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Stock Watch: P-Nats' Voth in command
Big right-hander dominating lower levels despite average stuff
07/09/2014 10:34 AM ET
Austin Voth is averaging more than 5 1/2 innings per start despite strict pitch counts. (Gary Dize)

Once a week this season, we're going to break down the prospects who have moved the needle on their prospect stock, mostly highlighting players on the rise, but also pointing out a few who are struggling against expectations. Note: All stats are through games played on Monday.

Trending up

Nationals RHP Austin Voth, Class A Advanced Potomac

Following his first start with the P-Nats on June 24, Voth received plenty of praise from a notable figure in the Nationals' organization.

"He's doing well, he looked great," said outfielder Bryce Harper, with Potomac while rehabbing an injury. "I had no clue who he was, and to be able to see a guy like that come out here and pretty much carve, he did a great job and it was fun to watch."

Harper isn't alone in familiarizing himself with the 22-year-old University of Washington product. A fifth-round pick in the 2013 Draft, Voth has dominated the lower levels of the Minor Leagues. In 13 starts with Class A Hagerstown to begin the season, he posted a 2.45 ERA, striking out 9.6 batters per nine innings while allowing just one homer in 69 2/3 frames. 

Since his promotion to Potomac, Voth has allowed just one earned run over three starts with a 20-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 19 innings.

What's driving Voth's success is command. Potomac manager Tripp Keister got his first look at Voth late last season. Keister was managing Hagerstown at that point, and Voth joined the Suns in time for the postseason. Voth started Game 1 of the team's series with West Virginia and posted five scoreless frames in a 6-1 win. 

Voth's poise and command struck Keister then, and the righty has only improved since. 

The native of Redmond, Washington, has a repertoire built around his 91-to-92 mph fastball. The pitch has average velocity and the movement isn't exceptional, but his command is already well above average, something that sets up the rest of his pitches well against lower-level hitters.

"He has outstanding command of the fastball," Keister said. "That's what he's pitching off of. Everything else opens up when you can command the fastball like he does to both sides of the plate."

Voth backs up the heater with a changeup and curveball. For Keister, the changeup is more advanced at this point.

"He definitely has real good arm speed with it," the skipper said. "There's some separation there between the fastball and the change. There is a little tail, fadeaway. It does run away from left-handed hitters. He throws it to lefties and righties as well."

The curve flashes average to a tick above, but Voth is still trying to improve the consistency of the pitch. Keister said the offering can get a little slurvy at times, losing some of the bite and downward plane that makes it effective. 

All of the pitches look like they could play in the Majors to Keister, though command will be where Voth makes his money.

"I don't know that he has a plus pitch right now," Keister said. "But he's solid average with three pitches, and his command is up there. That's really what he brings every game, makes him tough -- three average pitches and above average command."

Beyond the stuff and command, Voth grades out well in other areas, like holding runners. The Washington product earns positive reviews for his makeup, hungrily studying scouting reports and using the information the Nats can make available to him.

Lastly, Voth also has the makings of a durable rotation piece. He has a sturdy 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame and holds the velocity on his 91-to-92 mph fastball with apparent ease.

"He's a big, strong kid, and he's going to get stronger," Keister said. "He's pitched deep into games. He's on a strict pitch limit, things like that, but he can pitch into games, go six or seven innings and still be making pitches. He's going to be a horse as he grows and gets stronger."

The total package isn't necessarily flashy, and in an organization loaded with the likes of Stephen Strasburg and Lucas Giolito, Voth has an uphill climb to make his stuff fit in Washington's future rotation plans. The pitchability could earn him a No. 4 or 5 role, though, and that's a big win for a fifth-round Draft pick.

Oakland 3B Renato Nunez, Class A Advanced Stockton

His home park is one of the Minors' friendliest for home run hitters, but Nunez's power is no California League mirage. The 6-foot-1 20-year-old has some good raw pop and recently set a career high by bopping his 20th home run in 78 games this season. Nunez has gone long six times in his last eight games, with five of those homers coming on the road. For the season, 11 of his 20 blasts have been in away games. 

Beyond the promising power -- he slugged 19 homers in the more offensively restrictive Midwest League last year -- Nunez is improving his approach, striking out less and walking more this season. Defensively, Nunez is fighting to become an average player at third, although his arm could play well in a corner outfield spot if third doesn't work.

Trending down

Nationals OF Brian Goodwin, Triple-A Syracuse

Goodwin is one of two toolsy outfielders long ranked among the Nationals top prospects. A few weeks back, we covered how Michael Taylor was turning his tools into useable skills. The same hasn't happened yet for Goodwin.

The center fielder's strikeout rate has spiked to nearly the 30 percent with the Chiefs, and he's not exactly supplementing that with big power (six homers) or on-base impact (6-for-10 on stolen base attempts). Overall, Goodwin is hitting .219 with a .670 OPS. He's drawing his share of walks and plays good defense in center, but otherwise, time may be running out for the 23-year-old, especially with Taylor breathing down his neck.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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