The Washington Nationals are expected to make official the promotion of top prospect Lucas Giolito to start against the New York Mets on Tuesday night, nominally taking the place of Stephen Strasburg, placed on the D.L. on Monday with an upper back strain/displaced ribs. The much-anticipated arrival of Giolito to the big leagues obviously has NatsTown very excited, as should be expected.
But the Nats made a series of moves on Monday, promoting prospects throughout the organization.
The first bit of news wasn't a promotion, per se, but a very interesting position switch. Trea Turner, who has played nothing but middle infield throughout his minor league career, started at center field for Syracuse on Monday night. Turner led off as usual but had an off night at the plate, going 0 for 3 with three strikeouts and a walk. But he is hitting .300/.379/.459 with five home runs and 22/24 stolen bases.
With Danny Espinosa playing a steady shortstop and providing some pop (if not on-base percentage) at the bottom of the order, the Nats seem to be trying to find a place where Turner might be able to help the big club. Ben Revere and Michael Taylor have both struggled in the leadoff spot, so if Turner can acclimate quickly to center field he might give the Nats an in-house option to upgrade the position rather than testing the trade market.
On Monday, the Chiefs announced the addition of three new players: 2B Chris Bostick, OF Zach Collier and RHP Reynaldo Lopez. As corresponding moves, veteran INF Scott Sizemore, OF Tony Campana and RHP Juan Gutierrez were released by the Nationals.
Bostick, acquired from the Rangers in 2014, and Collier, a 25-year-old in his ninth year of pro ball, are both more organizational depth than prospect.
Lopez, however, is a different story.
Regarded as one of the Nats top five prospects, Lopez made 14 starts with Double-A Harrisburg, sporting a 3.18 ERA with the Senators with 100 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings. Lopez has allowed 69 hits and walked 25. The right-hander has struck out 10 or more batters in four of his last six starts, including 10 strikeouts over eight scoreless innings last time out on June 25. Prior to the season, Baseball America ranked Lopez the 92nd-best prospect in baseball and fifth-best in the Nationals' system.
Moving from High-A Potomac to Harrisburg are INF Drew Ward, OF Andrew Stevenson, RHP Ryan Brinley and RHP Boone Whiting.
Ward, 21, was the Nats' third round pick in the 2013 draft. The big (6'3", 215) third baseman was hitting .278/.377/.491 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs in 64 games for the P-Nats at the time of the promotion. Stevenson, 22, a speedster outfielder drafted out of LSU in the second round of the 2015 draft, was hitting .304/.359/.418 with one homer and 27 of 36 stolen base attempts. Brinly and Whiting are organizational depth.
In addition, OF Victor Robles, SS Max Schrock and RHP Trey Lambert were promoted from Low-A Hagerstown to Potomac.
Perhaps the most exciting position player in the Nats minor leagues, Robles continues his impressive climb through the organization and could very well land in the top 10 of all minor league prospects next spring. He was rated as higha s No. 29 this year by Baseball Prospectus and No. 33 by Baseball America. The 19-year-old was hitting .305/.405/.459 with five home runs, 30 RBIs and 19 of 27 stolen base attempts for the Suns in 64 games. He also accumulated 13 assists with two double plays from center field.
Schrock, 21, was a 13th round pick in the 2015 draft out of South Carolina. He was hitting .326/.381/.459 with four homers and 15 of 18 steals for Hagerstown.
Robles and Schrock both had a pair of hits in their debut for Potomac on Monday night.