The Washington Times - January 24, 2012, 11:45AM

The Gio Gonzalez trade in late December rid the Washington Nationals of four top prospects: right-handers Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole, left-hander Tommy Milone and catcher Derek Norris.

While the trade was a hefty one — you have to give up something to get something — it didn’t entirely decimate the Nationals farm system but it did throw their hierarchy for a bit of a loop.


With that in mind, Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranked the Nationals Top 20 prospects heading into the 2012 season.

Here’s what he came up with:

Five-Star Prospects
1. Bryce Harper, OF
2. Anthony Rendon, 3B
Four-Star Prospects
3. Matt Purke, LHP
Three-Star Prospects
4. Brian Goodwin, OF
5. Alex Meyer, RHP
6. Destin Hood, OF
7. Michael Taylor, OF
8. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B
9. Robbie Ray, LHP
10. Sammy Solis, LHP
Two-Star Prospects
11. Tyler Moore, 1B

Nine More:
12. Chris Marrero, 1B: Former first-rounder has put up solid numbers, but not enough for a first-base only player.
13. Eury Perez, OF: Speedster with line drive bat, but little in the way of secondary skills.
14. Zach Walters, SS: Good bat for a shortstop, but profiles better as a second baseman.
15. Taylor Jordan, RHP: Groundballer who throws strikes, but there are questions about ability to miss bats as he moves up.
16. Josh Smoker, LHP: Returned from bust status by touching 95 mph out of the bullpen; could move up with more strikes.
17. Jason Martinson, SS: Intriguing power/speed combination, but defense is lacking and might not ever hit for average.
18. Matt Skole, 3B: 2011 Fifth-round pick has plus bat and power potential; could move up after first full-season.
19. Sandy Leon, C: Will get to the big leagues on defensive chops alone, but bat screams backup.
20. David Freitas, C: Interesting catcher to watch due to on-base skills and power; defense lags behind. 

It’s no surprise to see Harper and Rendon atop the new rankings. Even before the trade was made for Gonzalez, Harper and Rendon were generally considered the two best prospects in the system with another publication, Baseball America, ranking them as such in their own Top 10. It is interesting to see Tyler Moore sneak into the “star prospect” status but not all that surprising after the slugging we’ve watched him do the past two years in the minor leagues. 

As for the roles of Peacock, Milone and Cole it appears that their absence has only helped Purke, Meyer and Ray — all of whom were considered top prospects in their own right before — to move up the ranks. Meyer and Purke were also ranked No.’s 6 and 7, respectively, in Baseball America’s Top 10 prior to the trade.

The good news for the Nationals from Goldstein’s point of view is that their draft haul from 2011 (Rendon, Meyer, Goodwin, Purke) could well make up for what they lost in the trade. The list also includes seven members of the Nationals’ 40-man roster in Harper, Rendon, Purke, Lombardozzi, Moore, Marrero and Perez.