With the playoff races heating up, and the Nats getting ready to cool down, I figure it’s time to look to the future, the year 2012. By then the Nats should be winning their second or third NL pennant and on their way to winning World Series. 5 years from now, the team should look pretty different. And smart trades as well as free agent pickups will hopefully be part of this teams’ plans for the future. But let’s take a look inside the organization to see who would most likely play in each position from within the system. So, knowing that the Nats are probably going to sign ARod to play SS and Johan to pitch, let’s try this anyway:
The Position Players
C – Jesus Flores – Brian Schneider’s bat has disappeared, he’ll be 35 in 2012 which is ancient for catchers, especially those who can’t hit at 30. Meanwhile, Flores, at only 22, has already shown some power, plate discipline, and the ability to really rake against lefties. It’s hard to tell exactly what’s there since he doesn’t play enough, but he projects to at least be able to carry the necessary offense to catch full time.
1B – Josh Whitesell – Whitesell is a semi-default guy here as Dmitri Young may not be ambulatory and Nick Johnson’s contract ends next season. I’d be surprised if the Nats, who dealt without Nick for 1/3 of his contract already, are the ones to take the chance on him. Whitesell has never been seen as a superstar, but he has produced most seasons. The positive about Whitesell – he hit .285/.425/.512 in a full season of AA this year. The negative is that he’s 25 already. It’s not ancient for a AA guy, but he’s got about 2 seasons to be on this roster before he is too old to be called a prospect. His OBP-AVG is over .100 which means he has incredible plate discipline and often predicts significantly increased power as players with that kind of vision learn more than what pitches to lay off, they learn what pitches they can smack.
2B – Stephen King – I’m not saying Felipe Lopez won’t be on this team in 5 years. He may recover and hit like he did in Cinci. But the fact is right now he doesn’t hit like a corner infielder and he doesn’t field like a middle infielder. He is a great stopgap, a good hitter to have on your bench, but maybe not worth building around. King is SS who has hit in rookie ball this year, and at 19 he has time to prove himself. He has a good amount of power and is regarded as a good enough hitter to possibly move to 3B or OF. But we’re not buying that move, the farm system is lacking in 2B, so put the King of Horror here. Some potential other guys are Ian Desmond (who is also a SS) or Leonard Davis.
SS – Esmailyn Gonzalez - No offense to Christian Guzman, but I have a tough time imagining him starting in 2 years, so 5 is out of the question for me. Switch hitting Gonzalez didn’t hit in rookie ball this season. But he is apparently an amazing fielder who can switch hit and someone the organization thinks will have some power, too. And at 17, 2012 may be his first full season. If he doesn’t pan out, Desmond or King may be here.
3B – Ryan Zimmerman – Hopefully, this is the easiest one to predict. If he isn’t playing there may be some serious anger among fans. In 2012 he’ll be up to a whopping 27 years old. In other words, just entering the prime of a major league hitter’s career. It’s exciting to think of him possibly improving every year for the next 5 – 7.
LF – Wily Mo Pena – He needs to be re-signed but I can’t imagine someone liking him more than Bowden, so I’m guessing that is offseason priority #1. The more I see him, the more I like him, too. People tend to forget that although he’s played in the better part of 5 seasons, plus a little in a 6th, he’s only 25 right now. His power is there, and so are his strikeouts. His walks aren’t. But despite that, he’s was an above average OF hitter in a couple of seasons already, especially if you only count his time in DC for ’07. Of course, we aren’t allowed to be so selective. The fact is, this guy is still pretty young, and has a career average around .260 with an ISO of .215. He is a very promising player with a high ceiling as a real slugger.
CF – Justin Maxwell – I had some trouble with this one. Keith Law of ESPN said his .263/.333/.491 “was pretty bad in high-A as a 24-year-old. The odds are long that he’ll ever be a productive big leaguer.” Yikes. But Baseball Prospectus gave him an honorable mention in their list of top CF prospects. They call him “The best athlete in the Nats’ system,” most likely because he is a Terp alum. He did hit 24 HRs and had 34 SBs this season in the minors, and he has already tied Nook Logan for career HRs in the majors. That graniose slam was nice, too. Some other options here are Edgardo Baez, Mike Daniel, and the flying Dutchman Rogearvin Bernadina.
I wanted to add a comment from Baseball America’s Jim Callis in an ESPN chat on Wed 9/26:
” Age does matter, but you have to look at the context. Maxwell has had a series of injuries that held him back, so that’s why he spent most of the year in Class A at age 23. He has a lot of tools and would have been a possible first-round pick coming out of Maryland if not for injuries. He’s legit.”
RF – Chris Marrerro – The much talked about prospect for this team is going to be so old by then: 23. But if his talent is there, he should be in the majors by 2012. Again, he’s only 18 and while he didn’t do as well in high-A this season, he has improved plate discipline, exhibited good power and has time on his side. He will be watched closely and hopefully not rushed, but this team’s best hitting prospect should be there eventually.
SP – Shawn Hill – If he can stay healthy, he’s a real asset to any team. His numbers this year speak for themselves.
SP – Matt Chico – He is still young, and showed flashes of brilliance this year. He needs to make sure his mechanics allow for consistency, but he’s already shown he can handle major league hitters. He’s was projected to be a back-of-the rotation starter, but you need those, too. And despite struggles this season, he already looks better than that.
SP – Collin Balester – The surfer dude probably needs a little more seasoning in the minors, in AAA this season, he has been only ok, with a 4.18 ERA. But don’t get too hung up on the numbers, as he is most likely going through all kinds of tweaks to his delivery. He’s only 21, has already seen some success all over the minor league map, and Baseball America has said that he could be a #1 pitcher in the future.
SP – Colton Willems – Baseball America considered him the #2 pitcher in the system last season, with the best fastball. He held low-A hitters down with an ERA of 1.84 and he has serious stuff, he needs to fix his other pitches and get his walks down. A fireballer with control problems? Unbelievable!
SP – Ross Detwiler – Their top pick from this year’s draft is on the team now, so after being shoved back down, he’ll be up by then.
Closer – Carlos Peralta – Sorry to Cordero. If he’s still closing here in 5 years, I’d be pleasantly surprised because sucky closers don’t last, and good ones often get traded on teams like this. Peralta, a 21-year-old, performed exceptionally well in rookie ball this year. 42 Ks to 15 BB, an ERA of 1.72 and a WHIP of 0.99, along with 15 saves and a 4-1 record gives him the nod at the position. They have another possible closer in Josh Wilkie, who has alot of K’s but his numbers just couldn’t compare to Peralta’s.
Let’s not forget about…
Kory Casto – We saw him struggle at the plate in a Nats uniform, and he didn’t fare well in AAA this season. But he is still considered one of the team’s top prospects, has hit at every level prior to this season, and has a great eye. Look for a bounce back year and another trip up to the show in 2008.
Jake Smolinski – Considered one of the steals of this year’s draft – because he signed and didn’t go to college – the Nats may be forced to stick this guy somewhere in the lineup. Probably will end up in the OF, but he can play some infield, too. He hit just over .300 in rookie league this season and he is just 18.
Micheal Burgess – This guy is the real power prospect in the system. He’s just 18, and managed to hit .336/442/.617 in rookies league, so they promoted him to the low-A club where he hit .286/.383/.457, pretty impressive for his age. Of course people say he has a propensity to swing an miss, which may hold him back. 60 Ks in 55 games (198 ABs) indicates that is an accurate statement.
Glenn Gibson – A starting pitcher who had a 3.10 ERA in low-A, he’ll move up quickly enough. His Dad pitched in the major, which usually means he’s got some real talent and was trained very well from a young age. He’s got lots of pitches, even if he fastball doesn’t scare anyone, and his periphals (58Ks/15BBs this year) show he uses them well.
One thing you may have noticed is the lack of position players that are on the current roster. Maybe it is a souring opinion after this season of offensive woes, but I’m not sure if anyone playing now other than Zimmerman is really the answer. I have said before and I’ll repeat – Kearns and Church could put up some offense. If either of them do, I’d figure they could still be here in 2012, but again, this is all for fun, and after watching them this season, there is little fun in imaging those guys on the team next season.
Is there anyone I’m leaving off of here? Let me know if there’s someone you think is in the farm system, or on the team right now, that might be in that core group of players in 5 years. And no free agents, so you can’t fill in Miguel Cabrera playing OF. Also, let everyone know what you think of the picks as they stand right now. Throw them in the comments below, be the first on your block!