The 2016 Washington Nationals Top 10 Prospects

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1. Lucas Giolito, RHP                                                        
Born: 07/14/94 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Randall Delgado, Julio Teheran,

Drew Hutchison, Arodys Vizcaino, Noah Syndergaard

Height: 6-6 Weight: 1255 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 18 R 22.7 1 1 2.78 2.58 9.93 3.97 26.6% 10.6% 0.00 72.4%
2013 18 A- 14.0 1 0 0.64 3.31 9.00 2.57 26.4% 7.6% 0.64 100.0%
2014 19 A 98.0 10 2 2.20 3.16 10.10 2.57 28.5% 7.3% 0.64 79.6%
2015 20 A+ 69.7 3 5 2.71 1.96 11.11 2.58 29.5% 6.9% 0.13 73.9%
2015 20 AA 47.3 4 2 3.80 3.18 8.56 3.23 22.3% 8.4% 0.38 72.1%

Background: At one point in time – namely before tearing ligaments in his elbow – Giolito looked destined to become the first high school right-hander – and the third prep arm – to go #1 overall in the June draft. Alas, Tommy John is a bitch – or at least impending elbow injuries are a bitch. The Washington Nationals step in and take one very wise, calculated risk. The franchise ended the right-hander’s first round skid and grabbed him with the 16th overall pick that year, squarely between the likes of Tyler Naquin and D.J. Davis. Giolito wouldn’t see much action over his first two professional seasons – he would throw two innings in the Gulf Coast during his abbreviated debut before finally succumbing to Tommy John surgery and would throw another 36.2 innings when he made it back a year later – but since his return he’s simply been one of the most electrifying arms in all of baseball.

Two years ago the hard-throwing hurler twirled gem after gem after gem with Hagerstown in the South Atlantic League. He would finish 2014 with an impeccable 110-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 98.0 innings of work, posting a 2.20 ERA and a 3.16 FIP. Washington started to ease the reins a bit last season and pushed Giolito through two levels. He opened the year with 69.2 innings in High Class A and would finish with another 47.1 innings in the Eastern League. Overall, Giolito would throw a career-high 117.0 innings while fanning 26.6% and walking 7.5% of the total batters he faced.

Projection: Whatever awe inspiring adjective you could hurl towards a budding ace can – and should – be said about the 6-foot-6, 255-pound hurler. His swing-and-miss potential outranks any minor league hurler, starter or reliever. He’s shown a tremendous ability to limit free passes – despite being a bigger pitcher. Oh, and then there’s his groundball rate, which tends to hover around 50%. Simply put, everything Lucas Giolito does is for his benefit. He’s a true, genuine legitimate ace-in-waiting.

Ceiling: 6.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016/2017

 

2. Trea Turner, 2B/SS                                                  
Born: 06/30/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Chris Taylor, Brad Miller,

Erik Gonzalez, Jason Donald, Jordany Valdespin

Height: 6-1 Weight: 175 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 21 A- 105 2 0 1 0.228 0.324 0.283 0.054 10.5% 18.1% 80
2014 21 A 216 14 2 4 0.369 0.447 0.529 0.160 11.1% 22.2% 180
2015 22 AA 254 13 3 5 0.322 0.385 0.471 0.150 9.4% 18.9% 141
2015 22 AA 41 4 1 0 0.359 0.366 0.513 0.154 2.4% 19.5% 149
2015 22 AAA 205 7 3 3 0.314 0.353 0.431 0.117 6.3% 20.0% 126
2015 22 MLB 44 1 0 1 0.225 0.295 0.325 0.100 9.1% 27.3% 72

Background: While Turner’s official time in the San Diego organization lasted a total of 127 games, the reality is that he was gone about half way through. The Nationals agreed to a three-team deal that listed Turner as a player-to-be-named later, though he was decidedly included in the mid-December deal but couldn’t officially be named until he spent an entire season in the Padres’ organization thanks to some archaic rules. Turner, who was in running as a potential #1 overall pick in the draft two years ago, ripped through the ACC competition during his three-year run with N.C. State, hitting a combined .342/.435/.507 with 38 doubles, nine triples, 20 homeruns, and 113 stolen bases (in just 127 attempts, or a success rate of about 89%). The 6-foot-1, 175-pound middle infielder shined during his abbreviated debut two years ago, hitting a combined .323/.406/.448 with 16 doubles, a pair of triples, five homeruns, and 23 stolen bags during his time in the Northwest and Midwest Leagues.

San Diego, perhaps throwing a bit of caution to the wind, sent the former first rounder up to Class AA to start 2015. And Turner didn’t miss a beat. He slugged .322/.385/.471 in 58 games before the trade – finally – became official. Washington would push him to their Class AA affiliate, the Harrisburg Senators, for another 10 games before bumping him up to the International League. He got promoted up to the big leagues in late August.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote about the quick-rising infielder prior to the 2014 draft:

“He’s going to be an above-average base stealer, showcasing plus-speed and a knack for a high success rate, but the actual hit tool and patience look like average skills at this point. And it’s not likely he’ll top 10 homeruns in a season either.”

I continued:

“Turner’s a nice prospect, one with a league average or slightly better ceiling. And, really, how much separation is there between someone like Turner and some recent failed first round collegiate shortstops like Christian Colon or Deven Marrero?”

Whoops. I definitely got this one wrong. Not only has Turner exceeded my admittedly modest expectations, but he absolutely torched the minor leagues for 185 games before making his big league debut.

Needless to say, Turner’s here to stay – I think.

He shows a decent eye at the plate, plus speed, and slightly below-average power. But the hit tool has proven to be much better than I expected. He’s likely to make a handful of All-Star contests before he calls it quits.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

3. Victor Robles, CF                                                        
Born: 05/19/97 Age: 19 Bats: R Top CALs:  Jose Osuna, Ivan Gonzalez,

Hector Gomez, Juan Herrera, Junnell Ledezma

Height: 6-0 Weight: 185 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 17 R 213 14 4 3 0.313 0.408 0.484 0.170 8.0% 12.7% 157
2015 18 R 94 6 1 2 0.370 0.484 0.562 0.192 10.6% 12.8% 209
2015 18 A- 167 5 4 2 0.343 0.424 0.479 0.136 4.8% 12.6% 168

Background: Signed out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 16 for nearly a $250,000, Robles have proven to be quite the bargain during his two seasons. After torching the DSL competition two years ago to the tune of .313/.408/.484, Robles didn’t stop bashing as he moved up to the Gulf Coast and the New York-Penn Leagues, hitting a combined .352/.445/.507 with 11 doubles, five triples, four dingers, and 24 stolen bases.

Projection: Well, that’s one way to announce your arrival as a potential top prospect. Robles topped the DSL average production mark by 57%, the GCL average by 109%, and he was better than the NYPL by 69%. And while his career is limited to just 108 games, it’s a damn near perfect 108 games.  Speed, power, average, strong contact rates, average eye at the plate – it has the potential to be a very, very dynamic offensive toolkit. Very, very bold prediction: Robles finishes the 2016 season in Class AA.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

4. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP                                            
Born: 01/04/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Keury Mella, Luke Jackson,

Dustin Antolin, Jordan Walden, Jose Guzman

Height: 6-0 Weight: 185 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 19 A- 1.3 0 1 47.25 5.35 0.00 0.00 0.0% 0.0% 0.00 12.5%
2013 19 A 4.0 0 0 6.75 5.48 9.00 2.25 20.0% 5.0% 2.25 79.0%
2014 20 A- 36.0 3 2 0.75 3.14 7.75 3.75 22.5% 10.9% 0.00 84.4%
2014 20 A 47.3 4 1 1.33 2.91 7.42 2.09 22.4% 6.3% 0.19 84.7%
2015 21 A+ 99.0 6 7 4.09 2.95 8.55 2.55 23.3% 6.9% 0.45 65.8%

Background: While it’s clear that Lucas Giolito possesses the most electric arm in the system, it’s worth pointing out that the wiry Lopez isn’t as far behind as one would think. The 6-foot, 185-pound right-hander out of the Dominican Republic burst onto the scene two years ago as he was nearly unhittable in the New York-Penn and South Atlantic Leagues. He would finish the 2014 season with an aggregate 1.08 ERA – enter whatever explicative you would like – in 83.1 innings, posting a 70-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Washington pushed the then-21-year-old hurler up to the Carolina League last season. And he proved that his previous showing was no outlier. In 19 starts with Potomac, Lopez, who hit the DL with a back injury, tossed a career best – believe it or not – 99.0 innings with 94 punch outs and 28 free passes. He finished the year with a neat-and-tidy 2.95 FIP.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“With just 99.1 innings under his belt, Lopez could turn out to be anything from a potential front-of-the-rotation arm to a dominant backend reliever to a forgotten minor leaguer. But any time a 20-year-old posts that kind of line in a level – or levels – were the competition is slightly older, it’s definitely promising. Oh, yeah, he’s sporting a groundball rate north of 56%. Lopez is definitely, definitely, definitely one worth watching – closely.”   

Needless to say, I’m convinced at this point. Among all hurlers with at least 90 innings in the Carolina League last season, Lopez’s strikeout percentage, 23.3%, finished as the third highest mark; his strikeout-to-walk percentage, 16.3%, finished as the fourth best, and his 2.95 FIP was the sixth lowest. His groundball rate regressed some last season, but it still finished at an above-average 43.7%.

There is some risk involved given his relatively low career innings total, but he might peak as a #2/#3-type arm.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

5. Erick Fedde, RHP                                              
Born: 02/25/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Jasner Severino, Bryan Price,

Ethan Katz, Paul Phillips, Ethan Carnes

Height: 6-4 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 22 A- 35.0 4 1 2.57 2.60 9.26 2.06 23.5% 5.2% 0.26 68.0%
2015 22 A 29.0 1 2 4.34 3.48 7.14 2.48 19.3% 6.7% 0.31 62.5%

Background: Since it worked out so well the last time, the Nationals once again took a calculated risk by taking a recent Tommy John recipient in the opening round of the draft. After striking gold with Lucas Giolito and his elbow woes in 2012, the front office nabbed Fedde – and his elbow woes – with the 18th overall selection two years ago. The former UNLV ace finally made it back last season as he split time between the New York-Penn and South Atlantic Leagues. Fedde would finish the year with a combined 3.38 ERA across 64.0 innings while fanning 21.7% and walking just 5.9% of the total batters he faced.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote prior to the 2014 draft:

“One of the more intriguing arms in college baseball, Fedde is another upper-rotation-type arm, perhaps peaking as a lower end #2. He’s going to miss a good amount of bats, limit free passes, and if the current trend holds, keep the ball on the ground with some regularity.”

Obviously, the minor league data remains sparse, but Fedde proved that his surgically repaired elbow is back up to his previous form. The organization will likely cap his innings to somewhere around 110 or so in 2016.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

6. A.J. Cole, RHP                                                     
Born: 01/05/92 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Sean O’Sullivan, Robert Rohrbaugh,

Brett Oberholtzer, Michael O’Brien, Anthony Swarzak

Height: 6-5 Weight: 200 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 A+ 97.3 6 3 4.25 3.69 9.43 2.13 25.1% 5.7% 1.11 68.7%
2013 21 AA 45.3 4 2 2.18 2.69 9.73 1.99 28.0% 5.7% 0.60 76.1%
2014 22 AA 71.0 6 3 2.92 2.58 7.73 1.90 19.8% 4.9% 0.13 70.1%
2014 22 AAA 63.0 7 0 3.43 4.48 7.14 2.43 18.7% 6.4% 1.29 76.6%
2015 23 AAA 105.7 5 6 3.15 3.90 6.47 2.90 17.2% 7.7% 0.77 76.5%

Background: It took six years and two different stints within the organization, but Cole finally reached the pinnacle of professional baseball last season as he made his anticipated big league debut. Originally drafted by the Nationals in the fourth round – 116th overall – way back in 2010, Washington dealt the promising right-hander to Oakland in 2011 as part of the package to receive Gio Gonzalez. A little more than two years later Cole was re-acquired as part of a three-team deal with the Mariners and Athletics. All along the way, however, Cole maintained his typical strong feel for the strike zone – he’s averaged just 2.3 walks per nine innings in his career – though his once-promising strikeout numbers have tumbled from above-average to average to mediocre last season. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound right-hander tossed 105.2 innings with Syracuse in 2015, fanning a career low 17.5% and walking 7.7% of the total batters he faced. He also made two brief appearances in Washington as well.

Projection: Cole showed the typical four-pitch mix during his short tenure with the Nationals – a 90 mph fastball, a low-80s slider, curveball, and changeup. He’s a nice #5 – maybe #4 – caliber starting pitcher. He’ll chew a bunch of innings, limit walks, and average about 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings. CAL, for what it’s worth, isn’t all that impressed either, comparing him to Sean O’Sullivan, Robert Rohrbaugh, Brett Oberholtzer, Michael O’Brien, and Anthony Swarzak.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk: Low

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

7. Austin Voth, RHP                                                       
Born: 06/26/92 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Brad Mills, Andrew Heaney,

Hector Noesi, Aaron Blair, Jeffrey Johnson

Height: 6-1 Weight: 190 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 R 5.0 0 0 0.00 1.86 7.20 0.00 23.5% 0.0% 0.00 100.0%
2013 21 A- 30.7 2 0 1.47 0.85 12.33 1.17 36.8% 3.5% 0.00 76.9%
2013 21 A 10.7 1 0 3.38 2.36 7.59 1.69 20.9% 4.7% 0.00 60.0%
2014 22 A 69.7 4 3 2.45 2.68 9.56 2.84 26.7% 7.9% 0.13 67.9%
2014 22 A+ 37.7 2 1 1.43 2.64 9.56 1.67 29.6% 5.2% 0.48 84.2%
2014 22 AA 19.3 1 3 6.52 5.63 8.84 4.19 21.8% 10.3% 1.86 68.2%
2015 23 AA 157.3 6 7 2.92 3.07 8.47 2.29 23.2% 6.3% 0.57 72.1%

Background: A fast-rising right-hander out of the University of Washington, Voth was immediately placed on the quick path to the big leagues following his selection in the fifth round three years ago. After making stops in the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues during his debut, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound right-hander breezed through three different levels in 2014 – he made 13 strong starts with Hagerstown in the Sally, another six starts of the dominating variety with Potomac in the Carolina League, and he finished up with five games in Class AA. Last season the organization opted to keep Voth with Harrisburg for the entire year. He would throw a career best 157.1 innings while averaging 8.5 punch outs and just 2.3 walks per nine innings to go along with a 2.92 ERA and a 3.07 FIP.

Projection: Voth continues to defy some long-shot odds. But he’s been able to maintain his ability to miss bats and limit free passes as he’s quickly pushed through the system. Basically, he hasn’t shown anything to suggest that he can’t carve out a career as a backend starting pitcher.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

8. Abel De Los Santos, RHP                                          
Born: 11/21/92 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Johnny Barbato, Aaron Blair,

Eric Hurley, Eduardo Sanchez, Edgmer Escalona

Height: 6-2 Weight: 200 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 R 15.0 0 2 3.00 3.02 12.00 3.60 33.3% 10.0% 0.00 47.1%
2013 20 A- 41.3 4 1 3.48 3.34 10.45 2.83 28.4% 7.7% 0.87 75.5%
2013 21 A 9.3 1 0 14.46 9.98 5.79 11.57 11.3% 22.6% 1.93 35.7%
2014 21 A 10.7 0 1 1.69 2.84 10.13 0.84 29.3% 2.4% 0.84 75.8%
2014 21 A+ 45.7 5 2 1.97 2.93 10.45 3.35 28.0% 9.0% 0.20 78.6%
2015 22 AA 57.7 4 4 3.43 3.39 8.58 1.87 23.0% 5.0% 0.94 72.9%

Background: Acquired along with second base prospect Chris Bostick in deal that sent Ross Detwiler to Texas. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-hander spent the majority of the year uncorking mid-90s heat out of the Senators bullpen. De Los Santos finished the season with an impressive 55-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 57.2 innings of work.

Projection: During his brief two-game stint with the Nationals near the end of July De Los Santos showed a four-pitch power arsenal highlighted by a mid-90s fastball. He complemented it with a hard, mid-80s slider, a curveball, and changeup. Unsurprisingly, he has a lengthy history of promising punch out rates; he’s averaged a smidge more than a bat per inning in his career. But, surprisingly, he’s combined that with a solid feel for the plate; he’s walked just 94 of the 1,306 total batters he’s faced in his career – or just about 6.7%. De Los Santos seems like a safe bet to develop into a seventh/eighth-inning arm.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

9. Drew Ward, 3B                                                        
Born: 11/25/94 Age: 21 Bats: L Top CALs: Billy Rowell, Trey Michalczewski,

Matt Helm, Tyler Goeddel, Matt West

Height: 6-3 Weight: 215 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 R 199 13 0 1 0.292 0.402 0.387 0.095 12.6% 22.1% 141
2014 19 A 478 26 3 10 0.269 0.341 0.413 0.144 8.8% 25.3% 112
2015 20 A+ 426 19 2 6 0.249 0.327 0.358 0.109 9.2% 25.8% 103

Background: Ward turned in a bit of a disappointing season in 2015. After hitting a solid .269/.341/.413 as a 19-year-old in the Sally, the lefty-swinging third baseman cobbled together a lowly .249/.327/.358 triple-slash line – though he did manage to top the league average production by 3%. For his career, Ward is sporting a .264/.346/.387 line with 58 doubles, five triples, and 18 homeruns in 279 games.

Projection: Ward’s pop really took a step backward after a strong showing in the Sally two years ago; his Isolated Power dropped from .144 to a subpar .109 mark last season. But more importantly: Ward didn’t seem to make the necessary adjustments as the season wore on. The strikeout rates are borderline red flag territory. He’s a candidate to repeat High Class A, but that wouldn’t necessarily follow the organization’s mantra.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

10. Andrew Stevenson, CF                                      
Born: 06/01/94 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Cody Podraza, Todd Cunningham,

Jesus Loya, Narciso Mesa, Danny Mars

Height: 6-0 Weight: 185 Throws: L
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 21 R 6 0 0 0 0.200 0.333 0.200 0.000 16.7% 33.3% 78
2015 21 A- 80 1 2 0 0.361 0.413 0.431 0.069 8.8% 15.0% 150
2015 21 A 153 3 2 1 0.285 0.338 0.358 0.073 5.2% 10.5% 100

Background: A 6-foot, 185-pound center fielder out of LSU, Stevenson came a long way since his poor showing as a true freshman when he batted .193/.289/.218 with just one extra-base hit – a homerun – in 143 trips to the plate. But he established himself as one of college’s most lethal offensive weapons during his sophomore season with the Tigers, hitting .335/.393/.419 with seven doubles, five triples, and nine stolen bases. He, of course, upped the ante during his final season in Baton Rouge: he set career highs in plate appearances (274), batting average (.348), OBP (.396), slugging percentage (.453), doubles (13), and stolen bases (26) while tying his previous best in triples (five) and homeruns – err…homerun. Washington grabbed Stevenson with the 58th overall pick last June and pushed him through three levels during his debut. He would bat .308/.363/.379 with four doubles, four triples, one homerun, and 23 stolen bases (in 30 attempts) between the Gulf Coast, New York-Penn, and South Atlantic Leagues.

Projection: Stevenson falls into that fringy big league regular category. He has a solid hit tool with speed, but his lack of power and average-ish walk rates limit his overall ceiling. One other (very cherry) red flag: lefties ate him alive during his debut last season; he batted a paltry .214/.323/.232 against them.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

Note: All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com.



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.