Keith Law is Not a Fan of Washington’s Farm System
By Andrew Flax
Yesterday morning, ESPN’s Keith Law released his Top 100 Prospects list, serving as an accompaniment to his Top Ten Prospects by Organization and Organizational Rankingsreleased earlier this week (all three are behind the ESPN Insider wall). In each, Law offered his own take on each organization and its players, each of which was particularly unkind to the Nationals.
Law’s Top 100 was fairly similar to others, such as that of MLB.com, but took a few different turns as it went deeper. Bryce Harper clocked in at #2, a common landing spot for him. You would be hard-pressed to find any rankings that have Harper outside the top 3. Law describes his reasoning as follows:
"Harper’s calling card remains his 80 power to go with an 80 arm from right field, but he’s a better overall athlete than he’s given credit for. He showed over the course of a year when he was challenged twice by the Nationals with promotions that he can and will make adjustments to pitchers who attack his weaknesses… He should return to Double-A to start the season and spend some time in Triple-A when ready, but a September call-up would be a reasonable timetable, with 30-homer seasons in his very near future."
The next National on Law’s list is Anthony Rendon, ranked 17th. This spot is fairly average, as MLB.com puts him at 27th while Baseball America’s Jim Callis has said Rendon is in his personal Top 10. Rendon is the Nats’ consensus 2nd best prospect, and Law lauds him in his profile.
"When healthy, the Rice University product is an impressive, advanced hitter who should get on base, hit for at least average power and provide plus defense at third… He could end up on top of this list with a healthy 2012, if he shows the defense, bat and patience to again project as an All-Star at third."
However, at #17, Rendon is the last National to appear on Law’s list. Only the Giants, White Sox, Indians, Marlins, and Phillies have fewer Top 100 prospects. As a comparison, the Nationals have 2 more players, Sammy Solis and Alex Meyer (who did make Law’s “Ten Who Just Missed” list), ranked in the 80’s on the MLB.com list for a total of 4. They added Stephen Lombardozzi and Robbie Ray in the Top 100 list compiled by FanSided’s own Seedlings to Stars. Law also ranked A.J. Cole and, inexplicably, Derek Norris in his top 100, at 33 and 93 respectively. With the loss of these players in the Gio Gonzalez trade, Law was unlikely to rank the Nats system highly.
As for his organizational rankings, Law places the organization 21st overall. Law is widely known for loving prospect depth, and since he only considers two Nats Top 100 worthy, his low ranking makes sense. However, this is one of the lowest rankings you’ll find for the Nationals anywhere. For perspective, they were ranked #1 for Baseball America before the Gonzalez trade, and are likely still in the top 10-15 afterwards.
For whatever reasons, Law does not love the Nationals farm system. There is certainly a lack of depth, but most analysts would agree that it’s in the top half of the MLB. Regardless, Law disagrees with conventional wisdom, but, like the rest of baseball, acknowledges Bryce Harper’s great ability and Rendon’s future potential, and the bright overall future of the Nationals as a whole.