Sean’s mid-season top 20 prospects list

2013 has not been a kind season to the Nats organization.
The major league Nats have struggled all year, but so have their prospects. Top
prospect Anthony Rendon graduated from the prospect list, but Brian Goodwin,
A.J. Cole and Matt Skole, generally 3 of the top 5-6 on most lists, haven’t
taken the steps forward that I would like to see and Lucas Giolito, another top
guy, is still recovering from Tommy John surgery.

In my mid-season updated list, 7 of my top 20 names were
listed at 20th or below (or not ranked) in my preseason list
published in the Washington Baseball Annual. Ian Krol and Jeff Kobernus weren’t
ranked because they weren’t in the organization at the time of publication;
Krol was acquired from the A’s to complete the Michael Morse trade in March and
Kobernus was a rule 5 draft pick returned to the Nats in March as well. The
other two who weren’t ranked were Erik Davis (a regrettable oversight by me)
and Jason Martinson (always old for his level with poor patience). I made sure not
to look past these guys again.

I’ve teamed together with Konnor Fulk, an equally
prospect-obsessed young writer and tweeter to come up with new top 20 lists.
Konnor’s list will run later today. Without further ado, here is my list, with
all stats pulled from Baseball-Reference and/or Fangraphs on 7/30.

1 – OF Brian Goodwin
(#2 on my preseason list). ETA – September 2014

Goodwin’s .254/.351/.399 triple slash is a bit
disappointing, especially considering he hit .280/.384/.469 in his professional
debut last season. That being said, he’s pretty young for his level (still just
22 in AA Harrisburg) and still seems destined to be the Nats’ CF of the future
within the next few years. I’m skeptical of Goodwin’s power and contact
potential, but can see him as a 4 tool player in the big leagues if he hits his
ceiling, figuring one of the two out.

2 – RHP Lucas Giolito
(#4 on my preseason list). ETA – 2016

I fought myself hard between Cole and Giolito on my original
list. I believe that Giolito has ace upside and Cole looks more like a #2/3 at
this point, though, which is why I gave Giolito the bump. The Nats’ 1st
rounder from 2012 got back on the pitcher’s mound on July 9, about 10 months
after he had Tommy John surgery. Amanda Comak’s source had him in
the 95-98 mph range in his first start for the GCL Nats, which gives me
confidence that he’s on the right track in his rehab. If Giolito can combine
his upper echelon velocity with the good curveball and changeups that he threw
in high school, the Nats will have another Tommy John success story in DC by
2016.

3 – RHP AJ Cole (#3
on my preseason list). ETA – 2015

The Nats’ sole representative in this year’s Futures Game
has always been a favorite of mine since being drafted in the fourth round in
2010. 2013 has been an up and down year for him; his 4.50 K/BB ratio is
outstanding, but he’s more hittable than I had hoped (8.5 H/9, which is
actually under his career average of 8.9). For the third straight year, Cole’s
HR/9 has gone up, this year eclipsing the 1 HR/9 mark. I think that Cole will
continue to figure out pitching as he moves up in the organization (and he is
moving up, having been called up to Harrisburg last week), but for now I feel
more comfortable with him one spot behind Giolito.

4 – RHP Nate Karns (#7
on my preseason list). ETA – Played in the ML in 2013

There’s a big talent gap between the top 3 and the rest of
the list. I had to think hard for #4 between Karns, Jordan, Krol and Skole. I
went with Karns because out of the 4, I believe he still has the best
combination of ceiling and floor.

Karns came out of nowhere to be the best pitcher in the
Nats’ minor league system last year. Because he missed so much time due to
injury over the years, I was concerned that he might take a step back in 2013,
especially since he would be facing AA and higher batters for the first time.
Karns has been rock-solid, posting a 3.41 ERA and a 2.89 K/BB ratio in 92 and
1/3 innings and got a cup of coffee with the Nats, where he posted up a 7.50
ERA in 12 innings over three starts. Jordan is the better major league pitcher
right now, but Karns has the stuff to be a great #3 pitcher if he can keep the
walks and homers down in the future.

5 – RHP Taylor Jordan
(#15 on my preseason list). ETA – Played in the ML in 2013

Jordan’s year has been phenomenal. To this point, he put up
a 1.00 ERA in 90 and 1/3 innings in Potomac and Harrisburg and a more than
respectable 3.31 ERA in 35 and 1/3 big league innings. He’s certainly
outperformed Karns in the big leagues and has exceeded all of my expectations.
So why is he a spot further down? Ceiling. Karns has the upside as a powerful
#3 starter and the downside of a set-up man or closer.  Jordan is a control-first groundball pitcher;
if everything breaks right, I see him turning into something in the Mike
Leake/Rick Porcello range. Not bad by any means, but not nearly as sexy as a #3
starter.

6 – LHP Ian Krol
(NR on my preseason list). ETA – Played in the ML in 2013

Although he’s stuggled of late (4 ER allowed over his last 8
and 1/3 innings), Krol has been an excellent addition to the Nationals’
bullpen. The PTBNL from the Michael Morse deal has a 2.00 ERA, 2.48 FIP, 5.33
K/BB ratio and .889 WHIP in the big leagues and was equally good in AA
Harrisburg, where he put up a 0.69 ERA, 2.51 FIP, 4.14 K/BB and .808 WHIP. He
overmatches lefties, holding them to a .167/.212/.233 triple slash against in
the big leagues, but still pitches righties toughly as well (.229/.250/.371).
The only reason Krol is #6 here rather than closer to the top is that he’s a
reliever. Thank goodness he took Zach Duke’s role. Note – Krol’s rookie eligibility has expired due to his extended stay on the Nats’ roster. I added a #21 writeup for ya’ll. Hope you don’t mind being called ya’ll.

7 – SS Zach Walters (#9
on my preseason list). ETA – September 2013

Walters has real power; with 24 HR and a .555 slugging
percentage in 395 plate appearances at AAA Syracuse this year, there is little
doubt about his ability to hit the ball hard. What’s keeping a switch-hitting
middle infielder with a ton of power this far down the list? Bro can’t get on
base. Walters is currently sporting a 11/93 BB/K ratio, and while our own Ian
Desmond shows that you can be an effective hitter without walking a bunch, 2.8%
is really, really bad. Walters’ track record of power (25 career HR in 3
seasons prior to this year) is a little shaky as well, so I’m hesitant to push
him too far up the list.

8 – 1B/3B Matt Skole (#5
on my preseason list). ETA – 2015

A freak injury in the second game of the season has robbed
Skole of valuable development time as he rehabilitates from Tommy John surgery
on his left (non-throwing) arm. Because he’s a righty and not a pitcher, rehab
time won’t take a year, but he’ll still probably be out until September. Grant
Morrow of Penn Live has an informative article about Skole’s recovery here. When healthy, Skole has a
nice combination of power and patience and profiles as a league average corner
infielder (which is much more valuable than it sounds).

9 – OF Eury Perez (#12
on my preseason list). ETA – Played in the ML in 2012

In the past, I’ve always been low on Perez. I’ve always
considered him to be a 4th OF type. Well, the Nats could sure use a
4th OF right now, so either he or Corey Brown needs to make an
appearance in DC soon. Perez is showing power for the first time in his career
this year, already setting a career high with 7 HR through 66 games.  Patience has always been the problem with Perez
because if he could get on base at a higher clip, he’d be a nice leadoff guy.
Unfortunately, he’s down to a 2.3% BB% this year. Perez’ lack of OBP skills or
power push him into the reserve OF role, but I think he’d thrive there given
his excellent baserunning ability (68% this year in SB attempts, 77% last year
and 77% as well for his career) and solid defensive instincts. Perez likely is
not going to benefit by more time in AAA; he’s the same player now that he’ll
ever be, so the Nationals might as well bring him up since they could use the
contact, speed and defense off of the bench.

10 – LHP Robbie Ray (#21
on my preseason list). ETA – 2015

I didn’t see this coming. After a great first full
professional season in 2011 (3.13 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 2.5 K/BB in A ball), Ray was
destroyed last season in high A (6.56 ERA, 5.00 FIP, 1.76 K/BB). The numbers
that you want to be high were low (7.32 K/9, 17.7 K%) and the numbers that you
want to be low were high (.287 batting average against, 1.62 WHIP, 1.19 HR/9,
4.17 BB/9). Ray has rebounded nicely this year, putting together a 3.28 in 21
starts between Potomac and Harrisburg. His strikeouts are back up, his HR/9 is
back down and he’s not being hit as well. I expect Ray to have control issues
for most of his career, but there’s still something quite useful about a young
lefty who can strike guys out. See Gonzalez, Gio (and no, that’s not a direct
comparison).

11 – RHP Erik Davis (NR
on my preseason list). ETA – Played in the ML in 2013

Omitting Davis from my original list was a stupid, stupid
oversight. The Tyler Clippard clone has put together another solid season in
Syracuse (2.92 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 10.1 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 in 40 innings) alongside a few
brief stays with the big club (6.23 ERA, 0.50 FIP, 14.54 K/9, 2.08 BB/9 in 4
and 1/3 innings). Barring the trade or injury of a Nats reliever in the next
month, I wouldn’t expect to see Davis until September, but like Christian
Garcia last year, I could see him getting some meaningful innings in the last
full month of the season.

12 – 2B/OF Jeff
Kobernus
(NR on my preseason list). ETA – Played in the ML in 2013

Kobernus missed my initial list because he was taken in the
Rule 5 Draft. Like Perez, He is what he is at this point: a contact hitter who
provides good baserunning and defense but without power or much patience.
Kobernus actually has improved with his batters eye this year, improving his
BB% to 6.8% and dropping his K% to 14%, both career bests, so I’m happy to see
that. I’d prefer Kobernus to Lombardozzi on the bench right now because he has
elite speed and more range at 2B rather than being a jack of mediocre trades.
But more than likely, Kobernus will have to wait until September to be called
back up.

13 – LHP Sammy Solis (#10
on my preseason list). ETA – 2015

The Nationals still consider Solis to be one of their top
pitching prospects despite throwing just 131 and 2/3 innings over the past four
seasons. He’s got a promising three pitch mix (93-94 MPH fastball and good
curve/change combo), but has issues staying healthy. After undergoing Tommy
John surgery in 2012, Solis missed some time due to shoulder fatigue this
season.  He’s back in action now, and has
a shiny 2.63 ERA in 24 innings for Potomac, but his 3.91 FIP and 5.63 K/9 add
some grime to the mix. Solis’ health will be interesting to monitor over the
next year or two, but if he stays healthy he could be a decent #3-4 starter
fairly quickly.

14 – LHP Matt Purke (#11
on my preseason list). ETA –2014

According to Mike Rizzo (via Federal Baseball), Purke was
hitting 94-95 mph on his fastball earlier this month, so it’s good to see him
regaining arm strength. If he can get back to full health, the Nats will have a
nice prospect, but that’s a huge if. Purke threw pretty well at Hagerstown this
year (2.48 ERA, 5.86 K/BB) before being called up to Potomac at the beginning
of July. In Potomac, Purke has a 7.07 ERA and 1.70 K/BB ratio. That ain’t good.
Purke just turned 23, so all is not lost, but it would certainly be nice to see
him start putting together some good numbers.

15 – RHP Christian
Garcia
(#6 on my preseason list). ETA – Played in the ML in 2012

Poor Christian. Poor, poor Christian. He’s never healthy,
and probably will never be healthy for a full season. When he returns from the
DL (or if he does), the Nats should bring him up to the majors and stick him in
the pen and ride out his arm as long as they can. He’s got a dirty three pitch
mix, including a GIF-worthy
curve
. Jim Bowden semi-famously prayed
for
Jesus Colome’s buttocks and his family, so we should pray for
Garcia’s buttocks and his arm (that’s how it goes, right?).

16 – OF Michael Taylor (NR on my preseason list). ETA  2015

The tools are there – Taylor has a nice combination power and speed. The problem is that Taylor can’t really hit. He’s up to .266/.336/.418 so far this year, which really isn’t that impressive for a guy repeating high A ball. Time is one Taylor’s side, at just 22 years old still. The .151 ISO is nice, and the 34 steals are excellent, but I just don’t think Taylor will ever be able to hit given his .248 career average, 8.1% BB%, and 24.1% K%. The tools are great, though, and perhaps he could be a Justin Maxwell type (with more speed, less power) even if he doesn’t develop better hitting skills.

17 – OF Steve Souza (#28
on my preseason list). ETA – 2014

After years of suckitude, Souza hit the crap out of the ball
in 2012 and has continued to do so this season, even after being promoted to AA
for the first time. In his 672 PA from 2012-13, Souza has 37 HR, 116 RBI, 111
runs, 27 SB and a .288/.369/.562 triple slash. Pretty damn good. Don Shelton of
the Seattle Times wrote
an article
in March about his rise back to being a prospect after an
ADHD drug-related suspension in 2011.

18 – 2B Tony Renda (#14
on my preseason list). ETA – 2015

Renda’s 2012 season scared me, as he only hit 9 extra base
hits with a .031 isolated slugging. While the second baseman obviously wasn’t
drafted for his pop, you need at least something to keep pitchers from just
slinging the ball down the strike zone because they know the worst thing you
can do with it is single. Fortunately, Renda has come through with 36 extra
base hits this year in 399 at-bats and has an impressive 11% BB%. I like Renda’s
chances of being a decent spot starter at 2B and utility guy eventually.

19 – OF Billy Burns (#20
on my preseason list). ETA – 2015

If we’re going by tools, Burns wouldn’t make the list. At 5’9”
and 180 lbs soaking wet, he’s not exactly a physical specimen, and he has 42
extra base hits to his name in his 232 game minor league career. Burns is an
on-base machine, though, and has fantastical speed (yes, fantastical). He
covers every category you’d want in a classic leadoff man (169 career runs, 100
career steals, career .308 hitter) and in a new-fangled one (.417 career OBP, 87%
success rate on steal attempts, exact 1:1 BB:K ratio). I’m not sure that the
2011 32nd round pick out of Mercer will be able to keep hitting this
well when he continues to move up in the system, but he’s done all the Nats
could ask for him to this point, thus the 19th overall player in the
system.

20 – SS Jason
Martinson
(NR on my preseason list). ETA – 2015

He’s always been old for his level, but in no season since
his rookie campaign has the 2010 5th round pick put together less
than a .770 OPS for the season. He’s on pace to eclipse 20 HR and 20 SB for the
second straight year (and in 2011, he went 19/26). Martinson strikes out too
much and will never hit for a high average, but he’s an intriguing left side of
the infield prospect with pop and speed.

21 –  OF Corey Brown (#8 on my preseason list). ETA – Played in the ML in 2012

#FREECOREYBROWN! He’s a 27 year old lefty bat with a history
of patience and pop. He’s a solid defender and with a track record of running
the bases efficiently. He’s basically the exact opposite of Roger Bernadina,
and that’s who he should replace in the majors ASAP.
 

Next Ten (in
alphabetical order):

RHP Aaron Barrett

RHP Robert Benincasa

LHP Matt Grace

RHP Jake Johansen

1B Chris Marrero

C Adrian Nieto

RHP Nic Pivetta

1B Shawn Pleffner

OF Wander Ramos

3B Drew Ward

6 comments

  1. Ian Krol doesn’t have prospect eligibility. He eclipsed the service time in the majors requirement a little while ago since he was called up in early June. He was briefly the number 20 prospect on mlb.com’s list but he’s no longer a prospect. You should slide everyone behind him up one slot and add a new number 20!

    Like

  2. Yeah, that was a stupid mistake by me. Thanks for the heads up. Here’s your #21!21 OF Corey Brown (#8 on my preseason list). ETA Played in the ML in 2012#FREECOREYBROWN. Hes a 27 year old lefty bat with a history of patience and pop. Hes a solid defender and with a track record of running the bases efficiently. Hes basically the exact opposite of Roger Bernadina, and thats who he should replace in the majors ASAP.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s