Spring training has only just begun but the prospect-ranking season, which never seems to end, culminated last night as Baseball America unveiled its 2015 Top 100 List.
Lucas Giolito, the undisputed* #1 Washington Prospect, came in at #7 this year. Joining him on the list are Michael Taylor (#32), Reynaldo Lopez (#49), Erick Fedde (#90), A.J. Cole (#91), and Joe Ross (#96).* Not counting parents, significant others, and agents, natch
The six prospects on the list is indeed the most ever for the franchise since it relocated from Montreal prior to the 2005 season. The previous high was four in 2011 when Bryce Harper (#1), Danny Espinosa (#66), Derek Norris (#72), and Wilson Ramos (#96) were all ranked. Four times the Nationals had just one prospect ranked in the annual preseason ranking (2005-2007, 2009).
Giolito is marking his third year on the list, having been ranked #21 last year and #67 in 2013, which are the bookends for the Tommy John surgery he underwent in August 2012 shortly after making his pro debut. In 2014, his first full season, he won 10 of 20 starts and turned in 98 innings, with a three-start layoff in May. He struck out 110 while walking just 28 for a robust pitcher’s line of 2.20/3.16/1.00, though he did give up seven HR’s (hence the just slightly better than league-average FIP).
The $64,000 question for 2015 is whether or not Giolito will progress to High-A Potomac after winning 10 of 20 starts made for Low-A Hagerstown in 2014. It lingers because the Nats do have a history of skipping top prospects from Low-A to AA, most recently with Brian Goodwin (2012) and previously with Bryce Harper (2011) and to lesser extent, Stephen Strasburg (2010) as it’s not as unusual for a collegiate “1-1” prospect to debut at that level.
The hope here is that the Nats handle Giolito much like Jordan Zimmermann (2008) or Taylor Jordan (2013) and give him 5-6 starts before sending him on his way to Harrisburg. Potomac opens at home this season, but a case of Hellenic flu could delay his debut for a week and allow for him to start on the road on normal rest four times, should the Nationals decide to split the difference while keeping him away from the DC area, as they’ve also done with high-profile pitchers (Matt Purke, 2012-2013).
On that note, here are the expected assignments for the rest of the Nats Top 100 guys:
- Taylor — AAA Syracuse
- Lopez — A+ Potomac
- Fedde — GCL Nationals
- Cole — AAA Syracuse
- Ross — AA Harrisburg
Feel free to discuss in the comments (and stay warm).