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Washington Nationals Top 20 2014 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

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Michael Taylor
Michael Taylor
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

This afternoon we continue our farm system review project with the Washington Nationals. Tomorrow we will examine the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. Remember, this is the PRE-SEASON LIST. This is not a new list. These are pre-season grades and rankings. This is a review of 2014, not a preview of 2015.

This list was originally posted April 16, 2014

1) Lucas Giolito, RHP, Grade A-: Proved he was healthy from Tommy John recovery, 2.20 ERA with 110/28 K/BB in 98 innings for Low-A Hagerstown, 70 hits. All systems look go from here. Age 20.

2) A.J. Cole, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. Effective in both Double-A and Triple-A, combined 3.16 ERA with 111/32 K/BB in 134 innings. Ready for a trial next year. Age 22.

3) Brian Goodwin, OF, Grade B: Hit .219/.342/.328 with 50 walks, 95 strikeouts in 274 at-bats for Triple-A Syracuse. Disappointing and injury-plagued season, still draws notice for tools but needs to boost bat. Age 23.

4) Matt Skole, 1B-3B, Grade B-: Hit .241/.352/.399 with 14 homers, 78 walks, 127 strikeouts in 461 at-bats for Double-A Harrisburg, shaking off injury rust after missing almost all of ’13 with wrist injury. Disappointing with power but need to study detailed reports before commenting further. Age 25.

5) Drew Ward, 3B, Grade B-: Hit .269/.341/.413 with 10 homers, 42 walks, 121 strikeouts in 431 at-bats in Low-A. Age 19. I think he will improve.

6) Michael Taylor, OF, Grade B-: Hit combined .304/.390/.526 with 23 homers, 37 steals, 57 walks, 144 strikeouts in 428 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A. 3-for-19 in the majors. Power/speed skills have blossomed and the tools were always here. Age 23.

7) Steven Souza, OF, Grade B-: Hit .350/.432/.590 with 18 homers, 26 steals, 52 walks, 75 strikeouts in 346 at-bats in Triple-A. 1-for-14 in the majors. Older at age 25 but tools are sound and skills have developed nicely.

8) Felipe Rivero, LHP, Grade B-: 4.12 ERA with 38/18 K/BB in 44 innings for Harrisburg, had injuries but finished well. Age 23.

9) Tony Renda, 2B, Grade B-: Hit .307/.381/.377 with 19 steals, 43 walks, 59 strikeouts in 414 at-bats for High-A Potomac. Lacks power but an efficient OBP player, age 23.

10) Drew Vettleson, OF, Grade C+: Another injury case, hit .246/.275/.423 with eight homers, 11 walks, 73 strikeouts in 248 at-bats for Harrisburg. Age 23, looks like a tweener unless he can develop more power or enhanced OBP skills.

11) Jake Johansen, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, posted 5.19 ERA with 89/55 K/BB in 101 innings in Low-A, 120 hits. Upper-90s fastball but weak secondaries and shaky command hamper him.

12) Eury Perez, OF, Grade C+: Hit .311/.372/.406 with 20 steals in 57 games, 212 at-bats for Syracuse. Very fast, good glove, lacks power, age 24.

13) Zach Walters, INF, Grade C+: Traded to Cleveland Indians, hit .310/.361/.619 with 17 homers, 20 walks, 67 strikeouts in 268 at-bats in Triple-A, .175/.238/.417 with nine homers, nine walks, 46 strikeouts in 120 at-bats in the majors. Power stands out, versatile glove, strikes out a lot, shaky on-base skills, age 25.

14) Aaron Barrett, RHP, Grade C+: Solid year in major league bullpen, 2.87 ERA with 48/19 K/BB in 38 innings. Should be effective middle man going forward.

Aaron Barrett    photo by Mitchell Layton, Getty Images

15) Rafael Bautista, OF, Grade C+: Hit .290/.341/.382 with five homers, 69 steals, 33 walks, 72 strikeouts in 487 at-bats in Low-A. Fine campaign, power still developing but speedy, age 21.

16) Sammy Solis, LHP, Grade C+: Still hampered by health problems, pitched just 18 innings at four levels.

17) Blake Treinen, RHP, Grade C: Borderline C+: Solid big league season, 2.18 ERA with 26/11 K/BB in 41 innings, 2.33 GO/AO. Age 26, should take a larger role going forward.

18) Jefry Rodriguez, RHP, Grade C: Borderline C+: 20 year old projectable prospect, pitched 33 innings between Hagerstown and short-season Auburn, 4.86 ERA with 20/9 K/BB, 43 hits. Didn’t pitch after July 1st, need to research this one.

19) Randy Encarnacion, OF, Grade C: Borderline C+: Age 20, hit .216/.272/.311 in 74 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League but hit .349/.437/.523 at the same level in 2013. Another one for the research list.

20) Osvaldo Abreu, SS, Grade C: Borderline C+: Age 20, hit .229/.279/.305 with 10 steals, nine walks, 41 strikeouts in 210 at-bats for Auburn. I thought he was a breakout candidate but it didn’t happen. Good tools but bat is currently weak.

The most important news for the Nationals farm system in 2014: Lucas Giolito showed what he can do when he’s healthy. Other positives include valuable big league pitching contributions from Aaron Barrett and Blake Treinen, outstanding performance in the upper minors from outfield prospects Michael Taylor and Steven Souza, and the emergence of pitching prospect Austin Voth (rated as a sleeper pre-season, he posted a 2.77 ERA with a 133/38 K/BB in 127 innings at three levels) as one of the rapid risers from the 2013 draft.

22-year-old infielder Wilmer Difo had a fine season in Low-A, hitting .315/.360/.470 with 14 homers and 49 steals, taking some of the sting out of weak seasons from Randy Encarnacion and Osvaldo Abreu. Another positive came from toolsy outfielder Destin Hood, who has tempted scouts for years and finally came through with a .298/.348/.460 season between Syracuse and Harrisburg.

The 2014 draft class adds UNLV right-hander Erick Fedde, who hopes to duplicate what Giolito did recovering from Tommy John, and highly-regarded catching prospect Jakson Reetz.

On the negative side, there were several key injuries as noted above. Brian Goodwin did not have a good season. Matt Purke has gone the opposite direction from Giolito with his health issues.

Pre-season, the farm system ranked slightly below average at number 22, clearly in a transitional phase. I think enough positive things occurred to move them up into the middle ranks, although we’ll have to see where things stand after full analysis of all systems during the winter.