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A Minor Review of ’09: Washington Nationals

Prospect ranking season is here. Top 10 lists will be arriving shortly and in preparation for that, we present an intro series looking at some of the players who deserve mentioning but probably will not be appearing on their teams’ Top 10 lists. The series is back for a second year.

Washington Nationals

The Graduate: Jordan Zimmermann, RHP
A possible Rookie of the Year campaign was ruined for Zimmermann after he underwent Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow. The former second round draft pick was showing good rates: 2.86 BB/9 and 9.07 K/9 when he went down with the injury. He was a little too hittable, though, and allowed 95 hits in 91.1 innings of work. Zimmermann’s line-drive rate was also high at 24.3%. He posted a 1.8 WAR in limited playing time, and the Nationals organization is no doubt hoping to see him in the second half of 2010.

The Riser: Eury Perez, OF
An unknown prior to ’09, Perez had a solid North American debut in rookie ball. The speedy outfielder nabbed 16 bases but was caught eight times, so he has some work to do on the base paths, which is not uncommon for young players. Perez swung a good bat too, with a line of .381/.443/.503, but he was aided but an unrealistic .418 BABIP. He showed OK patience for a 19-year-old and posted a walk-rate of 7.7% and struck out just 11.0% of the time. Perez is definitely someone to keep an eye on; just don’t expect another .446 wOBA.

The Tumbler: Esmailyn Gonzalez, SS
Gonzalez, aka Carlos Alvarez, was at the center of controversy for his fake identity, and just about everyone has forgotten about the .343/.431/.475 line that he posted in ’08 as a supposed 18-year -ld shortstop. Worse yet for the organization, it paid a pretty penny to sign the (formerly) highly regarded international free agent. Alvarez, actually 23 (soon 24), was stuck in the Dominican Republic this past season and hit .280/.423/.427 in 232 at-bats.

The ’10 Sleeper: Adrian Nieto, C
Nieto did not have a great offensive season in his first full year in pro ball, but he showed flashes of potential. Overall in rookie ball, the switch-hitting catcher batted .228/.337/.287 in 136 at-bats and he showed good patience with a walk rate of 12.8%. He will need to get stronger after posting an ISO of just .059. He also needs to hit better against right-handed pitching after posting a line of .194/.267/.262 in ’09. Defensively, Nieto threw out 44% of would-be base stealers.

Bonus: Derek Norris, C
Highlighted as a potential sleeper prospect during the ’08 series, Norris broke out in a huge way in ’09 and is a member of the club’s Top 10 list in ’09. Along with throwing out 36% of runners attempting to steal (and 47% in ’08), Norris showed excellent offensive skills in low-A ball. He does need to improve his receiving and other defensive skills after making 18 errors and allowing 28 passed balls.