Baseball America’s top Nats prospects - No. 4: A.J. Cole

Right-hander A.J. Cole made a nice splash in the Nationals’ system in his debut season with the Single-A Hagerstown Suns. The fourth-round selection from the 2010 draft posted a 4-7 record with a 4.04 ERA in 20 games, 18 of those as a starter.

He struck out 108 batters in 89 innings, allowing only 24 walks. His best month was in June, where he went 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA with 23 punchouts in 20 innings.

The lanky, 6-foot-4, 180-pounder from Winter Springs, Fla., has always been noticed by Baseball America, and national writer Aaron Fitt rated Cole as the No. 4 prospect in the Nationals’ system.

“Cole is exciting, too,” Fitt said. “He is another guy who is younger than (Matt) Purke and (Alex) Meyer, those college guys, because he has been in the system for two years.”

Fitt said he believes the 19-year old stands out because of his shutdown fastball.

“The reason I put him ahead of those guys is because I think he has really good command of the fastball,” Fitt said. “I know it has really good velocity. But his ability to throw that pitch for strikes and where he wants to in the strike zone to both sides, I think that is special.

“His secondary stuff still needs to develop. If you can pitch off the fastball like he can and pound the strike zone the way he can and you got that kind of velocity, that is a great place to start. I think the ceiling is really high with this guy.

“The breaking ball, especially, needs to be more consistent and he needs work on his changeup. But there is a lot to like there.”

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