Friday, July 20, 2012

Mid-Season Nationals Top Prospect Rankings - Sean Hogan

Yesterday, I unveiled friend of the blog Konnor Fulk's top 20 list. Please make sure to give him a follow on twitter @coolnovelbro. Today, it's my turn; as you'll see, the list is relatively similar. As I said yesterday, there are two clear tiers: the top 4 (Giolito, Goodwin, Meyer and Rendon) and then everyone else. I will also put Nats rookies (Harper, Lombardozzi, Moore and Solano) where they would go in italics just for fun.

1 - OF Bryce Harper - duh

1 - 3B Anthony Rendon - Even if he's always injured, he's basically Ryan Zimmerman part 2. Until he hurts his ankles/shoulder again, I still don't believe his injuries will be long-term issues.

2 - RHP Lucas Giolito - True ace potential and pretty polished for a high school guy. I'm not all that worried about his UCL issues; if they were a problem, I don't think the Nats would have drafted him and essentially punted the rest of the draft.

3 - RHP Alex Meyer - His numbers are very encouraging so far, but it will take a few seasons of being able to show he can repeat his delivery and be consistent on the mound before I can really see him being a stud starter.

4 - OF Brian Goodwin - I love the guy. Don't know that the power sticks as he gets older (I expect 40 2B, 5 3B, 15 HR types of seasons in his prime) but he's a legit offensive center fielder with the potential to have a hell of an all-around game.

5 - 1B/OF Tyler Moore - In the past, I haven't been a believer due to his poor BB/K rates. It takes about 200 PA to be able to judge improvements/declines in such rates. Moore is right around 200 at all levels this year, so I can say that I'm more of a believer with his BB% over 10% right now.

6 - IF Steve Lombardozzi - In the same way that Moore has boosted his stock by getting on base more, Lombardozzi's stock has dropped a little to me. For whatever reason, I ignored his huge drop in BB% last year (career averages over 10%, last year around 6.4%), and it's gotten worse in his big league stints (4.9%). When you don't have a lot of power, you need to get on base to have value, and Lombardozzi is at the point where he has to hit .285 or so to be decent enough with the bat if his patience doesn't improve. I love all other parts of Lombardozzi's game (the utility factor, solid fielding, switch hitting, etc.), just want to see improvement with the bat.

5 - LHP Matt Purke - His injuries scare me much more than Rendon or Giolito. If healthy, could be a very good starting pitcher. If not, could be Sean Burnett. My faith in him is floundering, though, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him 10th or lower in my end of the season rankings.

6 - OF Corey Brown - When healthy, he has always been a good hitter. 20/20 potential at the big league level, walks a great share and keeps K's relatively low. May not be able to hack it full-time in CF, but bat can play in the corners. I've never put him this high before, but he's got a great combination of being close to the majors and having the ability to be pretty good when he gets there.

7 - 1B/3B Matt Skole - Until he stops hitting, he'll keep moving up lists. The K's are scary and he's not a great defender, but if he keeps looking this way he could end up being a Youkilis type.

8 - OF Michael Taylor - Rough start to the year, but improving walk rate and steals are still there. Still only 21 years old with a lot of room to grow.

9 - IF Zach Walters - Always a favorite of mine, and is killing AA pitching since his promotion. Minor league numbers are all over the place (is he going to hit for power? get on base? both? neither?) but lefty hitting middle infielders are fun.

10 - 2B Tony Renda - has a good chance of turning into a Lombardozzi-type player albeit with a little bit more power potential. Love the quick hands.

11 - C Jhonatan Solano - Took enough of a step forward with the bat last year that we can at least dream that he'll be a starting catcher at some point. Receiving skills are excellent, and at worst we'll have a solid backup catcher.

11 - OF Eury Perez - Will hit for average and steal bases, but nothing else. I don't think he'll be a good defender in CF and his bat won't play in a corner.

12 - LHP Brett Mooneyham - Not as good of a starter as Solis, but Solis may not be the same pitcher after his surgery. I could see Mooneyham being similar to Detwiler.

13 - LHP Sammy Solis - Has #2 potential and could shoot through the system once he gets healthy, but lost a key year of development to Tommy John surgery and isn't super young, either.

14 - LHP Robbie Ray - Furthest away of the LHP types, so minor league numbers are inconsistent. Has room to add velocity, and if he does, could raise his ceiling.

15 - OF Destin Hood - Move to AA was disappointing, but still only 22. Needs to show 2011 power levels again for me to believe.

16 - IF Jeff Kobernus - Could be a serviceable utility guy. Plenty of guys who can play good defense with a .300 OBP...can his bat develop into anything better?

17 - IF Rick Hague - The glove is pretty bad, so the bat will have to carry him. Right now, it's not.

18 - C David Freitas - Bat has looked good at all levels, glove is iffy. If he can hit AA pitching, I'll become more of a believer. Moving forward, I would expect more years like 2010 and 2012 rather than 2011.

19 - 1B Chris Marrero - Didn't just disappear, and close to the majors, but profiles as a below average hitting 1B. But he'll make the majors at least.

20 - RHP Nathan Karns - Looks fantastic this season, but very old for his level and still struggling with control to some degree. Past injuries will force him to stay in the minors a few more years to stretch his arm out unless he's bumped to higher levels as a reliever.

Next ten (no particular order): C Sandy Leon, LHP Danny Rosenbaum, IF Jason Martinson, LHP Kylin Turnbull, LHP Josh Smoker, OF Billy Burns, OF Wander Ramos, OF Caleb Ramsey, RHP Taylor Hill, RHP Christian Meza

Summary: The Nats have plenty of guys with some upside and plenty of guys who are close to the majors, but not a whole lot of guys that are close to the majors with much upside. I can dream that some of these guys evolve past role player status, but I'm honestly not that convinced. Losing 2/3 of your top 15 to injuries, promotions and trades is a tough problem, but the Nats are far from the worst minor league organization in baseball. It will be interesting to see who other teams will be interested in as the trade deadline approaches over the next week and a half.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mid-Season Nationals Top Prospect Rankings - Konnor Fulk

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 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.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Nats internal infield options

If Ian Desmond's injury forces him to take a trip to the DL, the Nats are in a tough spot. Currently, Carlos Rivero is the only player on the 40 man roster with middle infield experience that is not already in Washington. Here is a quick look at the Nats' options if they decide to keep it in house (and if Desmond actually has to head to the DL):

Carlos Rivero - the 24 year old is hitting .285/.314/.369 this season at Syracuse.
Pros: made AAA all star team (how?!?) already on the 40 man roster, has SS experience, probably the only long-term piece that is close to ML ready
Cons: no pop in 2012, a butcher at SS and is allergic to walks

Jarrett Hoffpauir - the 29 year old is hitting .273/.328/.330 this season at Syracuse
Pros: Has 53 games of ML experience, can play 2B and 3B, generally a good OBP guy
Cons: Can't play SS, hitting below career norms in 2012, not a high upside guy

Jim Negrych - the 27 year old is hitting .296/.374/.468 between Harrisburg and Syracuse
Pros: made the AAA all star team, has hit well at every level in his entire career, can play 2B and 3B, reminds me of Rick Short
Cons: poor fielder, little power, Rick Short barely got a chance

Zach Walters - the 22 year old is hitting .289/.323/.468 across all levels this season.
Pros: biggest upside out of the group, crushing AA pitching in small sample size, a true SS
Cons: still very young and raw and isn't really ready for the big leagues yet

Seth Bynum - the epitome of organizational soldier (9 seasons, 839 career games in the Nats organization) is now 31 and hitting .215/.291/.331 in AAA.

Josh Johnson - still young-ish at 26, but struggling to a .233/.333/.248 triple slash at Syracuse this season (although .272/.361/.344 across all levels).

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The cupboard isn't bare for the Nats at the trade deadline

The trade deadline is upon us in a little less than three weeks and while the Nats are currently in first place, they are not without holes in the lineup. The returns of Mike Morse and Jayson Werth in the outfield will keep the Nats from having to play Rick Ankiel and his ghastly 34.5% K% much, but the Nats have no solution in sight to improve on poor performances by Danny Espinosa or Jesus Flores (other than hoping they will improve, at least). A case can be made to add to the starting rotation if the Nats are truly serious about fully shutting down Stephen Strasburg come late August or so when he hits his pitch count.

The Nats theoretically could go after the likes of SP like Zack Greinke or Ryan Dempster, a middle infielder like Marco Scutaro, a catcher like Kurt Suzuki or Kelly Shoppach or even a young outfielder like Justin Upton or Denard Span. Obviously going after Greinke or Upton would cost a huge package of prospects and are unlikely, but no matter what the Nats do (and I'm confident that they'll do something), they'll have to move guys from their minor league system.

By the time the Nats were named the #1 farm system in baseball by Baseball America, they had already dealt four of their top 15 prospects for Gio Gonzalez. Since then, Bryce Harper, Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore have graduated to the big leagues and Anthony Rendon, Matt Purke, Sammy Solis and Chris Marrero have misses essentially all of 2012 due to injury. The fact that they still have a solid minor league system after losing 2/3 of their offseason top 15 prospects is incredible. Next week, Konnor Fulk (@coolnovelbro) and I will both post our midseason top 20 reports, but for now, let's take a look at what the Nats have in the minors that could be in play at the deadline.

High ceiling prospects
Anthony Rendon and Matt Purke are almost certainly out of play, as they are both injured and trading them would be a lose-lose for both teams involved (Nats lose out on high-ceiling guys and trade them when their value is low, other teams take on a high level of risk with two injury-prone players). While technically neither can be traded until August 15 because they were 2011 draftees, they could be dealt as players to be named later (although since both are on the 40 man roster, such a deal could have to wait until after the season is over). I would be very, very surprised if either player was moved this year.

Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin are another story. Both players were high draft picks in 2011 and have either met or exceeded expectations in their pro careers so far (depending on how high your expectations for them were). Like Rendon and Purke, both would have to be players to be named later; unlike Rendon and Purke, neither are on the 40 man roster, so they could be dealt on August 15 as PTBNL's. Former Nationals GM and columnist Jim Bowden named Meyer as one of 5 futures game participants ($) who could be in play at this year's trade deadline, mentioning that the Nats could try to move him in a deal for Matt Garza, Denard Span or Ben Revere. Both Meyer and Goodwin have boosted their prospect profiles this season and have the right combination of tools and good stats to be great trade bait, but the Nationals would have to get a great player to move either one of these players.

Prospects with intriguing 2012 stats
Matt Skole obviously leads this list, with a .280/.434/.553 triple slash and 21 HR in the first half. He strikes out way too much (94 in 83 games) and his future position is in question (playing 3B for now but profiles best with the glove at 1B or in LF), but if he can keep hitting anywhere close to this level, a team will find a place to put him on the field.

Corey Brown revived himself from being a borderline non-prospect to the guy the Nats were hoping they would get in addition to Henry Rodriguez when they traded Josh Willingham to Oakland. He has destroyed AAA pitching in the first half, hitting .296/.382/.561 with 19 HR and 11 steals, but only got a limited promotion to the big leagues. Brown has 20/20 MLB potential and an above average glove, but his batting average is generally low and he strikes out a lot, so teams could be a little scared off. I think Brown is a better idea to promote to the majors and not trade, but I expect his name to come up a lot in trade rumors with teams who need immediate OF help in the majors.

Toolsy prospects
Jeff Kobernus is hitting as well as he ever has (although that's not saying much - .285/.326/.338 with 34 /44 steals) in his first trip to AA. He doesn't profile as more than a utility infielder, but utility middle infield types who are close-ish to the big leagues are solid deadline pieces (see last year's Zach Walters - Jason Marquis trade)

I am constantly frustrated by Eury Perez in his quest to be the worst leadoff prospect who remains a prospect in the world. At only 22, he's hitting a solid .294 in AA but with only 7 BB and 50 K. Let him be some other team's Inning Endy Chavez while his prospect shine is still at least kind of there.

Despite losing Wilson Ramos to injury and trading Derek Norris, the Nationals still have a plethora of decent catching prospects in Jhonatan Solano, Sandy Leon and David Freitas. All three have different strengths and weaknesses (Leon is a great defender and a meh hitter, Freitas is a good hitter and a meh defender, Solano is somewhere in between) and could all interest different teams at the deadline.

Wander Ramos was named by Fangraphs/Scouting the Sally's Mike Newman (@scoutingtheSAL) as a guy teams could look at as a PTBNL or throw in for a deadline deal this year. Newman wrote in his First Impressions piece on the New York Penn League, "For Auburn, [Ramos is] the only player on the roster with the present size of a big leaguer and real projection, even though he’s a bit long in the tooth for the league." Ramos hit .313/.401/.653 in 43 games in the GCL last year and is hitting .255/.358/.455 in 18 games at Auburn this year.

August waiver trade prospects
Steven Souza has puttered around in the Nats system since being a 3rd round pick in 2007 and is finally hitting (.284/.346/.556), albeit as a 23 year old spending his 4th season in Hagerstown. He could be dealt in August in a waiver deal for a bench player or average bullpen arm if the Nats have a need.

Cutter Dykstra is a similar story to Souza; the Brewers' 2008 2nd round pick is 23 and playing in Hagerstown and has .299/.378/.413 with 25 steals in 69 games. Neither Souza or Dykstra are prospects anymore, but both show enough potential as AAAA/bench types that they could be moved for Ray King or Jerry Hairston types.

As I said, be sure to catch Konnor and I's mid-season top 20s next week and catch me and the Citizens of Natstown gang (@citsofnatstown) tonight for our 8 pm podcast where I'll discuss Nats prospects and we'll interview Jonah Keri!