Washington Nationals 2011 Minor League Review
Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America:
2011 (14) | 2010 (24) | 2009 (21) | 2008 (10) | 2007 (30) | 2006 (24)
2011 Affiliate Records
MLB: [80-81] NL East
AAA: [66-74] International League – Syracuse
AA: [80-62] Eastern League – Harrisburg
A+: [68-71] Carolina League – Potomac
A: [75-64] South Atlantic League – Hagerstown
A(ss): [45-30] New York-Penn League – Auburn
The Run Down
There would’ve been a few more guys to discuss here, had the Nationals not gutted their system in acquiring Gio Gonzalez. Their top two pitching prospects (Brad Peacock & A.J. Cole) were shipped out along with top catching prospect, Kerek Norris, and big-league-ready LHP, Tom Milone. Prior to the trade, Baseball America had this Nationals system ranked #1 overall. GM Mike Rizzo drafted some high-ceiling types in Anthony Rendon and Matt Purke, and the organization still possesses baseball’s top prospect. Regarding that top prospect: he’s got the tools and makeup to be a perennial All Star, but his mustache could use some work. It’s flat and whispy, but not pathetic enough to be making a comedic statement a la Derek Holland. Harper needs to add significant volume to his 6th tool in order to complete the package. Perhaps Grey could lend some advice?
Arizona Fall League Players – Scottsdale Scorpions
Players of Interest
Grey previews Harper here. And while I tend to agree with the guarded outlook, the Nationals have been adamant about not counting their prized prospect out of a Major League role when camp breaks. Grey noted that this could simply be a ploy to stir fan interest, which seems plausible. Lately, though, I’m wondering if the Nats are sincere about promoting Harper sooner rather than later. This, of course, is a situation worth watching closely as it develops this spring. My best guess: Harper will be called up in June.
Marrero collected 100+ AB’s as the Nationals’ primary first baseman this past September. Unfortunately, the 23-year-old did not impress. His 2011 Triple-A figures (.300/.375/.449), however, are his best to date. Blocked by Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche, Marrero should return to AAA, but he’s right on the cusp of breaking through as another rather boring NL first baseman.
Lombardozzi is one of those scraptastic guys who you probably don’t want anywhere near your fantasy roster. Not very toolsy, but oozing with baseball acumen. You know the type. He’ll likely make the Nats as a utility infielder, but shouldn’t see regular time unless Danny Espinosa or Ian Desmond goes down to injury.
The sixth overall selection in the 2011 draft, Rendon signed late and is yet to make his pro debut. He brings a polished approach to hitting and is discussed in the same light as Evan Longoria and David Wright. Washington will be careful with him at first; a strained throwing shoulder hampered him in his final season at Rice. Rendon has a Major League contract so he’ll be in camp with the big club this spring, but I expect him to make his pro debut in Potomac. The Nats may have to consider shifting him to second base while Zimmerman holds down third.
Purke signed too late to gain any professional experience last year, but he has the potential to climb quickly through the Washington farm system. The lefty went 16-0 with Texas Christian in 2010, but didn’t pitch in 2011 due to a shoulder ailment. The condition didn’t require surgery, and the Nationals feel they got a steal in drafting Purke in the third round last June. Until he proves his health on the mound, it’s fair to be skeptical, but Purke is armed with a filthy fastball-slider combo, and projects as a frontline starter.
Kimball was off to a nice start to his Major League career before his season was cut short to injury. In 12 appearances with the Nats, the righty posted a 1.93 ERA. This was after Kimball put up a 0.00 ERA in 12 appearances as the closer in Syracuse. Rotator-cuff surgery is cause for concern, but the Nationals hope to have Kimball back in their bullpen for the second half.
Solis projects as a mid-rotation, innings eating type. His repertoire features a mid-90’s fastball with movement, a decent curve, and a work-in-progress changeup. Solis posted a 2.72 ERA in 10 starts at High-A to round out his 2011. He’ll ride that momentum into Harrisburg for 2012 and could progress quickly from there, given his solid mechanics and fundamental approach.