The Washington Nationals have come along way in the last several years – climbing from the bottom of the league to one of the best teams in baseball. While there are a lot of reasons for the team’s rise to stardom, arguably the biggest reason behind the team’s improvement is its exceptional farm system.
Year after year general manager Mike Rizzo and the Nationals do a fantastic job scouting, drafting and developing young players from around the country to ensure that the team’s future remains as bright as its present. The Nationals’ farm system has created some of the game’s most exciting young talents, as names such as Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Anthony Rendon and Ian Desmond are all considered to be some of best players in baseball.
And while big free-agent signings – such as Jayson Werth and, more recently, Max Scherzer – have played a major role in helping create a World Series favorite, there’s no doubt that the Nationals’ success both next season and beyond will be influenced most by the team’s home-grown talent.
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Perhaps the best part of the Nationals’ farm system is that although superstar prospects such as Strasburg and Harper have already graduated to the big leagues, the team still boasts a wealth of talent at the minor league level. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that six Nationals prospects landed on ESPN analyst Keith Law’s annual Top-100 Prospects list.
Giolito, who lands at No. 8 on Law’s list, is one of the game’s most promising young pitching prospects. After undergoing Tommy John surgery two years ago, the right-hander dominated in his first full season as a professional in 2014.
Giolito spent the entire season at Class-A Hagerstown, where he went 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA in 20 starts. Although he was shut down after just 98 innings due to the team’s strict Tommy John policy, completing his first full season after the surgery was a big step for Giolito and the right-hander should rack up more innings in 2015.
Taylor, who ranked 71st on Law’s list, is coming off his best season as a professional and could compete for a spot on the bench during spring training. The center fielder posted a .304/.390/.526 line in the minors last year, before making his big league debut late in the season.
Cole is another player on the fast track to making the Nationals’ rotation, as the right-hander had a great year on the mound in 2014. Cole, who ranked 98th on Law’s list, started the 2014 season at Double-A Harrisburg, where he went 6-3 with a 2.92 ERA in 14 games with the Senators. After a great start to the season at Double-A, Cole earned a promotion to Triple-a Syracuse, where he went 7-0 with a 3.43 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 11 starts. Cole could be ready to join the big league rotation as early as 2016.
While some of these prospects are still several years away from making it to the big leagues, the fact that a team that is already one of the best in baseball continues to have a wealth of talent working its way up the minor league ladder is a testament to the long-term plan for success that the team has maintained since Rizzo became GM in 2009. The Nationals will enter the 2015 season as World Series favorites, but as Law’s list demonstrates, there are plenty of reasons to believe that the team can continue to be successful well beyond next season.