THE 2016 Washington Nationals Top Prospects #20 – #11

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Dear Readers,

I hope you are enjoying NatsGM’s 2016 Washington Nationals Prospect Week. Monday we highlighted five potential breakout players in Washington’s system and yesterday we ranked prospects #30-#21 for the Nationals.

Building off yesterday’s column, here are my picks for the current #20-#11 prospects in the Nationals’ organization. Thanks for reading!

Sincerely,
Ryan

#20 – Spencer Kieboom   Catcher

Washington’s 2012 5th round pick, this 24-year-old catcher is an absolute pleasure to watch defensively. Kieboom owns an above-average to plus arm, a quick release and fancy feet, allowing him to routinely post sub-1.9 pop times to second base. He is a quality receiver and shows a knack for blocking errant pitches, making him an easy plus or “60” defensive catcher.

Kieboom, a right-handed swinger, shows decent raw power in batting practice, in addition to reasonable barrel skills and the ability to draw the occasional walk. He does not strike out much and makes contact, but does not make as much hard contact as one might expect with these skills. Looking through an optimistic lens, perhaps Kieboom becomes a “35 hit / 30-35 power” hitter in the big leagues.

His impressive defensive skills should allow him to reach the majors as a capable backup, but his below-average offensive potential limits his overall ceiling. He should begin the year at Double-A and could reach the majors late in September or next season.

#19 – Christopher Bostick   Second Base / Outfield

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Acquired from Texas last winter for Ross Detwiler, Bostick had a quietly productive season in 2015 across two levels, slugging 40 extra base hits in 530 at-bats. A right-handed hitter, Bostick has quick wrists and surprising power in his 5-11 185lbs frame. He has plenty of swing-and-miss in his game but he makes up for this deficiency with intriguing power production. Still only 22-years-old, if Bostick can harness his whiff rate this season at Double-A, his offensive numbers could explode.

Defensively Bostick’s athleticism and above-average speed do not translate well, as his fringe-average arm and mediocre hands make him a difficult infield profile. He has played some outfield as well, perhaps portending a future as an offensive-first utility player. His speed, power and defensive versatility will allow him to carve out a major league role, with his ability to manage his strikeouts determining his eventual future.

For more about Bostick, please click here -> http://natsgm.com/2015/09/10/evaluating-washington-nationals-prospect-chris-bostick/

#18 – Blake Perkins   Center Field

Washington’s second 2nd round pick, 69th overall last June, Perkins was selected from an Arizona high school with the reputation as an excellent athlete with terrific speed, but raw baseball skills. His speed, coupled with surprisingly good instincts and a good throwing arm make him a surefire future centerfielder. The present risk in his profile lies with his bat, as the 19-year-old has resumed switch-hitting after abandoning it in high school. The early returns were positive according to reports, but Perkins will need significant at-bats in the minors to refine each swing.

Perkins has a high floor as a prospect due to his base running and defensive value. The Nationals are gambling that with experience and physical maturation he can develop into a potential “45-50 hit / 40 power” batter while playing terrific defense up-the-middle. The risk is large but the reward could be substantial if the production ever matches his tools.

#17 Austen Williams   Right-Handed Pitcher

Washington’s 6th round pick in 2014, Williams owns a prototypical 6-3 220lbs pitcher’s frame along with a strong 3-pitch arsenal. Williams features a 90-93mph fastball with some cutting movement away from righties, a high-70s curveball with potential to be an solid-average pitch and an inconsistent, firm mid-80s changeup. His mechanics are not the cleanest and he has excess movement throughout, which provides some deception but causes him to struggle with consistency. Still only 23, there is potential for Williams to become a back-end starter in the future, with the downside being a role in middle relief.

#16 – Edwin Lora   Shortstop

Signed as an international free agent in 2012, the 20-year-old Lora is quietly generating his own prospect buzz as the next top middle infield prospect in the Nationals system. Lora possesses a good arm with a quick release and plus speed, allowing him to profile as a long-term shortstop. Offensively his right-handed swing shows reasonable contact skills and current gap power, giving him the possibility of generating some power as he matures physically. Lora should see time in Low-A this season and is a likely top-10 prospect in the system next year.

#15 – Rhett Wiseman   Outfield

Washington’s 3rd round pick, 103rd overall last June, Wiseman had an impressive 3-year career at Vanderbilt, helping them win the College World Series. The left-handed hitting Wiseman has legitimate bat speed and the ability to draw a walk, yet struggles with strikeouts. If he can trim the whiffs as a professional, he could develop into a “50 hit / 45-50 power” type hitter.

Defensively Wiseman uses his solid-average speed and average arm to play all three outfield positions, though he fits best as a corner outfielder, preferably in left field. Wiseman has a high floor as a prospect with a good chance to reach the majors – his ability to make contact will decide if his role is as a backup or a league-average starter.

#14 – Rafael Bautista Center Field

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Signed from the Dominican in 2012 as an international free agent, Bautista has steadily risen through the farm system before struggling in 2015 with injuries. Defensively Bautista is outstanding in center field due to his plus speed, excellent instincts and solid-average arm. He needs additional game experience but the 22-year-old projects as a future “60” defender.

In the box Bautista’s skills lag behind his defense, though he shows a knack for making contact and the ability to get on-base. Bautista, a right-handed hitter, will pull the rare home run, but knows his role as a leadoff hitter. He focuses on making contact and utilizing his speed to put pressure on the opposition. Bautista is still quite raw and lost quite a bit of development time in 2015, but could become a “45 hit / 30 power” hitter in the future.

A captivating prospect due to his tools, elite speed and defensive potential, Bautista is still quite raw in terms of baseball skills and the loss of development time last year adds risk to this profile. If he can put the injuries behind him, Bautista still has the chance to become a starter in center who hits at the bottom of the order. This season is critical in his development, but the injuries have made Bautista a bit of a sleeper in the Nationals’ organization.

For further information -> http://natsgm.com/2015/09/09/evaluating-potomac-nationals-cf-rafael-bautista/

#13 – Osvaldo Abreu   Shortstop / Second Base

Another under-the-radar signing from the Dominican Republic, the 21-year-old Abreu is beginning to make a name for himself as a quality middle infield prospect. The right-handed hitter had an impressive 2015 at Hagerstown, hitting .274/.357/.412 batting line with 45 extra base hits and 30 stolen bases in 123 games. Abreu has evident plus speed, solid contact skills and some emerging thump in his bat.  With further experience, Abreu projects as a potential “50+ hit / 35 power” hitter.

In the field Abreu shows a solid-average to above-average arm and nimble feet for the position, though he does not have the elite tools most expect from a major league shortstop. Nevertheless he profiles as an average defender at shortstop, but has experience at second base and could project as above-average to plus on the right side of the infield.

#12 – Pedro Severino   Catcher

Another terrific defensive backstop in the Nationals’ system, Severino has earned the reputation as one of the better defensive catchers currently in the minors. He has a plus arm along with a quick release, allowing him to routinely post sub-1.95 second pop times. Severino is an excellent athlete for a catcher and shows the potential to be a quality receiver. He needs some additional repetitions for experience but Severino projects as a “6” defender.

The 22-year-old Severino is still quite raw offensively, possessing some bat speed in his right-handed swing and shows some pull power during batting practice. He also will take a walk, but has struggled to turn these skills into in-game production. His swing does not show any obvious flaws, besides perhaps some length, but Severino does not project better than a “35-40 Hit / “30 Power” hitter.

Signed by the Nationals for $55,000 as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic, Severino is yet another terrific find by the team’s scouting department. He currently profiles as a strong backup catcher or weak-side platoon player, but could develop into a starting caliber player if the bat shows improvement.

For more about Severino, please click here – http://natsgm.com/2015/09/18/scouting-notes-on-washington-nationals-prospect-pedro-severino/

#11 – Andrew Stevenson   Center Field

The Nationals’ top pick last summer after a distinguished career at LSU, the 21-year-old Stevenson possesses excellent speed, quality baseball instincts and a solid-average arm, making him profile as a future stud in center field. Offensively Stevenson has shown excellent barrel skills and solid bat speed, but to say his swing is unconventional would be like saying Carrot Top has a unique look. He uses an awkward arm bar in his swing, which limits his power and could hinder his ability to hit advanced velocity in the future. That said, rumors have had the Nationals working to refine his swing during instructs last fall.

Stevenson has strong value as a prospect due to his defensive profile in center field, plus speed and past contact skills in the SEC. If he can improve his swing, Stevenson projects as a top-of-the-order hitter who can impact the game in all three phases. He should begin the season at High-A Potomac and has a chance to be a top-5 prospect in the system next year.

Please return tomorrow (2/11) as I unveil my picks for #10-#1… Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “THE 2016 Washington Nationals Top Prospects #20 – #11

  1. I’d been meaning to ask if you had any thoughts about the Baseball Prospectus “eyewitness report” on Severino from last year?

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/prospects/eyewitness_bat.php?reportid=266

    I suppose if you boil it down, it’s not substantially different than yours: defense well ahead of offense, questionable whether it’s enough. But the BP report reads like the worst report I think I’ve ever seen from BP, especially with the makeup questions, and a “20” bat is pretty devastating.

    Have you seen any evidence of the makeup issues. Is this BP overstating Severino’s downsides, or what?

    • Hey NatsGuy,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. And that scouting report was written by Tucker Blair, who is a good friend and shrewd evaluator, so I hesitate to question his work.

      I think the “20” on his bat is tough, obviously, but he has not been much of a hitter in his young career, and the thump that occurs in BP has yet to arrive in game action. I think a “20” is tough, but I certainly have MAJOR questions if he will hit.

      As for the makeup issues, I do know what is being referred to in this article. And I have heard knocks from others on his “maturity” before, but I have not witnessed it firsthand. But yes, there are scouts who question his makeup.

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