What do Duck Dynasty, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and Tanner Roark all have in common: Each entered the year with little fanfare and finished 2013 household names. While I will not pretend to be able to select the next rising star in the world of television or music, I will, however, try to identify which Nationals prospect or prospects will emerge in 2014.
After scouring the Nationals minor league system and reviewing my scouting notes, these are four names that fans should be on high-alert for unexpected breakout seasons next year.
Brandon Miller OF
Miller, the Nationals 4th round pick in 2012, hit 20 home runs in 2013, yet stayed relatively anonymous due to his age (he’s 24) and his tendency to swing-and-miss with 164 strikeouts in 505 at-bats in 2013. In addition Miller lost a considerable amount of weight during last summer, sapping much of his power toward the end of the year. A strong defender in right field due to his average speed and massive throwing arm, if Miller can start making more contact, he could be another in the long line of late-blooming corner outfielders for Washington.
Adrian Nieto Catcher
An overslot selection in the 5th round of the 2008 draft, Nieto has matured slowly as he has climbed the organizational ladder, but performed well in 2013 in High-A with a .285/.373/.449 batting line and 11 home runs. Nieto then followed up this season with a quality performance in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .271 and playing solid defense behind the plate. Now 24-years-old, Nieto will face a difficult challenge in his first taste of Double-A pitching in 2014, but he has talent and is slowly starting to turn this talent into production.
Pedro Severino Catcher
A truly superb defensive catcher, the 20-year-old Severino could already be the best defender in the farm system as he has a powerful arm, blocks pitches well in the dirt, and is a quiet receiver behind the plate. Severino spent all of last season in Low-A Hagerstown and held his own offensively, hitting .241/.274/.333. Severino could return to Hagerstown to begin 2014, but should see time in High-A Potomac next season and should be the top catching prospect in the farm system this time next winter.
Austin Voth RHP
The Nationals 5th round pick this past summer, Voth owns a solid three-pitch mix with a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a sharp biting slider, and decent changeup. As a polished college pitcher, Voth should begin next season in Low-A Hagerstown and move to High-A Potomac by midsummer. Scouts question whether Voth will remain a starter as he climbs the professional ladder or if he eventually reverts to the bullpen; either way, Voth looks like a steal in Round 5 and has a chance to move quickly through the minor leagues.
Destin Hood OF, Estarlin Martinez OF, Narciso Mesa OF, Nick Pivetta RHP, and John Simms RHP