August 8, 2020

Washington Nationals MLB Draft Preview: Local Prospects and Hidden Gems

It’s draft day. For the Washington Nationals, that usually means that good things are in store.

In recent years, the Nats have turned losing records into top draft picks; and then those top draft picks into top prospects. Playing a lead role in their success over the past season-and-a-half, these top prospects have turned into all-world players.

After a half-decade’s worth of basement dwelling in the NL East, the franchise cleared out it’s once highly regarded front office, parting ways with GM Jim Bowden and president Stan Kasten. They replaced Bowden with his protegé Mike Rizzo, a guy that had spent his entire life in baseball–as a player, a scout, a coach and now a front office man. Since then, Rizzo has established himself as one of the wisest GM’s in the game, particularly in terms of the draft and player development.

Now, you might say that Rizzo’s success in the draft is largely a product of circumstance–his team earned first-round picks right when Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg were on the board. But as we’ve learned from teams like the Pirates–who took Dan Moskos over Matt Wieters, Madison Bumgarner, and Bryan Bullington over Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke– and the Padres–who selected Matt Bush over Justin Verlander and Bill Butler–over the years, part of the job is stepping up to the plate and coming through at the big moment, as well as working out a deal with a top prospect when your team’s track record puts you at the bottom of his list.

Since taking over the GM’s job on an interim basis in March 2009, Rizzo has taken home top prospects Stephen Strasburg (2009), Drew Storen (2009), Bryce Harper (2010), Anthony Rendon (2011), Alex Meyer (2011), with his first-round picks Lucas Giolito (2012). Strasburg and Harper are both considered to be two of the best prospects in draft history, while the other names have each established themselves as blue-chip prospects. Rizzo has made out just as well in later rounds too, selected other promising young stays like Nate Karns (2009), Michael Taylor (2010), A.J. Cole (2010), Sammy Solis (2010) and Brian Goodwin (2011).

This season however, the Nationals don’t have a first round pick for the first time since they made the move to do. That’s because they signed Rafael Soriano, who was a free agent tied to a compensatory draft pick–away from the Yankees. Yes, the dead-armed closer isn’t only the highest paid guy in his profession right now, but he’s also the gift that keeps on giving…

Anyway, so the Nats won’t make their first pick today until the second round, all the way at the number-68 slot. They’ll be the last team to make a pick this year.

How will that affect their draft?

Well, on the bright side, this draft doesn’t boast the kind of talent that past years have had. Outside of Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray, there aren’t a whole lot of polished arms out there that are worth spending big money on–especially for a team that needs some budget room to use on re-signing the talent they already have. And, the one position that’s deep the year–catcher–coincidentally is an area that the Nationals are already very deep in, as they’re armed with Kurt Suzuki and Wilson Ramos at the big-league level, and they have quality minor-league talent in Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano.

Plus, even though Rizzo has somehow already mastered the new draft’s hard-slotting system–taking home the best player in last year’s draft all the way at the sixteenth spot–other teams probably haven’t yet. So, given the dearth of impact-level talent and the new slotting rules, Soriano might’ve actually worked out in this one regard, by saving the team from blowing extra money that they could use somewhere else.

But let’s get down to business, under these aforementioned parameters, the Nationals are in a very interesting position. They still have a $2.7372 million bonus allotment to work with from the MLB, and while the first-round isn’t stacked with flashy talent this year, there’s a lot of interesting prospects that should fall in the second-to-fifth-round range.

Who will the Nats select?

Mike Rizzo has stated that he isn’t approaching the draft any different this season than he has in past years–he’s looking to get impact level talent. As he put it in a recent interview, he’s looking for a “hidden gem” and is planning to “overturn all of the rocks.” And actually, the team has succeeded with this technique before. The Nats snagged star pitcher Jordan Zimmermann out of the second round in ’07, finding their hidden gem out at a division-two school. Before that, Rizzo and scouting director Kris Kline–then both with the D’Backs–got Cy Young winner Brandon Webb at the 8th round in 2000.

So far, the Nats have been very active in scouting local high school prospects this season, holding numerous tryouts at Nats park and in the surrounding area. Among the prospects they’ve shown the most interest in are Matt McPhearson (Riverdale Baptist HS, MD), Andy McGuire (James Madison HS, VA), Connor Jones (Great Bridge HS, VA), and Errol Robinson (St. John’s College HS, DC).

Matt McPhearson (Click Here for a Scouting Report)

Out of all of the local players, McPhearson is arguably the surest bet to be an impact player in the Major Leagues. Though he plays centerfield, a position that Washington is extremely deep at–McPhearson’s talent will be extremely hard to pass up. First of all, he’s the fastest runner of the draft class, running 60-yard-dash times as low as 6.2 seconds when healthy, and he can get from home-to-first in 3.7 flat from the left side. For reference, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury both clocked their best pre-draft 60’s in the 6.5-6.6 second range, and even Mike Trout was at 6.38 seconds. So McPhearson is really, really fast.  That’s a perfect 80-tool right there, making him one of the elite few that boasts that kind of present ability.

Though he’s not the tallest guy, listed at 5’9″ by PG USA, McPhearson is a fairly complete prospect. At the plate, he bats left-handed and takes a very sweet, fluid, left-handed cut. He’s extremely quick to the baseball, and while he hits with a casting motion a bit, he already does a nice job of firing his hands at the ball with his trunk muscles–creating solid bat-speed already. He resembles Brett Gardner and Kenny Lofton at the plate–and he brings a similar skillset to the table.

Like Gardner, McPhearson is an extremely patient hitter, and he takes a Major-League approach with him into the box. He rarely swings at bad pitches, and he works the count like a ten-year veteran. Last season at Riverdale, even while battling a hamstring injury, he hit .479 and posted a ridiculous .596 on-base percentage while playing against some of Maryland’s top teams–like Dematha for instance. He also stole 29 bases in 32 attempts, after swiping a ridiculous 68 bags in 74 attempts as a junior.

McPhearson also has some hitting tools too. While his frame doesn’t offer much room to fill out, he’s already in tremendous shape for his age, and has a very well-develop upper and lower body. He generates solid bat-speed with his cut already, and while he has a bit of an upper-cut, he has little trouble getting on-top of the baseball and lining pitches to all fields. His approach is also conducive to finding the barrel, and he should grow into plus hitting ability and at-least big-league gap power–enough juice to rack up extra-bases, and the loft pop to send about 10 round-trippers out of the park over a full season.

Defensively, McPhearson is an impact talent and one of the best defensive centerfielders–high school or college-level–of the draft class. His range already grades plus into either gap, and he has little trouble tracking the ball while running at his top-gear. He takes solid angles, and reads line-drives well off the bat. His arm-strength is also a plus right now, as he’s able to throw in the high 80’s from the outfield. His long over-hand release gets great carry, and though he does sail his share of throws, with more experience his arm should turn into a weapon.

McPhearson is committed to play for the University of Miami Hurricanes, but if the Nats took him with their first round pick, it’s hard to picture him turning down an $800K bonus. The club does have depth at his position, but frankly, drafting to fill need is never a good move–and the Nats have shown they know that over the years. If they’re drafting for pure talent, then McPhearson should be atop their list. He’s well on his way to becoming Kenny Lofton, and even if he falls short, his speed, plate discipline and defense still makes him a strong bet to be a Brett Gardner-type contributor.

Errol Robinson (Click Here for a scouting report and footage)

Like McPhearson, Errol Robinson plays positions–shortstop and second base–that the Nationals are fairly deep at right now. But also like his very talented fellow prospect, his talent warrants a high draft pick.

The Nationals have shown a lot of interest in Robinson this past spring. They’ve send their scouts to watch him play at his home field, Gibbs Field at St. John’s College high school (DC), and also invite him to a pre-draft workout just last week. And their interest in Robinson isn’t misguided. The kid can play.

A natural middle infielder, Robinson is a quick-twitch athlete blessed with all of the requisite tools for a pro middle infielder and even more. He’s a superb athlete, with quick feet and plus raw speed, clocking 6.7 60-yard dash times and getting from home-to-first consistently around 4.15 seconds from the right side.  At shortstop this past season, he showed plus lateral range to both his glove and arm-side–exceedingly rare at the high school level–and his balance and body control is second to none.

Robinson is able to make spectacular picks, and he’s so fluid and smooth that he makes the tough play look easy. At the 2012 East Coast Pro Showcase, he left scouts and spectators in awe when he used a figure-four slide to snatch a chopper from deep in the hole between short and third, and then he popped up and fired the ball in first in one quick motion, getting the baserunner by a full step.

Blessed with plus arm strength and extraordinary accuracy for his age, Robinson is able to make quality throws from tough angles. Employing a lightning-quick infielder’s (three-quarters) release, he gets rid of the ball in snap, and gets the ball to the first-baseman on the fly even when he’s fighting against his body weight. He also turns the 4-6-3 double-play like a big-leaguer, using nimble footwork around the bag, and he can make the jump-through to avoid hard slides.

At the plate, Robinson has made solid progress over the past two years. His hand-eye coordination, balance and quickness give him the tools to hit for average and get on-base at a good clip. He’s an aggressive hitter and extremely tough to strikeout. He has great feel for the barrel, and loves to use the opposite field. And while his power still has a ways to go, he’s grown four inches over the past two years, and his lithe six-foot frame offers some room to add muscle. A batting-cage rat, he’s developed lightning-quick hands, and a very short path to the baseball. While his giant home park, the damp DC springs and his speed and contact skills led him to gear his game toward getting on-base, he has the bat-speed and core strength to turn on a fastball too.

Robinson is underrated for his talent level, and there’s a very good chance he’ll be available at the sixty-eighth slot. Considering he’s already the top fielding shortstop among high school players in his draft class, and has the ceiling of a Gold-Glove shortstop and a  top-of-the-order catalyst–similar to Elvis Andrus or Orlando Hudson– he would be a very nice pick-up for the Nats. His college commitment to Ole Miss is fortified by a whole web of family ties, but Robinson has consistently stated that it’s his dream to play in the Major Leagues.

Connor Jones

Nationals scouting director Kris Kline has mentioned in recent interviews that the club is looking to add some pitching talent on draft day–stating that you can never get enough depth at the position. At the 68th slot, it might be hard to draft a risky high school arm, and expect him to sign for $800k. High school pitching prospects face a significant chance of catastrophic injury, and of course, they have a lot of bargaining leverage when they’re selected early in the draft. But out of the prospects that could fall into the Nats lap in the second-round, Great Bridge right-hander Connor Jones might be the best overall fit.

Jones is one of my favorite pitching prospects, and he’s more than ready to start mowing down hitters in the pro’s. The 2013 Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year for Virginia, Jones was absolutely untouchable during his senior spring. He went 8-1, posted a 0.73 ERA and whiffed 65 batters in 48 innings during the regular season,all while walking only 12 batters. while walking only 12. He led the Wildcats to a 19-2 record, and all the way to the Virginia State Baseball Championship. After throwing his tenth shutout of the spring on Tuesday, blanking Henrico high and racking up 10 strikeouts in the the Group AAA quarterfinal, his won-loss record has climbed to 10-1.

Though his frame is lean, narrow and fairly unassuming, he’s a gifted athlete for the position. He shows great balance and has thick, powerful legs, allowing him to repeat his mechanics and take a healthy stride toward home plat. And while his arm action has a little bit of funk–which will definitely need to be ironed out by his pro coaches–he already has fundamentally solid mechanics. He draws power from the ground up, and shows great hip-shoulder separation as he uncoils his core and prepares to release the ball

Jones’s best attribute is fastball, which is essentially the most important thing for a pitching prospect to be good at. He throws both two-seam and four-seam fastballs in the low 90’s already, consistently clocking 90-93 throughout his starts this spring and he can reach 95 mph when he’s warm and loose.

However, his heater is far more than just pure velocity. First of all, he’s one of the few hard throws that has solid-average fastball command already, and he spots the pitch to both sides of the plate very effectively. Secondly, he gets uncanny movement on his heater–as well as his off-speed pitches. Using an unorthodox crouched and closed delivery–close to what pitching coaches at  UVA love to teach–he hides the ball well, and then slings it out of a high 3/4 arm-slot. Combined with his long fingers and vicious arms-speed, the delivery creates remarkable running and sinking movement on his fastball–particularly his two-seamer. Opposing hitters have fits trying to catch up to it, and when they do, they struggle to loft it.

Jones’s off speed stuff is promising as well. His high 70’s slider has nice bite, and should be at least an average pitch with more work. His change-up has made huge strides this year, and he’s doing a great job of staying on top of it and using fastball arm-speed. Though he still doesn’t throw it a whole lot, it’s a potential average third offering. Along with his heater, he commands both pitches well for his level, and he has the opportunity to grow into above-average control over three average or plus offers in professional ball.

Committed to play college ball for the pitching factory University of Virginia, Jones is also a great student, and is well-respected by his peers and teammates. He’s a member of the National Honor Society, and was also elected to his class’s student council.

Jones will be a tough sign, and given his profile, there’s a very good chance that he won’t make it out of the first round–maybe not even the first 10-15 picks. However, if he does fall–even for signability reasons–then the Nats should pull another Giolito-deal and use every bit of their bonus pool to bring him to DC.

Andy McGuire (Scouting Report)

Like the other three mentioned above his name, McGuire is a local gifted prospect, hailing from James Madison high school in northern Virginia. The Nationals have scouted him extensively this spring, and while he too plays positions that the club is pretty deep at–McGuire is a shortstop, but profiles best at third base in the future–there’s a laundry list of reasons the Nats should consider drafting him.

Widely considered the top high school player in Virginia following his junior season, McGuire has put together an impressive career both with the Warhawks and on the showcase circuit. Before under the knife for hip labrum surgery last summer, McGuire fought through the nagging injury to win a Gold Medal with Team USA in the 18U World National Championship, and went 8-13 in the Tournament of Stars Game. His trophy case also includes the 2011 Perfect Game National Championship MVP award, 2012 and 2013 Rawlings First-Team All-American Selections, an ESPN All-Virginia first-team selection, and he’s taken home a trio of All-Liberty conference picks. Along the way, McGuire has also out-performed his peers at each of the showcases he’s attended. Besides mashing some of the Nation’s best arms–like AJ Puk at the PG Nationals for instance–his arm-strength has clocked as high as 93 mph from the outfield, and 90 from the infield, putting him atop the draft class in that regard. He’s also ran top 60-yard dash and 30-yard dash times.

Andy is lauded by his coaches and teammates for his leadership. This past season, while playing shortstop for the Warhawks, he led them to twenty consecutive wins and the 20th national ranking (Baseball America) while batting a monster .439 with a .549 on-base percentage. His performance was even more impressive considering it came from a guy that posted a .949 fielding percentage at shortstop.

McGuire is an especially gifted athlete. As if he were carved out of marble by Michelangelo, he’s 6’2″ 200 pounds with an ideal frame for a two-way prospect. He’s built with a solid core, wide shoulders,ma broad chest, a thick base and a well-developed musculature. His arm is a cannon, and one of the top-three among this crop of infielders, and he’s also unbelievably fluid and athletic. In the field and at the plate, he shows tremendous balance and coordination, able to make tough, bending plays with the glove, as well as he can lace 90+ mph heat to all fields.

McGuire is a contact hitter in a power hitter’s body. He works the count, and is one of the most disciplined hitters in the high-school ranks. While his swing is largely reliant on his upper-body right now, he shows great hands and a polished feel for contact. He’s adept at using the whole field, and makes tons of loud contact. He also has solid bat-speed, but his swing doesn’t have a whole lot of leverage just yet. If he can work on his mechanics, and learn to stay back and use his legs better though, he could develop twenty-home-run power somewhere down the line.

Other Possibilities


Hunter Dozier

Undrafted and completely overlooked coming out of high school, Hunter Dozier headed to Texas’ Stephen F. Austin State University. Now, after three superb seasons, he’s climbed up draft boards and all the way into the first-round discussion.

Dozier has grown and developed considerably throughout his college career. A lean and wiry kid in high school, he now stands at  a stone-solid 6’4″/22o and he has grown into an impressive  tool-set. His best attribute is his hitting ability, which has seemingly improved annually despite a complete lack of lineup protection. After batting .315 as a freshman and then .357 as a sophomore, he hit a stellar .396 this spring and posted a .755 slugging percentage. His slugging percentage was actually third in the nation, and his 17 round-trippers was fifth.

As he’s stretched out his batting stance, Dozier has started catching his weight on his stride foot better. As a result, this mechanical improvement has allowed him to tap into his plus raw power more consistently. He has great core strength, and his bat-speed grades out as some of the best at the college level, suggesting his power is for real. His polished hitting schools should carry over to the pro’s as well–not necessarily leading to the same kind of numbers of course, but he shouldn’t fall off a ledge either.

Dozier has always been a patient hitter, but his approach has been much more intelligent as of late. As opposing pitchers began to avoid the plate more this season, he started laying off the outer edge, and used his bat control to foul off tough pitches. That paired with his solid contact skills, and plus raw-power would make him a great pick-up for the Nationals. His defense isn’t as impressive as his work at the plate, but his strong arm and solid hands give him the opportunity to play a very strong third base, while his solid running speed would work nicely in the outfield.

Travis Demeritte

A star at Widner-Barrow HS in Georgia, Demeritte plays in close proximity to other top draft prospects Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows. And while he isn’t as polished as either of those two players, he has every bit as much talent. If it weren’t for his strong handshake with the Gamecocks–one of the best collegiate baseball programs–he’d be one of my first choices at the Natioals draft slot.

A versatile, multi-position contributor, Demeritte put together an incredible season at the plate, on the mound and in the field. He hit a herculean .404/.563/.910, and launched twelve homeruns and 20 extra-base hits in the dank Georgia spring air. And though he struck out 11 times, he did draw a whopping 33 walks.

Demeritte was also dominant as the Bulldog’s ace starting pitcher. He posted a microscopic 0.69 ERA over 50.1 innings pitched and struck out 94 of the 205 batters he faced. His fastball reached the low 90’s in most of his starts, and he also snapped off a big, back-breaking curveball that flashed plus potential.

Demeritte’s premium arm strength and spectacular athletic ability also helped him put together very strong showing at shortstop last season. While it’s enticing to project his bat in the middle infield in the future–that would rule if it worked out–it’s more likely that he’ll move, and focus on developing his hitting game–which could be special. His quick feet and smooth actions could survive up the middle at higher levels, but his frame is already on the big side for the job and he’s only going to add more bulk. He profiles best as a third baseman, or even as a centerfielder–growing into the kind of player that Jayson Werth was in his prime.

Though Demeritte is a legitimate five-tool talent, his raw power and arm strength are his two trademark skills. He takes a very clean, and coordinated cut, loading smoothly and showing great hand-hip separation. He’s able to stay back on the ball like few others at his level, and after heel-drop, he swings from the bottom up–starting with a great weight transfer, then opening his hips, followed by his shoulders, and only then firing his hands. He generates some of the best bat-speed in the draft, and does so  seemingly effortlessly. He already shows solid loft power to center and right field, and he has the raw pop to hit balls out to all fields with wood bats. To go with his power, his quiet, low-maintenance swing also arms him with the equipment to hit for average as well.

Unfortunately, Demeritte is probably just a tease in the Nats’ case. If he ever did make to them, he’d be an extremely tough sign. What a shame, because who he ends up playing for is going to be very happy with the incredible talent they got their hands on.


Andrew Knapp

If I was making decisions for the Nationals on June 6th, and I couldn’t get my hands on the talents of Clint Frazier, Robert Kaminsky, Hunter Renfroe, or Marco Gonzales, Knapp would probably be the guy I would select. Unlike the high school stars listed above, Knapp is a seasoned hitter out of California, and he’s excelled against top-level college arms. He also doesn’t have a whole lot of bargaining leverage as a college junior–and would likely take a bargain-basement bonus out of the second round. His track record doesn’t feature extensive success, but he’s on the up-and-up. Make no mistake, he’s a premium prospect.

Primarily a DH coming into the season, Knapp slid behind the plate for most of the year and showed solid receiving skills as well as a strong, accurate arm. But it’s not his glove that makes a top prospect, it’s his bat. A switch-hitter, Knapp takes a smooth and balanced stroke from both sides of the dish, and he hit a superb .350 and slugged .544 this past season. Previously drafted by the A’s, he has a great batting eye, drawing 27 walks vs. 35 strikeouts in 206 at bats this past season.

Knapp’s best attribute is his power. Built like a a bigger version of Nick Swisher, at 6’1 200 lbs with with a hulking core, barrel chest and huge legs, he has tremendous strength. He also already shows plus bat-speed, and his smooth swing and batting eye lead to a lot of square contact. Ultimately, he has the raw power to hit 30+ homeruns one day, and the plate discipline and swing to hit for average as well. His already polished bat makes him one of the safest bets in the draft to reach the majors.

Alex Balog

Though Balog’s numbers don’t jump off the page, as he’s posted a career 3.79 ERA and yielded 178 hits through three seasons at the University of San Francisco, he has the  ingredients to follow in the footsteps of former teammate Kyle Zimmer and develop into a first-rate pitching prospect.

Long and lean, standing at 6’6″, Balog is a tall pitcher with a good fastball, a couple of quality off-speed offerings and a clean delivery. His four-seamer sits firmly in the low 90’s, often touching 95 mph, and he can command it effectively when he’s right. His best secondary pitch, a low 80’s slider, has nice sharp pit do it. Right now it’s mainly a chase-pitch, but it has hard, late, disappearing break. Because he throws it out of the same tunnel as his heater, it has the potential to be a plus offer in a few years. His change-up is quality too, showing nice fade to his arm side, and he keeps it low in the zone. Overall, the three pitch combo makes him a potential number-two starter one day, and there’s a good chance that he’ll be a solid mid/back-of-the-rotation guy. Employing a high leg kick–El Duque-high–he hides the ball well, and release the ball out of an over-hand arm-slot, helping him add some sink to his fastball.

Kyle Serrano

Serrano is one of those kids that looks like he was made to play professional baseball. He’s been immersed in the sport his entire life, with a father (Dave Serrano) that coaches division-1 and is currently the Tennessee Vol’s skipper. After growing up in California, while his dad coached for Cal State Fullerton, he’s spent the past two year’s in Farragut, Tennessee. The move ended up helping Kyle’s baseball career, as he was able to enroll at Farragut High School and play for coach Matt Buckner’s Admirals–one of the best program’s in the country at that level.

Though he doesn’t posses an ideal body for the position (in the mind of traditionalist scouts), built with a slender frame and standing just over six-feet, Serrano is very athletic and he repeats his mechanics well. He’s learned to use his compact build to his advantage however–a la guys like David Robertson–and has benefitted from extra balance and a nice, low drive towards home plate.

Serrano has developed impressive stuff over the past couple of seasons, and his command is ever improving. After spending last summer in Farragut’s grueling, year-long training system, he was able to considerably strenghten his lower half. He also smoothing out his once funky arm action, and he got much quicker after breaking his hands. As a result, his fastball jumped from the high 80’s into the consistent 90-93 mph range this spring. At times he even hit 94-95 mph, and displayed the kind of arm-speed that could keep him in the mid 90’s a couple of years down the road.

Serrano’s control is solid for his level, and he can already pound the mit with his heater. He’s still learning to harness his stuff and maintain consistency, but when he’s loose, he shows some ability to work both sides of the plate with his heater. A very aggressive hurler, he likes to attack hitters on the hands with his four-seamer,  and he’s especially adept at working inside to righties. Because his delivery hides the ball well, and he takes a healthy, low stride toward home plate, his heater really gets on top of opposing batters quickly.

To go with his loud fastball, Serrano also has some nasty off-speed stuff. His low 80’s slider has quickly developed into a knock-out pitch, and now rates as one of the best power benders among high-school arms. He throws it with great power, and it has sharp, diving break. He likes to use it as his put-away pitch, and he fires it with his fastball arm-speed and release, forcing a lot of awkward over-swings. His heater and slider have the makings of a Major-League plus two-pitch combo. He also has developed a changeup, which he isn’t comfortable using more than occasionally in games.

Serrano is a gamer on the mound, and his smart approach to pitching and aggressive, competitive demeanor give him an edge against his opposition. He attacks hitters with a bulldog approach, and has the raw stuff to punch-out top hitters already. At the same time though, he also has the delivery, body control and baseball IQ to develop solid average or better command over his fastball and slider, which would make an ace-level talent.

He’s already used to winning, as the Admirals have taken home a lot of hardwear over the past two seasons. As the team’s number-one starter this past season, he helped take his club to their second consecutive division title, and then led them to a runner-up finish in the Class AAA state championship

Whether or not he makes a pit-stop in college, Serrano is destined for a pro career. His frame doesn’t offer a ton of projection, but he’s doing a great job of getting everything out of his tools. So he has the ceiling of a legitimate front-end starter, armed with the stuff and body of guys like Max Scherzer and (a young) Ryan Dempster. Even if he doesn’t reach that level though, Serrano still is a safe bet to be a quality pro in a lesser role. His fastball-slider combo would be lethal in short relief, and at a young age, he already shows the mentality to succeed under pressure.

An Outside Shot

Cavan Biggio 3B, St. Thomas HS (TX) – Son of HOF has plus left-handed hit tool and strong plate discipline. Solid arm, light on other tools, but has the grinder approach to succeed as top-of-the-order hitter and solid infielder.

Aaron Blair RHP, Marshall University- Clean, free-and-easy mechanics with good timing. Above average fastball often 92-93 mph. Solid-average changeup, below-average breaking ball. Inconsistent command. 2.85 ERA, 84/36 K/BB ratio in 82 IP this year.

Jacob Brentz LHP, Parkway HS (MO)- Hard-throwing lefty with powerful, bulldog build and clean arm action. Fastball touches 97 mph, but has trouble repeating mechanics and his control is often well-below average. Similar to Derek Holland at young age, and has the ingredients to put it together and become a lights-out southpaw.

Kent Emanuel LHP, North Carolina- Big, command-and-feel lefty with odd, deceptive mechanics. Spots 86-88 mph heat to all four quadrants, and uses nice change, curve, cut to keep hitters guessing. Career 2.34 ERA in 334.1 IP, 277/73 K/BB.

Scott Frazier RHP, Pepperdine – 6’7″ towering RHP with tree-trunk legs and power arsenal. Similar to Andrew Brackman–a guy that runs his heater up to 95 mph on downhill plane, but has trouble with control and consistent landing spot.

Josh Hart OF, Parkview HS (GA) – Another speedy left-handed hitting outfielder. Great outfield defense with strong arm; needs some work at the plate but has a pop from the left side.

Jeremy Martinez C, Mater Dei HS (CA) – Team USA Star during IBAF 18U Championship. Catcher’s body, but has some Pujols in his fundamentally polished RH swing. Uses opposite field well, nice bat-speed, and some power potential. Should stay behind plate.

Ryan McMahon 3B, Mater Dei HS (CA) – Sweet-swinging left-handed hitter makes tons of hard contact, easy loft. Has shown solid raw power with wood bats, and plenty of room to add strength to lanky frame. Solid arm, shot to stick at 3B.

Thomas Milone OF, Masuk HS (CT) – Athletic UCONN commit, the smooth outfielder has impressive combo of speed and power. Left-handed stroke could generate 25-30 homerun juice one day.

Jordan Paroubeck OF, Serra HS (CA) – Has five-tool potential with great potentially offensive profile. Extremely short, low-maintenance cut, quick load and explodes at the ball. Plus runner, with strong arm and good range in CF. Aggressive hitter, will have his share of strikeouts.

Chad Pinder 3B, Virginia Tech – Solid all-around third baseman with great range, hands and arm. At the plate, takes a very efficient swing with short load, and nice long finish. Disciplined in the box, could be plus hitter with 10-15 HR power.

A.J. Puk LHP, Washington HS (IA) – Long two-way lefty with intriguing potential on the mound. Surprisingly consistent mechanics, balance for thin 6’7″ frame. Fastball mostly high 80’s, but has touched 91-92 mph. Plenty of room for more heat. Hides ball well, throws across body; looks like young Ross Detwiler. Very good change from low 3/4 delivery, promising bender.

Carlos Salazar RHP, Kerman HS (CA) – Raw flamethrower with one of best fastballs in the class. Velocity is inconsistent, but has clocked 97 mph in showcase ball. Potentially nasty breaking ball, but needs to iron-out his mechanics.

Blake Taylor LHP, Dana Point HS (CA) – Lefty with strong arm and ugly arm action. Downer curveball is top-three among HS southpaws. Lanky frame has some projection.

Stephen Tarpley LHP, Scottsdale CC – Compact, athletic left-hander that has plus heat when he’s on, touching 94 mph. Big bending curve draws lots of swing-troughs. Inconsistent performance this year.

AJ Vanegas RHP, Stanford – Probable future reliever, runs fastball up to 96-97, has potential wipeout slider. Poor K/BB ratio, underachieving college career considering his stuff.

Bobby Wahl RHP, Ole Miss – 2.58 career ERA, 208/87 K/BB during 226.2 IP career. Draft’s best cb, nasty change, but once plus fastball decreased this year, raising questions about his shoulder health.

Garrett Williams LHP, Calvary Baptist (LA) – Lefty with great body, nice mechanics and hard curve. Very good athlete, can run fb into low 90’s with sink, potential for a lot more.

Taylor Williams RHP, Kent State – Compact righty with squat 5’11” frame. Generates impressive velocity, up to 94-96 mph this season and stays very compact with quick, well-timed delivery. Wipeout slider.

Kevin Ziomek LHP, Vanderbilt – Lefty put together incredible season top Vandy team, 1.92 ERA, 111/38 K/BB in 112.2 IP. Funky arm action, sub-par timing but very deceptive. Hides avg fastball, two future plus off-speed offerings and above-average command.


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, and specializes in prospects playing in leagues on the East Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic region. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @BBNewsHound.


  1. […] out the Washington Nationals’ unique situation for, in my article Washington Nationals MLB Draft Preview: Local Prospects and Hidden Gems. I wrote-up extensive reports on many of the prospects that the Nats had scouted pre-draft, and […]

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