Our next Nationals farmhand on the Baseball Prospectus top 10 organizational prospects list brings us to great speed in the outfield and a steady bat.
No. 9: Center fielder Rafael Bautista
Bautista had an impressive season for the low Single-A Hagerstown Suns. In 134 games, Bautista stole 69 stolen bases, which ranked first in the South Atlantic League by a wide margin.
The 69 stolen bases also would have been the most in the Carolina League, Eastern League and International League. No runner in any of those leagues had more than 49 stolen bases this past season.
His teammate, infielder and No. 10 prospect Wilmer Difo, ranked second with 49 thefts. That is a combined 118 stolen bases and only 24 times caught for an amazing .831 stolen base percentage for the pair.
Bautista hit .290 with 20 doubles, five triples, five homers and 54 RBIs for the Suns. But Chris Mellen, co-director of the Baseball Prospectus prospect team, says Bautista’s biggest asset is his defense.
“He profiles up the middle,” Mellen said. “He already has the strong makings of a plus center fielder. Good instincts, good speed. He’s an exceptional runner. That translates to fast times down the line. Has good basestealing ability, learning how to read pitchers and whatnot. In the outfield, very smooth gap to gap, good instincts. His calling card is the defense.
“He is in the type of (mold) that if the bat doesn’t come and it doesn’t trend in the right direction like it is right now, that he could still potentially hold value and have value on a major league roster.”
Bautista now will most likely take his talents to Prince William County and showcase that speed and range in the Pfitzner Stadium outfield for the high Single-A Potomac Nationals. It will also be intriguing to see how his bat comes along against Carolina League pitching. If he can do that, then he will have the complete package for a move up the ladder. Bautista is also only 21, so getting into the top 10 prospect list now is a big step and a great sign for his potential.