Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for February, 2022

Keith Law’s Prospect Rankings released


Law is the first pundit to put House as our #1 prospect. By the time he’s done, House may end up eclipsing our current record holder for most #1 listings (Lucas Giolito). Photo via

February is definitely prospect month, and one of the leading analysts out there is The Athletic’s Keith Law. On Monday 2/7/22 he released his system ranks, and then on XXX he released the NL East team’s prospect rankings, including our weary Nationals.

First, a couple thoughts on his system rankings. Law’s approach to evaluation definitely prioritizes ceiling over floor, and definitely discounts things you can find in abundance (RH relievers) versus scarcity (Catchers, top-end SPs, Shortstops, etc). And when it comes to evaluating entire systems, I feel like he goes well deeper than the best 3-4 guys in a system. So there’s some wild variations between his system rankings and a place like Baseball America’s, which ill go into briefly here.

Law’s top 5 systems: LA Dodgers, Seattle, Arizona, Tampa, Toronto.
BA’s top 5 systems: Seattle, Tampa, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Kansas City.

Not too far off … until you see where BA ranked Law’s #1 team (they had LA 8th) and where BA had Toronto (19th!). That’s some wild variation. They also wildly disagreed on some middle of the road teams, for similar reasons. I sense that BA is star-driven, Law’s is depth-driven. That being said … both shops had the exact same bottom 7 teams, just in slightly different order.

Washington comes in at #27 for Keith, #26 for BA coincidentally. Law does not include Ruiz as a prospect because he’s exhausted his rookie status per the new rules … this is something BA didn’t bother to adjudicate yet (nor any other prospect ranking shop), so I wonder if that didn’t ding the system a peg or two. Otherwise, Law’s evaluation of our system is this: improved from dead last last year, but two of our best arms got hurt, otherwise might be better.

OK, lets get to the individual players, which was released on 2/14/22. I know the Athletic is behind a paywall, so i’m going to be respectful of that and not post his list 1-x. You can glean the rankings though from my comments here.

Law’s methodology, which I always seem to need to repeat, is as follows: he’s more ceiling than floor. He could care less about fantasy. He discounts relievers. He is skeptical of bad mechanics in pitchers. He is definitely more “conservative” in projections of players. He is skeptical of 16-yr old DSL players and often waits until they perform in a domestic league. So, with those observations … here’s some thoughts on his player rankings.

  • (Reminder: no Ruiz, who likely was our #1)
  • #1: House. First time a pundit has named House #1. Says he hits the ball harder than any player in the 2021 draft (prep or college), is almost guaranteed to move to 3B at his size, but he has a chance to basically be Aaron Judge but on the dirt. Yeah. Sign me up.
  • #2 Cavalli. Law notes his struggles at AAA, but also isn’t that concerned. He thinks Cavalli’s worst-case scenario (barring a massive arm injury of course) is a workhorse #2 or #3 starter for the next decade. Sign me up.
  • He’s somewhat bullish on Rutledge (#3), but is worried about effort-full short arm action continuing his litany of injuries as we saw in 2021. Don’t be surprised if he’s converted to a reliver if he has another 30-inning season, though if the dude can’t even throw 30 innings without getting hurt … he’s not going to cut it as a reliever either.
  • #4 is Henry … upside of a #2 starter if his elbow holds up. We’ll see in 2022 how well it can hold up.
  • He loves #5 Adon, noting the same thing i’ve noticed; easy arm action. Its like we’re looking at a young Livan Hernandez.
  • He’s very high on Roismar Quintana, ranking him #7 when other shops have him well lower (BA had him #25).
  • He’s a bit lower on both Antuna and Lara than other places, which i’m in agreement with on both cases. Antuna at #8 is about where i’d like to see him. He was surprised Lara got to the majors and sees him as a #4 starter

Interestingly, Law’s top 10 and BA’s top 10 (excluding Quintana) have the exact same names, just in slightly different orders. There’s a bit more variations when looking at some of the more bloggier/fantasy focused sites we have lists for (,,, but so far the two biggest/most professional pundits are pretty aligned.

  • Law is one of the higher guys on Lile, having him at #11. I’m concerned that Lile can’t project as a center fielder at 6’0″, which means he’s gonna have to mash as a corner OF to be of any value. It means he’s gonna have to add power to his frame and power to his game.
  • He’s highest man so far on Tim Cate, at #12, noting that he may be headed to the pen based on his inability to get AA hitters out this year.
  • Jake Irvin at #14 (remember him?) Irvin’s been away so long that BA didn’t even have him in their top 40 (!!), and only one of other blog sites even mentioned him (Prospects1500 at #36). Law clearly remembers him, and expects him to come back. He may be the only one.
  • Perhaps an indictment of the system … or perhaps a sneaky good find, but he has Lucious Fox, our waiver claim from last fall, at #15. He thinks Fox could literally make it to the majors this year as a utility infielder backup.
  • At #19 and #20 he has two guys who basically sound the same: Evan Lee and Mitchell Parker. Both lefties, both with fantastic K/9 rates despite middling velocity, both have to have everything go right to turn into a 5th starter in the bigs. I guess there’s worse things to have in your system.

In his Honorable Mention section, he did call out some fan favorites, including T.J. White (reminding us that White was incredibly young for the class, getting drafted two weeks before turning 18, which means we basically got a high school Junior who put up those numbers), Boissiere, Barley, Brzycky, etc.

Notable names not on Law’s list:

  • Seth Romero, who he called out as someone who has completely fallen out of consideration specifically.
  • He also does not have our new $3.9M guy Cristian Vaquero, perhaps because of the timing of the signing and perhaps because we have zero to go on except a large bonus figure and huge hype (remember this when you see other shops rank the guy #4).
  • He does not have guys like Mason Thompson, Riley Adams, or Donovan Casey. Perhaps because they project as spare parts (middle reliever, backup catcher, 4th outfielder), as opposed to scarcity positions (starting C, starting pitcher, SS, CF).

All in all, a solid list with solid analysis.

New Feature: trying to build an all-prospects future team just based on a pundit’s rankings. Here’s what we’d have here:

  • Catchers: Ruiz and Riley Adams I suppose
  • Starting Rotation: Grey, Cavalli, Henry, Lara, Adon, Irvin and Saenz as a swingman/depth
  • Bullpen: Rutledge, Carrillo, Cate, Cronin, Ramirez, Lee, Parker, Brzykcy
  • Infield: House at 3B, Cruz at SS, Garcia at 2B, White at 1B, with backups like Infante, Fox, Barley
  • Outfield: Vaquero in Center, Quintana/Antuna in left, De la Rosa in right, with depth in Lile and Boissiere.

I mean, that’s not a bad lineup to look forward to…

Written by Todd Boss

February 14th, 2022 at 9:50 am

Baseball America Handbook top 40 Reaction


Yasel Antuna continues to be a darling of the BA rankings. Photo via CurlyW blog

One of the biggest prospect evaluation shops has dropped its big publication; lets do a reaction to Baseball America’s handbook release and its ranking of our top 40 (!) prospects. I can’t recall the last time they extended out past 30, so bravo to them for doing a deep dive into a shallow pool of Nationals prospects.

Thanks to Luke Erickson over at for the data. See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 for the full list of the 40 players. Here’s the full list in order 1-40:

RankLast NameFirst NamePositionYr/Acq
1RuizKeibertC2014 IFA
2CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)2020 1st
3HouseBradySS2021 1st
4AntunaYaselSS2016 IFA
5LaraAndryRHP (Starter)2019 IFA
6HenryColeRHP (Starter)2020 2nd
7AdonJoanRHP (Starter)2016 IFA
8CarrilloGerardoRHP (Starter)2016 IFA
9RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)2019 1st
10CruzArmandoSS2020 IFA
11ThompsonMasonRHP (Reliever)2016 3rd
12AdamsRileyC2017 3rd
13RamirezAldoRHP (Starter)2018 IFA
14De La RosaJeremyOF (Corner)2018 IFA
15CroninMattLHP (Reliever)2019 4th
16CluffJacksonSS2019 6th
17CaseyDonovanOF (Corner)2017 20th
18LileDaylenOF (CF)2021 2nd
19CateTimLHP (Starter)2018 2nd
20InfanteSamuelSS2020 2nd
21ParkerMitchellLHP (Starter)2020 5th
22LeeEvanLHP (Starter)2018 15th
23PinedaIsraelC2016 IFA
24MarteDanielOF (CF)2018 IFA
25QuintanaRoismarOF (CF)2019 IFA
26BarreraTresC2016 6th
27RomeroSethLHP (Starter)2017 1st
28DenaburgMasonRHP (Starter)2018 1st
29BarleyJordySS2016 IFA
30MillasDrewC2019 7th
31ShumanSethRHP (Starter)2019 6th
32MendozaDrew3B2019 3rd
33GuaschRichardRHP (Starter)2018 IFA
34WhiteT.J.OF (Corner)2021 5th
35BoissiereBrandenOF (Corner)2021 3rd
36PetersonToddRHP (starter)2019 7th
37BrzykcyZachRHP (Reliever)2020 NDFA
38MendezRicardoOF (CF)2016 IFA
39SaenzDustinLHP (Starter)2021 4th
40PowellHoldenRHP (Reliever)2020 3rd

So, first things first: the top 10 in the handbook are the exact same top 10, in the same order, as the BA top 10 they released back in October 2021. I reacted to that list at length last October, so I won’t repeat my criticisms too heavily here. I will say this: clearly to me the BA boys had their list back then and have not done much in the way of additional analysis, because this new list does not include our shiny new IFA Cristian Vaquero. And honestly, its a pretty big omission given the fact that he signed several weeks ago. I suppose it implies that the handbook went to print a couple of months ago … but in today’s media landscape it seems like a pretty bad miss. In the world of blogging and internet-driven media, delays due to book binding and printing can make information “dated” pretty quickly.

Anyway, one with the observations.

  • Same 1-3 as everyone else. Ruiz over Cavalli, which I’m ok with.
  • We’ve covered Antuna at #4 at length; my stance is pretty clear.
  • The Arms at 5-8 are all pretty defensible and are mostly in line with what we’ve been seeing.
  • Rutledge remains in their top 10, despite his 2021. This, believe it or not, is considered “low” on Rutledge as compared to most of the other shops so far. How are they so high on Antuna but are low-man on Rutledge?

So, here we go with the guys ranked 11-40.

  • #11: Mason Thompson. Seriously? A 5.74 ERA in AAA in 2021, then after we acquired him his MLB stat line was as follows: 4.15 ERA., 5.71 FIP, 21/14 K/BB in 21 innings to a 99 ERA+. Ok great: a below league average RH middle reliever. Is that a near top 10 prospect? I mean, Andres Machado had a far better season in 2021 as a RH middle reliever: he was never ranked in our top 10 as a prospect. We cycle in and out failed starters as 6th inning RH relievers all the time; they’re one of the most fungible assets in the game. If we’re valuing near replacement level players so highly, then why aren’t all our backup AAA catchers ranked in the top 10 too? (Ahem, see next).
  • #12 Riley Adams: not even ranked in the top 30 by some shops (including Fangraphs), but #12 in our system. I mean, if the value of a prospect is so heavily skewed towards MLB-readiness, why not just rank our entire AAA team in our top 10?
  • Lots of variation of opinion on De La Rosa: some have him top 10, others in the mid-teens. BA comes in at #14.
  • Jackson Cluff at #16, whereas he wasn’t even in the top 50 of prospects1500. Wow. That’s a lot of juice on one month-long AFL stretch, especially considering how mediocre his 2021 regular season was.
  • Tim Cate at #19; they still have some faith, at least more than other shops.
  • Romero and Denaburg together at #27 and #28: fitting. The two worst 1st round picks in our history (well, except maybe for Aaron Crowe) are still hanging on the outskirts of the top 30.
  • One of the few shops to give any love to our pair of former Oakland High-A starters Shuman and Guasch, coming in at #31 and #33.
  • T.J. White: #34. Wow. Other shops have him in the upper teens. Where’s the love for a high draft pick who actually hit this year? Why would this guy be so low, as compared to De La Rosa, who is basically the same age and was badly outperformed?
  • This is the first list naming Dustin Saenz to any spot; he was a 4th round Lefty out of TAMU who only threw a handful of pro innings in 2021; not much to go on. A 4th round SEC hurler should have more expectations.
  • Coming in at #40 is Holden Powell. Again, curious. If they like relievers so much, why not give Powell (or Cronin or a few others) more credit?

Guys completely unranked of note: Vaquero as previously mentioned. Jake Alu, Yoander Rivero. Both Irvin and Schaller are completely out of the rankings now due to lost injury seasons.

I dunno. Maybe this list isn’t too bad. Outside of a couple of curious spots in the top 10, the rest of the list is more or less pretty defendable.

More prospect rankings are coming this week, so stay tuned. Keith Law is releasing all his data this week and we’ll have a reaction piece because I like his analysis.

Written by Todd Boss

February 7th, 2022 at 9:17 am