Nationals Arm Race

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

Keith Law’s Nats Top 20 Prospect list


Andry Lara continues to get attention out of the Nat’s system. Photo via Baseball America

Keith Law, over on the Athletic, released his Washington Nationals top 20 analysis yesterday. I like Law’s analysis, and realize that his opinions can be a bit polarizing, but I thought i’d run through his list and provide some analysis in spots where he differed greatly from other pundits in the space.

By this point in the “prospect analysis season” we’ve seen Nats run-throughs from Baseball America, Prospect361, MLBpipeline’s preliminary list, Prospects 1500, Bleacher Report, Baseball Prospectus, and now Keith Law. Still waiting for a couple other big names to drop (Mlbpipeline’s final list, ESPN, and Fangraphs), all of which should be coming in the next week ro so, but we’re starting to see some standardization of the lists.

Law’s ranking is “ceiling over floor” (meaning he likes younger prospects with growth potential versus older prospects who may be limited in terms of future impact). He’s definitely starter over reliever (its kind of surprising to ever see him rank a reliever) and premium defensive position over corner. So, there’s some surprises on this list.

The Athletic is behind a paywall, so here’s the list.

10De La RosaJeremy

Thoughts on his rankings:

  • Same top 3 as nearly all other pundits, in the expected order of Cavalli, Rutledge, Henry. I’d like to point out that the best-case projection for these three guys is a heck of a trio of arms to pair with Strasburg and Corbin for a few years at the back-end of their long term contracts. I mean, there’s worse situations to be in. Especially if all three are pitching in the majors on pre-arb contracts.
  • Andry Lara at #4: this is about where others are now putting him; the video on him is pretty impressive. Effortless delivery, almost like Livan Hernandez but with velocity, and side-stuff.
  • He has Roismar Quintana all the way up to #5, way way higher than anyone else (Baseball America had Quintana at #20 and most others have him in the mid-teens). This exemplifies ceiling over floor approach to prospect grading to a T.
  • He’s got our two high-profile 1st round scuffles in Denaburg and Romero back to back, fittingly. Question; at what point does a prospect write-up of Romero NOT mention that he’s got “off-the-field” issues? I daresay i have not read a paragraph about the player since the day we drafted him that did not include that caveat. I wonder if he makes the majors and pitches for us for several years and then when we hear about his first arbitration hearing if the write-ups will go, “… Romero pitched adequately out of the nats bullpen in 2026 … he’s come a long way since getting kicked off his college team!” sigh.
  • Law has Antuna all the way down at #11 (by way of comparison, BA has him #4 and Prospects1500 has him at #2, which may be influenced by fantasy value since he’s now on the 40-man and might get big league time in 2021). I think Law dings him because he doesn’t think Antuna can stick at a premium defensive position … which greatly hurts his value unless he can show 25-homer power.
  • Despite having TJ surgery, Law has Jake Irvin all the way up to #16, noting that he was showing significantly higher velocity before blowing out his elbow (do you think maybe the two events are related?) Nonetheless, if Irvin comes back with a new elbow and the same velocity, he’s a significantly better prospect.
  • Evan Lee at #17 … that’s definitely optimistic on Lee.
  • Bryan Sanchez at #20 and now we know why; 3,000 rpm on his curve ball right now to go with mid 90s velocity?? As an 18yr old? Wow.

A couple other notes:

  • Cluff and Mendoza were BA’s #10 and #11 … and Law doesn’t even have them in his top 20.
  • No mention of Tres Barrera who is mid-teens in most other groups, not even in his honorable mentions.
  • Lastly, he drops a name i’ve never heard before: Mirton Blanco. Turns out he’s an 2018 IFA who threw in the DSL in 2019 with pretty solid velocity before blowing out his elbow too. Seems like a trend.

15 Responses to 'Keith Law’s Nats Top 20 Prospect list'

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  1. The good news is Law lives in Wilmington, so we should get some real scouting on our High A guys.

    The was a lot of buzz on Evan Lee last year. Another player I’m dying to see what level he starts.

    Mark L

    16 Feb 21 at 10:32 am

  2. In response to those who say “how can our farm system be #30, we have so many high-end pitching prospects!?” you can find the answer in the fact that guys we’ve never heard of are rounding out these top-20 and top-30 lists.

    At any rate, I love seeing the love for Viandel Peña, whose profile just screams “fan favorite” and who went almost completely unrecognized in 2019 when he was one of the best players in the entire Gulf Coast League.


    17 Feb 21 at 11:04 am

  3. Who claims we have “many high-end pitching prospects?” Cavalli and Rutledge look promising… but they’re nowhere near what i’d call a “high-end” prospect.

    MacKenzie Gore? Nate Pearson? Those are high-end pitching prospects. 1st rounders who were in AA as 19yr olds holding their own. Guys who made the majors by age 23.

    Todd Boss

    17 Feb 21 at 2:51 pm

  4. Gee Todd, did you have to bring up Nate Pearson? That’s a low blow. He was picked FIVE spots after ‘knucklehead’ and now he’s the #5 prospect in all of baseball.

    Mark L

    17 Feb 21 at 3:13 pm

  5. The 2017 1st round draft

    Also notable: we’ve already released our 3rd round pick from that draft, traded away the 2nd rounder, watched the 5th rounder retire, traded the 6th rounder, released the 8th rounder …

    just not a good draft for the team.

    Todd Boss

    17 Feb 21 at 3:49 pm

  6. Pundit clickbait is now moldy. The news is from the NRI of the Nationals spring training, and what substantive discussion it opens:

    NRI list includes Todd Peterson, 7th Rd pick in 2019, and Gabe Klobosits. The former, an LSU product, has never been part of the “prospect” discussion. But he’s obviously used the COVID break unusually well.
    Big Gabe was a post-draft sensation in 2017 until he needed surgery and disappeared until 2019, when he showed up in A+ and held his own.

    So no, they are not on the “lists,” unlike other players who have not played a lick. What they are, is ON THE FIELD. As are Condra-Bogan and Cody Wilson. And that is all that matters.

    They’ve been waiting for Wilson to break out for two years. And Bogan looked like he had another gear in 2019. Hopefully Big Gabe is the Gabe of old. And Peterson and his SEC pedigree? Who knows?


    17 Feb 21 at 4:09 pm

  7. Here is an article from Fantrax about the Nats Top 20 prospect with some detail:


    17 Feb 21 at 7:35 pm

  8. I did the thing, so here’s the annual TalkNats “field guide” to new players, including all 31 NRIs, plus the 10 new additions to the 40-man roster (Antuna, Fuentes, Adon, Armenteros, Clay, Bell, Schwarber, Lester, Hand, and Avila):

    It’s, uh, long, so maybe bookmark it and refer back to it if you see someone in a photo or a game and you have no idea who it is. By my count, 71 participants in major league spring training this year, which I believe is a record for the Nats and isn’t even necessarily the final count, with the market still bubbling and the possibility some prospects are added late.


    18 Feb 21 at 2:12 am

  9. Sao, thanks for the post on TN. It’s an excellent reference point. As Todd does time and again here, when you roll up your sleeves and create a reference point, it makes for a great read, time and again.


    18 Feb 21 at 2:40 am

  10. Not that this would happen, but with the Nationals squarely at 39 spots, and all of the player traffic happening, one has to wonder whether they have their eye on someone’s DFA for the last roster spot. I’m reminded of that in particular with the A’s adding several to their roster in recent days, now Rosenthal. Rizzo knows the A’s system better than others, as we all know, and it may be about time for the Nationals to add another Kyle Finnegan.

    Just wondering…


    18 Feb 21 at 11:06 am

  11. yeah … Fantrax is fantasy tinged ranking so I don’t really like it as much. Putting a college reliever in the top 15 is a perfect example of this: in real baseball, a straight-to-reliever is really not as good of a prospect as someone who is still starting at the same age and same level. I also see some guys they’ve moved too far up for dynasty drafting purposes, guys who are good but years and years away and are far more ceiling than reality. But thanks for the link.

    Todd Boss

    18 Feb 21 at 11:14 am

  12. I’ve updated the big board for all the NRIs. 32 by my count. 71 in camp – 39 on 40-man = 32.

    I have a recurring NRI post that i’ll do next. Fun fact: at least one NRI has made the 25-man roster for this team every year since 2015.

    Todd Boss

    18 Feb 21 at 11:30 am

  13. It is 32, sorry. Sleepy typo last night.


    18 Feb 21 at 11:34 am

  14. I’m watching Chapman as a target, with Kieboom and AAAA pitching going back. The A’s cut payroll, get young Nats talent which has served them well. Nats get great IF defense and thump and affordable control for three years. All of this talk of Kieboom is posturing for the public. Both teams know one another.

    Rizzo is smart enough to dream on another Josh Donaldson trade, and he loves his stars, and this is a deal that would be far more affordable than a Suarez trade.


    18 Feb 21 at 11:44 am

  15. new posting on NRIs and predicting who might make the roster.

    Todd Boss

    18 Feb 21 at 12:18 pm

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