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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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
- OF Marvin Lowrance – Solid bat who can play the corner positions
- 1B Tyler Moore – Solid bat at 1B.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 …
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- RHSP Brad Peacock – Peacock is a breakout candidate. Not overpowering stuff, but has a Brad Meyers type feel to him
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.