Nationals' Top 50 Prospects: #31-35

Alex Morales has a plus fastball.

CapitolDugout.com begins its unveiling of the 2006 Off-Season Top 50 Nationals' Prospects list with a look at prospects #31-35. This is part four of our ten part series that will take us from prospect #50 all the way to #1. Now, let's a closer look at prospects 31-35. (Free Preview!)

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31. Alex Morales - Blessed with possibly the best raw stuff in the organization, Alex Morales quickly made a name for himself as a prospect in 2006. With Potomac, he was fantastic working out of the bullpen, going 3-2 with a 2.17 ERA in 32 appearances and 45 2/3 innings of work. His one criticism was that his power mid-90's fastball tended to lose a little steam in longer outings and that showed up in a big way when the organization tried him out in a starting role in Double-A. The 23-year-old struggled with Harrisburg, putting up bloated 5.74 ERA in 15 2/3 innings pitched. Even though he ended the season on a sour note, Washington still believes his power righty arm and plus slider will eventually lead him to the big leagues. He should begin the 2007 season back in Harrisburg.

32. Ricardo Morales - Quite the opposite of the other Morales on this list, Ricardo is a pitcher who relies on his off-speed pitches and command. A crafty southpaw, the Dominican native was solid all season for Potomac, going 6-10 with a 4.70 ERA 132 innings pitched. He also ended the season on a strong note by pitching 6 shutout innings for Double-A Harrisburg. Yes, he doesn't miss many bats and his overall numbers don't look overly impressive, but he turned in quality starts one after the other in 2006. Morales' upside is likely no more than a back end of the rotation starter because he lacks the pure power stuff, but his command of his secondary pitches give him a solid chance to reach the show. At 22-years-old, he still has age on his side and he'll likely break camp with Harrisburg in 2007.

33. Luke Montz - Hitting home runs has never been an issue for Luke Montz and he led Potomac with 16 long balls in 2006. The only difference now is that he is beginning to use the while field rather than try to pull everything and that will be the key to his future. He still hit just .229 and racked up 91 strikeouts in 449 at-bats, but the progress was more than evident. Prospects with the power potential to hit 30 or more home runs at the big league level are rarity so Washington is staying patient with Louisiana native. The 23-year-old catcher has also come a long way defensively, but it appears that his future is at first base, where he has also made significant adjustments. The possibility has been raised that Luke may return to the Carolina League to open the 2007 season, but it still appears more likely that we'll see him in Harrisburg next April.

34. Desmond Jones - Perhaps one of the best arms that no one knows about to this point is Desmond Jones. A right-hander who has a fastball that sits at 92-94 MPH, touching as high as 95 MPH, the Nationals are very encouraged that their 2006 11th round draft pick could project to be power reliever. He has two plus pitches in his fastball and slider, making him a potentially dominating closer or setup man down the road. Jones is only 20-years-old so Washington can afford to take it slow with him. The Georgia native was only able to log 8 2/3 innings in his first professional season with the glut of relievers that needed work on the GCL staff, and he struggled to find consistency. But, he is still likely to get a shot with Hagerstown to open 2007 if he has a strong spring training.

35. Edgardo Baez - Edgardo Baez has long been considered to be a prospect with tremendous upside, but to this point has failed to fully meet that potential. The righty swinging outfielder has flashed plus power in batting practice, but has still not totally figured out how to translate that into game success. But, in 2006, he spent another season with Savannah and made some noticeable strides. With the Sand Gnats, he batted a solid .279 with 6 home runs, 22 doubles, and 44 RBI. Granted, this is his fourth professional season, but Baez is still just 21-years-old and has time to refine his game. It looks that he is finally ready to move up to High-A Potomac and we should expect to see him there to open the 2007 season.

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