Coming off their World Series win in 2019 and a disappointing follow-up in 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign, The Athletic’s Keith Law ranked Washington’s Nationals’ 30th overall among MLB’s 30 farm systems, noting that the club spent a lot of prospect capital on the way to winning the first championship by a D.C.-based team since 1924.
“They’ve traded prospects, drafted lower in the first round and given up some picks for free agents,” Law explained.
With an aggressive approach to the new rules regarding international signings, however, Law wrote, “… the Nats’ system could look a whole lot better in a year if all of their teenage Latin American prospects get a chance to play and show us if their abilities line up with their tools.”
In his 2022 ranking of MLB’s farm systems, Law had the Nationals at No. 27, with two of their prospects (2021 1st Round pick Brady House at No. 46 and 2020 1st Rounder Cade Cavalli at No. 48), on his Top 100 for 2022 last winter.
“The rest of the story of 2021 for the Nats was injuries, though, as two of their top three pitching prospects got hurt, as did top outfield prospect Roismar Quintana,” and the “loss of short-season leagues” in Law’s opinion, hurt the organization, “… which would have especially benefited some of the international signees who would have spent 2021 in the (now-defunct) New York-Penn League.”
One year later, after two draft classes (first-year and international) and two big trade deadline hauls boosted the system, Law has the club ranked 11th on his farm system rankings for 2023.
“What a difference a year makes,” Law writes, pointing to the fact that three of the club’s top six prospects came over from San Diego in the Juan Soto trade with the Padres at the trade deadline last August, “... and they added one of the highest-ceiling guys in the 2022 draft class in Elijah Green.”
After sitting near the bottom of his rankings the last few years for a number of reasons from, as Law writes, “… some draft misses to some busts on the international side (after Soto, who makes up for a lot of other guys), [and] trades while the team was still contending,” the Nationals jumped from the bottom third to just outside the top third on Law’s list for 2023.
“We see ourselves as an organization on the rise,” Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters at the Winter Meetings back in early December, “... and I think we’ll see at the big league level a way more competitive team, and I think that the minor league system is something that — we have very high hopes for those players in the minor league system.
“We’ve got — we feel we’ve got some of the most exciting, tooled-up players in the game, we’ve got a lot of ‘em, and we’re looking forward to seeing them progress.”
At least one scout/analyst out there agrees with Rizzo’s enthusiasm for the rebooted farm system in the nation’s capital.