Over the years the Washington Nationals have thought highly of pitching prospect A. J. Cole. Now they hope to reap the rewards of their commitments.
In the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Washington Nationals famously picked and signed Bryce Harper with the first overall pick. In the fourth round, they also drafted A. J. Cole and signed him to a $2 million contract, according to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post. He was committed to the University of Miami, but the guaranteed money was too much to turn down.
Cole quickly became one of the top pitching prospects in the Nationals' system. Before the 2012 season, he was included in the deal that sent Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland Athletics to the Nationals.
His one season in the Oakland organization looked disastrous at first glance. He went 0-7 in eight starts for Single-A Stockton (via milb.com). But, as Dan Kolko of MASN.com wrote, numbers in the California League need to be taken with a grain of salt. Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo noted (via Kolko) that future Cy Young winner Brandon Webb also posted an ERA of about 6.00 in the California League.
Conditions wildly favor hitters and Cole adjusted after moving to Burlington of the Midwest League. His ERA dipped to 2.07 and he struck out 102 in 95 2/3 innings.
The Nationals were convinced that he still had good stuff. When the A's became involved in the three team deal involving Michael Morse, the Nationals were quick to re-acquire Cole.
Now the 21-year-old right-hander is back in his original organization after some adversity and adjusting. It might not be long before he joins Harper and company in the nation's capital.