That quiet lull after the Winter Meetings where player projections and farm system rankings roll in. The Fangraphs version of the Nats farm system rankings is up, and to some the lack of apparent major league talent at the high levels was reason enough to start to kick and curse. To others it was looked at as the price of doing business and having a winning team. Without Gio Gonzalez the Nats would still have Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone, Derek Norris, and AJ Cole, and without Denard Span the Nats would still have Alex Meyers. Those are five nifty prospects and in the case of Norris and Milone nice mid-roster pieces on a division champion, but hanging onto prospect gold is as useful as leaving corn in the ground to rot on the stalk.
A farm system is meant to be harvested whether it is through promotion as the Nats did with Bryce Harper, Tyler Moore, and Steve Lombardozzi or if it is through trades to acquire established major leaguers at positions of need as the Nats did with the aforementioned prospects. Really when looking at that prospect list is it that bad. The Nats have three A level prospects leading the way, Matt Skole, and a bunch of guys that could be good, could be organizational filler, or are kind of far away. It isn't a bad prospect list, but it isn't a great one either. There is no Harper or Strasburg, but how many teams luck into having two of those types of prospects in back to back drafts.
Rendon and Goodwin are both looked at as position players that have a chance to be stars and the Nats trade for Span over signing Michael Bourn and the refusal to offer LaRoche anything more than two years makes it very clear the Nats view them that way as well. Now according to the list Kobernus and Rosenbaum were players the Nats should have protected before the Rule 5 draft. The Nats choose instead to protect Erik Davis, Nathan Karns, and to leave a couple of spots on the 40 man open for free agent signings. That many signings didn't materialize before the Rule 5 draft and the Nats lost Kobernus and Rosenbaum.
Both of those players are decent prospects, but Kobernus is an all glove second baseman and Rosenbaum is a pitch to contact lefty. There is a high likelihood that neither stick in the majors and are returned to the Nationals much the way Komatsu was last season. Looking at that list right now can be a little depressing if you're expecting the farm system to be the key to the Nationals near future success, but the Nationals have a young controllable team at the majors. The majority of the roster is locked up through 2015 and the average age of the current roster is around 27 year's old.
When Rizzo took over the Nats before the 2009 season the farm system was nothing special and his job was to plant, grow, and then cultivate it. He has done that. The majority of the Nats major league roster is homegrown talent and two important pieces in Gio and Span where acquired via trade using pieces from the farm system. The Nats used the processed inventory of their farm system mostly to nourish themselves and what was left over they sold to expand their capital. The Nats farm system may not be ready to start producing again, but it is once again growing season, but this time around the stores are well stocked to tide Nats fans over until the farm system is once again ready to be harvested.