Down on the Farm: Checking in on the Washington Nationals’ top-5 prospects

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Jul 12, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; USA pitcher

Lucas Giolito

throws against the World Team in the first inning during the All Star Futures Game at Great American Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

With the first half of the 2015 season in the books, it’s time to check in on the farm system and see how the Washington Nationals’ top-5 prospects have been doing so far in the 2015 season and over the last couple of years.

While most of these players are still a ways away from contributing at the big league level, they are still the future of the ball club’s success and it’s important to monitor their progress as they continue to make their way up the minor league ladder. It’s also interesting to look at this list midway through the season for a couple of reasons. For one, it gives us a chance to see how they have progressed from Spring Training to the All-Star break. Also, since many of these players are at or near the highest level of the Nationals’ farm system, there’s a good chance we’ll see them join the big league club later this season so it’s important to see what they’ve done in the minors this year and whether or not they deserve a late-season call-up.

The cream-of-the-crop of the Nationals’ farm system is in a unique situation midway through the 2015 season. Since the major league roster has been drastically depleted by injuries all season long and because many of the team’s top prospects are talented enough to play at the big league level, the Nationals have already seen two of their top-5 prospects make their MLB debuts this season.

A.J. Cole and Joe Ross—the team’s No. 2 and 5 prospects, respectively—have each pitched in three games for the Nationals this season and both will likely be back with the team at some point before the end of the year. As for the other three players on this list, they have yet to have their moment in the spotlight but are not too far from debuting in the big leagues themselves.

The Nationals are a team that rose from the bottom of the National League to a World Series contender because of their farm system. Nearly all of the Nationals’ core group of players—Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon, for example—are home-grown products of the Nationals farm system. While those players are the foundation of the big league club today, the players down in the minors are surely the heart and soul of the team’s long-term future.

While most Nationals’ fans are no strangers to a few of the prospects on this list, it’s important to realize that the hierarchy of minor league baseball is constantly changing. Whether it’s because players get called up to the big leagues or traded to another ball club, or because they get injured or struggle to the point that that their value drops in the eyes of the team, the top-5 prospects list we will be looking at today looks very different from how it did the last time we checked in on them.

When we looked at the Nationals’ top prospects on January 1, the list included two players who for various reasons are no longer considered to be in the top-5. So, today’s breakdown will not only serve to refresh what we already know about some of the team’s top prospects, but also to discuss a couple of names which may not be all that familiar.

Regardless of how well known these players are, they make’s top-5 Nationals prospects list for a reason. They’re all key parts of the team’s minor league system and important pieces of the puzzle for the Nationals’ 2015 plans and beyond.

With all of this in mind, let’s check in on the top-5 prospects and see where they stand three months into the 2015 season.

Next: No. 5: Joe Ross