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The most hyped position-player prospect in baseball history, Harper has met or exceeded sky-high expectations at every stop in his short career. After establishing himself as a can't-miss phenom early in his high school career, Harper earned his general equivalency diploma and skipped his final two years at Las Vegas High so he could enroll early at JC of Southern Nevada, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's top amateur player in 2010. After being selected first overall that June and signing a $9.9 million major league contract--the largest ever given to a position player in the draft, and which included a $6.25 million bonus--Harper got his feet wet in the Arizona Fall League. He made his official pro debut as an 18-year-old in low Class A last April, and tore up the South Atlantic League in the first half. He got his first taste of adversity after skipping to Double-A Harrisburg at midseason, enduring a 1-for-25 slump, but bounced back to finish with respectable numbers. A hamstring injury cut his season two weeks short, but he recovered in time to head back to the AFL. Harper's power and arm strength both rate as 80s on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has incredible strength in his hands and generates enormous torque in his lefthanded swing, allowing him to smash massive drives to all fields. Harper has some extra movement in his swing and sometimes jumps out on his front foot too early, but when he stays down and lets the ball travel, he sees pitches well and can drive them hard to the opposite field. Double-A lefthanders limited him to a .167 average and one homer in 48 at-bats, but he hit them well at Hagerstown and shouldn't have a massive platoon split. Harper draws plenty of walks and has the ability to be an above-average or better hitter as he matures, though some scouts think he may strike out out too much to hit for a high average. He's learning to stay under control when he throws, just as when he's in the batter's box. Primarily a catcher as an amateur, Harper played all three outfield positions during his pro debut. He learned the importance of staying closed and using his legs when he throws, and he racked up seven assists in just 37 Double-A games after registering six in 68 games with Hagerstown. Currently an above-average runner, Harper plays with youthful aggression in the outfield and on the basepaths, and his reads are getting better in both facets. He has the speed and instincts to steal bases, though he's still learning when he should run. Many evaluators think Harper will lose a step and wind up in right field once he matures physically, though the Nationals believe he has a chance to stick in center field. He's a tireless worker who loves to play the game, though sometimes his cockiness rubs opponents the wrong way. Harper looks like a sure-fire superstar in the making, and he has a very real chance to develop into the best all-around player in baseball. He figures to start the 2012 season back at Harrisburg or perhaps at Triple-A Syracuse if he dazzles in spring training, and he could slug his way to Washington before season's end.
Rendon won Baseball America's Freshman of the Year award in 2009, followed by College Player of the Year honors in 2010. A strained throwing shoulder limited him to mostly DH duties and sapped his power as a junior last spring, and while he still sat atop BA's draft prospect rankings, he slid to the Nationals at No. 6. He signed a big league contract worth $7.2 million (including a $6 million bonus) at the Aug. 15 deadline, and sat out games in instructional league while continuing to build up strength in his shoulder. Though he's not physically imposing, Rendon has remarkable strength in his hands and wrists, uncanny hand-eye coordination, outstanding plate coverage and exceptional pitch recognition. He consistently drives the ball hard to all fields and projects as a well aboveaverage hitter with plus power. He has average speed despite torn ligaments in his right ankle in 2009 and a break in the same ankle in 2010, and he's smart on the basepaths. When healthy, Rendon has superb defensive instincts and actions, good range and an above-average arm. He has drawn comparisons to Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman and David Wright. With Zimmerman entrenched at third base in Washington, Rendon eventually may shift to second base. His polished bat should carry him quickly through the minors.
Peacock's arm strength has made him stand out since his days as a high school shortstop. He made gradual progress as a pitcher in his first four seasons with the Nationals before breaking out in 2011. He won Double-A Eastern League pitcher of the year honors and finished the year with impressive stints in Triple-A and the majors. Peacock pitches comfortably at 91-94 mph and runs his fastball up to 97 at times. He worked hard in 2011 to keep his front shoulder closed while maintaining his balance and alignment, which led to improved fastball command and deception. He pitches heavily off his fourseamer, which has late hop. He has another swing-and-miss pitch in his sharp 12-to-6 curveball, though it still needs more consistency. He has gained significant confidence in his low-80s changeup, throwing it with good arm speed and fade, though it still gets too firm at times. Peacock is a great athlete who fields his position well, though he's not overly physical. Though he'll compete for a big league rotation spot out of spring training, some more time in Triple-A to master his delivery and secondary stuff might benefit Peacock. He could become a No. 2 starter if everything clicks.
After signing for a fourth round-record $2 million bonus in August 2010, Cole pitched just one inning at short-season Vermont. An illness caused him to lose weight before the start of spring training in 2011, and the Nationals cautiously kept him in extended spring training until mid-May. He joined low Class A Hagerstown, held his own against older competition in the South Atlantic League and got stronger as the year went on. By the end of the summer his fastball ranged from 90-98 mph and sat in the mid-90s. He has no fear of attacking hitters with his fastball, and did a better job commanding the pitch down in the zone as the season progressed. Early on, he tended to rush his delivery, but it became more compact, repeatable and rhythmic during the summer, helping him generate a good downward plane. Cole throws a spike curveball as a chase pitch and is getting better at throwing it for strikes, but Washington plans on having him work on a true curve that would be easier to keep in the zone. He's still learning to trust his changeup. Cole is still getting stronger physically and has frontline-starter upside, but needs to refine his secondary stuff. The Nationals will be patient and figure to send him to high Class A Potomac in 2012.
Goodwin put together a strong freshman year at North Carolina in 2010 but got suspended for the 2011 season after violating university policy. He transferred to Miami Dade JC, where he started slowly, thanks in part to a tweaked hamstring. He bounced back to go 34th overall in the draft, signing just before the Aug. 15 deadline for $3 million. An athletic specimen, Goodwin has the makings of five average or better tools. His best is his speed, which draws grades ranging from plus to plus-plus. He's still learning to steal bases and take charge in center field, where he can become an above-average defender. He has a solid arm and a quick release. Goodwin flashed electric bat speed and showed a patient, gap-to-gap approach in college, but he arrived at instructional league with a rotational, upper-body, metal-bat swing. The Nationals worked with him on using his lower half more and getting his quick, strong hands into better hitting position. He projects as a .275 hitter with 20 or more homers per year. Goodwin needs time to develop, but he has the tools to be an impact center fielder who hits in the top third of a big league lineup. He'll debut in low Class A.
Meyer turned down $2 million from the Red Sox as a 20th-round pick out of high school in 2008. He struggled in his first two seasons at Kentucky before coming on strong as a junior in 2011. The Nationals matched the $2 million he once declined to sign him as the 23rd overall pick. Meyer sat at 94-97 mph and broke 100 on occasion with his four-seam fastball last spring, though he topped out at 93 in instructional league. He mixes in a 91-93 mph two-seamer with above-average life when it's down in the zone. He uses a knuckle-curve grip to deliver an 82-88 mph slider that's a wipeout pitch at times. He also has improving feel for his 84-86 mph changeup. As with most tall pitchers, repeating his delivery is key for Meyer. He tends to rotate his torso too early, and he must do a better job staying over the rubber and on line to the plate. His arm slot also varies from three-quarters to low three-quarters. He has a ways to go to master his mechanics and his command, but it's encouraging that he works around the strike zone. Meyer could be an ace starter or a flamethrowing reliever in the mold of Daniel Bard. He'll likely debut in low Class A.
The 14th overall pick in the 2009 draft, Purke agreed to a $6 million bonus with the Rangers, but MLB controlled the club's finances and refused to approve the deal. He went 16-0 to lead Texas Christian to its first College World Series and earn Freshman of the Year honors in 2010. Shoulder bursitis sidelined him for a month in 2011 and dropped him to the third round as a sophomore-eligible, but the Nationals cleared him medically before signing him to a big league deal with a $2.75 million bonus and $4.15 million total guarantee. When fully healthy, Purke pounds the zone with a 91-94 mph fastball that reaches 96, and he backs it up with a plus 78-82 mph slider. He worked at 89-93 mph with his fastball in instructional league before heading to the Arizona Fall League. He also has good feel for a changeup. Purke always had a slingy, low three-quarters arm action, but he dropped his slot even further and threw across his body more in 2011, causing his stuff to flatten out. He did raise his arm angle in instructional league. He's an intense competitor who works quickly. Another potential frontline starter for the Nationals, Purke figures to move quickly if he regains his health. He could start his career in high Class A.
Solis, whose family owns an AIDS orphanage in Africa, has a good sense of perspective that served him well when he missed almost all of 2009 with a herniated disc in his back. Signed for $1 million in August 2010, he injured his quadriceps last spring and didn't begin his first full pro season until May 30. He found his groove after a midseason promotion to high Class A, where he allowed seven earned runs over his final six starts. Solis has a physical build, clean delivery and easy arm action. He pitches at 90-94 mph and tops out at 96 with his fastball, which has late tailing life. The depth, speed and shape of his spike curveball can vary, from a plus curve with true downer break at times to more of a slider at others. He has good feel for his changeup, which projects as a solid or better pitch. He throws strikes but gets in trouble when he leaves balls up in the zone. Solis will advance to Double-A in 2012 and could push for a spot in the big league rotation the following season. He profiles as a mid-rotation starter.
Norris long has been regarded as a gifted offensive player, but early in his pro career there were questions about the converted third baseman's ability to catch. He answered them by making great strides defensively in Double-A in 2011, when he also slugged 20 homers but hit just .210. Despite his low batting averages and high strikeout totals, Norris has excellent pitch recognition and the ability to command the zone when he stays back. When he struggles, he jumps to his front side too early and his bat doesn't stay in the zone. He has quick hands and a compact stroke that generates plus power from line to line, though he's at his best when he's driving the ball to right-center. Norris' throwing, receiving, footwork, blocking and game-calling have improved. He still needs to polish his receiving, but his solid-average arm helped him throw out an Eastern League-high 40 percent of basestealers. A great athlete for a catcher, he has good speed underway and isn't afraid to steal bases. Protected on the 40-man roster in November, Norris now looks likely to stick behind the plate as a big leaguer, and his offensive ability gives him a chance to be an all-star. Wilson Ramos poses an obstacle in Washington that he'll have to deal with after he spends 2012 in Triple-A.
Lombardozzi's father of the same name was a sparkplug second baseman for the 1987 World Series champion Twins, and the son is similar--with a chance to be better. He breezed through the minors and established himself as a favorite of officials throughout the system. Lombardozzi's tools don't stand out but they all play up because of his baseball acumen and professional approach. A switch-hitter, he has a balanced, line-drive stroke from both sides. An adept situational hitter and bunter, he excels at making contact and can drive the ball into the gaps. He's a slightly above-average runner who picks his spots wisely, as evidenced by his 79 percent success rate on steal attempts in 2011. Lombardozzi committed just two errors all season in the minors, a product of his focus and savvy as much as his sure hands and textbook technique. He has solid range and a fringy arm, and he has held his own filling in at shortstop and third base. He has the tools and skills to be a quality everyday second baseman, and he's versatile enough to be a high-energy utilityman. The latter could be his role in the short term, with Danny Espinosa entrenched at second base in Washington.
The Nationals knew Hood was a long-term project when they signed him away from an Alabama football scholarship for a $1.1 million bonus in 2008. That has proven correct, though he showed signs of harnessing his significant raw talent last year high Class A. Despite playing in the Carolina League (the lowest-scoring full-season circuit in 2011), he more than doubled his previous career totals for homers and steals while also dramatically improving his plate discipline. A slightly above-average runner when he signed, Hood had thickened by 2010 and saw his speed drop to below average. He got himself into considerably better shape in the offseason and his speed returned last year, when he consistently posted solid running times. He also made significant gains with his outfield routes and his throwing, and now projects as an average left fielder with a fringy yet efficient arm. Offensively, Hood excels at maintaining his balance through his swing and has toned down his tendency to chase sliders off the plate. He can drive the ball from line to line, showing very good doubles pop to the right-center gap and emerging home run power to the pull side. Washington expects him to develop into an average or slightly better hitter with solid to plus power. Hood has a chance to be a solid regular, and how he handles the jump to Double-A in 2012 will be telling.
Marrero has advanced steadily through the system, one level at a time, since signing for $1.625 million as a first-round pick in 2006. Though his numbers have never leapt off the page, he has produced at every level, and he had his best season in 2011. He hit .300 for the first time since Rookie ball and posted an .825 OPS, his highest over a full minor league season. He spent all of September as Washington's everyday first baseman, struggling to make consistent contact against big league pitching. Marrero always has tended to step in the bucket, but when he stays on line and focuses on driving the ball to the middle of the field, his barrel stays in the hitting zone longer and his pitch recognition improves. Still just 23, he profiles as an average hitter with slightly above-average power. He has plus raw power, but he's still learning to make the most use of it. Marrero made great strides defensively in Triple-A, cutting his error total to five from 18 in 2010. His footwork and ability to pick balls out of the dirt have improved significantly, and he now profiles as a fringy defender with an adequate arm. He's a well below-average runner. With first basemen Michael Morse (who shifted to left in September) and Adam LaRoche still under contract for 2012, Marrero figures to return to Syracuse to open the season. He profiles as a decent everyday first baseman or a platoon player.
Like Steve Lombardozzi, Milone lacks standout physical tools but proved himself at every level and forced his way to the big leagues by the end of 2011. He carved up the Triple-A International League to rank second with 155 strikeouts and first in walks per nine innings (1.0) and K-BB ratio (9.7). Those last two figures illustrates his greatest strength: superb control and command. Milone's below-average fastball ranges from 86-91 mph, but it plays up because of the deception in his herky-jerky delivery and his ability to spot it wherever he wants. His above-average changeup is his out pitch against lefties and righties alike thanks to his excellent arm speed, good sink and tailing action. He throws his fringy curveball at varying depths and speeds, using it for a chase pitch or an early strike. He also mixes in a solid cutter. Milone has outstanding poise and the ability to make adjustments on the fly. He fields his position well and handles the bat adeptly for a pitcher. Milone's ceiling is limited to that of a back-end big league starter, but he held his own in five big league starts and will compete for a rotation job in the spring training.
A raw athlete who lacked polish at shortstop, Taylor struggled mightily in the infield and at the plate in his 2010 debut. The Nationals moved him to center field in instructional league after the season, and he took to it immediately, flashing premium defensive ability by the end of the fall. The defensive switch also took pressure off him at the plate, and he held his own in low Class A as a 20-year-old last year. He reminds club officials of Devon White and Mike Cameron physically, using his plus speed to glide effortlessly around center field, where his excellent instincts translate to stellar range. Taylor still is fine-tuning his throwing technique but flashes above-average arm strength. Taylor is a work in progress at the plate, but his quick hands generate impressive leverage and bat speed. He had a narrow base and a long stride heading into 2011, causing his front foot to get down late and his back side to collapse. He made progress during the season at getting his foot down earlier and staying in better hitting position. He also showed the ability to shorten up and take the ball the other way with two strikes, though Washington wants him to attack pitches when he's ahead in the count. He has power to center and left field, and a chance to grow into 20-25 homer pop as he fills out his angular frame. The Nats love Taylor's upside, but he is still a long way from putting his considerable upside together. He'll advance to high Class A in 2012.
Hague hit a combined .335 with 32 homers during three standout years as Rice's starting shortstop, and he hit .371 with wood bats for Team USA's college squad in 2009. After signing for $430,200 as a 2010 third-round pick, Hague continued to rake in his pro debut, though he carried over his erratic defensive play from the spring to the summer. The Nationals sent him to their accelerated program prior to the start of spring training, and he made great progress using his lower half better, unlocking his power potential. Club officials say he had the best spring of any hitter in the system, and he got off to a 5-for-14 in high Class A before dislocating his throwing shoulder. He had surgery in June, ending his season. Hague has advanced bat-to-ball instincts, quick hands and a compact swing. By learning to slow down in the box and stay back, his pitch recognition has improved and he's able to handle offspeed pitches better. He has a chance to be a plus hitter with average power. Hague's defense at shortstop remains a work in progress. He tends to wait back for balls that he should charge, causing the game to speed up on him and his throws to get rushed. No better than a fringy runner, he lacks the range for shortstop, though his arm is strong enough for the position. He fits better as a second or third baseman, and his total package reminds one Nats official of Michael Young, though that's an ambitious comparison. Hague likely will continue his rehabilitation in extended spring training before returning to Potomac.
Power has been Moore's calling card since high school, when the Nationals drafted him in the 41st round in 2005. They took him again in the 33rd round after his freshman year at Meridian (Miss.) CC and finally signed him for $55,000 as a 16th-round pick out of Mississippi State in 2008. He and Paul Goldschmidt were the only players to reach the 30-homer plateau in the minors in each of the last two seasons. Last year, Moore topped the Eastern League in homers (31), extra-base hits (70), RBIs (90) and total bases (276), earning a spot on Washington's 40-man roster. He's country strong and has plus-plus raw power. He can hit balls out of the park from pole to pole, though he gets in trouble when he gets pull-happy, making him vulnerable against hard sliders away. When he's at his best, he'll drive those pitches to right field. He's so aggressive that he'll always have more than his share of strikeouts and never be more than a fringe-average hitter, but his premium power gives him a chance to be a valuable regular at first base. His footwork and glovework made great strides in 2011, and he as an above-average arm. With a logjam at first base between Triple-A and the majors, Washington experimented with Moore in left field. He was a pleasant surprise with his reads and routes, though he has below-average speed and range. If Chris Marrero returns as the everyday first baseman at Syracuse in 2012, Moore might see more time in the outfield there.
After flashing mid-90s velocity on the high school showcase circuit in 2009, Ray dominated with less velocity the following spring, throwing three no-hitters, including a five-inning perfect game. After falling to the 12th round of the 2010 draft, he bypassed a commitment to Arkansas in order to sign for $799,000 a day before the Aug. 16 deadline. The Nationals held him and fellow prep draftee A.J. Cole in extended spring training before joining Hagerstown's rotation in mid-May. Ray did a fine job pounding the strike zone in the first half, but his walk total spiked in July. He pitches with an 87-91 mph fastball with natural sink. Though he flashes a bit more on occasion, he projects to pitch with average fastball velocity and plus life. Ray has very good feel for his changeup, which projects as a slightly above-average pitch. He also has the makings of a solid slider, though it remains inconsistent. Ray's stride tends to vary in length, and if he can learn to repeat his mechanics consistently, his stuff should benefit. Projected as a quality back-of-the-rotation starter, he'll head to high Class A in 2012.
Though Turnbull is old for a junior college product, his arm is fresh and his upside is intriguing. Turnbull was raw when he arrived at Santa Barbara (Calif.) CC and took a redshirt in 2009. After turning down the White Sox as a 30th-round pick in 2010, he went 5-2, 2.47 last spring. The Nationals viewed him as a steal in the fourth round and signed him for $325,000. Turnbull's velocity ranges from 86-94 mph, with a comfort zone of 90-91. His long, lean frame helps him generate good downward angle, and he shortened up his arm action over the course of 2011, making his delivery easier to repeat. His slider has some depth and shows flashes of being a plus pitch, but more often it is slurvy. He mixes in an 80-84 mph splitter with decent downer action, but Washington would prefer him to focus on developing his changeup, for which he does show good feel. He'll likely make his pro debut in low Class A and he ultimately has mid-rotation upside.
The Diamondbacks found a great value in Walters, signing him for $97,500 as a ninth-round pick in 2010. He impressed scouts with his solid tools and good feel for the game during the first half of the 2011 season in the low Class A Midwest League, and Arizona traded him to the Nationals for Jason Marquis in July. The switch-hitting Walters has good barrel release and extension out front from both sides, but Washington would like him to let the ball travel more to improve his pitch recognition. Walters has some leverage in his swing and he could develop fringe-average power if he incorporates his legs in his swing more consistently. He excels at driving balls into the gaps and has a chance to be an average or slightly better hitter. Walters has below-average speed but runs the bases aggressively and instinctively. His slightly above-average arm plays at shortstop, but his range is a little lacking for the position. His hands and actions are solid, and he has the versatility to play second or third base. He profiles as a valuable utilityman with a shot to be an infield regular. Walters figures to reach Double-A at some point in 2012, perhaps out of spring training.
The son of a former minor leaguer of the same name, Kobernus has a hard-nosed style of play that may have led to the nagging injuries that limited him during his first two pro seasons. He stayed mostly healthy in 2011, putting together a solid season at high Class A Potomac. A plus-plus runner with excellent first-step quickness and advanced instincts on the basepaths, Kobernus tied for 11th in the minors with 53 stolen bases and succeeded on 87 percent of his attempts. He's still learning to refine his approach offensively, as he tends to try too hard to make something happen and chases pitches out of the zone. Washington wants him to do a better job staying under control and balanced, which also should help his pitch recognition. When he stays back, he shows a pretty line-drive swing and good bat speed. He can drive the ball from gap to gap and has occasional power to his pull side. He shows the ability to backspin balls out of the park with ease at times during batting practice, but he doesn't figure to have better than below-average power. Kobernus became a more fluid defender at second base in 2011, making progress with his pivots, actions and throws. He has a solid arm for the position and projects as at least an average defender. Kobernus has the tools to be an everyday big league second baseman, but he'll need to mature offensively and make continued progress defensively. He'll get a crack at Double-A this year.
Skole is more powerful but less athletic than his younger brother Jake, a Rangers firstround pick in 2010. Matt blasted 37 homers over his first two seasons at Georgia Tech before hitting just 10 with the new BBCOR bats as a junior last spring. Hiis approach matured over the course of his college career, and he drew 99 walks while striking out just 77 times over his last two seasons. He continued to show excellent patience at the plate, a good two-strike approach and impressive hand-eye coordination in his pro debut. Signed for $161,100 as a fifth-round pick, he led the short-season New York-Penn League with 23 doubles and 48 RBIs. Skole should hit for solid power as he learns to use his lower half better in his swing. Most of his home run power is to the pull side, but he also can drive the ball the other way. He batted just .203/.298/.284 against lefthanders at Vermont, so the Nationals had him adopt a two-strike approach throughout at-bats against lefties in instructional league, and he handled them better. Skole has nice hands and a solid-to-plus arm at third base, but he needs to tone his lower half and improve his agility to stick at the hot corner. He could hit enough to be a fringy regular at first base, but his value will be highest at third base. Given his advanced feel for the strike zone, Skole figures to reach high Class A in 2012, perhaps out of camp.
Perez followed up his strong second half in low Class A in 2010 by batting .345 with 21 steals last winter in the Dominican League. His hitting was inconsistent in high Class A last season, but he still posted a solid batting average thanks to top-of-the-line speed, which allowed him to rack up infield hits and bunt singles. Because Perez frequently looks to bunt early in counts, he often falls behind if he fails to get the bunt down. He's an aggressive hitter who needs to learn to be more patient. For two years, the Nationals harped on the need for Perez to reduce his high leg kick and if he can learn to consistently shorten up his stroke, he has a chance to be an average-or-better hitter because he does have good hand-eye coordination and contact ability. He has well below-average power but is strong enough to drive a few balls into the gaps. He's still refining his leads and jumps on the basepaths. Defensively, Perez has above-average range and continues to work on his reads and routes in center field. He has solid arm strength and good accuracy. Perez will advance to Double-A this year after getting added to Washington's 40-man roster in November.
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. Since then, he has dominated at every stop in his pro career, even carving up Double-A hitters after an August promotion last year. The Nationals thought Rosenbaum improved the quality of his strikes and elevated his commitment to refining his secondary stuff in the second half of the season. His fastball command, in particular, made strides in 2011. Rosenbaum pounds the zone with an 88-90 mph fastball that tops out at 91. It plays up because of the deception in his delivery and the natural cut on his heater, which helps him pitch inside against righties effectively. His solid downer curveball always has been his No. 2 pitch, at the expense of his changeup development. However, his changeup has improved and become close to an average offering. If Rosenbaum returns to Double-A to start the season, he doesn't figure to be there long. He could reach his ceiling as a No. 5 starter or quality swingman by 2013.
Then-assistant GM Mike Rizzo and former scouting director Dana Brown signed Leon and second baseman Adrian Sanchez on the same trip to Venezuela in 2007. Since then, Leon has established a reputation as one of the finest defensive catchers in the system, but scouts always have wondered if he'd hit enough to be a big leaguer. Leon has gradually improved his offensive game to the point that he now holds his own from both sides of the plate. He'll never be better than a below-average hitter with below-average power, but he has learned to put together competitive at-bats and has a knack for providing the occasional clutch hit. Leon's defense alone is good enough to get him to the big leagues, probably as a backup but perhaps as a glove-first regular. Nationals assistant GM Bob Boone--who won seven Gold Gloves behind the plate--calls Leon a "magnificent catcher" with great footwork, outstanding receiving and blocking skills and a solid-average to plus arm with very good accuracy. He led the Carolina League by throwing out 53 percent of basestealers in 2011. He's an extremely slow runner who clogs up the bases. He will move to Double-A in 2012, and with a host of quality catchers ahead of him in the upper levels of the system, Washington can afford to wait for his bat to develop.
Martinson arrived at Texas State on a football scholarship, but he tore his hamstring on his first catch as a wide receiver and decided to focus on baseball. Because of his two-sport background, he remains raw on the baseball field. However, his power came alive in the second half of his first full season in 2011, when he slugged 14 of his 19 homers at Hagerstown. Martinson excels at driving fastballs to right-center field and pulling offspeed pitches to left. The Nationals want him to become more aggressive in hitter's counts. He tends to get to his front side too quickly, then dropping his hands and casting his barrel, leading to high strikeout totals. He worked hard to stay balanced and shorten his swing in instructional league, but he has a long way to go before he starts hitting for average. His plus raw power potential is exciting, though he's still learning to harness it. While Martinson's athleticism, solid range and arm strength play at shortstop, he stills needs a lot of polish defensively. Many of his 33 errors last year came after he misread balls, then made off-balance, inaccurate throws. He's a slightly above-average runner with a decent feel for stealing bases. The Nationals compare him to another former football player, Mark DeRosa, but Martinson has a long way to go to put everything together. He'll move on to high Class A this year.
Drafted as a raw thrower with intriguing arm strength and physicality but limited feel for pitching, Kimball gradually turned himself into one of the organization's top prospects heading into last year. After spending his first three pro seasons as a starter so he could get more innings, he found a home in the bullpen, dominating at four different levels in 2010 and 2011. After starting last season with 12 consecutive scoreless Triple-A outings, he earned his first promotion to the big leagues, where he continued to overpower hitters for 12 more innings before a shoulder injury ended his season. He had the same rotator-cuff surgery during the all-star break that Pedro Martinez had at age 39, performed by the same doctor. Before he got hurt, Kimball attacked hitters with a heavy 93-97 mph fastball, a swing-and-miss splitter in the mid-80s and a power curveball in the low 80s. He can throw the curve for strikes or bury it as a chase pitch. His shoulder injury casts doubt about his future.The Nationals hope he can make a full recovery by the 2012 all-star break. They took him off their 40- man roster in November and lost him on waivers to the Blue Jays, then reclaimed him two days later.
Freitas had an eye-opening debut after signing for $50,000 as a 15th-round pick in 2010, hitting in 22 straight games at Vermont and putting himself squarely on the organization's prospect map. He kept it going during his first full pro season, leading the South Atlantic League with 82 walks, ranking second with a .409 on-base percentage and providing 13 homers. Freitas arrived in the system with a metal-bat swing and relied mostly on his upper body to generate power, but the Nationals have worked with him on transferring his weight more effectively. His swing has gotten shorter and his power has increased. His patient approach gives him a chance to be an average hitter with average home run power to the pull side and good doubles pop to the gaps. Defensively, Freitas has decent mobility for his size and is a field general who calls a good game. He has solid hands and improving receiving skills. Freitas threw out just 25 percent of basestealers last year and needs to refine his throwing mechanics, as he has a tendency to rush and get on his front side too quickly, causing him to open up and lose leverage. He has average arm strength, so it's just a matter of syncing up his transfer and release. Like most catchers, he's a below-average runner. Freitas will advance to high Class A this year and has a chance to be an offense-oriented part-time catcher in the big leagues.
Sanchez and catcher Sandy Leon have turned themselves into prospects since both were signed by then-assistant GM Mike Rizzo and former scouting director Dana Brown on the same trip to Venezuela in 2007. After a strong 25-game stint in low Class A at the end of 2010, most club officials expected him to tear up the South Atlantic League in 2011. Instead, he got off to a slow start and didn't really find his groove until July. Sanchez stands out most for his quick hands and natural feel for making good contact. He tends to be a front-foot hitter, but his hands can whip the barrel through the zone and make up for it. When he stays back in good hitting position with his legs, he can drive the ball to the gaps. He has just enough pull power that he sometimes gets himself in trouble trying to hit homers, but he's starting to understand that he should gear his game toward line drives. Sanchez still chases pitches out of the zone too often, but his feel for his barrel gives him a chance to be a plus hitter with below-average power. A quick-twitch athlete, Sanchez has soft hands and the ability to make occasional highlight-reel plays at second base. He played all around the infield earlier in his career, and his footwork is starting to improve as he gets used to second base, where his arm plays average. He has fringy speed but is aggressive on the basepaths. Sanchez has the tools to be an everyday big league second baseman if it all comes together. He'll advance to high Class A in 2012.
After a promising freshman year at Blinn (Texas) JC in 2008, Demny impressed the Nationals by running his fastball up to 96 mph in a predraft workout, and they signed him for $110,000 as a sixth-round pick. He spent two full seasons in low Class A, where his emotions often vacillated with the ebb and flow of the game and the quality of his stuff varied with his mechanics. He built confidence in high Class A last year and also did a better job maintaining his line to the plate and repeating his arm slot, which tended to drop in years past. Early in 2011, Demny worked mostly at 88-92 mph with his fastball, but the improvements in his delivery helped him sit at 92-94 down the stretch, topping out at 96 at times. Demny's No. 2 pitch is a slider that showed better depth and velocity as the year progressed, coming in at 83-84 mph by season's end. The arm speed and fading action on his changeup continued to get better last year. He still needs to improve his control and command. Demny has the makings of three solid or better pitches and a strong, durable build, giving him a chance to be an innings eater if he continues to blossom, though a future as a reliever seems more likely. Double-A will provide a major test in 2012.
Keyes mashed 15 homers as a junior at Texas, where cavernous UFCU Disch-Falk Field isn't conducive to power, After signing for $125,000 as a seventh-round pick, he arrived at Vermont overweight, with a long swing and a big leg kick that the Nationals didn't like, and he struggled mightily. He got himself into better shape during the offseason, and he stayed in extended spring training at the start of 2011. His hard work paid dividends at low Class A, where he started to make use of his above-average power potential. Keyes gets in trouble when he gets pull-happy, though when he's locked in he can backspin balls out of the park to right-center. His approach and contact ability are improving, but he still projects as a below-average hitter. Keyes is a below-average runner who lacked the actions to play first base in college. He played right field last year due to Hagerstown's spacious left field, though he profiles as a left fielder with below-average range and fringy arm strength. Keyes' power bat will have to carry him through the minors, continuing with an assignment to high Class A in 2012.