by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There is little question as to who the top two prospects in the Nationals’ system are, but they are hardly the only impact prospects in the pipeline. Washington owns a surprisingly impressive system, especially for a team with deep pockets that could easily sell out the future for the here and now. How does the system shake out? Let’s take a look:
1) Lucas Giolito – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2016
Grade – A
Giolito is one of the premier prospects in the game, not just one of the premier pitching prospects. He split time between High-A and Double-A last season (117.0 IP) compiling a 3.15 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. Of course it shouldn’t be a surprise to see the metrics regress, at least a little bit, as he moved to Double-A:
- High-A – 11.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 1.36 GO/AO
- Double-A – 8.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.28 GO/AO
At 6’6” and 255 lbs. he has the size teams look for and he certainly matches it with the stuff. Over his minor league career he owns a 10.0 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 1.48 GO/AO and reading into the “regression” at Double-A would be a mistake. There’s going to be a learning curve and, as it is, no one is going to complain. The fact that he could do so much more speaks volumes.
It’s just a matter of time before Giolito slides into the Nationals rotation, forming a formidable 1-2 punch at the top with Max Scherzer. His presence certainly played into the decision to allow Jordan Zimmermann to walk in the offseason.
2) Trea Turner – Shortstop
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – A-
It will be interesting to see if the Nationals opt to open the season with Turner as their starting shortstop or if they acquire a middle infielder to allow them to delay his full-time arrival. Regardless of the route they take, it’s only a matter of time before Turner is deemed ready to be an everyday option in the Majors.
He totaled 31 SB for four different teams last season, and the speed is there to swipe 30+ bases annually. He also has shown a good eye at the plate coming up through the minors, though a 20.0% strikeout rate over 205 PA at Triple-A is something to monitor. It could help limit his average upside, especially given the lack of power. There’s no questioning the potential, though there are adjustments to be made.
3) Erick Fedde – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2017
Grade – B+
As he returned from Tommy John surgery Fedde split time between Low-A and Single-A in ’15 posting a 3.38 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 64.0 IP of work. The underlying metrics are also extremely promising, even though it was a small sample size and he was old for the levels (22-years old):
- Strikeouts – 8.3 K/9
- Walks – 2.2 BB/9
- Groundballs – 1.62 GO/AO
Drafted in the first round of 2014 (he fell to 18th due to the injury), the fact that his control was that good right out of the gate is a great sign. The upside is certainly there and while he currently flies under-the-radar for most, that’s not going to last very long.
4) Reynaldo Lopez – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2017
Grade – B+
His 4.09 ERA at High-A wouldn’t impress you, but it came courtesy of an increased strikeout rate (8.55 K/9), solid control (2.55 BB/9) and a fair amount of groundballs (1.14 GO/AO). A hard thrower, there is speculation that he could ultimately end up in the bullpen. While he’d profile as a closer immediately, that possibility does knock him down a peg. Still he has an outside chance of arriving as soon as 2016, though 2017 is more likely, and for now the Nationals are going to continue pushing him as a starting pitcher.
5) Victor Robles – Outfielder
ETA – 2019
Grade – B+ (could quickly emerge as an A-)
The Nationals signed Robles as a 16-year old out of the Dominican Republic back in 2013 and are just now starting to see a return on that investment. Splitting time between Rookie Ball and Low-A he hit .352 with 4 HR and 24 SB over 213 AB. The power is expected to develop in time (he did add 11 doubles and 5 triples), and he’s already shown a promising approach at the plate (strikeout rates of 12.8% & 12.6%). We always hear about five-tool prospects, and Robles has they type of upside potential. At this time next season we may be talking about Robles as the top prospect in the Nationals’ system.
The Next Five:
6) Wilmer Difo – Shortstop
7) A.J. Cole – Right-Handed Pitcher
8) Austin Voth – Right-Handed Pitcher
9) Andrew Stevenson – Outfielder10) Rafael Bautista – Outfielder
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Grading System (still in development):
Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our Top 10 Prospect Lists: