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Washington Nationals

The tide is turning in Washington. The Nationals reached the 80-victory plateau in 2011 for the
first time in six years and placed third in the National League East, their highest finish since the 2002 Expos landed in second. And with a once-barren farm system now bursting with talent, the franchise’s future
seems even brighter.

Back-to-back 59-win seasons in 2008 and 2009 gave the Nationals the No. 1 overall pick in consecutive drafts, and they used those picks on cornerstone players Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Washington set a record by spending $11.5 million on draft bonuses in 2009, then topped that mark with $11.9 million in 2010.

The Nationals once again were opportunistic and aggressive in the 2011 draft, landing Baseball America’s top-ranked prospect for the third straight year when third baseman Anthony Rendon slid to them as the No. 6 choice. Washington then
doled out huge bonuses to their next three selections: righthander Alex
Meyer ($2 million), outfielder Brian Goodwin ($3 million) and lefty Matt Purke ($2.75 million).

The Nats paid out a total
$15 million on bonuses, and though they yielded that record to the Pirates ($17 million), they outspent Pittsburgh when the additional $2.6
million in guarantees in big league contracts for Rendon and Purke are considered. (The overall draft expenditure record remains $19.1 million by Washington in 2009, $15.1 million of which was a major league deal for Strasburg). Most important, the spending spree earned the Nationals the designation of BA’s top-rated draft and further solidified their talent foundation.

Strasburg and Harper continued to generate incredible excitement in Washington and around baseball in 2011. Strasburg returned from Tommy John surgery to go 1-1, 1.50 with 24
strikeouts and two walks in 24 innings over five September starts, showing the same electrifying stuff he displayed before injuring his elbow in the summer of 2010. Harper took the low Class A South Atlantic League by storm as an 18-year-old, posting a .977 OPS to earn a two-level promotion to Double-A Harrisburg, where he held his own against much older competition.

The organization enjoyed a strong developmental year from top to bottom, with upper-level
prospects such as Brad Peacock, Tom Milone and Steve Lombardozzi breaking through to the big leagues, and lower-level prospects like A.J.
Cole, Sammy Solis and Destin Hood showing nice progress. Peacock, in particular, was a revelation, emerging as one of the most exciting power
arms in the high minors before a brilliant three-appearance cameo in Washington.

The parent Nationals’ improvement was driven by the emergence of young up-the-middle talents Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa into quality regulars. After Adam Dunn departed in the offseason, Michael Morse took over at first base and led the team with 31 homers. He ultimately was more effective than $126 million free-agent
acquisition Jayson Werth, who hit .232/.330/.389 while adding 20 homers.

The pitching staff also climbed from 11th in the NL in ERA in 2010 to sixth in 2011, led by blossoming Jordan Zimmermann and steady John Lannan in the rotation, and the dynamic duo of Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard in the bullpen. The Nationals’ homegrown talent is beginning to make its mark in the big leagues—and plenty more is on the way.


    
1.

Julio Teheran, RHPBorn: Jan 27, 1991B-T: R-RHt.: 6-2 Wt.: 175Signed:  ‘.Background: No teenage pitcher over the past two decades has sped through the Braves system faster than Teheran. He signed as a 16-year-old out of Colombia in 2007 for $850,000, the largest bonus for an international amateur pitcher that year. The Yankees actually offered him more money, but Atlanta had an edge in that Teheran’s cousin Miguel was one of the Braves scouts who signed him. Teheran battled shoulder tendinitis during his 2008 pro debut but hasn’t slowed down since. He ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2009 and again in the high Class A Carolina League the following year. That success notwithstanding, Teheran put together his best pro season in 2011. He made a pair of emergency starts in Atlanta in mid-May before returning for three appearances in September. In between, he led the Triple-A International League with 15 wins while ranking second in ERA (2.55) and opponent average (.232) and fourth in WHIP (1.18). Ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the IL behind Rays lefthander Matt Moore, Teheran was named the loop’s pitcher and rookie of the year.

Scouting Report: With an electric arm, excellent instincts and maturity beyond his years, Teheran makes pitching look easy. He mixes four pitches to keep hitters off-balance and does a good job of getting ahead in the count. A lanky hurler who throws on an impressive downward plane, Teheran works low in the zone and also is capable of getting batters to chase high fastballs. His heater sits at 93-95 mph and touches 97. Teheran commands the pitch to both sides of the plate and isn’t afraid to pitch inside. Teheran’s changeup is nearly as good as his fastball, featuring outstanding depth and fade. He seems to know to throw his changeup when the batter least expects it. Teheran throws two breaking balls—a curveball in the low 80s with late bite, and a slider he uses less frequently—and developing a consistently reliable one is his main need at this point. Otherwise, he just needs to refine a few things, such as his fastball command and his pickoff move. He did not locate his fastball as well as usual during his time in Atlanta, giving up four homers in 20 innings after surrendering just 20 in 384 frames in the minor leagues. The Braves have ironed out his delivery and will continue to monitor his mechanics in order to minimize the violence associated with generating such tremendous power. The organization’s pitching coaches rave about Teheran’s work ethic, his desire to improve and willingness to accept constructive criticism.

The Future: Teheran has the ability to become a No. 1 starter. He’ll need to add some strength and become a little sharper with all of his pitches in order to attain that status, but the goal is well within his reach. While Atlanta has plenty of starting pitching, General Manager Frank Wren said at the end of the 2011 regular season that it was time to give an opportunity to some of the young starters in the system. The Braves will give Teheran a long look during spring training, though he’ll be just 21 years old and could get some more Triple-A experience to open the season.

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
’08 Danville (R) 1 2 6.60 6 6 0 15 18 12 11 2 4 17 .286
’09 Danville (R) 2 1 2.68 7 7 0 44 36 17 13 2 7 39 .216
’09 Rome (LoA) 1 3 4.78 7 7 0 38 42 20 20 2 11 28 .271
’10 Rome (LoA) 2 2 1.14 7 7 0 39 23 8 5 1 10 45 .163
’10 Myrtle Beach (HiA) 4 4 2.98 10 10 0 63 56 22 21 6 13 76 .228
’10 Mississippi (AA) 3 2 3.38 7 7 0 40 29 15 15 2 17 38 .195
’11 Gwinnett (AAA) 15 3 2.55 25 24 0 145 123 46 41 5 48 122 .221
’11 Atlanta (MAJ) 1 1 5.03 5 3 0 20 21 11 11 4 8 10 .263
Major League Totals 1 1 4.95 5 3 0 20 21 21 11 4 8 10 .259
Minor League Totals 28 17 2.95 69 68 0 384 327 327 126 20 110 365 .221
2.

Arodys Vizcaino, RHPBorn: Nov 13, 1990B-T: R-RHt.: 6-0 Wt.: 190Signed:  ’07.Background:: Acquired from the Yankees in the December 2009 deal that sent Javier Vazquez to New York, Vizcaino partially tore an elbow ligament in his first season in the Braves system but put that behind him in 2011. He appeared in the Futures Game while rising from high Class A Lynchburg to Atlanta, moving from the rotation to the bullpen when he got to Triple-A Gwinnett.

Scouting Report: Vizcaino’s fastball sits at 93-95 mph and touches 97. He also has sharp-breaking curveball that’s a plus pitch but he tends to fall in love with it too much. He made impressive strides with his changeup in 2011 to give him three solid offerings. He does an excellent job of challenging hitters when he’s behind in the count but needs to improve his fastball command in order to stay ahead.

The Future: Given how he responded to relieving, plus the depth of starters in Atlanta, Vizcaino could remain in the bullpen. However, a potential No. 2 or 3 starter is a prized commodity. Either way, he’ll take a prominent role with the Braves as he gains experience.

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
’08 Yankees (R) 3 2 3.68 12 6 0 44 38 22 18 5 13 48 .224
’09 Staten Island (SS) 2 4 2.13 10 10 0 42 34 18 10 2 15 52 .211
’10 Myrtle Beach (HiA) 0 0 4.61 3 3 0 14 16 9 7 1 3 11 .281
’10 Rome (LoA) 9 4 2.39 14 14 0 72 63 25 19 1 9 68 .227
’11 Lynchburg (HiA) 2 2 2.45 9 9 0 40 31 14 11 3 10 37 .204
’11 Mississippi (AA) 2 3 3.81 11 8 0 50 44 21 21 3 18 55 .228
’11 Gwinnett (AAA) 1 0 1.29 6 0 0 7 7 3 1 1 0 8 .250
’11 Atlanta (MAJ) 1 1 4.67 17 0 0 17 16 9 9 1 9 17 .235
Major League Totals 1 1 4.76 17 0 0 17 16 16 9 1 9 17 .239
Minor League Totals 19 15 2.91 65 50 0 269 233 233 87 16 68 279 .224
3.

Randall Delgado, RHPBorn: Feb 09, 1990B-T: R-RHt.: 6-3 Wt.: 200Signed:  ‘.Background:: Delgado was an unsung hero in Atlanta’s unsuccessful playoff drive. After making a pair of emergency starts early in the year, he allowed a total of seven earned runs in five September starts. Unheralded when he signed at age 16 out of Panama, he has progressed faster than expected because his maturity and coachability allow him to make quick adjustments.

Scouting Report: Delgado maintain a 92-94 mph fastball but struggles at times to command the pitch. His best offering is a plus curveball with sharp downward bite, and he also has a solid changeup. He has a smooth, quick delivery and does a good job of using the same arm speed with all of his pitches. Delgado tends to lose some deception when his arm action gets long. Despite his strong frame, he doesn’t have an abundance of athleticism and doesn’t handle the bat well, particularly in terms of bunting.

The Future: The Braves believe Delgado is ready to join the back of their rotation to open the 2012 season, though spending some more time in Triple-A to hone his fastball command could be beneficial as well. He profiles as an eventual No. 3 starter with a ceiling of a No. 2.

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
’07 Braves (R) 1 2 2.00 11 10 0 45 34 12 10 2 12 50 .201
’08 Danville (R) 3 8 3.13 14 14 0 69 63 32 24 5 30 81 .233
’09 Rome (LoA) 5 10 4.35 25 25 0 124 123 70 60 9 49 141 .248
’10 Myrtle Beach (HiA) 4 7 2.76 20 20 0 117 89 46 36 7 32 120 .202
’10 Mississippi (AA) 3 5 4.74 8 8 0 44 36 26 23 2 20 42 .216
’11 Mississippi (AA) 5 5 3.84 21 21 0 117 116 58 50 11 46 110 .248
’11 Gwinnett (AAA) 2 2 4.15 4 4 0 22 19 10 10 4 11 25 .226
’11 Atlanta (MAJ) 1 1 2.83 7 7 0 35 29 12 11 5 14 18 .216
Major League Totals 1 1 2.83 7 7 0 35 29 29 11 5 14 18 .216
Minor League Totals 23 39 3.56 103 102 0 538 480 480 213 40 200 569 .229
4.

Andrelton Simmons, SSBorn: Sep 04, 1989B-T: R-RHt.: 6-2 Wt.: 170Drafted: Western Oklahoma State JC, 2010 (2nd round).  Signed by: Gerald Turner.Background:: Western Oklahoma State JC head coach Kurt Russell discovered Simmons in Curacao, and several clubs were interested in him as a pitcher after seeing his fastball hit 98 mph in his lone juco season. Atlanta granted his wish to play shortstop, however, and he responded by winning the Carolina League batting title (.311) in 2011. Managers there rated him as the circuit’s top defensive shortstop, best infield arm and most exciting player.

Scouting Report: Simmons is a premier defender with a cannon for an arm and soft, quick hands. He covers lots of real estate with his quickness, ability to charge the ball and feel for the position. He committed careless errors by trying to make every play early in 2011 but improved in that regard. An aggressive hitter, Simmons knows the strike zone but doesn’t walk much. He has bat speed and can turn on fastballs, but he won’t have more than gap power. An average runner, he needs to improve his reads and jumps after getting thrown out 18 times in 44 basestealing attempts.

The Future: Simmons will open 2012 in Double-A Mississippi, and more than few observers believe he already can play defense at a major league level. Tyler Pastornicky may get the first crack at the Braves’ shortstop job, but Simmons is their shortstop of the future. 

Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
’10 Danville (R) 239 36 66 11 1 2 26 16 14 18 4 .276 .340 .356
’11 Lynchburg (HiA) 517 69 161 35 6 1 52 29 43 26 18 .311 .351 .408
Minor League Totals 756 105 227 46 7 3 78 45 57 44 22 .300 .347 .392
5.

Sean Gilmartin, LHPBorn: May 08, 1990B-T: L-LHt.: 6-2 Wt.: 195Drafted: Florida State, 2011 (1st round).  Signed by: .Background:: The Braves took Gilmartin out of Florida State with the 28th overall pick in the 2011 draft, marking the second time in three years that they had taken an advanced college lefthander in the first round. He has drawn comparisons to Mike Minor, who was taken seventh overall by Atlanta in 2009. Signed for $1.134 million, Gilmartin had no problem handling low Class A hitters in his brief pro debut.

Scouting Report: Gilmartin has a clean arm action and above-average athleticism. A two-way player at Florida State, he throws an 88-91 mph fastball with good life and a solid slider. His best pitch is a plus changeup, and he knows how to set up hitters while mixing all of his offerings. While he won’t get many swings and misses against advanced hitters, Gilmartin is an efficient hurler who records lots of groundouts. He fields his position well and can swing the bat.

The Future: An eventual No. 3 starter, Gilmartin has the polish to move as quickly as the Braves need. They sent him to the Arizona Fall League and will ship him to Double-A Mississippi to begin his first full pro season. He may not need much more than a year in the minors. 

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
’11 Braves (R) 0 1 9.00 1 1 0 2 3 2 2 0 0 1 .333
’11 Rome (LoA) 2 1 2.53 5 5 0 21 18 6 6 3 2 30 .220
Minor League Totals 2 2 3.13 6 6 0 23 21 21 8 3 2 31 .233
6.

Edward Salcedo, 3B/SSBorn: Jul 30, 1991B-T: R-RHt.: 6-3 Wt.: 195Signed:  ’10.Background:: Salcedo was a hot prospect on the international market in 2007, but he couldn’t sign for two years while Major League Baseball investigated his identity and birthdate. He finally signed for in February 2010 for $1.6 million, a franchise record for a foreign amateur. He has spent a season and a half struggling at low Class A Rome, but he has shown improvement and his natural ability has started to emerge.

Scouting Report: Salcedo has above-average power potential, thanks to his quick bat and smooth stroke. Tremendously raw when he signed, he showed a more advanced approach and greater knowledge of the strike zone in 2011. He’s a below-average runner, so his move from shortstop to third base was inevitable. Salcedo has the arm strength and agility for the hot corner, but he makes too many errors (40 in 100 games at third) by trying to force plays. Scouts are mixed on whether he should remain on the dirt or move to an outfield corner.

The Future: After opening 2010 in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League and spending the end of ’10 and all of 2011 in Rome, Salcedo could move faster now that he has started to build a solid foundation. He’ll move up to high Class A in 2012, though he doesn’t figure to be big league ready before 2014. 

Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
’10 Braves (R) 74 16 22 5 1 1 11 18 19 8 1 .297 .453 .432
’10 Rome (LoA) 193 23 38 5 4 2 16 11 56 6 5 .197 .239 .295
’11 Rome (LoA) 508 83 126 27 6 12 68 41 105 23 10 .248 .315 .396
Minor League Totals 775 122 186 37 11 15 95 70 180 37 16 .240 .312 .374
7.

Tyler Pastornicky, SSBorn: Dec 13, 1989B-T: R-RHt.: 6-11 Wt.: 170Drafted: Pendleton School, Bradenton, Fla., 2008 (5th round).  Signed by: .Background:: Swapping Yunel Escobar for Alex Gonzalez hasn’t worked out as the Braves hoped, but they did get Pastornicky as part of the July 2010 trade with the Blue Jays. The son of former big leaguer Cliff Pastornicky, he never got past A-ball with the Jays but jumped right to Double-A following the trade. He blossomed in all phases of the game in 2011 and would have made his major league debut if not for a high ankle sprain in mid-August.

Scouting Report: Pastornicky competes as well as anyone in the system and has excellent instincts. He has a good feel for hitting and makes consistent line-drive contact, though he could stand to draw a few more walks. He doesn’t have a lot of strength, but he has a quick bat and could develop gap power. Pastornicky has plus speed and the aptitude to steal bases. He has above-average range at shortstop, and he could get more out of his average arm with a more consistent arm slot.

The Future: Pastornicky has proven to be better than Atlanta expected and now is knocking on the door to the big leagues. With Gonzalez’s contract up after his disappointing season, the Braves are considering their options, and Pastornicky is clearly the best in-house option to replace him. 

Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
’08 Blue Jays (R) 160 32 42 6 3 1 17 21 21 27 5 .263 .349 .356
’09 Lansing (LoA) 413 63 111 11 9 1 31 39 50 51 15 .269 .336 .346
’09 Dunedin (HiA) 63 9 17 3 0 0 3 3 7 6 3 .270 .303 .317
’10 Dunedin (HiA) 287 50 74 16 0 6 35 39 49 24 7 .258 .348 .376
’10 Mississippi (AA) 134 22 34 5 2 2 15 16 22 11 2 .254 .333 .366
’11 Mississippi (AA) 355 50 106 13 5 6 36 24 34 20 8 .299 .345 .414
’11 Gwinnett (AAA) 104 15 38 2 0 1 9 8 11 7 3 .365 .407 .413
Minor League Totals 1516 241 422 56 19 17 146 150 194 146 43 .278 .345 .374
8.

Zeke Spruill, RHPBorn: Sep 11, 1989B-T: B-RHt.: 6-4 Wt.: 184Drafted: Kell HS, Marietta, Ga., 2008 (2nd round).  Signed by: Brian Bridges.Background:: After missing time because of off-field issues in 2009 and a broken right hand (the result of punching a dugout wall) in 2010, Spruill finally put together the full season the Braves hoped for in 2011 in a return to high Class A. He led the minors with six complete games and ranked third with 175 innings, and he also topped the Carolina League with a 1.01 WHIP.

Scouting Report: Spruill found success by pounding the bottom of the strike zone with his sinking 91-94 mph fastball, pitching to contact and not worrying about strikeouts. He uses his fastball command to get ahead in the count, then mixes in his secondary pitches to keep hitters off-balance. Spruill’s solid changeup also has good sink and he throws it with the same arm action he employs with his fastball. His slider has been inconsistent but shows impressive tilt and movement when he’s throwing it well. He gets in trouble when he leaves his pitches up in the zone.

The Future: In danger of becoming a forgotten prospect before his breakout season, Spruill will return to Double-A to open 2012. If he continues on this path, he can become a workhorse No. 3 or 4 starter in the big leagues. 

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
’08 Braves (R) 7 0 2.93 10 3 0 40 42 16 13 1 8 32 .259
’09 Braves (R) 1 0 4.58 4 4 0 20 24 15 10 2 5 23 .289
’09 Rome (LoA) 8 6 3.03 20 19 1 116 120 54 39 9 24 95 .256
’10 Braves (R) 0 0 3.00 2 2 0 3 4 1 1 0 1 1 .308
’10 Myrtle Beach (HiA) 3 5 5.54 14 13 0 65 83 44 40 4 13 41 .299
’11 Lynchburg (HiA) 7 9 3.19 20 20 0 130 108 56 46 7 23 92 .217
’11 Mississippi (AA) 3 2 3.20 7 7 0 45 45 18 16 3 17 16 .250
Minor League Totals 29 22 3.54 77 68 1 419 426 426 165 26 91 300 .253
9.

Christian Bethancourt, CBorn: Sep 02, 1991B-T: R-RHt.: 6-2 Wt.: 190Signed:  ‘.Background:: Scouts have been enthralled with Bethancourt’s potential since he played in the 2004 Little League World Series for Panama. Four years later, he signed with Atlanta for $600,000. He can frustrate the organization at times with his lack of maturity and consistency, but he’s a rare catching prospect with all-around potential.

Scouting Report: No one questions Bethancourt’s raw tools. He has soft hands, plus arm strength and a quick release that helped him throw out 38 percent of basestealers in 2011. He also possesses good hand-eye coordination, makes consistent contact and shows solid raw power. He also runs well for a catcher. However, several scouts question Bethancourt’s approach at the plate and behind it. He’s a free swinger who rarely walks and wastes too many at-bats. Defensively, he often picks at pitches in the dirt instead of shifting his body. His body language and lack of fire at times also leave a lot to be desired.

The Future: Bethancourt is still just 20, so he has time to develop. The Braves challenged him to show improvement in 2011 and he responded impressively. If he continues to work hard and hone his skills, he can become a big league starter and perhaps an all-star. He should spend the majority of 2012 in Double-A. 

Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
’08 Braves (R) 116 12 31 6 3 0 17 11 25 1 0 .267 .328 .371
’09 Braves (R) 116 22 33 9 1 2 19 11 22 7 0 .284 .344 .431
’09 Danville (R) 50 10 13 5 0 2 8 6 16 1 1 .260 .339 .480
’10 Rome (LoA) 399 31 100 19 2 3 34 14 62 11 3 .251 .276 .331
’11 Rome (LoA) 221 25 67 10 3 4 33 8 27 6 3 .303 .323 .430
’11 Lynchburg (HiA) 166 11 45 6 0 1 20 3 35 3 2 .271 .277 .325
Minor League Totals 1068 111 289 55 9 12 131 53 187 29 9 .271 .303 .373
10.

Brandon Drury, 3BBorn: Aug 21, 1992B-T: R-RHt.: 6-2 Wt.: 190Drafted: Grants Pass (Ore.) HS, 2010 (13th round).  Signed by: Brett Evert.Background:: The top high school position player out of Oregon in the 2010 draft and an Oregon State commitment, Drury signed for $85,000 as a 13th-rounder and hit just .198/.248/.292 in his pro debut. He looked like a different hitter in 2011, leading the Rookie-level Appalachian League with 92 hits and falling .0003 shy of the batting title.

Scouting Report: Drury employs a compact stroke while keeping his hands back and generating above-average bat speed. He excels at making contact—almost to a fault because he walked just six times in 63 games in 2011—and does a nice job of using the entire field. He gets good carry on his hits because of the backspin he generates, and his doubles could turn into homers as he adds strength and experience. A shortstop in high school, Drury has made a smooth adjustment to third base. He displays average range with solid arm strength and good instincts at the hot corner. The only thing he doesn’t do well is run, as he possesses below-average speed. His work ethic and makeup are considered major assets.

The Future: Edward Salcedo is his competition to be Atlanta’s third baseman of the future, and Drury may eventually win out because he’s the better defender. He will get his first taste of full-season ball at Rome in 2012. 

Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
’10 Braves (R) 192 20 38 7 1 3 17 9 50 2 2 .198 .248 .292
’11 Danville (R) 265 40 92 23 0 8 54 6 35 3 0 .347 .367 .525
Minor League Totals 457 60 130 30 1 11 71 15 85 5 2 .284 .316 .427

 

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