The only name on ESPN.com's Keith Law's list of the Top 10 Prospects in the Washington Nationals' organization when he published his 2012 rankings on Friday that wasn't on either Baseball America's updated list or in MLB.com's Top 10, was 20-year-old 2010 12th Round pick Robbie Ray's. MLB.com's scouts had Ray 12th overall as the third-best left-hander in the system behind 2010 2nd Rounder Sammy Solis and 2011 3rd Round pick Matt Purke, as Ray was on Mr. Law's list. That's where D.C. GM Mike Rizzo placed the left-hander as well when he mentioned Ray as part of a second-wave of pitchers on the way up behind the top arms in the organization when asked about dealing three pitching prospects (RHPs A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock and LHP Tom Milone) to Oakland in the deal that landed A's lefty Gio Gonzalez.
"I thought we were protected there with major league caliber pitching immediately there at the major league level," Rizzo told reporters before adding, "Don't forget we've got another wave of prospects coming, that I think will at least equal and possibly surpass the package of guys that we've given up in this trade. With the Purkes and the Solises and the [Alex] Meyers of the world. Then we also have a wave behind them of the Rays and the [Paul] Demnys and those type of guys behind them. So, we feel that we're set up very, very well for the long haul."
Ray, a Brentwood, TN-born lefty, was drafted out of high school, though he had committed to attend the University of Arkansas. He was given a well-above-slot $799,000 signing bonus as part of what the Nats' GM said recently was a plan on the Nationals' part to "attack the draft" in the last couple seasons knowing the new CBA would change the way teams are able to spend on the amateur draft. Ray pitched just one inning in 2010, but the 19-year-old was (2-3) with a 3.13 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 38 walks (3.84 BB/9) and 95 K's (9.61 K/9) in 20 starts and 89.0 innings pitched at Class-A Hagerstown in his first pro season which started late after an extended Spring Training.
The write-up on Ray by MLB.com's scouts says that the left-hander's, "... stuff doesn’t jump out at you, but he does have a three-pitch mix. His fastball has good sink to it, he has a slider and his changeup is probably his best pitch." The recommendation is that Ray "refine his command" as he moves up through the organization. In addition to the walks, he did hit 12 batters (1.21 HBP/9) in 2011, which tied for the 5th highest total in the South Atlantic League. But as they note in the write-up, Ray, who turned 20 on October 1st, is still very young...
• ESPN.com's Keith Law's Top 10 Prospects - Washington Nationals:
- Bryce Harper - OF
- Anthony Rendon - 3B
- Alex Meyer - RHP
- Destin Hood - RF
- Brian Goodwin - OF
- Sammy Solis - LHP
- Matt Purke - LHP
- Steve Lombardozzi - IF
- Robbie Ray - LHP
- Michael Taylor - CF
• CFOTF?: No. 10 on ESPN.com's Keith Law's list of the Top 10 Washington Nationals' prospects, Michael Taylor, was no.10 on Baseball America's updated list and no.5 on MLB.com's list, and was also featured Friday on the ESPN.com scout and writer's list of the, "Sleeper prospects for all 30 teams." Taylor, Mr. Law wrote, was drafted as an infielder and, "... has gone from an awful shortstop to a potentially plus center fielder with great range, strong reads and plenty of arm to stay up the middle." Taylor was a 2009 6th Round pick out of high school at Westminter Academy in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
After putting up a .199/.276/.298 line in 43 games and 164 plate appearances in 2010 with the GCL Nats and Class-A Hagerstown Suns, Taylor returned to Hagerstown and played in 126 games, making 488 PA's in 2011 over which he put up a .253/.310/.432 line with 26 doubles, seven triples, 13 HR's and 23 stolen bases in 35 attempts. The 6'2'', 190 lb center fielder played all three outfield positions with the Suns, (after making 23 errors in 40 games as an infielder in 2010), but spent most of his time in CF in 2011 where he had a .974 fld% on the year with five errors in center.
Asked by former D.C. GM Jim Bowden for a quick scouting report on a position player and pitcher in the Nats' system that he was excited about during an MLB Network Radio interview this past December, the Nats' general manager mentioned A.J. Cole, who's since been traded to the A's as mentioned above, and Taylor, describing the outfielder as, "a young, Mike Cameron-kind-of-looking toolsy player that's just learning how to swing the bat,":
"We drafted him as a shortstop out of Florida, high school, and he's made the transition to center field smoothly. Defensively he's way above his developmental curve. Offensively, he's trying to catch up. But, a 19-year-old handled the [South Atlantic League] pretty well and those are two guys that we feel have huge upsides."
The quick scouting report included with MLB.com's list of the Nats' top prospects describes Taylor as having, "... very good bat speed that generates above-average power," and it says his, "... above-average speed should allow him to steal some bases," while also noting, as Rizzo did, that Taylor has "... made a good transition to the outfield."
MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote this Fall, in an article entitled, "Taylor on path to be Nats' center fielder of future", that Taylor was, "the best defensive center fielder in the farm system," and one of the outfield prospects that had the Nationals thinking twice about signing a center fielder long-term as they searched for a CF/leadoff bat this winter.
• LINKS: Previous 2012 Nats' Prospects Posts: