Sickels Releases Top 20 Nats Prospects List

I’ll expand on this later, but I wanted to put this up ASAP so folks can discuss in the comments. Here’s the summary:

A Bryce Harper
A- Anthony Rendon
B A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock, Brian Goodwin, Derek Norris, Alex Meyer
B- Matt Purke, Tom Milone, Steve Lombardozzi, Sammy Solis, Destin Hood, Robbie Ray
C+ Chris Marrero, Danny Rosenbaum, Michael Taylor, David Freitas
C Rich Hague, Matt Skole, Jason Martinson

That’s 13 of 20 prospects graded B- or better. Last year, it was 12 of 20 that were C+ or C. This is huge because Sickels is a notoriously tough grader.

I’ve bolded the 2010 Top 20 picks that improved their standing and italicized the prospects that played their way on to this year’s list. The point? This isn’t just Bryce Harper and the 2011 Draft — 40% of this list are guys that were already in the organization and got better.

UPDATE: As promised, some thoughts on the Sickels Top 20.

…Now I’m rooting for Rendon to make it to Potomac next summer. Sickels downgraded the likes of Purke, Solis, Hague due to injury concerns and while he undoubtedly did here, too, it’s clear that he fell from Harper heights, whereas I would have guessed dropping from a B+ to a B.

…Naturally, I am psyched that he has become a Milone believer and thinks Rosenbaum could be following the same path, with Dupra, Hill, and Turnbull the possible next wave

…Not surprised that Kobernus, Moore, or Perez didn’t make the cut. All three aren’t much for walking. Moore didn’t get filleted at AA, but his walk totals have fallen each of the past two seasons while the strikeouts have risen. Kobernus and Perez don’t have the power to make you look the other way, and while both have speed, Perez is still one of the system’s true CFs.

…Pay attention to the “needs to show skills higher than” caveat that keeps recurring; seems to apply to nearly all of the Suns contingent and Skole. Luckily, we do have some coverage at Potomac *rimshot!*

…Sickels still believes in Norris, but downgraded him from B+ to B. The comp to Mickey Tettleton and/or Mike Napoli seems to be de rigeur nowadays, though I think that underrates his throwing arm, not to mention that he’s athletic enough to transition to 1B or LF in a very short time.

…Cole is likely to get the bump up to B+ per Sickels himself in the comments to his article: “Iā€™m about 90% sure Cole is going to get a B+ when all is said and done. I got some mixed reports about his changeup and some velocity fluctuations but overall I love the guy. I want to do some comparisons with other guys in the same grade range and see who I like better.”

…Last but not least, Sickels hinted that the system itself may be entering the Top 10 for all of MLB. I know some folks get pumped over that whereas I’m more likely to remember the #10 ranking from early 2008 by BA after the Detwiler/Smoker/McGeary draft that dropped right back to #21 in early 2009.

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.

24 thoughts on “Sickels Releases Top 20 Nats Prospects List”

    1. I believe Milone **IS** Buehrle. Might be why Rizzo hedged on the extra year and more money. Why pay for something you already have? My guess: that would be Davey Johnson whispering in his ear. Johnson knows every prospect in the system and for all we know has a ranking system that may be on par or better than Sickel’s.

      Wouldn’t put it past the guy.

  1. It sounds like Sickels is ready to change that Cole grade to a B+ looking at the comments.

    Great looking system, we’ll see what it looks like in a month…

    1. Sounds like you’re generally concerned about a Gio Gonzalez trade. Would a Peacock, Norris, Hood, and Robbie Ray get a deal done? I suspect that AJ Cole is going to be the first name out of Billy Beane’s mouth, and I hope that Rizzo says no to any deal that contains Cole at this point.

      1. Souldrummer,

        Bean is going to want left-handers to replace someone who is a top left-handed starter in the AL. That’s not Cole.

        Its going to come from Solis, Ray, Rosenbaum, Detwiler, and Milone. He can’t get Purke yet.

        That would be my guess.

      2. Actually, from previous A’s tendencies maybe even Lombardozzi, Milone, Norris and Detwiler gets the job done.

        It’s tough to say how I would feel about that trade. Sure is mortgaging a lot, and Gio’s walk rates are…not good.

        I think our minor league system is good, but not good enough to give away four guys.

        1. I think Detwiler, Milone, Norris and Lombo is a reasonable comp to the haul San Diego got for Latos, given that Latos is a superior pitcher to Gio. I would definitely make that trade. Maybe you put Peacock in the deal instead of Norris, and substitute someone like Moore (or even Marrero) for Milone, but I’m not so sure I like including both Norris and Peacock, as suggested in Ladson’s most recent piece. That seems like a better package than what the Reds gave up for Latos.

  2. Speaking of guys not on Sickel’s list. Is it me or does Jesus Valdez look like a pretty decent offensive player? He sure helped Syracuse when the hitting there was even more anemic that what the Nats had initially. Why doesn’t he rate as a right-handed bench bat and part-time outfielder? He’s done the job in Harrisburg and Syracuse?

  3. Okay … too many posts but one observation? Sickel’s has rated at least 3-4 potential CF’s C or above?

    Goodwin, Hood, Taylor … I suppose some might still feel Harper has the potential but it seems unlikely to me.

  4. The write-ups by Sickel are impressive. He compares
    Norris to Napoli and says his defense is getting better every year. That would make Norris a middle of the order bat which is better than I would have thought and I like Norris.

    I also like that he says Hood has momentum, the second half of last year looked like he was finally turning into a baseball player and not just an athlete.

    The picture on the site shows Milone hitting a HR in his first at bat and he looks like a real batter too.

    Everything probably won’t workout but the Nats look like they finally have a working minor league system.

    Great job as always Sue.

  5. Souldrummer, i wouldn’t put Peacock in any trade for Gio. Milone instead but doubt if the A’s would go for that.
    Interestiny that Sickel’s top twenty have more position players. Thought Jordan and Turnbull might be there instead of Frietas and Martinson. Also thought maybe Kobernus.

  6. There are big differences between the system now (which I think is going to be in BA’s top 3) and the system in 2008, when BA ranked it in the top 10.

    Most significant, the top 2 prospects now have superstar potential; I don’t think anyone was saying that Marrero (#1 in 2008) was the kind of generational prospect that Harper is.

    Also important–and BA pointed this out in 2008–the best prospects then were high schoolers in the lower levels of the organization. High upside with high risk. Now, there is a great mix of upper level talent, college arms and lower level, high-upside players. A lot more would have to go wrong for this system to fail to produce several major league players. (Only 5 of the top 10 from 2008 have seen major league playing time, and only Jordan Zimmermann could be considered a regular.)

    You make a great point in noting that so many of those on Sickels’ list were already in the org. I have a sense that player development has improved significantly since Rizzo took over, just as scouting and drafting have. It’s unrealistic to expect so many giant leaps forward every year, but in the past there have been too few.

    Thanks for all your work on this site. I really enjoy it.

    1. I’d still like to see them start taking chances again with HS players. It’s probably true that the best players will go to college and perhaps some two-sport stars will be lost to the other sport, though there’s little evidence to suggest that (A) that’s anything but a chimera (B) it’s more than a handful of players out of thousands. The colleges haven’t increased the number of scholarships they’re handing out so that influx should create a class of players that could opt to go the pro route instead of trying to walk on. Of course, they’re being squeezed by virtue of the draft being reduced from 50 rounds to 40, so maybe the JuCos will benefit?

      Ultimately, I’d have to agree with the contention from BA that most of the early reaction has been knee-jerk and overheated.

      1. I don’t disagree with you about taking chances with high schoolers–Cole and Ray are great examples. I just meant to say that if you have a top 10 list where 8 of the players are 19 or 20 year olds, you have a higher risk of seeing busts than if there’s a mixture of ages and experience levels.

        Callis’ column in BA this month on the draft leaves me a little worried. It argues that teams like the Pirates will still have lots of money to spend (because they will be drafting high) while teams like the Red Sox who perpetually draft toward the end of the draft will have more constraints. I’d like to think that the Nats are moving toward the back part of the draft, and therefore won’t be able to spend as much as they have in the past. At the same time, restrictions on spending will place more emphasis on amatuer scouting and player development, which seem to be strengths for the Nats. So we’ll see.

        1. And in fact didn’t they last year? Just like Cole and Ray we saw Rizzo draft Hawtin Buchanan and Josh Laxer. This time both opted for college. And it may be because of the expensive top end of the draft, perhaps one of the most in history … and given the rule change this year perhaps they should have upped the ante as high as they could on those two?

  7. For every Cole and Ray, you have 50 Souzas. High HS draft choices that dont pan out.
    The new CBA may make it less attractive to go after HS prospects with big bucks?

    1. Consensus I’m getting is that HS picks that would have gone in the Top 3 rounds will still get considered, but after that, they’ll let ’em go to the colleges and hope to get a crack at ’em late. The strategy of lowballing early (to get sandwich picks) and highballing (relative to the round slot) later is gone because now the money for the former can’t be used on the latter (this was pointed out on a Pirates prospect board; I’m no draft expert).

  8. I’m so excited Martinson made the Top 20. He, Norris and Estevez are my three favorite prospects in the system.

    Eclectic group… but they all excite me for the future of the Nats minor league system.

    1. A gamble by Rizzo. He’s a bat in search of a position and has been stuck at the same level for three seasons now, suffering from Billy Rowell’s disease (“But he’s still young”).

  9. I thought ‘Billy Rowell disease’ was another way of saying ‘the kid flat-out can’t play’. Does being a year older and unable to play the game change anything?

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