WASHINGTON -- Pitchers Lucas Giolito and A.J. Cole are considered the best pitching prospects in the Nationals' organization. It would not be a surprise if they were in the big leagues by September, and it explains why they are considered among the Top 100 Prospects in baseball.
The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLBPipeline.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2014.
Giolito, who ranks 44th on the list, has fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and most likely will start the 2014 season with Class A Hagerstown. He is considered to be on the fast track. In fact, one baseball source said he would not be surprised if Giolito received a callup by the end of the season. By the second half of last season, Giolito showed what he could do on the mound, going a combined 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings for the Gulf Coast Nationals and Class A Auburn.
The 16th overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Giolito could have been a higher pick in the Draft if not for his elbow injury. But the right-hander is grateful that the Nats were willing to take a chance on him.
"It says the organization is really moving in a really great direction. It's a really advanced direction that they are able to see the surgery as not so much of big deal anymore," Giolito said last year. "It's not like it's a career breaker or anything like that. So many pitchers in the big leagues have had the surgery before, so the Nationals have a really good view on it. They do the rehab process extremely well, so I couldn't be happier."
Cole, who is ranked 69th on the list, was highly touted when he went to the A's as part of the deal that sent left-hander Gio Gonzalez to Washington. Cole was reacquired in the Michael Morse trade early in 2013. A fourth-round pick in the 2010 Draft, Cole spent last season with Class A Advanced Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg, going a combined 10-5 with a 3.60 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 142 2/3 innings.
General manager Mike Rizzo said late last year that he would not be surprised if the righty saw time in the big leagues this season.
"We are seeing good things from guys like Sammy Solis and A.J. Cole," Rizzo said. "Those guys are good young pitchers and have had success [in the Minor Leagues]. Those are guys that we could certainly see at some time in Washington."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.