Blog Entry

Top Prospects: Washington Nationals

Posted on: October 22, 2008 3:55 pm

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I have created this segment because I love watching young players grow through the system, and contribute at the big league level. Baseball’s minor leagues are the #1 source for most team’s additions. I get the impression that most baseball fans do not have a great understanding of who their team’s next great star is, so, I am here to clue them in.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p> The impact of a great farm system, and great prospects, is currently taking center stage in the baseball universe. The Rays have overcome incredible odds to go from last place, last year, to the World Series. How did they do it? By building up a great farm system, and graduating those players to the major leagues.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p> Over the next couple of months I am going to go team-by-team dissecting the organizations farm system, and pulling out each of their top 15 prospects; starting with the NL East and the Atlanta Braves. Once Baseball America starts to release their top 10 lists I will come back to each team and compare and contrast their list to mine. Come to see an assessment on your favorite team’s future, stay because you are just as interested in prospects as I am. If you ever feel as though I have left someone off, or you disagree with my placement of a prospect, or anything else of that nature, please comment, get your opinion out here, and I’ll consider your thoughts.<o:p></o:p>

**As a disclaimer I just wanted to say a few things. First, I rank players based on their potential talent first and foremost, other factors include: age, what level they play at, their 2008 statistics, team needs, and my own gut feeling. The reason I decided on a top 15 list, despite the fact that many team’s good-decent prospects I can count on one hand, was because some team’s do go 15 or more prospects deep, and I wanted to get to include them as well – the Braves are a great example of this, they go 15-19 prospects deep, and it was tough enough for me to narrow it down to 15, let alone 10. Throughout the offseason trades are bound to happen. I currently have every team’s top 15 lists, but they may be forced to change due to trades. I will try my best to make the appropriate adjustments, and even update lists I’ve already posted as prospects come to and from teams. Also, other than Michael Inoa, I have no 2008 internationally signed players; I also do not feel as though they will be missed. Finally, I would like to say that I am not a professional, I do possess a good amount of information, but I will make mistakes, few, but they will be there. There are also some prospects I may not go into full detail about, but I will hit the mot important players, in my opinion of every organization. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this series, and consistently come here to read it. Good Luck to Everybody’s Favorite Team’s Offseason… go Rays.

Minor League notations in descending order<o:p></o:p>
*AAA/AA signifies triple A, and Double A respectively… duh<o:p></o:p>
*A+ signifies high A ball<o:p></o:p>
*A- signifies low A ball<o:p></o:p>
*A signifies a prospect played at both high, and low A ball throughout the course of the season<o:p></o:p>
*a signifies short-season A ball<o:p></o:p>
*R signifies rookie league
*MLL signifies minor league level last season

Washington Nationals Top 15 Prospects<o:p></o:p>

1. Ross Detwiler LHSP Age: 22 MLL: A+<o:p></o:p>

Detwiler had mixed results in his first full pro season, after reaching the majors last September a couple short months since being drafted. In 124 innings he struck out 114 batters while raising his ERA to 4.86. He is doing much better in fall league. Detwiler throws two fastballs (4, and 2 seamers) in the low 90s, as well as a great curveball, and above average changeup. Detwiler is the likely ace of this future staff, and will likely play for, and stay with the major league team at some point this season, possibly by opening day. <o:p></o:p>

2. Jordan Zimmerman RHSP Age: 22 MLL: AA/A+<o:p></o:p>

You can not have a better year, than the 2008 Zimmerman put up. He pitched in 134 innings in AA, and high A Zimmerman posted an ERA of 2.89 while striking out 134 batters, and limiting the opposition to a batting average of .215. Zimmerman throws heavy sinking fastball between 91 and 94 mph, which grades as a plus pitch. He also throws a hard slider, a good changeup, and a developing curveball. I think Zimmerman could be as good as Detwiler, giving them a nasty 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation for years to come.<o:p></o:p>

3. Chris Marrero 1B Age: 20 MLL: A+<o:p></o:p>

Marrero starts the list of top Nationals prospects with poor 2008 seasons. Marrero’s was mostly caused by injury, but still only amassed a .250 BA and .325 OBP when he was healthy. Marrero has plus-plus power to all fields, but is limited defensively to first base, slightly devaluing himself. When he was an outfielder, he was unanimously the #1 prospect for the Nationals.<o:p></o:p>

4. Michael Burgess OF Age: 20 MLL: A<o:p></o:p>

Now here is a young prospect. Burgess has considerable power, blasting 24 in 2008, but also striking out 162 times (more times than the 39 HR hitting Mike Stanton). Burgess also only hit for a BA of .246, and OBP of .333. Not impressive. Burgess’ other plus tool is his arm strength, he can throw a low 90s fastball from the mound, and should allow him to become a power hitting RF someday in the future, likely well into the future because of that horrendous K rate. <o:p></o:p>

5. Jack McGeary LHSP Age: 19 MLL: R<o:p></o:p>

McGeary slides ahead of Smoker because of a slightly better 2008 campaign. McGeary did not begin playing in 2008 till he finished classes at Stanford (a clause written into his contract); pitching 63 2/3 innings with an ERA of 4.10, while striking out 69. He has the potential to become a solid middle of the rotation starter. McGeary’s strength is his command, and throws a low 90s fastball, and low 80s curveball. <o:p></o:p>

6. Destin Hood OF Age: 18 MLL: R<o:p></o:p>

Hood is all tools, all projection, and no results. Which is why it is tough for me to even put him here at 6, maybe it is a little of my 2008 draft bias. But, I do think Hood has the potential to be a good offensive outfielder with considerable range, unfortunately he has a pretty weak arm. Due to this weak arm I am going to mention him as my Johnny Damon comparison, he has great raw power, and raw speed; he just has to play, and learn baseball fundamentals, and instincts. He struggled in his 86 ABs in 2008.<o:p></o:p>

7. Josh Smoker LHSP Age: 20 MLL: A-/R<o:p></o:p>

A third talented left hander, destined to be a part of the Nationals rotation at some point? Wow, wow. Smoker had a rough 2008 pitching in only 44 and a third innings in the low levels of the minors. He struggled, causing a 5.48 ERA, and striking out only 37 batters. So, I pushed Smoker back behind the Nationals top position players to #7. I expect him to exceed this spot, though. Smoker clocks his fastball in the low 90s, and uses his splitter as an out pitch. He has also been known to throw a curve, slider, and changeup, an impressive arsenal of pitches. <o:p></o:p>

8. Shairon Martis RHSP Age: 21 MLL: AAA/AA<o:p></o:p>

Martis has three average pitches, none of which stand out, but he should be solid at the back end of the rotation. That being said, Martis had a good 2008 season, playing at the highest levels of the minor leagues. In 116 innings Martis managed a 3.64 ERA, while striking out batters. Overwhelming, not at all, but solid numbers for a 20 year old, Martis should be ready to stay with the major league club by the end of next season, at the latest. <o:p></o:p>

9. Colton Willems RHSP Age: 20 MLL: A-<o:p></o:p>

The Nationals continue to bring Willems along slowly, having him stay in low A all season, while putting up good numbers. Willems pitched over 100 innings (109IP) for the first time in his pro career, and maintained a solid 3.70 ERA over the course of the season, he managed only 60 Ks, though. I am interested to see what Willems does at a higher level before I rank him any higher, but if he continues his success next season in high A, or double A, he will jump into the top echelon of Nationals pitchers. Willems throws his fastball up to 95 mph, and also throws a promising curveball, and changeup.<o:p></o:p>

10. Justin Maxwell OF Age: 25 MLL: AA<o:p></o:p>

Maxwell showed a ton of promise in 2007, but cooled down with only 146 ABs, in the minors, in 2008. In that short period Maxwell put up only a .233 BA, but did walk three more times than he struck out (28Ks:31BBs). He also hit 7 HRs, and stole 13 bags in that span.<o:p></o:p>

11. Ian Desmond SS Age: 23 MLL: AA<o:p></o:p>

Desmond is a plus defender with a good arm at shortstop. There was a time when Desmond was thought of as a solid complement to [Ryan] Zimmerman on the left side of the infield, offensive inconsistencies however, have held him back. Desmond once again failed to live up to expectations, this time in AA, posting a .321 OBP, and .256 BA. He managed to hit 12 HRs, and steal 15 bases, but also put up a K/BB ratio of 2.6:1 (80Ks:31BBs). Although it is possible for Desmond to play well again next season, as he likely repeats AA, I do not see him becoming consistent enough to play shortstop everyday in Washington.<o:p></o:p>

12. Jake Smolinski OF/2B Age: 19 MLL A-/a<o:p></o:p>

Why is Smolinski not in the top 10? Well, admittedly I do not know that much about him, and he is still pretty early in his development. He also had a disappointing season with a BA of .271, OBP of .345, in 291 at bats. His strikeout, and walk ratios were not terrible, but I did not find anything that stood out. <o:p></o:p>

13. Leonard Davis OF Age: 25 MLL: AAA/AA/A<o:p></o:p>

Davis is of the Bryan Peterson, and Mike Taylor tradition; outfielders who were under the radar, but play themselves onto this list. Davis stretched himself across three levels of the minor leagues. Putting up impressive numbers all together, finishing 2008 with a .308 BA, and hitting 25 HRs. Holding Davis back a little is his terrible walk rate. Last season he struck out 100 times, while walking on only 34 occasions (2.94:1 K/BB). There is not much time for improvement, seeing how Davis is 25; his walk rate is the only thing holding him back as a productive big league hitter. <o:p></o:p>

14. Adam Carr RHRP Age: 24 MLL: AA/A+<o:p></o:p>

Carr had a phenomenal 2007 pitching an ERA of 1.78 in over 60 innings, all as a reliever. This season he took a step back posting a 6.60 ERA in the same 60 innings; he did however, throw 58 Ks, and acquire 16 saves. Carr has the potential to be a solid reliever in 2009 for the Nationals, but needs to show consistency in his outings. <o:p></o:p>

15. William Atwood LHSP Age: 21 MLL: a<o:p></o:p>

Atwood has played himself onto the last spot on this list. In 52 1/3 innings this season, in short season A, he accumulated a 2.41 ERA, with a .205 OBA (opposing batting average), while striking out 60 batters.<o:p></o:p>

Strengths: Pitching. Talent wise, and depth wise, the Nationals have one of the best group of arms in their farm system. Especially impressive is the prospect of having three great left handers in their rotation in a few years. I also have to wonder what this group would be like had Aaron Crow – the top pitching prospect in the 2008 draft, in my opinion – signed.<o:p></o:p>
Future Rotation:<o:p></o:p>
1. Detwiler<o:p></o:p>
2. Zimmerman<o:p></o:p>
3. Smoker<o:p></o:p>
4. McGeary<o:p></o:p>
5. Willems/Collin Balester<o:p></o:p>

Weaknesses: Bats. Talent, depth, the Nationals really need to develop a couple more impact bats. Right now they only have three solid position players in Marrero, Burgess, and Hood; Ian Desmond could surprise me, and become a successful shortstop, but if the Nationals want to follow in the Rays footsteps they are going to have to bring along 3-5 more bats. <o:p></o:p>

Next Up: the NL East Wrap up, followed by the start of the NL Central – order of operation: Cubs, Reds, Astros, Brewers, Pirates, and Cardinals<o:p></o:p>

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or