Willems had an inconsistent season but remains the most projectable of the arms in Vermont. From reports, the Nationals have tinkered with Willems’ delivery in order to allow him to more easily repeat his delivery. If this is the case, it will bear watching whether he can adapt to the changes and regain the fastball velocity he had (mid-90s) while at the same time gain more command on his secondary pitches (a curve and slider). Willems is the definition of high risk/high reward. Of all of the pitchers in the Nationals organization, he is the most likely to develop into the frontline #1 starter that the Nationals need to develop. I’d expect the Nationals to pair him with Gibson in Hagerstown to begin the 2008 season with the chance of a promotion to Potomac if the results dictate.
Smoker is intriguing to me. Scouting reports say he used six pitches while he was in high school (three different fastballs, curve, slider & change). His fastball has been clocked up to 94mph, his curveball is hard on even the righthanded hitters, and he uses his splitter as a strikeout pitch. He projects as a #2-3 starting pitcher but given his tenacity he is the type of pitcher major league teams love to have as anchors in their rotations. Given his late signing and limited playing time, a return to Vermont in 2008 is likely.
McGeary was the surprise get form the 2007 draft. Like Smoker, he’s a lefthander that projects out well, likely as a middle of the rotation starting pitcher (#2 or 3). Unlike Smoker, McGeary isn’t a power pitcher, his strength is his command. He has a low-90s fastball and low-80s breaking pitch. He has drawn comparisons to both Andy Pettitte and Tom Glavine and the Nationals should be happy if he turns into half of that. McGeary signed an unusual contract that allows him to attend Stanford and take classes, meaning his 2008 debut is likely in Vermont once his semester ends (likely missing the first couple weeks of the NY/Penn League season).
Zimmermann touched the mid-90s in the 2006 summer league, vaulting the Division III righthander onto the map for the 2007 draft. He has three solid pitches already (fastball, change, and slider) with a developing curveball. It’s going to get redundant but like the previous two arms, Zimmermann projects out as a #2-3 starting pitcher. He appears likely to start 2008 in Potomac.
Gibson was the story of the early part of the season for the Monsters as he baffled teams with his plus curveball. His curve along with his changeup are already above average. His fastball sits in the high-80s/low-90s but he might be able to add a couple of mph as he fills out. Gibson has the looks of a middle of the rotation starting pitcher and it would not surprise me to see the Nationals push him quickly though he is likely to begin 2008 in Hagerstown. Along with Ross Detwiler, Smoker, and McGeary, the Nationals have assembled for themselves four very promising lefthanded starting pitchers.
Add another pitcher to the docket for the Nationals, Alaniz will never be mistaken for a dominating power pitcher. He gets by on his impressive command and guile. His fastball sits in the high-80s and he has a solid curveball. What allows Alaniz to succeed is his control. He seems most likely to develop into a back of the rotation starter but every major league team needs a reserve of those. Expect Alaniz to start 2008 in Potomac with Zimmermann.
Finally. A bat. Bill Rhinehart made himself known from day one in Vermont, driving in runs at a spectacular rate, thirteen RBI in his first twelve games. His bat is his calling card though he likely has the ceiling of a major league reserve. He played 1B for Vermont in 2007 but don’t be surprised if the Nationals try him out as a corner outfielder in 2008. Depending upon how the roster depth shakes out, Rhinehart could start out next season as high as Harrisburg though Potomac seems more reasonable.
Gildea was a ninth round selection as a draft eligible sophomore and the Nationals got him signed, a nice haul for that part of the draft. Gildea projects well as a center fielder. He has above average speed, knows how to work the count, and has line-drive power that could develop into home runs. He is not flashy, just a solid performer. If you were to ask me for a sleeper prospect, it would be Gildea. Expect him to start 2008 in centerfield for Potomac.
Bass, the son of former major leaguer, Kevin Bass, was grabbed in the 42nd round but put up extrabase numbers well beyond a 42nd round selection with 23 XBH out of 58 total. He played almost the entire season as the Monsters DH and is corner outfielder if he plays the field. Bass has the baseball genes though he likely is a #4 outfielder as a ceiling. given his age (22) it would be best for him to start 2008 in Potomac as corner outfielder/designated hitter.
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