To the surprise of no one, Bryce Harper is the top prospect in the Nationals' organization, according to Baseball America's annual organizational ranking released today.
Harper was the overwhelming choice to hold down the No. 1 ranking for the second straight year, but rest of the Top 10 includes a host of new names, including four players selected in this summer's draft: Anthony Rendon, Brian Goodwin, Alex Meyer and Matt Purke.
Rendon earned the No. 2 spot behind Harper based entirely on his potential; the former Rice University third baseman has not yet played in a professional ballgame, having only worked out at the Nationals' complex in Viera, Fla., this fall after signing at the Aug. 15 deadline.
A pair of hard-throwing right-handers rank third and fourth: Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole. Peacock, a 41st-round pick in the 2006 draft, burst onto the scene this season by going a combined 15-3 with a 2.39 ERA and 177 strikeouts between Class AA Harrisburg and Class AAA Syracuse. He then impressed during a September debut in the majors, going 2-0 with an 0.75 ERA in three games.
Cole, who won't turn 20 until January, was 4-7 with a 4.04 ERA in 20 games at low-Class A Hagerstown, but his potent arm earned him the organization's No. 4 ranking for the second straight year.
Three picks from this summer's draft are next on the list, with Goodwin, Meyer and Purke ranking fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively. Goodwin, a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds, is a speedy outfielder who impressed during the Florida instructional league. Meyer, a 6-foot-9 first-round pick, could be on a fast track through the minor leagues after striking out 253 batters in 212 total innings at the University of Kentucky. Purke, a promising left-hander who was limited by shoulder trouble at TCU this season, is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League.
Another hard-throwing left-hander, Sammy Solis, is listed eighth in this year's rankings. The Nationals' second-round pick in 2010 is also currently pitching in the AFL and last week struck out a league-high nine batters in only four innings.
Perhaps the greatest evidence of the progress made in rebuilding the Nationals' farm system is the face Derek Norris ranks only ninth this year. The 22-year-old catcher was listed behind only Harper in BA's 2011 rankings, and the magazine also listed him as the 72nd-best prospect in all of baseball. Norris' stock within the organization hasn't fallen at all; he's currently hitting .328 with a .427 on-base percentage in the AFL. The Nationals simply have a deeper pool of prospects now than they did in the past.
Infielder Stephen Lombardozzi rounds out the Top 10. The 23-year-old infielder made his big-league debut in September and will be competing for a roster spot next spring.