2019 ORGANIZATIONAL REVIEW: Washington Nationals


Washington’s system might be the top-heaviest in baseball, featuring two top-30 prospects and a swift drop in upside past the list’s highest tier. This has been the norm for a few years now, as the Nationals have enjoyed a long window of contention at the Major League level and rarely have more than a few holes to fill. Washington has traded away from the farm numerous times the last few years, giving up current prospects like Jesus Luzardo (Athletics), Dane Dunning (White Sox), Taylor Hearn (Pirates), and Sheldon Neuse (Athletics) for veteran pieces to pad the big league club. It’s worth noting that this system looks completely different had those trades not been made, a testament to the consistent scouting and development that has quietly fueled the Nats’ run of success. Washington has an enviable young core—even without Bryce Harper—with (#1) Victor Robles and (#2) Carter Kieboom set to join in over the next two seasons. This organization is poised to remain contenders for the foreseeable future and will have a few years to rebuild the minor league system. They’ve already started on that project, getting more aggressive on the Latin American market recently and selecting high-ceiling pitching prospect (#4) Mason Denaburg in last year’s draft.




 Sometimes all it takes to have a great farm system is a handful of excellent prospects–with or without depth past that point. The Nationals embody that philosophy right now, as (#1) Victor Robles and (#2) Carter Kieboom both rank among the game’s most valuable minor leaguers despite a list that thins out quickly after the top four or five. We see both players as potential impact pieces that will contribute in the near future. (#3) Luis Garcia won’t see Washington as soon as those two, but the teenage infielder showed an enticing mix of upside and polish last year and figures to rank as the team’s top prospect once Robles and Kieboom graduate from prospect eligibility.


Though none of these players project as impact pieces, Washington has a handful of ‘pen arms ready to compete for Major League innings. (#8) Tanner Rainey (acquired from the Reds this off-season), Austen Williams (On the Horizon), and Austin L. Adams (On the Horizon) have already seen brief big league action, and  (#14) James Bourque could also make his debut in 2019 after a breakout season switching to relief last year. Other arms like (#10) Nick RaquetJoan Baez (On the Horizon), and Jhon Romero (On the Horizon) aren’t quite as close but could debut by 2020 or 2021.



As we’ve already mentioned, this list drops off considerably past the top five or so prospects. There aren’t many FV 50+ types in Washington’s system, and even some of those like (#7) Yasel Antuna and (#8) Seth Romero are serious wildcards. The Nats would get a big boost by (#11) Israel Pineda continuing on an upward trajectory and big 2019 seasons from newly-drafted prospects like (#12) Gage Canning, (#13) Tim Cate, and Reid Schaller (Pure Projection).


This system is light on potential rotation pieces despite a glut of ‘pen arms ready to step into the Major League mix. We’re high on the upside of (#4) Mason Denaburg but he’s still numerous years away. (#5) Wil Crowe looked more like a long-term starting pitcher last year than he did in college, though we’d like to see him get over the hump at Double-A next year. (#8) Seth Romero has a ton of question marks and will miss all of 2019 with injury, and scenarios exist where (#10) Nick Raquet, (#13) Tim Cate, and (#15) Malvin Pena all fit better in the ‘pen long-term. All this said, it isn’t like the Nationals have tons of room in their big league rotation anyway. The Major League club has never shied away from spending on starting pitching, lengthening the unit this winter by signing Patrick Corbin to back an already-impressive rotation headlined by all-stars Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.



Rank Name Position Ceiling Risk ETA
1 Victor Robles OF 70 Moderate 2017
2 Carter Kieboom SS 60 High 2019
3 Luis Garcia SS/3B 55 High 2021
4 Mason Denaburg RHP 55 Extreme 2022
5 Wil Crowe RHP 50 High 2020
6 Yasel Antuna SS 50 Extreme 2022
7 Seth Romero LHP 50 Extreme 2021
8 Tanner Rainey RHP 45 High 2018
9 Raudy Read C/1B 45 High 2018
10 Nick Raquet LHP 45 High 2020
11 Israel Pineda C 50 Extreme 2023
12 Gage Canning OF 45 High 2021
13 Tim Cate LHP 45 High 2021
14 James Bourque RHP 45 High 2019
15 Malvin Pena RHP 45 Extreme 2021




(#1) Victor Robles, OF

Ceiling: 70     Risk: Moderate     ETA: 2018     Role Description: 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. 


(#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.  


(#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
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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.



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

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. 


(#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
Video | Spotlight

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 in to 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.


(#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 to 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.


(#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. 


(#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 curvball 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.


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
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Williams’ career completely changed upon moving to the ‘pen last season. He went from meddling 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 in to Washington’s bullpen mix in 2019, coming with extra value as a player with numerous options remaining. 


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. 


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’ 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’ 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 grading 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.


Drew Ward, 1B

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High   ETA: 2020     Role Description: Bench Player
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 215 lbs.          B/T: L/R         Highest Level: AA         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 4m
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Ward was once one of the more prominent prospects in this system but has stalled in recent years. He’s now a 1B-only, which adds loads more pressure to his need to produce at the plate in order to carve out a Major League role. Upper-level lefties have baffled him, and Ward now looks more like a platoon-heavy bench bat. 


Tres Barrera, C

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High   ETA: 2020     Role Description: Bench Player
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 215 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: A+         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 6m
Video #1 | Video #2 | Spotlight

Barrera is a glove-first catcher with plus intangibles and game-calling ability. He has moved one level at a time since being selected in 2016’s sixth-round, playing all of last season in the Carolina League. A sound catch/throw guy with occasional pull power, all the tools are here to profile as a viable backup catcher granted Barrera can hit enough at the big league level. There isn’t much upside here, but this type of catching prospect generally hangs around a long time.


Jhon Romero, RHP

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High   ETA: 2020     Role Description: Middle Relief
Ht/Wt: 5’10” / 195 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: AA         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 2m

Romero was the prospect returned from the Cubs for Brandon Kintzler at the 2018 deadline. He reached Double-A in Washington’s system by season’s end, and while he’ll likely return there to start next season, Romero is the type of relief prospect that could move quickly. His heavy fastball sits at 94 mph and touches 95-to-96 mph when he needs something extra, backed up by a slider and changeup that both grade as average pitches. The ceiling is a middle reliever with the pitch mix to face both lefties and righties.


Jake Noll, INF

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High   ETA: 2020     Role Description: Bench Player
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 195 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: AA         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 25y, 0m
Video #1 | Video #2 | Video #3 | Spotlight

Noll is a hit-first prospect who doesn’t quite have the power to fit a corner profile and lacks a defensive position. The Nationals have tried him extensively at both 2B and 3B, but he’s below-average at both spots and could wind up a 1B/LF type. He isn’t great with the glove anywhere, but Noll’s makeup and aptitude allow him the chance to suit up at a variety of positions. Paired with his solid feel for the barrel, the ceiling is a bench player with some defensive versatility. 


Taylor Guilbeau, LHP

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High   ETA: 2020     Role Description: Middle Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 180 lbs.          B/T: L/L         Highest Level: A+         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 25y, 10m
Video #1 | Video #2 | Spotlight | Report

Guilbeau upped his prospect stock significantly after being sent to Arizona Fall League, showing a fastball up a few ticks and improved secondary pitches. The extra-lanky lefty creates a tough angle on same-side hitters, slinging a mid-90s fastball from a low slot that shows the ball late. His mid-80s slider could be an average pitch, and a changeup showed improvements this fall as well. Guilbeau pitched well enough to go from NP to potential 40-Man addition by November, but the Nationals ultimately opted to leave him unprotected from the Rule 5 Draft. Guilbeau went unselected, so he’s likely to head to Double-A in 2019. 


Ben Braymer, LHP

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High   ETA: 2020     Role Description: Long Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 215 lbs.          B/T: L/L         Highest Level: A+         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 11m
Video #1 | Video #2 | Video #3 | Spotlight

Braymer had a big 2018 season and was named the organization’s Co-Pitcher of the Year in 2018. His fastball sits in the high-80s as a starter but works 91-to-93 mph in relief. Braymer’s 78-to-81 mph curveball is his bread-and-butter pitch, a shapely downer with sharp bite. He struggles with a changeup and doesn’t have the stuff to profile as a starter in the big leagues, fitting as a longman or middle reliever that faces mostly lefties.


Taylor Gushue, C

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High   ETA: 2020     Role Description: Bench Player
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 233 lbs.          B/T: S/R         Highest Level: AA         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 25y, 3m

Gushue lacks any one carry tool to project as a regular, though his switch-hitting pop at a valuable position could get him to the big leagues off the bench. He’s a solid defensive catcher who can turn on his pitch with power, though limited hitting ability plays down his in-game home run outputs. Defensively, he’s an above-average receiver with an understanding of how to frame and present strikes. Gushue scuffled in his first extended taste of Double-A last year and will need to show more with the bat to reach his ceiling. 


Jordan Mills, LHP

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High   ETA: 2020     Role Description: Situational Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’5” / 215 lbs.          B/T: L/L         Highest Level: AA         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 26y, 10m
Video #1 | Video #2 | Video #3 | Spotlight

Mills is older than most prospects and is soon to turn 27. He relies on deception, slinging the ball from a sidearm slot and extra-deceptive closed delivery. Mills’ fastball tops out at 91-92 mph and dips into the high-80s, but all the moving parts disrupt timing and play it up.  His best pitch is a changeup, a pitch that allowed him to post reverse splits last season and actually fare better against right-handed bats despite a motion that looks geared towards hiding the ball from same-side hitters. 


Sterling Sharp, RHP

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High   ETA: 2020     Role Description: Long Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 170 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: AA         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 23y, 10m
Video | Spotlight

Sharp won’t blow anyone away, but the finesse righty relies on deception and movement to induce lots of weak contact. He was an all-star in the Carolina League last season and reached Double-A by the end of the year. Sharp’s fastball dips into the mid-80s later in starts and rarely cracks 90 mph, but extra-long levers and a deceptive motion help play up the lack of velocity. His best pitch is a changeup with above-average separation and movement, something that baffled A-Ball hitters but might not be  as effective up the ladder. Sharp is the type of prospect that needs to prove it at every level, potentially fitting as a longman or funky situational reliever if his unorthodox approach works at the big league level. 


Jacob Condra-Bogan, RHP

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High   ETA: 2020     Role Description: Middle Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 220 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: A+         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 7m
Video | Spotlight

The Nationals received Condra-Bogan in exchange for Brian Goodwin last year in a one-for-one deal. His fastball touches 98 mph at best but works with a wide velocity range, dropping to the low-90s when he’s tired. A mid-80s slider flashes average but also is inconsistent. Condra-Bogan has intriguing tools but is more of a lottery ticket than other ETA 2020 prospects on this list. 


Osvaldo Abreu, SS

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High   ETA: 2020     Role Description: Bench Player
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 195 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: AA         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 9m
Video | Report

Abreu’s prospect stock has taken a hit as he’s stalled at Double-A the last two years, struggling through a terrible year at the plate in 2018 (.183/.259/.311). He won’t hit enough for an everyday role—or even a FV 45 utility/spot-starting scenario—but his glove and speed give Abreu two tools to potentially fit as a specialist off the bench. He’s best on defense, with above-average range and a 55-grade arm that finishes plays with ease. Abreu runs well and has numerous seasons of 20+ steals on his resume, though his aggression on the bases has toned down considerably in the upper-minors. He has the chance to surface in the big leagues in some capacity, though it’s more likely it’s as a cup-of-coffee player than a long-term reserve piece.  


Ronald Pena, RHP

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High   ETA: 2019     Role Description: Middle Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 195 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: AA         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 27y, 6m
Video | Report

Pena turned 27 in September, so while he isn’t quite prospect aged, there’s still a chance he surfaces in the big leagues. The big-bodied righty focused on conditioning leading up to the 2018 season, showing improvements with his control and off-speed stuff. Pena’s fastball scrapes the high-90s and sits regularly at 95-to-97 mph, backed by a fringy slider in the 83-to-87 mph range. Pena’s arm-strength could get him to Washington if there’s a need, but for now he’s good upper-minors depth off the 40-Man Roster.



(#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. 


(#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
Video #1 | Video #2 | Spotlight

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. 


(#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
Video | Report

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 strikethrowing 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.


(#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

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 no 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. 


(#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. 


(#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.


(#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.


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. 


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’ 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. 


Joan Adon, RHP

Ceiling: 45     Risk: Extreme   ETA: 2022     Role Description: Setup Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 185 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: SS-A         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 20y, 7m
Video | Spotlight

Adon is a promising arm who has yet to reach full-season ball in Washington’s system. He pitched most of last year in the GCL, moving to the New York-Penn League late in 2018. Adon’s wiry frame and quick arm generate mid-90s fastball velocity with lively run, backed up by a 84-to-86 mph slider that projects as a big league pitch. His changeup and overall feel are crude, as Adon is still more a thrower than pitcher. We see him as an interesting lotto ticket type of prospect that could make some noise with a strong full-season debut in 2019.


Jose Sanchez, SS

Ceiling: 45     Risk: Extreme   ETA: 2023     Role Description: Bench Player
Ht/Wt: 5’11” / 155 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: SS-A         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 18y, 8m

Sanchez joined (#3) Luis Garcia and (#6) Yasel Antuna atop the Nats’ J2 class in 2016, signing for a $950K bonus from Venezuela. While Garcia and Antuna reached the full-season level in 2018, Sanchez started in Extended Spring Training before moving to short-season ball. Sanchez is a glove-first infielder with the defensive tools to stick at shortstop long-term. He’s a good athlete with projectable looseness and balance in the swing, but has struggled mightily at the plate in two seasons as a pro. Still just 18, there’s plenty of time for Sanchez to grow into more offense as he gets stronger. He projects as a utility infielder until he shows more with the bat. 


Telmito Agustin, OF

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High   ETA: 2021     Role Description: Bench Player
Ht/Wt: 5’10” / 160 lbs.          B/T: L/L         Highest Level: A+         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 5m

Agustin got off to a fast start to his pro career but has struggled to get over the hump in Advanced A. He repeated the Carolina League in 2018 and fared much better, slashing .302/.368/.454 as a 21-year-old. Agustin has bulked up the last few years and now profiles in LF only, lacking the wheels for CF and the arm for RF. His feel to hit from the left side gives the upside of a bench player.


Andry Arias, OF/1B

Ceiling: 45     Risk: Extreme   ETA: 2023     Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 180 lbs.          B/T: L/L         Highest Level: R         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 18y, 9m
Video | Spotlight

Arias won’t turn 19 until the middle of next season and he’s yet to make his stateside debut. A projectable 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, he slashed .270/.360/.412 in the DSL last summer with enthusing peripherals for his age. Arias shows a smooth left-handed stroke that could grow into both average and power. He’s listed as a 1B but is mobile enough to line up in either corner outfield spot. Washington likely will hold him back in Extended Spring Training to start next year, making Arias an interesting follow once short-season ball gets going. 


Jake Irvin, RHP

Ceiling: 45     Risk: Extreme   ETA: 2022     Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 6’6” / 225 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: SS-A         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 1m

Irvin was the Nats’ fourth-rounder last year from the University of Oklahoma. He’s a durable 6-foot-6 workhorse with average-ish stuff across the board. Irvin’s fastball sits in the low-90s, backed up by a decent 80-to-82 mph slider and fringy changeup he’ll need to develop in order to remain in the rotation. Washington worked him carefully during his pro debut last summer, never allowing Irvin to work more than two innings at a time. We see the ceiling as a swingman or lesser backend starter. 


Kyle Johnston, RHP

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High     ETA: 2021     Role Description: Middle Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 190 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: A+         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 8m
Video #1 | Video #2 | Video #3 | Report

Johnston was a college teammate of Tres Barrera (On the Horizon) at the University of Texas, drafted by the Nationals one year after Barrera in 2017. Johnston pitched at two A-Ball levels last season, seeing time as both a starter and reliever. He projects in the ‘pen long-term, where fringy stuff in a rotation role plays up in shorter stints. His fastball peaks in the mid-90s and could sit there more regularly in relief, backed up by a solid cutter and adequate secondary stuff.


Tomas Alastre, RHP

Ceiling: 45     Risk: Extreme     ETA: 2022     Role Description: Swingman
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 170 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: A         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 20y, 9m
Video | Report

Alastre got hit hard at times as one of the youngest regular starting pitchers in the South Atlantic League, showing growth as last season went on. The 20-year-old is all projection but has a physical 6-foot-4 frame and throws strikes with three pitches. His fastball works in the low-90s and could finish a tick firmer than that as he fills out. Both a curveball and changeup grade as playable-to-average offerings, giving the ceiling of a swingman or low-end #5 starter. Alastre is more of a lottery ticket than safe-bet big league prospect at this point. 


Frankie Bartow, RHP

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High    ETA: 2021     Role Description: Middle Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 180 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: A         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 1m
Video | Spotlight

Bartow was the Nationals’ 11th round pick in last year’s draft from the University of Miami. His fastball works in the low-90s with armside run, backed up by a sharp slider and splitter that both project as big league pitches. The ceiling is a three-pitch middle reliever with the arsenal to handle both lefties and righties.


Jackson Tetreault, RHP

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High    ETA: 2021     Role Description: Long Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’5” / 170 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: A         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 9m

Tetreault was seen as a development project after being selected in the seventh round in 2017. True to that form, he’s raw for a 22-year-old and likely will pitch all of next season in A-Ball.  An extra-lean 6-foot-5 and 170 pounds, Tetreault’s fastball works between 88-to-94 mph, sitting in the low-90s. His velocity has a wide range as his fastball loses ticks throughout an outing, and despite a frame that looks projectable, Tetreault might just lack strength. He doesn’t rely heavily on either off-speed pitch, though a low-80s changeup and high-70s curve both flash as playable offerings. 


Chandler Day, RHP

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High    ETA: 2021     Role Description: Middle Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’5” / 175 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: SS-A         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 10m
Video | Spotlight

Day paired up with Reid Schaller (On the Horizon) in Vanderbilt’s bullpen, drafted four rounds later than his now-teammate in last year’s draft. He’s an extra-thin relief arm that relies on a split-like change to speed up a 88-to-92 mph fastball. He’s a relief arm that’s more pitchability than stuff, keeping hitters off balance by sequencing three pitches for strikes. Day’s ceiling is a middle reliever, but he’ll have to prove his lack of velocity won’t hold him back against higher-level hitters. 


Brigham Hill, RHP

Ceiling: 40     Risk: High    ETA: 2021     Role Description: Middle Relief
Ht/Wt: 5’11” / 190 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: A         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 23y, 8m

Hill was Texas A&M’s Friday night starter as a senior in 2017, selected that June by the Nationals in the fifth round. He missed time last season with an arm injury, splitting his 2018 between the GCL and South Atlantic League. He’s a short righty with fringy stuff but strong control and competitiveness, able to keep hitters off balance with a four-pitch mix. Hill’s fastball sits in the 88-to-92 mph range, using a low-80s change as the go-to secondary. His slider and curve are 45-grade pitches, giving an arsenal that could be a long reliever or middle innings type. This type of prospect can stall in the high-minors if no one pitch is enough to carry the profile. 


Jhonatan German, RHP

Ceiling: 40     Risk: Extreme    ETA: 2021     Role Description: Middle Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 215 lbs.          B/T: R/R         Highest Level: A         Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 2m

German signed late for an international player at age 20, so he was old for his level splitting time between the New York-Penn and South Atlantic Leagues last season. He’s a big-bodied arm-strength guy, able to reach 97-to-98 mph on a sinking fastball. German’s rigid arm action screams reliever all the way and hinders his feel to spin a slider. A high-80s changeup might actually be the better of his two secondary offerings, though he’ll have to sharpen his off-speed in general to have any big league value.