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Nationals ready to make upgrades at Meetings

With roster mostly set, club looks for minor tweaks, depth
MLB.com @JamalCollier

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Like a number of teams so far this offseason, the Nationals have mostly been dormant. But this past weekend has seen two major pieces move, perhaps setting the stage for a flurry of activity when the Winter Meetings begin Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

With all 30 general managers and a number of agents in a single location moves tend to happen quickly at the Winter Meetings, which will run through Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. This year should be no different.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Like a number of teams so far this offseason, the Nationals have mostly been dormant. But this past weekend has seen two major pieces move, perhaps setting the stage for a flurry of activity when the Winter Meetings begin Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

With all 30 general managers and a number of agents in a single location moves tend to happen quickly at the Winter Meetings, which will run through Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. This year should be no different.

Washington was at the center of action during the 2016 Winter Meetings, which resulted in it acquiring Adam Eaton in a trade from the White Sox. The Nationals' roster is all but set heading into next season, so they are not expected to make any major moves this offseason that would rival that trade. The club is likely only to make tweaks to its roster as it tries to reload a team coming off back-to-back National League East Division titles.

Hot Stove Tracker

"I do foresee going after some depth in the starting rotation," general manager Mike Rizzo said at the GM Meetings last month. "Going after some depth in the bullpen and some strategic bench pieces that could fit what were trying to do."

• Nats seek depth at Winter Meetings

The major moves the Nationals have made this offseason were to overhaul their entire coaching staff and hire Dave Martinez as manager. Martinez will address the news media on Monday at 11.30 a.m. ET, in his first press conference since he was introduced as Nationals manager last month.

And the Nats hope to begin checking some of their needs off their list, which include starting pitching at the back end of the rotation, bullpen depth and building a bench. However, Rizzo has made a name for himself by making a deal even when there is not a clear need, if he feels he can improve his team. MLB.com will be on the scene, so stay tuned to Nationals.com and follow along on Twitter for all the latest news and action.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals

Nats ready to follow up memorable '16 Meetings

Team completed blockbuster trade to acquire Eaton last December
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals played unofficial host for the 2016 Winter Meetings, as the event was held just outside of D.C. at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. So it was only fitting that they were right in the middle of seemingly every major move during the most memorable Winter Meetings in team history.

The eventual prize for Washington was pulling off a trade for Adam Eaton that involved shipping three of its top prospects to the White Sox in exchange for the center fielder. The trade represented the most aggressive unloading of prospects in the tenure of Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo.

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals played unofficial host for the 2016 Winter Meetings, as the event was held just outside of D.C. at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. So it was only fitting that they were right in the middle of seemingly every major move during the most memorable Winter Meetings in team history.

The eventual prize for Washington was pulling off a trade for Adam Eaton that involved shipping three of its top prospects to the White Sox in exchange for the center fielder. The trade represented the most aggressive unloading of prospects in the tenure of Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo.

Eaton, however, was not the only target for the Nationals, who were searching for the piece they believed would help them move from playoff contender to World Series contender. Washington cycled through a number of options.

Nationals seek depth at Winter Meetings 

"We've got a lot of lines in the water," Rizzo often repeated that week, sometimes substituted with "irons in the fire" or "balls in the air."

At the start of the 2016 Winter Meetings, the Nats were heavily connected to Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, and many believed they would find a way to finalize a deal for the former National League Most Valuable Player at some point during the week. Their focus quickly pivoted, however, when the White Sox began fielding serious offers for left-hander Chris Sale.

• Hot Stove Tracker

The Nationals did not have a huge need for a starting pitcher, but Sale represented a unique opportunity to bolster a staff that also included Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. It could have formed one of the most dominant starting rotations in recent memory, so that was enough for Rizzo to dangle some of his best prospects.

"The caliber of pitcher available isn't often bandied about in the trade market," Rizzo said at the time.

Meanwhile, during all this trade talk, the Nats were also hunting for a proven closer. They missed out on one during the Winter Meetings when Mark Melancon signed with the Giants after they outbid the Nationals on the free agent market. Eventually, the Red Sox would enter in and pull off the trade for Sale and there was a real possibility that the Nats would leave the Winter Meetings empty-handed.

But those initial conversations with the White Sox would prove beneficial for later trade discussions. The teams had already exchanged prospects and terms they would agree on, which made the next discussion go much smoother. And once the White Sox traded Sale, Eaton figured he might soon follow.

"It was like, 'Oh boy, here we go,'" Eaton said. 

Video: WSH@NYM: Eaton makes a sliding catch to deny Rivera

A day later, the Nationals pulled off one of the biggest trades in team history. They acquired Eaton by trading away three of their then top six prospects -- Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning. The price the Nats paid has been debated since the completion of the trade, with many shocked at how much Washington surrendered for a player who had never been an All-Star or considered a superstar.

"Adam fit our club perfectly," Rizzo said after the trade. "Left-handed bat, balanced our lineup, high-energy guy, edge to him, plays the game the right way, good hitter, good defensive player both in center field and outstanding in the corner, a productive player throughout his career. We see the arrow still going up with him."

Whether the deal will prove to be worth it for the Nationals is still to be determined. Eaton had an excellent first month in Washington before he tore his ACL at the end of April. Lopez and Giolito both pitched for Chicago this season but still have very little Major League experience. But Eaton was the prize after arguably the busiest Winter Meetings in Nationals history, one they were happy to have.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals, Adam Eaton

Martinez brings lessons learned from Maddon

MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez never envisioned himself as a coach. After a 16-year playing career, he thought perhaps he might be good at it, but it was too much travel. Plus, he had four children at home.

It was not until Martinez received a phone call from Joe Maddon in 2006 -- inviting him to be a guest instructor at Spring Training with the Rays -- that Martinez initially considered going down the coaching path. He had met Maddon during an instructional league in 1983 when Martinez was a player in the Cubs organization. Maddon, an opposing Minor League manager at the time, walked over to Martinez and complimented him.

WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez never envisioned himself as a coach. After a 16-year playing career, he thought perhaps he might be good at it, but it was too much travel. Plus, he had four children at home.

It was not until Martinez received a phone call from Joe Maddon in 2006 -- inviting him to be a guest instructor at Spring Training with the Rays -- that Martinez initially considered going down the coaching path. He had met Maddon during an instructional league in 1983 when Martinez was a player in the Cubs organization. Maddon, an opposing Minor League manager at the time, walked over to Martinez and complimented him.

"'I really like the way you play the game,'" Martinez recalled Maddon saying then. "I didn't know Joe from Adam. I just looked at him like, 'Oh, thanks.'"

Video: Martinez unable to contain his excitement to start

"[Martinez] has been on a lot of winning teams," Maddon said. "Just look at him as a player. That's what drew me to him in the beginning with the Rays. I'd never been with him as a teammate but I'd watched him play. He was such a heady, aggressive, gritty kind of player, he's bilingual -- all that matters. And he's not afraid to have tough conversations."

After two years as a Spring Training instructor, Martinez became Maddon's bench coach in 2008 with Tampa Bay. The Rays won the American League pennant that season and Martinez was hooked.

"Since then," he said, "I really had the burning sensation of being considered as a manager one day."

After a decade as a bench coach under Maddon and years of interviewing for his own managerial job, Martinez's day finally arrived when the Nationals named him the eighth manager in team history this offseason. Since then, Martinez has been busy helping with the hiring process of his new coaching staff, contacting and meeting with as many Nationals players as possible and preparing himself to take over a team with World Series aspirations this coming spring. Martinez will meet the media next week at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., not far from his current hometown in Tampa, in his first news conference since he was introduced by the Nationals in November.

Even if Martinez never considered managing while he was playing, it became apparent early on that he was suited for it.

Several people have given Martinez credit as the connection in the clubhouse between management and the players -- someone who is willing to have the "tough conversations." He is bilingual and speaks fluent Spanish, which attracted the Nats because more than a few of their top prospects are from Latin American countries.

"He was a guy who handles players well," Nationals general manager and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo said. "He has handled star players as he has handled the 25th man on the roster, so he does a lot of things that really appeal to us."

Video: Mike Rizzo on why Dave Martinez was right fit

The Nationals have a veteran clubhouse that Martinez will have to win over, and they believe he is the guy to do it. After a 16-year playing career and a decade of learning under one of MLB's most respected managers in two analytically inclined organizations, the Nats believe Martinez can be the perfect blend of old school and new school.

"The one thing I can tell you is that I have a lot of high energy, positive energy," Martinez said at his introductory news conference. "I'm not a guy that's going to sit in the manager's office. I'm very hands on. I love talking to players, I love conversations with players. It's my strong suit."

Martinez's managerial style will almost certainly mimic Maddon's in some ways, but he will also mold it into his own. Martinez is the coach who wanted music played in the clubhouse 20 minutes after a loss, wanting his team to turn the page and forget about it. Expect "Sunday Fundays," where the report time for players is later and the team shares a family breakfast.

Video: Martinez excited to be Nationals manager

Whether this will all translate into on-field success remains to be seen. The Nationals hired Martinez to get them over the hump; they dismissed their previous manager after back-to-back division titles and a loss in the National League Division Series in '17. Martinez's objective is to win the World Series in Washington.

There may have been a time when Martinez could not see himself in this spot, as the manager of the Nationals. Then there were so many years in which he envisioned himself as a big league skipper, before getting passed over for managerial opening after managerial opening. Now, he's finally getting his chance.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals

Nationals seek depth at Winter Meetings

MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals were not involved in the pursuit of either of the two most talked about players on the market -- Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton -- entering the Winter Meetings, which run Monday through Thursday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Baseball, released a statement on Friday revealing that the Japanese two-way phenom has chosen to join the Angels. And on Saturday, the Yankees and Marlins reportedly reached an agreement for Stanton, the reigning National League MVP Award winner.

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals were not involved in the pursuit of either of the two most talked about players on the market -- Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton -- entering the Winter Meetings, which run Monday through Thursday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Baseball, released a statement on Friday revealing that the Japanese two-way phenom has chosen to join the Angels. And on Saturday, the Yankees and Marlins reportedly reached an agreement for Stanton, the reigning National League MVP Award winner.

Washington's plan is a bit of a deviation from recent team history, considering a year ago the Nats were seemingly in the middle of everything during one of the most memorable Winter Meetings in club history. They almost certainly will be in the middle of everything a year from now in 2018, with Bryce Harper's free agency looming next offseason.

Hot Stove Tracker

Even though the Nationals do not seem poised for the biggest headline-grabbing move of the week, they would like to begin kicking this quiet offseason into gear. Outside of hiring manager Dave Martinez and overhauling their coaching staff, the Nats have so far not made any additions to their roster.

Washington has the luxury that most of its significant players from last season -- in the lineup and the rotation -- are set to return for a team coming off 97 wins and back-to-back division titles. But there are still areas the Nats would like to address, and perhaps they can begin crossing items off their agenda during the Winter Meetings.

Club needs

Starting pitching depth 
The Nationals are set with the top four starters in their rotation, which they believe stacks up against anyone else in the Majors. However, they also understand that a postseason team can rarely last an entire season without a deep core of starting pitchers. Washington does not have a clear fifth starter, but it has a couple candidates in A.J. Cole and Erick Fedde. Look for the Nats to try and find starters who can fill the back end of their rotation and veterans who can compete for a spot on the team along with their young pitchers.

Video: NYM@WSH: Fedde gets a strikeout to escape a jam

Right-handed relievers 
This time around, the Nats are set in the back end of their bullpen, but they still need to build a stronger middle relief. With the uncertain health history of some of their right-handed relievers (Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover), Washington seems more likely to focus on righties than lefties, but the club wants to build depth in the bullpen either way to ensure it is a team strength.

Video: WSH@LAD: Glover fans Puig for save as tensions rise

Bench 
This will be the one area of the team that will look almost entirely different in 2018. Howie Kendrick, Adam Lind and Jose Lobaton were all key bench pieces, and they are all free agents. The Nats have a few young players they believe are ready to contribute, but they want to find a mix of veterans as well to complement them and build a strong group.

Who they can trade if necessary 

The Nationals have a surplus of outfielders, and more than a few of them are Major League-ready. They can begin the season with Harper, Adam Eaton and Michael A. Taylor, with Brian Goodwin as a solid fourth outfielder and top prospect Victor Robles waiting in the wings to play every day. That gives the Nats some flexibility with their other outfield prospects Andrew Stevenson and Rafael Bautista, No. 7 and No. 13 respectively per MLBPipeline.com, if they want to make a trade.

Video: WSH@SD: Stevenson lays out to rob Margot

Top prospects

MLBPipeline.com ranks the Nats' top 10 prospects as Robles, outfielder Juan Soto, shortstop Carter Kieboom, Fedde, left-hander Seth Romero, right-hander Wil Crowe, Stevenson, infielder Yasel Antuna, infielder Luis Garcia and outfielder Daniel Johnson.

Robles, Fedde and Stevenson all seem likely to make some sort of impact in the Majors in 2018. After the Nats traded three of their top pitching prospects during the Winter Meetings last year in the deal with the White Sox for Eaton, it seems unlikely they would be interested in dealing from that list again if they can avoid it.

Video: WEST@EAST: Robles' bat helps lead East, earns MVP

Rule 5 Draft

The Nationals have 37 players on their current 40-man roster, freeing them up to make a selection in the Rule 5 Draft if they should choose to. However, they have not been active the past few seasons.

Big contracts they might unload 

The Nationals do not have any large contracts that they are looking to get rid of.

Payroll summary 

Already trending toward the largest payroll in team history, the Nationals cannot spend freely this offseason. It will be difficult to make any significant additions and remain under the luxury tax, so expect them to remain conservative in their spending this offseason.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals

Nats optimistic about Murphy, but have options

Club sees Difo as possible fill-in if second baseman isn't ready for Opening Day
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals remain optimistic about second baseman Daniel Murphy's status for Opening Day after he underwent debridement and microfracture knee surgery on his right knee on Oct. 20, even though it is still a bit early on to tell.

The uncertainty around Murphy, however, will not impact the Nationals' offseason plans. Even if they do not think Murphy will be ready for Opening Day or rehabbing his right knee takes longer than predicted, the club is not expected to chase after another second baseman or middle infielder to serve as his backup.

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals remain optimistic about second baseman Daniel Murphy's status for Opening Day after he underwent debridement and microfracture knee surgery on his right knee on Oct. 20, even though it is still a bit early on to tell.

The uncertainty around Murphy, however, will not impact the Nationals' offseason plans. Even if they do not think Murphy will be ready for Opening Day or rehabbing his right knee takes longer than predicted, the club is not expected to chase after another second baseman or middle infielder to serve as his backup.

A major reason for that is the team's comfort level in Wilmer Difo, who they believe took huge strides in showing that he is Major League ready in 2017. His overall numbers look a bit unspectacular, outside of a .271 batting average, but Difo demonstrated what he is capable of during a two-month stretch in July and August when he had the chance to play every day. After Trea Turner fractured his right wrist, Difo emerged as the Nats' replacement at shortstop.

Difo played in 50 games for those two months combined and made 44 starts, compiling a slash line of .343/.389/.483 with four home runs and seven stolen bases. He was spectacular all season at defense, accumulating 14 defensive runs saved at shortstop in 2017. All are reasons the Nationals believe Difo can handle filling in for Murphy if necessary. Some members of the Nats were also impressed with what they saw from infielder Adrian Sanchez in his first Major League stint and believe he could play a role as a reserve in Washington next season.

That does not mean the Nationals should be completely ruled out from making a push to re-sign a player such as Howie Kendrick, but perhaps Kendrick could get more guaranteed playing time elsewhere.

From his conversations with Murphy in the weeks after his surgery, general manager Mike Rizzo remains hopeful that Murphy will be able to make a full recovery and be ready to start the season on time or shortly thereafter. And the Nationals feel they already have some solid insurance on the roster just in case.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals

Elder Boone confident in son's managerial skills

MLB.com @WashingNats

NEW YORK -- Nationals vice president of player development Bob Boone, a former Major League player and manager, said his son, Aaron, has the knowledge and preparation to succeed in his new role as manager of the Yankees, despite no previous experience as a skipper or coach.

Bob said Aaron was "an excellent choice" and pointed to his son's eight years as an analyst on ESPN as a reference point for his strengths and readiness.

NEW YORK -- Nationals vice president of player development Bob Boone, a former Major League player and manager, said his son, Aaron, has the knowledge and preparation to succeed in his new role as manager of the Yankees, despite no previous experience as a skipper or coach.

Bob said Aaron was "an excellent choice" and pointed to his son's eight years as an analyst on ESPN as a reference point for his strengths and readiness.

"[Aaron's broadcasting] preparation [was] very thorough on every player," said Bob Boone. "He certainly knows the Yankees. [ESPN] did a lot of Yankees and Red Sox games. The only thing he is going to be short on is having to learn some in-game action.

"His personality, his knowledge of the game will be spectacular. The way he deals with people is very special. He has been doing that for a long time. Aaron has the ability to do anything he wants. He is a very unique kid. I think he will handle [the Yankees job] as well as he handled the booth."

Bob believes it's important for the coaching staff to be on the same page with Aaron. Would the elder Boone like to be part of his son's coaching staff?

"My comment is, 'I don't coach,'" Bob said, jokingly. "They took the managerial uniform away from me. So I'm not going back [to coaching] unless there is some real need. Somebody has to ask me. I'm surely not thinking about it."

Before becoming a broadcaster, Aaron played third base for 12 years in the big leagues from 1997 to 2009, hitting .263 and making one All-Star appearance. Aaron played two-plus years for his father in Cincinnati, who was the manager of the Reds from 2001 to 2003. However, Aaron is best known for hitting the pennant-winning home run off Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield that helped the Yankees advance to the 2003 World Series.

Video: Must C Classic: Boone send Yankees to World Series

"There is a natural respect for what he has done already in his life," Bob said. "[The Yankees] could care less if he managed three years in Double-A. It's kind of a movement thing. We have seen younger players with very little experience go on to the managerial ranks. I think it would be natural for him."

Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002 and does a podcast, Newsmakers. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals, New York Yankees

MLB Pipeline's Top 50 Draft prospects for 2018

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

For the first time in three years, the top spot on MLBPipeline.com's early Draft Top 50 list is not occupied by a high school pitcher. It should come as no surprise that the top guy is still a pitcher, and one from the 2017 College World Series champion Florida Gators. Right-hander Brady Singer, who helped pitch them to that title as a sophomore, is the clear choice as the best overall talent in the 2018 Draft class, which some think could be the best since 2011.

It's nothing new to see one of Florida's starting pitchers head into a new season as a potential No. 1 overall pick. Lefty A.J. Puk was No. 2 on the 2016 list behind high school left-hander Jay Groome. He ended up going No. 6 overall that June. A year ago, Gators right-hander Alex Faedo came in at No. 4 on the Top 50 led by prep phenom Hunter Greene. He ended up going No. 18 overall to the Tigers, who have the No. 1 pick in 2018. While Puk and Faedo were obviously highly regarded, scouts do feel Singer's all-around game on the mound gives him a better chance to stay in that 1-1 conversation.

For the first time in three years, the top spot on MLBPipeline.com's early Draft Top 50 list is not occupied by a high school pitcher. It should come as no surprise that the top guy is still a pitcher, and one from the 2017 College World Series champion Florida Gators. Right-hander Brady Singer, who helped pitch them to that title as a sophomore, is the clear choice as the best overall talent in the 2018 Draft class, which some think could be the best since 2011.

It's nothing new to see one of Florida's starting pitchers head into a new season as a potential No. 1 overall pick. Lefty A.J. Puk was No. 2 on the 2016 list behind high school left-hander Jay Groome. He ended up going No. 6 overall that June. A year ago, Gators right-hander Alex Faedo came in at No. 4 on the Top 50 led by prep phenom Hunter Greene. He ended up going No. 18 overall to the Tigers, who have the No. 1 pick in 2018. While Puk and Faedo were obviously highly regarded, scouts do feel Singer's all-around game on the mound gives him a better chance to stay in that 1-1 conversation.

Top Draft Prospects

"There's less things that can go wrong," one National League scouting director said. "I can't see him coming out and 'laying an egg,' so to speak. He's a little more of a pitcher, when they were more power guys."

While the list doesn't have a high schooler at No. 1, it does have a ton of high-end prep pitching on it, starting at No. 2 with Ethan Hankins. The Atlanta area standout had a very impressive summer and is armed with the best fastball in the Top 50. He might not be atop the list, but that doesn't mean he doesn't belong in the same class as Groome and Greene, who went No. 12 and No. 2 in their respective Drafts.

"He's right up there," the scouting director said. "He's very, very impressive. He has size, strength and stuff. What Hunter had over him, he could do it as a position player, so you knew that when he gives that up, there might be more to come. But he's right up there with the better high school kids I've seen in the last couple of years."

2018 Draft order | 2018 Draft: June 4-6 | All-time Draft picks

The top high school bat comes in at No. 4 on the list in the form of Phoenix-area infielder Nolan Gorman. His raw power was on display for much of the summer as he stood out in multiple elite-level home run derbies, with the ability to drive the ball also showing up in games. Nick Madrigal is the top college position player on the list, coming in at No. 11. He's undersized, but that doesn't seem to matter as much these days, and the Oregon State infielder has a strong track record and perhaps the best hit tool in the class.

Video: Draft Report: Nick Madrigal, College 2B/SS

College hitters are often hard to come by, especially this early, but scouts are encouraged that there seems to be more advanced bats to consider in the first round than usual. Given that college performers tend to float up as the Draft nears, seeing Madrigal or some of the others on this Top 50 land in the top 10 seems very feasible.

"I think I like the list this year more than last year," the scouting director said. "I like the depth. There's college pitching, if you're at the top. I think there are some college position players. Who were the college players last year at the top? There's very good high school pitching. I think it's deeper all the way around."

Class breakdown

It's a fairly even split in this year's Top 50, with 26 high schoolers and 24 from the college ranks. It's split right down the middle at the top, with the top 10 filled with five college players and five prepsters. While it is pitching heavy at the top, with seven of the top 10 on the mound, there are more bats to be found later on. That speaks to the aforementioned depth. There might not be a college bat in the top 10, but there are five in the 11-20 range -- led by Madrigal at No. 11 -- and no one would be surprised to see some of them end up in the top 10 once the Draft rolls around.

In total, there are a dozen college hitters in the Top 50, up from eight a year ago. The 12 college pitchers on the list, five in the top 10, is down a touch from 15 on our 2017 Top 50. Of the 26 high schoolers, half are pitchers. High school right-handers are a particular strength in this class, with 11 in this Top 50. The complete positional breakdown of this list is as a follows:

RHP: 18
OF: 11
LHP: 7
SS: 4
1B: 3
3B: 3
C: 3
2B: 1

Top tools

All players, as always, are given grades on the 20-to-80 scouting scale for all tools or pitches. These are future grades, a reflection of what the scouting industry thinks each of these amateur players can become in the future. Here are the top grades for each tool and pitch.

Position players
Hit: 60 - Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS, Oregon State, Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha (Wis.) West HS
Power: 60 - Nolan Gorman, O'Connor HS (Phoenix)
Run: 70 - Xavier Edwards, SS, North Broward Prep (Coconut Creek, Fla.), Connor Scott, OF, Plant HS (Tampa, Fla.)
Arm: 70 - Joe Gray Jr., OF, Hatiesburg (Miss.) HS, Will Banfield, C, Brookwood HS (Snellville, Ga.)
Field: 60 - Mike Siani, OF, William Penn Charter (Philadelphia), Alek Thomas, OF, Mount Carmel HS (Chicago)

Pitchers
Fastball: 80 - Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS (Cumming, Ga.)
Curveball: 65 - Tim Cate, LHP, Connecticut
Slider: 65 - Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
Changeup: 65 - Steven Gingery, LHP, Texas Tech
Control: 60 - Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats aim to get most out of Wieters in 2018

Club likely to scale back catcher's playing time to spur bounceback at plate
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have a plan to increase the production from their catchers next season, which could involve relying on a different mix of their current backstops, instead of any external upgrades.

Matt Wieters was the club's primary catcher in 2017, appearing in 123 games while scuffling through the toughest offensive season of his career. He posted a slash line of .225/.288/.344 for a 63 OPS+ and a -0.2 WAR. That made it somewhat of an easy decision for him to exercise his $10.5 million player option to remain in Washington for the '18 season.

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have a plan to increase the production from their catchers next season, which could involve relying on a different mix of their current backstops, instead of any external upgrades.

Matt Wieters was the club's primary catcher in 2017, appearing in 123 games while scuffling through the toughest offensive season of his career. He posted a slash line of .225/.288/.344 for a 63 OPS+ and a -0.2 WAR. That made it somewhat of an easy decision for him to exercise his $10.5 million player option to remain in Washington for the '18 season.

Hot Stove Tracker

Because the Nats are committed to that amount of salary for Wieters already, he will almost certainly be the primary catcher next season as well. While the Nationals do expect Wieters to rebound with a better performance, they are not counting on him to carry the position alone.

In fact, the Nats plan to reduce Wieters' playing time next year to keep him fresh and healthy with the hopes of maximizing his production when he is in the lineup. Wieters played in 123 games in 2017 after appearing in 124 games in '16, but the organization believes he would be best suited to play around 90-100 games.

That means the Nats will want to make sure they have a solid backup catcher to complement Wieters. Although there are a few veteran catchers on the free-agent market who could fit nicely as a backup, pursing a veteran backup catcher is not one of the team's priorities, a source told MLB.com.

That's primarily because the Nationals would be comfortable starting the season with Pedro Severino, the club's No. 15 prospect as rated by MLBPipeline.com, as that backup. His experience in the Majors is limited, but Severino does possess tools that grade him out to be a strong defensive catcher with a strong arm who runs well. At times in the Minors, he has seemed to make some strides on offense only to have them derailed by injuries.

The Nats also have Raudy Read, their 14th-ranked prospect, who profiles as a much better offensive bat, but the team believes he needs more seasoning in the Minors, especially behind the plate.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals

Rizzo: Nats have great shot to re-sign Harper

Superstar set to enter free agency following '18 season
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper's potential free agency after next season has been one of baseball's most speculated and anticipated topics for the past few years. It is so rare that someone with the talent level and list of accomplishments such as Harper -- a five-time All-Star, National League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player -- reaches free agency at such a young age, which could make his next contract historic.

Harper has one more season remaining on his contract, but it is far from certain the 2018 season will be a farewell tour for Harper in Washington, even if he does reach free agency.

WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper's potential free agency after next season has been one of baseball's most speculated and anticipated topics for the past few years. It is so rare that someone with the talent level and list of accomplishments such as Harper -- a five-time All-Star, National League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player -- reaches free agency at such a young age, which could make his next contract historic.

Harper has one more season remaining on his contract, but it is far from certain the 2018 season will be a farewell tour for Harper in Washington, even if he does reach free agency.

"I think we have as good a chance to sign him long-term as anybody in baseball," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said on MLB Network this week. "He's the type of iconic, historic type of player that would love to be with the same organization throughout his whole career, such as [Derek] Jeter and that group of guys. I think he wants to be here. We want him here. I think there's an opportunity for him to make history here."

Video: Nats hope to retain Harper as contract year nears

In May 2016, the Nats and Stephen Strasburg agreed to a surprising extension, a seven-year contract to retain the right-hander before he entered free agency that offseason. That extension was also seen as unlikely because of Strasburg's agent, Scott Boras, who has developed a reputation for taking his clients to free agency. Boras also serves as Harper's agent.

Boras said earlier this month that he had not had any conversations with the Nationals this offseason about a potential contract extension for Harper. However, Harper has routinely professed his love for D.C. throughout the years, saying at the All-Star break this past July that he preferred it to crazier, hectic cities like New York. He has also expressed admiration for players such as Jeter and Cal Ripken, who played their entire careers for one team, and thus became synonymous with that franchise.

Establishing himself as the face of the Nationals could be an enticing factor for Harper and a bargaining chip to give the Nats an advantage.

"We have a lot of things going for us," Rizzo said. "Bryce and I are very close, we dealt with Bryce's agents on many, many occasions. We have a great relationship with the company. Bryce was scouted, drafted, signed and developed here in Washington. It's his home away from home, and I think he loves the fan base and loves the city."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper

Scherzer, wife welcome baby Brooklyn

The Scherzers' November just got even better on Wednesday. After Max won his third Cy Young Award earlier in the month, he and his wife, Erica May-Scherzer, announced the birth of their first child on Wednesday. Welcome the adorable and tiny Brooklyn to the world: 

Nats face easier task building bullpen for '18

MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- Building a bullpen has become sort of a winterly tradition in Washington, one that a year ago gave Nationals fans stress as the team searched for an established closer. This offseason should present a much easier task for the Nats, however, considering they already have two key relievers in place entering 2018.

Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, both acquired from the A's before July's non-waiver Trade Deadline, will return to the Nats next season and should be in place to pitch the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, as they did at the end of 2017.

WASHINGTON -- Building a bullpen has become sort of a winterly tradition in Washington, one that a year ago gave Nationals fans stress as the team searched for an established closer. This offseason should present a much easier task for the Nats, however, considering they already have two key relievers in place entering 2018.

Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, both acquired from the A's before July's non-waiver Trade Deadline, will return to the Nats next season and should be in place to pitch the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, as they did at the end of 2017.

Hot Stove Tracker

It gives the Nationals two established, veteran relievers they should be able to count on. Beyond that is where Washington will turn its attention to this offseason.

"We're in a more comfortable spot right now with our bullpen at this point in November than we were last year," general manager Mike Rizzo said earlier this month at the GM Meetings in Orlando, Fla.

Madson and Doolittle brilliantly filled their roles once they joined the Nats in the middle of the year despite immense pressure to save a bullpen that had struggled until their arrival. Madson responded by not allowing an earned run in his first 12 appearances and finished with a 1.37 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings for Washington. Doolittle settled in as the team's primary closer and posted a 2.40 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 30 appearances, which included 21 saves in 22 opportunities.

Video: CHC@WSH Gm5: Madson fans Russell swinging in the 8th

Brandon Kintzler, also acquired by the Nats in a trade in July, served as the next primary setup man. However, he is a free agent who is drawing interest from teams in need of a closer, according to a report from MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. Kintzler closed games for the Twins for parts of two seasons before joining the Nationals. Washington has interest in a reunion with Kintzler, but if another team is willing to pay him to be its closer, the Nats are not likely to be able to match that.

In addition to Kintzler, Matt Albers and Oliver Perez -- a pair of veterans who both made the postseason roster -- are also free agents.

Right-handers Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover have been dynamic at times, but their reliability is in question because they haven't been able to stay off the disabled list. Both are expected to be ready when the Nats begin Spring Training in February, but keeping them healthy could be key in 2018.

Video: WSH@LAD: Glover fans Puig for save as tensions rise

Because of Kelley's and Glover's injury history, expect the Nationals to prioritize right-handed relievers this offseason instead of lefties. Trevor Gott, who also finished 2017 on the DL, and Wander Suero, who was added to the 40-man roster this month, are right-handed options within the organization.

The Nats feel more comfortable with what they have from the left side with Sammy Solis and Enny Romero on the roster. Matt Grace also made some strides as he stuck with the Major League team for a large portion of the season. Add Doolittle to the mix and the Nationals believe they are more set from that side.

And in general, the Nationals consider themselves to be at a better starting point with their bullpen now than they have been in recent years.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals

Inbox: Will Washington trade Harper?

Beat reporter Jamal Collier fields questions from Nationals fans
MLB.com @JamalCollier

After the General Managers Meetings last week in Orlando, Fla., and as the offseason continues to roll along, it's time for a Nationals Inbox to address some of your questions before the Thanksgiving holiday.

This week's Inbox focuses on Bryce Harper's status in Washington, the luxury tax and a reason to believe in Dave Martinez.

After the General Managers Meetings last week in Orlando, Fla., and as the offseason continues to roll along, it's time for a Nationals Inbox to address some of your questions before the Thanksgiving holiday.

This week's Inbox focuses on Bryce Harper's status in Washington, the luxury tax and a reason to believe in Dave Martinez.

• Submit an Inbox question

Would you consider trading Harper? I am one of his biggest fans, and I know the desire to win next year, but would the return be worth it in the long run?
-- Tim O., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

I am pretty shocked how many variations of this question I have received lately -- from people who like Bryce Harper, but do not think he will come back to Washington; to people who do not like Bryce Harper, and do not think he is worth the money it will take to re-sign him; to people convinced the Nationals will not pay him to re-sign him. A lot of fans are wondering if trading Harper sometime before the non-waiver Trade Deadline is an option.

It's not. Nor do I think it should be.

Perhaps this was sparked by the latest comments from Harper's agent, Scott Boras, who said at the General Managers Meetings that he has not had any conversations with Washington about a contract extension for Harper. Or maybe people are just on edge as Harper enters the final season of his contract. But there is virtually no chance the Nats will trade Harper. Even if the Nationals are convinced Harper will leave for free agency after the 2018 season, they still will have one of the best players in baseball and a perennial MVP candidate in the prime of his career for next season, when they will try to win the World Series.

It would be extremely difficult to get any sort of real return on value for Harper in a trade. Why would teams trade anything substantial for a guy they could just sign in a few months? The only conceivable way for the Nationals to trade Harper next season would be if they completely underachieved and were out of the playoff race by the All-Star break. And the way the NL East played out last season and in the era of the second Wild Card, that seems highly unlikely.

The Nationals are going to try to win with Harper next season and they are going to try to re-sign him.

You don't list Adam Lind as a possible signee. Why not? Is it that Brian Goodwin can fill that role ... but who is the backup first baseman?
-- Ed S., Garrett Park, Md.

I think if the Nationals wanted to keep Lind, they could have picked up his option for next season. But they declined the mutual option that would have paid him $5 million, which I think will make a reunion next season unlikely. Perhaps the team did not want to commit that much money to a player they would use primarily off the bench. After Lind's successful 2017 season, I would not be surprised to see a team willing to use him in some sort of platoon role next year, at or around the price the Nationals were not willing to pay. Goodwin will be more of a fourth outfielder, rather than filling Lind's role, so finding a backup first baseman will be one of the items on the Nats' to-do list this offseason.

Tweet from @LeonTrout: Can you do a bit of an explainer about the new luxury tax rules, where Nats are with respect to threshold right now, and how that'll inform Rizzo's offseason (speculating anyway)?

The Nationals' payroll exceeded $190 million last season, pushing it past the luxury tax for the first time in team history, meaning they had to pay a 20 percent tax on the amount they went over the threshold. If they pass it again this season, they will be taxed at a 30 percent rate. The threshold is supposed to be about $197 million next season, so while the Nats have a few contracts to settle in arbitration and some additions to make to fill out the roster, it will be difficult to make any significant additions without exceeding the luxury tax.

The Nationals are not a team to normally spend without restrictions, but I'm not sure there is any sort of mandate from ownership to remain under the luxury tax. It's more likely the Nats will be careful in how they spend their money this offseason and are unlikely to chase any of the sort of front-line free agents that will command huge, multi-year contracts.

Last year, the four top outfielders were out due to injuries for extensive periods of time. Shouldn't they have six top-notch outfielders to draw from next year?
-- Jack N., Springfield, Md.

I wrote about the Nationals' outfield depth a little bit last week, but I think the team's outfield depth is something they could still use to their advantage next season. Last season's plethora of outfield injuries seemed like a bit of a fluke and none of the team's current top four outfielders are old or injury prone. I would probably not trade from the top of that outfield depth chart -- Harper, Adam Eaton, Michael A. Taylor, Victor Robles -- and would enter the season with that depth as an advantage, or something to be traded from later.

Tweet from @lange_randy: Why should we believe in Dave Martinez? What makes him different ?

The short answer to this question is: We don't know. Martinez has never been a manager and we have no idea how he will react in certain situations until he gets to them. The reason for Nationals fans to buy in right now, however, is that he comes with solid credentials.

Video: Martinez excited to be Nationals manager

The reasons for optimism include: learning under Joe Maddon for years, a strong background in analytics, Martinez's reputation for handling the Cubs' clubhouse and being the person to handle behind-the-scenes issues, and the fact that so many people have considered he will be a great manager one day. However, the reality is, who knows until the season begins? 

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals

Local bakery makes special cake for Scherzer

The last thing most of us want the day after Thanksgiving is for a giant cake to appear. After eating to max capacity just the day before, a big pile of sweetness doesn't sound as appealing as it usually would.

That said, we've found one exception to that rule. Fredericksburg Cupcake in Northern Virginia created a cake that not only celebrates Max Scherzer's three Cy Young Awards, but looks delicious as well: