Because Taylor Jordan is in the major leagues with the Nationals and slated to start Sunday in Miami, pitching prospect A.J. Cole was named to the Futures Game in his place. Cole, one of the Nationals’ best pitching prospects, will represent the organization in the event held annually before the MLB all-star game and designed to showcase some of the top minor league talent.
Baseball America, the prospect bible, rated Cole as the second-best pitching prospect in the Nationals’ system after right-hander Lucas Giolito. MLB.com’s prospect rankings rates him as the No. 76 overall prospect in baseball.
The Nationals drafted the right-handed Cole, 21, in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of high school and enticed him with a $2 million bonus, well above slot. They traded him away to the Oakland Athletics before the 2012 season in the swap that brought Gio Gonzalez to Washington. They reacquired him in the three-team Michael Morse trade this winter, the prized pitching arm that General Manager Mike Rizzo insisted be included in the deal.
Cole struggled last season in the hitter-happy Cal League and got demoted. He returned to Washington and has shown flashes of his ability. Despite a 5-3 record and 4.58 ERA in 16 starts at Class A Potomac, he has a 10 K/9 rate and 4.45 K/BB rate. He has struck out 98 batters and walked 22 batters in 88 1/3 innings but coughed up 9.4 hits per nine innings. He throws a high-90′s fastball with a wipeout slider and began incorporating his change-up more.
At least player from each organization is named to the team, selected by the MLB Scouting Bureau, MLB.com and Baseball America. The game is held at 2 p.m. on July 14th game at Citi Field and will pit the U.S. team against the World roster. Jordan, named to the team in late June, cannot participate because he is scheduled to pitch in Miami in the final game before the all-star break.