Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for March, 2022

MLBPipeline Nats top 30 Prospects


Vaquero is here, and here to stay. Photo via

In our continuing series of reviewing/reacting/criticizing Nats prospect lists as they’re released, today we got a big one. The team (which includes senior prospect analysts Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo, and Sam Dykstra) has released their updated top 30 rankings for our system.

Here’s the links to past analysis: Keith Law/The Athletic, Baseball America,, Prospects1500, Prospects361. We’re still waiting for a couple major shops who generally release rankings: Fangraphs, ESPN, BleacherReport, and CBSsports.

Back to MLBPipeline’s list, which is perhaps the most respected source out there. Here’s the link to the story and the list itself.

Lets do some reactions.

  • At the top, Ruiz is graduated, so they go Cavalli-House at 1-2 like everyone else.
  • They’ve got our next two significant arms at 3-4 (that being Henry/Rutledge). Law had them 3-4 as well, just in the reverse order. Notably, no other shop has these two arms as high, most pushing them down in to the 6-9 range. Which tells you what I think about this source versus others.
  • MLBpipeline is one of the first to rank Vaquero legitimately; they’ve got him 5th as a starting point in the system. The only other shop to even bother attempting to rank him immediately post signing was ProspectsLive (who had him 4th).
  • Next three are our tertiary tier of RHP starters; in order Lara, Carrillo, Adon. No quibbling here; all three could serve as really useful arms in our system in one fashion or another. Having these three guys in the 6-8 range is completely reasonable.
  • They’re high on Daylen Lile, having him at #10. But their scouting report is a little dour, projecting him as a bat first spray hitting 4th outfielder.
  • Antuna: down at #12. Finally a realistic ranking of a career .238 hitter who projects as a corner OF with no power.
  • Quintana continues to be all over the map: they have him #15; he’s been as high as #7 (Keith Law) and as low as #24 (Baseball America).
  • Boissiere comes in at #17 … after missing BA’s entire top 30.
  • Lucius Fox is #23 … one of the few times we’ve ever had a waiver claim be ranked in our prospects list.
  • Several recently drafted players are in the 20s but entirely missing from BA’s list, guys like Saenz and White.
  • Mason Denaburg gets #30 treatment, but Seth Romero is nowhere to be seen.

Notable missing players

  • Holden Powell‘s injuries have dropped him off the radar; he needs a bounce back 2022.
  • Daniel Marte: completely off the radar too.
  • Tim Cate: completely unranked but is as high as #12 on Law’s list. Interesting how little he’s rated.
  • Riley Adams: nowhere to be seen despite being #11 on BA’s list. I guess a backup catcher who we all think is going to play every 4th day is not a prospect.
  • Mason Thompson; another guy who BA had just outside their top 10 … then suddenly he wasn’t there at all. Did he graduate rookie eligibility? I can’t tell.

Update post publishing: per commenter, Adams and Thompson have graduated … which makes you then ask, “well why the hell is he on BAs’ list?” And the answer there is … well, because i don’t know. It’d be super helpful if would have listed them as having graduated (since that’s my primary source for determining that). I’ll update my docs.

Written by Todd Boss

March 21st, 2022 at 12:36 pm

New CBA Details and Analysis


After “losing” the last two CBA negotiations, the player’s union was in a tough spot. They’ve already let the proverbial camel’s nose into the tent (with respect to the salary cap), and they knew they couldn’t completely get rid of it, so they leveraged what they could to get what they could.

Here’s some of the key parameters and thresholds the two sides agreed upon on 3/10/22. Using the excellent reporting by Evan Drellich from the Athletic as a starting point and then attempting to get information out of a dozen other sources who are dripping out CBA details … here’s some parameters of the new deal that i’ve found. there’s a lot to digest.

  • No Lost games: 162 game season planned, starting a few days later than normal with a compressed spring training.
  • Expanded Playoffs: this was the biggest bargaining chip the Players had, and they used it to get all the salary benefits below. 12-teams, a 3-game play-in, byes for the two best records. This is a huge win for the owners, who will net an estimated $85M per year with expanded playoffs. Phew. As a side effect, no more game 163s (a bummer), as the league will go to NFL-style tiebreakers to determine seeding. #1 Seed plays winner of #4/#5 Wildcard, #2 seed plays winner of #3 division winner/#6 wild card. No re-seeding. The play-ins are 3-game series entirely at the home site. I’m on board here, with the knowledge that a couple more teams can be a disincentive for FA spending (but can be a huge boom during the trade deadline).
  • Pre-Arbitration pool of $50M. This is brand new, and addresses the player complaints about players not getting paid enough early. The idea here is to dole out this pool to the highest performers on pre-arb salaries to get them compensation for production before they can earn it through arb and free agency processes. The pool supports the best 100 players, meaning an average of $500k per player, which seems like peanuts honestly given the cases where you have a Mike Trout generating a 10-win season at age 20, but its a start. Jayston Stark reports that last year as an example, Vladimir Guerrero would have netted an additional $1.75M salary. Again; a start, but still not paying the guy anywhere near his value.
  • Minimum Salary rises from $570,500 in 2021 to 700k, rising to $780k by 2026. That’s not bad.
  • Minor league Minimum salaries are rising too. Veterans with prior big league experience who are in the minors earned a minimum of $93k in 2021: that figure rises to $114,100 this year, with small rises each year to max out at $127,100 in 2016.
  • CBT Salary Cap rises from $210M in 2021 to $230MM/$232MM/$236MM/$244MM over the next four years. That’s something, probably not really enough in the grand scheme of things since there’s no corresponding floor AND only a few teams will even approach it. But its a start.
  • New CBT breaking penalities: The thresholds for 2022 are $230M/$250M/$270M/$290M. The agreement does put in additional penalties for going way, WAY over it (like what the Mets are going to do this year), but still allows teams to duck underneath and “reset” their penalties.
  • Dropping of $500M grievance from 2020 shortened season: I’m sure this was not something the owners wanted to see in a courtroom, given that the evidence clearly showed that they basically negotiated exactly to the number of games they wanted and the players knew it.
  • Players Union does NOT drop existing grievance against Rays, A’s, Pirates and Marlins (all of whom took in tens of millions of dollars in revenue sharing and are accused of not using it for payroll). This still needs to be litigated, and in my opinion is still a huge issue in the sport. Really, if you get money from other teams and you don’t use it to enhance the on-the-field product, you really should just be forced to sell.
  • New rules with 45 day notice as opposed to a year’s notice for any “on the field change.” I’m surprised they allowed for this, since new rules can be pretty jarring for veterans.
  • Three specific rules coming for 2023: banning the shift, larger bases, and a Pitch clock. I’ve talked about these issues in this space and i’m good with all three. The pitch clock by itself shaved more than 20 minutes off of games in the league it was tested in, shifts can be show to be directly related with precipitous drops in BABIP and wOBA over the past few years, and larger bases is a nothing-burger rule change that nobody should really care about.
  • 2021 Rule 5 Draft officially cancelled: apparently the teams got together and were just like, ah forget it, its useless anyway.
  • Draft Lottery at the top: the two sides have agreed to a lottery at the top of the draft; the top 6 picks/worst 6 teams will now use a lottery to determine who drafts first as opposed to directly by their record. Baseball is not Basketball (the other major US sport that does this); you don’t get immediate-impact/generational talents at the top of each draft, and top draft picks very frequently flame out early, so the lottery in some respects is a superficial fix. However, the MONEY associated with the lottery slots is huge: the difference in 2021 between picking 1st and 6th was $3M. $3M in “bonus dollar currency” basically is a mid-first rounder, or two mid-second round players. That’s huge.
  • Limits on teams in the Lottery over and over: this is pretty big. Large market teams are prevented from being in the lottery more than one season in a row, and smaller market teams cannot be in it two years in a row. So teams like ahem Houston and Chicago (who purposely bottomed out to get high draft picks for years in a row) can never do that again, and inept smaller market teams who year after year are in the lottery (Pittsburgh, Baltimore) are prevented from doing so as well. These teams will get kicked down to 10th in the order. This isn’t a panacea for tanking, but its a big win. The difference between the top 2-3 and #10 is massive.
  • Removal of 2021 “man on 2nd in extra innings” rule. to the collective sigh of purists.
  • Return to normal 9-inning double headers: again, a purist move to remove a one-off rule change for 2021.
  • Service time changes: call this the “Kris Bryant” rule; if a player is kept in the minors for service time manipulation purposes but finishes in the top 2 of RoY voting, they get a full year of service time awarded. It only affects 4 players a year … but its a start.
  • Permanent roster limit on # of pitchers at 13: this is probably good for the sport, and probably something teams saw coming anyway.
  • Advertising on Jerseys: its coming. For me, as a long-time soccer fan, its a non-issue and inevitable. Purists will, of course, lose their minds the moment they see a patch on the Yankees’s century-old pinstripes. I think its just “patches” and not logos across the chest.
  • Universal DH: this seemed like a no-brainer for both sides … and it is FINALLY here. I’ve been advocating for this move for nearly a decade; here’s a 2013 post I wrote about it, and basically everything I wrote then is still true. Ironic that our own Ryan Zimmerman, who probably could have hung on for another season had he known we had a DH, already retired.
  • Limits on Options: this is a pro-player move that probably doesn’t come into play for a ton of guys, but some teams are notorious for basically using options as a way to have an expanded roster, sending players back and forth to AAA over and over (Ahem, Tampa). Eno Sarris dives into it more here. There were players who were optioned more than a DOZEN times last year, a ridiculous logistical nightmare for these guys.
  • Amateur Draft now permanently at 20 rounds. This is not really that surprising; the league axed the entirety of Short-A ball, and rounds 20-30 basically existed to pick college players to play for half a season in these leagues. We don’t need that many players anymore … and for years the rounds 30-40 were essentially useless anyway.
  • Draft Pick Inducements for teams who carry top-performing rookies from opening-day. Interesting. Still seems like a crap shoot, and something that only affects the absolute very best rookies.
  • Easing the Unbalanced Schedule: starting in 2023, teams will play fewer divisional games. Interesting. Details still coming in, but it sounds like each team will play all 30 teams each year. That’d be really different. Instead of playing each divisional rival 19 times each year, that will fall to 14 times (56 of the 162 games), with the difference made up with a ton more interleague play.
  • Arbitration players to get cut in Spring training get full salary: thsi is a nice little pro-player change: if a player settles with his team on a figure, he’s guaranteed that number; no more cutting a player in spring training and getting away with just a percentage of the salary.
  • Small waiver wire changes: last year a player named Jacob Nottingham got jerked around multiple times in a weird waiver-wire claim issue between two teams, changing franchises multiple times. The players union clearly noticed and now teams cannot make a second claim on a player unless all other teams pass.
  • PED Testing changes: players will be tested more, and HGH testing will go from a blood draw to a blood spot.

Delayed negotiations: the two sides kicked the can down the road on two issues now tied to each other:

  • Qualifying Offers: players want to get rid of them and the Draft picks associated with them (because the draft picks serve as a regressive action on the Free Agency market and depress value for players).
  • International Draft: owners want it because, why else? It saves them money.

I personally think the players would be FOOLS to capitulate on the international draft for the sake of a handful of the (on average) 10-15 players a year who go through the QO process. I’ve done QO analysis for years and you can count on one hand the number of times a player was truly screwed by the QO process. And even those players who had to sit out part of the season, or take significantly less money than they were worth generally still made out later on. Players would be idiots to trade that benefit, which affects a fraction of 1% of their union to trade away the rights of every international player outside of the US. And while doing it, likely neuter or outright destroy baseball pipelines in certain latin american countries (akin to what the draft did to Puerto Rico). MLB owners are bottom-line, short sighted, wanting to save a penny instead of investing it to make a dollar later, and this is yet another example of them drastically harming the future of their sport … but the Union doesn’t represent 16yr old kids from the DR. So, expect it to happen.

What did we NOT get that was talked about/demanded?

  • Salary floor: yes the salary cap went up by 10% … but the Salary floor was not correspondingly implemented. This seems like a loss to the players, who have seen their average salary drop by 6.4% since 2017 at the same time that MLB revenues have increased more that 30%.
  • Age-based Service time: this was abandoned as a non-starter
  • Earlier to Arbitration: abandoned as a non-starter.
  • WAR-based salary determination; abandoned … though I like where they were going.
  • Expanded Active Rosters: still on the table perhaps, but not codified. we may get temporary expanded rosters to 28 players thanks to the compressed spring training.

What do I think? Well, the players got some wins, but i dont’ feel like the owners really had to make sacrifices. No salary floor, no elimination of the cap. The owners probably could care less about incremental salaries for the windfall they’re going to get from expanded playoffs. Notably, the player’s union vote included every “executive committee” player (basically the most respected veterans in the league) rejecting this deal.

but at least we’re playing ball again.

Note: a TON more detail has come out since this initial posting. The Athletic has a very comprehensive article on the new CBA with a ton more details here:

Written by Todd Boss

March 11th, 2022 at 9:55 am

Its Over! New CBA agreed upon

one comment

Well, this is a shocker to me. Out of nowhere, and with the two parties tens of millions of dollars apart on several key issues as of the last update … word just came out that they’ve suddenly agreed to a deal.

We’ll do a more in-depth analysis of the terms later on … i wanted to get something out there today though to remind you that

a) yes i’m still here

b) yes I still write on this blog … though not as frequently as I used to


c) more is coming.

We’re still waiting for a slew of major prospect ranking shops to release their Nats lists, and we’ll continue to react to them. But now that we have a CBA, we’re going to see an amazingly frantic transaction period coming up … i’ll do my best to keep the Big Board up to date.

Written by Todd Boss

March 10th, 2022 at 3:41 pm