Washington Nationals Top 20 Prospects

Matt Skole was once one of the top prospects in the Nationals’ system before a serious arm injury clouded his future. (Credit: Jadrian Klinger / Harrisburg Magazine)

20. Matt Skole, 1B
Date of Birth:
Height/Weight: 6’4″/225 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Acquired: Drafted by the Nationals in the 5th round of the 2011 Draft

At one point, Skole would have been considered one of the top prospects in the Nationals’ system. He had batted nearly .300 for his first two years of professional ball, and hit 27 homers and drove in 104 in 2012 across two levels. Then, disaster struck early in the 2013 season. Skole was making the jump to Double-A, while also transitioning from third base to first base. Stretching for a throw at his new position, Skole left his arm exposed to the charging baserunner. After just two games, he was ton for the year with a mangled left elbow.

Surgery kept Skole out for most of the 2013 season, and when he returned in 2014, it took a while to get comfortable on the diamond. Skole’s batting average dropped to .241 while his slugging percentage fell over 150 points and below .400. The Georgia Tech product began righting the ship in 2015, and after a slow start, was promoted to Triple-A. He is still working to regain the form that made him a prospect to watch before the injury, but Skole is still a power threat with a good eye.

Overall, Matt Skole commands the strike zone well. He draws more than his fair share of walks, but can struggle to make contact at times and is prone to slumps. He could see his first taste of big-league action later this year, especially if the injury bug bites hard again this season. While no longer a top prospect, there is still reason to hope Matt Skole can at least reach the big leagues and contribute when asked.

19. Abel De Los Santos, RHP
Date of Birth:
Height/Weight: 6’2″/200 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: Trade with Texas Rangers

De Los Santos came over from the Rangers in the Ross Detwiler trade before the start of last season. His journey to the big leagues began back in 2010 when he signed as a 17-year-old with the Rangers. De Los Santos worked as a starter for the first three years of his career with mixed results. He moved to the bullpen for the 2013 season where his fastball-slider combination plays much better than in the rotation.

De Los Santos can touch the mid-nineties with his fastball, but will typically sit a shade lower. His slider has the potential to be a good out-pitch, and has helped him average close to 10 strikeouts per nine since becoming a reliever. De Los Santos has generally exhibited good command throughout his career. He walked only 12 batters in 57.2 innings last year. The lanky right-hander got a taste of the big leagues last year, appearing in two games for the Nationals and striking out three of the eight batters he faced. De Los Santos will likely start the year in Triple-A with a shot to join the Nationals’ bullpen later in the season.

18. Nick Lee, LHP
Date of Birth: 1/13/91
Height/Weight: 5’11″/185 lbs.Bats/Throws: L/L
Acquired: Drafted by the Nationals in the 18th round of the 2011 Draft

Lee was first drafted by the Nationals out of high school in 2010, but he elected to attend college. Fast forward a year, and the Nationals still had eyes for Lee, this time drafting him 20 rounds higher. Five years into Lee’s career, it’s clear the Nationals still think highly of him, having added him to the 40-man roster to shield him from the Rule 5 Draft.

Lee’s career with the Nationals began in the rotation. He does have four pitches in his repertoire, but his changeup and slider do not project to be big-league caliber pitches. Lee is small for a starting pitcher, with a high-effort delivery, so the Nationals moved him to the bullpen in 2014. He had good results in his first full year as a relief pitcher last year. His fastball can touch 96. Lee backs up that heat with a 12-to-6 curveball. All in all, he had a solid season in 2015, but still needs to work on his command issues.

17. Austen Williams, RHP
Date of Birth:
Height/Weight: 6’3″/220 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: Drafted by the Nationals in the 6th round of the 2014 Draft

Williams is a bit of a late bloomer. He went undrafted out of high school and took his time cracking the starting rotation at Texas State. As with most veteran college pitchers, Williams is already polished on the mound and has good command of the strike zone and a relatively repeatable delivery. He won the organizations Bob Boone Award for professionalism last season.

Williams had a successful first full year in 2015, going 12-8 with a 2.58 ERA across three levels. He does not have outstanding stuff, relying on all of his pitches. Williams has a fastball that hovers in the high-eighties to low-nineties. He does not rack up the strikeouts, but also does not hurt himself with walks. Williams could turn into a solid number-three or number-four starter.

16. Drew Ward, 3B
Date of Birth:
Height/Weight: 6’3″/215 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Acquired: Drafted by the Nationals in the 3rd round of the 2013 Draft

The Nationals do not have a ton of power potential in their farm system, but Drew Ward is one player who could help to make up for that. Power was Ward’s calling card as a high school shortstop, but he has shown a more mature approach so far in his career. His average should begin coming around with more professional experience. Ward was over two years younger than the average player at the HIgh-A level last year.

Defensively, Ward is limited at third base. He does have good hands and instincts, but is held back by his limited athleticism. Ward made 29 errors at the hot corner last year, and a move to first base could be coming sooner rather than later.

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