Former major league general manager and current MLB Network analyst Dan O’Dowd said outfielder Juan Soto, ranked at No. 29 on MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list, is another nice outfield prospect that brings a lot to the table, but a little bit different than what you would see from top Nationals prospect Victor Robles, who sits at No. 6.
“I’ve watched video on Soto and read the reports,” O’Dowd said. “I don’t know if he’s in Robles’ class as it relates to the defensive and baserunning capabilities, but prototypical right fielder, probably more power over bat at this stage of his career. I’m a big Double-A hump guy, so if you get to Double-A and you get over the hump at that level performing, then you know you have something very special on your hands. So we’ll know a lot more about him at the conclusion of this year.”
Soto hit a stunning .360 in 23 games with low Single-A Hagerstown, with five doubles, three homers and 14 RBIs. His OPS was .950.
“(Soto is) a really, really exciting kid, physically blessed with a lot of skills and again another guy that profiles to have a chance to be an impactful All-Star-caliber player,” O’Dowd said. “So when you look at the Nationals’ future, you can see him in right and Robles in center and if (Michael A.) Taylor’s bat breaks out the way that it looked like in postseason last year, he kind of profiles in any place in the outfield because he is so athletic.”
O’Dowd said Carter Kieboom, MLB.com’s No. 90 prospect, is working as a shortstop now, but his body type might push him toward third base as his career blossoms. Kieboom slashed an impressive .297/.396/.493 in 61 games with three minor league teams last season.
“Big right-handed strong-looking kid,” O’Dowd said. “Looks to me he may have to slide over to third base, still keeping him at shortstop from a development standpoint for as long as you can. But doesn’t have Trea Turner, Danny Espinosa history there with the Nats’ type defensive actions. Looks like a right-handed bat that’s going to hit and hit for power, and another kid that has an exceptionally high ceiling.
“They got three really good young players there. So if you can’t resign Anthony Rendon at some point in time, this is the type of kid that you feel like (he’s) maybe not that pure of a hitter, but that type of kid that plugs in and you got a chance to have an impact player at that position.”
O’Dowd makes some good points about how depth can allow the Nats to not miss a beat as they attempt to stay atop the standings, even if Bryce Harper moves on in free agency or they are unable to resign the talented Rendon. President of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo and his staff have built this depth as a safety net for the future. If for instance, shortstop Luis Garcia can make the step forward this season that the Nationals expect the likes of Soto and Kieboom to make, it gives them another insurance policy for shortstop depth behind Turner.
Next we will focus on a general manager’s take on how the Nationals can break through with a playoff series win after the heartbreak of recent postseason losses to the Dodgers and Cubs.