The Nats top prospect’s list at this point in time is set. It is a promising list on the future. What we don’t know is what it will look like after the Winter Meetings conclude. Nats’ general Manager Mike Rizzo might not cause any change to his top prospects list.
Last year, the Nats GM traded 3-of-his-top-5 prospects during the Winter Meetings to acquire Adam Eaton from the White Sox and in an instant Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning were all gone.
With Mike Rizzo, there is strong belief that he will follow his annual Winter Meetings’ trend and do his wheeling and dealing. What many wonder is if he would trade a veteran player for some prospects or make a trade like what he did with Steven Souza. Conventional wisdom is that Rizzo will dangle some middling prospects and see what happens.
We had the opportunity to talk to some of the Top Prospects to see how their off-seasons were going. Both Carter Kieboom and Juan Soto were having great seasons in Low-A Hagerstown last year until they had injuries. Kieboom seriously pulled his hamstring and Juan Soto had an ankle injury. Erick Fedde‘s shoulder was fatigued and Mike Rizzo finished his season early as health is important. Victor Robles was healthy most of the season besides some bumps and bruises and was a surprise September call-up by the Nationals and made the post-season roster followed by the Arizona Fall League.
Soto put up softball type stats batting .360 for Hagerstown in 2017 and unfortunately only appeared in 23 games due to his injury. Carter Kieboom played in 48 games and batted .296. The scouts upgraded both players and Baseball America moved Soto up to the #2 spot with Kieboom at #4. Victor Robles remains the #1 prospect with the Nationals and seemed to do it all during his 2017 going from A-ball to the big leagues and 2 All-Star games and a NLDS on his resumé.
Scouts who have seen Juan Soto in Hagerstown saw an 18-year-old who was crushing the ball. This young man physically looked very developed with a swing that looked close-to-ready. The one area of improvement was something a scout called “bat drift”. Soto needs reps and continue to step-up at each level. He is a top talent for sure and even though he lost a lot of time with his injury he is ready for 2018.
“Me siento bien Gracias a Dios y preparándome para 2018,” Juan Soto told us in Spanish. This translates to: “I feel good Thank God and preparing me for 2018.”
Carter Kieboom far exceeded what scouts expected. Kieboom has surprising power and showed some great athleticism. The fact that he can play shortstop will bode well for the Nats. If they have a future need at 2nd base or 3rd base, Kieboom could fill that spot.
“I feel great physically,” Kieboom said returning from injury. “I’m pretty simple, if I’m not training or working on my craft then you can find me in my deer stand [hunting]. Also, I don’t pay attention to the [trade] rumors. I let my agents Trevor and Keith who will be at the winter meetings handle the business side. So I can just focus on what I can control. The Nationals I’m sure have a plan for 2018 as far as where I will be. Looking forward to playing my game and helping us win.”
As far as Victor Robles goes, he has been a star for years. The 20-year-old possesses the rare combination of speed, power and defense that is so sought after in 5-tool players.
“[I’m] taking advantage of it,” Robles said. “[I’m] coming out here and really trying to do [my] best, so the team, the Nationals, take a look and see [I’m] trying to do better.”
Robles is another Nats future star without attitude. Mike Rizzo and his scouts have been signing players who have great attitudes and are athletic and work-hard. Previously, the Nationals prospect roster was loaded with pitchers. Now, we see the position players are dominating the Nats prospect list which gives many the feeling that if Rizzo makes a trade during these Winter Meetings, it will be an outfielder that he would move. If the Nationals knew they were retaining Bryce Harper long-term, they might be more willing to trade an outfielder.
Currently, the Nationals are ranked 12th by Bleacher Report in farm system ratings mostly on the strength of the Nats top 5. The Nats farm system is strong at the top and weak in the middle.