MLB.com's Top 50 Prospect list featured just one member of the Washington Nationals' organization, outfielder Bryce Harper, as the 3rd best prospect overall in baseball behind the Los Angeles Angels' outfielder Mike Trout and the Tampa Bay Rays' right-hander Jeremy Hellickson. The no.1 overall pick in the 2010 Draft hasn't played a single game in the minor leagues in the Nats' system yet, having impressed everyone as he's jumped from high school to junior college, the Florida Instructional League and Arizona Fall League in the last two years. The fact that he's immediately the best prospect in the organization five months after he was drafted is a lot easier to ignore when he's considered the second-best outfield prospect in all of baseball. But the system's getting there and starting to move up in the eyes of the scouts and writers who follow such things...
MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo had Harper ranked as the second-best outfielder, Danny Espinosa as the fifth-best second baseman, and Derek Norris and Wilson Ramos as two of the Top 10 Catchers in his recent "Prospect Watch" series about the top talent around the league. This afternoon, ESPN.com's Keith Law moved the Nats up four spots in his Organization Rankings, from 23rd overall in January 2010 to 19th overall before the 2011 campaign. Last year, ESPN.com's Mr. Law wrote that the Nats were, "Getting there, slowly," but noted that, "two of their top three guys," on his list of the Nats' Top Prospects, Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen, came from the previous June's ('09) Draft, as Harper has this season.
Mr. Law explains that the jump from 23rd to 19th overall this year is in recognition of the, "progress since Mike Rizzo took over as GM," two Drafts back, and the investment the Nationals' ownership has made in each of the last two drafts, outspending the rest of the league and setting spending records in consecutive seasons, with last year's draft adding three names to his top prospects list which hasn't yet been released. D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said much the same about the Nats' system in a recent interview with the D.C. press corps when asked what he thought about independent organizations that were giving positive reviews of the organization's improvements:
"You know, when periodicals say we're doing a good job, that's a good thing, but we don't put a lot of weight on that. We see that we're doing it the right way, we've seen a constant improvement in the organization on the minor league side. Obviously that was a huge point of emphasis for us, and I think at least the last two or three drafts have been extremely important for us and impactful for us, and I think it goes hand-in-hand with Kris Klein becoming the scouting director, Roy Clark becoming Assistant GM, these guys are baseball afficionados, they know the game, they know the draft game very well, and it's a unique skill set that they have and it's no coincidence that when those guys were brought in that we've taken off."
Baseball America's Aaron Fitt added three picks from the 2010 Draft to his recent list of the Nats' Top 10 prospects, with 18-year 1st Round pick Bryce Harper no.1 overall, 19-year-old 2010 4th Round pick A.J. Cole 4th overall, and 22-year-old 2nd Round pick Sammy Solis 6th overall in the Nationals' organization. Two players on this year's Baseball America list, Danny Espinosa (3rd overall), the best infielder in the Nats' system and catcher Wilson Ramos (5th overall), the Minnesota Twins' second-best prospect before he was traded to Washington last July, are expected to make the jump to the majors this season, leaving room on next year's list for the 6th and 23rd picks from this year's first Round. "I've seen the improvement in our minor league system with my own eyes," the Nats' GM said recently, "so I kind of view that as really exciting and something that we're extremely proud of." In Rizzo, Kline and Clark We Trust.