January 18, 2011

Down on the Farm

The acquisition of Tom Gorzelanny does not make me tingle in my special places. (In case you were curious, my special places are Charlottesville, Edinburgh, and Montego Bay.) He's youngish and left-handed, which can be accounted pluses, but also wildly inconsistent both in terms of results and underlying stats. He strikes me as another version of Lannan/Marquis/Livo/Maya, but not necessarily a better one. However, I come neither to bury Gorzelanny nor to praise him.

I'm more interested in what the trade that brought him to DC says about the Nats farm system. As has been noted, Washington sent OF Michael Burgess and pitchers AJ Morris and Graham Hicks to Chicago in exchange for Tom Ter...adequate. None of the three was a consensus Top Ten prospect, though Burgess did sneak onto the bottom of a few lists courtesy of big power and a cannon arm in right field. Coupled with those tools was pitch recognition and strike zone discipline that was postively Pena-esque, and that's Wily Mo, not Carlos. Still, Burgess was rightly recognized as the centerpiece of the return for the Cubs.

Morris and Graham are both good not great young arms who, barring unexpected improvement, will probably max out as big league middle relievers. Burgess has the raw tools to succeed, but will never progress if he can't learn to identify and lay off a curve ball in the dirt. You can argue over whether these three players represent a fair return for Gorzelanny. What you can't dispute is that Burgess, Morris and Hicks, a quad-A slugger and two back-end starter/middle reliever-types are mid-level Nationals prospects.

The cream of the farm system basically begins and ends with proto-phenom Bryce Harper. Catcher Derek Norris has great plate discipline, but needs to reestablish his power and demonstrate the tools to stay behind the plate because his ceiling at 1B is basically Nick Johnson with less pop. Beyond Harper and Norris it's tough to identify any premier offensive prospects.

On the mound, starting pitchers Sammy Solis and A.J. Cole are highly regarded, but so were Ross Detwiler and Jack McGeary not so long ago. More established youngsters like Tom Milone and Brad Meyers have back-of-the-rotation skill sets. Way too much is riding on Stephen Strasburg's rehab and Jordan Zimmermann's continued development.

To be sure, the farm system would be much more impressive if youngsters like Strasburg, Danny Espinosa, Drew Storen and Wilson Ramos hadn't already graduated to significant roles in DC, but great teams have a prospect pipeline. The Nationals have a prospect sprinkler.


Sue Dinem said...

Beyond Harper and Norris it's tough to identify any premier offensive prospects.

Except, perhaps, Eury Perez, who was second in the minors with 64 steals and ranked as the #8 Nat prospect by Baseball America. I could also make the case for Chris Marrero if I'm allowed to ignore his defense.

Further down on the farm, there is a turning-22-in-March OF named Randolph Oduber that led the GCL with a .480 wOBA and same-age C/DH (same birthday, actually) that plucked NYPL pitchers to a .403 wOBA tune. Are they on the immediate horizon? No, but they're worth watching and perhaps even researching.

Nate said...

I only dabble in prospect-watching, so I'll defer to the experts. I like Perez's game a lot, but is he more Juan Pierre, more Endy Chavez or more Wily Taveras?

I'll reserve judgment on Freitas and Oduber until they get a full season under their belts.

Sue Dinem said...

I'll have a better idea by late April, when I'll have seen Perez play in person a few times in Woodbridge, so I wouldn't want to pigeon-hole him into those archetypes sight-unseen.

Harper said...

It's better than the old days when I felt like any ranking after #2 for the Nats should come with an asterisk asking people to use the formula 4x+2 to convert Nats rankings to those for your average team