I had after this I was really rushed and kinda overflowing and trying to do too much but for whatever reason on that stage I was probably the calmest and the best I’ve been all Fall League. So that was cool for me. I mean honestly it’s a confidence thing where it’s like it’s good to be in those situations so when they come up in the future, like bigger moments I don’t, I have that to refer back to and how I felt then. It was just, it was awesome.”


Cole got the first two outs pretty easily, including a strikeout. Then up came Jo Adell.

Adell was a first-round pick of the Angels in 2017 and he had quite a resume. He was not only the top-rated Angels prospect, but the highest rated prospect present in the Fall League, ranked No. 5 in all of baseball. Cole was well aware of it, too.

COLE: “I know he’s No. 5. I know because every time he comes to the plate they put that on the scoreboard that he’s No. 5. And I know that he’s, he was the highest on the Pipeline, in the Fall League, 1-through-4 weren’t there.”

During the 2019 season, Adell had impressed the Angels so much that they promoted him twice, first from Advanced-A (which was Cole’s level) to AA, then later to AAA, just one level below the big leagues. Cole had faced Adell previously in the Fall League, getting him to ground out, so he had some confidence as the heralded prospect dug into the batter’s box.

Adell took Cole’s first pitch for ball one. The second pitch also missed the strike zone, setting the slugger up with a great hitter’s count.

COLE: “I got behind 2-0, and I just had to come to him, and pretty much, honestly just lucky he fouled my fastball back. Then I threw a changeup that he also fouled back.”

Cole had battled back to even the count. Then he threw I guess what I’ll call …. “THE PITCH” … and that’s in quotes, and in all capital letters. It was quite simply the nastiest curveball he had ever thrown, getting Adell to strike out swinging.

COLE: “The stars kind of aligned that day. It just so happened that against, you know, the best prospect in the Fall League, I throw my best curveball ever on the biggest stage of the Fall League and it’s just like, well, cool. (laughs). It’s just a pretty lucky-slash-awesome moment that you know, no matter what happens from here, I’ll have forever.”

It was a big moment, but it wasn’t clear initially that that one curveball, would be that big a deal. It was a nice pitch, to be sure, but Cole says it didn’t really feel any different to him, it didn’t necessarily stand out as anything other than a really nice curveball. So Cole went on with his night. He went out to dinner with Kayla, and his friend Sean Chandler and his girlfriend. He received some congratulatory text messages. But he wasn’t blowing up or anything. It was a good night.

But then … things started happening.

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The day after the game, Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline published an article on the top 10 performers of the Fall Stars Game. He put Cole at No. 9 on his list, which in itself was cool. But what he wrote made a lot of people stop and kind of blink, and make sure they had read it correctly.

Mayo wrote that the curveball which struck out Adell had a spin rate of 3,379 rpm. “Of curveballs tracked by Statcast during the Major League season, only 4.6 percent had spin rated of 3,000+ rpm. Uvila threw another curve with a 2,965 rpm spin rate for good measure.”

That little blurb in Mayo’s article kind of changed things for Cole. It wasn’t so much that he struck out Jo Adell in the All-Star game that impressed people, it was that spin rate number. That number — 3,379 — got peoples’ attention. And for a moment, it seemed like everybody was talking about him.


COLE: “Basically, as crazy as it is, that curveball kinda, the one curveball I threw kind of defined my whole Fall League. It’s what has gotten, like all the articles and attention and kind of people talking. Kind of put my name out there.

“I kind of joked with some other people that how funny would it have been if I had thrown another fastball or threw a changeup and got him out rather than throw that curveball and nobody would still know who I am. (laughs) It’s funny that it worked out that way.”

To get more of a perspective of the national viewpoint on Cole, I spoke with Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline. The Rangers are among the teams he covers. He’s also responsible for covering prospects out of Georgia, where Cole played his college ball. But Jim is pretty straightforward … he makes it clear that he didn’t know who Cole was until the rosters for the Arizona Fall League had come out. The reason for this is simple, with more than 1,200 players drafted every year, in addition to every minor leaguer already on the teams he covers, it’s impossible to be up on all of them.

JIM: “When I was at Baseball America for many years, we would go, we would rank the top 500 players in order but we’d also do state lists. So if I had Georgia for Baseball America, I’d probably rank the top 50 players in Georgia. So maybe, like, if somebody had seen the arm and mentioned him to me, I would’ve thrown him onto the end of the list, but at MLB Pipeline we don’t do the super crazy deep state list, we do an overall top 200, so in general, a 24-year-old guy, who missed a couple years to Tommy John surgery, is not going to get mentioned to me by scouts.”

“I didn’t have him on my radar, and scouts, the guys I talk to always do a nice job of kind of telling me about guys like ‘hey you need to know about this guy,’ but my main focus I guess would be on the first 10-12 rounds, guys who might come up on the first two days that we’re broadcasting at MLB Network. So, the 24-year-old, who like I said, he’s gotta be one of the older players drafted in recent memory, there aren’t too many 24-year-olds who even get drafted.”


This is why the opportunity of playing in the Fall League was so big for Cole. It gave him a chance to stand out in the crowd. To show what he could do and to be seen as a talented player, not just an older pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery. Then, when people saw what he could do with their own eyes, and when they saw the Statcast numbers on his curveball, that’s exactly what happened. He stood out. And all of a sudden, Cole’s age didn’t matter so much anymore.

JIM: “The curveball is just a crazy curveball. If you go to our site, like you search these stories, we actually have a clip of it. It starts up above the belt and just dives into the dirt and Jo Adell looks pretty helpless against it. And then, it’s not like he’s just a guy who’s spinning curve after curve after curve. I mean he’s got a mid-90s fastball with some spin and good finish to it, too. It’s two swing-and-miss pitches. I mean, you know, … there’s a scout, one of my favorite scouts when he used to talk about young pitchers, he’d joke ‘well they don’t check ID on the mound.’ And I guess Cole is at the other extreme of that, too. Nobody’s gonna care how old he is if he keeps throwing like that.”

Having seen the numbers, having seen him with his own eyes, Jim has Cole on his radar now. He sees some things Cole needs to work on, but the sky is the limit.

JIM: “I think he really helped himself in the Fall League. It’s interesting, he has, I think he’s gotta throw more strikes is the big thing, but the quality of stuff’s pretty good, and I mean it’s not, like I said, I had never even heard about the guy until the Fall League, and I mean now, a year after getting taken in the 40th round, you can look and see, hey this guy might wind up in the big leagues. He’s got a legitimate shot, it’s not just ‘oh this random 40th round guy,’ it’s legit.”


And so Cole has a plan for the offseason. He wants to get into the weight room, which he says has always been a weakness of his. He wants to put on weight, and to get stronger. He thinks being stronger will not only help him throw harder (mass equals gas, he says), but that it will help improve his control.

COLE: “I’ve noticed when my command gets poor it’s typically when I’m overthrowing. And the reason I’m overthrowing is because I’m trying to throw hard. So like the really simple idea of why I want to get stronger is I don’t have to put as much effort as throwing hard. Again it’s a lot more complex than that, but that’s the idea. The stronger you are you don’t have to, like my 90 percent will become what my 100 percent is now. And then that, 90 percent intent is easier to control than 100 percent intent.”

And he expects that carrying more weight will help him maintain his velocity as the season wears on, something that became a bit of an issue this year.

COLE: “…you see all these guys on TV, like a big league body isn’t a guy with like a pitcher isn’t a guy with a six pack and like really toned up, they’re just like bigger men, like more powerful guys and I think if I want to start looking towards that as a potential thing this year, to like maybe make a run at pitching in the big leagues, like I just need, that’s the next step as far as transforming my body into like a big league body. … It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight but it’s something I just need to focus on and start working towards. I also don’t feel like I’m that far off. I’m still like 6-4, almost 210 pounds. If I could be 6-4 225 and just stronger, I think that’s a realistic and important goal for me.”


When we began telling this story, it started with Cole and Kayla in the car, driving across the country, monitoring the draft as they went, just HOPING someone would take a chance on him. That hope nearly disappeared when the Rangers drafted a quarterback in the 39th round, only to be restored at the very last minute.

Now, just over a year later, here they were again, on the road in the car. Still heading home, but with an eye on bigger things ahead. And now carrying with them, a feeling that seemed a little stronger than hope, a feeling of confidence, with a big dose of expectation.

COLE: “… today we’re driving to Moses Lake Washington to see my dad and stepmom and say hi to them. Hang out with them for an hour or two maybe, eat a little bit or something and then head back to Kent and start the offseason.”

*** *** ***


Written and produced by Bob Harkins.


Theme song: “Rip My Jeans” —

Broke For Free — “If

Punch Deck — “Longing”, “Tension Rises”, “Bhangra Bass

(All music edited for time purposes)


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