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10/06/08 10:00 AM ET

Nationals' farm hurt by injury bug

Bernadina, Zimmermann pace Washington prospects in 2008

Before the 2008 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big league team's Minor League system. Now it's time to recap and analyze all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent Draft class.

It wasn't a secret that Washington had some work to do in order to improve its parent club and farm teams. The Nationals took steps toward becoming a better organization over the last 12 months, though they did take some hits in the lower ranks.

For starters, losing Chris Marrero (broken leg, ankle ligaments) and Justin Maxwell (broken wrist) for much of the season certainly slowed their development and left Washington wondering if they'll remain on course for a late 2009 touchdown in D.C.

Throw in the fact that Aaron Crow snubbed the club and signed with an independent league after they made him its top pick and you have to wonder if the Nats were a little snake bit this season. Well, injuries happen and Crow got bad advice -- 2009 should be a better season for Washington.

Marrero and Maxwell are already back and playing in the Florida Instructional League and the Nats will have a compensation pick to make up for Crow, whom they selected ninth overall in June. It wasn't a fun season for Washington or its affiliates that's for sure. But things weren't all bleak, either.

Organizational Players of the Year

MLB.com Preseason Picks

Michael Burgess, OF: Burgess was our preseason pick for Player of the Year and while he had a solid year, it wasn't spectacular. It's kind of difficult to knock a kid who won't turn 20 for another few weeks, but he did have trouble adjusting to life in the South Atlantic and Carolina Leagues. He hit a combined .246, but did show some pop, as expected, connecting for 24 homers and driving in 79 runs. But he also struck out once every 2.9 at-bats.
Audio: Burgess cranks a grand slam

•  Monday, Oct. 6: Washington Nationals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 7: Seattle Mariners
•  Wednesday, Oct. 8: San Diego Padres
•  Thursday, Oct. 9: Pittsburgh Pirates
•  Friday, Oct. 10: Baltimore Orioles
•  Monday, Oct. 13: Atlanta Braves
•  Tuesday, Oct. 14: San Francisco Giants
•  Wednesday, Oct. 15: Cincinnati Reds
•  Thursday, Oct. 16: Colorado Rockies
•  Friday, Oct. 17: Detroit Tigers
•  Monday, Oct. 20: Kansas City Royals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 21: Oakland Athletics
•  Wednesday, Oct. 22: Texas Rangers
•  Thursday, Oct. 23: Cleveland Indians
•  Friday, Oct. 24: Arizona Diamondbacks
•  Monday, Oct. 27: Florida Marlins
•  Tuesday, Oct. 28: Toronto Blue Jays
•  Wednesday, Oct. 29: St. Louis Cardinals
•  Thursday, Oct. 30: Houston Astros
•  Friday, Oct. 31: Minnesota Twins
•  Monday, Nov. 3: New York Yankees
•  Tuesday, Nov. 4: New York Mets
•  Wednesday, Nov. 5: Los Angeles Angels
•  Thursday, Nov. 6: Chicago White Sox
•  Friday, Nov. 7: Milwaukee Brewers
•  Monday, Nov. 10: Chicago Cubs
•  Tuesday, Nov. 11: Boston Red Sox
•  Wednesday, Nov. 12: LA Dodgers
•  Thursday, Nov. 13: Tampa Bay Rays
•  Friday, Nov. 14: Philadelphia Phillies

Adrian Alaniz, RHP: Alaniz was our preseason thought for Pitcher of the Year and he had a decent year, going 9-5 with a 3.28 ERA in 25 starts between Potomac and Harrisburg. He would have been a slam-dunk winner had he stayed in Potomac, where he was 9-0 with a 2.62 ERA, but was 0-5 with a 3.93 ERA in 13 Double-A starts.
Audio: Alaniz throws seven scoreless

MLB.com Postseason Selections

Roger Bernadina, OF: Bernadina has been a prospect for several seasons, but this season he finally began fulfilling his promise. He played better in the International League than he did in the Eastern League and even got a taste of life in the big leagues.
Audio: Bernadina triples for Clippers

Jordan Zimmermann, RHP: Zimmermann, a product of a small school in Wisconsin, could be the find of the 2007 Draft before all is said and done. He was dominant across the board this season with a WHIP just a shade over one.
Audio: Zimmermann Ks six in three frames

Climbed the Ladder

Collin Balester, RHP: Balester was 9-3 with a 4.00 ERA at Triple-A Columbus when the Nats called him up at the end of June. He was 8-1 in his final 10 starts for the Clippers before going 3-7 with a 5.51 ERA in 15 starts for Washington. Balester did have his moments after arriving in the Major Leagues, flashing the promise that helped him win 27 games over parts of five Minor Leagues seasons. Though he stumbled in his last two starts (12 runs in 6 2/3 innings), it wasn't enough of a slip to keep him off the top rung of the ladder.
Audio: Balester throws six one-hit innings

Garrett Mock, RHP: Mock's run was similar to that of Balester's, going 6-3 with a 3.01 ERA in 19 games (17 starts). He also appeared in 26 games (three starts) for the Nationals, winning a game and posting a 4.17 ERA in 41 Major League innings. He's proven he can pitch in the Major Leagues, working effectively under difficult circumstances in Washington.
Audio: Mock notches ninth K

Jordan Zimmermann, RHP: Zimmermann is one of those great Draft stories that you'll read about for years. A second-rounder from a Division III school, Zimmermann was 10-3 with a 2.89 ERA at Potomac and Harrisburg this year. He struck out 134 and walked only 47 in 134 innings, limiting the opposition to a .215 batting average. He was 7-2 in 20 Eastern League starts and should be a dynamite Triple-A pitcher in 2009.

Roger Bernadina, OF: Roger Bernadina has taken a circuitous route to the top but did make it there this year. He played on three levels this season, hitting .335 in 457 combined at-bats at Harrisburg and Columbus. He hit only .211 in 76 Major League at-bats, but considering he spent three years in the South Atlantic League (2003-2005), his stint in Washington this season says something about his determination.

Kept Their Footing

Colton Willems, RHP: Willems experienced his first full season as a pro, starting 20 games in the South Atlantic League, where he went 5-9 with a 3.70 ERA. He threw 109 1/3 innings -- 31 more than his first two seasons combined. He was named Hagerstown's Pitcher of the Year.
Audio: Willems shuts 'em out through eight

Josh Smoker, LHP: Smoker began the season in late May at Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League after the Nats decided to go slow with him. Apparently they didn't go slow enough. Smoker was 0-4 with an 11.50 ERA in five starts for the Suns before getting sent back to the Gulf Coast League. But Smoker then went 2-1 with a 1.37 ERA in six GCL starts. Overall, his strikeout-to-walk ratio (37-to-22) wasn't great but he's only 19, so patience is important.
Audio: Smoker strikes out back-to-back batters

Michael Burgess, OF: Burgess spent the bulk of the season in Hagerstown and produced decent power numbers, as expected. But he struggled with his patience (136 strikeouts, 46 walks in 301 at-bats) and hit only .249. He got bumped up to Potomac, where he hit .225. Overall, he fanned 162 times but his run production capability can't be ignored and he did lead the Minors with 28 outfield assists. He won't turn 20 for another two weeks.

Ross Detwiler, LHP: Ross Detwiler was drafted sixth overall in '07, got his nice bonus and made his Major League debut. All feel-good stuff. This year he did okay, holding his own in the Carolina League, where he went 8-8 with a 4.86 ERA in 124 innings. He fanned 114 but also allowed the opposition to hit .289.
Audio: Detwiler Ks nine for Potomac

Adrian Alaniz, RHP: Alaniz had two distinctly different seasons, dominating in the Carolina League but falling short of that performance when he got bumped up to the Eastern League. With Harrisburg, he finished with a 3.93 ERA in 13 starts after posting a 4.38 mark in his final 10 appearances. A blister ended his season near the middle of August.

Slipped a Rung

Chris Marrero, 1B: Marrero shouldn't lose a rung because of an injury but the bottom line is, he's a step behind now because of the broken leg he suffered this season. Not that he was tearing up the Carolina League before he got hurt. He was hitting only .250 through 70 games and over two seasons has hit just .254 (130-for-511) for Potomac. Marrero needs to re-establish himself next spring.

Adam Carr, RHP: Carr had a 2.08 ERA in 64 games over four levels heading into this season. This year he had 6.60 ERA in 51 games over two levels, struggling to look like the pitcher who was so dominant in 2006-07. His strikeout total dropped, the opposition's batting average was 100 points higher than his previous two seasons and he posted a 12.27 ERA over his final 10 outings.

Justin Maxwell, OF: Maxwell reached the Major Leagues and played in 15 games last year. He looked primed for a big year this season but, like Marrero, was hit by the injury bug. He broke his wrist early and missed most of the season. He had hit only .233 through the end of May with Harrisburg, though he did have seven homers and 28 RBIs. He also needs to re-establish himself next spring.

Tyler Clippard, RHP: Clippard has taken quite a tumble since being touted as one of the Yankees' top pitching prospects a few years back. Though he appeared in two games for the Nats, he was 6-13 with a 4.66 ERA in 27 starts for Columbus. He was 1-6 with a 4.87 ERA over his final 10 starts.

On the Radar

Leonard Davis, IF/OF: Davis was a largely nondescript player through four Minor League seasons before bursting onto the scene this year. He hit .332 in 217 at-bats with Potomac and then hit .488 in 41 at-bats at Harrisburg. He tailed off a bit at Columbus (.239 in 180 at-bats), but still had a marvelous season.
Audio: Davis' three-run shot

Luke Montz, C: Montz was handed the starting catcher's job at Harrisburg early in the season and responded by hitting .282 in 63 games for the Senators. He got bumped up to Columbus where he hit .256 in 48 games, finishing the Minor League season with 16 homers and 71 RBIs. He also got a taste of the big leagues, appearing in 10 games and hitting .143 against the Nats.
Audio: Montz hits two three-run shots

Esmailyn Gonzalez, SS: Gonzalez hit .343 to win the Gulf Coast League batting title. He only had 181 at-bats and it was his second season in the GCL, but he just turned 19, so he's worth watching.

Draft Recap

1. Aaron Crow, RHP: Crow and the Nats haggled about money, bonuses and everything else you could imagine before he finally walked away and signed with an independent team. Washington will get a compensation pick next June.

2. Destin Hood, OF: Hood hit .256 in 25 GCL games, driving in 14 and stealing five bases.

3. Daniel Espinosa, SS: Espinosa had 64 at-bats spread over 19 New York-Penn League games and had a good showing for himself. The Cal-State Long Beach product hit .328 and drew as many walks (17) as he had strikeouts.
Audio: Espinosa singles twice for Vermont

Others of Note: Graham Hicks, the Nats' fourth pick, pitched five innings in the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues, allowing an earned run on four hits. ... C Adrian Nieto (151st overall) hit .217 in 23 GCL at-bats. ... LHP Ricardo Pecina (241st overall) was 1-5 with a 3.74 ERA in 45 2/3 innings at Vermont and Hagerstown. ... OF Marcus Jones (331st overall) hit .333 with six RBIs in 60 at-bats for Vermont. ... LHP William Atwood (361st) was 2-1 with a 2.41 ERA in 12 starts for Vermont. He struck out 60 and walked nine in 52 1/3 innings while holding the opposition to a .205 average. ... RHP Casey Whitmer (901st) pitched to a 2.87 ERA over 15 2/3 innings at Vermont.

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.