Ryan Sullivan: Thinking about some under-the-radar Nats prospects

Earlier this week, I was driving by a Bob Evans restaurant and noticed in the window a large sticker with the words “Down on the Farm.” Not only did this display get me hungry and wishing I was wearing my fat pants, it got me thinking about the Nationals farm system and some under-the-radar prospects in the organization.

In this space, I have discussed young players like Juan Soto, Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia this season, among others. But in the spirit of looking ahead toward next year, who will be the burgeoning prospects we will be discussing next summer? These are three names that have performed well for Washington’s minor league system in 2018 and could have breakout seasons next year.

Jackson Tetreault was Washington’s seventh-round pick in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft and started his first full professional season at low Single-A Hagerstown before his performance forced a late-season promotion. Tetreault threw 110 innings for Hagerstown, with a 4.01 ERA and 118 strikeouts against only 34 walks. He currently throws four pitches, headlined by his heavy sinking 90-94 mph fastball and a hard breaking cutter. Unfortunately his changeup and curveball are extremely inconsistent and lag behind the fastball and cutter. Tetreault is a terrific athlete and has the frame at 6-foot-5 and 170 lbs. to add weight as he ages. If he can improve his curveball and changeup, the 22-year-old Tetreault projects as a strong No. 4 or 5 starting pitcher in the big leagues.

Plucked just a round earlier, Kyle Johnston was Washington’s 2017 sixth-round selection after an impressive career at the University of Texas. The 22-year-old began 2018 with Hagerstown, pitching both in relief and as a starter, giving the Suns 55 1/3 innings with 3.42 ERA and 59 strikeouts before a July promotion to high Single-A Potomac. Johnston possesses a three-pitch repertoire, featuring a 91-95 mph fastball with natural cutting movement, along with a slider with excellent break and a quality changeup. He has the build to be a starter at 6-foot-0 and 190 lbs., but a wonky delivery and below-average command could shift him to the bullpen. If Washington made him a permanent reliever, he could skyrocket through the system and perhaps see time with the Nationals late next year.

Finally, a bit lower in the minors, short-season Single-A Auburn catcher Israel Pineda is making quite a name for himself, hitting .273/.341/.388 with four home runs and 24 RBIs, along with being named a New York-Penn League All-Star. The 18-year-old Pineda signed with Washington two years ago for a reported $450,000 bonus as an international free agent. A right-handed hitter, he displays a natural feel for making solid contact and scouts expect the 5-foot-11, 190-lb. Pineda to hit for more power as he grows into his body. He has the physical tools to stay behind the plate long-term and Washington has done a nice job developing catchers in recent years. The hype is already building around Pineda and he could emerge as a top-five prospect in the system this time next year.

Ryan Sullivan blogs about the Nationals at The Nats GM and runs The Nats GM Show podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TheNatsGM. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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