September 23, 2017

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.

___________________

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.

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.

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