Q&A with Nick Manno - Part II

"Ian is a born leader."

Nick Manno, the Washington Nationals Assistant Director of Player Development, sits down with CapitolDugout.com for Part II of an in depth Q&A session. In part two of our two part series, Nick talks about the sleepers of the system, the most big league ready prospects, international signings, and much, much more.

CapitolDugout.com: Edgardo Baez has long been considered to have huge potential.  What do you feel has been holding him back and do you feel that he is close to breaking out?

Nick Manno: Baez is similar to Rogearvin Bernadina in that he's still very young, and he plays that way at times. He will play this season at age 20, which means he played at a full season club both at 18 and 19 years old. Both he and Bernadina need to continue gaining experience and learn to understand what they need to do to be able to sustain consistent success for an entire season. A lot of it boils down to maturity. If you look, Baez began last season as hot as anyone in the organization.

CapitolDugout.com: If you had to point out a sleeper (pitcher and hitter) that very few people consider as prospects, but that you feel have a lot of potential, who would you point out?

Nick Manno: My pitcher would be Ricardo Morales, who pitched at Savannah last year. He is from the Dominican and when he first came to the U.S. in 2004, he didn't understand one word of English. Since then, he has developed both off the field and certainly has on the field. He can locate his fastball very well and is continuing to develop a quality changeup.

The position player would be Francisco Guzman, who is also from the Dominican. He is a little older and came to the U.S.A. for the first time in 2005 and finished second in the GCL batting title by hitting .344. After that, he went to Vermont to finish the season by hitting .469 in 32 at bats over the last 9 games. He is still very raw, but the tools are there for him to succeed.

CapitolDugout.com: You have two promising first base prospects, Larry Broadway and now Josh Whitesell.  What are your thoughts and projections on each of them?

Nick Manno: Unfortunately, Larry missed most of last season with a knee injury, and was still not moving like he can when he came back. Larry is a natural hitter. He shows power to all fields and has tremendous plate discipline. In addition, he moves very well around the bag at first base and has shown he could be a plus defensive first baseman. I think Larry has the ability to be an everyday first baseman when he gets a chance.

Whitesell is another guy with tremendous power and very good plate discipline. Defensively, Josh has improved a lot from when he was first signed. Jose Alguacil, our infield coordinator, has spent a lot of time working with him and to his credit, Josh has worked extremely hard to become a better first baseman.

CapitolDugout.com: In your mind, which guys are the most big league ready prospects?  Obviously Ryan Zimmerman is one, but are there others that you feel could make an impact this season?

Nick Manno: Jason Bergmann and Bill Bray are certainly two pitchers that could have an impact at some point in the season. Offensively, Brandon Watson is going to get every chance to make the club as an everyday player and obviously if he is able to get things going the way he did in New Orleans, he will have an impact. And, of course as you mentioned, Zimmerman will definitely be in there.

CapitolDugout.com: Kory Casto and Ian Desmond both showed tremendous promise in 2005.  Does the organization view them as the future of the Washington infield?

Nick Manno: Personally, I hope they are the future of this organization's infield. Ian is a born leader and is so gifted, its going to be hard to keep him out the big leagues for too long. Of course, he still has some things to work on, but his learning curve is incredible. Kory is another one, who has made such incredible progress, especially defensively, going from the outfield to being voted the best third baseman in his respective league is a major accomplishment and a credit to his work ethic.

CapitolDugout.com: Five tools players are rare, but which guys in the organization do you feel have that type of talent?

Nick Manno: I agree, five-tool players are rare. I would say that the only two in our organization that I would put that label on right now are Rogearvin Bernadina and Frank Diaz.

CapitolDugout.com: A couple players coming off injuries this season are Erick San Pedro and Daryl Thompson.  What are the plans for each of them and what type of players do you project them to be?

Nick Manno: I hope that San Pedro can stay healthy so we can get a better idea of what we have. We know defensively he is very good, he is extremely intelligent behind the plate and really has the ability to help a pitcher. Unfortunately, he has had a couple of freak injuries that have cost him a lot of playing time. Offensively, he hasn't been healthy enough to get into any sort of rhythm at the plate, which has hurt him.

Daryl Thompson is another one of our young pitchers, who in 2004 was one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League. Our number one priority with Daryl is the same as it is with any pitcher coming off injury. We want to make sure he is healthy and that he stays healthy.

CapitolDugout.com: What should we expect out of Ryan Delaughter this season and beyond?

Nick Manno: Ryan is still somewhat raw, but the ability is clearly there as he showed in the GCL last season. He has plus power and a very strong arm from right field. In his first full season, we want Ryan to continue developing his overall game. Offensively, we expect him to develop more as a hitter as he begins to better understand himself as a hitter. Similarly, he will continue to get better in the outfield by working on his technique and by simple repetition.

CapitolDugout.com: Are there any players coming from last year's short season league teams that you feel could have a big impact in full season ball this year?

Nick Manno: A couple of guys from last year's draft who made an impact in Vermont were John Michael Howell and Dee Brown, who incidentally were college teammates at UCF. They both showed that they were capable of being very good hitters at the next level. Finally, Leonard Davis has a chance to make an impact at the next level. He is a very athletic third baseman, with good power who made dramatic offensive improvements as the season went on. He was converted from the outfield when he signed in 2004.

CapitolDugout.com: Are there any international signings or players coming over from the DSL that you feel could make an impact in the U.S. this year?

Nick Manno: We feel that we have done a remarkable job signing players from the Dominican and Venezuela over the past few years given our circumstances for the first two. Players such as Francisco Guzman and Carlos Martinez have come to the U.S. for the first time and have opened some eyes in our organization. Players who may be coming to the U.S. for the first time in 2006 include pitchers Jonathan Rincon, Edulin Abreu and Jonathan Cuello from the Dominican as well as two 17-year old position players in shortstop, Frank Cruz (Dominican Republic) and OF Yhonson Lopez (Venezuela) that we are really excited about.

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