Adam McInturff of 2080 Baseball checks in with scouting reports, video, and write-ups on Nats’ prospects from Hagerstown and the Eastern League All-Star Game.
All video is provided by 2080 Baseball.
Drew Mendoza, 1B, Hagerstown Suns (FV 40 / High Risk)
Ht/Wt: 6’5” / 230 lbs. B/T: L / R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 5m
Mendoza was the Nats’ third-rounder this past June, selected with the 94th overall pick from Florida State. A polished college bat, the organization skipped him over short-season entirely and sent Mendoza straight to Hagerstown. His plate discipline and selective approach jumped out, as did his lefty power potential and physical 6-foot-5 frame. Mendoza played 3B in college but is likely to get most time as a pro at 1B, something that raises the bar offensively for him to get regular at-bats in the big leagues.
There’s power potential here, but I wondered if it was enough to be a slam dunk to clear that bar (and subsequently grade as a FV 45 or better right now), and saw reason to keep tabs on how well Mendoza handles same-side pitching higher up the ladder. He’s a high-floor prospect who could move quickly through the system, already one of the better hitting prospects in a fairly thin Washington pipeline.
Israel Pineda, C, Hagerstown Suns (FV 40 / High Risk)
Ht/Wt: 5’11” / 190 lbs. B/T: R / R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 18y, 11m
Expectations were high for Pineda going into his first year of full-season ball. His 2018 performance in the New York-Penn League last summer was encouraging, drawing rave reviews for his glovework and leadership while slashing .273/.341/.388 as a teenager.
It has been a rougher go for Pineda in the South Atlantic League this year, as he has looked more his age at times and occasionally appears overmatched against older competition. He turned 19 just as this season started, so there’s still plenty of time to hold out hope Pineda makes the adjustment back—and it’s worth bearing in mind catchers often take more time to develop anyway. The baseline tools are still the same, with signs of advanced hitting ability and barrel-feel for a young catching prospect. He’s best on defense, built with a sturdy frame well-suited for the position and looking like a lock to stick behind the plate.
Though we dropped Pineda to the FV 40 tier for now, I expect him to bounce back in 2020 with a full year of A-Ball under his belt. Pedro Severino (before his offensive renaissance this year) is a recent Nats’ catching prospect that’s relatively similar to the type of player Pineda is.
Matt Cronin, LHP, Hagerstown Suns (FV 40 / Extreme Risk)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 195 lbs. B/T: L / L Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 6m
I caught a quick look at Cronin, the Nationals’ fourth-round pick in 2019 from the University of Arkansas. He’s a high-floor prospect that could move quickly through the system as a polished college reliever. Cronin was assigned straight to Low-A and might see Potomac by the end of his first pro summer.
The lefty works with a high-effort mechanical operation, though the moving parts in his delivery add deception. The fastball worked 91-to-93 mph in my look, a tick down from where I saw him with the Razorbacks this past spring. His off-speed pitch is a hard upper-70s curveball with tight bite and consistent down action. Cronin seems to generate a high rate of spin on both pitches, as his heater took off over barrels up in the zone and the breaking ball flashed sharp. He can keep both for strikes in best sequences but doesn’t have the look of a ‘pen arm with pinpoint control.
With average velocity and a decent two-pitch mix, Cronin probably doesn’t have the stuff to pitch in leverage innings. His realistic upside is a solid 6th or 7th inning reliever that could fill a role fairly soon.
Ben Braymer, LHP, Harrisburg Senators** (FV 35+ / Follow)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 215 lbs. B/T: L / L Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 11m
Braymer was named to the Eastern League All-Star Game but did not participate after a promotion to Triple-A Fresno in late June. The 25-year-old lefty has been a steady performer up the minor league ladder since being drafted in the 18th round from Auburn in 2016. He was a key part of Potomac’s playoff team in 2018 and was named the organization’s Co-Pitcher of the Year, participating in the Arizona Fall League after the regular season.
He’s close to a finished product, and despite solid ERA numbers throughout his career, Braymer’s fringy stuff makes him the type of pitcher that has to “prove it” to scouts at every level. His fastball works in the 89-to-93 mph range—closer to the high end of that range when in relief—backed up by a curveball that’s his signature pitch. It’s a big league quality breaker, thrown with power and consistent sharp, down bite. Braymer’s changeup has historically been behind his other two pitches, something that contributed to middling strikeout numbers in the upper-minors and could ultimately make him more effective in a non-starting role.
**Braymer was promoted to Triple-A Fresno prior to the Eastern League All-Star Game**
Joan Adon, RHP, Hagerstown Suns (FV 35+ / Follow)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 185 lbs. B/T: R / R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 20y, 7m
Adon’s stuff has backed up a bit since my first 2019 look at him as the grind of taking the ball every fifth day takes its toll. His fastball was peaking consistently at 96-97 mph early this year, working more comfortably at 92-to-93 mph last weekend in Lakewood. I’ve always seen him as a reliever long term, and think he’ll ultimately get some velocity back (so long as he stays healthy) upon moving to a short-stint role.
Adon’s off-speed arsenal likely isn’t deep enough to turn lineups over, and I think his slider has a better chance to get swinging strikes from more advanced hitters in a bullpen role. I see his development path being somewhat like current Triple-A reliever Joan Baez, another former hard-throwing righty who started in the low-minors and emerged as a better prospect upon transitioning to the ‘pen.
Aaron Barrett, RHP, Harrisburg Senators (FV 35+ / Follow)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 230 lbs. B/T: R / R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 31y, 2m
Continuing a great comeback story, the 31-year-old Barrett stepped in to take the spot of LHP Ben Braymer after he was promoted to Triple-A. Barrett was seen as a promising bullpen piece and delivered two seasons of solid work for the Nationals in the big leagues between 2014 and 2015. He missed the next two years with injuries, beginning the long road back in 2018 all the way down in short-season ball with Auburn.
Barrett has put together a strong year for Harrisburg, and he entered late in the Eastern League All-Star Game for a quick appearance. His fastball worked in the 93-to-94 mph range with a decent slider in the mid-80s. Now 31-years-old, Barrett gives the Nats a solid upper-level relief depth option and might see the big leagues again in a smaller capacity. We wish Aaron all the best in his inspiring journey back to the game’s highest level.
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Tres Barrera, C, Harrisburg Senators (FV 35+ / Follow)
Barrera has been a mid-season All-Star each of the last two years, named to the Eastern League game this year after representing Potomac in the 2018 Carolina League All-Star Game. The defensive-minded backstop lacks the bat for a significant future role, but Barrera’s work behind the plate could still get him to the big leagues. The 24-year-old is known as a high-makeup guy and vocal leader on the field, two traits that make him a solid upper-minors contributor.
Justin Connell, OF, Hagerstown Suns (FV 35+ / Follow)
The rare Nats’ prospect to sign from high school after the 10th round, Connell was Washington’s 11th rounder in 2017 from Florida prep powerhouse American Heritage. He has been a strong regular presence in Hagerstown’s lineup this year as a 20-year-old, showing a well-rounded toolset and keen eye at the plate that give an interesting foundation to build on. Connell doesn’t dominate any one aspect of the game and likely grades out as a tweener—not quite a true CF defender and lacking blow-the-doors-off power for a corner—but he’s a lesser-known prospect in the system that’s worth tracking down the road.
Reid Schaller, RHP, Hagerstown Suns (FV 35+ / Follow)
Schaller has been on scouts’ radar dating back to his high school days in Indiana. Injury issues his senior spring—paired with a strong commitment to Vanderbilt—ensured he made it to campus. Schaller ultimately required Tommy John surgery in college and missed significant time, coming to the Nats in 2018’s third round as the rare draft-eligible freshman. He pitched from the ‘pen for the Commodores, showing a fastball in the upper-90s and a hard, pro-ready slider at the time. Washington made it known they planned to stretch Schaller back out as a starter upon turning pro, but his stuff hasn’t been the same from the rotation. I’m not closing the door on him moving into prospect range down the road, but considering his injury history and the velo dip, Schaller’s best chance at big league impact will likely be in a relief role.
Trey Turner, RHP, Hagerstown Suns (FV 35+ / Follow)
That’s not a typo, there is indeed another *Trey Turner in the organization. He’s an older ‘pen arm for the South Atlantic League (already 23 years old), but the former 10th round pick has put up strong numbers against younger competition in A-Ball so far. A shorter, stocky righty, Turner’s heater sits in the mid-90s and touches 96-97 mph at best. While that’s certainly a good start—and enough for a follow grade at this time—limited secondary or control/command holds him back from being likely to fit as a regular relief option in the big leagues.
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.