Washington Nationals Top Five Prospects for 2013

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Washington Nationals Top Five Prospects for 2013
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The Nationals have one of the best farm systems in baseball.

The bright side of finishing with a sub-.500 record every season between 2006 and 2011, is piling up top draft picks. And even though the Nats lost big and often, their struggles came at a perfect time. In the end, Washington earned top draft picks when the best amateur talents the game has ever seen were available.

But it wasn't all about losing and luck. Former GM Bowden and his successor Mike Rizzo should be applauded for their roles in the team's rebuilding process. The front office made player development the organization's focus, and they championed payroll flexibility. Instead of trying to catch lightning in a bottle and competing immediately by spending big money on free agents (like Sabathia, Teixeira, Crawford, Wilson,) they stuck with a frugal game plan. 

When they were losing, there was plenty of temptation to burn their payroll and win now. The club had just moved to DC (2005), had just built a new stadium, and they needed to establish a fanbase. But the Nationals didn't cave. They were patient. Instead of dropping heaps of cash on aging big-league talent, they funneled their spending in to the draft, scouting, analytics and player development.

Between 2007 and 2011, the Nationals spent $51 million on the draft—more than any team outside of Pittsburgh. In each of those years, they drafted the best available player on the board when their first pick came up. They ended up spending well over-slot to take home the likes of Strasburg, Harper, A.J. Cole (traded for Gio Gonzalez), Sammy Solis, Rendon, Alex Meyer, Brian Goodwin and Lucas Giolito.

The greatest part is, they beat the system. As soon as they started winning, and their draft picks started dropping, the MLB overhauled the draft system and implemented hard-slotting. They were able to sign Lucas Giolito, whom they drafted out of the 16th slot last June, by the skin of their teeth. And if there timetable had been any later, there's a good chance they wouldn't have been able to bring both Strasburg and Harper home to DC.

As a result, the Nationals have come out on top. With Strasburg, Harper, Zimmerman and a cheap, uber-talented young rotation already establishing themselves in the big leagues, their future is brighter than ever. But even with so many gifted prospects graduating to the big club in recent years, their farm system is still superb.

Here are Washington's top five prospects for next season.

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