Washington Nationals: Handicapping the race for 5th starter

rjuckett
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 04: A.J. Cole
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 04: A.J. Cole /
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A.J. COLE

If any pitcher is losing sleep over Jackson’s signing, it is A.J. Cole.

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This is his best, and perhaps the last, chance for Cole to establish himself as a permanent starter in Washington. While flopping between Syracuse and the Nats last season, he did little to clarify his future.

His ceiling is as a fifth starter. He will give the Nats opportunities to win, but struggles with overall command. In Syracuse, he was terrible. In 18 starts with the Chiefs, he posted a 5.88 ERA and 1.746 WHIP over 93 innings.

Cole has never dominated the International League. In four partial seasons, only in 2015 did he toss more innings than hits allowed. But, his control overall is better. Although his 2.8 BB/9 rate is nothing to write home about over 386.2 innings, it is better than his MLB ratio of 3.8 over 99.2.

On paper, Jackson is the better option. Remember, we are talking a fifth starter.

But, Cole has a chip on his shoulder. If he cannot win this audition, you must wonder what role he can fit into. The competition is not strong. Fedde’s ceiling is mid-rotation or a two if all goes well. Still, that is the future.

Next: Time to make Rendon happy

With pressure comes responsibility. You know Cole feels it. Now is his chance to turn it into a positive. He has the potential to be this year’s version of Michael Taylor. But, he must pitch this spring as if his career depends on it. Because, at least for Washington, it might.

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