The Washington Nationals once had some of the biggest names in minor league baseball in their farm system. Some of those names have moved on, but some, like Victor Robles, remain amongst baseball’s elite.
The Top 20 is still littered with potential big league talent. Here are three you should take the time to know.
(Updated February 8, 2018 -- Raudy Read made the initial list. His 80-game suspension saw him removed. He was replaced by Tayler Gushue.)
Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B
Gutierrez was signed out of the Dominican Republic for the 2013 season, and the story has remained the same ever since. The 23-year-old righty continues to put up stellar numbers, but continues to struggle with injuries on a yearly basis.
This season Gutierrez slashed .288/.347/.414, striking out 59 times and walking 19 in the Carolina League. Problem was, thanks to ankle issues, he only played 58 games at High-A. And time is ticking a little bit faster now that he is 23.
We know Gutierrez has a good swing and that he can make solid contact to all fields. He is vastly improved as a third baseman as well, once very error prone, but looking very much the part last season. He excelled early on in the Arizona Fall League, even taking home a Player of the Week honor. Our own John Sickels seems to feel there is plenty more power than his two home runs and 10 doubles speak to.
A healthy season could get Gutierrez on the fast track. He may be forgotten at times, but he shouldn’t be.
Wander Suero, RHP
It took a little while, but Suero broke through in a big way in 2017, earning Nationals top minor league pitcher honors along the way.
Suero started the season in Harrisburg and ended in Triple-A. He posted a 1.79 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP while converting 20 of 22 save opportunities. The righty stuck out a batter per inning, while walking 19 over 65.1.
Now 26, he is certainly making a push for his full-time debut in the nation’s capital. He doesn’t throw hard, but he can be deceiving. John sees him as a “middle relief profile with fastball around 90 but plays up due to plus slider and ability to throw strikes.” The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder is tough to read. At points in his career he is lights out against lefties, at other stops it was the complete opposite.
Suero is certainly way down the rung, and at 26, may not be your traditional prospect anymore. He spent three years in the DSL after the Nationals signed him in 2011 before he could advance, and then it took until 2015 until he looked like he “got it”. After a big 2017, he could be on the cusp of a big role in the Nationals bullpen.
Taylor Gushue, C
Gushue parlayed a solid junior season at Florida (.316/.389/.467 with 16 doubles and six home runs) into a fourth round selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2014 MLB Draft. He never panned out in A-ball, so they traded him to the Nationals.
Gushue, in turn, broke out. Kind of.
As a 24-year-old in the Carolina League, Gushue found his power, blasting a career-high 18 home runs. His slash line, however, remained rather pedestrian at .241/.327/.437. So, why is Gushue a prospect to watch?
The main reason is that he will be at the ever-decisive level of Double-A ball. He clearly was a different player last year, so perhaps the Nationals were able to hone in on what was wrong. He’s also a good defender with a very good arm, meaning he may be able to slip into Read’s role more quickly than expected should he throw it all together.
John Sickels has him ranked No. 15 heading into 2018. Here’s why:
...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.
While he may never be the next elite Nationals prospect, it’s certainly worth keeping tabs on his 2018 progression.