Next week, the All-Star games will take place at the Low and High-A levels of the minor leagues. The Washington Nationals will be well represented at these games, as the Hagerstown Suns and Potomac Nationals are sending intriguing groups of prospects to their respective contests.
In this week’s Federal Reserve, I take a closer look at these prospects and highlight not only their success this season, but their standings in the organization. This overview starts with the Low-A Suns, before moving up to the High-A Nationals.
Victor Robles, centerfield
Few prospects in the system have garnered the level of hype that Robles has received, and his production at Hagerstown has perhaps exceeded expectations. Among the league’s most well-rounded hitters, Robles has been hitting above .300 for most of the year while getting on-base at a high rate. Defensively, he exhibits the range and instincts of a top-tier centerfielder. Seemingly the only question about Robles’ ceiling is how much power he will develop, but he already exhibits a smooth swing and quick bat speed, leaving some hope that he could average around 20 homers per season at his peak.
Max Schrock, second baseman
Schrock has simply outmatched his competition this year, showing excellent strike zone judgement while making contact at a high rate. In fact, when seeing him at his best, it is hard to not compare Schrock to current Nationals’ second baseman Daniel Murphy. Both are left-handed hitting second baseman that possess excellent bat control, flash average to above average power, and almost never give away an at-bat. Questions remain about whether Schrock will stick at second base long term, but in Hagerstown he has had a knack for positioning himself correctly and is always willing to lay out for a ball.
Kelvin Gutierrez, third baseman
Gutierrez’s status for All-Star Game is in doubt after he suffered an injury last week, but he perhaps exhibits the most range and athleticism of any third base prospect in the system. He had also been making progress at the plate before the injury, as he maintained solid contact numbers and showed signs of improving his power.
Jefry Rodriguez, right-handed starter
After waiting a few seasons for the talented but often enigmatic Rodriguez to turn the corner, the Nationals are finally seeing signs of progress. Much of this owes to his improved feel for his slider and his changeup, and better location of his fastball, which is capable of regularly sitting in the mid-90’s. For someone who is about to turn 23, the converted shortstop is still fairly inexperienced on the mound, but Rodriguez is starting to showcase his potential.
Mariano Rivera, right-handed reliever
Rivera has been hit hard over his last few appearances—at the time he chosen as an All-Star, his ERA sat in the mid 2.00’s and it is now over 5.00. Still, the rough patch does not seem indicative of any underlying issues, and he should stabilize at some point. Rivera features a fastball that can touch the mid-90’s; at his best, the pitch is complimented by a sharp slider and his changeup has the makings of a solid third pitch.
Andrew Stevenson, centerfielder
The Nationals’ top pick in last year’s draft, Stevenson exhibits plus speed and excellent defensive instincts in centerfield. He displays good strike zone judgement and has continued to show solid contact skills, thanks in part to a slightly smoother swing. Stevenson does not have the all-around athleticism of Robles, but he is a bona fide centerfield prospect nonetheless.
Drew Ward, third baseman
After a year in which he struggled at the plate, Ward has rebounded and is showing improved pitch recognition. This has led to not only to higher walk totals, but to more robust power numbers, as he should top his previous career highs in home runs and SLG. With Ward in the midst of his second season at Potomac, a jump to Harrisburg this summer is not at all out of the realm of possibility.
Ryan Brinley, right-handed reliever
The Nationals tabbed Brinley in the 26th round of last year’s draft, and he has been consistently good since joining the system. At Potomac, Brinley has emerged as one of the better relievers in the Carolina League, striking out more than a batter per inning while maintaining a stingy walk rate.
Alec Keller, outfielder
Just as he did last season, Keller is thriving on a solid contact-oriented approach at the plate. While he does not possess exceptional speed, he shows good enough instincts in the outfield to competently play both corner spots, though he has been used primarily in leftfield.Tags: Alec Keller, Andrew Stevenson, Drew Ward, Jefry Rodriguez, Kelvin Gutierrez, Mariano Rivera, Max Schrock, Nationals, Nats, Ryan Brinley, Victor Robles, Washington Nationals