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Top Ten Prospects: Washington Nationals
Complete Index of Top 10s

By Aaron Fitt
January 4, 2005


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, 2005.

Scouting reports for the Top 10 Prospects (Subscribers only) -- Click Here to Subscribe


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TOP TEN PROSPECTS
1. Mike Hinckley, lhp
2. Larry Broadway, 1b
3. Ryan Church, of
4. Clint Everts, rhp
5. Brendan Harris, inf
6. Bill Bray, lhp
7. Daryl Thompson, rhp
8. Darrell Rasner, rhp
9. Kory Casto, 3b
10. Collin Balester, rhp
BEST TOOLS
Best Hitter for Average Brendan Harris
Best Power Hitter Larry Broadway
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Ryan Church
Fastest Baserunner Jerry Owens
Best Athlete Jerry Owens
Best Fastball Collin Balester
Best Curveball Danny Rueckel
Best Slider Bill Bray
Best Changeup Clint Everts
Best Control Mike Hinckley
Best Defensive Catcher Erick San Pedro
Best Defensive Infielder Shawn Norris
Best Infield Arm Josh Labandeira
Best Defensive Outfielder Ryan Church
Best Outfield Arm Edgardo Baez
TOP PROSPECTS
OF THE DECADE
1995 Ugueth Urbina, rhp
1996 Vladimir Guerrero, of
1997 Vladimir Guerrero, of
1998 Brad Fullmer, 1b
1999 Michael Barrett, 3b/c
2000 Tony Armas, rhp
2001 Donnie Bridges, rhp
2002 Brandon Phillips, ss
2003 Clint Everts, rhp
2004 Clint Everts, rhp
TOP DRAFT PICKS
OF THE DECADE
1995 Michael Barrett, ss
1996 *John Patterson, rhp
1997 Donnie Bridges, rhp
1998 Josh McKinley, ss
1999 Josh Girdley, lhp
2000 Justin Wayne, rhp
2001 Josh Karp, rhp
2002 Clint Everts, rhp
2003 Chad Cordero, rhp
2004 Bill Bray, lhp
* Did not sign
LARGEST BONUSES
IN CLUB HISTORY
Justin Wayne, 2000 $2,950,000
Josh Karp, 2001 $2,650,000
Clint Everts, 2002 $2,500,000
Grady Sizemore, 2000 2,000,000
Bill Bray, 2004 $1,750,000

For the first time since Major League Baseball assumed ownership of the Expos in 2002, the franchise appeared to have some certainty about its future. After years of dragging its feet, MLB announced in September that it was moving the team to Washington, D.C., for the 2005 season. The renamed Nationals finally had a home after two years of splitting home games between Montreal and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Not so fast. The deal between MLB and Washington, which called for a publicly funded stadium, began to unravel in December. The D.C. council reneged on that agreement, amending the financing plan to call for at least half the money to come from a private source. MLB abruptly shut down the Nationals’ business and promotional operations. But hold on again. A week later the council, the mayor’s office and MLB reached a compromise, and a divided council narrowly approved it. The new deal allows the city to pay for the ballpark with tax money while searching for private financing, and splits the liability for cost overruns and missed deadlines evenly between the city and MLB.

True stability won’t arrive until the Nationals get a real owner. The team has operated under tight financial restrictions for years, and the Expos were held to a strict draft budget and allowed to have just a skeleton staff, with 11 full-time scouts in 2004.

Considering those handicaps, scouting director Dana Brown has done an admirable job. His first draft in 2002 netted three of the franchise’s Top 10 Prospects in first baseman Larry Broadway and righthanders Clint Everts and Darrell Rasner. Chad Cordero zoomed to the majors after being taken in the first round of the 2003 draft, which also produced righthander Daryl Thompson, third baseman Kory Casto and outfielder Jerry Owens.

It’s too early to tell how the 2004 draft crop will stack up, but lefthander Bill Bray looks like another first-rounder on the fast track. Righthander Collin Balester also has potential, and the organization’s need for catching was addressed with the early selections of Erick San Pedro and Devin Ivany.

Though the club’s draft efforts are encouraging, the reality remains that its farm system is one of the worst in the game. Former general manager Omar Minaya, who bolted for the Mets in October, strip-mined the franchise of most of its top prospects—including Jason Bay, Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore—in a failed 2002 playoff run. Minaya swung a couple of nice trades in 2004 to get Francis Beltran, Ryan Church and Brendan Harris, but the system remains depleted.

Until a real owner buys the team, MLB has appointed former Reds GM Jim Bowden as Minaya’s replacement. Bowden quickly made several aggressive moves, signing free agents Vinny Castilla and Cristian Guzman to contracts totaling $23 million and trading with the Angels for outfielder Jose Guillen. But with the franchise’s long-term future up in the air yet again, its short-term direction is uncertain as well.


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