Baseball America, which is THE source for all things related to high school, college and minor league baseball, has started publishing their top 10 prospect reports for all the teams. They tackled the Nationals not too long ago, and here are the basics of their findings.

Baseball America believes that the Nationals have gone from having the worst farm systems last season to something much better. The rankings aren’t out, but they basically think the Nats have a lot of talent, albeit young talent lower in the system. Additionally, they comment on some operational moves the team has made to make the farm system stronger as positives moves for the organization.

For the top 10 prospects, as well as some other gems, like best infield arm in the system, just follow the link, because this page is free.

I agree with the assessment for the most part, it’s hard to argue with rankings when you’re not seeing each player every day. Stats in the minors are nice, but they form only part of the story. And some leagues are better for pitchers, some are better for hitters, which can also inflate or deflate stats. So I’ll go with their ranking, as well as their “best tools.” But, I am gonna take issue with some of their 2011 lineup predictions.

Nats of 2011 vs 2012

A few months ago I decided to make a list of the potential Nats lineup in 2012. Baseball America totally ripped me off by doing this for the 2011 season. I’d go after them, too, if I didn’t originally get the idea from them. Here is a quick comparison of the teams by position as judged by BA and by TNR.

Future Lineups

So we do have some similarities here. We both have the obvious choice of Zimmerman, plus we have the same C, 2B, LF, CF, and 2 of the 5 starters. I agree with them in retrospect that Marrero will probably be at 1B, he has started to transition there and may now be considered a full time 1B. I have no problem with Desmond at SS either, although it would be nice if they went out and got someone completely different. There really aren’t any middle infield stars in the farm system as of yet. Moving Marrero to 1B, I might have even put Burgess at RF myself, as he made my honorable mention. And I really hope he does end up there, because he’s got serious power, and if he makes it to the majors, he’ll have cut down his ridiculously high K rate. Baseball America has him as the #4 guy in the system already, and believes he could be a 40 HR hitter in the majors.

In terms of pitching, though, I am not so sure that in only 3 seasons the entire starting staff will consist of pitchers with a total of 1 IP prior to 2008 (that 1 belongs to Detwiler). Hopefully Hill and Chico can establish themselves in the rotation, but if not, then maybe BA is right. However, I refuse to believe that Chad Cordero will still be closing for this team 3 1/2 years from now. I just don’t think it’s possible. I like the Smoker pick in the rotation, but I’m sticking by my placement of Colton Willems in there, more because of 97 mph fastball than his high ceiling. Hey, if Willems can’t get better with his secondary pitches, a role in the bullpen is always an option.

A few more things

It is nice to see just how high BA is on Marrero. In the scouting report (which unfortunately you have to pay to see) they list strengths and weakness for each player. The only thing they could come up with for Chris is that he has a weak arm in the OF and it may take him some time to adjust to 1B, but even that was qualified with saying he has taken to the move and seems to have the range, reaction, and hands to do it In terms of his future, they go all out, saying:

He’s not far from big league ready as a hitter, and how fast he learns first base could determine how soon he reaches Washington. That could happen as early as the second half of 2008, and by 2009 he figures to be a fixture in the middle of the big league lineup. His massive power gives him a chance to be a star.

That is a pretty sweet writeup! I really can’t wait until he comes up. As for the #2 prospect, Detwiler, they say “With a chance for three above-average pitches, Detwiler has a chance to be a legitimate ace.” As for others in the top 10, they forecast Balester as a #2 starter, McGeary as a 2 or 3, and say that Justin Maxwell‘s speed/power/low average make him comparable to Mike Cameron.

We gotta remember not to get too excited. Prospects are only prospects, they have to continue to develop and stay healthy. But it is nice to see that the Nats farm system has improved greatly in a short amount of time.

By Charlie