THE Washington Nationals Top Prospect List, 21-30

#21        Telmito Agustin               OF

Originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Agustin moved to the Dominican Republic and signed with Washington for $50,000 in October 2013.  The 22-year-old Agustin has struggled with injuries since signing, but was beginning to breakout at the beginning of 2018 before yet another injury occurred.  Listed at 5-10 160lbs, Agustin has above-average speed, good barrel skills and some sneaky pull power.  He has a fringe-average arm, which causes him to profile best in left field.  Agustin has a ceiling as a starting left fielder if the power continues to emerge, with his likely outcome being as a backup outfielder if he can stay healthy.

Full Scouting Report ->

#22        Tres Barrera       Catcher

Barrera was Washington’s 6th round pick in 2016 after a strong career at the University of Texas.  Behind the dish Barrera projects as an easy plus defender.  He possesses a plus, accurate arm with a lightning fast release, allowing him to effectively shut down opposing runners.  He is a quiet receiver and has a knack for blocking errant pitches.  Offensively he has fringe-average bat speed and struggles with strikeouts, limiting his future potential as a hitter.  However, he has a mature approach and has above-average raw power.  Barrera has a ceiling as a quality, major league backup catcher.

Full Scouting Report ->

#23        Sterling Sharp    RHP

Drafted in the 22nd round in 2016 from Drury, Washington may have stumbled into a late blooming prospect in Sharp.  Standing 6’4” 185lbs, Sharp utilizes his extremely long limbs to get tremendous extension and deception in his delivery.  He features a 3-pitch mix, consisting of an 88-to-92mph sinker, a quality changeup with arm-side fade and a fringe-average slider.  Sharp learned his sinker grip from watching former National Blake Treinen, and this pitch has helped generate a nearly 60% ground ball ratio the past two seasons.  Sharp will be 24 in May and still needs minor league seasoning, but he has a ceiling as a #5 starter.

#24        Tomas Alastre   RHP

Washington signed Alastre for a $350,000 bonus as an international free agent in July 2014.  Alastre stands 6’4” 170lbs with long limbs and physical projection remaining.  The 20-year-old features the traditional 3-pitch arsenal of an 89-91mph fastball with natural sink, a 75-78mph curveball and an 83-87mph changeup with arm-side sink.  He has good feel for his off-speed pitches and should add velocity as his body matures.  The risk is high due to his lack of elite velocity or a monster out-pitch, but Alastre has a ceiling of a future back-end starter.

Full Scouting Report ->

#25        Austen Williams               RHP

Washington drafted Williams in the 6th round of the 2014 draft from Texas State University.  After spending his first several years as a starter, Williams flourished working in relief in 2018.  Williams utilizes a 3-pitch repertoire, featuring a 91-to-94mph fastball with arm-side run, a powerful low-80s curveball with excellent shape, and the occasional low-80s changeup.  Williams pounds the lower part of the strike zone and can locate to all four quadrants with above-average command.  He was added to Washington’s 40-man roster late in 2018, and could be a potential bullpen option this season.  Williams has a ceiling as a league-average setup reliever.

Full Scouting Report ->

#26        Joan Baez           RHP

The Nationals signed Baez as an international free agent in April 2014 from the Dominican Republic.  Baez is blessed with a wiry, projectable 6’3” 190lbs body and excellent arm speed.  He has a 3-pitch arsenal, featuring a 92-95mph fastball that can touch higher, a high-70s curveball with plus potential and a firm mid-80s changeup.  Washington has developed the 24-year-old as a starter, but his lack of a changeup and below-average command should make him a reliever long-term.  He profiles as a middle reliever, with a ceiling as a quality setup man.

#27        Steven Fuentes  RHP

Another international free agent, Washington signed Fuentes for a $35,000 bonus out of Panama in July 2013.  The 21-year-old owns a three-pitch repertoire, consisting of an 89-to-93mph fastball with heavy sink, an 81-to-84mph slider to sharp bite, along with the occasional mid-80s changeup.  He is an intriguing prospect due to his sinking fastball and potentially above-average slider, yet his lack of premium velocity and his mediocre command limits his overall ceiling.  Fuentes has a ceiling of a multi-inning reliever in the mold of former National Craig Stammen, with the likely outcome being a reliever who bounces between Triple-A and the majors. 

Full Scouting Report ->

#28        Nick Raquet       LHP

Raquet was Washington’s 3rd round pick in 2017 from the College of William & Mary.  The 6’0” 215lbs lefty is powerfully built with thick legs.  Raquet features a 4-pitch mix, including a low-90s fastball, a quality 82-to-84mph slider, changeup and curveball.  His command and control of the strike zone can waver and is below-average, but has improved dramatically as a professional.  Washington has developed Raquet as a starter, yet his future lies in the bullpen.  He has a ceiling as a middle reliever that is particularly difficult against lefties.

Full Scouting Report ->

#29        Kyle McGowin   RHP

McGowin was originally drafted by Anaheim in Round 5 of the 2013 draft, and Washington acquired him in December 2016, along with Austin Adams, in exchange for Danny Espinosa.  A wiry 6’3” 195lbs, McGowin throws from a low three-quarters arm-slot and features a three-pitch repertoire.  The fastball sits 89-to-92mph with quality sink, a slider that works at 81-to-84mph with slurvy shape, along with a low-80s changeup.  McGowin was added to Washington’s 40-man roster late in the season based upon his success in 2018 and ability to locate three fringe-average pitches.  He has a ceiling as a major league spot starter or long reliever and should see time in Washington this season.

Full Scouting Report ->

#30        Brigham Hill RHP

Hill was Washington’s 5th round pick in 2017 after a distinguished career at Texas A&M.  He is an undersized righty listed at 6’0” 185lbs (likely closer to 5’10”) who features the traditional 3-pitch mix of a fastball, curveball and changeup.  Hill’s fastball sits 89-to-92mph with excellent sink, a nasty low-80s changeup and a fringy mid-70s curveball. He pounds the lower part of the strike zone and possesses above-average command. He has battled injuries since signing, pitching only 99 innings total innings.  Still only 23-year-old, Hill should begin 2019 at High-A, and has a ceiling as a #5 starter or long reliever.

THE Washington Nationals Top Prospect List, #11-#20

On Monday NatsGM ranked our picks for the Top-10 prospects in the Nationals’ system – Today we select our picks for prospects #11-#20. 

#11        Tanner Rainey RHP

Acquired from Cincinnati last month for Tanner Roark, the 26-year-old Rainey was the Reds’ 2nd round pick in 2015.  Rainey was dominant in 2018 at Triple-A, throwing 51 innings and allowing only 25 hits and 35 walks against 65 strikeouts, which earned him a late season major league cameo.  Rainey is blessed with elite stuff, including an upper-90s fastball that can reach triple digits, a hard upper-80s slider and a changeup.  As the walk total confirms, Rainey struggles with his command, which is below-average or worse.  He will need to improve this to reach his ceiling as a high-leverage late-inning reliever, with his likely outcome being a major league role in middle relief.

#12        James Bourque RHP

Washington selected Bourque in the 14th round in 2014 following a strong career at the University of Michigan.  The 25-year-old spent his first few professional seasons as a starter, before flourishing in a move to the bullpen last year.  Bourque was dominant across two levels last season, posting a 1.70 ERA over 53 innings pitched, with 76 strikeouts against only 30 hits and 26 walks. 

Bourque features a three-pitch arsenal consisting of a low-to-mid 90s fastball, a devastating mid-80s changeup with split-finger movement, and a low-80s slider.  He is an intriguing relief prospect due to his velocity and a changeup that can neutralize lefties, but his below-average command likely limits his ceiling to a 7th or 8th inning reliever.

Full Scouting Report ->

#13        Kyle Johnston RHP

Johnston was Washington’s 6th round pick in 2017, following a strong career at the University of Texas.  The 22-year-old stands 6’0” 190lbs with a well-built frame and powerful legs.  Johnston features a 3-pitch repertoire of a 91-95mph fastball, a low-80s slider, plus a mid-80s changeup with movement.  Washington has developed him as a starter, but his build and inefficient delivery likely profile better in relief.  Johnston has a ceiling of a #5 starter, with a likely outcome he works in middle relief.  He is one of my favorite prospects in the system.

Full Scouting Report ->

#14        Reid Schaller RHP

Washington’s 3rd round pick last June from Vanderbilt University, Schaller was a rare draft-eligible freshman after undergoing Tommy John surgery while in school.  Schaller worked out of the bullpen for the Commodores in 2018, overwhelming the competition with an upper-90s fastball and a powerful slider.  He has the frame at 6’3” 210lbs to work as a starter, but his funky delivery should make him a reliever long-term.  Schaller has the ceiling as a high-leverage late-inning reliever.

#15        Jake Irwin RHP

The Nationals’ 4th round selection last June, Irvin is a massive 6’6” 225lbs blessed with long limbs and a solid 3-pitch arsenal.  Irwin’s fastball sits 90-93mph with heavy sink, a quality slider and an improving changeup.  He pounds the strike zone with above-average command, and gets excellent extension toward home plate.  Irwin has a ceiling as a durable, back-end starting pitcher, with the fallback option being a move to the bullpen.

#16        Malvin Pena RHP

Signed by Washington as an international free agent in 2013, the 21-year-old Pena missed all of 2015 and 2016 with injuries, and has only thrown 134.1 innings since turning professional.  When healthy, Pena is an intriguing prospect, possessing a three-pitch arsenal and improving control of the strike zone.  Pena features a mid-90s fastball that can touch 96mph, a hard breaking slider and a promising mid-80s changeup.  There are obvious concerns about his long-term health, and his “herky-jerky” delivery might work better in a relief capacity.  Washington will continue to develop him as a starter, but Pena’s future might ultimately be in a relief capacity.

#17        Joan Adon RHP

Yet another impressive international free agent signee from the July 2016 class, Adon is a wiry 6’2” 185lbs blessed with a lightning-fast arm.  The 20-year-old Adon has easy mid-90s fastball velocity, along with a nasty mid-80s slider.  He is inconsistent repeating his mechanics and his arm slot, causing him to struggle with below-average present command.  Adon is extremely risky as a prospect, but has 7th or 8th inning reliever upside if everything comes together.

#18        Raudy Read Catcher

Signed by Washington as an 2011 international free agent, Read spent most of 2018 on the restricted list after testing positive for PEDs last winter.  Defensively Read has a strong arm and does well controlling opposing base stealers, but struggles blocking and framing errant pitches.  The right-handed hitting Read struggles making consistent contact, yet flashes plus raw power and punishes fastballs on the inner-third.  The loss of the majority of 2018 is a major detriment to his development, but the 25-year-old Read still projects as an offensive-first backup major league catcher.

#19       Jose Sanchez SS

Washington signed Sanchez for $950,000 in July 2016 as an international free agent based on his strong arm, excellent speed and defensive wizardry at shortstop.  Unfortunately his bat lags behind his defense, as he hit only .209/.280/.247 in 2017 and followed it up by hitting .230/.309/.282 at Auburn last summer.  Scouts like the 18-year-old Sanchez’s compact swing and feel for the barrel, but at 5’11” 155lbs, he must add strength to take the next step offensively. He has a long-term ceiling as a defensive-oriented major league shortstop, but the development risk is extreme.

#20        Gage Canning OF

Canning was Washington’s 5th round pick last June after a sterling three-year career at Arizona State.  Listed at 5’10” 175lbs, the 21-year-old Canning is a wiry athlete blessed with easy plus speed and excellent baseball instincts.  Defensively Canning split time in both center and right field in college, but profiles best in center due to his terrific speed and solid-average arm.  At the plate, the left-handed hitter has a line drive approach and some raw pull power, but he does rack up strikeouts more often than a non-power hitter should.  Canning’s defensive skills should allow him to carve out a role as a major league backup, and if he reaches his ceiling, perhaps he becomes a below-average starting center fielder. 

Full Scouting Report ->

Please return Friday when we rank prospect #21-#30 in Washington’s system. Thanks for reading!

THE Washington Nationals Top Prospect List, #1-#10

After many years of having one of the strongest farm systems in baseball, consisting of both high-end talent and prospect depth, the Nationals now find themselves at their weakest point in the eight years I have done this project.  Washington has been hindered by consistently having one of the smaller bonus pools to sign draft picks and international players, plus the front office has aggressively traded prospects to bolster the big league roster.  In addition, the team has seen their prospect depth depleted due to the graduation of Juan Soto and others to the major leagues. 

In an attempt to replenish the pipeline, Washington has focused on drafting college pitchers in the past three drafts, and used their midseason “fire sale” to add several intriguing relief arms.  The Nationals do have a few high-end prospects, but the system gets extremely lean outside the top-10 names, and likely ranks as one of the weakest in baseball.

This week I will rank the Top-30 prospects presently in the Nationals’ organization, beginning today with players’ #1-#10.  My list prioritizes a player’s overall ceiling, their likelihood of reaching this potential, their positional value, and finally, their distance from the major leagues.  Without further delay, these are my selections for Washington’s Top-10 prospects.

#1           Victor Robles CF

Entering 2018 Robles was considered the top outfield prospect in baseball and perhaps the top prospect in the minor leagues.  Unfortunately Robles dislocated his elbow in early April, and missed most of 2018 recovering from the injury.

When healthy, the 21-year-old Robles possesses true 5-tool talent, including easy plus speed and a plus arm, allowing him to easily profile as a plus defensive center fielder.  At the plate the right-handed hitting Robles has lightning fast wrists, outstanding bat speed and a natural feel for the barrel.  Due to his age and time missed on account of injuries, Robles still lacks some polish to his overall game.  However, he is an elite talent and should be the starting centerfielder for the Nationals the next half decade. 

#2           Carter Kieboom SS / 2B

Washington’s 1st round pick in 2016, Kieboom had a tremendous 2018, batting .280/.357/.444 with 16 home runs and 48 extra base hits across two levels. Kieboom has above-average speed, quality instincts and solid-average arm strength, giving his supporters hope he can remain at shortstop long-term.  If not, he should be an above-average defender at either the hot corner or the keystone.

Offensively Kieboom is a right-handed hitter with excellent bat speed and a knack for making hard contact.  Only 21-years-old, Kieboom could benefit from some additional minor league seasoning to refine his approach at the plate and polish his overall game.  Kieboom should start 2019 in the minors, and figures to be a key part of Washington’s infield beginning in 2020.

#3           Luis Garcia SS / 2B

Washington signed Garcia for a $1.3 million bonus as an international free agent in July 2016, and he has done nothing but hit since turning professional.  Garcia batted .302/.330/.387 in the GCL in 2017, and hit .298/.336/.406 as an 18-year-old across both levels of A-ball in 2018.  He has a simple left-handed swing with a knack for smacking line drives all over the field, along with some emerging home run power.  Garcia has above-average speed and an average or better arm, allowing him to profile well in the middle infield.  If he can stay at shortstop, he has All-Star type potential.

Full Scouting Report ->

#4           Mason Denaburg RHP

Washington’s 1st round selection last June, Denaburg is an extremely athletic 6’3” 200lbs and was a 2-sport athlete in high school, also earning all-state honors as a punter.  He missed time last spring due to bicep tendonitis, causing him to slide to the late 1st round.  He returned to the mound during instructs this fall and is expected to be fully healthy for 2019.

Denaburg possesses an intriguing 3-pitch arsenal, featuring a 92-95mph sinking fastball, a late-biting curveball and a developing changeup.  He has some excess movement in his delivery, and is raw even for a high school starting pitcher.  The risk is elevated, but Denaburg has mid-rotation starter potential down the road. 

#5           Wil Crowe RHP

Washington’s 2nd round pick in 2016, Crowe is a powerfully built righty blessed with a 4-pitch repertoire.  Crowe features a low-90s fastball with heavy sink, a quality slider with good tilt, along with a low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball.  Crowe performed well at High-A in 2018, producing a 2.60 ERA and 78 strikeouts over 87 innings, before struggling in a late-season cameo at Double-A.  The 24-year-old should begin 2019 at Double-A, and profiles as a durable, back-of-the-rotation starter.

Full Scouting Report ->

#6           Yasel Antuna SS / 3B

Washington signed Antuna for a massive $3.9 million bonus as an international free agent in July 2016, and he immediately made his presence known, batting .301/.382/.399 as a 17-year-old in the GCL.  Unfortunately 2018 was not as successful as Antuna struggled with the jump to Low-A, hitting .220/.293/.331 over 87 games before Tommy John surgery prematurely ended his season.  Offensively the switch-hitting Antuna looks more comfortable batting left-handed but flashes some impressive power from the right side.  Scouts believe he will develop additional home run power as he matures.

Defensively Antuna has average to above-average speed, soft hands and a strong throwing arm, allowing him to profile as a shortstop.  Unfortunately, his side-arm throwing motion and poor footwork causes him to generate many unforced errors and could force a future move off the position.  Antuna is extremely raw and very risky, but the potential exists for Antuna to develop into a quality 2-way infielder in a few years.

Full Scouting Report ->

#7           Tim Cate LHP

Tim Cate was Washington’s 2nd round selection last June after a stellar career at the University of Connecticut.  A wiry 6’0” 170lbs lefty, Cate owns a strong three pitch repertoire, highlighted by a low-90s fastball, a true swing-and-miss plus curveball and a solid changeup.  He underwent Tommy John surgery in high school and missed time last spring with an injury, causing him to slide into Round 2.  There are concerns due to his size and injury history that Cate will eventually move to the bullpen, but Washington will develop him as a starter in hopes he reaches his ceiling as a back-end starter.

#8           Jackson Tetreault RHP

Washington drafted Tetreault in the 7th round of the 2017 Draft and signed him for an over-slot bonus of $300,000.  Tetreault is a wiry 6’5” 170lbs righty with long limbs and a skinny lower half.  He possesses a 4-pitch repertoire, highlighted by a low-90s fastball with good sink and a nasty upper-80s cutter.  Tetreault is quite raw and needs plenty of minor league development time, but the 22-year-old has a projectable frame and should add velocity as his body matures.  There is plenty of risk, but Tetreault has a ceiling as a #4/#5 starting pitcher.  He is my favorite “sleeper” in the Nationals’ system.

Full Scouting Report ->

#9           Israel Pineda Catcher

Pineda was signed by Washington as an international free agent in July 2016 from Venezuela for a reported $450,000 bonus.  2018 was a breakout season for Pineda, as he hit .273/.341/.388 with four home runs as an 18-year-old in the New York Penn League, along with earning an All-Star selection.  Offensively the right-handed hitting Pineda is advanced at the plate, showing a mature approach and the ability to use the entire field.  Behind the plate Pineda has a strong arm and soft hands: he needs additional experience but possesses the tools to be an above-average defensive catcher.  There are concerns he is physically maxed out already at 5’11” 190lbs and catchers are notoriously difficult to develop, but Pineda has the ceiling as a starter in the major leagues.

#10        Seth Romero LHP

Washington’s 1st Round pick in 2017, Romero was a projected top-10 talent who slid due to a series of off-field indiscretions while in college.  Romero has done nothing to change his reputation as a “knucklehead” since turning professional, as he was sent home from spring training for breaking team rules and did not pitch until June.  Once he returned to the mound, both his stuff and results were maddeningly inconsistent, and Romero was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery late in the season.

At his best Romero features a strong 3-pitch repertoire, consisting of a 92-95mph fastball, a devastating slider and a nasty changeup.  Listed at 6’3” 240lbs, there have long been concerns about his conditioning and how his body would age.  Romero is easily the riskiest prospect in the system, with the largest variance in future value, as he could still develop into a #4 or #5 starter, or he could never throw another professional pitch. 

Thanks for reading! We will return Wednesday with #11-#20 and Friday we complete this exercise with #21-30.

Dozier to DC – Washington Signs Brian Dozier

Continuing their frenetic offseason, Thursday the Washington Nationals agreed to terms on a 1-year $9 million contract with free agent 2B Brian Dozier, pending a physical.  According to reports, $2 million of his salary will be deferred into the future, helping Washington with their luxury tax ramifications.

The 31-year-old Dozier split time in 2018 between Minnesota and Los Angeles, batting .215/.305/.391 with 21 home runs and 12 stolen bases over 151 games played.  While he did not spend time on the disabled list, Dozier acknowledged he played through a right knee injury much of the season, which could explain the subpar statistical season.  Dozier batted .230/.314/.423 in the first half of the year and only .187/.289/.326 in the second, highlighted by a pathetic .087/.189/.217 in September: this lends further credence to the injury affecting his performance. In the previous four seasons, Dozier hit .254/.338/.476 with 127 home runs, 278 extra base hits and 67 stolen bases.  A right-handed hitter, Dozier is a career .246/.324/.444 hitter and adds another potent bat to Washington’s projected lineup.

In the field Dozier won a Gold Glove in 2017 and has earned the reputation as a reliable, above-average defender at the keystone.  He has good speed, athleticism and instincts, giving him solid range in both directions.  Dozier also flashes above-average arm strength, bolstering his range and allowing him to make the throw from deep right field or behind second base.  His advancing age and history of minor injuries likely make him an average defender at this stage of his career. 

Dozier and Washington has seemed like a natural fit from the beginning of the offseason.  Dozier was expected to seek a one-year deal in order to rebuild his value and revisit free agency next winter in a stronger bargaining position.  Conversely, this signing allows Howie Kendrick not to rush back from his Achilles injury, and provides Washington a significant upgrade over Wilmer Difo.  In addition, Dozier’s presence lets Nationals’ top prospect Carter Kieboom receive additional minor league seasoning and could delay his arbitration another season.

Overall this feels like a quality gamble for the Nationals.  Dozier has every incentive to produce a monster season in order to get paid next winter, while Washington acquires a motivated veteran one year removed from a .271/.359/.498 batting line and 34 home runs.  Assuming his underwhelming season was due to injury rather than age-related decline, Washington just added one of the best second baseman in baseball, with a chip on his shoulder.  The $9 million salary outlay and potential that “father time” has caught up to him is risky, but the reward of potentially adding an impact player at their weakest position makes this a shrewd gamble for Washington.

NatsGM Overall Grade  ->           B