2013 Washington Nationals Top 10 Prospects Chat With Aaron Fitt

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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.

Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody, thanks for stopping by another Nats chat. Much different feel to this list than last year's, as the Nats have done exactly what you're supposed to do with a loaded farm system — use it to build a winner at the big league level. Let's get chatting.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Would you describe your feelings about Matt Purke as cautiously optimistic, or do you believe the Nats bought themselves a player who simply can't justify the expectations placed upon him?

Aaron Fitt: Hi Ben. I'll admit, I'm more than a little nervous that Purke peaked as a college freshman and won't ever be the same pitcher again. For now, I'm giving him—and the Nats' medical staff—the benefit of the doubt, because I've seen what he can do when he's healthy. But he's a major X-factor. I still think it was worth taking the gamble on him—I really like how aggressive this organization has been in the draft, taking advantage when elite talents fall to them because of injury and signability. Between Purke, Giolito and Rendon, I'm confident the Nats will get enough returns to justify the expenditures.

    Frank (Chicago): Had he remained with the Nats, where would Alex Meyer have ranked?

Aaron Fitt: He was No. 4 on my original list, turned in before the trade. But you could have made a case for putting those top four in any order, really. They all have serious upside, and they all have question marks.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): How close to your top 10 was OF Michael Taylor, and is he still a work in progress at the plate? How about in the field?

Aaron Fitt: Ultimately, Taylor fell just outside the Top 10. I was not very encouraged by his season, but his upside is still significant enough that he is close to the Top 10 in a what is suddenly a thin system. He's an outstanding defender in center field — defense is his calling card. But scouts worry about the length in his swing and wonder if he'll ever hit enough to be a big leaguer. He's one of those high-risk, high-reward guys.

    Grant (NYC): Chris Marrero - prospect or suspect?

Aaron Fitt: I lean toward suspect at this stage. I certainly don't see him becoming a star player in the big leagues as the Nationals once hoped, but he could be a serviceable bat off the bench or the righthanded half of a platoon. It's hard to put too much stock into his 2012 season — it was really a lost year for him developmentally, because of injuries — but he's a one-dimensional player who needs to really hit for power to have value at the big league level, and he hasn't slugged .500 at any stop in his career since 2007 at Hagerstown.

    Erin (DC): What is Destin Hood's future role likely to be at this point?

Aaron Fitt: Another player the Nats aren't giving up on, but it's notable that they left him unprotected and he went unselected in the Rule 5 draft. He's still just 22, and maybe he'll figure it out next year, but I'm skeptical. For a guy who's supposed to have electric bat speed and big raw power, I can't get over the fact that he has 26 homers in 1600-plus career at-bats, and hit just three last year. Sure, he could figure it out and prove me wrong — but as of now, I don't see him becoming an impact big leaguer.

    Harry (Joisey): Your thoughts on Sandy Leon's catching skills? Is he in your 11-20 range?

Aaron Fitt: He is, and in my first version of his list he ranked 10th (though he moved down a few spots during the editing process because of concerns that he profiles best as a backup catcher). But he's an outstanding defender — a plus receiver with good agility and blocking skills, and a slightly above-average arm that he really knows how to use. I think he'll have a long big league career, whether as a backup, a part-time player or even a fringe starter. He's really made huge strides offensively, though I can't see him ever being an impact hitter. But his defense makes him valuable.

    Ben (Leland Grove): I see you ranked Billy Burns as the fastest runner in the system, above Perez. If Perez scored an 80 on the 20-80 scale, does that mean Burns is in Billy Hamilton territory on the basepaths?

Aaron Fitt: You can almost flip a coin between those two — they're both 80 runners, and there was not a consensus about who is faster amongst the organization officials I polled. (Jeff Kobernus also got some mentions before he was Rule 5'ed). But Burns got a bit more support than Perez, so I went with him. Burns is a real burner, but I won't put him in Hamilton range — he's actually still got a bit more work to do as a basestealer, particularly with his jumps.

    Jake (Washington, DC): How confident are you that we're not looking at Chris Marrero Version 2 in Matt Skole?

Aaron Fitt: There are some similarities, certainly. Skole is only a year younger than Marrero, and he's still in A-ball, so it's important not to get too carried away with Skole, but I'm very encouraged by his power output this year, and also by his walk total. Marrero has a career strikeout-walk rate of more than 2-1. Skole strikes out plenty, but his strikeout-walk rate is 1.3-1 through his first two pro seasons, and it was similar at Georgia Tech. I like power hitters who can offset their strikeouts by also drawing a lot of walks. And it was very apparent from the get-go that Marrero would not stick at third base, but Skole has really made strides there, to the point that he could be a serviceable defender there in the big leagues. He probably fits better at first, but he'll have the versatility to play either corner. Skole has plenty of doubters, but I think there is a lot of reason to be optimistic.

    Frank (Chicago): Safe to assume only the top three will make BA's top 100, or does Skole have a case as well?

Aaron Fitt: I'm not involved with the Top 100 deliberations, but if I were a betting man, I would bet on only the top three making it.

    @ProspectD2J (Toronto): Hey Aaron, thanks for the chat. After having surgery last year, do the Nationals expect Matt Purke to be 100% healthy to start the year?

Aaron Fitt: That is the expectation. You never know with a shoulder issue, especially one that has lingered for a couple of years now, but this wasn't a "major" surgery — they were just cleaning out scar tissue. Maybe this was exactly what he needed to get back to where he was as a freshman at TCU. We'll soon find out!

    Nathaniel (Minnesota): While Corey Brown is relatively old for the minors he has put up some decent numbers. Any chance he becomes a regular for a club?

Aaron Fitt: I see him more as a fourth outfielder. He's got power, and he's a good enough athlete with enough arm strength to fill in anywhere in the outfield, but I just don't see him hitting enough to be a regular — there's a lot of swing and miss there.

    Alex (Fairfax, VA): Destin Hood is out of the top 10, but how does he project? Is he a 4th outfielder type on a contender? How would you compare him to, say, Roger Bernadina?

Aaron Fitt: They have different skill sets. Bernadina is a nice fit as a fourth outfielder because he's a good runner and a good defender — he provides value in the outfield and on the basepaths. Hood doesn't really bring that stuff to the table — his value is completely tied to his bat, so he just needs to hit, plain and simple.

    Jacob (Baltimore): My word. Are we sure that's not a picture of Nate Karns' father? Or maybe that his DOB is off by a decade? Just making sure. Thank you.

Aaron Fitt: Ha! He does look rather more like a pitching coach than a pitching prospect, doesn't he? Karns has been around for a while — really a neat story how he re-established himself this year. He really wasn't on the radar at all last year. But once upon a time, we were very high on him during his amateur days. Sometimes it just takes guys longer to get there.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Name a sleeper from the Nationals low minors (below A+).

Aaron Fitt: I'm intrigued by Ivan Pineyro, a Dominican righty who just turned 21 this September. His velocity has jumped into the 90-94 range, he has good feel for a changeup that could become a plus pitch, and the Nats have been impressed with his maturity and professionalism. The key will be improving his breaking ball and refining his command. But he's got a good arm — definitely a guy to keep an eye on.

    Jay (DC): I'm baffled as to why Giolito fell so far in the draft. If he really was a top-3 pick before his injury, why should TJ surgery matter so much, given the current full recovery rate?

Aaron Fitt: The reason is signability. Giolito comes from a wealthy family (his parents were both actors), and he made it clear it would take a very significant signing bonus to keep him from going to UCLA. And the new draft rules restrict how much teams can offer once you get past the first couple of picks, so it was a real gamble for the Nats to take him where they did, knowing they'd have to save money with most of their other top-10-rounds picks in order to give Giolito more than the slot recommendation for the No. 16 pick. It was bold, and it was savvy.

    Frank (Chicago): Do you believe Brett Mooneyham was a good get for Washington? Did he place in your top 30?

Aaron Fitt: It was a solid third-round pick who was willing to sign for slot. Mooneyham does have some upside — he was an elite prospect coming out of high school, and he never quite lived up to expectations at Stanford, but if the Nats can iron out his mechanics, his command could take a step forward, and he could really pay dividends. He has a great pitcher's frame, plenty of athleticism and arm strength from the left side — there's plenty to like there. But he's got a long way to go — certainly some risk there. He cracked the top 20 on my list.

    Tucker (Florida): In last year's scouting report Brian Goodwin's speed was "plus to plus-plus," now it's simply "above average." Has he slowed down, were the reports coming out of college inaccurate, or are you using "above-average" very generally here (i.e. anything between 55-80)? What grade are scouts giving his speed right now?

Aaron Fitt: Above-average is really just another way to say plus — both of them mean 60 on the 20-80 scale. (As opposed to "slightly above-average", which would refer to a 55 grade). He'll show better than 60 times sometimes (especially underway, going from first to third or tracking balls in the outfield, rather than going from home to first), but I'm most comfortable calling him a 60 runner.

    Huston (Layton): What is Rendon's absolute ceiling triple slash line? Is this possible at his peak: .330/.440/.580?

Aaron Fitt: Something like that could be his peak, sure. Look at what Buster Posey did this year — Rendon's college track record and offensive abilities were comparable to Posey's, and I could see him being that kind of offensive player, but with a chance for more walks. Obviously we're projecting upside here.

    Patrick (Sandpoint, Idaho): Is Karn's a truly legit prospect to start with the Nats or someone else down the road? He doesn't show in the 2016 potentials but the obvious talent on the current Nats depth list would dictate that.

Aaron Fitt: He's got a physical frame and the makings of three quality pitches — I think he's got a real chance to be a big league starter, though I could also see him thriving in a late-innings relief role. Right now, the Nats are pretty loaded with starting pitching, so maybe he winds up in another organization or in the Washington bullpen. I'd say one of those outcomes is more likely — but then again, pitching injuries are inevitable, and it's nice to have other quality starting options in the pipeline. The Nats will stay the course with him for the time being, I suspect.

    Jay (DC): I'm a bit surprised to see Skole ranked as highly as he was. Do you think the relative success of Tyler Moore last year makes Skole's development path look clearer?

Aaron Fitt: Partly, his high ranking is a product of the losses this system has suffered to MLB graduation and trades. Skole has risk, but he also has a legit chance to be an everyday big leaguer — there aren't aren't a lot of guys in this system who are safer bets to be regulars. And yes, I think there's something to be said for the Tyler Moore model. But one thing I like about Skole is that he walks considerably more than Moore ever did. In fact, Skole had more than twice as many walks this year (96) as Moore ever did in a minor league season (40).

    james (potomac,md): Did aaron barrett get any consideration on this list? He dominated this year numbers wise.

Aaron Fitt: He did get some consideration at the back of the Top 30, but not for the Top 10. He's going to be 25 in January, and he still hasn't pitched above Class A. Granted, his success at Potomac and in the AFL was very encouraging, but his stuff is pretty average — it's an average fastball (91-92) and a slightly above-average slider that eats up hitters at lower levels. He's got a chance to be a big league middle reliever, but not more than that.

    Ryan from NatsGM.com (Washington DC): Thanks for doing this chat, and for your hard work on the Top 10... Who are some of your favorite underrated "sleeper" prospects in the Nationals farm system?

Aaron Fitt: Thanks, Ryan. I mentioned Ivan Pineyro earlier, and a similar guy is Wirkin Estevez, although he had Tommy John surgery this fall. But he flashed very good stuff at times this year — a fastball that bumped the mid-90s along with a changeup that has a chance to be plus, and a serviceable breaking ball. The Nats are excited about Shawn Pleffner, who had a nice year at Auburn. He's got a real feel for his barrel, and he's big enough to grow into some power. If he does, he could be a very intriguing sleeper.

    Magic Johnson (LALALAND): Brian Goodwin and Jackie Bradley of the Red Sox seem like similar prospects to me. I don't know how well you know the Sox system, but could you compare the two?

Aaron Fitt: Bradley was one of my favorite college players during his career at South Carolina — he's a more advanced defender than Goodwin, and has a better natural feel for hitting. I think Bradley is a safer prospect because of his hit tool, but Goodwin has louder raw tools — more power potential, more speed. And certainly you have to be encouraged by Goodwin's development as a hitter this year, though I want to see him improve against lefties and continue to refine his plate discipline against upper-level pitching. But he's got a lot of upside. I just think Bradley has a higher likelihood of reaching his upside.

    Kenny Graves (Newburgh, NY): Christian Garcia is in line for a rotation spot this spring? What kind of numbers can we expect from him. I know he has great stuff but how will it play up as a starter?

Aaron Fitt: I think Garcia's a bullpen guy all the way. He's got the stuff to be a starter — it's three pitches that can all be above-average when he's on his game — but durability is an issue. He really took off when the Nats moved him into a relief role, and I think that's where they will keep him. They will also be careful not to overuse him — you probably won't see him on back-to-back days too often.

    DH (Pittsburgh): What's your best guess as to where Rendon will play when he arrives in the big leagues and where he settles long term? Do you think Zimmerman will be limited to 1B sooner rather than later?

Aaron Fitt: I think this is a real conundrum. I know we've got Rendon at third and Zimmerman at first in our projected future lineup, but that's more of an exercise to show the strengths of the organization than an earnest projection. Maybe Zimmerman isn't the elite defender he used to be, according to the advanced metrics, but it's hard to move a former Gold Glove winner in his prime to first base, isn't it? I don't know where Rendon fits in. Maybe the Nats have a long term plan for this, but they haven't shared it with me — their stated approach seems to be wait-and-see, which I think is the right approach for now. I'm very interested to see how all of this plays out, if Rendon winds up becoming the star-caliber player I think he can become.

    jim (Chatsworth, Ca): Thoughts on rhp Ryan Perry as a starter?

Aaron Fitt: The Nats were very pleased with the progress he made after making Perry a starter this year. His stuff has always been electric, but he's learning how to command it better. He can pitch at 92-96 with a good slider and an improving changeup — that's awfully intriguing. He's something of a wild card, but I think that was a nice flier for the Nats to take.

    Alex (Fairfax, VA): Any thoughts on Tony Renda? Nats seem to be pretty high on him. How's he compare to a guy like Lombardozzi or Kobernus?

Aaron Fitt: I love Tony Renda — just like every coach in the Pac-12 and every scout who saw him play in college. This guy is a winner, plain and simple — he won't fail. But just because he's undersized, don't dismiss his tools. Like Lombardozzi, he can really hit — it's just an innate feel for the barrel. He doesn't run as well as Lombo, and certainly not close to as well as Kobernus. Kobernus is more of a live-bodied athlete than those other two guys, but he's not the hitter that either of them is. Lombo is a better comp for Renda, although he's not a switch-hitter and he's got work to do on his defense. I think you're looking at an average defender with an average arm, a chance for a plus bat, below-average power, and all the intangibles you could want. In that respect—makeup—he's very similar to Lombardozzi.

    Frank (D.C.): Based on "stuff" alone, if Giolito was in last years draft, where would he have ranked among the other big name pitchers (Cole, Bundy, Bradley)?

Aaron Fitt: If he were completely healthy, he'd be right there with those guys. I'm telling you, this guy's stuff is sick. All of those guys have flashed high-90s heat and flirted with triple digits. Giolito's downer curveball might the best breaking ball of the lot, or in the conversation with Bradley's curve — better than Cole's slider, better than Bundy's curve, which also flashes plus-plus but needs more consistency. Giolito's changeup is behind Cole's and Bundy's, but ahead of Bradley's, and plenty of scouts think it can be a plus pitch, too. All these guys are bona fide potential No. 1 starters.

    Roger (Texas): What's your thoughts on Jason Martinson in High A? And why is is taking so long for the Nats to move him along?

Aaron Fitt: Martinson's development has been slowed by his inability to hit consistently — he hit just .215 in the Carolina League this year. He started the year back in Hagerstown to work on his approach after striking out 144 times in 2011, and he made progress there, but he did not carry it over to Potomac. This is a player with good power potential, lots of athleticism and a shortstop's skill set, but he's already 24 years old and he's got a long way to go as a hitter. He also needs to be a more aggressive defender. He's got upside, but I don't think he's a very safe bet to reach his ceiling.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Auburn had a bunch of outfielders batting around .300 or better*. Which do you like best? Are any candidates to skip a level or two? *Estarlin Martinez, Narcisca Mesa, Brandon Miller, Angelberth Montilla, and Shawn Pleffner.

Aaron Fitt: I think this will be the last question today. Martinez and Miller both cracked my Top 30, but I don't think you'll see any of those guys skip a level, because they've all got a lot of work to do. Miller has the best raw power of the group, and he has a second plus tool in his arm strength, but his approach needs refinement. Martinez took a big step forward this year after moving from third base to left field — I think that helped him to relax at the plate. He's learning to calm himself down at the plate and tap into his power potential, but he had a great year in Auburn, and he's younger than Miller. Both guys are interesting long-term projects.

Aaron Fitt: OK folks, that's all for today. Thanks, as always, for all the great questions! And thanks for reading. Have a great holiday season!