July 31, 2014

Washington Nationals Minor League and Prospect Report for July 20th

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...]

Washington Nationals sign first round pick Erick Fedde

TEAM FAILS TO SIGN SECOND ROUND PICK ANDREW SUAREZ OF U of MIAMI

The Washington Nationals signed first round pick RHP Erick Fedde, just moments before Friday’s 5:00 pm ET deadline, according to multiple reports.

Fedde’s signing bonus is $2,511,100, per Jim Callis.

Fedde, a right-handed starter from UNLV who played on the same high school team as Nats outfielder Bryce Harper, had Tommy John surgery two days before the draft.

The team issued a press release shortly after the deadline.

Suarez, a 21-year-old left-handed starter with a long history of arm problems, will return to the Univeristy of Miami for his senior year, the school announced via Twitter earlier in the afternoon. This marks the second time he’s been drafted without signing a pro contract. Suarez was the 57th overall pick in the draft, and as such, the Nats will receive the 58th pick in the 2015 draft as compensation for failing to sign their draftee.

The Nationals also did not come to terms with ninth round draft pick Austin Byler, a junior first baseman from the University of Nevada.

Washington Nationals Minor League and Prospect Report for Week of July 13th

As most of the organization now breaks for the All-Star festivities, here’s a quick look around the Washington Nationals’ farm system and some players that have performed well this. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Minor League and Prospect Report for Week of July 6th

As another week of minor league baseball is in the books, here are some players in the Washington Nationals’ farm system that are making headlines and All-Star Games. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Minor League and Prospect Report for Week of June 29th

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...]

Washington Nationals Draft Review: Risks Taken on Fedde, Suarez and Reetz Will Pay Off

At it again. Through day-two, the Washington Nationals front office has managed to come away with one of the best draft classes in terms of pick value and overall talent.

After selecting one of the NCAA’s elite pitching talents in UNLV’s Erick Fedde, they grabbed University of Miami southpaw Andrew Suarez  and star Nebraska high school catcher Jakson Reetz.

As they’ve done multiple times in recent years, the Nationals managed to get top talent at bargain prices by gambling on injury and signability. Fedde, their top overall pick and No. 18 overall, was one of the most dominant college pitchers in the Nation this season at UNLV. He posted a 1.76 ERA and struck out 82 batters in 76 innings while allowing only one home run and  21 free passes.

Fedde’s ERA and strikeouts ranked within the top 40 in the nation. And that performance follows two outstanding seasons with the Rebels, a Cape Cod League stint where he went 3-1 with a 2.35 ERA in 30.1 innings and two effective appearances for the 2013 Collegiate National Team over the summer.

[Read more...]

2014 MLB Draft Preview: Top 50 Prospects

The 2014 MLB Draft is coming up. The Astros are set to make the draft’s first pick in Sebaucus New Jersey this Thursday, at 7pm est.

After that the Astros, Marlins, White Sox, Cubs and the Twins will make the next four picks (2-5) and teams will continue selecting players until the night ends with the final pick (number 74 overall) of Competitive Balance Round B. The remainder of the draft will be held over the following two days.

The 2013 draft saw two gifted college right-handed pitchers–Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray–go in the top three picks. Kohl Stewart, an immensely talented righty out of high school, followed the duo only minutes later when he was selected at the number-four slot. The year before that, it seemed like there were enough stud shortstops (Carlos Correa, Addison Russell, Gavin Cecchini, Corey Seager) and centerfielders (Byron Buxton, Albert Almora, David Dahl, Courtney Hawkins) for every team that had a pick in the top 20.

This time around the draft class seems to be remarkably strong in left-handed pitching, from both the college and high school ranks. In fact, this class seems to deeper in high-upside pitching in general, compared to the past couple of years, and much lighter at premium defensive positions like catcher, shortstop and centerfield (at least in players that project to man those positions in the pro’s). There aren’t any Strasburgs or Harpers, but N.C. State southpaw Carlos Rodon has generated buzz on par with the amount that Mark Appel created during his own college career. The big flamethrower even hears comps to future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. So it’s a testament to this groups pitching depth that fellow blue-chip southpaw stars Kyle Freeland, Brady Aiken and Brandon Finnegan have the makings of even better professional pitchers. That’s if they pan out of course.

Despite the many flashy left-handed pitchers, the top draft selection might end up being a righthander out of high school. The Astros hold the first overall choice, and gunslinger Tyler Kolek matches up with their taste and needs perfectly. He’s arguably the top pitching talent, he doesn’t have a lot of mileage on his eighteen-year-old arm, he’s a native Texan that was born and raised on a ranch. He also might have the best fastball in the history of high school baseball. Needless to say, his profile and his Texas pedigree have earned him numerous comparisons to Hall of Fame pitcher and former Houston Astros ace Nolan Ryan. What makes the match even more perfect? Kolek’s favorite player is Nolan Ryan, who is now employed as a special advisor to ownership.

[Read more...]

Nationals Prospects Spotlight: Will Taylor leapfrog Goodwin as “centerfielder of the future”?

The Washington Nationals have long been searching for their perfect center fielder. In the beginning, we saw Brad Wilkerson and a litany of fleet-footed, but contact-challenged, little guys (think Nook Logan, Brandon Watson, Endy Chavez and the rest) come and go. We were told Lastings Milledge was the answer, until we found out he couldn’t see the ball from center until it got above the top of the stadium.

For the past two seasons, Denard Span has been tracking everything down in center, but his questionable on-base skills and ineptitude against left-handed pitching have left much to be desired.

While Span has helmed the spot, the Nats have been, somewhat quietly, bringing up two candidates in the minor leagues that could challenge for that spot in the not-too-distant future. The team has a $9 million option for next season with Span and while it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Nats exercise that option, it would also not be surprising to see Span challenged and eventually bumped out of the spot before that option year was up.

Let’s look at the candidates:

Brian Goodwin: Goodwin was the Nats third pick in the first round of the 2011 MLB amateur draft. The 34th overall pick out of Miami-Dade College, Goodwin, 6’0″, 200 lbs., was a five-tool athlete many envisioned at the top of an MLB batting order. Goodwin possesses an elite eye and exercises terrific plate discipline. He’s a rare minor league hitter that controls his at bats, instead of letting the pitcher dictate.  He has very good speed and good pop, and plays a mean centerfield with great range and a good throwing arm.

The knock on Goodwin thus far in his minor league career is making consistent contact. He owns a .255/.367/.409 slash line in 276 minor league games, but this season at AAA Syracuse, at age 23, he’s hit just .208/.359/.287, with just 10 extra base hits in 223 plate appearances. His elite eye has allowed him to walk 41 times in those appearances and he’s cut down on his K%, but the lack of contact and power this season is disconcerting. Despite his speed, he’s run just six times this year and converted on all but one attempt.

Goodwin has a history of starting slowly once promoted, only to turn it around in the second half, so that will bear watching as this season develops.

Michael Taylor: Taylor was a sixth round pick in the 2009 draft from Westminster Academy in Ft. Lauderdale. He was drafted as a shortstop but was very quickly moved to the outfield after his first season in rookie ball. Taylor was always more of a project than a natural baseball player. Taylor was a gifted multi-sport athlete in high school and the Nats worked hard with him in the low minors to transition him to the outfield. Through that hard work, he’s become one of the top defenders in all of the minor leagues.

The question with Taylor has always been the bat. In three minor league seasons, Taylor never OBP’d higher than .318 until last season for Potomac, when he hit .263/.340/.426 with 10 homers and 87 RBIs. He also had a spectacular year on the basepaths, stealing on 51 of 58 attempts. This season, the 6’3″, 215 lbs. 23-year-old has really put it together at AA Harrisburg. Through 52 games, he’s hitting .325/.405/.629 and leads the Eastern League with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs, while going 14-for-16 on stolen base attempts.

Taylor has never come close to matching this type of success in professional baseball, so we’ll have to monitor him in the summer months to see if he wilts.

It’s not hard to compare the seasons both players are having and wonder if Goodwin is stalling while Taylor is starting to blossom. Goodwin has the pedigree with his first round status and rankings on “top prospects” lists. But Taylor is slowly coming into his own. If he really has “figured it out” at the plate, with his elite defensive skills he could really push Goodwin on the prospect depth chart and challenge for a spot in D.C. before the more celebrated Goodwin.

Washington Nationals’ Minor League and Prospect Report for Week Ending May 18th

As another week of minor league baseball comes to a close, here is an update on the Washington Nationals’ farm system. We’ll work our way around the organization, checking in with players that have already made this list, plus highlighting some new faces and prospects making headlines. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals 2014 Top 25 Prosects: No. 1 Lucas Giolito

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.

Here’s our scouting reports on prospects Nos. 21-15, prospects Nos. 16-20 and Nos. 11-16.

And so far in the Top 10:

No. 10 Eury Perez
No. 9 Jake Johansen
No. 8 Sammy Solis
No. 7 Michael Taylor
No. 6 Zach Walters
No. 5 Steven Souza
No. 4 Drew Ward
No. 3 A.J. Cole
No. 2 Brian Goodwin

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.

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