There has been quite a bit of talk in the baseball industry about the state of the Nats minor league system. Some people say its a top 10 system, some say its a bottom 10 system. Where is reality? Somewhere in the middle? We won't know for 3 or 4 years how the system was today. So why worry about it? I want to talk about what people can look for this year when they go to see the Syracuse Chiefs or Harrisburg Senators or Potomac Nationals.
There is a town in upstate New York, where people are praying to whatever deity they happen to have faith in, that Mike Rizzo decides Bryce Harper isn't ready for prime time. Even 2 months of Bryce Harper in a Syracuse uniform could make an entire year of profit for the minor league franchise, not the mention the economic boost that the hoards of reporters and scouts would bring to the city.
There will also be a cavalcade of name brand Major Leaguers who have signed minor-league deals, some of whom will land at Syracuse. Chad Tracy, Jason Michaels, Mike Cameron, and Rick Ankiel could all see time at Syracuse when Bryce lands in DC. Prospectish Adam Carr, Zech Zincola, Rafael Martin, Cory VanAllen, Pat Lehman will all make an appearance, giving the residents of Syracuse a chance to watch 2009's version of "the future".
But I believe the biggest treat for the Chief faithful will be watching Tyler Moore tear up International League pitching. Two seasons ago he hit 31 HR for Potomac, he followed that up with 31 bombs with Harrisburg last year. By the way, he slugged .532 along the way to 70 XBH. So get ready for excitement Syracuse! And um...Yunesky Maya taking the ball every 5 days...
Harrisburg will be a special team this year and a large number (50 percent in fact) of the upper level prospects the Nats have compiled will see innings for then Senators. Pitchers Alex Meyer, Matt Purke, Sammy Solis, and Paul Demny have at least a decent chance to pitch in Harrisburg. Meyer and Purke seem to be long shots and their best hope to pitch in Harrisburg would come later this summer after fruitful starts with Hagerstown and Potomac. Sammy Solis is an interesting case, he had a somewhat disappointing Arizona Fall League posting a 4.50 ERA, a WHIP over 1.70 and striking out only 25 in 26 innings. Not the numbers you want to see from a power pitcher. But he was injured and should come to Viera and hopefully impress some of the brass.
Position prospects Eury Perez, Destin Hood, Brian Goodwin, Jeff Kobernus, Zach Walters, and Rick Hague are all likely to be seen in a Senators uniform. Perez, Hood and Goodwin are athletic outfielders, with Goodwin being the new guy to the group. Perez is a rangy centerfielder with good baserunning ability and should be a treat to watch the majority of the summer. Hood and Goodwin are Jim Bowden's dream, 5 tool guys that have the potential to be big time stars. Will that happen? Get some tickets. Make the trip to Metro Bank Park, nestled nicely on City Island in the middle of the scenic Susquehanna River.
Other 2012 minor league treats include Anthony Rendon, most likely to see time at Hagerstown and Potomac. He will need time in A ball to get back into baseball mode and to boost his confidence at third base as a pro. The Nats 5th rated prospect Michael Taylor who spent all of last year at Hagerstown is poised for a big leap at Potomac. He slugged .432 last season but struck out an alarming 120 times. He is an elite athlete and capable of wowing a ballpark in a split second. Lefty Robbie Ray is entering a make or break year in his career as a prospect. He will most likely land at Potomac, at least for the first half of the year. He is a power lefty and should throw some dominant innings at the Pfiz. Joining him from the right side is Taylor Jordan, not as powerful, but his sub 2.50 ERA and 1.20 WHIP so promise.
How do the Nats prospects rank against other MLB teams? The only real evaluations will come from the play on the fields. So if you are in DC, take a night or two and head to Woodbridge or Hagerstown. Maybe pick a weekend in July or August and escape the heat in DC in Harrisburg, see the state capital and experience City Island. Maybe stop at Gettysburg or Valley Forge, call it an educational trip for the kids. And if you reside in upstate New York and Bryce Harper happens to break camp and head for your borough, don't wait long to get your tickets, he will not be staying long.