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Notes on A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen

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Nationals GM Mike Rizzo
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo

The Nationals, Mariners, and Athletics made a three-way trade on Wednesday, with the Mariners obtaining Michael Morse from Washington, the Athletics obtaining catcher John Jaso from Seattle, and the Nationals obtaining prospects A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen from Oakland.

Here are the comments I wrote about Cole and Treinen in the 2013 Baseball Prospect Book.

A.J. Cole, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-4 WT: 180 DOB: January 5, 1992

I was very high on A.J. Cole entering 2012 and felt that he was an excellent pickup for Oakland in the Gio Gonzalez trade. Unfortunately, he got off to a horrendously poor start in the California League last spring, undone by a combination of mechanical problems, command issues, loss of confidence, and bad luck. He was sent back down to the Low-A Midwest League in late May. Here is the report I wrote after seeing one of his starts for the Burlington Bees in late June:

His fastball was consistent at 90-93 MPH, a few MPH down from last year when he was reportedly throwing mid-90s and peaking at 98. Breaking pitch and changeup were very poor in the first inning, but improved as the game progressed, as did his location. Biggest thing I noticed: his mechanics looked consistent and steady when nobody was on base, but when pitching from the stretch he had problems, rushing his delivery in a way that looked like it would stress his shoulder and lead to command troubles. Assuming he is healthy, I think his problems are fixable.

Indeed, he was fixable. Cole and the Burlington coaches got his mechanics back in gear, and by early July it didn't matter if anyone was on base or not. He was back to his old self, throwing strikes, hitting 92-97 MPH, and keeping hitters crossed up with his breaking ball and changeup. He was particularly effective in July and August, posting a 1.58 ERA with a 71/13 K/BB in 68 innings with just 50 hits allowed. I remain a fan of Cole and he is still young at age 21, but there's enough uncertainty now that a slight ding to a Grade B seems appropriate. Scouts say he still needs to tighten up his slurvish breaking pitch to ensure success at higher levels.

Blake Treinen, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-4 WT: 215 DOB: June 30, 1988

SLEEPER ALERT! A seventh round pick in 2011 out of South Dakota State University, Treinen was raw for a college senior and it occasionally showed last year in the California League. However, his natural talent showed too, especially when he was used in relief, where he posted a 2.08 ERA with a 14/4 K/BB in 13 innings. Treinen can run it up there in the mid-90s and his fastball has sinking action, resulting in a 1.88 GO/AO ratio. He has a good slider, but his changeup is fuzzy and will need to be improved if he is used in a starting role. He could move pretty quickly if used in relief, but with his strong body and clean mechanics, it is tempting to keep deploying him as a starter. I like him, and he could be a breakout guy. Grade C but a sleeper.

Overall I like both of these guys and they add some nice pitching arms to the Nationals system that had been depleted by trades and graduations.