Young Guns – A. J. Cole

By Totals 4 U

Hello, Sports Fans! Your 2015 edition of our Young Guns series, where we look at rookie pitchers entering the Majors, continues today as the Washington Nationals debut their 4th rookie of April as A.J. Cole gets the start tonight in place of Max Scherzer (thumb injury) in Atlanta…

Originally drafted by the Nationals in the 4th round of the 2010 draft, he was shipped to the Athletics (could my team produce just half the pitching talent of Oakland or Washington?!) in the Gio Gonzales trade before making his way back to the Nation’s capitol in a 3-way deal in 2013. The consensus top-100 prospect has thrived with both organizations and at all levels, proving he was soon ready for a shot at the show especially over the last 3 years at AA and AAA ball where his command of a slurve and breaker can now effectively balance the 95 MPH fastball.

Spanning 2013-2014 at AA Harrisburg, Cole posted a 10-5 mark and a 2.63 ERA over 116 1/3 innings, striking out 110 and walking 25. Over 2014 and this season at AAA Syracuse his mark is perfect at 7-0 over 78 innings with a 3.23 ERA with 60 K versus 18 BB. A real plus for this youngster is a strong attitude and ability to keep his cool working out of a jam but there are issues to keep an eye on.

At 6’5″, A.J. is probably a few pounds short of his listed 200 pounds and is still filling into his frame. A problem many would envy but don’t expect him to go very deep in games at this point. A more important issue is the homers allowed. 11 taters in 78 AAA innings and, during his 7 innings with the Nationals this Spring, all 3 of Cole’s allowed runs were solo shots – probably owed to the still-developing off-speed pitches.

Washington fans are probably scratching their heads why Tanner Roark (presently in the bullpen) didn’t get this shot but A.J. Cole is a damn fine prospect we have been anticipating. His fielding has improved to this level (1 error in 57 chances at AAA), he’s worked up his stick work (4 hits in 17 AB at AAA), and his easy velocity on the mound is evident. Good luck tonight, kid!

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– TD at Totals 4 You

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Young Guns – Eddie Butler

By Totals 4 U

Hello, Sports Fans!

Over the last few years we have tinkered with a series we call “Young Guns” in which we take a look at rookie major league pitchers to give you a peek at their prospects for the Major Leagues. Fortunately, over the seasons, we’ve given a heads up on some real gems that have become household names and this season we open up with Eddie Butler of the Colorado Rockies who makes his 2015 tonight at Miller Park in Milwaukee…

Following a couple years at Radford College in his home state of Virginia, this righty was drafted in the 1st round of the 2012 MLB draft by the Rockies. Quickly progressing through the ranks has posted 135 innings at AA ball with 117 hits, 88 strike outs, 38 walks with a 2.99 ERA and 1.143 WHIP.

Like many top prospects, Butler made just a brief stop at AAA before making his first Major League start June 6th of last season (pitchers are generally classified as rookies until 50 innings in the Majors). He managed 3 starts around a trip to the DL with shoulder inflammation, posting a 6.75 ERA with 23 hots in 16 innings. In the off-season, Eddie added about 15 pounds to boost his strength but spring ball hasn’t been much better with a 5.29 ERA over 16 innings while again battling the shoulder.

The good news is this kid has got a great combination of stuff. The money pitch is a 2-seam heavy sinking fastball that’s capable of busting lumber. Paired with a 4-seam, 96-MPH rising fastball it can be pretty devastating…when he keeps it down.

On the down side, Butler’s pretty emotionally green or has what Manager Walt Weiss calls “rough edges”. Frankly, if Weiss’s options were a little deeper right now, Eddie would probably still getting more work at AA Tulsa where he delivered a 2.49 ERA over 68 2/3 innings last season.

Overall, the kid’s probably not ready yet for the Bigs but he does face what looks to be a light Brewer lineup tonight and the good thing about playing for a re-building squad like the Rockies is you get your chances. We’ll be keeping an eye on how top-level talent handles his admittedly dynamite stuff…and his shoulder.

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– TD at Totals 4 You