In an MLB Network interview last month, Washington Nationals' Assistant GM and VP of Player Development Doug Harris told hosts Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette that just a few minor adjustments once he was back in the organization got 22-year-old, 2010 4th Round pick A.J. Cole back on the right track.
"When he came back to us we did a few mechanical things with him to get him to a place where we felt we could maximize his skills," Harris explained. "Very hard worker and the second-half of last year was very special for him."
The Nationals traded Cole, a 6'4'' right-hander, to the Oakland A's in the Gio Gonzalez deal in late 2011 then reacquired him a year later in the three-team trade with the Athletics and Mariners that sent Michael Morse to Seattle.
After a rough run in the High-A California League in the A's system and a return to Low-A with the organization, Cole returned to the Nats' system and put up a 4.25 ERA and a 3.54 FIP with 23 walks (2.13 BB/9) and 102 Ks (9.43 K/9) in 18 starts and 97 1/3 IP for the Carolina League's High-A Potomac Nationals last season, then moved up to the Double-A Harrisburg where he was (4-2) with a 2.18 ERA, 2.56 FIP, 10 walks (1.99 BB/9) and 49 Ks (9.73 K/9) in seven starts and 45 1/3 IP for the Senators. He also represented the Nats in the All-Star Futures Game when Taylor Jordan was chosen but called up to the majors.
Cole landed at no.2 on Baseball America's list of the Nationals' Top 10 prospects when it was released this past November, behind only 2012 1st Round pick Lucas Giolito in the organizational rankings.
RHP Jefry Rodriguez, by the way, has all sorts of upside. Relatively new to pitching, only 20 years old and his fastball is up to 98 #Nats— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 5, 2014
When MLB.com released their own list of the Nats' Top 20 Prospects this afternoon, it was once again Giolito and Cole 1-2 atop the list. Cole was ranked 69th overall on MLB's Top 100 Prospects list earlier this winter. The scouting report on the right-hander notes that though his change and curve are less refined than his fastball, Cole has three pitches that, "...have the potential to be Major League-average offerings."
"If Cole can hone his offspeed pitches," the write-up suggests, "he has the potential to be the latest homegrown member of the Nationals rotation."
Giolito gets the same type of praise in the scouting report included in his profile.
BA's Aaron Fitt wrote this winter that upon returning to the mound following Tommy John surgery, Giolito, "...showed the kind of dazzling stuff that gives him a [Stephen] Strasburg-esque ceiling."
MLB.com's scouts wrote today that if he can stay healthy after rehabbing and working his way back, Giolito, "...has as much potential as any pitcher in the Minor Leagues."
The 19-year-old right-hander was (1-1) with a 2.78 ERA, a 2.32 FIP, 10 walks (3.97 BB/9) and 25 Ks (9.93 K/9) in eight starts and 22 2/3 IP for the Gulf Coast Nationals in 2013.
He then moved up to the NY/Penn League's Auburn Doubledays, for whom he made three more starts, going (1-0) with a 0.64 ERA, a 3.41 FIP, four walks (2.57 BB/9) and 14 Ks (9.00 K/9) in 14 IP.
• Check out the rest of the MLB.com's list of the Nationals' Top 20 Prospects through the link below: