Konnor Fulk (@coolnovelbro) and I have been collaborating over the past few weeks on what the Nats' top 20 prospects should look like. By and large, our lists are pretty similar. There are pretty clear tiers in the Nats' prospect list: the top 4 (Giolito, Goodwin, Meyer and Rendon, however you decide to rearrange them) and then everyone else. Much of the intrigue over the list is how to rate injured prospects like Rendon, Purke and Solis, and as you'll see below, all three are still considered to Konnor to be top 15 guys (you'll see my list tomorrow). Enjoy, and make sure to give Konnor a follow on twitter!
1. 3B Anthony Rendon - Still the top prospect; if healthy (big if) he could be a .300 hitter with 20 home runs (much like Ryan Zimmerman at his fullest potential). The more he gets injured, the further he will drop down the top 20 prospect list.
2. RHP Alex Meyer - 6'9" with room to build onto that body. Has been clocked at 99 (with some more muscle, he can hit 100, very intriguing) with a nasty slider that touches the low 90's. His control is questionable, but seems to be making reasonable improvement to that aspect. If he doesn't work out as a starter, he will be a great bullpen arm with high velocity. Should rise through system fast.
3. RHP Lucas Giolito - The Nationals' 2012 16th overall draft pick, comes with great size (6'6") and front line starter stuff (fastball has been clocked at 100). When healthy (which is pretty foggy right now, with the Nats hopeful he won't need Tommy John surgery), he will become possibly the best prospect in the system. For now, his health is a question, so this explains why I still consider Meyer ahead of him.
4. OF Brian Goodwin - Up from spot 7 on the MLB.com rankings, he is having a great season: good arm and defense, good power, great contact, speed with 14 steals, and what makes me giddy, more walks then strikeouts! 2 years older then Taylor, but as a 1st round supplemental pick, he is proving himself as a top 5 organizational prospect.
5. OF Eury Perez - Still good contact guy, .293 average, good contact, but apparently a reasonable outfield arm. Great lead off potential. 24 stolen bases, so still has great speed. Lacks plate control, with few walks. Personally I like him over Micheal Taylor, he could find himself in a September call-up, if and only if he is promoted to AAA fairly soon.
6. 1B/3B Matthew Skole - Defense is awful (but will improve in left field or 1st base) his bat has put him here, and he deserves to be placed here. 21 homeruns, 70+ RBI, strikes out A LOT (94 times in the first half) but also 74 walks; his bat has put him into the systems elite. If he keeps up this batting potential, could be an intriguing major league corner outfield prospect or a trade piece. Should be in Potomac, must see how he hits at a higher level.
7. LHP Matt Purke - I believe that when fully healthy he will get his stuff back and be a solid prospect. If not a major league starter in several years, I could easily see him as a lefty specialist. The Nationals hope for the pitcher that was featured at TCU, having made a big commitment to him financially, but Purke must get fully healthy for any advancement up this prospect list.
8. OF Michael Taylor - Organization loves this guy, who is still only 21. He's currently having a year that screams growing pains: his power numbers have dipped awfully, but possibly due to the difference from the SAL league. Still young and still a very impressive defensive prospect, the potential that has surrounded this guy still allows him to maintain top 10 prospect status.
9. IF Zach Walters - Mediocre beginning to season, but has really started to produce. Great production since promotion to AA, and has demonstrated reasonable power. Alright defensively with quick flashes of brilliance, possible trade chip with the depth at infield throughout the organization.
10. IF Jeff Kobernus - Great speed, good contact hitter, with good defense. Very toolsy, but an all-the-way-around good prospect. Kobernus is a trade piece or major league utility player with speed. Kobernus should continue his steady advancement through the system.
11. RHP Nathan Karns - Would be higher based off of his amazing stats, but he is a bit old for Potomac and still fairly untested. He has good stuff, and should rise easily through the system if he keeps it up. Arguably the best Nationals pitcher this season based only off stats, so don't be surprised if he gets a call up to AA, specifically so he can make an Arizona Fall League appearance.
12. OF Corey Brown - Great year has catapulted him into the top 20. Great power, and solid tools; if it wasn't for the Nationals stacked outfield, he'd be up on the team (although he should specifically replace Xavier Nady). He will be an intriguing trade chip for an outfield needy team.
13. LHP Robbie Ray - Production has been down this year, specifically his strikeout numbers. He has managed not to have awful stats in the advanced A Carolina League at the age of 19, though. His potential makes him a top 20 prospect. Expect a repeat year at Potomac next year, and with good improvement, his prospect ranking could improve.
14. LHP Daniel Rosenbaum - Underwhelming stuff, but great control and has the make up of a good #5 starter. His statistics have been weak lately, but expect him to be in AAA next year, with a call up to Washington possible at any needed moment.
15. LHP Sammy Solis - Injured, but if he maintains his stuff, he is our best lefty in the organization. Solis still has strong potential and should be watched in the 2nd half of next season.
16. LHP Brett Mooneyham - Based off of his tools, he could be a very strong lefty within the system, awful control. If he can fix that, no reason not to believe he could be a piece to watch rise through the system, he has the stuff to become a power lefty reliever or back end starter.
17. C David Freitas - Great offensive catcher, but the knock on him is his defense. A move to the crowded 1B is possible. Expect him to be a trade piece or an eventual AAAA player. With the log jam at catcher, he could find himself competing for time with Leon and Johnatan Solano.
18. OF Destin Hood - A big drop off year has resulted in a drop in the top 20 prospect rankings. Still young and athletic, but needs to maintain his power from the previous year. He risks becoming an organizational guy without improved production. Expect a repeated year in AA for the future.
19. 2B Tony Renda - This year's 2nd round pick has not produced as expected so far in short season A Auburn. Expect him to improve and produce though. He only falls to 19 due to size and the fact I believe his ceiling is a fringe starter/utility infielder, but with all knocks aside, his heart and drive easily could push him through the system.
20. C Sandy Leon - Having a great offensive year, and will be valuable to the overall catching depth of the organization. Having his bat in AAA next year could be valuable. Leon will likely enjoy a further cup of coffee in the majors.
Just missed: 1B Chris Marrero- He simply has lost his prospect status, injury concern and lack of power for his position shows what he really expects to be, a AAAA player.
Honorable Mentions: Rick Hague, Kylin Turnbull, Jason Martinson, Christian Garcia, Aaron Barrett, Caleb Ramsey, Cutter Dykstra, Steven Souza, and Blake Monar
Post summary: What the reader should learn from this is simple: the depth within the organization is still impressive. The Gio Gonzalez trade drained the system of several top 10 prospects, but it is now evident that those particular players were expendable. Derek Norris was great, but Leon, Freitas, and Solano have impressed, while A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock have been replaced by Giolito, Meyer, and Karns. Perhaps the best player lost in that trade was Tommy Milone, who has proved what I always believed he could be: a good and serviceable starter (3.54 ERA). Rizzo and the scouting staff have formulated a deep and exciting prospect pool, and even through big trades, the Nats still maintain a good and improving minor league system, with future stars still rising.