Doubling-down on a good hand is what Mike Rizzo is doing!

Photo by Sol Tucker for TalkNats

During Washington Nationals‘ general manager Mike Rizzo’s first official presser of 2023, he doubled-down on what he said last month at his annual Hot Stove event in regards to his current farm system.

“I’m optimistic. I’m excited about this time in our developmental curve with the organization,” Rizzo said yesterday. “When you guys do get out there on the [Minor League side of camp], those prospects — it’s an exciting time. It’s the best group of upside players we’ve ever had here. I’ve been here since ‘day one’, and I’ve never seen it like this before.”

“You filter in — there’s 22, 23 and 24 year-olds [on the MLB roster], I think you see what we’re trying to accomplish here. That’s the first rung on the ladder to get back to a championship.”

Last month, Rizzo used the word ‘lush’ to describe his farm system, and said it was the best prospect group the team has ‘ever’ had.

“This is the most lush and successful prospect list that we’ve ever had. It’s the most talented players we’ve ever had in the farm system at one time.”

Rizzo talked about having a healthy Robert Hassell III in camp on February 1 which confirmed our report from a few days ago as well as reiterating that Brady House is healthy. Couple those two prospects with James Wood, Elijah Green, and Cade Cavalli who were all in camp early, and you have a several top-100 prospects to get you excited. Healthy and ready to go, and filtered in with those youngsters on the MLB roster like MacKenzie Gore, CJ Abrams, Keibert Ruiz, Luis Garcia, and Josiah Gray. According to early reports, each player had a list of items to work on in the offseason.

Rizzo, for the first time that we’ve heard, went back to the future to compare this rebuild to mirroring the period of 2009-2011. He talked about having Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, and Bryce Harper through the draft and adding Gio Gonzalez through a trade. He spoke about having a strategically low payroll so they could add payroll in the future — but did not name Jayson Werth and Max Scherzer specifically. But that is what Rizzo sees in the future. That is all part of that developmental curve.

When a serial entrepreneur goes to build their second successful business from scratch, they have climbed that road of hard knocks before, and learned how to avoid some of the potholes the second time around. Of course there inevitably will be bumps in the road, and Strasburg is a constant reminder of that. It is not easy. If it was, everyone would be hoisting up World Series trophies, and since 2010, there have only been nine teams with those bragging rights — including the Washington Nationals. That is 13 years of results. Go back 30 years since there are 30 teams, and only 16 teams have won at least one World Series since 1992. That means 14 teams have failed, and that list includes the Mets, Orioles, and Padres.

Back to the Nationals rebuild — look at the progress this time around with parting ways with Erick Fedde who was Rizzo’s equivalent to Ross Detwiler, another of the team’s first round picks that just never improved enough. Few expected Rizzo would do that with Fedde.

There are the little things in making quicker decisions too. A position change with the  teenager, House, has happened officially. Rizzo says the 2021 first round draft pick will move from shortstop to third base. Compare that to a position change with Garcia as well as Carter Kieboom. Maybe a little too late on making those moves. Good decision on House.

Also, with a tight payroll, this time around Rizzo did not fill the roster with guys with questionable ‘character’ like on that 2009-2010 roster with guys like Nyjer Morgan, and we saw Rizzo cut former first round pick Seth Romero. You can do some reading up on Romero and his issues off the field. Again, this is progress for Rizzo. Sometimes you have to move on — to move forward. It is addition by subtraction. This time around Rizzo did not need Werth to force the changes.

“We got a lot of guys that we brought in that we feel can help our young players,” manager Dave Martinez said. “And we got a lot of young players that I think are ready to step-up to be leaders.”

Quality over quantity has to be the way to go because you do have a finite number to pare down to 26 players on the final roster. As Martinez said, the best 26 will go north.

“I’ve sent that message at the end of the season, and I want them to understand that, ‘Hey, losing 100 games is not acceptable.’ It’s not. We’re going to get better. So I want them to come to Spring Training knowing we’re going to compete and compete to win every day,” Martinez sent.

Davey said defense and fundamentals are a key along with pitchers going deeper into games. The improved defense should help pitchers go deeper into games. Davey wants to get everyone together and breed that culture in the clubhouse and a team chemistry.

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