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TOP 10 PROSPECTS
|1. Victor Robles, of|
|2. Erick Fedde, rhp|
|3. Juan Soto, of|
|4. Wilmer Difo, ss/2b|
|5. Andrew Stevenson, of|
|6. Koda Glover, rhp|
|7. Luis Garcia, ss|
|8. Carter Kieboom, ss|
|9. Pedro Severino, c|
|10. Austin Voth, rhp|
After a disappointing 2015 season that ended with them missing the playoffs and firing manager Matt Williams, the Nationals bounced back strong in 2016. With Dusty Baker at the helm, they won 95 games and topped the National League East for the third time in five years.
But the Nationals again lost in the Division Series, felled this time by the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw, who factored into all three of Los Angeles’ victories.
Though Washington again exited the playoffs early, it has maintained an impressive standard of success over the last five years under general manager Mike Rizzo. The Nationals have posted winning records for five straight seasons, the longest streak in the franchise’s 48-year history, and finished no worse than second place in the division.
Right fielder Bryce Harper, the NL MVP in 2015, was hampered by injuries in 2016, but the Nationals still had one of the most dominating players in the league. Righthander Max Scherzer won the NL Cy Young Award in the second year of his seven-year contract. He went 20-7, 2.96 and led the NL with 284 strikeouts, 228.1 innings and a 0.97 WHIP to help lead the Nationals to a second-place finish in the league with a 3.51 ERA.
Washington benefitted from key acquisitions by Rizzo. In the offseason, the Nationals signed second baseman Daniel Murhpy, who led the team with 25 home runs and finished second in MVP voting. At the trade deadline, Rizzo dipped into the system’s pitching depth to acquire closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates.
The Nationals also got key contributions from their own prospects. Trea Turner provided a spark to the lineup after he was promoted in July, eventually taking over as the everyday center fielder and finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year balloting.
Much-anticipated righthanders Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez also arrived in Washington in 2016, though neither pitched enough to graduate from prospect status. Giolito, the club’s 2012 first-round pick, wasn’t quite ready for the big leagues and stumbled. Lopez pitched well enough out of the bullpen in September to earn a spot on the playoff roster.
As Washington’s farm system continued to churn out big leaguers, it also remained strong at the lower levels. Center fielder Victor Robles built on his breakout 2015 season as he advanced to full-season ball, and 17-year-old outfielder Juan Soto excelled in his pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Lopez, Robles and Soto are just a few examples of the Nationals’ recent successes in the international amateur market, and that group could soon be growing larger. Washington has not been a major player in the market since the scandal surrounding the 2006 signing of the Dominican prospect then known as Esmailyn Gonzalez, who was revealed three years later to be Carlos Alvarez and four years older than he originally presented himself. The fallout cost then-GM Jim Bowden his job and the Nationals slimmed down their international operations.
After beginning to spend more money internationally in recent years, they made their biggest move yet in 2016. The Nationals surpassed their international bonus pool to sign three shortstops—Luis Garcia and Yasel Antuna from the Dominican Republic and Jose Sanchez from Venezuela—ranked among the top 15 players in the class.
With a large international class and a draft class that featured two first-rounders—they took Dunning and prep shortstop Carter Kieboom—the Nationals were able to add depth to a system that has been more top heavy in years past. The organization has been committed to scouting and player development under Rizzo, and international director Johnny DiPuglia, scouting director Kris Kline and farm director Mark Scialabba have consistently delivered.
1. Victor Robles, of |
Born: May 19, 1997. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013. Signed by: Modesto Ulloa.
|Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.|
Background: Robles had impressed Nationals evaluators for years before breaking out in 2015 during his U.S. debut. He signed with Washington for $225,000 in 2013 and impressed in the Dominican Summer League the following year. He wowed the Nationals’ staff during extended spring training in 2015, and carried that performance over to the regular season in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and short-season Auburn. He ranked as the No. 2 prospect in both leagues while hitting a combined .352/.445/.507 with 24 stolen bases in 61 games. Robles advanced to full-season ball in 2016 for the first time, beginning the season with low Class A Hagerstown. After earning a spot in the South Atlantic League all-star game, he was promoted to high Class A Potomac, where the 19-year-old was the youngest player in the Carolina League. He again ranked as a top prospect in two leagues—No. 1 in the South Atlantic and No. 3 in the Carolina. Robles was sidelined for about three weeks in the second half of the season by a thumb injury he suffered after being hit in the hand by a fastball, one of 34 times he was hit by a pitch in 2016. Even as he has raced through the minor leagues, Robles has continued to hit and earn praise for his energy, baseball IQ and willingness to learn.
Scouting Report: Robles is an excellent athlete with true five-tool potential. He is advanced for his age, displaying a good feel for hitting. He has strong, quick hands that help him to produce impressive bat speed. Presently, his power results mostly in hard line drives to the gaps, but as he physically matures, those balls should start going over the fence. He has a good feel for the barrel and is difficult to strike out, though he does not often walk. He sets up very close to the plate, which results in him often being hit by pitches. He is confident in his ability to turn on inside pitches, but after his stint on the disabled list he is also starting to learn about the importance of getting out of the way of inside pitches. Robles is a plus runner and makes good use of his speed on both the basepaths and in the outfield. He tracks down balls well in center field and has plus arm strength. His defensive ability and speed enables him to impact the game in many different ways.
The Future: Robles has proven to be capable of moving quickly in the minors, and will likely return to Potomac to open 2017. Because he won’t turn 20 until May, he will likely again be among the youngest players in the league. It will be a challenging assignment for the precocious outfielder, but his makeup and dynamic skill set should help him continue to find success against older competition. He has all-star potential and could arrive in Washington late in the 2018 season.