By Illya Harrell on August 17, 2014
The Washington Nationals' farm system grades a tick below-average. It's not that they haven't drafted well. In fact, the Nats have four players taken in the first round from 2009-to-2011 on the big club, Stephen Strasburg (2009), Drew Storen (2009), Bryce Harper (2010) and Anthony Rendon (2011). Here are their top-five current prospects.
Taylor Hill has never sniffed any top-prospect lists. The 2011 sixth-round pick out of Vanderbilt doesn't have pitches the prospect list-makers consider sexy. But the guy wins -- at every level. In 2013, he started 27 games with a 2.95 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. This season, in triple-A, Hill own a 2.94 ERA, 1.14 WHIP in 21 starts. He pitched two games in relief for the Nats in late-July. He projects to be a back-end starter or reliable reliever.
The 23-year-old Michael Taylor, made his MLB debut on Aug. 12. He singled in his first trip to the plate and homered later in the game. Those are his only two hits in 14 MLB at-bats. The only knock on Taylor -- and it's a big one -- is whether he'll learn to read secondary pitches. Taylor is an outstanding center fielder with great range and a strong, accurate arm. He has plus-wheels and hits with plus-power. The raw talent is there.
If Cole can find a good curve or change, he'll be another addition to an already strong rotation. He relies on fastballs, a two-seam and four-seam, both of which are plus-pitches he throws with confidence. His two-seamer has good sink while the four-seamer comes in harder with explosive life. Cole can touch the high-90s with both pitches, but is more comfortable around 94 or 95 mph. His control is above-average.
Drafted in the third-round of the 2007 draft, Souza toiled in the low-minors until something finally clicked in 2013 when he hit .300/.396/.557 with 15 homers in double-A. This season, he's slashing .354/.435/.601 with 18 blasts. His .354 batting average leads all of triple-A. The .435 OBP and .601 slugging are tops in the International League. He'll get a September call and have a chance to crack an outfield job next spring.
Based on this season -- and his phenomenal stuff -- there is a chance Giolito will be the cover boy on 2015 preseason prospect publications. Coming off 2012 Tommy John surgery, his first three 2013 pitches each registered 100 mph. At 6-foot-6, Giolito is a big, intimidating dude. Besides his plus-plus fastball, he throws a huge knee-buckling 12-to-6 curve, also a plus-pitch. Barring injury, he'll join Washington's rotation in 2016.
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