Nats Top 60 Prospect Countdown

If you like lists, prospects and lists of prospects, this six part series is for you. Each Friday over the next six weeks, I will be going through my list of the Nationals' top 60 prospects, counting down from 60 to (spoiler alert) Giolito.

here is the link to numbers 60-51 (premium). here is the link to numbers 50-41 (free).

#60 – OF Randy Encarnacion

#59 – LHP Matthew Spann

#58 – LHP Nick Lee

#57 – 1B Jose Marmolejos-Diaz

#56 – SS Edwin Lora

#55 – LHP Hector Silvestre

#54 – RHP Ian Dickson

#53 – 1B Jimmy Yezzo

#52 – RHP Steven Fuentes

#51 – LHP Jake Walsh

#50 - OF Israel Mota

#49 - OF Telmito Agustin

#48 - C Davinson Pimentel

#47 - RHP Neil Holland

#46 - RHP Derek Self

#45 - RHP Robert Benincasa

#44 - IF Austin Davidson

#43 - 1B Shawn Pleffner

#42 - CI/OF John Wooten

#41 - RHP Drew Van Orden

Prospects 40-31:

#40 – RHP Wander Suero

R/R, 23 years old on Opening Day
Reached A+ in 2014
Signed as an international free agent by Washington, 2/2/10 (signing bonus unknown)

With a low-90s fastball and an interesting curve/changeup mix, Suero has interesting stuff. Over the last three seasons, he has shown continuous improvement in learning how to use it, going from having K/BB ratios of 1.70 and 1.58 in his first two seasons to 2.83, 3.54, and 3.95 over the last three years. That being said, he’s still figuring out the finer points of pitching; as Luke Erickson of NationalsProspects.com notes in his 2015 Watchlist profile

that Suero struggles with his command despite good BB numbers. Suero’s up and down 2014 still showed positive signs for his development. While he failed majorly in the middle parts of the season at Potomac (23 R allowed in 27 and 1/3 innings), he rebounded well, throwing 44 and 2/3 innings of great ball in Hagerstown to end the season, allowing just 15 runs and putting together an excellent 4.78 K/BB ratio in that span. He more than doubled his previous high in innings pitched last year (99 and 1/3, with a previous high of 49), and while he didn’t strike out as many batters as he did in his previous four seasons, he still maintained an awesome 3.95 K/BB ratio, pairing a fantastic 1.9 BB/9 with a decent 7.5 K/9.

#39 – SS Stephen Perez

S/R, 24 years old on Opening Day
Reached A+ in 2014
Drafted in 2012, 8th round, 264th overall by Washington (University of Miami, Coral Gables FL, $100,000 signing bonus)

@StevossU

Wilmer Difo receives more attention for a switch hitting middle infielder who saw his prospect status skyrocket in 2014, but Perez isn’t far behind, going from a non-prospect to a maybe-prospect. Ever since he was drafted out of high school in 2009, Perez has been seen as a five-tool talent who couldn’t turn his gifts into results. The worst thing that happened in Perez’ development was that he hit eight home runs his freshman year at Miami, making him believe he was a power hitter. It took until 2014 for him to finally shorten his swing and concentrate on making solid contact rather than chasing the long ball. Perez' entire offensive profile improved in 2015, sans the power. He made huge improvements in plate discipline (13.9 BB% and 17.4 K% in 2014 after going 8.2 BB% and 22.0 K% in 2013) while continuing to show off his solid speed (27 SB in 33 attempts). His .258/.364/.339 triple slash at Potomac in 2014 still isn’t extremely impressive, but it shows he can get on base just enough to parlay his speed, defense, and ability to switch hit into a utility role in the future.

#38 – 3B Cody Gunter

L/R, 20 years old on Opening Day
Reached A- in 2014
Drafted in 2013, 6th round, 196th overall by Washington (Grayson County College, Denison TX, $175,000 signing bonus)

@CodyG103

When Gunter was originally drafted, there were questions as to whether he would be brought up as a pitcher or an infielder. The Nats went the infield route, and after a poor debut (.224/.287/.305) in 2013, Gunter slightly improved to .233/.322/.378 in 2014. Gunter’s kryptonite is striking out, as he’s done so over 25% of the time in both seasons of his career. He did improve his power last year (.081 ISO in 2013, .145 in 2014) as well as his walk rate (8.2 BB% in 2013, 11.4% in 2014), which are somewhat promising. Gunter’s arm is very solid, as he was clocked at 94 mph when he pitched. He had the equipment staff mend the hole in the glove he used in 2013 (20 errors, .885 fielding percentage), improving to just 11 errors and a .924 fielding percentage. It’s worth noting that Gunter was very young for his competition both years in Auburn and the soon-to-be 21 year old still has a future as a lefty power hitting third baseman (and if he doesn’t figure the bat out, he could still end up as a reliever with that arm).

#37 – C Spencer Kieboom

R/R, 24 years old on Opening Day
Drafted in 2012, 5th round, 174th overall by Washington (Clemson University, Clemson SC, $200,000 signing bonus)

@kieBOOM22

Completely off the radar after missing all but four games in 2013 due to Tommy John surgery, Kieboom rebounded with a solid (and surprising) .309/.352/.500 triple slash in 361 plate appearances for Hagerstown. I’m very skeptical about the bat, as his .852 OPS looks out of place against his .679 OPS in college and .667 OPS in Auburn in 2012, and even more so because he was a year and a half older than the average player in the Sally League in 2014. That all being said, Kieboom makes my list not because of his bat, but rather his defensive profile. He’s excellent fundamentally, whether it be blocking pitches in the dirt or trying to throw out potential base stealers. His arm isn’t amazing, but gets the job done because he usually puts the ball into the infielder’s glove. Calling a guy a potential backup catcher isn’t sexy, but as we’ve seen with the entire history of the Nats, you need a solid backup behind the plate.

#36 – RHP Gilberto Mendez

R/R, 22 years old on Opening Day
Reached A+ in 2014
Signed as an international free agent by Washington, 1/14/11 (signing bonus unknown)

You should know by now that I’m a sucker for great K/BB ratios, so it’s natural that I’m a fan of Mendez and his career 4.89 K/BB ratio (5.44 in 2014). The slight-in-stature righty does not have lights out velocity, but does have room to grow into his 6’0” frame and a solid fastball/slider/changeup mix. His peak velocity has bounced between 87-90 mph in the video I’ve seen, so he’ll need to add some to compete at higher levels. That being said, it’s nice to see a young pitcher who knows how to use his stuff.

#35 – UTIL Jeff Kobernus

R/R, 26 years old on Opening Day
Reached MLB in 2014
Drafted in 2009, 2nd round, 50th overall by Washington (University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley CA, $705,500 signing bonus)

@J_Kobe23

Surprised to see him listed? Kobernus is still rookie-eligible, as he’s only played in 28 games at the big league level. Kobernus broke his hand in April, causing him to miss two months, but he came back to hit a respectable .264/.347/.360 with 24 SB in 28 attempts. While he’s not a high-upside guy, he is ML ready, and I think Kobernus will carve out a solid career as a contact-hitting 25th man who can play a bunch of positions, not dissimilar to Kevin Frandsen (except Kobernus has an actual tool with his plus speed). Hope he's a good "clubhouse guy" because that's his ticket to a long career.

#34 – OF Victor Robles

R/R, 17 years old on Opening Day
Reached R (DSL) in 2014
Signed as an international free agent by Washington, 7/2/13 ($225,000 signing bonus)

Anderson Franco was the 2013 IFA signing who received more fanfare, but Robles outperformed him in 2014, hitting .313/.408/.484 in 213 PA with 21 extra base hits and 22 steals. The centerfielder is beloved by both Keith Law and Kiley McDaniel, with the former mentioning his “6’s and 7’s all over his scouting report” and the latter praising his advanced approach at the plate and plus ratings of his bat speed, foot speed, and arm strength. Because he’s still so raw and far from the Majors, I have him further back in my rankings. I am also hesitant about him not having a truly plus tool (in my opinion), but his above average all-around approach could certainly skyrocket him up the list next year.

#33 – RHP John Simms

R/R, 23 years old on Opening Day
Reached AA in 2014
Drafted in 2013, 11th round, 346th overall by Washington (Rice University, Houston TX, $100,000 signing bonus)

@Schlimms13

A high school rival of top prospect Jameson Taillon, Simms excels at finding a way to get batters out despite a fringy fastball. Simms has a 6’3” frame that could add some velocity, and pushing it up from his current 93ish peak to 95 or so in the future would do wonders for his arsenal, which already includes good command, control, and secondary stuff. Without a gain in velocity, Simms will struggle against higher-level bats, as we saw in his 11 game stint in Harrisburg in 2014, but if we can get him onto the David Huzzard workout plan, he could be a diamond in the rough.

#32 – OF Isaac Ballou

L/R, 25 years old on Opening Day
Reached A+ in 2014
Drafted in 2013, 15th round, 466th overall by Washington (Marshall University, Huntington WV, signing bonus unknown)

@IkeBallou

2015 is a big year for the toolsy outfielder, as he’ll likely get a taste of higher level pitching for the first time. Ballou created upward momentum in his 2014 full-season debut, hitting .268/.358/.427 with 48 extra base hits and 26/36 on his SB attempts in 133 games. For a guy whose biggest question mark is his ability to make contact, Ballou put up a more-than-respectable 10% BB% and 16% K% in 2014. He’s got a fun combination of speed and a little pop in CF, and looks to be a 4th OF with a slight chance of developing into a starter if all goes well. There’s a decent chance that a few years from now the Anacostia HS won’t be the only Ballou in Southeast Washington.

#31 – 2B Cutter Dykstra

R/R, 25 years old on Opening Day
Reached AA in 2014
Drafted in 2008, 2nd round, 52nd overall by Milwaukee (Westlake HS, Westlake Village CA, $737,000 signing bonus)
Traded to Washington by Milwaukee for OF Nyjer Morgan, 3/27/11

@cutterdykstra

Dykstra was never seen as much of a prospect, but got a decent amount of hype due to his draft round, famous father (Lenny) and famous significant other (Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who played Meadow Soprano). After a disastrous start to his career in the Nats’ system (.212/.265/.265 in 94 games at Potomac in 2011), he’s quietly put together three straight solid years, hitting .285/.378/.399 in 1371 plate appearances between A and AA ball over that span. Cutter will always be compared to his dad due to his hard-nosed mentality, but does have some solid tools of his own.

If Dykstra can hit and reach base at a respectable pace again in Harrisburg and Syracuse this season where his age is more level-appropriate, he could challenge Jeff Kobernus and Kevin Frandsen for a right handed utility player role on the 40-man roster.


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