If you’re reading this you already know that the Nationals bullpen has been bad; like really bad. Despite the the offense leading the MLB in nearly every major category, the bullpen (or lack thereof) has been the defining storyline of the Nationals 2017 season so far. I’m not going to beat a dead horse: We all know that the bullpen has been holding back what appears to be an all-time great Nationals offense and will continue to be a major issue as the season progresses. Finally, on Tuesday night, the front office took a drastic step towards fixing this problem; transitioning Erick Fedde, the organization’s top pitching prospect, out of the rotation and into a relief role.
In an effort to keep up with their parent club, the Hagerstown Suns of the Low-A South Atlantic League have gotten off to a blistering start; going 19-12 through 31 games on the back of their high powered-offense. One of the driving forces behind Hagerstown’s success has been Dominican outfielder Juan Soto, who has caught the eye of scouts across the baseball world. The young outfielder has recently made his way onto national top 100 prospect lists, and despite his distance from the majors, could very well be the best hitter in the Nationals farm system.
Last summer, the Nationals made headlines at the deadline when they acquired Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and righty Taylor Hearn. Later that season, as the rest of the league turned their attention to the playoff race, the two teams came together once again to make a trade that flew under the radar of the national media. Following the return of Joe Ross from the 60-Day DL, the Nationals DFA’d infielder Chris Bostick, and eight days later were able to find a trade partner for him in Pittsburgh. In return the Nationals received a switch hitting catching prospect out of Florida by the name of Taylor Gushue. This was a trade of two struggling prospects who needed a fresh start; and in Gushue the Nationals have found intriguing upside to that has begun to show itself early in 2017.
It’s hard to believe that the first month of the season is almost behind us. The Nationals have been off to a red-hot start (at least the offense) and sit firmly atop the National League East. Down on the farm, things have been only slightly less cheerful. The Nationals affiliates have gone a combined 41-35, with the Low-A Hagerstown Suns leading the pack at 13-8. Individually, the Nationals have seen several top prospects come out of the gates firing, as well as a few lesser known prospects providing eye-opening performances. Despite the small sample size, the organization has been encouraged, and I would like to acknowledge these performances with my Organizational All-Stars for the month of April.
As we all know, the past year has been rough on the Nationals’ minor league system. Trades and promotions have turned what was once an excellent farm into just a mediocre one, with only a handful of high-end prospects remaining. While all of these moves have been done for the betterment of the major league club, the farm system is still in need of some restocking at all levels. With a low draft pick combined with a small bonus pool, as well as a cap on international spending after blowing through the cap last July 2nd, the traditional methods of restocking the farm offer limited near term value.