Washington Nationals

Original Published Date: Nov. 8, 2012

Let’s face it; the Washington Nationals were bad at the right time.  By having the worst record in 2008 and 2009, they were able to draft two generational talents in Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg.  Both are already contributing at a high-level in the majors.   However, if you think their minor league organization is now void of talent, guess again.  While it’s a bit top heavy, there are several elite prospects that could be in Washington over the next couple of years, setting the Nats up to become a force for a long-time.

At the top of the list is third baseman Anthony Rendon.  With a promising hit-tool and future power, Rendon may only be months away from the majors if he can just stay healthy.  Brian Goodwin could be the answer for the Nationals in center field as he brings a dynamic speed/power combination with excellent defense.   Alex Meyer is an enormous man at 6-foot-9 with electric stuff and control that has been better than I thought when he was drafted.

The big wildcard in the system is 2012 first round pick, Lucas Giolito.  A teenager with a huge arm that demonstrated good command in high school had Tommy John Surgery after pitching two innings of professional ball.  He has top-of-the-rotation potential, but we might not see much of him until 2014.

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1. Anthony Rendon (3B)

  2013 Age: 22 BP: Texas
Ht: 6-0  Weight: 195 Bat: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013-14
2012 R-AA 133 28 6 12 0 .233 .363 78.2 17.3 .253

Very few right-handed hitters have a beautiful swing, but Anthony Rendon is an exception.  His setup is quiet; gently sliding his hands back into his load before exploding the bat through the zone.  His swing is compact giving his bat maximum contact ability as it travels through the zone.  It’s a plus hit-tool , with future plus power potential.  However, it’s hard to perform when you’re constantly sitting on the DL.

When you talk about Anthony Rendon, you have to talk about his injury history.  He had both shoulder and ankle injuries in college that limited his ability to play at a high-level.  His ankle injury had lasting effects as he lost some of his speed and now is considered an average runner.  Seemingly fully healthy, he fractured his ankle (his other ankle) in the second game of his professional career and missed most of the 2012 season.  Some will say the injuries were freak in nature, but at what point do you start labeling him as injury-prone?

The other question that has surfaced with Rendon is where he will play?  First, Rendon is an above-average third baseman with gold-glove potential.  However, Ryan Zimmerman plays that position in Washington and is signed through the end of the century.  There has been a lot of discussion about moving Rendon to second, but I don’t believe he has the quickness to play the position.  Furthermore, do you want to put a guy who has a history of injuries at one of the most physically demanding positions on the diamond?

As I look back through what I’ve written about Rendon in this profile, it might appear that I’m not high on him.  Actually, I’m not only high on Rendon, I think he has a chance to be a future star.  The swing will play, the power will come, and the defensive position will work itself out; and this might all happen in 2013.

Fantasy Impact: If Rendon would have played a full season in 2012, I believe he would have been a top 10 prospect in all of baseball.  However, you have to factor in his injury history and move him down the list.  That said, if I’m drafting in a Dynasty League, I’m all in on Rendon and taking him earlier than most.

2. Brian Goodwin (OF)

2013 Age: 20 BP: North Carolina
Ht: 6-1  Weight: 195 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2014
2012 A-AA 382 64 14 52 18 .280 .384 76.7 16.0 .329

I had a chance to see Brian Goodwin play several times in 2012 with the latest in the Arizona Fall League in November.  I really liked what I’ve seen and believe he has all-star potential with a nice power/speed combination.

Goodwin’s mechanics are solid with a nice compact swing and great bat speed.  The setup is a little noisy, but he’s able to get the bat head into the zone quickly and rotate his hips well to drive the ball.  I saw him hit an absolute bomb in the Rising Stars Game that showed the kind of power that Goodwin should be able to delivery in the future.

As an outfielder, I think he has a chance to be a first division center fielder.  He uses his speed well but his tracking of outfield balls could use some improvement.  While the Nationals have been playing Bryce Harper in center, Goodwin would be an upgrade defensively, albeit with a weaker arm.  I could see Harper holding down the fort until Goodwin is ready for the 2014 season.

Fantasy Impact: Goodwin will be a top 100 prospect but has a chance to be even a better fantasy player.  He has the power/speed combination you are looking for in a fantasy player with the ability to hit at the top of the lineup, particularly with his ability to take a walk.

3. Alex Meyer (RHP)

2013 Age: 23 BP: Indiana
Ht: 6-9 Weight: 220 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014-15
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 A-A+ 129.0 97 41 6 3.14 9.70 2.86 1.10

And now playing power forward for your Washington Bullets…I mean Wizards, is 6-foot-9 Alex Meyer.  Right…that sounds more plausible then 6-foot-9 Alex Meyer taking the mound, but that’s what we have.

Usually tall and long pitchers struggle with their release point and therefore their control, but Meyer hit the ground running in 2012 and pitched well with a 3.14 BB/9 in 129.0 innings.  It wasn’t always pretty, particularly in the beginning of the year where he had a stretch of 11 walks in 22.2 innings.  However, he improved as the year went on and had some down-right dominating performances towards the end of the year as he moved to High-A.

The arsenal is impressive with a fastball that sits in the mid 90’s, a plus slider that really gets a lot of swing and misses, and a change-up that looks pretty good as well.  His splits are fine and in fact, he’s nearly unhittable by both right and left-handed batters.  Throw in the size and his G/F rate of over 2.10 and Washington just might have something special with Meyer.

Meyer’s pitching mechanics are pretty good with nice balance and posture but the delivery is far from easy.  It really looks like he’s trying to throw hard; everything from his arm speed and facial expression show an exaggerated effort.  Over time, I think these mechanical issues will be smoothed out and the delivery improved.

In the end, I believe the path to success will not be linear for Meyer but he should move to Double-A next year and could get a look in 2014. There is a lot to like.

Fantasy Impact: I didn’t see Meyer pitch in college but just assumed that given his size, he would struggle.  It looks like I was wrong and my initial projection of a 3-4 starter might have been too low.  I think he has a ceiling of a number two pitcher that can delivery strikeouts and lot of ground outs.  I still think he’ll battle his mechanics from time-to-time, so his WHIP might be elevated.  You want to draft Meyer as the 20-25th minor league pitcher off the board in a Dynasty League.

4. Lucas Giolito (RHP)

2013 Age: 18 BP: California
Ht: 6-6 Weight: 225 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 R 2.0 2 1 0 0 2 4.50 1.00

Lucas Giolito was viewed as a potential number one overall pick in the 2012 draft, but an elbow injury in the second game of his senior season in high school, dropped him to the 16th pick and the Washington Nationals.

At 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, Giolito not only has size but a pitching arsenal that exceeds his age and experience.  He throws a mid 90’s fastball that can hit triple digits, a knock-out curve and a plus change-up.  His mechanics are excellent with great posture and balance, in fact the follow through and landing is nearly picture-perfect.  His delivery is easy with a long extension in his throwing elbow, almost telling the pitching Gods, no inverted W.  Yet, he blew out his elbow in August and had Tommy John Surgery (TJS) a few weeks later.

With a combination of elite stuff, good command and excellent pitching mechanics, you can see why the Nationals took the risk and signed Giolito with their first round pick knowing full well, there was a good chance that he needed TJS.  He has number one starter potential and with the success of TJS, this could be just a blip on the radar.  Remember, he’ll just turn 19 next July and should be back pitching shortly thereafter.

Fantasy Impact: Tough call.  If I’m drafting in a Dynasty League, I’m taking Giolito, but where?  Candidly, I don’t know as it will depend on your league mates tolerance for risk as well as the stability of the league.  If you’re confident that your league will exist for a long-time, you need to jump on Giolito early as the payoff could be huge.

5. Matt Skole (3B/1B)

2013 Age: 23 BP: Georgia
Ht: 6-4  Weight: 230 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2013-14
2012 A-A+ 413 84 27 104 11 .291 .426 67.8 24.0 .362

Anybody who hits 27 home runs in only 343 at-bats, no matter what the level, gets your attention.  That stat line belongs to Matt Skole of the Washington Nationals.

Skole was a fifth round pick in the 2011 draft out of Georgia Tech.  His best tool is bat speed that he leverages to hit balls a long way.  The swing is fairly long as you might imagine which helps to explain his 68% contact rate.  Also part of his profile is a 24% walk rate.

So, if you combine a lefty hitting 6-foot-4, 230 pound player who makes scary-poor contact with the ability to take a walk, you start having visions of Adam Dunn or Carlos Pena.  Candidly, that’s the upside of Matt Skole and while I don’t think he’s the next Adam Dunn, a Carlos Pena type player might not be  out of the question, although he’s a below average defender.

A similar profile is surfacing in the Arizona Fall League.  In 46 at-bats, he has 18 strikeouts, nine walks, and two home runs.  Will this play at the highest level?  The margin of error is razor thin but the bat speed is special and that just might be enough to push him there.  I do believe it will be as a first baseman or left fielder.

Fantasy Impact: I wouldn’t be drafting Skole in a Dynasty League, unless the league had 400 minor league slots.  However, he is definitely somebody to closely monitor.  The power has regressed and the strikeouts have increased as he’s moved to more difficult competition.

6. Michael Taylor (OF)

2013 Age: 23 BP: Georgia
Ht: 6-0  Weight: 230 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2013-14
2012 A+ 384 51 17 68 23 .242 .318 70.6 10.4 .333

When asked who in the Nationals system should “I know more about”.  The answer was frequently Michael Taylor.  I know many of you are thinking that he use to play for Oakland, but that’s a different Taylor.  Washington Michael Taylor is an athletic center fielder who has great speed and power potential.  Yeah, I know it sounds a lot like Oakland Michael Taylor, but it’s really a different guy.

The people I spoke with in prepping this profile love Taylor’s swing.  Although the swing is long and Taylor’s mechanics can get out of sync, they believe in his natural power stroke.  The approach is good with the ability to take pitches and a plan once he gets two strikes.  While I respect the opinion, I’m not as bullish as I think he’ll struggle against lefties and might in the end, be a platoon player or a fourth outfielder.

Fantasy Impact:  Taylor is an interesting prospect that is likely to be one-dimensional.  At this time, he’s not draftable in a Dynasty League.

7. Nathan Karns (RHP)

In his junior year in Texas Tech, Nate Karns had thoughts of going as a top 100 player in the Year of Trout (2009).  However, he pitched poorly and once drafted by the Nats in the 10th round, doctors found a torn labrum that cost him all of the 2010 season as well as good part of 2011.  Seemingly fully healthy, Karns had an impressive 2012, striking out 144 batters in 166.0 innings while walking 47.  Granted he was old for Low-A, his arsenal looked solid with a 92-93 MPH fastball and a nasty curveball that gets a lot of swing a misses.   I expect him to start 2013 in Double-A and he could be an early 2013 “Pop-up” guy.

8. Eury Perez (OF)

With seven home runs in four professional seasons, Perez is all about making contact and stealing bases.  Across three levels in 2012, Perez stole 49 bases including three in a September call-up.   While he makes good contact, he’s also super aggressive having only walked 15 times in 515 at-bats.  While I’m not sure Perez is much more than a fourth outfielder, he could provide sneaky short-term stolen base opportunities for fantasy owners.  So fantasy players, remember the name.

9. Chris Marrero (1B)

It was a bit of a lost season for first baseman Chris Marrero as he hit the DL in early April with a hamstring problem and never got it going.  In a 179 at-bats he hit three home runs and none in 127 at-bats in Triple-A.  Marrero does have power but struggles with his mechanics which can result in a loss of contact ability or just weak swings.  I’m not sure Marrero’s ceiling is much more than a utility player receiving 250 at-bats a year.

10. Sammy Solis (LHP)

Sammy Solis had a really nice 2011 season including a dominating performance that I saw him pitch in the Arizona Fall League.  Unfortunately, shortly after that start, Solis felt a twinge in his elbow and in March of 2012, had Tommy John Surgery.  He should be back on the mound in 2013 and if he recovers, has the ability to pitch in the majors.  He has a nice fastball that sits in the low 90’s with a good curve and change-up.  He also throws strikes, walking 11 in 56.1 innings in the Carolina League in 2011.

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