The 2018 season for the Washington Nationals can be summed up in three words: Juan Freaking Soto. And yes, the “freaking” was necessary. Due to all the injuries in the Nationals outfield early on, Soto was called upon out of sheer necessity, more than the Nationals wanting to bring him up. At the time, Soto was hitting a combined .362/.462/.757/1.218 with 14 homers in 39 games across three levels, which didn’t just have him as the top dog amongst Nationals prospects, but as 1B to Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s 1A overall.
This current Nationals system lacks upside outside of the top-10, but is fairly deep with pitching prospects. And this top-3 is one of the best trios of prospects you’ll find in one system. They alone are the reason this system got a C- and not the D or D+ I was going to dish out originally.
Overall System Grade: C-
Minor League Affiliates
Triple-A: Fresno – Pacific Coast League
Double-A: Harrisburg – Eastern League
Single-A (Advanced): Potomac – Carolina League
Single-A (Full): Hagerstown – South Atlantic League
Short-season Single-A: Auburn – New York-Penn League
Rookie: One team each in the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League.
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New Top-25 Washington Nationals Prospects
1. Victor Robles, OF, Bats: R, DOB: 5/19/97, ETA Debuted in 2017
2018 Stats (RK/A-/AAA): .276/.371/.370/.740, 10 2B, 2 HR, 19 SB, 11.5 BB%, 14.2 K%, 192 AB
2018 Stats (MLB): .288/.348/.525/.874, 3 2B, 3 HR, 3 SB, 6.1 BB%, 18.2 K%, 59 AB
The only reason Robles is still on this list is due to that gruesome elbow injury he suffered early in the season. Without that, he easily would’ve surpassed the 130 at-bat threshold and lost prospect status. But I’m not complaining. It means I get to rant about his greatness just a little bit longer. Robles has everything you could want from a stud outfielder with four of his tools grading as plus or better. Headlining his drool-worthy skillset is his elite speed that has led to 54 stolen bases per every 600 at-bats in the minors so far. That speed isn’t just for stealing bases either. Robles covers a ton of ground in the outfield, tracking down fly balls that most could only dream of getting. Pair that with a rocket arm and I smell a gold glove or two, or five, in Robles future.
— Peace, love, and dirty feet (@mufuhkajones) November 9, 2017
I haven’t even gotten to the best part with Robles. That 4th plus tool I reference above is his hit tool. Robles has phenomenal hand-eye coordination and contact skills. I love literally everything about his swing. He has a balanced setup, solid back leg load, fluid hip rotation, and forward weight transfer with a swing that explodes through the zone generating plenty of bat speed and some loft. He might not look like a slugger, but with his strength and bat speed, I can see him settling into the area of 15-25 homers annually. Add in a stellar batting average and you have a fantasy star in the making.
The 2018 minor league season was one to write off for Robles as it took him a while to return to form following the elbow injury. Erase that from your memory, gander at his MLB stats, and enjoy the ride in 2019.
2. Carter Kieboom, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 9/3/97, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (A+/AA): .280/.357/.444/.801, 31 2B, 16 HR, 9 SB, 10.4 BB%, 19.5 K%, 493 AB
I saw Kieboom live a couple times this season with Double-A Harrisburg and was thoroughly impressed with what I saw. The ball makes a special sound off his bat during batting practices and hard contact during games is a very common occurrence. I could watch the swing below on repeat all day. It’s beautiful. Kieboom loads onto his back leg load and uses a moderate leg kick to time pitches. The hands start shoulder high, coil back, and drive through the zone with plus bat speed and a direct path to the ball.
The end result is hard contact to all fields, which was on full display during the games I was at. Even his outs were loud. He pulled one just foul down the left field line, which I swear went all the way to Interstate 295 that runs behind Hadlock Field. Kieboom has a chance to hit for both average and power in the majors with double-digit speed drizzled on top like gravy at Thanksgiving.
3. Luis Garcia, SS, Bats: L, DOB: 5/16/00, ETA 2022
2018 Stats (A/A+): .298/.336/.406/.742, 21 2B, 6 3B, 7 HR, 12 SB, 5.7 BB%, 15.1 K%, 500 AB
Is every Luis Garcia really good at baseball? The Phillies version ranked 4th on that list and now we have the Nationals version one spot higher than that. While being young for each level, Garcia excelled during his time in the South Atlantic League (A) and Carolina League (A+), hitting a tick under .300 at both stops while giving flashes of his future power potential. Garcia uses a balanced setup, medium load, and small leg kick. His hands start shoulder level and drop a little before moving forward through the zone. Bat speed is plus and Garcia is able to use the whole field thanks to remarkable bat control and plate coverage. I’d put a 60-grade on his hit tool with future .300 seasons likely.
Outside of the hit tool, there’s a lot more to like. While it hasn’t shown up yet in the stolen base column. Garcia is quick and athletic with 30-plus stolen base upside. He displays good range and instincts at short with a strong throwing arm that will fit in nicely at the hot corner as well if the Nats decide to move him over there. The power stroke is still developing, but there’s enough /raw strength, contact skills, and bat speed to project 15-20 homers once he develops and adds loft. This is a name firmly on the rise in dynasty leagues and a top-50 overall prospect already.
4. Mason Denaburg, RHP, DOB: 8/8/99, ETA 2022
2018 Stats: Did Not Play
The Nationals selected Denaburg with the 27th overall pick back in June, but played it safe and kept him out of action to make sure he’s fully recovered from biceps tendinitis he suffered in the spring. Smart move Washington, no need to rush a high-upside prep arm right after drafting him. Denaburg is a big 6’4 right-hander with a workhorse frame and clean, repeatable mechanics from a 3/4 arm slot.
The fastball sits in the mid-90’s with arm side run and Denaburg pairs that with a plus curveball with good shape. He didn’t really need to throw his change-up much in high school, but when he has thrown it, there’s been some fade, though, it’s highly inconsistent due to his infrequent use of the pitch. With command not being an issue, Denaburg has the upside of a No. 2 starter if he can develop his changeup into at least an average offering.
5. Seth Romero, LHP, DOB: 4/19/96, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (A): 25.1 IP, 3.91 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 12.1 K/9, .206 AVG
Romero is one of the top pitching prospects that doesn’t get nearly enough love in dynasty formats. Well, maybe the fact that he’s only made 14 starts since being drafted in 2017 and is scheduled to miss the entire 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery has something to do with that. Do yourself a favor and go out and make a buy-low offer or two on Romero because I guarantee his dynasty value will never be lower than it is right now.
Romero is a big southpaw at 6’3/240 and has the potential for three plus offerings when it’s all said and done. His low to mid-90’s running fastball and low-80’s slider with two-plane tilt are already plus pitches and Romero has shown a good feel for a changeup which is improving. It’s always difficult to predict how a pitcher will return from a major surgery like this, but Romero has the stuff to turn into a #2 starter.
6. Yasel Antuna, SS, Bats: S, DOB: 10/26/99, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (A): .220/.293/.331/.624, 14 2B, 6 HR, 8 SB, 8.8 BB%, 21.8 K%, 323 AB
After a strong start to his professional career in the Gulf Coast League last season, Antuna struggled mightily in 2018 for Single-A Hagerstown. The slash line ended up in putrid territory and the plate discipline he showed in the GCL regressed, though Antuna still managed to keep his strikeouts in check and finished with a respectable 8.8% walk rate. There are two things I noticed with Antuna’s swing that need some refinement before he can truly take off as a prospect. First, his set up is busy and he never fully comes to rest before starting his swing. Looks like he’s up there dancing to the latest chart-topping hip-hop single at times. Calm down Yasel.
Once he does get into his swing, it’s long. Antuna’s hands move down and back before coming forward through the zone. Taking a more direct path to the ball would do him wonders. Antuna is the epitome of a high-upside, raw prospect. If he can shorten his swing, I can see him turning into a .280-plus type of hitter with double-digit pop and 20-25 steals as well. He has a long way to go to reach that, but all the raw tools are there.
7. Will Crowe, RHP, DOB: 9/9/94, ETA 2019/2020
2018 Stats (A-/A+/AA): 116.1 IP, 3.40 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 3.7 BB/9, 7.3 K/9, .240 AVG
Drafted right behind Romero as the National 2nd pick in the 2017 draft, Crowe might have the best combination of ceiling and floor in the organization for pitchers. With that being said, the ceiling isn’t nearly as high as it is with Romero or Denaburg. Crowe throws from a 3/4 arm slot and features four average or better pitchers. Good extension in his delivery gives his low to mid-90’s fastball a good downhill plane and some natural sink. Both his curveball and slider display good shape and Crowe has a good feel for his changeup as well.
So what’s the issue? One word: Command. He’s not overly wild, but Crowe’s command over his arsenal is inconsistent and makes him too hittable at times. He also hasn’t missed as many bats as his repertoire would indicate. Still, the arsenal is solid and should carry him all the way to becoming a No. 3 or 4 starter in the Majors.
8. Telmito Agustin, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 10/9/96, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (A-/A+): .273/.338/.404/.741, 12 2B, 6 HR, 8 SB, 8.1 BB%, 20.3 K%, 275 AB
In most organizations, Agutin would be a player I’d slot into the 15-20 range. But not in Washington. That’s not to say Agustin isn’t an intriguing prospect, though. Speed is his most noteworthy tool here and should translate into 20-25 steals annually. At the plate, Agustin has shown quick glimpses of upside, but not enough to make me think he’s a slam dunk to become a Major League regular. He has quick wrists and can spray line drives to all fields, but lacks power projection past the 12-15 range right now due to the lack of loft in his swing. Agustin is one to keep an eye on in dynasty formats, but don’t go overboard.
9. Gage Canning, OF, Bats: L, DOB 4/3/97, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (A-/A): .253/.319/.470/.789, 12 2B, 6 HR, 2 SB, 8.6 BB%, 28.9 K%, 166 AB
I feel like I could just copy and paste a lot of Agustin’s blurb above. He and Canning have similar skill sets and overall upside, though there’s a little more power projection here with Canning, albeit, with less speed upside. From the left side, Canning’s swing is clean with a flat path through the strike zone. Nothing stands out about his contact skills, but with some added loft, it wouldn’t be out of line to see Canning as a .270/20 type with double-digit speed to go along with it.
10. Tim Cate, LHP, DOB: 9/3/97, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (A-/A): 52.0 IP, 5.02 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 7.8 K/9, .271 AVG
The Nationals really beefed up their pitching depth in the last two drafts, taking Denaburg and Crowe early in 2017 and following up with Denaburg and Tim Cate in the first two rounds of 2018. Cate already has one of the best left-handed curveballs in the minors with a 12-6 big breaker that he commands very well. But outside of that, the arsenal is very average. His fastball sits in the low-90’s and is too straight at times. Cate also throws a changeup with some fade but is inconsistent with the offering. The upside here isn’t overly high but Cate is one of the safest arms in the system.
11. Jackson Tetreault, RHP, DOB: 6/3/96, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (A/A+): 132.2 IP, 4.07 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 9.4 K/9, .252 AVG
A big 6’5 right-hander that spent most of 2018 in the South Atlantic League, Tetreault is your standard “Has two plus pitches with a fringe changeup” young arm. Tetreault throws a fastball in the low to mid-90’s and mixes in a big-breaking hook with good shape to it. Those two pitches so far have helped him find success in the low minors and give him the upside of a strong bullpen arm at the very least. Like I mentioned, the changeup isn’t as developed as the heater and hook, but he has flashed at least having an average Major League changeup with a little fade to it. If he can continue to develop it and keep his command in check, I could see Tetreault developing into a work-horse mid-rotation arm.
12. Reid Schaller, RHP, DOB: 4/2/97, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (RK/A-): 40.2 IP, 4.65 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 7.1 K/9, .252 AVG
Hey look, another right-hander taken within the last two MLB drafts. Schaller was used mostly out of the pen after returning from Tommy John surgery at Vanderbilt, but converted back to starting full-time after the Nationals used their third round pick on him back in June. There are a wide array of possible outcomes here. Schaller has a big fastball that usually sits in the mid to upper-90’s with some arm side run at times, but outside of that, the arsenal needs refinement. He’ll occasionally throw a slider that will look good, but the consistency just isn’t there. Same can be said for the changeup which is even more of a fringe pitch. I can easily see Schaller moving back to the bullpen at some point or becoming a No. 3 type starter if the secondary pitches develop.
13. Gabe Klobosits, RHP, DOB: 5/16/95, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (A+): 16.1 IP, 2.20 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 6.1 BB/9, 9.9 K/9, .226 AVG
A 36th-rounder in 2017, Klobosits is a hulking 6’7 right-hander with the arsenal to match. He features a mid-90’s fastball, plus slider with good tilt, and also mixes in a decent splitter. The problem is his control which often gets him into sticky situations with multiple men on base. The stuff has been enough to work his way out of those jams, but he’s going to need to refine his control is he wants to reach his ceiling as a back-end bullpen arm. Klobosits will also miss the entire 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
14. Drew Ward, 1B/3B, Bats: L, DOB: 11/25/94, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): .249/.363/.422/.785, 18 2B, 13 HR, 1 SB, 14.1 BB%, 26.1 K%, 374 AB
Ward has been in the Nationals system for six seasons now and is finally on the cusp of getting a call to Washington. It’s just, I’m not sure we should expect a whole lot once he gets there. Ward has improved his patience at the plate over the years but remains strikeout prone with a 25.9% career strikeout rate. His contact skills and power are as average as average can be, leading me to believe his ultimate ceiling is in the .250/20 range. Lack of speed and range at the hot corner began a transition over to first base where his lackluster offensive profile is even less appealing.
15. Nick Raquet, LHP, DOB: 12/12/95, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (A/A+): 122.2 IP, 3.74 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9, 6.8 K/9, .288
Raquet has found success in the low minors even without eye-popping strikeout numbers. Through his first 176 innings, Raquet has only struck out 116 batters for a 5.9 K/9. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here due to his arsenal. Raquet throws a low to mid-90’s fastball, a fading changeup that will flash plus, and two serviceable breaking balls. His delivery is clean and repeatable and he looks like a future workhorse with an athletic frame and strong lower half. I’m expecting the strikeouts to start trending up here.
16. Jake Irvin, RHP, DOB: 2/18/97, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (RK/A-): 20.2 IP, 1.74 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 6.5 K/9, .211
Another big right-hander, Irvin was a three-year starter at Oklahoma. He sits in the 90-94 range with his heater with some armside run and mixes in an above-average slider and fringe changeup. The upside isn’t overly high here, but with a clean and repeatable delivery, Irvin seems like a safe bet to at least develop into a #4 or #5 starter.
17. Malvin Pena, RHP, DOB: 6/24/97, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (A-/A): 50.0 IP, 2.88 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 1.3 BB/9, 8.5 K/9, .274 AVG
Pena is a pitcher I’ve gone back and forth on in these rankings, moving him anywhere from 13th to 20th. I like the quality of his three-pitch arsenal and believe three can be Major League average to plus pitches, but he’s far too hittable at times and tends to overthrow his changeup, causing it to straighten out and get clobbered. The improving command is a welcomed sign and leads me to believe that he’ll be able to remain a starter longterm with SP3/SP4 upside.
18. Cole Freeman, 2B, Bats: R, DOB: 9/27/94, ETA 2020/2021
2018 Stats (A): .266/.354/.371/.725, 32 2B, 3 HR, 26 SB, 9.0 BB%, 11.3 K%, 447 AB
The Nationals 4th round pick in 2017, Freeman made his professional debut in 2018 for Single-A Hagerstown. While he was old for the level at 23, Freeman displayed above-average contact skills and plate discipline with plus wheels as well. He got off to an incredibly slow start, hitting just .219 after June, but proceeded to hit a robust .330 in July and August with 10 steals and more walks (20) than strikeouts (19). While he lacks much loft and power projection, Freeman has the upside to turn into a solid regular with a decent batting average and 20-plus steals annually.
19. Israel Pineda, C, Bats: R, DOB: 4/3/00, ETA 2022
2018 Stats (A-): .273/.341/.388/.728, 7 2B, 4 HR, 0 SB, 6.5 BB%, 18.9 K%, 165 AB
Part of the Nationals 2016 J2 crop, Pineda brings a solid all-around skill set to the table with the upside of a low-end starting Major League catcher. Pineda might only be 18, but has an advanced approach at the plate with barrel control and strong plate coverage. He’s got some sneaky-good power thanks to quick wrists and a clean swing path through the zone. The upside isn’t vast here, but expecting a .260 average and 12-15 home runs while playing adequate defense behind the plate is reasonable.
20. Sterling Sharp, RHP, DOB: 5/30/95, ETA 2019/2020
2018 Stats (A+/AA): 148.1 IP, 3.70 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9, 6.4 K/9, .265 AVG
Hailing from little known Drury University, Sharp is an athletic 6’4 right-hander with the potential for two plus pitches in his low-90’s sinking fastball and fading changeup, both of which he has a good feel for. But outside of that, his slider needs refinement and Sharp doesn’t miss a ton of bats right now. Back-end starter upside at the moment with the potential for a little more if he can develop even an average slider.
21. Andry Arias, 1B/OF, Bats: L, DOB: 6/19/00, ETA 2023
2018 Stats (RK): .270/.360/.412/.771, 9 2B, 7 3B, 3 HR, 3 SB, 10.6 BB%, 18.2 K%, 226 AB
This is a name that could easily be 8-10 spots higher at this time next season. Arias signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old and held his own in the Dominican Summer League last season. Arias has an athletic 6’3 frame with remaining power projection once he fills out a little more. While not a speedster, Arias is fairly quick and is able to play some outfield in addition to first base. At the plate, he’s displayed above-average contact skills and plate discipline with emerging power. Keep an eye on this one.
22. Tres Barrera, C, Bats: R, DOB: 9/15/94, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (A+): .263/.334/.386/.720, 14 2B, 6 HR, 3 SB, 7.6 BB%, 18.4 K%, 259 AB
Barrera has future back-up catcher written all over him. He does a little of everything well without excelling in any one area. Defensively, he’s solid with a good throwing arm and shows a decent feel for hitting with good strike zone awareness and average pop.
23. Raudy Read, C, Bats: R, DOB: 10/29/93, ETA Debuted in 2017
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): .279/.319/.401/.720, 11 2B, 3 HR, 0 SB, 5.6 BB%, 17.8 K%, 197 AB
Another backup catcher profile here with Rowdy Raudy Read. I saw him in mid-2018 with Harrisburg and wasn’t overly impressed. He’s a capable defensive backstop and has shown a little power in his minor league career, but has never really excelled at any level. With moderate load, quick wrists, and a toe-tap for timing, Read generates hard contact to all fields, but his overall contact skills are average at best. He missed the first 80 games of 2018 to suspension and will likely start back down in Triple-A to start 2019.
24. James Bourque, RHP, DOB: 7/9/93, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (A+/AA): 53.0 IP, 1.70 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 4.4 BB/9, 12.9 K/9, .169 AVG
After failing to progress as a starter, the Nationals moved Bourque to the bullpen where his fastball/curveball combination plays much better. Both pitches are easily plus when Borque is commanding them. Inconsistent control has been an issue for Bourque throughout his career, but shouldn’t keep him from finding his way into the Nationals bullpen soonsoo as late-2019.
25. Jose Sanchez, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 7/12/00, ETA 2022
2018 Stats (A-): .230/.309/.282/.591, 9 2B, 0 HR, 1 SB, 10.0 BB%, 23.4 K%, 209 AB
Another 2016 J2 Nationals signing, Sanchez made his professional debut in short-season Single-A and looked mostly overmatched at the plate. But that’s not what makes Sanchez an intriguing prospect. He’s a very strong defender with a good arm and versatile enough to move around the infield. There’s little to no power projection here, but Sanchez has solid contact skills and doubld-digit speed. He’s not the most interesting dynasty league targer by any means, but his defense will likely get him to the show in the next few years if he can show he can handle minor league pitching.
Others to Monitor
Rafael Bautista, OF – A speedster with solid plate coverage and contact skills. Bautista is a slap hitter with zero power that has struggled to find time at the Major League level.
Up – Luis Garcia (SS)
Down – Raudy Read (C)
Other Team Prospect Reports
Photo/Video Credit: Jory Dyvig (Main Article Image), Jason Woodell.
Eric Cross is the lead MLB writer and prospect analyst here on FantraxHQ and has been with the site since March 2017. In the past, he wrote for FantasyPros and FanSided. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.
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