- Francisco Plasencia OF - The 21-year LH OF made himself a prospect with a solid season in his first year with the Nationals. He finished a full season in Vermont 300/369/504 with 31XBH (11HR) and 14/17 in SB attempts. He is a bit old for the level at which he played, so it will be interesting to see if he can build upon his successes and work his way up through the farm system. His initial assignment out of spring training in 2006 will be most telling. If he is placed with Potomac, he is someone worth watching. If it's Savannah, he has to prove himself all over again.
- John Howell OF/DH - The 22-year old 9th round pick out of the University of Central Florida performed well in 29 games for the Expos (363/413/487) prior to being shut down for the season in late August with shoulder pain. The LH OF built upon a successful college season, 348/405/647 with 15HR in 59G with the Golden Knights. He is very much a work in progress. He should begin the season in Savannah where his age would dictate he needs to make an early impression toput himself on the major league prospect map.
- Dee Brown OF - The 22-year old was a teammate of Howell at UCF, not to mention the son of late Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman, Jerome Borwn. Selected in the 10th round, Brown finished his first season with a 100% on baseball 283/331/484 in 47 games in Vermont after 312/395/608 in 59G with 18HR with the Golden Knights. Brown's season was also cut short by injury (broken finger). He needs to work on his control of the strike zone (12BB/56K). He'll join Howell with the Sand Gnats in 2006 with the same expectations.
- Leonard Davis 3B - The 21-year old NY-Penn League All-Star had a breakout season in Vermont after stumbling in his first year with the GCL Nationals. In 67G, the 2004 8th round pick batted 300/338/489 with 7HR and 8SB. His strike zone control is an area that requires improvement (12BB/64K). Unfortunately for Davis, his future with the Nationals will not be at 3B. With Ryan Zimmerman and Kory Casto ahead of him on the 3B depth cahrt, Davis may have to learn how to play another position to continue his climb up the organizational ladder. He will likely begin the year as the starting 3B for Savannah in 2006.
- Mike Daniel OF - The 21-year old University of North Carolina OF was a 7th round pick this year for the Nationals. The left-handed hitting OF played alot for the Expos finishing 260/345/357 in 67 games. He does not possess much power (7HR in 438 college ABs and 3HR in 235 professional ABs), and his speed is still a work in progress 6/13 with the Expos. He projects as a #5 OF though if he continues to work on his speed, that with his defense could carry him to a platoon role. A start in Savannah may be restricted by the presence of Plasencia, Howell, and Brown.
Andrew Lane 2B - The 23-year old 2005 27th round draft pick played for Vermont with a one-game stopover with Potomac. He didn't hit very well (204/291/248) and is way too old for the level he finished the season. He looks to be an organizational player.
Top 5 Vermont Pitchers
- Clint Everts SP/RP - The 21-year old former #5 overall selection in the 2002 draft spent the early part of his season recovering from Tommy John surgery. He made 15 appearances (8 starts) between the Gulf Coast League and Vermont rehabbing his arm. In 35IP, he had 1.69WHIP, 9.3K/9IP, 5.1BB/9IP, an 0 HR allowed. Much like a fellow Texan on the major league roster (John Patterson), Everts is still a few years away from making the big leagues. He has a plus-plus curveball and changeup and if recovery is consistent to many TJ patients, he should get his 88-93 mph fastball back. A definite advantage for Everts is his age, he has enough years in reserve to make a recovery and still be young enough to have a major league future, ideally as a frontline SP. I would hope the Nationals challenge him by placing him no lower than Potomac and in the best case, New Orleans.
- (Wendell) Gene Yost SP - The 24-year old LHP was a 20th round selection in the 2004 draft. After a pretty good debut the Gulf Coast League in 2004 (11G[4GS] 35.2IP 1.12WHIP 5.8K/9IP 1.3BB/9IP), Yost did a little bit of everything in two stops, Vermont and Savannah. In 14 games a SP with the Expos, he had 83IP with 3.25ERA, 1.20WHIP, 6.1K/9IP, 3.3BB/9IP, and 0.8HR/9IP. Upon his promotion to Savannah, Yost moved to the bullpen where he demonstrated he could handle that role as well. In 8 relief appearances (13.2IP), he finished the season with 2.63ERA, 0.80WHIP, 10.5K/9IP, 1.3BB/9IP, and 0.7HR/9IP. He needs to continue doing the same thing he did this season, show versatility, in order to put himself in a position to help the Nationals. If a SP, he should begin the season with Potomac, though a bullpen role may bump that up to Harrisburg.
- Chris Lugo SP - The 18-year old 2004 24th round draft pick started the season with the GCL Nationals, (28.2IP with 2.20ERA, 1.26WHIP, 7.5K/9IP, 3.4BB/9IP, and 0 HR allowed) which drove the Nationals to quickly promote him to Vermont where he both started and pitched out of the bullpen. His numbers there (5.13ERA, 1.48WHIP, 6.8K/9IP, 2.4BB/9IP, and 0.3HR/9IP) demonstrated he had the abilities to succeed when presented with a challenge. He was initially tabbed as a draft-and-follow candidate but his performance in tournaments prompted the Nationals to sign him. Lugo has done nothing to disappoint. He is still a work in progress and he needs more IP to develop. His 2006 season will likely begin with a promotion to Savannah.
- Craig Stammen RP - The 21-year old RHP was a 12th round pick in the 2005 draft. He split his time in Vermont between starting, 7G, and relieving, 6G. In 51 overall IP, he had a 4.06ERA, 1.45WHIP, 5.7K/9IP, 2.1BB/9IP, an 0.4HR/9IP. He projects best as a RP and will likely be part of the Savannah bullpen in 2006.
- Marco Estrada RP - The 22-year old RHP was a 6th round draft pick this year. He was prmarily a SP for the Expos, though he made three relief appearances. In 33.2IP, he had 5.08ERA, 1.40WHIP, 9.9K/9IP, 4BB/9IP, and 1.1HR/9IP. Scouts believe his stuff provides him with the opportunity to progress as a SP. Versatility, much like Gene Yost, would likely carry him farther. He'll be given a shot to compete for a rotation spot with Savannah
I'll also touch on 4 additional 2005 draft picks. None performed too well in their initial professional exposure:
- John Lannan SP - 21-year old LHP 11th round 2005 pick. 5.26ERA, 1.66WHIP, 5.8K/9IP, 4.4BB/9IP, and 0.7HR/9IP in 63.1IP
- Josh Palm RP - 22-year old RHP 16th round 2005 pick. 8.10ERA, 2.70WHIP, 8.1K/9IP, 5.4BB/9IP, and 0.0HR/9IP in 3.1IP
- Ricky Shefka RP - 21-year old RHP 20th round 2005 pick. 6.53ERA, 1.85WHIP, 5.9K/9IP, 3.0BB/9IP, and 0.6HR/9IP in 63.1IP
- Jeff Taylor RP - 22-year old RHP 24th round 2005 pick. 9.18ERA, 2.10WHIP, 8.6K/9IP, 7.0BB/9IP, and 0.0HR/9IP in 16.2IP