Washington Nationals Top 20 Prospects

Wilmer Difo is one of the most exciting players in the Nationals’ system, but his path to the starting lineup could be blocked. (Credit: Jonathan Newton / Washington Post)

10. Osvaldo Abreu, 2B/SS
Date of Birth:
Height/Weight: 6’0″/170 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: Signed by the Nationals as an international free agent in 2012

But for a down year in 2014, Abreu has been a very consistent performer so far in his minor-league career. He is coming off his first full-length season in 2015, and it was a good one. The 21-year-old slashed .274/.357/.412 with 35 doubles and 30 steals for Single-A Hagerstown. Abreu showed an impressive eye at the plate, drawing 50 free passes.

With Abreu, the Nationals have another middle infield prospect with great potential. He has good bat speed and consistently hits line drives. Abreu may never develop into a 10-15 home run threat, but will hit his fair share of doubles. He made good progress as a baserunner last season, beginning to harness his raw speed.

Defensively, Abreu has good range. He has soft hands and a good arm. His error total is not alarmingly high for a young player. Abreu has also shown an ability to handle second base. The Nationals may be lacking depth at other positions in their system, but they are loaded with middle infield talent.

9. Andrew Stevenson, OF
Date of Birth:
Height/Weight: 6’0″/185 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Acquired: Drafted by the Nationals in the 2nd round of the 2015 Draft

Andrew Stevenson was the best defensive center fielder in the NCAA in 2015 for LSU. Down in the Bayou, Stevenson actually outhit number-two overall pick Alex Bregman over the past two seasons. Still, speed and defense are Stevenson’s calling cards.

The second-round pick tore though short-season Single-A ball, hitting .361 in 18 games for the Auburn Doubledays. That earned him a quick promotion to Hagerstown and Single-A. With the Suns, Stevenson batted .285 with 16 steals in 35 games. He played 55 games overall last season, posting a .308/.363/.379 line.

Offensively, Stevenson is a contact hitter who rarely strikes out. He should not be expected to develop into a power threat. On defense, he already grades a 65 on the 20-80 scale for his field tool. His arm grades lower, but that is negated by his brilliance when it comes to flat-out going and getting the ball. With a solid start to the season, Stevenson could get a taste of Double-A ball.

8. Austin Voth, RHP
Date of Birth: 6/26/92
Height/Weight: 6’1″/190 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: Drafted by the Nationals in the 5th round of the 2013 Draft

Voth does not dazzle, but he has done nothing but turn in quality starts over the course of the first three years of his career. In 63 games, Voth has a 2.70 ERA and has finished each season with an ERA below 3.00. He has struck out over a batter an inning in 330.1 innings while limiting walks to just 2.3 per nine. Voth rarely gives up the home-run ball, allowing only 17 total.

On the mound, Voth does not have one dominant pitch. He has full command of his fastball, slider, and changeup. All three pitches project as MLB-average pitches. He consistently fills up the strike zone and has a very cerebral approach to pitching. Voth can dial his fastaball up to 95, but typically sits in the low-90s. He faded down the stretch in 2014, his first full season of minor-league ball, but no such fade occurred in 2015. Voth was a consistent performer until the end of the season. The Washington University product may not have a ton of upside remaining, but has the potential to be a solid mid-rotation starter in the big leagues.

7. Wilmer Difo, SS
Date of Birth: 4/2/92
Height/Weight: 6’0″/195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: B/R
Acquired: Signed by the Nationals as an international free agent in 2010

Difo appeared to be headed in the wrong direction in 2013, batting .217/.296/.348 in his first season above rookie ball. He bounced back in a big way as a 22-year-old with Single-A Hagerstown in 2014, re-establishing himself as a prospect worth watching, batting .315/.360/.470 with 14 home runs and 49 stolen bases. His successful run continued in 2015 with a solid season for Double-A Harrisburg and 11 plate appearances with the big-league club during the height of their injury misfortunes. Difo hit .279/.312/.387 for the Senators in 87 games. His home-run numbers were down, but Difo still recorded 39 extra-base hits. He also stole 30 bases.

At the plate, Difo stands knock-kneed at the plate and unleashes a quick swing. He can be a bit of a free swinger, and his strikeout rate did climb at the Double-A level. Speed will always be a forte of Difo’s game. Over the past two successful seasons, he has shown an ability to stay positive on the field. His defense is solid, and he works hard on all aspects of the game. Down the road, a move to second base is likely coming for Difo, as he is unlikely to unseat Trea Turner. Difo’s emergence as a starter in Washington could be delayed by the presence of Daniel Murphy at second base.

6. A.J. Cole, RHP
Date of Birth: 1/5/92
Height/Weight: 6’5″/200 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: Trade with Oakland Athletics, January 2013

Cole was originally drafted by the Nationals in the 4th round of the 2010 draft. He was traded to the A’s in the Gio Gonzalez deal after the 2011 season. The Nationals brought him back in the Michael Morse deal after the 2012 season. Cole spent only one season in the Oakland organization.

The 24-year-old right-hander is on the verge of cracking the big-league rotation. He did make three appearances for the Nationals in 2015, but spent most of the year at Triple-A. Cole has now made 30 starts at the Triple-A level, posting a 3.25 ERA in 168.2 innings. He features a mid-90s fastball, a tight breaking ball, and a solid changeup. Cole has a good feel for all three of these pitches and attacks the strike zone. He has made nice progress developmentally since coming back to the Nationals after one year with the A’s. With a good spring performance, Cole could nab the final slot in the Washington rotation. If not, look for him to eventually work his way into the mix later in the season, with an eye on joining the rotation for good in 2017.

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