Spring Pitcher’s Duel: Jarred Cosart vs. A.J. Cole

On my last day down at Spring Training I was lucky enough to catch two high profile pitching prospects face each other in a minor league game at Astros camp in Kissimmee. Houston power arm Jarred Cosart opposed the also highly regarded A.J. Cole of the Washington Nationals. I thought today I’d provide a little breakdown of those two pitchers and how they can potentially help your fantasy team.

Jarred Cosart

The Breakdown: Cosart

A 38th round pick by the Phillies out of high school in Texas, Cosart is a big, athletic pitcher who can throw mid 90’s all day long. He has a quick arm and the ball comes out of his hand well. Cosart looks like he throws even harder than the 94-96 mph at which I clocked him. I kept looking down expecting to see a 98 or 99 but never got it. There’s some effort in his mechanics, but nothing that would trouble me in terms of workload or injury. The issue with Cosart is more a question of how his mechanics affect his command. He has trouble repeating his delivery and varies his timing. Some of this is a result of a long arm action in back. He also has a prominent head jerk as he releases the pitch and a cross-fire finish to his arm action. These qualities lead to an inconsistent release point and problems finishing up. This is not conducive to the fastball command necessary to be am effective big league starter. Cosart’s power curveball (78-80 mph) shows some tight spin and deep break but it’s mostly useful as a chase pitch only. He also telegraphs the curve with a pronounced difference in his arm action. There’s no real feel for an off speed offering here. Cosart mixes in a straight change but they were all hard, straight and up in my viewing. The ultimate profile here looks to me to be a relief arm but at age 23 he’s still capable of making adjustments that would fix some of the holes in his game.

The Path to Playing Time: Cosart

Cosart will begin the year back with triple-A Oklahoma City. The Astros are a team that’s dying for pitching, so Cosart won’t have to do much to work his way into their plans. The question is once he’s given a chance whether he can be helpful to either Houston or your fantasy team. If given a chance to start I can see Cosart tasting some success, but long term he fits much better in the bullpen for me. Fortunately, the Astros could use help in their pen as well! In a late inning role, Cosart’s raw stuff compares favorably with any member of their big league pen right now.

  • On 40 Man Roster: Yes
  • Options Remaining: 3

What to Expect: Cosart

  • Mixed League Value: You probably want to avoid Astros pitchers when possible this year. If he ends up Closing for Houston he’d be worth a look.
  • AL Only League Value: As a starter he has some play as a guy you can throw out there in favorable matchups or when in need of strikeouts. With velocity and raw stuff Cosart could potentially fool the league the first time around. Solidly worth owning if he’s getting Save opportunities.
  • Ottoneu Value: Someone to stay away from in 2013, but could be a nice cheap $1-2 RP going forward.

A.J. Cole

The Breakdown: Cole

Also a high school draftee, Cole was highly regarded entering his draft year but fell to the 4th round in large part due to high bonus demands. Cole was traded to the Athletics last year as part of the package for left-hander Gio Gonzalez. He fell apart mechanically and his stuff, velo and results suffered. Following a demotion he fixed some problems and finished the year strong. This offseason the Nats reacquired Cole as part of the three way trade sending Michael Morse to Seattle and John Jaso to Oakland. The delivery appears to still be very much a work in progress. Hitters remarked that he had obviously changed his mechanics from when they had seen him in 2013. Indeed, Cole was having some problems repeating his delivery and he looked almost uncomfortable as if he was still feeling himself out. His mechanics were definitely something he was thinking about, not something that was coming to him naturally. That’s not a good place to be in for an athlete. Cole very much showed flashes of what his appeal is, though. This is the kind of big, projectable pitcher’s frame you look for. He’s fairly tough to pick up at times but he often leaked open early and that gave hitters a very clean look. All three pitches come out of the same arm slot and delivery and if he can figure things out mechanically he’s going to be a good big league starter. The fastball was 89-92 but touched higher and that surprised me as talent evaluators I talked to had him much harder in the past. He left too many fastballs out over the plate that got hit hard but I think a significant amount of that was related to the mechanical issues. The curveball (73-75 mph) was inconsistent and often had loose spin and no bite. Cole had very little faith in his change up this day and left some dead straight hard change ups right over the plate. He did snap off some good curves and a couple tough changes. I’m inclined to chalk most of this up to the fact it’s only Spring training and he was clearly working on some things. There’s the potential for an above average big league starter here, but right now that outcome is a long way away.

The Path to Playing Time: Cole

Cole should head back to A-ball and I’d imagine he’ll start the year at Potomac in the Carolina League. The path to the majors isn’t clear here and it seems like 2013 will be an important developmental year. The future can still be bright, though, and this would be a good time to buy low on a fairly high ceiling arm.

  • On 40 Man Roster: No
  • Options Remaining: 3

What to Expect: Cole

  • Mixed League Value: Nothing for now, but projects as a usable mixed league SP at least.
  • NL Only League Value: If Cole gets straightened out he’ll hold good value once he reaches the majors.
  • Ottoneu Value: Can be an above average SP in time.

These were two pretty exciting arms, but neither guy is ready for the show. Cosart looks like a good power bullpen arm. Cole is a long term project, but could be a 3 starter or perhaps better if the Nationals get him back to what he does well.

Thanks for reading – AS

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Al Skorupa writes about baseball & baseball prospects for Bullpen Banter and Fangraphs/Rotographs. He lives in Rhode Island. He watches & videotapes a good amount of amateur and minor league baseball. You can follow him on twitter @alskor.

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“There’s some effort in his mechanics, but nothing that would trouble me in terms of workload or injury.”

LOL, not sure if serious. Cosart isn’t only tall-and-fall, but he also has an inverted W, which carries about the greatest possible injury risk a pitcher could possess.