Nats Top Prospect Update

The minor league season is well under way, and the major league club has been so good we haven’t had to look longily to the minor league system waiting for guys to come up. But those guys are there, so let’s catch up with the prospects that make Baseball Prospectus’ Top 11 Prospects report for the Nationals, written by Kevin Goldstein.

1. Bryce Harper

Heard of this guy? His numbers didn’t look great in 20 games in the minors this year, but that didn’t matter. Injuries hit the Nats outfield pretty hard as they lost their two corner outfielders in the first month, and Harper was squaring up on the ball well enough to convince Rizzo to call him up. It was not a mistake. Harper is currently hitting .281/.358/.483, his OPS ranks #13 among NL outfielders, and is second best on the Nationals, just behind LaRoche.

2. Anthony Rendon

Considered to be the best hitter in the organization, he was skipped over in the draft by a few teams due to injury concerns, and he only played in 2 games before breaking his ankle rounding the bases. Ankle injuries were an issue in college, and while this one isn’t serious (he’s expected to be back in July) it the concerns ¬†about his ability to stay healthy enough to ever succeed certainly are. This injury serves to quiet down those making noise for him to try his hand at second base.

3. Matt Purke

Another high risk/high reward pick for the Nationals, Purke has also had his issues. He’s only pitched 2 games in low-A before being put on the DL with shoulder inflammation. More concerning was how he pitched in those games, Goldstein noted that his “stuff was way off with 86-90 mph fastball and little command.”

4. Brian Goodwin

The Nats sandwich round pick from last summer has looked great in his pro debut. He was always a speedy guy with plenty of tools and an understanding of the strike zone. But Goldstein also said he’s “still a bit raw. He focuses more on pulling balls than making contact, letting his speed and natural strength work for him.” Well, so far so good for Goodwin. He’s hitting a whopping .315/.430/.527 in low-A, and it’s probably only that lack of experience and refinement that is keeping him there. He’s a real CF prospect right now, and will likely move up a level to high-A at some point this year, but probably not further than that.

5. Alex Meyer

As disappointed as they must be with Matt Purke, Alex Meyer (first rounder, #23 overall from last year as compensation for Adam Dunn) has got to excite the Nationals brass almost as much. He’s a power pitcher with a high velocity fastball, but he walked a ton of guys in his first two years at Kentucky. He showed improvement in 2011, but they didn’t know if he’d be a walk machine with serious control issues. However, so far in low-A, he’s managed a 3.51 ERA, and in 77 IP he’s only walked 30 while he’s struck out 88. This guy is a 6’9″ pitcher with serious stuff, a strong start to his pro career is a good indication for his development into a front line starter.

6. Destin Hood

He’s considered very athletic, although not a star, Goldstein envisions him to be the kind of outfielder that might hit 15-20 HRs and steal 15-20 bases a year with an average ability to get on base. After a couple of months in AA, though, he looks lost. He’s only hitting .227/.299/.307 , but although he’s been in the Nats system a while, he’s only 22 and has time to work things out.

7. Michael Taylor

He’s young and athletic, and a great example of a “toolsy” player. He hasn’t started out strong, hitting only .234/.324/.332 right now in high-A, and his raw power hasn’t translated to the field yet in 2012. He’s not thought of as someone who would move quickly through the organization, but if he doesn’t improve upon those numbers, the 21 year old’s stock will fall.

8. Steve Lombardozzi

Goldstein has some nice things to say about Lombardozzi’s bat, writing “Lombardozzi’s bat stands out. He has a simple, quick swing from both sides and projects to hit .280-plus in the big leagues due to his ability to make consistent contact.” Well, we’ve seen it first hand, as Lombardozzi has spent the entire season with the team. He was hot to start off, had the best OBP on the team for a while, and although he’s cooled off a bit, his numbers aren’t too bad for a low-power rookie middle infielder at .259/.322/.333.

9. Robbie Ray

He’s not thought of as an elite prospect, without any truly great pitch, but does Goldstein give him a ceiling of a number 3 starter. He had a very strong season in low-A last year – this year he has been decidedly less dominant. He’s sporting a 5.26 ERA right now, although he has struck out 42 in 55 IP, he’s also walked 22. He’s got work to do before he can be considered successful in high-A, let alone move up a level

10. Sammy Solis

He’s a lefty with a low-90s fastball, and a relatively low ceiling. Goldstein says in a perfect world he’s a number 4 guy that eats innings. But don’t take that as an insult, that’s useful. He had Tommy John surgery before the season and won’t be back at all this year.

11. Tyler Moore

This one is a bit more fun than the last. Moore was the only one on this list that was only given 2 stars by BP, the rest were at least 3. And that’s probably because even though he showed great power in the minors, he was considered a one position player with a low average and OBP. But as you know, he’s come up to the majors and has a)played adequate if not spectacular outfield b)hit with the power people had hoped and c)gotten on base, in his small amount of playing time. In only 58 PAs, Moore has pulled together a .346/.414/.635 line and already has 4 HRs. Additionally, he has impressed with some of those home runs being absolute moon shots – you don’t get extra runs for hitting it further, but it may be evidence that you really belong. He is almost certainly going to stay on the major league squad, even if his long term role is 4th OF/bench bat/starter vs. lefties, he’s going to be better than most people in that role.

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