Baseball America: Nationals system strong at catcher and shortstop

It’s that time of year. Getting ready for Thanksgiving and then the holidays before New Year’s Day as the weather turns colder and the days shorter. At least Daylight Savings Time has kicked in so the kids don’t have to walk to the school bus stop in the dark.

It’s also time to get ready for our annual Nats Top 10 countdown via the expertise of Baseball America. Click here to review last week’s Nationals top 10 prospects, as ranked by Baseball America.

Carlos Collazo, national writer at Baseball America, rates the Nationals system in the middle 10 overall.

“It’s definitely a middle-tier system,” Collazo said. “It’s not a top third system by any means, but it is still a solid system. It’s a top-heavy system. It doesn’t have a ton of depth after the top few tiers, but at the same time there are some really interesting and talented players who maybe are a little further off than you’d want.

“Obviously, the top two guys in the system are Victor Robles and Juan Soto. Both of those guys got 60 grades or higher from me personally, based on reporting I did with different team sources and different scouts. Guys who we think are going to be regular impact players moving forward.”

And everybody talks about Robles, who won Fall Stars Game MVP honors last week and was included in the Nats’ postseason roster.

“Victor Robles has the chance to be a perennial All-Star,” Collazo said.

But the key here is that Collazo was impressed by a couple of position groups for the Nats. The club has always valued the battery, stockpiling pitchers and catchers over the years. Guys like Derek Norris, Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano come to mind. This year, Collazo said the Nats operate again from a position of strength at the catching spot.

Severino-Throws-White-Sidebar.jpg“The interesting thing about the Nationals system from my perspective was the number of viable catching options they have. There are three guys here who have a chance to be regular catchers: Pedro Severino - he probably has a more likely ceiling as a backup guy. Also a guy like Raudy Read and a guy like Taylor Gushue - both those guys performed well this season. They have depth at a position. You don’t see those types of impact players around the league. I know a lot of teams are looking for catchers, so for the Nationals to have three of those guys in the system who have done well is exciting for them.”

Collazo also noticed a good stockpile of talent in the top of the system at shortstop and second base: guys like Carter Kieboom, Kelvin Gutierrez, Luis Garcia and Yasel Antuna.

“Another position group that is pretty strong for them, albeit in a different manner, is shortstop, with Carter Kieboom, obviously, who had a really good year despite a couple of injuries,” Collazo said. “And then a large number of international prospects who are way further down the line and have a lot of development to do but have a lot of natural talent. There’s a chance to have some premium up the middle players hitting the system in a few years.”

Stay tuned to this site as I countdown one-by-one the Nats Top 10 to get you into the Holidays again and draw us ever closer to West Palm Beach and spring training 2018.

* Speaking of Gutierrez, he has returned from having his hand spiked in a game early on in the Arizona Fall League. Gutierrez hit .600 last week and earned AFL Player of the Week honors.

Gutierrez could be a shortstop or third baseman in the big leagues, and is looking to catch up on at-bats from this past season when he was slowed by injuries. If this past seven days for Mesa is any indication, Gutierrez can hit. It will be fun to watch him accelerate next season in the Nats system.

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