Baseball America Ranks The Top 10 Nats Prospects

Baseball America for NPPNo sense vamping when this list has probably been tweeted dozens of times by now. (Last year’s revised ranking in parentheses.)

1. Lucas Giolio, RHP (2)
2. A.J. Cole, RHP (4)
3. Brian Goodwin, CF (3)
4. Matt Skole, 1B/3B (5)
5. Robbie Ray, LHP (–)
6. Sammy Solis, LHP (9)
7. Michael Taylor, CF (–)
8. Jake Johansen, RHP (’13 Draft Pick)
9. Nathan Karns, RHP (6)
10. Steve Souza, OF (–)

Frankly, I was initially confused as to how an injured position player and a coming-off-surgery pitcher could move up in the rankings. This, of course, is no disrespect to them, but simple logic dictates that getting hurt and/or losing a year of development is the kind of thing that drops your stock, not improves it. This was Fitt’s answer to my question about that rationale for ranking them higher in 2014 than 2013:

I think Skole is in the same No. 4* slot he was last year (and remember that Anthony Rendon graduated to the big leagues). I did not dock Skole for being hurt — it was a fluke injury, and he returned strong this fall. I still think he’s a quality power-hitting prospect, and I ranked him accordingly. As for Solis, I got very encouraging reports on him coming off that surgery, and I expect him to move very quickly next year (assuming he can stay healthy — which is a legitimate question, given his track record). At this point, I think he has a better chance to stick as a big league starter than Karns, who strikes me as more of a power reliever ultimately. So I moved Solis ahead of Karns. I can’t say I’m overly excited about any of those guys — Solis is 25 now and still has yet to reach Double-A, after all. I don’t think this is a great top 10 after the top of the list, although I do like some of the depth in the 11-30 range.
* Skole was initially ranked #4 in December 2012, then moved to #5 when BA revised the list in March 2013

I give Fitt credit answering honestly, particularly in remarking about how the talent thins out rapidly after the first few guys, which has been the case for about two years now. For those wondering, Fitt said that he wrestled with a cluster of Tony Renda, Matt Purke, Billy Burns, and Zach Walters before deciding upon Souza for the #10 spot. There are certainly arguments that can be made for any of those five against the other four and it may be bit revealing of your personal biases, too. Fitt, it appears, likes Souza’s five-tool promise over Burns’s speed, Purke’s LHSP capabilities, Renda’s bat/eye, Walter’s power, etc.

One new wrinkle to this year’s rankings is a list of the Top 15 players under the age of 25, which you can find in the free article along with a list of the best tools, prospects of the year and top draft picks from the past 10 years. And of course, the top bonuses paid, for which Robin Leach Fitt remains enamored of the decision of the Nationals to spend heavily just as they were hitting rock bottom.

The projections for where the 2014 Top 10 will begin (or finish) next season were as follows:
AAA – Cole, Goodwin, Karns, Souza
AA – Skole, Ray, Solis, Taylor
Low-A – Giolito
Not specified – Johansen

I personally believe Cole will probably return to Harrisburg and be moved up in May or June; likewise for Johansen with Hagerstown as his starting point — but lately the Nats have been more aggressive, so it could be Syracuse and Potomac, respectively. As mentioned in the comments, where a prospect starts is not nearly as important as where he finishes.

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.

13 thoughts on “Baseball America Ranks The Top 10 Nats Prospects”

  1. Good news: Sens open season in Bowie!
    Does Barrett get added to 40 man as Gomez fish wrapped
    For Ham Fighters?
    Or does Rizzo add Luke Scott??
    Great work Luke
    May the force be with you and the Schwartz
    Be with you ( Mel brooks space balls !)

  2. What do you think the plan is for Giolito next year? They will probably let him him pitch a good amount of innings next year. If all goes well you think he can make it to Harrisburg?

    1. Even though he only made three starts at Auburn, I believe he’ll start the season in Hagerstown. The only question is when. Fully healthy HS picks have been held back until early May (e.g. Cole, Ray) to limit innings. It’s possible for him to pitch three levels, but I suspect he’ll split time between low and high A until he hits his innings limit (a la Nathan Karns in 2012).

  3. Ross: how so? I think a pretty reasonable list, to be honest. My personal take:

    1. Giolito
    2. AJ Cole
    3. Goodwin
    4. Skole
    5. Michael Taylor
    6. Johansen
    7. Stephen Souza
    8. Solis
    9. Purke
    10. Robbie Ray

    Honorable mentions: Burns, Walters, Renda, Severino, Taylor Hill, Aaron Barrett, Karns, Wander Ramos, Austin Voth, Nieto, Martinson, Mirowski, Benincasa

  4. Giolotto unproven. Johansen unproven purke a complete joke. Solis nothing special and your list isn’t even right because karns is nine…

    1. OK, it seems like you’re just trolling, but I will point out that all prospects, by definition, are unproven.

      1. John, you should have learned by now that Nathan Karns is the love child of none other than Cy Young and Jesus Christ.

        It doesn’t matter that AJ Cole and Robbie Ray had nearly identical numbers to Karns at the same level. It also doesn’t matter that Cole and Ray are four years younger than Karns.

        Karns, unlike anyone else on this list, is proven. He’s pitched in the majors, and his 7.50 ERA, 8.38 FIP, 5 HR allowed in 12 IP are a testament to proven-ness.

  5. I’m surprised that Drew Ward hasn’t even made a discussion for potential inclusion. He’s certainly not top 10 at this point, but for a HS kid playing his first professional wood bat season he did very nicely. Although he’s obviously a minimum of 2-3 years away at this point.

    1. First, Karns did not lead the league in strikeouts. Trevor May did with 159.

      Second, by what standard did Karns lead the league in ERA?

      Because I see (just to name a few of the dozens of pitchers with better ERAs), Darin Gorski, Logan Darnell, Nicholas Kingham, Anthony Ranaudo, Sean Nolin, Kyle Lobstein, Shane Greene and Alex Meyer all with better ERAs (not to mention our own Taylor Hill, Taylor Jordan, and AJ Cole).

      Looking only at qualified players (which I assume you’re doing) is an inherently flawed approach in the minor leagues, because successful players are usually promoted. Take Anthony Ranaudo, for example. He was doing extremely well with the SeaDogs (2.95 ERA through 110 IP), and was promoted to AAA, where he was equally successful (2.97 ERA across 10 starts). Can we just ignore those 110 EL innings he threw? Or even his overall 140 IP with a 2.96 ERA?

      I’m not trying to diminish Karns’ very good season. But one of the most integral aspects of evaluating prospects is age. Look at it this way. Imagine if Cole missed the entirety of the next 3 years. Then returned in 2017 to Harrisburg and put up good numbers.
      He’d be the same age as Karns is now. In 2018.

      Where do you think Karns deserves to be? And why?

      You could make a good argument for why Karns deserves to be higher than Solis or Johansen, but simply calling them “unproven” and “nothing special” is a lazy and wildly inaccurate argument.

  6. Oh yeah three games in the big leagues is a testament. And against two of the best teams in baseball! Even strasburg debuted against the worst team in baseball!

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