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Washington Nationals’ Prospects: FBB’s Top 40 Prospects List 2019 - Nos. 20-11...

Counting down the Top 40 prospects in the Washington Nationals’ system, with Nos. 20-11 today...

Photo © and courtesy @Nationals on the Twitter.

Over the next few days, we’ll be counting down FBB’s first (in a while) list of the Washington Nationals’ Top 40 prospects for 2019, with Nos. 20-11 today. A new list will follow for each of the next couple days as we break down the top players in the organization and look at some names you’ll be hearing a lot more about in the upcoming weeks, months, and years...

All video and scouting content is provided by 2080 Baseball.

(#20) Joan Baez, RHP

Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2020 Role Description: Setup Relief

Ht/Wt: 6’3’’ / 190 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A+ Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 3m

Video #1 | Video #2 | Video #3 | Report

Baez’s arm-strength and raw stuff have made him a notable pitching prospect in Washington’s system for a few years, but he has never put it together as a starter. He profiles better in the ‘pen, and as a 24-year-old yet to pitch above A-Ball, he might be making that transition soon. Baez’s fastball touches the 96-to-97 mph range, sitting comfortably in the mid-90s with lively armside run. He throws both a curve and slider, the latter of which grades out as the better of the two breaking pitches. Baez has struggled to make progress with his high-80s changeup, and while it held him back in a rotation role, he’s likely to drop it working in relief. He has the stuff to be a setup man but there’s plenty of risk given the fact he has yet to make the bullpen switch.

(#19) Steven Fuentes, RHP

Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2021 Role Description: Swingman

Ht/Wt: 6’2’’ / 175 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A+ Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 10m

Video | Spotlight

Fuentes is the rare relief prospect that might have more impact in a starting role. He worked multi-inning stints across two A-Ball levels last year, pitching to a combined 2.78 ERA with strong strikeout and groundball numbers. Fuentes’s fastball works in the low-90s and touches 94 mph, and his above-average sink helps manage contact and keep the ball off barrels. A mid-80s slider has improved into at least an average pitch and backs up the sinker well, occasionally mixing a late-diving 86-to-88 mph changeup with promising movement but limited separation. We’re bullish on Fuentes as a potential sleeper in this system. He will likely get his first taste of Double-A in 2019.

(#18) Reid Schaller, RHP

Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2022 Role Description: Setup Relief

Ht/Wt: 6’3’’ / 210 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: SS-A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 0m

Schaller was the Nats’ third-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2018, qualifying for the draft as a rare eligible freshman after another injury forced him to redshirt as a true freshman. He attracted the attention of pro scouts as an Indiana high schooler, honoring his commitment to Vanderbilt after going down with injury during his senior year. The Commodores worked him out of the ‘pen this Spring, where his fastball worked in the 95-to-98 mph range in short stints. Washington stretched him out after signing, hoping to develop him as a starter and focus on three pitches. Schaller has a big league stuff and a physical frame, but there’s a ton of risk given his injury history and relative lack of mound time. He has the stuff to take a jump up this list with a strong 2019 season.

(#17) Austin L. Adams, RHP

Ceiling: 40 Risk: Moderate ETA: 2018 Role Description: Middle Relief

Ht/Wt: 6’3’’ / 225 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 27y, 10m

Adams has reached the big leagues briefly in each of the last two seasons, pitching mostly at Triple-A in 2017 and 2018. He’s old for a prospect (28 in May) but has the stuff to be a darkhorse in this system. Adams’ fastball reaches the high-90s and is backed up by a power slider that gets whiffs at its best. He will have a chance to compete for innings in Washington’s bullpen next year, though walks will be to blame if his Triple-A success ultimately doesn’t carry over to the big leagues.

(#16) Austen Williams, RHP

Ceiling: 40 Risk: Moderate ETA: 2018 Role Description: Middle Relief

Ht/Wt: 6’3’’ / 220 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 26y, 3m

Video | Report

Williams’ career completely changed upon moving to the ‘pen last season. He went from middling depth arm as a starter to the big leagues in just a year’s time, making a handful of appearances for the Nationals late in 2018. He’s a readymade middle reliever with good control and an average fastball/slider mix. Williams should factor into Washington’s bullpen mix in 2019, coming with extra value as a player with numerous options remaining.

(#15) Malvin Pena, RHP

Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2021 Role Description: Swingman

Ht/Wt: 6’2’’ / 180 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 9m

Video | Spotlight

Pena is a power arm that made some noise in short-season ball last summer. A big-bodied righty, he runs his fastball up to 96 mph and shows three usable pitches. Pena’s split-like changeup shows late dive and comes in like his heater, and a hard mid-80s slider flashes average as well. He’s much larger than his 180-pound listing and will need to keep a thick frame in check. Pena enters 2019 with positive helium and is on the short list for potential breakout arms in Washington’s system next year.

(#14) James Bourque, RHP

Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2019 Role Description: Setup Relief

Ht/Wt: 6’4’’ / 190 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 25y, 8m

Video | Spotlight

Bourque turned his career around by moving to the bullpen, jumping to Double-A after toiling for a few years as a starter in the lower-rungs of the system. The Nationals thought enough of his prospects as a reliever to add him to the 40-Man Roster after last season. Bourque’s fastball touches 96 mph and sits in the 92-to-94 mph range, showing late ride up in the zone. His power curveball flashes 55-grade action, and a firm changeup he toyed with during instructs looked capable of keeping lefties honest. Bourque could surface in Washington soon even if he begins next year in Triple-A.

(#13) Tim Cate, LHP

Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2021 Role Description: Swingman

Ht/Wt: 6’0’’ / 185 lbs. B/T: L/L Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 6m

Video #1 | Video #2 | Spotlight | Report

Cate was the Nationals’ second-rounder in last year’s draft, shouldering a heavy 52-inning workload in his pro debut. His fastball was down by August, falling to the 86-to-89 mph range late in starts and just scraping the low-90s. Cate’s signature pitch is a hard curveball with above-average depth, and his mid-80s change is a playable pitch as well. His delivery is repeatable and allows him to keep all three offerings around the plate. We’re skeptical about Cate’s limited physicality and velocity, projecting him to a swingman or middle innings ceiling as opposed to a true back-rotation starter.

(#12) Gage Canning, OF

Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2021 Role Description: Role Player

Ht/Wt: 5’10’’ / 175 lbs. B/T: L/R Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 11m

Canning had a big junior year at Arizona State and was the Nationals’ fifth-rounder in last year’s draft. He performed well in short-season ball and finished his pro debut against more advanced competition in the South Atlantic League. Though there’s surprising raw power for a smaller player, Canning is likely a tweener at higher levels that realistically fits a fourth outfielder’s profile. He’s a better fit on a corner outfield spot defensively and will really have to mash in order to play everyday there.

(#11) Israel Pineda, C

Ceiling: 50 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2023 Role Description: Everyday Player

Ht/Wt: 5’11’’ / 190 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: SS-A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 18y, 11m

Spotlight

Signed for $450K from Venezuela in 2016, the Nationals felt confident enough in Pineda’s polish to send him stateside for his 2017 pro debut. He held his own in the GCL and kept the momentum going last year, earning New York-Penn League all-star honors and slashing .273/.341/.388 as an 18-year-old. He’s built with a durable, mature frame that can withstand the rigors of catching. Pineda is a fairly advanced receiver with an above-average arm, projecting to stay at the position long-term. His swing is loose with quick hands, though the power hasn’t shown up in games yet. A hamate injury ended Pineda’s 2018 season prematurely, something that won’t make it any easier to tap into more juice in the near-term. Even so, Pineda’s feel for the barrel and makeup draw rave reviews, allowing projection to his offensive game across the board. Pineda enters 2019 as the top catching prospect in Washington’s system. There’s risk inherent with young catchers--especially ones who have yet to reach full-season ball--but he’ll be just 19 years old for most of the upcoming season and has the tools to develop into a future regular.

FBB’s TOP 40 NATS’ PROSPECTS FOR 2019: 40-31 (LINK); 30-21 (LINK)

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 amcinturff@2080baseball.com for all podcast and media requests.