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Bryce Harper still remains as the organization's top prospect.
To be sure, it's difficult to pluck four top prospects out of an organization and expect there to be enough depth already in place to cover those losses. But the cupboard isn't entirely bare for the Nationals. There's actually quite a bit of elite talent still in the system, especially in the pitching department.
Yes, Peacock and Milone were two of the organization's most-advanced pitching prospects, and Cole had perhaps the best pure stuff out of anyone in the system not named Stephen Strasburg.
But don't forget the Nationals acquired a pair of highly touted, college pitchers in the early round of this summer's draft in Alex Meyer and Matt Purke. Meyer, the 23rd overall pick in the country, just came off a dominant junior season at the University of Kentucky, striking out 110 batters in 101 innings. And his fastball rivals (and perhaps surpasses) the one thrown by Peacock (which isn't too shabby itself). Though he hasn't yet pitched professionally, Meyer figures to be on a fast track and shouldn't need much time in the minors.
The same applies to Purke, who was taken in the third round of the draft but was seen as high first-round talent if not for some health questions. The left-hander proceeded to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, and like Meyer will be on a fast track to the majors. He's also got better stuff than Milone, who certainly knows how to pitch but doesn't exactly blow anyone away.
Add a couple of left-handers out of the 2010 draft -- Sammy Solis and Robbie Ray -- and the Nationals do have their share of good arms coming up the pipeline. They may not be big-league ready in 2012 like Peacock and Milone were, but one or more could be ready by 2013 or 2014 at the latest.
The loss of Norris is a bigger blow for the Nationals' catching depth, though as has been pointed out already, Norris was going to have a difficult time cracking the big-league roster in the next several years with Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores ahead of him.
And it's not as though the organization is lacking other catching prospects altogether. The Nationals liked Jhonatan Solano (who hit .275 at Class AAA Syracuse) enough to add him to the 40-man roster last month. Coaches raved about Sandy Leon's work behind the plate at high-Class A Potomac. And David Freitas burst onto the scene this year at low-Class A Hagerston, hitting .288 with 13 homers and a .409 on-base percentage that bested Norris' mark by more than 40 points.
So, what does the top of the Nationals' farm system look like now? First, here's how two prominent publications (Baseball America and John Sickels' Minor League Ball) ranked the top 10 prior to last week's trade...
BASEBALL AMERICA JOHN SICKELS
1. Bryce Harper, OF 1. Bryce Harper, OF
2. Anthony Rendon, 3B 2. Anthony Rendon, 3B
3. Brad Peacock, RHP 3. A.J. Cole, RHP
4. A.J. Cole, RHP 4. Brad Peacock, RHP
5. Brian Goodwin, OF 5. Brian Goodwin, OF
6. Alex Meyer, RHP 6. Derek Norris, C
7. Matt Purke, LHP 7. Alex Meyer, RHP
8. Sammy Solis, LHP 8. Matt Purke, LHP
9. Derek Norris, C 9. Tommy Milone, LHP
10. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B 10. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B
Now, let's take out the four players traded away to Oakland, insert some replacements and see how the Top 10 now looks...
PROJECTED NEW TOP 10
1. Bryce Harper, OF
2. Anthony Rendon, 3B
3. Brian Goodwin, OF
4. Alex Meyer, RHP
5. Matt Purke, LHP
6. Sammy Solis, LHP
7. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B
8. Destin Hood, OF
9. Robbie Ray, LHP
10. Michael Taylor, OF
OK, so the system is perhaps lacking some of the depth now. But the top five or six remains solid. And don't forget there will be another top prospect or two added to the mix out of next summer's draft.
Is the Nationals' farm system as strong as it was a week ago? No. But has it suddenly reverted back to the dismal level it resided in when the franchise first arrived in Washington? Not at all.