A week after the beginning of the MLB Draft, the Washington Nationals are already stocking the farm system. Reports indicate that they have signed, among others, third-round selection Jakson Reetz, a high school catcher, and fifth-rounder Drew Van Orden, a righthander out of Duke.
As the Nationals sign their remaining draft choices, there are two particular prospects that can bolster weaknesses within the farm system: Reetz and second-rounder Andrew Suarez, a lefthander out of Miami.
The Nationals are hoping that Reetz, Gatorade’s high school player of the year for Nebraska, will emerge as a top prospect behind the plate. 10/11 Sports of Lincoln, NE has reported that the Nationals have agreed to give the 19-year-old a bonus above the slotted figure of $567, 300.
Considering the current state of Nationals’ minor league catchers, it is easy to see why they are reportedly splurging on Reetz. Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano have settled in as quality reserve options, but neither has been able to hold down a long-term role in the majors. Pedro Severino, arguably the organization’s best defensive catcher, has a .588 OPS in his first season at High-A Potomac. The only backstop standing out thus far is Spencer Kieboom, a fifth-round choice in 2012 that received All-Star honors at Low-A Hagerstown. At 23, however, he is just gaining experience in his first full season after Tommy John surgery.
With his age and skill set, Reetz may emerge as the most intriguing catcher the Nationals have had in their system since Derek Norris. Baseball America named him the 62nd-best prospect in the draft, citing his ability to drive the ball to all fields and relative athleticism for the position. Reetz will probably spend time with the GCL Nationals and/or the Auburn Doubledays after he signs, perhaps making his full-season debut next year at Hagerstown.
Suarez, meanwhile, could alleviate the Nationals woes when it comes to developing lefthanded pitching. In this season alone, Daniel Rosenbaum and Matt Purke have both undergone Tommy John, while Sammy Solis just returned to Double-A Harrisburg’s DL with what James Wagner of The Washington Post reports is a flexor strain in his left elbow.
The consensus on Suarez, whom Baseball America ranked 75th, is that he projects as a mid-rotation starter, the likely ceiling of Robbie Ray, a pitcher dealt in the Doug Fister trade. Since missing most of his freshman season due to labrum surgery, Suarez has been productive at Miami, including a 2.95 ERA in 109.2 innings pitched this season.
If he signs, he could follow the path that Jake Johansen and Austin Voth took last year and spend time at one or both short-season levels before joining Hagerstown. With the misfortunes the Nationals have had in moving southpaws through the minors, Suarez’s development will be crucial to reversing that trend.
Reetz, Suarez, and first-round choice Erick Feede will be high priority for the Nationals as they work with a bonus cap of $5,725, 700. The deadline to sign draft picks is Friday, July 18.
- Potomac reliever Derek Self was added to the Carolina League’s All-Star Game roster. The righthander, a 9th-round selection out of the University of Louisville in 2012, has a 1.69 ERA, 2.61 FIP, and a 30:5 K:BB ratio in 26.2 innings pitched.
- The Auburn Doubledays begin their season on Friday when they host the Batavia Muckdogs. This will be the Doubledays’ fourth season as the Nationals’ Short Season-A affiliate.
- Both Hagerstown and Potomac could clinch First Half Championships this week, with both teams currently leading their respective divisions by 3 games. This would be Hagerstown’s third consecutive playoff appearance, a franchise record, and Potomac’s second in as many seasons.