Washington Nationals: District On Deck's 2017 Top 10 Prospects List
May 5, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; A detail shot of the Washington Nationals on deck batting equipment during the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
After Baseball America revealed their top ten Washington Nationals prospect list, I decided to share my own list
On Monday morning, Teddy Cahill of Baseball America unveiled his top ten Washington Nationals prospects for 2016-2017. The system has undergone some changes recently with Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning being traded to the Chicago White Sox in the Adam Eaton deal.
Over the last couple of seasons, I have gotten to talk to numerous people in the minor league industry about some of the Washington Nationals top prospects from Syracuse all the way to Hagerstown. With that being said, I thought I would put together my own list of the top ten Nats prospects.
One of the surprises for me on Baseball America’s list was having shortstop Luis Garcia at number seven. The 16-year-old has yet to play a game, so it was tough for me to put him on my list without him playing in a game. However, the Nats have done a good job with their international signings.
Another name I want to mention that just missed making the top ten is first baseman Jose Marmolejos-Diaz. Marmolejos has been the Washington Nationals Minor League player of the year each of the last two seasons and had 74 RBI’s last season if you count both his numbers at high-A Potomac and double-A Harrisburg.
As a reminder, we have a couple of great prospect articles and podcasts in store for you over the next couple of days. Later today, I will be talking with right-handed pitcher Austin Adams, one of the pitchers the Nats acquired in the Danny Espinosa trade with the Angels on Saturday.
Then, later tonight, Ron Juckett and I will be talking to Lacy Lusk of Baseball America on our live stream podcast (via Google Hangouts) to talk about the Nats farm system. You can watch the video live at 7 p.m ET.
Without further adieu, here is my list of the top ten prospects in the Washington Nationals farm system, starting with a familiar third baseman at number ten:
Feb 20, 2016; Viera, FL, USA; A Washington Nationals hat lays on the field during a work out at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
10. Rafael Bautista
Bautista was named to the 40-man roster earlier this offseason after a good season at double-A Harrisburg. In 136 games, the 23-year-old had a slash line of .282/.344/.341 with four home runs and 39 RBI’s. Like Victor Robles, who we will get to later, Bautista is known for his speed.
This past season, he stole 56 bases in 66 attempts, which ended up being a Senators record. During the second half of the year, Bautista hit .307 with three home runs and 18 RBI’s. Plus, he had a good stolen base percentage as he successfully stole 17 bases in 20 attempts.
Besides the speed, Bautista’s 153 hits were by far the most on the Senators roster this past season (Wilmer Difo was second with 106) and he led the entire Eastern League in that category in addition to the stolen bases.
Heading into next season, Bautista could be one of those players that gets a call up if an injury occurs now that he is on the 40-man roster. If that does end up happening, Bautista can definitely change a game with the way he steals bases. Plus, his 45 walks were the second most on the Senators roster (shortstop Stephen Perez led with 47).
With Bautista playing mainly center field last season, where does he fit in the mix with Robles, Adam Eaton, and Andrew Stevenson going forward? Whether he gets traded or gets to the big leagues with the Washington Nationals, Bautista is a name you are going to want to keep in the back of your mind once the 2017 season begins.
Nov 8, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Glendale Desert Dogs infielder Drew Ward of the Washington Nationals against the Scottsdale Scorpions during an Arizona Fall League game at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
9. Drew Ward
This past season, Ward ended up playing at high-A Potomac and double-A Harrisburg. He had a slash line of .252/.348/.412 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI’s. During the first half of the season at Potomac, the third baseman hit .292 with 11 home runs and made the Carolina League All-Star game as the starting third baseman.
While Ward wasn’t on the top ten on Baseball America’s list, he is currently number seven on MLB Pipeline’s list of the top Nats prospects. If anything, Ward helped his case with a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League.
In his second stint in the AFL, Ward had a strong performance and was named to the AFL Top Prospects team by MLB.com. With the Glendale Desert Dogs, the 22-year-old hit .309 with eight RBI’s in 21 games. His 25 hits were tied for the fifth most in the AFL.
On defense, Ward did make a few errors in his 51 games with the Harrisburg Senators (ten). But, his 14 errors in 2016 were way less than the high error total that he had in 2015 (29).
Across the two levels, Ward had 121 strikeouts this season. If he can cut down on the strikeout totals, he has a good power bat that can be successful as he rises up the farm system. Ward may not be at the upper tiers of the farm system, but if he can build off of the success in the Arizona Fall League, he could have a good 2017 season.
Aug 3, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Pedro Severino against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
8. Pedro Severino
Severino got a chance to contribute last year down the stretch at the big league level because of the ACL injury for Wilson Ramos. The 23-year-old got to play in 16 games with the Nats and hit .321 (6-for-28) with two home runs and four RBI’s. Both of his home runs came against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He had the chance to play in the playoffs against the Dodgers and had a hit against Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 (double) and ended up scoring on a Trea Turner sacrifice fly. Now, he likely will start the 2017 season at triple-A Syracuse after the Nats traded for Derek Norris and Jose Lobaton is the backup catcher.
During the 2016 season, Severino got the chance to catch for the full year at Syracuse. He had a slash line of .271/.316/.337 with two home runs and 21 RBI’s. In his 19 games before he promoted, he did hit .299.
While Severino is known for throwing out baserunners, his caught stealing percentage was only at 22% at triple-A. If that number improves, he can be the catcher of the future of this franchise (as long as he’s not traded).
If he stays with the Washington Nationals going into spring training, he will at least get the chance to continue to learn how to receive pitches from the likes of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Severino has made contributions in his brief stints in the Majors over the past two years. It’s only a matter of time before he gets a chance to make major contributions at the next level.
Oct 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Austin Voth of the Glendale Desert Dogs during an Arizona Fall League game against the Scottsdale Scorpions at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
7. Austin Voth
Voth didn’t get the call-up to the big leagues in 2016, but that shouldn’t take away from the good season he had at triple-A Syracuse. The fifth round pick back in 2013 went 7-9 with a 3.15 ERA in 27 games (25 starts). His strikeouts per nine went down to 7.6 (8.5 in 2016) while his walks per nine went up to 3.3 (2.3 in 2015).
Down the stretch, Voth did have a 3.02 ERA in his final ten starts. However, he gave up just nine earned runs over his final seven appearances of the season. That success continued into the fall as Voth got the chance to play in the Arizona Fall League.
During his time with the Desert Dogs, Voth got off to a rough start. However, the 24-year-old right-hander bounced back by not giving up a run over his final 15 innings (three starts). Heading into the 2017 season, Voth could get a chance to make the big league roster whether it is as a starter or the long man out of the bullpen.
Voth could’ve made his big league debut last year, but the team decided to call up Giolito. Now that Giolito and Lopez are with another organization, the spotlight will be on Voth in 2017 as he tries to make it to the Major Leagues. If Voth can fix the command issues he had with the high walk total in 2016 (57 walks tied for fifth in the International League), he can be a productive pitcher at the next level.
February 15, 2013; Viera, FL, USA; A general view of equipment bags and shoes during the Washington Nationals spring training camp at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
6. Carter Kieboom
The Washington Nationals had two first round picks in last year’s draft. One of them (Dane Dunning) is now in the White Sox organization. The first of the two first round picks was Spencer Kieboom’s brother, Carter.
Kieboom spent the 2016 season in the Gulf Coast League. In 36 games, he had a slash line of .244/.323/.452 with four home runs and 25 RBI’s while playing 31 of those 36 games at the shortstop position. He had seven multi-hit games, including three three-hit games.
Right now, the 19-year-old shortstop is ranked number three on MLB Pipeline’s rankings. Here is some of what they had to say on Kieboom:
“Kieboom has the actions, soft hands and solid arm strength to continue playing shortstop in pro ball, though some scouts believe he’ll eventually end up at third base, or possibly even behind the plate. He’s also capable of switch-pitching, not that the mound will be part of his future at the next level.”
It’s going to take a while for Kieboom to make the big leagues as he has yet to play full season ball. But, despite playing only 36 games, he is ranked very high in the Washington Nationals farm system. Now, with Trea Turner back at shortstop, Kieboom may have to find another position down the road.
Even if he has to play a new position, his four home runs in the GCL were third on the Nats and one behind a player who you will see later on our top ten and he led the team in triples (four).
Nov 8, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Glendale Desert Dogs outfielder Andrew Stevenson of the Washington Nationals against the Scottsdale Scorpions during an Arizona Fall League game at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
5. Andrew Stevenson
Back in 2015, the Washington Nationals selected Stevenson with their first pick of the draft (second round) out of LSU. The outfielder was able to reach double-A by the end of this past season. At 133 games between Potomac and Harrisburg, Stevenson had a slash line of .276/.332/.374 with three home runs, 34 RBI’s, and 39 stolen bases.
While at Potomac, Stevenson made the Carolina League All-Star team and ended up winning the California-Carolina All-Star Game MVP award. He hit .304 and stole 27 bases in 68 games before being promoted to Harrisburg, where had 11 doubles over his final 65 games.
Like Ward and Voth, Stevenson went to the Arizona Fall League and was named as an AFL Top Prospect by MLB.com for his consistency. He had a league leading 30 hits, hit .353 with two home runs and 12 RBI’s, had a .417 on-base percentage, and stole nine bases. He might’ve won MVP if not for the great play of Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres.
Stevenson is known for being a center fielder during his time in college. While he spent 60 of his 66 games at center field in Potomac, he did get some time in left field while playing for Harrisburg, so he does have some versatility.
A lot of people got to know Stevenson after his great play in the Arizona Fall League. If he continues that success offensively to go with his already strong play on defense, he has good potential to make it t to the big league, maybe by the end of 2018.
Jul 20, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Koda Glover (32) throws to the Los Angeles Dodgers during the ninth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
4. Koda Glover
Over the last two seasons, the prospect that has made the biggest jump in the Washington Nationals farm system is Koda Glover. Glover went from being selected in the eighth round of the 2015 MLB Draft to making his big league debut last July.
Glover appeared in 19 Major League games in 2016 and went 2-0 with a 5.03 ERA. He had 16 strikeouts to seven walks, but he revealed at Winterfest over the weekend that he had a torn labrum in hip, which caused his season to end early:
As for his minor league numbers, he had a 2.25 ERA in 40 games between Potomac, Harrisburg, and Syracuse. He had 66 combined strikeouts, eight saves, and held opponents to a .197 batting average (.195 in 16 triple-A appearances).
The 23-year-old didn’t have much success in September (7.27 ERA in ten games), but he showed good success with his slider at the Major League level. In the month of August, teams hit only .133 against the right-hander’s slider with nine strikeouts (according to Brooks Baseball). All nine K’s in the month came via the slider.
Right now, the closer spot is still vacant for the Washington Nationals. If the Nats don’t sign a closer this winter, Glover has to be a name that’s in the mix with his fastball in the upper 90’s in velocity to go with the slider. Whether it’s now or in the future, Glover definitely has the makings of a closer.
Feb 24, 2014; Viera, FL, USA; Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo watches the spring training action at space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
3. Juan Soto
At 18 years old, Soto is a name to keep an eye on in the Nats organization going forward. In his first year of professional baseball, Soto won the Gulf Coast League MVP due to a slash line of .361/.410/.550 with five home runs and 31 RBI’s. He did end up finishing the season at short-season Auburn (six games) and had nine hits (three doubles) in 21 at-bats.
When you look at Soto’s Gulf Coast League numbers more closely, he led the league in batting average, second in on-base percentage, and was tied for fifth in RBI’s (31) as he hit mainly out of the fifth or sixth spots in the batting order.
Right now, MLB Pipeline has Soto as their 12th ranked prospect in the Nats system, but they definitely had some good things to say about him:
“Soto has a smooth and balanced left-handed swing which enables him to barrel the ball and make hard contact consistently. He has good strength to his frame and room to tack on even more strength, while his feel for hitting should help him utilize his impressive raw power in games.”
On defense, Soto played 42 games in right field at the Gulf Coast League as well as the six games that he played with the Doubledays. It may be early in Soto’s development and he hasn’t reached the upper levels of the farm system yet. But, his great performance in rookie ball is definitely a good start to his professional career.
Feb 24, 2015; Viera, FL, USA; A Washington Nationals baseball cap lies on the field during spring training workouts at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
2. Erick Fedde
Fedde takes over as the top pitching prospect in the system after the Nats big trade with the White Sox. While I wouldn’t expect Fedde to make his big league debut in 2017, the first round pick back in 2014 was able to reach double-A by the end of this past season.
The right-hander began the season at Potomac and was 6-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 17 starts. Once the second half of the season began in the Carolina League, Fedde put up excellent numbers. He went 3-1 with a 0.63 ERA in eight games and had a combined 19 strikeouts in his final two outings.
After being promoted to Harrisburg, Fedde went 2-1 with a 3.99 ERA in five starts. His last outing of the season against Bowie on August 31 was his best one of the season. The 23-year-old went six innings, gave up one run on four hits, struck out 12, and walked one on 99 pitches in a no-decision.
In my Harrisburg season in review, Mick Reinhard talks about how dominant Fedde can be when he has all the pitches in his arsenal working:
“After getting hit around a little, I think he realized he can’t blow everybody away at this level with his fastball. His best start, also his last, he threw all three of his pitches for strikes and kept his slider down in the zone. He’s a real competitor with the ball in his hand.”
I don’t expect the Washington Nationals to rush Fedde to the Major Leagues in 2017 since he did have Tommy John before beginning his professional career. However, he is clearly the pitcher to watch at the upper levels of the Washington Nationals farm system this year.
Mar 19, 2015; Melbourne, FL, USA; A view of Space Coast Stadium during the game between the Detroit Tigers and the Washington Nationals. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
1. Victor Robles
Robles was the name you kept hearing during the Winter Meetings when the Washington Nationals were having the trade discussions for Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen. At 19 years old, Robles is the consensus top prospect in most rankings for the Nats.
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In 2016, Robles was able to get up to high-A after a strong beginning of the year for Hagerstown. With the Suns, he had a slash line of .305/.405/.459 with five home runs, 30 RBI’s, and 19 stolen bases as he was named to the All-Star team.
At Potomac, Robles’ season was cut short due to injury, but the speed portion of his game is what continues to stand out. Across the three levels he played at, he had 37 stolen bases in 51 attempts. Out of the 44 hits that he had, 13 of them went for extra bases (eight doubles, two triples, and three home runs).
With Jayson Werth in the final year of his deal and Bryce Harper with just two years left on his contract, Robles figures to play a role in the future of this outfield along with Adam Eaton, whether it be in center field and right. This year, Robles played all of his games at center field, but he has played left and right field during his professional career.
Now that you’ve seen my list, I want to hear from you. Who are some of the prospects in the Washington Nationals farm system that you are keeping an eye on in 2017?