Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
Rendon is one of the most accomplished college players of the last decade, and his rise to elite prospect status has been slowed only by a succession of injuries. A 27th-round pick by the Braves out of Houston's Lamar High in 2008, Rendon burst onto the national scene at Rice the following spring, hitting .388/.461/.702 with 20 homers to win Baseball America's Freshman of the Year award. He tore ligaments in his right ankle after stepping on a sprinkler head during NCAA super regionals that June, but he rebounded to hit .394/.530/.801 with 26 homers in 2010 to win BA College Player of the Year honors. Once again his summer was lost to injury, as he broke the same ankle while running the bases in his second game with the U.S. collegiate national team. A strained throwing shoulder largely limited him to DH duties as a junior, and he got few pitches to hit, leading NCAA Division I with 80 walks while producing just six homers. Rendon still ranked as the 2011 draft's top prospect, but uncertainty about his shoulder caused him to drop to the Nationals as the sixth overall pick. He signed a $7.2 million big league contract that including a $6 million bonus at the Aug. 15 deadline. After a stellar spring training, Rendon once more succumbed to the injury bug on April 7, slightly fracturing his left ankle while running the bases in his second pro game. He returned to action on July 19 and quickly reached Double-A Harrisburg, but he didn't truly find his stride until the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .338/.436/.494. Rendon stands out most for his strong, lightning-quick hands, which Rice coach Wayne Graham has often compared to those of Hank Aaron. Rendon's tension-free swing allows him to stay back and then whip his bat through the zone, generating hard line drives from foul pole to foul pole. He has excellent balance, advanced pitch recognition and a patient approach (as evidenced by his 176-78 BB-K ratio at Rice), though his timing and pitch selection were off somewhat in his injury-shortened 2012 pro debut. Though he isn't overly physical, he has enough leverage in his swing to hit 20 or more homers annually while contending for batting titles. Rendon compiled an impressive defensive highlight reel in college, and the Nationals have been impressed with his body control, hands, footwork and instincts. He had a plus arm at Rice, but it now rates as more of a solid tool. He also has lost a step or two after his three ankle injuries, making him a slightly below-average runner. If he can stay healthy, Rendon can an all-star third baseman with a middle-of-the-order bat and quality defensive skills. But with Ryan Zimmerman in his prime and locked into Washington's third-base job for the foreseeable future, Rendon figures to wind up elsewhere--perhaps second base, where he has played on occasion in college and in spring training. His solid athleticism and baseball savvy should allow him to adapt to a number of defensive positions, and his bat should make him an impact big leaguer. He figures to return to Double-A to start 2013, and he could get his first taste of the majors later in the year because his skills are advanced.
Giolito's combination of elite stuff, size and polish gave him a chance to be the first high school righthander ever drafted No. 1 overall. But he sprained his ulnar collateral ligament in early March, ending his season and clouding his draft stock. The son of Hollywood actors Lindsay Frost and Rick Giolito, he made it clear a hefty bonus would be required to lure him away from a UCLA commitment. After drafting him 16th overall, the Nationals exceeded his assigned pick value by $800,000 and signed him for $2,925,000. He appeared in one game before having Tommy John surgery on Aug. 31. When healthy, Giolito works from 92-100 mph with his fastball, sitting comfortably at 94-96. He complements it with a plus-plus 82-86 mph curveball with depth and bite. He even flashes an above-average 82-84 mph changeup, giving him a third swing-and-miss pitch. He has an easy delivery, an advanced feel for pitching, a tenacious mound presence and a tireless work ethic. Giolito has true No. 1 starter upside, and his makeup and command give him a solid chance to reach that ceiling. The Nationals successfully nursed Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann back from Tommy John surgery, and should be able to do the same with Giolito, though he might not pitch in 2013.
Signed for $3 million as a 2011 sandwich pick, Goodwin made progress refining his impressive raw tools in his first full pro season. He showed speed, power and plate discipline while starring at low Class A Hagerstown, then continued to dazzle with his physical ability despite having less success in Double-A and the Arizona Fall League. Goodwin has worked hard to put his hands into better hitting position, free up his swing and make it less rotational. When he's going well, he stays short to the ball, waits on offspeed stuff and drives pitches from left-center to right field. When he struggled at Harrisburg, he got pull-happy and chased pitches up and away. Goodwin must improve against southpaws, who held him to a .246 average last season. But his quick hands and feel for the strike zone give him a chance to be a tablesetter, and he generates enough leverage to add solid power. He's also an above-average runner, though he's still learning to use his speed on the basepaths and in center field. He has a chance to be a plus defender with a solid arm. He could be a dynamic player in the mold of Curtis Granderson with less power and better on-base skills. Goodwin figures to start 2013 back in Double-A, and Washington's center-field job could be his in 2014.
After hitting 47 homers in three years at Georgia Tech, Skole led the short-season New York-Penn League with 23 doubles and 48 RBIs in his 2011 pro debut. He was even better in 2012, winning low Class A South Atlantic League MVP honors and topping the circuit in homers (27), walks (94), on-base percentage (.438) and slugging (.574). His prospect stock has climbed higher than that of his younger brother Jake, a Rangers first-round pick in 2010. The Nationals have helped Skole get more out of his big, physical frame by minimizing his leg kick, solidifying his base and improving his balance. As he has implemented a more consistent load and better posture, he has hooked fewer balls and started driving back-door breaking pitches to the opposite field. Most of his plus power comes to the pull side. His improving ability to use all fields, good pitch recognition and patient approach suggest he can be an average hitter. Skole will never be a rangy defender at third base, but he has improved his footwork and body control. His hands are sure enough to play at either corner and his arm is solid. Blocked at third by Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon, Skole has more of a future with Washington as a slugging first baseman. He should reach Double-A in 2013.
Karns has flashed power stuff since his high school days in Texas, but his command held him back in college at North Carolina State and Texas Tech. He appeared to turn the corner in 2009 in the Texas Collegiate League, where he ranked as the top prospect before signing for $225,000 as a 12th-round pick, but he tore the labrum in his shoulder shortly afterward and didn't pitch again until 2011. He came out of nowhere to lead the minors in opponent average (.174) in his 2012 full-season debut. Karns throws a heavy fastball at 92-94 mph, topping out at 96. He always has been able to get hitters to chase his downer curveball, a low-80s hammer with depth and finish, and he improved his ability to throw it for strikes last season. His curve should become a true plus pitch as he continues to learn to repeat it, and his changeup has a chance to be average. He has smoothed out his delivery somewhat, and his command has improved so much that he has a chance to stick as a starter. Added to the 40-man roster in November, Karns will advance to Double-A in 2013 and could reach Washington in the second half. He could be a mid-rotation workhorse or a late-inning reliever, depending on how his changeup and feel for pitching progress.
After converting from catcher to pitcher as a prep senior, Garcia rocketed into the third round of the 2004 draft and signed with the Yankees for $390,000. But his career was derailed by two Tommy John surgeries, costing him all of 2007 and most of 2010. He signed with Washington as a minor league free agent in July 2011 and thrived in his first full season as a reliever in 2012, earning a September callup and a spot on the playoff roster. Garcia's stuff is electric. His fastball sits at 93-96 mph and regularly bumps 97 with good life and angle. His plus changeup has late sink, and he trusts it against both lefties and righties. The shape of his hard-biting curveball can vary, making it look more like a slider at times, but it has tight spin and good power in the low 80s. He's still learning how to command its break consistently, though it shows flashes of becoming a plus pitch. Garcia's command is a tick below average, but his stuff is good enough that he doesn't need pinpoint accuracy to succeed. Garcia has a smooth delivery without much effort, but his medical history will keep him in the bullpen. He'll open 2013 as a set-up man for the Nationals.
Perez hit .303 in his first five pro seasons and made great strides with his mental approach in his sixth, helping him advance three levels and earn a September callup in 2012. He improved his English and became a better communicator, implemented a plan for practice as well as games and did a better job staying within himself at the plate. Perez's carrying tool is his speed, which rates an 80 on the 20-80 scale. He's learning to make better use of it by maintaining a slashing approach at the plate, after trying to muscle up and pull pitches in the past--something that makes little sense with his well below-average power. He cut down his high leg kick and focused on hitting balls up the middle. He has good feel for the barrel and makes consistent contact, though he still needs to become more patient in order to realize his potential as a tablesetter. Perez has dramatically improved his pre-pitch positioning and reads, translating to well above-average range at times. He still gets late jumps and takes bad routes a times, however. His arm is solid. Washington's November trade for Denard Span leaves Perez looking at a reserve job in Washington. A little more time in Triple-A Syracuse could be good for him.
By visiting the AIDS orphanage his family owns in Africa, the laid-back Solis gained an uncommon sense of perspective, which has been an asset during his injury-plagued career. He missed almost all of 2009 at San Diego with a herniated disc in his back. Signed for $1 million as a 2010 second-rounder, he saw his first full pro season in 2011 delayed by a quadriceps injury. He returned to post a strong season in Class A, but after impressing in the Arizona Fall League, he felt some discomfort in his elbow, which eventually required Tommy John surgery last spring. Solis has quality stuff when healthy, starting with a 90-94 mph fastball that peaks at 96 and has late, tailing life. The depth, speed and shape of his spike curveball varies, looking like a plus downer curve at times and more like 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 was progressing well in his rehabilitation and throwing again by the fall. The Nationals expect him to begin 2013 in extended spring training, but he could see game action at high Class A Potomac or Harrisburg by June 1. He projects as a mid-rotation starter, though he must prove he can stay healthy.
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 win Baseball America's Freshman of the Year award in 2010, but shoulder bursitis hampered him as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2011. The Nationals took him in the third round and signed him to a big league deal with a $2.75 million bonus and $4.15 million total guarantee. He pitched just 15 innings in his 2012 pro debut before having surgery in August to relieve the bursitis and clean out scar tissue in his shoulder. When he's at his best, Purke can pound the strike zone with a 91-94 mph fastball that reaches 96. He backs it up with a plus 78-82 mph slider and shows good feel for a changeup. He was never healthy in 2012 and his stuff was down in the three starts he did make. He has a slingy, low three-quarters delivery, and Washington has worked to raise his arm angle in order to prevent his pitches from flattening out. Purke's history of shoulder problems clouds his prospect status, but he has shown No. 2 starter upside in the past. He's expected to be ready for spring training and to open 2013 in low Class A.
Acquired from the Diamondbacks for Jason Marquis in July 2011, Walters broke the hamate bone in his right hand during his first spring training with the Nationals. The injury limited him to eight games in April but he played his way to Triple-A by August. He had a solid winter in Puerto Rico as well. Walters stands out for his smooth, fluid swing from both sides of the plate, though he fared markedly better from the left side than the right in 2012. His swing has excellent extension and leverage, giving him a chance to be an average hitter with fringy power if he can improve his plate discipline. He needs to stick with a plan at the plate and avoid chasing pitches early in counts. Walters' other notable tool is his plus arm, which is accurate and gives him a chance to play shortstop in the big leagues. His hands work in the infield, but he must improve his pre-pitch positioning and routes. He's a fringy runner. Washington believes Walters has the athleticism and aptitude to play six different positions, suggesting he could be a valuable utilityman with a quality bat if he can't force his way into an everyday role. He'll head back to Syracuse in 2013.
Drafted as a shortstop, Taylor adapted quickly when the Nationals converted him to center field in instructional league after his rough 2010 debut. He complemented his sometimes-dazzling defense with improved offense in 2011, but he failed to build upon that last year in high Class A. He missed time in August after spraining his foot when it got caught under a pad in the outfield fence. Taylor earns comparisons to Mike Cameron and B.J. Upton for his rangy athleticism, his gracefulness in center field, his raw power--and his tendency to swing and miss. The length in Taylor's stroke causes scouts to wonder if he'll ever hit enough to reach the big leagues The Nationals want him to learn to trust his hands, and they think that will come as he continues to get stronger. Taylor hit all three of his home runs last season in July when he simplified his load, stayed more upright and maintained a better direction in his stride. He could grow into average power down the line. For now, defense is Taylor's calling card. He has plus speed underway and outstanding instincts in center field, translating to excellent range. His above-average arm generates low, accurate throws with good carry. Washington would like the mild-mannered Taylor to play with more urgency in 2013, when he will likely repeat high Class A.
Renda's makeup turned him into a favorite of Pacific-12 Conference coaches and scouts alike during his standout career at California, which included a conference player of the year award and a trip to the College World Series in 2011. Drafted in the second round last June, he signed quickly for $500,000 and went to short-season Auburn, where he got off to a slow start but came on strong down the stretch. Nationals minor league hitting coordinator Rick Schu worked with Renda to eliminate a wrap in his load, getting his hands into better hitting position. He doesn't stride in his swing, relying on his strong, quick wrists and his hand-eye coordination. He's an aggressive hitter, but aggressive in the strike zone and doesn't chase many bad pitches. He has a knack for squaring up the ball and producing hard line drives from gap to gap, giving him a chance to be an above-average hitter. Renda's power is below average at best, and none of his other tools stand out. He's an average runner with average range and arm strength at second base. He needs to improve his reads, angles, footwork and double-play turns, but he projects as a steady defender. No one will outwork Renda, who has the aptitude to move quickly. Though he's undersized, he has the baseball savvy and bat to be an everyday second baseman.
Jordan was an 18th-round pick by the Reds out of high school in 2007, but it took him a few years to mature off the mound. The Nationals signed him for $99,500 as a ninth-rounder out of Brevard (Fla.) CC, his second junior college. He generated buzz with a strong first half in 2011 but had Tommy John surgery at the end of the summer. He returned to game action last June, and he was showing the best velocity of his career at the end of last season, bumping 96 mph with sink. Jordan's fastball has natural, hard sink and armside run, and it sits at 89-94 mph. He also has the makings of a solid slider with good depth and has a chance for an average changeup. His command hasn't come all the way back yet, but it figures to improve as he gets further away from surgery. He never has had trouble throwing strikes, and Washington believes he has the repertoire, frame and feel to be a starter. The Nationals didn't protect him on the 40-man roster after the season, gambling correctly that he was too far away from the majors to get taken in the Rule 5 draft. He should advance to high Class A in 2013, with a chance to reach Double-A by the second half.
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. He has made plenty of progress on the diamond at Texas State and in pro ball, but he remains a long-term project with impressive raw tools. After he struck out 144 times in 2011, the Nationals sent him back to low Class A last year to work on his approach, and they promoted him after he made strides in that department. Martinson has plenty of bat speed and leverage in his swing, translating to solid power potential. He can backspin balls out of the park from right-center to left field, but he'll get into funks where he pulls off balls on the outer half, chases sliders out of the zone and passively lets fastballs go by. An above-average runner, Martinson is an accomplished basestealer. His quickness also plays at shortstop, where he has good range and actions. He has a slightly above-average arm, but he needs to do a better job attacking grounders rather than letting the ball play him. He also has seen action at third base. Already 24, Martinson still has plenty of rough edges to smooth out, but he has the tools to be an everyday shortstop. He faces a crucial year in 2013, when he'll likely head back to high Class A after struggling there last season.
When he was still assistant GM, Mike Rizzo and former scouting director Dana Brown signed Leon on a trip to Venezuela in 2007. He gradually worked his way through the system as a defense-first catcher, and his bat developed enough to help him earn a big league callup when injuries struck the Nationals last May. He sprained his right ankle in a home-plate collision with Chase Headley during his big league debut, but he returned to the majors for stints in July, August and September. Leon has made himself competitive at the plate by tweaking his set-up, getting his hands into better hitting position and improving his balance. He has learned to use all fields and put the ball in play from both sides of the plate. He won't ever hit for power, but he should be a serviceable hitter with outstanding catch-and-throw skills. Leon is a plus receiver with good footwork and agility, making him adept at blocking balls in the dirt. His above-average arm is efficient and accurate, routinely producing pop times in the 1.9-second range and helping him shut down the running game. He threw out 38 percent of basestealers between the majors and minors in 2012. He's still refining his game-calling, but pitchers love throwing to him. He's a well below-average runner, but that's true of most backstops. Leon profiles as a strong backup catcher with a chance to be a defense-first regular, and he's big league-ready.
A three-year standout at Rice, Hague showed plenty of offensive potential in his 2010 pro debut, but he dislocated his throwing shoulder after just four games in 2011, halting his progress. The Nationals eased him back into action last year, holding him back in extended spring training until assigning him to high Class A on April 30. Washington's primary goal for Hague in 2012 was for him to stay healthy for a full season, and he accomplished that, though his numbers were modest. He figures to grow into some power as he matures. He started to hit balls with authority in the second half last year as he learned to make better use of his lower half. He has a chance to be a line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter with average pop, in the mold of Michael Young. A shortstop in college, Hague split time between short and second base last season. His range fits better at second, where his shoulder isn't taxed as heavily. He gradually regained arm strength over the course of the season, and the Nationals expect it to be at least fringy in 2013. He had a slightly above-average arm before his injury. He's a below-average runner but can steal an occasional base. Hague should get a crack at Double-A this year.
Hood has progressed slowly since eschewing an Alabama football scholarship to sign for $1.1 million in 2008. It looked like he turned a corner in 2011 at high Class A, but a bout with the flu followed by a wrist injury plagued his 2012 campaign, during which his power numbers regressed. Physical and athletic, Hood looks the part of a power hitter, and the ball explodes off his barrel in batting practice. He has worked hard to make his swing short to the ball, an adjustment that has cost him pop. The Nationals are working with him to maximize his leverage and get himself into better hitters' counts, with a goal of turning some of his doubles into homers. His ability to hit hard line drives to right field suggests he has a chance to hit for average. He also rolls over a lot of balls, so some scouts question his feel for hitting. One positive for Hood in 2012 was his development in right field, where his routes and his throwing continued to improve. His arm now rates as average, though he still profiles best in left field. He's an average runner. Hood will repeat Double-A as a 23-year-old, and he needs to start translating his potential into production.
Ray first generated scouting buzz in 2009, when he flashed mid-90s heat on the high school showcase circuit, but he hasn't shown that kind of stuff since. After signing for $799,000 in 2010, he put together a solid first full season before struggling mightily against older competition as a 20-year-old in high Class A last year. Ray has average fastball velocity for a lefthander, sitting at 87-91 mph and bumping 92-93 on occasion. The Nationals had him commit to a four-seam fastball with some tail, and they think his numbers took a hit as he got used to pitching without a sinker. He also made a change to his below-average slider, throwing more of a power slurve with better power and depth in the second half of the season. His changeup made considerable progress in 2012, and it projects as a solid pitch. A short strider, Ray has worked to make better use of his legs in his delivery and prevent his arm from dragging behind. The Nats made progress giving his delivery more turn and deception in instructional league. Ray's command is still a work in progress, but he does have feel for pitching, giving him a chance to be a big league starter. He'll likely repeat high Class A in 2013.
Mooneyham's father Bill was a first-round pick in the secondary phase of the June 1980 draft and reached the big leagues with the Athletics in 1986. Erratic control kept Brett from living up to expectations at Stanford, and he missed all of 2011 after having surgery to repair a cut on his left middle finger. He had a solid pro debut after signing for $428,500. At his best, Mooneyham works with a 92-93 mph fastball, a solid slider and an average changeup. At other times, his fastball sits at 90-91 and his secondary stuff is below-average. Mooneyham needs to smooth out his delivery in order to improve what one area scout described as "shotgun command." He leans back too much when he starts his motion, causing alignment problems and making him miss to his arm side. When he stays on line and downhill, he's better able to pitch inside against righthanders and his stuff is crisper. He's an excellent athlete with a durable frame, giving him a chance to be a mid-rotation starter if he can harness his mechanics and command. Mooneyham could jump to high Class A Potomac in 2013.
Physical and athletic, Brown drew interest from college football programs as a wide receiver coming out of high school, but he opted to play baseball at Oklahoma State and signed with the Athletics for $544,500 as a 2007 sandwich pick. Acquired in the December 2010 deal for Josh Willingham, Brown struggled to make consistent contact at Triple-A in 2011. He got back on track last year, smacking 25 homers at Syracuse and earning a September callup to Washington, where his first career hit was a pinch-hit homer. Brown made better use of his lower half in 2012, staying more balanced in the box and improving his leverage and bat path. He has above-average power to all fields, but he still strikes out a lot and scouts doubt he'll hit enough to be a big league regular. He's an average runner who needs to be more aggressive on the basepaths. Brown has average range and a fringy arm in center field, making him a better fit in left. He profiles better as a power bat off the bench than an everyday player and could win a big league reserve job in spring training.
After treading water for three years in Rookie ball as a third baseman, Martinez found a home in left field last year at Auburn and took a major step forward offensively, earning all-star honors in the New York-Penn League. He's a quick-twitch athlete with strength in his righthanded swing. He has worked hard to calm down his approach, which had been far too active in the past. His mechanics still break down when he gets pull-happy and tries to muscle up on balls, but he's learning to use the middle of the field. He has cut down his exaggerated leg kick and does a better job swinging at strikes. Martinez is strong enough to drive the ball out of the park to all fields, and he's an average runner. He's working on his reads and routes in left field. While he doesn't have a great feel for throwing distances yet, he has above-average raw arm strength. Martinez needs plenty of refinement but his tools are intriguing. He'll advance to low Class A in 2013.
Miller was a highly regarded catching prospect who began his college career at Georgia Tech before transferring to Northwest Florida State JC and then to Samford. Moving to the outfield helped his bat blossom, and he topped Division I with 23 homers as a senior in 2012. He homered in his first two pro games before a hip strain sidelined him for six weeks. He posted solid numbers in the season's final month. One club official called Miller "hyper in the box," and another said he "hits with his hair on fire." He has a pull-happy approach and is prone to chasing breaking balls out of the zone, but he has plus-plus raw power. Miller's other premium tool is his arm, though he's still learning to lengthen his arm action rather than throwing from behind his ear like a catcher. A below-average runner, he needs to improve his jumps and angles in order to become an adequate right fielder. The Nats figure to push the 23-year-old if he proves he can handle low Class A next year.
The 15th overall pick in the 2006 draft, Marrero ranked as the system's top prospect after his first full pro season. He had his best pro season in 2011 at Triple-A but tore his left hamstring playing in the Dominican Republic that November. A setback with his right shoulder in May kept him sidelined until June, and he missed close to another month when he felt discomfort in his surgically repaired hamstring. When he was on the field, Marrero was not himself, as he hit just three homers in 180 at-bats between five levels. He struggled to get in sync, repeatedly pulling off pitches and pressing at the plate. The Nationals are writing off last year and hope Marrero can regain his 2011 form, which would make him an average hitter with slightly above-average game power. He has plus raw pop and is still learning to fully tap into it. Marrero has improved his footwork at first base and his ability to pick balls out of the dirt, making him a fringy defender with an adequate arm. He was already a well below-average runner before the hamstring injury slowed him down further. Marrero no longer looks like a star, but if healthy he could be a solid bat off the bench or the righthanded half of a platoon.
Rivero failed to tap into his potential with the Indians, and the Phillies claimed him off waivers in the winter of 2010 and moved him from shortstop to third base. The Nationals got him on a waiver claim in November 2011 and he had his best pro season last year in Triple-A, resuscitating his faded prospect status. Rivero stands out for his above-average defense at the hot corner, where he has sure hands and a plus arm. He's still capable of filling in at shortstop, though he lacks the range to play the position every day. Rivero shortened up his swing in 2012 and had success peppering line drives from gap to gap. He has quick, strong hands and above-average raw power, though it doesn't play in games. He still chases too many breaking balls and likely lacks the plate discipline to be a full-time big leaguer. His defense, versatility and bat speed could make him a solid utility player. He could get his first taste of the big leagues if injuries create a need in 2013.
The Nationals have raved about Souza's raw tools since they signed him for $346,000 in 2007, but scouts have questioned his maturity for years. He hit a low point in 2010, when he broke his thumb and served a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. He struggled to make consistent contact in 2011 and had to repeat low Class A as a 23-year-old last year, but he turned a corner and earned a promotion to high Class A. Physical and athletic, Souza has three above-average tools in his raw power, speed and arm strength. He used to be a tall, erect hitter who got off his back side quickly, but he did a much better job incorporating his legs and using the whole field while slashing his strikeout rate last year. Scouts still worry about his pitch recognition and holes in his swing, doubting he'll have the aptitude to hit in the majors. Souza responded well to a move to the outfield in 2012 after playing third base and first base earlier in his career, but he has a lot to learn in order to become an average defender there. He has the raw ability to be an everyday big league right fielder, but he's 24 and must prove himself above the Class A level first.
Burns' father Bob played running back for Joe Namath's New York Jets in 1974. Billy hit .353 with 70 steals in 79 tries during a three-year career at Mercer. A switch-hitter in high school, Burns hit solely from the right side in college before the Nationals turned him back into a switch-hitter in instructional league in 2011. He has an opposite-field, slap approach from the left side, and more strength and natural hitting ability from the right, though he has no power either way. He batted .320 against righthanders and .324 versus lefties last year. The undersized Burns knows his game and excels at making use of his game-changing speed, which scouts rate at 80 on the 20-80 scale. He works counts and puts the ball in play, often on the ground. His speed makes him a formidable basestealer, though he's still learning to get better jumps. Burns has excellent range in center, but his arm is fringy. He has limited offensive upside, but his speed and tablesetting skills give him a chance to be an extra outfielder in the majors. He'll move to high Class A Potomac this year.
After carving up the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in his 2011 pro debut, Pineyro took a line drive to the face during extended spring training in 2012. He missed six weeks of action with a broken jaw, though he continued his-long toss program with his jaw wired shut to keep his arm in shape. When he returned, he dominated in five starts in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League to earn a promotion to Auburn. He encountered adversity as a 20-year-old facing older competition there, but he held his own. The Nationals rave about Pineyro's maturity and professionalism, and his quick arm is intriguing. His fastball velocity jumped to 90-94 mph last year. He also has good feel for a changeup that projects as an average to plus pitch. His curveball isn't as advanced, however, and its development will be a key going forward. He also needs to refine his command, but his aptitude is encouraging. Pineyro should get a crack at low Class A in 2013.
After spending two full seasons in low Class A working to harness his mechanics and his emotions, Demny took a step forward in 2011 and moved to Double-A in 2012. His fastball command and performance remained inconsistent, however, so the Nationals moved him to the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League. He figures to be better suited for relief. Demny's fastball ranges from 90-95 mph in a starting role and could play up in shorter stints. His two-seamer has some sink, but his four-seamer is straight and he must improve his ability to locate it. He has the makings of an average 83-86 mph slider, a below-average curveball and a fringy changeup that he uses sparingly. It isn't dominating secondary stuff, but he has some feel for how to use it. His delivery has a lot of effort and a stiff front leg, contributing to his hit-or-miss command. He has a durable, physical build and enough arm strength to carve out a role as a big league middle reliever. He'll likely head back to Harrisburg to start 2013 and has a chance to reach Triple-A by the second half.
Estevez made noise in his 2010 pro debut, leading the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League with 95 strikeouts. He held his own a year later in the New York-Penn League with an 88-90 mph fastball and an advanced feel for a changeup. His velocity jumped in 2012 in low Class A, though it remained inconsistent, and he had Tommy John surgery at the end of the season. At his best, Estevez flashes 92-96 mph heat with sink or cutting action, though he works at 88-93 at other times. His changeup has a chance to be a plus pitch as he matures. Estevez's breaking ball remains a work in progress, sometimes showing biting downer break and other times flattening out. He has a loose arm action and a decent delivery with a three-quarters slot, but he needs to become more consistent. Estevez figures to miss all of 2013 and will need to prove himself in low Class A as a 22-year-old in 2014. He has big league starter upside, with plenty of risk.
In 2005, Solano hitched a ride from his native Colombia to a baseball tryout in Venezuela in a van full of people and produce--a story that earned him the nickname "Onion" from teammates. The Nationals signed him out of that tryout, and they have valued his defense and leadership behind the plate for years. As his bat has become serviceable over the last two years, he has forced his way into the major league picture. When injuries struck Jesus Flores and Wilson Ramos, Washington called up Solano. He played in his first big league game May 29 at Miami, with his younger brother Donovan (who had debuted eight days earlier) in the opposite dugout. A heady player, Solano handles pitching staffs well. He is an outstanding blocker with solid catch-and-throw skills. When he stays under control in the batter's box, Solano can barrel line drives to the gaps, but he offers little power and won't hit enough to be an everyday player. The Nationals are loaded with big league catching options, so he figures to head back to Triple-A, just a call away from Washington should the need arise.
In order to access this exclusive content you must have a Baseball America Account.
Login or sign up