In a little less than a month, the All-Star Game will be here. That means that, in just a few weeks, the All-Star rosters will be announced, bringing an end to the overhyped, over analyzed, and over maligned process that is selecting the American and National league teams.
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.
The three-day Major League Baseball draft concluded on Saturday, and the Washington Nationals came out of the proceedings with an intriguing crop of prospects. Overall, this class should give the Nationals some depth, particularly when it comes to the infield and pitching.
Early rounds saw the Nationals put a heavy emphasis on position players, headlined by top pick Carter Kieboom. Kieboom, the brother Nationals’ catching prospect Spencer Kieboom, came into his senior year as one of the more intriguing high school hitters in the class, and produced a strong year at Walton High School.
Currently a shortstop, Kieboom seems likely to add size to his 6’2,” 195 lb. frame, leading some to question whether he could move to third base down the road. However, scouting director Kris Kline has said that the Nationals drafted Kieboom with the belief that he could stay at the position long term.
Though the tops this year’s crop of position players, Kieboom is not the lone highlight. Sheldon Neuse, a third-rounder out of Oklahoma, possesses the basic skillset of a major league third baseman and should hit for above average power. Nick Banks and Daniel Johnson made for a pair of college outfielders to be selected in the top-10 rounds, while the Nationals also nabbed two college catchers in Tres Barrera and Joey Harris.
Right now, the Nationals have a fairly deep crop of players at catcher, but the justification and draft and perhaps signing both Barrera and Harris is evident. Firstly, the Nationals’ catchers at the full-season minor league levels — from Pedro Severino at Triple-A Syracuse to Low-A Hagerstown’s Jakson Reetz — come with their own question marks, and with the Nationals likely to add pieces to the major league team at the deadline, catcher could become a position from which they are able to leverage a deal. It remains to be seen if Barrera or Harris will develop enough offensively to emerge as bona fide prospects, but both should add depth to an already strong position.
Other position player prospects to watch include infielders Jacob Noll and Paul Panaccione, along with high school outfielder Jordan McFarland. Already listed at 6’4,” 225 lbs., McFarland’s size has raised some doubt about his long-term viability, but reports say that he could turn out to be an above average left fielder with a solid arm and good power. The Nationals will look to lure McFarland away from his commitment to Arkansas.
On the pitching front, the Nationals’ first choice was Florida right-hander Dane Dunning. A college junior, Dunning has intrigued observes with his fastball, which reports cite for its excellent movement in the 92-93 mph range, though it has hit 95 mph. His changeup has also received high marks, though some feel that his ceiling as a starter will be limited if he does not develop a quality breaking ball. If he does sign, which he said he intends to, Dunning could move quickly.
The pick that might have garnered the most buzz was Jesus Luzardo. The left-hander had Tommy John surgery this March, but has flashed a fastball that can touch the mid-90’s. The Stoneman Douglas High School product has a commitment to Miami, and it seems likely that the team will go over the $635,800 slot value for the pick.
In the 38th round, the Nationals tabbed Noah Murdock, a 6’7” high school right-hander who is committed to Virginia. As they will with McFarland, the Nationals will have to persuade Murdock to enter pro ball rather than try to boost his stock in the college ranks. Among the other pitch prospects to watch include Morgan Cooper, a 34th-round pick out of Texas who just finished his first season since having Tommy John surgery. Cooper should highly pursued by the Nationals, though as my colleague Andrew Flax has already noted, the team will have be resourceful to sign the right-hander.
Texas A&M right-hander Kyle Simonds generated headlines with a no-hitter against Vanderbilt in May, and may wind up providing good value for a 14th-round pick. NC State’s Ryan Williamson — the 15th round selection — may also emerge as a solid selection beyond the 10th round, though he is also set to undergo Tommy John surgery.
The month of May brought about a few highlights from the Washington Nationals farm system, but two players in particular stood out for their performances. This week’s Federal Reserve recaps the success of these players with hitter and pitcher of the month awards.
Though the Washington Nationals won on Sunday, the debate concerning their closer role seems to only be getting louder. In a tight bottom of the ninth against the Cincinnati Reds, Jonathan Papelbon allowed one runs on two hits and walked a pair of batters before getting out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam.
The end result was his 15th save of the season, but the performance is unlikely to silence the doubts that have mounted. There have been two reports within the last week—one from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, and another from MLB.com’s Bill Ladson—that the Nationals may explore the trade market for relief help, with Ladson citing a source that says that the team feels that “they can do better” in the closer’s role.
With Papelbon’s velocity and strikeout rates declining, it is fair to question if his stuff will allow him to be a viable option throughout the year. For that reason, the trade rumors will likely persist until the August 1 deadline. However, one possibility that is worth considering is whether the Nationals can stall or completely avoid a trade by going with an internal option.
Looking at the club’s other bullpen options, Shawn Kelley stands out. He has been one of the best relievers in all of baseball this year and has shown better control since the beginning of last season while maintaining strong strikeout numbers.
One minor quibble that can be made about Kelley is that most of his major league experience has come in medium, or low-leverage situations. That should not be held against him, however, as his success against hitters on both sides of the plate, ability to generate softer contact at a higher rate than Papelbon, and peripheral numbers — including a 2.47 FIP and 2.82 xFIP entering Sunday — make him worthy of consideration.
Beyond Kelley, the Nationals’ options come with their own set of question marks. Felipe Rivero possesses more prototypical closer’s stuff—and while his excellent strikeout-to-walk numbers indicate that he is better than what his 5.21 ERA suggests—it might take a more consistent stretch of production for him to be considered. Sammy Solis has earned favor with Dusty Baker, but his lack of experience could limit him to long and middle relief situations, also scenarios in which Oliver Perez and Yusmeiro Petit are likely to stay. That leaves Blake Treinen, who has excellent stuff but whose inability to avoid hard contact against lefties has continued this year.
Should the Nationals look to their farm system for help, Koda Glover’s name will undoubtedly arise. The eighth-round selection from last year has stood out among relief prospects, dominating at High-A Potomac before his promotion to Double-A Harrisburg, where he has fanned 22 batters in 15 2/3 innings. The New York Post’s Joel Sherman wrote Sunday that “every scout I speak with says (Glover) is a young Trevor Rosenthal.” Glover possesses the makings of a late-inning reliever, but it remains to be seen if the Nationals will make an aggressive push during his first full season.
There are numerous options at Triple-A Syracuse with prior major league experience—including Abel De Los Santos, Trevor Gott, and Matt Grace — though none stand out as potential closers. Speculation might arise that a starting prospect — such as Reynaldo Lopez — could move to the bullpen to provide short-term insurance, but that seems like a rash decision and one that goes against the Nationals’ habits in developing major league starters.
If Papelbon’s inconsistencies continue, the Nationals should give Kelley the opportunity to close. He is their best internal option, and may allow them to avoid trading for a closer for the second consecutive summer.
Sunday’s 10-2 win for the Washington Nationals over the St. Louis Cardinals encapsulated how dominant Stephen Strasburg has been all season. The success that has led him to his excellent start—which includes a 2.69 ERA and a 11 K/9 rate—was on display as he improved to 9-0, and a look his overall numbers shows that his early-season performance is sustainable.
Wednesday was a great day for Reynaldo Lopez, as the Washington Nationals’ prized pitching prospect delivered his best start to date at Double-A Harrisburg. Picking up the win against Erie (Detroit Tigers), the right-hander allowed just one run over six innings, while striking nine and walking just one.
Continue Reading Federal Reserve: Lopez Making Progress at Double-A
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.
For the second straight year, The Nats Blog presents its countdown of the Washington Nationals’ Top-10 Prospects.
There are some changes from last year’s list, and part one is the most reflective of that trend. One player from this list was not ranked last year, while another was only drafted in June. Part Two — which will cover players five through one — is truly the cream of the crop, but this section has its points of interest, yielding the Nationals some potential rotation insurance and a trio of promising position players.