The Washington Nationals promoted right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole to the major leagues yesterday. He’s seen major league action before, having received cups of coffee in 2015 and 2016, but is still (barely) eligible for rookie status. We’ve talked about him a lot over the years but let’s do a quick review.
Cole ranked eighth on the pre-season Washington Nationals 2017 Top 20 prospects list with the following comment:
8) A.J. Cole, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 24: 4.26 ERA with 109/35 K/BB in 125 innings in Triple-A; 5.17 ERA in 38 innings in the majors, 39/14 K/BB, still rookie-eligible entering 2017; with two and a half years in Triple-A under his belt there isn’t much left to prove there and prospect fatigue has set in; throws strikes with low-90s fastball, changeup, slider; breaking ball remains erratic; at this point looks like a four/five starter and inning-eater. ETA 2017.
There’s honestly not a lot to add to that. He was not off to a great start at Triple-A Syracuse, posting a 6.63 ERA in 19 innings over four starts. His K/BB ratio is uncharacteristically weak at 14/10 this year but given the sample size and his overall track record, I don’t think it means much.
Stuff-wise he’s settled in as a low-90s fastball guy. His best secondary pitch is his change-up and he usually throws strikes, but neither his curve nor slider are consistently plus pitches.
A few years ago I thought Cole could be a dominator, but instead he looks like a number five starter. He has persistent trouble with left-handed hitters; perhaps he could find a bullpen niche as a ROOGY.
He has had some success in the majors and maintains a good strikeout pace, notably in this game last year against the Baltimore Orioles.