How close are the Nationals to developing their own leadoff center fielder?

With Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings beginning Monday in Dallas, it is no secret the Nationals have a starting pitcher and leadoff hitter as their two priorities.

How difficult will it be to solve both of those issues next week in Texas?

It probably will not be an easy task to complete for many teams, not just the Nationals, because the Michael Bourns are not available as free agents.

When you look at the Nationals' system, there are some bright stars in the future waiting in the outfield, not the least of which is No.1 prospect Bryce Harper.

But what about others like Eury Perez? How close is the talented prospect from the Dominican to making the big leagues?

He may still be a ways away, but he certainly has high value to the Nationals, exemplified by his placement on the team's 40-man roster.

"Eury had another fine year," Nationals director of player development Doug Harris said. "He is a young player (and) if the stars align, his profile is leadoff, center field. He has those kind of skills. If everything comes together for him, that is a hard (commodity) to find in the market right now. History shows with a guy with that type of impact speed, they pose a threat to be Rule 5 selected if they are left unprotected. So with (Perez) being a potential leadoff type centerfielder, we felt strongly that we needed to protect him."

How about early draft pick Brian Goodwin and youthful veterans like Destin Hood and Michael Taylor?

"The jury is still out on Brian," Harris said. "We only had him for a short period of time in instructional league. He is obviously a tremendous athlete with a wide range of tools.

"I think Michael is still in the developmental process. Destin is probably the most advanced of all three of them at this point. But with that type of athleticism that all three of them possess, when it comes together, it can come together quickly."

So this does not change the wish list for the Nationals this week, but at least the franchise has many more of the pieces in place, especially in its outfield prospects, than it did just five years ago.

Live video chat reminder: Don't forget to join MASNsports.com's Pete Kerzel and me at 1 p.m. today for a live video chat to discuss the Nationals and the Winter Meetings. We'll take your questions on the MASN Nationals Facebook page, via Twitter @masnNationals and on the chat feature. Hope you can participate!

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