• ICYMI: For the second year in a row, Washington Nationals' 2010 no.1 overall pick Bryce Harper was denied the no.1 overall spot (ed. note - "He finished third last year and came in second this time, that's pretty good.") on MLB.com's list of the game's Top 100 Prospects, though he did overtake Mike Trout as the highest-rated outfield prospect in baseball. 2011's list had a then-18-year-old Harper listed third overall behind the Angels' Trout, (a 20-year-old '09 1st Rounder) and Tampa Bay's 24-year-old right-hander Jeremy Hellickson. On this year's list, Harper finished second, behind another Rays' starter, 22-year-old left-hander Matt Moore, an '07 8th Round pick who debuted in the majors last September.
Harper's habit of starting slow and adjusting is noted in the write-up on the 6'3'', 225 lb, left-handed hitting slugger whose, "plus power is legit" according to the quick scouting report included with the list. "Every bit the superstar people thought he might be, a five-tool threat in the middle of a lineup," is the MLB.com writers' projection after Harper's first pro season. The Las Vegas, Nevada-born, power bat finished his first year in the Nationals' organization with a combined .297/.392/.501 line, 24 doubles, two triples, 17 HR's, 58 RBI's and 26 stolen bases in 109 games and 452 plate appearances. A hamstring injury ended the season early in August, but Harper recovered and returned for a second stint in the Arizona Fall League, where he had a .333/.400/.634 slash with six doubles, two triples, six home runs, 26 RBI's and four stolen bases in 25 games and 93 AFL at bats.
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo saw Harper play late in the fall, and in an MLB Network interview earlier this winter, the Nats' general manager said he'd seen a marked improvement in the catcher-turned-outfielder-as-a-pro's defensive game. "[Harper has]... really come a long way in the outfield," Rizzo said, "left field and right field, he plays both. He's improving dramatically. I saw him backing up bases instinctually and not having to really think about it, so he's come a long way in that."
When Rizzo this week was asked about Davey Johnson's stated desire to bring the team's top 25 players north with him after Spring Training regardless of any contractual concerns, the GM told reporters, "We're going to bring the best 25 north. If that includes Harper, it's Harper. When I believe Harper is ready to play in the big leagues, he'll be in the big leagues. We're not going to hinder his progress, but we're not going to accelerate it to a point that I think it endangers his development and curtails his overall performance."
It wasn't all about Harper on the MLB Top 100 Prospects list, however, there were four Nats total in the top hundred. 2011 1st Round pick Anthony Rendon finished 27th overall with the 6'0'', 190 lb, right-handed hitting and throwing infielder's plus power, plate discipline, Gold-Glove-caliber defense at third and plus arm mentioned as reasons for his inclusion on the list. Rendon was also recognized as the third-best third base prospect in MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo's recent, "Prospect Watch: Top 10 third baseman", with Mr Mayo writing that, "At the plate, Rendon has the kind of advanced approach that should allow him to move quickly while hitting for average and power."
Alex Meyer, the Nats' second 1st Round pick in this past June's draft, finished 83rd overall on MLB.com's Top 100 prospect list, before he's ever thrown a professional pitch. The 6'9'' right-hander was selected out of the University of Kentucky, where he was 13-12 over three seasons, striking out 253 (10.77 K/9) in 211.1 total innings pitched as a Wildcat. In 2011, Meyer was (7-5) in 14 starts and 101.1 IP, over which he walked 46 (4.09 BB/9) and struck out 110 (9.77 K/9). D.C. GM Mike Rizzo described Meyer as a "big power right-handed pitcher" on the night of the 2011 Draft, who will have, "...three plus pitches in the future," but right now was, "two present plus pitches." Meyer, "...comes at an extreme downhill angle," Rizzo told reporters who asked for a quick scouting report, "he's mid-to-upper 90's consistently, and holds his velocity and throws a hard, wicked wipeout slider."
Nats' scouting director Kris Kline described Meyer's stuff as being comparable to 2011 no.1 overall pick Gerrit Cole's, and said at one point that the change the lanky right-hander was developing, "... has a chance to be an above-average weapon for him." The MLB.com writers agreed, noting that, "If the changeup continues to come along with his command, he has the pure stuff to pitch atop a rotation." "Worst-case scenario," Kris Kline said on the night of the draft, "you've got a [Daniel] Bard-type reliever with a better slider and somebody that you bring in at the back of your bullpen that can dominate."
The last Nationals' prospect on the list, landing at 86th overall, was 2010 2nd Round pick Sammy Solis. The Nats' second pick after Bryce Harper in 2010, out of the University of San Diego, is a 23-year-old, 6'5'', left-hander, who features, as the MLB.com scouts write, "...a fastball that has added velocity from his college days to go with a plus changeup and excellent breaking ball," and they think Solis, "... has the mix of pitches and the command to succeed at the higher levels."
Solis, who experienced elbow pain and had it checked out by doctors after the AFL season, but appears to have avoided serious injury, was (2-1) record with a 4.02 ERA , 3.22 FIP, 8.93 K/9 and 2.68 BB/9 in 7 GS and 40.1 IP with at Class-A Hagerstown this season. Solis then moved up to Class-A Potomac where he was (6-2) with a 2.72 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 8.47 K/9 and 1.76 BB/9 in 10 starts and 56.1 IP. The left-hander finished his second AFL stint with a 4.50 ERA, 16 walks and 25 K's in seven starts and 26.0 IP in which he allowed 29 hits and 15 runs, 13 earned as he worked on adding a traditional curve to his repertoire. The MLB.com writers' opinion of Solis' potential? "He should be ready to go in Spring Training and be big league ready in a year, with a ceiling of a No. 3 starter."
For the record, the Nationals would have had six players on the Top 100 list, but no Gio Gonzalez if they hadn't made the trade with Oakland for the A's lefty. 23-year-old right-hander Brad Peacock finished 75th and 19-year-old right-hander A.J. Cole was 88th.