Full Scouting Report for Nationals' Top 10 Prospects at Spring Training
That drop is most likely because Bryce Harper is now a major leaguer, and several of the team's higher-ranked pitching prospects have had arm issues during this past season.
Regardless, it's clear that there's plenty of talent there.
Many of their top-10 prospects are still some time away from cracking the major league team, while others are much closer. Spring training is the perfect time for both to display their skills, and the Nationals will likely give their young guys plenty of opportunities to shine.
On a team that doesn't have all that many holes or position battles to deal with (okay, so second base and catcher may come down to the spring's final week), manager Davey Johnson should take advantage of the opportunity to see what his young guys can do.
The players that perform the best will likely be given September call-ups, so it's important to get to know them while you can still watch them play in spring training.
Note: All prospects listed are ones that are currently in spring training. A complete top-10 prospects list can be found here.
1. Anthony Rendon, 3B
Anthony Rendon is currently the crown jewel of the Nationals farm system.
He's already gotten off to a good start this spring, crushing a home run and driving in two on his only hit in four at-bats.
Coming out of Rice University, Rendon was always considered to have a strong bat. He has great skills as a pure hitter, and his swing has the potential to translate to 25-plus home run power.
Defensively, Rendon is head and shoulders above the rest of the guys in the system. Heck, he could give nearly everybody on the major league roster a run for their money as well.
He has quick reactions and a strong glove at the hot corner, and his arm fits perfectly at the position. He's unfortunately blocked by Ryan Zimmerman, but a position switch for either player could expedite his journey to the majors.
Rendon may not be a major league regular until the 2014 season, but there's a good chance he sees a nice chunk of time with the Nationals in 2013.
2. Matt Skole, 3B
Matt Skole is another third baseman in the team's system, though he is currently in the lower levels. Last season, he was the team's Minor League Player of the Year.
Having Zimmerman and Rendon ahead of him likely won't bode well for him moving forward, but he's a talented hitter and could find his way to the majors with another team.
Whereas Rendon is an all-around hitter, Skole has serious power. That power doesn't affect his overall hitting numbers, however, as he posted a line of .290/.382/.438 with Auburn of the New York Penn League in 2011.
He's hit well in spring training through six at-bats, recording two hits. He's drawn one walk and has yet to strike out.
Skole may not have a chance with the Nationals in the future considering Zimmerman and Rendon will be in Washington for a while.
Luckily for him, he's yet to progress past Single-A full season ball. There's plenty of time before the Nationals will have to worry about what to do with Skole, even if it means trading him in a few seasons.
3. Nathan Karns, RHP
Nathan Karns, the 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the Nationals, throws absolute gas.
Last season, Karns went 11-4 with a 2.17 ERA with 148 strikeouts. He walked just 47 over 116 innings. He even held opposing hitters to a putrid .174 average, the lowest mark of all pitchers in any minor league level.
In Karns' spring debut, he touched 96 miles per hour but generally sat around 93 during his 20-pitch inning.
His fastball stays low in the zone and has good sink, enabling him to keep the ball in the ballpark. In fact, he's only allowed three home runs in his minor league career.
Karns has a power curve, but his changeup is a work in progress. If his changeup doesn't develop, Karns could see time as a reliever as early as September of 2013.
If he continues to work on his changeup, he could be a starter by the end of 2014. He's a great guy for the Nationals to have in their system.
4. Christian Garcia, RHP
Christian Garcia could very well make the team out of spring training after his strong showing in the majors in 2012.
Over 12.2 innings, he recorded a 2.13 ERA and held opponents to a .186 batting average.
Even with that success, Garcia is still considered a prospect heading into the 2013 campaign. He has yet to pitch this spring, and will be shut down 10-14 days with a forearm injury.
That probably won't affect his standing with the major league roster, as he'll be given plenty of time to pitch to get his arm back in shape.
Garcia features a fastball that can touch 98 miles per hour, though it often sits around 96. He also has a strong breaking pitch which is somewhat of a cross between a curveball and a slider.
There are two things that help make Garcia stand out. For one, he has very good control for a power pitcher. In 369.0 minor league innings, he's issued just 154 free passes.
Secondly, Garcia is solid against both left-handers and right-handers.
Look for him to make an impact on the bullpen in 2013.
5. Eury Perez, Outfield
Eury Perez is one of the fastest men in the Nationals system, giving him the potential to be a leadoff man in the future.
Denard Span will play that role for the next several seasons, giving Perez plenty of time to continue his development.
Perez is off to a scorching hot start thus far in spring training, recording five hits in nine at-bats and stealing two bases. He's already scored two runs as well.
He stole 64 bases in 2010 while playing in the South Atlantic League and has already stolen three bases with the big league club after enjoying a brief cup of coffee in D.C. last season.
Perez could potentially become a Michael Bourn-type player with great speed, above average defense and the ability to set the table for the rest of the lineup. Worst case scenario, he could turn into a guy like Coco Crisp or Rajai Davis—both solid players in their own right.
With Roger Bernadina likely being the No. 4 outfielder this season, we may not see Perez until September. Look for him to make an impact on the bases as soon as he gets there, though.
6. Matt Purke, LHP
Matt Purke can be described in one word—dominant.
The left-hander went 16-0 as a freshman at Texas Christian and has downright nasty stuff. Unfortunately for him, he was shut down after just three starts in 2012 and required surgery to repair his shoulder.
He's back to pitching this spring, but has struggled a bit.
He has blown one save opportunity and earned a victory in the two games he's pitched, allowing opposing batters to hit .333 against him. He has struck out three over 3.1 innings, though, which is good to see from a power pitcher after shoulder surgery.
Purke's slider is difficult for right-handers to pick up, as is his funky delivery.
Purke has been tagged by some as a potential closer in the future, but the fact that he's left-handed could push him into another role. If he can regain the dominance he displayed in college, Purke can be a very good lefty starter.
It'll be interesting to see how much he develops this spring.
7. Zach Walters, SS
Zach Walters was acquired by the Nationals back in 2011 when the team shipped Jason Marquis off to the Arizona Diamondbacks and has an impressive minor league career since he was drafted in the ninth round by Arizona.
He reached Triple-A in 2012 after posting a line of .293/.326/.518 in 43 games with Double-A Harrisburg. He hit 12 home runs and compiled 49 RBI in total last season, a season that saw him begin at Advanced Single-A ball.
Walters is a very good defensive shortstop. He has a very strong and accurate arm. Couple that with his quick release and he's the perfect candidate to play shortstop at the major league level.
His bat doesn't lag too far behind. As a switch-hitter, Walters has a much more compact stroke as a righty. From the left-handed batter's box, his swing is longer but he still gets great plate coverage.
If he can establish just a little bit more consistency, he could develop into a solid hitter with average power at shortstop.
Walters is one of the more underrated prospects currently in the system.
8. Sandy Leon, C
Sandy Leon enjoyed a brief stint with the big club in 2012, though after 12 games he was sent back down to the minors.
Leon is best known in the system for his great defense behind the plate. He has a cannon for an arm and has had success in his minor league career throwing runners out.
In 2010, he gunned down 51 percent of potential base stealers. He upped that mark to 53 percent in 2011, proving that even a fantastic mark can still be outdone.
Leon also has the intangible of knowing how to call a game and is probably the best signal-caller in the organization outside of Kurt Suzuki.
If only he could hit just a bit more.
Leon is a career .252 hitter in the minors with just 13 home runs in five seasons (401 games). He doesn't really work many walks either, receiving just 33 free passes in 370 at-bats in 2011.
Unfortunately for Leon, both Wilson Ramos and Suzuki will be catching the Nationals stellar pitching staff in 2013. Should one of the two get injured, Leon will likely be the first to get the call.
9. Destin Hood, Outfield
Destin Hood hasn't been the most consistent player over the course of his five-year minor league career, but he enjoyed a very strong season in 2011 playing for the Hagerstown Suns.
He racked up 47 extra-base hits (13 of which were home runs) while driving in 83 and posting a line of .276/.364/.445. He even swiped 21 bags.
Hood shows potential in nearly every category, though his arm strength and plate discipline lag behind the rest of his strong attributes. His arm strength is just a hair below average, whereas his plate discipline needs serious work.
Hood is a pure athlete. Prior to the Nationals offering him a $1.1 million signing bonus, Hood was weighing an offer from Nick Saban to play football at Alabama.
Baseball was likely a good choice. His sweet sing from the right side projects to have plus power to left and center field. The biggest thing holding him back is his plate discipline, but even the some of the best hitters of the past couple decades swung at everything (see: Guerrero, Vladimir).
10. Chris Marrero, 1B
Chris Marrero is one of the most powerful hitters in the Nationals system, but he also one of the oldest players. Marrero has been in the pros since 2006 and will be 25 years old in July.
He has been a very consistent bat through 673 career minor league games, hitting .284/.353/.452 for his career. His best season came in 2007 when he hit 23 home runs and drove in 88.
As with many power hitters, though, Marrero does strike out quite a lot. In 2,490 at-bats, he's been set down on strikes 531 times (that's about 21 percent of the time).
It's actually quite baffling that Marrero hasn't seen more time in the bigs. He played 31 games there in 2011, driving in 10 runs and hitting .248/.274/.294.
This season could be his last to prove himself as a legitimate future major leaguer, and the Nationals could look to deal him if he doesn't pan out.
He's got light-tower power, it's just a matter of time before he gets a shot.