Building off yesterday’s article where I ranked the Nationals’ top prospects #1 – #10, today I rank #11 – #20 in Washington’s farm system.
#20 Joan Baez RHP
Another signing from the Dominican Republic in April 2014, Baez has steadily been gaining helium as a prospect due to his lightning-fast arm and potential as a late-inning reliever. The 22-year-old righty has a mid-to-upper-90s fastball with natural cutting action, along with a upper-70s breaking ball and firm mid-80s changeup. Baez struggles repeating his delivery and maintaining his arm slot, which when combined with a lack of a true changeup portends a future as a reliever. However, Baez could have a legit “65” fastball and potential “50/55” breaking ball, giving him a chance to develop into an asset working in the 7th or 8th inning.
#19 Anderson Franco 3B
Acquired from the Dominican Republic in 2013 for $900,000, the 19-year-old Franco possesses excellent bat speed from the right-side, which along with his muscular 6-3 190lbs. frame, allows him to project for future above-average or more raw power. His swing is extremely long like many teenage hitters, which he will need to shorten to improve his contact rate in the future. Franco has only played 138 games since signing due to injuries, so he has lost plenty of development time, but there is the potential he can become a “45/40” hitter with “50+” raw power. Defensively Franco has a cannon-like arm and soft hands, along with some reasonable athleticism, allowing him to profile at third base.
There is plenty of risk involved with Franco due to questions if he will hit, but the potential is there for a starting third basemen in the future if everything comes together for him. He should see time at Low-A Hagerstown this summer and is a possible breakout candidate in 2017.
#18 Nick Banks OF
After a magnificent sophomore season at Texas A&M, Banks struggled through a bad case of Draft-itis last year which caused his draft stock to plummet to Washington in Round 4. Defensively Banks profiles well in right field, as he possesses average or better speed, a powerful arm and good instincts. At the plate Banks’s swing can get long, which causes him to get pull-happy and whiff-prone. When at his best, Banks sprays line drives all over the outfield, and will occasionally punish the baseball to the pull side. There is plenty of risk involved with Banks, but his subpar junior season could have allowed the Nationals to find a bargain in a potential everyday corner outfielder.
#17 Rafael Bautista OF
Bautista was signed from the Dominican Republic as a free agent in 2012, and has steadily risen through the farm system, reaching Double-A in 2016 as a 23-year-old. In the box Bautista shows good bat-to-ball skills from the right-side, along with plenty of bat speed and a solid approach at the plate. He understands his role as a leadoff hitter, to make contact, get on-base and use his speed to disrupt the opposition on the base paths. His offensive ceiling is limited due to his lack of power, as he projects to hit fewer than 5 home runs per season. He profiles as a possible “50+” hit, “20/30” power batter in the majors.
Defensively Bautista is outstanding in center field due to his plus or plus-plus speed, excellent instincts and solid-average arm. He needs additional game experience but Bautista projects as a “60” defender in center, who is also capable of playing both corner positions. Bautista is an interesting prospect due to his potential for four average to above-average tools, but his lack of power makes him profile as a reserve outfielder. He should begin 2017 at Triple-A Syracuse and it would not be surprising to see him earn a September promotion to Washington.
#16 Jakson Reetz Catcher
One of my favorite prospects in the 2014 draft crop, Washington selected Jakson Reetz in the 3rd round from a Nebraska high school. Reetz is a muscular 6-1 195lbs with the body to withstand the rigors of catching every day. He is a quality athlete with a solid-average arm and promising receiving skills, giving him the potential to develop into an above-average defender with experience.
Offensively Reetz scuffled a bit last season at Low-A, hitting .230/.346/.357 with 4 home runs in 88 games played. Reetz has a mature approach at the plate and a keen eye, which allows him to draw a large number of walks. He shows some natural barrel skills and scouts expect Reetz to develop additional power in the future. Only 21-years-old, there is plenty of risk involved with Reetz, but he has the tools and potential to develop into a starting-caliber catcher in a few years.
#15 Pedro Severino Catcher
An international free agent signed from the Dominican Republic for $55,000, the 23-year-old Severino has developed the reputation as one of the top defensive catchers in the minors. He has a plus arm along with a strong release, allowing him to routinely post sub 1.95 second pop times. Severino is a good athlete for a catcher, shows a knack for blocking balls and makes an effort to frame pitches. He can get a bit “loud” behind the plate at times, but he certainly projects as a Role “6” defender.
Severino’s offense significantly lags behind his defense, as he is still quite raw at the plate. He possesses a compact, right-handed swing, decent bat speed and will show pull power during batting practice. His swing does not show any obvious flaws, yet he has always struggled to perform during game action. Severino did show better contact skills last season at Triple-A, but he projects as a “40/35” hitter with “30” power in the majors. His offensive limitations make him profile as a strong backup catcher or the weak-side of a catching platoon, but his defense should keep him in the majors for many years.
#14 A.J. Cole RHP
Drafted by Washington in the 4th round in 2010, Cole was shipped to Oakland as part of the Gio Gonzalez deal, and was then returned a year later as part of the Mike Morse swap. The 25-year-old Cole is a gangly 6-5 195lbs with long limbs and the potential to add weight in the future. Cole owns a 4-pitch arsenal, featuring a low-90s fastball that seems to rise, an above-average changeup with excellent fading movement, along with a fringy slider and curveball.
Cole’s lack of a quality breaking pitch hinders his ability to get strikeouts and finish hitters, keeping his ceiling relatively low. However, his floor is also high due to his quality fastball and changeup, along with his knack for locating his heater. He is a major league quality arm, with the big question being if he pitches as a back-end starter or in middle relief.
#13 Sheldon Neuse 3B
The Nationals selected Neuse in the 2nd round last June, 58th overall, after an uneven career at Oklahoma State. Neuse has above-average bat speed and a short, compact right-handed swing, which allows him to hit for average and barrel line drives. Often however, Neuse’s swing will get long as he tries to sacrifice for power, which causes him to struggle with whiffs. Scouts believe if he can find a balance and improve his approach, he could develop into a “55/50” hitter with “45ish” power.
Defensively Neuse has a cannon for an arm and reasonable speed, allowing him to play a quality shortstop in college but will likely move him to third base in the future. His tools should allow him to play above-average to plus defense at the hot corner. If everything comes together for Neuse, he projects as an above-average defensive third baseman, who hits for average and the occasional home run.
#12 Jesus Luzardo LHP
Luzardo was considered a potential 1st round pick this time last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery last spring. This injury allowed him to fall to Washington in Round 3. Prior to the injury, Luzardo owned a mature 4-pitch repertoire, consisting of a low-90s fastball, an above-average changeup, a slider and a curveball. The Nationals will certainly be patient with his rehabilitation, but expect him to return to the mound sometime this summer. One of my favorite pitchers in this past draft, I believe Washington got a steal in Luzardo.
#11 Tyler Watson LHP
Signed for an above-slot $400,000 bonus in the 34th round in 2015, Tyler Watson spurned a commitment to Loyola Marymount to sign with the Nationals. Watson is a lean, projectable 6-5 200lbs and the Nationals have been slow to develop this 19-year-old, having him throw only 71.1 professional innings the past two years. Currently Watson possesses a solid 3-pitch arsenal, featuring a low-90s fastball with excellent life and projects to add velocity, along with a promising curveball and a developing changeup. He should begin 2017 in Low-A and could soar up prospect rankings this season.