Yesterday, the 2021 edition was released. I’d say “quietly,” but these days a mouse peeing on a cotton ball is louder than anything about the minors that’s not draft- or college-related.
Before I list them out by scale – which you’ll find depressing anyway – big kudos to FanGraphs for not bullshitting us:
As there was no minor league season in 2020, there are some instances where no new information was gleaned about a player. Players whose write-ups have not been meaningfully altered begin by telling you so. Each blurb ends with an indication of where the player played in 2020
Now, for the list by its Future Value Scale:
|45||Cade Cavalli, Yasel Antuna|
|40+||Andry Lara, Jeremy De La Rosa, Seth Romero, Matt Cronin, Cole Henry|
|40||Israel Pineda, Tim Cate, Sammy Infante, Armando Cruz, Joan Adon, Drew Mendoza|
|35+||Mason Denaburg, Roismar Quintana, Jackson Cluff, Holden Powell, Zachary Brzykcy, Tres Barrera, Reid Schaller, Todd Peterson|
(Italics = New for 2021; Bold = Improved from 2020 Grey = Declined from 2020)
Obviously, I’m trying to avoid listing numerically, but if you absolutely must, start at the top and then read left to right.
Most of the newbies are 2020 draft picks or signs. Players already in the system to move onto the list are Barrera and Peterson. Graduated since 2020 are Carter Kieboom and Luis García. Will Crowe and Eddy Yean were traded away. James Bourque is gone from the system, while Raudy Read dropped from the list (ostensibly replaced by Barrera and Peterson, respectively).
It’s worth noting that just five of the 13 pitchers (well, four and Mason Denaburg) are tagged as being starters, and even then, they’re back-of-the-rotation types. Yasel Antuna is the sole position player not pegged for the bench or Lyfted from Rochester.
Now, I know some of you will want to defend the IFAs on this list, which if we’re honest (and somebody has to be) are the Obi-Wans of the Nats system, but they’re ranked low because they young, unproven – and with the exception of De La Rosa – unseen.
FanGraphs goes a bit further to hammer home how bereft the system is by comparing the Nats system to the commits and roster of Vanderbilt, which even as a non-follower of college baseball I recognize is to be written about with one hand only.
That may be overkill, but only recently have the powers that be finally recognize what we’ve known for a long time: The Nats have hit rock-bottom as a farm system because they’ve traded away or graduated most of its top-tier talent, and that top-tier is no longer MLB-starter quality.
I know most, if not all, of the casual fans do not care about the system being in such disrepair because… wait for it… the Nats won a World Series, but the money shot in the article is this quote:
[N]ow that the division is so deep and difficult, having the ammunition to make a trade may end up being what separates the wheat from the chaff in the NL East, and every year the Nationals don’t reach the apex of the division is another year closer to Father Time catching up with Scherzer and Co., as he inevitably will.
Or put another way… perhaps you should care if you want to see the Nats win another one with any of the current players.