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Washington Nationals’ 2017 Season Preview: Nats’ prospect watchlist

A quick look at some Washington Nationals’ prospects to keep an eye on this season.

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-Scottsdale Scorpions at Glendale Desert Dogs Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Entering last season, the Nats’ farm system was in the middle of the pack — Keith Law ranked it 15th out of 30 systems in baseball.

However, after Trea Turner graduated to the majors, Lucas Giolito struggled in his limited time in the show, and a trade that sent Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 1st Round pick Dane Dunning to the White Sox in exchange for outfielder Adam Eaton, the system is considerably more depleted (ranked #22 by Minor League Ball), but the Nats still have some notable prospects in their system.

Let’s take a look:

Erick Fedde (Ranked #2 in Nats’ system, #60 overall by MLB Pipeline)

Last season (Single-A Potomac, Double-A Harrisburg): 8-5, 3.12 ERA over 121 innings

MLBPipeline ratings: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 55

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Drafted eighteenth overall in 2014 by the Nationals, Fedde is the top pitching prospect in the Nats’ system, and enjoyed some brief success this past Spring Training, going 2-0 with a 3.29 ERA over 13.2 innings, but will still start the season in Double-A (last year was Fedde’s first full season in professional baseball since he did not debut until late in 2015 due to his Tommy John surgery rehab). With that said, Fedde’s ceiling (which is a number two starter, according to MLBPipeline) appears reachable within the next two or three years, and could debut as soon as this year, depending on injuries to the major league roster and how well he does in Double-A and Triple-A.

Austin Voth (Ranked #8 in Nats’ system)

Last season (Triple-A Syracuse): 7-9, 3.15 ERA over 157 innings

MLBPipeline Ratings: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50

Austin Voth, drafted in 2013 by the Nats in the fifth round, has been slowly but surely making his way up the minor league system, never overwhelming anyone but constantly proving to be a quality pitcher for whatever team he plays for.

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-Scottsdale Scorpions at Glendale Desert Dogs Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The complicated situation surrounding A.J. Cole, who was suspended for five games last season but appealed it until the second-to-last day — meaning that he’s suspended for three games in the major league season, but cannot serve them until he is in the majors, makes the question of which prospect could get the first call up a big question. That means Voth could be the first starter called up after Joe Ross and Jeremy Guthrie if someone gets injured, so we could see him any time this season depending on how things go.

Victor Robles (Ranked #1 in Nats’ system, #7 overall)

Last season: (GCL Nats, Low-A Hagerstown, High-A Potomac): .280/.376/.423 with 9 home runs and 42 RBI

MLBPipeline Ratings: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 70 | Arm: 65 | Field: 60 | Overall: 60

Victor Robles, frankly speaking, is the guy. He’s the best prospect the Nats have seen since Bryce Harper, and has the potential to replace him (if necessary). The Nats signed him for a steal ($225,000) out of the Dominican Republic, and last season, he finally started to make real progress towards making the majors, reaching advanced Single-A Potomac. The big “if” for Robles has never been if he has the raw tools, but if he can refine them to major-league level skills. Robles is an A+ athlete that can run, hit and catch with the best of them, but still needs to figure out a few things.

If he does figure things out, the Nats won’t have much to worry about if and when Bryce Harper departs in 2018, as Robles could potentially replace him as an MVP-type player.

Otherwise, they may need to find a backup plan, but it really doesn’t look like they’ll need to look beyond him.

Brian Goodwin (Ranked #26 in Nats’ system)

Last season: (Triple-A Syracuse, MLB): .280/.349/.438 with 14 home runs and 68 RBI (Triple-A), .286/.318/.747, 5 RBI (MLB)

MLBPipeline Ratings: Hit: 45 | Power: 40 | Run: 60 | Arm: 50 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Goodwin makes for a tricky case. If Michael A. Taylor struggles in the majors again, it’s quite possible that Goodwin comes back up to the majors to be the fourth outfielder and replace Taylor — he plays great defense, and looked good in his limited stint in the majors last year. Granted, it’s also possible that Wilmer Difo learns to play the outfield with some skill and takes over the fourth outfield spot, blocking both Taylor and Goodwin from the outfield, but otherwise, Goodwin is the next man up for that job.