"The Nationals' march up our prospect rankings isn't unprecedented, but it's extremely impressive," said John Manuel, who is Baseball America's top editor. "It shows a commitment to building an organization, not just a team, and to building it creatively, through trades for prospects, through the Draft and through international signings. The Nats have shown that with the resources they now have, they intend to be players for top amateur talent."
The Nationals improved their farm system significantly by drafting quality athletes during the 2007 First-Year Player Draft last June. Washington feels, in fact, that impact pitchers such as Ross Detwiler, Josh Smoker, Jordan Zimmermann and Jack McGeary, along with a power bat like Michael Burgess, will start a winning tradition in the nation's capital.
Washington was able to select Burgess, Smoker and Zimmermann because of extra draft picks it received after free agents Alfonso Soriano and Jose Guillen signed with the Cubs and Mariners, respectively.
"We came from 30th to No. 9, and it shows the amount of attention and resources that ownership has put forth to us," said assistant general manager Mike Rizzo. "To jump that fast and that far, to me, is outstanding. We are not stopping here. We plan to be No. 1, not only in publications, but on the field. We want to build this organization from the ground up. When you have leadership like the Lerners, Stan Kasten and [general manager] Jim Bowden, it filters down to every employee we have."
Amateur scouting director Dana Brown said teaming with Rizzo is another reason the Nationals had successful Draft this past year. From 2002-06, Brown was in charge of the First-Year Player Draft until Bowden hired Rizzo in July '06. Draft experts following the Nationals thought that Rizzo and Brown would have a tough time getting along, but the duo has proven otherwise.
"Rizzo and I have such a respect for each other," Brown said. "With this Draft, we were in harmony and we were consistently working together to get the best pick to build a championship team. It's a tribute to the way we work together."