ESPN.com's Keith Law ranked the Washington Nationals' farm system the 9th best in baseball when he released his 2015 Farm System rankings yesterday. In bumping the Nats' organization from no.18 overall on his 2014 list to no.9, Law wrote that the Nationals got a "big boost" with the selection of 1st Round pick Erick Fedde and the addition of "two top-100 prospects" in the three-team trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and San Diego Padres which netted right-handed pitcher Joe Ross and a PTBNL widely reported to be 2014 1st Round pick Trea Turner, who can't be traded until June.
The addition of two "top-100" prospects gave the Nationals six prospects overall on Law's Top 100 Prospects list for 2015, which was released this morning.
The Nats' top-ranked prospect on just about every prospect list out there, 2012 1st Round pick Lucas Giolito, landed highest on Law's Top 100, landing at no.8 overall on the list after a 2014 campaign in which he returned to full-time action following Tommy John surgery in late '12 and went (10-2) with a 2.20 ERA, a 3.16 FIP, 28 walks (2.57 BB/9) and 110 Ks (10.10 K/9) in 20 starts and 98 innings pitched.
Law writes that what Giolito accomplished in 2014 was impressive not only because he's still working his way back from Tommy John, but also since he, "... hasn't even been allowed to use his two-seam fastball and is still developing his changeup..." which leaves room for even more improvement as he moves up in the organization.
"When he reaches Double-A," Law adds, "he'll be able to restore his two-seamer and become a true four-pitch guy."
Next on Law's list for the Nationals is Joe Ross, the Padres' 2011 1st Round pick, who lands at no.63 overall after a 2014 campaign which saw the 21-year-old, 6'4'' right-hander go (8-6) in 19 starts at High-A in the first of two stops in San Diego's system.
Ross posted a 3.98 ERA, a 3.83 FIP, 28 walks (2.48 BB/9) and 87 Ks (7.70 K/9) in 101 ⅔ IP at A-ball, then moved to Double-A where he went (2-0) in four games, three starts and 20 IP over which he put up a 3.60 ERA and a 2.67 FIP with one walk (0.45 BB/9) and 19 Ks (8.55 K/9).
In Law's opinion, Ross was a potential no.2 starter before experiencing shoulder issues in 2013, but could still be a "very effective no.3" in the future.
Michael Taylor, who made his major league debut this past season, stays on the prospect list for another season, with Law ranking him 71st overall this year.
The 23-year-old, 2009 sixth-round pick put up a combined .304/.390/.526 line in the minors in 2014, hitting 17 doubles and 22 HRs in 98 games and 441 PAs at Double-A and three doubles, a triple and a home run in 52 PAs at Triple-A before debuting and hitting three doubles and a home run in 43 PAs in the majors.
Reynaldo Lopez, 21, made 16 starts between Auburn and Hagerstown in the Nationals' system in 2014, going (3-2) in seven starts with the Doubledays in the NY/Penn League, over which he put up a 0.75 ERA, a 3.14 FIP, 15 walks (3.75 BB/9) and 31 Ks (7.75 K/9) in 36 IP and (4-1) in nine starts with the Low-A Suns in which he posted a 1.33 ERA, a 2.91 FIP, 11 walks (2.09 BB/9) and 39 Ks (7.42 K/9) in 47 ⅓ IP.
In Law's estimation, Lopez's, "... ceiling is second only to Lucas Giolito among Nationals' starter prospects."
Trea Turner, 21, who will remain in the Padres' system until he can be traded this June, lands at no.88 on Law's Top 100 after being drafted in the 1st Round last June and making his professional debut quickly thereafter.
Turner posted a .228/.324/.283 line with two doubles and one home run in 105 PAs with San Diego's Class-A affiliate and a .369/.447/.529 line with 14 doubles, two triples and four home runs over 216 PAs at Low-A, then went to the Arizona Fall League where he posted a .400/.417/.400 line in nine games and 36 PAs.
Law projects that the shortstop acquired along with Ross from the Padres this winter, "... could end up an average or slightly better defensive shortstop who hits .280-.300 with 40 steals a year."
The last Nationals' prospect to make Law's Top 100 is 2011 4th Round pick A.J. Cole, who lands at 98 overall after he was ranked no.65 on the list last winter.
Cole, 23, made 14 starts at Double-A in 2014, going (6-3) with a 2.92 ERA, 2.58 FIP, 15 walks (1.90 BB/9) and 61 Ks (7.73 K/9) in 71 IP, then moved up to Triple-A Syracuse, going (7-0) in 11 starts with a 3.43 ERA, a 4.48 FIP, 17 walks (2.43 BB/9) and 50 Ks (7.14 K/9) in 63 IP.
Law writes that after another "half-season or so" of success at Triple-A, Cole will be ready to pitch in the majors.
Check out Law's entire Top 100 Prospects list through the link below, though it is, of course, for INSIDERS only:
Now you're going to have to learn to read - my top 100 prospects for 2015 is up for Insiders: http://t.co/uztJ5liRcC— keithlaw (@keithlaw) January 29, 2015