So, I started this morning thinking that I was going to do a top 10 prospect list for the Nats, it's not real hard to do they have a very solid top 5-6 that don't take much thought. But something happened to my train of thought on the way to the depot (ha, see what I did there, a play on Camden Depot). The Orioles shook up their scouting department in a big, controversial way and sidetracked me all morning. So I decided I'd write about the impact of good scouting and how that impacts the Nationals.
Building a winning team comes from identifying the right talent at the amateur level, and then supplementing the pieces that don't pan out later on. The more you hit on in the draft, means the less you have to overpay for later. When the Nationals brought in Mike Rizzo, they started a plan in motion that involved an overhaul of the scouting department, and a shift towards spending the money it takes to build through the draft. A couple terrible years on the field translated to a couple of the best draft picks of the past 20 years, and the willingness to pay later in the draft is reaping benefits for a team on the rise.
Recent draft picks of note:
Aaron Crow - We all know how this went. He didn't sign, drafted by KC, has turned into a legit ML closer. However, looking more into things, with the pick the Nats got for not signing him, they drafted Drew Storen who has been a ML closer for more than a year already and for MUCH less money.
Stephen Strasburg - Shouldnt' have to mention this. Slam dunk pick, a superstar in the making, and then picks up a dreaded Tommy John surgery along the way. Seems to have come back strong, and even down a couple MPH he is still better than most of MLB starters.
Drew Storen - See above. Signability pick, has turned into a very capable MLB closer.
Bryce Harper - The SI cover boy himself, amazing power potential and moving through the minors and a very fast clip. Looks to be the future of offense in DC.
Sammy Solis - Solid lefty putting up good stats in the minors and could be a back end starter, solid RP or great trade bait.
AJ Cole - A personal favorite of mine, picked up in the 4th round and is still a work in progress but has start potential. Still a bit of a 2-pitch guy, but if his change-up improves, he could be a really good #2/3 pitcher in DC.
Anthony Rendon - Considered the top talent in the 2011 draft, injury concerns dropped him into the Nationals lap, who wisely gobbled him up. Will start his career as a 3B, but a possible shift to 2B or a trade seems on the horizon with Zimmerman firmly entrenched.
Alex Meyer - Very solid late 1st rounder who was projected in the top 10 most of the year.
Brian Goodwin - Looks like a CF of the future, great tools and very coachable.
Matt Purke - In talks for the top 5 most of the year, injuries dropped him late into 2011, loss of velocity and a disaster small sample in the AFL have people asking questions.
Matt Skole - 3B for Georgia Tech was a sleeper of mine who had a good debut in the NY/P league, someone to keep an eye on.
While this may seem like a solid top 10 list in the making, it's actually just my favorite picks of theirs since 2009. In 3 years, they have infused a HUGE amount of talent into a team and this is the biggest reason why the Nationals are a sleeper pick for many analysts this year.
Still a few pieces away, this list of players gives them plenty of tools to trade for the pieces they need. If they strike out in FA, they can still get in on the trade market and make a big splash and the whole reason they can do that? Scouting and selecting the right players year in and out.