As the Washington Nationals head south for Viera, Fla. to begin Spring Training, they bring with them a number of promising young prospects. Right-handed starting pitcher A.J. Cole is one of those prospects.
Originally a fourth-round pick of the Nationals in 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft, Cole was re-acquired by the team in a January of 2013 trade with the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics that sent Michael Morse to Seattle. Cole has yet to to debut in the majors, but he has made quiet a stir in the minor leagues.
In 25 total starts across single-A and double-A in 2013, Cole pitched to a 10-5 record and a 3.60 ERA with 151 strikeouts to just 33 walks. He averaged a staggering 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings and represented Washington in the All-Star Futures Game during the 2013 All-Star Weekend festivities.
While Cole will certainly be a player to watch in Spring Training, don’t expect him to be around come opening day. He has talent, no doubt, but he’s still not good enough to crack the starting five for the Nationals — nobody is. When you’ve got Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Ross Detwiler as your projected starting five, chances are a minor-league invite isn’t going to make the cut.
Just because he has zero chance of making cracking the starting five this year doesn’t mean he won’t dazzle. Cole is a very solid strikeout pitcher with loads of potential. Of the minor-league invites, he ranks in the top three with Brian Goodwin and Matt Skole. Cole is a future star for Washington but not now when the team has a rotation like they already have.
Of the minor league pitchers that will be in camp, Cole will be the best. When he takes to the mound be sure to be in your seat or in front of a television as it’s something you won’t want to miss. This spring we’ll get a good glimpse as one of the brightest minor-league arms in MLB, not just the organization.