In just a few years time, the Washington Nationals’ pitching staff will look very different. Mike Rizzo will be working to negotiate contracts with many star players, several on the starting pitching rotation. While stars will be lost, A.J. Cole has proven this spring that the future of the Nationals’ pitching is in good hands.
Following this season, Ross Detwiler, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg will all be eligible for arbitration. In 2016, Fister, Detwiler and Zimmermann will all be free agents. In 2017, Strasburg and Gonzalez will be both be free agents. As you can tell, this rotation won’t be together for very long. Realistically, the Nationals will get two solid seasons.
Financially, it just won’t be possible to keep them together for a long time. While having a great staff is al luxury, the amount of money it takes to keep them together is not. Expect two or three of them to be gone two-to-three years from now. Along with the pitchers heading toward the negotiating table, Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper will be looking for new contracts.
While that seems like a devastating outlook for the franchise, minor leaguer Cole is proving in Spring Training that there’s nothing to worry about. Through 6.2 innings of work spanning three games this spring, Cole has dominated on the mound. He’s given up five hits, but has struck out seven without giving up a single run or walk. Opponents have hit just .200 against him and he has a WHIP of 0.75.
At about the same time the current starting pitching dynasty is falling apart, a new one will be taking over. Cole will be more than ready to take the mound as a MLB starter and there will be room for him to do so. Cole has been on the rise in the Nationals’ farm system and I view him as the best minor league pitcher invited to Spring Training.
In his first season at double-A in 2013, he went 4-2 over seven starts with a 2.18 ERA. He struck out 49 while walking just 10. Cole also averaged 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings. On top of that, he was also selected to pitch in the MLB Futures All-Star Game.
Along with Cole, Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark, Lucas Giolito and a handful of others will be waiting in the ranks to fill in the gaps. While possibly losing the likes of Strasburg, Fister and Zimmermann will be difficult to take in stride, Rizzo has the franchise in good position to replace them without skipping a beat.
Ever since he got to D.C., Mike Rizzo has been focusing on rebuilding the Washington Nationals through the minor league system. As proven in Spring Training, he’s got his club in good position to compete years from now, long after the current stars are gone.
Keep an eye on A.J. Cole in Spring Training and in the minors. He is going to be an ace for the Nationals in just a few years.