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Your Random D-Back: Cole Gillespie

110 major league at bats from 2010 to 2011.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Bat on the rise.

Portland-born Cole Gillespie grew up in West Linn, where he went to high school and was a two way baseball player, both a starting pitcher and a short stop. He lettered three times there and after an impressive final senior season in which he batted .532, and achieved an 0.76 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 5 walks in 46 innings, he decided to commit to OSU because of the “campus, athletics and academics, and the chance to play in Pac-10” or in other words: it was the best of all things combined...and close to home.

At Oregon State he played mostly from the bench in his freshman year, on a team that also included future major leaguer Jacoby Ellsbury. As a sophomore he had already a great season, hitting for a .319/.455/.362, with not much power but with an excellent 18% walk percentage.

With Ellsbury gone in his junior season Gillespie becomes the undisputed leader of the Beavers. As he later recalls, the team isn’t really loaded with star talent, but just a good group of talented kids, motivated to win it all. Oregon wins the world college series in 2006 and Gillespie is named to the All Tournament Team. He finishes the year hitting .374/.493/.685 and leads the team in almost every stat and gets the player of the year award in the division. Can’t really ask for much more heading into a MLB draft.

Gillespie is picked in the third round, the small draft report on MLB mentions “One of the most improved college bats with decent tools” but also “several shoulder surgeries” that have weakened his arm and might limit his positional flexibility and probably limits him to left field. Indeed, during his career at OSU he exclusively plays in the outfield, mostly left field.

The Brewers sign him for $417,500, slot money, after selecting Gillespie in the 3rd round as the 92nd pick in the draft. The arm is of concern, as Gillespie expresses as well:

That is the one thing that I have hurt is my shoulder in college which has held me back a little bit with my arm. I try to be a complete player I am not going to try to go out there and wow anybody by trying to hit five home runs or anything like that really just the small things in my game is pretty important to me. I want to be good at everything. I want to be smart on the bases, play good defense, now days especially in the National League you have to hit and play defense so I try to focus on all aspects of the game. - Cole Gillespie in a 2008 interview on BrewCrewBall.

His start in pro ball is terrific as the Rookie leagues are no match for the polished 4 year college slugger. Gillespie hits .344/.464/.548 over 51 games, a terrific ending of a 2006 baseball season.

Trade bait.

After such an impressive 2006 season, Cole Gillespie is ranked #8 on Baseball America’s Farm ranking of the Brewers and hopes are high. Players like Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar become teammates of Gillespie in 2007 on the Brevard County Matanees, the A advanced team of the Milwaukee Brewers. Gillespie bats fine, though not impressive, but still one of the better hitter on that A+ team. He is one of the team’s leaders in hits, walks and homeruns. His hits lack somewhat behind, but a .267/.378/.420 slash line maybe deserves a bit more than sitting an entire year in A+.

In 2008 the righty is promoted to AA where he continues to hit well, this time with a .281/.386/.472 batting line, getting results against both left- and right-handed pitching although maybe not with the power the Brewers are hoping for. A fractured foot probably also plays part in the decision to keep him in AA, although that might also make his numbers even more impressive.

In 2009 the outfielder is still acknowledged as a Top 10 farm prospect on the Brewers, but doubts have risen about his real potential.

Cole is the perfect example of a player who does everything well, but nothing spectacularly. [...] As it currently stands, Cole does not have the power to stick at a corner outfield position. Fourteen home runs in Double-A is simply not going to cut it at a premium outfield position, but Gillespie does not have the speed to play center field. Nor does he possess the arm to play right field because of an injured shoulder he suffered in college. It seems that Cole is relegated to left field, but does not have the power to profile as an everyday left fielder in the bigs. - Retrieved from a 2009 archive story

Cole Gillespie starts the season at A+ again, maybe to shake off an injury, but is promoted to AAA at the end of April. Gillespie struggles at the highest minor league level. His walk rates are still excellent, but the hit tool lacks and the slugging as well.

2009 is a big season for Cole Gillespie. Will he develop more power in2009 and become a legitimate corner outfield prospect that will knock on the door of the big leagues, or will the young man simply cement his status as a future fourth outfielder? Whatever path Cole takes next season in Milwaukee’s organization, I have little doubt that he will put on a big league uniform in 2010 or, at the latest, 2011. Will that be with the Milwaukee Brewers? Unless Cole puts up monster numbers next season, probably not. The 24-year old outfield may serve as attractive trade bait for the Brewers at the trade deadline in 2009. - Retrieved from a 2009 archive story

Debut in the desert.

On July 19 Cole Gillespie indeed becomes part of a trade. The Diamondbacks send Felipe Lopez to Milwaukee, who are looking for a 2B with a good OBP to replace the injured Richie Weeks. As a compensation Gillespie heads to Reno. Also part of the trade is young reliever Roque Mercedes (he would stay 2 seasons in the organisation in AA before returning to Milwaukee).

Gillespie immediately boosts a weak Diamondbacks’ farm system, but most people do not expect too much from him.

His best bet for a prolonged MLB career is as a fourth outfielder. - FanGraphs in 2010.

He’s a guy who can provide some big-league value as a fourth or fifth OF as soon as next season. - Dan Strittmatter on the AZSnakePit in 2009.

Still running around with an injury, Gillespie only plays in the fall league as a Diamondback in 2009, but is added to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft. He has a nice though unspectacular Spring Training in 2010 and starts the season in AAA, but is soon called up to the major leagues.

Gillespie makes his major league debut in a pinch hitting appearance on April 21, in a game against the Cardinals. He enters the game for Edwin Jackson in the 8th inning, and hits a double to left field, even crossing home plate in the next at bat. It is the 3rd run of the Diamondbacks in that game, who will draw 4-4 in the same inning, although they eventually go down 9-4 in the 9th inning. After that hopeful start Gillespie has his ups and downs. He hits his first homerun on May 7 but is optioned to AAA on May 16 after hitting .256/.310/.462. He is up and down regularly that 2010 season but ends on a rather disappointing .231/.283/.365, striking out in a quarter of his at bats, but above all his eye isn’t enough for major league batting, considering the bad 6% walk rate.

The Diamondbacks overlook Gillespie in the 2011 season. Gerardo Parra overtakes Gillespie to become the everyday left fielder for the Diamondbacks while the team prefers Cowgill as their main option of the bench. Gillespie totals just 6 at bats, with 2 hits, all when rosters expand in September. In 2012 the Diamondbacks forget about the Oregon-native altogether and by the end of the season he is designated for assignment and released, after losing his 40-man roster spot to AJ Pollock.

End of a playing career.

Gillespie then moves around. From 2012 to 2016 he totals 360 at bats more, with the San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins. After being released by the Marlins in 2016 he has a stint in Mexico in 2017 for a few months before signing with the Sugar Land Skeeters. After the 2017 season he tries it one more time with the San Diego Padres, but is released in May 2018.

Gillespie then decides to finish his college career at OSU before entering a family business with his brother Brett. Together they give financial advice and investment management out of a business based in Scottsdale.


Cole Gillespie…

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  • 15%
    No, man, Conor Gillaspie was with the Giants.
    (4 votes)
  • 84%
    Yeah, I remember him!
    (22 votes)
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