Adam McInturff of 2080 Baseball provides writeups and pro-style scouting reports of Nationals prospects named to the Carolina League All-Star Game from the Potomac Nationals roster.
All video is provided by 2080 Baseball.
Name: Carter Kieboom | Position: SS | Age: 20 | B/T: R/R
SCOUTING REPORT: Despite playing in less than 50 games last season, the Nationals showed confidence in Kieboom by challenging him with an initial assignment to High-A Potomac to start the year. Just 20 years old for the entirety of the 2018 regular season, Kieboom has hit his way to Double-A and was named to the Sirius XM Futures Game next week at Nationals Park. He has added noticeable muscle this season and is holding up better as the season goes on, now looking every bit of his athletic 6’2’’ and 200-pound listing. Kieboom’s bat speed has improved because of the strength gains, and he’s showing more consistent loft power in game situations. His swing path is lengthier than when I saw him as an amateur, but he’s doing more damage at the plate as well. Kieboom understands how to work himself into fastball counts, which is a good sign for a hitter who shows more present swing-and-miss against off-speed stuff. Defensively, I came away impressed with his improvements at shortstop: last year, I saw a player likely to move off the position, though he now looks to have at least some chance to stick at short. Kieboom will never be a truly plus defender, but both his range and overall actions have taken steps forward since 2017.
One of the better infield prospects in the game, Kieboom’s offensive profile will be extremely valuable if he can remain up the middle on defense. The ceiling is an offensive-minded shortstop with above-average hit and power tools on top of a passable glove. Likely more of an everyday guy if he moves to the hot corner, the bat still could be enough to get regular playing time at third base. Washington has had great success developing left-side infielders like Anthony Rendon (3B, Nationals) and Trea Turner (SS, Nationals), and Kieboom has the tools and makeup to be the next name on that list.
Name: Jake Noll | Position: 3B/INF | Age: 24 | B/T: R/R
SCOUTING REPORT: Noll was the Nats’ 7th round pick in 2016 on the strength of a well-built frame and offensive upside, despite lacking a true defensive position. That still could be said today, as Noll—now 24-years-old—continues to have success against minor league pitching while struggling with the glove. He broke out last year in Hagerstown, slashing .270/.312/.448 in 2017. This year, Noll turned it up another level, slashing .302/.350/.460 in the first half with High-A Potomac and playing in the Carolina League All-Star Game before a recent promotion to Double-A.
While his production has been solid to this point, Noll is a good example of an older player having success in A-Ball. He has a good approach at the plate and a polished swing, but it isn’t particularly fast nor explosive, and the offensive profile runs the risk of blending in a bit more in the high-minors. His fringy raw power plays more to the pullside, and Noll projects more as a doubles hitter with occasional power than a true masher with enough bat to play every day on a corner. The Nationals tried him at second base last season in Hagerstown—an experiment that didn’t last more than a season—and while he’s a better physical fit for the hot corner at 6’2’’ and 195-pounds, Noll’s hands and actions are well below average. At the big league level, there isn’t much keeping him away from being a first baseman.
A right-handed corner bat without tons of raw power, Noll will have to continue producing and proving it at every level to earn his shot at the majors. The best-case ceiling is a bench bat and spot-starter on a corner against lefties, though the lack of a carry tool could wind up profiling as a 4A type if there isn’t enough to carve out a regular reserve role.
Name: Tres Barrera | Position: C | Age: 23 | B/T: R/R
SCOUTING REPORT: Washington’s 6th rounder in 2016, Barrera is a defensively-oriented catcher with glovework and game-calling that give him a shot at the big leagues. Given his strong work behind the dish, a passable .252/.303/.398 slash line was enough for a Carolina League all-star nod.
His 6’0’’ and 215-pound frame is good for catching, built durably and with sturdy strength through the lower-half and core. He’s a quiet receiver that shows plus instincts and intangibles leading a pitching staff, with an arm that’s at least average. Barrera calls a good game and gives pitchers confidence throwing to him. His natural strength provides some raw power to the pullside, though it’s more from brute muscle than quick or loose hands. There’s iffy batspeed and plate coverage, and he’s unlikely to ever be enough of an offensive force to be in the mix for everyday playing time in the bigs. He has hit for fair batting averages at each stop so far, though I anticipate high-minors pitching to provide more of a challenge once he moves to Double-A and above.
There isn’t a ton of prospect value here, but high-makeup catchers with defensive ability and some raw pop have a way of sticking around. If he can hit enough to get his glove into the lineup in a spot-starting role, Barrera’s ceiling is that of a reserve catcher at the Major League level. The glove work at a premium position makes him a safe bet to at least be an up-and-down type, even if the bat really stalls moving up the ladder.
Name: Sterling Sharp | Position: RH-SP | Age: 23 | B/T: R/R
A 22nd round pick in 2016, Sharp has gotten finesse outs at every level and was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg after being named to the Carolina League All-Star Game. Extremely thin and wiry at 6’3’’ and 170-pounds, the 23-year-old righty isn’t particularly strong and won’t blow anyone away. He works in the 88-to-91 mph with his fastball, dipping into the mid-80s at times later in outings. His ability to get ahead in the count and hide the ball from a deceptive, closed delivery play the fastball up a bit—but it’s still a fringy pitch at best. A low-80s changeup is his best secondary, thrown with the same arm action as his fastball with diving action down and away from left-handed bats. The deceptive moving parts in his delivery make it hard to pick up the ball, but Sharp’s plungy arm-circle is long in the back and gives him issue snapping off a spin pitch. A below-average slider is his third, sitting at 80-to-82 mph with soft and gliding tilt.
Deception and control are what gives Sharp a chance at the big leagues, though it probably won’t be as a starting pitcher. Double-A will be a good test for him, as he won’t be significantly more polished than his competition with Harrisburg like he was in the Carolina League. The best-case scenario is a funky longman that throws strikes, but I see him closer to a FV 30 player—one with the chance for cups of coffee, but lacking a carry tool to carve out a 25-Man roster spot for a full season.
A native of Washington, D.C., Adam will be periodically contributing scouting pieces on Nationals prospects for Federal Baseball. Currently, he’s the Assistant Director of Professional Evaluation at 2080 Baseball. Previously, Adam worked in the Baseball Operations departments of the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers after serving as a Senior Prospect Writer for Baseball Prospectus. You can follow him on Twitter: @2080adam. Adam can be reached at email@example.com for all podcast and media requests.