How have some of the prospects the Nationals traded away over the years fared?
Over the years, teams trade away prospects in win-now moves to stay competitive. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it blows up in the team’s face. For instance, the Montreal Expos traded away a trio of prospects in Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, and Cliff Lee for Bartolo Colon. Colon played half a season for the Expos before being traded away while the trio went on to combine for 10 All-Star Appearances.
Now the Nationals front office has been shrewd over the years, usually winning most of the trades they make. For this exercise, we are not looking at if the Nationals have won or lost certain trades, but instead looking at prospects the Washington Nationals have traded away over the years, and how they have turned out.
Lucas Giolito was drafted by the Nats number 16 overall in 2012. Giolito quickly rose up the team’s prospect list and by 2015 he became the team’s top prospect, as well as the number three prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. In December of 2016, the Nats pulled off a blockbuster, as they traded away Giolitio, Dane Dunning, and Reynaldo Lopez to the Chicago White Sox for Adam Eaton. Giolitio was the main prize for the White Sox, as he had ace potential.
Giolito struggled once he was called up to the majors in Chicago. In 2018, Giolito’s first full season in the starting rotation, he was a disappointment. In 32 starts, the righty went 10-13, with a 6.13 ERA, and 125 strikeouts. Opponents hit .250 against him with an OPS of .794. He led the AL in walks allowed (90), earned runs (118), and allowed the ninth most homers (27). 2019 marked a make or break it year for Giolito and he finally lived up to his potential. Giolito quickly emerged as the team’s ace and was named to his first All-Star team. In 29 starts, the 25-year-old went, 14-9, with a 3.41 ERA, and 228 strikeouts, while opponents hit .205, with an OPS of .646. Giolito’s season was cut short due to a mild lat strain he suffered at the beginning of September. With the 2020 season delayed, Giolito has plenty of time to recover and be at full strength once baseball returns. Giolito has emerged as one of the best, young arms in the league.
Robbie Ray was drafted by the Nationals in the twelfth round of the 2010 draft. After struggling in the minors during the 2012 season, he redeemed himself in 2013. After a strong start, he was promoted to Double-A where he went 5-2, with a 3.72 ERA. Ray was Washington’s fifth-ranked prospect when he was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Doug Fister before the start of the 2014 season.
Ray struggled immensely with the Tigers, as he went 1-4, with an 8.16 ERA in 28.2 innings. Detroit decided to cut their losses and shipped Ray out to Arizona before the start of the 2015 season as part of a three-way trade.
A change of scene was necessary and once he reached Arizona, Ray’s career began to blossom. In five years with the club, Ray is 46-42, with a 3.96 ERA, and 955 strikeouts, while being named an All-Star in 2017. 2017 was a career year for Ray, as he went 15-5, with a 2.89 ERA, and 218 strikeouts. He helped lead his team to the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Ray has emerged as a quality number three starter for the Diamondbacks and has gone on to have a solid career.
During the 2017 season, the National’s biggest weakness was the bullpen. They strengthened it due to a flurry fo trades right before the trade deadline. Washington acquired relievers, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, from the Oakland Athletic’s for reliever Blake Treinen, as well as prospects Jesus Luzardo and Sheldon Neuse. Treinen gave Oakland a quality reliever, while Luzardo was the main prize. Luzardo immediately became the team’s sixth-best prospect and flew up the rankings. Entering the 2018 season he was ranked by MLB Pipeline as the twelfth best prospect in baseball. Entering the 2020 season, Luzardo is the Athletic’s top-ranked prospect and is projected to make the Opening Day roster.
Injuries have kept Luzardo from making the Athletics starting rotation, but he seems to be fully healthy for 2020. In his career in the minors (2017-2019), Luzardo is 14-7, with a 2.53 ERA, and 234 strikeouts, while holding opposing batters to a .219 average. The 22-year-old made his MLB debut at the end of the 2019 season. He threw 12 innings, posting a 1.50 ERA and recording two saves. While it was a small sample size, Luzardo has flashed his potential that he is ready to take the majors by storm.