One of the things an organization needs to take a step forward in the overall talent rankings is for fringe guys to turn into prospects and for deep prospects to emerge as top prospects. It's not enough to just have the first round picks work out--you need to find breakthroughs elsewhere.
This is especially true for a team like the Nationals, who haven't won in years and even after drafting first overall two years in a row are still in the bottom half of baseball in most of the organizational talent rankings
Thing is, it's hard to find top talent even with those first round picks. The out-of-the-blue type breakthroughs just don't happen very often, and often it comes down to luck.
The Nationals had one big breakthrough a couple years ago with Derek Norris, who was drafted in the 4th round back in 2007 but emerged as a top 50 prospect with big seasons in 2008-2009. They may have another such pleasant surprise in Brad Peacock.
As a converted shortstop drafted out of high school in 2006, Peacock has been a bit of a project. But his velocity has steadily improved as well as his secondary offerings. Last year he took a big step forward and earned a mid-season promotion to AA.
This year he's really putting it together. Tonight, Peacock went 7 innings against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, allowing 1 run on 2 hits to go with 7 Ks and 3 BBs. He lowered his ERA to 2.03, and for the season he now has 82 strikeouts and 13 walks in 62 innings.
Going into this season, there were concerns about his ability to retire lefties and talk of moving him to the bullpen, where he pitched in the Arizona Fall League. But so far this year lefties were doing even worse than righties, hitting just .133 against Peacock.
Soon, Peacock should earn another promotion, maybe even to DC at some point this season. He's passed just about everyone not named Strasburg or Zimmermann as the top pitching talent in the organization. And looking down the road, it's not hard to see him as a #2 starter by 2014.
I might be getting a little ahead of myself, but the Nationals desperately need some big wins in the player development side, and the emergence of Peacock is one of the very best things that could have happened for the Nationals so far this season.