Two Washington Nationals' prospects made MLB.com's 2014 list of the Top 100 Prospects in baseball. First, landing at no.44 on the list, was 2012 1st Round pick Lucas Giolito. The Nats' 2010 4th Round pick, A.J. Cole, was no.69 on the list. There were four Nationals' prospects on MLB's 2013 list when it was released last January. Anthony Rendon, who made his major league debut this season, was 33rd overall. Brian Goodwin, the Nationals' 2011 1st Round pick, was 52nd. Giolito, after just one start and Tommy John surgery, was still the highest-ranked pitcher from the organization at no.74 and Cole was 90th overall coming off a rough season in the Oakland A's system in which he struggled at High-A.
Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo, upon reacquiring Cole from the Athletics a year after he was included in the Gio Gonzalez trade, told reporters he was confident that the right-hander could bounce back from his season in the Athletics' organization. Cole was (0-7) in eight starts 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) in 38 IP. Moved down in the A's system, Cole was (6-3) in 19 starts and 95 2/3 IP for the Low-A Midwest League's Burlington Bees, over which he walked 19 (1.79 BB/9) and K'd 102 (9.60 K/9).
"His developmental curve is on track," Rizzo said, "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."
Cole made 18 starts with the High-A Potomac Nationals in 2013, posting a 4.25 ERA and a 3.54 FIP with 23 walks (2.13 BB/9) and 102 Ks (9.43 K/9) in 97 1/3 IP. With the Double-A Harrisburg Senators, the 6'4'' righty was (4-2) in seven starts with a 2.18 ERA, 2.56 FIP, 10 walks (1.99 BB/9) and 49 Ks (9.73 K/9) in 45 1/3 IP.
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"After a disappointing year with the A's, Cole broke out in his return to the Nationals, reaching Double-A Harrisburg and pitching in the 2013 Futures Game," MLB.com's scouts wrote tonight when their list was released. "If Cole can hone his offspeed pitches," they write of the 1st Round talent who fell to the Nationals in the 4th Round in 2010 over signability concerns, "he has the potential to be the latest homegrown member of the Nationals' rotation."
Lucas Giolito, the 16th overall pick in 2012, was a potential no.1 overall pick who fell to the Nats after injuring his elbow in his final season at Harvard-Westlake HS. The Nationals were comfortable drafting the 6'6'' right-hander in spite of the injury, and they remained confident even after he was forced to have surgery with Rizzo telling 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner he would go through the same process Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Sammy Solis went through, "...and in a year he'll be a young 19-year-old guy that's come off Tommy John surgery and will begin his ascent up the minor league system."
Giolito's ascent began with the Gulf Coast Nationals in the GCL where he was (1-1) in eight starts with a 2.78 ERA, a 2.32 FIP, 10 walks (3.97 K/9) and 25 Ks (9.93 K/9) in 22 2/3 IP. With the NY/Penn League's Auburn Doubledays, Giolito was (1-0) with a 0.64 ERA, 3.41 FIP, four walks (2.57 BB/9) and 14 Ks (9.00 K/9) in 14 IP.
"The whole surgery process, it was a grind from the beginning," Giolito told MLB Network Radio host Grant Paulsen in a November 2013 interview. "But the results at the end have been spectacular so far, so I'm really looking forward to my first full season." Giolito landed at no.1 on Baseball America's list of the Nationals' Top 10 Prospects when it was released this winter.
In MLB.com's write-up on Giolito, they report that the right-hander, "...showed the same premium stuff that first got the attention of scouts," once he returned to competitive action in July. "If he can stay healthy," they add, "Giolito has as much potential as any pitcher in the Minor Leagues." MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo was asked how Giolito landed so high on the list after so little time on the mound in the minors:
Crazy ceiling... Giolito also got mentioned by MLB.com's Jim Callis in his write-up of the prospects from the Top 100 with the Best Tools, with Mr. Callis saying he's in the running for having the Best Fastball and Best Curve.
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