The Nationals' roster doesn't have many weak spots heading into the 2013 season, but the front office always keeps an eye on the future. Here are some players in Washington's farm system who could fill key roles in upcoming seasons.
Anthony Rendon, INF, Double-A Harrisburg: The Nationals' top prospect did a good job of showcasing just how talented he is with a strong showing this spring. He will start the season in Double-A, and all the Nationals are looking for this year is for him to remain healthy and get playing time. Barring a need because of injury that speeds up his timetable, it wouldn't be surprising to see him get a September call-up.
Zach Walters, INF, Triple-A Syracuse: Acquired in the 2011 trade that sent Jason Marquis to the Diamondbacks, Walters has played his way into favor with the Nationals. Manager Davey Johnson is high on him and Walters' straightened-up stance helped him hit .297 and post an .809 OPS in spring training. Walters could be in line to help the Nationals if a rash of injuries runs through their middle infield corps this season.
Matt Skole, 1B/3B, Double-A Harrisburg: A left-handed power hitter, Skole's stock has risen sharply the past year or so. After earning the organization's Player of the Year honors for 2012, Skole's development was aided by his stint in the Arizona Fall League and he was named the Nationals' No. 4 prospect by Baseball America. His defense at both corner infield spots is improving and he made a strong impression during his time in major league camp.
Nate Karns, RHP, Double-A Harrisburg: Listed as the organization's No. 5 prospect by Baseball America, Karns is a hard-throwing right-hander whose age (25) is deceptive as his minor league career didn't truly begin until 2011 due to labrum surgery. His curveball has a chance to turn into a "plus" pitch and he has a change-up to complement a fastball that was clocked in the 93 to 96 mph range before leg tightness cut short his time in big-league camp.
Brian Goodwin, OF, Double-A Harrisburg: Regarded by many as the center fielder of the future for the Nationals, Goodwin will return to Double-A to begin the season. The Nationals' offseason trade for Denard Span, whose contract runs through 2014 with an option for 2015, gave Goodwin more time to develop in the minor leagues. His talents indicate he could be a dynamic player in the future, but he needs time to evolve into a more complete player.
A.J. Cole, RHP, Single-A Potomac: When the Nationals involved the Oakland Athletics in the three-way trade that sent Michael Morse to Seattle, they wanted to make sure they got a top prospect back. To them, Cole, traded to Oakland from Washington in the Gio Gonzalez deal the previous offseason, was that prospect. His fastball ranges from 92 to 97 mph and it can sink and cut. His curveball is a work in progress but has potential, and he is considered a possible front-line starter in the future. Cole, and to a certain extent Lucas Giolito, likely slides into the spot once occupied by Alex Meyer, who was sent to Minnesota in the Denard Span trade.
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