December 10, 2019

Washington Nationals’ Lucas Giolito, Wilmer Difo Win End of Year Awards

On Thursday afternoon, the South Atlantic League announced its 2014 Annual All-Star Team, as well as league MVP, Most Outstanding Pitcher and Most Outstanding MLB Prospect. A pair of Hagerstown Suns, Lucas Giolito and Wilmer Difo, took home several of those awards. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Top 25 Prospects: No. 21-25

Over the next two weeks, District Sports Page will provide detailed scouting reports on our list of Top 25 Washington Nationals prospects. You can find our overview with the entire list here.

With no further ado, here are prospects Nos. 21-25.

21. Cody Gunter, 3B
Bats: Left, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 3″, Weight: 195 lb.
Born: April  18, 1994 (Age 20 season)
Draft: 6th Round, 2013

Hitting Ability Raw Power Power Frequency Plate Discipline Speed Baserunning Fielding Range Arm Strength Arm Accuracy Overall Future Potential
30/50 45/60 35/55 40/50 35/40 35/40 35/50 35/45 65/70 40/55 Fringe Starter

Gunter earned the Gatorade Texas Player of the Year award in 2012 after batting .411/.550/.778 at Flower Mound High School as a senior. Hefty bonus demands kept him from signing with the Marlins out of the 19th round that summer. He also decided to drop his Kansas State commitment and attend Grayson County Community College so he could try his luck in the draft the next year. In his lone juco season, he tore apart opposing pitchers, batting .321/.500/.542 and his 57 walks ranked him third in the nation. He also tore apart opposing hitters–as a pitcher– posting a 25/3 K/BB ratio and allowing only 1 earned run in 15 relief innings.

The Nationals nabbed Gunter with the 196th overall pick last June, and sent him to Auburn to get his feet wet in the pro’s. Surprising for a player with his talent, his pro debut didn’t go well, and he looked over-matched in just about every area (.224/.287/.305 in 245 PAs for Auburn). His OPS declined with every month of the season and his defense at third base looked completely out of control. It’s a small sample size however, and he deserves a pass considering his age and the fact he was facing pro pitching for the first time.

Gunter was a two-way prospect as an amateur, displaying left-handed power in the box, and a high 80’s right-handed fastball and a nasty curveball on the mound. As a position player, he offers a lot to work with. He’s tall and lanky, with large hands and a ton of room to fill out. He displays good balance in the box, and he generates loft and hard contact with a clean, smooth cut. He has nice bat control, and has feel for centering the ball on the inner-half of the strike-zone. In batting practice, he consistently barrels deep fly balls and gets great back-spin to his pull-side. He showed nice plate discipline as an amateur, able to lay off stuff he couldn’t handle. But he struggled with his vision as a pro, flailing at high heat and chasing junk in the dirt. He was visibly pressing by the end of the season, and will probably get his eye back if he can calm his rookie nerves.

Gunter was a bad third baseman in his short 2013 New York Penn League stint. However, he has superb arm strength and athleticism for a big kid, playing with bend and picking it with soft hands. He’s a below-average runner, but he moves well in the field and should be able to stay at third base if he can get his game under control. He showed he was farther away from being a complete player than most thought in his pro debut, and his struggles in the box are a little bit unsettling–even for his age. If he doesn’t start hitting big his 21st birthday, the Nationals will undoubtedly consider putting him back on the mound, where his arm strength, curveball, size and fluid delivery could make him a top relief prospect.  The Major-League tools are there regardless of his position, though.

22. Nick Pivetta, RHP
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 5″, Weight: 220 lb.
Born: February  14, 1993 (Age 21 season)
Draft: 4th Round, 2013

Fastball Velocity Fb Movement Fb Command Curve Change Off Spd Cmd Delivery Overall Future Potential
55/70 45/50 40/55 35/50 35/45 35/45 Very Good MLB Starter

A big Canadian righty, standing at a muscular 6’5″ with stone-solid 220-pound frame, Pivetta has had an shaky track record of success, but has flashed brilliance and offers a ton of upside. He was a member of the Canadian Junior National Team as a teen, and was a PG Underclass All-American in 2010. However, he wasn’t drafted out of high school, mainly due to a strained UCL in his right elbow keeping him off the mound throughout his senior season. He subsequently decided to pitch in juco ball while weighing his options. He put together a so-so freshman campaign in 2012 at New Mexico Junior College, bringing high 80’s velocity to the mound and little else. He got after it in summer ball though, re-hashing his delivery and building his strength in the weight room.

Pivetta’s hard work paid massive dividends. He broke out as a sophomore, stepping on the mound with a clean, smooth delivery, a deeper repertoire and vastly improved arm-speed. His fastball velocity jumped into the low 90’s, and he often scraped 96-97 mph in his starts in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. His exceptional size and arm strength shot him up draft boards, and the Nationals couldn’t resist his upside–taking him all the way at the 136th overall slot.

Pivetta has a ways to go, there’s no doubt about it. He’s young and he not only lacks experience against high-end competition, but he’s barely gotten comfortable as a high-end pitcher. The talent is there though, and if the Nationals coaching staff can help him harness his talent, he could be one of the game’s top pitching prospects.

Pivetta has put together an efficient, high three-quarters delivery. He throws with a clean arm-action on the back end, and uses his core and legs to generate exceptional velocity on his throws. He’s a big kid, and though he throws with a tempo that would makes it easier for hitters to pick up his velocity, but he uses his body to hide the ball well. He exhibits great overall timing in his delivery, and he pitches downhill. These traits give him a better chance of staying healthy and developing command of his pitches, even as a taller pitcher.

Pivetta already throws in the 91-93 mph range consistently, and he has the velocity and arm speed to develop a consistent plus fastball–mid 90’s velocity with movement and command. His arm-speed and long fingers help him spin a nice breaking ball, and he’s comfortable using his circle change-up to keep hitters honest. At the moment he’s still reluctant to throw his curveball behind on the count, with men on base–or with seemingly any pressure on him–but he should develop feel and confidence in it with more experience. If he adds more velocity to the pitch and throws it with better command, it could be a solid-average or plus pitch, and his change-up has similar potential.

Pivetta is a development project, but he certainly has the ingredients for the middle of a contender’s rotation in the MLB. Once he opens his stride foot more and draws more power from his trunk, he should be a consistent mid 90’s guy. If he puts the work in, his secondary stuff should come right along as well. But if it doesn’t, his velocity should fit nicely in the ‘pen. He got off to a good start in the pro’s, going 1-1, with a 2.91 ERA and 1.265 WHIP in nine games between the Gulf Coast League and Auburn in ’13.

23. Rafael Bautista, OF
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 2″, Weight: 165 lb.
Born: March  8, 1993 (Age 21 season)
Undrafted

Hitting Ability Raw Power Power Frequency Plate Discipline Speed Baserunning Fielding Range Arm Strength Arm Accuracy Overall Future Potential
45/60 25/35 25/35 45/55 65/70 50/60 45/55 60/65 50/55 40/50 Fringe Starter

A little speedster, Bautista made his stateside debut with the Gulf Coast Nationals in 2013 after leading the organization’s Dominican Summer League affiliate in batting average, on-base percentage and stolen bases in 2012. About to celebrate his 21st birthday, he’s a little bit on the old side for his experience level, but he has a lot of projection left. The wiry outfielder now has a career .325/.410/.393 line in 489 PAs, and has swiped a unbelievable 73 bases in 87 attempts (84% success).

Bautista bears a close resemblance to Eury Perez when he was starting his pro career few years ago. He’s small and has little strength in his swing at the moment, but he boasts plus-plus wheels and a quick, compact stroke at the plate. He has long arms and uses the whole field, slapping line drives into the gaps when opposing pitchers don’t respect him and attempt to over-power him inside. While he’s a slasher, with a flat, line-drive stroke, he could develop gap power once he adds more muscle to his core and upper-body. In the outfield, he’s a very good defender, with the range and body awareness to be an above-average center fielder and the arm for the corners. He shows sharp reaction times off the bat and covers a lot of ground with his speed, moving smoothly as he tracks the ball. The overall package is promising, and with more muscle and some polish added to his game, he could eventually be a valuable fourth outfielder or second-tier starter.

24. Brett Mooneyham, LHP
Bats: Left, Throws: Left
Height: 6′ 5″, Weight: 235 lb.
Born: January  24, 1990 (Age 24 season)
Draft: 3rd Round 2012

Fastball Velocity Fb Movement Fb Command Curve Change Off Spd Cmd Delivery Overall Future Potential
55/60 50/55 35/45 40/55 40/45 35/40 Inconsistent Fringe Starter

Mark Appel’s teammate at Stanford, and a Team USA alumnus, Mooneyham was widely regarded as one of the top college southpaws in his draft class. He’s a superior athlete with above-average arm strength that has clocked 94 mph on the radar gun a times in his career. Success has been fleeting for Mooneyham though, as he struggles to find consistency. He put together a 10-3 record with a 1.94 ERA in 17 starts for Hagerstown last season, but then got lit up for 19 runs (17 earned) in three starts following his promotion to the P-Nats.  The combined line was still solid–a 3.91 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP 20 games–but his 1.57 K/BB still leaves something to be desired.

Despite his impressive size and agility, Mooneyham doesn’t do a good job of maintaining his timing and release point, and his command fluctuates hugely from start to start. His arm action is relatively clean, but the rest of his delivery is messy. His stride fluctuates, and he throws a across his body. He struggles to get on top of his pitches, with such long legs, and he has resorted to some bad habits to compensate. A lot of the force that his body generates pulls his arm away from his target, making it difficult to aim his pitches.

Batters have a difficult time getting a beat on Mooneyham because of his wildness, though his stuff hasn’t been as impressive as the Nationals hoped when they raved about him following the draft. The mid 90’s fastball velocity he showed as a high school senior hasn’t shown up in the pro’s, as he’s sat more in the 88-91 range, though injuries are at least partially to blame. His slider has its moments, darting late with tightly-wound, two-plane break when he doesn’t leave it up in the zone. If he can find a groove and work hard enough to piece together his game, he has the gifts to be a valuable bullpen piece or mid-rotation starter.

25. Pedro Severino, C
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 1″, Weight: 180 lb.
Born: July  20, 1993 (Age 2o season)

Hitting Ability Raw Power Power Frequency Plate Discipline Speed Fielding Blocking Framing Arm Strength Arm Accuracy Overall Future Potential
30/40 35/40 30/35 35/45 40/40 50/60 40/55 50/60 65/70 60/65 MLB Backup

I don’t get as excited about guys with .223/.277/.308 triple-slash lines in the low minors as some scouts do, I guess, but I can’t ignore Severino’s potential either. He developed into a legitimate prospect after making some strides at the plate last season, but he’ll probably never be more than a passable hitter in the pro’s. He should be able to keep his average on the better side of .200 with enough power to leave the yard a few times a season off the bench, and enough on-base skills to stay within shouting distance of a .300 OBP. And that’s okay, because Severino’s calling card is defense, and that’s a great thing to hear when you’re talking about a catcher–the position where the glove matters most.

Severino has a rocket arm to go with superb quickness and athleticism. He’s a rare athlete for the position, similar in build and style of play to Braves prospect Christian Bethancourt. He flies out of his low, flexible crouch and regularly whips the ball to second base with sub-1.9-second pop times. This puts him in the top percentile at his position. He gunned down 40% of attempted base stealers in his first taste of single-A ball last year, getting rid of the ball with a lightning quick transfer and release.

The rest of Severino’s defensive game is promising as well. He’s an excellent fielder with arguably the best range at his position in the minor leagues. He fields the bunt extremely well and tracks fly balls on the move. His throws get great carry, even from deep in foul territory. Behind the plate, his receiving skills are promising, as he has soft hands and appears to frame breaking pitches nicely. He gets a lot of calls with his strong fingers, snatching balls breaking off the edge with the tips of his mitt. His blocking does needs work, however, as he’ll let a healthy share of bouncers skip through the five-hole. But considering his age, he could still project as plus in that regard with more work staying on-top of pitches in the dirt.

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Ryan Kelley is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He’s an economist by day and an aspiring journalist living in the D.C. area. Native to Connecticut, he has lived in Washington since graduating from The George Washington University and has covered Minor League Baseball and Team USA for a half-decade. He is founder of BaseballNewsHound.com, and specializes in prospects playing in leagues on the East Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic region. A former ballplayer himself, he enjoys hitting homeruns with his writing and scouting reports. You can follow him on Twitter @BBNewsHound.

2014 Washington Nationals Top 25 Prospects: Scouting Prospects 11-25

 

Nationals Top 25 Prospects Home

Scouting Reports on Prospects #1-10

 

 

Prospects #11-20

Matt Skole

Hitting Ability Raw Power Power Frequency Plate Discipline Speed Baserunning Fielding Range Arm Strength Arm Accuracy Overall Future Potential
35/45 65/70 55/60 65/65 35/35 40/40 40/45 35/35 55/55 40/50 MLB Starter

Skole’s plus raw power and hulking build got him drafted in the 5th round of the 2011 draft, and he immediately made the Nationals look wise for signing him by mashing throughout his superb full-season debut in 2012. He hit a monster .286/.438/.574 for the Hagerstown Suns, and raked 27 homers. His performance earned him South Atlantic MVP honors and he was named the Nationals Minor League Player of the Year. There wasn’t an encore however, as he injured his elbow while fielding last spring and was forced to get reconstructive elbow surgery, wiping out his season.

Skole is now healthy and showing off his plus left-handed power and plate discipline in front of the big club’s coaching staff in spring training. Matt Williams likes what he sees, and even compared him to Jim Thome.

Skole’s bat is almost ready to do damage in the Majors, and his home-run power will translate. He’s a very disciplined hitter, showing superb pitch selection and feel for the strikezone. His power and batting eye might even be enough to make him an average or better hitter, though his long, pull-oriented swing makes that a stretch to project. His lack of other tools and poor fielding will be a tough sell until there’s an opening at first base, as he doesn’t have the tools to man any other position in the MLB effectively. He could carve out a nice career for himself as a Raul Ibanez  type player or a left-handed Mike Morse.


 

 

Matt Purke

Fastball Velocity Fb Movement Fb Command Cutter Slider Change Off Spd Cmd Delivery Overall Future Potential
55/60 60/60 45/55 50/55 55/60 40/45 40/50 Poor Timing MLB Starter

Purke was a big name coming out of Klein High School in Texas. He posted a 12-1 record and a 0.37 ERA as a senior, dominated on the showcase circuit and with Team USA, and he boasted a 92 mph heater and vicious slider from the left side. The Rangers drafted him 14th overall in 2009 and offered him a whopping $6 million to sign, but the MLB vetoed the deal. He fulfilled his commitment to Texas Christian University, and ended up dominating his competition to the tune of a 21-1 record, a 2.61 ERA and 203 strikeouts in 169 college innings between 2010 and 2011. Unfortunately, shoulder problems killed his draft stock and injury problems have continued to hamper his production in the pro’s.

Purke is a smart pitcher and has a plan on the mound. When he’s at his best, he has solid fastball command to go with a deceptive delivery, a nice feel for pitching and plus stuff. His fastball velocity, which was consistently plus before his shoulder problems, was back up to the low 90’s in the Arizona Fall League this winter, and some of the bite on his slider returned. That’s obviously a good sign, and he showed the Nationals what he can do when he’s healthy during his AFL stint, taking home Player of the Week honors at the end of October.

Purke is tough to project. When he’s healthy, his stuff is elite for a left-hander. His fastball sits 91-94 mph with movement, and his slider is one of the best among southpaw prospects. The problem is though, that he’s rarely been healthy these past few years, and his stuff has fluctuated. In some of his starts last season his heater was clocking mostly in the high 80’s, and his slider was flat. Despite his ability to repeat his delivery, and throw with a nice slide step, his mechanics and his arm action has a serious red flags. These issues may keep him out of the rotation ultimately, but if he stays healthy, his stuff would make him a dominant back-end reliever.

Austin Voth

Fastball Velocity Fb Movement Fb Command Cutter Slider Change Off Spd Cmd Delivery Overall Future Potential
55/60 55/60 45/60 45/55 40/50 35/40 40/50 Average MLB Starter

Undrafted out of high school, Voth improved steadily in each of his three seasons at the University of Washington. He posted a 5.19 ERA as a freshman, and then lowered his era to 4.28  over 69.1 innings in his sophomore season before putting together a sparkling 2.99 mark last spring. The muscular 6’1″ bulldog gained considerable muscle in his core and lower body during his college career, helping his fastball improve to the consistent 90-93 mph range. He ended up striking out 99 batters in 105.1 innings in 2013, second in the Pac-10 to Mark Appel. The Nationals in the 5th round of the draft, and watched him dominate opposing hitters in three stops between the rookie leagues and low-A ball later this summer.

Voth’s drop and drive delivery adds deception to his pitches, and his low 90’s fastball jumps at hitters as if it were even harder. He gets nice movement on his pitches and works low in the zone. He also throws a strong change and slurvy curveball. He has the stamina and efficient delivery to carry his velocity late into his starts. He’s not flashy, but he could be a very solid fourth or fifth starter. He may eventually be ticketed for bullpen, where he’s a potential Craig Stammen type, multi-inning guy.

Blake Treinen

Fastball Velocity Fb Movement Fb Command Slider Change Off Spd Cmd Delivery Overall Future Potential
70/70 60/65 55/60 45/50 40/45 40/50 Average MLB Starter

Treinen–who came to the Nationals as a through-in via the Mike Morse trade–is an oddity. While he has one of the best fastballs in the minors and is a top-shelf talent, he is largely obscure as a prospect due to an extraordinarily short resume–even when compared to late-round draft picks and top college players.

Though he was an honorable-mention All-Area pick as a senior at Osage City high school (Kansas), Treinen was a non=prospect in high school and early college. He was in poor shape, with a short stature and as a type-II diabetic his non-existant weight training regiment kept his arm strength from developing. He played just two full seasons of varsity baseball in high school due to his health issues.

Treinen’s college baseball career started off similarly. By the time he was 18, he’d actually grown to over 6’1″, but he was actually cut to their JV team at NAIA Baker College. Very few pro players were cut from their  teams, especially as late as college and especially at a level where talent is so scarce. At the time though, Treinen’s fastball barely reached 80 mph, and when he transferred to Arkansas to play DI baseball, he was  passed over altogether.

Treinen set out to get in shape and get back to the game. He  re-tooled his delivery, committed himself to a rigorous weight-training routine and developed his mechanics under friend/coach Don Czyz, He was rewarded for his commitment, not only developing a powerful body and fluid delivery, but also growing nearly four more inches. Miraculously, Treinen stepped on the mound for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits a couple years later with a low 90’s fastball. The rest is history.

A couple of years after getting drafted by the A’s in the 7th round, Treinen has developed to the point where he’s looking like a future MLB ace or closer. He’s old for his development level, but Treinen performed nicely as a starter for Harrisburg last year–posting a 3.64 era, a 2.61 K/BB and a well above-average 3.22 G/F over 21 appearances. He simply keeps getting better and better, now pitching with a mid 90’s heater and excellent fastball command. He has already left a great first impression on new Nationals skipper Matt Williams in spring camp.

Treinen has electric stuff. His fastball sits firmly in the 93-95 mph range, touching 97 mph into the late innings, and he displays solid-average command of it. His best pitch is his heavy tailing 2-seamer, which grades out as plus-plus for velocity, movement and command. It’s a heavy bat-breaker, darting down and away to his arm side, and he trusts it enough to pound the strike zone with it.

While his sinker has developed into his go-to, Treinen isn’t a pure sinker/slider guy. He’s not afraid of straight balling. He likes to use his four-seamer to attack left-handed hitters by pitching them aggressively inside. Unfortunately, his tall, pop-and-drop delivery and heavy fastball reliance gives left-handed hitters a vastly better look at him. They’ve been able to pick up his arm and hit him like a vasty inferior pitcher throughout his pro career. His tendency to live on the white part of the plate limits his strikeouts, and lefties have shown the ability to punish his sinker as soon as he makes a mistake. To better neutralize southpaws that can turn on his velocity, he’s learning to make then uncomfortable–cutting his four-seam fastball on their knuckles, and then using his two-seamer and change off the outside to force them to slow their hands down.

Treinen’s off-speed stuff his most obvious improvement over the past two years. After relying almost solely on his fastball early in his career, he now has two decent off-speed pitches. He throws a fringy slider that shows above-average bite and depth when he’s feeling it. It has solid-average potential, clocking in the low-mid 80’s with disappearing break.  His command of the breaking pitch is behind his fastball and his tendency to under throw it makes it’s effectiveness inconsistent. His change remains below average despite the extra work he put into it last offseason, and there’s no telling how much he’ll trust it against MLB hitters. It’s clearly his third pitch, and he uses it mainly as a show-me against southpaws. But, it does have fastball arm-speed and it is good enough to round-out his game arsenal.

Treinen’s nasty power sinker is one of the best pitches in the minors. Now that he’s developed a strong breaking pitch and a game-worthy slider to go with it, Treinen projects well as a top shelf mid-rotation starter. He could’ve been an even better prospect if not for his lack of high-level competitive pitching and his (still) short off-speed repertoire. Regardless, the Nationals rotation depth means they’ll probably put him in the bullpen–where his power sinker-slider combo could play up to a special level. In that role, he could scrap his change-up and focus on what he’s good at–bringing the heat and killing right-handed hitters. His ground-ball rates and ability to keep the ball in the park are extraordinary, while his efficiency and command are excellent as well. The combination makes him a perfect fit for the late innings when the margin for error is tight. His strikeout rate, while somewhat low pitching out of the rotation will also likely increase as his stuff will have more power, and he won’t have to focus on keeping his pitch counts low. He could even end up as a closer, with a profile similar to Jim Johnson’s.

Jefry Rodriguez

Fastball Velocity Fb Movement Fb Command Curve Split Off Spd Cmd Delivery Overall Future Potential
60/70 55/60 40/55 40/60 30/45 30/45 Very Good MLB Starter

Long, lanky and raw, Rodriguez impressed the Nationals last season as a part of a dominant young GCL staff.  A converted infielder, Rodriguez is only recently celebrated his 20th birthday and has only 90 innings of professional pitching under his belt. In those 90 innings however, he has shown tremendous potential.

Blessed with a long, lithe frame, he bears a strong resemblance to former MLB fireballer Jesus Colome. He whips fastballs like Colome, with a four-seamer that clocks 92-93 consistently and hits 97 mph on the radar gun. His delivery is loose, and so is his arm action–showing easy arm speed that indicates he has room for added velocity. He also spins a sharp downer curveball in the high 70’s that has nice potential. He also throws a low 80’s splitter that he has trouble releasing consistently. His delivery is fluid and he has remarkably consistent timing for his age, though his arm slot and release point waver.

Rodriguez has become a favorite of Nationals pitching coordinator Spin Williams–along with the rest of the organization–for his stuff and athleticism. He’s an aggressive pitcher with plus velocity and movement on his pitches, and his fastball has sink to it. The package is pretty much everything you need for a bright future on the mound, and though he has a long way to go, Rodriguez is the real deal.

Washington Nationals Top 25 Prospects Overview

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

1. Lucas Giolito, RHP

13. Blake Treinen, RHP

2. Brian Goodwin, OF

14. Austin Voth, RHP

Robert Ray, LHP

15. Jefry Rodriguez, RHP

3. AJ Cole, RHP

16. Tony Renda, 2B

Nate Karns, RHP

17. Felipe Rivero, LHP

4. Drew Ward, 3B

18. Christian Garcia, RHP

5. Steven Souza, OF

19. Sandy Leon, C

6. Zach Walters, SS

20. Drew Vettleson, OF

7. Michael Taylor, OF

Adrian Nieto, C, 

8. Sammy Solis, LHP

21. Cody Gunter, 3B

9. Jake Johansen, RHP

22. Nick Pivetta, RHP

10. Eury Perez, OF

23. Rafael Bautista, OF

11. Matt Skole, 3B

24. Brett Mooneyham, LHP

12. Matt Purke, LHP

25. Pedro Severino, C

Billy Burns, OF 

Honorable Mention: Dixon Anderson, Aaron Barrett, Cutter Dykstra, Randy Encarnacion, David Napoli, Travis Ott, Raudy Read, Danny Rosenbaum, Hector Silvestre, Maximo Valerio

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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.

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