The Washington Nationals' prospect depth has taken a hit in the past few seasons as they've graduated some of the top players (Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore) and traded some top pitching prospects (Tom Milone, Brad Peacock, Alex Meyer) in the deals that brought Gio Gonzalez and Denard Span to the nation's capital. The Nats "attacked the draft" over the last few years, however, as D.C. GM Mike Rizzo explained it, signing players to well-above slot deals and taking on prospects seen as significant injury risks by other organizations in anticipation of the changes in the draft agreed upon under the new CBA. While the Nationals don't have a wealth of major-league-ready prospects in the organization at the moment, they do have some impressive talents at the top of the depth chart.
In Minor League Ball's John Sickels' organizational rankings this winter, he expressed similar sentiments about the Nats' system. "Graduations and trades have quickly weakened the talent down on the farm over the last year," Mr. Sickels wrote, "but Mike Rizzo and company should be able to recharge quickly and the major league roster is young and strong."
ESPN.com's Keith Law said much the same when he released his own organizational rankings yesterday, writing that he likes the top five prospects in the organization before noting that shortly after the top of the list there exists a "bottomless crevasse" in the Nats' system. The ESPN.com analyst apparently does have a fairly high opinion of the top five prospects in the Nationals' organization though, as he placed five Nats' prospects (Anthony Rendon, Brian Goodwin, Lucas Giolito, A.J. Cole and Nathan Karns) in his Top 100 when he released the list this morning.
2011 1st Round pick Anthony Rendon was the highest-ranked Nats' farmhand on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list when it was released last week, landing at no.28 on the list. The former Rice third baseman, taken 6th overall by the Nationals when he was once considered a potential no.1 overall selection, suffered an ankle injury (his third in the last few years) early into his first pro season, but managed to work his way up to Double-A before the summer ended. Rendon finished the year with a combined .233/.363/.489 line at four stops in the Nats' system, playing a total of 43 games and making 160 plate appearances in which he hit eight doubles, four triples and six home runs.
Rendon then put together an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League, posting a .338/.436/.494 line with 10 doubles, a triple, 15 walks and 14 Ks in 77 at bats over 22 games, earning himself a roster spot in the AFL Rising Stars Game and receiving recognition as one of the top players to take part in the so-called "finishing school" for the game's top prospects. ESPN.com's Keith Law apparently has a higher opinion of Rendon than the MLB scouts. Mr. Law placed Rendon 17th on his Top 100 List, writing that when he's healthy, Rendon has, "... tremendous bat speed with a very advanced approach at the plate." Rendon's expected to start the 2013 season at Double-A Harrisburg.
Rendon's fellow 2011 1st Round pick Brian Goodwin (taken 34th overall out of Miami Dade College) landed 44th on ESPN.com's Mr. Law's list after posting a combined .280/.384/.469 line over 100 games and 452 PAs between Class-A Hagerstown and Double-A Harrisburg in which he hit 26 doubles and 14 HRs. Mr. Law notes that Goodwin was a potential 1st Rounder out of high school and after a strong freshman campaign at the University of North Carolina, but fell to the Nats in the sandwich round after a less-impressive year at Miami Dade College. In his first year in the system, the ESPN analyst writes, Goodwin showed the, "... plus-plus speed, quick bat, and surprising power," that impressed scouts when he was at UNC.
Lucas Giolito (no. 77 on Mr. Law's list) is the Nationals' 2012 1st Round pick. The right-hander injured his right elbow in his senior year at Harvard-Westlake HS in California and had Tommy John surgery after just one appearance with the Nats' Gulf Coast League affiliate. A strong year this season as he rehabs, and Mr. Law suggests he could be a Top 20 Prospect in 2014.
A.J. Cole, a 4th Round pick in 2010 and one of the picks the Nats gave a well-above slot deal, was reacquired this winter after he was dealt to the A's in the Gio Gonzalez deal last December. Cole lands 89th on Mr. Law's list, but the ESPN analyst says he sees Cole's 2012 campaign in Oakland's organization as a "huge setback." Cole struggled at High-A in the A's system, but ended the year with an impressive run at Low-A before he was dealt back to the Nationals in the three-way trade that sent Michael Morse to Seattle.
The final Nationals' prospect on ESPN.com's Mr. Law's list is 2012 Nats' Minor League Pitcher of the Year Nathan Karns. The 25-year-old right-hander was a combined (11-4) with a 2.17 ERA at Low-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac this past season. The 99th prospect on Mr. Law's Top 100 recovered from a shoulder injury in 2010 to put together an impressive campaign, and if the shoulder holds up, which Mr Law says is a "big if", he thinks Karns has "front-line starter potential."
New post for Insiders - the top 100 prospects in baseball for 2013: klaw.me/12q29rq— keithlaw (@keithlaw) February 5, 2013