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Baseball America: Nats farm system now No. 9

Jim Bowden indicated this would be the case in an interview on XM Radio within the last week, but it's interesting to see it on paper. Keep in mind: The Nationals were 30th -- ahem, last -- in 2007. According to BA executives, the leap from 30th to ninth -- 21 spots -- is the second-largest this decade. (Nationals' release has Texas jumping 24 slots, from 28th to fourth, this year, helped by major trades of Eric Gagne and Mark Teixeira.)

The sunny side of this: The Nationals said they would put money into scouting and player development and turn around the farm system, and by at least this measure, it is working.

The cloudy side: These rankings don't gurantee anything. There's no such thing as a sure thing in baseball.

But ... this is at least a quasi-tangible sign that things are pointed in the right direction.

The numbers:

BA's Top 10 Organizational Rankings:
1. Tampa Bay
2. Boston
3. Cincinnati
4. Texas
5. New York Yankees
6. Los Angeles Dodgers
7. Colorado
8. Atlanta
9. Washington
10. Los Angeles Angels

Washington's Top 20 Prospects
1. Chris Marrero, 1B
2. Ross Detwiler, LHP
3. Collin Balester, RHP
4. Michael Burgess, OF
5. Jack McGeary, LHP
6. Josh Smoker, LHP
7. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP
8. Justin Maxwell, OF
9. Colton Willems, RHP
10. John Lannan, LHP
11. Jake Smolinski, OF
12. Tyler Clippard, RHP
13. Adam Carr, RHP
14. Ian Desmond, SS
15. Garrett Mock, RHP
16. Stephen King, SS
17. Esmailyn Gonzalez, SS
18. Shairon Martis, RHP
19. Brad Peacock, RHP
20. Kory Casto, OF/3B

BA's Nationals/Expos Organizational Rankings:
2001: 21
2002: 16
2003: 29
2004: 30
2005: 26
2006: 24
2007: 30
2008: 9

Couple of things to point out. The losses to free agency of Alfonso Soriano and Jose Guillen gave the Nationals extra picks that yielded Nos. 4 (Burgess), 6 (Smoker) and 7 (Zimmermann) on this board. It's also worth mentioning that the only players on the list who were in the system when the Lerners were awarded the team in May 2006 were Balester, Maxwell, Desmond and Casto. The rest were aquired in the last two drafts or by trade (Clippard, Martis, Mock).

By Barry Svrluga  |  January 24, 2008; 11:21 AM ET
 
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Comments

NINTH?!?

Umm, wow.

Someone please help me expunge the visions of a World Series championship parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in the next couple years...

Posted by: Juan-John | January 24, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Of course, that jump is due to the many early picks the Nationals had in the 2007 draft due to Free Agents being signed away.

In the 2008 draft, much of that to be had.

Posted by: Sam | January 24, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Hooray, only one team in the division ahead of the Nats.

Posted by: WFY | January 24, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

yay for improvements. let's hope we continue moving in that direction in all aspects of the team.

Posted by: 231 | January 24, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Rats! I completely missed Atlanta in the list and I just sent a gloating email to my Braves fan dad and brother.

There will be no end to the crap I get for that.....

Posted by: NatsNut | January 24, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I'm guessing that these rankings were compiled prior to Oakland making their prospect-hoarding trades of Dan Haren & Nick Swisher. Still top 10 is pretty damn impressive

Posted by: Brian | January 24, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Hell yes. Stay the course.

Posted by: Corey | January 24, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I think this ranking is due to my wonderful guidance and especially the great trades I made. Without the gutting of the farm system a jump from 30th to 9th would have been nearly impossible. Also credit must go to the other owners and Mr Selig as well!

Posted by: Omar Minaya | January 24, 2008 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Omar Minaya: even for you, that's an incredible post. Are you high or something?

Posted by: 408 / 204 | January 24, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Love it. Building the system up with an endless amount of players to bring up or trade away. No matter what the sport, year after year, you keep building it through the draft.

This is a concept that a certain pompous individual that owns the NFL team in this town has continually failed to grasp.

Posted by: Section 505/203 | January 24, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

@Juan-John

How about visions of a Cup (I see your occasional postings on another much improve teams blog)? :)

Tampa Bay being No. 1 on the list just shows that there is no sure thing with prospects. However, I feel the NATS will have better luck with theirs.

Posted by: A Hardwick | January 24, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

You are right, there are no sure things when it comes to prospects. Back in 2005 the Washington Post printed the top 10 prospects in the organization in one of their stories to get people familiar with the team. Today it could be a where are they now piece. Here is how Baseball America had them listed prior to the 2005 season:

1. Mike Hinckley
2. Larry Broadway
3. Ryan Church
4. Clint Everts
5. Brendan Harris
6. Bill Bray
7. Daryl Thompson
8. Darrell Rasner
9. Kory Casto
10. Collin Balester

But you have to have players in the system and hope for the best. So far I'm with the plan and I'm hopeful to how it works out.

Posted by: Bruce S | January 24, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

world series here we come!

Posted by: macta | January 24, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I was thinking maybe wild card but heck, yeah, I'll jump on board that one...

---

Someone please help me expunge the visions of a World Series championship parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in the next couple years...

---

world series here we come!

Posted by: natsfan1a | January 24, 2008 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Wow it's good to be a Nats fan today. That's good because as a Skins fan I needed all the help I can get. Who am I kidding I grew up a baseball fan. Go Nats and while you're at it go get some catching and mid-if prospects in this years draft for us, eh...

I like Mr. Flores, but I think we can do better. May be we could then trade him back to the Mets and get more prospects. Oh I love Baseball. Thx Jimbo & Stan Thx bunches

Posted by: NiceNat | January 24, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

It is really impressive that the team has been able to restock the farm system with strong prospects so quickly. However, the most of the crops won't be ready for harvest for another 2-3 years. Still, if they can add 1 impact player per year and 1-2 more that are supporting players, then the team will likely compete. It still comes down to pitching. As bad as the offense was at RFK it is the pitching that will need to hold up if the Nats are to make progress this year.

Posted by: NatBisquit | January 24, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

tampa hasn't always been #1 on the list. but still, they have a really bad habit of mishandling prospects (bj upton, anyone?) and of not managing what they have properly (a gazillion OF prospects that were piling up, but not pitching, and unwilling to make trades that didn't fleece the other side, a la kazmir for v zambrano).

hopefully our FO isn't that foolish with our prospects.

as far as the 2005 list, i'm willing to bet few if any of those top 10 even made it onto the BBA top 100. our cupboard was bare then, so it's not really fair to look at that list and think only a couple of them either panned out or are still on the list. most just weren't that great of a prospect to begin with, they just had little competition in the system.

Posted by: 231 | January 24, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the update barry! I know this really doesnt mean that these players will translate into stars but it does help to show that what the nats are trying to do is drawing some eyes. The fact that baseball america likes our kids doesnt mean that they'll be the best in the league one day, but it sure doesnt hurt either.

I think visions of a world series parade down Pennsylvania ave might be a bit premature, however it is evidence to those naysayers that Ted and Stan are putting some of that money to good use.

Hopefully after this year guys like LoDuca, Lopez, and Guz can help the team by giving us extra '09 draft picks or bringing young talent in from trades.

While a world series team may still be far away, a young talented team that can compete for a division or wildcard could be within reach.

Posted by: VT Nats Fan | January 24, 2008 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Manny? That you?

__________________
world series here we come!

Posted by: macta | January 24, 2008 01:30 PM

Posted by: NatsNut | January 24, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Rob Neyer has Zimmerman ranked as the fourth-best 3b in the league for the next five years (behind only Wright, Cabrera and A-Rod):

http://tinyurl.com/2mmk7a

Posted by: Bob L. Head | January 24, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

What was that Bowden said? Pitching, pitching, pitching? Sixty percent of those guys are pitchers. Wow.

Three to four outfielders. Five or six infielders (3 of whom are shortstops).

I know this doesn't necessarily mean anything, since we're not forced to cobble together a team out of our top 20 prospects.

If only half of these pitchers pan out, the Nationals are in a great position.

Posted by: John in Mpls | January 24, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Um, Bob? I didn't even see Zim on the list.

Posted by: NatsNut | January 24, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

NatsNut, not sure why you're not seeing it, here's the list:

1. Wright
2. Cabrera
3. Rodriguez
4. Zimmerman
5. Beltre
6. Ramirez
7. Reynolds
8. Atkins
9. Andy LaRoche
10. ????

Posted by: Bob L. Head | January 24, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

"I think visions of a world series parade down Pennsylvania ave might be a bit premature."

'Twill never happen. The Lerners and Kasten will hold the first Nationals World Series parade in Maryland or Virginia just to stick it to the DC Council. They're Jewish, after all, and 'twould be a very Old Testament thing to do. An eye for an eye and all that.

Posted by: Section 419+1 | January 24, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

there were two lists in the article, zimmerman is at the bottom of the first on (ordered by 2007 OPS or something, i think, going from memory) and 4th in the one at the bottom of the article (neyer's list of top 10 for the next 5 yrs).

Posted by: 231 | January 24, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

NatsNut might have only been seeing the first table in the Neyer column (which does not include Zimmerman), as the remainder is locked for ESPN Insiders only.

Posted by: faNATic | January 24, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Actually 231 is right on - Zimmerman's at the bottom of the first list (that'll improve starting this year, I'm sure).

Posted by: faNATic | January 24, 2008 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Hardwick: I'll take a Cup, too! :-)

Although a Shield ain't bad, either...

Posted by: Juan-John | January 24, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

maybe not having insider cuts off part of the table. he's 10th in that list.

Player Age OBP SLG OPS+ WARP
Alex Rodriguez 32 .422 .645 177 11.0
David Wright 25 .416 .546 150 10.6
Miguel Cabrera 25 .401 .565 150 9.2
Aramis Ramirez 30 .366 .549 129 7.3
Chone Figgins 30 .393 .432 117 3.4
Adrian Beltre 29 .319 .482 112 4.5
Garrett Atkins 28 .367 .486 112 3.7
Mark Reynolds 24 .349 .495 111 2.8
Kevin Kouzmanoff 26 .329 .457 109 1.5
Ryan Zimmerman 23 .330 .458 107 7.7

the paragraph on zimmerman reads:

Meanwhile, Zimmerman's WARP is fourth-best on the list. This is partially due to his excellent defensive numbers, and I suspect there might also be a difference in how WARP and OPS+ utilize park effects. Regardless, I believe Zimmerman's youth and his defense clearly move him into the top five on our final list. In his three seasons with the Nationals, he has an .861 OPS in road games, which gives you an idea of what he'll do with the Nats moving into their new home this spring.

Posted by: 231 | January 24, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

231-

Only Nats prospect on the 2005 top 100 was Mike Hinckley (#29 overall!)....Milledge was #11 overall that year too

Posted by: Los Doce Ocho | January 24, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Ahah, I didn't realize non-insiders couldn't see the list.

Zim is indeed tenth on the first one, but then Neyer notes the following:

• I was surprised to find Kouzmanoff with a higher OPS+ than Zimmerman, but Kouzmanoff's defense numbers are simply horrible, easily the worst on the list. If he doesn't get significantly better with either the bat or the glove, the Padres are left in an awkward position, because a 1.6 WARP means he's significantly worse than an average MLB third baseman.

• Meanwhile, Zimmerman's WARP is fourth-best on the list. This is partially due to his excellent defensive numbers, and I suspect there might also be a difference in how WARP and OPS+ utilize park effects. Regardless, I believe Zimmerman's youth and his defense clearly move him into the top five on our final list. In his three seasons with the Nationals, he has an .861 OPS in road games, which gives you an idea of what he'll do with the Nats moving into their new home this spring.

With all that (and some other stuff) in mind, our tentative list:

1. Wright
2. Cabrera
3. Rodriguez
4. Zimmerman
5. Beltre
6. Ramirez
7. Reynolds
8. Atkins
9. Andy LaRoche
10. ????

Posted by: Bob L. Head | January 24, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

When I consider the shameful way MLB and Dud Selig fleeced the Expos farm system before moving the franchise to Washington the jump to 9th from 30th is extraordinary! I'm very happy to see the rebuilding of this franchise is on track and moving forward. I honestly thought back in 2005 when the Nats started in Washington it would take 10 years to rebuild the farm system. It may now only take half that time. Kudos to Stan, Jim, and the entire scouting team in the front office and in the field.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

YEEEEEEEEEESS!!! Finally some good news about the Nats future Look out NL East here we come! I think the Nats pitching staff will be key in this teams rise up the ladder,Manny Acta will be the manager of the year in 2008.

Posted by: DARGREGMAG@AOL.COM | January 24, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

We have a lot of pitchers and outfielders ... I'm in the camp that says you can never have too much pitching but query whether we should turn some of the OFs into middle IF prospects.

Posted by: Bob L. Head | January 24, 2008 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Bob L., that's exactly what I was thinking.

With pitching being such a huge commodity, it's hard to believe we won't be seeing some of these names bandied around in trade talks within the next few years.

Until then, accelerated camp is going to be awesome.

Posted by: John in Mpls | January 24, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Note that the BBA list does not include Jesus Flores or this year's rule 5 players.

Also, note that the 2005 list includes Church and Harris, both of whom are now regulars for other teams (Harris will be starting infielder for Twins). And Bray was the major piece of the deal that brought Kearns and Lopez. So from a certain point of view the 2005 list was translated into 3-4 MLB starters. I would be suprised if many other teams have better conversion ratios (3.5 starters out of 10 prospects). And Balester could still deliver.

Posted by: NatBisquit | January 24, 2008 4:50 PM | Report abuse

The reason Flores isn't on this list is because he has a full year of major league service under his belt. He is no longer a prospect, nor are dukes, milliage, zimmerman, or chico. These however, are young players who can contribute at the major league level and can grow, develop, and produce for years to come. This shows what a big deal it is to have a #9 farm system even with a young team that has some pretty impressive talent.

Now all that needs to be done is to fix the glaring holes.

Posted by: VT Nats Fan | January 24, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse

well, keep in mind, it was more than just bray in that trade for kearns and lopez. i think majewski was considered an important piece of the trade, too (hence the anger over his injury). and you mentioned harris? he was part of that trade as well. plus thompson was considered top 10 in the nats organization at the time (#7 in the list above).

"The Cincinnati Reds today acquired from the Washington Nationals RHP Gary Majewski, LHP Bill Bray, SS Royce Clayton, IF Brendan Harris and RHP Daryl Thompson in exchange for OF Austin Kearns, SS Felipe Lopez and RHP Ryan Wagner."

Posted by: 231 | January 24, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

The Boston Herald has Church going to the Twins as part of a deal for Santana. A Mets blog picked that up and suggests that they then sign Wilkerson to platoon with Gomez in right.

Posted by: Bob L. Head | January 24, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

The Plan! The Plan! The Plan!

Posted by: Tom | January 24, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse

A few things from the Baseball America chat today. I asked if Felipe Lopez is more the 20 hr, 20 sb guy, or last year's moping failure. John Perotto of BA suggested he seemed to be sporting a better atitude.

Someone else asked what the best fit would be for Bartolo Colon. He said the Nats would make sense, since they like taking low-risk, high possible reward gambles.

Someone else mentioned the Ryan Church rumor, and Perotto said that he might be in a minority, but he still thinks Church could be a very good ballplayer if someone would finally give him 500 at-bats.

Posted by: Four more weeks | January 24, 2008 6:20 PM | Report abuse

One more thing- someone else asked which of Dmitri, Nick and Wily Mo would still be on the Nats at the end of the season, and Perotto said "All but Young." This was Baseball Prospectus BTW, not BA as I said before.

I have mentioned this trend before. There have either been a lot more questions about the Nationals on these chats, or the people hosting the chats are starting to think that the team is interesting enough to start accepting these questions. One other question yesterday was whether any of the Nats had interesting PECOTA numbers other than Ryan Zimmerman (these predict performance, apparently). The answer was Lastings Milledge, followed by a comment that if the Nats' middle infield wasn't so weak, they would have a pretty good offense.

Posted by: Four more weeks | January 24, 2008 6:29 PM | Report abuse

yes, Tattoo, that's very nice, the plane is landing again - oh, wait, you said "the Plan." Never mind...

Posted by: Emily Latella | January 24, 2008 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Here's another reason BA rankings don't mean jack. Tampa Bay is Numero Uno.

Posted by: rg019571 | January 24, 2008 9:41 PM | Report abuse

a very short-sighted comment, rg019471. just because the major league team stinks doesn't mean the minor league players do. and remember, the rays changed ownership and management within the last 2 years.

Posted by: 231 | January 24, 2008 9:56 PM | Report abuse

This is pretty cool to see in print. I'm curious where Clippard would rank on the Yankees top 20 list, considering they are higher in the rankings.

The thing about this list is, as everybody knows, the long-term nature of it. USA Today's Sports Weekly, which features football and baseball, has an interesting article in the latest issue about how the Patriots, Packers, Giants and Chargers have all focused on growth through the draft. Yes, different sports and different shelf lives for careers, but it really hits home about what the Nats are trying to do and the patience it entails.

Throw on top of that list Dukes, Milledge and WMP in the OF (does Kearns still count as a kid?), Zimm at 3B and Flores behind the plate and the youth on this team is just downright exciting!!!

Posted by: Nats fan in NJ | January 25, 2008 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Baseball America's projected '11 starting lineup for the Nats:

Catcher Jesus Flores
First Base Chris Marrero
Second Base Stephen King
Third Base Ryan Zimmerman
Shortstop Ian Desmond
Left Field Wily Mo Pena
Center Field Justin Maxwell
Right Field Michael Burgess
No. 1 Starter Ross Detwiler
No. 2 Starter Collin Balester
No. 3 Starter Jack McGeary
No. 4 Starter Josh Smoker
No. 5 Starter Jordan Zimmerman
Closer Chad Cordero

Sort of doubt Chad will still be around in three years, and inevitably one or two or three of those SP's won't pan out, and I hope Smiley overtakes Desmond, but not a bad-looking list at all. Just hope Rizzo and Brown and company aren't resting on their laurels. We need solid drafts every single year, and a solid development program to keep our kids on track.

Posted by: Blue Line Swinger | January 25, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

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