For the past three seasons, a lot of the excitement of the Nationals farm system has been the presence of “generational talents” like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, and now lies in the Draft Class of 2011: Alex Meyer, Anthony Rendon, Brian Goodwin, Matt Purke and Kylin Turnbull, which, amusingly has been pictured on the header graphic for the Auburn Doubledays since last summer despite only one of the five ever setting foot on Falcon Field (on a rehab stint, no less).
There’s buzz about Rendon switching over to 2B during the AFL, with the not-so-subtle implication that he’ll be sending Danny Espinosa packing or to the bench. If Goodwin rakes in Arizona next month, I’d expect the same kind of talk with the more astute folks acknowledging that Eury Perez might make the club first, then step aside.
After that? It gets fuzzy fast.
The point, as I touched upon in “The State of the Nationals Farm,” is that the era of sure-fire, fast-rising replacements is coming to an end and the system is shifting gears towards (what we hope will be) producing a steady stream of players that may or may not play for Washington. Before you start scrolling down and berating me for not mentioning Alex Meyer, Nathan Karns, et al: The rules are always different when it comes to pitchers (see: Bundy, Dylan).
Which brings me to my biggest dilemma regarding the 2013 watchlist: How to handle folks that stalled or underperformed in 2012.
I made a conscious effort last year to be be more selective than in 2010, which reduced the overall number of guys from 89 to 69. A lot of this came from being more aggressive with cutting off older players, guys that were hurt, GCL gambles, and Rule 5 pickups. I still made some mistakes, particularly in the DSL, which I can live with because ignoring them entirely — as some prospect gurus would prefer, though mainly out of despair of being unable to answer questions about them — deprives us of some of the fun of being able to say “I had my eye on this guy before even he made it to Low-A,” not to mention the chance to make up a nickname like “Orange” or “For The Weekend”
So while I don’t have a set number in mind, I will do my best to make sure it’s above 50 — but I’m not terribly likely to rank them 1 to 50-something since that only leads to pointless arguments about why X is #Y instead of Z.
Graduating from the 2012 Watchlist are Harper, Steve Lombardozzi, and Tyler Moore. As I wrote last year, I don’t think serves much purpose to name who’s probably going to come off the list. I’d like to think most are fairly obvious, though I have some tough choices to make for the 2013 list when it comes to pitchers coming back from surgery and/or injury. I may even need to create a new category or two (*hint*).