Minor League Keeper Thoughts: Washington Nationals

Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

Jason Hunt takes a look at some of the top fantasy prospects in the Washington Nationals organization.

Over the past few weeks, Craig and I have been looking at some of the more relevant prospects in each of the 30 MLB organizations. We won't be looking at each prospect in every organization, but rather to provide brief profiles of players that are either expected to make an impact as soon as next season, or are worth watching in dynasty and keeper formats. In general, they will be sorted in the order of when they are anticipated to be in the Majors, even though it is no guarantee that they will get there.

Our goal is to speak more to each prospect's fantasy value, so while we do look at a player's defense, it is really only in the context of where they will end up when they get to the Majors, and how that may affect their long term outlook. We will be going roughly in alphabetical order, and planning to have the series completed by the end of the year.

Previous Reviews

NL West: Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco
NL Central: Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, St. Louis
NL East: Atlanta, Miami, New York, Philadelphia
AL East: Baltimore, Boston, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay, Toronto
AL Central: Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Minnesota
AL West: Houston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, Texas

System Overview

The Nationals have put their farm system to great usage over the past few seasons. They have graduated uber-talents like Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, along with solid regulars in Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. They've also used a number of prospects as trade chips to strengthen what has turned into one of the best teams right now, including Alex Meyer, Derek Norris, A.J. Cole, and Brad Peacock. While the farm system is down, there are still a trio of high ceiling talents there, and no major needs in the Majors right now.

Graduates

Bryce Harper (OF), Steve Lombardozzi (UT), Tyler Moore (OF), Ryan Mattheus (RP)

AA in 2012

These are players who reached the Nationals' Eastern League affiliate in Harrisburg in 2012. They could see time in the Majors in 2013, but are more likely to arrive during the 2014 season.

Anthony Rendon (Profile from February, BBRef Statistics)

I wrote about Rendon as a part of our 3B week coverage last month, and the biggest question mark right now remains his ability to stay healthy. I can see him staying in the minors for the full season given that he also does not really slot in anywhere on the field as the Major League roster is currently constructed. He remains an elite level talent, as evidenced by our ranking him as the top third base prospect as well. Rendon could potentially start the season at AAA, but AA seems more likely for at least part of the season.

Brian Goodwin (Profile from OF Week, BBRef Statistics)

Bret wrote about Goodwin two weeks ago, and I definitely recommend checking that out. With Goodwin, you have a center field prospect that has shown excellent plate discipline (13.3% walk rate across all three stops), power potential (17 home runs), speed potential (20 for 27 SB), and the potential for at least a solid batting average. He struggled some in his stop at AA, but going from Low-A straight to AA makes that less of a surprise. Overall, Goodwin has the potential to be a 20 hr-20 SB outfielder that provides solid production across the board. There's also no rush really to get him there with Harper, Span, and Werth set to make up the Nationals' outfield for the foreseeable future.

High-A in 2012

These are prospects who reached the Nationals' Carolina League affiliate in Potomac. These players are most likely at least 2 full seasons from reaching the Majors.

Matt Skole (BBRef Statistics)

You may have seen the calls from Bret already to #FreeMattSkole, and he's definitely an interesting player. He was drafted in the 5th round out of Georgia Tech in 2011, and had 28 extra base hits along with a .820 OPS in just 72 games in 2011. The team sent him to their Low-A affiliate in Hagerstown, where he was a dominant hitter with 27 home runs, 92 runs batted in, 10 stolen bases, and a .286/.438/.574 slash line in just 101 games. He earned a late season promotion to High-A, hit well there in 18 games, and kept up the performance in 17 games in the Arizona Fall League.

The biggest knocks on Skole are his age (he'll turn 24 in July 2013), and his defense. We ranked Skole as a first baseman in our prospect rankings, the 14th 1B prospect in the minors, but it does sound like there may be reports that indicate some improvement this year at third. Realistically, his path to the Majors may actually be clearer if he ends up at first base, with both Ryan Zimmerman and Rendon ahead of him. A very interesting hitter given his power and plate discipline profile, and 2013 could be a very big year for him. (At which point Craig and I will be hearing it from Bret about Skole).

Short Season in 2012

The prospects in this group reached one of the short season leagues as their final stop of the season. For the Nationals, this could mean the Gulf Coast League or New York-Penn League.

Lucas Giolito (BBRef Statistics)

Giolito came into the spring viewed as a potential first overall pick, which would have been the first high school right handed pitcher to do that. However, an elbow injury ended Giolito's high school season in March, and clouded his draft stock despite returning to throw in May. The Nationals took a shot on him with the #16 pick, and Giolito was able to throw just 2 innings for their GCL team before it was determined that he would need Tommy John surgery as well.

Giolito is not expected to pitch at all in 2013, but the upside even with this surgery remains immense. If healthy, Giolito is expected to have true ace potential, as he has already shown a plus-plus fastball, and two different pitches that may be above average as well. If he comes back healthy from the surgery, he could be a top ten pitching prospect in all of baseball.

Others of Note

Matt Purke (SP)

Purke is another player that the Nationals took a shot on with an injury history. After choosing to attend TCU out of high school instead of signing with the Rangers, Purke was viewed as potentially a top overall pick at the start of his draft year. However, injuries and poor performance left him available in the third round instead, and also hampered his 2012 season. He missed most of the season with shoulder injuries, and it turns out that he ended up having shoulder surgery at some point in the offseason.

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