Which Nationals prospects can make the 2021 Top 100 Prospects?
At the end of January, MLB Pipeline announced their top 100 prospects entering the 2020 season. Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia were both on the list for the Nats. Kieboom is expected to make the Nats roster while Garcia still needs time to develop. Now this brings up the question of this time next year, which Nationals prospects will be on MLB Pipeline’s top 100.
The Nationals have a very top-heavy farm system led by Kieboom and Garcia. For now, there is a wide gap between them and everyone else. With that said, the Nationals still have some intriguing prospects that could make a statement in 2020.
For starters, expect Carter Kieboom to be taken off the list because he should break camp with the Nationals. He is currently the front-runner to be the teams new starting third baseman. Luis Garcia’s stock has fallen over the past few years, but with a bounce back in 2020, Garcia should climb up the list. He is only 19 and is still adapting, but showed promise. Last year at Double A, Garcia hit .257, with four homers and 30 RBI’s. While these aren’t the best numbers, keep in mind, he was the youngest player at Double A on opening day. After struggling in his first 64 games last season, he hit .272 in his last 65 games. Garcia currently plays shortstop, but may be more suited to play second. After all, short is already taken by Trea Turner. With a full year of Double A under his belt, Garcia should be able to pick up where he left off.
For 2020, all eyes should be on the Nationals 2019 first round pick, Jackson Rutledge. Rutledge played his freshman year at Arkansas before transferring to San Jancinto Community College. At SJCC is where he broke out. In his sophomore year, Rutledge went 9-2, with a .87 ERA, and 134 strikeouts in 82.2 innings. After being drafted, the 20-year-old then got a small taste of Single A baseball. In 27.1 innings, Rutledge went 2-0, with a 2.30 ERA, and 31 strikeouts.
MLB Pipeline describes Rutledge’s pitches as, “Rutledge pitches at 94-97 mph and reaches 99 with his fastball, showing the ability to carry premium velocity into the late innings. While his heater has riding life at the top of the strike zone and sink toward the bottom, its movement isn’t as consistent as its velocity. His upper-80s slider can be a wipeout pitch with depth and his low-80s curveball can be a plus offering with 12-6 break when at their best, though they aren’t always reliable weapons and can play closer to average.”
The Nationals haven’t been able to develop a homegrown pitcher since Tanner Roark (While he wasn’t drafted by the team, he still spent three years in the Nationals farm system before making his debut with the team). Rutledge has the ability to be the next great Nationals pitcher. Expect him to break out in his first full years in the minors.
Sticking with pitchers, Tim Cate has impressed so far in his minor league career. The teams second round pick in 2018, pitched relatively well in 2019. He started off at Single A before finishing the season at High A. In 13 starts last season at High A, Cate went 7-4, with a 3.31 ERA, and 66 stikeouts, while holding opposing batters to a .255 average.
MLB Pipeline describes his pitches as, “Cate might have had the best breaking ball in his Draft class, a 12-to-6 hammer that is widely viewed as at least a plus pitch. Cate will throw it whenever he wants in the count and can command it very well in the strike zone. He throws it from the same plane as his fastball, giving hitters little chance to pick it up. That, in turn, allows his 90-93 mph fastball to be more effective. It has more run than sink, with average life overall, and Cate can throw it to both sides of the plate consistently. His changeup is a little firm and a distant third pitch, but he shows enough feel for it to be a future average offering.” Baring a setback, expect Cate to pitch in Double A for 2020. Tate looks to be an end of the rotation starter and is projected to make his debut in 2021.
Rutledge and Tate’s development is extremely important to Washington as they need their most recent draft picks to pan out.