The Top 10 Arms

It’s tilted towards relievers, but two of the top three are ’10 H.S. picks

This is a more difficult list to compile because, as noted in the comments recently, this system does not have much in the way of front-line starters poised for the near term. Of course, I’ve just described at least half the other organizations in MLB. That may not be much comfort, but the lament is common one. There’s a reason why you rarely see a position player traded for a starting pitcher, one for one.

What the Nationals do appear to have is a group of relievers that could make the jump in the next year or so. There’s something to be said for that. Some of you may have seen the MLB Network’s Prime 9 episode “The Most Lopsided Trades in MLB History.” Two of those nine involved relievers (oddly enough both trades involved the Red Sox) and it’s not hard to recall other past trades, particularly in late July, that involve uneven swaps of relievers for prospects.

Last year, the Nats appeared to have pulled off just such a trade (though in fairness to Minnesota, Wilson Ramos was blocked by a perennial All-Star). If just a couple of these prospects pan out, it could give Washington G.M. Mike Rizzo the chips to make another deal… or better yet make one of the team’s few strengths even stronger.

So with that in mind, I’m presenting our Top 10 List of Pitching prospects, a.k.a. “arms”…

  1. Sammy Solis — Struggled some in the AFL, but scouts are nearly in agreement that he can and will rise rapidly.
  2. A.J. Cole  — Tall (6’5″) wiry (190lbs) H.S. RHP but said to possess a plus FB (91-94, top 96) that will likely gain velocity as he gains weight and grows into his frame.
  3. Robbie Ray — A “pitchability” lefty that is projected to command three pitches for strikes (FB, CU, CH).
  4. Adam Carr — Hard-throwing RHRP that had strong finish in AAA and a good AFL and has proven he can throw multiple innings regularly.
  5. Cole Kimball — The surprise of the AFL with outstanding numbers and an improved fastball but lack of AAA track record gives Carr the higher ranking.
  6. A.J. Morris — Noticeable increase in velocity, sharpness, and effectiveness after converting from starting to relief in the last month of the season.
  7. Tom Milone — Outstanding control and plus breaking pitch, but scouts worry it won’t translate to the next level. This has been the refrain since 2008.
  8. Brad Peacock — Hard-throwing RHP that needs to have his changeup working to succeed. When it is, he’s very effective. When it’s not, he can and will get hit hard.
  9. Brad Meyers — 2010 was a lost cause, but folks much more experienced and knowledgeable than I am in prospect-rating still believe in him, so he gets the nod.
  10. Danny Rosenbaum — The sizable gap between his ERA (2.09) and FIP (3.27) is a cause for concern, but like Milone, has a good feel for pitching and can survive on the nights when his breaking ball isn’t working.

The “Nigel Tufnel” goes to Rob Wort. This is a pure “gut” pick based on what I saw down the stretch from him in Potomac: A tendency to pitch remarkably better with runners on base versus the bases empty.

Honorable Mentions go to Tanner Roark and Ryan Tatusko. If I had done Top 10s for both relievers and starters, there’s no doubt they both would have been mentioned. I decided not to include Yunesky Maya because of his advanced age, his international experience, and the small sample size of work, which was less than stellar (e.g. 21BB, 4HR in 46⅓ IP majors and minors combined). All three will be on the watchlist.

Author: Luke Erickson

Since 2009, Luke Erickson has been chief writer, editor, and bottle-washer of Potomac is his home base as a season-ticket holder, but he has visited every affiliate north of Florida at least once, with multiple trips to Hagerstown and Harrisburg.

32 thoughts on “The Top 10 Arms”

  1. It is just terrible how neither Smoker or McGeary panned out.

    Also, does R. Detweiler have too much service time to still be considered a prospect? I am losing faith that he will be able to translate his game to the major league level, but he does has a plus fastball for a lefty and a deceptive delivery. I figure that all things being equal, if he qualifies he would come in around the 7 spot (which is pretty bad considering he was a top pick).

    1. Yes, Detwiler has too much service time. One does have to wonder if he could make the switch a la Balester. Hard-throwing lefties aren’t terribly common. Speaking of which, I wouldn’t give up on Smoker just yet. He showed some promise after converting to relief.

    2. Smoker & McGeary are still in the mix, just not Top 10. McGeary had 4 terrific starts in a row before his elbow went down, so hopefully this is just a speed bump. It’s definitely not too late for the Smoker’s & the Graham Hicks of the system, they’re both still very young, although I wish someone would introduce Hicks & Detwiler to the buffet table.

      Good work, Sue. This sure looks like there would be a need for a Top 20 or Top 25; the depth is definitely there with the pitching.

  2. Nice list, you are right the arms are much harder to project than the bats. Just a couplf of things:

    First, I think we will see both Carr and Kimball in the Nats Town bullpen before the end of the 2011 season.

    Second, what are your thoughts on Wilkie, Clegg, Holder and Hanks?

    1. Don’t know about Clegg and Hanks myself. Holder can’t miss bats at high A ball and he’s a college pitcher. Not a fan myself despite all the battler reputation. Wilkie’s not on the 40 man and wasn’t called up. When they chose to call up Bisenius over Wilkie you knew that his chances to get called up are remote. I think Sickels mentioned him and I was pretty surprised by that. I’m pulling for the guy to get a cup of coffee at some point, but I’m done hoping for expecting it.

    2. Wilkie – I think the best thing for him is to root for him to get picked up in the Rule 5 draft; he seems to need a change of scenery.

      Clegg – Looks like a project that hasn’t worked out. Telling that he was sent down to the GCL and did worse; most of the guys that were sent down for instruction showed improvement.

      Holder – Has had trouble keeping the ball down and in the yard, as Souldrummer noted.

      Hanks – Made our watchlist out of the GCL, a raw project that throws hard but had good control BB/SO numbers.

  3. Of course, I like your list, Sue, because I agree with it, although my order was somewhat different.
    As for Deitweiler, after his not so impressive start in the majors, he went back to AAA and pitched very well. In September, he returned to the Nats and had five or six good starts. Then the injury. I still have a lot of faith that he will still be a good major league lefty.

  4. Works for me even though I still believe Trevor Holder and AJ Morris could still surprise some people. Morris did finish second to Strasburg for the Golden Spikes. The landscape in the minors changed quite a bit last year … I expect the same will occur this year with an eye on the June draft and the hope that at some point the picks get signed and placed into they system sooner!!!

  5. I’ve got some different priorities so I might shuffle the deck some on these. I’m just never that moved by relievers. When your top 3 prospects are last year’s draft and the next ones are all relievers, a Peacock who could convert to relief, injured Brad Meyers, and the scout dissed Tom Milone we’ve got issues and we’re looking at the legacy of Bowden’s stuff here because pitchers take more time to develop and more skill to draft I guess.

  6. I know it is a bit optimistic but i’m happy with the Nats pitching prospects…Sure there are no Strasburg’s or Jordan Zimmerman’s in this group, but at least the majority of them are sure bets to make the majors (albeit quite a few as relievers). The Nats have had far too many pitching busts of late so I’m happy even to have relievers and back of the rotation starters.

    Cole is the the one prize who could turn into something more and I’m excited for his development these next couple of years. I’m hoping the Nats have a similar draft strategy this year where they look at a college pitcher early (and i’m guessing with this draft depth in the first round) and then go overslot in rounds 4-20 a couple of times to grab some young H.S. talent. I’m not saying eliminate high school players off the draft board all together, but I would probably prefer a 3-1 college to H.S. ratio with their first 4 picks.

    I also agree with the premise of using the Nats bullpen depth to land some more young pitching prospects (hitters as well). If the Nats can’t go for a big time player like Rasmus, or J. Upton, then I think they should trade Willingham, Burnett and even Clippard (in the right deal) for as many young upside M.L ready prospects as they can get. I have little concern with keeping this bullpen intact, because at the end of the day a good to elite bullpen don’t mean everything if your starters, lineup and defense are all below average.

  7. I have little concern with keeping this bullpen intact, because at the end of the day a good to elite bullpen don’t mean everything if your starters, lineup and defense are all below average.

    Agree entirely with Steveospeak. Its all about getting young upside close to ML ready prospects. However, I believe they should continue to collect young, high upside pitching. This is a franchise and FO that has been more than a bit snakebit. Maybe its the Diamondback influence? 😉

    Strasburg, Zimmermann, McGeary, Jaime, and Karns. All great arms with huge upside struck down by injuries. It puts a crimp in any planning the FO might try to put in place.
    This, I believe, is why those additional draft picks for Dunn are so critical.

    The Nats already have a line up of high upside position players they could field as early as ST 2011? Doubt that Riggleman would ever go for it, as he appears to prefer guys in their middle thirties … but then he isn’t a good manager for this franchise.

    2B Lombardozzi
    SS Espinosa
    3B Zimmerman
    RF Morse/Bernadina
    1B Norris/Morse
    C Ramos/Norris
    CF Desmond
    LF Morgan

    Eveyone in this line up is close, if not major league ready. All are under 30 except for Morgan. It might not be a bad lineup defensively? Riggleman would never go for this but if you think about it it might actually work.

    1. I think we may very well see that lineup, but in August or September not April. I like the spirit of it: Reminds me of Boston in ’87 when they decided to put Burks, Greenwell, Benzinger once it became obvious that they weren’t going to contend. It paid off the next summer with a division title, even if it took an amazing home streak to do it.

  8. BTW, if I’m not mistaken Bradley Meyers was left unprotected in the rule 5 draft? It seems that Rizzo et al may have the same opinion of him as Sue?

    1. I think he’d be pulled back for the minor-league phase (no luck getting my mitts on who the Nats are protecting) but a lot of teams will leave guys that were hurt unprotected. It says a lot more when they (any org.) don’t protect a guy that was healthy all season long.

  9. I’m in agreement with Steveospeak in that I’m happy with the Nats arms up and down the system, Sickels notwithstanding. I think you can easily put 22-25 arms up for discussion here.
    A.J. Morris was the star of the Instructional League, and we now know about his injury issues all last year, which are now gone.
    There’s a lot of love out there among scouts, for Tyler Hanks, he should start in Hagerstown next year.
    I can see Milone pitching well in the show and the naysayers will be saying “let’s see him do it next year” It’s always going to be that way for him.
    Peacock, Rosembaum, Meyers — at least 2 of them will have breakout years in 2011.
    We haven’t even heard from Mel yet on Christopher Manno, who seems a diamond in the rough, and was given about $1.50 to sign.
    Tatusko and Roark were freebies considering what we gave up to get them, and I’l bet one of them has a terrific 2011.
    I think any complaining about the Nats arms at this point would be simply recreational.

    1. Mark L: I agree, the Nationals are getting some good minor-league depth in pitching. Beyond the guys you & others have mentioned, there are arms like Bronson (L, 23), Hansen (L, 21), Jordan (R, 21), Ott (R, 22), & Holland (R, 22) & others who could “step up” in 2011; It could be an entertaining year from Auburn all the way up to Syracuse this season – DC, maybe not so much.

      1. BinM — Thanks for the additional input. You’re right, with no Adam Dunn in 2011, not a lot of reasons to go to D.C. next year. The good news, lots of great stories in the minors in 2011.

  10. I agree that Solsi is #1. I was at every one of Sammy Solis starts in the AFL and I disagree with your comments that he struggled, he maybe gave up 5 hard hit balls all fall. He broke more bats than any starting pitcher in the AFL as he throws a moving heavy ball. He added a fourth breaking pitch to his already 3 pitch arsenal late in the fall which made him even more effective. Lot’ s of error’s and bad defense behind him and many times saw him pitch out of tuff situations not brought on by his own doings. This was his first experience against major league quality hitting and he did fantastic job. I am now a huge Nats fan, this guy is the real deal!

    The Nats got a steal on this guy primarily due to a minor injury caused by weight training incident. He was one of the top 3 lefties in the draft and is by far the Nats best pitching prospect and might even be one of the best in all the minor leagues. Mark my words…he will move through the farm system fast and wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the “show” late 2012. If you look at his past, he has the “it factor” he simply knows how to win, just like he did in the AFL championship game. The bigger the game, the bigger the performance by this young man. If you dig into his past he has been a winner at every level and that is something you cannot teach. With Steven S. #1 and Sammy number 2 you could have my brother Bob, and Tom as the 3 and 4 starters and the Nats would have a better staff than most major league clubs. Go Nats!

  11. Just read an entire posting of comments with no gripping or complaining about owner/gm/etc. (well, Peric did get one dig in on Riggs). I am learning a lot from this site and I thank you all. I have hope for the future and am seriously thinking about trips to Hagerstown and Harrisburg next summer.

  12. Hmm, for a guy who usually prefers an ‘eyes-on’ approach, you turn around & go all “projected” at the top; I just don’t know you anymore…

    In all seriousness, the two HS-arms are probably going to be, shall we say volatile, for a year or two? This doesn’t mean I dislike them; I’m more concerned about counting on them too much – a mistake the Nats’ FO & fans have already made more than a few times (Willems, McGeary, McCoy, Smoker, Detwiler). I wouldn’t kick them out of the “top-10” list because of inexperience, but might re-shuffle the rank a bit.

    All in all, the lists are fun & drive both discussion & web-hits; Good on you for taking the initiative to post one & allowing knuckleheads like me to take shots at it.

    1. I think, as other commenters have noted, the real progress is that Nos. 11-20 can be “in the conversation” and the gap between #11 and #20 isn’t as wide or as wishful as in years past. As for H.S. arms, well, I think I would have caught more grief by not naming them. Their inclusion is simply an admission that when it comes to the ranking game, I’m safer deferring to what the pros have said about them. At least this year 😉

  13. BinM is right about Jordan. He more than Manno is that “diamond in the rough”. I think we’ll be hearing more about him.

  14. Peric: I am glad someone else is also putting Lombo in the ML lineup like I see him there…..

    I sat next to Sammy Solis at instructs on a bleacher at the training facility in Viera behind home plate. What a pleasant, funny, and outgoing young man. I didn’t get to see him pitch (he was charting that day) but he surely won my vote for getting to the majors quickly because – well, hey – I just like him! :o)

    1. TBRFan — re: Sammy Solis- I don’t know if you’re aware of this from a post of 4-6 weeks ago, but Solis and his family have built orphanages in South Africa for Aids orphans, he’s been there twice to help out. Just in case you didn’t know; another reason to root for him!

  15. And oh, BTW, after sitting next to him, I know how to make a radar gun read 100+ MPH by using your hand. LOL – those guys have too much time on their hands!!

Comments are closed.