The Nationals perceive the organizational depth beyond the 25-man big league roster as an under-the-radar success. In recent years, the Nationals’ best minor leaguers developed in the lower rungs. Those players have ascended, and now many of them have reached Class AA or AAA, ready to be plucked by the big club if needed.
“That’s part of the organizational strength that we have,” Manager Matt Williams said. “There’s only so many spots on the roster. But there’s a lot of very qualified folks here. That’s a good thing.”
The quality and quantity of serviceable-at-worst players in the upper levels of their system, especially pitchers, stands out. This year, Class AAA Syracuse’s opening day bullpen will include Ryan Mattheus, Xavier Cedeno, Christian Garcia and Manny Delcarmen. Their outfield includes Tyler Moore, Steven Souza and Brian Goodwin. As one minor league coach put it: “We’re going to have to say, ‘Okay, which guy do we take?’ It used to be, ‘We got to take him?’ ”
The Nationals’ depth in the lower rungs of their system has been helped by an improved pipeline from Latin America. The Nationals are starting to spend more on individual players, but under Johnny DiPuglia’s watch, the Nationals’ staff in the Dominican Republic sends more and better prospects to the States. Pedro Severino, a 20-year-old catcher starting the year in Class A Potomac, is a prime example. See also Hagerstown outfielder Rafael Bautista, a star on last year’s Gulf Coast League juggernaut.
Another interesting nugget: When Mike Rizzo was talking about the Nationals’ youngest wave of pitchers, he lumped right-hander Austin Voth in with top prospect Lucas Giolito and Jake Johansen, the Nationals’ first draft pick last year.
Voth, 21, was a strikeout-to-walk beast in college at Washington, and the Nationals chose him in the fifth round. In 45 1/3 innings last year at three levels, Voth struck out 55, walked six and punched up a 1.75 ERA. He throws a sinker in the low 90s, and Nationals officials rave about his feel for pitching. He’s a pitcher you may not know much about that could rise quickly through the system.
One last note: Left-handed pitching prospect Sammy Solis will start the year at extended spring training in Florida with a back injury. The issue first surfaced in March and is expected to be a minor setback.
Likewise, veteran lefty reliever Michael Gonzalez will start the year at extended spring training to build up innings.
Here are the Nationals’ opening day minor league rosters, with some random notes and nuggets sprinkled in.
CLASS AAA SYRACUSE
Danny Rosenbaum — Rule 5 pick by the Rockies in 2012.
Ryan Tatusko — came to the Nats with Tanner Roark for Cristian Guzman in 2010.
Manny Delcarmen — Touched 95 with his fastball this spring.
Josh Roenicke — Ian Desmond’s brother-in-law.
Emmanuel Burris — D.C. native.
Brian Goodwin — Nats’ top position player prospect
Steven Souza Jr.
CLASS AA HARRISBURG
Robert Gilliam — Came from Oakland along with Gio Gonzalez.
Richie Mirowski — former 45th round pick had 11.5 K/9 at two levels last season.
Matt Purke — on the 40-man roster because of big league draft deal
Felipe Rivero — came with Jose Lobaton for Nate Karns
Cutter Dykstra — Lenny’s kid.
Jason Martinson — former football player at Texas State.
Matt Skole — 2012 Nats minor league player of the year.
Destin Hood — Turned down an Alabama football scholarship to play wideout.
Michael A. Taylor
Drew Vettleson — came from Tampa with Jose Lobaton; could pitch with both arms in high school.
CLASS A POTOMAC
Dakota Bacus — came from A’s for Kurt Suzuki.
Ian Dickson — the return from the Cubs for Henry Rodriguez.
Pedro Encarnacion — Great pitcher’s build.
Bryan Harper — Bryce’s brother.
Travis Henke — Tom’s kid.
Kevin Keyes — Has hit homers literally off the light towers in Potomac.
Adrian Sanchez — 6-foot-4 switch-hitter; Nats believe he’s a future big leaguer.
Brandon Miller — Unheralded, but some of the best raw power in the Nats’ system.
CLASS A HAGERSTOWN
Lucas Giolito — One of the best pitching prospects in baseball
Matthew Spann — The lefty who emerged from the David DeJesus sideshow.
Drew Ward — A 19-year-old from a town of 500 with monstrous frame and advanced plate discipline.
Isaac Ballou — Set a million hitting records at Marshall, has the frame of a major league. Dark horse prospect.