A Look at the Nats’ Minor League Disappointments

The year 2012 has been pretty awesome for the Washington Nationals at the major league level, but there were quite a few disappointments amongst their good prospects. Due to the trading of four top-15 prospects in the Gio Gonzalez deal and having Bryce Harper, Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore graduate to the big leagues, the Nats’ top prospect list looks much weaker than it did in December.

Some players who I expected to fall into the places left by Harper, AJ Cole, Brad Peacock, etc. looked good this year; we’ll take a look at guys like Brian Goodwin and Alex Meyer in a few weeks. On the other hand, many other prospects that we’ll look at today underwhelmed in 2012 and will need to work hard this winter to bounce back in 2013. There are two categories that the disappointments fall into: injuries or poor performance. The prospects with the highest ceilings were generally the ones that had injury issues this year while the borderline guys fell into the wrong side of the border with poor performance.
INJURIES
3B Anthony Rendon  – Rendon is his own episode M*A*S*H; whether it’s his ankles or shoulder, it seems that he can’t shake the injury bug. It took only took two games for Rendon to hurt his ankle in 2012, forcing him to miss a little more than 3 months of action. When he returned, Rendon had issues adjusting to live pitching, hitting .162/.305/.368 in a 21 game stint in Harrisburg. Rendon’s overall triple slash of .233/.363/.489 in a small 160 PA sample size isn’t completely discouraging, but the Nats really need the 22 year old infielder to get and stay healthy.
RHP Lucas Giolito – The 2012 first round pick wouldn’t have fallen to the 16th overall pick if he didn’t have injury question marks (just like Rendon wouldn’t have lasted to the 6th spot last year). That being said, Giolito was shut down after throwing 2 innings of rookie league ball and had Tommy John surgery last month. If everything goes to plan, Giolito and his bionic elbow will move quickly through the system in a few years, but the 18 year old is still far away from the big leagues.
LHP Matt Purke – Another guy that the Nats wouldn’t have gotten in the draft if he were healthy. Purke’s current health status is a mystery; the last I heard on him was about four weeks ago when a relative of mine ran into him at a medical center where he was getting his shoulder scoped. Shoulder injuries are far scarier than elbow ones for pitchers, and at this point I’m legitimately concerned for his baseball future.
LHP Sammy Solis – Unlike most of the other injury-related disappointments, Solis seems to be on the road to recovery and ready to contribute in 2013. I still feel like Solis will zoom through the system once his arm is completely healthy. He had Tommy John surgery this March and should be in a minor league rotation early in the 2013 season. He’ll likely be put on an innings limit next year, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a big league uniform for a spot start in 2013 or for good in 2014 and beyond.
1B Chris Marrero – Can you believe this guy is still only 24? It seems like forever ago that the Nationals took him 15th overall (the year was 2006 to be exact). Anyways, Marrero spent most of 2012 on the disabled list, finally returning late in the year for 53 total games (37 at Syracuse). After back to back promising years in 2010 and 11, Marrero’s future in the system is once again a question mark, as he looks to be a decent contact hitter but without the power or glove the Nats want in a 1B a la Adam LaRoche.
POOR PERFORMANCE
OF Destin Hood – I’ll admit, I completely hopped on the Destin Hood bandwagon after his impressive 2011 season (.276/.364/.445 in 128 games in Potomac with 13 HR and 21 SB). 2012 has been a disaster for Hood – he found a way to strike out the same amount of times as last year (96) but walk 32 times less (a respectable 58 walks last year and a poor 26 walks this year). His speed and power completely went away as well (only 6 SB, 3 HR and 27 XBH this season after 21 SB, 13 HR and 47 XBH last year). Hood plays decent defense in the outfield corners, but will need more than that to keep his prospect status.
LHP Danny Rosenbaum – It’s a bit nitpicky to throw a guy on this list with a 3.94 ERA, but Rosenbaum’s promising career (ERA’s of 1.95, 2.25 and 2.52 in his first three seasons) made me have higher expectations. At 24 (25 in October), Rosenbaum’s 2012 was a make or break year and he got worse across the board, allowing a 1.307 WHIP, 9.5 H/9 and 5.7 K/9, all of which are far removed from his career stats of 1.190 WHIP, 8.2 H/9 and 6.9 K/9. Rosenbaum did improve his BB/9 to the best rate of his career (2.3 BB/9 this year, down from 2.7 last year) but the difference is close to being negligible.
OF Michael Taylor – Taylor shot up top prospect lists after hitting .253/.310/.432 for Hagerstown in 2011. Still only 21, Taylor’s power dipped significantly (.179 ISO in 2011, .120 in 2012) and his BB/K ratio went from awful (roughly 1 BB per 4 K in 2011) to merely bad (roughly 4 BB per 11 K in 2012). The steals and center field defense are still exciting, but with the drafting and emergence of Brian Goodwin, the Nats have a clear center fielder of the future and it is no longer looking like Michael Taylor.
2B Tony Renda – There were certainly parts of Renda’s pro debut that were impressive (15/18 SB, 31/33 BB/K ratio), but his .264/.341/.295 is simply not going to cut it as a starter. Renda doesn’t need to be a home run hitter to contribute at the big league level, but a .031 ISO is awful by any metric. I have confidence in Renda’s ability to bounce back and hit the ball well in 2013, but I was hoping for something like a .290/.370/.430 triple slash to start his pro career.
OF Eury Perez – Some may look at Perez’s .314/.344/.361 triple slash and think, “wow, this guy might turn into something!” If that’s what you’re thinking, I’m going to come right out and tell you that you’re wrong. Perez’s speed allows him to cover a lot of ground in the outfield and beat out infield hits, but he has a mediocre arm, no power and a terrible batters eye. Perez can be an okay contributor at the major league level as a 5th OF/pinch runner type, but if you are still dreaming of him batting leadoff and playing center field, wake up. Unless Perez can learn to take a walk (and if you look at his declining BB% each year, it’s becoming less and less likely), Perez will be in AAA/bench purgatory for a long time.
LHP Robbie Ray – I’ve never been that big of a Robbie Ray fan to begin with, but his 4-12, 6.56 ERA season in Potomac caught me by surprise. Ray’s control was only a tick worse in 2012 than it was in 2011, but he gave up 11 more home runs and struck out 9 fewer batters in 16 and 2/3 more innings. Still only 20 (turns 21 on October 1), Ray is far away from the big leagues, but needs to improve significantly in 2013 to keep pushing up the ladder.

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