We offered a prospect watchlist for 2016 in last Spring’s Washington Nationals Season Preview and looking back we didn’t do so bad. Considering that we don’t get to watch Nats’ prospects as often as we’d like, (most — all really -- of our ‘modest’ budget goes to covering the Nationals and repeated attempts to add minor league coverage at FBB have failed), and we have to rely on public and some behind-the-paywall scouting reports and the box scores to find out what the players down on the farm are doing, we did our best to find prospects we thought might make some noise.
But we tried to come up with a list of the prospects we’d be keeping an eye on and offer a few names that might end up in the majors. Here’s the list we came up with last March:
Victor Robles, Drew Ward, Austin Voth, A.J. Cole, Andrew Stevenson, Erick Fedde... Reynaldo Lopez? Wander Suero?
Robles, of course, ended up putting together an impressive season (.280/.376/.423, 17 2B, 8 3B, 9 HR, 37 SB in 110 games, 504 plate appearances at three levels) and the 19-year-old outfielder is now regarded as the top prospect in the organization on most lists of the Nationals’ up and coming stars.
Ward, 22, a 2013 Nationals’ 3rd Round pick, put up a combined .252/.348/.412 line, 23 2B, 14 HRs in two stops in the Nationals’ organization in 2016 (.278/.377/.491, 16 2B, 11 HRs in 64 G, 268 PAs at High-A Potomac; .219/.310/.309, 7 2B, 3 HRs in 53 G and 203 PAs at Double-A Harrisburg) and went to the Arizona Fall League, where he finished the season with an impressive .309/.391/.383 line in 92 PAs.
Voth spent the 2016 season at Triple-A Syracuse where he put up a 3.15 ERA, a 3.53 FIP, 57 walks (3.27 BB/9) and 133 Ks (7.62 K/9) in 157 innings, then went to AFL as well, and posted a 5.16 ERA, 5.29 FIP, 3.34 BB/9, 6.98 K/9 in 29 2⁄3 IP.
Cole, 25, made 22 starts at Triple-A Syracuse and eight for the Nationals, putting up a 5.17 ERA, 4.74 FIP, 14 walks (3.29 BB/9) and 39 Ks (9.16 K/9) in 38 1⁄3 innings pitched in the majors. He could figure in the Nationals’ bullpen, or end up starting at Triple-A and waiting for another shot in the majors.
Andrew Stevenson, a 22-year-old, 2015 2nd Round pick, played at High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg in 2016, putting up a combined .276/.332/.374 line, 23 doubles, 10 triples, three home runs and 39 stolen bases in 133 games and 580 PAs, then went to the AFL and posted a .353/.417/.518 line, four doubles, two triples and two home runs in 96 PAs.
Fedde, 23, went (6-4) with a 2.85 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 19 walks (1.87 BB/9) and 95 Ks (9.33 K/9) in 91 2⁄3 innings pitched for High-A Potomac and then went (2-1) with a 3.99 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 10 walks (3.07 BB/9) and 28 Ks (8.59 K/9) in 29 1⁄3 IP at Double-A Harrisburg.
Reynaldo Lopez debuted in the majors with the Nationals in 2016, and was dealt to the Chicago White Sox this winter in the trade that sent the right-hander Lucas Giolito and Dane Dunning to the South Side in return for outfielder Adam Eaton.
Wander Suero? Suero, 25, posted a 2.44 ERA, a 3.79 FIP, 21 walks (3.42 BB/9) and 48 Ks (7.81 K/9) in 55 1⁄3 innings pitched at Double-A Harrisburg.
We’ll post our watchlist for 2017 in this year’s Season Preview next month, but Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo offered his own Spring Training watchlist for fans traveling to West Palm Beach over the next two months.
Here’s what Rizzo had to say in a Sirius/XM Fantasty interview with Craig Mish and Jim Bowden when he was asked for some prospects to keep an eye on.
“Of course [Victor] Robles is a guy that everybody knows about,” Rizzo said.
“He’s a five-tool player. We’ve got high expectations for him. We think he’s a quick mover and a guy that has all the skills and the temperament and the make-up to impact us in the big leagues in the near future.
“We also have a player named [Juan] Soto that’s a big left-handed power bat that’s athletic that can do a lot of things.
“[Kelvin] Gutierrez is a slick-fielding third baseman that’s coming into his power that could really impact us down the road.”
Soto, 18, was signed for a $1.5M bonus as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic.
He put up a combined .368/.420/.553 line, 14 doubles, three triples and five homers in 51 games and 207 PAs between the Gulf Coast Nationals and New York/Penn League’s Auburn Doubledays.
Gutierrez, 22, put up a .296/.349/.401 line, 23 doubles, six triples, four home runs and 25 stolen bases in 115 games and 496 PAs between Auburn, Low-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac.
“There are a bunch of other guys that could really help us down the road on the back fields,” Rizzo continued.
“[Erick] Fedde, is one of our top prospects that’s in big league camp, we want to get him a taste of it and see where he’s at so he’s not in awe when he gets to the big leagues and he’s a guy we have high expectations [for].
“Stevenson is coming off an extremely good Arizona Fall League and is an exciting player that can really [track] them down in center field, can really, really run, left-handed bat and really impressed me with his recent Arizona Fall League season.”