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Washington Nationals Top 20 2015 PRE-SEASON prospects in review

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Joe Ross
Joe Ross
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Today we continue our summer reviews of the pre-season Top 20 Prospects lists with the Washington Nationals

This is a review of the pre-season list.
It is not a new list.

These are the pre-season grades.

This list was originally published January 10, 2015

1) Lucas Giolito, RHP, Grade A: 3.02 ERA with 114/34 K/BB in 98 innings between High-A and Double-A, 91 hits. Control has slipped since his promotion (14 walks in 29 innings) but still effective overall, scouting reports emphasize dominant stuff, impressive mound presence. Still looks like top-of-rotation talent but needs a bit more polish.
2) Michael Taylor, OF, Grade B+:
Hitting .242/.290/.392 with 13 homers, 15 steals, 25 walks, 127 strikeouts in 372 at-bats in the majors. Demonstrating the expected power/speed/defense combo but with shaky plate discipline and low OBP. Might turn out like Adam Jones.
3) A.J. Cole, RHP, Grade B+/B:
Decent in Triple-A (3.41 ERA, 64/31 K/BB in 92, 82 hits), not great in first big league exposure (5.79 in 9.1 innings, 14 hits but a nice 9/1 K/BB).
Not much left to prove in minors, needs major league innings to make the final adjustments.

4) Trey Turner, SS, Grade B: Hit a combined .322/.370/.458 with 29 steals, 38 walks, 97 strikeouts in 454 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A, just promoted to majors. Strong across the board skills with solid defense, speed, some power, reasonable on-base skills, and plus makeup. Ready for a full trial.
5) Joe Ross, RHP, Grade B:
Highly impressive major league debut, 3.56 ERA with 58/9 K/BB in 61 innings, 55 hits. Looks legitimate to me, secondary pitches and overall command greatly improved compared to two years ago. Number two starter potential.

6) Wilmer Difo, INF, Grade B-:
Solid season, hitting .293/.334/.418 with 26 doubles, four homers, 26 steals in 28 attempts between High-A and Double-A, main caution flag is 18/74 BB/K ratio. Speed/glove stand out, has a chance to hit if not undermined by over-aggressiveness.
7) Erick Fedde, RHP, Grade B-:
Tommy John recovery going decently so far, 3.31 ERA with 46/13 K/BB in 49 innings, 52 hits between short-season ball and Low-A. Not dominating but he looks healthy and is throwing strikes. Expect a step forward in 2016.
8) Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Grade B-:
4.09 ERA with 94/28 K/BB in 99 innings in High-A, 93 hits. 4.09 ERA with 94/28 K/BB in 99 innings in High-A, 93 hits. Just went on DL after his last start. Continues to show excellent stuff and occasional dominance but pitchability is inconsistent.
9) Drew Ward, 3B, Grade B-:
Hitting .248/.324/.362 in High-A with 34 walks, 102 strikeouts and a disappointing six homers. Defense has not improved and in-game power has taken a half-step back. Still young at age 20.
10) Brian Goodwin, OF, Grade C+:
Hitting just .228/.292/.339 with seven homers, 14 steals, 34 walks, 80 strikeouts in 378 at-bats in Double-A. At this point it looks less and less likely that Goodwin will develop the skills to make his first-round tools meaningful, although at age 24 it is too soon to give up completely.

11) Austin Voth, RHP, Grade C+:
Impressive season in Double-A, 2.97 ERA with 133/36 K/BB in 139 innings, 123 hits. Three average pitches but throws strikes, keeps hitters off-balance. Will be ready for a trial next year and should not be under-estimated.
12) Rafael Bautista, OF, Grade C+:
Hitting .288/.335/.354 with 23 steals in 25 attempts in 198 at-bats split between High-A and rookie ball rehab games. Fast, generally hits for average, has not shown much power this year, age 22. Needs more polish on defense.
13) Jakson Reetz, C, Grade C+:
Hitting .212/.326/.248 with 13 walks, 37 strikeouts in 113 at-bats in the New York-Penn League. Good tools but still very raw on defense and not hitting much, still just 19.
14) Felipe Rivero, LHP, Grade C+:
Solid bullpen year in the majors, 2.93 ERA with 29/5 K/BB in 31 innings, 30 hits. Seems capable of handling a larger role at some point.
15) Pedro Severino, C, Grade C+:
Hitting .250/.293/.340 with 19 walks, 48 strikeouts in 312 at-bats in Double-A. Good glove, should get to majors on defense but doesn’t look like he will hit enough to start. That may yet change at age 22.

16) Raudy Read, C, Grade C+:
Hitting .241/.300/.369 with 22 walks, 48 strikeouts in 282 at-bats in Low-A. Similar to Severino, a skilled gloveman who doesn’t hit much yet, age 21.
17) Spencer Kieboom, C, Grade C+: Broken record: hitting .248/.344/.346 with 36 walks, 30 strikeouts in 246 at-bats in High-A, impressive defender but not hitting well, age 24. He was much better in 2014 (.309/.352/.500) but was old for the level.
18) Tony Renda, 2B, Grade C+:
Traded to Yankees, hitting .271/.337/.351 with two homers, 23 steals, 41 walks, 36 strikeouts in 425 at-bats in Double-A. Solid glove at second base but lacks tools for shortstop, doesn’t have power but makes contact, hustles.
19) Chris Bostick, 2B, Grade C+
: Solid in High-A (.274/.344/.393 with 15 steals), not effective as a hitter in Double-A (.226/.268/.359, though with 14 more steals). Uses speed well but lacks power, defense at second base is rough and he is now seeing time in the outfield.
20) Nick Pivetta, RHP, Grade C/C+:
Traded to Phillies, combined 3.58 ERA with 97/51 K/BB in 121 innings between High-A and Double-A, 107 hits. Used as a starter this year but most observers seem to think he will relieve at the highest levels, throws hard but still ironing out secondary pitches and overall command.

It has been a strange season for the Washington Nationals, hovering around .500 and at the fringes of the race, Injuries to key players and under-performance from some of the healthies have been problems.

From a prospect perspective however, things have gone fairly well. Michael Taylor needs more polish and experience but his potential is undeniable. Minor league vet Clint Robinson has turned out to be a useful role bat (not a surprise to people who saw him play in Triple-A for years). Joe Ross has been very impressive in his 10 starts and Felipe Rivero has been solid in the pen.

In the minors, Lucas Giolito continues his steady path forward while Erik Fedde looks to make a similar Tommy John recovery. A.J. Cole should get a full trial soon, while Reynaldo Lopez and Austin Voth have held their stock value. 18-year-old outfielder Victor Robles is crushing short-season ball (.350/.438/.525 with 19 steals between GCL and NYP). His tools are legit and he’s shown that he knows how to use him. He will rank much higher in 2016.

The trade acquisition of Trea Turner has turned out terrifically. Athletic infielder Osvaldo Abreu hopes to follow in Wilmer Difo’s footsteps in 2016. Right-hander Austen Williams is a fourth starter type who could sneak up on us next year if his solid High-A campaign is any indication. Lefty Nick Lee and righty Abel De Los Santos will be bullpen candidates in 2016.

2015 draftees Max Schrock (2B), Andrew Stevenson (OF), and Rhett Wiseman (OF) add polish college balance to a system that has several intriguing tools types at the lower levels. If you want a sleeper arm to watch, consider southpaw Taylor Hearn, a 6-5 lefty drafted in the fifth round from Oklahoma Baptist College. He can already hit 94 MPH but has projection in his frame and has shown better than expected control in the early going.

The Nationals usually look for undervalued talents on the international market and have had success in doing so. A more expensive exception is Juan Soto, a Dominican outfielder with a very promising bat from the left side, signed this summer for $1,500,000, a record for any Nationals Latin American prospect. Some sources think this could be a real bargain, projecting Soto to hit for both power and average as he moves up.