A’s 2012 Top 10 Prospects, #4: A.J. Cole


Every Thursday, Swingin’ A’s will unveil a top Oakland A’s prospect. Starting from number 10 and finishing with number 1, be sure to stop by every Thursday to see who makes the list of the Top 10 Oakland A’s prospects. We turn our attention now to pitcher A.J. Cole, who was acquired in the Gio Gonzalez trade. Cole is figured to have quality stuff and the potential to be a front-line starter in a few years.

After being drafted by the Washington Nationals in the fourth-round of the 2010 draft, A.J. Cole entered Washington’s system as a highly regarded prospect with a very high ceiling. Two years later, he’s a member of the Athletics’ organization after being traded to Oakland in the deal that sent All-Star lefty Gio Gonzalez to Washington.

With a 6’4″ lanky frame, Cole has the ideal pitcher’s body with lots of room for growing. Cole, 20, projects to be a front-line starter in the future for the A’s and that projection is based on the type of numbers he’s posted in the minor leagues.

The lean and mean pitching machine Cole currently embodies features a fastball that reaches the mid-90s, a curveball with great breaking action, and a developing changeup. The fastball right now, anyway, is probably Cole’s best pitch with his curveball serving as a nice chase-pitch.

He’ll sweep the curve against both righties and lefties, demonstrating he’s got faith in the pitch. The changeup, meanwhile, still could use a little more work. He’s shown a good feel for the pitch, but issues with the command of the pitch will need to be resolved before he uses that circle-change as an effective weapon.

Right now, then, Cole is more of a fastball-curveball type of pitcher. Improving his changeup, then, should be a point of focus for the right-hander. At just 20 years old, though, he’s got plenty of time to develop and mature into an effective, well-rounded starter.

The former fourth-rounder compiled a 4-7 record with a 4.04 ERA in 18 starts with Single-A Hagerstown last year. He also posted a 10.9 SO/9 rate as the lanky right-hander struck out an impressive 108 batters over 89.0 innings. In addition, the promising young Cole posted an encouraging 2.53 FIP last year.

He also displayed solid control, posting a 2.4 BB/9 rate last year with Hagerstown. Compared to other guys his age, Cole’s command is pretty good. Give him a few more years in the minors and he’ll really get a feel for the game.

Overall, Cole has big league potential. He’s definitely got a shot at becoming a No.1 or No.2 guy in Oakland’s rotation in a few years if his development goes smoothly. The A’s, a team not expected to contend for at least another few years, would be smart not to rush the kid.

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