WASHINGTON -- Ever since he became general manager of the Nationals, Mike Rizzo has stressed the importance of building a solid Minor League system.
The reason Washington won its first National League East title last year was primarily because of its farm system. In fact, 14 players were developed in its farm system. And there is more coming to the big leagues soon. Third baseman Anthony Rendon, center fielder Brian Goodwin and third baseman/first baseman Matt Skole could be integral parts of the Nats by 2015.
Rendon, the team's top prospect, could get a September callup this year. Fully recovered from an ankle injury that kept him out for most of last season, Rendon was impressive this past Spring Training, going 12-for-32 (.375) with four home runs and 11 RBIs.
Skole, who is currently on the disabled list because of a microfracture in his left wrist, was the team's Minor Player of the Year in 2012, while Goodwin could be the team's starting center fielder by '15.
Don't forget right-hander Lucas Giolito, the team's first-round Draft pick last year. One could imagine what he could bring to a rotation led by Stephen Strasburg.
where to watch
Minor League Baseball is under way, and you can keep track of the Nationals' top prospects throughout the season on MLBPipeline.com and Prospect Watch. Get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of Washington's Minor League teams on MLBPipeline.com/Nationals.
Double-A Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy has a lot to work with this year. Rendon is the most recognizable player on the team, ranked by MLB.com as the top prospect in the organization. But Harrisburg also has Goodwin, infielder Rick Hague and outfielders Destin Hood and Steven Souza, who's coming off his best season of his professional career.
Debuts and draftees
After Giolito signed with Washington, he battled and started one game for the Gulf Coast Nationals before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He is not expected to pitch until after the All-Star break. Giolito, 18, has played catch and thrown as far as 120 feet on flat ground as part of his throwing program.
The Nationals are expecting Giolito to be one of their best pitchers in a few years. Before he was selected by Washington as the 16th overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Giolito's fastball was clocked as high as 100 mph, and he had a power curveball. Despite his elbow troubles, Giolito is considered the Nats' third-best prospect.
A third-round pick in the 2011 First-Year player Draft, lefty Matt Purke is rated the Nationals' ninth-best prospect. He has pitched just three games in professional baseball because of shoulder problems, but he's back throwing on the mound and should start pitching in games by the end of May.
Southpaw Brett Mooneyham doesn't receive the recognition as Giolito or Purke, but he got off to a good start while playing for Low Class A Auburn, allowing 12 runs in 42 1/3 innings and in 10 games. He is currently playing for Class A Hagerstown and is looking to have better control in his next start.
New kids on the block
The Nats were able to reacquire right-hander A.J. Cole from the Athletics for outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse in January. A fourth-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Cole was a combined 6-10 with a 3.70 ERA with Class A Burlington and Stockton in 2012. It was at Stockton where he struggled the most, going 0-7 with a 7.82 ERA. Rizzo said Cole replaces right-hander Alex Meyer, who was traded to the Twins for outfielder Denard Span late last year.
Teams on TV
The Syracuse Chiefs and Harrisburg Senators are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2013 MiLB.TV package will include more than 3,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.