Nationally-Ranked Top Prospects

There isn’t a true consensus in the industry about where the Nats’ farm system ranks (some say upper tier, others say middle-of-the-pack), but there is little debate over who the top five prospects in the system are: RHP Lucas Giolito, SS Trea Turner, OF Victor Robles, RHP Erick Fedde, and RHP Reynaldo Lopez. Wilmer Difo makes an appearance amongst those names here and there, but the five aforementioned players have also earned the distinction of being ranked amongst the top 100 prospects in baseball by at least two of the major four publications who have released their rankings to date (Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN, and MLB.com).

RHP Lucas Giolito
R/R, 6’6”, 255 lbs., 21 years old on Opening Day
Highest 2015 level reached: AA
Drafted by Washington in 2012 (1st Round, 16th overall, $2,925,000 signing bonus)
Best Anagram Name: Coitus Oil Gal

He’s going to be a monster, plain and simple. Giolito’s arsenal includes a future 80-grade fastball that can touch triple digits, a biting 12-to-6 curve that has 80-grade potential (although it’s not quite as probable to reach that grade as the fastball), and a solid change-up that generally sits 10-12 mph slower than his fastball, keeping batters off balance. While Giolito had Tommy John surgery in 2012, he’s been a durable guy ever since, refining his mechanics (which can be tough with his frame). What impressed me the most about Giolito in 2016 was that he maintained an excellent K/BB ratio of 3.54 while facing tougher competition and throwing more innings than he ever had in his professional career. The 21 year old can still use a little more seasoning in the minors, but will be the most talented option to turn to when the Nats need a starter at some point during the season. Before too long, the electric righty might be the Nats’ #1 starter, which is impressive in a system with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Joe Ross.

Giolito's Prospect Rankings:
Baseball Prospectus: #3
MLB.com: #3
ESPN: #3
Baseball America: #5

SS Trea Turner
R/R, 6’1”, 175 lbs., 22 years old on Opening Day
Highest 2015 level reached: MLB
Drafted by San Diego in 2014 (1st Round, 13th overall, $2,900,000 signing bonus)
Traded to Washington on 12/19/14 with RHP Joe Ross for OF Steven Souza and LHP Travis Ott
Best Anagram Name: Return Rate

It’s pretty cool to have some hitting prospects for once, with Turner being the number one batter on my personal list, edging out Victor Robles.  The lighting-fast infielder had a good-albeit-weird season, bouncing around between San Antonio, Harrisburg, and Syracuse before surprisingly making a cameo in DC. Turner hit .322/.370/.458 in the minors in 500 PA and .225/.295/.325 in the bigs in 44 PA, stealing a total of 31 bases in 39 attempts. He’s not without flaws, as he still strikes out a little too much (20.4% K% in his pro career) and does not project to be an elite defender at short. It will be interesting to see what the answers to the key questions about Turner will be over the next few years – will he add a little pop? Can he stick at SS? Will he get on base enough to lead off? That all being said, it’s nice to have a 22 year old with a .321/.381/.446 career batting line in professional baseball with elite speed knocking on the door to the majors

Turner's Prospect Rankings:
Baseball Prospectus: #13
MLB.com: #11
ESPN: #28
Baseball America: #9

OF Victor Robles
R/R, 6’0”, 185 lbs., 18 years old on Opening Day
Highest 2015 level reached: A-
Signed by Washington as an International Free Agent in 2013 ($225,000 signing bonus)
Best Anagram Name: Clover Orbits

I debated listing Fedde or Lopez at #3 on my personal list, but settled on Victor Robles. Maybe it's because I'm just excited that the Nats have a homegrown hitting prospect for once (Trea Turner doesn’t count), but I gave him the edge over the two arms. It’s hard to temper my expectations with Robles, as he just hit .352/.445/.507 with 20 extra base hits and 24 steals in just 61 games (261 PA). He’s got a hilariously advanced approach at the plate for an 18 year old, concentrating on making solid contact and driving the ball to all fields. I’m not as sold as many on his power – yet – but even if it remains doubles/triples power, we’re still talking about a potential .300 hitter who can snag 40-50 bases while playing a solid CF. The sky is the limit for Robles, but at just 18 years old and no experience beyond short season A ball, the floor isn’t as high as Turner’s, so he's my #3 prospect.

Robles' Prospect Rankings:
Baseball Prospectus: #29
MLB.com: #63
ESPN: #49
Baseball America: #33

RHP Erick Fedde
R/R, 6’4”, 180 lbs., 23 years old on Opening Day
Highest 2015 level reached: A
Drafted by Washington in 2014 (1st round, 18th overall, $2,511,100 signing bonus)
Best Anagram Name: Dick Feeder

Fedde Wap gets the edge for me at #4 because he's got a higher floor than Lopez. He formulates his 1-2 punch with a plus two-seam fastball and a plus slider, and the expectation is that his change-up develops into a solid third offering; all he needs is time to develop that change-up and build up his endurance. Fedde put up solid numbers in first pro season: 3.38 ERA, 8.3 K/9, 2.25 BB/9, 3.12 GB/FB in 64 innings. While he was the subject of substantial interest at the 2015 trade deadline (including drawing interest from the Reds as a main piece in a potential Aroldis Chapman deal), the Nats would be wise to continue keeping him around as a long-term investment. 

Fedde's Prospect Rankings:
Baseball Prospectus: NR
MLB.com: #78
ESPN: NR
Baseball America: #82

RHP Reynaldo Lopez
R/R, 6’0”, 185 lbs., 22 years old on Opening Day
Highest 2015 level reached: A+
Signed by Washington as an International Free Agent in 2012 (signing bonus unknown)
Best Anagram Name: Zonally Pee Rod

Lopez is the player in the Nats system that I have the most trouble evaluating consistently.  He has an electric arm, with a fastball that can touch 100. Lopez’ curveball has developed into a good second offering, and he has shown an ability to adapt his arsenal to the situation, which is rare for a 22 year old flamethrower. I don’t have a great gut feeling on his ability to stay healthy long-term because of his smallish frame, but that’s not based on any real evidence. If healthy, the sky is the limit with Lopez, and he could even potentially help in the short-term as a bullpen arm.

Lopez' Prospect Rankings:
Baseball Prospectus: #75
MLB.com: NR
ESPN: NR
Baseball America: #92

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