Manager: Mike Rizzo
League Director: Doug Harris
Director: Kris Kline
Syracuse Chiefs (International League) 66-74
Harrisburg Senators (Eastern League) 80-62
A: Potomac Nationals (Carolina League) 68-71
A: Hagerstown Suns (South Atlantic League) 75-64
Adv.: Auburn Doubledays (NY-Penn League) 45-30
GCL Nationals (Gulf Coast League) 20-33
DSL Nationals (Dominican Summer League) 33-36
Nationals have made huge strides to become relevant of the past few
years, going from 59 wins in the 2008 and 2009 seasons to winning 80
(80-81) games in 2011, the first time the franchise has won at least
80 games since their last .500 season in 2005. Their misfortunes in
2008 and 2009 enabled them to secure the top pick each proceeding
year and draft two of the top prospects of the last generation, RHP
Stephen Strasburg and OF Bryce Harper. They haven't been hesitant to
spend money despite mediocre attendance numbers (14th in
the NL in 2011) as they have consistently been one of the big
spenders in the draft and went deep into their pockets to sign free
agent outfielder Jayson Werth in 2010.
kept the team from passing the .500 mark in 2011 was a weak offense
that finished 12th in the National League in scoring and
led the league in strikeouts. While the Nationals hit some home
runs, they had three starters with on-base percentages under .300,
and only OF/1B Michael Morse and C Wilson Ramos were above average
offensive producers for their position.
should be noted that the Nationals home stadium is almost neutral in
the offensive/defensive spectrum amongst major league parks, having
ranked 18th each of the last two years.
was interesting, therefore, when the Nationals two biggest moves
during the offseason were both to bolster what is already a very good
pitching staff. The Nationals finished sixth in the National League
in ERA last season despite essentially having Livan Hernandez
pitching in place of the injured Strasburg.
Washington traded arguably four of their top prospects in RHP Brad
Peacock, RHP A.J. Cole, C Derek Norris and LHP Tom Milone to Oakland
for 26 year old All-Star LHP Gio Gonzalez (31-21 the past two seasons
and under contract until at least 2016). They then signed 28-year
old Edwin Jackson on a one year contract as a free agent. Their
starting rotation of Gonzalez, Jackson, Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman
and John Lannan could be among the best in baseball if Strasburg and
Zimmerman are fully recovered from the surgeries that have held them
Nationals bullpen, headed up by Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, also
ranks among the most effective in the game.
key to the 2012 season and beyond appears to be how much offense the
Nationals can develop from essentially what they already have in the
system. Aside from improvement from 2011 rookies 2B Danny Espinosa
and Ramos and a return to 2009 form for 3B Ryan Zimmerman, the key
component will likely be Harper. There is already plenty of
speculation that Harper could start the season in the Major Leagues
as a 19-year old, and there is certainly nothing on his resume that
indicates that a normal development has anything to do with the left
handed slugger. Seeing as the Nationals had Lance Nix, Rick Ankiel
and Roger Bernadina as regular outfielders last year, Harper has a
low bar to shoot for.
Nationals 2011 draft is very easy to break down. They essentially
went all-in on their first four picks, spending $13.75M to sign four
players who were projected to be potential first round picks in 3B
Anthony Rendon, RHP Alex Meyer, OF Brian Goodwin and LHP Matt Purke.
rest of the draft was very straight forward and simple, as the
Nationals stuck straight to slot and spent only $801,000 on their
picks in rounds four through 10, including senior signs with their
picks in the sixth and seventh rounds. With all the money spent on
signing the first four picks, it’s understandable that they didn’t
go far over slot to sign any players from the 10th round
along with Bryce Harper, represents the offensive future of the
franchise. The Rice slugger underperformed in 2011 due to a
lingering shoulder injury, but is one of the most polished offensive
performers to come out of the college ranks in years and should move
quickly through the minor leagues.
Goodwin and Purke are all potential high ceiling talents whose
development will likely be on a bit slower schedule than Rendon’s,
although Meyer was one of the most improved pitchers in college
baseball last spring and already has a dominant pitch in a mid to
upper 90s fastball. Purke is the wild card, as the former 2009 first
rounder was never healthy in 2011, and will probably be handled with
kid gloves by the Nationals player development staff until he proves
himself fully recovered.
and signing the latter three became doubly important when the
Nationals traded Peacock, Cole, Norris and Milone for Gonzalez during
the off-season. If it weren’t for the money spent in the 2011
draft, that trade would have left the Nationals system seriously
decimated at the upper talent levels.
sleeper of the draft class could be fifth round pick 3B Matt Skole
out of Georgia Tech. The left handed hitter is a pure and polished
hitter who has hit at all levels and had a strong season in the New
York Penn League after signing (.290-5-48/.820 OPS). Skole will
likely need to move to first base as he moves up the ladder, but
projects as a Casey Kotchman type hitter and should at least be a
valuable utility/left handed pinch hitter type.
Nationals have not made much of an impact on the international
scouting market yet but that may change in the near future. Both GM
Mike Rizzo and Assistant GM Roy Clark have strong track records in
Latin America during their previous tenures with the Diamondbacks and
OF Bryce Harper - Baseball-Reference player profile
more needs to be written about Bryce Harper looking into the past, as
he is probably the most hyped and closely examined prospect of this
or perhaps any other generation. He has a realistic chance of being
a major contributor to the Washington Nationals this year as a
19-year old should the Nationals management think he will give them a
better chance of winning than by playing the other outfield
alternatives. There doesn’t appear to be anyone standing in his
Harper’s chances of contributing in 2012 short would not be a wise
thing. This is the player who hit .443-31-98/1.513 OPS with a wood
bat in junior college in 2010 when he should have been a high school
junior. He dominated the South Atlantic League and Arizona Fall
League as an 18-year old and held his own in the AA Eastern League.
have been only 17 position players in Major League history who have
played 100 or more games in a season before their 20th birthday. Amazingly, Robin Yount and Phil Cavarretta did it twice.
So Harper would be joining a very exclusive fraternity.
four players who it would be best to compare Harper to in order to
gauge expectations for 2012 would be Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr,
Yount and Edgar Renteria, the last teenager to play 100 games in a
a native of Columbia, actually had over 100 minor league at bats as a
15-year old and almost 1800 minor league at bats total before his
Major League debut, an incredible total for his age. He hit
.309-5-31/.757 as a rookie in 1996 and finished second in the ROY
balloting to Todd Hollandsworth.
had 52 at bats as an 18-year old in 1994 and 142 as a 19-year old
(.232-5-19/.672) in 1995. However, he was perhaps the best player in
baseball in 1996 as a 20-year old, hitting .358-36-120/1.045 and
somehow finishing only second (to Juan Gonzalez) in the MVP
hit .250-3-26/.622 as an 18-year old rookie and .267-8-52/.674 as a
19-year old. His power really didn’t start developing until he was
was a full-time starter as a 19-year old in 1989 and hit a very
respectable .264-16-61/.748. He upped that to .300-20-80/.847 as a
20-year old and was off to a Hall of Fame career.
Harper were to just duplicate Griffey’s 19-year old performance he
would be more productive than any of the Nationals 2011 outfielders,
including $126M man Jayson Werth. That’s certainly well within the
realm of possibility. The chances of his even approaching A-Rod’s
20-year old season are long enough to almost be out of the question,
but then it certainly is realistic to say that he can surpass Griffey
if given the chance.
3B Anthony Rendon -
Baseball-Reference player profile
scouts simply misevaluate a player and that was the case with Rendon
coming out of Lamar High School in Houston. Despite hitting close to
.600 with 14 home runs for one of the highest profile schools in
Houston, Rendon created minimal draft buzz and was picked in the 27th round by the Braves. Braves scouting director Roy Clark had Rendon
put on a team at the WWBA 18U World Championships that July to
further evaluate him and he was one of the most dominant hitters at
the event. When the PG staff remarked to Clark that Rendon had first
round bat speed, he emphatically answered “I know! I just don’t
think I can get him signed.”
was the top hitter in college baseball his first two years at Rice
and projected to be the top pick in the 2011 draft heading into the
spring. A shoulder injury early in the season robbed Rendon of his
plus/plus bat speed, however, and limited him to a DH role for the
rest of the season. Uncertainty about the extent of Rendon’s
injury made him a wild card entering the draft and the Nationals were
able to draft him with the sixth overall pick. Coming on the heels
of the Nationals drafting Steven Strasburg and Bryce Harper with the
first picks in 2009 and 2010, it’s easy to argue that the team has
nabbed the top overall prospect in three consecutive drafts if Rendon
returns to complete health.
plays the same position as 3B Ryan Zimmerman, who the Nationals will
likely want to have around long after his present contract runs out
in 2013. He has played second base before and would have no problem
athletically in left field. That is a scenario that will eventually
play out and play out quickly if Rendon hits as he is capable of
RHP Alex Meyer - Baseball-Reference player profile
was a loose and extremely projectable young right hander from Indiana
when he pitched at the 2007 Perfect Game National Showcase. Here is
his report from that event.
Meyer is a 2008 RHP with a 6'7'', 200 lb. frame from Greensburg, IN
who attends Greensburg HS. He has a very long, tall and loose build
that hasn't come close to reaching physical maturity yet. Meyer
throws from a low effort tall delivery that he repeats well and
maintains good balance from. He arm stroke is clean and extremely
fast; he has as much pure arm speed as any pitcher in the 2008 class
and has excellent extension out front.. Meyer's fastball topped out
at 95 mph and was rarely under 92 mph from a good downward plane.
His breaking ball was an 80-81 mph slurve type slider that had some
downward break to it. Meyer's delivery lacks deception and his
slider isn't a swing/miss pitch at this point, so hitters got
reasonably good cuts at him despite his raw ability, but he has a
first round type arm and could be throwing very hard by next year's
draft. Scouts will certainly dream on him. Selected to 2007 Aflac
had an inconsistent spring in 2008 but the Red Sox drafted him in the
20th round and made a strong run to keep him away from
Kentucky, as Meyer eventually turned down a reported $2M offer just
before the deadline.
his lack of experience and deception, Meyer struggled his first two
years at Kentucky, going 1-4, 5.73 as a freshman and 5-3, 7.03 as a
sophomore despite excellent strikeout numbers. But he blossomed as a
junior and was one of the most improved pitchers in college baseball,
going 7-5, 2.94 as the Wildcats’ Friday starter. The improvement
came from two basic areas. First, Meyer was able to get his mid to
upper 90s fastball down into the bottom of the strike zone much more
consistently than he ever was able to do before. Secondly, he began
throwing his mid-80s slider with more confidence and going after
hitters instead of pitching around contact. That formula put him
into the first round and saw the return of the money, $2M, that he
had turned down coming out of high school.
LHP Sammy Solis - Baseball-Reference player profile
6-5/230 Solis has been held back over the past few years by back and
quad injuries but flashed dominant stuff when healthy for extended
periods of time, such as when he went 6-2, 2.70 over his last 10
starts in Hi A in 2011. He throws a heavy low 90s fastball that will
reach the mid 90s at times to go with a sharp downer curveball and
deceptive change up that are both potential plus offerings. Solis
has a very low effort delivery that he repeats well and has only
walked 23 hitters in 100 professional innings.
the fact that the Nationals traded three of their top pitching
prospect to acquire Gio Gonzalez and neither Alex Meyer nor Matthew
Purke have made their professional debuts, Solis is easily the most
advanced and talented pitching prospect in the system. There isn’t
an obvious, urgent need at the Major League level for pitching in
2012 but Solis will likely be right at the head of the line should a
LHP Matthew Purke - Baseball-Reference player profile
Nationals may have caught lightning in the bottle by signing Purke
with their third round pick (96th overall) to a $2.725M
signing bonus. They also might have paid for an expensive and long
term rehabilitation project.
was the Rangers first round pick (14th overall) in 2009
but did not sign, in large part due to the financial situation
involving the bankruptcy sale of the Rangers franchise. He went to
TCU and went 16-0, 3.02 with 142 K’s in 116 innings. If he had
been eligible for the 2010 draft it isn’t out of the question that
he might have gone second overall behind Bryce Harper and in front of
Jameson Taillon. As a sophomore eligible in 2011, Purke was
projected to be among the first three picks going into the spring by
just about every scout and analyst.
wasn’t to be, as Purke was bothered by back and blister problems
during the fall and winter, then by shoulder bursitis during the
spring, although he made nine starts and went 5-1, 1.44 when he was
able to take the mound. Scouts are perhaps more sensitive about
Purke’s shoulder than they would be most pitchers, as he throws
from an unconventional slinging low three-quarters release point and
doesn’t pack much muscle on his slender 6-foot-4 frame.
his best, Purke pitches in the 92-94 range with excellent life and
will show a plus slider and very good change up. He has an advanced
feel for pitching and will challenge hitters aggressively.
OF Brian Goodwin - Baseball-Reference player profile
Most Valuable Player of the PG/Aflac All-American Classic in 2008,
Goodwin has all the physical tools to be an impact player at the big
league level, especially if he can learn to use his plus speed well
enough to play centerfield. His above average throwing arm profiles
to right field, although that is a position that is already well
spoken for in Washington with Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper.
scouts sometimes waffle on Goodwin is on whether he will ever be
truly plus either in regards to his power production or his ability
to hit for average and reach base. He has the strength and bat speed
to hit 20-plus home runs and has shown consistent production as a
college freshman at North Carolina and as a sophomore at Miami Dade
Junior College, but his left handed swing has some stiffness and
rotation that usually limits power projection. The ability to become
a plus hitter in either category, in addition to his ability to
potentially stay in centerfield, will likely determine his future
ceiling as a big leaguer.
OF Destin Hood - Baseball-Reference player profile
had one of the most impressive debuts of any player in Perfect Game
history. He was more well known as a football wide receiver in high
school in Alabama and his first appearance at a WWBA/PG event was at
the PG National Showcase in Cincinnati in 2007. He ran a 6.62 in the
60, then proceeded to blast seven home runs in batting practice in an
incredible display of bat speed and power.
game skills were understandably a bit undeveloped but the Nationals
gave him a $1.1M bonus in 2008 to sign him away from playing football
and baseball at Alabama. He spent two years in rookie ball but
exploded in 2011 in the Hi A Carolina League as a 21-year old,
hitting .276-13-83/.802 with 21 steals while dramatically improving
his walk-to-strikeout ratio and taking big strides forward on defense
as well. The same type of improvement in 2012 could have Hood on the
verge of contributing in Washington by the end of the season.
2B Steve Lombardozzi - Baseball-Reference player profile
wrote this report on Lombardozzi after watching him at the 2006 East
of the former ML second baseman, there are plenty of resemblances.
Bat is his best tool, has a simple line drive approach and stays on
the ball a long time. High average approach and he had plenty of
hits during the showcase. Doesn’t project much power. Hits to all
fields and will fight off tough pitches. Limited to second base
pretty much defensively, has a quick release and good feet but his
arm is short for the left side of the infield. Betting he is an
over-achiever type like his dad.
pretty much nailed Lombardozzi. He’s got better as a hitter every
year since signing as a 19th round pick out of junior
college in 2008 and hit .309-8-52/.790 with 30 steals before being
called up last September. He made two errors in 539 minor league
chances last season, so to call him sure handed isn’t giving him
dad played in 446 games in the big leagues, the over/under is well in
favor of his son in that category.
LHP Robbie Ray - Baseball-Reference player profile
Nationals signed Ray for $799,000 as their 12th round pick
out of a Kentucky high school in 2010 and handled him with kid gloves
as a 19-year in low A ball, limiting him to 89 innings (2-3, 3.13, 95
Ks) in 20 starts.
Ray touched 94 mph at times in high school, he isn’t a true power
pitcher and is most comfortable working at 90-91 mph. He has a
polished delivery and simple mechanics that allow him to command all
his pitches well. He has great feel for his curveball and has the
ability to add and subtract from it and change the break according to
his need on a particular batter. His changeup is a potential plus
second off-speed pitch.
3B Matt Skole -
Baseball-Reference player profile
comes from a baseball family (his grandfather played professionally,
his father played in college and his brother, Jacob, was the Rangers
first round pick in 2010) and it shows in his approach to hitting.
He made an immediate impact at Georgia Tech, hitting .302-17-58 as a
freshman and .335-20-63 as a sophomore before settling down to
.348-10-58 with 44 walks with the new BBCOR bats as a junior. There
is no reason to believe that he isn’t going to continue hit well
enough to reach the big leagues.
his brother, Jacob, though, Skole is not a premium athlete and his
6-4/230 build limits him defensively. He has caught in the past and
played exclusively at third base during his initial professional
season, although he did play some first base at Georgia Tech as a
Others in the
Conversation: 1B Chris Marrero, SS Jason Martinson, 1B Tyler
Moore, LHP Josh Smoker, OF Michael Taylor, SS Zach Walters