In the weeks leading up to the August 16th midnight deadline to sign 2010 Draft picks, ESPN.com's Keith Law wrote in an article entitled, "A crucial stretch for the Nationals", that if the Nats could sign no.1 overall pick Bryce Harper, 2nd Round pick Sammy Solis, 4th Round right-hander A.J. Cole, and 12th Round left-hander Robbie Ray, Washington, in Mr. Law's words, would, "...have a legitimate claim to one of the best draft classes overall, potentially accelerating the rebuilding process GM Mike Rizzo has been putting into place since he got the job last spring." The Nats inked all four, giving Harper a 5-year/$9.9M dollar major league deal, and signing Solis, Cole and Ray as well as 25 of their top 26 picks, spending more money on draft bonuses than any team in baseball (and Draft history) for the second-straight year.
Harper, the 18-year-old power-hitting phenom, Solis, the close-to-major-league-ready lefty and Cole, the prep school arm with 1st Round talent whose stock fell when he verbally committed to the University of Miami, are all on Baseball America's list of the Nats' Top 10 Prospects for 2011, which was written up by Aaron Fitt and published this morning. Mr. Fitt names Harper as the Nats' top prospect, the Best Hitter for Average, Best Power Hitter, Best Athlete and Best Outfield Arm in the Nationals' system after some Instructional League action and a successful Arizona Fall League run in which the 18-year-old catcher-turned-outfielder hit in 12 of 35 at bats against some of the best pitching he'd faced to date and showed off an arm that's almost as impressive as his bat. Baseball America says Harper's the no.1 prospect in the Nats' organization. Cole's the top right-hander, and the 4th best prospect overall, Solis the top lefty, is ranked 6th...
• Baseball America's Washington Nationals: Top 10 Prospects:
- Bryce Harper - OF
- Derek Norris - C
- Danny Espinosa - SS/2B
- A.J. Cole - RHP
- Wilson Ramos - C
- Sammy Solis - LHP
- Cole Kimball - RHP
- Eury Perez - OF
- Chris Marrero - 1B
- Brad Peacock - RHP
Derek Norris' 89 walks in 94 games and .419 OBP in 2010 earn him the title of the player with the "Best Strike Zone Discipline" and help to keep him at no.2 in the Nats' system for the second-straight year according to Baseball America. No.'s 1 and 3 overall from '09, the Nats' two 2009 1st Round picks, Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen, both made their debuts and left the prospect list, as did no.4 overall from the last list, Ian Desmond, who completed his first major league season with all the errors that were expected and the highlights too. Danny Espinosa, who debuted in D.C. in September jumps from no.5 overall up to 3. Wilson Ramos, no.2 overall in the Minnesota Twins' system last season, is now no.5 in the Nats', and is expected to start the season with Washington as Pudge Rodriguez's understudy and eventual replacement.
After Solis at no.6, it's Cole Kimball at no.7, the Nationals' 25-year-old, 6'3'', 225lb right-hander, who followed up on a 2010 season which saw him collect 11.6 K/9 in two stops at Class-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg with an impressive AFL campaign during which he gave up 8 hits, 1 ER and 2 walks in 11 games and 12.0 IP in which he struck out 15. 20-year-old outfielder Eury Perez, who's currently sporting a .330/.385/.375 slash line with 20 stolen bases in 36 Liga de Beisbol Dominicano games with the Leones de Escogido, put up a .299/.345/.381 line in Class-A Hagerstown in 2010, stealing 64 bases in 131 games played predominantly in center.
Chris Marrero, the top first base prospect in the Nats' system (who was drafted out of high school as a third baseman and converted into an outfielder then a first baseman), has appeared on every Baseball America list of the Nats' top prospects since he was drafted 15th overall in the 1st Round of the '06 Amateur Draft. The following January, he was the no.2 prospect overall according to Baseball America, behind only RHP Collin Balester. By the next November, a then-18-year-old Marrero was the no.1 prospect overall in the Nats' organization. On 2009's list, Marrero was still the top position player, but he fell to no.3 overall behind pitchers Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler. Before the 2010 season, Marrero, who turned 22 last July, was no.6 overall in BA's eyes, and this year he's no.9, ahead of RHP Brad Peacock, no.10 of 10, a soon-to-be-23-year-old '06 41st Round pick who pitched in the AFL this Fall, and is said by Baseball America to have the "Best Curveball" in the system.
Bryce Harper's not likely to make as immediate an impact on the Nats' organization as 2009's no.1 overall pick and last year's top prospect, Stephen Strasburg, who debuted a little over a year after he was drafted. Harper's thought by most to be a year or two away. Baseball America's Aaron Fitt notes that the Nats, "...farm system remains thin in premium prospects," but the organization has been revitalized under D.C. GM Mike Rizzo's direction, as they've built from the ground up and in their minds at least have entered Phase II of the plan to build the team in a contender. A former scout and scouting director, Rizzo's "fingerprints [are] all over the organization," as he promised they would be when he signed a five-year extension early this winter. Five players from Baseball America's 2010 list played in the Majors last season, Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos are all-but-guaranteed to spend time in D.C., who'll be the next Nats' prospect to make the jump?