The Washington Nationals promoted right-handed pitching prospect A.J. Cole to the major league roster today. The rookie will replace the injured veteran Max Scherzer and is expected to start tonight against the Atlanta Braves.
Cole was off to a good start with Syracuse of the Triple-A International League, posting a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings over three starts, with a 10/1 K/BB ratio. Cole was originally drafted by the Nationals in the fourth round in 2010 from high school in Oviedo, Florida. He was traded to the Athletics before the 2012 season but was then traded back to the Nationals for 2013.
Listed at 6-5, 200 pounds, Cole is 23 years old, born January 5th, 1992. Clocked as high as 95 MPH at times, he works more commonly in the 90-93 range with his fastball, though he locates it well. His change-up is very good and helps the heater play up even in the lower velocity band. He has a slider and curveball, considered average to fringy by most observers, though the breaking pitches are enough to give hitters a different look and off-set the fastball and change-up when his command is on, which it usually is.
Sabermetrically-speaking, Cole has always posted strong K/BB ratios. His strikeout rates have tailed off against advanced minor league hitters, though they are still acceptable given his other attributes. He is a pronounced fly ball pitcher and can be vulnerable to home runs on mistake pitches.
Cole doesn't have a lot left to prove in the minors and projects as a mid-rotation starter. Key points to watch for as he adapts to the majors: are his breaking pitches effective enough against big league competition? Is he gopher-vulnerable? Does he maintain the same kind of location command as he's shown in the minors?