Prior to the 2009 season, we identified 10 prospects to watch in the Nationals' farm system. Of those 10, five remain on the 2010 list.
Michael Burgess, OF: The 2007 supplemental first-rounder is still young and raw, but he is a power prospect on the rise. In 2009 at Class A Advanced Potomac, he hit just .235 but added 19 homers, third in the Carolina League, 71 RBIs and 12 steals. Though his outfield assist total dipped from a Minor League-best 26 in 2008 to nine in '09, part of the reason is his reputation preceded him and fewer runners challenged him. He has the strong and accurate arm for right field.
Destin Hood, OF: The team's second pick in 2008, Hood became the Nationals' highest sign when first-rounder Aaron Crow did not. A converted shortstop with a strong arm, he turned down a football scholarship to Alabama to turn pro. His talent is still raw, but now that he is focusing on baseball the improvement is showing. He hit .330 in the Gulf Coast League and .246 at short-season Vermont last summer, combining for five homers and 48 RBIs in 63 games. And he won't turn 20 until just before Opening Day.
Chris Marrero, 1B: The Nationals' top pick (15th overall) in 2006, he moved from the outfield to first base in 2008 but lost much of that summer to an ankle injury suffered sliding into home plate. He combined to hit .284 with 17 homers and 76 RBIs between Potomac and Harrisburg in 2009, earning Carolina League All-Star honors and finishing fourth in the league with a .464 slugging percentage before his promotion.
Justin Maxwell, OF: A local star in high school in Montgomery County, Md., he went on to play for the Terps. Maxwell emerged as a top prospect in 2007, getting a brief taste of the bigs, but lost most of '08 to injury as he broke his wrist diving for a ball during Spring Training. Though he was still shaking off rust at the plate in '09 and hit just .242 at Triple-A Syracuse, he led the system with 35 steals. A good spring could earn him a spot on the big league roster. At 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, he has an athletic physique and power potential he's tapping into. Adjustments made with the big league hitting coaches started to show in September.
Derek Norris, C: Norris earned organizational Minor League Player of the Year honors in his first full season as he hit .286 with 23 homers, 84 RBIs and 30 doubles at Class A Hagerstown. A 2007 fourth-round pick out of high school in Kansas, he is a converted third baseman still learning the tools of the catching trade, but his bat is advanced for his age. He led the system in homers, walks (90), on-base percentage (.413) and slugging (.513). A fractured hamate bone cost him time in the instructional league, but he is healthy now.
These five players were on our 2009 list but are not on the 2010 list, due to the loss of rookie status, trades, poor performance, injury, the addition of other prospects to the list, etc.
Roger Bernadina, OF: Could Bernadina have been an everyday outfielder last year? We'll never know because just days after getting called up in April, he broke his ankle and was out for nearly the entire season. When healthy, he has power and speed and was our 2008 Nationals Player of the Year after hitting .335 with 41 steals while playing fine defense between Harrisburg and Triple-A. Now he may get lost in a numbers shuffle. Let's hope for a comeback from the talented native of Curacao.
Ross Detwiler, LHP: The first member of the Nats' Class of 2007 to make it to the big leagues, the first-rounder got a brief taste of the Majors that September before spending all of '08 in the Minors for fine-tuning. It worked as he made it back to the bigs in 2009 and expended his rookie eligibility, posting a 5.00 ERA in 15 games. A hip injury will sideline him for the first several weeks this season, but the Nationals hope to have him back in the rotation by late spring/early summer.
Jack McGeary, LHP: The Stanford product's ascent was slowed his first few seasons because he spent the school year in California, only joining the team during "summer break." In 2009, he spent all year with the Nationals but struggled in his full-season debut, posting a 6.79 ERA at Hagerstown before moving back to Vermont, where he lowered that to 4.31. He has a great curveball and could regain his spot on the list in a hurry.
Adrian Nieto, C: The Cuban-born Nieto, a 2008 fifth-round pick out of Miami, has struggled at the plate in his first two pro campaigns, hitting .217 in a handful of at-bats in his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League and .228 in 42 games there last summer. A switch-hitter with power potential to all fields, he still has a lot of promise but has been nudged off the list by others.
Prospects to watch
|Roger Bernadina, OF||Michael Burgess, OF|
|Michael Burgess, OF||Ian Desmond, SS|
|Ross Detwiler, LHP||Danny Espinosa, SS|
|Destin Hood, OF||Destin Hood, OF|
|Chris Marrero, 1B||Chris Marrero, 1B|
|Justin Maxwell, OF||Justin Maxwell, OF|
|Jack McGeary, LHP||Derek Norris, C|
|Adrian Nieto, C||Drew Storen, RHP|
|Derek Norris, C||Stephen Strasburg, RHP|
|Jordan Zimmermann, RHP||Aaron Thompson, LHP|
Jordan Zimmermann, RHP: A 2007 second-round pick out of Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Zimmermann zoomed through the ranks and expended his rookie eligibility in 2009 with a 4.63 ERA in 16 games for the Nationals. But a sore elbow shut him down in July and required Tommy John surgery that will sideline him for most, if not all, of 2010.
The following five players are new additions to the Nationals' Prospects to Watch list.
Ian Desmond, SS: After being put on the fast track -- maybe the too-fast track -- in 2006, Desmond fell off the radar for a few years before enjoying a resurgence in 2009, hitting .330 between Harrisburg and Syracuse after missing the first two months of the season with a fractured hamate bone. He finished the year in the big leagues, batting .280 with four homers in 21 games, and will open the season at shortstop in Washington. He is outstanding defensively with range, energy and athleticism.
Danny Espinosa, SS: The emergence of Espinosa gives the Nationals a middle infield of the future, as the likelihood is that he'll eventually move to second base and join Desmond in the bigs. For now, the 2008 third-rounder out of Long Beach State will remain at shortstop in the Minors. A Carolina League All-Star last summer in his first full season, he hit .264 with 18 homers, 72 RBIs and 29 steals at Potomac. The switch-hitter plays beyond his tools and has great makeup. He was named the best defensive shortstop in the league and ranked among the leaders in several offensive categories as well, topping the loop with 90 runs.
Drew Storen, RHP: The polished Stanford closer, taken with the 10th overall pick last spring, signed quickly, moved up quickly and could be in the big leagues quickly. With a fastball in the mid-90s and good secondary pitches in his slider and curveball, he combined for a 1.95 ERA and 11 saves at three stops last summer. After striking out 49 and walking only eight over 37 innings, he led the Arizona Fall League with an 0.66 ERA.
Stephen Strasburg, RHP: What is left to say about one of the top pitchers to ever enter the Draft? A fastball in triple digits, a power curveball, a true pitcher's physique, great mechanics, poise and polish on the mound. The San Diego State product's only problem could be that anything less than perfection may be a disappointment when it comes to the expectations some fans have. When he begins the season at Harrisburg, it will mark his official pro debut after posting a 4.26 ERA in five AFL games.
Aaron Thompson, LHP: Picked up from Florida in the Nick Johnson trade last summer, the southpaw is a 2005 first-round pick who spent the entire 2009 season at Double-A, posting a 4.11 ERA in 20 starts at Jacksonville before moving over to Harrisburg for a 3.31 ERA in six starts. His changeup is his out pitch, and he could be throwing it in the big leagues this summer.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.