Another week of minor league baseball is in the books. Here are some players making headlines inside the Washington Nationals’ organization. [Read more...]
Another week of minor league baseball is in the books. Here are players around the Washington Nationals’ organization that are making headlines. For this week, we’ll go over players that participated in All-Star Games, among others. [Read more...]
Another week of minor league baseball is in the books. Here is a look around the Washington Nationals’ farm system at some players making headlines. [Read more...]
As another week of minor league baseball comes to an end, here are some players in the Washington Nationals’ system that are making headlines. [Read more...]
Syracuse Chiefs, AAA International League, 19-17
Brian Goodwin: The last time we checked in with Goodwin, his season wasn’t starting off as well as he might have hoped. Recently, however, he’s turned things around. He’s picked up seven hits in his last 10 games including a 2-for-4 effort on Sunday afternoon. In the same stretch, he’s 2-for-2 on stolen base attempts. It’s his first season at triple-A and it looks as though he’s getting used to things in Syracuse.
Michael Gonzalez: Formerly of the Nationals’ bullpen, Gonzalez has pitched well in five appearances out of the Chiefs’ bullpen. In 5.2 innings of work, he’s given up just three hits while striking out six and, most importantly, has yet to give a run.
Johnatan Solano: The former backup catcher for the Nationals, Solano is tearing it up at triple-A this year. He leads the team in average (.298) and homers (5). He’s picked up at least one hit in eight of the team’s last 10 games including two homers. On the year, he’s knocked in 19 RBI.
Harrisburg Senators, AA Eastern League, 11-23
Destin Hood: Hood began the year at Triple-A, but was moved down to Harrisburg after just 11 games. In 19 games with the Senators, he’s thrived. He’s averaging .329 with a double, homer and 5 RBI in Double-A ball. In his last 10 games, he’s got 10 hits including a 3-for-4 night on May 8. On the base paths, he’s a perfect 6-for-6 on stolen base attempts.
Matt Grace: Left-handed reliever Matt Grace has proven to be a solid arm out of the bullpen for the Senators. In 19.1 innings of work spanning 11 appearances, Grace has given up 17 hits and 5 runs (3 earned) all while striking out 17. The Nationals were hurting for left-handers in their big league bullpen, but they’ve got several good ones, like Grace, coming through the system.
Matt Skole: It’s been a couple weeks since we checked in with one of the brightest young stars in the Nationals’ system, but things haven’t gotten much better for Skole as the year’s progressed. He’s shown some spark at times, but his average still hovers at .189 and he hit his first homer of the season on Saturday. This is Skole’s first full year at Double-A, so hopefully he still working through some growing pains.
Potomac Nationals, High-Class A Carolina League, 19-14
Ronald Pena: Starting right-hander Ronald Pena is a pitcher on the rebound for the single-A P-Nats. After giving up 13 runs combined in his first three starts, he’s settled in as of late. In his most recent start on May 7, he lasted a season-long six innings and gave up just two runs on four hits. While Potomac lost the game, it’s encouraging to see some life in Pena’s stuff on the mound.
Brandon Miller: Statistically, it’s been an odd start to the month of May for outfielder Brandon Miller. While he’s batting just .146, he’s got a hit in six of the team’s 10 games this month. While he hasn’t gotten multiple hits in a game, his one hit is usually a productive swing. This month, Miller has hit a double, three homers and has eight RBI.
Cole Leonida: Catcher Cole Leonida is having a solid season. Averaging a start every 3-5 days, he’s making his moments in the spotlight count. In 12 games this year, Leonida is batting .270 with six doubles, two homers and five RBI. His OPS of .995 leads the team, as well.
Hagerstown Suns, Low-Class A South Atlantic League, 27-8
Lucas Giolito: Giolito has made the report before, but his most recent start on Sunday afternoon has earned him the right to be mentioned. In his seventh start of the season, Giolito threw six scoreless innings of a game that went just seven innings due to it being part of a double-header. In the start, he gave up just one hit, one walk and struck out seven. His ERA drops to 2.51, his opponents batting average drops to .186 and he’s now struck out 36 batters this season.
Craig Manuel: Catcher Craig Manuel is averaging a start every 3-4 days for the Suns and is doing well when he gets his opportunities. His average is hovering at .300 and has picked up a hit in all but one of his last 10 games. Currently, he’s on a five-game hitting streak after hitting a double on Sunday evening.
Jake Walsh: Closer Jake Walsh has been a reliable pitcher out of the bullpen for Hagerstown. In 15 innings spanning 10 games, he’s given up just three runs (two in one game) and seven hits. On top of that, he’s also struck out 16 batters. After pitching two scoreless innings on Sunday evening, the left-hander has dropped his season ERA to 1.80.
Syracuse Chiefs, AAA International League, 10-13
Brian Goodwin: In the Chiefs past 10 games, Goodwin has batted just .216. One of the fastest men in the clubs’ system, he’s stolen just two bags all season long. In the past 10 games, the 23-year old has 5 RBI, a triple and two doubles. This is his first season at triple-A, so it may take some time to adjust to the elevated level of play.
Ryan Mattheus: Once an important member of the Nationals’ bullpen, the right-handed Mattheus is off to a rough start in Syracuse. Through nine outings, he’s amassed a 5.40 ERA and opponents are hitting .275 against him.
Jhonatan Solano: If not for Sandy Leon, Solano would be the backup behind home plate. In triple-A, his season is off to a solid start. Through 54 at-bats spanning 15 games, Solano is hitting .333 with a .537 slugging percentage. He’s hit five doubles, two homers and 11 RBI.
Harrisburg Senators, AA Eastern League, 5-16
Destin Hood: In his second full season with the Senators, the outfielder leads the team with a .329 batting average. In the past 10 games, he’s collected at least one hit in six of them. On the season, Hood has stolen six bases, scored nine runs and has collected 5 RBI.
Matt Skole: Possibly the most powerful bat in the Nationals’ farm system, Skole is off to a rather slow start. In 74 at bats, he’s hitting .149 with a slugging percentage of .189. He has hit three doubles and 6 RBI, but is still waiting on his first long ball. Last year, an early season injury saw his season cut short; so it’s important to stay patient with him as he returns to action.
A.J. Cole: One of the brightest young arms in the system, Cole got off to good start, but has hit some tough times in recent outings. He started off 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA, but went 0-1 in his next two games and gave up 17 hits and five runs collectively.
Potomac Nationals, High-Class A Carolina League, 14-8
Tony Renda: Before a quad injury sent him to the disabled list on April 11, second baseman Tony Renda got off to quite a start for Potomac. He put together a slash line of .375/.400/.438 with two doubles and eight RBI. On the base paths, he found success stealing three bags and scoring eight runs.
Bryan Harper: Bryce’s older brother, Bryan Harper has been pitching well out of the bullpen for Potomac. In 9.1 innings of relief work, Harper has given up just one earned run while striking out seven. The left-hander has been rather versatile as he’s been a solid option for 1-2 innings of work.
Brian Dupra: Another young arm available out of the bullpen, right-hander Brian Dupra has been just as solid as Harper. Over 17 innings of long-relief spanning five games, he’s allowed just one run across the plate and opponents are batting just .177 against him. He’s struck out 23 while walking just one.
Hagerstown Suns, Low-Class A South Atlantic League, 18-5
Wilmer Difo: Difo has spent time bouncing around the lower ranks of the Nationals’ farm system, but he’s beginning to bear the fruits of that hard work. In 22 games this season with the Suns, he’s batting .313 with eight doubles, two triples and 17 RBI. On top of that, he’s stolen nine bases and has at least three hits in three of his last five games.
Lucas Giolito: The Nationals’ first round pick in 2012, Lucas Giolito is off to a solid start in his first full season of action (last year he missed due to Tommy John Surgery). In five starts, he’s 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA. He’s struck out 24 batters and opponents are hitting just .192 against him.
Drew Ward: Difo’s biggest competition for most valuable player through the early part of the season, Drew Ward is off to just as good a start, if not better. Through 61 at bats, Ward is batting .311 with a slugging percentage of .508. The third baseman has hit four doubles, a triple, two homers and 21 RBI. He’s currently on an eight game hitting streak, as well.
HAPPY OPENING DAY!
For the past several seasons, the DC Chapter of the Internet Baseball Writers Association (DC-IBWA) has conducted a preseason survey, asking questions to key Washington Nationals issues and seeking predictions for season statistical leaders. You can find this year’s results here. Below is how our staff answered the tough questions.
1) Who will lead the Nats in home runs?
DAVE NICHOLS (Editor-in-Chief): Bryce Harper. Hopefully Harper stays healthy, lays off the breaking stuff, and is passable against lefties.
RYAN KELLEY (Prospects and scouting): Harper’s left-handed power is the best on a team with plenty of pop. In his early 20′s he’s put together a career .209 ISO during his first two MLB seasons, and there’s plenty more power to come. He also showed up to spring training with more muscle in his frame. If he stays healthy he could hit 30+ bombs, and even 40 wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to predict.
STUART WALLACE (Statistical analysis): Bryce Harper.
CHRIS GAROSI (Fantasy): Harper. A full healthy season sees him approach 30 homers.
ALYSSA WOLICE (Beat writer): It’s no secret that last season Jayson Werth edged Bryce Harper for D.C.’s home run crown with 25 total home runs. But the sophomore battled injuries for the greater portion of the year. And, his new stature makes evident the fact he’s had a productive offseason. Critics – or, pessimists, rather – say Harper’s weight gain could adversely affect his swing. But, I’m not buying it. If he can remain healthy, Harper will certainly lead the Nats in home runs – and, perhaps, he’ll even make a run for the 40-mark.
RK: Drew Ward. I really like Ward, and see him as a solid bet to be a Hank Blalock-type third baseman, and even if he moves to the outfield, his bat is good enough to be a slugging right fielder with plus on-base percentages like Geoff Jenkins or even J.D. Drew. But there’s considerable risk here, and his background is a throwback to when farm boys used to populate minor league circuits playing on hay-covered dust.
RK: Giolio’s age, recent recovery from elbow surgery and ceiling means he has no chance this year. Purke’s injury-laden resume and struggles this spring make him a long shot, even despite his contract, notoriety and left-handedness. So, that leaves Cole and Solis. Cole has more upside, with a premium heater, plus fastball command and nice athleticism, and he’s very polished for his age. He’s one of the top 10 right-handed pitching prospects in baseball in my opinion. Solis is older, craftier and more MLB-ready. He’s also left-handed, a skill that puts him right behind Jerry Blevins and Ross Detwiler on the team’s depth chart. So, either one of these guys.
RK: 95 wins, 1st place. Matt Williams’ managerial resume is pretty light, so he’s a bit of a wildcard no matter what kind of player he was. With that said, I think the Nationals are the MLB’s best bet for first place.
RK: Wilson Ramos and the team’s catching. Ramos has shown All-Star-level ability, with outstanding power for a catcher, a strong arm and the ability to keep the ball in front of him. Injuries have been his downfall, and it’s what forced Davey Johnson to give a rundown and weak-swinging Kurt Suzuki so many starts over the previous two years. In Ramos’ absence, Suzuki proved not only to hurt the team with his poor pitch-framing, but he didn’t make opposing base-stealers hesitate before going for second base–not one bit–and his 70 wRC+ during his time in Washington means he was horrific with the bat.
In this series, District Sports Page has provide detailed scouting reports on our list of Top 25 Washington Nationals prospects. You can find our overview with the entire list here. We will now move into even further detailed reports for our Top 10.
And so far in the Top 10:
Now without further ado, here is prospect No. 1, pitcher Lucas Giolito.
1. Lucas Giolito, RHP
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 6″, Weight: 230 lb.
Born: July 14, 1994 (19)
Draft: 1st Round 2012 (16th overall)
|Fastball Velocity||Fastball Movement||Fastball Command||Curveball||Change||Off Speed Command||Delivery||Overall Future Potential|
|70/80||50/55||50/60||60/70||40/50||40/50||Very Good||Franchise Player|
Selected with the 16th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Giolito was seemingly the class’s top pitcher but fell due to concerns over his arm health. Incredibly, he slid down the board to the Nationals. His bonus demands were an added obstacle, exacerbated by his commitment to pitch for UCLA and the MLB’s newly unveiled slotting system. So it’s a testament to his talent that the Nats not only didn’t let him slip past them, but they structured the rest of their draft spending around signing him.
The Nationals inked Giolito to a lucrative deal and had him test his arm out at the end of the summer before sending him under the knife to repair his torn elbow ligament. He recovered swiftly, even on a very measured timetable, and was able to pitch in the instructional league at the end of 2014 just after his 19th birthday. And already, as we prepare for the 2014 season, the front office’s decision to draft him appears to be a very wise one. Giolito has the kind of ability to make it one of history’s most glaring draft steals.
Standing at 6’6″ with a stone-solid 230-pound physique, Giolito’s long levers and balanced, well-developed musculature are the ideal build for a power pitcher. He’s an athlete. His balance and body control are outstanding, particularly for his size, and he’s able to generate mid 90′s velocity consistently without maxing his effort out. His long levers, and great arm extension on his release help him add nasty spin out of his 3/4 arm slot — resulting in tremendous movement on his pitches. He’s adept at cutting his fastball in on the hands of right-handers, pounding them inside, and he gets nasty movement in the low 90′s. His powerful mid 80′s curve has hard two-plane break, and it comes out of his fastball tunnel before darting down and away. It’s a potential plus-plus killer in the MLB, though he largely holstered the pitch in his GCL starts last summer.
Instead of his curve last summer, the Nationals had Giolito pitching almost solely with his fastball and mixing in some changeups when he went off-speed. His mid 80′s change was an after-thought in high school, but is looking pretty darn good lately. It has nice velocity separation and deceptive fade, dying to his arm side. It’s quickly become his go-to off-speed pitch after returning from surgery, though he needs to do a much better job 0f selling it with a complete follow-through.
Giolito has superb command compared to any young pitcher, much less one with his kind of stuff. Despite only short stints on the professional mound over the last two years, he already brings MLB-average control with him into games, flashing plus command of both his fastball and off-speed pitches at his peak.
Mechanically, he displays great balance in his delivery, and draws power from his core. He pitches downhill, and does a great job of staying on top of the ball. His stride has great extension but isn’t too long, and his landing spot is consistent. The only knock is minor, and it’s on his arm action. His timing is generally good, though he does show a few bad habits in the back-end of his delivery. He wraps the ball, adding extra length to his shoulder rotation, and his front elbow can get a little bit high. Overall though, his mechanics are very solid.
Giolito looked strong in his return form elbow surgery last summer, sitting in the 92-94 mph range with his fastball and showcasing nice command. He hit 100 mph in high school when trying to impress scouts, and has lived above 90 since he was barely old enough to drive. Judging by his size, and the radar readings he can register when he’s loose and maxing out, it’s safe to bet that he’ll be clocking consistently in the mid-to-high 90′s consistently in a few years. He’s the perfect combination of swing-and-miss stuff, mound intelligence and plus command. He’ll be a high FIP pitcher, and his incredible movement and ability to make pitches will continue to keep balls in play on the ground. The overall profile matches any pitching prospect in baseball and should make him a top-quality MLB starter, possibly a dominant John Smoltz-type if he can stay healthy.
Giolito has the opportunity to make a leap forward with a full-season debut in 2014, though the Nationals front office will make sure to keep the reigns on him for the next couple of seasons. If he can stay healthy and grow at even a modest pace, he’ll be a special pitcher in just a few years.
For the Washington Nationals, the flip-side of a decade-long losing streak is their extraordinarily talented, affordable roster. Their poor records came at the perfect time, just as baseball scouting was expanding and implementing new analytics methods to assess performance, and the big league draft was still unfettered by a hard-slotting system. As a result, their savvy front office accumulated a bevy of high draft picks and used them to rake in a gluttonous share of the baseball’s best athletes.
The Nationals were able to heist the franchise talents of Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Lucas Giolito, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman, along with a bounty of other blue-chip prospects. The injection of young, affordable star-power led them to put together the franchise’s best stretch over the past three years, and they managed to snap a 31-year playoff drought in 2012.
Despite a step back in Major League production in 2013, the Nationals are still looking stronger than ever heading into the 2014 season. Healthy and more polished versions of Strasburg and Harper lead a stacked 25-man roster that is looking almost unbeatable following the addition of Doug Fister and the maturation of Anthony Rendon.
The franchise’s farm system isn’t what it was a couple of years ago. Naturally, promoting so many stud prospects to the Major Leagues and competing with homegrown talent comes with a price. Over the past few seasons, the club’s farm system has graduated starting pitchers Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark, gifted relievers like Storen, Stammen and Ian Krol (now with the Tigers), as well as a long list of position players that includes Harper, Zimmerman, Rendon, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos and Derek Norris (with the Athletics). Two thirds of their projected opening day roster is comprised of homegrown players, or former prospects that spent their final seasons in the Nationals farm system.
Additionally, the cost of winning has dropped the club’s annual draft slot to the back of the line, and has forced the front office to play for the short term. They’ve traded away blue-chip prospects like Alex Meyer, Derek Norris and Robert Ray for short-run contributions, and have also parted ways with sure-fire contributors like Nate Karns, Tommy Milone, David Freitas and Steve Lombardozzi.
So, the Nationals don’t have the prospect starpower they normally do. A couple of years ago, they had the best system in the minors. Now, though they’re still strong, they’ve faded to the middle of the pack.
The Nationals savvy amateur scouting, particularly out West, has helped Mike Rizzo maintain a competitive farm system in spite of the organizations determination to put a winning roster on the field annually.
The farm system lacks balance. It doesn’t have a stand-out prospect at the upper levels at the moment, and the losses of Nate Karns, Alex Meyer and Robbie Ray have depleted a lot of their pitching depth. Their lack of left-handedness was also exacerbated by the Doug Fister trade, which sent the extremely underrated Robbie Ray to Detroit along with Ian Krol–who’s poised to be an elite-level left-handed setup man. To get a southpaw in the bullpen finally — a void that killed their bullpen effectiveness last year as opposing managers were able to stack their lineups with lefty sluggers — the front office had to deal Billy Burns to Oakland for Jerry Blevins. While Burns isn’t a star, the little speedster looks like a superb fourth outfielder and pinch runner.
On the bright side, the lower levels of the system do sport many of the game’s most gifted athletes. 2013 first-round pick Lucas Giolito, now recovered from Tommy John surgery, is an elite-level arm when healthy, and has the stuff, intangibles and command to be an ace in a few years. Brian Goodwin, Harrisburg’s center fielder in 2013, has gotten stuck in double-A over the past two years after rising quickly through single-A ball. Though Goodwin’s five-tool profile pretty much makes him a sure bet to be a valuable player in the MLB.
The Nats didn’t have a first-round pick last June, but still made the most of their resources by grabbing a pair of high-ceiling stars from cowboy country. Former Dallas Baptist right-hander Jake Johansen largely flew under the radar in college, but his mid 90′s fastball and NFL tight end frame bless him with intriguing upside. And farmboy Drew Ward, taken in the third round last year, profiles as a left-handed version of Nolan Arenado.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll post detailed scouting reports on the players that made District Sports Page’s list of Top 25 Prospects in the Nationals organization. Below, though, are the names of the Nats’ top prospects to watch this season.
Top 25 Prospects
14. Austin Voth, RHP
3. AJ Cole, RHP
16. Tony Renda, 2B
19. Sandy Leon, C
21. Cody Gunter, 3B
10. Eury Perez, OF
11. Matt Skole, 3B
12. Matt Purke, LHP
Honorable Mention: Dixon Anderson, Aaron Barrett, Cutter Dykstra, Randy Encarnacion, David Napoli, Travis Ott, Raudy Read, Danny Rosenbaum, Hector Silvestre, Maximo Valerio
Ryan Kelley is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He’s a web application developer by day and an aspiring sports journalist living in the D.C. area. He has lived in Washington since graduating from The George Washington University and has past experience working within Minor League Baseball and for Team USA. He is founder of BaseballNewsHound.com, and specializes in scouting prospects playing in leagues on the East Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic region. A life-long ballplayer himself, he enjoys hitting home runs with his writing and scouting reports. You can follow him on Twitter @BBNewsHound and @Ryan_S_Kelley.