Nos. 10-11 prospects towering over Single-A competition

May 8th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato's Nationals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

WASHINGTON -- The Fredericksburg Nationals' pitching staff features a pair of 6-foot-6, 20-year-old right-handers who can reach triple digits on the mound.

No. 10 prospect and No. 11 prospect are each developing their heat-throwing arms in Single-A. Both players were assessed an organization-best grade 70 fastball by MLB Pipeline, on a scouting scale of 20-80, where 70-80 is well above average.

Susana’s velocity was highlighted when he was acquired from the Padres as part of the Juan Soto blockbuster Deadline deal in 2022. Heading into this season, he displayed his heat during the Spring Breakout in March. In an at-bat against Mets prospect Marco Vargas, Susana clocked triple digits on all six pitches, maxing out with a 103 mph fastball.

MLB Pipeline described Susana’s pitch mix as: “[The] fastball is the star of the show, typically sitting 97-99 mph but reaching as high as 103. It’s an absolute laser of a heater in more ways than one; it comes in blazing fast but fairly straight, which keeps it from being a true 80-grade pitch. He drops in a high-80s slider that also draws plus grades and forbids anyone from thinking they can sit on straight heat. His changeup and curveball still need work, but the former at least helps his starting chances.”

Susana (0-3, 5.51 ERA) has recorded 13 strikeouts in his last two starts, including six strikeouts to one walk in a four-inning outing on Friday. He was named the No. 4 closer prospect in the Minor Leagues by MLB Pipeline, which also noted a focus on his walk rate.

Sykora is getting introduced to pro-level ball this season. A third-round 2023 Draft pick by the Nats out of high school, Sykora was assigned to Single-A on April 25. Sykora pitched two innings in his FredNats debut on May 1.

MLB Pipeline evaluated Sykora’s pitch mix as: “[The] heater touched 101 as an amateur and was typically around 95-98 mph with a flat approach angle and some armside run. His mid-80s splitter dives nicely as it approaches the plate, giving some evaluators belief it could be a plus pitch, while his short slider in the same velocity band flashes above-average but is a touch less consistent.”

Like Susana, Sykora shined during Spring Breakout. He needed only seven pitches to deliver a scoreless inning, which included striking out Mets’ No. 1 prospect (No. 40 overall) Jett Williams.

Let’s take a look around the Nationals' Minor League affiliates:

Triple-A Rochester
No. 15 prospect tossed six scoreless innings on Sunday against Syracuse. It was the right-hander’s longest start of the season. Rutledge allowed just three hits and one walk while recording six strikeouts in the win.

Double-A Harrisburg
No. 8 prospect Robert Hassell III was named Eastern League Player of the Week. The outfielder batted .500 (12-for-24) with six runs, one double, two home runs and five RBIs. He also stole three bases in the six-game span.

High-A Wilmington
Right-hander leads the Blue Rocks’ pitching staff with 37 strikeouts in his five starts. He is tied for third among all South Atlantic League pitchers in the category. Lara, 21, is 2-3 with a 2.28 ERA across 23 2/3 innings.