Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Top 10 Nationals Prospects

Baseball America lists our top 10 prospects. Getting a scouting report on each will cost you extra. I guess I was duty-bound to pony up for that service and report back to you the gist of what I learned.

Overall, about five are major league-ready, or at least close (i.e., if they have a good year, expect a late-season callup). The rest have a good way to go, still. The fact that so many people in our top 10 are recent draftees, often out of high school, indicates that we don't have much depth beyond this list, which is why our farm system ranked dead last in 2004.

Our #1 prospect is Mike Hinckley, a LHP who did very well in A and AA ball last year, allowing 2 runs or fewer in 19 of 26 starts. His K/9 ratio was 7.56 and his WHIP was about a 1.09 (don't know how many of his walks were intentional). Unlike most young leftys, he's got command of his fastball, which tops out at 94. They think as he fills out, his fastball will be faster more often. He's also got a decent curve and change-up, but they lack some consistency. He'll probably be promoted to AAA quickly, and we will probably see him called up around the end of the year, baring major disasters. Baseball America projects him to be a quality #2 or #3 type guy within a few years.

Despite a poor April coming off of injury, Larry Broadway (1B) hit .270/.362/.451 in AA last year, w/ 22 HRs. He's a power hitter who can hit for average, and is close to major-league ready. He's not a good runner, but he's good defensively. He'll start the year in AAA (New Orleans).

Ryan Church is often mentioned in our outfield logjam. In AAA last year, he hit .343/.428/.620 w/ 17 HRs. He got 63 ABs in the majors, where he only hit .175/.257/.238. If he has a strong spring and Wilkerson ends up at first, he may get platooned with Chavez (spit) or Sledge. Otherwise, I suspect they powers that be would rather have him playing every day than taking up space on the bench, so AAA seems more likely.

Clint Everts, a right handed starting pitcher, is still #4 despite the fact that he'll miss 2005 recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was our #1 prospect for the two years prior to that. In 2004 his velocity dropped to 84-88mph (down 4 mph), probably due to his elbow problems. Yet, he still did very well, thanks to a plus curve and plus change, posting a 2.45 ERA, ~1.04 WHIP and 9.98 K/9 over 110 innings. If he rebounds to his old form, he'll project to an eventual #1 type.

Brendan Harris (3B, inf) may not have Vinny Castilla's power, but he's better at hitting for average and consistently hits line drives with some power. He's got a plus arm for a third baseman. Certainly a better value than Castilla, at the very least, he may end up a utility infielder, or back in AAA. Last year in AAA, he hit .311/.353/.531 in 254 ABs at Iowa and .269/.317/.454 for Edmonton (130 ABs). He didn't far as well in 9 ABs with the Cubs and 50 ABs with the Expos, hitting .169/.222/.271.

Our first round pick last year, Bill Bray was a closer at William & Mary with a 89-95mph fastball and a late-breaking slider, but the Nats like his changeup enough that they are going to try to convert him to a starter in A ball (he'll be playing locally, in Potomac). If he doesn't make it as a starter, he'll advance more quickly as a reliever.

Drafted out of high school in 2003, Daryl Thompson (RHP), isn't hitting the majors anytime soon. In 2004 he played in Low A ball, and posted a 5.08 ERA, ~1.43 WHIP and 6.90 K/9 over 103 innings, mostly as a starter. His fastball is currently in the 89-94 range, and may get faster as he fills out. He is still developing his secondary pitches (curve and change), though. Baseball America thinks his curve may become a plus pitch. He's a local boy, from Mechanicsville, Md.

Darrell Rasner (RHP) is a sinker-ball pitcher whose change and curve need work. He has no strikeout pitch, but has good control. He "turned a corner down the stretch" last year, giving up more than 1 earned run only one time in his final 11 starts, 5 of those starts coming in AA ball. Baseball America expects he might get a callup this year, but doesn't think he will ever be more than a back-of-the-rotation guy. He posted a 2.78 ERA, ~1.30 WHIP and 6.22 K/9.

Kory Casto (3B) is poor defensively. He spent 2004 adjusting to breaking balls and left-handed pitching, but was driving the ball consistently by the end of the year. He apparently has an outstanding work ethic. In low A ball, he hit .286/.337/.474, and he'll probably start out 2005 in Potomac.

Collin Balester (RHP) was drafted out of high school last year (4th round pick). He's got both command and power (his fastball is consistently 91-92mph, hitting 94-95). He's also got an average late-breaking curve, but needs to develop his changeup, and beef out a bit. He'll probably spend much of the year in low A Vermont.


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