"The plan three years ago was to attack the draft before the new CBA," D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told reporters this winter. "That was our focus," the general manager of the team initially ranked as the no.1 organization in baseball in 2012 by Baseball America continued, "that was our vision, that was our strategy going into it three years ago and we did it, we attacked it for the last three years and I don't think you'll see a draft class like last year's because of the new CBA rules, so..."
That aggressive approach which included signing no.1 overall picks Stephen Strasburg ('09), Bryce Harper ('10) and 1st Round pick Anthony Rendon ('11) to major league deals, going well-above slot to sign picks like A.J. Cole (4th Round 2010), Robbie Ray (12th Round 2010) and Matt Purke (3rd Round 2011 who got a major league deal), and using compensation picks for the loss of free agents like Adam Dunn to load up on first round picks and sign players like RHP Alex Meyer (23rd overall in 2011) and OF Brian Goodwin (34th in '11). The results? Baseball America, which ranked the Nationals' organization 21st overall in 2009-2010 when Rizzo took over as GM, and had moved them up to 13th last year, had them no.1 overall in 2012.
The recognition, the Nats' general manager told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy, was especially important to him because it was, "... such an organizational reward, it's like the ultimate organizational award," in recognition of all the hard work the Nats' rebuilt scouting and development system had done under Rizzo's guidance with the help of the Lerners. The Nationals, however, (after the Baseball America's first prospect list had been published and after the Prospect Handbook which contained the organizational rankings had been sent to the printers), made a deal with Oakland that sent three of the players on BA's original Top 10 list; RHP Brad Peacock (3), A.J. Cole (4) and C Derek Norris (9); and one major-league ready lefty (Tom Milone) to the A's in exchange for Gio Gonzalez and RHP Robert Gilliam.
The trade, which Baseball America's Jim Callis told the Washington Times' Amanda Comak would drop the Nationals in BA's organizational rankings into the "5-10 range," left Washington with just two prospects on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list when it was published this morning. Bryce Harper is no.1 overall on the BA Top 100 list, with Baseball America predicting that some time this year the 19-year-old left-handed hitting catcher-turned-outfielder, "... should get to the majors as a teenager; settle in and enjoy it."
Before he's had a professional at bat, 2011 1st Rounder Anthony Rendon has turned up on all the top prospect lists this winter, and he lands at no.19 overall on Baseball America's Top 100 with an ETA in the majors of 2013 and the BA scouts writing that, "Even with one good shoulder, he was the top hitter in last year's draft." D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Danny Rouhier and Grant Paulsen, in an interview from Spring Training yesterday, that Rendon, who is in Spring Training with the big league team right now, is, "... a terrific player. The Golden Spikes Award winner at his days in Rice University. He's just a terrific all-around, two-way player."
The plan for Rendon, Rizzo told the 106.7 the FAN hosts, is for the third baseman, "... to start off playing third base, but he may move around a little bit in Spring Training. I know Davey [Johnson] has got some ideas of bouncing around, seeing him a little bit at second base, but primarily he's been a third baseman and that's where he'll be to start the season somewhere in the minor leagues." Bryce Harper is, of course, competing for a spot in the Nationals' Opening Day outfield, but thought likely to return to the minors for at least a little while before he joins the Nats in the nation's capital. They'll have to make some room in the lineup, but at some point in 2013-14 the Nationals will likely have the top hitting prospects from each of the last two drafts and two of Baseball America's Top 20 prospects overall in their lineup on a daily basis.
(ed. note - "The Nationals would have had four prospects in Baseball America's Top 100 before the deal with Oakland. 24-year-old right-hander Brad Peacock was no. 36 on BA's list and 20-year-old A.J. Cole was 57th overall on the list.")