ESPN’s Keith Law ranks Nats’ farm system 21st

Remember that feeling of satisfaction that washed over you last week when Baseball America ranked the Nationals’ farm system No. 1 in baseball? We all knew the ranking, decided upon before the trade that sent four top prospects to the A’s in exchange for left-hander Gio Gonzalez, would take a hit once the loss of pitchers Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole and catcher Derek Norris were factored out of the equation.

Baseball America promised a revised ranking in mid-March to accommodate changes since the original listings. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo used the occasion as an opportunity to pump the depth in the organization, carefully culled from several strong drafts. Mid-March seemed like an eternity away.

Well, six weeks isn’t so long, and today came a harbinger that the Nats’ system has taken a hit in the Gonzalez trade - ESPN’s Keith Law, in his annual preseason ranking of the top farm systems, puts the Nationals at No. 21 out of 30 teams.

The whole list is available only to ESPN Insiders, but the first page available to all viewers only shows the No. 1 team, the Padres, who grabbed top honors despite trading their most major league-ready prospect, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, to the Cubs.

Of the Nationals, Law says: “This was potentially a top-10 system before the Gio Gonzalez trade, no worse than top 15. But after dealing A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock and Derek Norris - probably three of the Nats’ top 10 guys before the Gio swap - this system lacks depth.”

Pretty sobering stuff, but consider that it’s just one guy’s opinion (albeit a writer with extensive knowledge of the minor league systems across the game). Rankings, as always, are subjective. The Nationals’ system is by no means barren, but it’ll take a year or so for guys like infielder Anthony Rendon, right-hander Alex Meyer, outfielder Brian Goodwin and left-hander Matt Purke - all taken in June’s First-Year Player Draft - to make an impact.

If it makes you feel better, only one National League East team ranked ahead of the Nationals - the Braves at No. 17. Behind the Nats are the Mets (No. 22), the Phillies (No. 25) and the Marlins (No. 28).

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