After taking a few days to recover from the Nationals demoralizing Game 5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, I recognized that in the midst of this wonderful and captivating season the Nationals had this year, I had neglected my scouting and study of the Nats minor league system. Similar to a middle-aged man who has stopped exercising during the holidays, I felt like my Nationals prospect knowledge had gotten a little out-of-shape this summer. Therefore, in an effort to quickly get my expertise back to mid-season form, I reached out to Luke Erickson, Editor-in-Chief of NationalsProspects.com; Luke runs, in my opinion but take it for a fact, the best Nationals website focused on Nats prospects and their farm system on the internet.
Luke was kind enough to share some time with me recently, and we discussed a number of topics including last June’s draft, the emergence of Christian Garcia, and a few sleepers within the organization. Here are a few highlights from my conversation with him-
“Luke, thank you for sharing some time with me to talk Nationals baseball… Now that we are a few months removed from the June draft and the signing deadline, what are your general thoughts of the Nationals 2012 Draft?”
LE: “The 2012 draft for many teams was a feeling out of how the new CBA would be approached. The Nats continued two troublesome trends: (1) Leaning heavily on collegiate players (2) Gambling that a hurt player had fallen to them and could be had on the cheap, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing per se, but with the spending limits on the draft that are now in place, it’s also an opportunity that might (and we hope, should) not come for a few years.”
“After some graduations in recent years and a few players having difficult seasons in 2012, how do you feel the Nationals farm system currently compares with the other 29 teams?”
LE: “A lot was made about Baseball America ranking the Nationals #1 in the 2012 book, even though it was made prior to the Gio Gonzalez trade. To me, that felt an awful lot like the #9 rating that the system was given in 2007, which we all know turned out to be more of an endorsement of Jim Bowden gambling big on a slew of H.S. picks in the ’06 draft. I can’t put a percentage on it, but a lot of that #1 rating was Bryce Harper, plain and simple. Now, I feel like the Nats have fallen back to the pack and it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re back in the #18-#22 range in the next book. And that’s okay: The players they traded away helped turn the team from a wild-card contender to a division leader about a year sooner than I thought possible.”
“Matt Purke struggled in 2012 and recent reports have stated he underwent shoulder surgery… What are your current thoughts about his future?”
LE: “Unfortunately, a lot of my feelings about Matt Purke are tied to how the Nationals, in essence, lied to us about his health in 2012. I didn’t understand the silence and subterfuge with Purke when they were so (relatively) forthright with Lucas Giolito. It’s already well-established that the Nats are willing to gamble on high-upside players that are hurt or have a history of fragility. They could have reminded us about Ryan Mattheus in the course of announcing the Purke surgery. We have to hope that he rebounds from shoulder surgery the way that Nathan Karns did, another player that the Nationals could have reminded us about.”
“On the flip side, Christian Garcia was a revelation for the team this year and has been mentioned to possibly compete for the 5th starter spot in Viera next spring. What are your thoughts on Garcia and what role do you envision him filling in 2013?”
LE: “I think the talk about him becoming a starter is bluster. If that were to happen, he would need to spend some time in Syracuse re-learning how to pace himself, much the way Ryan Perry was dropped down to Harrisburg when the decision was made to make him a starter for the first time as a professional. Garcia is obviously more valuable in the rotation, but as a two-time TJer, I have a hard time seeing him being allowed to pitch triple-digit innings in 2013. I think he might be better off as a long reliever, working in tandem with Craig Stammen, who is clearly a Johnson favorite.”
“Thinking back to the Derek Norris roster situation from last offseason, are there any specific players that stand out to you as players that have a reasonable chance of being traded?”
LE: “No, not in the sense of being a package of minor-leaguers traded for a major-leaguer. There are certainly guys that could be throw-ins if packaged with peripheral major-leaguers such as John Lannan or Jesus Flores, guys like Corey Brown, Chris Marrero, or even Eury Perez. But I’d deferring to the folks like you to make guesses as to who the Nats might get with those parts.”
“I do not like to use the term Sleeper, but in that vein, do you have a Nationals minor league hitting and pitching prospect you like more than the general consensus and why?
LE: “Estarlin Martinez isn’t really a sleeper in the prospect world, but he doesn’t get much mention in the Natmosphere, in large part because he has yet to play full-season ball. With so few OF prospects under the age of 23 (he turns 21 in March 2013), it’s hard to ignore someone that young who’s consistently shown both power and patience.
I’ve had my eye on Christian Meza for two years now. He’s definitely well under the radar, and it appears that the organization is grooming him to be a reliever, but he’s young (22), lefthanded and has strong peripherals – particularly in keeping the ball in the yard (6HR in 164IP).”
“Luke, thank you so much for sharing your insights and knowledge about the Nationals of tomorrow… Where can everyone find you on the web?
LE: “The website is at http://nationalsprospects.com, and I duplicate my “Hey, there’s a new post” tweets from Twitter (@nats_prospects) on Facebook and Google+ to give folks options on how to find out about new content.”
“Thanks so much for sharing some time with me today.”
Once again, thanks again to Luke for educating us about the current state of the Nationals farm system. I read NationalsProspects.com daily for my Nats prospect news and I strongly recommend others do so as well.
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