Baseball America names Lucas Giolito the top Nationals prospect

November 12, 2013

Lucas Giolito at Nationals Park in 2012. (Alex Brandon/AP)

It has taken time, but the Nationals’ farm system is slowly recovering from big trades and graduations to the major leagues that depleted its minor league talent. Two years ago, the Nationals acted like a contender and traded away a haul of young prospects for left-handed starter Gio Gonzalez. Last winter, they shipped away their top pitching prospect for outfielder/leadoff hitter Denard Span. Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon have since reached the majors and established themselves there. Now, the Nationals are carefully monitoring and bracing for the so-called “new wave” of pitching talent to arrive.

Prospect bible Baseball America released this year’s top 10 ranking of Nationals’ prospects last week and the list reflects the restocking and development of that new influx of talent. Once lacking in top pitching prospects, the Nationals top overall prospect is right-handed starter Lucas Giolito. After him is A.J. Cole, the right-handed starter sent to Oakland for Gonzalez but re-acquired a year later in the trade for Michael Morse. In fact, six of the Nationals’ top 10 prospects are starting pitchers, and three of them — left-hander Robbie Ray (No. 5), right-hander Nate Karns (No. 9) and Cole — have already reached Class AA Harrisburg.

The list doesn’t include the contributions of young pitchers, right-handers Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark, made in the majors this season. Baseball America wrote highly of the Nationals’ recent draft strategy, and of their investments and re-building of their Latin American program, highlighting young pitcher Jefrey Rodriguez and outfielder Rafael Bautista, both from the Dominican Republic and both who played for the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League team this season.

Giolito is the crown jewel of the Nationals system. Despite tossing only two innings in 2012, Giolito was rated the second-best prospect in the Nationals system because of his age and stuff (a triple-digit fastball and a wipe-out breaking ball). After Tommy John surgery, Giolito has impressed the Nationals with his progress. He fired 36 2/3 innings combined this season between the Nationals’ GCL team and low-Class A Auburn and posted a 1.96 ERA with a 9.6 K/9 rate. He is only 19 years old and is filling out his 6-foot-6 frame.

The Nationals’ top position prospect is — no surprise — outfielder Brian Goodwin, who played his first full season at Harrisburg in 2013 and is competing in the Arizona Fall League. Despite missing nearly the entire season with a wrist and elbow injury, Matt Skole, the big left-handed-hitting corner infielder, surged onto the list and into fourth place among Nationals prospects because of his ability and impressive showing in big league spring training. Michael Taylor, a gifted outfielder who had his best season yet at Class A Potomac this season, is ranked at No. 7 and Steven Souza, Jr., who posted a .953 OPS at Harrisburg and was added to the 40-man roster this month, rounds out the top 10.

For more from Baseball America, including the informative and entertaining Best Tools ratings, their Nationals’ prospect page is here. Here’s their full top 10:

1. Lucas Giolito, RHP

2. A.J. Cole, RHP

3. Brian Goodwin, OF

4. Matt Skole, 1B/3B

5. Robbie Ray, LHP

6. Sammy Solis, LHP

7. Michael Taylor, OF

8. Jake Johansen, RHP

9. Nate Karns, RHP

10. Steven Souza, OF

 

And to compare, last year’s list:

1. Anthony Rendon, 3B

2. Lucas Giolito, SP

3. Brian Goodwin, OF

4. Matt Skole, 3B

5. Nathan Karns, SP

6. Christian Garcia, RP/SP

7. Eury Perez, OF

8. Sammy Solis, SP

9. Matt Purke, SP

10. Zach Walters, IF

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.
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Adam Kilgore · November 11, 2013

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