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Robles continues to speed through the minors, while making adjustments at every level on both sides of the ball, which makes his $225,000 signing bonus in 2013 a huge bargain. He started 2017 at high Class A Potomac and excelled before earning a promotion to Double-A Harrisburg, where he was one of just four 20-year-olds in the Eastern League. Robles has been one of the most impressive players in every minor league in which he has played. He handled the advanced pitchers in the EL with aplomb by lowering his strikeout rate to 14 percent while continuing hit for a high average. Robles impressed the Nationals enough to earn his first big league callup in September and made the postseason roster as well. Robles' advanced understanding of the strike zone and ability to recognize pitches have helped his quick hands play in the batter's box. He is currently an average power hitter but with the strength and bat speed to project more power as he continues to develop physically. He was pitched backwards frequently in the Carolina League, which he countered by regularly using the entire field and showing the ability to drive the ball to the right-center field gap. Robles is fearless in the box and sets up very close to the plate. He led the Carolina league with 17 hit by pitches despite having just 338 plate appearances. He plays with great energy and aggression, which can hurt him at times, particularly on the bases where he needs to improve his decision-making and basestealing ability, though that might be the only part of his game to nitpick. Robles improved the most in 2017 in the outfield, where he has improved his jumps and routes. He also made strides with his throwing accuracy. He's always had the tools to develop into a premier defensive center fielder, with well above-average speed and a plus arm, and he's now taking the steps to become more efficient. With current plus tools in every category except power--where he has a chance to become above-average--Robles has the chance to become a perennial all-star. While he may require a bit more minor league seasoning in 2018, he could quickly become an outfield fixture in Washington.
Soto signed for $1.5 million in 2015, won the MVP award in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2016 and advanced to low Class A Hagerstown in 2017. He was limited to just 32 games, however, after fracturing his ankle, breaking a hamate bone and dealing with a hamstring injury late in the year. Soto impressed evaluators with his advanced feel at the plate. He made adjustments within at-bats and displayed impressive hand-eye coordination that should allow him to be an above-average hitter. While he's still growing into it, Soto should have above-average power, and he has a chance to hit 20-plus homers a year thanks to strong hands and a simple swing. He is just an average runner, and profiles as a corner outfielder because of that, which limits his ceiling and will put additional pressure on his bat--his best tool. He currently has fringe-average arm strength that is better suited to left field than right, but he uses his legs efficiently on throws and is young enough to safely project an average arm as he continues to mature. Soto is ready for high Class A Potomac in 2018, but given his injury-shortened 2017 season, Washington could opt to be conservative and start him in Hagerstown.
The 2014 first-rounder had a roller-coaster season in 2017. He started off well in Double-A Harrisburg before being moved to the bullpen because the big league club needed for relievers. Fedde's fastball ticked up to 96-97 mph out of the bullpen after he sat in the low 90s as a starter with excellent sinking action. After 16 appearances out of the pen and a promotion to Triple-A Syracuse, Fedde made four starts and posted a 6.94 ERA before making his big league debut, where he gave up seven earned runs in just four innings. Regardless, Washington still sees Fedde as a starter despite his mixed usage and was encouraged with the progress he made with his changeup, which he threw much more often. The pitch flashed plus at times and was occasionally was as much of an out pitch as his low-80s slider, which is still his go-to secondary and a true plus offering. Fedde can also drop in a below-average curveball. Fedde has the repertoire and athleticism to turn into a mid- to back-of-the-rotation starter, and he has displayed no drop in velocity since having Tommy John surgery in May 2014 before being drafted.
The 28th overall pick in 2016, Kieboom had his full-season debut at low Class A Hagerstown shortened thanks to a hamstring injury, which forced him to the disabled list in mid-May and ended a torrid 29-game start in which he hit .333/.398/.586 with six home runs. After rehabbing and making his way back to the South Atlantic League, Kieboom hit just .235 the rest of the way--though he managed to show the same selective approach by walking 18 times compared to 15 strikeouts. He has a chance to turn into a middle-of-the order hitter, with impressive bat speed and a short swing. He shows the ability to drive the ball to all fields and could develop above-average power. Kieboom is an average defensive shortstop who projects to be more of a bat-first player. His high baseball IQ should help him in the field, where positioning and solid hands could be enough to make up for a lack of first-step quickness and an average arm. He showed improvement with his throwing in 2017, however. Kieboom should be ready for an assignment to high Class A Potomac in 2018. Even if he slides to second base, he could become a big league regular.
A top-10 talent in the 2017 draft on pure stuff, Romero slid to the Nationals with the No. 25 overall pick because he faced makeup questions after being kicked off the Houston baseball team in the spring. Houston also suspended Romero in 2016 and again in 2017 for violations that included failing a drug test, missing curfew and fighting with a teammate. He was removed from the roster only a week after being reinstated this spring. Despite facing maturity questions, Romero has unquestionable talent. He has a mid-90s fastball that he can locate to both sides of the plate and a swing-and-miss slider that's already a plus pitch. Romero also throws a changeup that is close to average with a chance to become a third above-average offering. He has some funk to his delivery with a lot of moving parts, so being able to repeat his mechanics consistently while adjusting to pro hitters and a five-day pitching schedule will be a priority for him. Romero's pro debut, spent primarily at short-season Auburn, wasn't terrific from a statistical standpoint, but he could move fairly quickly, especially if he's moved to the bullpen. For now, the Nationals are developing him as a starter with a No. 3 ceiling.
Garcia was Washington's top international target in a 2016 signing class that included three players ranked among the top 15. He commanded $1.3 million because of his impressive all-around set of tools and simple lefthanded swing geared for line drives. His father of the same name played shortstop for the Tigers in 1999. Garcia lived up to his scouting report in his first season in 2017 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He used extremely quick hands and an advanced hitting approach to spray balls all over the field. He can rely on his hands a bit too much at the plate currently, and the next phase of his development will be getting his legs into his swing with more consistency. A plus-plus runner, Garcia gets down the line well and swiped 11 bases in 13 tries in his debut. Defensively, he has above-average arm strength, smooth actions and soft hands at shortstop, but he'll need a few years to continue honing the fundamentals and getting acclimated to the speed of the game. Garcia will be just 18 for most of 2018, when he should find his way to short-season Auburn.
The Nationals made Crowe their second selection in the 2017 draft and signed him for $946,500 after his bounce-back junior year at South Carolina. He had Tommy John surgery in 2015 that forced him to sit out the 2016 season. Crowe served as the ace of South Carolina's staff as a freshman, posting a 2.75 ERA before his injury. He dominated early during his junior campaign in 2017 to show evaluators that he still had impact stuff. That translated to pro ball where Crowe posted a 2.96 ERA, mostly at short-season Auburn, while showing four average or better pitches. He has a fastball that sits in the low to mid-90s and has been up to 97 mph, a curveball and slider that are both average or slightly better, depending when you see him, and a low-80s changeup that's also an average pitch. Washington will be cautious with Crowe given his medical history, but he's fairly polished and seems like a safe bet to be a No. 4 or 5 starter if he remains healthy. Washington could opt to challenge him with an assignment to high Class A Potomac in 2018 if he looks good in the spring.
Johnson was one of the toolsiest players in the Four Corners area for the 2016 draft, but many teams were concerned about the rawness of his game. The Nationals drafted him in the fifth round after his junior season at New Mexico State, where he hit 12 home runs and stole 29 bases. After a mediocre pro debut in 2016 at short-season Auburn, Johnson began 2017 at low Class A Hagerstown and dominated. He finished second in the South Atlantic league in home runs (17) and fourth in slugging percentage (.529) despite moving to high Class A Potomac in late July. Johnson has quick hands and a whippy swing, with above-average raw power that he began to tap into thanks to better use of his legs. He also took a step forward with his pitch selection, lowering his strikeout rate after being promoted to the Carolina League. Johnson might be the strongest player in the system and is a plus runner with plus arm strength as well. Johnson still has details to iron out, such as his baserunning, throwing accuracy and outfield jumps. He has the speed to handle center field but profiles best in right field with his strong arm.
Read has improved seemingly every year since signing with the Nationals in 2011, and he took strides on both sides of the ball in 2017. The best defensive catcher in the Carolina League in 2016, he improved his blocking technique in 2017 and reduced his passed ball count from 20 to 14. Read won the Nationals' Bob Boone award, which recognizes the minor leaguer who best displays professionalism, leadership and consistency. Read has an above-average arm and has improved his footwork. In previous seasons he tended to throw from his knees frequently, but that wasn't as much of an issue in 2017. Offensively, Read has potential for above-average power and held up well as the season progressed, hitting 10 of his 17 home runs during his final two months at Double-A Harrisburg before making his big league debut as a September callup. He occasionally loses balance in his lower half at the plate, but when he sits back and lets the ball travel, his power plays more consistently. Like most catchers, he's slow and doesn't hit for average. Read has the tools to impact the game offensively and defensively, which is a rare commodity among major league catchers. He could earn a share of the big league catching job at some point in 2018.
Antuna ranked as the No. 14 international prospect in 2016, when he signed for $3.85 million and broke the Nationals' franchise record for an international amateur. He shows a calm hitting approach from both sides of the plate and the ability to man the left side of the infield. Antuna has a line-drive approach and similar-looking swings whether batting lefthanded or right. However, he struck all but one of his 12 extra-base hits in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League batting lefthanded, which is his natural side. Antuna has a projectable frame, long limbs and wide shoulders. That physicality allows evaluators to dream on his power potential, and he has a chance to be an impact hitter down the line thanks to his polished approach. At the same time, Antuna probably will outgrow shortstop and already is an unreliable defender who recorded a .815 fielding percentage in 2017. He frequently played third base in the GCL, in part because of Washington's glut of young shortstops at that level. Antuna has enough arm for shortstop, so he will see more time there in 2018, possibly at low Class A Hagerstown, to improve his consistency.
During his first full season in the South Atlantic League, Perkins took strides offensively and has become more consistent at the plate. The Nationals are particularly excited about his progress out of the lefthanded batter's box, because the 21-year-old outfielder is a converted switch-hitter and natural from the right side. Perkins' production was similar from both sides of the plate in 2017, but he showed much more in-game power from the left side, hitting all of his home runs and triples. There's still work to do, however. His strikeout rate from the left side is significantly higher than the right, but he's making the correct adjustments and should be seen as a legitimate switch-hitter at this point. Defensively, Perkins is the most instinctual outfielder in Washington's farm system and as a plus runner with good routes, and he should have no problems impacting the game with his glove. His arm is more average than plus at this point, but he flashes plus throws at times and improved his arm strength this season. After a successful year at low Class A Hagerstown, Perkins' next challenge will be the advanced pitching of the high Class A Carolina League.
Gutierrez's first complete year of full-season ball didn't materialize in 2017 because the 23-year-old missed parts of June and August and the entire month of July with an ankle injury. Despite the highest strikeout rate of his career in the high Class A Carolina League, Gutierrez acquitted himself well offensively through 58 games with Potomac, where his quick hands played at the plate with a smooth, line-drive swing. More of a contact hitter, Gutierrez was beginning to leverage the ball more regularly before hitting the disabled list. With a 6-foot-3 frame, he has a chance to add in-game power. Gutierrez's strength continues to be his aptitude for the defensive side of the game, where his quick hands and plus arm are his best tools. He has arguably the best arm in Washington's system, and some evaluators said it was the best in the Carolina League. Despite his size, Gutierrez has smooth footwork and a quick first step that leads to solid range laterally and the ability to make plays on slow rollers in front of him. Gutierrez will likely start 2018 in Potomac again and hope for good health.
After struggling in Double-A during his first trip to the Eastern League in 2016, Stevenson started the 2017 season with Harrisburg, where he posted an .866 OPS before being promoted to Triple-A and getting his first taste of the big leagues in late July. Stevenson was overmatched at the plate in Triple-A and the majors, with elevated strikeout rates cutting into his production. He has shown the ability to adapt to higher levels in the past, but will likely never be an impact bat because his power is more of the doubles variety than over-the-fence. Stevenson is a strong athlete who takes good routes with above-average speed that leads to great range, giving him a chance to be an above-average defensive center fielder. His arm is below-average, which might make him a better fit for left, where his bat doesn't profile. Given his speed and baserunning ability, Stevenson appears to be a safe bet as a fourth outfielder or second-division regular but will need more time to adjust to advanced pitching.
Severino continued to live up to his reputation as an excellent defensive catcher in 2017, spending most of his time with Triple-A Syracuse, where he threw out 31 percent of basestealers. Severino has plus arm strength and a quick release from behind the dish, as well as athleticism that allows him to block balls efficiently. He's a solid receiver behind the plate, with a chance to get better in that area with more time and focus on his framing ability. What continues to limit Severino's future potential is the offensive side of the game. He regularly gets into trouble by attempting to pull the ball, which was evident in a 2017 cup of coffee with the Nationals, where he was overmatched and struck out 32 percent of the time. Severino does have some strength but currently lacks the ability to get to it much in-game thanks to approach and hitting ability questions. Until Severino makes an adjustment with his bat, he profiles as a defensive-oriented backup catcher.
After stealing 56 bases in the Double-A Eastern League in 2016, injuries and the lowest on-base percentage of his career limited Bautista's steals total to just nine in 2017, with time between Triple-A Syracuse and the majors. A premium runner, Bautista's speed is his carrying tool, so a hamstring injury that kept him out for two months clearly hurt his production. That's true at the plate, too, where he is a slap-and-dash hitter with just 11 home runs across six seasons and 608 games. Even while he was healthy, Bautista spent much of his time bouncing back and forth between Syracuse and the majors, where he started just four of 17 games and never got into any sort of offensive rhythm. His usage in 2017 is likely a good indicator of his future role on a first-division team, however. Bautista's bat doesn't profile as an everyday player. He could turn into a premium defender in center with fringe-average to average arm strength and elite speed. Bautista likely will start 2018 back at Triple-A Syracuse, where his health will be worth watching considering his history and the nature of his 2017 injury
A seventh-round pick in 2017, Tetreault signed for $300,000, which turned out to be the fourth-highest bonus of the Nationals' class. He managed to get that bonus after impressing in the State JC of Florida rotation along with Cubs first-round pick Brendon Little. After spending one year at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla., and working mostly out of the bullpen, Tetreault transferred to the junior college ranks, where in 2017 he started 14 games and posted a 2.58 ERA with 105 strikeouts in 80.1 innings. He has an extremely thin, projectable body with a fast, whippy arm that allowed his fastball to touch 95 mph at times and is regularly in the low 90s. Tetreault throws a curveball and a changeup, and while the former is ahead of the latter, both pitches are works in progress. The Nationals like the 21-year-old's feel to spin the ball. Walks were an issue with Tetreault in college, and he'll need to improve his control significantly. There's a lot left to be ironed out, but with increased weight and strength, Tetreault has the talent to turn into a starter prospect.
Hill was first drafted in the 20th round in 2016 by the Athletics after a solid sophomore campaign at Texas A&M, but he returned for his junior year, where he threw 100 innings with 111 strikeouts. For that, the Nationals signed him for $291,200 as a fifth-rounder in 2017. Hill pitches off of a low-90s sinking fastball and a plus changeup that has late tumbling action and often resembles a splitter. His changeup is his best offering, but he also has a curveball with downer shape and a chance to be a third average pitch. He's also experimented with a slider in the past. Aside from his changeup, pitchability and makeup are Hill's best attributes with coaches raving about his moxie on the mound and ability to attack different quadrants of the zone, with plus command in the future a possibility. His future in a rotation will likely depend on his ability to develop a consistently reliable breaking ball. Without a reliable breaking ball, Hill's size and fastball/changeup mix could play better in the bullpen. Additionally, he has a Tommy John surgery on his résumé from 2012.
Marmolejos has been remarkably consistent with his bat throughout his seven seasons in the Nationals organization and has one of the most mature and polished hitting approaches of any player in the system. After being named the Nationals' minor league player of the year in both 2015 and 2016, the 24-year-old put up solid numbers once again in his first full season at Double-A Harrisburg in 2017. Marmolejos has an all-fields approach at the plate and handled lefthanders just fine with half of his 14 homers coming against same-side pitchers. His defensive profile and a lack of impact power cap Marmolejos' ceiling. He's more of a doubles hitter without much physical projection left and is at best a fringe-average defender at both first base and in the outfield. He's a below-average runner with a below-average arm and is still working on improving his footwork at first base and routes in left field. Marmolejos should be tested against Triple-A pitching in 2018 and doesn't have much left to prove offensively before getting a chance to serve as a big league pinch-hitter or as part of a platoon.
Ward completed his first full season at Double-A in 2017 after reaching Harrisburg for the first time in late June 2016. His second look in the league didn't improve his strikeout problem. Ward struck out at a career-high rate of 27 percent in 2017, though he did walk more than the Eastern League average. He routinely failed to get into hitting position with good timing, which resulted in lots of swings and misses in the strike zone. Nationals evaluators think that his swing-and-miss issues are more timing-based than mechanics-based and when at his best, Ward showcases power to all fields. Defensively, he has limited range as a below-average runner but has solid hands and makes accurate throws with average to above-average arm strength. With a big, physical frame, first base might become his position down the line given his lack of quickness. At first base, Ward's hit tool issues will become an even bigger question mark. A return to Double-A is a possibility for 2018.
The Nationals acquired Gushue from the Pirates in September 2016 in a trade that sent prospect second baseman Chris Bostick to Pittsburgh. Gushue has been a below-average hitter his entire pro career and didn't have a great track record with the bat in college either. Still, scouts have long admired his defensive potential and the raw power that translated into a career-high 18 home runs in 2017 at high Class A Potomac. Lauded for having a strong arm out of college, Gushue improved behind the dish, throwing out 32 percent of basestealers between the Carolina League and 25 innings of work in the Double-A Eastern League. He's a good receiver with soft hands and a strong lower half and also has a feel for calling games and handling his pitching staff. There's no indication that he'll ever be an average hitter at this point, but the switch-hitter's power from the left side (14 of 18 homers) and defensive ability give him a chance to impact a major league team. A full season at Double-A Harrisburg in 2018 will be telling about Gushue's real offensive potential.
The Nationals made Raquet a 2017 third-rounder, signing him for $475,000 after a sophomore campaign at William & Mary that analytics departments might look at as mediocre at best. The 22-year-old southpaw transferred from North Carolina after a 2015 freshman season where he threw just 6.1 innings. He sat out a year, then pitched to a 4.66 ERA in 77.1 innings in the Colonial Athletic Association. Raquet has a solid history in collegiate summer leagues--1.23 ERA in the Cal Ripken League; 2.23 ERA in the Northwoods League--and some exciting stuff with a mid-90s fastball that touched 96 mph in 2017. He also throws an above-average changeup and an upper-70s tweener curveball with above-average potential. He's most likely a reliever down the line but was solid in his pro debut in the short-season New York-Penn League in 12 starts. He's got a funky delivery that will be worth monitoring as far as repeating his mechanics goes, but he has the stuff to get both righties and lefties out. Raquet has a small chance to be a starter, but the bullpen is a more likely outcome.
The Nationals drafted Johnston in the sixth round in 2017 and signed him for $226,100 after a three-year career at Texas, where he started 57 games and posted a 3.31 ERA. Prior to the draft, scouts were enamored of Johnston's plus fastball--which sits in the low to mid-90s with armside run--and a hard slider that flashed plus potential. He also throws a changeup, which is currently a work in progress. What evaluators were not as keen on was his lack of control. Johnston has never walked fewer than 4.6 batters per nine innings over more than 225 innings between Texas, the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and the short-season New York-Penn League, and he has routinely had issues syncing up the timing between his arm and his lower half. Most scouts see him as a reliever down the road, and Washington has already split his usage between starting and relieving. Johnston will likely continue to make starts in 2018, but there will be a priority on his innings and he could piggyback with a multi-inning reliever.
The No. 9 prospect on the international market in 2016, Sanchez signed for $950,000, making him part of a bonus pool-busting international class that included fellow shortstops Luis Garcia and Yasel Antuna. Sanchez, a native of Venezuela, had the least impressive pro debut of the trio in 2017. Nationals officials are high on Sanchez's defensive upside and consider him the most natural defender of the group, thanks to exceptional lateral mobility and quick footwork despite being just an average runner. He adds soft hands and plus arm strength. He's an extremely confident defender who has a tendency to get too flashy, but he has all the ingredients to turn into an above-average defensive shortstop with more time at the position. The Nationals' shortstop glut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League limited him to just 127 innings at the position in 2017. He also played second and third base. He has a raw, contact-oriented offensive approach and doesn't project for much offensive impact down the road, though he did add a significant amount of muscle this year and is currently more physical than his listed weight. Sanchez could repeat the GCL in 2018 and play shortstop more regularly.
Rodriguez has one of the more exciting arms in the Nationals' system, though his 2017 season was cut short by 80 games after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance on May 16. Prior to that, he posted a 3.51 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 11 walks at high Class A Potomac. Rodriguez found success after his suspension, but his strikeout and walk totals were less impressive than the early season. The key to his success is a mid-90s fastball that can touch 97 mph with excellent plane and angle thanks to his 6-foot-5 frame and a lightning-quick arm. He can throw the pitch to both sides of the plate and also has a hammering, power curveball with downer action that flashes plus and has a chance to be an out pitch. Control issues are the big question mark for Rodriguez moving forward, as he's walked more than four batters per nine innings over six seasons and his strikeout rates aren't as impressive as one would assume, given his stuff. The Nationals have been working on shortening his arm action to keep him in the zone more regularly. He has a chance to be an impact reliever.
Agustin took a step back in 2017, his first complete year in full-season ball. He slumped to a .531 OPS at high Class A Potomac in 33 games before being sent back to the low Class A South Atlantic League for the remainder of the season. Agustin improved offensively against the lesser competition, but there are new question marks about other areas of his game, including outfield defense and baserunning. Formerly a plus runner, Agustin has added weight and is now closer to an above-average runner. He takes solid routes defensively, but he profiles more as a corner outfielder than a center fielder because of his run-grade decline. He was also caught stealing six times in 18 attempts between the two leagues (66 percent). Agustin operates with a low motor and some in the organization have questioned his work ethic because of that. The 21-year-old still has some tools and a chance to hit from the left side, but his ceiling is considerably lower now, with several questions--including minor injuries and conditioning issues--left to answer when he gets a second chance in high Class A in 2018.
After leading the Nationals organization in strikeouts in 2015 and 2016 and reaching the cusp of the major leagues, Voth took a big step backward in 2017. He started the year at Triple-A Syracuse but was demoted to Double-A Harrisburg after 13 starts. At Triple-A, he recorded a 6.38 ERA and walked 4.6 batters per nine innings. Voth dealt with mechanical issues that the Nationals tried to sort out by putting him back with Harrisburg pitching coach Chris Michalak, who has worked with him most often. His walk rate improved dramatically, but he still posted a 5.13 ERA as his arm strength has gone in the wrong direction. Voth was regularly in the upper 80s with his fastball rather than the low 90s he had reached before. His breaking ball is solid-average at times, and he's previously shown an above-average changeup, but Voth lacks a plus pitch and has a small margin for error that was exposed with both his drop in velocity and control issues. Voth still has a chance to be a No. 5 starter, but 2017 was concerning.
Baez' first stint in high Class A Potomac didn't yield the control development that he and the Nationals were hoping for. In two different stretches in the Carolina League--sandwiching a short four-game stretch in the GCL--the flame-throwing righthander walked 7.5 batters per inning despite a respectable 3.87 ERA. That walk rate is the worst of Baez' career as he continued to struggle finding a consistent release point and couldn't get his lower half in line to the plate regularly. Making things worse, Baez tends to fall off the cliff when he fails on the mound, and he'll go through short dominant stretches only to have his outing fall apart after allowing a hit or a free pass. His stuff continues to make Baez exciting, however, as he has a mid-90s fastball that gets up to 96-97, a breaking ball that flashes plus and an improving changeup. He struggles to get on top of his curve regularly as his arm slot consistently drops on the pitch--another symptom of his mechanical struggles. He'll repeat the Carolina League in 2018 and try to figure out how to throw strikes.
Franco didn't put up great numbers at low Class A Hagerstown in his first full season of pro ball, but given his health, age and the off-the-field development that he went through in 2017, the Nationals were pleased with the year he had. Franco got married and had his first child at age 20 and became one of the team's leaders, and he also played 29 games at first base for the first time in his career. The Nationals see him as a third baseman in the future, with plus arm strength that might warrant a plus-plus grade, solid footwork and good hands. Franco played first base for a spell because the Nationals wanted him in Hagerstown, which they felt was best for his offensive development. He has plus raw power, which has gotten him into trouble with swings and misses thanks to a home run-seeking approach and a swing that tends to get long. Franco hit 11 homers in 2017 despite a very poor overall season, but his walk rate jump and plus defensive actions are an encouraging sign for his development.
After missing the first month of 2017 with an injury, Reetz logged 37 games at low Class A Hagerstown before earning his first promotion to high Class A Potomac, where he threw out 39 percent of basestealers. While Reetz has just average to solid-average arm strength, he has managed to consistently keep opponents' running games in check during the first few years of his pro career. Offensively, he hasn't managed to hit above .237 since his pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League back in 2014 and is more of a gap-to-gap hitter, though he made adjustments with his lower half and has been driving the ball up the middle with more authority. Against Carolina League arms, Reetz struck out a career-high 31 percent of the time but managed a respectable walk rate (9 percent), as he has throughout his career. Nationals evaluators rave about Reetz's makeup and work ethic, and while he doesn't have a single standout tool, he has an interesting package that could lead to a backup catcher role in the big leagues with continued offensive and game-calling development.
Abreu was challenged in 2017 with a full season at Double-A Harrisburg after a strong second half in 2016 in the Carolina and Arizona Fall leagues. The 23-year-old played exclusively shortstop for the second straight season, and while he struggled during the first half--hitting .237/.284/.325 from April through June--he improved in the second half and hit .258/.320/.352 from July through September. Abreu has strong, quick hands at the plate and can turn on fastballs on the inner half, but he often gets too pull-happy and is still learning to hit the other way. The majority of his doubles were hit to the left side of the field. Despite another poor defensive year by Abreu, the Nationals think he can turn into a solid defender at shortstop, where he has a good arm but remains inconsistent. He has a tendency to carry his offensive struggles into the field, and vice versa. Abreu will likely repeat in Double-A in 2018, and the Nationals will hope he can carry his late-season improvements over a full season and make strides in preventing his failures from snowballing into other areas of his game.
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