This Nationals list is not quite as robust as it was earlier this off-season before three of the team’s top propsects (Peacock, Norris, and Cole) were dealt away to acquire lefty Gio Gonzalez. Though some of the depth has disappeared, a list that features one of the games elite prospects and the top college bat in last year’s draft is still a very strong prospect list.
1. Bryce Harper (OF)
Potentially the most hyped prospect ever, Harper has managed to meet and exceed the incredible expectations that were placed on him. Harper has elite power that plays well in games right now and also offers an 80 arm. He has hit better out of the gate than most scouts expected and his defense in the outfield has come along quickly. Still a teenager, he will likely make his Major League debut in 2012 and he could be an impact player from day one.
2. Anthony Rendon (3B)
Rendon falling to the Nationals in the draft last summer gives the club another elite offensive prospect. A player that should move quickly through the system, Rendon profiles as a plus-plus hitter with good on-base abilities and the potential for strong defense at third base. There are questions about his ultimate power ceiling, but the rest of his offensive game should be able to pick up the slack. Rendon could make his MLB debut in 2013 and be part of the long term core in Washington.
3. Alex Meyer (RHP)
Another Nationals first round pick last year, Meyer is the ultimate high risk, high reward prospect. He stands at a massive 6-foot-9 on the mound and has the power arsenal to match his size. His fastball consistently sits in the low- to mid-90s with strong downward plane and his upper 80s slider is also a plus pitch. He has yet to master the change-up and his control can come and go with his mechanics. Scouts are split on whether his future is in the rotation or at the back end of games.
4. Brian Goodwin (OF)
The Nationals’ third pick in the first round last summer, Goodwin is a potential impact player in center field. He is a 70-grade runner that is still learning the nuances of being a good defender. He offers a plus arm that plays well in center. Goodwin’s pitch recognition and place discipline are advanced for his age and they help him profile as a strong hitter. It takes projection but he has the strength to develop average power down the line. Still raw, Goodwin will take time to develop, but he could be a an everyday center fielder that hits at the top of the lineup.
5. Destin Hood (OF)
Hood is an impressive athlete that can run, hit and hit for power. He is a plus runner capable of stealing 20 bases each year. His hitting ability has developed well over the last two years and he should post a solid average with the strength for average power down the line. He does well defensively on an outfield corner and he has the plus arm needed for right field. Hood is still two years away from the big leagues and he could be an average everyday corner guy at his peak.
6. Matt Purke (LHP)
Coming out of high school and following his freshman year of college Purke was considered one of the best young pitching prospects in the country. He has battled injury issues over the last year and his stuff hasn’t been anywhere near the same during that time. When right, Purke has a plus fastball with exceptional movement and a devastating slider. His change-up shows as an average pitch. If he can prove he is healthy and the quality of his raw stuff returns, Purke has the potential to be a stud number two starter.
7. Michael Taylor (OF)
With some of the biggest and broadest tools on this list, Taylor has the potential to be an All-Star if it all comes together for him. He is an average to plus runner that is a strong defender in center field. He also offers plenty of arm strength. His entire offensive game will hinge on his ability to hit, something that is a huge question among scouts. Taylor strikes out a ton and struggles mightily with pitch recognition. If he can hit, his power has the potential to play at a plus level. There’s a lot of risk in Taylor’s prospect status but the potential payoff is worth the risk.
8. Paul Demny (RHP)
I’m higher on Demny than most other prognosticators and I believe strongly that he can be a solid number three or four starter. His fastball can get as high as 96 mph when he reaches back for it and he can also turn it over with heavy sink in the upper-80s. His slider is a potential plus pitch with hard bite and his change-up shows promise. All of his pitches have tremendous movement and he struggles to command them at times. Demny has a durable frame and an extremely competitive nature. Double-A will be a stiff test for him in 2012 but if he performs well he could be on the big league radar at some point in 2013.
9. Sammy Solis (LHP)
Solis has a similar ceiling to Demny, profiling as a potential number four starter that keeps his team in the game. Primarily a fastball pitcher, Solis must develop his curveball and change-up further. Both pitches lack consistency and are only intermittently quality offerings. His fastball works at 92-93 mph with good life and angle to the plate. With improved command of his fastball he should be able to set up hitters better and use his secondary pitches even when they aren’t at their best.
10. Steve Lombardozzi (2B)
Lombardozzi can hit. He features plus natural hitting ability with an aggressive approach and a knack for contact as either a right or left-handed hitter. He doesn’t work counts or offer any power in his game, leaving him completely reliant on his batting average to have value. He is a heady defender at second base and stretched thin at either shortstop or third base. He could be a fringe-average regular at the keystone if the bat plays at the big league level.
11. Josh Smoker (LHP)
Smoker revived his career in 2011 after a switch to the bullpen. He features a heavy 92-94 mph fastball that gets on hitters quickly. His delivery has some deception and he comes over the top giving him good angle to the plate. His slider was rarely needed in A-ball as he blew the ball past hitters but he does have the potential for a solid second pitch. Smoker’s control still lags behind and will have to catch up for him to have a high leverage profile. As of now he could be an overpowering situational reliever.
12. Matt Skole (3B)
Skole’s prospect status hinges entirely on his ability to stick at third base, a proposition that many area scouts remain skeptical of. If he can stick at the hot corner with even fringe-average defense, Skole has enough of an offensive profile to be a solid regular. He has plus raw power from the left side and can drive the ball out to any part of the park. He has an advanced approach at the plate with the ability to work counts and find pitches he can drive.
13. Kylin Turnbull (LHP)
A lefty that will show plus velocity at times, much of Turnbull’s game remains highly inconsistent. He more frequently shows average velocity for a lefty and he often struggles to command his fastball in the zone. Turnbull also throws a splitter and slider, with the slider occasionally flashing as a hard out pitch. Scouts can project on Turnbull’s 6-foot-4 and lanky frame, with some believing he could become a solid number four starter down the line.
14. Sandy Leon (C)
Leon is one of the minor leagues most impressive defenders. He receives exceptionally well and manages the pitching staff with the skill of a veteran backstop. He consistently turns in sub-1.9 second pop times with a lightning quick release and a powerful arm. He has little in the way of offensive projection and is likely only a backup catcher at the big league level. With his defensive skills and plus makeup, Leon should reach the big leagues on his defense alone.
15. Tyler Moore (1B)
Moore is a very traditional first base prospect that must rake to maintain his status. He takes an aggressive approach to hitting that can get him in trouble when pitchers get ahead of him and begin mixing their pitches. When he makes contact it is often loud, as he features plus-plus power to all fields. He is a good defender at first base and could be an asset at the position. As a right-handed hitting slugger, Moore must mash at every level in order to get a true shot in the big leagues.