Friday, October 28, 2011

Ten Nationals Prospects You Should Know

Mike Rizzo, Nationals General Manager and leader of farm system.
As a big Nationals fan, I realize the importance of a good farm system. If you don't understand that importance, look no further than this team's history. When The Nationals were the Montreal Expos, their farm system was second to none. The farm system was largely fueled by Latin American players such as Vladimir Guerrero, Orlando Cabrera and Jose Vidro.

Then, when the team was owned by MLB, the international and amateur scouting budgets were slashed. The effects were evident in the Nats when they arrived in DC and are still felt today. If not for the depletion of the farm system, the Nats wouldn't have Strasburg and Harper. Meaning if they weren't so bad they wouldn't have gotten those high draft picks.

With the understanding that the farm system feeds the major league team, I will introduce "Ten Nationals Prospects You Should Know".

First on the list is Bryce Harper. Harper is a prospect that every team in baseball wishes they had. He decided to leave high school two years early because he was so much better than the other players his age. He got his GED and enrolled in a community college. After being there for a year and breaking records (hitting 31 homers), he was drafted number one overall by The Nationals.

Bryce is 19 and listed at 6'3" 225. Although he played catcher in high school, he was moved to the outfield to prevent wear and tear on his body. There are several things that make Harper a great prospect. First is he ability hit for power. As a high school sophomore, he hit a 500 ft home run.  He also has an excellent throwing arm and has a great work ethic. There are questions about his attitude, but I think people are trying to find something negative to say. Harper is as close to a "can't miss" prospect as there is.

Next on the list is Anthony Rendon. Much like Harper it is very hard to find reasons why he may not be successful. Rendon is a wonderful hitter. He can hit for average and for power. He has a great arm, good speed,  and plays good defense. The thing about Rendon is his injuries. He suffered with a few last year, the main issue being his shoulder. He is expected to be fully ready by spring training.

Rendon at 5'11" 190 may not be a big as Harper but he can hit. He has an excellent batting eye and his swing is almost perfect. It generate plenty of power and is a thing of beauty. Rendon is projected to be a player with a ceiling like Harper or Strasburg, almost limitless.

Matt Purke was drafted by the Nats this year. When he is healthy, he has the tools to be a top of the rotation starter. The 6'4" lefty has battled shoulder problems his last year in college and has struggle so far in AFL games .

If Matt Purke can regain his form, he will be just fine. Purke has a nasty curve ball, a fastball that sits in low to mid 90's, a cutter, and a change-up. There is risk when picking a pitcher with shoulder or elbow injuries, but this could be huge for the Nats if he pans out.

Another prospect to know is A.J. Cole. Cole is 6'4" and his game is built around his fastball. The fastball reaches 95 and has plenty of life. He has a good power curve with a change up and a slider. Here is an excerpt from a scouting report on him.

"With three to four potential above-average offerings, solid mechanics and developing command, AJ Cole boasts number-one starter potential. He’s thrown multiple one and two hit shutouts this season, and has flashed dominance regularly. While he’s still a teenager, he’s probably no more than two seasons away from competing for a big league rotation spot. His arsenal resembles that of the Cubs’ Matt Garza and the Giants Matt Cain and he profiles to be a similar starter once he refines his secondary offerings and adds some muscle. He’ll spend the majority of 2012 pitching for the Harrisburg Senators and could possible earn a promotion to Syracuse by season’s end."
Brad Peacock is a 23 year old low draft round pick. Somehow this year he was able to turn around what had previously but a pedestrian career. This year he was 8-2, his ERA was 2.46, and he only allowed 50 hits in over 80 innings.

Peacock throws a 4-seam fastball in the 92-95 mph range. He also throws a knuckle-curve and a 2 seam fastball. I believe he also throws a change-up, but it needs work. Brad did pitch in the majors at the end of the year and did well. For a pick in the 41st round to pan out this well is huge for a farm system.

Catching prospects are highly sought after commodities. Derek Norris  is a good prospect and he hits for power, just not for average (.210). He does have good plate discipline though. Maybe his poor batting average can improve and he can keep hitting 20 home runs.

The thing about Norris is his defense. That is what he really needs to improve in order to make it to the majors. The Nats already have Ramos and Flores, who has been looking good so far this fall.

Alex Meyer is 6'9", he throws a 97 mph 4 seam fastball, a 96 mph 2 seam fastball, a killer slider and an 88 mph change-up. This guy has the potential to be a front line starter. He led UK in starts (14), wins (7), ERA (2.94), complete games (4), complete-game shutouts (2), innings pitched (101) and strikeouts (110).

There is still plenty of room for Meyer to get better. I expect that after a year or two in the minors, this guy will make a huge impact on the Nationals rotation.

Destin Hood was drafted out of high school in 2008. After a couple of rough seasons he has been steadily improving over the last few years. Here is an excerpt from Nationals Prospects.
"Hood’s bat has come a long ways since he was drafted, but he still has to prove he can catch up to hard fastballs and quality breaking balls. His raw strength should translate into average power, especially now that he has improved his plate discipline. His plus speed plays well on the bases and in right field, where he shows a solid arm.

If, by “solid” BA means accurate, then yes. If, by “solid” BA means strong, then no. I like Destin Hood, but he’s a left fielder playing right field. Regular readers know that I’ve said that all season long."

Chris Marrero has been on the top ten prospect list for a long time. Not too long ago he was on top of this list. Chris did make his major league debut this year, and look pretty good doing it. It still isn't clear if he will be in the big leagues come spring. Most of that depends on what moves the Nationals make this off season. Here is a quote from Federal Baseball.
"In 127 games and 546 plate appearances at Triple-A Syracuse in 2011, Marrero put up a .300/.375/.449 line with 30 doubles and 14 HR's. Marrero made his MLB debut in late August and had 27 hits in 117 plate appearances with the Nationals, posting a .249/.274/.294 line with five doubles in 31 games. After a shaky two-error game to start his MLB career, Marrero performed adequately at first, but there wasn't much power on display at the plate."

One of the most intriguing prospects on this list is Brian Goodwin. Goodwin is filled with potential offensively.  He has a good approach at the plate and is willing to take a walk.  He has plus bat speed.  Goodwin’s swing is not geared to hitting home runs, but he should be in the 10-15 home run range.  He is also a threat to steal once he is on base.  The only drawback for Goodwin is that he does tend to swing and miss a bit too often.

Thanks to Byron Kerr, we know how Nationals director of player development Doug Harris feels.
"Goodwin made huge strides at instructs," Harris said. "The last three days, he put together some of the best at-bats we had seen."
Harris said the 6-foot, 190-lb., Goodwin worked his "tail off to catch up" since his signing in mid-August. Goodwin was coming off an outstanding final season at Miami Dade College in which he hit .382 with 11 doubles, two triples, eight homers, 16 stolen bases and 37 RBIs in 47 games.
"Goodwin worked on his offensive and defensive approach while in Viera," Harris continued. "He worked on his path to the ball and put together quality at-bats. Defensively, he made some nice plays at the end of camp."
This is my list of ten guys you need to know in the Nationals farm system. I suggest you study up, because there will be a test on this information. You have to be ready for spring training.

(If you are paying attention, I want to thank Washington Nationals Fan Forum for the top ten list.)

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