With Ross recovering from Tommy John Surgery, A.J. Cole is the frontrunner to fill the vacant rotation spot. He is coming off of a strong 2017, which saw him post a 3.81 ERA in 11 major league appearances.
Unfortunately for Cole, he has been a little shaky in his two starts this spring. He has only allowed one walk, but has been working behind hitters too often. This has led to a less-than-optimal 5.40 ERA. This can be taken with a grain of salt, though, because of the small sample size.
Now, Cole has three weeks and a handful of starts to prove that his impressive 2017 campaign was not a fluke.
One thing that Cole has working in his favor is the fact that he is out of options. He would be a long-shot to pass through waivers, so the Nats would likely lose him if he is not on the Opening Day roster.
Because of this, Cole is a near-lock to make the Opening Day roster in some capacity. If the Nats sign a starting pitcher or elect to go with someone else in the rotation, Cole could serve as a long reliever.
The Nats are lacking a bonafide long reliever in the bullpen, so Cole could fill this vacancy instead. He also pitched well out of the bullpen in 2017, so he could be a productive member of the relief corps.
Whether it’s in the starting rotation or bullpen, Cole will be on the Nats’ Opening Day roster. However, if he does not improve upon his shaky spring, he may not be in the majors long.