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Signed for $2.975 million after being drafted No. 4 overall out of Virginia in June, Zimmerman wasted no time asserting himself as the Nationals' top prospect. Washington's scouting department had coveted Zimmerman for almost a year, dating back to his breakout performance for Team USA in the summer of 2004, when he set a national-team record with a .468 average to go with four home runs and 27 RBIs in 77 at bats. Zimmerman kept up his high level of play for the Cavaliers as a junior, batting .393-6-59 with 17 stolen bases on his way to second-team All-America honors. He already had proven he could excel with a wood bat for Team USA, so his quick adjustment to pro ball wasn't a surprise. Zimmerman got a 17-at-bat tuneup at low Class A Savannah, then hit for power and average at Double-A Harrisburg before being called up to the majors Sept. 1. With Cristian Guzman struggling mightily for their major league team, the Nationals tried Zimmerman out at shortstop--where he had filled in occasionally at Virginia--for eight games at Harrisburg. He showed the ability to play the position, but his best spot is third base and that's where he saw most of his action with Washington. Zimmerman is a once-in-a-generation defender at the hot corner, where his soft hands, good range to both sides and above-average arm make for a legitimate Brooks Robinson-like package. He makes plays coming in on bunts as well as any current major leaguer, is adept at making backhand plays in the hole, and his throws are crisp and accurate regardless of whether his feet are set or he's throwing on the run. Zimmerman is already a near-Gold Glover, and he should be a star at the plate as well. He's a polished hitter with excellent pitch recognition and a patient approach. He doesn't chase pitches out of the zone and isn't afraid to work the count, but if he gets a pitch he likes he attacks it. He hits hard line drives to all fields, and he also has over-the-fence power and projects to hit 20 homers annually to go along with a .300-plus batting average. His speed is average. Zimmerman's makeup is off the charts, as he carries himself with a quiet confidence and never gets rattled. Zimmerman just needs to keep playing to fine-tune his offensive game. Shortly after signing, he made a minor adjustment, quieting down some of the movement with his lower half and getting his hands into position a little earlier rather than dropping them down. As a result, his hands are more direct to the ball. There are no other holes in his game. He got to the big leagues in a hurry, and Zimmerman could hold the Nationals' third-base job for the next decade. There's a chance he could begin the season at Triple-A New Orleans, and a couple hundred more minor league at-bats couldn't hurt him, but he's just about ready to start in the majors now. He's a perennial Gold Glove winner and all-star in waiting.
In his first full pro season, Balester established himself as the system's best pitching prospect. The son of a surfboard shop owner in California, he shows a laid-back, unflappable demeanor as well as excellent work habits. Balester attacks hitters with a steady diet of 92-94 mph fastballs on a steep downhill angle. Already a physical pitcher with a resilient arm, he holds his velocity deep into games and could add more as he continues to fill out. His power curveball, an average pitch at times, is further along than the Nationals expected and could end up being a plus offering. Balester needs a better feel for throwing his curveball to righthanders and further development of his changeup to reach his potential as a frontline starter. Washington encouraged Balester to throw at least 10 changeups per game last year, and it began to show signs of developing into an average pitch. Balester will open 2006 as a 19-year-old at high Class A Potomac. After being limited to 125 innings in 2005, he'll have free reign to pitch deep into games and deep into the season. He profiles as a No. 2 starter in the majors as soon as 2008.
The system's No. 1 prospect in 2003 and 2004, Everts was derailed by Tommy John surgery in September 2004. During his layoff, he grew a couple of inches and added 10-15 pounds of muscle. He came back ahead of schedule, returning to the mound in late June. Everts has a changeup that rates as a current 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and his curveball is also well above average, though for the most part he was only allowed to throw it in bullpen sessions. In order to build his arm strength back up, the Nationals made Everts throw almost exclusively fastballs, which topped out around 87 mph, and capped his outings at 50 pitches. The key for Everts will be continuing to regain his arm strength and improve his fastball command. He needs to be forced to throw a fastball-heavy diet and hope his heater regains its previous low-90s velocity. He also must develop better conditioning and work habits, as well as learn how to pitch inside. With two plus-plus offspeed pitches, Everts can still be a frontline starter if his velocity returns. He'll start 2006 at Potomac.
The more the Nationals see of Desmond, the more excited they get. He spent his first full pro season in Class A at age 19, showing enough maturity to earn a midseason promotion to Potomac. Desmond's actions simply make people believe he'll succeed. He has an athletic frame and plays with passion and confidence. His soft hands, aggressive instincts, plus range and plus-plus arm strength should make him an above-average defender at shortstop with a little time. Desmond occasionally tries to force plays in the field, resulting in 39 errors in 2005, but the Nationals aren't concerned about his defense. He still has plenty of work to do offensively, however. Desmond choked the bat, limiting his bat speed and extension, so he had to rotate his grip. After making the adjustment, his swing was shorter and quicker but he still chased too many pitches, struggled to recognize offspeed pitches and had problems with inside fastballs. Desmond should start 2006 back in high Class A. His bat remains uncertain, yet the Nats see him as their shortstop of the future.
Casto's prospect status jumped when he converted from the outfield to third base and had a solid offensive year in 2004. Now his star is even brighter after he made more strides on offense while vastly improving his defense, which was voted the best in the high Class A Carolina League by managers. Casto's bat remains his best tool, as he hits for power and average and uses all fields. He showed much better pitch selection in 2005, nearly tripling his walk total from the previous season. Defensively, he's solid coming in on slow rollers, making backhand plays and starting double plays. His slightly above-average arm became more accurate after he changed his arm slot. Casto still needs to work a bit on his first step at third base. He's a very streaky hitter who can get into funks when he tries to make too many adjustments after an 0-for-4 day. He needs to relax. With Ryan Zimmerman entrenched at third base, the Nationals planned to experiment with Casto at second base in the offseason. His bat should play in the big leagues even if Zimmerman pushes him to the outfield. Casto should play third base in Double-A in 2006.
The system's top prospect entering 2005, Hinckley went to big league camp in the spring with a chance to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster. He began overthrowing and his arm action got longer, which caused him to strain his shoulder and miss the first month of the season. He spent the rest of the year stuck in high Class A trying to regain his rhythm and stuff before going home to get married. The completely healthy Hinckley of years past featured outstanding command of three solid pitches--a low-90s fastball, a hard-breaking curveball and a changeup. His makeup always has drawn praise. Hinckley's fastball velocity never quite returned to normal in 2005, peaking at about 89 mph. His curveball wasn't as sharp and he struggled to find his command all season, even after he was given a clean bill of health. Hinckley needs to start fresh and learn lessons from his first taste of injury and adversity. If he's healthy, he has the work ethic and stuff to be a quality mid-rotation starter in the majors, perhaps even in 2006. He'll probably start the year in Double-A.
The Nationals spent consecutive first-round picks on college relievers, hitting big with Chad Cordero in 2003 and having high hopes for Bray, the 13th overall choice in 2004. Tightness in his back sidelined him until late May in his first full season, but he rose to Triple-A and showed no ill effects once he returned. Bray is a strong ox of a lefthander with a pair of plus pitches: a heavy 91-94 mph fastball with darting movement and a tight 81-84 mph slider. He's effective against lefties and righties and is not afraid to pitch inside. His slider can still be inconsistent, though Bray generally commands it well. Washington had toyed with the idea of making him a starter, but his changeup still has a long way to go because he used it little in college. His biggest key is staying healthy. More than a mere lefthanded specialist, Bray can be a factor in the late innings. He'll get the chance to begin 2006 with the Nationals and serve as Cordero's set-up man.
Broadway got off to a characteristically slow start in 2005 before straining a knee ligament fielding a ground ball. An injury to first baseman Nick Johnson caused Broadway to try to rush his return, setting him back further. A bulky knee brace hindered him when he returned, though he did hit nine homers in August. Broadway has above-average power to all fields, and his pop stands out in a system desperate for some. He also hits for a decent average and draws his share of walks. He's a solid defensive first baseman, overcoming his lack of range with smooth actions, sure hands and an above-average arm. In order to make more consistent contact, Broadway needs to stay behind the ball better. He could flourish if he can drive more pitches to the opposite field. At 25, Broadway heads into a pivotal season. He could compete for a big league job if he can get completely healthy by spring training, and he still can become a 30-homer man in the majors.
In his second straight season as a teenager in the low Class A South Atlantic League, Thompson showed his electric stuff can translate into results, as he lowered his ERA by 1.73 runs from 2004. But his breakout season was sidetracked in July when he was shut down for minor cleanup surgery on his shoulder. Like Collin Balester, Thompson is mature, has a great frame and loves to pitch with his fastball. He's beginning to fill out and held the velocity on his 91-94 mph fastball longer than he did in the past. His 11-to-5 curveball continued to be an average pitch most of the time, and his changeup improved a great deal. Thompson's physical maturation will be hastened if he learns to eat right and develop better work habits. His health shouldn't be an issue in 2006, as the Nationals expect him to enter the spring at 100 percent. He just needs to continue refining his secondary pitches. Thompson figures to be another power arm in the Potomac rotation in 2006. He could be a fixture in Washington's rotation by 2008.
A converted pitcher who switched to the outfield in 2001, Diaz struggled against more advanced competition until the Nationals allowed him to repeat high Class A in 2005. He had a career year that included a trip to the Futures Game. He benefited immensely from the guidance of Potomac manager Bob Henley and roving hitting instructor Mitchell Page, as well as many hours in the batting cage. Page shortened Diaz' swing by removing his front arm bar, which had caused him to commit too early and struggle against inside fastballs. He began hitting line drives to all fields, showing doubles power to right-center and home run pop to left-center. Defensively, he shifted from right to center field in winter ball after the 2004 season, and he became the Carolina League's best defensive outfielder, showing an above-average arm, good first-step quickness and range. Most notably, he took charge in center, aggressively calling off other defenders and making plays. He still needs to learn the strike zone and improve his pitch recognition a bit, but with five average or better tools, Diaz has a chance to be an everyday center fielder. How he responds to Double-A competition this year will be a big barometer.
Bergmann's career took off after he moved to the bullpen midway through the 2004 season. He tore through Double-A and Triple-A in 2005 before being called up to Washington. He proved a reliable late-innings option for the Nationals in the season's final month. Bergmann has loose arm action and gets full extension from a three-quarters arm slot. He works fast and attacks hitters with a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 95, a curveball that sometimes freezes hitters and a power slider he added in 2005 and reaches 86. He even mixes in a changeup now and then. He needs to find a more effective way of combating lefthanders, though. They hit .283 against him in Triple-A and .355 in the majors. Bergmann still needs to fine-tune his control, but he's ready to stick in the majors and figures to be an important part of the Nationals' bullpen this season.
An excellent student who graduated high school with a 4.0 grade-point average and chose Maryland over Harvard, Maxwell is even more gifted athletically. An exciting, toolsy talent, he burst onto the prospect landscape in 2003 by leading Maryland in the triple-crown categories and stolen bases as a sophomore and then lighting up the Cape Cod League. Projected as a possible 2004 first-rounder, Maxwell saw his junior season end before it began when he was hit by a pitch in an intrasquad game and broke his right arm. The Rangers still took him in the 10th round and planned to follow him in the Cape League, but he was hit by another pitch and broke his little finger. Injuries continued to plague him in 2005, as he missed most of the college season after breaking the hamate bone in his hand while hitting a ball on the barrel of the bat seven games into the season. The Nationals signed him for $390,000 as a fourth-rounder and considered him the equivalent of the second-rounder they forfeited for signing Vinny Castilla. Maxwell is an above-average runner who has been clocked down the first-base line in 4.15 seconds from the right side, and he has plus raw power. He's a plus defender, though his arm is no better than average. Until he proves otherwise, his health will be a concern. If he stays healthy, Maxwell could be an impact big league center fielder in two or three years. He'll make his pro debut with one of Washington's Class A affiliates in 2006.
Based on the recommendation of director of major league administration Lee MacPhail, the Nationals claimed Hughes off waivers from the Rangers following the 2004 season. Hughes was a starter in the Texas system until moving to the bullpen in mid-2003, and the Nationals view him as a power reliever. Out of the pen, Hughes is a max-effort pitcher with the strongest arm in the system. He has mostly stopped throwing his changeup since shifting to relief, relying solely on a 94-96 mph fastball that tops out at 98 and a plus high-80s slider. He displays only a limited feel for commanding either pitch, however. A high-energy player with a great clubhouse presence, he sometimes gets too amped up and loses his composure and command. New Orleans pitching coach Charlie Corbell did a nice job getting Hughes to stay within himself. He'll need to learn to harness his power arsenal before he's ready for a full-time middle-relief role in the majors. If everything clicks, he has the stuff to be a set-up man or closer in another year.
One of the strongest players in the system, Whitesell improved in every significant offensive category except strikeouts in 2005. He strikes out a lot because he's not afraid to work deep into counts and wait for his pitch or draw walks. He knows his strike zone very well and gives away many fewer at-bats than he used to. Whitesell shows the ability to hit for average, but his well above average power is his best tool. He can drive balls from line to line and might be strongest to the opposite field. He still needs to fine-tune his swing so there's less movement getting into hitting position, but he has become much more consistent. Whether he ever becomes an adequate defender at first base is still in question. He has worked hard to improve his agility around the bag, though he still profiles more as a DH at this point. He'll play first base in Double-A this year.
Rasner impressed the Nationals with his composure and maturity in major league spring training camp, then put up another solid, consistent performance in his first full Double-A season to earn a September callup. Command is his forte, as he doesn't walk many batters and does a good job mixing his pitches. He has a clean arm action and compact, repeatable delivery. Though he still lacks a legitimate out pitch, Rasner works off his heavy 86-91 mph sinker. He threw a slider in college at Nevada, abandoned it in favor of a curveball in his first few pro seasons, then went back to the slider in the second half of last year. It became a better pitch for him than his inconsistent curve and changeup. Rasner still gives up too many hits and doesn't miss enough bats to be a top starter, but he could be ready for a No. 5 starter job or long-relief role for Washington in 2006.
Hill first injured his elbow in high school and pitched with discomfort for years before it finally caught up with him in 2004. After posting his second straight solid Double-A season and making his big league debut, Hill went 1-0, 1.64 in 11 innings for Team Canada in the Olympics. Upon his return to the organization, he needed Tommy John surgery that kept him out for all of 2005. The Nationals expect him to be ready to pitch by spring training. When he was healthy, Hill commanded a heavy low-90s sinker that induced plenty of groundballs, and he complemented it with a good curveball and decent changeup. Hill has an athletic frame and draws comparisons to a stonger version of Jake Westbrook because of his size and stuff. He's mature and ready to compete for a spot in the big league rotation once his recovery is complete. Hill has a chance to be a back-of-the-rotation starter by 2007.
Watson's slow starts have become an annual occurrence, and 2005 was no exception. Demoted to Double-A after spending all of 2004 in Triple-A, he stumbled to a .247 average through mid-May. But after moving back to Triple-A, he flipped a switch and once again became a hitting machine, as he was in the second half of his previous two seasons. Watson is a pure hitter who makes good contact and gives third basemen fits with his ability to flare balls over their heads or drop down bunts in front of them. He's a well-above-average runner and an exceptional bunter. Watson has good hand-eye coordination and an unorthodox, Ichiro-like hitting approach, sometimes almost stepping out of the box as he's swinging. That style costs him most of his power, as he has hit just six homers in seven pro seasons. A solid defensive center fielder, Watson does a good job charging shallow flyballs and has an average arm. To be an everyday player and leadoff man in the majors, Watson needs to take more walks and improve his baserunning, as he still gets caught stealing too often. For now, he profiles more as a fourth outfielder, a role he could fill for the Nationals in 2006.
Just two years ago, Harris was projected as the Cubs' answer at third base, but Aramis Ramirez' emergence closed that door. When Chicago and Boston were scrambling to complete the four-team Nomar Garciaparra-Orlando Cabrera deal minutes before the 2004 trading deadline, the Red Sox tried to finalize it by sending outfield prospect Matt Murton to the then-Expos. But Montreal general manager Omar Minaya balked at taking Murton, so Cubs GM Jim Hendry took Murton and sent Harris to the Expos. While Murton batted .321 in 51 games as a rookie last season, Harris had a down year. He made the full-time transition from third base to second in mid-May, and he seemed to take to the role, at least defensively. A career .301 hitter in four minor league seasons entering 2005, Harris wasn't as productive at New Orleans. He still has a solid line-drive stroke with some gap power. He has a strong arm and good infield instincts, though he doesn't do anything in spectacular fashion. He doesn't hit for enough power to stick at third base, and he wouldn't beat out Ryan Zimmerman anyway. Harris still is in the Nationals' plans as a versatile utilityman who has an outside chance to be an everyday second baseman.
One of the most improved players in the system in 2005, Ivany reinvented his swing through individual hard work during the offseason. He came out of college with no set-up or trigger and a bat that was dead and slow through the zone, so Washington sent him home at the end of his rough pro debut with instructions to improve his offensive rhythm. He returned in spring training with a shorter swing with much improved flow, and he started hitting the ball solidly to all fields. He has a flat swing plane more suited for doubles than homers, though he does have a bit of pull power. Ivany's defense remains considerably more advanced than his offense. He's a tough, physical catcher with quick feet and a solid-average arm. He threw out 39 percent of basestealers last year thanks to his 1.90-1.95-second pop times. Drafted out of high school in the ninth round as a shortstop, he still needs a little work at game-calling. His durability must improve, as he wore down late in the season, hitting .163 in August. At the plate, he needs to get his lower half involved, because he still uses his hands and arms too much and doesn't get through the ball enough. While he makes decent contact, he draws few walks. Ivany should spend 2006 in high Class A, and he profiles as a reliable big league backup catcher with a chance to be a regular.
Football is in Davis' blood. His older brothers Marque and Rodney starred at Fresno State, and Marque went to training camp with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks in 2005. Leonard played one season as a safety at Fresno City College before switching to baseball as a sophomore. A right fielder when the Expos drafted him in 2004, he moved to third base as a pro. A prototype long-term project, he developed more rapidly than expected last season, particularly on offense. Davis put too much pressure on himself early and got off to a 3-for-23 start at short-season Vermont before batting .318 the rest of the way. A stocky athlete built similarly to Charlie Hayes and Terry Pendleton, Davis stands out most with his huge raw power, especially to the opposite field. He can get into trouble when he tries to pull balls down the right-field line, but he has gotten better at handling inside pitches and has shortened his swing by six to 10 inches. He has a tendency to chase balls up out of the zone and needs to improve his pitch selection. Davis is an average runner with good range and agility at third base. His arm is strong but inaccurate, and his hands are too hard. He has plenty of natural talent but a long way to go. He'll begin 2006 in low Class A.
Major League Baseball didn't allocate any money for the Expos to sign international players in 2002 or 2003, yet director of Latin American operations Ismael Cruz was able to sign Guzman for no bonus. A former basketball player, Guzman has had little baseball instruction and remains raw at age 22. An energetic, happy-go-lucky player with good work habits, he plays with flair but sometimes seems to have no idea what he's doing, mimicking bad big league habits because he doesn't know any better. His bat will be his ticket. A free swinger, Guzman has raw plus power to all fields and can get the bat on the ball anywhere in the zone, though he can get out of control. He has shortened his swing but needs to reduce an extremely pronounced leg kick. The Nationals played him in center field in order to get him more action and speed up his development, but his future is at a corner spot and he'll need to make huge strides to become a passable defender. Guzman has a strong arm and average speed, though he has long, awkward strides and runs the bases poorly. He already has started to improve at a rapid clip and could blossom if he's allowed to play every day in low Class A this year.
DeLaughter was a two-way star in high school who touched 93 mph off the mound, but the Nationals drafted him as a right fielder. Scouts in Texas were split on his best future role, though the consensus was that he was better off as a power-hitting right fielder. That's the role Washington chose for him, and he bears a physical resemblance to Ryan Church. Confident and outgoing, DeLaughter showed off above-average power potential and a plus arm in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He's a good fastball hitter and can go to the opposite field, but he struggles to hit breaking balls and his swing needs to be shortened. He might never hit for much of an average. He didn't run well in his debut because of an old football knee injury, though he could end up being an average defender. DeLaughter figures to start 2006 in extended spring training, followed by a trip to Vermont in June.
The Nationals grew frustrated with Baez in 2005 after he failed to make adjustments in his second stint in the Sally League. After hitting .347 with four homers in April, he reverted to bad habits and batted just .226 with seven longballs the rest of the way. He let pitchers dictate at-bats and chased too many bad pitches, he tinkered with his swing and set-up, and he wasn't particularly receptive to instruction. Much of Baez' problem is with his lower half. He has quick hands but gets beaten because his weight is shifted over his front side. Roving hitting instructor Mitchell Page is trying to force him to stay back, and if the lessons take Baez could become a Jose Guillen type someday. He still possesses the pure physical tools that made him a fourth-round pick in 2003, including the ability to hit for average, plus raw power and a strong right-field arm. But this year he'll need to earn his way into a lineup, probably back in low Class A again, and put in the effort to be a better outfielder and more disciplined hitter.
Plasencia has average tools across the board, but he struggled to translate them into production while with the Brewers from 2001-03. Milwaukee released him early in 2004, and Nationals director of Latin American operations Ismael Cruz rediscovered him that fall playing in an unaffiliated Venezuelan league. Plasencia went to extended spring training last year and shortened his stroke while eliminating excess movement in his stance before the pitch. A gap-to-gap hitter with the ability to pull the ball out of the park, Plasencia is a good defender with average speed, good instincts and a strong, accurate arm in center field. He needs to continue to improve his pitch selection and not chase breaking balls in the dirt, and Washington would like to see him hit fewer fly balls and more line drives. The Nationals may try to push him to high Class A this year to see if he can become more than just a spare outfielder.
Acquired from the Blue Jays in the major league Rule 5 draft after the 2004 season, Godwin had his best full-season performance to date in his first taste of Triple-A last year. A two-time first-round pick--by the Yankees in 1997 out of high school and the Rangers in 2000--he didn't sign until the Blue Jays took him in the third round of the 2001 draft. He always has had some juice in his bat, but this was the first time it translated into extra-base hits, thanks in part to ditching his high leg kick in favor of a more natural move with his front foot. He remains a plus runner, though he needs to improve his basestealing skills as he was caught 12 times in 34 tries. A former University of North Carolina running back, he's a more physical player than fellow Triple-A speedster Brandon Watson, but Godwin is 26 and doesn't have much projection left in him. Despite his speed and average arm, he's not a good defensive outfielder, even in left field. At this point he looks like an extra outfielder, and he might not get that chance with the Nationals because of their crowded outfield.
Manriquez spent a few years as a utility player before finally getting a chance to catch every day at Potomac last year after Erick San Pedro was lost for the season in May. Manriquez wasted little time establishing himself as a good offensive catcher once he stopped looking over his shoulder. He's a solid gap-to-gap hitter who doesn't overswing and has some power, though he projects more as a doubles hitter with the ability to hit for average if he can cut down his strike zone a bit. Defense is the big question with Manriquez. He showed an average arm, throwing out 28 percent of basestealers, and improved at blocking balls under the tutelage of Potomac manager and former big league catcher Bob Henley. He still needs to improve his receiving skills and handle pitchers better. Playing every day could help Manriquez become a serviceable backup catcher with a decent bat off the bench. He'll likely start 2006 in Double-A.
On paper, Perrin's season as a 24-year-old in high Class A doesn't look impressive. He struggled as a starter, going 2-5, 5.54 with more walks than strikeouts, until he took a line drive off his shin and went on the disabled list in early July. When he returned, Perrin moved to the bullpen and his fastball velocity jumped to 93-95 mph. He abandoned his ineffective curveball and replaced it with an 82-84 mph slider, and dabbled with a changeup. Perrin pitches downhill thanks to his long frame and straight over-the-top delivery. He still walks too many, but his command improved after the shift to relief because he did a better job attacking hitters. With his frame and velocity, Perrin has a chance to be a dominant reliever if he can harness his fastball command and refine his secondary stuff. His development isn't expected to be fast, but he could take off now that he's in the pen, as Jason Bergmann did after his conversion. Perrin should open this year in Double-A.
Enriquez hit 27 home runs in three years as a third baseman at LeMoyne, good for third place on the school's all-time list. He threw just eight innings as a pitcher in college, but the Nationals happened to see him touch 96 mph in one of his relief appearances in 2005. He reminded them of another infielder from a small New York school with a strong arm and almost no collegiate pitching experience: Joe Nathan. Enriquez has a fresh power arm and an athletic, physical frame. He pitched just 10 pro innings after arriving late in the Gulf Coast League because of a knee injury, but he impressed Washington with his lively 92-95 mph fastball, which some scouts think eventually could top out near 100. He's still raw on the mound and relies solely on his fastball. Enriquez is working on a short slider but it has a long way to go. He was reluctant to throw breaking balls after tweaking his elbow prior to his junior season. Enriquez simply needs to learn how to pitch. If he can, his electric arm could carry him all the way to a big league closer's job, though it's a longshot. He has a chance to start 2006 at Savannah but is more likely to wind up in Vermont.
Shortly after drafting him in 2004, scouting director Dana Brown said Lowrance's swing had a high finish that reminded him of Mo Vaughn, Brown's former Seton Hall teammate. The Nationals expected big things out of Lowrance in 2005, but he missed more than two months after fracturing his kneecap when he ran into the left-field wall in April. He's a natural hitter who does a good job getting his hands through the zone and putting the barrel of the bat on the ball consistently. He uses the opposite field well and has an intense approach, seldom giving away at-bats. He's strong, but his power has yet to develop because he needs to do a better job turning on the ball. He could use more plate discipline as well. Lowrance has below-average speed and defensive skills, and he'll have to work hard just to be adequate in left field. He'll play in high Class A in 2006.
In three seasons at low Class A, Bernadina has yet to post an average higher than .238. He remains naturally gifted but unrefined, and the "limited baseball experience" excuse is starting to wear thin. He has plus raw power, but his hitting approach is a mess. Formerly a free swinger, Bernadina has gone too far in the opposite direction and now needs to be more aggressive at the plate. He takes too many called third strikes. He's rigid and mechanical at the plate and doesn't release his hands through the zone. He tried a leg kick last year, but it didn't help. He just needs a freer, more fluid swing, and he needs to eliminate his occasional tendency to dog it. Bernadina is an outstanding defensive center field with plus speed and range to go with a strong, accurate arm, though he could still stand to improve his routes on flyballs. Time is starting to tick away, so the Nationals will get Bernadina as many at-bats as possible and hope something clicks for him in high Class A this year.
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