Lucas Giolito emerged as arguably the top pitching prospect in the minor leagues last year, as the 20-year-old right-hander—in his first full season after Tommy John surgery—dominated hitters in the South Atlantic League with a combination of size and stuff.
The team’s former top pitching prospect, hard-throwing right-hander A.J. Cole, didn’t miss as many bats as he did in previous seasons, but his mid-90s fastball, improving curveball and overall control should help get him to the major leagues in 2015.
The Nationals, likely encouraged by the success with Giolito, took UNLV right-hander Erick Fedde in the first round (No. 18 overall) of last year’s draft. Fedde, 21, was viewed as a potential top-10 talent in the draft before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Meanwhile, the organization also added the best high school catcher, Jakson Reetz, in the third round.
Toolsy center fielder Michael Taylor turned in a breakout performance this season between Double- and Triple-A, and as a result, he saw time with the Nationals late in the regular season. Things also came together quickly for 22-year-old shortstop Wilmer Difo, as he ranked among the South Atlantic League leaders in most offensive categories and ultimately captured the league’s MVP award.