AJ Cole was DFA’d by the Washington Nationals on Friday, April 20th, allowing the team to call up some much needed bullpen help. Cole, 26, had recently been moved to the bullpen in favor of veteran starter Jeremy Hellickson, and although he had only given up three earned runs in his two relief appearances, he did serve up a grand slam on Wednesday after coming on with the bases loaded. This is just another step in Cole’s fall from grace as a once highly touted prospect.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, he made it to the show back in 2015 for his first cup of coffee in the big leagues. Cole possesses a low-90’s fastball, a changeup, and a slider, although his breaking ball has been erratic over his short career. Regardless, he still has the ability to harness the punch-out, striking out 102 hitters in 110 big league innings.
Cole is the type of former top prospect that just about every front office would love to get their hands on in an attempt to guide them in the right direction. Dayton Moore and the Royals would be no different. Frankly, with the way the Royals season has gone so far, I don’t see any reason why the Royals wouldn’t be willing to take a chance on him. He’s a potential back-of-the-rotation starter and has a repertoire that could translate well in the bullpen under the right guidance. With consistent struggles against left handed hitters in his career thus far, the bullpen might suit him best down the road anyway. I’m not sure how closely you’ve looked at the Royals bullpen this year, but it definitely isn’t the 2014-2015 ‘pen we had on those World Series runs. They could use all of the help they can get.
Although our rotation has been surprisingly solid to this point (fifth starter aside), we could always use several more talented guys in the high minors that could be plugged in at a moment’s notice. AJ Cole would definitely fit that bill. I realize we have guys like Clay Buchholz rehabbing in the minors, but Cole still has plenty of upside to offer for the future. I’d much rather have a guy like Cole ready to go now as well as for several years down the road, over a guy nearing the end of his career. If he has to start in the bullpen, so be it. Let him get his confidence back. It’s not like the season is going anywhere at this point.
I have been a firm believer in letting the young guys play this season. The Royals obviously don’t have the talent this year to sneak into the wildcard, let alone to take the division. I would prefer we see what guys we have in the high minors and let them test the major league waters, sooner rather than later. Let them adjust and struggle now so they could be prepared for the future. AJ Cole could be a part of that. He may not be here for the next wave with Nick Pratto, Khalil Lee, and Seuly Matias still in A-ball, but he has more potential than a lot of the prospects we currently have in AAA and AA. Trade bait is always something Moore and the front office look for also.
So what do you think Royals fans? Should the Royals take a chance on a guy like AJ Cole?