Here it is, the second and final part of The Nats Blog’s countdown of the Washington Nationals’ Top-10 Prospects. The outcome of this half of the list is not at all surprising, but the upside of the players and—in a few cases—their proximity to the majors make it very compelling.
In case you missed it, part one is up and includes reports on the likes of Andrew Stevenson, Austin Voth, Wilmer Difo, and more of the Nationals’ best prospects.
5.) RHP Erick Fedde
DOB: 2/25/1993 B-T: R-R
Acquired: First round, 2014 2016 Team: High-A Potomac ETA: 2017
Fedde made his return from Tommy John surgery in 2015, and showed glimpses of his first-round-worthy talent. Even as he hit some rough patches late in the season, the right-hander posted a solid 3.38 ERA and a 2.3 BB/9 rate in 64 innings between Short Season-A Auburn and Low-A Hagerstown, where he threw his final 29 frames of 2015.
At his best, Fedde displays a fastball that consistently hits the 92-95 mph range that is complimented by a tight slider, his best secondary pitch. His changeup is still progressing and will be key to his development, but he should iron out that pitch with experience. His fastball command also lapsed at times late last season, though that may have been due to fatigue.
Likely facing fewer restrictions, Fedde will look to advance in 2016, with his pitch location and changeup development being the biggest areas to watch. He could develop into a mid-to-top rotation starter.
4.) RHP Reynaldo Lopez
DOB: 1/4/1994 B-T: R-R
Acquired: International free agent, 2012 2016 Team: Double-A Harrisburg ETA: 2017
It would be easy to get down on Lopez, who struggled at times during his first turn in the High-A Carolina League. While his changeup did not progress as hoped and he struggled with his fastball command at times, he did raise his strikeouts and cut back on his walks. Lopez was also in the midst of a dominant stretch before a back injury cost him his final starts.
The consensus is that Lopez will control his mid-to-upper 90’s fastball well enough to advance through the system, and that his 11-to-5 curveball flashes the makings of a dominant breaking ball. That aspect of his game has earned him high marks among observers, but he faces some questions in regards to his durability. Additionally, many feel that the inconsistencies of his changeup will make him better suited for the bullpen. Should that pitch improve, Lopez profiles as a very effective top-of-the rotation starter.
It is possible that Lopez returns to Potomac, but he should be ready for Harrisburg, an important step in determining his future role.
3.) CF Victor Robles
DOB: 5/19/1997 B-T: R-R
Acquired: International free agent, 2013 2016 Team: Low-A Hagerstown ETA: 2018
Hints of hype surrounded Robles after his impressive stint in the Dominican Summer League in 2014, but he ascended up the charts in 2015. In 61 games between the Gulf Coast League and Auburn, he flashed an exciting combination of power and speed by batting .352/.445/.507 and stealing 24 bases in 29 attempts.
Robles receives high marks for his worth ethic and baseball IQ, which many feel is ahead of his age. Along with his budding offensive skillset, he displays exceptional judgement as an outfielder and should be able to stay in centerfield, though he has the arm strength to play rightfield. At the plate, he has the swing and strike zone judgement to continue to produce offensively, and could turn out to be at least an above average power hitter.
At this point, Robles should have few problems against his older competition in the South Atlantic League and may have a case as the Nationals’ top prospect by year’s end.
2.) SS Trea Turner
DOB: 6/30/1993 B-T: R-R
Acquired: Trade with San Diego Padres (6/14/2015) 2016 Team: Triple-A Syracuse
Upon arriving to the Nationals last year as a player-to-be-named later, Turner lived up to his hype at two minor league levels before earning a late-season call-up to Washington. Despite his status as a top prospect and his performance in the minors, Turner was seldom used in the majors, receiving just 44 plate appearance in more than a month’s worth of games.
Turner has shown solid contact skills in the minors, and his swing should allow him to drive the ball for some extra base power. He also figures to get on-base enough to put his speed—arguably his best skill—to use, making him a formidable top-of-the order hitter. On defense, Turner displays the aptitude and footwork of a shortstop but some doubt whether he has the arm to stick at the position. The Nationals used Turner at second base late in the year, so moving him to that position could become a fallback option.
With Danny Espinosa and Stephen Drew likely to handle the shortstop duties in Washington, Turner is ticketed to begin 2016 in Syracuse. However, there is still an expectation that he is the Nationals’ future everyday shortstop, a prophecy that could come to fruition sooner rather than later.
1.) RHP Lucas Giolito
DOB: 7/14/1994 B-T: R-R
Acquired: First round, 2012 2016 Team: Double-A Harrisburg ETA: 2016
Giolito is perhaps the best pitching prospect in all of baseball. He already displays three major leagues pitches—including two plus offerings in his mid-to-uppers 90’s fastball and his at times devastating, 12-to-6 curveball—and could add a fourth offering if the Nationals decide to reintegrate his two-seam fastball, which he shelved upon being drafted.
After beginning 2015 in extended spring training, Giolito joined Potomac in May and ultimately cruised through the level before earning a promotion to Harrisburg in late July. He had some rough patches in the beginning, but settled down over his last several starts, striking out 38 over his final 37 1/3 innings while limiting opposing hitters to a .680 OPS.
As someone who projects to be a hard-throwing, durable top-of-the rotation starter, Giolito has very little work to do before reaching the majors. Any time spent in the minors will likely focus on improving his changeup to generate more groundballs and on the two-seamer, if it is reintroduced. Even as he returns to Harrisburg and likely makes a stop at Syracuse, Giolito should reach the majors this year.
Tags: Erick Fedde, Lucas Giolito, Nationals, Nats, Reynaldo Lopez, Trea Turner, Victor Robles, Washington Nationals