Sometime during this Super Bowl mess Keith Law put out his Top 100 prospects and Nats fans got a little excited. The Nats posted 6 guys in the Top 100 (3 or 4 would be expected given even distribution) and they were ranked the 8th best organization. Window re-opening right? Well I decided to use my internet sleuthing ability to put together Law's picks for the same spots the Nats were in over the course of time he's made these picks.
Here it is:
Sorry but people were far less interested when he put out his very first one after the 2007 season. I couldn't piece that together.
We can't really learn anything hard from this. This is more about getting impressions. What does it mean to be a #8? What about a #98? Of course you have to factor in things other than just the raw number. Age, position, current location in development... A 24 AAA pitcher that falls into the 89th spot is different than a 19yr old A-ball SS in the same spot.
I'd feel good about Giolito (in case for some reason you didn't - but seriously why haven't you?) Outside of "not here yet" Sano, the 8th spot guys are all major leaguers and even the disappointing Ackley is a useful player. Complete wipeouts from players this highly regarded would be considered surprising.
By the time you get to #63 though it's iffy territory. Teheran and Archer have done very well. Webster and Sanchez are still finding their way. Revere is a 3rd/4th OF straddler. This uncertainty is more apparent as you look at #71 and #75. For each breakout like Brantley there is a never made it like Schlereth, and even Brantley took 5 years to really play to his talent. The deeper you go into back end of the Top 100, the more uncertainty there is and it becomes harder to find not only breakouts but even solid everyday major leaguers. Walker did it. A lot of middle reliever types though. I have to say I don't feel real good about Cole given this. I'd read a post-2012 #89 Cole as - "mid-rotation guy with maybe some #2 upside". I'd read post 2014 #98 Cole as - "back rotation guy with maybe some #3 upside"
Another thing to note and more important for the here and now is that it takes a while for these guys to make a major league impact. No one in that post 2013 list impacted 2014. Only Cole from the post 2012 group impacted 2014 (Cingrani got injured). Given the ages of the Nats guys I wouldn't expect anything different. Giolito and Taylor are close but probably not 2015 guys and might have to spend 2016 getting acclimated. Cole is ready but as we've noted, probably not very impactful. This is why I tend to see 2016 and 2017 as potential down years. Some players are aging, others are leaving, and the young help isn't necessarily ready yet.
How down? Well that depends on how much the Nats want to spend. Do nothing more and the Scherzer signing still likely holds their head above water in the post-ZNN, Desmond world of 2016. They will probably get worse but we'll have to see how Bryce develops, how the Marlins/Mets do, to see if it's a dogfight playoff situation. Beyond that it doesn't look great, but it doesn't look bad either. I don't like going 3 years down the road, honestly. There is too much that could happen. What I will say is right now the Nats aren't in a situation like they were going into 2013 where you could see how the base team would help the Nats complete straight through 2015. This team will compete (maybe crush) this year, will very likely do the same to a lesser degree next year, 2017 is a question mark.
Of course - we're talking about prospects here so there is a "still gotta see what happens" aspect. Danny Duffy might develop into a nice starter. Matt Davidson might break out next year. While we can get very broad generalizations looking over time, the actual player specific results are, duh, very specific to that player. Tony Cingrani went into 2013 as a #98 and put up a very good 60% of a season. Lars Anderson was #7 after 2008 and has barely managed to play in the majors. But we'd still love to have a #7 and wonder how much help a #98 guy will be.
It's nice to have this many prospects in the Top 100. It's nice to have some depth restored to a system. But don't fail to understand that the gap between Giolito and the rest is big, and even Giolito isn't given. What's here isn't a safety net that will re-load the Nationals after the FAs leave, it's a decently stocked system that can supplement a well maintained Nationals team. Signing Scherzer was a good start on maintenance, but just a start.