Top 20 Washington Nationals Prospects for 2010.
All grades are EXTREMELY PRELIMINARY and subject to change. Don't get too worried about exact rankings at this point, especially once you get beyond 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 so. The list and grades are based on a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Full reports on all these players can be found in the 2010 Baseball Prospect Book.
1) Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Grade A: He's done enough in Arizona to justify the Grade A rating in my opinion. We have to remember that he's a human being, but he is immensely talented.
2) Derek Norris, C, Grade B+: Somewhere on the Mickey Tettleton/Mike Napoli spectrum: high walks, lots of power, defense should be good enough, might not hit for average.
3) Drew Storen, RHP, Grade B+: Has put aside concerns about being an overdraft. Could help in pen very soon, future closer if all works out.
4) Danny Espinosa, SS, Grade B: Has some pop, steals bases, draws walks, very good glove. Scouts in Arizona love him.
5) Chris Marrero, 1B, Grade B-: I don't think he's going to be a star, but with proper development he can be a solid regular.
6) Jeff Kobernus, 2B, Grade B-: Another guy who should be solid, though I'd like a larger pro sample size before going higher with the grade.
7) Michael Burgess, OF, Grade B-: borderline C+. Power potential, throwing arm, and youth are big positives, will take a walk, but strikes out a lot and batting average is quite low.
8) Justin Maxwell, OF, Grade C+: What you see is what you get: power, walks, speed, low batting average. Can they look past that and appreciate his secondary skills?
9) Ian Desmond, SS, Grade C+: I think he made some legitimate improvements, but not as much as the raw numbers indicate. BABIP probably unsustainable, and he needs to tighten his defense.
10) Bradley Meyers, RHP, Grade C+: One of several strike-throwing types with limited upside but good pitchability.
11) Destin Hood, OF, Grade C+: High power upside, with a high chance of failure. Could rank ninth or tenth.
12) A.J. Morris, RHP, Grade C+: Kansas State ace may move faster in relief.
13) Eury Perez, OF, Grade C+: Need data from higher levels, but could be a Juan Pierre type. I don't mean that as an insult.
14) Aaron Thompson, LHP, Grade C+: Pitchability guy acquired from the Marlins. No longer a top prospect, but still a decent one.
15) Juan Jaime, RHP, Grade C: High-ceiling arm with strong fastball needs to improve secondary pitches. Could rise rapidly if he does so. Perhaps I should go with C+.
16) J.P. Ramirez, OF, Grade C: Production was somewhat disappointing in the New York-Penn League, but not terrible for context. Full-season data in '10 will be illuminating.
17) J.R. Higley, OF, Grade C: High-ceiling tools hound, didn't light up the NY-P but still has potential.
18) Paul Demny, RHP, Grade C: Went 3-11 with 5.14 ERA in the Sally League, but with 110 strikeouts in 105 innings. Could go a long way if he improves command.
19) Marco Estrada, RHP, Grade C: I have no actual evidence to support this, but I keep thinking he could have a surprisingly good season in 2010. Nothing left to prove in Triple-A.
20) Jeff Mandel, RHP, Grade C: Looked very good in Arizona Fall League relief action; he might sneak in some major league innings.
OTHERS: All Grade C: Evan Bronson, LHP; Clint Everts, RHP; Marcos Frias, RHP; Victor Garate, LHP; Luis Garcia, RHP; Trevor Holder, RHP; Hendry Jimenez, 2B; Taylor Jordan, RHP; Nathan Karns, RHP; Pat Lehman, RHP; Steve Lombardozzi, 2B; Jack McGeary, LHP; Tom Milone, LHP; Adrian Nieto, C; Brad Peacock, RHP; Atahualpa Severino, LHP; Josh Smoker, LHP; Greg Veloz, 2B; Dean Weaver, RHP; Josh Wilkie, RHP. Most of these guys could fit into the 16-20 spots, depending on what you want to emphasize.
The Nationals system has an amazing talent in Strasburg, and I'm also very high on Norris, Storen, and Espinosa. After that, it fades quickly. Hitters like Marrero, Burgess, Maxwell, Desmond, Hood, and Perez all have significant unanswered questions. All could be very good players, all could fail. There are several low-ceiling arms who could contribute in the majors soon (Meyers, Thompson, Estrada, Mandel, Wilkie, Garate), and there is also a group of live arms who have problems that need addressing.
The system has material to work with, particularly on the pitching side beyond Strasburg and Storen. They need to add bats with fewer questions, and it will be interesting to see what direction GM Mike Rizzo and his new staff take in the 2010 draft.