The Washington Nationals landed four players on MLB.com's List of the Top 100 Prospects in baseball for 2012 with OF Bryce Harper (no.2), 3B Anthony Rendon (no.27), right-hander Alex Meyer (no.83) and LHP Sammy Solis (no.86) all representing the Nats' organization. Harper (no.2), the Nats' 2010 no.1 overall pick and Anthony Rendon (no.17), the Nats' first 1st Round pick in 2011, were the only two Nationals' prospects to make ESPN.com's Keith Law's Top 100. Baseball Prospectus' writer Kevin Goldstein's List of the Top 101 Prospects in baseball was released last night. Harper, (no.2), finished behind only Rays' LHP Matt Moore as the top position player on Mr. Goldstein's prospect list as he did on MLB.com's Top 100. Harper was behind LAA's OF Mike Trout on ESPN.com's Keith Law's list, with Moore 3rd. The Nats' top prospect is joined on Baseball Prospectus' list by Rendon (no.26) and 2011 3rd Round pick Matt Purke (no.91).
Matt Purke is, of course, the 21-year-old, 6'4'', left-hander drafted out of TCU 93rd overall last June by the Nats, who was a Texas Rangers' 1st Round pick (14th overall) in 2009, but failed to sign. Purke instead attended college where he went (16-0) as a freshman with the Horned Frogs, striking out 142 K's (10.99 K/9) and walking 34 (2.63 BB/9) in 20 starts and 116.1 IP in 2010 before an injury-shortened 2011 campaign in which he was (5-1) with a 1.71 ERA, a .187 BAA, 20 walks (3.42 BB/9) and 61 K's (10.42 K/9) in 11 starts and 52.2 IP.
The left-hander, described by D.C. GM Mike Rizzo last summer as a "quick-to-the-big-leagues college-type of pitcher," was the top-ranked lefty in the Nats' system on Baseball America's updated list of the top prospects in Washington's organization. ESPN.com's Keith Law had Purke 7th as the second-best left-hander in the Nats' organization behind 2010 2nd Round pick Sammy Solis, who was 4th overall with Purke 6th on MLB.com's Top prospects list for the Nationals. Purke satisfied the Nationals' concerns (as they explained when introducing the left-hander last summer) about the shoulder issues Purke dealt with in 2011 before they signed him last August.
The Nats were comfortable enough with the left-hander's left shoulder, after having their doctors perform an MRI arthrogram, that they gave the pitcher a well-above slot 4-year/$4.15 million dollar deal. "If he’s healthy, he’s worth it," MLB.com's scouts write in the report included on their 2012 Prospect watch, describing him as, "a southpaw with a plus fastball, a plus slider and a pretty good changeup," and, "If he’s the Purke of old, he’s a frontline starter in the making," in their opinion. Purke pitched in the Arizona Fall League, giving up three walks, 12 hits and 11 runs in seven games and 7.1 IP over which he struck out five batters.
2011 1st Round pick Anthony Rendon too battled shoulder and ankle issues during his Junior year at Rice which led to him falling to the Nationals at 6th overall when he was once considered a potential no.1 overall pick. The 21-year-old infielder's shoulder issues sapped his power in his draft year, but he finished the season with a .327/.520/.523 line, twenty doubles, six home runs and 27 RBI's in 63 games and 214 AB's a year after he'd put up a .394/.530/.801 slash with 26 HR's, 65 walks and just 22 K's in 63 games in 2010. The Nationals decided against sending Rendon to the AFL this year since he hadn't played since the previous May, but before he's played a professional game, the 6'0'', 190 lb right-handed hitting and throwing third baseman is the third-highest ranked third baseman in baseball on MLB.com's Top Prospects list, the top-rated 3B on ESPN.com's Keith Law's list and now the third-highest ranked 3B on Kevin Goldstein's list at Baseball Prospectus.
Rendon, Purke, Alex Meyer and outfielder Brian Goodwin, all of whom were 2011 Draft picks are ranked high on each of the Nats' organizational rankings since they traded away their three top pitching prospects and their top-rated catching prospect in the deal with the Oakland A's that brought Gio Gonzalez to Washington. Former Nationals' prospects RHP A.J Cole (no.60), Brad Peacock (no.64) and C Derek Norris (no.96) all made Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein's Top 101 list. The trade with the A's resulted in the Nationals falling from the top of the 2012 organizational rankings, from no.1 overall to the "5-10 range" (according to BA's Jim Callis via the Washington Times' Amanda Comak) and to 21st overall on ESPN.com's Mr. Law's organizational rankings.
The Nats' GM believes the Nationals have the talent in the organization and in the front office to continue producing the sort of talent that's currently filling up spots throughout 2012 top prospect rankings. Even after parting with three of their top pitching prospects this winter, the Nationals' general manager told reporters this winter, "We've got a wave of pitchers coming behind them and even a further wave beyond that," Rizzo said, "and I put the onus on [Assistant GM] Roy Clark and [Scouting Director] Kris Kline and Doug Harris our farm director to keep identifying, signing and developing good, young, power starting pitching." There won't be another haul like the 2011 Draft class again, Rizzo acknowledged, with the changes to the Draft in the new CBA, but strong seasons from the Nationals' top prospects could land them high on all the organizational rankings again when they're updated next winter.