Washington Nationals Top 30 Prospects

Over the last several seasons few teams have had an eye for talent like the Washington Nationals. When you have players like Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Juan Soto, and Anthony Rendon on your developmental track record you can wear jeans to the office whenever you like. The system, however, has taken some hits over the last several seasons, with some top talents graduating, some shipped off in trades, and others stalling in their development. Needless to say this is a system on the rebuild.

Victor Robles still leads the class with an injury-riddled 2018 in the rear view, he looks to break through with the big league club this season. After Robles, there’s a top heavy group that really drops off in the back half of the top 10. The restrictions in the international market have shown themselves, after an aggressive few years in the marketplace, there’s few stars trickling in from the last two signing periods. The good news for fans in the Capital, the 2016 kids are starting to show something. Particularly Luis Garcia, who enjoyed a breakout season in 2018. It’s a top-heavy system with some hidden bright spots, and a harem of future bullpen pieces.

Photo credit: Bryan Green

1. Victor Robles, OF

Age: 21

Highest Level: MLB

.276/.371/.370, 2 HR, .094 ISO, 113 wRC+, 14.2% K%, 11.6% Bb%, 19 SB

Not much of a shock here at the top. If it not for an ugly and unfortunate injury early in the year, Robles likely would have seen a significant role early in 2018 as a natural replacement for Adam Eaton. Instead it was Juan Soto who starred for the Nationals, while Robles was on the mend from a nasty elbow injury sustained on a diving attempt on a ball in center. Robles went on to miss most of April, and all of May and June. He returned in early July, but it took him awhile to find his footing. He caught fire at the end of August and rode the wave of success during an impressive September call-up. Over 66 plate appearances late in the season, Robles hit .288/.348/.525 with 3 homers, 3 doubles, a triple, and 3 stolen bases. Exactly the type of production many have foreseen from Robles for years.

I’ve long comped him to Starling Marte. A player with tons of raw tools, but a contact and speed-first approach with the ability to hit for gap power or turn on mistakes when tasked. The power projection is often the point of contention with Robles’ future outlook. His swing and setup are certainly more geared toward contact, but it’s easy to dream on 20 or more homers when observing his bat speed, natural loft, and good use of his lower half. He uses a toned down leg kick, that helps him really extend his front leg, and get excellent drive with his back leg. I think there’s plus power at peak. He’s a 70 everywhere else on the scorecard, an easy 70 runner, with a 70 glove, and a 70 arm. It will be interesting to see how thing shakeout, but the possibility of a Robles, Soto, Harper outfield for the next 6-7 years sounds pretty good. The upside of an all-world superstar, the floor of an average table-setter with an above-average glove. ETA: 2018

2. Carter Kieboom, SS

Age: 21

Highest Level: AA

.280/.357/.444, 16 HR, .164 ISO, 126 wRC+, 19.5% K%, 10.4% Bb%, 9 SB

This was the breakout season for Kieboom as he jumped a few levels, showing off his plus hit-power combination. Kieboom’s bat is extremely quick, with our resident scout Jason Pennini labeling it as potentially double plus. His hands are elite, with jack-rabbit quickness, allowing him to let the ball travel before pouncing. He gets the most of his lower half, with a big leg kick, and fluid rotation in his hips. I’m comfortable labeling Kieboom a future .280, 25 homer bat, with a ceiling for more. The question as to whether he sticks at short or not is still very much up in the air. He certainly has the arm for the position, but he’s not the quickest guy off the jump. Might find a future at third base where I believe the hitting profile will very much play. He received an invitation to the Arizona Fall League this season, and at the halfway point has hit .308/.455/.423, with a homer and 4 steals. He’s an average runner now, but should lose some speed as he matures. One of the better offensive middle infield prospects in the game. ETA: 2020

3. Luis Garcia, SS

Age: 18

Highest Level: A+

.298/.336/.406, 7 HR, .108 ISO, 111 wRC+, 15.1% K%, 5.7% Bb%, 12 SB

Ho hum, just another teenage phenom in the Nationals system. This time around it’s Garcia, a quick left-handed bat with a contact first approach, above-average speed, and the ability to turn on a pitch in on his hands. There’s a lot of projection that needs to be done with Garcia power-wise. His swing is linear, his hands are low, and at times he gets out on his front foot and slaps at balls. What’s remarkable about Garcia’s season was his ability to rebound from a putrid April (.198/.255/.220) to slashing .320/.355/.447 from May 1st on. This despite being just 17 years old at the beginning of that stretch (his 18th birthday was May 16th). He’s still very much a ground-ball hitter, and his speed plays better stretching singles and doubles than it does swiping bags, at least at the moment. What excites me most about Garcia is the hit tool. Very few young players even touch advanced A in their full-season debuts, let alone thrive there for multiple months. Garcia is a rare talent, with loads of projectable tools. His defense lags behind the bat, but his skills play enough for him to find a permanent home at second base. He played all over the dirt this season, yielding time at short in Hagerstown to Yasel Antuna, before seeing a majority of his time at the six in Potomac. Still years away, but Garcia has already surpassed our expectations. ETA: 2021

4. Mason Denaburg, RHP

Age: 19

Highest Level: Did Not Pitch

Did Not Pitch Professionally in 2018

Big is an understatement for the right-hander from Florida, he’s a large 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, with athleticism and a pair of plus offerings. He was touching 97 at times leading into the draft, but a biceps injury left him on the shelf for the entirety of the summer. He returned in instructs sitting 90-94 on his fastball, showing off his plus curveball as well. Throws a changeup in some of his pen work, but did not show it against live batters. An arm you’re going to have to do some projection on, but he has all the right ingredients to make a dynamic number two starter stew. Throws from a high three quarters arm slot, with solid extension, and fluid, repeatable mechanics. Doesn’t need to reach back to get to his velocity, rarely overthrows anything. If Denaburg can stay healthy he should climb up prospect lists in the next 18-24 months. ETA: 2022

5. Yasel Antuna, SS

Age: 19

Highest Level: A

.220/.293/.331, 6 HR, .111 ISO, 81 wRC+, 21.8 K%, 8.8% Bb%, 8 SB

Athleticism oozes from Antuna’s pores, he’s a smooth fielding, switch-hitting shortstop with lots of projectable power in his quick bat. Antuna however is very raw at the plate, especially from the right side. All of his power this year came from the lefthand batter’s box, hitting all 6 homers lefty, and only 4 extra base hits batting right-handed. None of this is a reason to panic, yet. He’s still just 19 in full-season ball, and not every player takes to the lower levels the way 2016 signing classmate Luis Garcia does. It’s easy with one glance to see Antuna struggles to pick up spin, and how he’s prone to chase off the plate and high in the zone at bad pitches. You do however, when he makes good contact get a glimpse of what he can be. His swing is pretty long presently, even from the power-deprived right side, but if he can hone his hit tool, I believe Antuna could get to average or better power. A slow burn prospect, but one with an MLB regular ceiling. ETA: 2022

6. Daniel Johnson, OF

Age: 23

Highest Level: AA

.269/.327/.412, 7 HR, .144 ISO, 106 wRC+, 22.2% K%, 6% Bb%, 22 SB

Johnson offers an interesting blend of talents, with plus speed, a rifle arm in the outfield, and raw power that he gets to in games from time to time. Unfortunately the hit tool is below average at the moment, though he’s not a chronic swing and miss guy. Everything else is above average or better. He’s a specimen with big bat speed, and lots of upper body strength, and the strength of his arm in right can not be understated. If Johnson can find a way to consistently get to his power in games he has the ability to bust through his ceiling, and become a star. At 23 the clock is ticking, and he’s yet to show he can consistently hit advanced pitching. I see a future fourth outfielder on a contender that sees 350 or so at-bats, and provides some highlights. ETA: 2020

7. Wil Crowe, RHP

Age: 24

Highest Level: AA

116.1 IP, 3.40 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 7.2 K/9, 3.7 Bb/9, .237 BAA

Do we play the mid-rotation drinking game in posts too? Because you should get your shots ready during this Crowe blurb. He’s an interesting arm for a bunch of reasons, some good, others maddening. As always the two go hand in hand. Crowe was a star at South Carolina, playing the role of ace on their last National Championship team. He mixes three average or better pitches, and has slightly above-average command/control. The problem is, the stuff never seems to play. In 116 innings this year Crowe struck out just 7 per 9 innings. Not what you’d expect from a polished college starter with a deep arsenal of pitches. He’s stocky in build, listed at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, throwing from a low three-quarters arm slot with good extension. His arsenal is comprised of a fastball in the 88-94 range, a slider that sits 82-84, a changeup in that same 83-85 range, and a mid-high 70’s curveball. The thing with Crowe is, though not the most exciting guy, he has a really good foundation to profile as a future rotation guy. If he can find a way to miss more bats, Crowe’s stock could rise considerably. ETA: 2020

8. Seth Romero, LHP

Age: 22

Highest Level: A

25.1 IP, 3.91 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 12 K/9, 2.8 Bb/9, .204 BAA

When talent isn’t fulfilled it can be maddening, and it’s been a maddening career for Romero. With some of the best stuff in the 2017 draft, Romero went from top-10 pick to risky choice at the back-end of the first round. He mixes a plus fastball with a nasty plus slider, and a changeup that is a swing and miss pitch. Romero has the potential for three plus or better pitches, particularly if he can curb his off the field issues and conditioning, which should help him stay on the field. Though the stuff is good, his mechanics are a mess with an inverted W, which doesn’t have the same stigma it once had. He’s pitched very little in recent years, due to a host of factors, and that will not change in 2019, as he’s on the shelf for the entirety following mid-September Tommy John surgery. This is a turning point for Romero’s career, as he can rehab and return stronger or succumb to the off the field issues that have plagued his career. ETA: 2021

9. Tim Cate, LHP

Age: 21

Highest Level: A

52 IP, 5.02 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 7.79 K/9, 2.77 Bb/9, .269 BAA

Arguably one of the best breaking balls in the 2018 Draft class. Cate’s curveball is a double plus hammer, that pairs nicely with his mid-90’s fastball. The concerns with Cate are two fold, first he’s a small lefty, standing a slight 6 feet, the second issue is Cate’s inconsistent command. The Nationals took Cate in the second round out of UConn, and proceeded to give him a solid workload over the summer, seeing 52 innings of action across Short-Season and Low-A. Likely a future reliever due to the shorter stature and lack of a true third pitch, his changeup lags behind his other offerings. That, however, is not a death sentence in any shape for Cate his two-pitch mix could really play up in shorter stints. ETA: 2020

10. Gage Canning, OF

Age: 21

Highest Level: A

.253/.319/.470, 6 HR, .217 ISO, 125 wRC+, 28.9% K%, 8.6% Bb%, 2 SB

A speedy centerfield type with a knack for making hard contact. Canning hit for high averages at Arizona State, slashing .369/.426/.648 with 37 extra base hits, including 11 triples in his Junior season. He wasn’t the most efficient basestealer in college, and really his speed plays the most moving from station to station or stretching gap shots. Canning’s arm is weak, which might limit his defensive profile despite his speed. For what it’s worth he played a majority of his games in center while with Hagerstown. Canning’s swing is unique, setup from a wide base with a pronounced crouch, Canning uses his good bat speed and whippy swing to put the ball in play. He’s prone to chasing high fastballs, and getting fooled by spin. The biggest area of improvement for Canning in the coming years will be his pitch recognition and plate approach. If he can get his strikeout rate down from the 28-30% range and walk a little more, it could really play up his high-energy profile. ETA: 2021

11. Drew Ward, 1B/3B

Age: 23

Highest Level: AAA

.249/.363/.422, 13 HR, .174 ISO, 123 wRC+, 26.1 % K%, 14.1% Bb%, 1 SB

At first glance I wrote off Ward, you’ll hear it in the corresponding podcast above. I moved him up nearly 15 spots to eleven, after watching a little more of Ward and seeing just how good the batting eye and plate approach are. It’s easy to look at the 5 full seasons in the minors, and the bumps in the road along the way, but Ward has always gotten on base and hit for at least average power. The bigger issue is how he fits into a first-base role without plus power, and split issues vs. left-handers. Might be the type of player that struggles for opportunities, but finds success as a strong side platoon bat with good on-base skills. Fringe MLB second division regular upside. ETA: 2019

12. Jackson Tetreault, RHP

Age: 22

Highest Level: A+

132.2 IP, 4.07 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 9.36 K/9, 2.78 Bb/9, .247 BAA

The Nationals love to chase talented starters with unusual and intriguing backgrounds. Tetreault fits that mold. With a year at Cameron University in Oklahoma and a season at State College of Florida, the big righty entered the draft and was scooped up by the Nationals in the 7th. He mixes a low-to-mid-90’s fastball with sink, and even some cut in it’s sharper moments. A sharp breaking curveball in the 77- to 79-mph range, an average changeup he’s shown feel for, and at times a cutter. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot with a simple one-step delivery and a high leg lift to the middle of his torso. The mechanics are easy and clean, and it’s understandable why the Nationals are optimistic. Based on my looks and his workload I think there’s a legit MLB starter ceiling. ETA: 2021

13. Malvin Pena, RHP

Age: 21

Highest Level: A

50 IP, 2.88 ERA, 2.28 FIP, 8.4 K/9, 1.26 Bb/9, .274 BAA

A young right-hander with three average or better pitches he throws with above average control and command. Pena is built like a pitcher, while he doesn’t have anything more than average height, he does has a strong lower half and thick core. Looks like he should be able to gobble innings, and generate velocity with little exertion. His three pitch mix is comprised of a fastball in the 92-95 range, with some late run, a harder changeup at 87-89, with inconsistent shape, and a mid-80’s slider that comes and goes. His approach is lauded by scouts, particularly for a player so raw. One of the few upside arms outside the top 10. ETA: 2022

14. Reid Schaller, RHP

Age: 21

Highest Level: Short Season

40.2 IP, 4.65 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 7.08 K/9, 2.66 Bb/9, .248 BAA

A promising Indiana prep talent that dealt with an elbow injury that required Tommy John following his senior season. Schaller honored his commitment to Vandy after going undrafted out of High School. He spent all of 2017 rehabbing and made his debut this season for the Commadores going 26 2/3 innings and striking out 36. He’s been clocked as high as 100 mph, but at the moment he’s a bit of a one pitch project. His slider will show flashes of average or better potential, he also features a changeup, but it stays parked in the garage most days. ETA: 2022

15. Telmito Agustin, OF

Age: 22

Highest Level: A+

.273/.338/.404, 6 HR, .131 ISO, 112 wRC+, 20.3% K%, 8.1% Bb%, 8 SB

A contact and speed profile, Agustin has shown nice tools but has lacked consistent production outside of flashes. He has quick hands, clocks fringe plus run times, and has logged time in centerfield. The ceiling is likely a fifth outfielder, but at 22 in A ball, he’s running out of time. ETA: 2021

16. Israel Pineda, C

Age: 18

Highest Level: Short Season

.273/.341/.388, 4 HR, .115 ISO, 118 wRC+, 18.9% K%, 6.5% Bb%, 0 SB

Another player from the touted 2016-17 signing class, Pindea is a solid defensive catcher with a plus arm, and some feel to hit. He has quick hands, natural loft, and has shown the ability to make consistent barrel contact. Likely a part time catcher but one with some offensive tools.

17. Gabe Klobosits, RHP

Age: 23

Highest Level: A+

16.1 IP, 2.20 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 9.92 K/9, 6.06 Bb/9, .222 BAA

A 6-foot-7 giant Klobosits was plucked from the Junior College ranks in the 36th round of the 2017 draft. The righty mixes a plus fastball that sits mid-90’s with big downhill plane due to his height. He mixes in a slider that flashes plus, and a splitter with some projection. Elbow injury early in the season led to TJ, which will keep Klobosits on the shelf for most of 2019. With his big stuff, durability issues, and imposing size, Klobosits has a high-leverage reliever ceiling. ETA: 2021

18. Sterling Sharp, RHP

Age: 23

Highest Level: AA

148.1 IP, 3.70 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 6.37 K/9, 2.85 Bb/9, .263 BAA

Ignore the underwhelming K/9 for a minute and walk with me. What if I told you about a player with an unusual college path, one that saw him pitch at two different schools over three years, and losing a year of eligibility in between before going to the Nationals in the 22nd round of the 2016 draft? This player has good size at 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, and off-the-charts athleticism and untapped potential. His pitch mix is made up of two above average offerings in his low-90’s fastball with sink and run, and a changeup he shows advanced feel for. That player would be Sterling Sharp, no not that one, this one… the baseball one. There’s some mid-rotation upside here, but looks more like a future low leverage relief type. ETA: 2020

19. Andry Arias, 1B

Age: 18

Highest Level: DSL (Rookie)

.270/.360/.412, 3 HR, .142 ISO, 121 wRC+, 18.2% K%, 10.6% Bb%, 3 SB

Signed during the 2017-18 International period, Arias is a long lean first base/left-field profile with good feel for the strike zone. He balances the power-contact mix, and didn’t face any significant swing and miss troubles during his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League. Might be my favorite sleeper in the system at the moment. Potentially another jewel plucked from obscurity by the Nationals. Should split time between the outfield and first base early in his pro career. Likely a GCL candidate next year, with full-season ball unlikely until 2020. ETA: 2023

20. Tres Barrera, C

Age: 24

Highest Level: A+

.263/.334/.386, 6 HR, .124 ISO, 107 wRC+, 18.4 K%, 7.6% Bb%, 3 SB

A backup catcher with a power profile. Barrera was the starter during his collegiate years at Texas, and has shown improved receiving and blocking skills. The arm grades out as just average. His biggest asset is his ability to tap into his pull-side power, which could play in a part-time MLB role one day. Currently in the Arizona Fall League. ETA: 2020

21. James Bourque, RHP

Age: 25

Highest Level: AA

53 IP, 1.70 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 12.91 K/9, 4.42 Bb/9, .164 BAA

A former 14th-rounder out of Michigan who’s stuff ticked up with a move to the pen. His funky upbeat delivery adds some deception as he almost hops toward the plate in a violent movement. His crouch in his windup allows him to hide the ball well. His three pitch mix features a fastball in the 92-95 range, touching 96 with some late jump, a slider in the low-80’s and a mid-80’s changeup. Has a chance to see some innings in the Capital next season. ETA: 2019

22. Ben Braymer, LHP

Age: 24

Highest Level: A+

114.2 IP, 2.28 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 9.26 K/9, 2.67 Bb/9, .218 BAA

A lefty out of Auburn the Nationals scooped up in the 18th round of the 2016 draft. Braymer had a breakout season in 2018, spending time between the pen and the rotation compiling one of the better statistical seasons in the Nats farm system. He works primarily off a two pitch mix, a fastball at 90-92, topping out at 93, and a curveball in the low 70’s. He has a bit of a stiff delivery, with a deceptive pause halfway through as he comes way over the top and almost aims his pitches. He’s even funkier from the stretch as he short-strides and really hides the ball well. Looks like a potential fireman reliever type eating up multi-inning chunks. ETA: 2020

23. Jake Irvin, RHP

Age: 21

Highest Level: Short Season

20.2 IP, 1.74 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 6.53 K/9, 3.05 Bb/9, .200 BAA

A 4th rounder out of Oklahoma, Irvin’s pitch mix is led by his plus fastball, that plays up due to his considerable size. Despite the power pitcher build Irvin’s stuff is mediocre, with his fastball more a groundball generating weapon than an actual swing and miss offering. He mixes in an average slider as his primary secondary, as well as very rarely used changeup. Looks like a future middle relief arm to me. ETA: 2021

24. Jose Sanchez, SS

Age: 18

Highest Level: Short Season

.230/.309/.282, 0 HR, .053 ISO, 82 wRC+, 23.4% K%, 10% Bb%, 1 SB

The final player from the triumvirate of shortstops signed in the 2016 class. Sanchez features a plus glove as his carrying tool, but he lags behind both Garcia and Antuna by a wide margin at the plate. He holds his hands high by his head, taking a linear path to the ball, almost chopping down on the ball at times. He shows solid bat speed, and has loose hips, leading me to believe there’s more offensive upside than he’s shown. ETA: 2022

25. Kyle Johnston, RHP

Age: 22

Highest Level: A+

102.2 IP, 4.12 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 8.42 K/9, 4.65 Bb/9, .236 BAA

A former Texas Longhorn, Johnston was up and down during his college career bouncing between the rotation and the pen. He dropped to the Nats in the 6th round of the 2017 draft and signed at slot value. The righty has continued to shuttle between the pen and the rotation to some success in pro-ball. He averaged a little less than a strikeout an inning, but has the two-plus pitch combination to play-up in a pen role. Johnston’s fastball sits 92-94 touching 96 with some dance, and mixes in a plus cutter in the upper 80’s with a sharp darting action. Features an under-utilized changeup as well. Another arm with mid-rotation ceiling and likely middle relief projection. ETA: 2020

26. Nick Raquet, LHP

Age: 22

Highest Level: A+

122.2 IP, 3.74 ERA, 3.40 FIP, 6.75 K/9, 2.86 Bb/9, .286 BAA

I’m confused by Raquet, he has the velocity and stuff to miss bats, and that’s what he was known for as an amateur, but since turning pro he’s flipped identities. Now a control master, Raquet is far too hittable for my tastes, but his mid-90’s fastball, two average breaking balls, and above-average changeup lend some hope he could tick up in a Pen role. ETA: 2020

27. Cole Freeman, 2B

Age: 24

Highest Level: A

.266/.354/.371, 3 HR, .105 ISO, 112 wRC+, 11.3% K%, 9% Bb%, 26 SB

Drafted as a senior out of LSU, Freeman brings a contact and speed profile, aggressively using his speed on the base paths. With a clean linear bat bath, most of what he hits is on the ground. However, Freeman does have solid bat speed, and does a good job of recognizing spin. He just rarely hits the ball with much authority. Future utility future. ETA: 2020

28. Jhon Romero, RHP

Age: 23

Highest Level: AA

56.2 IP, 3.34 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 10.64 K/9, 3.49 Bb/9, .233 BAA

The return from the Cubs in the Brandon Kintzler trade, is a short stocky righthander that throws in the mid-90’s with average offerings in his slider and change. Solid mechanics with a knack for working around the zone. Rule 5 eligible this year, so he might get a 40 man spot. ETA: 2019

29. Aldrem Corredor, 1B/OF

Age: 23

Highest Level: A+

.300/.356/.436, 9 HR, .135 ISO, 124 wRC+, 17.6% K%, 8% Bb%, 0 SB

Sweet hitting first baseman with a clean short lefty stroke, and good approach. Not sure he ends up anything more than a AAAA type, but he can hit and shows the ability to barrel the ball. He’s old for A ball, but there’s some feel to hit and possibly untapped power. ETA: 2021

30. Jacob Condra-Bogan, RHP

Age: 24

Highest Level: A+

42 IP, 2.79 ERA, 2.09 FIP, 11.36 K/9, 1.29 Bb/9, .190 BAA

An Indy ball find for the Royals, Condra-Bogan was the return for 5th outfielder Brian Goodwin. He’s a solid 6’3 230 lbs, a frame he uses to generate plus velocity, his biggest asset. He throws exclusively from the stretch, but lacks command missing spots with his fastball. He mixes in a pair of secondaries a mid-80’s slide-piece with some spin and depth, and a fringe changeup he tips with his arm action. Solid Middle Relief ceiling. ETA: 2020