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Washington Nationals Top-10 Fantasy Prospects

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The Nationals system took a significant hit when they swung a deal for Adam Eaton, shipping out three of their top-10 prospects. There’s still some high-end talent kicking around, though.

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-Scottsdale Scorpions at Glendale Desert Dogs Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Our Basis

With fantasy prospect rankings, the key to knowing the usefulness of a specific player is how large and deep of a league you would need to be in for them to end up as a fantasy starter. We will be ranking 10 prospects in each system, but that doesn't mean that every one of them is useful if you play in a 12-team mixed dynasty league. With that said, we're aiming to provide useful information whether you play in a 10-team mixed, a 15-team AL-only, or a 24-team mixed.

Prospect rankings also come with the same caveat that must be rehashed every year. They represent a snapshot of how we view the players at the time of publication. There will inherently be more information published throughout the off-season, and so how we view a player may evolve significantly over time. We're going to get some of these right, we're going to get some of these wrong, and in general my reminder is to find information you trust, and use it to your advantage. If that comes from us, that's great and we're happy you're here. If it doesn't, we'll continue to work and hope that you'll keep checking in to see how we're doing.

The Tiers

The tiers are here though to provide some clarity when comparing players between different teams. It's by no means a perfect system, but the goal is to give you a general idea of which players we think are in a similar range in terms of value and ranking. Since the tiers are also expected to be relatively consistent across teams, there may be tiers that do not have prospects for certain teams.

Tier 1 - The Elite Prospects

These prospects are expected to be in the top-50 prospects overall, and have the potential to be among the top options at their position regardless of format or league size.

#1 - Victor Robles (OF)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 19

ETA: 2019

Robles was widely considered an elite prospect heading into the 2016 season, with Baseball Prospectus (#29) and Baseball America (#33) ranking him comfortably within the upper-third of their respective top-hundred lists. He responded by batting a superb .305/.405/.459 with 5 HR and 19 SB in 285 PA at Single-A, and earning a promotion to High-A in late June. Robles’ production slipped, to the tune of a .262/.354/.387 slash line with 3 HR and 18 SB (198 PA) - but that was 10% above league-average per wRC+, and he was the youngest regular in the league. The 19-year-old has the potential to be a true five-tool player, with only his power being in question, and an elite carrying tool in his speed. Robles has an advanced approach, quick wrists, and a line drive stroke, and has earned countless comparisons to Starling Marte ... and he was my top prospect in this organization prior to the trade that sent Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Gonzalez to Chicago.

Tier 2 - The Top 100 Candidates

These prospects are expected to be in the discussion for the top 100 prospects overall, and are expected to be starting options in all formats.

#2 - Erick Fedde (RHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 24

ETA: 2017

Fedde was borderline-dominant at High-A in his first full season removed from Tommy John Surgery, pitching to the following line: 91.2 IP, 85 H, 19 BB, 95 K, 2.85 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 50.6% GB. He made his way to Double-A late in the Summer, where he posted a 3.99 ERA in five starts and led some to wonder whether he’d hit the wall (he threw just 64 IP in 2015, after all). The promise is obvious, though, as Fedde sat in the mid-90s with his fastball for the vast majority of the season, and his slider played as a true swing-and-miss offering. His split change-up lags behind as a third pitch, but he has a good feel for it (and strong command overall) and should not be labeled a two pitch pitcher just yet. With a durable build, two plus pitches, and a workable change-up, Fedde profiles as a strong mid-rotation starter - if not a bit more.

Tier 3 - The Next Group of Starters

These prospects would likely slot into the 100-200 range on an overall ranking list, and would be starters in mid-depth formats, like 12 and 14 team leagues.

#3 - Carter Kieboom (SS)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 19

ETA: 2020

It is rare to see such a wonderful combination of plus-plus name and high-end talent, but such is the case with Carter Kieboom. He combines excellent bat speed with an elite understanding of the strike zone, and earned praise for his ability to drive the ball to all fields. There is little question that he has the ability to hit for a high average, but his power might be little more than average (12 to 15 home runs or so). And that would work out quite well at shortstop; the trouble is that, despite his strong arm and athleticism, opinions on his ability to stick at short are divided. As a shortstop, he could be a top-5 fantasy option. As a third baseman, he may not be much better than middle-of-the-pack.

Tier 4 - Single League and Deep Format Plays

These prospects would likely slot into the 200-300 range on a ranking list, and would have the most value to mixed leagues with 16+ teams and single-league formats with 12+ teams.

#4 - Juan Soto (OF)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 18

ETA: 2020

Conversations about Soto often include Robles, due largely to their age and loud tools - but they are very different prospects. Soto has the potential to hit for average and big-time power, while being limited to right field. He has also garnered praise for having an advance approach at the plate, striking out in just 14% of his plate appearances in his first season stateside. The issue with Soto - at least when it comes to ranking him here - is that he is a long way from the Majors, with only 24 PA at Low-A. He raked there, batting .429/.500/.571 and looked like he belonged, which is a great sign. We simply need more of the same before we can push him much higher.

#5 - Anderson Franco (3B)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 19

ETA: 2020

If Soto sounds too risky for you, then you may want to skip over Franco. The 19-year-old Dominican most of 2016 with a back injury, spending the rest of the season limited to the Rookie Level GCL. He has plus to plus-plus raw power and all of the tools one wants at third base, but there have long been questions about his hit tool and the lost development doesn’t help matters. The upside and risk are equally huge.

#6 - Austin Voth (RHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 24

ETA: 2017

It is somewhat comforting to discuss the low-risk, low-reward Voth after focusing on five teenaged players and their inherent questions. The durable righty has three average pitches in his high-80s/low-90s cut fastball, curveball, and change-up, and he commands them well. He also keeps the ball on the ground, with a 49.5 groundball percentage at Triple-A this year. Voth’s upside is the back of a big league rotation, but he should be there sooner rather than later, posting average-ish numbers across the board.

#7 - Jesus Luzardo (LHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 19

ETA: 2020

And we’re right back to the risky bin, with a 2016 third-round pick who has yet to make his professional debut due to Tommy John Surgery. The Nationals picked Luzardo with the knowledge that he wouldn’t be ready until sometime in 2017, due to his above-average low-90s fastball and potentially plus duo of offspeed pitches in his curveball and change-up (one of the best in the class). It’s difficult to rank prospects who have yet to play professionally, but a healthy Luzardo could rocket up this list next year.

#8 - Andrew Stevenson (OF)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 22

ETA: 2018

I rarely suggest that anyone scout the stat line, and yet it seems that one could glean most everything they need to know about Stevenson from his overall production between High-A and Double-A. To wit, he produced the following: .276/.332/.374, 23 2B, 10 3B, 3 HR, 39 SB in 580 PA. The 2015 second-round pick is one of the fastest players in the minors, and has a great deal of value on the bases and in the outfield. He also has a solid average hit tool, with upside for a bit more due to his approach. However, his power is generously described as below-average, and it’s difficult to see him hitting more than a handful at the highest level.

#9 - Kelvin Gutierrez (3B)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 22

ETA: 2019

Gutierrez may be the position player equivalent of Austin Voth, albeit in the lower minors. The 22-year-old has an above-average hit tool, average power, average speed, average glovework, and a rocket arm (the latter two matter here, insofar as he seems to be a lock to stick at third). It’s easy to see him hitting around .280 with 15 home runs and 8 to 10 steals, and to dream of a bit more power coming from his big 6’3” frame. That probably won’t come, but he could be a competent across the board contributor regardless.

Tier 5 - We Ranked Ten Prospects, We Really Did

These prospects generally will be useful in the deepest of formats. Think 24+ teams for mixed leagues, and single-league formats with more teams than the league it uses. In many cases, these will be part-time players or utility-types when they get to the Majors.

#10 - Sheldon Neuse (3B)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 22

ETA: 2019

In many ways, Neuse is a slightly older, smaller version of Gutierrez. He has average tools across the board, and has the profile of an across the board contributor that could tap into a bit more power. However, he is less athletic than Gutierrez, and may end up shifting to first base in time. That distinction is the key to his placement in Tier 5, as a .280 batting average with 15 home runs is much less exciting at the cold corner.

Bonus Round - Those Who Left for Chicago’s South Side

Lucas Giolito (Tier 1)

Giolito is probably still the best pitching prospect in the game, despite his underwhelming performance in 21.1 IP at the major league level. He has a plus-plus fastball, a filthy curveball, and solid change-up, and has proven himself to be durable since returning from Tommy John Surgery in 2013. His command will be the key to reaching his top of the rotation ceiling, and that remains in question.

Reynaldo Lopez (Tier 1)

Lopez was bounced between the minors and the Majors throughout the Summer, and never found his groove in the Show as a result. It is nonetheless impressive that he found his way to Washington after just 87.1 IP between Double-A and Triple-A, and he should see time with the White Sox this year. Lopez works off of a plus-plus fastball and a plus curveball, with a change-up that dances between fringe-average and average. His control is average at best, so he’ll always be susceptible to walks, but he should abrogate that with a healthy amount of whiffs.

Dane Dunning (Tier 4)

Dunning was primarily a reliever at the University of Florida, so his ability to pitch deep into games will be in question until it isn’t. He has a low-90s fastball with terrific movement, a plus change-up, and above-average command, as well as a strong 6’4” frame that could allow him to soak up innings. His curveball is unreliable at best, though, and his ability to be more than a back-end starter depends on its development.