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BA Grade: 60. Risk: Medium Tool Grades: Hit: 60. Power: 50. Speed: 45. Field: 50. Arm: 55. Track Record: The Nationals’ 2016 draft featured five players who have made their major league debuts, including Kieboom their first pick in that draft. Carter became the second Kieboom to play for the Nationals when he made his debut on April 26 and homered in his first major league game. His older brother Spencer is a catcher who played for the Nationals in 2016 and 2018. The younger Kieboom spent two weeks in the majors when Trea Turner was injured before returning to Triple-A Fresno for the rest of the season, where he ranked in the top 10 in the Pacific Coast League in on-base percentage (.405) despite being one of the circuit’s youngest players. He was a Futures Game selection for the second straight year. Scouting Report: Nationals manager Davey Martinez noted that all the skills are there for Kieboom to succeed and that it’s just a matter of time until the game slows down enough for him to succeed in the majors. Kieboom is a patient hitter who habitually gets into good counts and punishes fastballs over the plate. He has a steady, consistent approach and never seems overwhelmed. He hits to all fields and recognizes breaking pitches well, grading as a future plus hitter with blossoming power that will be average or better. He has a steady heartbeat and flourishes in big situations. Kieboom is a below-average runner, but he has the hands and range to be an average defensive shortstop. He pushes the ball on his throws due to an irregular arm action, affecting his accuracy just enough for most evaluators to prefer him at second base. Kieboom played a career-high 41 games at second base with Fresno and is still learning the angles and shifts for the position. He plays under control at second base and could have above-average arm strength for the position. He has the reflexes, hands and arm to handle third base as well. The Future: Where Kieboom plays in Washington depends largely on need, but his ability to play all over the infield has put him in position to find a spot soon. He projects as a No. 2 hitter in the major leagues with the potential to grow into enough power to hit in the middle of a lineup one day. He should get his first extended exposure to the big leagues in 2020, where the Nationals could have openings at second base and possibly third base if Anthony Rendon departs as a free agent.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: High Tool Grades: Hit: 55. Power: 45. Speed: 50. Field: 60. Arm: 60. Track Record: Garcia, whose father Luis played in the majors, was born in New York and moved to the Dominican Republic when he was 3. He grew into one of the top international prospects for his age and signed for $1.3 million in 2016. After hitting nearly .300 at both Class A levels in 2018, Garcia struggled to handle a tough assignment to Double-A. He did hit .278 in August and he also hit .276/.345/.382 in an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League. Scouting Report: Garcia was a teenager in a man’s league in 2019, but he never wavered. He has solid bat-to-ball skills but needs to improve his strike-zone knowledge and connect his upper and lower half in his swing. He shows hints of fringe-average power but the lefthanded batter primarily is a contact hitter. Garcia makes all the plays at shortstop laterally with a precise internal clock. His plus, accurate arm gives him the chance to be a plus shortstop. Garcia is an above-average runner now but will likely slow down to average as he becomes older and more physical. The Future: Even if Garcia returns to the Eastern League in 2020, he would be one of the youngest players on the field each night. He’ll get another crack at Double-A in 2020.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: High Tool Grades: Fastball: 70. Curveball: 55. Slider: 60. Changeup: 50. Control: 45. Track Record: Rutledge began his college career at Arkansas, but he barely pitched and suffered a season-ending hip injury before transferring to San Jacinto JC. He experienced a velocity bump after rehabbing, touching 101 mph, and became one of the top pitching prospects in the 2019 draft class. The Nationals drafted him No. 17 overall and signed for $3.45 million. Scouting Report: Though Rutledge is 6-foot-8, he has a short arm action and a shorter stride than expected. His arm action, reminiscent of former Nationals prospect Lucas Giolito’s, helps Rutledge maintain command of his 94-98 mph fastball. Rutledge also has good present secondary stuff, especially his plus slider. He’s athletic for his size and is capable of throwing four above-average pitches, with his curveball and changeup showing above-average to plus. Rutledge is still honing in on his control and shows average strike-throwing potential, though he will occasionally get wild. He has shown an interest in analytics and takes a studious approach to his starts. The Future: Rutledge was dominant in his six low Class A starts, and his next test could be at high Class A Fredericksburg. His biggest task will be adapting to a five-day schedule.
BA Grade: 50. Risk: Medium Tool Grades: Fastball: 55. Curveball: 50. Slider: 50. Changeup: 55. Control: 50. Track Record: Crowe had Tommy John surgery in 2015 and missed all of 2016 at South Carolina, but he rebounded in 2017 to become the Nationals’ second-round pick. He won high Class A Carolina League pitcher of the year honors in his first full season but struggled after being bumped to Double-A. He fared much better in his second Eastern League try in 2019, posting a 3.87 ERA, and finished the year at Triple-A Fresno. Scouting Report: Crowe is continuing to learn which of his four pitches works best at which times. His fastball velocity has increased each year and he now sits 92-93 mph with the ability to reach 95. His four-seam fastball plays up more than its raw velocity would suggest due to an elite spin rate that makes it an above-average pitch, and he can mix in a sinker to change hitters’ eye levels. His changeup is a swing-and-miss pitch that draws above-average grades, and he shows feel to spin both an average curveball and slider. Crowe has the actions and durability to remain a starter, but his stuff would play up in the bullpen, too. The Future: Crowe will continue to see what his stuff can do against more advanced hitters. He’s seen as a future major leaguer, but the question could be what role he’ll play.
BA Grade: 50. Risk: High Tool Grades: Fastball: 50. Curveball: 70. Changeup: 50. Control: 55. Track Record: When he was at Connecticut, Cate was famous for having one of the best curveballs in the nation, although his small stature raised some durability concerns. Cate is ambidextrous. He had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow in high school, but while he recovered, he just batted, pitched and played the outfield as a righthander. Scouting Report: When the Nationals drafted Cate, the hope was his 90-92 mph velocity would steadily tick up. Instead, he’s struggled to maintain that, often dipping to 89-90 in starts. Even with only a fringe-average fastball at best, Cate transitioned smoothly to high Class A in 2019 after thriving at low A Hagerstown thanks to plus control. Cate’s curveball has teeth and depth to it. His below-average changeup has improved, and he still had life on a fastball that he can cut, sink or run. At instructional league, he worked on his changeup and a small tweak to his delivery. He didn’t pitch in any games but focused on preparing himself for 2020. He’s a student of the game who has adjusted well to a five-day schedule in pro ball. The Future: Some scouts believe Cate needs to build more stamina, but he has the workings of a potential back-of-the-rotation starter if the improvement his made with his changeup sticks. If not, his fastball and curveball should play up in shorter bullpen stints.
BA Grade: 50. Risk: High Tool Grades: Hit: 50. Power: 55. Speed: 40. Field: 55. Arm: 55. Track Record: Mendoza ranked as one of the top high school prospects in the 2016 draft but was strongly committed to Florida State, where both of his parents attended. After leading the Seminoles to two College World Series appearances in three years, he signed with the Nationals for $800,000 as their third-round pick in 2019. A college third baseman and shortstop, Mendoza moved to first base in his first summer as a professional with low Class A Hagerstown. Scouting Report: Mendoza has the tools to hit and is extremely knowledgeable of the strike zone, but at times he is overly passive. The Nationals are looking for more of a ready-to-hit mentality, which should get him into fewer two-strike counts. Mendoza hits drives to center field and the opposite field and is athletic for such a big man. He can be an average hitter with above-average power as he hones his approach. Mendoza’s athleticism was on display defensively when he quickly took to playing first base, looking like a natural around the bag as he worked out with infield coordinator Jeff Garber. He has soft hands and a plus arm for a first baseman. The Future: Mendoza is expected to take his calm hitting approach to high Class A in 2020. He has room to fill out and hit for more power.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: Extreme Tool Grades: Fastball: 60. Curveball: 55. Changeup: 50. Control: 50. Track Record: Scouts German Robles and Juan Indriago quickly identified Lara as a priority target for the Nationals in the 2019 international signing class, and international director Johnny DiPuglia liked what he saw in the loose-limbed power pitcher as well. The Nationals signed him for $1.25 million on July 2. Lara focused on a throwing program and drills before starting a mound progression in mid-August. He pitched in instructional league and then for seven weeks at instructional league in the Dominican Republic. Scouting Report: The 16-year-old Lara quickly won over club officials who saw him for the first time in Florida. Lara’s fastball was clocked at 92-95 mph. He has an advanced feel for pitching and repeats his delivery well for someone his age. He has a power curveball and can manipulate its depth and velocity. He has the makings of a changeup, and he throws all his pitches with a downhill angle. Lara has a strong and durable pitcher’s frame. He’s a confident young pitcher with a fluid delivery. The Future: It’s easy to dream on Lara, who is slated to start his first pro season in extended spring training. He has a chance to pitch in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League before the end of the season and has the ingredients to emerge as a breakout prospect.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: Extreme Tool Grades: Fastball: 60. Curveball: 55. Changeup: 50. Control: 50. Track Record: Denaburg was the 27th overall pick in 2018 despite missing time in high school with biceps tendinitis. He signed for $3 million, some of which he used for a Christmas gift for his parents by paying off their loans. The video of his appreciative moment has more than 2,600 likes on Twitter. Denaburg pitched in instructional league during his draft year, but he didn’t make his minor league debut until 2019, when he again wasn’t healthy. He had minor shoulder surgery after the season and is expected to back for the start of spring training. Scouting Report: When healthy, Denaburg has a mid-90s fastball and an above-average curveball and changeup. The secondary stuff needs more consistency. The Nationals are hoping he can be a righthanded version of Robbie Ray, a 2010 Nationals draft pick who needed time to overcome injuries and reach the majors. Though Denaburg’s velocity was down in the Gulf Coast League, he has a strong repertoire when healthy. He’s also a good athlete capable of repeating his delivery. The Future: Denaburg will continue to learn the pro game. In 2019, he pitched through adversity, but he’s still a young pitcher with a high upside.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: Extreme. Tool Grades: Hit: 50. Power: 55. Speed: 50. Field: 50. Arm: 60. Track Record: Antuna signed for $3.85 million on July 2 as the Nationals’ top signee in the 2016 international class. While fellow 2016 signee Luis Garcia has played a full season in Double-A, Antuna has yet to reach high Class A. He was limited to just three games in 2019 due to Tommy John surgery and leg injuries. He has just 502 at-bats in three years. Scouting Report: When healthy, the switch-hitting Antuna has a smooth swing from both sides of the plate and the strength to impact the ball. He has shown plus raw power potential and an easy looseness to his swing. He flashed his potential at low Class A Hagerstown in the middle of 2018 before going down with an elbow injury that required surgery. Before Tommy John, Antuna had a plus arm from shortstop and the soft hands and body control to remain at the position. The Future: Antuna got bigger and stronger during his rehab, so the organization expects to see a more physical player with line-drive power when he returns in 2020. He’ll be just 20 years old all of next season and has time to get back on track.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: Extreme Tool Grades: Fastball: 60. Slider: 60. Changeup: 55. Control: 50. Track Record: Romero had 290 strikeouts in 226.1 innings in his college career at Houston, but he was suspended his sophomore year and kicked off the team his junior year. The Nationals still took him 25th overall and signed him for $2.8 million. The next spring, he was sent home for violating team rules. Romero returned to strike out 34 in 25.1 innings at low Class A Hagerstown but then needed Tommy John surgery and missed the 2019 season. He was able to pitch one inning in instructional league, a dazzling outing in which he pumped strikes with all of his pitches. Scouting Report: On stuff alone, Romero is among the best pitchers in the Nationals’ system. The ball comes out clean in his delivery, and he’s a strike-thrower. Prior to surgery, Romero had feel for locating his 93-95 mph fastball, and his plus low-80s slider drew swings and misses from batters on both sides of plate. He throws the best slider in the Nationals’ system. His changeup flashed above-average as well, giving him the raw stuff of a mid-rotation starter. The Future: At 23, Romero can still set a positive course. His main goals will be building back up and staying out of trouble, two things he has yet to show he can do.
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