The Nationals entered the season with the reigning MVP, a rotation with a pair of Cy Young-contenders and the best pitching prospect in baseball. So you could say expectations were kind of high for them to perform. And they certainly did . . . during the regular season. They finished the year with a 95-67 record, but were once again bounced out in the first round of the playoffs by the Dodgers.
But they should be right back in the thick of things this upcoming season and should be a legit challenge to the dynasty juggernaut Chicago Cubs. The Nats will have to hurry and get a title soon though, because unless phenom Bryce Harper lowers his outrageous price tag for an extension, they may only have their franchise right fielder until the end of 2018.
By the way, if you are interested in more MLB prospects columns, head on over to our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. Throughout the offseason, you will find the rest of our team prospect breakdowns, fantasy baseball prospect rankings, tiered positional rankings, keeper values articles, and more - all in one easy place.
Washington Nationals Top Prospects for Dynasty Leagues
Today I am continuing my list of prospect systems in the NL East. I have already covered the Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. Next week, I will cover the NL Central. To read more about my prospect coverage, click here.
Top Overall Talent: Victor Robles
Top Prospect who won’t debut in 2017: Victor Robles
The fact Robles is the guy under both these categories should not be surprising. Robles is without a doubt the top prospect in this system and would’ve been even had Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez remained in the nation’s capital. The 19-year-old outfielder is bursting with potential as most scouts envision him becoming the next franchise outfielder in D.C., especially as Bryce Harper eyes free agency after the 2018 season. Robles, to this point, has demonstrated an incredibly advanced approach to the plate for someone with his lack of experience and enough speed to man centerfield while also stealing 30+ bases per season.
But with all this said, it is still very unlikely he sees any meaningful playing time this season. It is within the realm of possibility that he could see time when rosters expand in September, but the Nats are quite happy with Adam Eaton and Harper in the outfield and they can put up with Jayson Werth for this season. They also have Andrew Stevenson who is likely going to be the next man up should any of the current trio find themselves on the DL this season. Robles is a future All-Star and potential 20/30 threat, but dynasty owners will need to wait until 2018 to reap the rewards of the young outfielder.
Top Prospect to Debut in 2017: Erick Fedde
With Giolito and Lopez now off to Chicago following the Adam Eaton deal, Fedde is now bar none the top pitching prospect in Washington’s system. The right-hander does not throw as hard as a lot of other starting pitching prospects, but he has a lot of life to his fastball and offers both an elite slider and above-average changeup to keep hitters off balance. Fedde commands his stuff well and shouldn’t have much of an issue translating his success to the big leagues. He reached Double-A last season and could be the next guy up if anyone in Washington’s rotation is hurt or proves to be unsuccessful.
Biggest Boom or Bust: Luis Garcia
Middle-infielders who can mash are not necessarily a dime a dozen, but Garcia has the potential to be just that: an offensive-minded middle-infielder. Scouts love not only his 6-foot, 190 pound frame, but the raw talent he has shown in batting practices and scouting visits. The big issue is that he is still very raw and only 16 years of age. He was born in the year 2000, which may not mean a lot to some of you, but it does to me. He’s quite young. He has the upside to be a special player, but owners will have to wait many years and be willing to take an extreme risk on him at this early stage in his career.
Biggest Sleeper: Austin Voth
Voth is not a flashy prospect by any means. He doesn’t throw hard and he never posts ridiculous strikeout totals in the big leagues. But year in and year out, he produces reliable results. Last season at Triple-A, the 24-year-old right-hander accumulated 157 innings of work while posting a 3.15 ERA and 3.53 FIP. He showed little struggles with walks (8.6 percent) and managed to post a strikeout rate north of 20 percent again, just as he does every season. The former Washington Husky won’t be an ace or a front-of-the-rotation starter, but owners looking for a backend innings-eater should be perfectly content with stashing Voth in the event he gets a chance to start in the big leagues.
Top Prospect Hitters
Best Power Hitter: Victor Robles
Most Likely to Hit over .300: Victor Robles
Best Burner on the Bases: Victor Robles
It really can’t be understated enough just how talented Robles is. Scouts have fallen in love with the future franchise centerfielder and see him as a five-tool outfielder in D.C. for many years to come. He is easily the most likely to hit over .300 in this system and the best burner on the bases, though Wilmer Difo also makes a valiant effort at the spot for prime base stealer. Just to give you an idea of how fast both those players are, Difo stole 28 bags at Double-A in 104 games and Robles stole 37 in 105 games split between High-A and Class-A.
As for the power, Robles may not necessarily have pure game power right now, but he seems likely to develop 20 home run pop in the near future. Though Carter Kieboom and Drew Ward can make an argument for being the top power hitter in the system, it is Robles’ proximity to the majors and ability to drive the ball to all fields that cements himself as the top power guy in the big leagues. It should be abundantly clear that Robles is an elite prospect and not one to miss out on.
Top Prospect Pitchers
Strikeout Machine: Erick Fedde
Best Command: Erick Fedde
Fedde is no Giolito or Lopez, but he can certainly hold his own. The 6-foot-4 right-hander does not possess the high-octane stuff of the aforementioned pitching prospects, but he knows how to pitch effectively and get batters to swing-and-miss. He had Tommy John surgery back in 2014, but has since recovered and threw 121 innings last year. He has also consistently maintained strikeout rates around 20 percent or higher and should be able to continue that trend into the big leagues. With his combination of excellent command and well above-average stuff, he should be at least a No. 3 or 4 starter (if not better) in the big leagues for many years to come.
Top 10 Dynasty Prospects for the Washington Nationals
1. Victor Robles (OF, A+)
Robles is a future franchise outfielder who should be viewed as one of the top 10 fantasy prospects in baseball.
2. Erick Fedde (SP, AA)
Fedde has both well above-average control and swing-and-miss stuff, giving him No. 2 starter potential.
3. Juan Soto (OF, A-)
Soto is still young and probably has a year or two remaining before he advances beyond Class-A, but the upside is there for a future star.
4. Wilmer Difo (2B, MLB)
Difo has plenty of speed, but doesn’t always drive the ball with a ton of authority. He might be a future starter at second base, but he will need to wait for Ryan Zimmerman to move first base open for Daniel Murphy first.
5. Andrew Stevenson (OF, AA)
Stevenson is a speedy, slap-hitting centerfielder who could become a future leadoff hitter. He will need to improve in his ability to make solid contact if he wants to really succeed in the future.
6. Carter Kieboom (SS, ROK)
Kieboom is still many years away from the big leagues, but owners waiting on him will likely be rewarded with a power-hitting third baseman (he will likely not stick at shortstop).
7. Austin Voth (SP, AAA)
Voth stands out as a future innings-eater for Washington in the backend of the rotation, though the excitement in Voth probably should stop there.
8. Koda Glover (RP, MLB)
Glover’s explosive stuff out of the bullpen gives him closer upside, but it’s never the smartest bet to count on a guy to take up such a volatile position as closer.
9. Luis Garcia (SS, NA)
Extremely gifted young shortstop has the tools to be a future offensive-minded shortstop, but he has a long way to go and a ton of development ahead.
10. Sheldon Neuse (3B, A-)
Neuse was a talented shortstop at Oklahoma, though he will have to develop more power now at the hot corner to be a viable fantasy option at third base.
This system was looking like a top 10 farm system, having both an elite-potential hitter and two front-of-the-rotation starting pitching prospects. And then the offseason came rolling along. And while Victor Robles remains in the nation’s capital, top pitching prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez along with solid pitching prospect Dane Dunning have since been dealt to the south side of Chicago in exchange for outfielder Adam Eaton.
The system now stands out for its depth than its star potential. There are several guys with average or slightly above-average projections like Neuse, Difo, Stevenson and the unlisted Drew Ward. But while Robles and Fedde have high upside, they are really the only two borderline elite prospects on the horizon as other high upside guys like Soto, Garcia and Kieboom are still many years away. This system as not as bad as many might think, but it certainly took a hit from the losses of Giolito and Lopez.