Results tagged ‘ Lucas Giolito ’

Wilmer Difo named South Atlantic League MVP; Lucas Giolito named Most Outstanding Pitcher & Top Prospect

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by Amanda Comak

Two more Washington Nationals prospects earned end-of-year accolades on Thursday with the South Atlantic League announcing Single-A Hagerstown infielder Wilmer Difo as the league’s Most Valuable Player and right-hander Lucas Giolito the league’s Most Outstanding Pitcher and Most Outstanding Major League Prospect. Additionally, Suns center fielder Rafael Bautista was named to the SAL post-season All-Star team and Single-A Potomac manager Tripp Keister was named the Carolina League Manager of the Year.

Difo, a mid-season SAL Northern Division All-Star and post-season All-Star second baseman, currently leads or is tied for the league lead in hits (174) and total bases (257). Hitting .321 this season, good for sixth in the league among qualifiers, Difo has worked to a .366 on-base percentage and a .474 slugging percentage for the Suns.

The 22-year-old native of the Dominican Republic is among the SAL leaders in RBI (88, third), stolen bases (49, second), runs scored (90, tied for second), extra-base hits (50, fourth) and most plate appearances per strikeout (9.55, fifth).

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game - World Team v United StatesGiolito, ranked by Baseball America as the No. 11 prospect in all of baseball at mid-season, went 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA for the Suns in 20 games this season. Over 98.0 innings he allowed 28 runs (24 earned) on 70 hits, including seven homers. Giolito, the Nationals’ first-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, walked 28 and struck out 110.

The 20 year old was named the SAL Pitcher of the Week on two occasions this season and represented the Nationals at the Sirius/XM All-Star Futures Game, along with outfielder Michael A. Taylor, in Minneapolis in July.

Bautista, like Difo, was named to the mid-season Northern Division All-Star team as well. The 21-year-old currently leads the league in stolen bases (66), and is tied with Difo for second in runs scored. Bautista is hitting .283 this year with a .337 on-base percentage and .373 slugging percentage. His 66 stolen bases are a Suns single-season record since the team has been a member of the South Atlantic League.

Keister managed Potomac to the first- and second-half Northern Division titles, clinching the second-half crown on Wednesday night. With a 75-55 record this season, Potomac will host Game 1 of the Northern Division Championship Series on Sept. 3 at Pfitzner Stadium.

Nationals Minor League Report

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Welcome back to the 2014 Minor League Report, a comprehensive collection of notes from the Washington Nationals PR staff that highlights the outstanding performers in the Nationals’ Minor League system through the last few weeks.

Here are the top headlines:

TOP PERFORMER: LUCAS GIOLITO –  In four starts dating to July 25, RHP Lucas Giolito is 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA (3 ER/22.0 IP). He has tallied 24 strikeouts while allowing just 12 hits and three walks, with opponents hitting just .160 against him over that stretch. Following his start on July 25 vs. Kannapolis (CWS), Giolito was named South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week, the second time he’s earned the honor in 2014. Despite making just 19 starts this season, Giolito ranks second among Nationals farmhands and fourth in the SAL with 105 strikeouts. All told this season, the 2012 first-round pick is 9-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts, all for Single-A Hagerstown. He falls just short of qualifying to be among the SAL leaders in ERA, WHIP (0.98) and AVG (.188).

LAIRD LEADS – With the promotions of Steven Souza Jr., and Michael A. Taylor3B Brandon Laird has stepped up to lead the Triple-A Syracuse offensive attack. Laird is 14-for-34 (.412) with seven doubles, three home runs, 13 RBI and six runs scored over the last eight games. Syracuse has gone 6-2 over that stretch. On the season, the 26-year-old is hitting .316, second-best among Nationals farmhands and fifth-best in the International League. He also leads Syracuse’s active roster with 29 doubles and 14 home runs.

Below is the full report. To view this report on your full screen, please click the icon in the bottom right corner of the notes.

Enjoy!

Nationals Named in Top 5 Under 25

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by Amanda Comak

Spring Training is the season of prospect lists. Industry insider Baseball America comes out with theirs, ESPN.com with their own, Baseball Prospectus chimes in, and MLB.com posts their updated rankings of the best up-and-coming talent in baseball in their Top 100 prospects, as well as organizational rankings.

farm graphicAs has been the case for the previous several years, the Washington Nationals are often viewed very favorably in those rankings as they continue, under President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo, to stockpile top young talent through the First-Year Player Draft and various trades.

But those lists usually focus on the still-developing talent in the Minor Leagues.

This week, Baseball Prospectus released its list of “25-and-under talent rankings,” a compilation of each organization’s best talent born after March, 1988 and a fascinating look at an organization’s youth and depth — even when that talent has already reached the Major Leagues.

“It’s hard enough to analyze immature and still-developing talents in their own context, but it’s even more demanding to compare those future Major Leaguers with the models they are aiming to become,” wrote Jason Parks in his introduction to the rankings. “It’s a thankless task that can get lost in the shuffle of the team prospect fury, but the compiled Under-25 lists are excellent snapshots of organizational health, at least as far as young, promising talent is concerned.”

The Nationals were ranked No. 2 in all of Major League Baseball.

From the article:

1. Stephen Strasburg (25)
2. Bryce Harper (21)
3. Lucas Giolito (19)
4. Anthony Rendon (23)
5. A.J. Cole (22)
6. Brian Goodwin (23)
7. Taylor Jordan (25)
8. Michael Taylor (22)
9. Jake Johansen (23)
10. Jefry Rodriguez (20)

Made MLB Debut? 4
Farm System Ranking: 18
Top 10 Prospects: RHP Lucas GiolitoRHP A.J. Cole, CF Brian Goodwin, CF Michael Taylor, RHP Jake Johansen, RHP Jefry Rodriguez, 1B Matt Skole, C Pedro Severino, RF Drew Vettleson, 3B Drew Ward
Prospects on the BP 101: 3
Top Prospect: Lucas Giolito
Summary: While the Nationals’ U25 list isn’t as deep as the Cardinals’, it offers an intriguing package of star power. Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper might be the best tandem in baseball for the next 10 years, and each offers an elite ceiling. Lucas Giolito is far from reaching his massive promise, but the trio of potential 8-grade ceilings at the top of Washington’s list is unmatched in baseball. For good measure, Washington has a potential all-star in Anthony Rendon and some solid role-5 guys at the back of its top 10. –Jordan Gorosh

Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, still just 29 despite the fact that he is about to appear in his 10th Major League season, often jokes that people think he’s old because he’s been around for so long. But in reality, 24 members of the Nationals’ projected 40-man roster will be under the age of 30 on Opening Day, 2014.

The rest of the rankings are fascinating in their own right, with the St. Louis Cardinals coming in just above the Nationals at No. 1 and the Atlanta Braves at No. 3, followed by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins. The bottom five (No.’s 26-30), according to these rankings: Los Angeles Angels, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers.

To read the full article, click here.

Nationals Youngsters Wrap Up Instructional League Camp

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by Mike Feigen

As the Nationals concluded the regular season and some of their top prospects prepared for the Arizona Fall League, other Nationals farmhands headed to Viera, Fla., to take part in the Instructional League.

Instructional League provides an opportunity for young players to continue their development by maximizing their strengths and working through their weaknesses in a controlled environment. It also allows executives, coaches and scouts to evaluate the progress players made during the year, and give further instruction as they head into the offseason.

Roughly 45-50 players participated this year, according to Mark Scialabba, Nationals Director of Minor League Operations. They ranged in age from 16-year-old third baseman Anderson Franco, one of the Nationals’ newest international signings, to Double-A infielder Jason Martinson, who celebrated his 25th birthday this past week. The camp also included a number of 2013 draft picks, who have yet to participate in Spring Training.

Ross Detwiler made great progress in the Instructional League.

Ross Detwiler made great progress in the Instructional League.

“Overall, it was a good camp,” Scialabba said. “It was about three-and-a-half weeks long, so it’s not an extremely long period of time – but when we’re on the field, we play the game hard.”

The Instructional League schedule is also helpful for rehabilitating Major Leaguers. This year they had left-hander Ross Detwiler, who did very well in his continued rehab from a back injury. Scialabba said everything was a success during Detwiler’s time in Viera, where he headed during the final weeks of the big league club’s season and pitched in game situations.

“Ross threw the ball really well,” Scialabba said. “He finished the camp healthy. Outing to outing he improved, and his fastball velocity was there. We couldn’t ask for anything more from Ross.”

For players with less experience than Detwiler, the Instructional League also helps prepare them for the length of a full big league season. Many Minor Leaguers see their game action come to an end around Labor Day, so the extra few weeks of baseball can be essential to their development. The extra playing time can particularly benefit players like 2012 first-round pick Lucas Giolito, who came back from Tommy John surgery to throw 36.2 innings between the Rookie Gulf Coast League Nationals and Short-Season A Auburn Doubledays this year.

“(Lucas) did a great job,” Scialabba said of the 6-foot-6 righty. “His stuff is off the charts and he has an electric arm. He has to learn to put away hitters with all three pitches, continue his development with PFP (pitchers’ fielding practice), hold runners and control the strike zone. We’re really pleased with his progression so far.”

Two other pitchers who earned high praise following their Instructional League performances were 2013 top pick Jake Johansen and young Dominican hurler Jefry Rodriguez.

Lucas Giolito continued to impress in his first full season of professional ball.

Lucas Giolito continued to impress in his first full season of professional ball.

Johansen, selected in the second round out of Dallas Baptist University, dominated in his first taste of Minor League action. The right-hander compiled a 1.06 ERA in 10 starts for Short-Season A Auburn, striking out 44 batters and allowing just 22 hits in 42.1 innings. Rodriguez, 20, went 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA for the GCL champion Nationals squad during the 2013 season and continued his progression in the Instructional League. Scialabba said the lean, 6-foot-5 right-hander touched 96 miles per hour with a good curveball in Viera, giving Nats fans another young arm to keep an eye on for the future.

On the offensive side of the ball, Scialabba singled out 2013 third-rounder Drew Ward and 20-year-old catcher Pedro Severino as stars of the Instructional League camp.

“Drew Ward really shined,” Scialabba said of the 18-year-old third baseman, who completed high school a year early to enter the draft. “He’s mature beyond his years; not only physically, but mentally. He has very good plate discipline for a young player, with a very short stroke that stays in the zone for a long period of time.

“Pedro is a young catcher with tremendous makeup. He’s a high-energy guy who has worked really hard at learning the English language. He has a contact bat, but his value is going to be his defense. He has a cannon behind the plate.”

When camp wrapped up a week ago, the final step for the Nationals participants was to receive their offseason workout plans and get their nutritional programs in order. Most players will take a break from baseball and start hitting the weights in the next few weeks, before ramping up their baseball activity closer to Spring Training.

Scialabba also said some select players will return to Viera this November for a newly implemented winter conditioning program. The extra instruction will give the staff yet another opportunity to ensure the young talent throughout the organization stays on course for a successful 2014 season.

Not A Minor Accomplishment

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The Washington Nationals farm system hasn’t so much met expectations in 2013 as it’s surpassed every one.

Ranked the No. 13 farm system overall in the preseason by Baseball America, the Nationals have surged to the third-best organizational record at 403-322 (.558) overall, trailing only Houston (.572) and San Francisco (.564). Three of Washington’s seven affiliates are playoff-bound, with a fourth in a close division race.

None of this is entirely unexpected either. Under the guidance of President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo, the Nats have gone from the Minor League cellar six years ago to a brief stint at No. 1 in last year’s Baseball America preseason rankings. Not to mention that this farm system has cultivated such talent as Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon. In fact, 11 players on Washington’s active roster have come through its Minor League system.

Lucas Giolito, Washington's top pick in 2012, was recently promoted to Short-Season Auburn.

Lucas Giolito, Washington’s top pick in 2012, was recently promoted to Short-Season Auburn.

Perhaps most remarkable has been the Gulf Coast League Nationals, which have notched the most impressive mark in all of professional baseball. Since the season began on June 21, the Rookie-level entry has gone 48-9 (.842), better than even the tremendous run by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who posted a 47-12 (.797) record in the same span. The GCL Nationals lead their division by 24.0 games, have 13 more wins than the next best team in the league, and clinched their playoff spot long ago.

Obviously, such a run requires more than just luck. The GCL Nationals are tops in the league in most meaningful statistical categories. Their 2.49 team ERA and .279 team batting average pace the field, while their 5.52 runs per game is more than six-tenths of a run better than the next closest total. They boast the league’s leader and runner-up in ERA among qualifiers, 21-year-old righty Wander Suero (8-1, 1.65) and 20-year-old southpaw Hector Silvestre (7-0, 1.82). Righty Lucas Giolito, the Nationals’ No. 2 prospect, drafted 16th overall out of high school in 2012, has returned from Tommy John surgery and was recently promoted to Short-Season Auburn in the New York-Penn League after notching a 2.78 ERA and 25 strikeouts over 22.2 innings in the Gulf Coast League.

Like the GCL Nats, the High-A Potomac Nationals have put up ridiculous numbers in the Carolina League. Potomac is 81-51 overall, having already locked up a playoff spot by winning the Northern Division’s first-half championship with a 42-27 record. They’re currently 7.5 games up on Lynchburg in the second half, and will earn home-field advantage in all three Carolina League Division Series contests if they secure the second half title as well.

Walters has shown great pop for a middle infielder, sitting on the brink of a 30-home run season.

Zach Walters has shown great pop for a middle infielder, sitting on the brink of a 30-home run season.

Cutter Dykstra has helped pace Potomac on its most recent tear. During the P-Nats recent 10-game winning streak (August 10-20), the infielder racked up a .316/.447/.421 line. He also reached base in a league-best 29 games, putting together an 18-game hitting streak in the process. Meanwhile, right-hander Blake Schwartz is 11-4 with a 2.56 ERA and leads the league with a 1.03 WHIP.

The Low-A Hagerstown Suns (77-53) are also headed to the postseason, while the Double-A Harrisburg Senators (72-63) are a half-game up in their Eastern League division, where the top two teams reach the playoffs. The Suns are pacing the South Atlantic League with 5.03 runs per game, benefitting from a fairly balanced lineup. They’ve also recently added 2013 draft pick Jake Johansen, who was 1-1 with a 1.06 ERA and a 9.4 K/9 rate with Auburn. The Senators, meanwhile, boast a pitching staff that leads the league with a 3.46 ERA. Nationals third-rated prospect A.J. Cole — who earned the save in the 2013 Futures Game — is sitting at 3-2 with a 2.58 ERA since being promoted in late July.

Though the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs have posted just a 65-72 record, they have their bright spots as well in prospects like Jeff Kobernus and Zach Walters. Kobernus served a brief stint in the big leagues and earned International League Player of the Week honors for the week of August 12-18. He leads the team and is second among Nationals farmhands with a .324 batting average. Walters, meanwhile, has slugged 29 home runs, 10 more than the next closest total in the organization. The infielder has posted a .531 slugging percentage on the season, especially impressive from the shortstop position.

What to Watch for: 8.21.13

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Washington Nationals (61-64) vs. Chicago Cubs (54-71)

RHP Ross Ohlendorf (2-0, 1.85) vs. RHP Jake Arrieta (1-0, 0.69)

The Nationals send Ross Ohlendorf to the mound against the Chicago Cubs, his first appearance since going on the 15-day disabled list on August 4 (retroactive to August 1). Washington Manager Davey Johnson said he expects Ohlendorf to throw roughly 90 pitches in this evening’s contest. The Cubs will counter with former Baltimore Oriole Jake Arrieta, acquired on July 2 along with reliever Pedro Strop and cash considerations in exchange for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger. Arrieta has never bested the Nationals (0-1, 5.57 ERA in four starts), but has been excellent in his two big league starts since joining the Cubs organization.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Bryce Harper LF

4. Jayson Werth RF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

8. Kurt Suzuki C

9. Ross Ohlendorf RHP

31 FLAVORS OF VICTORY FOR HAREN

Dan Haren continues to make career history, pocketing his first-career win at Wrigley Field – his 31st different park with a W – as the Nationals doubled up the Cubs, 4-2, on Tuesday night. The victory was his first since beating the Philadelphia Phillies on August 9, giving him wins against all 30 franchises. In between, Haren notched his first Major League save in a close-out effort against the Braves Saturday night.

NATS COME THROUGH IN CLUTCH

Despite a rough night in which Washington brought home just four of its 21 base runners, the Nationals made it count when it mattered most. Ian Desmond singled home Bryce Harper with nobody out in the ninth to extend the Nats lead to 3-1, and four batters later Denard Span brought home a two-out insurance run, when he plated Ryan Zimmerman to give the Nationals a 4-1 advantage.

NOT A MINOR ACCOMPLISHMENT

The Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals are a stunning 45-8 (.849) this season, which began June 21. However the GCL Nats did lose 2012 No. 1 pick Lucas Giolito, who was promoted to the Short Season-A Auburn Doubledays – and promptly won his first start, a gem of a performance earlier Wednesday afternoon. Giolito went five scoreless innings, allowing just two hits, while striking out four. He did not walk a batter.

Another Arm in the Stable

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When fans of teams other than the Nationals think of Washington’s recent First-Year Player Draft history, they tend to focus on the pair of No. 1 overall picks, Stephen Strasburg from 2009 and Bryce Harper a year later.

However, Nationals fans know as well as anyone how important the second round of the draft can be. They drafted Jordan Zimmermann in the second round in 2007 out of little-known Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and two years later found another big leaguer in the recently promoted Jeff Kobernus. When their first pick came around at No. 68 this year, took the route they traveled six years ago, again daring to dream on a powerful, right-handed arm from a small school in Jake Johansen, a 6-foot-6 hurler out of Dallas Baptist University.

Johansen gives the Nationals another powerful, right-handed arm.

Johansen gives the Nationals another powerful, right-handed arm. (Paul Metzgar/Dallas Baptist)

There were differing opinions of Johansen from the draft experts, but ESPN’s resident guru Keith Law had the Allen, Texas native ranked 63rd on his board heading into Thursday night. The Nationals liked what they saw, especially Director of Scouting Kris Kline, who watched Johansen pitch twice in games this year before inviting him to a workout in D.C. earlier this week.

“This is what we seek when we go out to the ballpark every day,” said Kline of finding a player like Johansen among the countless hours of driving around the country scouting amateur players.

Kline does not like to make Major League comparisons when discussing draft selections, but he conceded that Johansen’s arm action and delivery very were similar to that of Josh Beckett, another hard-throwing Texan.

With a fastball that can top out in triple digits, Johansen’s upside is obvious. Kline says he usually sits around 94 with his fastball, which is complemented by a pair of breaking balls – a hard cutter/slider that he throws around 88-90 and a curveball. Kline suggests that the former is already an out pitch, but sees both developing as the Nationals coaching staff gets a chance to work with him.

“There’s no reason why, with a few tweaks from our staff, this guy can’t be a front-line guy,” said Kline, who went on to compare him to Washington’s first selection in last year’s draft. “If you put him next to (Lucas) Giolito, you’ve got some pretty good-looking bookends.”

Of course, the Nationals had the different experience of patiently sitting through more than four hours of proceedings before they could finally make their pick. While that’s a good thing in the larger view of it all – drafting later means you’re performing better on the field at the Major League level – it was nonetheless a relief to finally be able to choose the player they hoped would be available after all that time.

“I’m glad he fell into our laps at 68,” said Kline. “When I called him up, I said, ‘Are you as excited as I am? I’ve been waiting all night for this.’”

The 2013 First-Year Player Draft continues Friday at 1 p.m. with selection number 74. The Nationals next selection does not come until the 105th pick.

Surfing The Pipeline

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As you may have noticed, MLB.com released its Top 20 prospects for each team earlier this week as part of its MLB Pipeline debut. There should be a number of names familiar to many Nationals fans, as the Top 10 on the list closely parallels that of the Baseball America rankings filed just a few weeks ago. The BA rankings came out prior to Washington’s reacquisition of A.J. Cole, who would have (as we can figure out through deductive reasoning, by his appearance as the fourth and final Nationals prospect on the overall Top 100) ranked in the top five. As such, seven of the same players appear among the 10 on each list.

Here is the full list of MLB.com’s Top 20, complete with links for those to whom we have already showcased one way or another within the last calendar year.

1. Anthony Rendon – INF

2. Brian Goodwin – OF

3. Lucas Giolito – RHP

4. A.J. Cole – RHP

5. Michael Taylor – OF

6. Nathan Karns – RHP

7. Eury Perez – OF

8. Destin Hood – OF

9. Matt Purke – LHP

10. Robbie Ray – LHP

11. Matt Skole – INF

12. Chris Marrero – INF

13. Sammy Solis – LHP

14. Zach Walters – INF

15. Christian Garcia – RHP

16. Taylor Jordan – RHP

17. Brandon Miller – OF

18. Sandy Leon – C

19. Jason Martinson – INF

20. Kylin Turnbull – LHP

Keep your eyes peeled for plenty more prospect coverage as Curly W Live heads to Spring Training in just a couple more weeks!

The Top 10 List

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Earlier today, Baseball America unveiled its annual Top 10 Prospect List for the Washington Nationals heading into the 2013 season. There has been a lot of movement since last season, with only four of last year’s prospects returning to the list. The reason for this is two-fold: some names, like Bryce Harper and Steve Lombardozzi, have become fixtures at the Major League level, while others have been traded in deals for the likes of Gio Gonzalez and Denard Span, making the Nationals imminently more competitive in the present. In both senses, the farm system has done its job. But that hardly means it is now bereft of top-level talent.

The complete list, along with more information on each player, is listed below. We have already covered a good number of the prospects in our Down on the Farm reports this past season, and will pick up the rest during the 2013 campaign.

1. Anthony Rendon – INF | Last Year: 2

Considered by many to be the top bat in the 2011 Draft, the Nats snagged Rendon with the sixth overall pick. After dealing with an early-season injury, the Rice University product rebounded for a strong season, moving quickly through the system and finishing in the Arizona Fall League.

- READ OUR COMPLETE DOWN ON THE FARM REPORT -

2. Lucas Giolito – RHP | Last Year: N/A

Taken with the 16th overall selection, the Nationals went for upside with Giolito, who showcased some of the best raw talent of any hurler in his draft class. Though he missed the end of his senior year of high school with an injury and has since had offseason surgery, Mike Rizzo and company are very high on the young pitcher, as are industry insiders like ESPN’s Keith Law and MLB Network’s Peter Gammons.

- READ OUR COMPLETE DRAFT REPORT -

3. Brian Goodwin – OF | Last Year: 5

Another fast riser through the system, Goodwin crushed the South Atlantic League in the first half of his inaugural pro campaign to earn a two-level promotion to Double-A Harrisburg. He joined Rendon in the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game, where he homered as part of a 2-for-5 performance.

- READ OUR COMPLETE DOWN ON THE FARM REPORT -

4. Matt Skole – INF | Last Year: 21

Skole opened eyes in his first full professional season. The Georgia Tech product clobbered 27 home runs in just 101 games at Low-A Hagerstown to earn South Atlantic League player of the year, even with a late-season promotion to Potomac. He showed tremendous patience, batting a combined .291/.426/.559, collecting 99 walks and 104 RBI. But despite the impressive display of power and run production, the biggest accolades for Skole within the organization came from as a result of his huge strides forward on defense at third base. That earned him Nationals Minor League Player of the Year honors.

- READ OUR COMPLETE DOWN ON THE FARM REPORT -

5. Nathan Karns – RHP | Last Year: N/A

The highest mover from last year’s list (from being unranked in a group that runs 30 deep), Karns improved upon an encouraging 2011 season by lowering his walk rate and increasing his strikeouts, yielding tremendous results. He fanned 148 batters in just 116.0 innings, winning 11 games over two levels en route to the Nationals Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award.

- READ OUR COMPLETE DOWN ON THE FARM REPORT -

6. Christian Garcia – RHP | Last Year: N/A

It seems that on every team, every year, there is a surprise Minor Leaguer who breaks out and makes the big leagues as a September call-up. Garcia was that surprise this year, though his talent was well documented. Fully recovered from a second Tommy John surgery, the righty flashed a high-90s fastball and devastating slider to a 0.86 ERA with 66 strikeouts in just 52.1 innings across Double-A and Triple-A. He impressed enough in his debut to earn a spot on the playoff roster, and will likely have an impact as a member of the Nationals pitching staff.

- READ OUR 2012 PLAYER REVIEW -

7. Eury Perez – OF | Last Year: 22

A September call-up like Garcia, Perez was primarily used as a pinch-runner in the Majors in 2012, where the Nationals took advantage of his blazing speed. He actually posted better numbers in Triple-A than at Double-A last season, combining for a .314/.344/.361 line and 51 steals between three stops in the minors. Perez will still be just 22 on Opening Day, and will be in Major League camp come Spring Training.

8. Sammy Solis – LHP | Last Year: 8

Taken by the Nationals in the second round out of the University of San Diego back in 2010, Solis missed the 2012 season due to injury. Washington has high hopes for the lefty, who is on track to be fully healthy by spring after posting an 8-3 mark with a 3.13 ERA in 17 A-ball starts back in 2011.

9. Matt Purke – LHP | Last Year: 7

A third-round selection out of TCU in 2011, Purke made just three starts at Hagerstown this year before being shut down. The 6’4”, 205-pound lefty pitched well in the Arizona Fall League in 2011 and got some time against Major Leaguers in Spring Training this past season. With at least two plus pitches, Purke will be worth keeping an eye on this year.

10. Zach Walters – INF | Last Year: 19

Walters was the return chip from the Jason Marquis trade in 2011 and has proven to be a consistent, heady player as he has moved through the system. With his athletic, strong body and a plus arm, he’s a switch-hitter whose solid defense profiles across the infield. He reached Triple-A by the end of 2012 and, at just 23 years of age, seems to have a bright future ahead.

- READ OUR COMPLETE DOWN ON THE FARM REPORT -

District 9: Lucas Giolito

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We are putting our own spin on the traditional “10 Questions” format this season. To mix it up a little, we are asking players, front office members, coaches, prospects and others nine questions we think you’d like to know the answer to, then taking our favorite submission through Facebook and Twitter from the fans for the final question.

The Washington Nationals inked their 2012 first-round pick just 30 seconds before the signing deadline on July 13. Lucas Giolito, a tall, power-pitching right-hander who has touched triple digits on the radar gun as a teenager, was highly regarded by talent evaluators everywhere and when he was still available when the Nationals picked at 16, EVP of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo said it was a “no-brainer” for Washington to draft him. Curly W Live sat down with the youngster as he visited Nationals Park on Tuesday afternoon for the first time as an official member of the organization.

Nats fans will get their first look soon at Lucas Giolito, who reports to Viera this week.

1. It must have been a tough decision turning down an offer to play at a powerhouse program in your own backyard like UCLA. What was the turning point for you in signing with the Nats?

It definitely took a lot of thinking about UCLA. Coach (John) Savage and the whole UCLA baseball program is unbelievable. But, coming to D.C. in that first trip I took out here, being on the field, meeting the guys, seeing the city was really a huge turning point. Being able to be a part of it was unreal.

2. You visited D.C. a month ago when the Yankees were in town. What was your favorite part about that trip?

Probably going out seeing all of the monuments, all the sights. I’d never been to D.C. before. So seeing the city was a great experience.

3. Your mother, father, uncle and grandfather have all worked in the entertainment business in LA. Did you ever have any interest in getting into acting?

Yeah, a lot of my family is in the entertainment industry but I really never got into it. I actually never really watched a lot of the movies or television shows they were in. I was mostly focused on playing baseball.

4. How do you know Samuel L. Jackson, who gave you a shout out on Twitter after you signed?

My dad is friends with Sam, he’s played golf with him in the past. Sam’s actually given me some autographs, an autographed Mace Windu lightsaber and stuff like that. So we go back a little.

5. Was there a friendly rivalry between you and teammate Max Fried, taken seventh overall by the San Diego Padres?

I know Max really well. I’ve known him for a couple of years now. When he got to Harvard-Westlake for his senior year – he was a senior transfer – we kind of had a friendly rivalry from the start. We’re best friends, but we always like to compete against each other, so competing against each other at the next level will be even cooler.

6. Before the draft, people drew comparisons between you and Roy Halladay. What does it mean to you to have people use your name in the same sentence as a Cy Young Award winner?

Giolito chose D.C. over his hometown of Los Angeles.

That feels unbelievable. Obviously I’m not anywhere close to a Roy Halladay or a (Justin) Verlander or a (Stephen) Strasburg like we have here in D.C. But to be able to work hard and try to get to that kind of point is something I’m really focused on.

7. When you look at the young pitching talent already in this organization, how excited do you get thinking about the possibility of joining them in the big leagues in a few years?

I couldn’t be more excited to maybe pitch in the same place as Strasburg, Gio (Gonzalez), (Jordan) Zimmermann, all those guys. I have so much respect for them and what they’re doing. Being able to start at the bottom to try to work my way up there is unbelievable.

8. At 6’6”, you are a half-foot taller than Gio Gonzalez. How do you feel about the nickname “Little Gio?”

I think it’s kind of funny. I wouldn’t mind that. Obviously I know Gio is a much bigger name than me, so it kind of fits.

9. What’s your first order of business now that you are officially a Washington National?

The first thing I want to do now that I’m part of the team is go to the game tonight and root on, well, I guess I can call them my teammates of the future. I’m really excited.

Fan Question, from @mthardyyy on Twitter: How does it feel to be drafted by such a young organization with such a bright future?

I couldn’t agree more. I think that the Nationals organization is the best organization in baseball and I’m so excited to get started and move my way up.

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