Baseball Prospectus has released their Top 11 prospects for the Nationals, for 2011, and once again they managed to have a couple of 5 star guys (in 2009 they didn’t have a single one)

Five-Star Prospects
1. Bryce Harper, OF
2. Derek Norris, C
Four-Star Prospects
3. Danny Espinosa, SS/2B
4. A.J. Cole, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
5. Sammy Solis, LHP
6. Wilson Ramos, C
7. Michael Burgess, OF
8. Robbie Ray, LHP
Two-Star Prospects
9. Eury Perez, OF
10. Tyler Moore, 1B
11. Rick Hague, SS

Then they get into the review of each guy – which you can’t see. I’m not going to reproduce everything they say there, because I would like that website to keep making money and continue producing great stuff, so you can buy a subscription for that. But a few highlights for each guy, just because you may not have even heard of some of them.

1. Bryce Harper – We’ve been talking about it for a couple of years now. The Nats have had the #1 guys 2 years in a row and they have not failed to impress. This time it’s Harper, and BP likes him quite a bit. They stay he has the potential to be a historic talent, give his power at an 80 on the 20-80 scale, and mention that his power is so good people forget he’s also a very good hitter. They bring up the typical makeup questions, and take note that he may be fooled on good breaking pitches, turning him into a big power-big strikeout guy. In the end, though, they give him a “perfect world projection” of a perennial MVP candidate. They also agree with me, thinking he’ll be up in 2013 (remember in August all the local sports people were saying he wouldn’t be here for at least 3 years? I haven’t heard that as much recently…)

2. Derek Norris – His power is very good and his patience is even better. He’s got a decent arm but isn’t a great receiver. He projects to be a strong offense-first catcher, and although they don’t say it, their projections remind of Jorge Posada, which you’d take in a second.

3. Danny Espinosa – I’ve seen mixed reviews on Espinosa, but at least this author at BP is clearly a fan. They say he does most things pretty well, but nothing spectacular. They don’t expect him to be a star, but could hit for great power at middle infield, albeit without a very high average.

4. A.J. Cole – They love this year’s 4th round pick in terms of potential. Good stuff now that projects to be great. Low to mid-90s fastball and a power curveball. He needs more pitches though, as one great and one pretty good isn’t enough to be a starter. He could be a top of the rotation guy, but will need at least 3 or 4 years to develop.

5. Sammy Solis – Another pick from this year, he’s a large lefty and he is very “polished” already. His command and control are his best assets, as his fastball isn’t exactly blazing, although he’s got a very strong changeup. They are concerned with his ability to cause hitters to swing and miss, and don’t see him as a top of the rotation guy. But he’s got value, especially if he can come in as an average pitcher that’s an innings eater.

6. Wilson Ramos – The Nats should be proud that they turned an ok closer with a great first half into their 6th best prospect. Ramos has a chance to be an “impact-level defender” and mentions that he has a plus-plus arm. It’s important that he can hit, too, and BP sees potential there. He has above average power and is a solid hitter, but because he can’t take a walk to save his life, it is hard to tell if that will translate to being an effective hitter in the majors. His true potential would lie as being a great defender who can hold his own with the bat without wow-ing anyone.

7. Michael Burgess – Keep in mind that 2 years ago Burgess was ranked as a 4 star guy, third best in the system. It is mentioned that he’s a good outfielder, and has a good arm. His power is his greatest asset, and they also say he works the count well. This surprised me because of how much he strikes out, but BP also notes that he has reduced his strikeout rate in each of the last two years. He could end up being a solid power hitting right fielder, if all goes well.

8. Robbie Ray – Ray was picked in the 12th round this summer, and not because nobody liked him, just because he wasn’t thought to be signable and affordable at the same time. But the Nats decided to pay him, and he decided to enter professional baseball. He’s a lefty who throws in the low-90s with strong command and control. But he is very unpolished, his fastball has a big range of speeds, and his curve is nothing special. He’s a long way off, but he’s got a high ceiling.

9. Eury Perez – The young Dominican import is very fast and knows how to use his speed to be an effective baserunner. He doesn’t have power and needs to develop a better approach at the plate, but that’s not to say he can’t buy a walk, and he is good at making contact. He’s not a great fielder, either. If things go well for him, he could be a strong leadoff hitter with no power but high OBP and lots of steals.

10. Tyler Moore – BP says that he has “massive” raw power and is a “surprisingly” good defender, who isn’t very athletic. He won’t be able to hit for average, and has no speed, but could end up as a home run threat in the majors.

11. Rick Hague – The 5th guy on the list from this past years draft, Hague was highly regarded last year, but had a bad college season. He can hit for average and some decent power, and has a strong arm. Meanwhile his fielding has been so poor at SS that he will probably end up moving to third base. If his bat keeps developing, he could have some value there.

I noticed that Tom Milone didn’t make the list, so I put forth the question to the author, Kevin Goldstein. He was kind enough to reply, so I’ve decided to put the entire comment thread below:

Charlie: Kevin, I’m curious where Tom Milone would end up on this list if it was extended out. The organization has been very impressed with him, and his numbers in AA were great this year. I know his fastball needs to be measured in kmph to keep people from snickering, but he’s gotta have something going for him with those K and BB numbers.

Kevin: He’s on my spreadsheet, so that means the 20s somewhere. He’s the kind of guy who has to keep proving it. I know the numbers are good, but my response is to make my a list of all the guys in the big leagues who are successful at 84-86 mph and get back to me.

Anyone out there, feel free to compile that list yourself if you’d like, I’m content to just wait and see what he does.

By Charlie