S2S 2012 Team Prospect Lists: Washington Nationals

March 6, 2012; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder

Most minor league sites will do top-10s, top-15s, top-20s, or some other ranking. Last year, to be a bit different, the FanSided team prospect lists (which were done at Call to the Pen, since S2S didn’t exist), instead listed a team’s top prospect at each position (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OFs, 5 SPs, and 2 RPs). This year, we’re keeping that format, but also adding a “Best of the Rest” section that lists the top ten players beyond the positional rankings. That’s 25 players per system, if you’re counting.

Washington Nationals

This system is unquestionably led by Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon, both of whom ranked in the top 10 prospects on my list. From there, things drop off quickly, as several of the team’s top prospects beyond that duo were dealt for Gio Gonzalez this offseason. Sammy Solis, thought by many to be one of the top remaining pitchers in the system, is now out for the year with Tommy John surgery, a further blow to the depth. There’s still a trio of high-upside arms here, and the outfield is also an area of strength, but the overall depth is iffy on all fronts.

Position Player Upside: A
Position Player Depth: B-
Pitching Upside: C+
Pitching Depth: C
System Grade: B-

 Catcher: David Freitas. In a perfect world, Freitas will make the Nationals forget about trading Derek Norris away. He has a tremendous approach at the plate, good gap power, and advanced receiving and blocking ability, and hit .288/.409/.450 in Low-A last year. The bad news is that he was 22, so he’ll need to move quickly, and he doesn’t do a good job controlling the running game. A very intriguing player, but one who has a lot left to prove. Grade: B-

First base: Chris Marrero. Marrero has never quite shown the pop you want in a first baseman, for example putting up a .149 ISO in Triple-A this past year. He also turned in a punchless 117 plate appearances with the big club. Beyond that, though, he has some skills, with a solid approach and plenty of doubles. He’s also MLB-ready at 23, which helps his case. Not a great bet to be an impact player by any means, but one who does have a legitimate chance to receive extended playing time in the majors. Grade: C+

Second base: Steve Lombardozzi. A very underrated player. Lombardozzi is a slick fielder at second base who can also play shortstop and third, and also boasts a solid bat with gap power. He could be an ideal old-school #2 hitter while playing a well-above-average second base, perhaps like a switch-hitting Mark Ellis. As a player who’s proven himself up through Triple-A, he also has a very high floor. Grade: B+

Third base: Anthony Rendon. The #6 overall pick in 2011 is considered by many to be the top player from the draft class; this time last year, he was considered a lock to go first overall. He’s had a number of injury issues that forced him to DH in his final college season and sapped some of his power, but if healthy, he could be an all-around excellent third baseman. Grade: A

Shortstop: Zach Walters. Walters is another doubles hitter with experience all over the infield, and middle infield prospects with career .301/.357/.451 lines are worth a second glance. He needs to refine his defense at short and cut down on his strikeouts while getting more consistent with his approach, but he could become a solid switch-hitting utility player. Grade: C+

Outfielder #1: Bryce Harper. Not a whole lot needs to be said about Harper, who has titanic power and an uncanny ability to adjust to advanced pitching. It’s in question exactly what sort of defense he’ll provide in right field and how much of an average he’ll hit for, but he should be a great middle-of-the-order threat for many years. Grade: A

Outfielder #2: Brian Goodwin. The 34th pick in the 2011 draft, Goodwin is a speedy center fielder with good defensive abilities and a decent approach at the plate. He’s similar to Anthony Gose in some ways, but he’s the same age as the Double-A-tested Gose and has yet to get a professional at-bat. In a perfect world, he, Lombardozzi, Rendon, and Harper would form a dominant 1-2-3-4 part of the batting order for the Nationals in five years. Grade: B-

Outfielder #3: Destin Hood. A second-round pick in 2008, Hood has never overwhelmed, but he’s also never collapsed, and in 2011, he took some significant steps forward, improving his approach and turning into a solid basestealer. He’s another player who could afford to see some of his doubles clear the fence, but that could come in time. At 22 and ready for Double-A, he has a watershed year in front of him. Grade: B-

Starting Pitcher #1: Robbie Ray. A whippy lefthander with the makings of three solid pitches, Ray struck out over a batter per inning in Low-A as a teenager and has some projectability remaining. It’s not hard to see him becoming a very solid #3 starter in the majors. Grade: B+

Starting Pitcher #2: Alex Meyer. The #23 pick in the 2011 draft, Meyer is the newest tall, projectable righthander with spotty mechanics and huge upside, following guys like Jeff Niemann, Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, and Scott Moviel. He has a tremendous fastball/slider combination but needs to work on harnessing it and throwing more strikes. He has much higher upside than Ray, but being nearly two years older and developmentally behind, he has to prove himself in pro ball before I’m comfortable with him. Grade: B

Starting Pitcher #3: Matt Purke. Another confusing 2011 draftee, Purke was thought to be in the top-5 mix before a spotty college season and declining velocity sent him to the third round, where the Nationals paid upper-first-round money to sign him anyway. He then went to the Arizona Fall League and struggled, continuing to keep the skeptics apprehensive. If he’s back in the form that made him a first-round pick in 2009 and a stud college arm the next year, he’ll shoot up prospect lists; if he continues to throw in the high 80s with iffy command, it may be all downhill from here. Grade: B

Starting Pitcher #4: Wirkin Estevez. After a tour de force season in the Dominican Summer League in 2010, Estevez jumped to the NYPL and pitched quite well in 2011, showing the ability to throw strikes, get some strikeouts, and keep the ball down. He already touches 93 mph with his fastball and remains projectable, and his changeup is advanced for his age. He’s a nice sleeper who could get onto the radar with a strong Low-A showing this year. Grade: C+

Starting Pitcher #5: Kylin Turnbull. Another 2011 draftee (4th round) with no pro experience, Turnbull is a 22-year-old lefthander who remains projectable but raw. He already throws quite hard and could settle in with a 91-95 mph fastball, but his secondary offerings are a work in progress, and his delivery and command need refinement. Grade: C+

Relief Pitcher #1: Cole Kimball. Kimball’s had an impressive minor league career and made his major league debut last year, and he throws a good 91-96 mph fastball and a solid power curve. But he’s 26 and missed most of last year with shoulder trouble, and he walked as many batters as he struck out in his major league cameo. If back in good health, he’s a solid middle relief option. Grade: C

Relief Pitcher #2: Pat Lehman. Lehman moved to relief full-time and posted a 45/4 K/BB ratio between High-A and Double-A. He doesn’t overwhelm with stuff, instead relying on command and deception, but the 26-year-old could slot into middle relief this season and have a solid career. Grade: C

Best of the Rest

#1.) Bobby Hansen, LHP. Hansen has consistently pitched well in his four-year career, and he’s a big lefthander with solid command of the zone. He’s not a dominant power arm, though, and he’s never thrown even sixty innings in a season. An interesting sleeper who could be a solid back-of-the-rotation arm if he can finally prove his durability. Grade: C+

#2.) Michael Taylor, OF. A toolsy player with some power, Taylor’s skillset evokes Adam Jones‘ to an extent, with good speed and power mitigated by an iffy approach. Like Jones, Taylor is a converted shortstop who moved to center field in 2011 with decent results. He’ll need to get on base at a clip better than .310, but at 21, he has time to refine his approach. Grade: C+

#3.) Sammy Solis, LHP. Solis will miss the entire season with Tommy John surgery, which means he’ll be nearly 25 by the time he reaches the upper minors. He did pitch well in two A-ball levels in 2011, but he didn’t have overwhelming stuff to begin with, and it remains to be seen what he’ll look like when he comes back. Most likely, he’ll end up at the back of the rotation, though his low arm slot would make him an interesting situational reliever. Grade: C+

#4.) Rick Hague, SS. Picked a round after Solis in 2010, Hague missed just about all of last year with shoulder problems, so he’s also behind the age curve, at 23 and with little experience above the SAL. He’s a good hitter for the shortstop position, but he already looks to have outgrown it, and makes far too many errors there. Third base is taken by Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman, so it’ll be interesting to see what position Hague ends up working at. He needs a big year to rebuild his stock. Grade: C+

#5.) Matt Skole, 3B. Skole is a 2011 5th-rounder with a solid third base glove and a good approach at the plate. He needs to hit for the power you’d expect from a 6’4″, 230-pounder, and he’s another older player, who turns 23 midseason and has yet to play in full-season ball. Grade: C+

#6.) Daniel Rosenbaum, LHP. Rosenbaum often was compared to Tom Milone, but a look at his strikeout-to-walk ratio shows that to be a rather lazy comparison–both are lefties without premium velocity, but that’s about it. Rosenbaum does do a nice job of keeping the ball down, which gives him a chance to make it as a fifth starter, but he’ll have a razor-thin margin for error in the majors. Grade: C

#7.) Erik Davis, RHP. Acquired from the Padres in the 2010-11 offseason, Davis is another player who’s too old to get taken seriously, at 25 and with all of one (spot) start in Triple-A. He’s an intelligent pitch-mixer with average stuff, but his walk rate went in the wrong direction last year. He’ll likely end up as a fringe starter or middle reliever. Grade: C

#8.) Kevin Keyes, OF. When Harper wasn’t playing right field for Hagerstown, Keyes was, and he managed to hit for good power in his own right, slugging 17 homers and 22 doubles in 85 games. He doesn’t bring a whole lot of other notable skills to the table, with an okay-not-great approach and average speed and right-field defense, and he’s 23 in a week, so he’s another guy who’s too old to afford missteps from here on out. Grade: C

#9.) Jason Martinson, SS. Martinson is similar to Hague, who he was drafted two rounds behind in 2010–a big shortstop with good power and average athleticism who probably will need to move to another position. And, you guessed it–he’s already 23 and has yet to play in High-A. Grade: C

#10.) Paul Demny, RHP. Refreshingly, Demny isn’t old for his level, having spent last year in High-A at 21. A sixth-rounder in 2008, he pitched well in his first two pro seasons but has been inconsistent since. He still flashes the stuff and command needed to be a fourth starter, but his inability to show consistent progress makes him more likely to need to move to the bullpen down the line. Grade: C

The complete list of S2S 2012 Team Prospect Rankings can be found here.

For more on the Nationals, check out District on Deck.

Follow S2S on Twitter @Seedlings2Stars and yours truly @stoltz_baseball. Also, like our Facebook page!

Topics: Alex Meyer, Anthony Rendon, Bobby Hansen, Brian Goodwin, Bryce Harper, Chris Marrero, Cole Kimball, Daniel Rosenbaum, David Freitas, Destin Hood, Erik Davis, Jason Martinson, Kevin Keyes, Kylin Turnbull, Matt Purke, Matt Skole, Michael Taylor, Pat Lehman, Paul Demny, Rick Hague, Robbie Ray, Sammy Solis, Steve Lombardozzi, Washington Nationals, Wirkin Estevez, Zach Walters

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