Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Here's a look at the Nationals' farm system

@JimCallisMLB
March 20, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Nationals are riding a streak of seven consecutive winning seasons that includes four National League East titles in large part because their farm system keeps churning out impact players. Stephen Strasburg in 2010. Bryce Harper in 2012. Anthony Rendon in 2013. Trea Turner in

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Nationals are riding a streak of seven consecutive winning seasons that includes four National League East titles in large part because their farm system keeps churning out impact players.

Stephen Strasburg in 2010. Bryce Harper in 2012. Anthony Rendon in 2013. Trea Turner in 2015. Juan Soto in 2018.

There are more on the way.

While Harper left for a $330 million contract from the Phillies, Washington has an outfield replacement ready to step in. Victor Robles ranks No. 4 among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects and has the best all-around tools on that list.

Signed for $225,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Robles has played briefly in the Majors in each of the last two seasons. Still just 21, he has advanced bat-to-ball skills, developing power potential, close to top-of-the-scale speed and well above-average arm strength and center-field ability.

Top 30 Prospects | Prospects' Spring Training stats

"Tools-wise, he's going to impact the game just by being on the field," Nationals farm director Mark Scialabba said. "He's extremely aggressive and he's still learning when to be aggressive and when to slow the game down.

"He can still improve his plate discipline and how he handles breaking balls, but that's just a matter of reps. He has more gap-to-gap power right now, but I think he'll have power to his game eventually. He drives the ball to the fence to all fields and I think it will be at least solid average power."

Shortstop Carter Kieboom isn't far behind Robles. Also 21, he went 28th overall in the 2016 Draft out of a Georgia high school and is the younger brother of Nationals backup catcher Spencer Kieboom. Carter's game is reminiscent of Alex Bregman's at the same stage of their careers, as he makes repeated hard contract and is an underrated defender who could fit anywhere in the infield.

Washington seems set on the left side of its infield with Rendon and Turner, so Kieboom started playing second base in the Arizona Fall League last offseason. Brian Dozier signed a one-year contract as a free agent, making Kieboom a natural replacement in 2020 -- if he's not ready sooner.

"Carter barrels it up," Scialabba said. "He's great at hitting fastballs and making adjustments, and seeing better breaking balls will be part of his evolution. He has quick hands and gets to the point of contact extremely quickly. He stays through the ball very well.

"He's getting exposure at second base but he has improved at shortstop. He has improved his range and his throwing efficiency and accuracy. He has the arm strength to play shortstop. Down the road, we'll see what happens."

Next in line is infielder Luis Garcia, who's bidding to become the first player born in the 2000s to reach the big leagues. Born in the United States and the son of the former big league pitcher of the same name, he played in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and high Class A last year at age 18 while bouncing between shortstop, third base and second base.

"Right now he's more of a contact bat, but he's still growing and he's working hard in the weight room," Scialabba said. "He has very impressive bat-to-ball instincts and barrels it up consistently. He has a good two-strike approach. He just needs to use his lower half more efficiently and he'll develop power down the road."

Camp standouts

Robles (.341/.451/.512, team-best six steals) and Kieboom (.304/.429/.696) have impressed the big league staff with their offensive performance in Grapefruit League play. Right-hander Scott Copeland doesn't have nearly the same prospect pedigree but also has posted eye-popping numbers: 8 2/3 scoreless innings, five baserunners allowed, 11 strikeouts.

A 21st-round pick in 2010 by Baltimore, Copeland has moved from the Orioles to the Blue Jays to a brief stint in Korea to back to the Jays to the Marlins to the Mets. He had made six appearances in the Majors before signing a Minor League contract with the Nationals last December. He relies heavily on a low-90s sinker that could land him a job in Washington's bullpen.

On the Minor League side, outfielder Jeremy De La Rosa has created a lot of excitement about his pending pro debut. Signed for $300,000 last summer out of the Dominican Republic, he's much more physical than his listed 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds and possesses one of the quickest bats in the system.

"He's strong and very advanced physically," Scialabba said. "He has a compact body with wiry strength and repeats his swing from the left side. He has a very balanced approach and has done a nice job of getting his feet wet. He has a chance to be a solid overall player."

Right-hander Joan Adon, signed for $50,000 out of the Dominican in 2016, could be on the verge of a breakout after working at 94-96 mph with his fastball and flashing a plus slider during instructional league.

"He's doing a nice job of repeating the strike zone and really picking up where he left off," Scialabba said. "If he continues this, he's going to light up scouts this spring. There aren't many arms like this."

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.