In what seems like a bull-rush, several outlets have released their top 50/100 prospects lists. In most years this is an event lost on Nationals fans as our farm system has been rather depleted, however with the big draft in 2009, and our younger talent finally maturing, things have changed. Let's take a look at how we rank nationally.
ESPN.com's Keith Law ranked Stephen Strasburg their number two prospect in the country. While there obviously was great hype for Strasburg before he was drafted, he has hardly pitched at the professional level, where the number one prospect, Jason Heyward, has been a monster at all levels.
"Strasburg is the best starting pitcher in the Washington organization right now, and if he's not their No. 1 starter on Opening Day 2010 (for developmental or financial reasons), he almost certainly will be that guy by midyear. Strasburg will pitch at 94-98 mph as a starter -- maybe a tick less once he's working every fifth day and making 30-34 starts a year -- and has touched 100 repeatedly in the past, usually on a full week of rest. He has good life on the fastball to his glove side, and his curveball is as hard as a typical slider, with sharp late tilt that he uses to bury the pitch down and in to left-handed batters. He has a hard changeup with a screwball-ish fading action, but he rarely had to use it as an amateur because -- let's face it -- not many college hitters were going to square up a 98 mph fastball with life. What sets Strasburg apart from most pitchers who can throw 100 mph, even those who do it in relief, is how easily he does it, with tremendous arm speed and a delivery that he repeats well, featuring a long stride to the plate that has helped him pick up velocity since high school."
ESPN.com had slugging catcher Derek Norris ranked at the 31 spot.
"Norris is an offensive catcher whose defense is the subject of major debate among pro scouts. He does have arm strength, but his receiving and footwork are considered shaky; he's a good height (6-0) and hasn't outgrown the position yet, but he's thickly built. Adding much more weight could cost him his ability to stay behind the plate. If he does remain a catcher, he has superstar potential and could end up in the top 15-20 prospects next fall because he has an advanced approach at the plate (finishing 15th in walks in the minors last year) and already hits for power -- his 2009 was more impressive than it seems at first glance: He wore down in his first full pro season and hit just .174/.405/.233 after July. Norris missed the Arizona Fall League after breaking his hamate bone, an injury that lacks long-term consequences but usually saps a hitter's power for up to a year after the surgery, so it's not a crisis if his power dips in 2010."
MLB.com agreed with ESPN on putting Strasburg at number two.
"Scouting report: Fastball that reached triple digits in college and sits easily in the upper-90s. His power breaking ball -- some call it a curve, others a slider -- is also a plus pitch that is virtually unhittable. He didn't show a changeup much in college, but when he got to the Arizona Fall League, he threw it regularly, and scouts said it has the chance to be a plus pitch, as well. He's big, strong and durable with relatively clean mechanics and good command.
Upside potential: An ace at the top of a rotation who annually competes for Cy Young Awards and other similar hardware."
MLB.com ranked the Nationals 10th overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Drew Stroen, the 40th best prospect in baseball. This is the highest anyone has ranked him nationally, and one of the first times he's been considered a better prospect than the Nationals own Derek Norris (who was not ranked).
"Scouting report: Storen has what you want in a short reliever: outstanding stuff and a bulldog mentality. He goes right after hitters with a fastball he can push into the mid-to-upper-90s at times, plus some nasty hard breaking stuff. He's shown some feel for a changeup, as well. Storen matches his stuff with a great work ethic and a mean competitive streak.
Upside potential: A big league closer in the very near future."
FANHOUSE had four Nationals players ranked in their top 100 prospects list, including Stephen Strasburg as their number one overall talent:
"The Skinny: Who else could it be? Despite some early struggles in the Arizona Fall League, Strasburg looked as advertised this fall. He'll bring his 100-mph fastball into big-league camp next month, and looks like a favorite to nab a spot in Washington's rotation. We'll see if he forces the organization's hand or if he needs some seasoning in Triple-A."
FANHOUSE, unlike MLB.com, ranked catcher Derek Norris well above Drew Storen, and labeled him as the 35th best prospect in the nation. Fanhouse also added Chris Marrero as their 63rd prospect, and Drew Storen as their 79th.
"The Skinny: The Nationals' farm system has made tremendous progress in the last year or so and Norris is one of the best examples of that. Norris showed plus power and the ability to handle his catching duties. If he can stick at catcher he's going to be a very valuable commodity, but his bat should be able to play at any position."