Organizational Rankings Still Show Nats in Lower Third

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, January 27, 2010 | , , | 5 comments »

ESPN.com's Keith Law, one of the most respected talent evaluators around, released his organizational rankings today.

You may (or may not, depending on the amount of Uncle Stan's kool-aid you drink) be surprised to find out that he still has the Nationals minor league system ranked in the lower third of the league, at No. 23.

There's not much analysis, but I'll publish it here for you. 
Getting there, slowly, but a number of top draft picks from 2006 to 2008 haven't developed as expected, and two of their top three guys -- including Stephen Strasburg -- came in the 2009 draft.
Law acknowledges that the organization is making some progress, but notes (correctly, I'll add) that with two of the franchise's top prospects coming in last spring's draft -- and as close as they are to the big league squad -- once they've graduated, it's right back to square one.

I think when the traditional lists of individual top prospects come out in the coming weeks, we're going to see Strasburg, Drew Storen and probably even Derek Norris' names sprinked about, and with good reason.  They are all top-notch talent. 

But after that, the farm still has very precious few difference makers from top to bottom.  One hopes that now that the front office has been reshaped with the folks that GM Mike Rizzo hand picked things will turn around and the farm system can become a model in MLB.

So far, though?  Baby steps.  And a long way to go to reach the top.

5 comments

  1. EdDC // January 27, 2010 at 7:26 PM  

    Being in the bottom third is not surprising. The Nats just have not been aggressive in building the farm system. Their drafts have focused on slot and under-slot players (They HAD to sign Strasburg). One year they failed to sign their top draft pick over a small 500K difference. Other teams routinely draft guys who will sign for over-slot.

    The Nats do not trade for many players who are of value to other teams--players they could trade for prospects. They have only signed two free agents of high-ish salary under the Lerners, and thus cannot trade those kinds of guys for prospects. They do not sign international kids, except the least expensive ones. So this is a formula for bottom-third. The Nats are not trying hard enough.

  2. Deacon Drake // January 28, 2010 at 7:53 AM  

    It takes a while, and considering they were probably 31st last year, 23rd isn't so bad.

    When they are not contending in June or July, they really need to unload Dunn and Guzman (maybe even Willingham too) for a bounty. Last year, they only made minor moves, and when the final bell tolled, they only got a mid-level AA pitcher for Nick Johnson.

  3. Dave Nichols // January 28, 2010 at 10:34 AM  

    Ed and Deac, I hear you loud and clear. the Nats, IMO, have especially failed at the trade deadlines the last few years, failing to move players that could have returned minor league talent. they tend to overvalue these players they have under contract to the point of handcuffing themselves. and the utter failure to sign international talent is still crippling this organization.

  4. EdDC // January 28, 2010 at 4:26 PM  

    What you say is true, Dave.

    To add to it, the Nats need to acquire talent of value so that other teams will want to trade for that talent, by giving the Nats prospects. The Nats can do this by trading for talent or signing free agents, taking on contracts. The huge problem for the Nats is that this approach costs money, and this is not what the Nats like to do.

    When the Nats take on contracts of value, they can trade the guys for prospects OR just play the guys and let their contracts expire. If the guys have value, when they sign elsewhere, they can yield top draft picks. This builds up the farm system too.

    If the Nats have a policy to hold down their payroll, these options are not possible. The farm system then suffers.

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