Top 50 Nationals Prospects

Here are the top 50 Nationals' prospects. CapitolDugout.com gives a little insight on each selection in our rankings and will follow up more in-depth with individual scouting reports on each player throughout the offseason.

1. Ryan Zimmerman: The 4th overall pick from the University of Virginia is a Gold Glove caliber defensive third baseman who was the first draft selection from the 2005 MLB Draft to make the Major Leagues. He's not a prototypical power-hitting third baseman, but cut more in the mold of a Scott Rolen. Zimmerman is an excellent gap hitter that projects to hit for a high average, as evidenced by his .397 average in his first 20 Major League games. He's the safest bet among all the Nationals prospects to be a big factor in the Majors.

2. Clint Everts: Coming off Tommy John Surgery, Clint Everts obviously has something to prove. However, there isn't too much reason to believe that he can't regain his pre-surgery form. He has elite prospect command and stuff, but the only question is if he will be able to bounce back with his health and endurance. If he is healthy out of the gate in spring training, the Texas born right-hander should be a mainstay in AA Harrisburg. If he's healthy, it won't be long until he's on the big league stage.

3. Collin Balester: In 2005, pitching for Savannah, Colin Balester emerged as one of the most exciting pitching prospects in the organization. Not only that, but he was a workhorse for the Sand Gnats pitching staff. With a plus fastball and strong secondary pitches, Balester has a frontline repertoire. But, at his young age, he'll likely be moved at a slow, steady pace through the farm system. Look for him to head the Potomac Nationals pitching staff out of spring training in 2006.

4. Armando Gallaraga: As far as upside, Armando's is through the roof. With a good pitcher's body, Gallaraga has torn through the ranks over the past two seasons, making an impact at each level. Armando is blessed with electric stuff and has excellent demeanor. Not to mention, he is still only 23 years old and will likely begin the season pitching in AA, with a good chance for a move to AAA New Orleans. With a smooth, clean delivery to the plate and a gifted arm, the Venezuelan product has a chance to be an impact pitcher on the big league level. Expect the 6' 4" righty to see some time early on in Harrisburg.

5. Kory Casto: Casto, the 3rd round pick back in 2003, has steadily climbed his way through the organization. Offensively, he's more like Zimmerman. He's a gap-to-gap hitter that has racked up 71 doubles over his last two seasons and has adequate power. Like Zimmerman, he doesn't possess the plus power of a power hitting position like third base. But blocked by Zimmerman, Casto will make a position switch and begin playing at second base. With his defense being his one glaring weakness, Casto's game resembles that of a Jeff Kent type of player.

6. Billy Bray: Perhaps one of the best, pure left handed arms in the minor leagues, all Billy Bray needs to do is get healthy. Armed with a mid-90's fastball, a devastating strikeout pitch in his slider, and a developing changeup, Bray has top of the rotation stuff, but his health is the only question. If he is healthy, the former college closer, could be a dominating force at the top of a rotation. The Nationals haven't tried to hide the fact that they want to push their start lefty prospect through the minors so don't be surprised to see Bray in AA Harrisburg at some point in 2006.

7. Mike Hinckley: A tall, lanky, lefty, Hinckley has made his mark as one of the top pitching prospects in the Nationals' organization. Armed with a good, low 90's moving fastball and a strong secondary attack, Hinckley may not have been showing his best in his less than spectacular 2005 season with Potomac. He battled shoulder problems early on and that may have been a major factor throughout the season. When completely healthy, Hinckley has all the makings of a quality big league pitchers.

8. Francisco Plasencia: The Venzuelan native was originally signed by Milwaukee and spent three seasons at the rookie level before being inexplicably prematurely released by the Brewers and subsequently signed by the Nationals. Plasencia is a five-tool talent with plus, plus defensive skills that will carry him a long way. He can hit for average, for power, and has very good speed. The fact that he's 21-years old and hasn't played in the long-season leagues yet makes his positioning on this ranking very precarious. He has incredible tools, but he'll need to put up the results in a hurry to remain a top prospect.

9. Ian Desmond: The Sarasota high school product was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2004 MLB Draft and is considered one of the best raw talents at the shortstop position at the minor league level. He's a smooth defender with great range in the field. Offensively, he has good speed and uses the gaps to collect a good amount of extra-base hits. The 20-year old hasn't shown an ability to make enough consistent contact as of yet, but with his combination of speed and defense, and his developing power, the best has yet to come from Desmond.

10. Daryl Thompson: Drawing comparisons to former big league pitcher "Oil Can" Boyd, Daryl Thompson has the attitude, aptitude, live arm and charisma to be an above average big league pitcher. However, the only aspect of his game in question at this point is his health. Recovering from a torn labrum, only time will tell if Thompson will be able to regain his live, moving fastball. But, if he is on and when he is healthy, he can be a lot of fun to watch. To start the 2006 season, he may still be on the disabled list, but when does return, he'll likely have a ticket to Potomac waiting for him. After his outstanding performance in 2005 with Savannah, he is regarded as one of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the minors. If not for his healthy concerns, he would have ranked even higher than his current placement.

11. Larry Broadway: Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2002 MLB Draft out of Duke University, Broadway has developed into a decent power hitting first baseman for the Nationals. He just completed his fourth minor league season and now boasts a career .283 batting average. Broadway doens't have the plus power normally associated with the first base position and many scouts have compared him to former Phillies and Mets' first baseman Rico Brogna.

12. Michael O'Connor: The 25 year old right-hander was named the Washington Nationals' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2005, and to put it simply, he was more than deserving of the honor. With Potomac, O'Connor went 10-11 with an impressive 3.54 ERA in 167.2 innings of work. Not to mention, he also struck out 158 while walking only 48. He has age working against him, but his outstanding command could carry him to the big leagues. O'Connor appears to be a lock for the Harrisburg rotation in 2006.

13. Frank Diaz: The 21-year centerfielder was an International free agent signed out of Venezuela. He had a breakout season with the Potomac Nationals in 2005, setting career highs in batting average (.312), doubles (45), home runs (16), runs (85), and RBI (74) among other categories. Until his amazing year this past season, Diaz was considered by many scouts to be a fourth outfielder type, comparing him to current Nationals' outfielder Marlon Byrd. One more year like the one he just had and he'll enter top prospect discussions.

14. Salomon Manriquez: Manriquez, like Diaz, is another free agent signing out of Venezuela who had a career year with the Potomac Nationals in 2005. He's a solid defensive catcher that should be able to play the position at the Major League level. Manriquez is gap hitter, and while many scouts believe he'll be a solid backstop in the Majors someday at minimum, his role with the Nationals will depend squarely on his ability to make consistent contact at the plate. Let's not forget he entered the 2005 season with a career .239 average.

15. Josh Whitesell: Whitesell is a solid first baseman with decent power. He entered the 2005 season with a career .249 average but chipped in with a .293 average with the Potomac Nationals this past year. The 23-year old Loyola Marymount product is a Lyle Overbay type with good gap power and developing home run power. If he can prove his high average of 2005 wasn't a fluke, he's got a chance to be a solid first base prospect.

16. Brendan Harris: The former 5th round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs is the Nationals' best utility prospect at the minor league level. Able to play second base, shortstop, and third base, Harris is also versatile at the plate. He can hit for a decent average with adequate power and speed. Harris could wind up being a starting second baseman, but his value appears to be as more of a utility player.

17. Justin Maxwell: On pure talent alone, Maxwell probably could be ranked higher on this list. The 4th round pick in June's draft, Maxwell is a five-tool talent and one of the most intelligent players in the farm system. He is also already one of the most athletically gifted prospects in the Nationals' organization. Maxwell can hit for power, for average, and his speed is incredible, especially for his size (6'5" & 220 lbs). The only question mark to Maxwell's game is his health. Considered a first round talent, Maxwell dropped in the draft the last two seasons due to a series of injuries. He has the talent to be near the top of this list in 2006.

18. Erick San Pedro: San Pedro is a game-changer behind the plate. He is a Gold Glove caliber defensive catcher with a cannon for an arm. His intuitive game calling ability is uncanny. Pitchers love throwing to him. His offensive game is solid, but not spectacular. Many scouts believe he could develop into a Mike Matheny top, which would totally excite the Nationals. However, the problem is that San Pedro hasn't been able to stay health long enough to amass more than 71 at-bats in his two seasons since being drafted. When healthy, he's an elite catching prospect.

19. Dee Brown: The son of former Philadelphia Eagles' defensive lineman Jerome Brown, Dee was drafted by the Nationals in the 10th round of the 2005 MLB Draft out of the University of Central Florida. Despite being drafted out of college, Brown's baseball ability is still in its infancy stage. He played both football and baseball in college and didn't focus on baseball until his senior year of school. His combination of power and speed is very intriguing and he has the chance to develop into a Brian Jordan type of outfielder.

20. Luke Montz: Montz is a big presence behind the plate, drawing comparisons to Javy Lopez of the the Baltimore Orioles. Like Lopez, Montz is a dead pull hitter. As a result of trying to pull everything, his batting average is nowhere near where it needs to be an impact player at the Major League level. The 22-year old owns just a .233 career average and his ability to learn how to hit the ball the other way is the single most important factor in his development. If he can go the other way, with his power, Montz could be a special player.

21. Ryan Delaughter: Delaughter was a two-way player in high school, showing great success on the mound and in the batter's box. For the Nationals, Delaughter will primarily play right field where his plus arm can be utilized. Delaughter is a very good power hitting prospect with a lot of projection in his bat as he continues to fill out. The only question mark surrounding his game is his ability to make consistent contact. The teenage prodigy, now working with professional coaches, has time on his side. If he can learn some patience at the plate, he could become a Pat Burrell type of hitter someday.

22. Edgardo Baez: The 20-year old outfielder is a raw talent drafted in the 4th round of the 2003 MLB Draft out of high school in Puerto Rico, Baez is an intriguing prospect. He has a nice combination of power and speed with still a lot of projection left in his bat. Baez still has room to fill out his frame and add more useful muscle mass. He can play both centerfield and right field. In fact, Baez is a strong candidate for a Frank Diaz type of breakout season in 2006. Baez still strikes out a bit too much and he'll need to show more consistency at the plate. But if he can do that, he's got a shot at being a special prospect.

23. Darrell Rasner Darrell Rasner is not blowing anyone away with his statistics at this point, but if nothing else, he has been very consistent. He hasn't shown that he is a big time strikeout pitcher of any sort and he surrendered approximately a hit per inning in 2005 with Harrisburg. However, the former second round pick has the look of a serviceable big league pitcher. And, after a strong season in Harrisburg in which he compiled a 3.59 ERA in 150.1 innings of work, Rasner may be competing for a big league roster spot in 2006.

24. Greg Bunn: A former 5th round pick, Greg Bunn, has never fallen out of favor with the Washington Nationals organization. With outstanding pitch ability and mental toughness, the right-hander continues to put up solid numbers. And, despite his late season struggles with Potomac, the 22-year old still may be on his way to AA Harrisburg in 2006 if he has a strong spring.

25. Brett Price: Price, a soon to be 26 year old, has some climbing to do before he climbs any higher on this prospect list. However, he obviously deserves a look considering his solid, and consistent minor league career. In 2005 with Potomac, he compiled a 10-13 record to go along with a 4.44 ERA in 144 innings of work. Not to mention, he struck out more than a hitter per inning and surrendered less than a hit per inning. So, the ability may be there, but he'll need to prove it against AA competition.

26. Rogearvin Bernadina: Signed an International free agent out of the Netherlands, the 21-year old Bernadina can be one of most exciting prospects and yet one of the more frustrating. Like Baez, Bernadina teases you with great tools. He has a very good arm, good developing power, and great speed. He's also very good at drawing walks. But Bernadina, who just played his third straight year in the South Atlantic League, hasn't hit with enough consistency to advance in the farm system. He now owns a career .242 batting average and needs a change of scenery. 2006 will be a pivotal year for Bernadina.

27. John Howell: Howell, who played with Brown in college, hit .363 in his first professional season. An injury to his labrum hurt his power production in 2005. He normally has excellent gap power and he can hit for a high average. His versatility in the field - he can play first base, third base, and both corner outfield positions - increases his chances of having a legitimate shot at a Major League career. Offensively, he's been compared to a Lyle Overbay type.

28. Matthew Perks: Standing at 6' 7", Matthew Perks is all about projectability. However, let's not forget that Perks also put together an outstanding season on the mound with the GCL Nationals. The 20 year old righty went 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA in 60.1 innings of work. He also struck out 41 while walking only 17. There is a lot more velocity to come for Matthew Perks and possible more success on the mound as well. Expect to see him as a big part of the Savannah rotation in 2006.

29. Tyrell Godwin: The speedy outfielder is one of the more interesting prospects in the Nationals' farm system. He was not only drafted in the first round once, but twice, both times delayin the start his professional career until falling to the third round to the Blue Jays in 2001. Selected by the Nationals in the Rule V Draft a year ago, Godwin has good speed a little pop in his bat. Now 26-years old, he projects to be a solid fourth outfielder.

30. Leonard Davis: Davis, drafted in the 8th round of the 2004 MLB Draft out of Fresno City College, got overshadowed somewhat in the Vermont lineup this past season. His improvement from 2004 to 2005 was quite dramatic, showing an ability to make solid contact and hit the ball with authority. He's a solid defender at third base, but is rather small for the hot corner (5'10"). Davis plays the one position where the Nationals have depth at the minor league level. He has a chance to climb the prospect rankings with another good year in Savannah in 2006.

31. Devin Ivany: Drafted in the 6th round of the 2004 MLB Draft out of the University of South Florida, Ivany is a solid all-around catcher. He hits for a good average, has decent pop, is solid defensively behind the plate, and has a good speed for a catcher. Ivany, now 23-years old, has a chance to be a Brad Ausmus type of catcher for the Nationals, but needs to put up solid numbers at the higher levels against competition more his age.

32. Ricardo Morales - Putting together a strong season with Savannah in 2005 was southpaw, Ricardo Morales. He didn't do it by blowing guys away and he surrendered far more hits than innings pitched, but he simply got the job done. With a 3.94 ERA to go along with an 8-7 record, Ricardo was a key part of the Savannah staff. At this point, his fastball is only in the high-80's, but with his pitch ability, a little extra velocity could make him a far more intriguing prospect in the next year or so.

33. Terrence Engles: For starters, Terrence Engles holds a lot of promise simply because of his ideal pitcher's body, (6' 4", 170 pounds), and he is still only 20 years of age. But, also, the lanky right-hander showed quite a bit of promise in his results with the Gulf Coast Nationals in 2005 as well. To go along with a solid 4.28 ERA, Engles struck out 45 and walked only 15 in 54.2 innings of work. Terrence has quite a bit of work to do before becoming a legitimate, top flight pitching prospect, but the ability is there.

34. Gene Yost: This former 20th round pick may not have the overwhelming stuff of a top pitching prospects, but you can't argue with the results. A southpaw, Yost, was a workhorse for Vermont throughout the 2005 season, logging 83 innings and posting a 3.25 ERA to go along with a 6-5 overall record. His stuff and age do not bode extremely well for his future, but what he does have is command and pitching intellect. Look for him in Potomac in 2006. He'll be 25 in June so he needs to move quickly.

35. Jeremy Plexico: Coming off shoulder surgery in December of 2004, Plexico logged minimal innings in 2005 with Savannah and in the Gulf Coast League. However, in the past, he has shown the ability to be a quality reliever, and if his shoulder bounces back well, look for the 24 year old to begin his season with the Potomac Nationals. His stuff is good enough to take him to the big leagues, but his age and health status may be working against him.

36. Johan Figuereo: The 19-year old third baseman was signed as an International free agent out of the Dominican Republic and made his debut with the GCL Nationals this past season. He's got a very projectable body with good raw power. Figuereo has a lot of work to do, but he's a guy to keep an eye in the future. He could develop into a Leonard Davis type.

37. Carlos Martinez: Pitching for the Vermont Expos in 2005, Carlos Martinez did take some lumps; however, he showed flashes of some solid pitching ability. His walk totals were kept somewhat in check, although he didn't miss many bats (39 strikeouts in 69 innings). On the other hands, his 6' 4" frame, makes this 21 year old right-hander one to keep a very close eye on in the coming years.

38. Chris Lugo Lugo, a 6'1" right-hander, may become a fast rising prospect in the Nationals' organization if he can duplicate his 2005 Gulf Coast League performance in 2006. A strong armed right-hander, Lugo was lights out with the GCL Nationals in 2005. And, at the age of 19, he has a lot of room to improve.

39. Jose Contreras: The 20-year old shortstop out of Venezuela has already played four seasons in the farm system and has yet to play in a long-season league. He has one of the better eyes at the plate, but hasn't made enough consistent contact with the bat. Contreras has good speed and can also play second base. He has ability, but will need to show he can handle the low-A level.

40. Cristian Guerrero: The cousin of Vladmir Guerrero, Cristian is already with his fourth organization since signing with the Brewers as a 17-year old. Like Vlad, Cristian has a nice combination of power and speed. Now 24 years old, he hit 17 home runs in 2005. He's not a big time prospect, but he could prove to be a late bloomer.

41. Trey Webb: Drafted in the 5th round of the 2003 MLB Draft out of Baylor University, Webb had a breakout year with Savannah, hitting .272 with 9 home runs and stealing 22 bases. The bad news is that it was his third straight year playing for the Sand Gnats and the 23-year old was facing younger competition. He'll need to prove 2005 wasn't an aberration. If he can put up the same type of numbers with Potomac in 2006, he'll move up the rankings.

42. Melvin Dorta: Acquired from the Red Sox in a trade for a player to be named later, Dorta, who had just four career home runs and last homered in 2001, hit a career-high 11 home runs and stole 22 bases for Harrisburg in 2005. Dorta has a chance to be a solid utility prospect for the Nationals someday. He played everywhere except catcher this past season and if he puts up another solid year in 2006, he could eventually become an early Melvin Mora type of player.

43. Ofilio Castro: The 22-year old Nicaraguan native is one of the better utility players in the Nationals farm system. He has a tremendous batting eye at the plate, but like Contreras, hasn't made enough consistent contact. Castro hit 24 doubles in 2005 and hit .261, his career average. He is a solid player but lacks the one plus tool to make him a top prospect.

44. Brett Campbell: This 24-year old right-hander has evolved into one of the top relief pitching prospects in the Nationals' minor league system. With Savannah in 2005, he showed that he has the ability to miss bats and keep the ball in the ballpark. At 24 years of age, though, he'll need to make his move quickly.

45. Mayque Quintero: Quintero, a pitching prospect more of the veteran variety, is a guy who may have an uphill battle on his hands. His future appears to be out of the bullpen, and he certainly has the big time arm for a setup or closing role. The Cuban defector can crank it up into the mid-90's, and since he broke into the professionals ranks in a somewhat unconventional way, he gets a bit of a pass on his age.

46. Marvin Lowrance: The left-handed hitting Lowrance, drafted in the 7th round of the 2004 MLB Draft out of the University of California-Irvine, is a solid outfield prospect. He hits for a good average, has a little pop, and does well in clutch situations. Lowrance projects to be a solid reserve outfielder.

47. Reggie Fitzpatrick: Drafted in the 5th round of the 2001 MLB Draft, Fitzpatrick's bat hasn't come along as quickly as the organization had hoped. He hit a career-high .251 with Savannah this past season to bring his average up to .234 in his career. Fitzpatrick also doesn't hit for enough power, even for a centerfielder. His speed is his best asset at this point.

48. Kip Bouknight: A veteran innings eater in the minor leagues, Kip Bouknight has never been an outstanding, standout pitching prospect, but has consistently been a solid performer year after year. Originally drafted by the Rockies, Kip has bounced around for quite while but never tasted "the show." However, if the right-hander can prove that he can pitch quality innings, he may very well get his shot.

49. Marco Estrada: Drafted in the 6th round of the 2005 MLB Draft out of Long Beach State University, Estrada's professional debut with the Vermont Expos didn't go as well as expected. He has a solid repertoire and his peripheral stats were better than his 5.08 ERA showed. Estrada, a good strikeout pitcher in college, could develop into a right-handed version of Gene Yost.

50. Dan Dement: Originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Alabama by the Devil Rays, Dement had a career year in the Nationals' organization after being selected by Washington in the Rule V Draft a year ago. He's got utility player written all over him, but at 27 years old, his prospect status is slowly fading.

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