Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

BA Handbook Nats top 30 Reaction

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Hassell is a top prospect and a major part of our future outfield. Photo via nbcsports

One of the big 4 of prospect rankings (BA, MLBpipeline, Fangraphs, and Keith Law) published their rankings this week, by way of their annual Handbook. Thanks to Luke Erickson who posted a 2-part post listing the names (part1 and part2). He also had his own reactions and thoughts.

Here’s the list from 1-30 for reference.

Last NameFirst NamePositionAcquisitionBonusBA Handbook rank
WoodJamesOF (Corner)2021 2nd26000001
Hassell IIIRobertOF (CF)2020 1st43000002
GreenElijahOF (CF)2022 1st65000003
CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)2020 1st30270004
HouseBradySS/3B2021 1st50000005
VaqueroCristianOF (CF)2022 IFA49000006
SusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)2022 IFA17000007
De La RosaJeremyOF (Corner)2018 IFA3000008
RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)2019 1st34500009
WhiteT.J.OF (Corner)2021 5th40000010
BennettJakeLHP (Starter)2022 2nd173480011
CruzArmandoSS2021 IFA390000012
HenryColeRHP (Starter)2020 2nd200000013
ParkerMitchellLHP (Starter)2020 5th10000014
LaraAndryRHP (Starter)2019 IFA125000015
WardThadRHP (Starter)2018 5th27500016
QuintanaRoismarOF (CF)2019 IFA82000017
CroninMattLHP (Reliever)2019 4th46450018
PinedaIsraelC2016 IFA45000019
FerrerJoseLHP (Reliever)2017 IFA?20
BrzykcyZachRHP (Reliever)2020 NDFA2000021
IrvinJakeRHP (Starter)2018 4th55000022
LeeEvanLHP (Starter)2018 15th12500023
LipscombTrey3B2022 3rd75850024
MillasDrewC2019 7th17000025
CarrilloGerardoRHP (Reliever)2016 IFA7500026
LileDaylenOF (CF)2021 2nd175000027
CateTimLHP (Starter)2018 2nd98620028
RamirezAldoRHP (Starter)2018 IFA45000029
FrizzellWill1B2021 8th17980030

And here’s my reactions. Note: the BA top 10 was previously published on 12/1/22 and nothing in the top 10 has changed. So, comments on the top 10 will sound familiar.

  • the top 8 are basically the same as anyone else’s top 8 for the system.
  • Hassell over Green, otherwise consistent with the last few rankings.
  • Rutledge at #9. I won’t go into it again. Relevant stats: 4th pro season, 4.90 ERA and 1.39 WHIP as a 25yr old in Low-A. $3.45M draft bonus, 1st rounder in 2019, and now on the 40-man.
  • As Prospects1500 did, T.J. White bumped up all the way to #10.
  • Cole Henry down at #13. Fangraphs had him at #2 in July.
  • Mitchell Parker at #14, as compared to Prospects1500, which had him buried at #27, or MLBpipeline, which had him similarly buried in the off-season. I like the respect here.
  • Rule 5 pickup Thad Ward at #16 now in the system. An indictment for sure, as Erickson noted.
  • Matt Cronin at #18, when others have had him well below. Is a lefty reliever specialist a good prospect, or a fungible replacement level player?
  • Israel Pineda, at #19 in the system. After years of underperforming, he hit well at AA this year, moved to AAA briefly and was added to the 40-man. Is this the real deal?
  • Jake Irvin. #22 here, #35 at Prospects1500, and outside the top 30 at the last MLB ranking. I mean, I guess if you’re scouting the score line his AA line this year wasn’t great (4.79 ERA), but his WHIP was decent, his K/BB good, and after years away thanks to injury and Covid it was a promising season. Now he’s on the 40-man and he’s gonna get MLB starts this year. Is this a #22 prospect?
  • Evan Lee at #23, when he was outside the top 50 on prospect1500. I think this is a decent ranking for now until we see how his injury shakes out.
  • Trey Lipscomb at #24; well below the lofty #15 spot Prospcts1500 had him.
  • Tim Cate, still hanging in there at #28. Just can’t let him go can you?

outside the top 30:

  • Any of our 2023 IFA signings; i guess BA doesn’t start considering them until they start playing.
  • Jared McKenzie: mid 20s in other shops, outside our top 30. we’ll see how he does in 2023.
  • Brenner Cox: #11 on Prospects1500, outside BA’s top 30? This seems like a miss.
  • Samuel Infante: Our 2nd rounder just three years ago is nowhere to be found. Our sordid history of sh*tty 2nd round picks continues. Stop me when you hear a name you like: Bennett, Lile, Infante, Forfeited for Corbin, Cate, Crowe, Neuse, Stevenson & Perkins, Suarez who didn’t sign, Johansen, Renda, Forfeited for Werth signing, Solis, Koburnus, Hood, Smolinksi & Zimmermann. OK, that’s frigging going back to 2007 before we find a for-real impact 2nd rounder. That’s ridiculous!!!
  • Jake Alu: ok so we can rank Cate in the top 30, a guy who has basically ZERO chance of playing in the majors at this point, versus Alu, who we can almost guarantee is going to break camp with the MLB roster in 2023.
  • Hey, at least they didn’t rank Yasel Antuna.

Written by Todd Boss

January 27th, 2023 at 9:52 pm

Posted in Nats in General

Prospects1500 Nats top 50 drops – Analysis

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Wood #1 prospect per Prospects1500. Photo via MASN

Prospects1500.com is the most courageous prospect ranking shop out there, releasing top 50s every year when most other shop puts out lists with no more than 30 names.

We often talk about how prospects in the 20s are, for all intents and purposes, maxing out as lottery tickets or org guys, but Prospects1500 goes even further, ranking another 20 guys.

So, more to talk about.

First up, Here’s my master list of all Nats prospect rankings. This XLS has more than 200 pundit rankings of individual players in our system, dating back to 2004 believe it or not. Nearly 400 players have appeared on a prospect ranking list for our team in that period. This is one of the biggest resources i’ve managed to maintain and keep updated over the years, and it just keeps growing every time another prospect list is dropped. I find this xls fascinating if only for the discrepancies between shops in the way they rank players.

Back to Prospects1500: here’s their 2023 Top 50 list. Since this is not behind a paywall, I’ll post the full 50 here:

rankLast NameFirst NamePosition2022 Starting LevelDraft/IFA signing YearHow Acquired?Bonus if known
1WoodJamesOF (Corner)Low-A2021 2ndTrade2600000
2GreenElijahOF (CF)FCL2022 1stDraft6500000
3Hassell IIIRobertOF (CF)High-A2020 1stTrade4300000
4CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)AAA2020 1stDraft3027000
5HouseBradySS/3BLow-A2021 1stDraft5000000
6VaqueroCristianOF (CF)XST2022 IFAIFA4900000
7SusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)FCL2022 IFATrade1700000
8HenryColeRHP (Starter)AA2020 2ndDraft2000000
9De La RosaJeremyOF (Corner)Low-A2018 IFAIFA300000
10WhiteT.J.OF (Corner)Low-A2021 5thDraft400000
11CoxBrennerOF (CF)FCL2022 4thDraft1000000
12BennettJakeLHP (Starter)FCL2022 2ndDraft1734800
13LaraAndryRHP (Starter)Low-A2019 IFAIFA1250000
14BrzykcyZachRHP (Reliever)High-A2020 NDFANDFA20000
15LipscombTrey3BLow-A2022 3rdDraft758500
16CruzArmandoSSXST2021 IFAIFA3900000
17RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)Low-A2019 1stDraft3450000
18LileDaylenOF (CF)XST (TJ)2021 2ndDraft1750000
19AluJake3BAA2019 24thDraft10000
20QuintanaRoismarOF (CF)XST2019 IFAIFA820000
21McKenzieJaredOF (CF)Low-A2022 5thDraft410500
22FrizzellWill1BLow-A2021 8thDraft179800
23FerrerJoseLHP (Reliever)Low-A2017 IFAIFA?
24RamirezAldoRHP (Starter)XST (inj)2018 IFATrade450000
25CarrilloGerardoRHP (Reliever)AA2016 IFATrade75000
26WardThadRHP (Starter)OO – AA2018 5thRule-5275000
27ParkerMitchellLHP (Starter)High-A2020 5thDraft100000
28BoissiereBrandenOF (Corner)Low-A2021 3rdDraft600000
29TheophileRodneyRHP (Starter)Low-A2018 IFAIFA10000
30BakerDarren2BHigh-A2021 10thDraft146800
31InfanteSamuelSSLow-A2020 2ndDraft1000000
32PinedaIsraelCHigh-A2016 IFAIFA450000
33CroninMattLHP (Reliever)AA2019 4thDraft464500
34DownsJeter2BOO – AAA2017 1stWaivers1825000
35IrvinJakeRHP (Starter)High-A2018 4thDraft550000
36AntunaYaselSS/OF (Corner)High-A2016 IFAIFA3900000
37YoungJacobOF (CF)Low-A2021 7thDraft275000
38MillasDrewCXST (inj)2019 7thTrade170000
39ShumanSethRHP (Starter)High-A2019 6thTrade235000
40CabreraManuelSSearly2023 IFAIFA550000
41DenaburgMasonRHP (Starter)XST (TJ)2018 1stDraft3000000
42PolancoBryanRHP (Reliever)DSL2021 IFAIFA?
43EmilianiLeandro1BLow-A2017 IFAIFA?
44TroopAlexRHP (Reliever)AA2017 9thDraft185000
45MendozaDrew3BHigh-A2019 3rdDraft800000
46MarteDanielOF (CF)FCL2018 IFAIFA300000
47ArrudaJ.T.SSLow-A2019 11thDraft250000
48AcevedoAndyOFearly2023 IFAIFA1300000
49SolanoEdwinSSearly2023 IFAIFA1300000
50SotoElianOF/SSearly2023 IFAIFA425000

Here’s my reaction to the list, going down the rankings from #1 to #50.

  • This analysis includes more than just a ranking of 50 players; author Caleb Sanders also breaks the players down into tiers, includes some video, etc. He defines the Tiers as you’d expect; the top tier are expected to basically be All Stars (Wood and Green), the 2nd tier to be “solid MLB contributors” (Hassell, Cavalli, House, Vaquero), Tier 3s to have a reasonable expectation of making the Majors (every one ranked from 7 to 20).
  • So, with all due respect, it is way, way too early to be putting those kind of expectations specifically on Vaquero in particular. The Cuban showed very little in the DSL in 2022 based on the size of his signing bonus, his pedigree, his origins (Cuba), and the fact that he was 17 turning 18 at the end of the season in a league filled with younger players. I don’t have a problem ranking him where they do (6-7 range, right in line with everyone else), but claiming he’s got a high probability of making the majors right now seems to entirely be based on is signing bonus of $4.9M. Call me when Armando Cruz ($3.9M) or Yasel Antuna ($3.9M) pans out.
  • No quibbling with their top 6-7 players; same 6-7 that everyone else has.
  • Cole Henry at #8. This is aspirational; if he’s healthy he’s probably top 5. Right now its a coin flip if he pitches at the same level again, maybe worse odds than that. I’d have him in the teens.
  • Huge bump up for TJ White, who comes in at #10 when other major shops had him in the deep 20s in their 2022 lists. We’ll see if other pundits agree when the “big” lists from MLB, BA, Klaw, and Fangraphs come out pre-2023.
  • Brenner Cox at #11. I dunno. Something screams Jakson Reetz to me about Cox; a prep player who gets bought out of a D1 commitment and wasn’t really on anyone’s prep radar. I need to see some production before buying in.
  • Love for Covid NDFA Zach Brzycky (scrabble score for his last name? 30 points!) at #14. That’s great; BA’s mid-season 2023 list didn’t even have him in their top 30. I thought he was crazy for signing for the pittance that he did after the 5 round Covid draft and I hope the team takes care of him.
  • Jackson Rutledge comes in at #17, which at least is a reasonable ranking for him as compared to fools who keep putting him in their top 10. But hey, now he’s on the 40man so i’m sure we’ll see him in the majors soon, even if he has an 8 ERA in High-A in June.
  • Jake Alu, given the #19 spot. He hasn’t seen a prospect ranking since Fangraphs’ August ranking. Alu is an excellent example of the difficulties of ranking prospects. He hit well in AAA but features as a low-ceiling MLB utility player; how do you rank that as a prospect evaluation? Is Alu a better or worse prospect than some 17yr old DSL kid who is 6 years and 5 levels away from where Alu is right now but has a higher theoretically “ceiling?” Either way, bravo to Alu and I hope he fares well in 2023.
  • First time we’ve seen Will Frizzell on any prospect list after his 2021 drafting. I mean, lets be honest, this dude is big (6’5″ 225) and destroyed Low-A pitching this year (.377/.426/.696). I suppose you’d expect that out of an SEC middle-of-the-order bat. He needs to get to higher levels and see if he can blast his way up. He’s positionally limited (1B/DH)
  • Aldo Ramirez getting dinged down a bit, as he should be given his injuries. He sits #24 here.
  • Gerardo Carrillo all the way down at #25. I’m liking this pundit; he’s not afraid to ding down players who don’t perform. What has Carrillo done at this point to have anyone think he has a shot of making the majors?
  • Newly acquired waiver claim Thad Ward comes in at #26. Sure. whatever.
  • #27 Mitchell Parker should be higher. All he’s done at every level is perform. Right now, who would you rather have on the mound in a must-win game, Parker at #27 or Rutledge at #17? How about Parker or Bennett at #12?
  • First time ranking ever for Rodney Theophile, coming in way down at #29 but giving some props for the $10k IFA signing who cleaned up in Low-A this year.
  • Another waiver claim in Jeter Downs sits at #34. sure, whatever.
  • It’s not going to be worthwhile to quibble too much about anyone ranked below #30. I will point out players who I think are too low, and then players who are missing at this point
  • Jake Irvin is higher than #35. I don’t get this ranking. I mean, the dude posted respectable numbers in AA and was put on the 40-man. Who’d you rather have, Irvin (#35) or Andry Lara at #13?
  • Yasel Antuna, ranked at #36. Where he should be. This is your reminder that the idiots at Baseball America ranked him #7 a month ago.
  • Four of our new IFA signings from a week ago are here: Manuel Cabrera, Andy Acevedo, Edwin Solano, and based on his last name apparently, Elian Soto. I find it somewhat interesting that Cabrera was the best ranked prospect of these players, but got a bonus that was a third of what Acevedo and Solano got.

Believe it or not, after 50 players, there’s some players who are missing from this list who I probably would have found room for.

  • Would you have put Evan Lee in here somewhere? I mean, he was in the majors last year. Now he’s not even worth ranking above a bunch of 16yr olds we just signed? He’s hurt, not dead.
  • Jackson Cluff hangs around as a defensive specialist; worth mentioning? There’s other plus-defenders out there who could turn things around with the bat: Jordy Barly, Donovan Casey, etc.
  • I guess we’ve completely given up on Tim Cate at this point. Drew Mendoza is still worth ranking but not Cate.
  • Tres Barrera: nowhere in the top 50.

All in all, a solid list.

Written by Todd Boss

January 21st, 2023 at 6:46 pm

Posted in Prospects

Are we sure this is the right Direction for 2023?

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Corey Dickerson, new Nats signing, from 2019, the last time he was good. Photo via wikipedia

Upon hearing the latest “1 year veteran FA lottery ticket” signing (Corey Dickerson), I paused to update the Big Board and slot in Dickerson into the starting lineup.

If the season opened today, here’s what we’re presumably putting out on the field:

CARuiz, Keibert#
1BSmith, Dominic*
2BGarcia, Luis*
SSAbrams, C.J.
3BCandelario, Jeimer#
CFDickerson, Corey*
CFRobles, Victor
RFThomas, Lane
DHMeneses, Joey

This lineup includes now three off-season signings in Dominic Smith, Jeimer Candelario, and now Dickerson. All of them are getting non-trivial money to come here, and all of them are going to start.

Here’s the thing. The team lost 107 games last year. We (arguably) had internal players to cover the three positions these guys are now projected to play.

Why exactly did we sign them, instead of playing our prospects??

So, instead of allowing Joey Meneses , who lest we forget hit 13 homers in 65 games last year en route to a 165 OPS+ figure, to play 1B primarily, we’ve bought Smith and guaranteed him the spot (2022 slash line for Smith: .194/.276/.284.

Instead of seeing if Carter Kieboom can actually hold onto the job at 3B, or (gasp) maybe give a shot to (arguably) the best minor league hitter we had last year in Jake Alu, we now get to watch some random guy named Candelario (2022 slash line: .217 .272 .361).

Instead of rolling the dice in LF with a guy like Alex Call (or even positionally-flexible Meneses or Alu) or newly signed Stone Garrett, or maybe even to continue to give ABs to Yadiel Hernandez (who had a 108 OPS+ last year at the position) … we get Dickerson, who is now on his 7th team at the age of 34, has zero history here, and is literally the definition of journeyman.

Is this what we really want as a fan-base? To have these positions filled by guys we couldn’t pick out of a lineup, instead of seeing if we have internal options that can grow into the positions?

What’s the goal in 2023? To only lose 106 games? Do we really care if we go 55-107 again? All our top prospects are babies, aged 19-20 and playing in the lower minors. It’s going to take several years for these guys to matriculate. We KNOW 2023 is a lost season already. The ownership is in flux, the damn MASN thing still remains unresolved, and we have $65M tied up in two starters who may never pitch again.

I mean, what’s next? Do we re-sign Nelson Cruz to paper over Meneses yet again and relegate him to the bench? What’s more valuable to the team: 4 months of a 1yr FA on the off-chance he has a decent summer and can be flipped for some low-A reliever at the trade deadline, or to see if guys like Kieboom, Alu, Garrett, heck maybe even Jeter Downs can compete?

Written by Todd Boss

January 11th, 2023 at 8:11 am

2023 MLB Draft Order Finalized with Eovaldi signing

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With the last Qualifying Offer-laden signing occurring yesterday (Nathan Eovaldi going to the profligate Texas Rangers, who have bought themselves an entire new rotation this offseason), the 2023 draft order is now complete. Major input to the top of the draft order was determined by the results of the Draft Lottery a few weeks back, and then with the announcement of this year’s free draft picks for cheap-skate teams Competitive Balance Picks.

The final 2023 Draft Order is now uploaded to this Google XLS. It shows the original 1st round order, the post-draft lottery order, all the picks gained and lost due to signings etc.

As it stands, the Nats picks are:

  • 1st round: #2 overall post lottery
  • 2nd round: #39 overall. this pick had the chance to slightly move up if one of the comp-A round teams decided to sign a FA … but the only one of them even thinking about competing in 2023 seems to be Seattle, who did not sign anyone.
  • 3rd round: #70. this pick moved up seven slots thanks to the eight teams who gave up their 2nd round picks to sign QO players.
  • 4th round: #99, from the original projected #107. Again, moved up 8 slots due to 8 lost 2nd rounders.
  • 5th round: #134; moved up 10 spots due to two additional lost comp picks from players re-signing as QO laden players.
  • 6th round: #161, moved up 3 more spots thanks to three teams (San Diego, Yankees, and Philadelphia) who gave up their 5th rounders.

No word yet on bonus pools, but the #2 overall team last year (Arizona) had more than $15M in total bonus pool and an $8.1M figure for its 2nd overall pick, which should net a couple of very good prospects. #2 overall was worth $8.1, while the #39 overall pick was worth a hair over $2M. So that’s what we can expect from the 2023 draft.

So, four picks in the top 100 for the 2023 draft.

Written by Todd Boss

December 28th, 2022 at 9:20 am

Posted in Draft

State of the Rotations at this point in the Off-Season

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So, the Nats have made some moves to theoretically shore up the rotations. I thought it was useful to take a quick gander at our starter depth and take a glance at what may happen.

Relying on the Big Board as always, lets do some thought exercises and think about the rotations for 2023 in all the full season teams.

MLB Projected Rotation

There are 11 Starters on the current 40-man roster, but only 5 rotation slots. But we also know we have serious injury concerns with some starters, some guys who are likely swingmen, some who are destined for A-ball.

  • Strasburg, if healthy
  • Corbin, if effective
  • Grey
  • Cavalli
  • Gore
  • Williams, newly acquired and apparently promised a rotation spot

My guess as to what happens is this: Strasburg is still hurt and goes on DL to start season, leaving us with the Corbin/Grey/Gore/Williams/Cavalli rotation (probably in that order). Now, both Cavalli and Gore had injury issues last season; if they cannot go, look for Ward, Espino, and Abbott to fill in (though honestly, Espino and Abbott’s splits as relievers were so much better than as starters that i’d look to keep them there).

This also assumes the team is going to continue to let Corbin pitch to a 7 ERA. I’m not sure they continue to do that forever; at some point, especially if someone presents coming out of AAA as worthy, we’ll see him either dumped to the pen or (more likely) released.

Now. Does the team seek out another starter to bolster this group? Only if they KNOW that there’s injury issues that likely lead to Grey/Cavalli/Gore starting on the DL, because otherwise they’re out of room. Lets say they bought another FA starter; who makes way? Not a healthy Strasburg or Corbin; that’s $60M of payroll. Not Williams. Not Grey; we didn’t trade for the guy to dump him in the bullpen. And certainly not Gore or Cavalli, who have nothing left to prove in AAA.

AAA Projected Rotation

Based on our current 40-man starters, their option status, and their capabilities, along with who we’ve signed as MLFAs (and assuming these guys don’t have opt-outs), here’s what our AAA rotation looks like right now:

  • Adon
  • Irvin
  • Alexy
  • Kilome (pretty sure he’s still with us as a 22 MLFA signing)
  • Henry (injured in 2022)
  • Tetreault (injured in 2022)
  • Lee (injured in 2022)
  • T.Romero (just resigned for 2023)

So. This being said: Henry had TOS is is out. Tetreault had a shoulder fracture and may or may not be out. Lee had a flexor sprain (often a precursor for Tommy John) and may not be reliable. So this may be thinner than we think.

Adon deserves to be in AAA. Irvin may not really “deserve” to be in AAA based on a 3.83 ERA in AA, but he’s on the 40-man and needs to be challenged. I’m pretty sure Kilome (a MLFA signing from LAST off-season but who is still listed as active and wasn’t on any MLFA lists) is here. That, plus newly signed MLFA Alexy and the re-signing of Romero makes five. But this is thin; the LR in AAA is Troop and his 2022 numbers were not good. I suspect we’ll be seeing a bunch more MLFA signings here, with perhaps Irvin being pushed back down to AA to start.

AA Projected Rotation

Here’s where things get thin, fast.

  • Cate
  • Reyes
  • Herrera
  • Parker
  • Shuman
  • Knowles

Cate at this point sounds like an innings eater in AA. Reyes and Herrera are long-serving org arms who also sound like Innings eaters in AA. If it was me, I’d be pushing up three starters out of High-A, all of whom pitched to really solid numbers in 2022. Parker posted a 2.88 ERA in 24 starts in High-A and absolutely will be in AA. Shuman hit the DL in July and never came off; the WP reported it was due to “elbow soreness.” Uh oh. Well, if he’s healthy he was solid in High-A in 2022, repeating the level, and has nothing left to prove there. Lastly you have Knowles, who had a 3.19 ERA as a swing man type with 13 starts. Why not.

If all these 6 are healthy, look for Reyes or Knowles to be a swing man type, maybe have Irvin duck into AA, or find another MLFA. I can’t see another High-A guy deserving of promotion.

Wow, this looks like a weak rotation for a AA team though.

High-A projected rotation

  • Rutledge
  • Cuevas
  • Theophile
  • Merrill?
  • Saenz (maybe a reliever/long man now)
  • Gausch?
  • Collins
  • Alvarez
  • Hernandez (injured all of 2022)
  • Dyson (injured all of 2022)
  • Denaburg maybe?

Here’s where things get harder to predict. Rutledge, newly added to the 40-man and owner of a 4.90 ERA in low-A last year (“but he improved in August!”) just has to be promoted. Cuevas and Theophile are holdovers from the 2022 rotation, looking to improve, and I’d guess they start in the rotation as well.

After that, its a crap shoot. Merrill and Saenz were both kicked out of the 2022 rotation after sucking. Do they get another shot or are they Relievers now? Gausch started the 2022 season as a AA starter, got lit up, then suddenly was a reliever in High-A. Does he return to the rotation? Collins was an already too old for the level swing guy with solid low-A numbers; he could be given a shot in the rotation. Alvarez had great K numbers, prompting his promotion to High-A, but he seems more like a bullpen guy as a lefty.

You have two formerly solid looking starters in Hernandez and Dyson who missed all of 2022 but who showed 2021 promise at the level; they should (if healthy) slide right back in. Lastly you have to look at the rest of low-A to see who should be moved up … and the pickings are slim. Denaburg at this point is too old for Low-A and its time to see if he can ever become anything; i’d move him to High-A and if he can’t cut it move him to the pen. Can’t make much of a case for anyone else out of last year’s Low-A rotation to move forward … which will make the Low-A rotation super easy.

Low-A Rotation

  • Susana
  • Bennett
  • Cornelio
  • Young?
  • Lara
  • Caceres
  • Atencio
  • Aldonis
  • Ramirez

We have to lead with Susana, who soon will be our best SP prospect once Cavalli graduates.

From there, I have to think at least the two top college Junior draftees from 2022 (2nd rounder Bennett and 7th rounder Cornelio) will be in low-A rotation. Perhaps even 11th rounder Luke Young.

After that, you have several holdovers from 2022 in Lara and Caceres. Lara is still ostensibly one of our better prospects and he’s super young, so he’s definitely starting. That’s six already, before talking about two guys who also were in the low-A rotation last year but who could get bumped to LR roles in Atencio and Aldonis.

Post publishing, KW in the comments reminded me about Aldo Ramirez, who we got from Boston in trade but who has been hurt. He was looking really solid for us in Low-A in 2021 before getting hurt and should start here in 2023 with an eye on moving up fast.


Did I forget anyone? What do you think; do we still need some reinforcements?

Written by Todd Boss

December 15th, 2022 at 2:41 pm

Nats acquire Ward in Rule-5

26 comments

Mar 26, 2021; Port Charlotte, Florida, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Thaddeus Ward (97) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As widely expected, given the fact that they nearly lost 110 games in 2022 and they have precious little in terms of starting pitching prospects right now (amazingly, given how pitcher heavy they’ve drafted prior to 2022), the Nats took advantage of having the #1 pick in the rule-5 draft to select a promising AA Pitcher from Boston named Thad Ward.

(somewhat surprisingly to this observer, the Nats did not select a second player in the Rule5, nor did any other team, despite having an open slot on our 40-man).

You can find plenty of content on Ward, given that he went 1-1 in this draft and prospect writers like the MLBpipeline and Fangraphs guys are starving for content right now. But I thought i’d pipe in here with some thoughts.

First off, Ward’s numbers in 2022 at AA were excellent: 7 starts, 2.43 ERA, 41/14 K/BB in 33.1 IP, 1.26 whip. He’s coming off of TJ so his numbers were limited. By way of comparison to the a couple of National’s AA starters of note in 2022:

  • Thad Ward: 2022 AA stats: 7 starts, 2.43 ERA, 41/14 K/BB in 33.1 IP, 1.26 whip
  • Jake Irvin, 2022 AA stats: 15 starts, 4.79 ERA, 78/20 K/BB in 73.1 IP, 1.17 whip
  • Cole Henry, 2022 AA stats: 7 starts, 0.76 ERA, 28/9 K/BB in 23.2 Ip, 0.59 whip
  • Evan Lee 2022 AA Stats: 7 starts, 3.60 ERA, 37/15 K/BB in 30 IP, 1.33 whip

So, interesting comparison side by side especially to Irvin and Lee; he’s got quite similar numbers to Lee, better numbers in fewer innings than Irvin. His scouting reports were excellent pre TJ injury, and it seemed like he was well on his way to Boston’s rotation before getting hurt.

So, where does he fit in? What can he do?

Right now, our SP depth looks something like this, in this order:

  1. Strasburg
  2. Corbin*
  3. Grey
  4. Gore
  5. Cavalli
  6. Ward
  7. Adon
  8. Irvin
  9. Rutledge

That’s it. We have guys like Espino, Abbott as Long Relievers/Spot Starters, but their reliever splits are so much better that this team desperately doesn’t want to give them starts.

So, of our depth:

  1. Strasburg: TOS recurrence, no guarantee he’ll be healthy in 2023
  2. Corbin*: He had a 6.31 ERA last year.
  3. Grey: 5.02 ERA, worse FIP last year and may not be as good as we think.
  4. Gore: ended the year hurt, never got off the DL post acquisition. Promising of course … but unproven at the MLB level
  5. Cavalli: one start, got lit up, hit the DL.
  6. Ward: coming off TJ, never been above AA, has to stay on MLB roster or be returned.
  7. Adon: 1-12 with an ERA north of 7.00 last year, needs to figure it out in AAA.
  8. Irvin: newly added to 40-man, needs to prove himself at AAA first.
  9. Rutledge: never pitched above A-ball

Not too promising.

Lets assume that Strasburg is still on the DL: that puts Ward right in line for the 5th starter spot right now. Is the team going to do more acquisitions to acquire depth? Perhaps. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Mike Rizzo buy a veteran starter on the cheap (say, 1yr/$10M guy), who slots in at #4 in the rotation and (if everyone is healthy) pushes Ward to the pen. That’s fine: he can work as an Espino/Abbott LR type. It’d be a waste to turn him into a reliever now, especially coming off TJ with a fragile elbow and the tendency to over-throw in shorter relief stints. But that’s the thing: who wants to bet me a dollar that more than one of the current projected top 5 starters isn’t hurt to open 2023? That’d put Ward right back in the rotation, even if we do a FA acquisition. Works for me; lets see what he can do.

All in all, a promising looking signing who looks to be a big part of 2023 for this team.

Written by Todd Boss

December 8th, 2022 at 10:14 am

Nats get #2 pick in Lottery!

9 comments

Honestly, I thought we were gonna get screwed.

Tonight’s draft lottery ended up giving us the #2 overall pick, out of a best case of #1 overall and worst case of #7 overall.

Final results:

1. Pirates (T-1)
2. Nationals (T-1)
3. Tigers (6)
4. Rangers (7)
5. Twins (13)
6. A’s (T-1)
7. Reds (4)
8. Royals (5)
9. Rockies (8)
10. Marlins (9)
11. Angels (10)
12. D-backs (11)
13. Cubs (12)
14. Red Sox (14)
15. White Sox (15)
16. Giants (16)
17. Orioles (17)
18. Brewers (18)

So Pittsburgh (which had the same chance as us to get 1-1) get the first pick, we get 2nd, then the Tigers move up a few slots, as does Texas. Oakland gets slightly screwed, dropping from #3 to #6, and the Reds/Royals both get pushed down a bit as well,

Meanwhile, Minnesota is the big lottery winner, going from #13 to #5, meaning they’re netting themselves a super good 1st rounder in 2023 after a decent season.

With the #2 overall pick, The Nats are nearly going to have their pick of the draft class. And, with the cheap-skate Pittsburgh team ahead of them, its highly likely they cut a deal with the player at 1-1 to spread money around, meaning we may very well endup with the best talent in the draft.

At this point, there’s a few names that are crystalizing for the top of the 2023 draft; here’s a quick snippet on some of them.

College guys:

Dylan Crews, OF/RF LSU. Opted out of 2020 draft as a projected 2nd rounder, now might go 1-1. Hit .362/.453/.663 as a freshman. Sept 2022 #1 player in the class.
Jacob Gonzalez, SS Ole Miss. Bonafide SS who hit .355/.443/.561 with 12 home runs and more walks (38) than strikeouts (34) his freshman year. #1 prospect in class Dec 2021.
Chase Dollander, RHP Tennessee. 2nd team AA in 2022, mid 90sfb with good off-speed. Helium guy mid 2022, not sure why he’s jumped other candidates.
Jacob Wilson, SS Grand Canyon. All WAC as a freshman, starred for Team USA summer 2022. Stock increasing late 2022, rising up.

Prep guys:

Max Clark, OF, Franklin (Ind.) Community HS. Vanderbilt commit, lefty hitting OF prospect #1 prep player in the class as of mid 2021. Went 5-5 one day at Area codes. #1 prep player in draft per BA Sept 2022.
Walker Jenkins OF, South Brunswick HS, Southport, N.C. 18U national team as underclassman in 2021. #1 HS player in class per Fangraphs Dec 2021, #2 prep in class per BA Sept 2022.
Thomas White, LHP Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. Uncommitted. Highly polished LHP starter.
Dylan Cupp, SS Cedartown (Ga.) HS. Mississippi State commit. Top SS in draft.
Walter Ford, 3B/RHP Hoover (Ala.) HS. 2-way threat, mid-upper 90s on the fastball and great power. Alabama commit. 2021 18U National team as underclassman.

Imagine Gonzalez getting picked and joining our suite of top-end hitters in the middle minors, all set to matriculate at the same time? More of a hitter’s draft than pitcher’s draft right now, but there’s also some arms in the mix for 1-1. I don’t like Dollander as much honestly, i’d rather have a bigger arm with more of a clear shot at 1-1.

Written by Todd Boss

December 6th, 2022 at 9:39 pm

Posted in Draft

Baseball America 2023 Short List Released

23 comments

Rutledge continues to impress scouts with h is 4.90 ERA in low-A. photo via 3rdmanin.com

Hat tip to Luke Erickson and Nationalsprospects.com, because I had no idea that Baseball America had released its organizational top 10 list yesterday. This is incredibly irritating to me as a Baseball America subscriber; I somehow failed to get an email notification of this event, which means I missed the chat they held yesterday, which would have allowed me to ask the most obvious question, “Why in the hell would you still have Jackson Rutledge in your top 10??”

But, more on that later.

BA releases its top 10 in the fall, then works on its Prospect handbook for several months, and releases a full top 30 usually in Late Jan/Early Feb. So this is just a preview of what we’ll get in a few months.

Here’s the top 10, and in parentheses i’ve listed where BA had the player ranked in their last 2022 ranking (released on 8/10/22 after all draft and trade machinations).

  1. James Wood, OF (#3)
  2. Robert Hassell, OF (#2)
  3. Elijah Green, OF (#4)
  4. Cade Cavalli, RHP (#5)
  5. Brady House, SS (#6)
  6. Crithian Vaquero (#7)
  7. Jarlin Susana, RHP (#8)
  8. Jeremy De La Rosa, OF (#10)
  9. Jackson Rutledge, RHP (#9)
  10. T.J. White, OF (#29)

So, some comments.

  • Their #1 prospect in August was, of course, C.J. Abrams. It must have been published during the 24 hours that dude was at AAA before getting called back to the majors and losing his rookie eligibility.
  • In BA’s eyes, Wood did enough in a month at our Low-A post trade acquisition to jump over Hassell to be our #1 prospect. Its the first ranking i’ve seen with Wood at #1.
  • However, in all honesty, BA has the top 3 guys correct, and then the next two guys correct. A consistent top 5 with basically every other shop since these guys arrived in 2022.
  • Not too much to quibble about with Vaquero at #6, or Susana at #7. Prospects361 had Susana slightly higher, but this is in line with where MLBpipeline has these guys as well.
  • De la Rosa: he’s been in the 8-10 range in every ranking i’ve seen since the 2022 trade deadline.
  • I’ll jump over the elephant in the room to note that in the last two months, BA has decided that T.J. White has gone from a fringe, useless prospect (A guy in low A ranked #29 is not someone you’d expect to ever amount to anything), to our top 10. White’s low-A numbers: .258/.353/.432, 10 homers in 92 games and 329 ABs/382 PAs. But, wait for it … 104 strikeouts in those 382 PAs. 104! that’s more than 27% K rate. I mean, hell, for 27% K rate in the low minors i’d expect a homer at least every 20 PAs. But we got 10 homers in 382 PAs, or one homer every 38 PAs. that’s awful. That’s one homer a week. That’s 10 punch outs for every homer. That’s a lot.

So we get to Jackson Rutledge.

Rutledge, who had 20 starts in Low-A as a fourth year pro out of a Juco. A 1st rounder college draftee in his 4th pro season, still in Low-A b/c he has yet to prove he can cut it any higher. Rutledge, who pitched to a 4.90 ERA in 20 starts in low-A, with a 99/29 K/BB ratio (so, not even a K/inning!). 1.39 whip. Averaged less than 5 innings a start against a bunch of 20 and 21 yr olds.

Rutledge. This is a top 10 prospect in our system. Not Henry (who’s hurt yea but dude was still in AAA at the same damn age). Not Cruz or Lara, or Bennett or any of the 2022 draftees who immediately debuted at a higher level. Rutledge.

Some people were like, “oh he finished strong.” No he didn’t. His last 2 starts were the 4 ER in 5 IP variety.

He had 20 starts in Low-A: any guesses as to how many quality starts that comprised? Eight. He had 8 QS in 20 low-A starts this year. A guy with his pedigree should be dominating Low-A of course, but i mean, not even a 50% QS rate? That’s a pretty low bar.

And now he’s on the 40-man. Did he prove he had mastered Low-A in 2022? I don’t think so; if his bio started with anything else besides “1st round pick …” he’d be closer to a release than a promotion.

But here we are. Rant off.

Written by Todd Boss

December 1st, 2022 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Prospects

The Seth Romero Saga comes to an end

9 comments

Romero finally wears out his welcome with this team. Photo via milb.com

Lost in the busy week of transactions last week was my inevitable reaction post to the Romero release. Here it is.

Well, it finally happened. Former 1st round pick Seth Romero finally ran out of rope with the Nationals organization. The team summarily released him yesterday (well, ok put him on unconditional release waivers on the off chance some other idiot GM wants to trade for him) after he got his second DWI of the calendar year.

I thought this would be an excellent time to recap his baseball career.

  • Suspended from his Uof Houston team before his sophomore season due to “conduct detrimental to the team.” Also noted that he was in bad shape. But was then Reinstated (the talents always are, see Howe, Steve).
  • Suspended a second time mid-way through his Junior season for failing a drug test and missing curfew. Reinstated again because, well, Houston’s coach is paid to win games.
  • Summarily kicked off the team after his 2nd reinstatement after getting into a fight with a teammate. This was the last straw for college.

Despite these multiple issues with his college team, the Nats not only took him in the 1st round of 2017 … but gave him an over slot bonus. This, to this day, remains one of the most inexplicable decisions of Mike Rizzo‘s drafting career. Yes he got burned on the Mason Denaburg pick, yes he looks like he blew the Rutledge pick too … but giving an over-slot bonus to a guy who literally had no college team to return to and had zero leverage other than to go play Indy ball and return to the draft a year onwards.

So, now he’s a pro and you’d think he’d grow up right?

  • He throws just 22 professional innings in 2017, including six short-A starts with a (short sample size ugly ERA of 5.40).
  • He’s sent home from 2018 spring training for “multiple team rule violations,” and misses fully two months of the 2018 minor league season.
  • He finally debuts in 2018 in Low-A (a 1st rounder of his stature should have been in at least High-A in his first full pro season), throws 6 starts of 3.91 ERA.
  • He hits the D/L in early July, misses another 6 weeks.
  • Comes back mid-August, throws 2 innings, is removed from the game … and then three weeks later we find out he needs Tommy John surgery.
  • He misses the entire 2019 season recovering from Surgery.
  • Somehow the team decides to put him onto the 2020 60-man Covid roster, and he gets called up on 8/13/20. He throws exactly 2 2/3rds innings and gets shelled in the majors (not really a surprise; he had not pitched above A-ball).
  • Eleven days after his callup, we find out he has broken his Right hand. The official team word was that he “slipped on a stairway.” Cynics among us (including me) think its more likely he punched a wall.
  • In 2021, after not being assigned anywhere after spring training, with an injury that was never really made clear. He bounced around the minors, making 11 starts of varying success.

Ahead of the 2022 season, we learned that he was arrested in early January for DWI.

  • In 2022, the team just summarily put him on the 60-day DL with a “calf strain.” He eventually made a few AA 2-inning starts but seemingly had no pathway forward. He was activated in late August, just in time for the minor league season to be complete. He did not get a 9/1 callup (typically a defacto move for any health 40-man roster player, especially on a dead-last team).

And now this week we learned that he got his second DWI of the year, with the added bonus of possessing a “controlled substance.” Finally, finally, after all of this nonsense the team came to its senses and sent him packing.

Career Minor league stats: 31 starts across 4 seasons. 4.33 ERA, 149/44 K/BB in 97.2 innings. 1.39 whip

Career Major league stats: 2.2 innings, 13.50 era, 3.00 whip, 5/3 K/BB.

It is really amazing, honestly, how many chances this guy got. It’s also amazing just how bad he made this front office look for putting up with this for so long.

Written by Todd Boss

November 28th, 2022 at 8:14 pm

Posted in Majors Pitching

Prospects361 Nats top 15 list dropped

4 comments

Robert Hassell III is our new #1 overall prospect. Photo via NBC Sports Washington

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Yesterday we got our first Prospect list of the new season. Prospects361 is always an “early list,” and came out right around this time last year.

I capture every prospect list, and have for years, and keep them in an XLS i periodically upload to the Big Board. Once we get rolling on this season’s lists i’ll do the same.

For now, here’s the top 15 on Prospects361 list with some commentary:

rankLast NameFirst NamePosition
1Hassell IIIRobertOF (CF)
2WoodJamesOF (Corner)
3GreenElijahOF (CF)
4CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)
5SusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)
6HouseBradySS/3B
7AntunaYaselSS/OF (Corner)
8VaqueroCristianOF (CF)
9De La RosaJeremyOF (Corner)
10LaraAndryRHP (Starter)
11CruzArmandoSS
12HenryColeRHP (Starter)
13BennettJakeLHP (Starter)
14CoxBrennerOF (CF)
15ParkerMitchellLHP (Starter)

Here’s some thoughts.

  • Seven of these 15 players were acquired in 2022. Hassell, Green, Wood, Vaquero, Susana, Bennett, and Cox. It’d look even better if Abrams and Ruiz and Grey were still in here, but it does give you an idea of the huge talent influx over the past couple of seasons.
  • Robert Hassell seems like he’s going to be our new “#1 prospect on every list until he gets to the majors” going forward: in every list I’ve seen since his acquisition, he’s been #1 (or #2 to C.J. Abrams #1, who just needed a few ABs to lose his rookie eligibility).
  • I have to say … an OF comprised of our top 3 prospects on this list (James Wood in LF, Hassell in CF, and Elijah Greene in RF) sounds … pretty damn good. In 2023 they’ll be 21, 22, and 19 in order, and probably are starting in AA, High-A, and Low-A respectively … but man we can dream on a MLB outfield with all three positions manned by home grown top-end prospects.
  • Our top prospects heading into 2022, guys like Cavalli, and House, are pushed down a bit to 4 and 5. Cavalli probably won’t be on this list for long, having matriculated to the majors and projecting to be in the opening day rotation. House missed a huge chunk of 2022 with a Back issue (not something you generally attribute injury-wise to an 18yr old), which presumably explains his curious lack of power in Low-A this year.
  • Yasel Antuna, listed at #7. Come. On. Here’s the direct quote summarizing his 2022 season: ‘He showed an improved approach at the plate with plus speed and enough power to be a full-time regular at the highest level.” Really?? Lets break down this nonsense point by point:

“Improved approach at the plate?” Really? He hit a combined .215 this year. Ok, so he walked more. Congratulations; he had a combined .352 OBP this year, which was HIGHER than his slugging percentage.

“plus Speed?” He had 27 SBs this year, more than his career combined. Ok i’ll give him that.

“Enough power to be a Full time regular at the highest level?” He hit 10 homers in 99 High-A games in 2022. By way of comparison, he hit 12 homers in 106 High-A games in 2021. Both of those figures were good for Slugging percentages below .400.

So, what is he? A 6.0″ corner OF with some speed, a crap batting average, and some power. He can’t play CF, he no longer can play the infield. He’s undersized. Why does anyone think this is a major prospect at this point? Hassell, by way of comparison, had an OPS of more than 100 points higher in High-A this year, matched him for both homers and SBs in fewer games, had a BA 70 points higher, plays CF, and is two years younger. Now THATS an of prospect. Maybe that’s not fair, comparing Antuna to the #1 guy in our system … fine. Lets compare him to Jeremy De La Rosa, who was also an OF in Wilmington this year and who is ranked LOWER than Antuna: DLR had a higher combined BA, better OBP, better slugging, just as many homers, just as many SBs … plays CF instead of a corner, and is 3 years younger.

I just don’t get it. Why anyone ranks Antuna at this point is beyond me. Ok, enough on Antuna, moving forward.

  • Cole Henry dropped to #12: understandable. He may not ever pitch again.
  • Jake Bennett pops in here; he was an interesting one; he was left completely out of BA’s mid-season post-trade/post-draft rankings for this team, despite being our 2nd round pick in 2022. I’m super curious to see what he does in 2022, presumably in Low-A.
  • Brenner Cox was a polarizing draft pick last year … we have not had good success overpaying Prep kids in these areas of the draft before. We’ll see how he starts his pro career and hope for some positive figures in early 2022.
  • Mitchell Parker gets the last #15 spot. Why isn’t this guy higher? All he did was give the team 24 starts at High-A with 117/67 K/BB ratio in 100 innings and a 2.88 ERA. Perhaps the WHIP is too high (1.43). He’s still a lefty who misses a ton of bats.

Notable names missing out of this top 15:

  • Rutledge; Shocker. Our newest “guy who’s now inexplicably on the 40-man too early” doesn’t even make this top 15 list.
  • Carillo: man what has happened to this guy? He was ranked as high as 6th in our system upon his acquisition. Now he’s relegated to the bullpen and he can’t find the plate.
  • Ferrer and Cronin: new 40-man additions aren’t really top-level prospects, but valuable bullpen arms that typically get plucked in Rule-5.
  • Irvin: another who has lost the prospect luster (was once a top 10 guy for us pre-injury).

Written by Todd Boss

November 26th, 2022 at 8:31 am

Posted in Prospects