As I began pondering potential moves the Nationals front office might pursue, I thought it might be prudent to examine which prospects the team will most frequently be asked about in advance of the trade deadline. Unless GM Mike Rizzo surprises the fan base with a major acquisition, I think we can safely assume the organizations top picks from the 2011 draft, namely Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer, Brian Goodwin, and Matt Purke, will be off-limits during trade discussions this month. The depth of the Nationals farm system was significantly depleted in the Gio Gonzalez trade this past winter, however, assuming the Nationals are looking for simple improvements for the stretch run, perhaps a veteran catcher to pair with Jesus Flores or another reliever to add depth to the bullpen, there are still plenty of promising names worth highlighting. Here are a few Nationals prospects that should receive considerable attention from other organizations in the upcoming weeks.
Corey Brown – After a mediocre 2011 (.235/.326/.402 14 home runs), Brown returned to Syracuse this season and has destroyed Triple-A pitching to numbers of .295/.382/.554 and 19 home runs. Brown is deserving of a promotion to Washington, but the organizational outfield depth chart has Bryce Harper, Rick Ankiel, and Roger Bernadina currently ahead of him, forcing him to continue punishing minor league pitching. The fact that he remains in the minors might lead other front offices to conclude that Brown is not in the Nationals long-term plans, and a sensible target if the Nationals wish to improve their roster.
David Freitas – Another young, talented catching prospect in the Nationals organization, Freitas was selected in the 15th round of the 2010 draft out of the University of Hawaii and has impressed as a hitter with a career .294/.406/.445 line with 22 home runs over 249 minor league games. Freitas needs refinement defensively but has the talent to develop into an average or slightly better defender, giving him the ceiling of a starting catcher in a few years.
Nathan Karns – A 12th round pick out of Texas Tech in 2009, since signing into professional baseball Karns has posted impressive career strikeout numbers (11.03 K/9), but has struggled to climb the organizational ladder due to his poor control (4.43 BB/9). Pitching at both levels of A-Ball thus far in 2012, Karns has posted a 2.22 ERA in 85 innings pitched, striking out 114 batters verses 36 walks; certainly his control of the strike zone still needs improvement, but any pitcher striking out 12 batters per 9 innings will be coveted in trade talks.
Danny Rosenbaum – A soft tossing left-handed pitcher, Rosenbaum succeeds with pinpoint control of the strike zone, and has posted an impressive 3.38 ERA in 114.1 innings with 71 strikeouts and 25 walks in Double-A this season. For his career, he possesses a 2.60 ERA and 359 strikeouts in his 466.2 minor league innings pitched over 4 minor league seasons. Rosenbaum’s lack of fastball velocity limits his potential ceiling to that of a #5 starter or valuable lefty reliever in the major leagues, but his impressive numbers at Harrisburg and his being only 24 years old will interest prospective teams, giving him a logical chance of being dealt.
Matt Skole – After a successful collegiate career at Georgia Tech, Skole has continued to hit as a professional, posting a .280/.434/.553 with 26 home runs in 155 games and 554 career minor league at-bats. His glove is suspect at third base, and his numbers should be seen through the lens of a polished college player succeeding in Low-A, but power is at a premium in baseball right now and his name will be intriguing during trade discussions.
Kylin Turnbull – The Nationals 4th round selection in 2011, Turnbull has not performed particularly well this season in Low-A Hagerstown (84.0 innings pitched, 4.82 ERA, and 49 strikeouts), but still possesses plenty of upside as a 6-5 left handed pitcher with a low-90s fastball, an impressive slider, and a changeup and split-finger. In spite of his results, promising lefties with potential to improve will catch the eye of every opposing general manager and Turnbull could be a hot commodity in the upcoming weeks.
Zach Walters – Recently promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, Walters is off to a blistering start, batting .338/.378/.623 with 4 home runs in 77 at-bats. Acquired from Arizona last summer in exchange for Jason Marquis, the 22-year old Walters has shown potential with the bat and young middle infielders who can hit are often in high demand in mid-summer deals.
Before their season concludes, I want to encourage everyone who lives in the Washington Metropolitan area to take an evening and visit a Cal Ripken League game near you. The Ripken League is now in its 14th season, and words cannot express how dramatically the level of competition has risen in recent seasons. In early summers the teams were comprised of collegiate players with little chance of a future professionally, now the teams have plenty of quality prospects on their rosters. I have watched 5 games so far this summer and will attend more games this month to scout prospects and soak up the superb atmosphere.
This is not a paid endorsement by any means (although I should thank the wonderful people at the Bethesda Big Train for their hospitality), simply I want to point out there are few more pleasant ways to spend a summer evening than taking in one of these ballgames. I am taking nothing away from the experience of a Nationals game and the excitement of 35,000 people, but for those looking for a more subdued, family-focused atmosphere, I urge you to attend a game before the season ends.
Shameless Plug -> I was fortunate enough to be this week’s guest on the Ball Hogs Radio’s Nationals Podcast, The Red Porch Report – The host Kevin and I discuss the All Star Game, we recap the 1st half of the season, and preview the 2nd half of the season. I highly encourage you click the link and download the podcast. http://www.ballhogsradio.com/2012/07/10/podcast-red-porch-report-07-09-12-nationals-podcast/
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