September 23, 2017

Washington Nationals 2014 Top 25 Prospects: Nos. 11-15

In this series, 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.

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

Without further ado, here are prospects Nos. 11-16.

 

11. Matt Skole, 1B
Bats: Left, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 4″, Weight: 220 lb.
Born: July 30, 1989 in Woodstock, Georgia, US (Age 24)
Draft: 5th Round, 2011

Hitting Ability Raw Power Power Frequency Plate Discipline Speed Base Running 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 and 44 extra-base hits in just 101 games there. His performance earned him South Atlantic MVP honors and he was named the Nationals Minor League Player of the Year. His left-handed power and plate discipline looked like it was going to put him on the fast track, especially because the Nationals were looking for contributors in both of those areas. There wasn’t an encore in 2013 however, as Skole injured his non-throwing elbow while fielding last spring. He 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 has a massive build, with a thick base, a powerful core and tons of strength. He carries a big stick to the plate, showing outstanding bat speed and strength in his cut. He takes a long, graceful swing that generates backspin and consistent loft. He’s also a very disciplined hitter, showing superb pitch selection and feel for the strike zone. The combination of his power and batting eye might even be enough to make him an average or better hitter, as he works the count and puts only hard-hit balls in play. That may be a stretch to project though, as his large strike zone and long, pull-oriented swing makes him susceptible to good off-speed stuff. On the bright side, he hasn’t had any trouble handling left-handed pitching in the minors.

Skole’s bat is legitimate thunder, but his lack of other tools and poor fielding will be a tough sell for a starting job, at least until there’s an opening at first base. He has some arm strength, but doesn’t have the athleticism or balance to man any other position in the MLB effectively. The overall package is still very promising, though, and he has a high floor. Skole is a solid bet to carve out a nice career for himself as a Raul Ibanez type player or a left-handed Mike Morse.

 

12. Matt Purke, LHP
Bats: Left, Throws: Left
Height: 6′ 4″, Weight: 205 lb.
Born: July 17, 1990 in Nacogdoches, Texas, US (Age 23)
Draft: 3rd Round, 2011

Fastball Velocity Fastball Movement Fastball Command Cutter Slider Change Off Speed Command Delivery Overall Future Potential
50/60 60/65 45/55 50/55 50/60 40/50 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, he dominated on the showcase circuit and with Team USA, and he boasted a 94-mph heater (though he clocked 95 mph at the 2008 Aflac All-American Game). He also thew a vicious slider and curveball from the left side, making him virtually unhittable to high school competition. Of course, that profile made him one of the most prized amateur prospects in the game, irregardless of his strong college commitment. The Rangers drafted him 14th overall in 2009 and offered him a whopping $6 million to sign. Because the franchise was in dire financial straights at the time and temporarily in control by the MLB, the commissioner vetoed the deal. Purke ended up turning down a hefty $4 million offer and heading to college.

Purke 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. His fastball clocked in the mid 90’s in many of his appearances, even hitting 97 mph. Once again, Purke was one of the most coveted arms. Unfortunately, he got shutdown with shoulder problems in April 2011, and his velocity subsequently dropped into the high 80’s. Yet another tough break, the injury killed his draft stock and he slid to the 96th overall slot. The Nationals signed him to a $4 million MLB deal, believing he could get the electricity back, though 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. He doesn’t have the 95 mph heat that he used to, sitting more int he 89-93 mph range at his best, and his off-speed stuff isn’t quite as sharp, but his flashes of brilliance indicate he still has serious upside. The returning arm strength is obviously a good sign. He showed the Nationals what he can do when he’s healthy during his 2013 AFL stint, taking home Player of the Week honors at the end of October.

Purke is tough to project. When he was healthy, his stuff was elite for a left-hander. His fastball sat 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. He looked good in 2013 overall, posting a 3.80 ERA and a 3.28 K/BB between Hagerstown and Potomac, showing he can get batters out with or without his best stuff. In many of his starts, his heater was clocking mostly in the high 80’s, and his slider looked flat. In others, he was back up to 90-93 mph and his slider had late break. He almost always looked like he had a plan on the mound though, and he is adept at changing speeds and keeping opposing hitters off balance.

Despite his ability to repeat his delivery, and throw with a nice slide step, Purke’s mechanics and arm action have serious red flags. He wraps and contorts his shoulder on the back-end of his delivery, causing his arm to lag well behind his body. While this adds a lot of deception, it also puts a dangerous amount of pressure on his shoulder and elbow. These issues not only make him fragile, but they deplete his stuff quickly as his pitch count climbs. Unless he fixes them, they’ll ultimately put him in the bullpen (or under the knife). As a reliever, Purke’s stuff and feel for pitching would make him a dominant arm in the back-end of the bullpen and a surefire MLB contributor.

 

13. Austin Voth, RHP
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 1″, Weight: 190 lb.
Born: June 26, 1992 in Redmond, Washington, US (Age 21)
Draft: 5th Round, 2013

Fastball Velocity Fastball Movement Fastball Command Cutter Slider Change Off Speed Command Delivery Overall Future Potential
55/60 55/60 45/60 45/55 40/50 40/45 45/55 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 selected him in the 5th round of the draft, and then watched him dominate opposing hitters in three stops between the rookie leagues and low-A ball later last summer.

Voth’s drop-and-drive delivery draws every bit of power from his stocky, bulldog frame–generating plenty of spin and velocity on his pitches. Opposing batters have a hard time picking him up, as his delivery hides the ball and his pitches seem to have extra hop on them. His low 90’s fastball explodes out of his hand as if it were considerably faster, generating tons of whiffs.

Voth’s build, delivery and stuff resemble the Astros’ Anthony Bass, though his overall command has a chance to be superior. When he’s on, he works both sides of the plate like a veteran big leaguer, and he uses the natural lateral movement on his pitches to miss the barrel. He works effectively low in the zone with his tailing 2-seamer and disappearing cutter. His fastball scrapes the mid 90’s when he maxes out, suggesting he might be able to harness that velocity more consistently in shorter stints. He also throws a workable change-up and a slurvey slider that comes out of the same tunnel as his fastball. He varies the velocity and depth on the breaking ball, and it should be MLB-average.

Voth doesn’t have a long and athletic build, he doesn’t light up the radar gun, and his stuff isn’t overly exciting, but he’s a smart, polished pitcher, with a deep arsenal of solid pitches. The overall profile may not be flashy, but it’s the kind that will rack up a lot of quality innings and give the teams he pitches for a chance to compete almost every night.

Moving forward, Voth’s ability to locate his off-speed pitches and develop a true MLB swing-and-miss pitch will largely determine whether or not he will be able to fool more advanced batters. If his stuff continues to come along, he should reach his ceiling as a reliable back-of-the-rotation starter. His stamina and efficient delivery make him a nice fit for the job, although, in such a pitching-wealthy organization he may eventually be ticketed for the bullpen.

 

14. Blake Treinen, RHP
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 4″, Weight: 215 lb.
Born: June 30, 1988 in Ossage City, Kansas, US (Age 26)
Draft: 7th Round, 2011, Oakland A’s

Fastball Velocity Fastball Movement Fastball Command Slider Change Off Speed Command Delivery Overall Future Potential
70/70 60/60 55/60 45/50 35/40 40/45 Average MLB Starter

Treinen–who came to the Nationals as a throw-in via the Mike Morse trade–is an oddity. Though he was an honorable-mention All-Area pick as a senior at Ossage City high school, he was actually cut from his JV team at Baker College. Very few pro players were cut from their JV teams, especially as late as college. But after re-tooling his delivery and committing himself to a rigorous strengthening routine and mechanical development under friend/coach Don Czyz, Treinen stepped on the mound for the Arkansas Razorbacks a couple years later with a mid 90’s fastball. Oakland’s scouts got a look at him soon after, and 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 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, and has already left a great first impression on new Nationals skipper Matt Williams in spring camp.

Treinen has an electric fastball that he whips at the plate with an over-the-top arm slot. His heater sits firmly in the 93-95 mph range with great downward angle, and he’s able to throw in the high 90’s with command. He maintains his velocity like few pitchers in the game–touching 97 mph into the late innings of his starts. He displays solid-average feel and command of his heater, getting on top of it and attacking the four corners of the strike-zone with an exhausting fearlessness. He likes to use his four-seamer to jam opposing hitters by pitching them aggressively inside, relying heavily on the pitch. But, he also throws a hard sinking 2-seamer with heavy break under the hands of right=handed-hitters.

Left-handers get a better look at Treinen, as he’s a fastball pitcher without the deep repertoire to throw off their timing. His aggressiveness in the strike zone makes him prone to a lot of hard contact, and the confidence he lacks in his secondary pitches leaves him vulnerable to hits–considering his special arm talent. To polish his game some omre, he’s learning to cut his four-seamer on the hands of left-handed hitters, and he’s started throwing his mid-80’s slider with back-door break, off the outside to neutralize them. His breaking ball has come a long way since his early days in the California League, showing hard, downer break. It has solid average potential now that Treinen is using it more often in different counts–not just as a chase pitch. He also throws a below-average changeup that clocks 85-90 mph. He focused on refining it and mixed it into his repertoire consistently throughout 2013. It should be a reliable third pitch if the club continues to develop him as a three-pitch starter.

Treinen’s excellent fastball, his build and his ability to attack the strike zone and keep the ball on the ground make him one of the best kept secrets in the minors.  His age and his short repertoire keep him from profiling as a high-end starter in the big leagues, but his floor is high. If he continues to put the extra work in and develop at such a steady pace, he should be a quality 4-5 starter in a contender’s rotation or a superb bullpen weapon, with the upside of a closer.

 

15. Jefry Rodriguez, RHP
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 5″, Weight: 185 lb.
Born: July 26, 1993 in Haina, DO (Age 20)
Undrafted

Fastball Velocity Fastball Movement Fastball Command Curve Split Off Speed Command 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 is far from the Big Leagues but has the ingredients to be a top prospect with more seasoning. He put himself on the map last season when he impressed the Nationals as a headlining member of a dominant young GCL staff.  He posted a 2.45 ERA in 47.1 innings (12 starts), and whiffed 43 batters while allowing 20 walks and only one home run. A converted infielder, Rodriguez won’t be 21 until late July and has only 90 innings of professional pitching under his belt to date. In those 90 innings however, he has shown tremendous potential and made considerable strides with his control between 2012 and 2013.

Blessed with a long, lithe frame, he bears a strong physical 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. His off-speed stuff needs a lot more refinement, but that’s understandable seeing how new to pitching he is. He already 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 and he’ll probably scrap it for a change-up in the future.

Rodriguez is a nice athlete, boasting body control and flexibility, and he has a long 6’4″ frame that offers plenty of room for added strength and velocity. His delivery is fluid already and he has remarkably consistent timing for his age. His arm action looks clean, but his arm slot and release point do waver, and his stuff fluctuates. He has plenty of time to sure-up his technique, of course.

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 looks like the real deal.

 

About Ryan Kelley

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. He is founder of BaseballNewsHound.com, and specializes in prospects playing in leagues on the East Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic region. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @BBNewsHound.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Washington Nationals 2014 Top 25 Prospects: Nos. 11-15 […]

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

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

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