The Nationals were officially eliminated from postseason contention Wednesday evening, with their 12-3 loss to the Phillies and a Giants win over the Rockies.
The 2019 World Series champions' elimination in 2020 marks the 20th consecutive MLB season without a repeat champion.
Well, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan, it's "highly likely" that next year's draft order will be determined by 2020 records. That means for the first time in a decade — when Washington selected Anthony Rendon sixth overall in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft — the Nationals will be selecting inside the top-10, a greatly needed opportunity for them to restock their farm with high-end talent.
Nationals fans should take a second to appreciate that. Not since Washington selected Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Rendon in consecutive drafts have the Nats been bad enough to yield a top-10 draft pick.
Only the Dodgers have won more games in that span.
There's an obvious downside to that, in that they're consistently picking from whatever's left in each round, and over 10 years, that starts to add up. Every pick has to be the correct pick, and even then, trading prospects at the deadline each year chips away at organizational depth, slowly degrading a fertile farm system.
The Nats have been able to curb some of that downside by running a top-flight Latin America program, one of the best in baseball, which has yielded stars like Juan Soto, Victor Robles and, just this year, Luis Garcia.
Nationals fans, especially those raised on Peter Angelos' Orioles, should be ever grateful that Nats ownership aims to put out a competitive ballclub year after year, that they don't settle for tanking (not even in such a bizarre year as this one, where it might be forgivable to do so).
That attracts high-priced free agents like Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin, who could get the same money elsewhere. But, at some point, the farm needs to be restocked with several healthy drafts, or you otherwise risk the bottom completely falling out.
The next few days will decide precisely how high the Nationals pick in 2021; they could conceivably climb as high as picking third in the draft. At present time, they share the sixth-worst record with the Orioles and Royals.
That they're even near the conversation to pick one of Vanderbilt's star pitchers, Kumar Rocker or Jack Leiter, should be a welcomed development.
It bears repeating: Rendon went sixth overall.
After all, that top-10 placement goes for all rounds, not just the first.
The Nationals' decade of dominance doesn't have to end with a thud. It can just be a blip on the radar as they retool for another healthy run, but they need the prospects in house to have a seat at the table.