A.J. Cole – A Top-Tier Pitching Prospect in Syracuse

Happy Fourth of July, Chiefs fans! As if a sold-out crowd, gorgeous weather and spectacular fireworks weren’t enough, the Nationals’ widely-regarded second-best prospect will make his second Chiefs start of the year today – right-hander A.J. Cole. Here’s our broadcast intern, Daniel Comisi, with a look at the 22-year-old out of Florida:

Labeled as the #2 prospect in the Washington Nationals organization and #69 overall on MLB.com’s Top 100 list earlier this year, A.J. Cole made his Syracuse Chiefs debut on Saturday against the Buffalo Bisons. In 5.2 innings, Cole allowed eight hits, six runs (only one earned), one walk and five strikeouts. Selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by Washington, Cole was traded with Derek Norris, Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock to the Oakland A’s for Gio Gonzalez in December 2011. In one full season with Class-A Burlington and High-A Stockton, Cole started in 27 games, sporting a 3.70 ERA with 133 strikeouts in 133.2 innings. Cole was traded back to Washington along with Blake Treinen and Ian Krol in a three-team trade that sent Michael Morse to Seattle and John Jaso to Oakland. In 2013, the 22 year-old was named to the 2013 All-Star Futures Game and promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, where he started in seven games and was 4-2 with a 2.18 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP in 45.1 innings.

According to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, Cole’s struggles in Oakland’s organization were not a worry and he was thrilled to reacquire Cole…

His developmental curve is on track, and we’re going to get him with our pitching people and kind of straighten out his delivery and I think that this guy will be a quick mover for us from this point forward.

While some scouts are comparing Cole to Matt Cain, a fly-ball pitcher who occasionally struggles to get lefties out, others have compared him to Justin Verlander, a tall, lanky pitcher with a high-velocity fastball. Cole is listed as 6’5” and 200 lbs, so his peak 95 mph fastball seems even faster to hitters with his long stride to home plate. Cole also has a power curveball and a decent changeup, but his fastball is his best pitch and he gets most of his strikeouts by throwing it past hitters. It appears that most scouts say that if Cole is able to develop his curveball, he has the possibility a major-league starter for many, many years.

Cole’s next start will be on Friday against Pawtucket after Thursday’s game versus Lehigh Valley was postponed.

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