Washington Nationals Top 20 Prospects for 2013
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2013 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 reasonable 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. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book 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.
This list is current as of January 18, 2013
1) Anthony Rendon, 3B, Grade B+: Borderline A-.I really like his bat, but I'm concerned enough about his injury history to be a bit cautious with the grade at this point. I think a healthy Rendon can play second base decently and the bat should play anywhere.
2) Brian Goodwin, OF, Grade B+: Stellar tools and shows the skills often enough to make people drool, but he's erratic. Dominated Low-A but struggled after jump to Double-A, which was not really surprising.
3) A.J. Cole, RHP; Grade B: Hammered in High-A, turned things around in Low-A and was still decently young for the level at age 20. Remains a very high upside arm with a chance to be a number two starter. Re-acquired from Oakland in Morse deal. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to coming back to his old organization, but it seems to me that Potomac will be a friendlier pitching environment than the California League would have been and I am optimistic.
4) Lucas Giolito, RHP, Grade B: I have no idea what to do with this grade. A healthy Giolito is a Grade A prospect, but Tommy John recovery is not automatic and we can't assume that Lucas will follow the same path as Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg.
5) Matt Skole, 3B, Grade B: No one ever doubted his power and he showed better pure hitting skills than expected. His glove isn't terrible but with Ryan Zimmerman ahead of him, Skole is bound for first base and I expect him to be a productive power/patience slugger, though don't expect batting titles.
6) Nate Karns, RHP, Grade B-: Recovered from labrum surgery to dominate A-ball with 92-96 MPH sinker and nasty curveball. Projects as a number three starter if his changeup improves, a power closer if it doesn't.
7) Christian Garcia, RHP, Grade B-: Survivor of two Tommy John surgeries. Still has very impressive stuff, throws strikes, and should thrive as a major league reliever and possible closer. Just have to hope his arm holds up.
8) Sammy Solis, LHP, Grade B-: Another Tommy John guy. When healthy, shows strong pitchability with low-to-mid-90s fastball, good curveball and changeup. Mid-rotation guy if he recovers properly.
9) Matt Purke, LHP, Grade C+: Another injured pitcher, this one with bursitis that required shoulder surgery, supposed to be OK by spring. He hasn't been the same since 2010 freshman season at Texas Christian, but perhaps the surgery will restore his previous 91-95 MPH fastball, slider, and changeup.
10) Eury Perez, OF, Grade C+: Speed demon, very fast, 80 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale. Hits for average but is extremely impatient, resulting in very few walks and OBPs that are very dependent on his batting average. That's OK if he's hitting .300, but not if he's hitting .270.
11) Tony Renda, 2B, Grade C+: Cal Berkeley product, fast, good plate discipline, fielding was better than advertised in the NY-P, second round pick.Will he show enough pop to survive at higher levels?
12) Zach Walters, INF, Grade C+: Good throwing arm, has some pop, performed very well in Double-A (.293/.326/.518) and adequately in Triple-A (.269/.304/.399). Utility profile.
13) Destin Hood, OF, Grade C+: Uber-tools outfielder that I thought was a big breakout candidate (oops) suffered through injury-plagued transition in Double-A with lifeless .245/.301/.344 line in 94 games. Can still grow at age 23.
14) Steven Souza, OF, Grade C+: Considered a busted prospect entering 2012 but had a rebound year, .297/.366/.572 with 14 steals in 353 at-bats in Low-A/High-A at age 23. Has always had the tools, started to put some skill together last year. Nobody seems to have really noticed him, but that will change quickly in 2013 if he sustains this progress.
15) Brett Mooneyham, LHP, Grade C+: Erratic Stanford product posted 2.55 ERA in NY-P, but with just 29 strikeouts in 42 innings. Live arm, mechanical difficulties held him back in college. A challenge for the coaching staff but he has upside.
16) Estarlin Martinez, OF, Grade C+: 20 year old Dominican has had problems finding a position but has a promising bat. An outfielder now, he hit .319/.385/.455 in the pitching-oriented NY-P and is a breakout candidate for 2013.
17) Carlos Rivero, 3B, Grade C+: Borderline C. Forgotten prospect from Indians and Phillies system went from obscure waiver claim to strong Triple-A performer and 40-man roster spot, hit .303/.347/.435, followed by an excellent winter in Venezuela. Good glove at third base, still just 24 years old. Could be nice utility guy for someone.
18) Blake Treinen, RHP, Grade C: Hard-thrower with good sinker/slider combination acquired from Oakland in Morse trade with A.J. Cole. An intriguing sleeper prospect who could advance quickly in relief, should begin 2013 in Double-A.
19) Sandy Leon, C, Grade C: Defense-oriented catcher can have long career as a backup. Hit .322/.396/.460 this year at three minor league levels, but this was completely out of context with the rest of his career and looks fluky to me.
20) Michael Taylor, OF, Grade C: Tools outfielder saw power vanish in High-A, hitting just three homers after 13 last year in 2011. Turns 22 in March, still has time to develop.
21) Brandon Miller, OF, Grade C: Hit .292/.354/.549 in NY-P with some of the best raw power in the 2012 draft class, but Samford product has a big swing, is impatient, and already 23.
22) Corey Brown, OF, Grade C: Old prospect at age 27, but has always had tools including left-handed power, good speed, defense, and some walks. Excessive strikeouts have held him back, but could be good fourth outfielder.
OTHERS: Aaron Barrett, RHP; Robert Benincasa, RHP; Billy Burns, OF; Erik Davis, RHP; Rick Hague, INF: Neil Holland, RHP; Jason Martinson, SS: Spencer Kieboom, C; Pat Lehman, RHP; Chris Marrero, 1B; Christian Meza, LHP; Randolph Oduber, OF: Ivan Pineyro, RHP; Wander Ramos, OF; Caleb Ramsey, OF; Robbie Ray, LHP; Derek Self, RHP; Kylin Turnbull, LHP; Rob Wort, RHP.
The system has thinned out massively, but that's understandable: much of the major league roster is home-grown, and farm system products were important in key trades. So while the current list is not impressive, it should not be taken as an indictment of the farm system: I suspect GM Mike Rizzo, scouting director Kris Kline, and farm director Doug Harris will refill the pipeline quickly.
There is still some talent available. Anthony Rendon and Brian Goodwin both have star-caliber ability. Rendon needs to stay healthy and Goodwin needs to refine his talents, but any farm system would love to have them. Matt Skole looks like a solid regular bat, and there are a variety of potential role players who could help in one way or another. The Nationals usually move their prospects slowly and many of the names on this list are old for their levels, but several of these guys should reach Double-A this year and we'll get a better read on their skills.
There is considerable raw material for a pitching staff, but the Nationals are relying on good results from their doctors and rehab personnel. Giolito, Solis, and Purke all project as starters, with Giolito a potential ace, but they have to prove that they've recovered from surgery before their grades reflect their full talent. Medical retread projects Nate Karns and Christian Garcia show what is possible when things go right, and of course Strasburg and Zimmermann are the poster boys for rehab. Beyond the talented-but-injured group, there are a variety of possible bullpen contributors. Erik Davis is a sleeper to watch for bullpen time in 2013.
Overall, the farm system is undoubtedly in a down phase, but the major league roster is loaded and young. The player development guys have time to recharge.