Adam McInturff of 2080 Baseball provides writeups and pro-style scouting reports of prospects the Nationals acquired at the deadline and checks in on a handful of other players down on the farm.
All video is provided by 2080 Baseball.
The 2018 trade deadline was more dramatic than the last few years in Washington. Hovering on the edge of contention and (reportedly) fielding some calls on franchise cornerstones like Bryce Harper, the team opted to trade a few big league pieces for minor leaguers. Brandon Kintzler was shipped to the Cubs in unusually contentious fashion after being accused of leaking information from the clubhouse. Earlier in July the team parted with Brian Goodwin by sending him to Kansas City, and more recently, Shawn Kelley wound up with the A’s after being DFA’d and clearing waivers due the infamous glove toss in the 9th inning of a 25-4 blowout victory against the Mets.
The Kintzler and Goodwin trades each netted a minor league reliever, while Oakland’s return for Kelley was paid in international bonus slot money and by taking on some of the reliever’s current contract. Though all three players were in unique situations, parting with numerous big league contributors for two A-Ball ‘pen arms seems like a bold move considering the Nats’ efforts to stay competitive in 2018. That said, each trade seems to have a makeup-driven motive behind it, and the prospect return—relievers Jhon Romero and Jacob Condra-Bogan—both have a chance to contribute to the relief corps down the road.
Jacob Condra-Bogan | RH-RP | Age: 23 | Level: High-A Potomac
Conda-Bogan is easy to root for, having signed with Kansas City from an independent league team after not coming to terms with Toronto in the 32nd round of the 2017 Draft. He put up excellent numbers out of the bullpen at Low-A Lexington, and the Royals swapped him for Brian Goodwin in a one-for-one deal earlier this season. I saw him before the trade in May, then caught Conda-Bogan’s first appearance as a Nationals prospect with High-A Potomac.
He’s a thick-framed 6’3’’ and 230 pounds, and while he has a power pitcher’s build; Condra-Bogan will need to keep the body in check as he ages. There’s limited deception in his delivery, as he pitches solely from the stretch with a deliberate operation that hitters can time up. Most of Condra-Bogan’s prospect value is tied up in his fastball velocity, which touches the 96-to-97 mph range at best and sits in the mid-90s. It flashes run action, especially down in the zone, but there isn’t much command and he relies on throwing hard to get away with his spots. A mid-80s slider is the primary off-speed, showing tight spin and more vertical depth than lateral movement. It’s presently a fringy pitch that might get to average, but I didn’t feel as though the slider is likely to miss bats at higher levels. Condra-Bogan mixes a change with good velocity separation at 80-to-84 mph, but he slows his arm and floats the pitch, negating some of the effect.
The best-case scenario is a FV 45 middle reliever who pairs an above-average fastball with enough off-speed and control to hang around the big leagues. Condra-Bogan is a limited athlete whose velocity wavers greatly, sometimes down as low as the 90-to-92 range when he’s tired. There’s plenty of room to fall short of a regular ML bullpen ceiling—if the fastball backs up, he lacks a separator otherwise and projects closer to a 4A type who gets cups of coffee.
Jhon Romero | RH-RP | Age: 23 | Level: High-A Potomac
Jhon Romero doesn’t have Condra-Bogan’s size or best-bolt velocity, but he’s the better athlete of the two and likely has a higher ceiling. Romero still can run the fastball into the mid-90s and his secondary pitches are more refined and consistent. Short but muscular at 5’10’’ and 195 pounds, Romero throws strikes with an above-average heater and a solid slider and changeup.
His stuff fits a relief profile, but Romero lacks a truly dominant pitch to fit in the back of a big league ‘pen. Romero has prevented walks well for a reliever throughout his career and seems ready to face high-minors competition. He will be Rule V eligible this winter, which might make a callup to Harrisburg later this year more likely as the team evaluates how Romero fares against better hitters.
[ed. note - “Romero was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg this afternoon, after the story was submitted.”]
Minor League Notes:
- It didn’t take long for OF Gage Canning to earn a promotion. The team’s 11th rounder in this June’s draft from Arizona State, he dominated pitching in the Penn League across 59 plate appearances, slashing .315/.373/.593 before being called up to Low-A Hagerstown. His bat has cooled some since reaching the South Atlantic League, but it’s impressive that Canning is holding his own against full-season competition just months after being drafted. The outfielder has shown surprising pop in his pro debut, hitting six home runs between both minor league stops.
- LHP Tim Cate was the Nats’ second-rounder this June from UCONN. I got a look at him during a mid-July start. The southpaw threw a lot of strikes with a 89-to-92 mph fastball, showing advanced ability to keep a hard curveball (79-to-82 mph) around the zone while mixing a decent mid-80s change. He’s fairly polished and has the control and approach of a starter, though how impactful Cate will be as a prospect will come down to if he has the stuff to combat high-level hitters.
- OF Daniel Johnson missed time with an injury this summer and rejoined the Harrisburg lineup in mid-July. The athletic outfielder has slashed .264/.316/.356 since returning to the Senators.
- SS Luis Garcia hasn’t slowed down since being promoted to High-A Potomac in early July. Still just 18-years-old, he has slashed .311/.336/.439 across his 31 games in the Carolina League. We were on Garcia early at 2080 Baseball, ranking him #121 on our Midseason Top 125 Prospects. He has established himself as one of the best players in the farm system and will be on the national radar in 2019.
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.