2012 Washington Nationals Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Follow me on Twitter

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.

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Nationals Chat
Aaron Fitt
Pre-Order the 2012 Prospect Handbook
30 scouting reports on every team

Nationals Team Page
Nationals Top 10 Prospects
Last Year's Nationals Top 10 Prospects
2011 Draft: Nationals (Basic Database)
2011 Draft: Nationals (Advanced Database)
2011 Draft Report Cards: Washington Nationals
Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Pre-Order the 2012 Prospect Handbook
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. Bryce Harper, OF Born: Oct 16, 1992 B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 225
Drafted: JC of Southern Nevada, 2010 (1st round).  Signed by: Mitch Sokol
Background: The most hyped position player prospect in draft history, Harper has met or exceeded sky-high expectations at every stop in his short career. After establishing himself as a can't-miss phenom early in his high school career, Harper earned his general equivalency diploma and skipped his final two years at Las Vegas High so he could enroll early at JC of Southern Nevada, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's top amateur player in 2010. After being selected first overall that June and signing a $9.9 million major league contract—the largest ever given to a position player in the draft, and which included a $6.25 million bonus—Harper got his feet wet in the Arizona Fall League.  He made his official pro debut as an 18-year-old in low Class A last April, and tore up the South Atlantic League in the first half. He got his first taste of adversity after skipping to Double-A Harrisburg at midseason, enduring a 1-for-25 slump, but bounced back to finish with respectable numbers. A hamstring injury cut his season two weeks short, but he recovered in time to head back to the AFL.

Scouting Report: Harper's power and arm strength both rate as 80s on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has incredible strength in his hands and generates enormous torque in his lefthanded swing, allowing him to smash massive drives to all fields. Harper has some extra movement in his swing and sometimes jumps out on his front foot too early, but when he stays down and lets the ball travel, he sees pitches well and can drive them hard to the opposite field. He improved his two-strike approach as the season progressed. Double-A lefthanders limited him to a .167 average and one homer in 48 at-bats, but he hit them well at Hagerstown and shouldn't have a massive platoon split. Harper draws plenty of walks and has the ability to be an above-average or better hitter as he matures, though some scouts think he may strike out too much to hit for a high average. He's learning to stay under control when he throws, just as when he's in the batter's box. Primarily a catcher as an amateur, Harper played all three outfield positions in his pro debut. He learned the importance of staying closed and using his legs when he throws, and he racked up seven assists in just 37 Double-A games while seeing his first action in left field. Currently an above-average runner, Harper plays with youthful aggression in the outfield and on the basepaths, and his reads are getting better in both facets. He has the speed and instincts to steal bases, though he's still learning when he should run. Many evaluators think Harper will lose a step and wind up in right field once he matures physically, though the Nationals believe he has a chance to stick in center field. He's a tireless worker who loves to play the game, though sometimes his cockiness rubs opponents the wrong way.

The Future: Harper looks like a sure-fire superstar in the making, and he has a very real chance to develop into the best all-around player in baseball. He figures to start 2012 back at Harrisburg or perhaps at Triple-A Syracuse if he dazzles in the spring, and he could slug his way to Washington before season's end.
'11 Hagerstown (LoA) 258 49 82 17 1 14 46 44 61 19 5 .318 .423 .554
'11 Harrisburg (AA) 129 14 33 7 1 3 12 15 26 7 2 .256 .329 .395
Minor League Totals 387 63 115 24 2 17 58 59 87 26 7 .297 .392 .501

2. Anthony Rendon, 3B Born: Jun 06, 1990 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 190
Drafted: Rice, 2011 (1st round).  Signed by: Tyler Wilt
Background: Rendon won Baseball America's Freshman of the Year award in 2009, followed by College Player of the Year honors in 2010. A strained throwing shoulder limited him to mostly DH duties and sapped his power as a junior last spring, and while he still sat atop BA's draft prospect rankings, he slid to the Nationals at No. 6. He signed a big league contract worth $7.2 million (including a $6 million bonus) at the Aug. 15 deadline, and sat out games in instructional league while continuing to build strength in his shoulder.

Scouting Report: Though he's not physically imposing, Rendon has remarkable strength in his hands and wrists, uncanny hand-eye coordination, outstanding plate coverage and exceptional pitch recognition. He consistently drives the ball hard to all fields and projects as a well above-average hitter with plus power. He has average speed despite torn ligaments in his right ankle in 2009 and a break in the same ankle in 2010, and he's smart on the basepaths. When healthy, Rendon has superb defensive instincts and actions, good range and an above-average arm.

The Future: Rendon has drawn comparisons with Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman and David Wright. But with Zimmerman entrenched at third base in Washington, Rendon eventually may shift to second base. His polished bat should carry him quickly through the minors.
Did Not Play

3. Brad Peacock, RHP Born: Feb 02, 1988 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 175
Drafted: Palm Beach Central HS, Wellington, Fla., 2006 (41st round).  Signed by: Tony Arango
Background: Peacock's arm strength has made him stand out since his days as a prep shortstop. He made gradual progress in his first four seasons with the Nationals before breaking out in 2011. He was the Double-A Eastern League pitcher of the year and finished with impressive stints in Triple-A and the majors.

Scouting Report: Peacock pitches comfortably at 91-94 mph and runs his fastball up to 97 at times. He worked hard in 2011 to keep his front shoulder closed while maintaining his balance and alignment, which led to improved fastball command and deception. He pitches heavily off his four-seamer, which has late hop. He has another swing-and-miss pitch in his sharp 12-to-6 curveball, though it still needs more consistency. He has gained significant confidence in his low-80s changeup, throwing it with good arm speed and fade, though it still gets too firm at times. Peacock is a great athlete who fields his position well, though he's not overly physical.

The Future: Though he'll compete for a big league rotation spot out of spring training, some more time in Triple-A to master his delivery and secondary stuff might benefit Peacock. He could become a No. 2 starter if everything clicks.

'07 Nationals (R) 1 1 3.89 13 7 0 39 38 23 17 1 15 34 .244
'08 Hagerstown (LoA) 0 5 9.09 8 8 0 34 38 38 34 8 21 23 .273
'08 Vermont (SS) 4 7 3.12 14 14 0 75 67 38 26 3 27 54 .229
'09 Hagerstown (LoA) 5 8 4.05 19 17 0 100 104 49 45 10 32 77 .257
'09 Potomac (HiA) 3 3 4.34 8 7 0 48 46 26 23 4 10 27 .243
'10 Potomac (HiA) 4 9 4.44 19 18 0 103 109 59 51 11 25 118 .260
'10 Harrisburg (AA) 2 2 4.66 7 7 0 39 33 21 20 5 22 30 .221
'11 Harrisburg (AA) 10 2 2.01 16 14 0 99 62 25 22 4 23 129 .173
'11 Syracuse (AAA) 5 1 3.19 9 9 0 48 36 18 17 5 24 48 .200
'11 Washington (MAJ) 2 0 0.75 3 2 0 12 7 1 1 0 6 4 .163
Major League Totals 2 0 0.75 3 2 0 12 7 7 1 0 6 4 .163
Minor League Totals 34 38 3.92 113 101 0 585 533 533 255 51 199 540 .233

4. A.J. Cole, RHP Born: Jan 05, 1992 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 180
Drafted: Oviedo (Fla.) HS, 2010 (4th round).  Signed by: Paul Tinnell
Background: After signing for a fourth round-record $2 million bonus in August 2010, Cole pitched only one inning at short-season Vermont. An illness caused him to lose weight before the start of spring training in 2011, and the Nationals cautiously kept him in extended spring training until mid-May. He held his own against older competition in the South Atlantic League and got stronger as the year went on.

Scouting Report: By the end of the summer, Cole's fastball ranged from 90-98 mph and sat in the mid-90s. He has no fear of attacking hitters with his fastball, and he did a better job commanding the pitch down in the zone as the season progressed. Early on, he tended to rush his delivery, but it became more compact, repeatable and rhythmic during the summer, helping him generate a good downward plane. Cole throws a spike curveball as a chase pitch and is getting better at throwing it for strikes, but Washington plans on having him work on a true curve that would be easier to keep in the zone. He's still learning to trust his changeup.

The Future: Cole is still getting stronger physically and has frontline-starter upside, but he'll need to refine his secondary stuff. The Nationals will be patient and figure to send him to high Class A Potomac in 2012.
'10 Vermont (SS) 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 .250
'11 Hagerstown (LoA) 4 7 4.04 20 18 0 89 87 47 40 6 24 108 .246
Minor League Totals 4 7 4.00 21 18 0 90 88 88 40 6 25 109 .246

5. Brian Goodwin, OF Born: Nov 02, 1990 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 195
Drafted: Miami Dade JC, 2011 (1.5 round).  Signed by: Alex Morales
Background: Goodwin put together a strong freshman year at North Carolina in 2010 and in the Cape Cod League that summer but got suspended for the 2011 season after violating university policy. He transferred to Miami Dade JC, where he started slowly, thanks in part to a tweaked hamstring. He bounced back to go 34th overall in the draft, signing just before the Aug. 15 deadline for $3 million.

Scouting Report: An athletic specimen, Goodwin has the makings of five average or better tools. His best is his speed, which draws grades ranging from plus to plus-plus. He's still learning to steal bases and take charge in center field, where he can become an above-average defender. He has solid arm strength and a quick release. Goodwin flashed electric bat speed and showed a patient, gap-to-gap approach in college, but he arrived at instructional league with a rotational, upper-body, metal-bat swing. The Nationals worked with him on using his lower half more and getting his quick, strong hands into better hitting position. He projects as a .275 hitter with 20 or more homers per year.

The Future: Goodwin needs time to develop, but he has the tools to be an impact center fielder who hits in the top third of a big league lineup. He'll make his pro debut in low Class A.
Did Not Play

6. Alex Meyer, RHP Born: Jan 03, 1990 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-9 Wt.: 220
Drafted: Kentucky, 2011 (1st round).  Signed by: Reed Dunn
Background: Meyer turned down $2 million from the Red Sox as a 20th-round pick out of high school in 2008. He struggled in his first two seasons at Kentucky, going 6-7, 6.37 overall, before coming on strong as a junior in 2011. Scouts were encouraged that Meyer competed better in the spring, which helped improve his draft stock. The Nationals matched the $2 million he once declined to sign him as the 23rd overall pick.

Scouting Report: Meyer sat at 94-97 mph and broke 100 on occasion with his four-seam fastball last spring, though he topped out at 93 in instructional league. He mixes in a 91-93 mph two-seamer with above-average life when it's down in the zone. He uses a knuckle-curve grip to deliver an 82-88 mph slider that's a wipeout pitch at times. He also has improving feel for his 84-86 mph changeup. As with most tall pitchers, repeating his delivery is key for Meyer. He tends to rotate his torso too early, and he must do a better job staying over the rubber and on line to the plate. His arm slot also varies from three-quarters to low three-quarters. He has a ways to go to master his mechanics and his command, but it's encouraging that he works around the strike zone.

The Future: Meyer could be an ace starter or a flamethrowing reliever in the mold of Daniel Bard. He'll likely debut in low Class A.
Did Not Play

7. Matt Purke, LHP Born: Jul 17, 1990 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 180
Drafted: Texas Christian, 2011 (3rd round).  Signed by: Ed Gustafson
Background: The 14th overall pick in the 2009 draft, Purke agreed to a $6 million bonus with the Rangers, but MLB controlled the club's finances and refused to approve the deal. He went 16-0 to lead Texas Christian to its first College World Series and earn Freshman of the Year honors in 2010. Shoulder bursitis sidelined him for month in 2011 and dropped him to the third round as a sophomore-eligible, but the Nationals cleared him medically before signing him to a big league deal with a $2.75 million bonus and $4.15 million total guarantee.

Scouting Report: When fully healthy, Purke pounds the strike zone with a lively 91-94 mph fastball that reaches 96, and he backs it up with a plus 78-82 mph slider. He worked at 89-93 mph with his fastball in instructional league before heading to the Arizona Fall League. He also has good feel for a changeup. Purke always has had a slingy, low three-quarters arm action, but he dropped his slot even further and threw across his body more in 2011, causing his stuff to flatten out. He did raise his arm angle in instructional league. He's an intense competitor who works quickly.

The Future: Another potential frontline starter for the Nationals, Purke figures to move quickly if he regains his health. He could start his career in high Class A.
Did Not Play

8. Sammy Solis, LHP Born: Aug 10, 1988 B-T: R-L Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 230
Drafted: San Diego, 2010 (2nd round).  Signed by: Tim Reynolds
Background: Solis, whose family owns an AIDS orphanage in Africa, has a good sense of perspective that served him well when he missed almost all of 2009 with a herniated disc in his back. He recovered to throw 92 quality innings for San Diego in 2010, pushing himself back up draft boards. Signed for $1 million that August, he injured his quadriceps last spring and didn't begin his first full pro season until May 30. He found his groove after a midseason promotion to high Class A, where he allowed seven earned runs over his final six starts.

Scouting Report: Solis has a physical build, clean delivery and easy arm action. He added velocity in 2011 and at his best pitches at 90-94 mph with his fastball, which has late tailing life. His four-seamer tops out at 96. The depth, speed and shape of his spike curveball can vary, from a plus curve with true downer break at times to more of a slider at others. He has good feel for his changeup, which projects as a solid or better pitch. He throws strikes but gets in trouble when he leaves balls up in the zone.

The Future: Solis will advance to Double-A in 2012 and could push for a spot in the big league rotation the following season. He profiles as a mid-rotation starter.
'10 Hagerstown (LoA) 0 0 0.00 2 2 0 4 2 0 0 0 0 3 .143
'11 Hagerstown (LoA) 2 1 4.02 7 7 0 40 39 18 18 3 12 40 .244
'11 Potomac (HiA) 6 2 2.72 10 10 0 56 61 20 17 5 11 53 .265
Minor League Totals 8 3 3.15 19 19 0 100 102 102 35 8 23 96 .254

9. Derek Norris, C Born: Feb 14, 1989 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 210
Drafted: Goddard (Kan.) HS, 2007 (4th round).  Signed by: Ryan Fox
Background: Norris long has been regarded as a gifted offensive player, but early in his pro career there were questions about the converted third baseman's ability to catch. He answered them by making great strides defensively in Double-A in 2011, when he also slugged 20 homers but also hit .210.

Scouting Report: Despite his low batting averages and high strikeout totals, Norris has excellent pitch recognition and the ability to command the zone when he stays back. When he struggles, he jumps to his front side too early and his bat doesn't stay in the zone. He has quick hands and a compact stroke that generates plus power from line to line, though he's at his best when he's driving the ball to right-center. Norris' throwing, receiving, footwork, blocking and game-calling all have improved significantly. He still needs to polish his receiving a bit more, but his solid-average arm helped him throw out an Eastern League-high 40 percent of basestealers. A great athlete for a catcher, he has good speed underway and isn't afraid to steal bases.

The Future: Norris now looks likely to stick behind the plate as a big leaguer, and his offensive ability gives him a chance to be an all-star. Wilson Ramos poses an obstacle in Washington that he'll have to deal with after he spends 2012 in Triple-A.
'07 Nationals (R) 123 16 25 6 2 4 15 25 38 2 1 .203 .344 .382
'08 Vermont (SS) 227 42 63 12 0 10 38 63 56 11 9 .278 .444 .463
'09 Hagerstown (LoA) 437 78 125 30 0 23 84 90 116 6 3 .286 .413 .513
'10 Potomac (HiA) 298 67 70 19 0 12 49 89 94 6 3 .235 .419 .419
'11 Harrisburg (AA) 334 75 70 17 1 20 46 77 117 13 4 .210 .367 .446
Minor League Totals 1419 278 353 84 3 69 232 344 421 38 20 .249 .403 .458

10. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B/SS Born: Sep 20, 1988 B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 170
Drafted: St. Petersburg (Fla.) JC, 2008 (19th round).  Signed by: Paul Tinnell
Background: Lombardozzi's father of the same name was a sparkplug second baseman for the 1987 World Series-champion Twins, and the son's game is similar. He breezed through the minors and established himself as a favorite of officials throughout the system.

Scouting Report: Lombardozzi's tools don't stand out, but they all play up because of his baseball acumen and professional approach. A switch-hitter, he has a balanced, line-drive stroke from both sides. An adept situational hitter and bunter, he excels at making contact and can drive the ball into the gaps. He's a slightly above-average runner who picks his spots wisely, as evidenced by his 79 percent success rate on steal attempts in 2011. Lombardozzi committed just two errors all season in the minors, a product of his focus and savvy as much as his sure hands and textbook technique. He has solid range and a fringy arm, and he has held his own filling in at shortstop and third base.

The Future: Lombardozzi has the tools and skills to be a quality everyday second baseman, and he's versatile enough to be a high-energy utilityman. The latter could be his role in the short term, with Danny Espinosa entrenched at second base in Washington.

'08 Nationals (R) 152 23 43 4 1 0 24 21 32 4 1 .283 .371 .322
'09 Hagerstown (LoA) 496 90 147 26 7 3 58 62 80 16 7 .296 .375 .395
'10 Potomac (HiA) 440 71 129 30 9 1 38 49 60 20 10 .293 .370 .409
'10 Harrisburg (AA) 105 19 31 5 2 5 11 12 15 4 2 .295 .373 .524
'11 Harrisburg (AA) 262 40 81 12 7 4 23 18 38 16 3 .309 .366 .454
'11 Syracuse (AAA) 294 46 91 13 2 4 29 21 40 14 5 .310 .354 .408
'11 Washington (MAJ) 31 3 6 1 0 0 1 1 4 0 0 .194 .219 .226
Major League Totals 31 3 6 1 0 0 1 1 4 0 0 .194 .219 .226
Minor League Totals 1749 289 522 90 28 17 183 183 265 74 28 .298 .369 .411