Washington Nationals Top 20 Prospects for 2012
THIS LIST WAS REVISED JANUARY 19, 2012
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 of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 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 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.
1) Bryce Harper, OF, Grade A: 80 power, 80 arm, 80 hype, 80 arrogance...but produces the numbers to back that hype and arrogance up. He is not just a power masher; he's got great instincts, and I have seen him make adjustments within at-bats more rapidly than most major leaguers can. Even Christopher Hitchens would believe in Harper.
2) Anthony Rendon, 3B, Grade A-: Borderline A. I want to see how his shoulder is, if his power and arm strength come back fully, before giving him the Grade A imprimatur. I still expect him to be an excellent player.
3) Brian Goodwin, OF, Grade B: Some risk here until we see him play, but I love the combination of power, speed, and walks he showed in college. Swing needs some work, but has all the tools and 20/20 potential.
4) Alex Meyer, RHP, Grade B: I respect his upside as a guy with two dominating pitches, but his command is still a work in progress, and such tall pitchers often struggle to keep their mechanics in line. Could be a superior starter, a closer, or a failure.
5) Matt Purke, LHP, Grade B-: Very difficult to grade properly until we see what his arm strength looks like in the spring. Number two starter upside (and a higher grade obviously) if his shoulder cooperates.
6) Steve Lombardozzi, 2B, Grade B-: The Tom Milone of hitters? Plays above his tools and will likely continue to do so. Terrific defense and bat keeps improving.
7) Sammy Solis, LHP, Grade B-: Velocity boost this year was pushing him into B+ consideration, but the elbow injury throws everything into doubt now. No word on if he'll need Tommy John yet.
8) Destin Hood, OF, Grade B-: Raw tools outfielder made big strides in the second half, improved his plate discipline with more power production and huge gains in baserunning and fielding. Has momentum.
9) Robbie Ray, LHP, Grade B-: Borderline C+: Limited pitch counts in Low-A, but strong K/IP ratio. Reports on stuff and projectability are mixed, but he did well for a 19-year-old in full-season ball.
10) Chris Marrero, 1B, Grade C+: Didn't seize control of first base job when he had an opportunity, and suffered a hamstring injury in winter ball. Still only 23 years old, production has never quite matched potential, but there is still a chance it will.
11) Dan Rosenbaum, LHP, Grade C+: Nice sinker from the left side, good breaking ball, changeup coming along, has very quietly built a strong statistical history. Possible back-of-rotation starter or useful relief option in a year or two.
12) Michael Taylor, OF, Grade C+: Tools outfielder still has tons of work to do with the strike zone, but flashed power/speed skills in the Sally League. Not to be confused with Oakland outfielder.
13) Dave Freitas, C, Grade C+: Borderline C. Draws tons of walks, has some power, not great at nailing runners but doesn't give up many passed balls or errors. We need to see him higher than the Sally League, but an interesting player.
14) Rick Hague, INF, Grade C: Season lost due to injury. Should hit for average with some power, position questionable.
15) Matt Skole, 3B, Grade C: Nice power potential from left side, good plate discipline. Platoon issues, defensive problems and necessity to prove himself outside NY-P preclude higher grade at this time, but has potential.
16) Jason Martinson, SS, Grade C: Draws walks, hits for power, steals bases, but strikes out a lot and needs to show skills higher than Sally League.
17) Tyler Moore, 1B, Grade C: Power hitter strikes out too much but kills mistakes.
18) Eury Perez, OF, Grade C: Speed demon lacks power but could be useful on a bench.
19) Jeff Kobernus, 2B, Grade C: Stole 53 bases in High-A, but impatience limits use at the top of the order.
20) Justin Bloxom, 3B-1B, Grade C: Doesn't have as much power as Moore, but a more balanced offensive approach.
OTHERS: Brian Dupra, RHP; Wirkin Estevez, RHP; Taylor Hill, RHP; Blake Kelso, INF; Kevin Keyes, OF; Cole Kimball, RHP; Jeff Kobernus, 2B; Pat Lehman, RHP; Rafael Martin, RHP; Estarlin Martinez, OF; Randolph Oduber, OF; Josh Smoker, LHP'; Kylin Turnbull, LHP; Zach Walters, INF.
The big trade with Oakland tore the guts out of this system, removing four of the original top ten.
You can't go wrong at the top, where Harper and Rendon are the foundation of a terrific offense, and Goodwin (and possibly Hood and Marrero) can develop into a regular. There are some very interesting role player types backing them up. Lombardozzi could start for some teams and will be a strong utility player at worst. If he doesn't pan out for some reason, you have Hague, Martinson, Kobernus, Kelso, and Walters who could. Finding solid college infielders who can be utility men and contribute something on offense seems to be a focus.
The pitching group has questions and the cautious grades for some of them reflect this, but there is upside. Meyer has the ability to be a staff anchor if the command is there. So do Purke and Solis if their health allows. Rosenbaum could be quite interesting in a Tom Milone sort of way.. Turnbull, Dupra, and Hill are college arms from the 2011 draft that could follow in their footsteps.