Washington Nationals Midseason Top 50 Prospects

Carter Kieboom, July 7, 2019, Futures Game, Progressive Field, Cleveland, OH. Photo credit - Scott Greene, @Scotty_Ballgame on Twitter

At the halfway mark in the season, everyone here at Prospects1500 takes a snapshot of the team they cover and updates their personal top 50 prospects.  I don’t want to steer any of the readers wrong, the Nationals minor league system is one of the worst in the league. As I take a step back, it is not the numerous trades that have hampered the system but more recently it has been poor drafting and development.  I took over the Nationals beat during the 2017 season when Victor Robles and Juan Soto were the first two prospects on my midseason top 50. Both of those players turned into major league players. But who else has been major league contributors? I’m going to skip over Carter Kieboom for this exercise just for the sake of argument. Number 14 at the time, Koda Glover, was thought to be the closer of the future but he could never get past the injuries. Number 15 was Austin Voth, he is a fill-in starter at best. Number 17 was Pedro Severino, he was DFA’d and is now with the Orioles and strangely performing but he never turned into the catcher he was supposed to be.

That is it.

There have been no other major-league players, other than a spot start/injury replacement here and there. 


So who/what is to blame? I honestly think the Nationals need to take a look at themselves in the mirror and make some drastic changes. Their drafts can improve. In 2017, they took Seth Romero (makeup issues and injury), Wil Crowe (okay…this was a good pick), Nick Raquet, Cole Freeman, and Brigham Hill. In 2018, they took Mason Denaburg, Tim Cate, Reid Schaller, Jake Irvin, and Gage Canning. Out of ten picks, eight were pitchers. Many of us play fantasy (dynasty) baseball here and we know building your team on pitchers is VERY risky business. The other two picks were college bats that have never performed. So what did the Nationals do this year? More of the same, three of the first five picks were pitchers.

If the Nationals scouting and front office keeps using the same draft strategy, this system will never make it out of the cellar. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. I’m sorry Nationals fans.

Okay, I’m going to jump off my soapbox now and get to what y’all are here for…my updated top 50 Nationals prospects!

Prospects1500 Tiers:
Tier 1:
 Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster


Tier 1:
None


Tier 2:

1. Carter Kieboom, SS (Preseason rank: 2)
Age: 21
Highest Level: MLB
ETA: 2019
Kieboom got his first cup of coffee this year and stumbled. He has been killing AAA before and after his debut in Washington. Started at SS in the Futures Game in Cleveland. Should return to Washington in September, if not before.


Tier 3:

2. Luis Garcia, 2B (Preseason rank: 3)
Age: 19
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2021
Washington was aggressive with the assignment to AA. Youngest player in the league. Awful start to the season but the average has returned in the past month. Needs to be less aggressive at the plate, wait for his pitch and drive the ball. I still see a major leaguer here.

3.  Wil Crowe, RHP (Preseason rank: 5)
Age: 24
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2020
Impressive AA campaign. Strikeouts and swinging strikes are up and walks are down. Homeruns per 9 are also maintaining with the promotion to AA. He has some of the highest spin rates in the minors. Should be seeing him in AAA soon, which will be a huge test with it coming in the PCL and their happy fun MLB ball.

4. Jackson Rutledge, RHP (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 20
Highest Level: A-
ETA: 2022
The Nationals first round draft pick this year. This 6’8” righty has the chance to be a mainstay in the Nationals rotation in the future.

5. Mason Denaburg, RHP (Preseason rank: 4)
Age: 19
Highest Level: GCL
ETA: 2022
Did not make his debut until June. Walks have been an issue. He has eleven strikeouts to six walks across ten innings, as of this post. If all goes well, he should be promoted to Hagerstown (A) soon.

6. Tim Cate, LHP (Preseason rank: 6)
Age: 21
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2021
After 70.1 innings of great pitching in A ball, he was promoted to A+ where he has struggled. It is a small sample but walks are at a career-high 9% but strikeouts and swinging strikeouts are up. Should remain at the level for the rest of the season. An arm to keep on your radar.

7. Jeremy de la Rosa, OF (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 17
Highest Level: R
ETA: 2022
Only played in four games so far. A guy to take a flyer on.

8. Sterling Sharp, RHP (Midseason rank: 26)
Age: 24
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2020
Having a great season in AA. Swinging strikeouts and overall strikeouts are up and walks have stabilized to around six percent. He will need to limit the hits though if he wants to be an everyday starter. Look for him to remain in AA for the entire season.

9. Drew Mendoza, 3B (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 21
Highest Level: Has not played professionally
ETA: 2022
Third-round pick of the Nationals this year. Led the ACC in walks, on-base percentage and ranked tenth in slugging percentage.


Tier 4:

10. Ben Braymer, LHP (Preseason rank: 23)
Age: 25
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2020
I saw Braymer in a recent outing in Richmond (AA) and was really impressed! In 79 innings, he had a 2.51 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. He had struggled a bit in AAA but it has only been 14.1 innings. I’ve moved from depth piece to possible back end starter with my look. An arm to keep your eye on.

11. Israel Pineda, C (Midseason rank: 8)
Age: 19
Highest Level: A
ETA: 2022
Signed in the 2016 International draft class. A bat first catcher that is struggling at A ball. Needs to be a bit more aggressive at the plate. Strikeouts are up six percentage points while swinging strikes are down two percentage points.




Tier 5:

12. Yasel Antuna,3B (Preseason rank: 7)
Age: 19
Highest Level: A
ETA: 2021
Has not played this season. Recovering from TJS.

13. Seth Romero, LHP (Preseason rank: 9)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A
ETA: 2023
Has not played this season. Recovering from TJS.

14. Telmito Agustin, OF (Midseason rank: 17)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2022
Repeating the level and struggling major. Was eligible for the Rule 5 draft in the offseason and was not selected by another team, which should have told us something.

15. Jose Sanchez, SS (Preseason rank: 11)
Age: 18
Highest Level: A
ETA: 2022
Sanchez, another 2016 International signee, is a glove first shortstop. Doubt the bat will ever get there.

16. Gage Canning, OF (Preseason rank: 12)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2021
Has struggled offenisvely his entrire career except for a 14 game sample after being drafted. With strikeout rates in the high 20s to low 30s, there is little to see here.

17. James Bourque,RHP (Preseason rank: 13)
Age: 25
Highest Level: MLB
ETA: 2019
Had a quick appearance in the majors that did not go smoothly. Should be a pen guy moving forward.

18. Reid Schaller, RHP (Preseason rank: 14)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A-
ETA: 2020
Started the season late, as he was rehabbing from an undisclosed injury. As of this post, he has made two appearances, has 11 walks and 9 strikeouts in ten innings. Pen arm.

19. Jackson Tetreault, RHP (Preseason rank: 16)
Age: 23
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2020
After 22 innings of 1.23 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in A+, he was promoted to AA and has struggled a bit. Walks are still an issue has they sit around eight percent. Keep an eye on him. His swinging strikes are up to 10.8% and his LOB% is a laughable 59.6%.

20. Kyle Johnston, RHP (Preseason rank: 17)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A+
ETA:2021
Repeating the level. Swinging strikes are up an impressive six percentage points while walks, while still high, are down to eight percent. The Nationals will try to keep him as a starter but I see him in the bullpen in the future. Expect to see him promoted to AA soon.

21. Malvin Pena, RHP (Midseason rank: N/A)
Age: 21
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2022
Signed during the July 2nd period in 2013 but missed all of 2015 and 2016 due to injury. Struggled with homeruns in his assignment to A+. All numbers are down this season. We are looking at another reliever here.

22. Jake Irvin, RHP (Preseason rank: 19)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A-
ETA: 2021
A 2018 draftee that has struggled in his assignment to Hagerstown (A). He has improved in the strikeout and walks department but has trouble keeping the ball in the yard. I’m not giving up hope that there is a back end starter here.

23. Joan Adon, RHP (Preseason rank: 21)
Age: 20
Highest Level: A
ETA: 2021
Adon has always struggled with his release and nothing has changed. Walk rate still in the double digits.

24. KJ Harrison, 1B (Preseason rank: 34)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2021
Was hitting 0.404/0.485/0.649 in A before the promotion to A+. Strikeout rate has creeped back up after the promotion but power has remained. Moved from behind the dish.

25. Taylor Guilbeau, LHP (Preseason rank: 24)
Age: 25
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2020
Moved to the bullpen last year. Walks have come down while strikeouts remain the same. Should see him in Washington next year.

26. Drew Ward, 3B (Preseason rank: 25)
Age: 24
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2020
Great season to date, even though he is repeating AA. Strikeouts will always be an issue. Best internal candidate to fill in at third if the Nationals fail to sign Rendon.

27. Jose Marmolejos, 1B (Preseason rank: 26)
Age: 26
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2020
Power has returned but he is playing with the happy fun ball in AAA. Best internal candidate to fill in at first after Zimmerman walks

28. Francys Peguero, RHP (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 23
Highest Level: A
ETA: 2022
Missed all of 2017 and some of 2018 with TJS. Currently killing it in A but is old for the level. Starting right now but will probably end up as a reliever.

29. Matt Cronin, LHP (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 21
Highest Level:
ETA: 2021
Fourth round pick. Pure reliever. Recorded 26 saves while in college. Should be a fast mover.

30. Austin Davidson, 1B (Preseason rank: 27)
Age: 26
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2020
Struggling at AA even though he is repeating the level. Lost ground to Marmolejos in the Ryan Zimmerman replacement contest.

31. Joan Baez, RHP (Preseason rank: 38)
Age: 24
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2019
Baez sits mid-nineties and actually has a plus curve. Strikeouts increased in AA, recently promoted to AAA. Should be a bullpen piece next year.

32. Justin Connell, OF (Preseason rank: 47)
Age: 20
Highest Level: A
ETA: 2022
11th round selection in the 2017 draft. An OF with no power to speak of but a great eye, with double digit BB% throughout his career. Power has increased this year. A small bright spot for the org.

33. Jacob Rhinesmith, OF (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 23
Highest Level: A
ETA: 2022
Double digit walk rate with a reasonable strikeout rate in A ball this year. A bit of power and speed. Could be an interesting find in the 18th round.

34. Wilmer Perez, C (Preseason rank: 33)
Age: 20
Highest Level: A-
ETA:2022
On the smaller side, only 5’10’’. Performing well in the New York-Penn league.

35. Taylor Gushue, C (Preseason rank: 36)
Age: 25
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2020
Decent all around, both at and behind the plate.Great makeup, possible backup catcher at this point. Enjoying the bouncy ball in AAA.

36. Tres Barrera, C (Preseason rank: 41)
Age: 24
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2019
Barrera has a great glove but his ceiling is a backup. Performing well in AA. Walks are up and strikeouts are down. Ceiling of backup catcher here.

37. Viandel Peña, 2B (Preseason rank: 44)
Age: 18
Highest Level: R
ETA: 2022
Switch hitting middle infielder signed for $175,000 in the July 2 international signing period last year with a great eye at the plate. Only played in 9 DSL games so far.

38. Jordan Mills, LHP (Preseason rank: 22)
Age: 26
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2019
Mills was killing in AA but has struggled in AAA. Might be a mid-inning reliever.

39. Alfonso Hernandez, LHP (Preseason rank: 49)
Age: 19
Highest Level: A-
ETA: 2021
It has been only 15 innings but Hernandez has put up some great numbers from the pen. Has only walked one and struck out 17 batters in those 15 innings. We might have something here

40. Frankie Bartow, RHP (Preseason rank: 39)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A
ETA: 2020
The Nationals might have found an interesting bullpen piece in the eleventh round if he can find a bit more control.

41. Andry Arias, 1B (Preseason rank: 43)
Age: 18
Highest Level: R
ETA: 2022
An interesting young 1B/corner OF with a smooth lefty swing. Only played in a couple DSL games at this point.

42. Tomas Alastre, RHP (Preseason rank: 28)
Age: 20
Highest Level: A
ETA: 2022
ERA is again above 5.00 with walks being a major issue for the righty. Org depth at this point.

43. Raudy Read, C (Preseason rank: 29)
Age: 25
Highest Level: MLB
ETA: 2019
Had a PED suspension in 2018. Struggling at AAA. Below 0.300 OBP. He was thought to be the catcher of the future now he is org depth at this point.

44. Cole Freeman, 2B (Preseason rank: 30)
Age: 24
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2020
Dude just hits. Perfect super utility guy. Hope to see him promoted to AA.

45. Steven Fuentes, RHP (Preseason rank: NR)
Age: 22
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2021
Reliever at this point. SwStk% is up to 15%.

46. Anderson Franco, 3B (Preseason rank: 35)
Age: 21
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2021
The flash of power he flashed in 2017 has vanished. Org depth at this point.

47. Jakson Reetz, C (Preseason rank: 40)
Age: 23
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2021
Scouts loved the bat speed when he was drafted out of high school in 2014. Bat has never played in pro ball. Great walk rate, been double digits for most of his professional career.

48. Jake Noll, 3B (Preseason rank: 42)
Age: 25
Highest Level: AAA
ETA: 2019
First cup of coffee when Rendon was hurt. Massive struggles in AAA this year.

49. Aldrem Corredor, 1B (Preseason rank: 45)
Age: 23
Highest Level: A+
ETA: 2020
Slight step back this year. Org depth at this point.

50. Brigham Hill, RHP (Preseason rank: 20)
Age: 23
Highest Level: A
ETA: 2020
Has not played this season. Undisclosed injury




About Shelly Verougstraete 24 Articles
Shelly Verougstraete is the Nationals writer here at Prospects1500. Even as a diehard Red Sox fan, and author of sabermetric based Red Sox blog greenmonsterbb.wordpress.com, the goal here is to keep you up to date with all the happenings down on the Nats farm. Shelly lives in Virginia and has many minor league parks (A to AA) close by. Let's Go Nats!

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