21. Drew Ward - In Drew Ward you have a guy with a huge amount of upside. Drafted as a high school hitter out of Oklahoma in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft, there were concerns about how well his stats would translate to professional baseball. Well Ward answered those questions quite well. With the GCL Nats Ward put up a slash of .292/.402/.387 while playing third base. While he showed a lot of good signs, you could tell it was still a huge jump for him, as he struck out at 22% and he didn't quite show the power that he is capable of with only one home run and 13 doubles in 199 plate appearances.
The good news is that he walked 25 times or 12.5% and he showed a good ability to hit for average. On defense, Ward is currently iffy at best at third, so a move to first could be in order, however Ward is young enough I expect the Nats to give him a chance to figure things out at third. The upside on Ward is an everyday third baseman with the potential to be a good all-around hitter, but with that said don't expect to see Ward in a Nationals uniform anytime soon, as he still has a lot of developing to do.
22. Pedro Severino - Moving down the list we have the young catcher Pedro Severino. While Severino won't get your attention with his bat, his defense is something to write home about. All reports from Hagerstown had Severino's defense as already almost major league ready, and considering he is only 20 that is something you don't see every day. His bat has been improving as he went from hitting .220/.301/.266 in 2012 with the GCL Nationals to hitting .241/.274/.333 with the Hagerstown Suns. His developing bat combined with his young age give him an outside shot at being an everyday catcher, but it's more than likely that he will settle into a backup role somewhere. For Severino it's simple though, he will go as far as his bat will take him.
23. Neil Holland - Next on the list we have the right-handed, sidearm throwing relief pitcher Neil Holland. Holland, an 11th round pick in 2010 out of Louisville has been a guy that has slid under the radar for most of his minor league career. This is probably because sidearm pitchers are not valued very highly in professional baseball. They are probably not valued very highly because the amount of side arm pitcher that have successful major league careers is quite small. Last season, Holland made the jump to AA and handled it quite well, putting up a 2.84 ERA with a 11.2 SO/9 and a 2.0 BB/9 in 50.2 innings for the Senators. This is just more continued great results for Holland, as his career ERA is 2.13 and he has a 4.23 SO/BB ration for his career. He features a sinking fastball which he uses to get a lot of ground balls, and he also features a slider and change-up. In the end, Holland is never going to be considered a top of the line prospect because he throws sidearm, but if he has a good year at AAA this season we could be seeing him up with the Nats.
Nationals Top 50 Prospects
24. Robert Benincasa - Benincasa is another good relief pitching prospect for the Nationals. The 7th round pick out of Florida State in 2012 had no problems transitioning to the professional level, posting a 3.09 ERA in 23.1 innings for Auburn. More importantly he had a strong SO/9 at 12.3 to go along with a strong BB/9 of 1.2. He was also ranked among the top prospects. The former closer at Florida State continued to impress last year with Hagerstown, and earned the promotion to Potomac after just 21 innings. Benincasa finished out the year strong in 30 innings with Potomac. For the year combined between Hagerstown and Potomac, Benincasa posted an ERA of 3.00 with a 11.3 SO/9 and a 2.5 BB/9. Reports on what Benincasa throws are conflicting, but what we do know is his fastball sits 90-94. If Benincasa can put up a strong season with Harrisburg next season, he will be right on the track to make an impact in the major league bullpen.
25. Blake Schwartz - Schwartz, a 17th round pick in 2012, is a guy who has put up very solid numbers under the radar, much like Tommy Milone and Danny Rosenbaum did before him. His career started off with 17 mediocre innings with the GCL Nationals, but the Nationals must have liked what they saw as he was quickly promoted to Hagerstown, where in seven starts he put up a 3.05 ERA with a 9.6 SO/9 and a 2.6 BB/9. He continued 2013 where he left off with Hagerstown, and he earned the promotion to Potomac after just 14.1 innings at Hagerstown (in which he posted a 1.26 ERA). He continued to have success with Potomac, putting up a 2.65 ERA in 132.2 innings. Not only did he have a nice ERA, with all the pitchers from Potomac moving up to Harrisburg, Schwartz really became the rock of the Potomac rotation, coming up big whenever a big game was needed. There was something slightly concerning about his numbers at Potomac; even though his BB/9 stayed strong a 1.8, his SO/9 took a nose dive down to 5.4. His upside is very limited, as he only throws in the low 90's, and there isn't a whole lot of movement on his fastball. His curve is a nice pitch that could definitely play at the major league level. He also has a changeup, but it's a fringe pitch. His upside is probably a back of the rotation starter, but I could easily see him in some kind of swing role with a team, much like Craig Stammen (hat tip to Nathaniel Stoltz for the comparison and the scouting info here)
26. Blake Treinen - With Treinen we have one of my favorite sleeper prospects with the Nationals. Kinda the forgotten man from the Mike Morse trade in which we received A.J. Cole and Ian Krol, Treinen has one of the most interesting back stories in all of minor league baseball (which can be read about here). Treinen battled through injuries this year with the Harrisburg Senators to post solid results with a 3.64 ERA in 188.2 innings for the Senators. His SO/9 wasn't great at 6.5, but his BB/9 was solid at 2.5. As far as the stuff goes, Treinen sits in the mid 90's, but he can dial it up and even hit 99 when he needs to. He also features a slider which definitely has the potential to play at the major league level. As far as a third pitch goes, Treinen has experimented with a breaking pitch and a change-up, but they both need a decent amount of work if they are going to play in the majors. Treinen's stuff combined with his control puts his upside as a mid-rotation starter, and if that does not work out, a switch to the pen has the potential to be really successful for him.
27. Estarlin Martinez - Next on the list, is Estarlin Martinez who is somewhat a bat without a position. He is a decent hitter, but he does not have enough power to stick at first base, and his glove isn't good enough to stick at third. This makes it seem that Martinez's long term position will be one of the corner outfield spots, but how good his defense will be is yet to be seen. Martinez was really noticed in 2012 with the Auburn Doubledays after hitting .319/.385/.455. After that he was moved up to Hagerstown for 2013 and battled through a poor start and injuries to hit .253/.324/.352. He has a little bit of power, hitting 5 home runs in 2012 with the Doubledays, and I think his upside is 10-15 home runs a year. He also has pretty good speed, stealing 20 bases for the Suns. He does not walk all that much, but he also does not strike out all that much. Overall, I think that if Martinez can stick in the corner outfield he has an outside shot at becoming an everyday player, but I think his realistic expectations in the majors is as a bench player. But with that said I think he is a guy who has a good bit of development left in him, and next season could give us a good clue on if he is just organizational depth, or if we have something special here
28. Pedro Encarnacion - Next on the list is Hagerstown Suns' starting pitcher Pedro Encarnacion. One thing I would like to note, is that as we move down the list, it becomes harder and harder to find scouting reports available on these guys. In fact I couldn't find any for Encarnacion, so this will be purely scouting by box score, which can be very hit or miss. If there is anything about guys like this in the BA handbook I will post an update. Encarnacion is a guy who wasn't really noticed by anyone until 2012, where the only reason he was noticed was the fact that he was given the challenge of jumping from the GCL to Hagerstown. Well this move proved to be too much of a challenge for him as he was awful in six games, and was sent down to Auburn. At Auburn he was hit or miss and ended the year with pretty nondescript numbers. Nonetheless, the organization obviously saw something in Encarnacion in challenging him with the jump. 2012 proved to be much more successful for him as in 128.1 innings for the Hagerstown Suns, Encarnacion put up a 3.58 ERA with a 7.9 SO/9 and a 2.6 BB/9. I am going to hold off on doing any kind of long-term projections on Encarncion, as I just don't have enough information to do that, but it does look like he will be moved up to Potomac, and hopefully I will have a much more full picture on him at this time next year.
29. Dakota Bacus - Dakota Bacus, AKA the White Ninja, was acquired from Oakland in exchange for Kurt Suzuki. If his results at Hagerstown after being traded are any sign of the future, we got a good one. In two appearances and 8.1 innings Bacus gave up only two hits. He also gave up four walks while striking out five. Before the trade Bacus appears to have served as a swingman for Beloit, Oakland's low A affiliate. In 121.1 innings Bakus put up a 3.56 ERA with 90 strikeouts and 38 walks. Bacus has the arsenal to start, features a low 90's fastball to go with a slider, curveball, and changeup. The only scouting related information I have is from Nathaniel Stoltz who liked what he saw in one of his appearances with Hagerstown. In fact when I asked him about sleeper prospects on the Nats on twitter, Bacus was one of the responses. With Bacus we have another guy where we kind of have to wait and see what we truly have, but we could have gotten a steal as we got Bacus is return for just a few months of Suzuki.
30. Randy Encarnacion (formerly Randy Novas) - Randy Encarnacion, who first surfaced in this article by Adam Kilgore, was arguably the best hitter on the GCL juggernaut this year. At only 19 years old Encarnacion was able to put up a hitting line of .349/.437/.523 with three home runs in 109 AB's. He was also good in 2012 with the DSL Nationals hitting .271/.337/.421 with four HR, which is a lot for the DSL. In 2013, Encarnacion only played in the corner OF positions, but he played some center in 2012. You could argue that Encarncion should be higher on the list, and in fact the only reason I have in so low is just because there is so little information on him available. I think that with a good year next year Encarnacion could see himself soar up into the top 15 in the rankings.
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