I first saw Nick Neidert in the 2015 AZL after he was selected in the second round by the Seattle Mariners. He absolutely dominated in his 11 starts that season and was eventually traded to the Miami Marlins along with Christopher Torres and Robert Dugger in exchange for Dee Gordon. He has only pitched as a starter as a pro but will likely see his debut come as a reliever, although moving back to the rotation is a definite possibility. He has a good fastball, but it is made even better by the fact he has a changeup that flashes the potential of a plus offering. When in the pen, he will rely heavily on these two offerings, both of which he can put right where he wants, but he can also mix in a solid slider and a get-me-over curve as well.
Jordan Holloway’s draft round is misleading, as he slipped to the 20th round due to signability concerns, but eventually opted to turn pro. At 6’6” and 230 lbs. with a fastball that has touched triple digits, he has the chance to be an impact reliever for the Marlins. He has worked almost exclusively as a starter in the minors, but his lack of command and a change that is incredibly inconsistent has long made it a long shot for him to be a viable rotation option at the big league level, but the big curve and power fastball to go with excellent length and extension are tailor-made to be a high-leverage reliever.
After four years at D-II Cal State East Bay, the Miami Marlins got a clear steal in the 17th round when they took Alex Vesia in 2018. He pitched at two levels that season and put up an ERA of 1.35 over 14 outings and 33.1 innings. In 2019 he managed to see time at three levels, threw exactly double the innings as the year before, and put up an ERA of 1.76, including a cool 0.00 in 16.1 innings at Double-A. he capped off the year with over ten scoreless innings in the Arizona Fall League. He brings a fastball that sits up to 95, a change that has plenty of fade, and a curve that is quite effective against fellow lefties. He should settle in well as a middle reliever, which is a fantastic return on the Marlins $25k investment coming out of the draft.
The final piece to make the Marlins bullpen is one of the best young personalities in the game, Rule 5 pick Sterling Sharp. He was another low round selection, going in the 22nd out of Drury University, a D-II school he transferred to from Eastern Michigan, to the Washington Nationals. Sharp impressed in the AFL this Fall after seeing time in Double-A each of the past two seasons. He has an outside shot at eventually finding his way into a rotation thanks to a three-pitch mix that features an above-average fastball and change to go with a slider that is still below-average at this point. He has walked less than 2.5 per nine innings in his minor league career, so he knows how to pound the zone.
Quick Report: It was supposed to be Robles to make an impact with the big league club a season ago, not Juan Soto, but a hyperextended elbow led the Nationals to call up the teenager instead. Robles did finally make his debut as a September callup and won a spot on the post-season roster, so he will exhaust prospect status early in the season. He has elite speed to go with a cannon of an arm and no doubt center field tools, although he will likely see most of his time in right given Adam Eaton currently patrols center in D.C. He has a plus hit tool and enough power in the bat to get into the 20 home run range in time. He has the upside of a leadoff man playing Gold Glove ceiling and should make a number of All-Star games in his career.
Quick Report: Currently a shortstop, Kieboom has shown improvement in the field to lead people to believe he can stick there. If he does end up moving off it, second base is a natural landing spot, although he has plenty of arm to play at third if the raw power shows a bit more as game power. He has plus raw power but plays more below average in games currently. The bat plane should allow more power to show up in games while he also shows good bat control and bat speed to hit for a solid average. There is an outside chance he gets a late-season callup, but 2020 should be the year Kieboom becomes a staple in the Nationals lineup.
Quick Report: I touched on one Luis Garcia yesterday, here is the other one who, just to make things more confusing, is the son of former big league infielder, Luis Garcia. This Garcia’s carrying tool is his advanced and patient approach at the plate and impressive bat control there is some pop in his bat, although he will probably always be a little below average in terms of power, which makes his defense key. He has plenty of arm and solid range but does not have the natural fluidity you like to see out of a shortstop. There is some real concern he moves off to second but there is a real shot he improves to be average or better at short, in which case he could become one of the better prospects in the game.
Player: Mason Denaburg
Opening Day Age: 19
2018 Highest Level: DNP
Weight: 195 lbs.
Quick Report: Some elbow discomfort, which does not appear to hold any negative long term impact, kept Denaburg from making his pro debut in his draft year last summer. He has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and can touch 98 with one of the sharper and more consistent curves you will see from a prep arm. The breaker does not have any real upward action in it, instead just falls off the table, while the fastball has some real zip while running arm side and carrying a heavy downhill plane. The change, as with most young arms, is a work in progress, but has flashed above average. His delivery is repeatable and the command is solid, making Denaburg a guy who I expect to rocket up prospect lists once he puts together some strong pro innings.
Quick Report: An arm that could find its way into the Nationals rotation this season, Crowe has a fastball that regularly hits 95 and the feel for a plus change. He also mixes in both a curve and slider that are at least average offerings. The delivery has some effort in it which, along with elbow and knee troubles in high school and Tommy John surgery while at South Carolina, led many to feel Crowe was a future impact reliever than a starter. He has managed to repeat his delivery and show solid command despite the effort late in the delivery and has all but solidified himself as a starter long term. The ceiling isn’t all that high, but the fact he could be the number four starter by the end of the season means his floor is quite high.
Quick Report: UConn has really ridden some of their top arms in years past, and Cate fell victim of it during his time there as well. He had Tommy John while still in high school and missed a good chunk of 2018 with forearm tightness that is all too often a precursor to the surgery. He came back late in the season for the Huskies and pitched 52 innings in the Nationals system, showing the arm may be healthy again. He has a low-90s fastball that typically would grade out below average, but the fact it comes out of the same high 3/4 slot as one of the better curves you are gonna see allows it to play up. The change is well behind the other two pitches and needs to improve if he is to stick in the rotation long term, but if he does move to the bullpen, the curve alone is enough to lead him to being a useful piece.
Quick Report: The prized signing in the IFA class that is now highlighted by Luis Garcia, Antuna hasn’t put up the impressive numbers the Nationals would like, but there is still plenty of upside. Antuna is a rather rare position player to undergo Tommy John surgery, so there is some question how his raw power and above average arm strength bounce back. He has the natural ability to play short, but he seems to rush his mechanics at the position leading to a rather inconsistent defensive profile that may see him move to third full time. His approach at the plate is raw where he still relies on his natural skill set rather than heading to the plate with a real approach. That said, there is gap power now that could turn into above-average game power in time.
Quick Report: Pineda’s swing is one that looks like it should produce a lot of power, but it is only average at best and will probably never reach that potential. The bat control is better than most teenagers and he handles the zone well despite the bat speed being a tick slow. The real question is how well his defense will hold up behind the plate. He has more than enough arm behind the plate but the receiving ability needs work. He is already a mature bodied teenager, but all reports from the Nationals are that he is an incredibly hard worker who they anticipate will become a solid defensive option behind the plate, which should allow him to become a solid timeshare option behind the dish.
Quick Report: This is a tough one, a guy who was suspended from his team in college before ultimately getting into a fist fight with a teammate and getting kicked off the team. Despite the long list of off the field concerns, the Nationals still grabbed him at the 25th overall pick two drafts ago, but he served a short suspension for violating team rules before he even threw his first pro pitch. Late last year he underwent Tommy John surgery and will likely be out the entire regular season but, despite all this, he has impressive natural stuff that lands him on the top 10. His fastball and slider are both plus offerings, while his change has the makings of being above-average. Command is spotty, but he repeats his delivery enough to believe he can turn the command into an average tool. I would love to see Romero healthy enough at the end of the season to be sent the to AFL to work in relief and get some game action in. He could be a dominant closer or a mid-rotation guy, but there are so many non-pitching red flags it is impossible to know if he will ever get close to his potential.
Quick Report: I highlighted the selection of Canning for the Nationals as their steal in the draft last year, and he has only worked to make that look like an even bigger steal than anticipated. He is not the most tooled up player, but he is a guy whose whole is greater than the sum of the parts. He will never hit for much power, but ability to put the ball in the gap along with baserunning instincts and above average speed will allow him to hit plenty of XBHs. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, nor the greatest of reads in the outfield, but he is one who should be able to hold down any of the three spots. He is a prototypical fourth outfielder who may overachieve and become a solid every day option.