Sickels Releases Top 20 Nats Prospects List

John Sickels released his Top 20 Prospects for the Washington Nationals last night, roughly 30 hours after posting a preliminary post. Here’s the breakdown by letter grade:

A-/A Victor Robles
B+ Juan Soto, Carter Kieboom
B/B+ Erick Fedde
B Seth Romero
B/B- Wil Crowe, Daniel Johnson
B- Yasel Antuna, Luis Garcia
B-/C+ Raudy Read
C+ Andrew Stevenson, Blake Perkins, Austin L. Adams, Pedro Severino, Taylor Gushue, Jefry Rodriguez, Kelvin Gutierrez, Nick Raquet, Jackson Tetrault, Wander Suero

Bold = 2017 Top 20 player, higher grade
Bold = 2017 Top 20 player, same grade
Bold = 2017 Top 20 player, lower grade
Italics = Not on the 2017 list
Magenta = 2017 Draft pick

Thank you, John for posting before I had to finalize the 2018 Watchlist 😉

For the second straight year, half the list are C+ players but there are no “C” players. In fact, there were four “C+” guys who missed the cut; the total of 14 is the most since this site began in 2010.

Now for the commentary…

Robles has finally entered the “A” range, as he has risen from B/B+ to B+/A- to A-/A since 2016. Like most of us, Sickels believes he’ll be DC next summer.

Question for the Pollyanas: Will he make the jump in late April to avoid burning an option (e.g. Bryce Harper) or in early June (e.g. Stephen Strasburg) to avoid Super-Two status ? I personally wouldn’t offer an opinion until Adam Eaton plays in spring training.

Before adjusting your undergarments about Erick Fedde being downgraded (from B+ to B/B+), don’t forget that he finished the season on the DL and that he did not pitch more innings in 2017 than in 2016. To me, anyone should see that as a red signal for a pitchers who’s had surgery [insert Nationals’ elbow joke here].

However, if he’s healthy and the Nats stand pat on starting pitchers, Fedde should be the favorite to be the #5 starter.

The other “blue” player is Andrew Stevenson, who also only dropped one notch from last year (B-/C+ to C+). His “problem” is a rather common one – a fourth or fifth outfielder who’d be valuable as a defensive replacement, a pinch-runner, but lacks power and on-base skills.

Sickels is a believer in Daniel Johnson, entering the Top 20 at nearly a “B” and at #7 overall, though I think he’s understating his swing/miss and aggression tendencies. My worry is that the tailspin he took in the AFL after a hot start could happen again at AA; he did fade some in August at Potomac, too.

Four of the 2018 Top 20 are 2017 draft picks and all are pitchers, which combined with the recent influx of IFAs (Soto, Antuna, Garcia), helps explain the bevy of guys who dropped into “also-ran” territory (A.J. Cole and Wilmer Difo were the only two from last year’s Top 20 to graduate).

Finally, the injuries to Soto, Kieboom, and Gutierrez did not adversely affect their ratings. In fact, Sickels was explicit in his write-up for Juan Soto about the talent overwhelming the usual doubts of a shortened season (just 32 games):

[He] missed most of season with ankle, hamstring, and hamate injuries but hit the hell out of the ball when healthy. [A]lthough I am normally cautious about players with sample-size issues, in this case I believe what Soto did is a fair representation of his true ability.

Kieboom also improved his rating with just 48 games played. Gutierrez only played 68 games in the regular season, but it would appear that his strong showing in the AFL (or the scouts’ reports) offset his no longer qualifying for the Billy Rowell defense, having turned 23 in late August. Plus, this ought to sound to familiar to regular readers:

[A] superior defensive third baseman with above-average range and dramatically improved reliability over the last year; still learning to tap his power but has more sock than hitting just two homers implies.

Merry Christmas (or Happy Boxing Day for our readers across the pond)!

Author: Luke Erickson

Since 2009, Luke Erickson has been chief writer, editor, and bottle-washer of Potomac is his home base as a season-ticket holder, but he has visited every affiliate north of Florida at least once, with multiple trips to Hagerstown and Harrisburg.

6 thoughts on “Sickels Releases Top 20 Nats Prospects List”

  1. What a nice present to find under the tree after a long day and in need of some distraction.

    Before diving in, I’ll start with Luke’s Robles question: since Robles spent MLB in the season before, he’s not on the same clock as the Harper or Stras one; he’s on the Trea Turner one, the one that has to be “reset.” Trea didn’t come up for good until around the All-Star break in 2016, and I expect the same timetable for Robles. An extra season of Robles seven years from now is infinitely more valuable than half a season in 2018 when he’s still finding his footing.

    The other Robles question I have is AA or AAA? AA is still more the learning/teaching level, and he’s still got some learning to do. Plus the AAA OF already has two CF types in Bautista and Stevenson, plus if Raburn and maybe Hernandez are there, it’s a full house. Robles is certainly “ready” to play against AAA talent, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still at AA.

    1. Well, I was being a bit cheeky, too since some folks out there want Robles on the Opening Day roster and leading off. Stras and Harp were also added to the 40-man upon signing, a practice that was banned by the 2011 CBA, but I used them as examples since he’s getting that level of hype.

  2. I don’t have too much to quibble with Sickels’s takes. Very interesting to see how much he believes in Soto and Johnson. Sickels has been doing this a long time (~20 years) and has one of the best networks of bird-dogs out there, so he’s not going by Internet scuttlebutt. I’ve been an outspoken believer of the Soto hype, of course; I’m still not sure about Johnson, even after seeing him at Potomac. I do tend to discount Johnson’s AFL struggles at the end of a very long first full pro season.

    (I’m curious to see where Soto, Kieboom, and Johnson start 2018. Do Soto and Kieboom get pushed on to Potomac despite missing much of 2017? Does Johnson stay at Potomac to try to work on some things or jump right in at AA?)

    I do think Sickels more or less has the right top 10 guys, however you want to shuffle them, and I also think he’s right about the gap between those folks and the second 10. My biggest quibble would probably be on Perkins, who did make some strides in 2017 but who still needs to take some big steps in the next couple of years. I’m also a little surprised at the positive take on Gushue, who fell off a cliff after the league figured him out. The rest of the top 20 tracks pretty closely to our takes in the top bats and top arms lists here.

    1. I held off on ranting about Read since it is possible that he’s improved to a Wilson Ramos level of defense. But for all that power, a .312 OBP is still subpar at ANY level, much less AA.

      1. Read is a case where the internal scouting reports matter a lot. His power is such that he’s getting notice on national prospect lists and therefore has “value” as a trade chip. He’s 24, so he’s kind of toward the end of “prospect” value age . . . unless he hits 30 HRs in 2018. In other words, if they’re not sold on him, he needs to be on the market now.

        Read’s K numbers aren’t terrible (18% in 2017), so his low OBP seems more due to his unwillingness to take a walk (6.1% and going down from previous seasons — not good) and a sub-.300 BABIP. He’s always had low BABIP, though.

      2. Agree. Several years ago I was impressed by Read’s energy behind the plate .
        Luke. How many arms you think
        Nats will add for depth @ Cuse shuttle ?? Oddly enough we have learned that a pitcher on Cuse doesn’t have to be a starter just a guy who can pitch 3-5 IP a couple times a week.

Comments are closed.