Prospect Profile: Reviewing the Year for the Nats’ Top 10 Prospects (Part 1)

curly wThe Washington Nationals, as you may have heard, had a disappointing season.  Projected by many to win over 100 games (and compared by at least one writer to the 2001 Seattle Mariners, winners of 116), they instead slogged through a season where their pitching regressed from previously otherworldly levels, and the offense laid dormant until mid-August.  Yet, the future looks bright for the Nats, in part due to the talent at the major league level, but also because of the collection of talent coming up through the minor leagues.  This year, Nats’ affiliates went 420-344 (a .550 winning percentage), led by the 49-9 GCL Nationals, who set a record for the best winning percentage for a domestic minor league team.  Let’s take a look at how the year went for the Nats’ preseason top 10 prospects, as rated by Baseball America.  Today, we’ll look at the first 5 – part 2 will examine prospects 6-10.

1. Anthony Rendon – 2B/3B

In Anthony Rendon’s first full healthy professional season, he was given a chance to display his skills on the big stage.  After hitting .292 with 2 home runs in 14 games with AA Harrisburg, Rendon was called up to replace the injured Ryan Zimmerman.  Rendon struggled in his first tour, with only 6 hits in 8 games, but showed promise, with two hits in his final game before being sent down to AA. All told, Rendon hit .319 with 6 homers in 33 games at Harrisburg, then played 3 games at Syracuse before being called up to the big club for good on July 5th.  Rendon came up to replace the struggling Danny Espinosa, and had to learn a new position, second base, on the fly. He started his second stint in torrid fashion — through June 26th, his triple slash read .354/.402/.485 — but eventually cooled off.  He struggled defensively, making 16 errors at 3 positions, including 5 at his natural position of third base.  Overall, Rendon had a triple slash of .265/329/.396 in the majors, good for a league-average 99 OPS+.  His WAR this year fluctuates wildly between the two sites; Baseball Reference doesn’t like his defense, and therefore he’s worth -0.0 bWAR, while his defense grades out as roughly league-average according to FanGraphs, giving him 1.5 fWAR.  Overall, the year was a success for Rendon, as he proved he could stay healthy, hold his own at the major league level, and handle a position change.

Where he started last year: AA

Where he’ll start this year: MLB

2. Lucas Giolito – RHP

Giolito accomplished a great deal in 2013.  The fireballing righty, who turned 19 in July, successfully rehabbed from Tommy John surgery, and worked his way back into game shape.  Giolito was a key part of the league-champion GCL team, throwing 22.2 innings of 2.78 ERA-ball, with 25 strikeouts.  Giolito, who features a fastball that touches triple digits and a sharp curveball that scouting director Kris Kline said are currently “above-average major league pitches”, got an endorsement from Nats’ reliever Ryan Mattheus, who tweeted of Giolito, “Big time stuff! Wow!” Giolito then moved on to low-A Auburn, where allowed only one run in 14 innings, fanning 14.  Giolito’s impressive return (along with Rendon’s promotion) prompted Baseball America to bump him up to #1 on their 2014 list of Nats’ top prospects.

Where he started last year: rehab, then GCL

Where he’ll start this year: most likely A Hagerstown

3. Brian Goodwin – OF

Goodwin, the Nats’ top outfield prospect and the heir apparent to Denard Span in centerfield, had an up-and-down 2013.  Most importantly, he stayed healthy all year, and while his .252/.355/.407 triple slash was a regression from 2012 (.280/.384/.469), he showed an impressive batting eye as well as a little bit of pop (11 triples, 10 home runs).  The 2011 first-rounder shows remarkable speed, as well as good range in the outfield, but struggles to harness the speed on the basepaths; he was caught stealing 11 times out of 30 tries.  Goodwin displays flashes of all five tools, but he needs to become a more consistent player to take the next step in his development.

Where he started last year: AA

Where he’ll start this year: most likely AA

4. Matt Skole – 1B/3B

A 2013 that started with so much promise for Matt Skole came to an end rather abruptly.  After receiving an invite to Major League Spring Training and getting 6 hits in 24 at bats, the reigning Nats’ Minor League Player of the Year started the year at AA Harrisburg, where he hit a double and walked twice in his first two games.  Then, on April 5th, Skole collided with Bowie Baysox second baseman Ty Kelly on a play at first, and felt a pop in his elbow.  He had torn the UCL in his non-throwing shoulder, and received season-ending Tommy John surgery on April 17th.  However, 2013 was not entirely lost for Skole.  He returned to play in the Arizona fall league and has 3 homers in 14 games for the Mesa Solar Sox.  More good news: Skole says his swing is “100 percent” after rehabbing all year.

Where he started last year: AA

Where he’ll start this year: AA

5. Nate Karns – RHP

After returning to baseball following labrum surgery in 2011, Karns burst onto the scene in 2012, posting a miniscule 2.29 ERA and 1.009 WHIP over 116 innings across 2 levels. Karns had overpowering stuff, striking out 11.5 batters per 9, and managing to pitch around 3.6 walks per 9.  Karns came out of nowhere to become the 5th-best prospect in the Nats’ system, but he struggled out of the gate in 2013.  In his first 9 starts, Karns put up a 4.60 ERA; walks continued to be a problem, as he issued 18 free passes in 46 innings.  However, an injury to Nats starter Ross Detwiler, combined with the Nats’ lack of starting pitching depth, forced the Nats to call Karns up despite his struggles.  While in the majors, Karns displayed the ability to strike even major leaguers out, fanning 11 in 12 innings.  However, Karns walked 6, and struggled with the home run ball, giving up 5.  All this led to a 7.50 ERA in 3 starts and a demotion back to the minor leagues.  Karns righted the ship when he got back to Harrisburg, and ended up with a solid 3.26 ERA in 132.2 innings (the 144.2 innings pitched were his most as a professional).  The 2013 season only marginally diminished the 25-year old Texan’s prospect status, but strong seasons elsewhere in the organization dropped Karns to 9th in the Nats’ system.

Where he started last year: AA

Where he’ll start next year: AAA


One thought on “Prospect Profile: Reviewing the Year for the Nats’ Top 10 Prospects (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Prospect Profile: Reviewing the Year for the Nats Top 10 Prospects (Part 2) | Serious Jammage

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