In explaining the Nationals' willingness in recent years to part with top pitching prospects like Tom Milone, Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole (who was eventually reacquired), Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters in early 2012 that there was enough pitching in the system for him to feel comfortable making the type of deal that brought then 26-year-old left-hander Gio Gonzalez back from the Oakland A's.
"I like our depth," Rizzo said. "We've got another wave of prospects coming, that I think will at least equal and possibly surpass the package of guys that we've given up in this trade. With the (Matt) Purkes and the (Sammy) Solises and the (Alex) Meyers of the world. Then we also have a wave behind them of the (Robbie) Rays and the (Paul) Demnys and those type of guys behind them. So we feel that we're set up very, very well for the long haul."
Meyer, the Nats' second first-round pick in 2011, was traded to the Minnesota Twins this past winter in the deal that brought Denard Span to the nation's capital. Rizzo then traded Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners in a three-team deal with Oakland that brought Cole back along with right-hander Blake Treinen and a player to be named, who turned out to be 22-year-old left-hander Ian Krol.
In spite of Cole's struggles in his one year in the Athletics system, Rizzo was happy to bring the 21-year-old Nats 2004 10th-round back to the organization. "He's a big, strong man now," the general manager said, "and couple that with another couple of pieces that we got in the trade and we feel very fortunate to get the package that we did for one year of control of Michael Morse." Cole was named the Carolina League's Pitcher of the Week last week after his best start of the year for the advanced Single-A Potomac Nationals.
When a listener asked the Nationals' 52-year-old GM about the return Washington got in the Morse deal on 106.7 The Fan in D.C. this week, Rizzo reiterated that he liked the prospects the Nats got back from the A's in the three-team trade.
"We got three power arms for (Morse) that are going to help us in the near-future," the fifth-year general manager explained. Treinen is in Double-A throwing extremely well, up to 97-98 mph. A.J. Cole is really starting to take the next step. He'll end up in Double-A this year. Treinen will end up in Triple-A and Ian Krol is a reliever in Double-A at (22)-years-old, who is a power lefty who has, I think he's got a (1.10) ERA in Double-A."
Krol and Paul Demny, the 23-year-old right-handed 2008 sixth-round pick Rizzo mentioned as part of the next wave of pitchers in the organization, combined for a no-hitter with the Double-A Senators Thursday night on the road against the Binghamton Mets. Demny threw eight innings in which he allowed one unearned run but no hits and Krol lowered his ERA with a scoreless ninth to complete the fourth no-hitter in Harrisburg franchise history.
In addition to the likes of Demny, Krol, Nate Karns and Treinen, who are already pitching at Double-A, the Senators just got a new pitcher Thursday when 24-year-old 2009 ninth-round pick Taylor Jordan was promoted to Harrisburg from Potomac after posting a 1.24 ERA in his first six starts with the P-Nats. Though Taylor's a lesser-known prospect, some people in the Nationals' organization are high on the right-hander.
With the addition of Taylor, the Nationals have a lot of talented pitchers, members of that next wave, gathering at Double-A right now with one or two possibilities pitching for the team's top affiliate. Plus, 25-year-old Danny Rosenbaum and 26-year-old Erik Davis are off to strong starts with Triple-A Syracuse. Three of the Nationals' top-ranked pitchers, according to Baseball America, have yet to throw a competitive pitch this year, though left-handers Solis, 24, and Purke, 22, and 2012 first-round pick Lucas Giolito, 18, are all expected to be back on the mound in the system at some point this summer after undergoing surgical procedures last year.
The Nats may lack major league-ready depth beyond the top six, seven or eight arms at the top of the organization right now, but that next wave is coming. At the same time, they're bringing along younger arms that can replace those they trade or promote. It's a system that can sustain itself and keep the organization flush with talent for years to come. And it's a huge improvement over what Rizzo inherited when he took over as GM back in 2009.
Patrick Reddington blogs about the Nationals for Federal Baseball and appears here as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.