Washington Nationals 2013 Top 15 Prospects
Bullpen Banter’s 2013 Top 15 Prospects
Bullpen Banter Washington Nationals 2013 Top 15 Prospects
Al Skorupa: The Nationals system has been terribly depleted by graduations and trades over the last year – not that anyone is complaining considering the success of the big league club. This is a shallow system without significant quality depth anywhere. The good news is that there are some potential impact players here. Anthony Rendon had all the tools and the track record to go first overall a couple years ago. I know at least a couple teams were scared about his injuries and that scares me a little, but I’m still a big Rendon fan (if not quite as big as Jeff). Its important to remember that at this point we’re not discussing the value or wisdom of Rendon the draft pick. Rendon the pro player brings a lot to the table and it doesn’t matter who they could have taken instead. Of course it wouldn’t be a shock to see Rendon emerge as a perennial All Star if he stays healthy. Even with the risk Rendon is the most appealing talent in this system. Lucas Giolito would have made it a much more interesting debate if he hadn’t required Tommy John surgery. Giolito gave us glimpses of truly special talent as an amateur and he is still capable of developing into a true Ace. Both Rendon and Giolito will rank very high on my top 100 list even with their injury concerns.
I thought Brian Goodwin was another excellent draft pick. Goodwin has some loud tools and I see him as a five tool major league regular in center field. I still see Alex Meyer as a relief pitcher despite a strong pro debut. He has some dynamite stuff and premium velo but I have very little confidence in his ability to repeat his delivery. I’m very skeptical his command and control will ever improve enough to allow him to start for more than a brief stretch. He can dominate the lower minors right now but the flaws in his game will get punished as he moves up. Its not hard to imagine Meyer as a relief Ace out of the pen, though. I was bullish on Matt Skole last year so I was happy to see him put up some crooked numbers in full season ball. He makes some loud contact and the ball travels well of his bat. While he’s never going to be a gold glover, I thought his defensive capabilities weren’t quite as bad as I’ve seen reported. He’s not particularly athletic but he has a decent first step and a strong enough arm. I’d imagine there are a few orgs that wouldn’t mind his glove at third long term, although its a moot point with the Nats for obvious reasons. Tony Renda isn’t exciting but he plays hard and is a pure hitter. I don’t know if the glove or power will be enough for a 1st division job but I’d really hate to bet against him. This system really thins out quick beyond the top few guys. Brandon Miller stands out as having a couple exciting tools but I worry there’s too much swing and miss for a regular there. Eury Perez can run and I was impressed with his bat speed, but he’s another guy I’m not confident will hit enough to stay in a team’s long term plans. Similarly, Sandy Leon fits best as a backup catcher for me. Brett Mooneyham has the same kind of flaws in his game as Alex Meyer. Where Meyer could potentially be a Closer some day I think Mooneyham fits better somewhere in the middle of a bullpen. I was disappointed by Stephen Perez last Spring. He had a chance to really raise his stock and position himself well but he just didn’t hit. He probably fits best as a utility guy anyway but he missed a great chance to get scouts to believe in him in a draft that desperately lacked for college shortstops. Shoulder injuries should terrify you as much as they terrify me, but the healthy Matt Purke had enough talent that I didn’t want to leave him off my list altogether. Jeff liked Michael Taylor a bit more than me. I’m just not buying the bat. The Nats really need Rendon and Giolito to bounce back strongly because there’s not much beyond them that’s going to help. This top 15 has far too many backup, utility player and reliever profiles.
Jeff Reese: Graduate one “generational” level player and ecce! suddenly your farm system is no longer looking so elite. In fact the Nationals system looks exceedingly top heavy with a precipitous drop off in talent after the first five names on this list. While last year the quality at the top could excuse the lack of quality depth, this year’s standard bearers are not nearly as sterling. Anthony Rendon’s first professional season was delayed by yet another ankle injury. He returned in mid July, making quick work of the lower levels before finishing the year in the Eastern League. The bat speed, plate discipline, hitting ability, and defense at third base still make him a potentially elite player, but the injuries are starting to be become worrisome. Lucas Giolito is in a similar but more severe situation. A year ago at this time he was seen as the consensus top prospect in the 2012 draft, but a sprained UCL and an unknown bonus demand allowed him to fall to the Nationals (16th overall). Initially forgoing Tommy John surgery in favor of rest and rehab, an aggravation of the elbow during his professional decided his fate; the procedure was done in late August and will keep him out until 2014. Rendon & Giolito leading this list speaks to both their talent level — which is elite — and the lack of quality alternatives.
That’s not meant as disrespect to Brian Goodwin or Alex Meyer. Both players made progress towards quieting the doubts that hampered them as draft prospects in 2011. Goodwin is an athletic center fielder with five tools that could be at least average. He mashed his way through the SAL to the point where the Nationals promoted him over high-A Potomac to AA Harrisburg during the season. Next year will provide a stiffer test. Alex Meyer likewise spent the majority of his season in the SAL before earning a promotion to the Carolina League. Meyer is a giant at 6’9” 220 pounds who like most very tall pitchers has had issues repeating his delivery and controlling his stuff. His stuff is huge but the control hampered him at the University of Kentucky to the point where it was unclear whether he would ever throw enough strikes to remain a starter. He started to gain feel during his junior season and that progression continued during 2012. Commanding his stuff is the next uncertain step, but even if that never quite happens, the raw stuff should allow him to have an impact at the major league level. The 2011 draft class also provides the 5th prospect on this list — Matt Skole. Skole’s path to the majors is through his bat, and his season was a success in that regard. Whether he can remain at third base or not is a bit unclear. He’s not of the same caliber as the previous four, but he does serve as a bridge between them and the rest of the system.
With Tony Renda you can see how quickly the quality drops. Renda is a nice little player with a knack for contact and solid defense at second base, but there’s little to be excited about. Eury Perez continues to offer hope that his bat speed and tools will emerge into something more than he currently is. Michael Taylor is similar in that regard. His season in the Carolina League left a lot to be desired, but there could be more in store. Most of the players in this back half are gambles that are unlikely to pay off. Brett Mooneyham made progress this year gaining control of his stuff, but it also caused his stuff to deteriorate a bit as a result. He no longer has the eye-popping stuff that highlighted his underclassmen years at Stanford, but his new-found high-80s/low-90s two-seamer can actually be thrown in the strike zone; the same can be said for his introduction of a consistent slider that replaced his former curve ball that would just as often spin without breaking at all as it would show nasty two-plane break. I tend to view Mooneyham and Purke in the same light. Purke had nasty stuff in high school and during his freshman season at TCU, but injuries and a wandering low 3/4 arm slot has deteriorated both it and his command. Stephen Perez is someone that I liked a few years ago at Miami as a switch hitting short stop who would show professional level defense at short stop at times. He never took that next step and may have even regressed some during his college years, but he’s someone to keep an eye on. Nate Karns is another interesting name who I ranked within the top 10 on my list but fell out of the cumulative top 15. He has a nice fastball/curve ball combination but may eventually end up in the bullpen. Overall it’s not a great system; the Nationals need their top talent to produce.
3B Anthony Rendon (Peter Wardell)
RHP Luc Giolito (Steve Fiorindo)
OF Brian Goodwin (Peter Wardell)
3B Matt Skole (Peter Wardell)
LHP Brett Mooneyham (Jeff Reese)
2B Tony Renda (JD Sussman)
SS Jason Martinson (Jeff Reese)
IF Cutter Dykstra (Jeff Reese)