NFA Top Prospects

I thought I’d finally get around to posting my Nationals top prospects list. Rather than mix bats and arms, I figured I’d organize two top 20 lists. One with the bats and one with the arms.

(Note: Please keep in mind that in no way am I suggesting that all of these guys are going to make the majors. I’m mostly talking ceilings)

First, the hitters:

  1. CA Derek Norris – No-brainer. His breakout performance in 2009 puts him atop this list. The question that still remains unanswered is whether he can remain behind the plate or whether his future is at another position (1B, corner OF).
  2. SS Danny Espinosa – Espinosa is not going to achieve the heights of some oh is Long Beach State SS bretheren (Troy Tulowitzski and Evan Longoria) but he is turning himself into a potential option in the #2 spot as the future SS for the Nats. Scouts raved about him at the Arizona Fall League and the Nationals have wisely taken their time in overpromoting him, allowing him to spend the full season in Potomac. He’ll start 2010 in Harrisburg and could very well earn himself a promotion to Syracuse some time in 2010 if he builds upon his successess in the AFL.
  3. 1B Chris Marrero – The initial pronouncements of a future middle of the order power bat have faded but he still has the chance to develop into a solid regular. His glove is going to be his biggest hurdle to reaching that status.
  4. SS Ian Desmond – Even Nats fans who don’t follow the farm system know who Desmond is. Overhyped in 2005 spring as the next Derek Jeter, Desmond’s career took a circuitous route to the majors. After several disappointing seasons, Desmond finally seemed to click in 2009 eventually making it to the big leagues last year. Reports are mixed about where he’ll be in 2010. I would hope he gets his shot at SS in 2010 but if I were a betting man, I figure he’ll be in the utility role to start the 2010 season. 
  5. 2B Jeff Kobernus – Kobernus only played briefly in 2009 after getting drafted out of UCLA, knee surgery ending his professional debut almost as soon as it started. He has an Espinosa-like feel to him at 2B. Not a superstar prospect but someone who can develop into a solid starter. I hope the Nats treat him similar to the way they treated Espinosa and give Kobernus a full season in Potomac to get acclimated without worries of overpromotion.
  6. OF Destin Hood – The next three guys could arguably go in any order. I’m going to give Hood the nod first based on his age and ability to develop. I think he has the power potential of Burgess but a better potential for strike zone development.
  7. OF Michael Burgess – The ultimate three true outcome guy (walk, strikeout, home run). I have not seen the development in strike zone judgment I would have hoped for. In my opinion, he could use more seasoning in Potomac in 2010
  8. OF Justin Maxwell – He’s on this list because he still technically qualifies as a rookie but I’m not sure he’s ever going to develop into anything more than a #4 or 5 OF. This is not necessarily a bad thing as teams need those guys, but given the expectations he had, it is somewhat of a disappointment.
  9. OF Eury Perez – Possibly the first international free agent bat of note to develop for the Nationals. He had a great season for the GCL Nats in 2009 and could very well earn a promotion to full-season Hagerstown in 2010, though I expect the Nats to exercise caution and hold him back for Vermont.
  10. OF J.R. Higley – A drak horse and probably ranked higher than some might have expected. I like Higley ’s tools offensively and believe he has a greater opportunity to develop into a major leaguer than I did at this time last year.
  11. OF J.P. Ramirez – Not great 2009 numbers but I think that 2010 in Hagerstown could go a long way towards establishing him as someone to watch
  12. 2B Stephen Lombardozzi – All he did was hit for Hagerstown in 2009. His ceiling may be limited to that of a bench guy in the majors. Not sure where he’ll play if he is rostered with Kobernus in Potomac.
  13. CA Adrian Nieto – A disappointing 2009 for Nieto. He had expectations of being a later round steal but the numbers on the field were not what anyone hoped. I’d imagine another year in short season is in his future (likely Vermont).
  14. 2B Hendry Jimenez – The 19-year old Jimenez was a solid performer for the GCL Nats in 2009. He could develop into a solid utility guy.
  15. OF Leonard Davis – The rest of the rankings are more indicative of a lack of options for truly “prospect”y options. Davis gets the #15 ranking based on versatility
  16. OF Marvin Lowrance – Solid bat who can play the corner positions
  17. 1B Tyler Moore – Solid bat at 1B.
  18. OF Chris Curran – You can realistically swap #18 and #19 here. Both guys are fast on the basepaths and are competent in the outfield (including center field). I do not see either guy as a major league regular. Both have that #5 OF/pinch runner look to them. I’ll give the nod at #18 to Curran as he is apparently the better defender in CF.
  19. OF Boomer Whiting – He is all about the speed. Not sure he’ll ever hit enough to be a major leaguer but his speed alone keeps him on the radar.
  20. UTIL Seth Bynum – This is more of a personal favorite. Bynum is well beyond the age of what is considered a prospect but I have a soft spot for him. He can handle any spot but catcher and has just enough of a bat. While he’ll never turn into a major league regular, there’s a Rick Short quality that has me rooting for him.

And now the pitching …

  1. RHSP Stephen Strasburg – Was this really in doubt? Strasburg will contend with Jason Heyward for the #1 overall prospect in the early 2010 rankings. He seems a lock for the major leagues some time next year. Here’s to hoping (a) he delivers on expectations and more importantly (b) he is not rushed.
  2. RHRP Drew Storen – Having a reliever as the second best prospect can be viewed in two different ways. Glass half-empty, the team has no starting pitchers that project out better than back of the rotation (i.e. #4 or 5 SPs). Glass half-full, the Nationals have found their closer of the future. I think there is a thread of truth in both positions. The Nationals have improved their pitching depth by leaps and bounds over what I saw in 2005. They have actual pitching depth in their farm where they did not in 2005; but aside from Strasburg, much of the starting depth have ceilings of #3SP at best. Back to Storen, his performance in the minors has many believing the Nats have found their closer for 2011 and beyond. I will admit his quick rise surprised me and I think there is a legitimate chance he could become an effective closer at a reasonable salary for four or five years. As with Strasburg, I hope the Nats practice patience with Storen (and I think the trade for Brian Bruney and signing of Matt Capps show that may be true).
  3. RHSP Brad Meyers – Thus begins the ranking of the starting pitchers. Honestly, I could reasonably argue any of the next three in any order. I’ll go with Meyers because I’ve seen him pitch. He seems to understand what it takes to be a starting pitcher and he has the ability to throw strikes. While he is not likely to turn into a #2 or 3 starter, he could reasonably be a back of the rotation starter for the Nationals as early as 2011.
  4. LHSP Aaron Thompson – He was acquired from the Marlins for Nick Johnson and the fact he throws left-handed will grant him a longer leash than most. Much like Meyers, his upside is limited but I believe there is a chance we can see him in the majors some time in 2010 … most likely as a reliever.
  5. RHSP AJ Morris – Morris is an older prospect who seems likely to be a starter in the minors in 2010, but his path to the majors could certainly be accelerated with a move to the bullpen. I could see him taking the Jason Bergmann path to the majors, making his debut out of the pen with a few forays into the starting rotation.
  6. RHRP Juan Jaime – This is a guy to watch in 2010. He fits the mold of a reliever who bursts on the scene unexpectedly (to the average fan who does not watch the minors). He throws hard and if he can find an average second pitch, he could become a solid setup guy.
  7. LHRP Atahualpa Severino – Older than Jaime. Throws from the left. But the same thing holds for Severino. He has the potential to turn into a left-handed option out of the bullpen for the Nationals.
  8. RHRP Jeff Mandel – Mandel’s future appears to be in the bullpen and it’s probably for the best. He was an OK starter but will likely offer him a better chance at making the majors. He’s not a cuture closer but could develop into a serviceable arm out of the bullpen.
  9. RHRP Paul Demny – Demny struck out over a batter per inning in 2009. He needs to work on his control but has the stuff to develop into a solid back of the rotation starter or more likely a setup guy.
  10. RHRP Nathan Karns – Karns was a late sign (last day) out of the 2009 draft but he puts himself on this list with his performance in the Texas summer league. A hard-throwing right-hander, Karns is someone to watch like Juan Jaime.
  11. LHRP Evan Bronson – Bronson had a great season for Vermont. He was 22, meaning he’s going to need to make a step up to Potomac early in 2010 to turn into a legitimate prospect. But as a left-handed guy with a 38K/3BB over 49 1/3IP, he is one to watch
  12. LHSP Tom Milone – And again, I think you could argue the order of the next few starters (12-15). Milone was solid for Potomac in 2009 but his ceiling is best viewed as a #5SP. I’ll give him the nod based on his handedness.
  13. RHSP Brad Peacock – Peacock is a breakout candidate. Not overpowering stuff, but has a Brad Meyers type feel to him
  14. RHSP Erik Arnesen – Arnesen is one of those guys who seems to fly beneath the radar but ends up turning into a surprise option in the rotation. His stuff is not overpowering but he has just enough to be on the periphery. I would not be surprised to see him get a start or two in 2010.
  15. RHSP Marcos Frias – Frias could quickly climb this list if he builds upon his solid season in Hagerstown. The 21-year old Frias apepars to have the control and strike-throwing ability to turn into a back of the rotation option.
  16. RHRP Dean Weaver – Another reliever from last year’s draft. This ranking is based more on hope than anything else. The Nationals certainly are filling that pool of potential RH relievers for 2011 and out.
  17. LHSP Jack McGeary – His first full season of baseball can be classified as disappointing. It’s too early to write him off but his days of consideration as a gigh ceiling prospect seem over. He is going to need to demonstrate some quick grwoth in 2010
  18. RHSP Taylor Jordan -Another guy who makes the list based on hopes & expectations. He only had limited time on the field for the GCL Nats but he is a younger guy worth watching.
  19. LHSP Josh Smoker – I’m not going to give up on him just yet. I am really curious how much of his struggles were due to the shoulder and the subsequent rehab. 2010 is the make or break year for him if he can step up and regain what made him a high draft pick in 2007
  20. RHRP Josh Wilkie – Another personal favorite (as most regulars here know). Like Bynum, Wilkie was undrafted and has earned his way up the organization. I’m hoping that he builds on his 2009 next year and gets a cup of coffee in 2010.

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to everyone.

  1. #1 by Marcus - December 24th, 2009 at 12:05

    Thanks Brian,

    Nice list I think “King, Brandon RHP” belongs on our top 20 pitching prospects somewhere.

  2. #2 by Dick - December 24th, 2009 at 12:46

    Brian: Missed you! Best wishes to you over the holidays and in the New Year!

  3. #3 by Brian Oliver - December 24th, 2009 at 13:39

    King could have replaced Jordan (or if I wasn’t so fanboy, Wilkie)

  4. #4 by Berndaddy - December 24th, 2009 at 14:56

    Brian what about Graham Hicks. Do you think he can bounce back in 2010? I would think that this is a make it or break it year for him, Smoker and McGeary, eh???

    Thx for all you do here, Brian. Merry Christmas !!! And to all a good night.

  5. #5 by pm - December 24th, 2009 at 15:28

    I think it’s a bad sign that Trevor Holder didn’t even make your list. That was a waste of a 3rd round pick.

  6. #6 by Pilchard - December 24th, 2009 at 16:24

    Where would Detwiler and Jordan Zimmerman rank if still eligible?

  7. #7 by Stuart - December 24th, 2009 at 17:18

    Brian, thanks and Merry Christmas

  8. #8 by Catocony - December 24th, 2009 at 19:41

    Are Colten Willems and Cory VanAllen now considered complete busts? VanAllen was a fast riser until his injury, Colten has never done much of anything.

    Man, that 2006 draft that had so much promise is really turning out to be a dry well. So goes the joy of the MLB draft.

  9. #9 by Tom D - December 24th, 2009 at 21:18

    Hi Brian…great list with super insight as always. I would love to see you take these two top 20 lists and put in a matrix with where you think each will start 2010.

    Merry Christmas

  10. #10 by Souldrummer - December 24th, 2009 at 21:51

    Thanks so much for this great list. Looks like the moves we’re making right now are helping to keep expectations appropriate for these kids so we don’t have to overpromote Storen and friends to provide hope.

    Good luck with your teaching and hopefully summers off can still fuel your baseball jones.


  11. #11 by Paul - December 25th, 2009 at 13:53

    Thanks so much for the list Brian!

    This would all look very different if the Nats didn’t need to rush prospects to the majors like Det, Zim, Martis, Stammen, et al. In a healthy organization, while those guys might have gotten a cup of coffee, they wouldn’t have lost their rookie eligibility. Well, maybe Zimermann was ready…

    Anyway, love the bullpen signings to take the pressure off the kids. Hopefully Marquis and Lannan (and another vet pitcher!) can eat some innings, and the young guns can be confident that even a five inning outing can result in a win with our bullpen.

    Merry Christmas and thanks again for the list Brian!

  12. #12 by Paul - December 25th, 2009 at 14:09

    Brian, I don’t have your email address so I will throw this out there on the comments.

    There are lots of great wordpress plugins that will help us share your postings. Also meta plugins that will help improve the site ranking and get more visitors.

    I am nerding it up right now, I know. If you want some suggestions of plugins to download, please shoot me an email.

  13. #13 by Brian Oliver - December 25th, 2009 at 14:11


    Let me know what Wordpress installs I should use


  14. #14 by BinM - December 25th, 2009 at 14:48

    Brian: Can’t help but agree (& grin) about the system growth since 2005, particularly with pitching. IMO, the Potomac squad could be very entertaining this year if they can hit, because the pitching possibles are even better than last year.

  15. #15 by Paul - December 25th, 2009 at 15:46

    HeadSpace2 and ShareThis I found to be awesome. You can add them through the manage plugins section of the wordpress back end. Headspace will control the meta information and make it so you can easily get the right titles, description and keywords for each page (great for SEO) and ShareThis is basically just to make lives easier for guys like me who from time to time want to tweet or post one of you posts to something like facebook.

    Let me know if you dig those or need help.

  16. #16 by Brian Oliver - December 25th, 2009 at 16:00

    They have been plugged in. Thanks for the recommendations and moreso for reading NFA

  17. #17 by jeff e. - December 25th, 2009 at 19:13

    all the best teaching . lowrance knees are good enough to play both corners?? interesting. eddie g. to school the young lh bullpenners. interesting pen mix happy holiday and new year!

  18. #18 by Ric - December 26th, 2009 at 10:45

    A nit, but Kobernus was drafted out of Cal, not UCLA. Just out of curiousity, why did you not include any of the arms that the Nats got from Coilorado and LA in the Beimel and Belliard trades (esp. Garate and Mattheus)? Thanks

  19. #19 by Jake - December 26th, 2009 at 18:10

    Garate may be good but Mattheus is not good enough on the top-20 list. We’ve got a lot of better younger players

  20. #20 by Scot - December 27th, 2009 at 04:03

    From Phil Wood (MASN site) 12/25: Anyway, Victor the pitcher didn’t make much of an impression last September in his big league bow. In 2 innings of work he allowed 5 earned runs on 5 hits and 3 walks,

    Chalk it up to nerves. He’s been much better in the minors, where he’s got a 3.25 ERA in 154 appearances, mostly in relief. He turned 25 in September, and had spent just part of the ‘09 season as high as Double A ball.

    Garate played in the Venezuelan Winter League more recently, with Leones de Caracas, where in 19 games he struck out 15 in 16.2 innings of work. He’s a situational guy, and will likely end up at Syracuse in 2010.

    A scout who regularly goes to Venezuela every fall saw Garate this month and was impressed with his ability to hide the ball. “He’s very tough on lefthanded hitters,” he told me, “and if he can improve the angle on his breaking ball, he’s got some definite upside.”

  21. #21 by Richard - December 27th, 2009 at 13:30

    FYI, Kobernus attended UC Berkeley, not UCLA.

  22. #22 by RD exposfan - December 27th, 2009 at 15:31

    Sporting News declared Chris Marrero as an untouchable in an article called The National League’s untouchables. Where would they get that idea from. He is third on Brian’s list for fielders and hasn’t proven yet that he is better defensively than Dunn.

  23. #23 by Mark L - December 27th, 2009 at 17:11

    Thanks, Scot.

  24. #24 by estuartj - December 28th, 2009 at 10:27

    Marrero was downgraded by Minor League Ball from a B to a B-.

    I still see Marrero as a Willingham clone at 1B. Sub par, but not a butcher on D, solid power bat, pull happy and maybe 20-25 HR power, but not enough foot speed to stretch enough singles into doubles to make him a real high SLG % guy. Figure he’s a .375OPS/.450SLG (.825OPS). D keeps his WAR at or under 5 for his career.

    Call him a solid contributer, but not a cornerstone or All-Star player.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Comments are closed.