Washington Nationals Top 20 Prospects for 2018
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses.
The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Victor Robles, OF, Grade A-/A: Age 20, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013, hit .300/.382/.493 with 10 homers, 27 steals, 37 walks, 84 strikeouts in 430 at-bats between High-A and Double-A, then hit .250/.308/.458 in 24 major league at-bats; exciting package of premium tools including 70-speed and 65, maybe 70-arm, and rapidly improving skills; weakest tool is present power but his bat speed is impressive and raw power is at least average; controls zone reasonably, makes adjustments quickly, and plays like he enjoys the game; should be above-average-to-excellent center fielder who hits for a high average, steals bases, and has at least solid power, a complete player though some time in Triple-A to put the finishing touches on his game would be good. ETA 2018.
2) Juan Soto, OF, Grade B+: Age 19, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, hit .351/.415/.505 with 12 walks, nine strikeouts in 111 at-bats between Low-A and rookie ball injury rehab; missed most of season with ankle, hamstring, and hamate injuries but hit the hell out of the ball when healthy; although I am normally cautious about players with sample-size issues, in this case I believe what Soto did is a fair representation of his true ability; excellent bat speed with good plate discipline, easy swing, and mature approach, should produce both power and average at maturity along with solid right field defense; one of my favorites. ETA 2020.
3) Carter Kieboom, SS, Grade B+: Age 20, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Georgia, hit .297/.396/.493 with 32 walks, 42 strikeouts in 219 at-bats between Low-A and rookie ball injury rehab, missing much of season with hamstring trouble; bat looks excellent with power, solid approach, perhaps not as explosive overall as Soto but certainly impressive; fairly reliable at shortstop but probably lacks the range to stay there long-term, tools might fit best at second; ETA 2020.
4) Erick Fedde, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 24, first round pick in 2014 from UNLV; strong in Double-A (3.04, 54/18 in 56), somewhat erratic in Triple-A (4.76, 25/5 in 34 with 37 hits), and hit pretty hard in majors (9.39 in 15 innings, 15/8 K/BB, 25 hits); shows low-to-mid-90s sinker when he’s right, with plus slider and average change-up; stuff sometimes appears flatter than advertised but when everything is clicking he shows all three pitching keys: velocity, movement, and command; projects as three/four starter or an above-average to excellent short reliever. ETA 2018.
5) Seth Romero, LHP, Grade B: Age 21, first round pick in 2017 from University of Houston; 4.91 ERA with 35/8 K/BB in 22 innings between Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues; no question about his talent, fastball into mid-90s with plus slider, good change-up, persistently high strikeout rates with good control too; problem is off-the-field stuff as he was kicked off his college team and has a long reputation for maturity problems; hard to know what to make of him just yet but clearly an exciting arm if he can keep his head together. ETA 2020.
6) Wil Crowe, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 23, second round pick in 2017 from University of South Carolina; 2.61 ERA in 21 innings in NY-P with 15/3 K/BB; Tommy John survivor came back healthy in ’17; throws strikes with 90-96 MPH fastball, average curve, slider, change-up; secondaries are solid rather than excellent but he has three of them and locates well; stuff not as explosive as Romero’s but shows considerable maturity and mound presence and should advance quickly; ETA late 2019.
7) Daniel Johnson, OF, Grade B/B-: Age 22, fifth round pick in 2016 from New Mexico State University, hit .298/.356/.505 with 22 homers, 22 steals, 35 walks, 100 strikeouts in 497 at-bats between Low-A and High-A; breakout season, though in publicity terms he suffers from having a boring name and is just now getting nation-wide exposure; broad tools with 60 power, 60 speed, 60 arm; there’s some swing/miss in his game and a somewhat aggressive hitting philosophy but overall he is a player to watch closely and I think he’s legit. ETA late 2019.
8) Yasel Antuna, INF, Grade B-: Age 18, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2016; hit .301/.382/.399 with 23 walks, 29 strikeouts in 173 at-bats in Gulf Coast League; switch-hitter with polished bat, solid plate approach and slashing gap power, unclear how much home run power will come eventually; good throwing arm but error-prone at shortstop and may wind up at second or third; wide range of possible outcomes but has breakout potential for 2018. ETA 2021.
9) Luis Garcia, INF, Grade B-: Age 17, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2016; hit .302/.330/.387 in Gulf Coast League, nine walks, 32 strikeouts, 11 steals in 199 at-bats; not as polished with the bat as Antuna, but faster and has a better glove at shortstop; like Antuna there are a wide range of possible outcomes here depending on power and plate discipline development but his potential on both sides of the field is exciting and he could break out in ’18. ETA 2021.
10) Raudy Read, C, Grade B-/C+: Age 24, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2011; hit .265/.312/.455 with 17 homers, 27 walks, 79 strikeouts in 411 at-bats in Double-A, went 3-for-11 in the majors; power developing nicely though he likely needs Triple-A time to refine the zone; good defensive tools with strong arm, mobility, but still needs more polish; threw out 31% of runners; has shown improved blocking skills but still vulnerable to some passed balls and errors, though he’s made enough progress that a position switch is not necessary. ETA 2018.
ANALYST NOTE: In my mind there is a clear dividing line between the Top Ten and the bottom Ten. You could order the C+ guys in many different ways, so look at this with a tier approach rather than set-in-stone rankings.
11) Andrew Stevenson, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, second round pick in 2015 from Louisiana State; hit .272/.326/.344 with 30 walks, 91 strikeouts, 11 steals in 389 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A, then.158/.250/.193 in 57 major league at-bats; his bat is better than the early MLB numbers although I think it unlikely he’ll hit enough to be a regular long-term; excellent defensive outfielder and a good stolen base threat, but lack of power and mediocre OBP skills make him a bench option, fourth outfielder, albeit a valuable one. ETA 2018.
12) Blake Perkins, OF, Grade C+: Age 21, second round pick in 2015 from high school in Arizona; hit .255/.354/.378 with eight homers, 31 steals, 72 walks, 118 strikeouts in 482 at-bats in Low-A; switch-hitter with above-average speed and some power potential, draws walks, has some contact issues and may not hit for high averages but gets on base at a good clip; speed and arm work well in center field; another young Nationals bat with breakout possibilities. ETA 2021.
13) Austin L. Adams, RHP, Grade C+: Age 26, eighth round pick of the Los Angeles Angels in 2012 from University of South Florida, traded to Washington for Danny Espinosa in December 2016; posted 2.14 ERA with 91/37 K/BB in 59 innings in Triple-A, 44 hits; posted 3.60 ERA in five major league innings with 10/8 K/BB; throws hard, fastball 93-97, also has a plus slider; command and control are erratic but he can overpower people on the right day; ready for middle relief trial. ETA 2018.
14) Pedro Severino, C, Grade C+: Age 24, signed from Dominican in 2010; hit .242/.291/.332 with five homers, 15 walks, 43 strikeouts in 211 at-bats; hit .172/.226/.207 in 29 major league at-bats; draws raves for defense with cannon arm and excellent receiving skills; physically strong guy who looks like he should hit for power but has never done so; shaky plate discipline a handicap; I still think he might hit adequately eventually and glove will keep him in the majors long enough for us to find out if the bat can come around; should have long career as reserve even if the bat doesn’t bloom. ETA 2018.
15) Taylor Gushue, C, Grade C+: Age 24, fourth round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014 from University of Florida; traded to Nationals in 2016; hit .241/.327/.437 with 18 homers, 41 walks, 88 strikeouts in 323 at-bats in High-A; threw out 33% of runners; solid-average defense with reasonable mobility, blocking, throwing, leadership; switch-hitter with power and patience but hasn’t hit for average and has been old for his leagues; he’s been a bit disappointing considering his college reputation but there are enough skills here that he must be tracked. ETA 2019.
16) Jefry Rodriguez, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, signed from Dominican Republic in 2011; posted 3.32 ERA with 51/19 K/BB in 57 innings in High-A; suspended 80 games after testing positive for banned PED Clomiphene; Nationals still like him enough to add him to 40-man roster; history of injuries and control problems but throws hard at 93-95 and flashes plus power breaking ball; erratic but has made enough progress to be one of the brighter spots in middling system. ETA 2019.
17) Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B, Grade C+: Age 23, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2012; added to 40-man roster; hit .288/.347/.414 with two homers, 19 walks, 59 strikeouts in 222 at-bats in High-A, missing much of season with ankle injury; superior defensive third baseman with above-average range and dramatically improved reliability over the last year; still learning to tap his power but has more sock than hitting just two homers implies; ETA 2020.
18) Nick Raquet, LHP, Grade C+: Age 22, third round pick in 2017 from William and Mary; posted 2.45 ERA with 22/7 K/BB in 51 innings in New York-Penn League, 56 hits; strikeout rate was much higher in college and it may come back, low walk rate was nice to see; fastball 90-95, sometimes higher, with good movement low in zone; good change-up but slider needs more polish; remains to be seen if he starts or relieves in long run. ETA 2021.
19) Jackson Tetreault, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, seventh round pick in 2017 from State Junior College of Florida; posted 2.58 ERA with 36/16 K/BB in 38 innings in NY-P; more projectable than the typical college pitcher with 6-5, 170 frame that can still fill out; 93-95 fastball, both change-up and curveball have potential to be at least average; command needs more work but upside of a number three starter. ETA 2021.
20) Wander Suero, RHP, Grade C+: Age 26, from Dominican Republic, earned spot on 40-man roster with excellent season in high minors, 1.79 ERA with 65/19 K/BB in 65 innings, 51 hits; middle relief profile with fastball around 90 but plays up due to plus slider and ability to throw strikes; persistent track record of reverse platoon splits is a point of interest. ETA 2018.
OTHER GRADE C+: Tres Barrera, C; Rafael Bautista, OF; Justin Connell; OF; Alex Troop, LHP
OTHERS OF NOTE: Osvaldo Abreu, INF; Tomas Alastre, RHP; Telmito Agustin, OF; Dakota Bacus, RHP; Joan Baez, RHP; Nick Banks, OF; Tres Barrera, C; A.J. Bogucki, RHP; Grant Borne, LHP; Jared Brasher, RHP; Matthew DeRosier, RHP; Anderson Franco, 3B; Cole Freeman, INF-OF; Brigham Hill, RHP; Kyle Johnston, RHP; Spencer Kieboom, C; Gabe Klobosits, RHP; Jose Marmolejos, 1B-OF; Ricardo Mendez, OF; Jake Noll, 2B; Jorge Pantoja, RHP; Israel Pineda, C; Jakson Reetz, C; Luis Reyes, RHP; Mariano Rivera, RHP; Adrian Sanchez, INF; Jose Sanchez, INF; Derek Self, RHP; Eric Senior, OF; Sterling Sharp, RHP; John Simms, RHP; Jackson Stoeckinger, LHP; Jack Sundberg, OF; Armond Upshaw, OF; Phillips Valdez, RHP; Austin Voth, RHP; Drew Ward, 3B; Rhett Wiseman, OF
Everyone have a good holiday. I will be back on Tuesday to answer questions in the comments section.