- C – Raudy Read – 22 yo
- 2.99/.709 – PAG/APPA – (HiA Potomac)
- 2016 stats: .262/.324/.415; .738 OPS; 30 doubles, 9 home runs
With veteran Derek Norris now behind the dish after a trade with the San Diego Padres, fellow veteran Jose Lobaton as Norris’ primary backup and 23-year-old, defense-first backstop Pedro Severino in the fold, The Nationals have no reason to hurry any of their catching prospects to the majors. After running numbers, this season’s UTR minor league depth chart begins with 2011 international free-agent signee Raudy Read. His debut season in the Dominican Summer League saw struggles. He logged a 1.93/.540 P/A, batted .157 with 13 runs scored and 22 RBi’s in 42 games However, Read showed promise as 10 of his 22 hits went for extra bases. He repeated the DSL in 2012 and improved dramatically posting a 3.24/.785 P/A, ranked third in the league with 9 home runs and fourth with 47 RBi’s. The 6’0″- 170 lb. righty debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 2013 and in 40 games, his offense plummeted to the tune of a 2.05/.519 P/A. This didn’t deter the organization from promoting Read to Short Season Auburn of the New York-Penn League, and they’re glad they did because he erupted, posting career highs in batting, hits, doubles, OPB, slugging and OPS. In 2015, Read was promoted to LoA Hagerstown and despite a slow start in his first taste of full-season ball, he still registered a combined 2.63/.660 P/A, but the level splits were intriguing. Read logged an 82 game P/A of 2.59/.648, but upon a 5-game promotion to HiA Potomac to end the 2015 season, he scored a 3.40/.850 P/A. This season was proof that the system has a future star backstop; and I believe Read has both the offense and defensive chops to top the catching prospect list moving forward. He has an advanced plate approach, a .989 fielding percentage and carries a career 39 percent caught-stealing rate. Read should/could spend all of 2017 in with Double-A Harrisburg.
- 1B – Jose Marmolejos-Diaz – 23 yo
- 3.43/.807 combined – PAG/APPA – (HiA Potomac – 3.68/.854; Double-A Harrisburg – 2.67/.652)
- 2016 stats: .289/.370/.475; .854 OPS; 45 doubles, 13 home runs
The Nationals first base prospects/projections is a situation that kind of leaves me scratching my head a little bit. Several mainstream Washington Nationals top prospect lists have 2013 – 3rd rounder Drew Ward listed as a third baseman, but his defense alone forces some to suspect he may make the shift over to first. My confusion doesn’t stem from the notion of Ward moving over, but that this season’s UTR OAS first baseman Jose Marmolejos-Diaz isn’t in any Nationals first-tier first base discussions. How can you not include a player who’s won the Washington Nationals Minor League Player of the Year award twice in the discussion? His 45 doubles ranked second in all the minors behind Rockies LoA Asheville’s Brian Mundell‘s 59, he led the entire Nationals organization this season with 240 total bases and 87 runs scored. Yet some say he’s not on the radar because he just doesn’t project to hit for enough power. The 6’1″- 185 lb. Dominican has 24 home runs in his last two seasons while carrying a career batting average of .288. Ward has 21 homers over the same time period and possesses a .261 batting average in his career. Did I mention Ward has never played first as a pro? No matter how you look at it, if Marmolejos-Diaz continues to hit, the Nationals have no choice but to find room for him regardless of whether it’s at first base or not. I’m not busting on Ward either. He’s talented. When my job is to break down positions, Ward doesn’t belong in the first base discussion yet. Marmolejos-Diaz does now.
- 2B – Ian Sagdal – 23 yo
- 3.39/.806 – PAG/APPA – (LoA Hagerstown)
- 2016 stats: .303/.362/.474; .836 OPS; 30 doubles, 10 home runs
If you haven’t read my Oakland Athletics Organizational All-Star Hitters post, take a look here. You’ll see that I chose Max Schrock as my Oakland OAS second baseman, and as much as I enjoyed bringing added attention to the 2015 – 13th rounder, being in Jim’s and my National League-only fantasy league, it was personally painful to see this kid shipped off to the American League. In our league, Schrock is that perfect late round under-the-radar pick that you draft, then sit on for a few seasons hoping he’ll eventually crack a fantasy lineup. But the fortunate thing about Schrock as an American Leaguer now, this opened the UTR OAS door for 2015 – 16th rounder Ian Sagdal. The 6’3″- 190 lb. lefty debuted in the New York-Penn League in 2015 after being scouted by the Nationals as a super-utility type that could really hit. In 49 games with Auburn, he batted .235 with only 10 extra base hits and posted a meager 2.49/.646 P/A score. Washington wasn’t shaken by his debut performance and assigned him to LoA Hagerstown this past season. All he did was lead the Suns in hits (124), and rank second in runs scored (71), doubles, home runs, slugging (.474), and total bases (194). Sagdal is that typical “above-aged appropriate for the level” prospect that receives little attention as a result. But I’ll say it now and will say it again, production is production no matter how you try looking at it. Sagdal should spend all of 2017 with HiA Potomac and prove again why he deserves more attention. The only issue is what position he’ll settle into moving forward.
- 3B – Kelvin Gutierrez – 21 yo
- 3.17/.736 combined – PAG/APPA – (Short Season Auburn – 3.44/.886; LoA Hagerstown – 3.20/.736; HiA Potomac – 2.70/.614)
- 2016 stats combined: .296/.349/.401; .750 OPS; 23 doubles, 6 triples, 4 home runs; 25 stolen bases
Even though the Nationals don’t seem thoroughly convinced that 2013 international free-agent signee Kelvin Gutierrez can stay at third base moving forward, one thing is certain, his bat arrived in 2016. Now, one would think that the term “arrived” means that the 6’3″- 185 lb. Dominican struggled prior to this season. Actually, he’s been quite the steady producer since his debut back in 2013 with the DSL squad. He batted .255 with 13 doubles and 9 stolen bases in 60 games. This equated to a 2.67/.681 P/A, which was rather respectful for someone as raw as the Pimental, Duarte DR native. He received a promotion to the Gulf Coast League in 2014 and despite raising his batting average (.286), his power diminished, rapping out only 9 extra-base hits in 53 games. 2015 began with Gutierrez’ first taste of Short Season ball. In 62 New York-Penn League games, not only did he raise his average even more, (batting .305), he led the league in doubles (21), tied for second with 73 hits and logged 99 extra bases. This season, Gutierrez began back with Auburn, but after registering a 9-game P/A of 3.44/.866, he was sent packing to LoA Hagerstown; and he didn’t stop producing. In his first 96 games of full-season ball, his 153 total bases and 19 stolen bases ranked third among all Suns teammates. A late August promotion to HiA Potomac produced an rather expected P/A decrease, logging a 10-game 2.70/.614 score to cap his season. There really isn’t anything Gutierrez can’t do. He’s proven he can hit everywhere he’s played, and he is/can be a more than capable defender. It just might not be at third base. The Nationals will most likely have the supremely athletic Gutierrez begin 2017 back in the Carolina League, where he could/should lead the Potomac squad in nearly every offensive stat category. This would further cement his status as one of the better (overall) infield prospects in the entire system.
- SS – Edwin Lora – 20 yo
- 2.49/.674 – PAG/APPA – (LoA Hagerstown)
- 2016 stats: .231/.297/.370; .667 OPS; 32 doubles, 5 triples, 4 home runs; 23 stolen bases
There has been a lot of talk this off-season about Nationals uber-prospect Trea Turner. The young shortstop, turned center fielder, then back to shortstop has been the focus of attention as a a leading rookie heading into 2017, how he’s ready to take over shortstop for the Nationals, and even how hard he’s been working out in the gym. Is the attention deserved? Sure it is. However, this attention helps us here direct our attention to what’s behind the 23-year-old former North Carolina State University draftee. I’m a big believer in 2016 – 1st rounder Carter Kieboom. The kid can do it all: has an above-average hit tool, speed to spare, growing power, strong arm and good enough defense to stick at the position. Kieboom scored a 3.36/.781 P/A in his debut season in the Gulf Coast League. This made Keiboom an easy choice to become a top 10 prospect heading into 2017. This brings UTR in me to Edwin Lora. A free agent signee out of the Dominican Republic, Lora debuted in 2013 for the DSL squad batted .205, stole six bases, collected only 10 extra-base hits in 185 at-bats and scored a 2.15/.567 in 55 games. The following two seasons saw the 6’1″- 150 lb. righty ascend two more levels: the GCL in 2014 where he scored a 2.44/.641 P/A and to the New York-Penn League in 2015, posting a P/A of 2.55/.746. You might not think “wow” when you look at these numbers, but what Lora did in his first taste of full-season ball might make you raise an eyebrow or two. Despite his mediocre P/A score, you cannot ignore his doubles explosion this season. His 32 two-baggers ranked fifth in the Sally League and third in the entire Nationals organization (including the major league squad). His 23 stolen bases also ranked third amongst all 2016 full-time Nationals minor leaguers (behind former Nationals UTR OAS Rafael Bautista‘s 56 and 2015 – 2nd rounder Andrew Stephenson’s 39 combined for HiA Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg). Lora’s numbers tell me that he has the potential to explode. His extra-base percentage (.461 this season) combined with his nearly 4-to-1 BB:K rate is proof that if he pieces all of his many hit tools together, Washington has another blue chip prospect on their hands.
- LF – Alec Keller – 23 yo
- 2.85/.697 – PAG/APPA – (HiA Potomac)
- 2016 stats: .285/.338/.374; .713 OPS; 20 doubles, 3 home runs; 14 stolen bases
I’m going to make my UTR OAS write-up short and sweet. Keller, a 2014 – 17th rounder out of Princeton (NJ) made it on this year’s list. However, it was based on fundamental formalities. Out of all the left fielders in the system, from the HiA level down through to the Dominican Summer League, the 6’2″- 200 lb. lefty summed up the offensive calling card for the position best. He scored the second highest P/A score next to 19-year-old Luis Perdomo, who scored a 3.27/.754. But the young Venezuelan only played in 15 games in the Gulf Coast League this past season. Keller smacked 20 doubles, batted .285 and stole 14 bases. I’d take that every day of the week. However, the conundrum is that Keller is four months away from UTR disqualification. What I predict will happen is the Nationals outfield vector will take on a more well-rounded shape in 2017. Top prospect Victor Robles will maintain his status as the cream of Washington’s crop, 2015 – 2nd rounder Andrew Stevenson will improve on what was a stellar sophomore season that vaulted him all the way to the Eastern League, and 17 -year-old Dominican Juan Soto will build upon a freshman year that saw him rank first in batting (.368) amongst all regular Nationals outfielders from HiA down. Could a full season by the aforementioned Perdomo help vault him to Washington’s UTR OAS left field supremacy? Could 2015 UTR OAS Telmito Agustin take his game to another level with a possible promotion to HiA Potomac? We’ll just have to wait and see.
- CF – Victor Robles – 19 yo
- 3.31/.722 combined – PAG/APPA – (Gulf Coast League – 2.00/.476; LoA Hagerstown – 3.47/.779; HiA Potomac – 3.22/.667)
- 2016 stats combined: .280/.376/.423; .798 OPS; 17 doubles, 8 triples, 9 home runs; 37 stolen bases
Only a select few times in this year’s Organizational All-Star series have I run my spreadsheet numbers and the results were so overwhelmingly in a players favor that all others were left unconsidered. Thus is the case with Nationals centerfield OAS choice Victor Robles. I can’t really say anything about the 6’0″- 180 lb. Dominican that hasn’t already been said. The kid could very well find himself sitting atop many top 50, 100 or even top 200 prospect lists heading into 2018. Now for the best-of-the-rest if you will. What will be interesting moving forward is how the organization will handle both Robles and 2015 – 2nd round pick out of LSU Andrew Stevenson. Both are listed as centerfielders and both have excelled at the position. However, I believe with the lack of a true left fielder in the system, one of them may be destined to move there. With that much talent, you can’t leave one of them hanging to dry.
- RF – Rhett Wiseman – 22 yo
- 3.01/.741 – PAG/APPA – (LoA Hagerstown)
- 2016 stats: .255/.335/.410; .735 OPS; 25 doubles, 5 triples, 13 home runs; 19 stolen bases
The Washington Nationals right field vector within several mainstream prospect publications is both pleasing and confusing. Pleasing because it houses a few of the Nationals best young hitters like this year’s UTR OAS choice Rhett Wiseman and 17-year-old Juan Soto. The lefty swinging Soto ranks ahead of Wiseman and this is where I become confused. Now, this may seem a bit far fetched and a little self serving, but Soto’s widespread top 10 ranking, albeit well deserved, reminds me of back in 2014, when I chose Cleveland Indians first base prospect Bobby Bradley as my UTR OAS. What I found fascinatingly confusing back then was after a monstrous rookie season where, as an 18-year-old, Bradley batted .361, drove in 51 runs, and scored 39 runs, Bradley didn’t find himself on any 2015 Cleveland top prospect lists. Even with Soto murdering baseballs to the tune of a .368 (combined) batting average across two levels this year, I’m simply driving home the principle that no matter what, kids like Wiseman, who perform at a high level, deserve attention. Drafted in the 3rd round in 2015 out of Vanderbilt, the 6’0″- 200 lb. lefty came to the organization defined as a hitter who didn’t possess any outstanding tool on either side of the ball. But as MLB.com’s Jim Callis said about Wiseman in MLB.com’s draft broadcast back in June 2015, “He gets the most out of his tools, He works hard. Maybe average across the board, maybe his arm is slightly below average, but always seems to make a big play, big catch, come up with a big hit for Vanderbilt.” This season he led the Suns in total bases (196), home runs, RBi (75), runs scored (71) and ranked second with 42 walks and hits (122). Wiseman will most likely take his skills to the Carolina League where with Potomac, Wiseman could quite possible help form one of the more athletic outfields in all the minor leagues with Robles and Andrew Stevenson.