While the 2013 Washington Nationals are still a very long shot to make the postseason, things are very bright down on the farm. Washington sent four of their minor league affiliates to the playoffs this season, including one that had a record-breaking year.
The Gulf Coast League Nationals, made up mostly with first-year professional players and many of whom are still in their teens, finished the regular season 49-9. That .845 winning percentage is the best single-season winning percentage for any U.S.-based minor league team in history, according to the Nationals. They were crowned the 2013 GCL Champions on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the double-A Harrisburg Senators clinched a playoff spot with a 76-65 record. The class-A Advanced Potomac Nationals (42-26) made the playoffs by winning the first-half divisional title, and the class-A Hagerstown Suns (42-26) earned a playoff spot by virtue of having the best record in its division in the first half.
The Nationals have spent million on player development, and it shows with the success their minor league teams have had this season. Washington’s farm system was ranked as high as no. 1 in all of baseball before the 2012 season, but after the team called up so many young players and made trades to bolster their major league roster, there was a need to re-stock the system.
Through the draft, the extensive expansion of their international player development and trades, they have really rebuilt the system quickly. An area of keen interest to the team is the quality and the depth in pitching which now they have at all levels of the organization.
Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Tyler Moore, Drew Storen and Steve Lombardozzi are just a few of the home-grown talent that now play on the big club.
We have seen some brief glimpses of the future with Corey Brown, Zach Walters, Jeff Kobernus, Eury Perez, Jhonatan Solano and Sandy Leon. The Nationals’ young pitching is very good and very deep, led at least for the moment by Taylor Jordan, Ian Krol and Nathan Karns.
There will be other names that Nationals fans will see in the not-too-distant future, like outfielder Brian Goodwin and pitcher A.J. Cole, who the Nats drafted but traded as a key part of the Gio Gonzalez trade with the Oakland Athletics.
They made getting Cole back a key part of the three-team deal that sent Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners and they A’s did a side deal so that Cole could be returned to Washington. The Nationals like his power arm, and he had a good year split between Potomac and Harrisburg.
So the Nationals farm system seems to be ready to help the big club for years to come. That will allow the team to grown their own talent and spend on keeping that talent in Washington, as well as pick up a star free agent when needed. That is their plan to be competitive for years to come, and it seems to be a solid one for now.