However, as I mentioned last week, my favorite part of these lists is the projected line-ups they provide to try and give fans a sneak peak into the future. Below is this years list projecting the Nationals 2014 lineup:
|First Base||Derek Norris|
|Second Base||Danny Espinosa|
|Third Base||Ryan Zimmerman|
|Left Field||Jayson Werth|
|Center Field||Eury Perez|
|Right Field||Bryce Harper|
|No. 1 Starter||Stephen Strasburg|
|No. 2 Starter||Jordan Zimmermann|
|No. 3 Starter||A.J. Cole|
|No. 4 Starter||Sammy Solis|
|No. 5 Starter||John Lannan|
Compared to Washington's 2011 projected lineup (created in 2007), this lineup is far more exciting. While we examined the massive inaccuracies of the last one, this list is much more believable as it has more legitimate major league ready prospects, a true testament to General Manager Mike Rizzo's hard work at re-establishing a strong farm system. Obviously this list doesn't take into account potential trades or free agent signings, which the Nationals have proven this winter they are more than willing to do, but it does give us our first glimpse into a projected lineup that we can actually see being a competitive ball club...and that's a major step.
There are two parts of this projection I find very interesting. First, that Baseball America has decided to finally make up the Nats mind up for them and make the transition from catcher to first base for slugger Derek Norris. Norris obviously is the second best hitter in the Nationals system, and while being a catcher makes him valuable, he projects in my mind to be a Justin Morneau type player who can hit 30+ home runs, get on base, and drive in runs at an elite level. Given the injuries he has sustained this season, which have hampered his development, it is a no brainer that Norris switch to either first base or corner outfield. Especially given the fact that the Nationals have such a log jam at catcher, with potentially good MLB players like Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores.
Second, I am very impressed at how Eury Perez has established himself as a serious prospect over the past two seasons. At just the age of 20 he has vaulted himself form relative obscurity to be listed ahead of the clubs former top prospect Chris Marrero and to be projected into the big leagues club projected lineup three years out. Listed as the organizations fastest runner and best defensive outfielder, Perez could very well be roaming centerfield in Washington between Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper. His presence on the projected lineup suggests that Baseball America at least sees him as having more talent than Nyjer Morgan, who by and large fizzles out this season. With game-changing speed and a bat that has serious potential to hit over .300, Perez very well could be the type of player we hoped Morgan would turn into; a .300/.350/.450 guy who will shrink the outfield with his speed and spray line drives all over the outfield.
A.J. Cole and Sammy Solis are both exciting young arms, although it's hard to really predict a pitching staff three years out, especially when they are all prospects. We have to remember that at the same point in their careers, Jack McGeary, Josh Smoker, Colin Ballester, and Clint Everts all seemed like potential major league starters too. They didn't pan out so well.
Interestingly enough, 2006 first round pick Ross Detwiler has been left off this list in favor of the aforementioned two prospects. Detwiler has long been considered one of the clubs top pitching prospects and an important part of their future. Early in his minor league career, he suffered through season-after-season of disappointment, only to show promise in 2009 after some adjustments thrusted him to the major leagues. Sadly a hip injury sidelined him for most of last season, year he was supposed to break-out. I for one haven't given up hope on the hurler but this is surely his last season to prove he can be a MLB starter.