Baseball Prospectus released their list of the Washington Nationals' Top 10 Prospects for public consumption today and to no one's surprise, the top two players on the list are the top pitching prospect, Lucas Giolito (no.1), and infield prospect in the organization, Trea Turner (no.2). What might surprise some? BP's scouts' predictions for when Giolito and Turner will be up in the majors this season.
After going through Giolito's well-documented strengths, and mentioning his effortless, "... lively fastball that sits comfortably in the mid-90s and will touch the upper 90s," his, "12-6 power curveball," which, "... shows sharp, abrupt break late in its trajectory toward the plate," and which he is, "able to both throw... for strikes and bury... effectively as a put-away pitch," as well as his changeup, which they say, "is the least potent pitch in his repertoire," though, "even that projects as plus thanks to his ability to replicate fastball arm speed and turn the ball over to induce arm-side fading action," they get to the question of when Giolito might be expected to join the major league rotation?
"The Nationals have some rotation depth to work with so it’s hardly a given that Giolito starts the year in Washington, but once the Super Two deadline passes, he should be called up in short order."
The Super Two deadline was a topic of discussion recently when Turner's future at short in the majors was discussed in an article at FanGraphs.com that looked at the potential position battles for the Nationals this Spring.
The likeliest scenario for the Nationals' 22-year-old shortstop of the future, at least in Fangraphs.com's Brad Johnson's opinion, is that Turner starts the season in the minors and comes up two months in:
"The service time game is a consideration. Turner accrued 45 service days last year. If Washington keeps him in the minors until sometime around June 1, they’ll gain an extra season of club control. More importantly, teams like to control as much depth as possible. If Espinosa, Drew, and Turner are comparably valuable in 2016, the team is better off rostering the veterans with Turner on deck as a call up. If Turner is on the roster, it may mean that Drew or another utility man isn’t."
Will both Giolito and Turner -- if he doesn't win the starting job this Spring and barring any setbacks, hiccups, etc. in their development -- be in the majors in June?
Giolito will be in major league camp this Spring.
Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo talked to reporters this winter about Giolito being part of the next wave of Nationals' pitching prospects, who, "could be there as early as mid-2016."
Talking about the potentional position battle at short, Rizzo told Washington Post writer James Wagner that Turner will get a chance to compete for the starting job along with veterans Danny Espinosa and Stephen Drew:
"We love competition. Trea’s gonna come to spring training with the rest of the big leaguers and compete for a job at shortstop, and we love the depth that we’ve created there," Rizzo said. "His talent level is extremely high, and we’ve got extremely high hopes for him, and we’re gonna develop him the way that he should be developed."
So what do the Baseball Prospectus' writers and scouts think about Turner's chances of winning the job?
"Despite the presence of Danny Espinosa and the signing of Stephen Drew, Washington’s starting shortstop job should be Turner’s to lose in spring training as he exceeds both players in terms of present ability and future ability."
Doug Harris, the Nationals' Assistant GM and VP of Player Personnel, talked on MLB Now this week about both Giolito and Turner, offering his take on when the top prospects could be up in the majors for good.
Will Giolito be up before the non-waiver trade deadline (which is on August 1st this year) so the Nationals know what they have and if he can help going into the stretch run, or will he come up after the deadline to help bolster the rotation if an addition is needed?
"I think he's going to have a big hand in answering that question," Harris said.
"We're committed to building a foundation with him, but still a work in progress at this point. We were able to get him to a higher level of baseball, kind of expand his innings. He stayed on course, every fifth day, throughout the course of the year. We challenged him with some details that he's going to have to accomplish to be able to pitch successfully in the major leagues, and he's on his way to doing that, but I think he's going to have a heavy hand in answering that question along the way."
Harris told Baseball in the District hosts Tim Murray and Chase Hughes recently that Giolito impressed the Nationals' brass with his work last summer and in Florida after the minor league season came to an end.
"He went to Instructional League," Harris said, "he really self-evaluated extremely well, he understands what he needs to do to get better and he's very driven to address those things."
"We took some steps in that direction in the Instructional League and his innings that he worked there, albeit out of the public eye, were dominant and we expect that to carry over into '16."
As for Turner? Harris was asked in his MLB Now appearance what the expectations were and what his timetable was for taking over full time at short?
"I think it's just Trea continuing his evolution," Harris explained.
"I thought he did a fantastic job last year. He was challenged in multiple organizations, at multiple levels. Handled the situation with a great deal of maturity and poise.
"We brought him to the big leagues in [August] last year. He was exposed to baseball at the highest level and I think he learned that and is ready to come in and compete in Spring Training this year and see where it takes us."
So when will Giolito debut in the majors? When will Turner take over at short? Those are just two of the big questions facing the Nationals as Spring Training approaches...