2013 Washington Nationals Top Prospects

 

System Overview: Very strong — and quite risky — at the top, both third baseman Anthony Rendon and right-hander Lucas Giolito have elite-type ceilings but have been plagued by injuries. Outfielder Brian Goodwin looks like he could develop into a good big league regular. And there are several useful arms developing. But Washington’s system is not particularly strong right now.

 

#1. Anthony Rendon, Age: 23, Position: 3B

After an injury-marred junior season at Rice, the Nationals selected the former Baseball America College Player of the Year with the sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft. Rendon, who hit 46 homeruns as a freshman and sophomore, made his pro debut last year — if ever so briefly.

The young, power-hitting third baseman made his way to the plate just 160 times due to injuries, hitting .233/.363/.489 with eight doubles, four triples and six homeruns between rookie ball, Low-A, High-A, and Double-A.

Projection: Likely would have gone #1 overall had his power not dissipated during his final year. And if Rendon can stay healthy — and that looks like a big if right now — he should develop into prototypical run-producing middle-of-the-order bat. Of course, the team may have to find another position for him or Ryan Zimmerman and his cranky shoulder.

Ceiling: 5.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

#2. Lucas Giolito, Age: 18, Position: RHP

A faulty elbow — or more precisely, ulnar collateral ligament — cost Giolito the chance to become the first right-handed high school hurler chosen with the number overall pick. Instead, he tumbled to #16, where the Nationals snapped up what could be the best arm in last year’s draft.

Projection: Giolito underwent Tommy John surgery in late August, so he’s not likely to make any type of significant return until the end of this season at the very earliest. Per the usual, long term projections for recent draft picks and international free agent signings will be withheld until the following year.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#3. Brian Goodwin, Age; 22, Position: CF

A first round pick out of Miami Dade South Community College in 2011, Goodwin dominated the A-ball competition (.324/.438/.542), but struggled mightily when he was aggressively pushed to Double-A (.223/.306/.373). Overall, he hit .280/.384/.469 with 26 doubles, a pair of triples, 14 homeruns and 18 stolen bases (in 25 attempts).

Projection: Both Hagerstown and Harrisburg tend to inflate homerun numbers, but Goodwin still has a shot at developing 15-plus homerun potential at the big league level. Last season, he showed a solid-average eye at the plate and matching foot-speed. But his K-rate, which spiked more than 10-percentage points to 26.9% in Double-A, will need to be watched. He’s a good complementary player, not a star.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

#4. A.J. Cole, Age: 21, Position: RHP

Cole, who was originally selected by the Nationals in the fourth round of the 2010 draft and later sent to Oakland as part of the Gio Gonzalez package, was reacquired during the three-team deal sending Michael Morse to Seattle and John Jaso to Oakland.

Cole began the year by making 19 starts for Burlington, throwing 95.2 innings with 102 punch outs (9.6 K/9) and just 19 free passes (1.8 BB/9). Oakland then pushed the 20-year-old right-hander to High-A, where his peripherals remained intriguing enough (7.3 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9) despite the bloated ERA (7.82). According to MinorLeagueCentral.com, Cole’s Skill Independent ERA, or SIERA, was an impressive 3.12.

Projection: Cole’s K-rate has declined since his first go-round in A-ball in 2011, dropping from 10.9 K/9 to 9.6 during his repeat stint to 7.3 against the High-A competition. He doesn’t look like a front-end-type arm, but should settle in as a good #3/#4-type.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

#5. Ian Krol, Age: 22, Position: LHP

Along with Cole, Krol was acquired from Oakland during the offseason. And the 6-foot-1 left-hander’s numbers are largely masked by an unsightly 5.20 ERA from last season. In 97 innings mostly spent with Stockton (High-A), he struck out 89 (8.3 K/9) and walked 26 (2.4 BB/9).

Projection: Krol was young for both levels of competition he faced last year, and for the most part handled himself well. There’s not a whole lot that separates him with his former Oakland counterpart, and he could settle in as a serviceable backend option in the rotation in two or so years.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

#6. Matt Skole, Age: 23, Position: 3B

Polished collegiate bat out of Georgia Tech in the fifth round two years ago, Skole punished A-ball pitching, which, really, is no surprise. He hit .286/.438/.574 with 18 doubles and 27 homeruns. And according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, his total production was 74% better than the league average. He also spent 18 games in High-A, hitting .314/.355/.486.

Projection: The power seems to be real, despite playing in a hitter-friendly environment. And Washington pushed Skole to Double-A to start this year, so we’ll see how he handles more advanced pitching. This is going to be a make-or-break season for the lefty-swinging third baseman, probably determining if he’s Quad-A or big league material. Along with the pop, he has good instincts on the base paths and a very strong eye at the plate. He could be a slightly above-average regular if everything goes his way.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

#7. Robbie Ray, Age: 21, Position: LHP

After a promising first full season in A-ball in 2011 (89 IP, 9.6 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9), Ray was overmatched as a 20-year-old in High-A last season. The results, which look far worse thanks to a bloated ERA (6.56), were still somewhat promising. In 105.2 innings, the young left-hander still missed a handful of bats (7.32 K/9) and his control (4.17 BB/9) was not too concerning given his age and level of competition.

Projection: Ray could easily vault up not only the Washington’s prospect list, but he could be one of several breakout players in the minor leagues this season. He doesn’t look like a star, but he certainly has a mid-rotation-type ceiling.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

#8. Christian Meza, Age: 22, Position: LHP

Meza, a 6-foot, 185 pound lefty drafted in the 25th round in 2010, made 36 appearances for Hagerstown last season, three of which being starts. And in 88 innings, he punched out 94 (9.6 K/9) and walked 37 (3.8 BB/9). His SIERA was a solid 3.41.

Projection: Washington seems to be bringing Meza a long slowly — potentially as a starter. After making 10 starts but throwing only 51.1 innings in 2011, he tossed 88 innings as mostly a reliever last season. Like fellow left-hander Robbie Ray, he could be a breakout player in 2013.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

#9. Sammy Solis, Age: 24, Position: LHP

Lost last season due to a cranky elbow and the requisite Tommy John surgery, Solis had a decent year in 2011, showing good command/control and semi-good strikeout numbers.

Projection: Solis, who stands 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, was really kind of a fringy starting pitcher prospect prior to the injury. He performed well against younger competition, but there are certainly question marks about how well he fares against advanced hitters — assuming, of course, that he completely recovers from TJ.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

#10. Michael Taylor, Age: 22, Position: CF

A former sixth round pick in 2009, Taylor has failed to show a lot developmental growth during his pro tenure. Last season in High-A, a more-or-less age appropriate level of competition, the young center fielder hit .242/.318/.362 with 33 doubles, a pair of triples, a trio of homeruns, and 19 stolen bases. His total offensive production, however, was 9% below the league average.

Projection: He’s got the tools to be 15/20, maybe even peaking as a 20/20-type guy. And his walk rate jumped nearly three percentage points despite moving up a level, which is very encouraging. But he’s just so raw right now. There’s time, though, for him to figure something out.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low

 

#11. Destin Hood, Age: 23, Position: LF/RF

After a breakout season in High-A two years ago (.276/.364/.445), Hood stumbled mightily during his debut against Double-A pitching, hitting just .245/.301/.344 with just 26 extra-base knocks. His total production was 29% below the league average.

Projection: Very similar to org-mate Michael Taylor, Hood has the tools to be a serviceable big league regular: decent pop, some wheels, and an idea at the plate. But, man, did he take a gigantic step backward — which, unsurprisingly, was correlated with a decrease in his plate discipline. He could be one of those later bloomer types, like Justin Maxwell or Justin Ruggiano.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low

 

#12. Nathan Karns, Age: 25, Position: RHP

Karns posted some interesting peripheral numbers in the low minors last season, averaging 11.5 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 between Hagerstown and Potomac.

Projection: Very difficult to rank. Karns missed a lot of bats last season and had a pretty good idea of the strike zone. But he’s missed a lot of time due to injury. And at 24-years-old, he was clearly too old for the levels he was pitching at. Sort of a wild card. He could at least be a useful big league reliever.

Ceiling: 1.5-win (starter); 1.0-win (reliever)

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

#13. Zach Walters, Age: 23, Position: SS

Walters, a ninth round pick by the Diamondbacks in 2010, was acquired for — believe it or not — three starts of Jason Marquis. The lefty swinging shortstop spent time at three levels last season (High-A, Double-A and Triple-A) with widely ranging results.

Walters was essentially a league average bat with Potomac, hitting .269/.304/.399. Then he transformed into an above-average hitter in Double-A (.293/.326/.518), before completely deflating in the International League (.214/.260/.286).

Projection: Walters doesn’t really walk or hit left-handers or have a lot of foot speed. But he shows pretty decent pop for a player up the middle and could be a useful backup/bench option in a year or two.

Ceiling: 1.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

#14. Christian Garcia, Age: 27, Position: RHP

Garcia, a long developing pitcher originally draft by the Yankees in 2004, finally got his first extended taste of Triple-A after dominating Eastern League. In total, the 26-year-old right-hander threw 52.1 innings, with 66 strikeouts (11. K/9) and 17 walks (2.9 BB/9). And his arduous minor league journey was capped off with a 13-game stint in the big leagues as well.

Projection: Garcia, who threw only 51.1 innings between 2009 and 2011, finally looked healthy last season, showing a big time K-rate and decent enough control. His fastball, which averaged 95 mph with the Nationals, grades out as above-average. And if he can stay on the mound, the 6-foot-5, late-blooming right-hander could be an impact reliever – which, of course, is never a certainty. He’s currently sidelined with a partial tear of a tendon in his forearm (told ya!)

Ceiling: 1.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

#15. Eury Perez, Age: 22, Position: CF

Perez held his own in both Double-A and Triple-A last season, hitting a combined .314/.344/.361, essentially displaying a league average bat. Along with 51 stolen bases, he added just 19 doubles and three triples.

Projection: Perez screams fifth outfielder. He shows almost no power, but has good speed and positional versatility. The problem, of course, is these guys kind of grow on trees. There’s big league value here, but not a whole lot.

Ceiling: 0.5- to 1.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

#16. Matt Purke, Age: 22, Position: LHP

Taken with the 14th pick out of high school in 2009, Purke bypassed pro ball for TCU — where injury concerns led him to being taken two rounds later. Since then he’s thrown just 15.1 innings.

Projection: See, kids, not everyone’s going to be Gerrit Cole, who was taken by the Yankees in the first round out of high school and then as the number one overall pick coming out of UCLA. Purke was a phenomenal talent once upon a time, so I feel obligated somewhat to throw him on the list. But, really, he’s nothing more than a wild card after losing most of last year to shoulder woes.

Ceiling: Who knows

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

 

Photo of Anthony Rendon Courtesy of Cliff Welch via MiLB.com



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.


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