We’ve reached the point in the MLB season where we can start debating about which players’ hot starts are legit or fake. Instead of talking about the likes of Jose Altuve, Charlie Blackmon and Michael Brantley, though, I want to look at which Nats prospects have started hot or cold.
OF Steven Souza, Jr. (25 years old)
.355/.439/.588, 13 HR and 16 SB in 67 games in AAA Syracuse
.125/.222/.125 in 8 games in ML Washington
Souza isn’t gonna hit .355 all year, but the power and speed are legit, and I love the fact that he’s improved his AAA walk rate a tad (12.7% to 13.1%) while seeing a nosedive in his strikeout rate (23.5% to 17.6%). He’s looking like a pretty valuable trade chip if the Nats want to make a move this month, but could also find his way on the ML roster if injury or poor performance creates a hole in the Nats’ bench.
UTIL Zach Walters (24 years old)
.263/.325/.570, 11 HR in 46 games in AAA Syracuse
.182/.250/.455, 3 HR in 27 games in ML Washington
Walters has played 2B, 3B, SS and LF in ‘Cuse this year and is looking fresh at the plate, doubling his AAA walk rate (3.8% last year to 7.6% this year) with excellent power (.307 ISO). Walters is blocked for the time being by Danny Espinosa and Kevin Frandsen (which is a hilarious sentence to write), but honestly can still benefit from getting lots of playing time in AAA. We’ll see him in DC in September and potentially as the starting 2B next season if he can beat out Espinosa.
3B Brandon Laird (26 years old)
.310/.363/.469, 8 HR in 79 games in AAA Syracuse
Sure, he’s probably a AAAA guy, having played there for most of the last 4 and 1/2 seasons of his career, but he’s still young-ish and is a decent righty power bat. I wouldn’t call him a potential trade chip or anything, but Gerald Laird’s little brother could be an interesting corner IF call-up in September if he keeps hitting.
OF Michael Taylor (23 years old)
.327/.405/.555, 18 HR, 26 SB in AA Harrisburg
The .451 BABIP isn’t going to last, and pitchers will eventually feast on his 30.2% K%, but come on, this dude is absolutely destroying AA Harrisburg. Combine that with his plus defense and you have a heck of a prospect. He’s passed Brian Goodwin in the Nats top OF prospect race (for now, at least).
SS Stephen Perez (23 years old)
.288/.400/.383, 1 HR, 23 SB in 79 games in A+ Potomac
Perez seems to have finally understood that he’s not going to be a power hitter and has started being more selective at the plate while spraying doubles all over the place. Nathaniel Stoltz from FanGraphs took a look at him in mid-June and noticed a completely different swing that no longer sold out for power. His ceiling is still as a switch-hitting super utility type, but you just can’t ignore improving from a 40/107 BB/K ratio in 2013 to 50/42 in 2014 while going up a level.
RHP Gilberto Mendez (21 years old)
2.57 ERA, 0.743 WHIP, 0.5 BB/9, 9.0 K/9, 17.5 K/BB in 35 innings in A+ Potomac
Um, yeah. 17.5 K/BB isn’t a typo. Bro has given up more HR this year than BB, and that’s not because he’s given up many HR. The 2011 international FA signing out of the Dominican Republic has looked extremely impressive in his first two full seasons of affiliated ball, especially given the fact that he’s still just 21.
RHP Taylor Hill (25 years old)
1.90 ERA, 1.103 WHIP, 0.9 BB/9, 6.1 K/9, 6.8 K/BB in 99 and 2/3 innings in AAA Syracuse
4.15 ERA, 1.615 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, 2.1 K/9, 1 K/BB in 4 and 1/3 innings in ML Washington
Hill isn’t gonna be a star, but pitchers who can eat innings and not walk guys are always helpful to have around. He’s been excellent in the first half of 2014 and didn’t crap the bed in his MLB debut, either.
RHP Deion Williams (21 years old)
2.63 ERA, 1.171 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, 12.5 K/9, 6.33 K/BB in 13 and 2/3 innings in A- Auburn
Williams washed out of the minors as a shortstop halfway through his second season. Now in his second full season as a pitcher, he’s shown solid control and strikeout ability through an extremely small sample size. He’s a ways away from being a prospect worth watching, but it’s still nice to see a kid with some potential reinvent himself this quickly.
3B Matt Skole (24 years old)
.244/.348/.394, 8 HR, 1 SB in 81 games in AA Harrisburg
It’s a little bit harsh to hate on a guy who missed all but 2 games last year due to Tommy John surgery, but where’s the bat? He’s not having an awful enough season to give up on him or anything, but it would be nice to see him gain that power back, as his isolated power is barely half of what it was in 2013.
OF Brian Goodwin (23 years old)
.219/.342/.328, 4 HR, 6 SB in 81 games in AAA Syracuse
Walks are up this year, but strikeouts are as well while power is down and BABIP is about the same. Goodwin is still young for his level and talented, but this is a disappointing first half of the season for one of the Nats’ top prospects.
RHP Richie Mirowski (25 years old)
6.23 ERA, 1.462 WHIP, 1.4 BB/9, 8.3 K/9, 6 K/BB in 13 innings in AA Harrisburg
4.76 ERA, 1.588 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, 9.5 K/9, 3 K/BB in 5 and 2/3 innings in A+ Potomac
Mirowski missed about a month and a half due to injury, and this is a small sample size, but he was a guy who had breezed through his first three minor league seasons. Now that he’s back in action, he’ll be one to watch to see if he improves through the rest of the year.