MLB.com released its annual list of the top 50 prospects in baseball on Tuesday, and there was only one Nationals player on the list: Bryce Harper. It came as no shock the 18-year-old was ranked as one of the top prospects in baseball, and he took the No. 3 ranking on the list, behind the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson.
Now, you’ll notice there are no other Nationals players on the list, and to me, that doesn’t come as a huge surprise. There were only 12 teams that had more than one player on the list, and just eight had more than two. And players like Drew Storen, who are no longer rookies, wouldn’t qualify for the list, while Stephen Strasburg is out for two reasons (he’s no longer a rookie and he’s injured). Beyond that, the reasoning is simple: The Nationals don’t have an abundance of top-end impact players in their system, other than Harper and the ones who have already reached the majors.
That’s not to say there aren’t pieces of value in the system. Many scouts are high on Derek Norris, and some of the pitchers the Nationals drafted (Sammy Solis and A.J. Cole, especially) will help boost the system. But most of the players on the list were either first-round picks - and in many cases, high first-round picks - or prospects who have developed over the last few years. And teams like the Royals (who led the list with six prospects in the top 50) have boosted their farm system with trades. In some ways, the Nationals have been stuck in the middle, with neither the proven players to bring back attractive packages or the desire to unload the prospects they do have. We saw this over the winter, when the Nationals fell short of getting Matt Garza and would have had to cut away at their core to get Zack Greinke. Though most baseball people believe the Nationals are headed in the right direction, they’re simply not there yet.