Nationals draft rated No. 1: Rising talent level in system not going unnoticed

The Nationals saw it in September with callups Chris Marrero, Stephen Lombardozzi, Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone making significant contributions to a run that resulted in a 15-5 record in the final three weeks of the season.

Nationals director of player development Doug Harris said the increased number of Triple-A players that did well in the big leagues is a prime example of how the organization is starting to stockpile quality prospects.

Harris said he noticed the difference at instructional league camp that wrapped up in Viera, Fla., in mid-October.

"We had a very productive instructional camp," Harris said. "I was definitely impressed with the quality of talent assembled. The sheer numbers of top talent was more tangible than when I started two years ago."

Harris said the key was the roster was not packed with fringe players or guys just filling lineups.

"The biggest thing was the high draft picks involved in camp," Harris said. "It represented the depth of the program, from player No. 1 to player No. 45. With all that talent in Viera it created good competition for spots and that allowed us to get the most out of these young men."

Being able to see new draftees Matt Purke, Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin working out and in the system gives the Nationals a running start for 2012 in their minor leagues.

Aaron Fitt, national writer for Baseball America, said these players are why his publication rated the Nationals draft as the best in the major leagues.

"I loved (the Nationals draft)," Fitt said. "We felt it was the best in baseball because the Nationals were aggressive in the draft. They took chances and they were bold. They took guys with high upsides."

"Meyer had turned down $2 million last time around and the Nationals signed him," Fitt said. "Rendon represents high cost with risk because of the shoulder injury, but the Nationals got him. Goodwin was an excellent pick with that speed. Purke was a potential top five selection they were able to nab."

Fitt said the Nationals took some chances and were willing to pay premium prices for quality players and he believes these choices will benefit the depth in their system for years to come.

"I think this draft is going to pay off for the Nationals because of these bold moves," Fitt said.

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