If you think of the Nationals' farm system in the 2010s, you might think of players like Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. Others may think of a system that continuously ranked at the bottom of the league in farm system rankings. And those last few people may think to a string of top draft picks that contributed little to nothing to the team and the organization due to developmental failures, injury or something in between.
While the developmental department needs to prove themselves, the rest now seems to be a thing of the past as we head into 2024. Naturally after trading a player like Juan Soto for the haul that the Nationals did, your farm system had better rank highly if you want any hope at justifying trading a player that is on a Hall of Fame trajectory. Thankfully for the Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo, so far they seem justified based on the early returns.
After selecting Dylan Crews second overall in last week's MLB Draft, the Nationals and their fans were treated to a sight for sore eyes in the latest MLB Prospect Rankings.
The Nationals have two top 5 prospects in baseball, with James Wood ranked 4th and Dylan Crews ranked 5th.
This is how you turn a team around.
Yes, the process may have been painful at times, losing some of our favorite players and seeing our World Series winning team devolve into a team that cannot even sniff .500, but the Nationals were long overdue for a firm reset and just 2.5 years into it, so far, so good.
James Wood retained his top 5 ranking in both Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America that he had prior to the draft. The big question was where Dylan Crews would exactly fall upon being drafted. There was little debate that he would crack the top 10, but would he crack the top 5? Now we know - yes, yes he did. Wood ranked 3rd in Baseball Prospectus and 4th in Baseball America while Crews ranked 4th in Baseball Prospectus and 5th in Baseball America. Crews was also the highest ranked prospect in his draft class, ahead of LSU teammate Paul Skenes and Florida's Wyatt Langford.
Of James Wood - Baseball Prospectus cited Wood's premier power potential, saying that he "has the best power potential of any top prospect left in the minors." They also mention how well Wood moves for his size, which we saw in action in the MLB Futures game during the All Star Break.
Due to his ability to move well, Wood is a legitimate candidate to stick in Center Field as he is a plus defender out there. That could change as he rises up from Double A baseball, but the Nationals have to be excited at both Wood's performance and potential.
Of Dylan Crews - Baseball Prospectus called him "right there with Adley Rutschman for best collegiate hitting prospect out of the draft in recent memory." Crews has insane potential with his ability to hit the ball hard and his knack for getting on base. They also say he will likely stick in Center Field, which may make the Nationals' lives easier to move James Wood to Right Field which is less physically demanding. It is a good problem to have. But being a college bat, we may see Crews in the majors sooner rather than later.
Baseball Prospectus also says that Wood needs to work on more consistent contact as his long arms make him prone to some swing and miss and weak contact and that Crews needs to improve his launch angle to not hit the ball into the ground as much (keep him away from Darnell Coles), but both issues can be address in the minor leagues. Both Crews and Wood are huge parts of the Nationals future and there is all the reason to get excited.