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In the National League East, the Braves and Phillies are battling for the division lead right now. Both teams also have deep farm systems and are set up for success in the years to come.

That leaves the other three squads—the Mets, Marlins and Nationals— in a tough spot. We know the Nats just got Bryce Harper in the MLB draft (and lost Stephen Strasburg for 18 or so months to Tommy John surgery). The Marlins promoted one of their better minor leagues, Logan Morrison, this season.

What does the future hold for these three organizations as they try to catch up with the Braves and Phillies?

Marlins: Draft failings

Since the selection of Chris Volstad in 2005, the Marlins have not drafted well. The lack of return in the Miguel Cabrera trade—Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller haven't really panned out—hasn't helped.

In 2006, they took Brett Sinkbeil, a right-hander from Missouri State. The 19th overall pick was seen as a big, athletic righty with a power sinker that could get him to the big leagues quickly. He's floundering at Triple-A. Now 25 years old and all but stuck in the minors, even a move to the bullpen has failed to generate any positive results. Sinkbeil has a 6.04 ERA in 102 appearances for New Orleans while allowing 263 baserunners in 143 innings, and one can't find a scout who projects him as a successful big-leaguer.

In 2007, they selected Matt Dominguez, a third baseman out of Chatsworth High School in California. He was picked 12th overall based more on his signability than talent. Now at Double-A as a 20-year-old, Dominguez is hitting .253/.333/.415 while showing a good approach and power potential, but it's his glove that really earns raves. Pedro Feliz generated a decade-plus long career with a similar skill set, but Dominguez is a better hitter. While few see star potential, he should at least be a second-division starter.

In 2008, they selected Kyle Skipworth, a catcher out of Patriot High School in California. The sixth overall pick had one of the worst full-season debuts among first-rounders last year, batting just .208/.263/.348 for Low-A Greensboro. While he's picked things up the second time around with a .253/.318/.439 line, scouts aren't much more enthused. While his 17 home runs show that he's tapping into his clear power potential, Skipworth remains a strikeout machine (126 in 376 at-bats) and a below-average defender with no other position to move to other than first base.

In 2009, they selected left-hander Chad James out of Yukon High School in Oklahoma. One of the fastest risers in last year's draft, James rocketed up boards when he began touching the mid-90s with his fastball. While he still has fantastic velocity on his fastball, the rest of his stuff has fallen flat. Unable to throw strikes, James has walked 62 while uncorking 15 wild pitches in 103 1/3  innings, leading to a 5.05 ERA.

Mets: All about Lucas Duda now

The Mets still have a system in rebuilding mode, but most of their top prospects are still years away from reaching the big leagues. Jenrry Mejia has the ability to make an impact in the rotation, but much of the roster at Triple-A Buffalo consists of a rag-tag group of minor-league veterans and major-league washouts. One player however, is putting up the kind of numbers that are impossible to ignore: Lucas Duda.

A seventh-round pick in 2007 who never lived up to expectations at Southern California, Duda enjoyed a steady-but-unspectacular rise through the Mets' system before exploding this year, including a .308/.384/.604 line in 69 games with the Bisons. A 6-foot-5, 240-pound behemoth with massive raw power, Duda works the count and makes a surprising amount of contact for a slugger, with scouts saying that his statistical line is no mirage. His play in left field is laughable, but he understands the need to improve, knowing that the presence of rookie first baseman Ike Davis in the big leagues means that the weak outfield corner is his only path to the big leagues. Duda will get a long look next spring, but still has some competition in the enigmatic Fernando Martinez, who has yet to prove he can stay healthy, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who likely needs significant Triple-A time before getting a look late next year.

Nationals: So, now what?

Even assuming the healthy return of Strasburg (which many media types are dangerously assuming is a sure thing), the Nationals still have plenty of holes to fill—and a system that's a long way from providing what is needed to get them back to contention.

The biggest problem remains pitching, as while former top prospect Jordan Zimmermann takes Strasburg's rotation spot, that still leaves the rotation at least three arms from a full deck, with no other help in sight. The organization's top starter at the upper levels is lefty Tom Milone, a strike-thrower who profiles at best as another John Lannan, whose inability to miss bats has to nobody's surprise led to a massive regression in 2010.

The lower-level rotations offer no long-term answers either, as finding some pitching talent needs to become the club's top priority–or Bryce Harper's arrival in three or four years will just mean the Nationals lose games by three runs instead of four.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

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fantasy
9/01
What have evaluators been saying about Brad Hand this year?
biteme
9/01
Stating the obvious: The Marlins were able to get Stanton in the second round of the 2007 draft, which sorta makes up for Dominguez. Also, the Nats should be set at catcher with Ramos & Norris.
swrights
9/01
What kind of commentary is this on the Nationals system? Was this severely edited by ESPN.com or something? You mention Bryce Harper (who hasn't played yet and who everyone knows) and the only other name mentioned is Tom Milone, a soft-tossing lefty who is fringy top-11 material at best? No love for Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa, Derek Norris, Eury Perez, Stephen Lombardozzi, etc? Bizarre.
thatfnmb
9/01
Let me first say, I'm a big fan of yours Kevin and have nothing but the utmost respect for you. I re-subscribed mainly for your articles. I even DVR'd that morning show you hosted in Chicago. I agree with what others have said; these ESPN Orginizational Watches are purley filler articles. I don't imagine the most novice BP subscriber in the area of prospects is gaining much. Even the Monday 10 Packs are going the wrong direction this year. I guess I've just become accustom to solid scouting reports on real prospects who have created a buzz. Not a list of 10 stat leaders or 10 guys who may help contenders in September.
gwguest
9/02
On the flip side, if they were only posted on ESPN, BP subscribers would have a fit.
BarryR
9/01
I'll echo swrights - this is lame. The Mets organization is reduced to Lucas Duda and stuff everyone knows (Mejia coming, Martinez hurt). No discussion of Nieuwenhuis' strengths/weaknesses or the progress of their IF prospects or the lack of same by their pitchers. This is way beneath you, Kevin.
mhmosher
9/02
I agree. Plus, I believe the Mets ranked 16th overall acc. to BP and now they're "weak" and not average. Where's the explanation?
kerrigrr
9/02
I didn't see KG call the system weak; he only said the "weak outfield corner" or right field is Duda's only path to the majors.
mhmosher
9/02
The preview on the home page referred to all three systems as weak, that's all. I know the Mets have next to no pitching prospects whatsoever, but they have a ton of solid young bats.
tschritter
9/01
I know he isn't much of a prospect in age terms, but what about Yuniesky Maya? I'm surprised there hasn't been anything of significance said about him since signing with the Nationals.
DrDooby
9/02
With the Mets graduating Ike Davis, Jon Niese, Jenry Mejia and Ruben Tejada this year, the upper levels of the system certainly take a hit. Not sure whether Fernando Martinez (age 21) still qualifies as a prospect. That said, Wilmer Flores has progressed nicely. Matt Harvey was signed and has significant upside. Jeurys Familia seems to have improved significantly lately. There are several 2nd tier hitting prospects at the upper levels like Nieuwenhuis, Duda, Lutz, Evans, Justin Turner or Havens (when healthy), plus a group of promising and productive hitting prospects at the lower levels like Puello, Ceciliani, Vaughn or Aderlin Rodriguez. While the Mets still lack a true elite prospect or two with the hype that gets people giddy, this system is in the best shape it has been in 15 years, in my opinion. At least there now seems to be the talent base to be able to complete trades in future years without having to cripple the longterm chances of the franchise in the process.
terryspen
9/02
While Andrew Miller is a lost cause, I still think Maybin is going to turn into a good major leaguer. Because he's been up and down for four years, people forget he's only 22.
atjohns
9/02
"The Marlins promoted one of their better minor leagues, Logan Morrison, this season." Um,,,and Gaby Sanchez & Mike Stanton.
MikeLHenderson
9/04
Talking of Nats arms, what's the projected upside and ETA of Danny Rosenbaum?