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The 2017 Washington Nationals Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here! 

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1. Victor Robles, OF                                   
Born: 05/19/97 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: Jason Smit, Manuel Margot, Harold Ramirez, Mason Williams, Colby Rasmus
Height: 6-0 Weight: 185 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level 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 8.00% 12.70% 157
2015 18 A- 167 5 4 2 0.343 0.424 0.479 0.136 4.80% 12.60% 168
2016 19 A 285 9 6 5 0.305 0.405 0.459 0.155 6.30% 13.30% 153
2016 19 A+ 198 8 2 3 0.262 0.354 0.387 0.125 7.10% 16.20% 110

Background: Last year the Nationals’ system, while weak on depth, owned a quintet of potential impact players at the big league level. All that remains, either due to promotion (Trea Turner) or trades (Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez), are Robles and right-hander Erick Fedde. But if you’re going to build a system around two prospects, you could do a lot worse than those two. Robles, a 6-foot, 185-pound supremely gifted outfielder, signed out of the Dominican Republic for the rather paltry sum of $225,000 – an amount of money that looks foolishly low four years later. Robles decimated the Dominican Summer League by slugging .313/.408/.484 as a 17-year-old. The front office bumped him stateside the following year and he continued his assault on the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues, slugging a robust .352/.445/.507 with 11 doubles, five triples, four homeruns, and 24 stolen bases in 29 attempts.

Robles opened last season up in the South Atlantic League – a stint that lasted all of 64 games. Of course, hitting .305/.405/.459 with nine doubles, six triples, and five homeruns with 19 stolen bases goes a long way towards convincing the powers that be that he’s ready for the next challenge.

So in late June Robles got promoted up to the Carolina League. And he continued to impress, hitting .262/.354/.387 en route to topping the league average mark by 10%.

Overall, he finished his first year in full-season ball by walloping a combined .280/.376/.423 with 17 doubles, eight triples, and nine homeruns with 37 stolen bases in 51 attempts. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by a whopping 32%.

All at the young age of 19, by the way.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book when I ranked him as the third prospect in the system:

“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.”

I wasn’t too far off from that bold prediction. The speed of his development path – as well as the relative ease – is extraordinary.

But let’s put Robles’ production into some perspective, shall we?

Consider the following:

  • Here’s a list of teenage prospects to hit at least 15 doubles, eight triples, nine homeruns, swipe 35 bags, and post a 130 wRC+ since 2006 (minimum 450 plate appearances: Victor Robles, Byron Buxton and Mike Trout (who did it twice).

Impressive company notwithstanding, Robles doesn’t own a red flag – he hits, hits for power (which is improving), runs like the wind, shows a decent eye at the plate, and has strong contact skills. He’s on the precipice of what could be a special career.

Oh, yeah, he’s been incredible patrolling the outfield, according to Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics.

Ceiling: 6.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

2. Erick Fedde, RHP                                
Born: 02/25/93 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Cory Vanallen, Chasen Bradford, Cy Sneed, Brad Mills, Brandon Workman
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 23.50% 5.20% 0.26 68.00%
2015 22 A 29.0 1 2 4.34 3.48 7.14 2.48 19.30% 6.70% 0.31 62.50%
2016 23 A+ 91.2 6 4 2.85 3.22 9.33 1.87 25.50% 5.10% 0.69 74.30%
2016 23 AA 29.1 2 1 3.99 3.02 8.59 3.07 21.70% 7.80% 0.31 72.80%

Background: After blowing the doors off the Carolina and Eastern Leagues last season, it’s probably safe to say that Fedde’s Tommy John surgery is clearly in his rearview mirror. The former UNLV ace visited the elbow repair shop about a month before the 2014 draft, but that didn’t deter the Nationals from taking him with the 18th overall pick that year. The 6-foot-4, 180-pound hurler would eventually make his debut on June 21st, 2015 and he’s been remarkably dominant: over his first 185.0 minor league innings, Fedde’s struck out 182, and walked 45 to go along with a nice-looking 3.21 ERA. Last season Fedde spent time between High Class A and Class AA, throwing 121.0 innings while averaging 9.1 K/9 and just 2.2 BB/9.

Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about the injured ace heading into 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.”

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect about Fedde’s comeback from injury is that his control has been spot-on. The majority of the time pitchers rehabbing from Tommy John surgery often struggle controlling the strike zone. Fedde – not so much.

He’s nearing big league readiness, likely only needing half a season in Class AA for some additional tuning. But the Nationals have plenty of talent in the rotation: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, and Joe Ross. So Fedde will likely have to bide his time until an unfortunate – and inevitable – injury strikes.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

 

3. Juan Soto, RF                                           
Born: 10/25/98 Age: 18 Bats: L Top CALs: Jose Osuna, Jefry Marte,

Mike Trout, David Dahl

Height: 6-1 Weight: 185 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 17 R 183 11 3 5 0.361 0.410 0.550 0.189 7.70% 13.70% 184

Background: Signed out of the Dominican Republic two years ago for a pretty hefty sum: $1.5 million. Soto had one helluva debut in 2016, slugging a combined .368/.420/.553 with 14 doubles, three triples, and five dingers with a 188 wRC+.

Projection: Now that’s dominance. But just how dominant was he? Quite simply: he was the most productive qualified stateside bat in the entire minor leagues. But consider the following little tidbits about his 45-game stint in the Gulf Coast League last season:

  • Since 2006 no other player under the age of 18 has topped Soto’s 184 wRC+ showing in any rookie league. Hell, the closest was Jefry Marte’s 162-mark in 2008.

There’s not a whole lot of data to go off of, just 207 total trips to the plate, but he was simply spectacular. Between Victor Robles and Soto, the Nationals have one helluva potential one-two punch in their minor leagues.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

4. Andrew Stevenson, CF                       
Born: 06/01/94 Age: 23 Bats: L Top CALs: Estarlin Martinez, Justin Bass, Tyler Kuhn, Jose Martinez, Bridger Hunt
Height: 6-0 Weight: 185 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 21 A 153 3 2 1 0.285 0.338 0.358 0.073 5.20% 10.50% 100
2016 22 A+ 300 12 8 1 0.304 0.359 0.418 0.114 8.00% 14.70% 115
2016 22 AA 280 11 2 2 0.246 0.302 0.328 0.082 7.10% 18.20% 76

Background: After losing their opening round pick in the 2015 draft due to signing some guy named Max Scherzer, the organization’s first pick didn’t happen until the middle of the second round. They grabbed toolsy LSU center fielder Andrew Stevenson with the 58th overall pick that year. The wiry 6-foot, 185-pound outfielder left the school as a .311/.372/.392 career hitter, with 20 doubles, 10 triples, two homeruns, and 40 stolen bases in 177 games. Stevenson made stops at three different levels during his professional debut, though the lion’s share of it coming in the South Atlantic League, hitting a combined .308/.363/.379 with four doubles, four triples, one homerun, and 23 stolen bases. He opened last season up with Potomac in the Carolina League, hitting a respectable .304/.359/.418 with 12 doubles, eight triples, and one homerun, but his production took a noticeable – and somewhat expected downturn upon his promotion to Class AA. Overall, he hit a combined .276/.332/.374 with 23 doubles, 10 triples, and three homeruns while swiping 39 bags in 53 total attempts.

Projection: Stevenson’s calling card is his stout – and often spectacular – defense in center field, which is a good thing because he doesn’t offer up a tremendous amount of potential with the bat. The eye is merely average, the power well below that. The speed is the true standout offering. He won’t exactly kill a team at the plate, but he’s definitely not a leadoff hitter – something that’s he’s likely going to be miscast as in the big leagues. He’s very similar to someone like Ender Inciarte or Kevin Pillar. In other words, a lot of his production is going to be derived on the defensive side of the ball. According to Clay Davenport’s metrics, Stevenson has saved 19 runs in his 188 career games.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

5. Yasel Antuna, SS                         
Born: 10/26/99 Age: 18 Bats: B Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-0 Weight: 170 Throws: R

Background: The Nationals signed the Dominican-born switch-hitting shortstop to a hefty $3.9 million deal last July.

Projection: There’s absolutely no information to go off of except for his hefty bonus, which, by the way, was about what the Braves signed Ian Anderson to after picking him with the third overall pick last June. As such, he’ll be treated as an incoming high round pick until the data begins to collect.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

6. Carter Kieboom, SS                                
Born: 09/03/97 Age: 19 Bats: R Top CALs: Michael Chavis, Stephen King, Yossandy Garcia, Junior Arias, Austin Aune
Height: 6-2 Weight: 190 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 18 R 155 8 4 4 0.244 0.323 0.452 0.207 7.70% 27.70% 129

Background: Fun Fact Part I: Kieboom is the youngest of three baseball playing brothers; Spencer, the oldest, made his big league debut with the Nationals during the stretch-run last season; and Trevor spent the past two years manning the hot corner at the University of Georgia. Fun Fact Part II: the last time the organization grabbed a prep shortstop in the first round was all the way back in 1998 when they used the 11th pick on Josh McKinley – they were, by the way, known as the Montreal Expos during that time as well. As for Carter, well, he showed some offensive promise during his debut in the Gulf Coast League last season, slugging .244/.323/.452 with eight doubles, four triples, and four homeruns in 36 games.

Projection: Just for fun, here are those numbers prorated over a full 162-game season: 36 doubles, 18 triples, and 18 homeruns. Now the bad news: he struggled with contact issues in the lowest stateside level as he fanned in nearly 28% of his trips to the plate. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him spend next season in short-season ball.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

7. Koda Glover, RHP                  
Born: 04/13/93 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-5 Weight: 225 Throws: R

Background: Talk about a big win for the scouting department. The Nationals grabbed the 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-hander out of Oklahoma State University in the eighth round in 2015. Less than 14 months later Glover was pitching against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Originally at Eastern Oklahoma State College, Glover transferred to the Cowboys a year later and did some solid work as a full-time reliever. In 23 appearances, he would throw 23.2 innings with a strong 28-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio en route to tallying a 1.90 ERA, as well as saving five games. After coming to terms with Washington, Glover was ridiculous against the New York-Penn League (6.0 IP, 11 K, 1 BB) and absolutely absurd in 24.0 innings in the Sally (27 K and just 1 BB). Last season Glover blew through the Carolina League, dominated the Eastern League, and showed no signs of slowing in Class AAA either. Overall, he threw 56.0 minor league innings last season, posting a 2.25 ERA with a 66-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also made 19 total appearances with the Nationals down the stretch as well.

Projection: Very rarely do you see any prospect – let alone an eighth inning pick – blitz through the minor leagues as fast as Glover. But it sure as hell helps when you’re sporting a mid- to upper-90s fastball with pinpoint, sniper-like control. The Nationals’ bullpen is sort of mish-mash of talent without a true clear-cut leader, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Glover ascend to the closer’s role in the very near future.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

8. A.J. Cole, RHP                                              
Born: 01/05/92 Age: 25 Bats: R Top CALs: Andrew Carpenter, Ty Taubenhelm, Edwin Escobar, Chris Seddon, Brett Oberholtzer
Height: 6-5 Weight: 215 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 25.10% 5.70% 1.11 68.70%
2013 21 AA 45.3 4 2 2.18 2.69 9.73 1.99 28.00% 5.70% 0.60 76.10%
2014 22 AA 71.0 6 3 2.92 2.58 7.73 1.90 19.80% 4.90% 0.13 70.10%
2014 22 AAA 63.0 7 0 3.43 4.48 7.14 2.43 18.70% 6.40% 1.29 76.60%
2015 23 AAA 105.2 5 6 3.15 3.90 6.47 2.90 17.20% 7.70% 0.77 76.50%
2016 24 AAA 124.2 8 8 4.26 3.96 7.87 2.53 20.50% 6.60% 1.16 71.20%

Background: It was another Cole-like year for the finesse right-hander. A former fourth round selection – who received a hefty bonus – in the 2010 draft, Cole spent the better portion of last season working of the Syracuse’s rotation, throwing a 124.1 innings with 109 strikeouts, just 35 walks, and a 4.26 ERA, as well as a 3.96 FIP. He also made eight starts for the Nationals down the stretch as well, throwing an additional 38.1 innings of work while averaging 9.16 strikeouts and 3.29 walks per nine innings, though he was battered around enough to post a 5.17 ERA and a 4.74 FIP. For his minor league career, Cole’s fanned 689 and walked just 188 hitters over 730.2 innings of work.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote about the right-hander in my book two years ago:

“Sans his dreadful – and unlucky – eight-game stint with Stockton a couple years back, Cole’s been a steady, reliable source of minor league production. He’s incredibly stingy with the free pass and misses enough bats. The lone red flag: he’s been a bit homer-friendly at various points in his career. Cole’s a fringy #3-type arm.”

But I downgraded him a bit in last year’s tome:

“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.”

Cole’s been big league-ready for a couple years now, but he’s been locked behind a lot more talented arms in the Nationals’ organization. He saw a big uptick in his strikeout rate during his third trip through Class AAA and the control is as strong as ever. As for CAL, well, it’s still comparing him to a litany of backend arms: Andrew Carpenter, Ty Taubenheim, Edwin Escobar, Chris Seddon, and Brett Oberholtzer – which sounds about right.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Low

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

 

9. Telmito Agustin, CF                                 
Born: 10/09/96 Age: 20 Bats: L Top CALs: Isaac Galloway, Julio Morban, Max White, Connor Lien, Yorman Rodriguez
Height: 5-10 Weight: 160 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 19 A 259 12 1 5 0.265 0.309 0.387 0.122 6.20% 27.40% 99

Background: The Nationals have never been shy about aggressively challenging young prospects, particularly those in the lower levels. And Agustin is just another example of that philosophy. The slight-frame center fielder spent his age-17 season bashing the Dominican Summer League competition (.300/.413/.495) and he made stops between the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues the following year (.344/.380/.469). Despite appearing in just seven games with Auburn two years ago, the then-19-year-old made the leap all the way up to the Sally in 2016. In a shortened campaign, Agustin batted a respectable – at least for a 19-year-old – .265/.309/.387 with 12 doubles, one triple, five homeruns, and 14 stolen bases to go along with a 99 wRC+.

Projection: Agustin shows surprising power for a player of his stature (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) and it figures to only improve over time, hopefully. Combining that with his foot speed, he could be a potential 15/15 threat in the coming years. One thing to watch in the coming year or two: after posting reasonable strikeout numbers during the previous two years, Agustin’s punch out rate spiked to a red flag territory 27.4%.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

10. Pedro Severino, C                                                     
Born: 07/20/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Manuel Pina, Roberto Pena, John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine, Christian Bethancourt
Height: 6-0 Weight: 215 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 19 A 302 19 2 1 0.241 0.274 0.333 0.092 4.30% 17.90% 74
2014 20 A+ 326 15 1 9 0.247 0.306 0.399 0.151 6.40% 17.50% 98
2015 21 AA 357 13 0 5 0.246 0.288 0.331 0.085 5.30% 14.30% 77
2016 22 AAA 317 13 0 2 0.271 0.316 0.337 0.065 6.00% 14.20% 87

Background: Aggressively pushed through the minor leagues the past couple of years – despite, you know, a lack of offensive production. That, of course, points to his stellar work behind the plate. Severino, who stands a stocky 6-feet and 215-pounds, has thrown out 35% of career would-be base stealers. Offensively speaking, well, he’s a career .243/.294/.338 minor league hitter – though he did show some impressive improvement in the International League last season. Coming off of a disappointing .246/.288/.331 showing in Class AA two years ago, Severino batted .271/.316/.337 with 13 doubles and a pair of homeruns in 317 trips to the plate with the Syracuse Chiefs.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book when I ranked him as the 11th best prospect in the system:

“Defense. Defense. Defense. The conversation will always focus on that side of the ball – which is clearly an above-average skill. Offensively, though, he’s never going to hit enough to earn more than the occasional spot start. For instance, here are his stop-by-stop Weighted Runs Created Plus totals since 2011: 62, 77, 74, 98, and 77. Zero power with matching on-base skills.”

Add another disappointing wRC+ mark to his resume: 87. But the .316 OBP is a career best for him. If he could hit like that in the big leagues Severino could be a fringy regular – assuming his defense grades out as well as the raw data suggests.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

 

Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.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.