Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2011.
Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to another Nats chat. Let's pull up our socks and get after it!
Dee (DC): What's your assessment of Robbie Ray? Is he 11-20 material?
He's a very interesting, projectable
lefthander with feel. He certainly is 11-20 material, and I could see
him jumping safely into the top 10 with a good 2011. I was a bit
conservative with him this year in light of his lack of pro experience,
dip in velocity, mixed reports during the spring and slurvy breaking
ball. But his loose, whippy arm action, good changeup and frame are
positive indicators for his future.
JAYPERS (IL): With both the signing of Werth
and Harper on the way, what does this mean for Michael Burgess - is he
trade bait? Also, how far down the list did he slip this year?
Let's eliminate the suspense and extend
Jaypers' consecutive chat streak in the early going. I don't think
Burgess is a significant part of Washington's plan for the future —
there's just too much uncertainty about his hit tool. His raw power and
arm strength still give him a chance to be a quality big leaguer if he
can ever refine his offensive approach, and he's still just 21 so don't
give up on him. But at this point, if he develops into an everyday
player, that will just be a bonus, and the Nationals will deal with any
outfielder surplus when it arises. He slipped down toward No. 20 on this
Ben (Leland Grove): Tyler Moore had a comeback season this year. About where would he rank, and is he a future MLer or a 4-A player?
He had a miserable first half but a simply
remarkable second half, putting himself into the prospect conversation.
He has legitimate above-average power potential from foul pole to foul
pole, and he became more direct to the ball in the second half, which
was critical. He's not a great defender so his bat will have to carry
him and he'll have to prove himself at every level, but I think he's got
a chance. Gun to my head, I'd still say 4-A player, but with a chance
to become more than that — sort of where his former Mississippi State
teammate Mitch Moreland was with the Rangers a couple of years ago, and
he turned himself into a legitimate big leaguer. Moore ranks in the
mid-20s on this list.
Kade Nelson (Chippewa Falls,Wi.): Hi. What are your thoughts on Kobernus? Thanks.
The man has got to stay healthy. His
inability to do so over the last two seasons has made it difficult to
really evaluate him, and he slipped down the list this year, but he does
still have tools. I've always liked his line-drive bat, athleticism and
speed, but 2011 is a big year for him. Time to start putting it
JAYPERS (IL): If BA created their Top 100
prospects list today, would you rank Harper as # 1 based on projection
alone? Or would a more established player such as Trout or Montero rank
My hunch is the debate will come down to
Harper vs. Trout, and I know there are people in our office who come
down on both sides of that argument. I love Trout, but I would take
Harper. Montero has a great bat, but he lacks the defensive value of the
other two, and I think Harper will have the most special bat of the
three. Harper is absurdly talented.
Beatrix Kiddo (Limbo): Now that the Nats have parted ways with Dunn, are they expected to expedite Marrero's path to the bigs any?
I don't think Washington believes Marrero
is ready for the big leagues, and it's unclear if he will be the
long-term solution — I tend to think he will not be, but like Burgess,
he's still young enough to address some of his shortcomings and become
the impact bat the Nationals once hoped he would be. I expect Washington
to sign a veteran stop-gap to a short-term deal, then re-evaluate in a
Adam (Denver, CO): I'm a bit surprised you have
Harper as the top guy in the Best Hitter For Average category when most
reviews I've read say he's likely to strike out around 120-150 times a
year. How confident are you he'll figure out major league pitching
enough to bat above .260 once he reaches the bigs?
We debated that category, because certainly
there is a variance of opinion about how much Harper will hit for
average. There are certainly scouts who think he'll strike out in
bunches and wind up as a .260 hitter, but there are plenty of others who
think he'll made adjustments as he matures. Sometimes he does take huge
hacks, but there are others when his swing is much quieter and more
efficient. His hand-eye coordination is uncanny, and ultimately I think
that will make him an above-average hitter. Remember, this guy's work
ethic is beyond reproach; he is both intelligent enough to make
adjustments and physically able to make adjustments. I really believe he
will wind up as a .300-plus hitter with 40-plus home runs — he's that
good. That's an admittedly ambitious projection, but I don't mind being
ambitious when it comes to Bryce Harper.
Wendy (DC): In retrospect, do you think the
Nats were a bit too cautious with Strasburg's routine? Also, what are
you hearing about his rehab? Is a September ETA out of the question?
I think the Nationals did everything
perfectly with Strasburg — elbow injuries just happen. Pitching is an
unnatural thing, and it's not easy to predict when pitchers will break
down, or why. Sounds like the rehab is going well, but I don't want to
speculate about his return date.
Jay (South Riding, VA): What would you project as offensive numbers for Ramos & Norris when they reach the majors?
Norris strikes me as a .280-.300 hitter
with tons of walks, 20-25 homers and plenty of doubles. He's got a
really nice, compact swing, and I think he's got a chance to hit for
some average in time, as well as power. Ramos, I think, is more of a
.240-.250 hitter with 10-15 homers. His value really lies in his
Brett (Sacramento): I know that Drew Storen is
the closer of the future for the Nats, but does Kimball have that kind
of upside to be a closer in the majors down the road?
I think he does — his stuff is filthy, and
his command and feel for pitching have come light years from when he
was drafted. I did New Jersey for the 2006 draft, and the consensus at
that time was Kimball was just a raw thrower with arm strength. His
transformation has been remarkable — a real success story for the
Nationals player development staff. I wouldn't have ranked a 25-year-old
reliever No. 7 on this list if I didn't believe he can be a real impact
big league reliever, and soon. It's a premium fastball, a wipeout
split-finger at times and a solid curveball — real nice package.
Tommy (New York): All right, let's get down to
business: Give me odds on where Bryce Harper starts 2011. I'm trying to
plan my baseball travels for the summer and the Harper ambiguity is
killing me. I'm going 60 percent chance at Hagerstown, 40 percent chance
at Potomac. Thoughts?
That is a closely guarded secret... but if I
were a betting man, I might put my money on Potomac. I think a lot
depends on how he looks this spring.
Jasen (FLL): Do you think that Norris will slug high enough to justify a 1B role?
Quite possibly. But honestly I still think
he's got a legitimate chance to stick behind the plate, and if he does,
he can be an all-star. Don't put too much stock in the projected 2014
lineup — it's more a reflection of the strengths and weaknesses of the
system at this point in time. Catching is a clear strength for the
Nationals right now, and first base is a weakness, so we put one of the
catchers at first base. There is a chance Norris could wind up there
anyway, because he does still need to improve his receiving. Just
emphasizing that I am not even close to giving up on Norris as a
Chris (NYC): Was surprised to not see
Lombardozzi on there, especially with bullpen guys like Kimball and
Peacock. Do you not think he will be a full time 2b? Thanks
I'm a big Lombardozzi fan, and I thought I
was pretty aggressive in ranking him at No. 13. The fact is, he doesn't
have great tools, and it's going out on a limb a bit to project him as
an everyday player. I think he's got a chance to become that, because I
like his contact bat and I love his instincts and work ethic. I think
he's a big leaguer for sure, just not completely sold on him as an
everyday big leaguer. We'll find out soon enough, and I wouldn't be at
all surprised if he carves out a nice career as an Eckstein type.
Roy (Charleston): About where would the Nats'
system rank overall? After the first five prospects, it seems as though
things take a tumble. Also, about how many guys do you predict will make
BA's Top 100?
I think it's probably around the middle of
the pack. We place a premium on impact prospects, so Harper alone gives
this system a major boost. The problem is a lack of depth of potential
impact guys. Most of the pitching depth in the system comes in the form
of back-end starters or middle relievers, and there are significant
question marks about all of the bats after the top three. My guess is
the top three will make the top 100.
AC (ATL): Where on the top 30 will recent Rule 5 draftee Elvin Ramirez fall?
Around No. 20. He has the kind of premium
arm strength this system sorely lacks, with a fastball that reached
98-99 this winter. But he doesn't have much of a track record of
throwing strikes until this winter, and his secondary stuff is just OK.
Jasen (FLL): Who has the better offensive upside, Desmond or Espinsosa?
I'll go with Espinosa.
Mark (Oak Hill, VA): Can you give us a quick
look at new Nats prospect Corey Brown? Was he close to making the list?
Does he have a shot to hold off Eury Perez for that CF spot between
Harper and Werth in 2014? Thanks.
Brown probably would have ranked inside the
top 10, but he missed our transaction deadline for the Handbook and
magazine, so we left him out of the online list today as well. He's a
quality athlete with a nice all-around tools package and a pretty good
approach. At this point, I'd probably give him a slight edge over Eury
Perez, who still comes with question marks about his bat long-term.
AC (Atlanta): JP Ramirez had a pretty good year, but there still seem to a number of questions surrounding him. What is the outlook on him?
I'm just not sure he profiles. He's got a
nice line-drive swing, but he doesn't run at all, he's still a poor
defender (though he got a little better this year), he can't throw a
lick, and he doesn't really have the kind of power you want in a left
fielder who doesn't defend. It was a nice year in low A, and it stopped
his slide down the list and even moved him up a few spots, but I'm still
not buying in completely.
Ken (Lakewood CA): Hi Aaron. Thanks for the
chat. Wondering what your take is for P Jordan Zimmerman for this year?
Do you see him as being ready to have a good season for the Nationals?
I think he's going to have a huge year in 2011. Still really believe in that guy.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Exciting Eury Perez made your top 10. Does GCL middle infielder Roberto Perez of the GCL get top 30 prospect consideration?
Roberto Perez wasn't really close to making
the top 30 — he's got a long way to go. The Nationals actually
converted him to catcher in instructional league, because he just lacked
the foot speed for the middle infield, but they think his tools package
could play behind the plate. He's raw at the plate, but does have a bit
of feel to hit.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Folks
that order the Prospect Handbook directly from BaseballAmerica get that
neat bonus booklet of the 31st prospect listing for each organization.
Last year redhead
pitcher Paul Demny was the Nats 31st guy. Does he slide up into the top
30 and a full place in your handbook this year?
Demny had an OK year, but it was not the
step forward I was anticipating, and he dropped a bit this year, though
he still garnered some consideration for the Top 30. It's a fastball
with some sink and solid-average velocity at times, but he needs to
become more consistent with his mechanics and command, and some scouts
see him as a bullpen guy. This year's No. 31 is catcher Sandy Leon, a
premium defender behind the plate.
Jon (Chicago): Do you see Atahualpa Severino in the mold of JC Romero and will he be part of the big league pen this season?
That's the kind of guy he can be, but he
needs to do a better job repeating his delivery and becoming more
consistent with his command. His breaking ball is slurvy, just a fringy
pitch. I see him as more of an up-and-down guy than a key piece of a big
Dan (Augusta, ME): Aaron, I keep hearing
different reports on Robby Ray's velocity. Can you clarify the issue and
also how much projection do you think he still has? Thanks.
He ran it up into the mid-90s during the
showcase circuit in 2009, but he worked more in the 89-91 range in the
spring, and some days pitched a bit below that. I do think his arm
action and frame suggest he will add velocity, though.
Craig (Vancouver): Where did Brad Myers fit into your to Nats list?
Toward the back. He can pitch, but he was
never an overpowering stuff guy, and now his health has become a
significant issue. Staying healthy has always been the issue for Meyers,
and he's an x-factor right now. The Nats seem to think his second foot
surgery this fall was successful, but we just don't know how well he'll
come back from this detour.
Ben (Leland Grove): Thoughts on Destin Hood at this point?
The Nats were actually very pleased with
his developmental year — they say he made as much progress as any
player in their system. He's becoming a better thrower and defender, and
he made major strides with his pitch recognition. He's still very much a
work in progress, but many Washington officials are convinced he can
become a quality offensive left fielder and adequate defender in the big
leagues. He's still pretty high on my list, at No. 12.
scott (bethesda): No rick hague, tyler moore, or aj morris? Did any of them receive any consideration.
Hague and Morris both wound up in the 11-20
range, and I already addressed Moore. Morris really clicked after
moving to the bullpen, showing a 93-95 mph fastball with serious life,
and I think he'll be a quality bullpen option in the majors pretty
quickly. Hague's kind of a cheap five-tool player, but it's a little
hard to profile him, because very few scouts think he can stick at
shortstop, and I don't know that he'll be offensive enough for third
base. But he's a grinder and a good player, and it was impressive how he
held his own in low A (offensively, at least) in his debut.
MJ (Valpo): Is it time to write off Josh Smoker (1st rd, 2007)? What has happened to this guy?!?
Smoker was one of the strangest stories of
2010 for the Nationals. His career looked about dead for most of the
year — as a starter, he was throwing about 83 mph. Then the Nationals
moved him to the bullpen, and all of a sudden he started throwing 93
again, really shocking everyone in the system. The Nats said he was like
a kid in a candy store once he rediscovered his velocity — perhaps
some guys are just built to relieve. He had developed a pretty good
changeup when his velocity was down, and the Nats worked with him in
instructs to add power to his breaking ball. Certainly, I'm not ready to
declare him a Top 30 prospect again, but he's at least put himself back
on the map.
Ryan (Albuquerque): Did Jordan Zimmerman throw
enough innings in the bigs two seasons ago to loose his prospect status
or was he just not in your top 10?
Zimmermann has thrown too many big league innings to qualify for the list. He was No. 1 on this list two years ago.
Mike (Minnesota): Who's going to end up having the most impact in their career as RF'ers: Heyward, Stanton, or Harper?
Does Harper have more projectable power than the other two?
Look, Heyward and Stanton are awesome —
both look like perennial all-stars. But I'm all in on Harper; I think
he's going to be a superstar, and when it's all said and done, I think
he will have even more impact than those other two. Stanton has massive
power — but Harper has even more. It probably sounds like we're
creating unreasonable expectations for Harper, and maybe that's not fair
to an 18-year-old kid. Whatever. Believe the hype.
Dan (TO): According to A.J. Cole's Scouting
Report in the Nats Draft Database, he is compared to Karsten Whitson as
one of the top available pitchers in the draft and was projected that he
would not make it out of the first round. He was taken 116th Overall
and given a $2 million bonus. Was it the bonus that scared so many teams
away, or was there more to it??
He was regarded as a potential top 10
overall pick entering the year, but he didn't have a great spring. His
velocity was down early, but it came back later in the spring, and BA
still projected him as a first-round pick heading into the draft. His
pricetag, coupled with his early inconsistency, probably caused him to
slide — but the Nats got a real steal with pick No. 116.
Doug (McLean, VA): Why doesn't Tom Milone get more respect as a LHP prospect?
He is lefty that has a 24-10 record over the last two seasons with a sub 3 ERA each season.
He's starting to make people respect him —
but I'm not ready to rank a guy with an 85-87 mph fastball in the top
10. Still, the guy just plain wins. He can really pitch, he has a very
good changeup and uses his fringy curveball well. I think he can be a
No. 5 starter in the big leagues, and I ranked him 16th in the system.
That's not bad for an almost-24-year-old soft-tossing lefty.
Dan (TO): If Wilson Ramos projects as the
everyday catcher, that leaves Derek Norris and Chris Marrero fighting
for the 1B job. Any chance that super phenom Bryce Harper could wind up
in CF down the road, flanked by Marrero and Michael Burgess? That would
be an outfield with some SERIOUS pop!
There is no chance Marrero can play the outfield. He just doesn't have very much mobility.
NatsJack (Winter Park, Fl.): The company line
has been that the Nats have been stockpiling some solid young arms in
their minor league system. When, as fans can we expect to see some
results of this effort (Stephen Straburg excepted)?
I think Strasburg and Zimmermann are pretty
good returns — that's a potentially dynamite 1-2 punch to build the
rotation around. John Lannan is another homegrown pitcher who is, at
least, a useful big league starter, and Ross Detwiler still has a chance
to be something. As for the system, give the Nationals credit for
spending to get Cole, Solis and Ray, because they really needed to
bolster their stock of impact arms. But as I said earlier, the bulk of
the arms in the system are back-end starters or middle relievers — not
exactly a stockpile of high-upside pitchers.
johnb (greenville,SC): Cole Kimbrell. Do you think he can be the setup man for Storen this year ? Better than Clippard ?
I could see him growing into that role this
year. His raw stuff is better than Clippard's, but he doesn't have
Clippard's moxie at this point.
steve (wichita): are there concerns about harper's makeup?
No. He's incredibly intense, and sometimes
that comes off the wrong way — but this is a guy who plays the game at
full speed at all times, and I think fans will love that about him. He's
also a very hard worker.
Tobias Funke (California): What kind of ceiling
do you see JR Higley as having? He seemed like an Aaron Rowand/Eric
Byrnes type. Do you think he has a chance to rebound and be added to the
roster at the end of this season?
Always nice to hear from another resident
of Orange County (where the sun has just poked through the clouds for
the first time in a week!). Higley had a lost year — his hamate injury
lingered into the season and caused him to get off to a slow start, and
he was suspended 50 games for violating the substance-abuse policy later
in the year. He can defend, throw and run, but the bat is a pretty
significant question mark, and he has backslid in a big way as a
Dan (Augusta, ME): Any sleepers in the system that jump out at you? Thanks.
Sleepers: Infielder Adrian Sanchez has a
real nice line-drive stroke and had a breakout year in the GCL. I like a
couple of Texas college infielders from this year's draft — the
athletic Jason Martinson and the scrappy Blake Kelso. Another 2010
draftee, Hawaii catcher David Freitas, was one of the big surprises of
the year for the Nationals, who believe he will continue to hit as he
moves through the system. Former UCLA lefty Matt Grace is interesting —
trapped behind the Bruins' ridiculously talented front-line pitchers,
he was relegated to a relief role, but he's got a quality
fastball-slider mix, feel for a changeup and a chance to start in pro
ball. And the Nats are very high on outfielder Wade Moore, who started
his college career at NC State but finished it at Catawba. Good athlete,
can run, defend, strong arm, and is a grinder. Has a long swing, but
made some nice adjustments in the second half.
Chris (NYC): If you had to pick one guy to make
a big jump this year, would you take Eury Perez (into the top 100)? Or
AJ Cole(top 50)? Thanks
Bruce A. (Georgia): Post 2012, Strasburg or Hellickson?
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
Regarding Harper, the Washington Post quoted GM Rizzo as follows: "I
assume [Harper]starts in Hagerstown. That could change. If the minor
league season opened today, it would be Hagerstown. I think he needs to
start in a comfortable position for him to succeed and move on."
That was in min-November. Do we know of any new developments that might
change Rizzo's perspective?
I hadn't seen that quote. Hagerstown would
make the most sense to me — I'm just saying, there are rumblings within
the organization that they might not be afraid to push him beyond that.
Eric (McLean, VA): What's your view of two mid- to late-round picks from last year's draft - Randolph Obuber and Aaron Barrett?
All right, some deep cuts! Oduber had a
great debut against younger competition in the GCL, but he does have
some tools — a bit of pop, average speed, below-average arm that will
relegate him to left field. He's a backwards player — bats right,
throws left — but he's an interesting name to remember. Barrett was a
very interesting prospect a couple of summers ago in the Northwoods
League, then he had a very rough junior year at Ole Miss after
transferring from a JC. He was a solid senior starter for the Rebels
this spring, but he's just OK — pitches off his slider, does not have
the kind of plus fastball he once flashed.
Jesse (Chicago): Aaron, was H-Rod considered for the top 10 given how recently he was acquired?
Henry Rodriguez has already used up his
prospect eligibility. But Jim Shonerd, who does our A's list, says this
about him: "throws really hard, not many strikes. Was better about it
this year. Also has a decent slider that he also doesn't control."
ryan (dc): what positions do the Nats need to
focus with their first three picks in the draft and who would be the
likely candidates who would be available? Should they go college or
Best players available. Period. This is a
very strong, deep draft on the college side, so if they're drafting best
players available, they'll probably wind up taking more college guys
OK folks, that's all for today. Thanks for
all the great questions, as usual! Our Top 10s take a little break now
for the holidays. Here's wishing all of you safe and happy holidays, and
a terrific 2011.