NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals connects on a tenth inning RBI single against the New York Mets at Citi Field on July 23, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Washington Nationals Top 20 2012 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review
Moving forward with our mid-season reviews of our pre-season Top 20 prospect lists, we move back to the National League with a look at the Washington Nationals. Remember, this is the pre-season list. It is not a new list.
This list was originally published January 19th, 2012.
1) Bryce Harper, OF, Grade A: Hitting .268/.340/.443 with nine homers, 32 walks, 64 strikeouts, 13 steals in 298 major league at-bats at age 19. On pace for 32 doubles, 11 triples, 19 homers and 28 steals in a 162-game season. Any flaws he has will be remedied by experience in my view.
2) Anthony Rendon, 3B, Grade A-: Borderline A. Got hurt again, this time an ankle injury in his second professional game. Just began rehab assignment in rookie ball and is 4-for-11 with two homers so far. I believe in his talent, but he's now had three serious ankle injuries in addition to his shoulder problem last year.
3) Brian Goodwin, OF, Grade B: Hit .324/.438/.542 with nine homers, 43 walks, 39 strikeouts, 15 steals in 216 at-bats for Low-A Hagerstown. Just promoted to Double-A (skipping High-A) and is 3-for-24 so far. Excellent tools, showed a lot of polish with the bat in the Sally League.
4) Alex Meyer, RHP, Grade B: 3.10 ERA with 107/34 K/BB in 90 innings for Hagerstown, 68 hits. Just promoted to High-A Potomac, threw six shutout innings in first start. Has always had dominating stuff, and his command has been sharper this year than it was in college thanks to more consistent mechanics.
5) Matt Purke, LHP, Grade B-: Has spent most of the year on the DL, and was ineffective in three starts (5.87 ERA, 14/12 K/BB in 15 innings) for Hagerstown. Persistent shoulder problems.
6) Steve Lombardozzi, 2B, Grade B-: Hitting .263/.311/.329 in 240 major league at-bats, 12 walks, 28 strikeouts. Excellent defender at second base, has also played outfield, third and shortstop. Expect a long career due to glovework, and I think his hitting will pick up at some point.
7) Sammy Solis, LHP, Grade B-: Tommy John surgery.
8) Destin Hood, OF, Grade B-: I thought he was a breakthrough guy with strong tools, but his bat has stalled out in Double-A, .228/.301/.319 with 23 walks, 67 strikeouts in 263 at-bats, just two homers and five steals. Still reasonably young at age 22.
9) Robbie Ray, LHP, Grade B-: Borderline C+: Another guy I liked as a sleeper/breakthrough candidate, but has been too hittable in High-A, 5.26 ERA with 60/30 K/BB, 90 hits in 79 innings for Potomac.
10) Chris Marrero, 1B, Grade C+: Another injury guy, still trying to recover from severe hamstring tear, has hit .283/.372/.407 in 33 games at four different levels with 14/24 BB/K in 113 at-bats, but is back on the DL at Triple-A Syracuse.
11) Dan Rosenbaum, LHP, Grade C+: 3.62 ERA with 79/27 K/BB in 127 innings for Double-A Harrisburg, 129 hits, 2.36 GO/AO. Outstanding command of sinker, curveball, and cutter make him a sleeper.
12) Michael Taylor, OF, Grade C+: Tools outfielder, 16 steals in High-A but with uninspiring .251/.333/.379 overall line, 39 walks, 96 strikeouts in 335 at-bats. High upside but still more of an athlete than a baseball lplayer.
13) Dave Freitas, C, Grade C+: Borderline C. Hitting .277/.385/.414 with five homers, 38 walks, 46 strikeouts in 249 at-bats for Potomac. Has patience, power hasn't shown through as well this year. Is making progress defensively, with 34% of runners caught along with improving passed ball and error rates.
14) Rick Hague, INF, Grade C: Shaking off rust after missing 2011 with shoulder injury, hitting .255/.311/.376 with 19 walks, 67 strikeouts, 15 steals in 271 at-bats for Potomac. Playing well on defense.
15) Matt Skole, 3B, Grade C: Impressive power outburst at Low-A Hagerstown, .286/.437/.564 with 22 homers, 80 walks in 287 at-bats. Also has 95 strikeouts and needs to improve defense, but bat looks promising.
16) Jason Martinson, SS, Grade C: Hitting .266/.367/.476 with 19 homers, 56 walks, 27 steals in 380 at-bats combined between Low-A and High-A, no slippage in production at the higher level. Defense is raw and he strikes out a lot (123 whiffs), but power/speed tools are intriguing.
17) Tyler Moore, 1B, Grade C: Hit .307/.375/.653 in 29 games in Triple-A, then .292/.357/.506 in 89 major league at-bats, with nine walks and 27 strikeouts. Whiff rate is very high and I doubt he sustains that batting average, but the power is very real.
18) Eury Perez, OF, Grade C: Hitting .308/.333/.351 with eight walks, 55 strikeouts in 393 at-bats at three levels, mostly in Double-A. Has stolen 32 bases. Tremendous speed and usually hits for a high average, but extremely impatient, which hurts his utility as a leadoff type.
19) Jeff Kobernus, 2B, Grade C: Hitting .281/.321/.333 with 19 walks, 56 strikeouts in 324 at-bats in Double-A, 41 steals. Very reliable glove. Speed and defense are useful.
20) Justin Bloxom, 1B, Grade C: Hit .259/.331/.478 with 12 homers, 23 walks, 64 strikeouts in 224 at-bats in High-A, then .228/.290/.404 with 10 walks, 32 strikeouts in 114 at-bats in Double-A. Will get stuck as a minor league slugger without quick improvement.
This farm system entered 2012 in weak condition thanks to the big trade with Oakland, but that big trade brought in Gio Gonzalez, a big part of the reason this team is in first place. Farm system products dot the roster: the star names like Strasburg and Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, of course, but don't forget Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond and several others.
Looking at the minors, injuries took a bite with the top names and one wonders if the Nats will get much out of their investment in Purke. Martinson, Kobernus, and Zach Walters provide some middle infield depth. I like Rosenbaum as a "sneak up on us" candidate, and minor league relievers like Pat Lehman and Erik Davis could provide some decent filler innings next year.
In the 2012 draft, the team took a gamble on Lucas Giolito, but the potential payoff there is huge. Tony Renda is a solid pick who fits into the organization theme of up-the-middle strength. The general emphasis was on college picks in the middle rounds. Bretty Mooneyham has more potential than a typical third-round college pitcher.
Overall, the organization needs more depth but the Nationals have shown the ability to build a system and they can do so again.