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