In their annual release rating prospects from all 30 MLB teams, BaseballAmerica.com has rated the Washington Nationals prospects, and they like what they see almost as much as we do. It wasn't long ago that the Nationals farm system was among the worst and most depleted in baseball. Now, the folks at BA say the "once-barren farm system" is "now bursting with talent."
BA's refreshing and positive opinion of the Nationals organization was certainly solidified by the teams strong finish on the big league level last season with former members of the Top 10 list: C Wilson Ramos and 2B Danny Espinosa. These two rookies helped truly show the strength of young talent in the organization along with RHP Stephen Strasburg's solid return from Tommy John surgery (1-1, 1.50 ERA, 24 IP, 24 K).
The list of Top 10 Prospects does have some decidedly different names from the 2011 list, and that's simply because 4 of the top 10 were drafted in the most recent Amateur Draft. Here is the Top Prospect list according to Baseball America, with a bit of information on the elite group, with more on the Top 3.
1. Bryce Harper, OF - No surprise here, Harper is going to be the TOp Prospect for the Nats until he gets enough time in the Majors that he doesn't qualify for the honor any longer. He and Stephen Strasburg were once in their generation players that the Nats were both able to land and seeing them on the field at the same time soon will be an awesome sight.
2. Anthony Rendon, 3B - Rendon was the Top Ranked Prospect by BA this year, and he slid to 6th overall because of a recent injury. By drafting Rendon, the Nats acquired the #1 prospect according to BA for the 3rd consecutive year. He is a 3rd baseman by trade, and that position is spoken for by The Franchise Ryan Zimmerman, but it should be a situation that's fixed easily by the time Rendon is ready to appear. Either by moving Rendon to 2nd base and sliding Espinosa to shortstop, or moving Zimmerman to 1st base because of his recurring injuries and letting Rendon take his familiar position.
3. Brad Peacock, RHP - Peacock made 3 stellar starts for the Nats this season after dominating in the Minors enough to earn him the Organizational Minor League Pitcher of the Year. There's a lot left to see from Peacock, but he will certainly compete for a rotation spot to start the 2012 season, but the team has enough talent at SP that he may be out of luck to start the year of the Nats sign a free agent starter.
4. A.J. Cole, RHP - Cole was drafted in the 4th round of the 2010 Amateur Draft, so he fell off the radar because of the Harper signing, but he showed a lot of progress.
5. Brian Goodwin, OF - Another 1st round pick from the 2011 Amateur Draft, 34th overall. (compensation round).
6. Alex Meyer, RHP - Yet another 1st round pick from the 2011 Amateur Draft, 23rd overall.
7. Matt Purke, LHP - Purke's stock dropped him to the 3rd round of the 2011 Amateur Draft because of bursitis in his throwing shoulder during his sophomore year at TCU. A shoulder injury for a starting pitcher is a scary thing, but without the injury, Purke could have challenged Rendon for the Top Prospect honors. The Nationals stole him in the 3rd round, though they did offer him a hefty $2.75 million bonus.
8. Sammy Solis, LHP - Solis has a full season in the minors with the Nats, splitting time between Hagerstown and Potomac. He was dominant at both levels, and was particularly impressive at High-A Potomac with a 6-2 record, 2.72 ERA, 53 K in 56.1 IP.
9. Derek Norris, C - Derek Norris hasn't quite progressed as the Nats had hoped, but the Nationals will have a hard decision this offseason because Norris will have to be placed on the 40-Man Roster, or he'll be eligible to be stolen by another team in the Rule 5 Draft. And trust me, someone will pick him up. We have a post ready to go on this issue facing the Nats, but we'll be posting at a more appropriate time, once Wilson Ramos has been found and safely returned to his family.
10. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B/SS - Lombardozzi appeared a bit for the Nats to end the season, but perhaps more importantly was named Organizational Minor League Position Player of the Year. Lombo may have an interesting future ahead of him as a 2nd baseman should the Nats trade Ian Desmond and move Espinosa to shortstop, which isn't out of the question. He could still very much find his way into the core starters in the organization.
This list just shows the incredible progress that GM Mike Rizzo and his front office have made in repairing the team's Minor League system. It wasn't long ago that looking at the Nationals prospect list was a complete joke, but a few terrible seasons, followed by a few great drafts, will really help improve your teams image. And a 3rd Place finish in the NL East, one of the toughest divisions in baseball, with a lot of young, homegrown talent certainly doesn't make them look worse.