Post-Spring Training Scouting Report for Top 10 Washington Nationals Prospects
Back on February 26, I highlighted the top 10 Washington Nationals prospects who would be present at spring training. That story (which can be found here) only focused on players who were actually in spring training.
Now that spring training is over (finally!), we have a large sample size to analyze when trying to develop a scouting report on the Nationals' top prospects.
The Nationals are a team with a bright future ahead. Their major league talent is top notch, but there will come a time when younger guys will be called upon to make an impact.
For many, this spring training was their first ever. Saying that they could make an impact in the near future may not be all that realistic. With another spring camp under their belts, though, they could be ready for the big show.
Let's take a look at the post-spring training scouting reports for the top young talent in the Washington system.
1. Anthony Rendon, 3B
Anthony Rendon absolutely raked this spring.
He hit .375/.412/.875 with four home runs, 11 RBI and four doubles in 32 at-bats. He walked just one time, which may be a cause of concern for his coaches. What could ease their worries, however, is that he didn't strike out an exorbitant amount of times either (six).
Rendon's extension, bat speed and strong mechanics give him the potential to be a 25-plus home run hitter at the next level. Overall, he has the tools to be an above-average hitter.
Where he really excels is at the hot corner. He's by far the team's best fielder in the minors, but he may even be able to challenge the major league roster for that title.
He has quick reactions, a strong glove and a perfect arm for the position. Ryan Zimmerman is blocking him there for at least 2013, so a position switch may be in order if the Nationals want Rendon to be a regular in 2014.
For now, he'll hone his skills at Triple-A in hopes of a midseason promotion.
2. Matt Skole, 3B
Last season's Minor League Player of the Year for the Nationals, third baseman Matt Skole didn't have the best spring. He certainly didn't have the worst, either.
Skole proved the notion that he is a power hitter this spring. While he (ironically) didn't hit a single home run, he walked seven times and struck out eight times in just 24 at-bats—both trends that are common in the game's big-time power threats.
Overall, he hit .250/.406/.333 with two doubles and five RBI.
Skole may be out of luck in terms of making the Nationals in the next few seasons. While the second-best prospect behind Rendon, there's a big difference in talent between the two. Rendon plays significantly better defense and provides more consistency at the plate.
Given the fact that both Zimmerman and Rendon are ahead of him on the team's depth chart at third base, Skole could find himself in the minors for several more seasons. He could even find himself as useful trade bait come the trade deadline if general manager Mike Rizzo feels he has an opportunity to improve the team.
Nobody knows what the future holds for the powerful third baseman, but he has the talent to succeed at the next level.
3. Nathan Karns, RHP
Nathan Karns didn't stick around for very long this spring, but he most certainly made a good impression on Davey Johnson and the team's front office.
He produced a 2.45 ERA in 3.2 innings pitched, striking out four and topping out at 96 miles per hour in his first outing. During that 20-pitch outing, he generally sat around 93.
Karns was the team's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2012, and the Nationals have high hopes for the righty. They have every right to, as his stuff is top-notch and projects to be a major league-worthy repertoire.
He keeps his plus-fastball low in the zone, enabling him to induce ground balls when necessary. It even has the natural sink necessary to get hitters to swing and miss in the dirt. He's so good at keeping the ball low in the zone that he's only allowed three home runs in his minor league career—a career which spans 171.1 innings.
He also features a power curve and a changeup that's improving. Without a changeup, Karns profiles as a late-inning bullpen arm. If he can establish that third pitch, he could see time in the big league rotation as early as late 2014.
4. Christian Garcia, RHP
Christian Garcia was in spring training this season, but actually didn't pitch at all because of nagging wrist issues. What's even more astounding is that he hasn't pitched in spring training since the 2010 season when he was a member of the New York Yankees system.
Garcia almost isn't a prospect anymore. At 27 years old, he's getting to the point where he's either a lifelong minor leaguer or a journeyman reliever. If he comes back strong from this injury, though, he could become a staple of the Nationals bullpen.
In just 12.2 innings in the bigs last season, he held opponents to a .186 batting average and compiled a 2.13 ERA. Had he been with the team for the majority of the season, he could have finished as one of the top arms in the bullpen.
Henry Rodriguez currently holds the final spot in the bullpen because of Garcia's injury. Expect that to change when Garcia is ready to go. Davey Johnson will likely rely on Garcia heavily in 2013 if he's healthy, so expect him to lose that prospect tag pretty quickly.
5. Eury Perez, Outfield
Eury Perez had a great spring for the Nationals. He hit .348/.375/.348 with two stolen bases and eight hits in 23 at-bats. Not much of a run producer, he failed to drive in a single run. Where he makes his impact is on the bases.
Perez is the fastest player in the system—hands down. This is something that will make him useful as a September call-up this season and in the future. Once he develops a bit better of a bat, he could find his way into the team's starting outfield.
While his defense is not spectacular, he plays a strong center field. His speed certainly helps to make up for any bad jumps he may get on balls in the air, but he generally reads the ball well. His arm also isn't a liability in the outfield, though it's not one that will consistently tally 10-plus assists in a season.
Perez is basically your typical speedster. His skills translate well to a specified role in the bigs, one that the Nationals may need filled if fourth outfielder Roger Bernadina should go down with an injury.
If that doesn't happen, don't expect to see him until September.
6. Matt Purke, LHP
Matt Purke wasn't his usual dominant self this spring, but that's understandable considering the fact that he didn't pitch in 2012 after making just three starts to begin the season. He was shut down with a shoulder injury that required surgery to repair.
Prior to that injury, Purke was the epitome of dominance. He went 16-0 as a freshman at Texas Christian. His perfect record prompted the Nationals to give him a shot in the third round of the 2011 MLB draft.
His funky delivery makes his darting slider difficult to pick up for right-handed batters, and the fact that he's a left-hander makes him effective against lefties as well. He may not have the repertoire to become a successful starting pitcher, though. This has led several to tag him as a future closer candidate.
He struck out three batters in 3.1 innings this spring, so a transition to the bullpen where he can throw harder for shorter periods of time could allow the Nationals to benefit from his dominance. He'll need time to fully recuperate from surgery, so it should be a few seasons before Purke makes an impact in the bigs.
7. Zach Walters, SS
Shortstop Zach Walters was one of the biggest surprises in camp this season for the Nationals. Walters was always a strong defender up the middle, but his bat was always considered to lag behind. That was not the case in his first extensive spring training.
In 37 at-bats, Walters hit .297/.350/.459 with two home runs, four RBI, 11 hits and 17 total bases. He did strike out 10 times, but that was likely a result of being overpowered at times by more experienced pitching.
Walters is a switch-hitter, but possesses more of a contact stroke as a right-handed batter. His swing is longer with better plate coverage as a lefty, resulting in some more power (but also more strikeouts).
Entering spring as one of the team's more underrated prospects, Walters got lost in the shuffle with names like Anthony Rendon and Eury Perez being tossed about. After his strong spring, Walters should be in the discussion as one of the top talents.
Walters has Ian Desmond ahead of him at the major league level, but a position change to second base could help expedite his transition to the bigs. He doesn't need much more seasoning down in the minors, having already reached Triple-A in 2012.
8. Sandy Leon, C
Sandy Leon isn't recognized as a great offensive catcher, but his numbers this spring were not good at all. Over 13 at-bats, he hit just .154/.154/.231 with two hits and one RBI. He struck out just twice and scored three runs.
Leon played 12 games with the Nationals last season, but was sent down after that and finished out the campaign in the minors. Kurt Suzuki and Wilson Ramos will man the position in 2013, so Leon's role in the organization could be the same in 2013.
His defense is praised throughout the system, and he did show us why in the brief time he was in minor league camp. He boasts an exceptionally strong arm that allowed him to gun down 53 percent of would-be base stealers in 2011.
As a signal-caller, he is second only to Suzuki. Leon calls a great game, and his pitchers love throwing to him in the minors. This quality makes him a useful piece for the Nationals moving forward. If Suzuki or Ramos cannot establish themselves as quality options, Washington can opt to give Leon the job.
Leon will likely be in Washington, D.C., in September, but only injuries will dictate whether we see him earlier.
9. Destin Hood, Outfield
Destin Hood only went to the plate nine times this spring, so saying that it was impressive that he hit .333/.333/.444 may not be all that great analysis-wise.
To nitpick, he struck out four times and didn't walk once—a ratio that isn't just a result of limited time in camp. Hood is a phenomenal athlete who could have played football for Nick Saban at Alabama, but his plate discipline needs a ton of work.
He strikes out 2.74 times more than he walks, giving him a career on-base percentage of .335. The only thing keeping that number afloat is his ability at the plate. He possesses a sweet swing with plus-power to left and center field.
Hood shows great potential, but he's been in the system since 2009. He's yet to progress past Double-A (just 94 games there in 2012), so Hood is in danger of becoming lost in the shuffle. If he doesn't show a big improvement soon, the Nationals may not ever give him a shot in the bigs.
The potential is there, though, so it wouldn't be fair to write him off entirely.
10. Chris Marrero, 1B
Chris Marrero has got to be one of the most frustrating players in the organization. He has all the tools to be an above-average power hitter in the majors, but his consistency has been a major question mark throughout his career.
He's been in the organization since 2006, so this season could be his last tagged as a prospect. During that time, he's reached the majors just once (2011). During his 31-game stint, he failed to hit a home run and hit just .248.
His spring left much to be desired. His line of .239/.314/.370 showed no improvement in his consistency. He struck out eight times in 46 at-bats and tallied 17 total bases (11 hits).
Marrero may be out of luck in Washington. Adam LaRoche, Tyler Moore and Chad Tracy are all ahead of him on the depth chart this season. Injuries to two of three would likely be the only chance he gets called up during the season. A September call-up may not even be likely, as carrying four first baseman is entirely unnecessary.
Marrero still has potential, but it's looking as if he's just another example of a "Quadruple-A" player.