2014 Washington Nationals

C – Spencer Kieboom – LoA Hagerstown-  23 yo;  –  (2012 – 5th round) –
  • .309 – 9HR – 61RBi – 50R –  .352/.500/.852 slash  –  – PAG: 3.44
  • Baseball America -NR   –  MLB Pipeline-NR   –  Baseball Prospectus-NR
  • The Clemson University draftee has no standout tool, but plus-plus defense, excellent makeup, his handling of a pitching staff and solid bat could be a recipe that helps make Kieboom a serviceable catcher at the major league level.  2014 was a breakout in a sense after having lost 2013 to Tommy John surgery and 2012 (his debut season) posting a meager 2.22 PAG in 44 games for Short Season Auburn. I really like 20 year old Raudy Read as another promising Nats backstop (2.67 career PAG in four minor league seasons), however it’ll be exciting to see what the 6’0 – 220 lb. Kieboom could do in what should be his first full season in 2015.   
1B – Davinson Pimentel – DSL Nationals – 17 yo;  – (2014 – International FA signee/DR)
  • .350 – 6HR –  38RBi – 44R –   .443/.550/.993 slash    PAG: 3.98
  • BA-NR   –   MLB Pipeline-NR   –   BP-NR
  • When looking down through each organization throughout our off-season work, we get a good gauge at how loaded a system is with possible impact teenagers. The Nationals have as great a stable of teens as any organization I’ve personally tracked starting with Pimentel. Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a catcher, the Nats played the right handed slugger mostly at first base. He did catch approximately 26% of his games, but his defense played much better at first posting a .983 fielding percentage. However, at 5’9 – 170 lbs., Pimentel has a lot more growing to do if wants to stick at first base. He led the DSL squad in batting as well as his entire slash line seen above. For long-term Nationals fans, Pimentel is one of several teen prospects that are a potential “must bookmark.” 
2B – Tony Renda  – HiA Potomac – 23 yo;  – (2012 – 2nd round)
  • .307  –  21 2B  – 0HR – 47RBi – 75R – 19SB –  .381/.377/.758  slash   –  PAG: 3.18
  • BA/#13(2014)  –  MLB Pipeline (mid-season)/#17   –  BP-Prospect-NR 
  • The quintessential overachiever, Renda is known as a baseball rat whose makeup and game IQ far exceed his skill package on the field. That’s not to say he isn’t a worthy enough performer. The product of the University of Cal Berkeley debuted in 2012 for Short Season Auburn and posted a 71 game PAG of 2.99.  He batted .264, yet only 9 of his 78 hits were for extra bases (all doubles.) He did however display excellent plate discipline with a 31:33 BB:K rate.  Renda advanced to LoA Hagerstown in 2013 and in his first full season saw remarkable improvement. The 5’8 – 180 pounder posted a 3.40 PAG and led the Sally League in doubles (43) ranked within the top five in hits (153), walks (68)  – to only 65 strikeouts – and stole 30 bases.  This season the San Mateo, CA native slowed a bit to the tune of a 3.18 PAG which is just under his career PAG of 3.23.  Kids like Renda have a tendency to grow on you and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him overachieve once again upon a possible promotion to AA Harrisburg this coming season. 

 

3B – Drew Ward – LoA Hagerstown  – 19 yo;  –  (2013 – 3rd round)
  • .269 – 10 HR –  RBi – 34R – 5SB –  .373/.497/.870 slash  –  PAG: 2.96
  • BA/#8(2015)  –   MLB Pipeline/#8  –  BP/”On the Rise” 
  • Drafted mainly because of his lefty power bat, the 6’4 – 210 lb. Leedey HS (OK) grad needs to develop a more consistent swing at the plate if he wants to ascend at a quick pace.  Ward played shortstop in high school, but moved to third immediately after turning pro. In his debut season, Ward posted a solid 2.94 PAG and even though 2014 was Ward’s first in full-season, he posted a near identical PAG with a 2.96; which is what you like to see PAG-wise as a hitter is facing more advanced pitching. Defensively, Ward’s play is a marginally sufficient at third and some scouts think a move to 1B could be his ultimate destination. Overall, his defense is his secondary concern as his bat will be what pushes him up through the system. 
SS – Wilmer Difo  – LoA Hagerstown –  22 yo;  –  (2013 – International FA signee-DR)
  • .315  – 31 2B  – 14HR – 90RBi – 91R – 49SB –  .360/.470/.831 slash   – PAG: 3.90
  • BA/#7 (2015)   –   MLB Pipeline/#19  –  BP/#10
  • There was not a single Nats prospect who’s season burst on the scene more emphatically in 2014 than the 6’0 – 175 lb. Difo.  He posted a 3.90 PAG and not only led the South Atlantic League in hits (176), but was also among the leaders in the entire minors. Dino also ranked within the Sally League top-10 in runs scored, doubles, triples, home runs, RBi’s, stolen bases (2nd behind teammate Rafael Bautista) and second in the entire minors in total bases (263).  Difo, until 2014, never played more than 61 games in a season and his PAG scores since his debut in 2010 gave absolutely no indication of a breakout: (2010 – 2.18) – (2011 – csPAG of 3.41 with a repeat of the DSL then onto the GCL) – (2012 -3.04/GCL) – (2013 – a 4-level csPAG of 2.51) then onto this season’s breakout season. Scouts say Difo’s offensive outburst was due in part to the game finally clicking mentally. With Difo’s combination of extreme athleticism, speed, work ethic, ability to play all over the infield and a resurgence of mental toughness, he should see HiA Potomac this season and could possibly reach Double-A Harrisburg posting similar (or even) better numbers than in 2014. 
LF – Telmito Agustin  – DSL Nationals –  17 yo;  –  (2013 – International FA/U.S. Virgin Islands) –
  •  .300  – 14 2B – 10 3B  –  3HR – 41RBi – 56R – 25SB –  .413/.495/.909 slash  – PAG: 4.52
  • BA-NR   –   MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
  • Agustin is another in the long line of many Nationals teenagers who posted mouth-watering performances in their debut season. However, I’m going to pacify my eagerness to tab Agustin as the next great left fielder in the organization. Twenty-four year old Isaac Ballou posted a stellar season for LoA Hagerstown posting a 3.55 PAG score and leading the Suns in triples (9) and walks (47), but Ballou, a 2013 – 15th rounder out of Marshall (WVA), will turn 25 years old before the start of the 2015 season. So, I chose to go with youth and upside here.  Based on his stat profile (both offensive and defensively), Agustin appears to possess traits that would fit in both left and center field. Either way, the lefty will need to continue to hit as he fills out his rail thin 5’10 – 160 lb. frame.  
CF – Rafael Bautista  – LoA Hagerstown –  21 yo;  –  (2012 – International FA/DR)
  • .290 – 5HR – 54RBi – 97R – 69 SB –  .394/.442/.836 slash  – PAG: 3.28
  • BA/#28 (2014)  –   MLB Pipeline-NR  –   BP/#9(2015)
  • My 2014 Nationals Breakout Prospect of the Year had a great season and was a worthy O.A.S. choice  Now, before I receive outcry of epic proportions, let me go on the record and confess that I could have easily chosen 17 year old Dominican Victor Robles. I mean, what’s not to like?  He’s praised for having extremely high baseball acumen at such a young age, has a plus arm, plus speed and advanced bat. However, much like Jim and I have done since the beginning, we stick by our UTR Breakout guns.  After all, who in their right mind could argue with Bautista’s production? He ranked 3rd in the entire minors in steals and ranked 4th in runs scored among UTR qualifiers; and also lead all Nationals prospects in both categories as well. Some view Bautista as strictly a defense/speed first guy which there’s no wrong in such an evaluation. However, if the 6’2 – 170 pounder posts another solid season for HiA Potomac, it’d be nearly impossible to (continue to) ignore Bautista as one of the quintessential prospects in the entire Nationals system. 
RF – Israel Mota  – DSL Nationals  –  18 yo;  –  (2013 – International FA/DR)
  • .310  – 8HR – 47RBi – 48R – 14SB –   .355/.485/.840 slash   – PAG: 3.82
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
  • Repeating the Dominican Summer League in 2014, Mota broke out (in a way.) I mean, it’s difficult to look at an 18 year old and state he “broke out.” However, based on his 2013 production/PAG score (2.10), his nearly two full point jump to a 3.82 PAG  in 2014 could certainly be the ultimate sign the slender 6’2 – 165 pounder is ready for a promotion to the Gulf Coast League in 2015.  The incredible thing about seeing Mota hit (.35% extra base percentage, led the DSL in home runs, total bases (130) and ranked within the top-5 in doubles (19) and RBi’s) is heading into the international signing period, his arm was listed as his only top grade tool ranking 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale.  It’d be a shock if he didn’t start out 2015 in the GCL or even a aggressive promotion to Short Season Auburn. 

 

Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Mention Points) / TPS
 
 1. RHP Austin Voth – (14) SP/TPS .078
  • 22 years old – (LoA Hagerstown / HiA Potomac / Double-A Harrisburg)
  • 5th round – 2013
  • Ranked 15th by Baseball America / 9th MLB Pipeline
  • 7-Time UTR Mention (May 12thJune 10thJune 24thJune 29thJuly 5thJuly 11thJuly 18th)
  • Voth had the Nationals organization stand up and take notice right from his first start in April; and they paid attention in pushing him all the way through to Double-A Harrisburg. Voth fits the profile that I love: a pitcher with three solid offerings with plus command. His fastball sits in the low 90’s, but the velocity creeps into the mid 90’s deeper in the game. Of the 24 games he started, the right-hander pitched past the 5th innings in 19 of those outings. His best pitch is the curve, which is a wicked 11-5 breaker with a sharp bite thats effective on both sides of the plate. Though I don’t project him to reach his level, but as a fantasy owner of Jordan Zimmermann (on my roster since 2009), Im banking that Voth could possibly fill a back-end rotation slot should Zimmy or Doug Fister both bolt in 2016.
2. RHP Nick Pivetta – (12) cSR/TPS .121 
  • 21 years old – (LoA Hagerstown)
  • 4th round – 2013
  • Ranked 22nd by Baseball America / #18 MLBPipeline
  • Pivetta was taken a round earlier than Voth, but after mixed results during his first two seasons, Pivetta finds himself looking at Voth from behind. The Canadian native did post a team high 13 wins at Hagerstown, but faltered toward the end of the season especially during the SAL playoffs. The right-hander is a power pitcher with a 6’5″ 220 lbs frame, so it will take some time to finesse that power and sync the mechanics with his lanky body. He has a mid-90’s fastball, an above average curveball, and a changeup that needs improvement.
3. RHP Lucas Giolito – (11) cSR/TPS .071 
  • 19 years old – (LoA Hagerstown)
  • 1st round – 2012
  • Ranked #1 by Baseball America / #1 Baseball Prospectus / #1 MLBPipeline
  • UTR Mention (July 31st)
  • Marc and I discussed at length whether to include top prospects within our All-Star list. We both agreed that as long we were tracking them before reaching Double-A, it would be a benefit to include them overall just to see how where they fall amongst the true UTR’s. A good case study is Giolito, who as a 1st round pick, came to the Nationals as advertised. Though he fell #3 on this list, you will see him at the top TPS pitcher in the Nationals low-level system. No need to mention his stats, as they garnered him ton of post season awards. Look for him to keep chugging on his way to D.C. at Double-A Harrisburg in 2015.
4. RHP Reynaldo Lopez – (7) cSR/TPS .085 
  • 21 years old – (LoA Hagerstown / Short-Season Auburn / LoA Hagerstown)
  • Undrafted- 2012
  • Ranked #20 by MLBPipeline
  • 3-Time UTR Mention (June 26thJuly 3rdJuly 28th)
  • What a find for the Nationals front office in signing Lopez out of the Dominican Republic for $17,000 in 2012. After a season of limited action in the DSL, Lopez was brought to the states but was shut-down after 2 starts with an elbow strain.  Having that down time to adjust to his new environment paid huge dividends for the young right-hander. Lopez had an outstanding season making his way to LoA Hagertown by season’s end. Despite pitching less that 100 innings of pro ball, Lopez is already a full-blown prospect. He carries a 4-pitch mix already with a 94-98 fastball that will touch 100 mph, a swing and miss curveball, slider, and a work-in-progress changeup. Lopez is ahead of the development scale and just needs to iron out some mechanical issues to repeat his delivery.
5. RHP Dakota Bacus – (7) cSR/TPS .133 
  • 23 years old – (HiA Potomac)
  • 9th round – 2012
  • It seems to be a trend for the #5 guys on my list. Most have been fringy starters that will probably have a better chance carving a career from the bullpen. Bacus comes to the Nationals from the Oakland A’s in the reverse 2013 trade of Kurt Suzuki. Bacus raised some eyebrows during his first outing at Lo-A Hagerstown in 2013. The organizational took an aggressive approach by sending the righty to HiA Potomac to begin the 2014 season, where he posted pedestrian numbers. He throws an average fastball and slider combo and should fit well in the bullpen. I expect the Nationals to give Bacus a long leash and keep him in the rotation, but where to start 2015 will be the question.
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – (Mention Points) / TPS
 
1. LHP Jake Walsh – (9) RP/TPS .076
  •  24 years old – (LoA Hagerstown / HiA Potomac)
  • 34th round – 2013
  • The Nationals got a good look at Walsh this past season, as he overachieved for a 34th round pick. He started the year as the closer for LoA Hagerstown where he picked up 10 saves in 23 appearances (27 K’s in 31 IP). His performance garnered him a mid-season All-Star mention in the SAL. He earned a promotion to HiA and dominated as a set-up guy for the Potomac Nationals striking out 27 hitters and only walking four. He throws a late-life fastball in the low 90’s along with a splitter and curveball.
2. RHP Derek Self – (7) RP/TPS .093
  •  24 years old – (HiA Potomac / Double-A Harrisburg)
  • 9th round – 2012
  • UTR Mention (April 17th)
  • Another former UTR that is starting to put it together. Self had an outstanding year and finished strong at Double-A Harrisburg. He struck out a career high 61 batters and walked just 18 over 66.2 innings. The Nationals sent him the AFL after the season where he made 8 appearances, allowing 2 earned runs.
3. RHP Gilberto Mendez – (7) RP/TPS .093
  •  21 years old – (HiA Potomac)
  • Undrafted – 2011
  • UTR Mention (May 7th)
  • Another promising young arm for the Nationals future bullpen that should make other pre-season lists going into 2015. He broke out somewhat in 2013 with LoA Hagerstown by putting up a 0.91 ERA in 24 appearances, but excitement was tempered due to the small sample of 29.2 innings. After his performance at HiA this past season (15 saves, 49 K’s, 9 BB’s in 51.2 IP), the Nationals can begin to be elated with another successful international signee, who just turned 22 years old.
 
Top 5 TPS – Starting Pitchers
 
1. RHP Lucas Giolito – cSR/TPS .071 
  • 19 years old – (LoA Hagerstown)
  • 1st round – 2012
  • Ranked #1 by Baseball America / #1 Baseball Prospectus / #1 MLBPipeline
  • UTR Mention (July 31st)
  • Marc and I discussed at length whether to include top prospects within our All-Star list. We both agreed that as long we were tracking them before reaching Double-A, it would be a benefit to include them overall just to see how where they fall amongst the true UTR’s. A good case study is Giolito, who as a 1st round pick, came to the Nationals as advertised. No need to mention his stats, as they garnered him ton of post season awards. Look for him to keep chugging on his way to D.C. at Double-A Harrisburg in 2015.
2. RHP Austin Voth – SP/TPS .078
  • 22 years old – (LoA Hagerstown / HiA Potomac / Double-A Harrisburg)
  • 5th round – 2013
  • Ranked 15th by Baseball America / 9th MLB Pipeline
  • 7-Time UTR Mention (May 12thJune 10thJune 24thJune 29thJuly 5thJuly 11thJuly 18th)
  • Voth had the Nationals organization stand-up and take notice right from his first start in April and they paid attention in pushing him through to Double-A Harrisburg. Voth fits the profile that I love, a pitcher with three solid offerings with plus command. His fastball is in the low 90’s, but the velocity creeps into the mid 90’s   deeper in the game. Of the 24 games he started, the right-hander pitched past the 5th innings in 19 of those outings. His best pitch is the curve, which is a wicked 11-5 breaker with a sharp bite thats effective on both sides of the plate. Though I don’t project him to reach his level, but as a fantasy owner of Jordan Zimmermann (on my roster since 2009), Im banking that Voth could possibly fill a back-end rotation slot should Zimmy or Doug Fister bolt in 2016.
3. RHP Steven Fuentes – cSR/TPS .078
  • 17 years old – (DSL Nationals)
  • Undrafted – 2014
  • UTR Mention (August 2nd)
  • Young Panama native had a successful first season in the DSL. He finished with a 2.30 ERA and 3.65 K/BB ratio.
4. RHP Juan Bermudez – cSR/TPS .082 
  • 19 years old – (DSL Nationals)
  • Undrafted- 2014
  • UTR Mention (May 31st)
5. RHP Reynaldo Lopez – (7) cSR/TPS .085 
  • 21 years old – (LoA Hagerstown / Short-Season Auburn / LoA Hagerstown)
  • Undrafted- 2012
  • Ranked #20 by MLBPipeline
  • 3-Time UTR Mention (June 26thJuly 3rdJuly 28th)
  • What a find for the Nationals front office in signing Lopez out of the Dominican Republic for $17,000 in 2012. After a season of limited action in the DSL, Lopez was brought to the states but was shut-down after 2 starts with an elbow strain.  Having that down time to adjust to his new environment paid huge dividends  for the young right-hander. Lopez had an outstanding season making his way to LoA Hagertown by season’s end. Despite pitching less that 100 innings of pro ball, Lopez is already a full-blown prospect. The carries a 4-pitch mix already with a 94-98 fastball that will touch 100 mph, a swing and miss curveball, slider, and a work-in-progress change-up. Lopez is ahead of the development scale and just needs to iron-out some mechanics issues to repeat his delivery.
Top 3 TPS – Relief Pitchers
 
 1. RHP Angher Cepedes – RP/TPS .072
  • 20 years old – (DSL Nationals)
  • Undrafted – 2014
2. LHP Jake Walsh – RP/TPS .076
  •  24 years old – (LoA Hagerstown / HiA Potomac)
  • 34th round – 2013
  • The Nationals got a good look at Walsh this past season, as he overachieved for a 34th round pick. He started the year as the closer for LoA Hagerstown where he picked up 10 saves in 23 appearances (27 K’s in 31 IP). His performance garnered him a mid-season All-Star mention in the SAL. He earned a promotion to HiA and dominated as a set-up guys for the Potomac Nationals striking out 27 hitters and only walking four. He throws a late-life fastball in the low 90’s along with a splitter and curveball.
3. LHP David Napoli – RP/TPS .078
  •  23 years old – (LoA Hagerstown / Short-Season Auburn / LoA Hagerstown)
  • 8th round – 2013
  • Nationals have done a great job with Napoli who had command and control issue coming out of college. Reports show that the Nats are grooming him as a situational lefty.
 
2014 Breakout Grades
 
The following pitchers were chosen in early March. Their selection was based solely on their previous season’s TPS rating and using the UTRMinors.com criteria for those under the radar.
 
 SP Nick Lee – Lee had a strong 2013 with LoA Hagerstown in striking out 102 over 91 innings, but did suffer from some control issues with a 4.3 BB9 rate. I predicted that Lee would turn some of walks in K’s and breakout pitching in the Carolina League with HiA Potomac. He started 2014 with Potomac but things just weren’t right, getting roughed for 16 earned runs over 14.1 innings in April. He went on the DL on April 25th for an undisclosed injury and missed a month and half. He returned in mid-July with the GCL Nationals and worked his way to LoA Hagerstown, working all in relief. He never got back on track. Grade D
 
RP Robert Benincasa – Benincasa was being primed to become a closer and he collected 27 saves in 2013 over 2 levels. Things slowed for him in 2014, but he was still about to progress to Double-A Harrisburg, even though he was ruffled in repeating HiA. Grade C-
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