It’s the time of the off season when Baseball Instinct goes from Club to Club and we take a look at the Top 10 prospects from each team before opening it up to our Top 21s later in the winter. In this installment, I take a look at a very loaded Washington Nationals’ Top 10. As with last year, Bryce Harper is the easy number 1, but throw in Anthony Rendon and now it would be hard to argue that the Nationals didn’t get the best player in the Draft 3 years in a row; Rendon in 2011, Harper in 2010, and Stephen Strasburg in 2009. Let’s take a look at these prospects working their way towards our nation’s capitol.
1. Bryce Harper, OF 10/16/1992 H: 6’3 W: 225 lbs - Arguably the top prospect in baseball, Harper should occupy the top spot on the 2012 top prospect list and with the likes of Jesus Montero, Mike Trout, and Matt Moore hitting the big leagues full time in 2012. I think people take for granted that Harper was just 18 for the entire 2011 season, and started his career with the Single-A Hagerstown Suns of the SAL, where the pitchers where older and quite sure of who he was. He posted an impressive .318/423/.554 which translated to an outstanding .236 ISoP. After 72 games he earned a promotion to the Double-A Harrisburg Senators of the Eastern League, completely skipping over High-A and the Carolina League. He faced pitchers that were 5 years older than him, such as San Francisco’s Eric Surkamp. Keeping that in prospective, a line of .256/.329/.395 over 129 at bats in AA isn’t too bad at all. Currently he’s sporting a line of .310/.378/.609 in the Arizona Fall League, with a monster .299 ISoP. I could of stopped at “top prospect” and everyone would of shook their head in agreement and went happily about their day, seriously. Check out Tom Belmont’s break down of Harper from last month – Prospect Instinct | Bryce Harper.
Our Instinct – Harper just turned 19 and is still growing and will settle into a fantastic career as a corner outfielder. He will start 2012 where he left off 2011, at Double-A. I wouldn’t be surprised if he forces the issue and skips AAA completely on his way to a call up sometime in 2012. Having said that, the Nationals need not be in any hurry to rush him to the big leagues, there’s no doubt that he will be there soon enough.
2. Anthony Rendon, 3B 6/12/1990 H: 6’0 W: 190 lbs- Possibly the best player on the board fell into the Nationals’ lap on draft day at pick #6, presumably due to medical concerns. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo felt good about his medical reports, and I tend to agree, I think it’s behind him. There’s a lot of talk floating around out there how Rendon must move to 2B right away due to Ryan Zimmerman holding down 3B. The Nationals though, dont feel the same way. They will also have to figure out where Rendon plays in the long term. However, Rendon said on a televised interview with MLB Network that no one had talked to him about changing positions, and Rizzo said Rendon would start his career at third base in the minors. Zimmerman is a gold glove winner for the Nationals. Assuming Rendon reaches the majors and Zimmerman is still with the team at the time, the Nationals will have to make a difficult decision; they’ve got Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa that they project to be in the lineup long term, and Rendon doesn’t look like a first baseman.
Plenty can change between the time Rendon signs and gets to the majors, but for now, the Nationals decided to take the player they thought was the best available and they will let everything else work itself out.
“Right now, we feel third base is his position,” Rizzo said. “We’ll delay that decision until we have to make it.”
Our Instinct – For now, I’m going to avoid speculating as to where he will play in the majors and what his value might be at those positions. As with Harper, the Nationals don’t need to rush him and will likely start him out at High-A. At some point, don’t be surprised to see a Harper-Rendon lineup at AA Harrisburg. If all goes well, he could get a late 2012 call up. The Harper-Rendon-Strasburg rock show will likely kick into full gear in 2013.
3. A.J. Cole, RHP 1/5/1992 H: 6’4 W: 180 lbs - The 2010 4th round pick of the Nationals went 4-7 with a 4.04 ERA, a 10.92 K/9 and a 2.43 BB/9 ratio in 89 innings over 20 games with Single-A Hagerstown of the SAL at age 19. He started the 2011 season at extended spring training in an attempt to limit his overall innings. Our own Aaron Bentley did a nice write up on back in August – Prospect Instinct | A.J. Cole. Cole is the top pitching prospect in the Nationals system, but Brad Peacock, Sammy Solis, Alex Meyer, Robbie Ray, and Matt Purke (who fell out of our top 10 consideration with decreased velocity and a train wreck AFL season – more on him in our top 21 review) could all have better careers.
Our Instinct – He’s not the future #1B for the Nationals that a lot of people think he will be. He’s not Cliff Lee to Stephen Strasburg’s Roy Halladay. What is he? He is a kid who can if his change-up comes around and can dial up the fastball could be a very good #3 and possibly even a the Nationals #2. I like his stuff, but lets see him dominant at a level of the minors before we get too crazy.
4. Brad Peacock, RHP 2/2/1988 H: 6’1 W: 175 lbs – Peacock possess a solid three pitch repertoire that includes a 90-95 mph fastball, curveball, and a change up. Consistency of his change up is a work in progress and his fastball command could be better. Durability could be an issue unless he builds some more muscle. Peacock has come a long way as a prospect, especially considering he was drafted in the 41st round of the 2006 draft. He made his MLB debut in 2011. Peacock pitched well at Double-A Harrisburg of the Eastern League, going 10-2 with a 2.01 ERA, 11.77 K/9, and a 2.10 BB/9 ratio in 16 games. At Triple-A Syracuse of the International League he went 5-1 with a 3.19 ERA, 9.00 K/9, and a 4.50 BB/9 ratio in 9 games. Tom Belmont recently broke his stuff in his Prospect Instinct | Brad Peacock.
Our Instinct – The margin of error for Peacock to become a productive back of the rotation starter or a high-leverage late inning setup man comes down to his change up. The Nationals have plenty of pitching talent in the organization and don’t have to settle here. I don’t see him spending anytime in the minors in 2012 unless the wheels come of the bus. He should be given every chance to be in the National’s rotation out of spring and will be in for a fight in 2013 and beyond to hold off the kids in the organization.
5. Sammy Solis, LHP 8/10/1988 H: 6’5 W: 230 lbs – Solis went 8-3 with a 3.26 ERA, with 8.66 K/9, and a 1.27 BB/9 over 96.2 innings between Low-A and High-A in 2011 at the age of 22. Another Nationals’ pitcher who spent time at extended Spring training, but unlike Cole it was due to a rash of injuries. The 2010 second round pick throws a knuckle-curve, changeup and cutter on top of his low 90s fastball.
Our Instinct – The Former teammate of Brian Matusz at San Diego, Solis also has a very deep understanding of the game behind pitching. His fastball is average but he located well and adds and subtracts from it while complimenting with a plus changeup that has great movement. He won’t be an ace type , but he is advanced and could move fast into the back end of a rotation with #3 upside. He should start 2012 with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators, possibly making his major league debut at some point during the season.
6. Brian Goodwin, OF 11/2/1990 H: 6’1 W: 195 lbs – A NCAA division 1 to Junior College transferee. Yes, you read that right, and from a baseball point of view in worked out great for him. Don’t try this at home, kids. Decent speed, but not a burner with some power potential. A good defender, but some debate on if he stays in centerfield or settles into a corner outfield spot. Scouting reports suggest that he is raw with good tools, but needs to work on transferring weight too early in his swing. Some may feel that #6 is too low of a rank, but there’s just too much unknown here to rank him higher, on the other hand, he’s got just too much potential talent to rank much lower.
Our Instinct – He didn’t get into game play last year after he signed and at 21 years old I’m pretty sure the Nationals don’t want to wait for him to start out in short season Low-A ball. I look for him to start out at Single-A and have some growing pains. He’s a potential exciting 5 tool player who could be special, however I’m willing to temper any predictions of being a superstar until he actually plays.
7. Alex Meyer, RHP 1/3/1990 H: 6’9 W: 220 lbs – The 23rd overall pick in the 2011 draft shot up the draft boards in 2011. Speculation was that he would land in top 10, but fell to the Nationals at 23. Meyer is a big boy and there’s questions if he will be able to over come struggles to repeat his delivery and he doesn’t throw downhill. Armed with a 95 plus mph fastball, he dominates hitters. He has a nasty slider, and a developing change up that he throws at around 79 mph. While he vastly improved his last season at Kentucky, when he pitches the ball noone, including Meyer, really has a clue where it’s going.
Our Instinct – He could quickly make it to the big leagues with the plus fast ball. He’s got #3 starter upside with that plus arm, problem is he may be more suited for a lock down relief spot. The erratic command is the big issue, and I think the Nationals will take their time with him and send him to extended spring training before putting him in Low-A in 2012. He’s worth keeping an eye on.
8. Derek Norris, C 2/14/1989 H: 6’0 W: 210 – At first glance the drop in batting average 3 years straight (.286 to .235 to .210) for Norris is concerning. His triple slash of .210/.367/.446 in 2011 is puzzling as this gave him a .236 ISoP. He’s got good pop in his bat and can get on base and steal bases, despite striking out a ton. He’s currently hitting .304/.398/.420 with a 12/12 K/BB ratio in 69 at bats in the Arizona Fall League, so perhaps there is hope there yet. He’s got a good arm and can throw runners out, his game calling could use some work.
Our Instinct – after hitting .210 in the Eastern League, Norris is probably headed back there again for 2012. With Wilson Ramos safe and secure after his kidnapping, there’s no reason to push Norris to the big leagues in 2012. This could be a rebound year for Norris, or it could be an indicator of where his career is going. The potential of an everyday catcher with some pop and a little speed, or a back up catcher who can provide a pinch hit home run from time to time. We will see.
9. Destin Hood, OF 4/3/1990 H: 6’1 W: 225 lbs – Hood had a break out season in 2011. All of that raw talent people had been talking about finally showed up in his 4th season in the minors. He hit .276/.364/.445 with 13 home runs and 21 stolen bases. He saw his strikeout rate drop almost 5% to 17.9 K%, and his ISO rate rose from .104 to .168. Cutting strike outs and increasing power. We like it.
Our Instinct - He clearly deserves a promotion to Double-A for 2012 and this is where he could really bust out or flop. I like his chances, even more so if he’s in the lineup with Harper and Rendon. He could rocket up the rankings in 2012 so pay close attention to his season with Harrisburg.
10. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B 9/20/1988 H: 6’0 W: 170 lbs – Lombardozzi hit .309/.360/.430 while hitting 8 homeruns and stealing 30 bases between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse over 556 at bats in 134 games in 2012. He earned a 13 game promotion to the majors where he hit .194 in 31 at bats. For his pro debut, not really a big enough sampling to make any opinion there. Despite stealing 30 bases, he doesn’t really have burner speed. He can hit for a decent average and he’s pretty average in the field.
Our Instinct - The Nationals will probably give him a chance to compete for the 2B job and could beat out Espinosa. Espinosa could push Desmond from shortstop. Honestly, all 3 of them look to be about the same player to me. Someone is going to be a backup or likely Lombardozzi could end up back at Syracuse until the Nationals get around to trading Desmond.
Check back soon as we profile more Top 10 Lists for each MLB team and also get our baseball geek on and take a look at some of the later draft picks from the 2011 draft that we think could be big names on the prospect radars in the near future. While you’re here, take a look at a recent article in this series: Kansas City Royals Top 10 List and be a step ahead of the game. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be. So don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at firstname.lastname@example.org.