This Top 10 list wraps up our look at the Washington Nationals’ Top 40 prospects for 2019.
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(#10) Nick Raquet, LHP
Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2020 Role Description: Swingman
Ht/Wt: 6’0’’ / 215 lbs. B/T: R/L Highest Level: A+ Age (as of April 1, 2019): 23y, 3m
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Raquet was the Nationals’ third-rounder in 2017. He carved his way to the Carolina League last year in his first full pro season, moving to Advanced A after being named an All-Star in the South Atlantic League. His fastball worked in the 92-to-94 mph range (reportedly touching as high as 96-97 mph) in college before the draft and he flashes that velocity in short stints, though the heater usually sits in the high-80s as a starter. Raquet works with four pitches, able to keep a usable changeup and curve around the plate for strikes. Unless he can unlock the velocity he showed in college, the realistic ceiling is a swingman that can spot-start or pitch middle innings. Raquet is a fiery competitor that finds a way to get outs, attributes that should allow him to fill a big league role in some capacity.
(#9) Raudy Read, C
Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2017 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 6’0’’ / 170 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 25y, 5m
Read was added to Washington’s 40-Man Roster prior to the 2017 season and he debuted briefly in the big leagues later that year. He was suspended 80 games for PED use prior to 2018, getting back in game action at Double-A and Triple-A after returning. Read’s power potential at catcher is intriguing, though fringy glovework and contact ability stand in the way of him profiling as a regular. In the best case he’s a bat-first backup who provides some pop, but he’ll need to prove valuable enough defensively to remain at catcher in order to reach that ceiling.
(#8) Tanner Rainey, RHP
Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2018 Role Description: Setup Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’2’’ / 235 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 26y, 3m
Rainey was the Nationals’ return for Tanner Roark in a December trade with Cincinnati. That move was financially motivated from Washington’s standpoint—Rainey isn’t commensurate value for an established starter like Roark in a one-for-one deal—but he’s still a near-ready piece and will have chances to contribute from the bullpen in 2019. Rainey has the stuff to step into a setup role quickly if he can get his walk numbers under control, working his fastball regularly into the high-90s with a bat-missing slider in the high-80s. This type of prospect wouldn’t rank this high in a deeper system, but given the top-heavy nature of Washington’s list, we value Rainey’s proximity and foreseeable contribution enough to bump him into the top 10.
(#7) Seth Romero, LHP
Ceiling: 50 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2021 Role Description: League Average Starter (#4/#5 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’3’’ / 240 lbs. B/T: L/L Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 11m
Romero had a disappointing 2018 season and will miss this upcoming season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last August. While things haven’t gone the way Washington hoped when they drafted the enigmatic lefty 25th overall in 2017, he’s still the biggest wildcard in the system and has the talent to make a jump up this list. Romero was sent home from Spring Training for violations of team rules, joining the Nationals’ Class A affiliate in June. He put up big numbers against less advanced competition but didn’t show quite the same stuff he did as an amateur, looking heavier and pitching in the low-90s. Romero has shown dynamic swing-and-miss stuff with some feel and strike throwing ability in the past, and given his considerable talent, we’re keeping the door open for Romero to return to form. He’ll be watched closely in 2020 and will have a lot to prove once he’s back from injury.
(#6) Yasel Antuna, SS
Ceiling: 50 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2023 Role Description: Everyday Player
Ht/Wt: 6’0’’ / 170 lbs. B/T: S/R Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 19y, 5m
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Antuna signed for more than $3 million as an amateur, and after a strong 2017 debut in the GCL, Washington sent him to the South Atlantic League as an 18-year-old. He struggled badly with Hagerstown, though he started to find his stride at the plate before getting hurt at the end of July. Antuna will miss time in 2019 coming back from Tommy John surgery, the rare position player to require the procedure. He played all around the infield last season but projects best at SS or 3B, though we see the body and actions to at least get a chance to stick at the 6. Especially as a switch-hitter, Antuna’s offensive game might take time to develop. Antuna is somewhat of a wildcard prospect that would give this system a big boost by coming back strong from injury.
(#5) Wil Crowe, RHP
Ceiling: 50 Risk: High ETA: 2020 Role Description: League Average Starter (#4/#5 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’2’’ / 240 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 6m
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Crowe had Tommy John surgery in college, and his durability in the rotation is still a question despite a sturdy frame. His heavy fastball works 91-to-95 mph as a starter and sits at 92 mph, though he touched the high-90s as an amateur and could get some of that velocity back if ever pitching in relief. The slider plays more average than plus in the rotation, though like his fastball, it also has shown better in the past. Crowe made big strides with his arsenal depth (improving both a curve and changeup) and overall pitchability en route to being named the organization’s Co-Pitcher of the Year in 2018. With a year under his belt focusing on smaller aspects of being a starter, the hope is that Crowe can get back to the velocity he showed in college. His ceiling is a sturdy back-rotation type, though the tools are here to fit in a setup role if he falls short of that.
(#4) Mason Denaburg, RHP
Ceiling: 55 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2023 Role Description: Above-Average Starter (#3 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’4’’ / 195 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: DNP Age (as of April 1, 2019): 19y, 7m
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The Nationals have never shied away from rolling the dice on an injured player that falls down the board. Denaburg fits that mold, only available with the 27th overall pick in 2018 because of a bout of biceps tendinitis that sidelined him last spring. He had looked like a top-20 pick before the injury, touching 98 mph, with a hard curveball that drew plus grades from scouts. Denaburg didn’t pitch after signing, getting back on a mound during Instructional League and showing basically the same stuff he did prior to the draft. He’s unproven and numerous years from ready, but Denaburg’s high-upside stuff gives the ceiling of a #3 starter.
(#3) Luis Garcia, SS/3B
Ceiling: 55 Risk: High ETA: 2021 Role Description: Above-Average Player
Ht/Wt: 6’0’’ / 190 lbs. B/T: L/R Highest Level: A+ Age (as of April 1, 2019): 18y, 10m
Garcia was part of the Nationals’ banner 2016 international class, signing alongside (#7) Yasel Antuna and Jose Sanchez (Pure Projection). Antuna signed for the largest bonus of the three, but Garcia now ranks significantly ahead of the group as a prospect. Washington challenged Garcia with an assignment to Class A Hagerstown as a 17-year-old, and despite some initial struggles, he ultimately thrived and earned his way to Advanced A Potomac by season’s end. He has plus feel to hit and is a natural at the plate, making tons of hard contact and showing an offensive plan well beyond his years. Garcia flashes raw power in BP and it’s foreseeable he grows into it in games, especially seeing as his shorter frame has muscled up considerably since signing. He’s an instinctive defender who makes the routine plays at SS, but that new bulk might move Garcia to 3B once he’s fully mature. He would grade as a FV 60 type if we thought he could stick at SS, but his youth and a potentially special hit tool give Garcia the ceiling of an above-average player even at the hot corner.
(#2) Carter Kieboom, SS
Ceiling: 60 Risk: High ETA: 2019 Role Description: Potential All-Star
Ht/Wt: 6’2’’ / 190 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 6m
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Kieboom came back from an injury-shortened 2017 as strong as the Nationals could have hoped for last season. He played the last half of 2018 at Double-A as a 20-year-old, holding his own against much older and more advanced competition. Kieboom is one of the best infield prospects in the minors, a solid mix of floor and potential upside with the chance to be a star if he can stick at shortstop. His short swing projects to produce both average and power, paired with a polished approach that’s very advanced for a hitter this age. Kieboom improved his defense significantly coming into last season and now at least has a chance to remain at the 6. He’s still more of an average-at-best defender than anything above that, but strong instincts and positioning make him playable at the position. The signing of Brian Dozier gives Kieboom some time to get more upper-minors seasoning to start next year, though he could surface in Washington by September with a strong 2019.
(#1) Victor Robles, OF
Ceiling: 60 Risk: Moderate ETA: 2018 Role Description: Potential All-Star
Ht/Wt: 6’0’’ / 185 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 10m
Robles wouldn’t be prospect eligible had he not hyper-extended his elbow and missed significant time in 2018. He played 21 games with the big league club at year’s end, slashing a strong .288/.348/.525 over the short sample. Robles is an elite defensive outfielder with 70-grade speed, a cannon arm, and excellent instincts. He gets to balls that other center fielders wouldn’t have a chance at, ranging to both gaps with furious closing speed from an extremely strong stride. He’s more of a contact hitter with doubles power than a true home run threat, but his speed and hand-eye coordination make him a potential 60-grade hitter with 30+ SB potential on the bases. Robles is one of the best prospects in the minors, a mix of upside and Major League readiness. He’s ready to step in right away come Opening Day 2019, and we see his defense, speed, and on-base ability giving the upside of a potential All-Star in peak seasons.
• 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for all podcast and media requests.