There are a few players in the Nats farm system that are having really good years, and I haven’t been paying a ton of attention to them. So I figured I’d give a heads up on how some of the big name guys, and some guys you may have never heard of, are doing.

Chris Marrero – In the middle of his first full season in AA, the potential future first baseman is hitting .297/.357/.456, and he’s hit 14 home runs. Pretty impressive, considering he’s only 21 right now. He’s probably a few years away, but after suffering through an injury shortened 2008, he’s back to putting together the same kind of numbers he has done every year. If that power develops any more at all, he’s could be a major addition to the squad in 2012.

Josh Wilkie – I’ve mentioned him before, but if Storen is the future closer, Wilkie might be the future setup man. He’s 25 and he’s dominating in his first full season in AAA. In 53 1/3 IP, he’s got a 2.03 ERA with 42 K to only 18 BB. His fourth full season in the minors might be his last, he’ll probably spend some time in the majors in September, and I think he’ll have a great chance to make the team in the spring.

Danny Espinosa – While looking up the rankings of home run hitters in the Eastern League for Marrero, I noticed a middle infielder topped him on the list. Espinosa has 15 homers, tying him with recently called up Dominic Brown at 11th in the league. All the more impressive is that he’s a SS. He’s hitting .257/.331/.438 though, which while good isn’t great. He’s still young enough that another year or two in the minors may yield higher numbers, so it’s been a promising year for him. I’m sure the Nats envision him and Desmond playing together in the middle infield.

Cole Kimball – You may not have heard of this guy because he hasn’t impressed in the past. But this year’s he’s been great. He’s 24 and he started out in high-A, where he had a 1.82 ERA with 27 K to 8 BB in 24 2/3 IP. Then he got called up to AA where he’s had a 2.56 ERA in 38 2/3, with 46 K to 19 BB. In 2009 his ERA was 6.36, in ’08 it was 5.05. The big difference? He’s keeping the walks down. He’s got a career K/9 of 9.3 so that’s always probably been appealing. But his K/BB rose this year to 2.70 from a previous high of 1.86. It’s on the back of a 3.8 BB/9, down from something usually in the high 5’s. They’ll give him time to see if he can keep it up, but if he can, it’s promising.

Tom Milone – I’ve mentioned Milone before, but not much before the last month or so, because I didn’t really know who he was. I’m paying attention now. The 23 year old was a 10th round pick in 2008, and he’s impressed at every level. He pitched well through Low-A and High-A, pitching all of 2009 in High-A Potomac, starting 25 games, finsihing with a 2.91 ERA and106 K to 36 BB in 151 1/3 IP. This year he’s done just as well in AA Harrisburg, compiling a 3.05 ERA while striking out 104 with only 21 BB in 118 IP. His K/BB is higher this year, and his control remains great. Part of the reason you may not have heard of him is his mid-80s fastball. But he’s got a great changeup and he’s left handed. With that “fastball” he will need to prove himself at every level. So far he has, and I expect him to get a chance at AAA next year.

Stephen Lombardozzi – The 21 year old second baseman isn’t known for his power, and he’ll probably never be a threat to hit more than a few HRs considering he’s only hit 4 in 1242 professional PAs. But he is doing something important, and that’s getting on base. Now in his 2nd full year in the organization at high-A, he’s hitting .295/.373/.412, which is actually more ISO power than he’s ever displayed, and right on line in AVG and OBP with last year. He’s also stolen 20 bases, although that’s usually not that a great indicator in lower leagues because it’s easier to do, and he’s been caught 10 times, which is high. But he takes his walks and hits for average, he could be a valuable middle infielder down the road.

Some Players Not Doing So Well

From Kevin Goldstein’s article in ESPN today on prospects “who have stalled”, a familiar name is mentioned. You may remember a certain Nats draft pick that failed to sign, Aaron Crow:

As we approach the signing deadline for 2010 draft picks, here’s hoping that Crow serves as a cautionary tale. After not signing with the Washington Nationals in 2008, Crow ended up getting less money from the Royals a year later. The time off, minus a handful of indy league outings, has clearly affected him. Because Crow began the season as a 23-year-old with no pro experience, the Royals hoped he could handle a Double-A assignment, but instead he put up a 5.66 ERA and was recently sent down to High A. He might actually be further away from the majors than he was since the impasse with Washington two years ago.

Not that I’m one to get excited about the misery of others, but Crow’s failure at least makes me happy the Nats don’t have him. Although Goldstein makes it clear that part of his problem is from missing a year, still, it makes me think he was never meant to be great.

Well, unfortunately, there’s some bad news baked into that article for Nats’ fans as well. He also listed Derek Norris:

Although recovery from a major wrist injury is a mitigating factor, that alone can’t wipe away Norris’ strange line of .240/.415/.397 for High-A Potomac. An offense-first catcher, Norris has remained an absolute walk machine, but the wrist issue has made him almost too passive. His ability to hit for average and power has slipped away. Because of his defensive shortcomings, he can’t afford to be a one-trick pony at the plate, and an expected 2011 assignment to Double-A could be a make-or-break season for Norris, at least in terms of his reputation as one of the better catching prospects in baseball.

This to me isn’t as bad as one may think, the high OBP and the decent ISO makes me think he can recover. Of course, that may just be the fan in me. That slash line is so strange though, that I just don’t see those numbers as what he “really” is. Of course, if what he really is sits at .260/.360/.420 in that league, it aint so special.

By Charlie