Washington Nationals: Top 10 Prospects For 2013
Even after last offseason’s trade that sent catcher Derek Norris, and pitchers Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole to Oakland for left-hander Gio Gonzalez, the Washington Nationals farm system remained well-stocked, and it remains that way as the 2013 campaign nears.
With Stephen Strasburg shut down on an innings limit in his first season on the mound after Tommy John surgery, the Nationals fell to St. Louis in the NLDS after capturing the National League East title. Though the season ended in disappointment, optimism is understandably high in Washington D.C. because of a talented young core (led by homegrown names like Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, Drew Storen, Ryan Zimmerman and Tyler Moore) mixed with impact veterans (including Denard Span, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and new closer Rafael Soriano).
Ironically, one of the organization’s top prospects once again is Cole, the 21-year-old right-hander who was re-acquired from Oakland in the three-team trade that recently sent Mike Morse to Seattle.
Here are the top 10 prospects in the Nationals’ farm system entering the 2013 season:
1) Health – or, more aptly put, a lack thereof – has delayed a prolonged look at Anthony Rendon as a pro. Selected sixth overall out of Rice University in 2011, the 22-year-old third baseman did not play in the Nationals system in 2011 since he was rehabbing a shoulder injury that prevented him from playing defense at Rice the season leading to the draft. Then, during the opening week of the 2012 campaign, he suffered a severely sprained ankle, another ailment that plagued him in college. Rendon finally returned to the diamond in July and batted .233 with six home runs and a .851 OPS in 133 at-bats at four stops, the last of which was Double-a Harrisburg. If he can stay healthy, Rendon has the potential to emerge as an impact player in the majors since he is a plus defensive third baseman who can hit for average and power.
2) A supplemental first rounder (34th overall) from junior college in 2011, 22-year-old outfielder Brian Goodwin is regarded as a five-tool player. He has the speed to stick in center field and the arm and athleticism to transition to a corner infield spot. A base stealing threat who can hit with power to all fields and hit for average while providing strong defense, Goodwin appears on the fast track to Washington D.C.
3) A high-ceiling right-hander, A.J. Cole was treated rudely by hitters in the advanced Single-A California League last season. Of course, many pitchers have the same fate since the league is composed of hitting-friendly ballparks. After posting a 7.82 ERA in eight starts, he was dispatched to the low Single-A Midwest League, where he was dominant (2.07 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, .222 batting average against, 102 strikeouts, 95.2 innings). Now back in the Nationals system after a year in the A’s organization, Cole has frontline starter potential is his secondary pitches can catch up to his plus fast ball.
4) Selected in the fifth round out of Georgia Tech in 2011, 23-year-old left-handed hitting third baseman Matt Skole hits for average and power, and understands how to get on base. His slash line of .286/.438/.574/1.013 with 27 home runs and 92 RBI in the low Single-A South Atlantic League is proof of that. It is uncertain if he will stay at third base, especially with Zimmerman manning the position at the Major League level, but if Skole continues to rake the National will find a spot.
5) A 12th round pick out of Texas Tech in 2009, 25-year-old right-hander Nate Karns missed all of 2010 because of shoulder surgery and pitched limited innings in 2011. Last year, he showed he is healthy again and logged a 2.17 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and a .174 batting average against with 148 strikeouts in 116 innings at low and advanced Single-A. He will need to prove himself against more age-appropriate competition in 2013, but he has a plus fast ball And curve ball, and could help the Nationals as a starter or a late-inning reliever.
6) A year from now, Lucas Giolito could be No. 1 on this list. His ceiling is high, which is why the Nationals drafted him in the first round (16th overall) out of high school last summer. However, he did undergo Tommy John surgery In August, and he appeared in just one Gulf Coast League game (two innings, 4.50 ERA). Giolito features a amid-90s fast ball, a nasty curve and an effective change-up. The Nationals will not get a true look at who the 18-year-old Giolito is as a pro until 2014.
7) Eury Perez can fly on the basepaths. The 22-year-old Dominican outfielder has swiped 64, 45 and 51 bases over the last three seasons. A contact hitter who doesn’t strike out often, Perez hit .314 at three minor league stops (the last of which was Triple-A) last year and even appeared in 13 games with five at-bats for the Nationals. He does not hit for power and could be a leadoff hitter at the Major League level.
8) A third round pick of the New York Yankees way back in 2004, 27-year-old right-hander Christian Garcia has been interrupted by two Tommy John surgeries. From 2008 to 2011, he recorded just 139 innings. His health restored, Garcia had a breakout 2012 season that saw him earn 21 saves, post a 0.86 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP and a.166 opponent’s batting average with 66 strikeouts in 52.1 innings at Double-A and Triple-A last season. He was equally impressive in 13 games with the Nationals (2.13 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, .186 batting average against).
9) Selected in the second round out of the University of San Diego in 2010, Sammy Solis saw his 2011 campaign interrupted by a groin injury and then last April he underwent Tommy John surgery. Solis has a plus three-pitch mix with good command. The Nationals hope that he can regain his form after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
10) Originally a ninth round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2010, Zach Walters joined the Nationals when he was traded in the Jason Marquis deal in 2011. Walters is a defensively sound shortstop with a strong throwing arm, and he can hit for average and hit some home runs, though he is not considered a power hitter. The 23-year-old switch-hitter batted .266 with 12 home runs and 49 RBI at three minor league levels last year and ended the season at Triple-A.