Next week kicks off Prospect Week at NatsGM, my annual ranking of the Top-30 Prospects currently in the Washington Nationals organization. While preparing for these articles, it caught my attention that although Washington has traded numerous prospects in the past twelve months, there is still depth in their system. In particular, Washington has drafted several interesting college pitchers in the past two years and developed some intriguing depth at catcher.
Last year I correctly identified Daniel Johnson and Jose Sanchez as sleepers poised for a breakout 2017, so no pressure. While “sleeper” is a rather nebulous term, for the purposes of this article it includes prospects presently ranked outside my top-30 that deserve more hype.
Drafted in the 6th round in 2016 from the University of Texas, Barrera is a quality athlete listed at 6-0 215lbs that plays solid defense behind the plate. He has a strong, accurate arm and shows a strong aptitude at blocking pitches in the dirt. Barrera has soft hands and quietly attempts to frame pitches. He needs experience behind the dish, but he profiles as an above-average to slightly better defensive catcher.
Offensively the 23-year-old Barrera is a right-handed hitter with legitimate raw pull power and a knack for getting on-base. However, there is plenty of swing-and-miss in his approach, which limits his hit tool and overall offensive potential. The whiffs limit his ceiling to a bench player, but a strong defender with power that draws the occasional walk sounds like a nice backup. Barrera should begin 2018 at High-A Potomac and is a prospect not receiving enough attention.
Hill was Washington’s 5th round selection last summer after a strong career at Texas A&M. Hill is somewhat undersized at 6-0 185lbs (likely closer to 5-10 175lbs) but succeeded as a college starter due to his command of a sinking 89-92mph fastball and plus low-80s changeup. Also, he utilizes a curveball primarily as a weapon against righties, but the pitch rates as fringy and needs significant work to reach average.
Hill had a quick 30 inning cameo at Low-A last summer after a lengthy college season, and hitters punished his diminished repertoire. After an offseason to rest and recover, the experienced 22-year-old righty should rebound in Hagerstown to start 2018 and advance quickly through A-ball this season. Hill will work as a starter and has a ceiling as a 5th starter, with the potentially intriguing outcome he becomes a fastball-changeup relief specialist.
Klobosits slipped in this past draft, sliding to the 36th round after serving as Auburn’s closer in the spring. Despite being overlooked on draft day, he exploded as a professional, posting a 1.47 ERA and 34 strikeouts against only 8 walks in 30.2 innings last summer. Klobosits possesses a 93-96mph fastball with quality life, along with an upper-80s slider and split-finger. A monster of a man at 6-7 270lbs, Klobosits is a pure relief prospect that could skyrocket through the farm system next summer. There is risk in his profile, but the reward is a potential future 7th/8th inning reliever – Klobosits was a steal for the Nationals last June.
In addition, Gabe was a recent guest on our Podcast, THE NatsGM Show -> http://natsgm.com/2017/12/12/the-natsgm-show-116-special-guest-gabe-klobosits/