Baseball America, the game's most authoritative publication on amateur and minor league ball, came out with its annual ranking of the Nationals' top 10 prospects this morning. There is no surprise at the top of that list: Bryce Harper is the team's No. 1 prospect, and leads four of the "best tools" categories (best hitter for average, best power hitter, best athlete and best outfield arm). But there are some interesting changes to the list from prior years as you scroll down.
Four of the 10 players on the list came into the Nationals' organization last year -- Harper and pitchers A.J. Cole (No. 4) and Sammy Solis (No. 6) were draft picks, and catcher Wilson Ramos (No. 5) arrived through a trade. That's something of an indictment of the organization's depth, but it also reflects a draft the Nationals continue to boast about.
Another notable development is how high outfielder Eury Perez is on the list. The 20-year-old, who hit .299 and stole 64 bases at Single-A Hagerstown last year, is on it for the first time, at No. 8. Teams continue to covet Perez and ask about him in trade discussions, and there's little doubt the Dominican signee is the brightest center field prospect in the system. Author Aaron Fitt also cited Perez in two "best tools" categories - fastest baserunner and best defensive outfielder.
And lastly, there's the case of Chris Marrero, who's dropped all the way to No. 9 on this list. In Fitt's projection of the Nationals' 2014 lineup, catcher Derek Norris, not Marrero, is the first baseman. That only lends further credence to the growing belief around baseball that Marrero isn't the Nationals' long-term answer at first. Drafted in 2006, Marrero still hasn't reached the majors, and his defense is still a concern. He had a solid offensive season for the Nationals at Double-A Harrisburg last year, hitting .294/.350/.450 with 18 homers, and the team wouldn't have protected him from the Rule 5 draft if it didn't see value in him. But Marrero's window to prove himself in Washington is getting smaller, and if Norris - who walks more and might have more power - keeps impressing, the Nationals may configure their plans around him, not Marrero, at first.
There's a link to the entire post above, and the whole thing is worth a read. I'll leave you to head there for the rest of the details, but here's the whole top 10:
1. Bryce Harper, OF
2. Derek Norris, C
3. Danny Espinosa, SS/2B
4. A.J. Cole, RHP
5. Wilson Ramos, C
6. Sammy Solis, LHP
7. Cole Kimball, RHP
8. Eury Perez, OF
9. Chris Marrero, 1B
10. Brad Peacock, RHP