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Washington Nationals 2010Minor League Review
Overall farm ranking via Baseball America (2010)
2010 (21) | 2009 (21) | 2008 (9) | 2007 (30) | 2006 (24) | 2005 (26) | 2004 (30)

Record of Major and Minor League Teams
MLB: [69 – 93] NL East
AAA: [76 – 67] International League – Syracuse
AA: [77 – 65] Eastern League – Harrisburg
A+: [70 – 69] Carolina League – Potomac
A: [65 – 75] South Atlantic League – Haggerstown
A(ss): [36 – 38] New York Pennsylvania League – Vermont Lake
R: [24 – 32] Gulf League

The Run Down
In the 2009 Nationals Minor League Review, I said, “It wouldn’t be a stretch to see the team win 10 more games this year with a slightly improved rotation.” They did win exactly 10 more games this year, too bad that was still good enough for last place in the NL East.  Jordan Zimmermann’s return from Tommy John surgery was met with losing Stephen Strasburg to the same surgery.  The Nationals have an excessive amount of mediocre pitching in the minors and in the majors as they had no starter who threw 100 innings with a strikeout rate over 6 Ks per nine-innings (e.g. Stephen Strasburg had 92 strikeouts in 68 innings). On the positive side, they drafted Bryce Harper. Now everyone gets to listen and watch ESPN’s countdown of the young man’s call up. I like the trade Nationals made with the Twins (e.g. Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos). A young catcher with some hitting potential to keep the seat warm for Derek Norris; Harper won’t catch in the long run. Another rookie to watch in 2011, Danny Espinosa (see Grey’s Espinosa Fantasy Outlook for more details). Even with the return of Jordan Zimmermann, the Nationals need a lot of help in the starting rotation. Their bullpen isn’t immune to this either. What doesn’t help is that their minor league affiliates are lacking any Grade-A pitching prospects. There are a few hitters on the way though. The Nats still have a lot of ground to make up in the NL East, however, they should start to make noise in the near future with Strasburg, Harper, Marrero, Norris, Burgess, Espinosa, and potentially Hood growing and maturing.

Graduate Prospects
#1 (RHP) Stephen Strasburg; #3 (RHP) Drew Storen; #8 (CF) Justin Maxwell; #20 (RHP) Luis Atilano; #4 (SS) Ian Desmond; #22 (CF) Roger Bernadina;

Arizona Fall League Players – Scottsdale Scorpions
Pitchers: (RHP) Adam Carr; (RHP) Cole Kimball; (LHP) Sammy Solis
Hitters: #2 (C) Derek Norris; #28 (2B) Steve Lombardozzi; #9 (RF) Mike Burgess

Players of Interest
Hitters
#6 Chris Marrero | 1B | D.o.B: 7-2-88 | Stats (AA): .294/.350/.450 | 524 AB | 46 XBH | 18 Hr | .156 ISO | 1/3 SB/CS | 102:43 K:BB | .333 BABIP
From 2009 Nationals Minor League Review, “Back in early September [2009], I wrote a Scouting the Unknown article on Marrero. Here is me quoting me, ‘Marrero is projected to hit 20 to 25 homers with … decent average … above average plate coverage … average plate discipline … below average runner … below-average defensive range at first base … good arm … soft hands … [good] work ethic … He has the potential to be the Nationals starting first baseman by 2011.” His upside is a “middle-of-the-order power bat.” I like what I see. Should start the 2011 season at Triple-A and receive a mid-summer call-up if the Nationals find a first baseman in free agency. If not, Marrero may start on opening day.

#9 Michael Burgess | RF | D.o.B: 10-20-89 | Stats (AA/AAA): .265/.357/.465 | 460 AB | 50 XBH | 18 Hr | .200 ISO | 5/2 SB/CS | 116:57 K:BB | BABIP (AA: .307 ; AAA: .366)
Burgess possesses plus-plus raw power but has a long swing and can’t hit breaking pitches or changeups. Obviously, coaches are working on his batting mechanics. Historically, he has struggled against lefties (.227/.318/.307 in 2009). Scouts and coaches rave about his motivation to improve and strong work ethic. His defense is steadily improving but isn’t an asset beyond his plus arm that is accurate (had 26 assists in 2008). Don’t expect many steals as he’s a below-average runner. Sounds like Michael Cuddyer without the nagging injuries. I would expect 25 home runs with a .275 average, at best, in the majors if given a full season – even during his prime.

Pitchers
Tommy Milone | LHP | D.o.B: 2-16-87 | Stats (AA): 8.3 K/9 | 1.3 BB/9 | 158 IP | 2.85 ERA | 2.57 FIP | 1.17 WHIP | .6 Hr/9 | 9.2 H/9 | .343 BABIP
Milone has a mid-to-high 80s MPH fastball with an excellent changeup and an average breaking ball. To quote John Sickels, “Double-A will be the true test from him; if he survives there, he has a chance to contribute as a long-reliever and emergency starter.” Looking at Milone’s stats, he survived and thrived at Double-A in spite of the .343 BABIP. Might make the back end of a poor Nationals rotation.

#16 Brad Peacock | RHP | D.o.B: 2-2-88 | Stats (A+/AA): 9.4 K/9 | 3.0 BB/9 | 142 IP | 4.50 ERA | FIP (A+: 3.14; AA: 5.04) | 1.33 WHIP | 1.0 Hr/9 | 9.0 H/9 | BABIP (A+: .361; AA: .262)
His fastball peaks at 94 MPH and “flashes an above-average knuckle-curve” along with a “strong changeup.” The knuckle-curve has potential but he struggles with its control, often. Peacock pitched well at High-A but Double-A threw him for a loop. If he cannot learn to harness his knuckle-curve, he’s destined for the bullpen. Look for him to return to Double-A to start the 2011 season.

Josh Wilkie | RHP | D.o.B: 7-24-84 | Stats (AAA): 8.0 K/9 | 2.8 BB/9 | 69 2/3 IP | 2.45 ERA | 2.83 FIP | 1.13 WHIP | .3 Hr/9 | 7.0 H/9 | .290 BABIP
Has good command, keeps the ball on the ground (GO/AO 1.77 in 2009) but doesn’t have overpowering “stuff;” he throws a 86 to 89 MPH fastball. He’s a reliever that doesn’t have anything left to prove in the minors. Look for him to battle for middle relief spot in Spring Training.

Cole Kimball | RHP | D.o.B: 8-1-85 | Stats (A+/AA): 11.6 K/9 | 4.5 BB/9 | 78 2/3 IP | 2.17 ERA | FIP (A+: 2.23; AA: 3.42) | 1.13 WHIP | .5 Hr/9 | 5.7 H/9 | BAIBP (A+: .285; AA: .270)
See 1/8th inch above, specifically the last line. Kimball is one step in the ladder behind, but his career mimics Wilkie’s.

Honorable Mentions
Hitters
#2 Derek Norris | C | D.o.B: 2-14-89 | Stats (A+): .235/.419/.419 | 298 AB | 31 XBH | 12 Hr | .184 ISO | 6/3 SB/CS | 94:83 K:BB | .296 BABIP
According to Baseball America, Norris has a “strong, compact swing … mature hitting approach … excellent pitch recognition … above-average pull power and good power to opposite field … [a] solid arm … quick release … average [at best] defense.” Defensively, he has had a lot of passed balls, 28 in 2009, 16 in 2008, but in 2010 he allowed only six passed balls – helps that he caught in only 69 of the 94 games he played in. The Carolina League has never been a hitters’ paradise, but Norris’ slash line (.235/.419/.419) isn’t looking pretty due to the low average, however, his strikeout-to-walk ratio ( 94:83 K:BB) is superb if you ignore the 298 at-bats (31.5 K%). He’s like Adam Dunn without the same power. The average shouldn’t be too worrisome yet, not when 31 of his 70 hits are extra-base hits; Norris’ advanced approach should lead to a better average over a longer period of time too (career average entering the 2010 was .271 in 787 at-bats). I like his long-term potential, but his fantasy value is limited in the 2011 season. His ETA will be the 2012 season, but could be like Carlos Santana by getting called-up if the team is struggling.

Tyler Moore | 1B | D.o.B: 1-30-87 | Stats (A+): .269/.321/.552 | 502 AB | 77 XBH | 31 Hr | .283 ISO | 0/0 SB/CS | 125:40 K:BB | .298 BABIP
Just on the outside of the top power hitters in the minors during the 2010 season. To think that two more home runs would have put him in the same breath as Paul Goldschmidt and Mike Moustakas, granted, only as a qualifier of who they beat. Moore looks to have good power potential, but not a strong grasp of controlling the strike zone. I’m extremely intrigued to see if Baseball America and John Sickels give Moore any reference in their 2011 books as their 2010 counterparts neglected his name. Double-A will be a true test, but at least Moore can say that his 2010 season wasn’t enhanced due to luck (.298 BABIP), but repeating the same production will be the challenge in 2011.

#10 Destin Hood | LF | D.o.B: 4-3-90 | Stats (A):.285/.333/.388 | 492 AB | 38 XBH | 5 Hr | .103 ISO | 5/7 SB/CS | 119:33 K:BB | .361 BABIP
An extremely raw baseball player, Hood’s primary sport was football, as exemplified by Hood being offered a football scholarship to attend Alabama. However, a $1.1 million bonus sways quite a few young players. Hood is “physical and athletic … [with] quick hands … [and] above-average power.” His offensive approach is gradually become more patient but lacks strong strike zone and pitch recognition skills. As he matured, he has been using all parts of the field. Defensively, he will be limited to left field as his defensive upside is fringe-average at best. Hood will need to ride his bat to the majors if he makes it at all. Watch his progress at High-A during the 2011 season.  Either way, he’s a year to two away.

#29 J.P. Ramirez | LF | D.o.B: 9-29-89 | Stats (A): .296/.341/.470 | 506 AB | 52 XBH | 16 Hr | .174 ISO | 3/6 SB/CS | 83:25 K:BB | .324 BABIP
A “pure hitter with huge amounts of power,” according to Sickels. Baseball America states, “… smooth, compact left-handed swing and textbook hitting mechanics, but hitting is his lone potential plus tool and his offensive approach needs plenty of work … aggressive hitter … chases high fastballs and balls in the dirt … [has a] flat, line-drive swing … bat speed [may] eventually lead to average power potential … below-average speed and arm strength … defensive skills will forced him to play left field.” Well, J.P. hit well enough to advance to High-A in 2011. Like with all low-level minor league seasons, when he reaches Double-A his first true test will occur. The scouting report reminded me of David Ortiz. Just remember that the Twins gave up on Ortiz, and it wasn’t until the Red Sox took a chance on him that he developed.

Pitchers
#12 Aaron Thompson | LHP | D.o.B: 2-28-87 | Stats (AA): 6.3 K/9 | 3.5 BB/9 | 136 2/3 IP | 5.80 ERA | 4.60 FIP | 1.59 WHIP | 1.1 Hr/9 | 10.8 H/9 | .336 BABIP
Thompson relies on a cutter, a low 90s fastball, a solid changeup and an inconsistent breaking ball. He has a career 6.9 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 and only projects as a number four or five starter.

  1. Cheese

    Cheese says:
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    I feel depressed reading these things because seeing the DOB of these guys makes me feel so much older and less accomplished in life…

    Anyways, what’s the ETA on Strasburg?

  2. Stephen

    Stephen says:
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    @Cheese: “I keep getting older, but they stay the same age.”

    re: Strasburg:With TJ, I would say no sooner than a brief appearance in September at best. But I have been wrong before and it seems that players are recovering faster from TJ. I still think he’ll be back in 2012.

  3. Mike says:
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    Thx for the writeup… I’m curious what your take on Harper is, his AFL performance and your expected time to majors, etc. (didn’t see him listed)

    I know the hype about him is out of control… but I’ll be taking him with the 1st overall pick (24th rd / 23 keepers in keeper league) this season and was curious about your take on him.

    Thx again

  4. Smokey

    Smokey says:
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    @Stephen: Stephen good stuff. Just surprised no write up on Ramos and Maya. Nats system seems to be high end or no end to me but with the draft class that just hopped on board they are spending money in the right direction at least. I’ll catch you at the razzball writer’s inaugural ball…lol.

  5. Stephen

    Stephen says:
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    @Mike: You’re welcome and thank you for commenting and reading. I think he’ll, Harper, start at High-A or Double-A and need at least a year in the minors. He was restricted to the travel squad at the AFL meaning he could only play twice a week. He has great power but the strikeouts are going to be an issue. He’ll be a good to great player in the majors. I haven’t read any formal scouting reports, but I’ll definitely let you know when I do.

    @Smokey: The fact that most people know Ramos and Maya are why I left them off. I did say, “A young catcher with some hitting potential to keep the seat warm for Derek Norris” in the section titled, “The Run Down.” Sorry to disappoint. Where is this Razzball Winter’s Inaugural Ball? I want to join.

  6. Stephen

    Stephen says:
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    @Stephen: @Smokey: The quote is in response to Ramos.

  7. Sir says:
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    Hey Razzballers,

    I’d like some tips on my keepers. I’m in a 5×5 league with obp instead of avg. I get to keep 5. My best players are:

    Votto
    Hamilton
    Kemp
    Kinsler
    Reynolds
    Hamels
    Weaver

    Which 5 would you keep?
    Thanks for the help.

  8. Stephen

    Stephen says:
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    @Sir: That would be a better question to ask Grey in yesterday’s article. I don’t want to advise you wrongly.

  9. Smokey

    Smokey says:
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    @Stephen: Its all good, i got the invite as a plus one so ill pick you up in the limo…prom style…lol

  10. Jangle says:
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    Nice write up!

  11. Sir says:
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    @Stephen Thanks. I wasn’t sure if you guys always responded to the latest post on the site or the latest post you wrote. Cheers.

  12. Stephen

    Stephen says:
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    @Sir: He’s better with the majors and I’m better with the minors. During the season it is more clear about who comments most on each article as there are typically two per day. However, I typically would respond to your question too, but also forward you to Grey. Personally, I like Votto, Kemp, Weaver, Hamilton/Kinsler/Reynolds

  13. Sir says:
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    Thanks for the advice. I was leaning toward Votto Kemp Hamilton Kinsler and then torn on Weaver/Reynolds… I do have the option of trading Reynolds for a draft pick… anyway, thanks again. I’ll see what Grey says too.

  14. Postmodern Pelagians says:
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    Nice Article Stephen.

    Do you foresee the Nationals becoming a version of the 2008 Rays at some point?

  15. Stephen

    Stephen says:
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    @Postmodern Pelagians: Thank you for the compliment. Honestly, the Nationals are extremely top heavy; I don’t know much about the last draft beyond Harper until I receive the annual Prospect Handbooks from my two main sources. Nevertheless, they have some average to slightly-above average prospects beyond Harper and Norris (this includes Marrero). Granted, if the Nats got the same love your Red Sox did, Marrero would have been compared to Lars Anderson and/or Anthony Rizzo.

    Long story short, the Nationals have a large gap between their top two to four prospects and their remaining prospects.

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