High school prospects make good progress at instructs

The Nationals pitching staff continues to be bolstered by the addition of guys with college experience like A.J. Morris and Sammy Solis, but there are also some high school prospects that were signed this year at the top of the draft that could make an impact sooner rather than later.

A.J. Cole and Robbie Ray, a pair of high school pitchers at instructs, made very favorable impressions, and both had major college offers they turned down in order to go pro and play for the Nationals right now.

Right-hander A.J. Cole, who received an offer from the Miami Hurricanes, continued to pitch well in Viera at the Nats’ instructional camp. Cole appeared in four games with a 2.38 ERA in 11 1/3 innings pitched, allowing seven hits, five walks and striking out seven batters.

Left-hander Robbie Ray had an offer from the Arkansas Razorbacks. Ray appeared in four games and posted a 2.53 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 10.2 innings.

Potomac pitching coach Paul Menhart, who also worked the instructional league, says Ray and Cole did very well for themselves in their short time last month at camp.

“These two pitchers impressed me in different way than some of the guys with college experience,” Menhart said. “Much like Bryce Harper, they have had some good coaching along the way. They are both extremely poised for their age.”

Menhart says Cole throws a little harder and has some good action on his fastball because of its velocity. But both are equally effective.

“Robbie has a good deception about him,” Menhart said. “He throws from 87 to 90 miles per hour. The hitters have trouble picking the ball up. He has a good slider and changeup. I am very impressed with the feel he has for all three of those pitches.”

Menhart says both benefited greatly from their time at instructional league.

“They were raw when they got here, but after all their hard work and repetition, you could see it all coming together.”

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