Nationals Top Prospects: Mid-season Update

Almost three months have passed since I unveiled my preseason top 60 Nationals prospect list, and much has changed since April.

Jeff Kobernus (#35), Tony Renda (#26), Sandy Leon (#25) and Nick Pivetta (#17) are no longer with the organization. Felipe Rivero (#15) and Michael A. Taylor (#2) have hit the limits for rookie eligibility, and Joe Ross (#6) is not far behind.

Doing another top 60 list is a little too ambitious for me right now, so I'll settle in at half of that number. For the purposes of this mid-season list, I'll still consider Rivero, Taylor, and Ross prospects, but this is the last list of mine that they'll appear on. If you're looking for Blake Treinen, Taylor Jordan, Aaron Barrett or Matt den Dekker, they've all exhausted their rookie eligibility in previous years. I am not including Rafael Martin or Clint Robinson despite maintaining their rookie eligibility because they are too old to be considered prospects. And since Rivero, Taylor, and Ross will graduate soon, I've included three Honorable Mentions that would be my #31-33 prospects. So without further ado, my mid-season top 33 Nationals prospects:

1: RHP Lucas Giolito (Preseason Rank: 1)
Could be the #1 prospect in baseball this offseason if Corey Seager gets called up soon. His 2015 hasn't been perfect, but he's still sporting a 3.34 ERA in 86 and 1/3 innings, with a shiny 3.27 K/BB ratio.

2: SS Trea Turner (Preseason Rank: 3)
I still can't believe Mike Rizzo pulled that trade off. He'll be the starting SS in Washington next year, but prepare for some growing pains. His new-found power (8 HR) probably isn't real, but his speed (26 steals in 31 attempts) is. I would still like to see him improve his approach at the plate, though, as he's got 35 BB and 91 K's.

3: OF Michael Taylor* (Preseason Rank: 2)
Taylor will graduate from the list after the season, but I dropped him below Turner because he hasn't made progress in the one thing he absolutely needs to make progress in: strikeouts.

4: RHP Joe Ross* (Preseason Rank: 6)
Ross will likely also graduate from the list after the season. Could he be better than his brother? Obviously 7 starts isn't enough to tell, but his 11.75 K/BB ratio in the bigs is filthy.

5: RHP Reynaldo Lopez (Preseason Rank: 5)
Other GMs are hoping that Lopez's mediocre 2015 campaign (4.55 ERA, 2.79 K/BB, 1.326 WHIP) will cause Rizzo to forget that his stuff is filthy. I don't think Rizzo will forget.

6: RHP Erick Fedde (Preseason Rank: 7)
Post-Tommy John results have been strong for the 2014 first founder. Fedde has a 4.5 K/BB ratio and a 2.57 ERA in eight starts for short season A Auburn.

7: OF Victor Robles (Preseason Rank: 34)
No prospect in the Nats system has seen his value skyrocket this year like Robles' has. The 18 year old centerfielder has shown off his plus bat and speed to the tune of a .363/.443/.561 triple slash in 44 games. He also plays excellent defense, if you were wondering. He left last night's game early after getting banged up from diving for balls in the outfield, but appears to be ok.

8: IF Wilmer Difo (Preseason Rank: 8)
Difo reached the big leagues in the sense that he got to sit on the bench for two weeks. His power breakthrough from 2014 has not repeated itself thus far (3 HR, .111 ISO between high-A Potomac and AA Harrisburg), but he's still showing off his trademarked speed (24 steals in 26 attempts in just 81 minor league games).

9: RHP A.J. Cole (Preseason Rank: 4)
A J Cole's "potential" might be his downfall. The Nats don't want to sell low on an arm with his abilities, and will likely keep him in the rotation for better or for worse. A change of scenery, be it with another team or in the bullpen, could be what Cole needs to turn his talent into results.

10: LHP Felipe Rivero* (Preseason Rank: 15)
If you've watched the Nationals in 2015, you've seen Rivero and know what he's capable of. His 95+ mph fastball/80 mph slider combination has baffled hitters, resulting in a 12.6% swinging strike % (league average of 9.7). The 24 year old has very obvious L/R splits (.437 OPS against by lefties, .895 OPS against by righties), but has maintained excellent K/BB ratios against both sides, and could still hack it as a starting pitcher, which is why he's this high on my list.

11: RHP Austin Voth (Preseason Rank: 14)
Sinkerballer Austin Voth hasn't seen his 2013-14 successed fade at all this year, with a K/BB ratio of just under 4 and a 2.90 ERA in 124 and 1/3 innings for AA Harrisburg. His stuff will still be fringy at higher levels, but until he stops performing, he'll keep climbing lists.

12: C Pedro Severino (Preseason Rank: 10)
I was hoping Severino would continue the step forward he had with his bat in 2014, but at least his batting profile hasn't collapsed, with a .259/.301/.350 triple slash in 312 plate appearances for Harrisburg this year. His defense and game-calling are excellent, though, so his bat doesn't have to be excellent to play at the ML level.

13: C Jakson Reetz (Preseason Rank: 12)
Hitting .211/.328/.248 as an offensive-minded catcher isn't ideal. That being said, he's a 19 year old in short season A ball, so we'll give him a pass for now. The defense looks better, at least.

14: RHP Abel De Los Santos (Preseason Rank: 20)
In his third season as a full-time reliever, De Los Santos has put up his finest K/BB ratio yet (4.3). He keeps batters off balance with a four pitch attack: fastball, curve, slider, change, and has seen a slight tick in fastball velocity. He could be a useful bullpen piece as soon as yesterday.

15: 2B Chris Bostick (Preseason Rank: 18)
The early returns of Bostick's promotion to AA have been disappointing (.229/.275/.354 in 191 PA), but over the full season he's at an okay .256/.315/.381 in 472 PA with 8 dingers and 26 steals. His combination of power and speed at 2B is hard to find, and he's still pretty young for AA at 22 years old.

16: OF Andrew Stevenson (Preseason Rank: NR)
We're seeing what we expected out of the Nats' first pick in the 2015 draft, with excellent centerfield defense and 12 steals in 32 games. Stevenson has shown the ability to take a walk (6.5% BB%) without striking out a ton (12.2% K%), which is important for a guy with a leadoff-type of profile.

17: 1B/3B Drew Ward (Preseason Rank: 11)
Bat-only guy who is hitting .249/.325/.355 in Potomac (he is 2.6 years younger than the weighted league average, though). He needs to start showing the power he's capable of to stay relevant.

18: OF Brian Goodwin (Preseason Rank: 9)
The Nats have seen very little development outside of their top 8 guys, so Goodwin doesn't drop as far in my rankings as he probably should. His .225/.291/.348 triple slash is ugly, and his walk rate is down. Still, he's striking out less, hitting for more power, stealing more bases, and has an extremely unlucky .259 BABIP; Goodwin has never posted lower than a .320 BABIP before, and if he had a .320 BABIP, even with no added extra base hits, he would be at a respectable .274/.332/.350 this year. Disappointing compared to what he could have been, but still could be an OK 4th OF type with speed, OBP and defense.

19: RHP Jefry Rodriguez (Preseason Rank: 13)
There aren't a lot of positives out there on Rodriguez's 2015 season (other than he hasn't gotten hurt). He's allowed 69 runs (60 earned) in 85 and 2/3 innings split between Auburn and Hagerstown (6.30 ERA), with a 4.7 BB/9 and 7.7 K/9. He is extremely inconsistent, but has a Major League frame (6'5", 185 lbs), a Major League fastball (92-96 mph, hitting 98), and a very good curveball. If everything clicks (mechanics, pitching feel, health), he has a ceiling that can only be matched by a handful of pitchers in the organization, but it is much more likely that his future is in the bullpen (or burning out in AA). He's one to dream on, though.

20: LHP Sammy Solis (Preseason Rank: 24)
You'd think a jump to the big leagues after only having pitched 7 and 1/3 innings at AA or higher would mean his stock is up. Then you realize that he's a 27 year old LOOGY who can't stay healthy. He's yet to allow an extra base hit to a lefty this season, with a .333/.361/.333 triple slash against (SSS alert: only 41 batters faced).

21: OF Rhett Wiseman (Preseason Rank: NR)
The Nats' 2015 3rd round pick has shown a little power (3 HR) and speed (6 SB) in his first 30 professional games, manning right field for the Auburn Doubledays. He's average at everything but lacks a standout tool, unless his raw power turns into game power.

22: 3B Anderson Franco (Preseason Rank: 30)
It's weird to be excited about 131 PA of a .285/.321/.415 triple slash line in the GCL, but given the overall performance of minor league bats in the Nats' system this year, I'm grasping at straws here. Franco turns 18 in a week, but already has great size (6'3") and raw tools in his power and arm strength. Baseball Prospectus lists Maikel Franco (T-1st), Matt Davidson (T-4th) and Steven Souza (T-4th) as some comparable players, which is a relatively pointless exercise that gets prospect nerds like me way too excited about his future development. The comps paint the picture of his upside, though: .260ish hitter with plus power.

23: OF Rafael Bautista (Preseason Rank: 19)
The good: 12 steals in 12 tries in 39 games. The bad: hitting .257/.294/.309 as a 22 year old between the GCL, low-A and (mostly) high-A. He's a speed demon on the base paths and plays a very rangy centerfield, but needs his bat to break through to keep moving up.

24: OF Blake Perkins (Preseason Rank: NR)
The Nats' second 2nd round pick in 2015 hasn't lit the world on fire in his professional debut, hitting .219/.292/.289 so far in 130 GCL plate appearances. The 18 year old switch hitting centerfielder doesn't have an elite tool, but does have 50's all over his scouting report. His best tool is his 60-grade speed, which adds extra range to his decent defensive instincts in center. If all breaks right, the Nats could end up with a doubles-hitting bat with above average defense and speed.

25: C Raudy Read (Preseason Rank: 27) Read hasn't followed up his breakout 2014 season (.794 OPS in Auburn) with a similar performance in 2015 (.663 OPS in Hagerstown), but that's not to say he's having a poor year. The offensive-minded Dominican catcher improved his BB/K ratio from 0.38 in 2014 to 0.51 in 2015, and much of the difference looks to be a 53 point difference in BABIP. He's still struggling with his receiving skills, as evidenced by his career high 18 passed balls, but there's still time for him to develop defensively, especially with his plus arm already throwing out would-be base stealers at a 40% career rate.

26: OF Juan Soto (Preseason Rank: NR)
The Nationals made Soto their biggest international amateur free agent signing ever with a $1.5 million bonus on July 2. The 16 year old Dominican corner outfielder is known for having an advanced ability to hit for contact, with more power hopefully coming as he grows into his 6'3" frame.

27: OF Telmito Agustin (Preseason Rank: 49)
While he's not as big or projectable as the other youngsters on the list, Agustin is building on his .300/.413/.495 stat line as a 17 year old in the Dominican Summer League with a .341/.380/.482 triple slash in the GCL this year (SSS alert, in 93 PA). His ceiling is as a leadoff guy who can hit for a high average, get on base, and steal bases, and I really like his plate discipline, with a 12.5% BB% and 15.2% K% in his short career.

28: RHP Austen Williams (Preseason Rank: NR)
I got a tad concerned about Williams in the beginning of July, as he only struck out 8 batters total in his first four starts for the P-Nats. He's struck out 14 in his last two outings, though, so I won't worry too much. Over the year, the 22 year old Texan has seen his K/9 jump by 1.5, his H/9 drop by 1.8 all while maintaining exactly the same HR/9 and BB/9 rates from last year. The 2.54 ERA is shiny and makes him look better than he's pitched, but he's still had a solid year and is making himself into a prospect.

29: RHP Taylor Hill (Preseason Rank: 21)
There was nothing super exciting about Taylor Hill before 2015, and he's got a 5.00 ERA and is only striking out 5.0 per 9 innings in AAA. When there's only a 6 mph difference between your fastball and changeup, bad things are generally going to happen. But he's ML-ready and his numbers across the board don't line up with his four year track record, so I'll give him a pass for now.

30: 1B Jose Marmolejos-Diaz (Preseason Rank: 57)
Never seen as much of a prospect, Marmolejos-Diaz has continued to hit in 2015, just like he did in 2012, 2013 and (kinda) 2014. He's always had a solid approach at the plate (career .281/.349/.428 triple slash, 8.6% BB%, 15.9% K% in 1325 plate appearances), but he's finally showing some power this year; after hitting 57 doubles, 14 triples and 8 homers in 922 PA from 2011-14, he's got 29 doubles, 4 triples and 9 homers in 403 PA this year. At 1B, a position where premium hitting is required, he may not be an amazing prospect, but he could still be an interesting platoon/bench bat who can play some left field with a slight chance of becoming a starter.

HM: SS Edwin Lora (Preseason Rank: 56)
Lora's .259/.298/.414 triple slash in Auburn may not seem that impressive, but he's just 19 years old and only put together a .670 OPS last year in GCL ball. The skinny shortstop is 7 for 7 in steals but has seen his already mediocre approach at the plate get worse, with a minuscule 4.6% BB% and a 25.4% K%.

HM: LHP Nick Lee (Preseason Rank: 58)
Lee is the type of player that you always keep at the back of your list, just in case he finally figures out how to annihilate batters with his nasty fastball/curve/change mix. He earned a promotion to AA after a solid 28 inning stint as Potomac's closer (2.57 ERA, 4.5 BB/9, 9.0 K/9, 9 saves), but seems to have reverted back to his old control/command issues in Harrisburg, allowing 10 runs and 15 hits in 11 and 2/3 innings, walking 10 while striking out 15. Anything is better than his 2014 season where he allowed 31 runs in 30 and 2/3 innings, of course, and I'm cautiously optimistic that he's getting a better understanding of how to effectively use the pitches in his arsenal.

HM: SS Osvaldo Abreu (Preseason Rank: NR)
Abreu wasn't much of a prospect following a .229/.279/.305 performance at Auburn last year. He's hit .282/.395/.427 in 397 PA for A Hagerstown this year, and is showing much more pop (38 extra base hits this year after having just 40 in 746 career PA before this year). His frame lacks a ton of projection, so he profiles more as a utility type as he moves up.

We're all about adding value here at Citizens of Natstown, so we're giving you two added bonuses: Konnor Fulk (@coolnovelbro) is guest-blogging his own list for us later on this week, and we’ve created a Twitter list featuring all active player accounts in the entire Nationals organization.

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