The Washington Nationals reaped the benefits of drafting within the top-10 slots in the first round for five consecutive seasons (2007-11), landing players such as Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper who have helped reverse the course of the franchise in a matter of years.
After finishing the 2011 regular season one game below .500, Washington was pushed to the middle of the drafting order in 2012 with the No. 16-overall pick. However, it may have as well been another top-10 selection; the Nationals gambled on prep right-hander Lucas Giolito, who showed No. 1-overall-caliber stuff early in the year but missed the entire high school season with an elbow injury.
Making his first professional start in late 2012, Giolito re-injured his elbow and required season-ending Tommy John surgery that also sidelined him for part of the 2013 season. However, the 19-year-old was dominant upon his return to the mound last summer, touching triple digits on the radar gun with an 80-grade fastball and baffling opposing hitters with a future-80 curveball. The right-hander quickly proved to have one of the highest ceilings among all pitching prospects, and he’s the most talked about young arm headed into the 2014 season.
After Giolito, the Nats’ prospect pool stands out for its depth on the mound, with a slew of hard-throwing right-handers in A.J. Cole, Jake Johansen and Nate Karns, all of whom have the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter and floor of a late-inning reliever.
Outfielders Brian Goodwin and Steven Souza represent the team’s top position prospects headed into 2014, and there’s a decent chance that they both reach the major leagues by season’s end. Meanwhile, the ultra toolsy Michael Taylor made strides at the plate in 2013 and has the potential to move quickly this season with an improved approach.
Here’s a look at the Washington Nationals’ top 10 prospects for 2014.