The Washington Nationals traded Michael Morse on Wednesday evening, accomplishing one of their tasks in starting to replenish their farm system by getting back right-hander A.J. Cole in the three-team deal, along with right-hander Blake Treinen and a player to be named from the Oakland Athletics.
So, what do we know about the newly acquired (and re-acquired) Nationals?
The Nationals know the 6-foot-4 Cole well. They spent $2 million to sign him as a fourth-round draft pick in 2010 where, as a possible first-round-caliber talent, he dropped due to concerns over his price tag. A hard-throwing, strong-armed 20-year-old, the Nationals — and plenty of other scouts — see him as a potential front-of-the-rotation starter in the future and the Nationals knew he’d take time to develop.
While Cole’s stock may have dropped after he struggled in high Single-A, where he opened the season, Baseball America still ranked him as the A’s No. 3 prospect after the 2012 season and the No. 10 prospect in all of the Midwest League (low Single-A).
Here’s what Baseball America wrote about Cole when they ranked him as the A’s No. 3 overall prospect this winter:
Background: A potential first-rounder going into 2010, Cole slid but still netted a fourth-round-record $2 million bonus from the Nationals. After coming to Oakland with Tom Milone, Derek Norris and Brad Peacock in the Gio Gonzalez trade last offseason, Cole ranked last in the California League with a 7.82 ERA before he was demoted to low Class A in May. Following a rough first start, he smoothed out his mechanics in Burlington and would have led the Midwest League in ERA (2.07) if he had logged enough innings to qualify.
Scouting Report: Cole’s fastball ranges from 92-97 mph with some sinking and cutting action. His slurvy curveball lacks consistency because he keeps tinkering with grips for it, but it shows good bite when it’s on and he tightened its rotation in instructional league. He has nice feel for his changeup, which has some fade and improved after his demotion. Cole’s Cal League problems came because he opened up too quickly in his delivery, dragged his arm and over-rotated, and left pitches up in the strike zone. The A’s like how he comes after hitters.
The Future: With his power arm, Cole has more upside than any A’s pitching prospect and projects as a possible frontline starter.
The Nationals obviously still like Cole with one executive referring to him as a “premium” prospect and clearly the centerpiece of Wednesday night’s trade for the Nationals. After they traded away Alex Meyer earlier this offseason in exchange for Denard Span from the Twins, they were no doubt happy to have Cole return.
As for Treinen, he was a seventh-round selection of the A’s in the 2011 draft and has a large, physical frame at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. He’s relieved and started in his brief minor league career but some that’ve seen him feel he’s probably going to end up as a reliever eventually.
In 24 appearances in high Single-A in 2012 (15 starts), Treinen was 7-7 with a 4.37 ERA. In his two years in the minors, Treinen has struck out 8.7 batters per nine innings while walking just 2.1 per nine. In 103 innings in 2012, though, he allowed 116 hits.
Here’s what Baseball America wrote about Treinen after the 2011 season when they ranked him as the No. 19 prospect in Oakland’s system:
Treinen took a circuitous route to pro ball. He began his college career in 2007 on the junior varsity at Baker (Kan.), an NAIA program, before attending Arkansas without playing baseball in 2008. Then he was off to South Dakota State, where he sat out 2009 because of NCAA transfer rules.
Treinen showed impressive arm strength in 2010 and was a 23rd-round pick of the Marlins, but they backed off after a physical raised concerns about his shoulder. Treinen went 7-3, 3.00 as a senior in 2011 and went in the seventh round, making him South Dakota State’s highest-drafted player since 1985.
Signed for $52,5000, Treinen has a physical frame and hard stuff to go with it. He throws a heavy, sinking fastball at 92-97 mph. He complements the heater with an 82-86 mph slider with late, sharp break. He also throws a changeup, but it’s definitely his third option and he doesn’t fully trust it at this point. Treinen didn’t need his changeup much while working as a reliever in his pro debut, but he’ll go back to starting in 2012 and Oakland will make sure to emphasize it.
He could be a No. 3 starter if his changeup comes around. Treinen has solid mechanics, using a standard three-quarters arm slot. He’ll turn 24 next season, so Oakland may look to move him quickly and send him to high Class A.