Baseball Prospectus came out with its top 101 prospects this week and three Nationals made the list. Lucas Giolito was No. 13, while A.J. Cole was No. 53 and Brian Goodwin was No. 86.
Jason Parks, the national prospect/player development writer for Baseball Prospectus, called Giolito a potential "superstar" and flirted with placing the young right-hander in the publication's top 10.
"I think with that type of player, the entire farm system looks better as a result," Parks said of Giolito. "He could be the best pitcher in the minor leagues in a year's time. It is pretty amazing what he can do. He has got size that you can't teach. He has got present strength. He is like a man. He is built like a mature, major league pitcher already."
Scouts marvel at Giolito's quick release and eye-popping velocity. Parks said there is even more to it when you speak of Giolito and his potential.
"(M)entioning his release, that is certainly part of it," Parks said. "That ball just explodes out of his hand. Even when he is working 96-99 mph, the ball has a little extra jump on it making it even harder for hitters to track. Because of his long arms and extension, he is throwing a baseball that appears to be moving even faster than it actually is.
"It is moving about as fast as you can throw a baseball. It is a guy that works comfortably in the 95-98 mph range. He can get up over triple digits whenever he needs to basically. He loses his command and gets a little shaky at that velocity but he can hold velocity and is very comfortable at the mid or upper 90's.
"He backs it up with one of the best curveballs that you are going to see. It is thrown with slider velocity. It has a true vertical snap on it. It has a ton of depth and it has a ton of velocity. It is going to miss a lot of bats. At the end of the day on the 20/80 scouting scale, he could end up with two pure 80 pitches."
At No. 53 on the top 101 is right-hander Cole, who returned to the Nationals in the Michael Morse trade and was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg in July. While with the Senators Cole flourished, demonstrating his ability to adapt and excel.
"This is something I don't think people talk about enough," Park said. "A lot of people in the scouting circles and a lot of people in the industry circles kind of see him with a taint on him because he has been passed around a little bit and kind of in a crude manner. That can affect a player. When you are a high valued prospect and you get moved several times. It has got to take a toll on you at least from a self-esteem standpoint.
"But A.J. seemed to step beyond that. Taking that step forward this year to me not only speaks to his stuff but it speaks to his makeup. It speaks to his maturity and it speaks to his professionalism. Yeah, baseball is a business. But nobody wants to be told we don't want you right now. Nobody wants to be that player.
"I have talked to plenty of players that have been traded. It does sting a little bit. But he went out on the field and didn't show any mental lapses. He really stepped forward. That kind of makeup, I value that a lot in a player, especially a pitcher, because you have to be able to get over things. You carry bad outings out to the hill every time it is a bad pattern to get into. I think he showed that kind of mental fortitude.
"His fastball works low to mid-90s mph, it can get up to the higher 90s in short bursts. The breaking ball hasn't really come around to what was projected, but it still has time. It is kind of a slurvy pitch. Sometimes it is sharp, sometimes it is a little too loose. I think he has a good changeup. I think that is going to work well for him. He has got the pitchability. He is a no doubt top 101 guy for me and the No. 2 guy in that system."
At No. 86 is talented outfielder Goodwin, who Parks believes has the five tools you need right now to play well.
"He has every tool," Parks said. "He doesn't have every skill yet. But he has every tool. From an athletic standpoint, he is a well above-average runner. He is a good, but not great center fielder. I definitely see him getting a chance to play center field at the major league level. At the plate, he struggled a little bit, just because he had balance and timing issues."
Parks said one of Goodwin's top tools is his strength.
"He has strength. He has really, really good bat speed," Parks said. "Sometimes that bat speed is more recovery bat speed and he struggles with his pitch recognition and he has to kind of lunge at a pitch. But he has the hand/eye coordination and bat speed to catch up and still make contact. It is just not always strong contact. Mentioning the strikeouts, he will have some swings and misses, especially on breaking balls, swing and miss on secondary stuff. Anything with spin that gets away from him he has trouble tracking it.
"But I think with a little more refinement, ... you are going to see this guy develop into a real player. His floor is like a bench outfielder, he could do that today, but his ceiling is much higher. He is a first division, maybe even a potential All-Star if you really believe that he maxes out. That kind of a five-tool kind of guy in center field, it is too early to give up on a guy like that."
Parks also said prospects like Matt Purke and Michael Taylor were a few of the names that were close to cracking the top 101. We will have profiles of that list next.