How do Nats' top prospects fit Washington's needs?
This series will evaluate the role prospects play in each Major League organization. I'll be looking at the short-term and long-term needs of each club, and I'll illustrate how prospects fit in each scenario.
Here's a look at the Nationals' system:
Not unlike the St. Louis Cardinals, the Nationals are very well established with both position and pitching depth.
A position battle at second base last season between Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon may still need to be resolved this spring.
The offseason acquisition of right-hander Doug Fister likely provides the pitching prospects more development time. And to be sure, there are plenty of pitching prospects.
It is unlikely any pitching or position prospects will crack the Opening Day roster.
The Nats are well prepared for the future. Should injury or poor performance rear its head, the team can turn to a number of players well along in their development.
PROJECTED 2016 NATS LINEUP
Outfielder Brian Goodwin has the type of tools that play well at the top of the batting order. He makes contact and has speed. I have seen Goodwin play in the past two Arizona Fall League seasons. This past fall, he hit .296 with two homers and 12 RBIs.
Goodwin drills fastballs but still has some work to do on breaking pitches. He's pretty much a free swinger, and I'd like to see him take more pitches. A left-handed hitter, Goodwin scuffles a bit vs. lefties, and it's an area in need of improvement.
Right-handed-hitting corner outfielder Steven Souza Jr. has shown some power in his seven Minor League seasons. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder has faced some adversity in his career but may be ready to contribute. A good contact hitter, Souza also has some speed to go along with his power.
Corner infielder Matt Skole has followed a similar path as Goodwin and appeared in the Arizona Fall League in 2012 and '13. This past fall, he hit only .184, with three homers and seven RBIs. That was after a season in which Skole played only two games at Double-A Harrisburg because of Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. In 2012, he hit .286 at Class A Hagerstown, then moved on to Class A Advanced Potomac, where he hit .314 on his way to earning the Nationals' Minor League Player of the Year honors.
Skole may be the heir apparent at first base. He has quick hands at the plate and uses the entire field to spray the ball around. Skole should hit for a good average, but I've seen lots of swings and misses in the two fall seasons I've scouted him.
Although his bat has yet to come to life in three Minor League seasons, Pedro Severino (6-foot-1, 180 pounds) may be the highest-rated Nats catcher. He has hit a combined .223.
Drew Ward hit .292 in Rookie ball last year and may be the third baseman of the future.
Pitching depth is a great strength of the Nationals. And prospect pitching contributes to that asset. Left-hander Sammy Solis brings a big, strong, 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame to the mound. He has a 93-mph fastball, a good changeup and a curveball. Solis goes right after hitters.
Another huge pitcher, 6-foot-6, 225-pound right-hander Lucas Giolito, may be the best of the lot. He is a major prospect early in his development. Washington selected Giolito with its first-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He went 16th overall out of high school and is now only 19 years old.
Giolito has recovered from August 2012 Tommy John surgery, and his arsenal includes a fastball in the high 90s that reaches 100 mph, a big breaking curveball and a quality changeup. He was promoted to Class A Short Season Auburn from the Rookie League Gulf Coast club last year. Combined, Giolito posted a 1.96 ERA. In three starts with Auburn, his ERA was 0.64.
A.J. Cole is another righty that could climb into the Nats' rotation. Cole is a huge pitcher, at 6-foot-4, 180 pounds. He is long and lean and works his fastball in the low 90s. Cole's changeup is a good pitch that makes his fastball better.
Cole has finished four seasons, his most recent at Double-A Harrisburg, where he threw to a 2.18 ERA in seven starts. He walked only 10 and struck out 49.
Right-handers Jake Johansen (6-foot-6, 235 pounds) and Jefry Rodriguez (6-foot-5, 185 pounds) join Giolito in the mix as potential rotation arms for the future. Both have the amazing size we are seeing more often among pitching prospects.
Johansen is older, at 23, having attended Dallas Baptist University. Rodriguez is only 20. He was an international free agent from the Dominican Republic.