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.
Hi everybody. It's an exciting time to be a
Nats fan — it's been a long time since there has been this much talent
in the pipeline. This was a fun list to put together. Let's get
Dale (Columbus): Would you say Alex Meyer is destined for the bullpen? How many above average pitches does he have right now? Thanks.
Gun to my head, yes, I would say he winds
up in the bullpen. But there is also a legitimate chance he could
harness his mechanics and command and become a top-of-the-rotation
caliber starter, and just the chance of that happening is enough to make
him a very exciting prospect. I saw Meyer at the Houston College
Classic this year, and that day he sat in the 93-96 range with life, and
he flashed quite a few plus-plus power breaking balls, though sometimes
they'd also be below-average. He did not show that kind of explosive
stuff in instructs, but it's in there, and you'll definitely see it next
Jay (South Riding, VA): Aaron,
Thanks so much for the chat. Always look forward to the top 10.
Many Nats fans think Ian Desmond is more utility player than starting
SS. Do you think the Nats would be better served shifting Espinosa to
SS and trying Rendon at 2B. Can Rendon play 2B and where do you see him
hitting in the batting order?
I always look forward to this chat!
Assuming the Nats lock up Zimmerman long term, I think a move to second
base for Rendon would make the most sense (with Espinosa presumably
shifting to short). I really believe Rendon could be a plus defender at
third — his instincts and hands there are special — but I think he's
athletic enough to handle the middle infield. Thanks largely to those
two ankle injuries, his foot speed has decreased some since his high
school days, when he was actually a darn good shortstop, but I think
he'll be quick enough for second, and his baseball instincts will help
him make up for any shortcomings.
Grant (NYC): How far off the top 10 was Tom Milone? Does he project as a #4-5, or is he a RP in the making?
He's in the 11-15 range, which is a pretty
solid group (also including guys like Destin Hood, Chris Marrero, Tyler
Moore). And I do think Milone can be a back-end starter. It's not a high
ceiling, but he really has an advanced feel for pitching. His fastball,
as we all know, is not overpowering, but it plays up because of his
deception and his outstanding command of it. His changeup is a legit
plus offering, and the breaking ball is serviceable. We've seen plenty
of lefties with comparable stuff and command succeed as back-end
starters in the big leagues.
Ben (Leland Grove): Chris Marrero at this point - prospect or suspect?
He's certainly still a prospect, he's just
not an elite prospect. He's been on the radar so long, it's easy to
forget that Marrero is still just 23, and he has been among the younger
players in his league at just about every level, and still performed
fairly well. He made a lot of progress with his defense this year (and
he really needed to), but the question is whether he will hit enough to
be an everyday first baseman. I see him now as an average hitter with 55
game power, maybe 60. For a first baseman, I think that makes him a
fringy regular, or maybe the righthanded half of a platoon. There is
more raw power in there, and if he can unlock it then maybe he can
exceed that projection, but that's how I see him at this stage — no
longer as a future star, as the Nats once hoped.
Brad (DC): Percent chance of Harper breaking camp with the team?
I think it's anyone's guess. My guess? 35
percent. There is certainly a chance he could go to camp and blow
everybody away, because he's that talented. But there's also no real
reason to rush him. He'll have to really convince the Nats that he's
@Jaypers413 (IL): Could we get your input on 3B Matt Skole and his 2011 season? Was he in the 11-20 range?
I think he checked in just outside the top
20. I like him — I wrote him up for the NY-P top 20 prospects list, so I
would direct you to that list if you can't wait for the Handbook to see
a write-up. He'll need some work to stick at third base, but he's got a
chance to do it, and I think he can hit for some power with some
mechanical adjustments. He has real good plate discipline, which really
stands out to me.
Harry (Washington, DC): Your thoughts on Robbie Ray? Is he a top 30 guy? top 20?
He's a top 20 guy. I'm not as bullish on
Ray as I was a year ago — he had a nice year, especially for his age in
low A, but the stuff is sorta fringy and it sounds like the Nats aren't
convinced there's a ton of projection there. He worked mostly in that
87-91 range this year with good sinking life, to go with an inconsistent
slider and good feel for a changeup. I think he projects as a No. 4
starter type, and he's still a ways off.
Jay (South Riding, VA): The Nats seem really
high on Michael Taylor. Are they right or is it just a case of an
organization overvaluing their own guys?
The Nats are extremely excited about
Taylor, and he started to garner some buzz from people outside the
organization this year, too. Taylor has serious upside — think Mike
Cameron or Devon White. He's already the best defensive outfielder in
the system, and he only converted from shortstop a year ago. He's got
bat speed and power potential, and he's making progress as a hitter.
There is still a lot of risk with him — will he ever really hit enough
to be a regular? But the upside is tantalizing, and I've heard glowing
reports about his makeup, which is always encouraging.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Would you be confident enough to rank the Nats' system in the overall top 10 at this point?
Easily. We tend to value impact talent over
depth, and the Nats have serious impact talent (and the depth has
improved quite a bit, too).
Jake (Our Nation's Capital): Amongst the Nats' outfield prospects, about where does Destin Hood rank right now?
He's only behind Harper and Goodwin. Hood
had another very positive developmental year. He was never going to be a
fast mover, but the Nats have been patient with him, and they could be
rewarded for it (as they were for their patience with other slow movers
like Ian Desmond and Brad Peacock). Hood projects as a left field-only
guy, but his defense has improved out there, and his overall athleticism
and foot speed have returned as well (he had lost his athlete some a
year or two ago). His bat speed has always been the most intriguing
thing about him, and I like that he doesn't sell out for power — he
really has become a discipline hitter who sticks with his up-the-middle
approach. I think that's encouraging — the power will come, and it was
good to see him more than double his career home run total in 2011.
Frank (Atlanta, GA): What do scouts have to say about 2011 pitching draftees Hill and Turnbull? Who are you higher on?
I'm higher on Turnbull, as are the
Nationals, because he has more upside. Don't get me wrong — Hill has a
higher ceiling than your typical college senior, with a power
sinker/slider repertoire and outstanding makeup. But Turnbull is a
projectable lefty with a very fresh arm — I saw him up to 94 this
spring, and the secondary stuff is improving. He'll be in the Handbook,
but I also wrote him up for SoCal draft coverage, if you want a report
Barry (Baltimore, MD): Is Harper's attitude
something that will/could likely get worse as he gets older? How
concerned are you that it could adversely affect his performance in the
He's a confident guy, as all of the great
ones are, and I think he'll always play with a bit of a swagger.
Sometimes that might rub opponents and fans the wrong way. A lot of the
great players do that, too (think: Bonds, A-Rod, Kobe, etc). But let's
also remember that Harper is 18 years old, and let's give him some time
to mature. I'm not concerned at all about his attitude.
Laura (Dover, DE): Is Harper's power comparable to Stanton's?
It sure is. We've debated in the office which of those guys has more raw power — the bottom line is they're both 80s.
Paul (Midwest): Assuming Rendon starts off next
season at 100% and reverts back to the candidate for #1 draft pick we
saw, could he conceivably beat Harper to the bigs?
I think that's very unlikely, just because
Harper's already in Double-A and his tools are just about big
league-ready. Sure, he needs a little more polish, but if you've got a
player with the ability to impact the big league level now, I think it
makes sense to let him refine his game at that level, as long as you're
not hindering his development. Anyway, I think Harper sees the majors in
2012, and Rendon gets up there in 2013.
Chris (NYC): Was a little surprised not to see
Destin Hood on the top 10, is that more a function of the other 10 being
better or do you have big concerns about him? Thanks
Well, the first nine guys on the list are
just really good prospects, and I gave Lombardozzi the nod at No. 10
because he's a lot safer, and he's an up-the-middle guy while Hood is a
left fielder. I also just think Lombardozzi is a really good player who
does a lot of things to help you win, even though his tools don't jump
off the page (but he does have tools, and I think his bat will really
play in the big leagues). I think those kind of guys can be undervalued,
and I wanted to make sure I did not undervalue Lombardozzi.
Jay (Washington, DC): How would you compare
Tyler Moore and Chris Marrero, who could both be at AAA next season. Has
Moore passed Marrero as a prospect? It seems like Marrero has hit his
ceiling, while I can at least still imagine Moore as a 30-HR guy in the
I actually don't think Marrero has hit his
ceiling yet, but I'm less optimistic than I used to be that he will do
so. Moore has better power potential, for sure, but his bat is no
guarantee to play at the big league level; I think Marrero is a safer
bet to hit there, actually. You could argue that Moore has more upside
because of his superior power potential, and I don't think I would argue
with you — but again, I do think Marrero's *upside* is plus power.
Moore's is plus-plus. They're comparable defensively — neither guy is
going to win you a gold glove, Moore has a stronger arm (and the Nats
worked him out in the outfield during instructs, probably in
anticipation of a Triple-A log jam at first base next year, but he
really fits best at first), Marrero's probably a tick better defensively
NatsGM (Washington DC): Aaron, thanks for doing this chat... Who are some of your "sleepers" for the Nationals system?
Let's see... Jeff Kobernus had a nice
bounce-back year — his speed makes him very intriguing. I like Zach
Walters' bat a little more, and he has a chance to be a shortstop (but
probably profiles as a nice utilityman). The catching has really
improved in this system — Sandy Leon and David Freitas have both turned
themselves into prospects (Leon as a defense-oriented catcher, Freitas
as more of an offensive catcher). If you're looking for a really deep
sleeper, even Adrian Nieto had a bit of a bounceback year, though he's
still not a top 30 guy. And Josh Smoker has been wandering through the
wilderness for a while now, but his velocity jumped up into the mid- to
high 90s this year, which puts him back on the prospect map as a
reliever (though he needs to harness his command).
Chris (Boston): What is the future for Derek
Norris in an organization with Wilson Ramos? And do you see it likely
that he could see time in MLB in 2012 - potentially slugging 6 September
HRs, as Eric Karabell recently mused?
That's a bit of a quandary. Norris' bat is
certainly his best tool — well, his combination of pitch recognition,
plate discipline and power — and he has the offensive ability to be a
viable contributor at first base. But his value as a prospect is really
maximized by keeping him behind the plate, where he made considerable
strides this year. His future as a catcher used to be a significant
question, but I don't think it is anymore. If he has a strong 2012,
maybe the Nationals get the most value out of him by trading him.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Of the hurlers that are moving from Auburn to Hagerstown for the 2012 season who are your favorites?
I mentioned Taylor Hill before, and Brian
Dupra is in a similar category. But I'm more intrigued by Manny
Rodriguez, the team's 10th-round pick. He's got a strong, durable frame
and a power arm — he ran his fastball up to 95 at times this spring,
though he was not at peak pitching shape in instructs, when he worked in
the 88-92 range. He's also got the makings of a solid 12-to-6 curveball
and feel for a changeup. He needs to hone his command, but he's got
Joe R (Newport News, VA): The big difference
between Brad Peacock 2011 and Brad Peacock pre-2011 is that his 2011 hit
allowed rate is substantially lower. Is there a concern that he was
just lucky in 2011, and the 2008-2010 edition is the real Peacock?
I don't think so; if you go back and read
my report on Peacock last year, it was actually pretty glowing (he
ranked No. 10 on this list a year ago, despite the pedestrian numbers).
This is a guy who has always had the talent to dominate, and he's
finally put it all together. The reason his hit rate is lower, I think,
is because he did a better job maintaining his alighment, which led to
better command within the strike zone. When you throw better quality
strikes, it is less likely you will surrender hard contact. I think
you're just starting to see the real Peacock.
Roger (Greenville, SC): Did Goodwin respond well to the swing changes that the Nats had him make in instructs?
He came in with "ears wide open," as one
Nats official put it, and really took their instruction to heart. His
swing coming in was rotational and upper-body oriented, and he did a
much better job using his lower half during the course of instructs.
Todd (Tosa): Is it accurate to say that Washington's sytem is this year's version of last year's Royals system?
I wouldn't put it on that level. A big
difference is that four of the top guys on this list are 2011 draftees
who don't have minor league track records yet. I still think they are
very exciting prospects, but they have a lot still to prove. Only
Christian Colon was a 2010 draftee in KC's top 9 last year (and for the
record, I really believe in Colon, but he did not have a great year).
Jay (Washington): I'm a little surprised that
Lombardozzi made the top-10. I would have expected to see someone with a
slightly higher ceiling, like Destin Hood. Or am I underrating
I talked about this a little earlier, but I
think Lombardozzi profiles as an everyday second baseman. I think he's
going to hit .280-.310, control the strike zone, hit situationally, play
rock-solid defense, pick his spots on the bases and make his teammates
better. There have been plenty of players with that profile who have
made all-star teams (the proverbial Ecksteins). I'm telling you, he's a
Dan (Lansing): What's the skinny on Cole Kimball? Is he still viewed as a set up guy?
As with any pitcher who has shoulder
surgery, he's a great question mark. The stuff was still electric before
he got hurt, but it's impossible to know how he'll come back from that
injury. He's still a Top 30 guy and a potential set-up man, but the
medical issue clouds his status.
Paul S. (Dallas, TX): Re Harper: On what
planet is a 14-46-.318 and 3-12-.256 line "tearing up" a league? How is
that "exceeding expectations"? Mantle's 52-130-.353 line in 1956, now
THAT is tearing up a league. Harper is a terrific prospect, no
question, but aren't you guys hyping him a bit too much? I've spoken to
scouts who love his raw talent, but are troubled by what they see as
some rather gaping holes in his swing. Your response?
A .977 OPS as an 18-year-old in the Sally
League is tearing it up, period (and I never said he tore it up in
Double-A, only that he held his own, especially given his age). It is
pure folly to compare an 18-year-old's numbers in low A with a
24-year-old Hall of Famer's numbers in the big leagues in his prime. He
is not a finished product offensively, and he has some things to work on
with his approach. But he is so talented that I have little doubt he'll
really, really hit. I think there is a natural tendency for people to
distrust and even dislike anyone who is "hyped." Well, guess what?
Superstars have to come from somewhere. Griffey and A-Rod were extremely
heavily hyped. LeBron James was hyped even more than Harper. Strasburg
was extremely hyped. Sometimes, outrageously talented athletes come
along, and it doesn't take a genius to recognize they are special.
Tony (Pittsburgh): Where will Rendon start this year?
To be determined, but my guess is Potomac.
William (Pensacola, FL): How patient will the Nationals be with the development of J.P. Ramirez ?
I don't think he's much of a prospect anymore.
Jay (Washington): How many players on this list
would you expect to make BA's top 100 prospects? Harper, Rendon and
Peacock, obviously. Cole seems likely. Goodwin and Meyer? Maybe even
Somewhere between six and nine, I'd say. I'll go with seven and include Purke.
Jon KK (Elkhart, Ind.): Alex Meyer, listed at 7-7 tall in the scouting report, must get a lot of downward plane on his pitches!
Who among Peacock, Cole, Meyer, Purke and Solis have the highest ceilings and are the most likely to reach theirs?
I'll get that typo fixed. Tough question...
from highest ceiling to lowest, I'll say Meyer, Cole, Peacock/Purke,
Solis. From likeliest to least likely to reach their ceiling, I'll say
Peacock, Solis, Purke/Cole, Meyer. So as you can see, balancing ceiling
vs. likelihood to reach ceiling makes ranking those guys tricky — and
you could rank them in a lot of different orders.
Andrew (DC): When do you think the Nationals
will decide what to do with Rendon? If they keep him in the minors at
3rd, doesn't that slow his development if they want him to eventually be
a second baseman?
This is tricky. Part of me thinks they
should do what the Mariners did with Ackley — if he's eventually going
to be a second baseman, just go ahead and make the move now, take your
lumps while he learns the position but get the process underway. The
other part of me says he's just such a good third baseman, it would be a
shame to move him, especially with Zimmerman's contract up after
2013... maybe you keep him at third base for the time being, and make a
move when your hand is forced. I do think Rendon could pick up second
base fairly quickly — he even made a cameo or two there this spring for
Rice, when his shoulder kept him from playing third but the Owls wanted
to show scouts he had versatility, and perhaps also assuage their
concerns about his health a bit. Obviously, there will be a learning
curve, but I think his would not be particularly steep, so maybe you can
afford to wait to make the move.
Kevin (New Jersey): What are your thoughts on
Rendon's chances for a successful move to second base? What about an
outfield of Rendon in left, Harper in center and Werth in right?
Just to piggyback on the last answer — I
don't see a move to the outfield, because his infield actions and
instincts are so good that you'd be wasting a lot of his value if you
moved him to left.
JC (VT): You described Derek Norris as getting
too far out over his front foot when things are going bad. Is this a
correctable mechanical fault? I know he'll never be a .300 hitter but
is there reason to believe that his contact issues the last two years
are fixable (to an extent)?
He does stay back and let the ball travel
at times, which means he's capable of doing it more consistently — it's
not like he has to relearn his swing or anything. And when he does let
it travel, he can really drive the ball from line to line. He has such a
compact, quick stroke — I still believe in his bat.
Casey (Denver, CO): A potential All-Star
catcher at #9, and guys like Destin Hood outside of the Top 10. So I
would guess that it is safe to assume this is the best organizational
system out there?
I don't know about "safe" to assume that,
but I'd have to imagine it's a strong contender for No. 1. That's a
better question for Jim Callis or John Manuel though — and I doubt
they'd tip their hands until we release our farm system rankings.
Antonio (San Domingo): No more Eury Perez? He
was 5th in the Carolina League in batting at age 20 while stealing 45
bases even though he missed almost a month in the DL. Is his stock
really going down? I think he could have a big '12 and bounce back. What
do you think?
The thing I really worry about with Eury is
his approach. He's just such a free-swinger, and that's not what you
want out of a speedy table-setter type. I'm just not sure his bat will
play at the upper levels — he's got this big leg kick that drives the
Nationals nuts, and sometimes it works anyway because he has such good
hand-eye coordination, but he's going to need to quiet down his
mechanics and become more disciplined if he's going to become a big
league regular. He's still in the top 30, but not inside the top 20.
DeathSpeculum (Axis of Tweevil): thoughts on
Tom Milone? incredible command and devastating change, but sits at
86-90? can he be a starter long term? is the secondary stuff enough to
make up for a livan hernandezesque "heater?"
You've got him pegged, and yes, I think he can stick as a starter.
Patrick Yee (LA): When you say that Harper is "the best power prospect ever", is that hyperbole, or is he better than ARod, Stanton, etc?
I don't think I called him the best power
prospect ever — I think I just called him the "most hyped," which is
largely a product of the world we live in now, where information about
prospects is more readily available than ever before. And, of course,
this guy was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old with
the title, "The Chosen One." I don't think A-Rod, Stanton or Babe Ruth
can match that kind of hype, given Sports Illustrated's status as a
mainstream, iconic sports publication.
Ron (Wisconsin): Goodwin - He's a fairly new
name to me...so, can you think of anyone whom his style of play
resembles? Are we talking Mike Cameron comps like so many before or what
do you ultimately see him being as a stat contributor??
Michael Taylor is more of a Cameron kind of
athlete with a Cameron kind of tool set. I've heard Goodwin's swing
compared to Garret Anderson's; he obviously has more speed than
Anderson, and he profiles as a center fielder rather than a corner guy,
but if you're projecting, maybe he can be that kind of offensive player
(which is pretty darn good). Although I don't see Goodwin ever hitting
35 homers in a season, as Anderson did at his peak.
Greg (Fullerton, CA): Where does Matt Grace fit
into the plans for the Nats? Good college LHP out of the pen, but they
seem to want to make him a starter
I think they are mostly developing him as a
starter for now to get him innings, but he still projects better as a
reliever, with a quality slider that could carry him a while.
Petey Pablo (Carrboro): This is an awkward
how bearish is BA / the rest of the baseball world on Purke vis-a-vis
how DC feels about him. I get the impression that other orgs wouldn't
have sprung for so large a deal.
Let's not forget that the Rangers were
ready to give Purke $4 million out of high school, but MLB wouldn't sign
off on the deal (and MLB controlled the Rangers' purse strings at the
time). He came into 2011 as one of the consensus top three prospects in
the draft, so we're talking about a serious talent here. Now, the health
questions scared a lot of teams off, and the Nats undoubtedly made a
bold move investing in him. It is a gamble, but it's a high-upside
gamble, and Washington examined his medical records thoroughly and came
away convinced that he is healthy. So I don't think Washington was so
far removed from the mainstream line of thinking by giving him $2.75
million. I suspect somebody else would have if the Nats hadn't.
andy (denver): how do alex meyer & andrew
brackman compare stuff wise at this stage of their career? brackman was
very tall and highly thought of, but never seemed to reach that
potential and was recently released. same story here?
I compared Meyer to Brackman back in the
spring, and I think that is the cautionary tale here. He's a high-risk,
high-reward guy. Those tall pitchers often struggle to harness their
mechanics and command, and that has been the case so far with Meyer as
it was with Brackman (who flashed similarly overpowering stuff in
college). But if I were in charge of a team that was stuck in the bottom
half of my division for years, I would do exactly what the Nats have
done — spend through the draft, take some gambles. If your $2 million
gamble on Alex Meyer doesn't work out, that's OK — but I'd rather spend
the $2 million on him than spend $4 million a year on the Cristian
Guzmans and Vinny Castillas of the world. If Meyer puts it all together,
he can be a top-of-the-rotation guy and have a much greater impact on
your franchise than a journeyman free agent can have. That is a gamble
worth taking, and I think it is smart to take a bunch of those if you
are a franchise trying to turn things around.
Mark (Washington, DC): What's your take on Danny Rosenbaum?
Nice prospect, nice year, not a high
ceiling. He is a Top 30 guy because he has very good feel for pitching
and gets the best out of his fringy stuff, but he won't be more than a
No. 5 starter and probably fits better as a middle reliever. He's a
little like Tommy Milone, but Milone has a plus pitch in the changeup
while Rosenbaum lacks a plus pitch, and Milone has even better command.
OK everybody, that's all for today. Thanks
for all the fine questions, as always, and thanks for reading Baseball
America! For Nats fans — enjoy watching these young players blossom
over the next couple of years; it's going to be a fun ride.