Washington Nationals Prospects: B/R's Top 10 Breakdown, Post 2013 Draft

Katie GregersonCorrespondent IJune 8, 2013

Washington Nationals Prospects: B/R's Top 10 Breakdown, Post 2013 Draft

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    Thanks to a largely successful 2012 season and the signing of closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $18 million contract, Washington didn't get its first pick of the 2013 MLB draft until the second round, 68th overall.

    However, knowing Nats' general manager Mike Rizzo and scouting director Kris Kline, the low pick didn't much affect their decision-making.

    Thus far, some of the Nationals' best 2013 draft picks include RHP Jake Johansen of Dallas Baptist University (68th overall), infielder Drew Ward of Leedey High School (105th overall) and RHP Nicholas Pivetta of New Mexico Junior College (136th overall).

    An overview of those selections will be at the end of the slideshow; because the Nats' picks were so late in the draft this year, none of the draftees are likely to shake up the order of the Nats' current top 10 prospects just yet.

    The order of these 10 prospects is, of course, subjective to the author and based on a combination of current talent and skill and long-term potential for a future at the major league level.

10. Eury Perez

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    Outfielder Eury Perez made his major league debut as a pinch runner against the St. Louis Cardinals in September 2012. In five at-bats over 13 game appearances with the Nationals, he batted .200, stole three bases and scored three runs. Relatively impressive numbers for such a short stint.

    Currently, Perez is batting .312/.331/.428 at Class AAA Syracuse, with three home runs, nine RBI and nine stolen bases. However, in five at-bats with the Nats this season, he recorded no hits and struck out twice.

    Perez's speed is definitely an asset the Nats could benefit from, but he would have to learn to bring his minor league hitting up with him. Additionally, once Denard Span's contract expires in 2014, Perez will have stiff competition from Brian Goodwin for center field. 

9. Matt Purke

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    LHP Matt Purke was a third-round pick for the Nationals in the 2011 draft, but he was injured after just three starts with the Class A Hagerstown Suns in 2012. He then underwent surgery for bursitis to clean out scar tissue in his left shoulder.

    This season, Purke is progressing nicely for what little he's pitched. Mike Rizzo reported to 106.7 the FAN that his velocity is up to 93-94 mph, and in 8.2 innings pitched for the Suns, he's shown a 2.08 ERA with two walks and 14 Ks.

    At just 22 years old, Purke has a long and hopefully successful road ahead of him within the Nationals organization.

8. Sammy Solis

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    LHP Sammy Solis was picked in the second round of the 2010 draft with high-hopes from Nationals' management. Pitching for Low-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac in 2011, he went 8-3 with a 3.26 ERA and 93 Ks over 96.2 innings pitched.

    Solis was likely headed for Class AA Harrisburg in 2012, and he might have even competed for a spot on the Nats' rotation this season had he not suffered an elbow injury which required Tommy John surgery. He was sidelined for 15 months.

    On May 21, Solis finally returned to the mound at Potomac. So far, he's performed well, recording a 3.38 ERA with nine Ks in 16 innings pitched.

    If he continues to show promise after surgery, Solis will be making his major league debut sooner rather than later. 

7. Matt Skole

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    Last season, infielder Matt Skole impressed with his power at Low-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac, batting .291/.426/.559 and hitting 27 home runs with 104 RBI. The performance earned him Nationals' 2012 Minor League Player of the Year, and it was more than expected that he would repeat his great success in 2013.

    However, Skole's season was cut short when he tore his UCL in his non-throwing arm in a collision at first base on April 5. On April 17, he underwent Tommy John surgery, as well as a procedure on his wrist. It is expected to be three to four months before he's cleared to resume batting activities.

    Prior to this season, Skole had exclusively played at third base. If his recovery goes as expected and he is able to acclimate to first base, he will be a major asset to the Nats in the near future.

6. Christian Garcia

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    27-year-old RHP Christian Garcia came up big as a reliever for the Nationals late in 2012. Over 12.2 innings pitched, he showed a 2.13 ERA with two walks and 15 Ks, doing his part to advance Washington to its first ever playoff berth.

    After that impressive performance, the Nats hoped to slowly graduate Garcia to a starter this season—but he experienced some forearm tightness during spring training that sidelined him until March 31. 

    Garcia has had two Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgeries, but Mike Rizzo remains confident they will be able to continue to convert him to a potential starter. So far this season, he's pitched four rehab innings over three games with Class AA Harrisburg, posting a 2.25 ERA with two walks and four Ks.

    Provided that his progression continues slowly and cautiously, we could very well see Garcia in the majors once again this season. 

5. Nathan Karns

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    Despite that RHP Nathan Karns has been called up to fill in for Ross Detwiler while he recovers from an oblique strain, he is still defined as a prospect because he has not yet exceeded 50 innings pitched or spent more than 45 days on the Nationals' active roster. 

    Prospect or not, though, he's done a good job stepping up to fill the void Detwiler left.

    Karns has pitched in two games for the Nats thus far, posting a 6.00 ERA in nine innings pitched, with three walks and nine Ks. Six of those Ks came against the imposing bats of the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. 

    Detwiler is expected to return sometime next week, barring any setbacks. When that happens, Karns will likely be sent back down to Class AAA Syracuse where he will continue to be a top prospect for the Nats.

4. A.J. Cole

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    RHP A.J. Cole was initially picked by the Nationals in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. However, the following year he was traded to Oakland in the deal that brought Gio Gonzalez to Washington. He was reacquired this offseason as part of the Michael Morse trade, and so far, he's been doing much better in the Carolina League than he had been in the hitter-friendly California League.

    Through 58.1 IP for Class A Potomac, Cole has a 2-2 record with a 4.94 ERA, 14 walks and 61 Ks. He has a strong mid-90s fastball, and while his secondary pitches do need some work, at 21 years old, he has plenty of time to fine-tune his skills. 

    Given that he can improve his command, Cole will likely make his way to the majors within the next few years. 

3. Brian Goodwin

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    The Nationals acquired outfielder Brian Goodwin with the 34th overall pick in 2011. At the beginning of 2013, Baseball America ranked him No. 70 on its Top 100 prospects list.

    Despite his power, Goodwin has struggled a bit in advancing through the Nats' farm system. In 2012, he batted .324/.438/.542 with Class A Hagerstown. When he made the jump to Class AA Harrisburg that same year, his numbers dropped to .223/.306/.373. Currently, he is batting .243/.351/.387 with Harrisburg, and he has demonstrated some inconsistency as of late, striking out seven times in his last 15 at-bats.

    There's no doubt that Goodwin has potential—he's already stolen 12 bases on the season, double the number of Nats' current center fielder Denard Span. Span, however, will remain in that spot for the foreseeable future while Goodwin hones his talent in the minors. 

2. Lucas Giolito

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    The Nats encountered a major stroke of luck when they were allowed to draft the 6-foot-6, 225-pound RHP Lucas Giolito with their 16th overall pick in 2012. He had been projected to be the No. 1 draft pick that year—until a sprained UCL in his right elbow unceremoniously ended his season in March. His stock dropped significantly thanks to the injury.

    However, the Nationals are reputedly unafraid of injury.

    Washington jumped at the opportunity to sign Giolito, and in August 2012, he underwent Tommy John surgery. The procedure was performed by the Dr. Lewis Yocum, who also operated on Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. 

    Come next season, the Nats will be in need of another starting pitcher once Dan Haren's contract runs out. Provided that Giolito's rehab comes along as nicely as Strasburg's and Zimmermann's, the 2014 Nationals will likely add the young sensation—and his 100 mph fastball—to their rotation. 

1. Anthony Rendon

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    Anthony Rendon has been called up to indefinitely play second base in the wake of Danny Espinosa's placement on the DL. However, like Karns, he is still technically a prospect—and the Nats' No. 1 prospect at that.

    He won't remain a "prospect" for long, though.

    In 29 at-bats for the Nats this season, Rendon has posted .241/.353/.310 with five walks and eight strikeouts. It's a great improvement over Espinosa, who in 158 at-bats hit .158/.193/.272 with just four walks and 47 strikeouts prior to being benched. Because the Nats' offense has been desperately lacking thus far, the team needs all the help it can get.

    At just 23 years old, Rendon will be an asset to the Nats for the long haul provided that he can remain healthy—he does have a history of ankle and shoulder injuries. He has done well at second despite being a career third baseman, and if Espinosa's injury and offense woes are not remedied, Rendon could have a permanent spot in the starting lineup.

Notes on the Nats' Top 3 2013 Draft Picks

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    Jake Johansen, RHP (68th overall)

    Less than 48 hours after being drafted, the Nats' first pick of the 2013 draft has already agreed to an $820,000 signing bonus. 

    Johansen, a 6-foot-6 starter from Dallas Baptist University, boasts a 99 mph fastball. However, his secondary pitches could use some work. This year at Dallas Baptist, he posted a 7-6 record with a 5.40 ERA and 75 Ks over 88 1/3 innings pitched.

    Johansen and Nationals' management are positive their player development program will turn Johansen into a "gem"—scouting director Kris Kline compared him to Dodgers' starter Josh Beckett. The Nats plan to start him at their rookie affiliate, Class A Auburn, on June 17.

     

    Drew Ward, Infielder (105th overall)

    The Nats drafted 18-year-old Ward out of Oklahoma's Leedey High School—the 6-foot-4, 215-pound infielder graduated a year early to become draft-eligible. He brings with him a left-handed power bat, reportedly batting .717 during the fall season and .578 during the spring as a freshman at Leedey.

    Ward played shortstop in high school, but Nats' crosschecker Jimmy Gonzales has projected him as a third baseman. Ward has signed a letter of intent with the University of Oklahoma—his father, mother, grandfather and uncle all competed as Sooners—which will heavily factor into his decision on whether or not to sign with Washington. 

     

    Nicholas Pivetta, RHP (136th overall)

    In 13 starts at New Mexico Junior College last season, Pivetta went 9-2 with a 3.36 ERA. A native of British Columbia, he was also a member of the U-18 Canadian Junior National Team from 2009-12.

    Nats' assistant GM and VP of player personnel Roy Clark has stated that Pivetta "throws up to 95 mph." He also reportedly has a good curveball that could become above-average with work.

    The Nats believe Pivetta could be a starter if he develops his changeup. However, he has signed a letter of intent to transfer to the University of New Mexico in September.

    Despite falling low in the 2013 draft, Washington certainly didn't make bad picks. With hard work and dedication, some of them could crack the top 10 prospects in the future—provided, of course, that they sign with the team.