Lacy Lusk will be taking a regular look at what’s happening in the Nats farm system this season. Here’s his first post:
With nine of the Nationals‘ top 30 prospects, Class AA Harrisburg has plenty of reason to be excited about minor league opening day.
The Senators, who start a four-game home series against Bowie tonight, feature the organization’s top three hitting prospects, as ranked by Baseball America. Third baseman Anthony Rendon (the No. 1 prospect), center fielder Brian Goodwin (No. 3) and corner infielder Matt Skole (No. 4) will be joined by the Nats’ top healthy pitching prospect in right-hander Nathan Karns (No. 5).
Rendon is coming off a spring in which he hit four home runs in 32 at-bats in major league camp, batting .375 with a .412 on-base percentage and .875 slugging percentage. He finished strong last season at Harrisburg, making up for lost time from an ankle injury by hitting .305/.368/.673 in 68 Eastern League at-bats.
“We’re excited; he had an excellent spring and learned a lot,” Nationals farm director Doug Harris said. “I look for him to carry that on in to the regular season.”
With Skole, the system’s 2012 player of the year, also available at third base, Manager Matthew LeCroy may well be able to play Rendon elsewhere in the infield. The Senators’ roster also includes catcher Sandy Leon (ranked No. 15) middle infielder Rick Hague (No. 16) and outfielders Destin Hood (No. 17) and Steven Souza Jr. (No. 25).
Right-hander Paul Demny (No. 28) also is part of the rotation headed by Karns, who Harris said has “no issues” after leg tightness slowed him down a bit last month. Brian Broderick, a 26-year-old right-hander who pitched briefly for Washington as a Rule 5 draftee in 2011, will get the start on opening night.
“It’s not like the big leagues, where you go this is our number one starter and this is our number two starter,” Harris said. “It’s really a matter of where you are and when you pitch last” during spring training.
— The Nationals were ranked 13th in Baseball America’s most recent talent rankings, despite the loss of several players who have made the big league team a popular World Series pick. “We’ve been blessed with having talent continue to come through,” Harris said. “[Scouting director} Kris Kline and his staff have done a tremendous job.”
— Six of the system’s top 30 prospects will be at Class AAA Syracuse, six at low Class A Hagerstown and five at high Class A Potomac (but it’s six, if re-acquired right-hander A.J. Cole, who was the Athletics’ No. 3 prospect, is included).
Three of the other four top-30 prospects (Lucas Giolito, Sammy Solis and Wirkin Estevez) are recovering from Tommy John elbow surgeries, while rookie right-hander Christian Garcia is on the 15-day major league disabled list.
— Right-hander Taylor Jordan, one of many Nats who have bounced back from Tommy John surgery, is scheduled to begin his first full season since his operation Saturday night for Potomac at home against Lynchburg. “I’m very excited to be out of Florida right now,” said the Brevard County native Jordan, who was in extended spring training this time last year.
Left-hander Robbie Ray is scheduled to start Friday night in the Potomac Nationals’ opener at Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge. Tonight, Syracuse is at Lehigh Valley and Hagerstown is at Delmarva.