Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
Harper was already established as a phenom before Sports Illustrated dubbed him Baseball's Chosen One on its cover in June 2009--when he had just completed sophomore year in high school and was 16 years old. Since then, he has been confronted with gargantuan expectations everywhere he has gone, yet he has managed to exceed even the loftiest projections. In the fall of 2009, Harper earned his general equivalency diploma so he could skip his final two seasons at Las Vegas High and enroll early at the JC of Southern Nevada. Playing in a wood bat conference, he destroyed the school record and led national juco players with 31 homers while hitting .443/.526/.987 with 20 steals in 24 tries. He led the Coyotes to a third-place finish at the Junior College World Series, showcasing his athleticism by playing right field, center field and third base in addition to his primary high school position of catcher. Harper was a slam-dunk choice for the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's top amateur player and the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. He signed right before the Aug. 16 deadline for a $9.9 million major league contract (the largest ever given to a position player in the draft) that included a $6.25 million bonus (the third-highest in draft history). After moving to right field full-time during instructional league, Harper faced much older competition yet again in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .343/.410/.629 with one homer in 35 at-bats as a taxi-squad player. Harper's raw tools are freakish. His power rates as a legitimate 80 tool on the 20-80 scouting scale. There are plenty of stories and videos of him hitting 500-foot homers, and he has the ability to easily backspin the ball over the fence to any part of the park. Harper is incredibly intense and aggressive in all phases of the game, including at the plate. Some scouts wonder if he'll hit for a high average because of his propensity to take huge swings, often with an exaggerated leg kick, and get jumpy at the plate. But at other times he shows a much quieter, more efficient swing. Those flashes, coupled with his uncanny hand-eye coordination and irreproachable work ethic, give other scouts reason to believe he'll eventually become more selective and produce for average as well as power. Harper has shown 95 mph heat off the mound in the past, and his accurate outfield arm gives him a second 80 tool. His slightly above-average speed plays up on the basepaths because he's extremely aggressive at taking the extra base. He's still refining his routes and reads in right field, but he has the athleticism and instincts to be a plus defender there. He has impressed the Nationals by hustling to put himself in position to back up plays. The most hyped prospect in draft history, Harper has superstar potential, and it's hard to find an evaluator who thinks he'll fall short of that ceiling. He's also incredibly advanced for an 18-year-old, and a strong spring could put him in position to jump right to high Class A Potomac to make his professional debut. He won't start any lower than low Class A Hagerstown. A realistic big league ETA for Harper is 2013 when he'll be just 20.
After establishing himself as the best position-player prospect in the Nationals system in 2009, Norris broke the hamate bone in his left hand that fall. Complications from surgery caused him to miss the first month of the 2010 season, and he was hit in the head with a 95-mph fastball shortly after returning. He never really got fully healthy until the fall, when he hit .278/.403/.677 in the Arizona Fall League. Norris has a compact, efficient swing with plus power potential, and he can hit the ball to all fields. He has exceptional pitch recognition, feel for the strike zone and discipline, allowing him to lead his leagues in walks in each of the last two years. Sometimes he takes too many pitches, and Washington wants him to pounce when he gets a pitch he can drive. Considering he had little catching experience before turning pro, Norris has made major strides defensively. He still needs to improve his receiving, but he has gotten better at blocking balls in the dirt. His solid-average arm plays up because of his quick release and accuracy, allowing him to throw out 51 percent of basestealers last year. He has fringe-average speed. An offensive catcher with allstar potential, Norris will reach Double-A Harrisburg at age 22 in 2011. If his defense continues to progress, he could reach the big leagues the following year.
Espinosa was one of three minor leaguers to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in 2010. He also earned a September taste of the big leagues, following in the footsteps of fellow Long Beach State shortstops Bobby Crosby, Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria. The switch-hitting Espinosa has a tightly wound frame and strong, quick wrists that generate excellent bat speed. He swings hard and has solid power despite his smallish frame, but the Nationals want him to be a bit less aggressive. Harrisburg hitting coach Troy Gingrich helpled him make his upper and lower halves work together more effectively in his swing. If Espinosa can continue to refine his approach and setup he could become an average hitter, thanks to his excellent hand-eye coordination and bunting skills. Espinosa's plus-plus arm plays well at shortstop, and his instincts, intelligence and hands give him a chance to be a standout at second base or a solid at short. An unorthodox defender, he worked hard to improve on backhand plays this year, but he still has some work to do. He has average speed but runs the bases well. Espinosa had surgery to remove the hamate bone in his right wrist in late November but should be ready to compete for Washington's second-base job in spring training. He projects as a solid regular.
Regarded as a potential top-10-overall pick heading into his senior year at Oviedo (Fla.) High in 2010, Cole got off to a slow start because of the flu and bad weather. His velocity dipped to 88-93 mph early in the year, though he touched the mid-90s later in the spring. Signability concerns dropped him in the draft, and the Nationals were elated to get him in the fourth round. He signed a day before the Aug. 16 deadline for $2 million--a record for the round. Cole has an athletic, projectable frame and a loose, electric arm. He attacks the strike zone with his fastball and curveball, and his low-maintenance delivery suggests he'll have at least solid-average command. His fastball topped out at 93 mph in instructional league, but he regularly has reached 95-97 in the past. As he matures physically, his heater should be a premium pitch. Cole's 76-80 mph spike curveball has short 11-to-5 break, good rotation and depth, giving him the makings of a second plus offering. He also has feel for a changeup, though it's inconsistent. He's an intense competitor with a professional approach to preparation. Cole has frontline-starter upside and could move fairly quickly for a high school draftee. With one pro inning under his belt, he'll probably open 2011 in low Class A.
Ramos had ranked as one of the Twins' best prospects since 2007, but he also found himself blocked by Joe Mauer. In need of a closer, Minnesota traded him and lefthander Joe Testa to the Nationals for all-star Matt Capps last July. Ramos spent September in Washington, then put together a solid winter in the Venezuela League. Strong and physical, Ramos stands out for his defensive skills behind the plate and his power potential. He's a good receiver with soft hands, and his plus arm helped him throw out an International League-best 50 percent of basestealers in 2010. He's still learning to call games and manage pitchers, but he has plenty of aptitude. Ramos has good loft and leverage in his swing, giving him a chance to hit for solid-average or slightly better power in time. He does get pull-happy, and he must improve his contact rate and patience at the plate. Conditioning has been an issue for Ramos in the past, and he's a well below-average runner. Ramos might never be an average hitter, but his defense and power potential still could make him a valuable everyday catcher. He should battle for time behind the plate in Washington this year.
Solis missed nearly all of 2009 because of a herniated disc in his back, but he rebounded to go 9-2, 3.42 with 92 strikeouts in 92 innings as a redshirt sophomore at San Diego last spring. The 51st overall selection in the 2010 draft, he signed two days before the Aug. 16 deadline for $1 million. He impressed against older competition in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 3.80 ERA in 24 innings. His family owns an AIDS orphanage in Africa. With a big, physical frame and an easy arm action, Solis projects as a mid-rotation workhorse. He has good command and feel for his three-pitch mix, highlighted by a plus changeup that he throws with good arm speed and deception. He pitched at 88-92 mph with late life on his fastball last spring, then sat at 91-92 in the fall and topped out at 94. Solid adds and subtracts from a knucklecurve that ranges from 74-81 mph. It's a true downer with good depth when he stays on top of it. Some scouts think his three-quarters to low-three-quarters arm slot is better suited for a slider. A polished strike-thrower with an unflappable mound demeanor, Solis figures to jump to high Class A to start his first full pro season and could reach Double-A in the second half. He could arrive in Washington by 2012.
Kimball ranked as the top draft prospect in a weak New Jersey college crop in 2006 based solely on his arm strength, but he was regarded as a long-term project who needed to transform from thrower to pitcher. The Nationals used him as a starter for his first three pro seasons to get him innings, but he found a home in the bullpen in 2009 and broke out in 2010, capped by a dominant turn in the Arizona Fall League that earned him a spot on the 40-man roster. Kimball has taken off as he's learned to control his big, physical body. He has a long arm action and a high arm slot, but he has figured out how to repeat his mechanics fairly well, and he's throwing increasingly more quality strikes. Kimball attacks hitters with a heavy fastball that ranges from 93-98 mph. His 83-87 splitter is a swing-and-miss offering that ranges from average to plus-plus. Kimball has learned to throw his low-80s curveball for strikes early in counts, and it gives him a third out pitch at times. He has a fierce mound presence. Kimball will compete for a big league bullpen job out of spring training, though some seasoning at Triple-A Syracuse would do him some good. He projects as the future set-up man for Drew Storen in Washington.
After winning the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League batting title with a .381 average in 2009, Perez posted a .571 OPS Hagerstown in the first two months of last season. The Nationals were prepared to send him down to short-season Vermont once its season began. But after Hagerstown hitting coach Tony Tarasco and Nats minor league hitting coordinator Rick Schu worked with him on minimizing his leg kick and staying inside the ball, Perez caught fire and had an .835 OPS in the second half. Perez sticks out most with his well above-average speed, and he became a much better basestealer last year. He finished second in the minors with 64 steals and succeeded at an 83 percent rate, up from 67 percent in 2009. The Nationals challenged him to play shallower in center field and trust that his speed would allow him to catch up with balls over his head. He projects as a plus defender with an average, accurate arm. Perez isn't a power hitter, but he's strong enough to drive the ball to the gaps. He thrives when he slashes the ball to the middle of the field, and he knows how to protect with two strikes. He has become a good bunter. Perez profiles as a tablesetter with premium speed and strong defensive skills in center. He'll advance to high Class A in 2011.
A 2006 first-round pick who signed for $1.625 million, Marrero ranked No. 1 on this list heading into the 2008 season, during which he broke the fibula in his right leg and tore ligaments in his ankle on a slide at home plate. After recovering, he turned in a solid Double-A performance in 2010 to claim a spot on Washington's 40-man roster. His brother Christian is a first baseman in the White Sox system. Marrero's ticket always has been his plus to plus-plus raw power, but he has yet to really tap into it in games. He has some length and leverage in his swing, and he has battled--with mixed success--to stride forward rather than step in the bucket. He expanded his strike zone too often when Double-A pitchers fed him a steady diet of breaking balls early last season, but he showed more discipline in the second half. Some scouts wonder if he'll hit enough to justify an everyday job, and he remains a defensive liability at first base. The Nationals rave about his commitment to improving his agility and footwork in 2010, though he still needs more work. He's a well below-average runner. Marrero will advance to Triple-A to start 2011. Just 22, he still has time to develop into the middle-of-the-order slugger the Nationals always hoped he'd be.
Primarily a shortstop in high school, Peacock has made significant strides on the mound since signing with for $110,000 as a draft-and-follow in 2007. He led Nationals farmhands with 148 strikeouts in 142 innings last season, then racked up 17 more whiffs in 12 innings as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League. Peacock always has owned a quick, loose arm, and his velocity climbed last year, when his fastball sat at 92-94 mph and regularly topped out at 96. He's a bit undersized and often has struggled to pitch downhill, so the Nationals worked to help him turn his front shoulder more and keep his head down. He made some progress but still needs to do a better job working down in the zone. Peacock's knuckle-curve is a plus offering with sharp downer action that complements his straight fastball well. He also has developed a decent changeup to use against lefties, though it still lags behind his other two offerings. Peacock fields his position and holds runners well. Peacock has the arm strength and stuff to become a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues if he can put everything together. There's some sentiment that his AFL bullpen stint was a sign of things to come, and that his frame is better suited for relief. For now, he'll return to the Harrisburg rotation.
A veteran of the big stage in Cuba, Maya pitched for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009. In the latter year, he went 13-4, 2.22 in Cuba's Serie Nacionale and led the league in wins, innings and shutouts while ranking second to Aroldis Chapman in strikeouts. Maya defected that September to the Dominican Republic, where he lived for nine months before being authorized to sign with a major league team. The Nationals inked him to a four-year, $7.4 million contact that included a $1 million bonus last July. After five tuneup appearances in the minors, he came to Washington for five starts in September. When he was younger, Maya pitched in the low 90s and topped out at 96 mph, but in 2010, working his way back into form afer a long layoff, he worked at 88-91. His fastball still can be effective at lower velocities because he can cut and sink it. Maya lacks overpowering stuff but is a polished strike-thrower who knows how to work hitters. His best pitch is an average curveball that shows flashes of being a plus pitch. He adds and subtracts from his curve, which ranges from 76-82 mph. His 83-87 mph changeup has some splitter action, and his 82-85 mph slider gives him another serviceable pitch. Maya still has to learn the nuances of American baseball, including holding runners, but he fields his position well. He has a sturdy frame and repeats his easy arm action well, giving him a very good chance to be a back-of-the-rotation workhorse in the big leagues. That's where he figures to spend all of 2011.
The Nationals say Hood made as much progress as anybody in their system in 2010. A wide receiver who passed up an Alabama football scholarship to sign for $1.1 million as a second-round pick in 2008, he was very raw when he entered the system. He got too big and lost some of his athleticism in 2009, so he dedicated himself to toning his body in the offseason and arrived at spring training 20 pounds lighter last year. Hood has tremendous bat speed and can backspin balls to the opposite field with authority. He has a compact swing and a middle-to-away approach, but he needs to learn to unload and drive the ball in hitter's counts in order to unlock his average to plus raw power. Hood's pitch recognition improved greatly last season, and his strikeouts decreased every month from April to July. He'll still chase sliders out of the zone at times, though. Getting in better shape helped Hood improve his speed--which is back up to average--and he took dramatic steps forward defensively in the outfield. His throwing motion was stiff in the past, but he has improved his release and done a better job of incorporating his lower half. He projects as a solid left fielder with fringy arm strength. Hood is still far from a finished product, but the Nats are excited about his development. He'll advance to high Class A Potomac in 2011.
Lombardozzi is a quintessential baseball rat, no surprise considering his father Steve played in the big leagues and was a member of the Twins' 1987 World Series champions. Though his tools are modest, the younger Lombardozzi has hit at each minor league stop so far in his career, including Double-A in the second half of 2010 and the Arizona Fall League. He batted .293/.385/.439 for the league-champion Scottsdale Scorpions this fall and won the AFL's Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award. Lombardozzi makes consistent contact and has excellent bat control from both sides of the plate. He has a balanced setup and an efficient swing. He's also a disciplined hitter who works counts and simply finds ways to get on base. He has well below-average power, but he's strong enough to drive some balls into the gaps. He's a solid-average runner and is aggressive on the basepaths. A shortstop in college, Lombardozzi has taken to second base in pro ball and made just nine errors in 134 games there last year. His average range plays up because he positions himself well and reads balls nicely off the bat. His arm is fringy at best, but his hands are above-average. He's still working on his pivots around the bag and his throws from the backhand side. He filled in ably at shortstop in the AFL, showing off valuable versatility. Lombardozzi figures to reach Triple-A in 2011, and he has a chance to be an everyday second baseman or a valuable, high-energy reserve.
Hague stepped right into Rice's starting shortstop job as a freshman in 2008, and he established himself as a first-round candidate after tying for the Team USA lead with a .371 batting average the summer after his sophomore year. But he got off to a brutal start in 2010, hitting .290 with metal bats and committing 22 errors in his first 38 games. Hague did finish strong, batting .413 and committing just one error in his final 24 contests. The Nationals were pleased to land him in the third round and sign him for $430,200. Hague batted .317 in his pro debut, but he also committed 20 errors in 38 games. He's a line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter who projects as an average or slightly better hitter with fringy power. He's streaky at the plate and can fall into ruts when he tries to pull everything. His fringy speed plays up because of his good instincts on the basepaths, and he's a better runner under way. Hague's defensive issues in 2010 largely stemmed from a loss of confidence and poor technique. He had trouble throwing accurately, but he does flash an above-average arm when he plays through the ball, rather than stopping when he fields it. He lacks the range to play shortstop in the major leagues and fits best defensively at third base, where he shined for Team USA in 2009. But scouts wonder if he'll hit for enough power for the hot corner. Hague is a grinder who gets the most out of his tools, and the Nationals will leave him at shortstop until he plays his way off the position. He could advance to high Class A to start his first full pro season.
Ray garnered early-rounds draft buzz after running his fastball into the mid-90s on the showcase circuit in 2009, but when the velocity on his fastball and breaking ball dropped last spring, so did his draft stock. Even so, he threw three no-hitters as a high school senior, including a five-inning perfect game. He slipped to the 12th round of the draft, and the Nationals signed him away from a commitment to Arkansas the day before the Aug. 16 deadline with a $799,000 bonus. He pitched one inning at Vermont, then had a solid instructional league. Ray's fastball sat at 89-91 with natural late movement in the spring, and his whippy arm action and projectable, athletic frame suggest he could have a plus heater in time. His No. 2 pitch is a quality changeup with late fade. He needs to tighten up his slurvy breaking ball, but it projects as an average pitch. Ray has good feel for pitching for his age and has a chance to be a quality mid-rotation starter down the road. He figures to begin 2011 in extended spring training, then head to the Nationals' new short-season Auburn affiliate.
Milone spent three seasons in Southern California's starting rotation, learning to keep the ball down as he progressed. As a result, he cut his home run total from 16 as a freshman to eight as a sophomore to four as a junior in 2008, when the Nationals signed him for $65,000 as a 10th-round pick. He lacks overpowering stuff and has had to prove himself at every level, but he has done just that, putting himself on the prospect map. Milone's belowaverage fastball sits at 85-87 and maxes out at 90, but it plays up because of his deception and command. He has a slow, funky delivery that disrupts batters' timing, and his ball seems to jump on them. He throws his above-average changeup, average cutter and fringy curveball with exactly the same delivery and arm action as his fastball, and he keeps opponents off balance by mixing speeds and locations. Perhaps Milone's greatest strength is his ability to read hitters and expose their weaknesses. He also excels at fielding his position and holding runners--he allowed just four steals in 10 attempts last year--and he handles the bat well for a pitcher. Milone lacks upside, but he has a good shot to be a back-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues, perhaps as soon as 2011. He'll start the season in Triple-A.
Then-assistant GM Mike Rizzo and former scouting director Dana Brown signed Sanchez and catcher Sandy Leon, a defensive stalwart, on the same trip to Venezuela in 2007. Both players have turned themselves into prospects. Sanchez spent three years in Rookie ball before breaking out in 2010, when he batted .378 in the Gulf Coast League and .317 at Hagerstown. A switch-hitter, he has a compact, line-drive swing from both sides of the plate. He uses the whole field, has decent pop to the gaps and is a good situational hitter. He has an aggressive approach and doesn't walk much, however. He's an average runner. Sanchez played every infield position except first base in 2010, and he profiles best at second base because he lacks the range for shortstop or the power potential for third. His soft hands, good actions and sound footwork around the bag should make him at least an average defender at second base, where his arm also plays well. Sanchez figures to return to low Class A to start 2011 but could earn a promotion by midseason.
Morris went from undrafted redshirt sophomore in 2008 to first-team All-American and fourth-round pick in 2009, thanks largely to improved mechanics and command. He started his first full pro season in the Potomac rotation, but the wear and tear of starting every fifth day gave him a sore arm, so the Nationals moved him to the bullpen in August. Morris' fastball played up in his new role, sitting at 93-95 mph, and his arm felt better once Washington limited him to two innings per outing. His lack of a reliable changeup probably makes him better suited for relief anyway. Morris' fastball has explosive, heavy sink and bore, helping him post a 2.16 groundout/ airout ratio as a pro. He also has a solid slider with hard bite that he can throw for strikes or use as a chase pitch. He commands his fastball better than his slider, and he attacks the strike zone aggressively. The Nationals are still having him work on a changeup, but it has a ways to go. Morris could move quickly as a reliever. He'll start the season in Double-A and could reach Washington by the second half.
A supplemental first-round pick who was once regarded among the top prospects in the system, Burgess foundered in high Class A, spending most of the last three seasons there before finally getting a promotion last August. Burgess always has possessed provocative power, but his mighty hacks result in loads of strikeouts. The Nationals asked him to try to control his swing more and use more of the field in 2010. He made a bit of progress in that regard, but he still projects to be a below-average hitter at best. His raw power ranks second only to Bryce Harper's among Washington farmhands, but scouts wonder if he'll ever make enough contact to make his pop usable. At the end of 2009, the Nationals were concerned about where Burgess' stocky build was headed, but he dedicated himself to conditioning in the offseason. His efforts helped his mobility in right field, though he's still a below-average runner. He has a strong, accurate arm, and he loves to throw. Burgess plays the game hard, and at 22 years old, he still has time to make the necessary offensive adjustments. His power and arm give him a chance to be an everyday right fielder if he can improve his feel for hitting. He'll head back to Double-A to begin 2011.
Ramirez signed with the Mets as a 16-year-old and spent three seasons in Rookie ball, followed by two more in low Class A. New York converted him from starter to reliever in 2010, and he pitched well enough to earn a late-season promotion to Double-A. After he Mets declined to protect him on their 40-man roster, his stock climbed after he ran his fastball up to 99 mph in the Dominican Winter League. The Nationals selected him with the fifth pick in the major league Rule 5 draft. In the past, Ramirez worked at 89-94 mph with his fastball, with some scouts speculating his velocity would increase if he could lengthen his short stride in the front. He showed improved control in winter ball after averaging 4.8 walks per nine innings in six minor league seasons. Ramriez throws a changeup, curveball and slider, though none stands out as more than serviceable. He'll have to prove his progress this winter is for real, but Ramirez was worth a flier for an organization lacking in live arms. Though he has made just three appearances above Class A, he'll have to make the jump to the big leagues to remain Washington property. He can't be sent to the minors unless he clears waivers and New York declines to take him back for half his $50,000 draft price.
Kobernus hasn't been able to stay healthy since signing for $705,500 as a second-round pick in 2009. His pro debut was cut short after 10 games by an old knee injury that required surgery. He was back on the field by last spring, but he missed a month early and a month late with more nagging injuries. The Nationals think his aggressive style of play has led to some of his physical setbacks. The son of a former Athletics minor leaguer of the same name, Kobernus is a baseball rat who plays the game hard. He has a nice line-drive stroke, but Washington wants him to do a better job controlling the strike zone. He's strong enough to drive balls to the gaps but his home run power is below average at best. Kobernus is an excellent athlete with above-average speed and good baserunning instincts. His solid range, hands and arm strength give him a chance to be a good defender at second base, but he's still learning the finer points of the position after playing mostly third base in college. Kobernus has the skill set to be an everyday big league second baseman, but he must prove he can stay on the field and he needs to refine his overall game. He should start 2011 in high Class A.
Martinson arrived at Texas State on a football scholarship, but he tore his hamstring on his first catch as a wide receiver and then decided to focus on baseball. After hitting .153 as a freshman, he made great strides over his next two seasons, playing his way into the fifth round of the 2010 draft and a $174,000 bonus. Wiry strong and athletic, Martinson has quick hands and should be able to drive balls into the gaps, with occasional home run pop. He must improve at recognizing breaking balls and laying off pitches out of the zone. He also needs to shorten his swing a bit and focus on using the middle of the field instead of getting pull-happy. His bat speed and hand-eye coordination give him a chance to hit for a solid average as he matures. Martinson also has the hands and actions for shortstop, but he needs to refine his footwork and become more consistent. He has above-average arm strength and throws with minimal effort. He's a slightly above-average runner. Martinson is ultra-competitive and plays the game with an edge. His upside is that of an everyday shortstop, but he has plenty of rough edges to polish before he'll be ready for the upper levels of the game. He'll advance to low Class A in 2011.
After helping Xavier reach its first NCAA regional--where he struck out nine in a win against Sam Houston State--Rosenbaum signed for a bargain bonus of $20,000 as a 22nd-round pick in 2009. He dominated younger competition in the Gulf Coast League in his pro debut, then proved that was no fluke by carving up Class A hitters in 2010. Rosenbaum is a polished strike-thrower and a dogged competitor. His 88-91 mph fastball plays up because he naturally cuts it, allowing him to jam righthanders. The life on his heater also helps him rack up groundouts--2.03 of them for every airout as a pro. He can throw his solid curveball for strikes or use it as a putaway pitch. The Nationals believe Rosenbaum is a solid changeup away from the big leagues. He started throwing the pitch more after his promotion to Potomac, and it has the makings of a serviceable offering. Rosenbaum repeats his mechanics well and has good command of the strike zone. He's not as tall as John Lannan, but Washington envisions him becoming a crafty innings-eating starter in the same mold. He'll head to Double- A to open 2011 and could get a taste of the big leagues by season's end.
The Nationals drafted Moore in the 41st round out of high school and again in the 33rd round after his first year at Meridian (Miss.) CC. As a sophomore at Meridian, he led national juco players with 19 homers and ranked fourth in batting .472, and he followed up by hitting 14 homers at Mississippi State in 2008. The Nats drafted him for a third time that June and finally signed him for $55,000 in the 16th round. Moore led all Washington farmhands with 87 RBIs in his first full pro season, then won Carolina League MVP honors last year after topping the high Class A circuit in doubles (43), homers (31), RBIs (111), extra-base hits (77) and slugging percentage (.552). His 2010 was a tale of two very different halves, as he hit .197 with nine homers before the all-star break and .346 with 22 homers afterward. Moore is a very good fastball hitter who doesn't miss mistakes when he's locked in. Early in the year, he got too geared up when he saw a pitch to attack, causing him to dip his barrel and swing through or foul off the pitch. He was more direct to the ball in the second half. Moore has above-average power potential and can hit the ball hard from pole to pole. He still must prove that he's a good enough hitter to handle upper-level pitching, but the ball carries very well off his bat. Moore's strong arm led the Nationals to consider moving him behind the plate or to right field after drafting him, but he lacks the athleticism to play any position but first base. He might have playable mobility and hands there, but he needs to improve his pitch-to-pitch focus and his technique, and he'll never be a standout defender. He has well below-average speed. Moore's bat will have to carry him, but he at least has entered the conversation about Washington's first baseman of the future. He'll advance to Double-A in 2011.
Ramirez grew up with a batting cage in his backyard and he loves to hit. The Nationals bought him out of a commitment to Tulane with a 15th-round-record $1 million just before the signing deadline in 2008. He struggled in 2009 but got back on track last year in low Class A, showing the offensive promise that earned him that big bonus and making significant strides on defense. Ramirez has a smooth, compact lefthanded swing and textbook hitting mechanics. He has good bat speed and average power despite his smaller frame. His bat will have to carry him through the upper levels of the system, but he must control the strike zone better and become more selective in order to reach his ceiling as an above-average hitter. Defense was a major weakness for Ramirez heading into the season, but he worked hard to improve his jumps and routes. He also must become more efficient and accurate with his throwing. He's still a below-average runner, defender and thrower, but he's getting closer to passable in left field. Ramirez will try to carry his momentum into 2011, when he's ticketed for high Class A.
Tatusko had Tommy John surgery as a high school senior and redshirted in 2004 at Indiana State. After a solid three-year career, he was drafted in the 18th round by the Rangers, signed for $20,000 and advanced steadily through their system. Texas traded him and righthander Tanner Roark to get Cristian Guzman from the Nationals last July. Tatusko made a positive first impression with his new organization, posting the best ERA (1.72) and strikeout rate (8.8 per nine innings) of his career over 37 innings at Harrisburg. Tatusko's 6-foot-5 frame helps him create excellent leverage. He pitched at 93-94 mph and ran his fastball up to 97 after the trade. He also showed an improved ability to throw his fastball for strikes. His secondary pitches lag behind his fastball, but his slider does have a chance to become an average offering and his changeup has some sink to it. Big and durable, Tatusko has a chance to be an innings-eating starter in the big leagues, though his lack of pinpoint command or standout secondary stuff might make him a better fit in relief at some point. He could compete for a big league job in spring training, but he's likely to start 2011 in Triple-A.
Durability has been a repeated question about Meyers since he turned pro as a fifth-round pick in 2007. A dead arm caused his velocity to dip into the mid-80s in 2008. He missed a few starts with a heel injury in 2009, though he led the minors with a 1.72 ERA and earned the Nationals' minor league pitcher of the year award. That December, he had left foot surgery to address a stress fracture suffered while jogging months earlier, and he didn't make his 2010 debut until May. After a dominant six-start stretch, Meyers was sidelined for the rest of the season because screws from his surgery caused problems with the bone in his foot. He had another operation in the fall, and while Washington believes his second surgery was more successful, he may not be completely healthy for the start of the 2011 season. When healthy, Meyers pounds the zone with a polished four-pitch mix. His 88-90 mph fastball bumps 92, and it plays up because of the deceptive angles created by his lanky body and high front side in his delivery. He has excellent command of his fastball and three secondary pitches: an average changeup, average slider and a short curve that he uses as a show pitch. If Meyers can stay healthy, he could be a solid back-of-therotation starter as soon as 2011. He's certainly ready to tackle Triple-A whenever he gets a clean bill of health.
After serving as the ace of Georgia's 2008 College World Series team, Holder was drafted in the 10th round, but he turned down the Marlins to return to school for his senior year. His fastball jumped from 88-92 in 2008 to 91-94 in 2009, though at the expense of movement. Washington took a senior discount and signed him for $200,000 as a third-round pick. Holder was fatigued so his stuff was down during his pro debut, and his confidence took a hit. It took the Nationals some time to build him back up, but by the second half of 2010 he was back to the competitive bulldog scouts saw during his college days. Holder is back to pitching at 88-92 mph with good sink. He complements his sinker with an average slider, an average changeup and a fringy curveball, doing a good job of throwing strikes and keeping hitters off balance. Holder lacks a plus pitch, and his upside is limited to the back of a big league rotation or a long-relief role. He'll move up to Double-A in 2011.
Carr's road to Washington's 40-man roster this winter was long and winding. A power-hitting first baseman at Oklahoma State, Carr pitched just five innings in two years with the Cowboys, but Nationals area scout Ryan Fox saw him light up radar guns in fall practice and urged the club to draft him as a pitcher. Signed for $1,000 as an 18th-round pick, he posted a 1.78 ERA between Potomac and Harrisburg in his first full pro season but got hammered repeatedly during the next two years with those same two clubs. Essentially left for dead as a prospect heading into 2010, Carr showed up in spring training with a dramatically less violent and more repeatable delivery that translated into better stuff and command. His calling card is a 93-95 mph fastball that touches 96. He can use his average slider as a chase pitch, and he also learned to throw it for strikes last year. He has developed a serviceable changeup, though it's definitely his third-best option. After posting identical 2.08 ERAs in Triple-A and the Arizona Fall League, Carr looks ready to compete for a big league middle-relief job in spring training.
Pena worked as a closer in Cuba before defecting. He spent a year at Palm Beach (Fla.) CC, and the Nationals signed him for $149,500 as a 13th-round pick in 2006. They tried to make him a starter, but he was plagued by shoulder soreness until he moved to the bullpen in 2009. He pitched a career-high 71 innings in 2010, then dominated in the Puerto Rican League. Pena's quality four-pitch repertoire is highlighted by a 90-94 mph fastball and an average-to-plus curveball that rates as one of the best in the system. He also throws a solid slider and changeup, though he throws the latter sparingly. Consistency is the key for Pena. He has a long arm action and his mechanics get out of whack occasionally, inhibiting his command. He could be ready to compete for a big league job some time in 2011, though he'll likely start the year in Triple-A. He profiles as a middle reliever.