Washington Nationals Top 20 Prospects for 2011

Washington Nationals Top 20 Prospects for 2011

All grades are EXTREMELY PRELIMINARY and subject to change. Don't get too concerned about exact rankings at this point, especially once you get past the Top 10. Grade C+/C guys are pretty interchangeable depending on what you want to emphasize.

Feel free to critique the list, but use logic and reason rather than polemics to do to. The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2011 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!

QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:

Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.

Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.

Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.

A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.

Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.

Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.

Washington Nationals Top 20 Prospects for 2011

1) Bryce Harper, OF, Grade A: The hype is justified.

2) Derek Norris, C, Grade B+: Could be another Mickey Tettleton or Gene Tenace, low batting average slugger with a high walk rate. I am more optimistic about his glove than some people.

3) Danny Espinosa, INF, Grade B: Borderline B+. Don't expect a great batting average, but should do everything else well. A lot of people seem to like him slightly more than I do, but I worry that the batting average and OBP may be lower than expected.

4) Sammy Solis, LHP, Grade B: Probably won't need much minor league time.

5) A.J. Cole, RHP, Grade B: One of my favorite high school pitchers from the 2010 draft, I like the fact they put out the money to sign him.

6) Wilson Ramos, C, Grade B-: Like the glove. The bat I have mixed feelings about, expect some good years and some bad ones.

7) Robbie Ray, LHP, Grade B-: Another '10 high school pitcher I like a lot, projectable and athletic lefty. Grade is aggressive.

8) Michael Burgess, OF, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Power, arm strength, don't expect batting average.

9) Eury Perez, OF, Grade C+: Intriguing speed demon, small-ball guy, bunts, fields well. Will he hit at higher levels?

10) Rich Hague, SS, Grade C+: I like the bat, but the glove looks like a problem.

11) Cole Kimball, RHP, Grade C+: Looks like he can help in relief very quickly.

12) J.P. Ramirez, OF, Grade C+: Breakthrough candidate with the bat.

13) Chris Marrero, 1B, Grade C+: Well, he can hit...but probably not enough to be a first baseman for a good team.

14) Steve Lombardozzi, 2B, Grade C+: I seem to like him more than other people, but the guy can field and has hit well for two years.

15) Brad Meyers, RHP, Grade C+: Strike-thrower who has been a favorite of mine for awhile, missed most of season with a foot injury>

16) Brad Peacock, RHP, Grade C+: FIPs are consistently better than his ERAs, and he has a good arm.

17) A.J. Morris, RHP, Grade C+: I like him better than the numbers say I should.

18) Tyler Moore, 1B, Grade C: I realize that other sources and most Nationals fans rank him much higher, probably due to his hot second half. But he's older than Marrero, a level behind him, and I don't like the reports about holes in his swing or his BB/K ratio.

19) Tom Milone, LHP, Grade C: Great Double-A numbers of course despite lack of stuff. I might be underestimating him.

20) Daniel Rosenbaum, LHP, Grade C: Tom Milone Part Two?

OTHERS OF NOTE: Adrian Alaniz, RHP; Justin Bloxom, 1B; Adam Carr, RHP; Paul Demny, RHP; Dave Freitas, C; Tyler Hanks, RHP; Destin Hood, OF; Taylor Jordan, RHP; Blake Kelso, INF; Jeff Kobernus, 2B; Jason Martinson, INF; Yunesky Maya, RHP; Randolph Oduber, OF; Tanner Roark, RHP; Atahualpa Severino, LHP; Josh Smoker, LHP; Josh Wilkie, RHP; Rob Wort, RHP.

I fully buy into Bryce Harper, and I don't know what else to say about him really. If he keeps his head on straight and avoids injuries, he's going to be excellent.

Beyond him, there isn't a huge amount of upside, beyond the exceptions of projectable high school arms A.J. Cole and Robbie Ray. Norris and Espinosa look like strong productive regulars though they won't win batting titles. There are several guys who could be good utility infielders, some who should be useful mid-to-back-end rotation guys, several potential bullpen options and role players.

It isn't a bad system by any means, but an awful lot rides on the shoulders of Bryce Harper.

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