The State of the Nationals Farm

State of the Nationals
So here we are, a day removed from the last of three playoff teams to lose in their league championship series. Two of them were swept, the third may as well have been — limited to two runs in three losses after winning the first game. A fourth playoff team, which only garnered notice outside of our little bubble when they approached (and surpassed) the record for the winning percentage by a domestic-based* minor-league team, won the whole frickin’ thing.
* Am I the only one that finds that qualifier offensive? Sure, there’s lots of corruption in the D.R., but less than in the N.C.A.A.

A year ago, when I wrote the inaugural version of this column, I wondered what “Phase Two” would mean in terms of the minors…

There’s a lot of talk about Washington entering Phase Two, which really applies to the parent club more than the minors, in my opinion. I tend to look at the minors progression like this:

1) Go all-in on H.S. picks, start to clear out the system that had been put on autopilot in 2002
2) First-round picks are used to get “generational talents,” college picks are used heavily to fortify the ranks
3) Spend heavily on the final draft before the new CBA kicks in, cash in on some of the returns of #1 and #2 for a SP
4) ???

…and I think the answer is “Replace/Reload Mode.” In other words, I think the Nationals have gotten to where they’re supposed to be: drafting and developing players independent of current need.

The success of the GCL — which I’d like to say I predicted with the line “if the Nationals can continue their post-Smiley success with the likes of Wander Ramos and Estarlin Martinez” but I don’t work for ESPN — is one reason for that optimism. Signing eight high school and JuCo picks out of eighteen draft picks is another (an obligatory H/T to “Springfield Fan,” who maintains the Draft Tracker that makes citing these numbers easy). Having them succeed, especially the trio of Jake Johansen, Austin Voth, and Nick Pivetta — SPs that pitched at multiple levels — is yet another reason (for a statistical rundown of how the Draft Class of ’13 did, visit this post by Todd Boss).

As I write this, the “Big Nats” are coming off their latest disappointing loss — remember that column questioning whether Davey Johnson’s “World Series or Bust” proclamation for 2013 was perhaps ill-advised after clearly overachieving in 2012? Me neither — but they’ve made a run lately with replacements that were developed and/or acquired in the last four seasons. Tanner Roark is the latest hero to the Natmosphere at large, but he’s old news to the folks here. Ian Krol came up what turned out to be mostly for good, save for a procedural demotion in August, along with Anthony Rendon’s second callup to DC in early June. Unfortunately, we barely knew him, having been largely considered a throw-in as the PTBNL in the Michael Morse trade.

Rendon, of course, became the replacement for Danny Espinosa, which is an unfortunate turn of events that I can’t summarize much better than this. Taylor Jordan shocked all of us by going from Potomac to DC, which earned him the honor of the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Rendon, Krol and Taylor are this year’s most notable graduates from the farm. Some kid named Bryce Harper headlined the 2012 class. Espinosa and Wilson Ramos were the 2011 grads. Ian Desmond and Stephen Strasburg, got the nods in 2010.

That’s what’s meant by “replace/reload.” There are others in that sequence of events — Tyler Moore, Steve Lombardozzi, Chris Marrero, Roger Bernadina, Drew Storen off the top of my head; researching rookie status is not easy — which you can see are mostly bench players or relievers. But that’s okay. One of the purposes of the farm is to develop players that can be plugged in when and where they’re needed. Or in some cases, provide a place for them to play until they’re needed, like Tanner Roark, Ross Ohlendorf, and Xavier “Nah, I’ll Just Take A Carry On” Cedeno.

And with that, I close the book on the 2013 regular season and perhaps enjoy a short break from the grind. I’ll begin work on analyzing the Instructional League Rosters this week and pass along minors-related news as time permits until the AFL starts up in early October, which is also when I hope to start publishing the affiliate season reviews.

Author: Luke Erickson

Since 2009, Luke Erickson has been chief writer, editor, and bottle-washer of Potomac is his home base as a season-ticket holder, but he has visited every affiliate north of Florida at least once, with multiple trips to Hagerstown and Harrisburg.

14 thoughts on “The State of the Nationals Farm”

  1. I’ll second that; thanks Luke for everything you do. I would not be able to write the posts that I like to write were it not for your daily summaries of the farm team results.

    Obviously it’s a bit too early to judge the 2013 class (despite my running through their stats in their first pro seasons). It definitely seems “younger” than 2012’s college-heavy draft. Only two HSers signed but as you note a bunch of Juco guys who were Juco-1 or Juco-2 guys. My general concerns still is that the team is focusing on pitchers and not on hitters, but perhaps that’s a conscious decision based on the talent matriculating out of the DSL.

    On the “state of the farm” in general, I feel like the system took huge strides forward this year in overall depth. The number of guys who earned promotions (out of Potomac especially) seemed larger than it was last year, and almost all of them continued to succeed at their higher levels. Jordan jumping from high-A to posting a sub-4.00 ERA in the majors is astounding; nobody had him on their pre-season top10 lists for our organization. A number of our big names made big steps forward or came back successfully from injury. I like where we’re headed.

  2. Can’t find the server error with the link embedded in “this”.

    I’m not sure what Todd Boss is talking about when he says they are focusing on pitchers given the 2013 draft? What the heck is Ward, Gunter and Yazzo all in the top 10? And especially Ward the epitome of the big, slow footed, a tad eccentric, left-handed power hitter? He’s a big gun … the dearth of such players in the minor league system appears to have awoken the FO to a serious hole in their minor league depth chart.

    There are just as many pitchers and more in the lower rounds but let’s face it pitchers do tend to matriculate to the majors quicker.

    Or perhaps we need something like the draft tracker to keep tabs on the International talent coming up from the DR that often starts at age 16? Seems like they just signed a high-ceiling position player or two?

  3. Thanks Luke,
    Haven’t posted for a while but I am reading everything on this site. Will be back soon. Bet that excites you all. No? Darn.

  4. Lucas. Obrigado. Gracias. Thank you!
    Here is my take – The GCL jazzes me because
    There are several Latin everyday players
    who will audition for Auburn and maybe
    Drink coffee for Hagerstown early on before
    Short season starts
    My gut is telling me that brass should challenge
    Certain talents with an extra bump up the chain
    Could we see Renda @ Burg, Lippencott @
    PNats and the same for Cody Dent?

    Again great work by the pitching coaches especially
    Franklin Bravo who saw 18 guys take starts and
    A re- invented bullpen

    Granted – injuries, trades, fallen playing levels :
    But let’s play Doug Harris:
    Hagerstown. OF. Allen, Valdez, Ballou, Gunther
    W. Rodrieguez,,???
    Interesting how chain moves with Mesa and Ballou
    On top of each other- Mesa on PNats and Ballou
    Starts at Hags?
    Does SYR reap the senators talent crop?
    Or replay crop in April ?
    Time will tell
    Yezzo in Hagerstown should have a nice

  5. Luke – Thanks. I hardly ever post but I never miss reading. One of the things I judge the system on is the overall tenor of comments – I find that there is a generally upbeat tenor, indicating more overall satisfaction with the width and breadth of the system. It was always easy like to the icing, but the but it seems like the cake has been underdone in the past.

    Thanks again – really enjoy reading you everyday.

  6. Spike Lives!!!

    I’ll 2nd (or is that 4th or 5th), the the thanks made by everybody so far. I love this site and go to this and then Nats Arms every morning for my daily fix. Thanks again Luke.
    Remember when the farm system was rated 30th 4 years in a row, thanks to Bud Lite and his cronies? How far we have come!
    One of the things about the draft that I didn’t know before Todd pointed it out on his site is that the players in the 11th or higher rounds are getting more money than the 8, 9 & 10th rounds because of the new sytem.

    A couple of the very young kids had very good years at 18 years old. Travis Ott was 17 when we drafted him out of High School and surprisingly signed, even though his bonus was capped at $100,000!
    I’m excited about the farms future; wish there were more bats drafted but understand why.

  7. The other Marc has a point. The underdone cake
    Is another way of saying A plus and minus were
    Older than the average median age
    One thing the Nats better get done early is
    Have the state department process plenty of
    Visas for the nice talented kids coming state side
    For GCL and Auburn and Hags
    Look forward seeing how Corridor and D. Fiortino
    – misspell- fare in camp for GCL
    Did the Nats waive the lefty hitting 1b who was on XST
    TBD- W.S initials ???
    Bryan Meiijia and Jose M-Diaz could be fun
    Talents in GCL or even Hags April lookers .
    Watching Yezzo and Diffo play the right
    Side of infield??? Valdez being versatile as
    The Latin crop is causing some of us to
    Look forward to February back fields!
    Luke- may the Schwartz be with you!
    Meatballs. Mel Brooks!

  8. Another thought. The FSL is known for
    Sluggers seeing the long flies caught @
    Warning track
    Our kids will need 1,500 ABs to develop that
    Slugger swagger
    Look @ EstArlin and Plef @ Hags with 8 HRs
    Between them.

  9. Thank you, Luke! I really appreciate all of the work you put in on this site. It is a must ready every day.

    Have a great off-season.

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