Nothing Minor about these Ten Nationals

There are 13 days left before the Nationals’ pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Viera, Fla. That means there isn’t a better time to look at impact prospects in the Nationals system than now. We won’t rank them–ESPN’s Keith Law did that for us. It is hard enough to rank the Super Bowl teams, and there are just two, let alone the Top 10 Nationals prospects. It is the type of arbitrary system that if ten people ranked them, there would be ten different results. That’s just how it works.


Here is the Nationals’ Top 10 Prospects:


Bryce Harper AFl 1.jpg1- OF Bryce Harper:
Harper became a household name when he was anointed by Sports Illustrated as “Baseball’s Chosen One” as a 16-year-old sophomore in high school. He has lived up to the lofty expectations in his short professional career too. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft from the College of Southern Nevada, moved to right field during the Instructional League and proved he can play there in the Arizona Fall League. He faced the top pitching prospects in the AFL and hit .343/.410/.629 with one home run in 35 at-bats as a taxi-squad player. The brazen 18-year-old with superstar potential was possibly the most-hyped prospect in Draft history, besting teammate Stephen Strasburg. He won’t be in the Majors in 2011 but don’t ever count him out for buzz-worthy quotes or memorable made-up words like “oppo-boppo.”


2- C Derek Norris: It was an interesting 2010 year for Norris to say the least. The Nats top catching prospect with a Russell Martin like build and playing style enjoyed his first Big League camp after he broke his hamate bone in 2009. But he then missed the first month of the 2010 season due to complications from surgery. Shortly after he returned to action, he was sidelined again when he was hit in the head with a 95 mph fastball. He never fully recovered until the Arizona Fall League. He hit .278 (15-for-54) with 19 RBI, 11 walks and a .403 on-base percentage in the AFL. The 22-year-old is a beast at the plate with a short, strong and compact swing with power to all fields and has led his league in walks each of the past seasons.


Wilson Ramos 1.JPG3- C Wilson Ramos:
The 6-foot-0, 220 pound Ramos is built like a linebacker and has legs like Secretariat. He will enter the spring as part of the Nats’ catching platoon with Rodriguez, much like how they rotated starts in September, but he could become the No. 1 catcher by midseason. He led Aragua to the Venezuelan Winter League finals, batting .296 with seven doubles, a triple, two home runs and 21 RBI in 24 games.


4- RHP AJ Cole: Cole was drafted in the fourth round in the 2010 Draft out of Oviedo (Fla.) High School. He has the potential to be a frontline starter and could move fairly quickly for a high school draftee. His fastball has touched the mid-to-upper 90s, and he continues to master a solid curveball. His change-up may be a work in progress, but shows promising potential. He will likely start the season with Single-A Hagerstown.


Danny Espinosa Curtain Call.JPG5- SS Danny Espinosa:
He is a switch hitter who can hit for power to both sides of the field. He is a sound defensive player too. He played shortstop at Long Beach State–a shortstop factory–and was drafted in 2008 and continued to play the position until he was converted into a second baseman when he was called up to Triple-A Syracuse in August. It was an inevitable move for him with the Nationals knowing full well it wouldn’t be long before he arrived in the Big Leagues where Ian Desmond was already proving his potential as the Nationals’ shortstop of the future. Despite the change of position, Espinosa has excelled and his days as a shortstop seem to have only strengthened his ability to play with speed and agility.

6- LHP Sammy Solis: The 2010 Draft will always be about Bryce Harper, but don’t sleep on Solis. He was the 51st overall selection in last year’s Draft out of the University of San Diego and he signed two days before the Aug. 16 deadline. He was impressive against older competition in the Arizona Fall League and posted a 3.80 ERA in 24 innings. He will likely start the season at Single-A Potomac and could arrive in DC sometime next season.


Eury Perez 1.jpg7- OF Eury Perez:
Perez adjusted well to Single-A ball and showed signs of improvement throughout the summer months. The 20-year-old athletic center fielder has plus-speed and he utilizes it both defensively, at the plate and on the base paths. He finished second in the Minors with 64 steals and succeeded at an 83 percent rate, up from 67 percent in 2009. He will likely start the season at Single-A Potomac.


8- LHP Robbie Ray: Ray is another high school pitching gem from the 2010 Draft. The 12th-round pick from Tennessee –slightly misleading because it was assumed he had a strong commitment to pitch at the University of Arkansas which hurt his Draft stock–pitched one inning for the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters. He will likely start the season with Single-A Hagerstown.


9- 1B Chris Marrero: Marrero was ranked No. 1 on Baseball America’s list entering the 2008 season but he broke the fibula in his right leg and tore ligaments in his ankle on a slide at home plate. After recovering, he turned in a solid Double-A performance in 2010 to claim a spot on Washington’s 40-man roster. Marrero hit .306 and impressed his Manager, Pat Listach, with his defense in the Puerto Rican League playing with teammate and friend Danny Espinosa. He is becoming a more consistent overall hitter. He was selected to the Eastern League All-Star team and showcased his plus-raw power by finishing second in the Home Run Derby, hitting 13 home runs in two rounds. He will likely start the season in Triple-A Syracuse.


10- OF Destin Hood: Hood had a nice April to start out the 2010 season and is beginning to see the fruits of his hard labor. He came to Spring Training last season in tremendous shape determined to succeed on the field, at the plate and on the base paths. Destin possesses well-above-average raw power and is working to improve his command of the strike zone by creating a consistent approach at the plate. The 20-year-old Hood is one of the younger prospects in the organization. He has shown tremendous strides in the past year batting .285 (140-for-492) with 65 RBI in 129 games with Single-A Hagerstown.


Baseball America has a slightly different ranking–don’t we all–but Harper is the unanimous No. 1.


Top 10 Prospects 2011

1. Bryce Harper, of

2. Derek Norris, c

3. Danny Espinosa, ss/2b

4. A.J. Cole, rhp

5. Wilson Ramos, c

6. Sammy Solis, lhp

7. Cole Kimball, rhp

8. Eury Perez, of

9. Chris Marrero, 1b

10. Brad Peacock, rhp


In case you forgot or never knew… here are the rankings for the past few seasons. You can use it to discredit the ranking system or use it as proof to show just how hard it is to turn potential into Major League results.


Top 10 Prospects 2010 (according to Baseball America)

1. Stephen Strasburg, rhp

2. Derek Norris, c

3. Drew Storen, rhp

4. Ian Desmond, ss

5. Danny Espinosa, ss

6. Chris Marrero, 1b

7. Jeff Kobernus, 2b

8. Justin Maxwell, of

9. Michael Burgess, of

10. Destin Hood, of


Top 10 Prospects 2009

1. Jordan Zimmermann, rhp

2. Ross Detwiler, lhp

3. Chris Marrero, 1b

4. Michael Burgess, of

5. Jack McGeary, lhp

6. Derek Norris, c

7. Destin Hood, of

8. Adrian Nieto, c

9. J.P. Ramirez, of

10. Carlos Alvarez, ss


Top 10 Prospects 2008

1. Chris Marrero, 1b

2. Ross Detwiler, lhp

3. Collin Balester, rhp

4. Michael Burgess, of

5. Jack McGeary, lhp

6. Josh Smoker, lhp

7. Jordan Zimmermann, rhp

8. Glenn Gibson, lhp

9. Justin Maxwell, of

10. Colton Willems, rhp

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