Nationals Prospect Primer: D.C. marvels

Shortstop Turner, righty Giolito prove they're legends of tomorrow

Trea Turner hit .322 with eight homers, 54 RBIs and 29 stolen bases last season. (John Raoux/AP)

By Kelsie Heneghan / MiLB.com | April 1, 2016 10:30 AM

Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2016 season approaching, MiLB.com takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.

Major League-ready: Trea Turner, SS/2B

Turner accomplished in less than two seasons what some Minor Leaguers spend their whole careers trying to do -- he made his Major League debut. Just 14 months after San Diego selected him with the 13th overall pick in the 2014 Draft, Washington selected his contract from Triple-A Syracuse.

"He's shown the ability to make adjustments at every level. We believe in his bat, we believe in his instincts to be able to handle adversity and continue to improve as a hitter and certainly defensively as well," said Mark Scialabba, the Nationals' director of player development. "He has the ability to impact the game with his legs; obviously that's probably his best tool. And he's going to continue to impact the game in all phases."

Of course it hasn't been the smoothest of rides for Turner. He was traded from the Padres in December, then didn't switch clubs until June due to a since-revised MLB rule. But through all the uniform changes, MLB.com's No. 11 overall prospect showed off his skill set, hitting .322 with eight homers, 54 RBIs and 29 stolen bases.

Since the shortstop position continues to be the long-term plan for the 22-year-old, Scialabba hopes to see Turner continue to improve his footwork around the bag and throwing efficiency.

"Tremendous young man with great aptitude. Obviously a dynamic player who utilizes his speed as well as anyone in our system, someone who gets down the line, is a 80[-grade] runner, puts the ball in play, has a swing that he can use from pole-to-pole, he can drive the baseball, great hitting instincts," Scialabba said. "Just an exciting all-around young player that will hopefully be a core piece for us for a long time."

Shining star: Lucas Giolito, RHP

Hailing from a family of seasoned actors, Giolito has forged his own stellar path on the diamond. The Nationals' top prospect has used an 80-grade fastball and 70-grade curveball to climb through the system since being selected 16th overall in the 2012 Draft.

"Lucas is very gifted, very talented, has a prototypical power pitcher's body, which is what you look for in a pitcher his size. Obviously he moves the ball extremely well, explosive fastball," Scialabba said. "He's someone whose power curveball has tremendous late movement with extreme depth, swing-and-miss quality, but also learning how to throw it for a strike consistently and then for a chase, so he's starting to master that."

The 6-foot-6 right-hander got off to a slow start in 2015 with Class A Advanced Potomac, but he quickly made the adjustments to be ready for Double-A Harrisburg. Across the two levels, MLB.com's top pitching prospect notched a 3.15 ERA with a career-high 131 strikeouts in 21 games -- 19 starts.

"The game sped up a little bit on him, but he continued to harness his fastball command to be able to pitch to both sides effectively, pitched to all four quadrants of the strike zone and then the changeup continued to evolve as at times an above-average pitch," Scialabba said. "We feel very confident that he'll have a full arsenal to pitch at the Major League level soon, but he still has some work to do and he's still continuing to develop his ability to control the running game and field his position and be a leader. We have very high expectations for Lucas."

Breakout prospect: Chris Bostick, 2B/OF

After his third straight season of hitting below .300 with at least 100 strikeouts, Bostick went into the Arizona Fall League wanting to be more aggressive. While that approach tends to mean more strikeouts for many hitters, the Nationals' No. 30 prospect took it as "being ready and being in a good position as opposed to being free-swinging and swinging at everything."

The new attitude began to pay off in the AFL. Bostick finished the campaign in the top 10 for homers (four), runs (14), stolen bases (six), slugging (.549) and OPS (.883). The results carried into spring as the 23-year-old struck out just once in 14 big league camp at-bats while hitting .357.

"He's an above-average runner, he gets pop in his bat -- a loud sound that comes off the barrel -- he makes contact, he's exciting on the bases," Scialabba said. "He has good makeup, he plays the game hard, he still has some youth on his side. So we're looking forward to him continuing to evolve as a hitter, looking to put the ball in play more this year and drive the ball more gap-to-gap.

"And we're excited to see where he takes off this year and hopefully the fall league was something that he can build off of."

At the crossroads: Matt Skole, 1B/3B

In spring 2013, things looked pretty good for Skole. He was just named the Nationals' Minor Leaguer of the Year in his first full season and was ready to start at Double-A. But just two games into the campaign, he injured his elbow, which eventually led to Tommy John surgery.

Skole battled back and was back at the plate less than a year later. But while he has been healthy since, the 26-year-old has yet to recapture the promise of his 2012 season, when he combined to hit .291 with 27 homers and 104 RBIs at Potomac and Class A Hagerstown. Over the past two campaigns, the club's No. 29 prospect hit .238 with 34 homers and 150 RBIs between Harrisburg and Syracuse.

"It's hard to find power in this game today and we believe in his power. He's going to continue to realize that through continuing through the ball at the plate, having more consistent at-bats, taking advantage of hitters' counts," Scialabba said. "He has the ability to drive in runs and hit early in the count, attacking the fastball. He understands the strike zone, he's a patient hitter.

"Just want him to continue to be someone who is aggressive at the plate and looks to drive the ball to all fields. I think when he's able to drive the ball to left-center and continue to cover [the] inner half, he can be a dangerous threat in a lineup."

Full-season debutant: Victor Robles, OF

At 18, Robles has a lot of attention on him. The Nationals signed their No. 3 prospect out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, but he didn't play stateside until last year.

Scialabba saw Robles flash all five tools last season with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals and at Class A Short Season Auburn and is confident the outfielder will keep that up at a high level this year, adding that Robles is a very good fastball hitter.

MLB.com's No. 63 overall prospect hit .352 with four homers and 24 stolen bases in 29 attempts. Robles spent most of the season in center, where he committed just three errors while collecting three assists across the two levels.

"We love the passion and energy that he brings to the game. Also, he's advanced for his age, as far as his hitting ability goes. His understanding of the strike zone is advanced and [so is] his plate discipline, understanding when to be aggressive," Scialabba said. "Defensively, he's someone that has learned to harness his energy. He has well-above-average arm strength and an ability to close on balls. He continues to work on better jumps and angles and to be an above-average center fielder."

More to keep an eye on: The Nationals got three big arms in last year's Draft in No. 19 prospect Koda Glover, Taylor Hearn (No. 25) and Andrew Lee. The first two can reach the upper 90s with plus fastballs while Scialabba likes the way Lee pounds the zone. Catching those aces in the Majors one day could be Pedro Severino (No. 10) and Spencer Kieboom (No. 21). Scialabba notes the former can carry a staff while the latter shows signs of being a good leader.

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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