- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bob Boone is quick to mention The Plan.

The new ownership group and President Stan Kasten set forth The Plan for the Washington Nationals when they took over the franchise last year, and rebuilding a farm system that had fallen on hard times became a top priority.

“It is gigantic,” Boone, the assistant general manager and vice president of player development, said of the system’s role for the franchise. “The plan is for the farm system to be productive every year, and we want to build through it. When we took over the Expos it was really depleted. There weren’t many players that you could project to play in the major leagues.”

The Nationals feel they have made several improvements off the field to better the chances of the players developing on it. Boone was in charge of a minor league staff makeover, and many of the new names — Tim Raines and Tommy Herr, for example — are quite recognizable.

“It has kind of been not by design — we just have been looking for the best people — but we have a lot of guys with major league experience,” Boone said. “That alone doesn’t make you a good teacher, but it does give you instant credibility. We’re finally at the point with our instruction and our plan that we can say, this is how it is done the Washington way.”

Upgrades also were made to the scouting department, which was severely undermanned when the team was owned by Major League Baseball. The number of scouts was increased, and Mike Rizzo was hired away from the Arizona Diamondbacks and named assistant general manager and vice president of baseball operations.

Rizzo was instrumental in helping turn the Diamondbacks’ farm system into one of the best in baseball. Arizona’s 2007 roster will include Cy Young award winner Brandon Webb and top young hitters like Stephen Drew, Carlos Quentin, Chad Tracy and Connor Jackson — all players drafted with Rizzo as the scouting director.

Arizona expects to compete for the NL West title this season with homegrown players as the team’s core. That sounds a lot like what the Nationals are trying to build here in Washington.

“[Rizzo] is probably the biggest impact we’ve had and with the scouts we have at the upper levels,” Boone said. “That in turn impacts the lower levels. The information we have to make decisions has improved one thousand fold. I think we have a scouting staff now that is second to none. They are our eyes. If you don’t get quality players to start, it won’t matter how good of teachers you have.”

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