Right-hander A.J. Cole has made good progress in his return to the organization.
Cole was sent to the Oakland A's two seasons ago. He struggled at high Single-A for the A's, but then flourished with their low Single-A team.
Before this season, Cole was traded back to the Nationals in the Michael Morse three-team triangle trade with Seattle and Oakland.
2013 has been a big step up for Cole. He looked good with high Single-A Potomac early in the season. In 18 starts, Cole went 6-3 with a 4.25 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 97 1/3 innings.
He was elevated to Double-A Harrisburg three weeks ago and has excelled.
In his third start last night, Cole went seven innings, allowed only four hits, one solo homer, no walks and 10 strikeouts. He did not receive a decision because of an extremely rare blown save by Aaron Barrett.
Cole has 22 strikeouts in his three starts over 20 innings. He is 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in three games for the Senators.
Harrisburg pitching coach Paul Menhart told me the main improvement for Cole since last time he coached the young prospect is his fastball command. Cole has also been able to maintain his fastball velocity late in games in each of his three starts for Harrisburg.
To see Cole excel at Double-A against top prospect competition is a great sign for the offseason. In my opinion, I expect Cole to receive one of the selections to play for the Nationals Arizona Fall League team which begins in late October. Those invitations are always reserved for the organization's top prospects.