Washington Nationals: Top 10 Prospects

1. Collin Balester, rhp
2. Chris Marrero, of
3. Colton Willems, rhp
4. Kory Casto, 3b/of
5. Esmailyn Gonzalez, ss
6. Zech Zinicola, rhp
7. Glenn Gibson, lhp
8. Matt Chico, lhp
9. Stephen King, ss
10. Ian Desmond, ss
Best Hitter for Average Chris Marrero
Best Power Hitter Chris Marrero
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Kory Casto
Fastest Baserunner Justin Maxwell
Best Athlete Justin Maxwell
Best Fastball Colton Willems
Best Curveball Glenn Gibson
Best Slider Zech Zinicola
Best Changeup Emiliano Fruto
Best Control Glenn Gibson
Best Defensive Catcher Devin Ivany
Best Defensive Infielder Esmailyn Gonzalez
Best Infield Arm Ian Desmond
Best Defensive Outfielder Frank Diaz
Best Outfield Arm Ryan DeLaughter
Catcher Brian Schneider
First Base Nick Johnson
Second Base Felipe Lopez
Third Base Ryan Zimmerman
Shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez
Left Field Kory Casto
Center Field Austin Kearns
Right Field Chris Marrero
No. 1 Starter Collin Balester
No. 2 Starter Colton Willems
No. 3 Starter John Patterson
No. 4 Starter Glenn Gibson
No. 5 Starter Matt Chico
Closer Chad Cordero
Year Player, Position 2006
1997 Vladimir Guerrero, of Angels
1998 Brad Fullmer, 1b Out of baseball
1999 Michael Barrett, 3b/c Cubs
2000 Tony Armas, rhp Nationals
2001 Donnie Bridges, rhp Alexandria (United)
2002 Brandon Phillips, ss Reds
2003 Clint Everts, rhp Nationals
2004 Clint Everts, rhp Nationals
2005 Mike Hinckley, lhp Nationals
2006 Ryan Zimmerman, 3b Nationals
Year Player, Position 2006
1997 Donnie Bridges, rhp Alexandria (United)
1998 Josh McKinley, ss Out of baseball
1999 Josh Girdley, lhp Out of baseball
2000 Justin Wayne, rhp Out of baseball
2001 Josh Karp, rhp Nationals
2002 Clint Everts, rhp Nationals
2003 Chad Cordero, rhp Nationals
2004 Bill Bray, lhp Reds
2005 Ryan Zimmerman, 3b Nationals
2006 Chris Marrero, of Nationals
Ryan Zimmerman, 2005 $2,975,000
Justin Wayne, 2000 $2,950,000
Josh Karp, 2001 $2,650,000
Clint Everts, 2002 $2,500,000
Grady Sizemore, 2000 $2,000,000
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Washington Nationals

The Nationals finally found some stability in their second season in Washington, as a new ownership group led by developer Ted Lerner took the over the reins of the franchise from Major League Baseball in late July. Former Braves executive Stan Kasten became team president, and general manager Jim Bowden and his staff were given the security of knowing their jobs were no longer in limbo.

Bowden’™s major offseason acquisition, Alfonso Soriano, joined Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez as the only members of the 40-40 club. Though Bowden knew there was a high risk Soriano would leave as a free agent after the season, he held on to his all-star left fielder at the trading deadline. When Soriano signed a $136 million contract with the Cubs, Washington was left with two draft picks in return.

Soriano’s big season and Ryan Zimmerman’s 110-RBI rookie year didn’t pay off in the standings, however. The Nationals finished in last place in the National League East at 71-91, 10 games worse than in 2005. Washington let manager Frank Robinson go after the season, replacing him with Mets third-base coach Manny Acta.

But the Nationals are about the future, not the present. With a new ballpark set to open in 2007, they spent 2006 trying to build a long-term foundation by acquiring as many young players as they could through trades, the draft and the international market.

Though he didn’t spin off Soriano, Bowden did make some slick trades during the summer. He acquired big leaguers Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez from the Reds and pitching prospects Luis Atilano (Braves), Matt Chico and Garrett Mock (Diamondbacks), Shairon Martis (Giants) and Jhonny Nunez (Dodgers) without giving up anyone in Washington’s long-term plans. Bowden made another nice move in December, dispatching declining veteran Jose Vidro and $12 million in salary obligations to the Mariners for outfielder Chris Snelling and righthander Emiliano Fruto.

For the first time in five years, the Nationals could spend freely in the draft. Though they had two first-round picks and two second-rounders, they didn’™t have to worry about signability like they had in the past. Though they didn’t sign second-round righthander Sean Black, they landed two legitimate first-rounders in outfielder Chris Marrero and righthander Colten Willems and went over slot money to sign shortstop Stephen King (third round), lefthander Glenn Gibson (fourth) and righty Hassan Pena (13th).

All told, Washington spent $5.3 million on the draft, the 10th-highest amount in baseball. The Nationals also signed

16-year-old Dominican shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez for $1.4 million. They trumpeted that bonus in their official press release, making a statement that they will be major players in Latin America for years to come.

The end result of all the moves is that Washington has vastly improved the depth in its farm system, though it will take some time for the talent to progress to the upper levels. The Nationals hope to build their club with homegrown talent, much like the Braves did under Kasten.

To that end, the Nationals hired Diamondbacks scouting director Mike Rizzo as assistant GM and vice president of baseball operations. Washington added 10 scouts, including former Devil Rays GM Chuck LaMar, in November to augment a scouting staff that had been ravaged during MLB’™s ownership. Even with a skeleton staff, scouting director Dana Brown has proven resourceful with help from scouts like Tony Arango, who signed the first three prospects on this Top 10 list.