A.J. Cole had a commitment to the University of Miami, but the Washington Nationals drafted the 6'4'' right-hander out of Oviedo High School in Oviedo, Florida anyway and gave the pitcher a $2M dollar bonus to convince him to sign with the Nats. In December of 2011, Cole was one of four Nationals' prospects dealt to Oakland in the deal that brought Gio Gonzalez to Washington. Asked shortly after the deal with the A's if it was tough to part with a young pitcher the Nationals had given such a big bonus and worked so hard to sign, Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo said the amount they paid to sign the prospect had nothing to do with their thinking in making the deal.
"The amount I paid for anyone had nothing to do with that," Rizzo explained, "It pained me to move a 6'4'', 19-year-old pitcher that has a good arm, there's no question about it, but you get that guy in the 4th Round because you overpay him."
When the Nationals reacquired Cole a year later, however, after a rough year for the pitcher in the Athletics' organization, Rizzo was open about how hard it had been to include the pitcher in the package it took to get Gonzalez from the A's.
"He was toughest part for me of the package for Gio," Rizzo told reporters after the three-team trade with the Seattle Mariners and A's. And he was the part of the Michael Morse deal with the Seattle Mariners and A's that the Nationals' GM insisted on before a deal could be made. "We demanded that the deal had to have A.J. Cole in it," the Nats' GM said, "or there wasn't going to be a deal."
Rizzo wasn't worried about the numbers Cole put up in High-A ball in the A's organization. He was (0-7) in eight starts and 38.0 IP with the High-A California League's Stockton Ports, with a 7.82 ERA, a 4.99 FIP, 10 walks (2.37 BB/9) and 31 Ks (7.34 K/9). Sent down to Oakland's Low-A affiliate, Cole was (6-3) in 19 starts and 95.2 IP over which he walked 19 (1.79 BB/9) and K'd 102 (9.60 K/9). "He righted the ship when they sent him to the Midwest League," Rizzo said, "and dominated that league as a 20-year-old, so we feel that he's on course."
Back with the organization that drafted him, Cole's off to a strong start with the High-A Potomac Nationals this season. In 17 starts and 91.1 IP this season, the 21-year-old, 2010 4th Round pick is (5-3) with a 4.43 ERA, a 3.45 FIP, 11 HRs (1.08 HR/9), 22 walks (2.17 BB/9) and 99 Ks (9.76 K/9) so far this season.
When Taylor Jordan was called up to the majors to join the Nationals' rotation after being selected to appear in the Sirius/XM All-Star Futures Game in New York's Citi Field, it was Cole that was chosen to replace Jordan as the Nationals' lone representative in the prospect showcase. The right-hander will be in Flushing, Queens, NY this afternoon at 2:00 pm EDT when the top prospects in baseball meet in the kickoff of this coming week's All-Star Festivities.