Anthony Rendon is doing just what he wanted to do in Spring Training – get noticed. Of course, ranking 17th on Keith Law’s prospect list and 35th on Baseball Prospectus’ list, its safe to say he had already been noticed. But you get my point. He’s hit .400/.428/1.000, with 3 HRs and 3 doubles in 21 PAs after Wednesday’s game, which is, needless to say, a good start.
We know that spring stats are to be taken very lightly. And even if they were more valuable, the sample size is so small that his numbers seem much less impressive. It’s a great week, not much more. But because he is only 22, and because he has less than 200 pro PAs, this is still very encouraging to see. It’s clear he can hold his own against high end pro pitching, even if he isn’t facing aces all the time.
No matter how well he hits in the spring, though, there should be no question where he belongs to start the season. He has less than half a season of pro baseball under his belt, and there isn’t a hole in the lineup waiting for him. So he’d be resigned to the bench, which is probably the worst place for a hitter with his experience. He needs to hit every day if possible, because he still needs to learn every day. But that isn’t the end of the conversation with him. Read the rest of this entry »
ESPN’s prospect guru Keith Law listed his Top 100 Minor League prospects today, and 5 Nats made the list. For a shallow farm system (ranked 21st by Law), the fact that there are so many high end guys is good, and a little surprising. So let’s see who he put here, and why:
This one isn’t too surprising, most places list Rendon as the team’s best prospect. The fact that he’s top 20 in the minors is nice, and he would be higher for certain if he wasn’t so damn fragile. But Law like his swing and his ability to hit for doubles, even if he doesn’t see him as a big HR guy. Rendon is 22, and hit .233/.363./.489 throughout the minors last year, finishing up in AA. He dominated the other leagues, but wasn’t great in AA, so he’ll start 2013 in Harrisburg.
Goodwin has been moving up prospect lists over the last few seasons, but to be a top 50 prospect… that’s impressive. Heck, he wasn’t even on Law’s list last year. Goodwin was highly regarded back in college but several factors caused him to slip out of the first round, and out of elite prospect status. Law says he has “plus-plus speed, quick bat, and surprising power” and using the Mike Cameron comparison (speed, defense, power… and strikeouts) that we’ve already seen for Goodwin. Goodwin is 22 and hit .280/.384/.469 in A+ and AA last year. Like Rendon, he wasn’t so spectacular in AA to force the Nats to promote him, so expect him in Harrisburg this spring as well. Road trip, anyone?
The first thing you must understand about AFL stats is that they have to be taken with a grain of salt. Teams don’t tend to send their best pitchers out there, because they’ve thrown enough innings during the regular season. You will get some good pitchers who were hurt, or perhaps signed late, but for the most part, pitching isn’t great. So hitting tends to be inflated. The small sample size also means a hot week can make your numbers look really really good. That being said, let’s take a look at what did happen
Rendon was the most important member of the team out there, as he is predicted by many to be on the Major League club at some point in 2013. And he did very well, hitting .338/.436/.494 in 77 PAs. This was good enough for 11th best OPS in the league, and 8th best OBP. A little more troubling was his lack of power, hitting no home runs. Although his strength was never thought to be as a home run hitter, he’s gonna need to hit a few more than zero. More heartening, though is the 6 SBs (to 1 CS) he managed on his seemingly healthy legs/ankles.
Goodwin didn’t start out great, but he did finish the short season hitting .238/.340/.475. Not a good average, a pretty low OBP for the league, but at least a good display of power. He hit 3 HRs and also managed 2 triples, and his .815 OPS put him 24th in the AFL.
September is approaching fast, and normally with the Nationals, it’s when we can turn our attention back to the downtrodden team and see some young prospects get a shot with the Major League club. Instead, this year the Nats will be entering September as perhaps favorites to win the division, let alone grab one of the two wild card spots.
But that doesn’t stop the roster from expanding, and it doesn’t stop the minor league season from ending around Labor Day, so we’ll still get to see a youngster or two. Remember that in order to be a September callup, a player has to be on the 40 man roster. I will use today’s 40 man and assume it won’t change by the weekend, but of course it probably will. Here’s a few guys to look out for:
John Lannan – Heard of him? He’s a lock to get called up, especially considering he’s first in line to fill in for Stephen Strasburg once the ace gets shut down.
Corey Brown – He had an incredible season in the minors, he’s a strong defensive CF, and he’s already hit his first Major League homer this year. Hopefully he’ll get to play some more – maybe to rest a seemingly fatigued Bryce Harper once in a while.
ESPN put out their annual Future Power Rankings today, and it ranks the Nats 11th overall. I normally don’t worry about these things too much, but there is something I find a little curious about how they rank them. Check out what they did:
Majors - I get that their Majors score is only 26/30, despite the whole best-record-in-baseball thing. Frankly, they aren’t the offensive juggernauts as of yet, and the lack of a true CF or leadoff hitter is mentioned in the text. Plus 26 points is actually 4th best, behind only the Yankees, Rangers, and Angels, so I can certainly buy that.
Minors – Frankly, while this looks low, they don’t have a ton of true top level talent. Rendon could still end up being the best hitter in last year’s draft, and he’ll have time to show it this fall, but as for now, he’s barely played. Giolito is about to have TJ surgery before the end of the month. There are some others here and there, but it isn’t exactly deep or full of top level sure thing talent right now.
A Nats discussion was a small part of Dave Schoenfield’s chat on ESPN.com yesterday, in which I tried to quickly lay out what the Nats plans should be for the future, in terms of their position players. When I say future, I am intentionally vague, but I’m thinking beyond just 2012. I tried to write relatively succinctly, given the medium, but I’ll lay out a little more here.
Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos are relatively set where they are. During the chat, someone named Adam made the excellent point that without a contract extension for Zim, everything is moot. But let’s go with the assumption that they do want to re-sign him for now.
Ian Desmond has yet to put together a starter-level season at SS, and while his defense did improve last year, his bat was terrible. The idea of moving him to the outfield strikes me as almost laughable – right now, he can’t hit for a SS. For now, it is hard to think you can rely on him as a starter
Bryce Harper will be up very soon, and he’ll play RF. He hasn’t played much CF, and he’s got a cannon, so let’s slot him into RF.
I am ignoring Adam LaRoche, because I can’t see him being with the team beyond the end of 2012
I think most people would agree with the above sentiments. You might argue that Desmond really is going to be great, but you’re just hoping. So let’s get to the more questionable parts. Here are my feelings on what should be done with the rest of the roster, as it stands.
On Monday night, the Nats signed all of their top 4 picks, each of which brings something unique to the table. They each have significant upside, but also have potentially debilitating issues. So which one of these guys will end up making a difference for the Nationals?
Will it be Anthony Rendon, the great hitting prospect who is going to play third base, assuming his shoulder cooperates, conspicuously blocked by Ryan Zimmerman?
Maybe Alex Meyer, the 6’9″ righty who can unleash a 98 mph fastball, has a devastating slider, but may never have enough control to make the big league squad.
Is it Brian Goodwin, a speedy center fielder with a great eye, who hasn’t shown he can make the reads yet to actually play a decent CF, and hasn’t distributed the kind of power to suggest he’d play elsewhere?
Or Matt Purke, the lefty former top prospect who can hit the low 90s when he’s healthy, which he hasn’t been for a while?
So who you got – and I’m talking contributing to the Nats, not some other team.
The Nats had, as Mark Zuckerman pointed out, a big night. They signed all four of their top picks, and that is a good thing. Don’t let memories of Jim Bowden and Aaron Crow fool you – this is perfectly normal. More than 90% of prospects sign, and most of those who don’t sign had indicated that they really wanted to go to college. Even Josh Bell, who sent a letter to all 30 teams saying he wouldn’t sign, signed with the Pirates. Still, this is very good news, and should generate real excitement. Let’s take a look, once again, at who the Nats picked. For a more in depth of the first three, check out my Day 1 draft analysis. Below are just a few highlights and lots of quotes from people more knowledgeable about prospects than I am:
Anthony Rendon (Pick #6 – 3B, Rice)
A 6’0″ third baseman, the Nats can dream about putting him at second base so he has somewhere to play in the majors, but some evaluators think that’s not gonna happen. Regardless of where he plays, he can hit. He has a GREAT eye and some real power. He has had injury concerns that we probably won’t know enough about until next season, but if he’s healthy he should be able to hit his way up to the majors very quickly. He rnaked #2 on Keith Law’s final predraft rankings, and is considered by many to be the best hitter in this year’s draft. A few quotes on him:
Keith Law – “…once Rendon’s shoulder is healthy his bat and eye should let him advance quickly through the minors.”
Kevin Goldstein – “If Rendon IS healthy, he projects as a .280-.300 hitter with tons of walks, 20-25 home runs and plus defense at third. Only question about him other than health was that he didn’t necessarily have a big time pro body at 6-0/190.”
The Nats were the first team to pick three players, although they were soon outpaced by others, especially those devilish Rays, who had 43 picks in the first 60. Here’s a quick breakdown of each of the guys picked:
Pick #6 – Anthony Rendon (3B, Rice)
Many thought Rendon might go second overall, after Garrett Cole, but prior to this season it was thought he’d go as #1 overall. So for 3 years in a row, the Nats got the guy everyone thought would be #1 nine months prior to the draft, for what that’s worth. His biggest asset is probably is understanding of the strike zone, comparisons remind me of someone like Jason Giambi (for his EYE only), who I used to watch and realize he knew the strike zone better than the umpires. The reviews are glowing. He also has the potential to be a high batting average hitter, maybe a batting title contender, and someone with at least average power, but likely more.
Questions abound, though, not so much based on ability but on health. He has had two ankle surgeries, and this spring has had a shoulder injury. If he is healthy, the question still remains as to where he could play. Rendon is considered an excellent fielding third baseman, which would make the injury the only real question, except if Ryan Zimmerman gets the contract extension many hope is inevitable. Rendon has had some time at 2B, but it isn’t clear he could do that at a major league level. And while he might be a great hitting prospect at 3rd, moving him to LF or 1B certainly diminishes some of his value. And at 6’0″, I have my own doubts that they’d ever move him to first. I’m sure the Nats hope he just turns into the great hitter that some envision, and he can play LF or get traded for some great prospect pitcher.