Baseball Prospectus came out with their Nationals Top 11 prospect list and it is pretty interesting. They have listed two 5 star players, one 4 star, and four 3 star guys. The remaining players are 2 star or lower, but I’m gonna concentrate on the 3+ star guys. Even without a subscription you can see the list itself here, albeit without the full writeups. I’ll just give a little summary of their take on the players so as not to incur their copyright wrath.
1. Chris Marrero (*****)
The fact that they list Marrero as the top prospect is a little surprising to me. There has been some talk of his drop in numbers after moving to High-A at the end of last season. But BP seems to be pretty convinced of his ability, predicting him to possibly be a 30+ HRs a season hitter, even if the Nats may struggle to find somewhere to hide his defense. But he’s only turning 21, so perhaps with another season he can turn into a not-entirely-incompetent corner outfielder or become the first baseman of the future. Don’t expect to see him up this season.
2. Ross Detwiler (*****)
Detwiler is the 5 star guy that everyone probably knows is a 5 star guy. BP likes his low-mid 90s fastball and his great curveball, and see his changeup as being above average as well. He’s still the guy that is supposed to take over #1 starter duties at some point, and BP says he may be up for good as soon as the end of this season.
3. Michael Burgess (****)
This one was a real surprise to me that he was listed this high. Yes, everyone thinks Burgess has the potential to be a stud, but he’s still so young that his risk/reward profile still stands strong. They are not convinced he’ll ever have a high batting average, but see lots of power and walks. And OBP and SLG are alot more important than batting average. But he’s still just starting out in Low-A this year, so don’t expect to see his possibly 40 HR a year ability any time soon.
4. Josh Smoker (***)
Smoker is probably one of the more interesting prospects for this team, because his ability is so high, but so is the variation in his production so far. BP noted that his fastball had a huge range of 7 mph, which if he can control puts him at an advantage. But if he doesn’t know what’s coming out of his hand, that’s not good. His mechanics are relatively flawless so they are high on his ability to improve his secondary pitches, but he is currently pretty inconsistent. He is so well liked because when he is on, he has a blazing fastball with great offspeed pitches to complement it. What will make him so interesting is watching to see this season if he can be consistent in single-A ball.
5. Justin Maxwell (***)
I was happy to see Maxwell listed as #5 because so many people have such different takes on what he is. I have heard everything from “he doesn’t have enough of a bat to ever make a big league squad full time” to “future Mike Cameron.” BP acknowledges his long swing and understands he will strike out plenty. But they also see him as extremely intelligent and athletic, and feel that his speed and power in center field will make up for a high strikeout rate. Plus he went to Maryland, so you know, he’s gotta be awesome.
6. Jake McGeary (***)
This is the guy that the Nats stole in the 6th round by allowing him to attend Stanford full time while playing for the Nats in the summer. This will slow down his development as he will only work in the summer, but he’s got great command and a stellar curveball, so the wait may be worth it. He may just tread water in the prospect list for the next couple of seasons, and we may not know alot more about him for a few years. But then again, if he starts developing, Stanford can be attended at any age, the ability to strike people out lasts only so long.
7. Colin Balester
Balester is considered the prospect most ready for the majors. He may be up by midseason depending on his development and the team’s record. BP says he is good in that he has no major flaws, and bad in that he has not great strengths. He has several good pitches but nothing great, it will be interesting to see how hittable his fastball is when he gets to the bigs. It is noted that while it top out in the mid-90s it has no movement. That scares me, because really very few hitters make the major league without being able to hit a straight fastball. What will be the key to his success is the ability to mix his pitches and keep hitters on their toes, rather than trying to overpower anyone.
Beyond that, they have a list of the top talent under 25 in the entire organization, and not surprisingly, list Zimmerman and Milledge as #1 and #2. Interestingly enough, they say that while Zimmerman is a great defender, his bat is a bit overrated because of the team he’s on. Not to say that he isn’t still a very good hitter. This makes sense, and we’ll see when talking about Runs Created in a week or two, that he isn’t even the best hitter on this team going into 2008.