Nationals Arm Race

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

2021 Full Season Affiliate Rosters announced


Steven Fuentes will be an important member of the AAA rotation to start the season. Photo nats official via

This is a quick announcement with some links and to basically notify everyone that I’ve updated the Big Board for the four full season affiliate rosters just announced. I’ve also eliminated the Fredericksburg “extended spring training camp” … hopefully for the last time.

Here’s direct links to the four rosters:

Anyone not known to be released i’ve stuck in the XST roster to the far right of the big board.

As far as I can tell, here’s the likely rotations for the four clubs, based on prior usage and how I’d allocate the arms. This is of course a WAG until the first week of the season shakes out the true rotations. I’ll list a 6-man rotation since, with the move to 6-game series, it’s highly likely we’ll see 6-man rotations throughout the minors.

  • AAA: Armenteros, Baez, Braymer, Fuentes, Jefry Rodriguez and newly signed MLFA veteran lefty Sean Nolin.
  • AA: Cate, Lee, Mario Sanchez, Sharp, Teel and I guess Luis Reyes.
  • High-A: Adon, Cavalli, Dyson, Henry, Peterson and Rutledge.
  • Low-A: Pedro Gonzalez, Parker, Pena … and I have no idea; everyone else I have listed as a reliever from last year.

My thoughts on Arms that are or are not on each roster.

AAA pitching staff thoughts: somewhat surprised Sharp is not here. Not entirely surprised Romero is not. In a further indictment of the Nats development, nearly the entire AAA bullpen are MLFAs. Of the 10 bullpen arms in AAA, 7 are minor league free agents, an 8th is a trade acquisition who has already been outrighted (Bacus), a 9th is another trade acquisition in Ryne Harper, and the 10th is a twice-MLFA resigned former draft pick in Ronald Pena who is now entering his 9th minor league season with this team. That’s just crazy.

Missing older arms that should be here, guys like Aaron Barrett, Javy Guerra, Andrew Istler, etc. I wonder if they’re still hurt. Where the heck is Nick Wells? (answer; not on the page but in the press release)

AA pitching staff: we see Sharp starting in AA when he was on Miami’s MLB roster last year, likely a bitter pill for him. I sense the AA roster is still a bit light as of this writing and may see a couple more arms added. I like Cate and I can’t wait to see what Sanchez can do here. I can’t believe Romero isn’t at least here. Klobotis is on this roster; still cannot believe how successful he has been as a 36th round draft pick.

High A pitching staff; well, if you want to know what the future of the franchise is, you’re driving to Wilmington. Basically the entire top side of our top10 list will be in the Wilmington rotation. Headlined by top end draft picks from the last couple of years in Cavalli, Rutledge and Henry, but also including farm system dark-horse Adon and Peterson, who stuck around MLB camp nearly the longest of any prospect this year. In the bullpen we have our two best reliever prospects in Powell and Cronin (who closes?) There’s no room in the rotation for 2018 3rd rounder Reid Schaller, who may do tandem starts or might get moved to the pen. I expect lots of scouts in Delaware this summer.

Low A pitching staff: First thing that pops up here is the sudden presence of Tanner Driskill, who missed all of 2019 with injury (I guess), then was MIA in 2020 like everyone else. I thought he was released two years ago. Good to have him back in the fold.

Tomorrow I’ll post some thoughts on the non-pitcher rosters, noting interesting machinations from a player movement perspective.

(Note: as it turns out the rosters may not entirely be in sync with the press releases identifying opening day rosters, so apologies if some of the above is slightly wrong.

9 Responses to '2021 Full Season Affiliate Rosters announced'

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  1. Steven Fuentes’ thousand-yard stare feels apropos in light of the Nats’ baffling decision to call him up to while away in the bullpen for ten days, then send him down to Triple-A to be a starting pitcher.


    3 May 21 at 10:26 pm

  2. Man these full season opening day rosters is really an indictment of how weak this system is at the upper levels. Basically all of the outfielders are just organizational depth at each level. I was hoping to see Andry Lara, Roismar Quintana, Daniel Marte, and Jeremy De La Rosa on some of these full season rosters.Surprised none of them are on. Especially De La Rosa, I thought he might even be a Hi-A candidate considering the helium on him, and the fact he allegedly performed against upper level pitching at the alternate site last year. Gotta wonder are the Nats getting conservative with young Latin prospects now or did none of them show in minor league spring training, which may say more about these players long term potential. Other than High-A Wilmington or unless someone breaks out doesn’t appear there is a whole lot to see on these rosters.Still I’ll be curious, pay attention, and excited.


    4 May 21 at 8:45 am

  3. Completely agree about the curiosity/disappoint of them not deeming De La Rosa and Lara ready for a full-season team, particularly De La Rosa, after he already played stateside in 2019 and was at the alt site in 2020. I’m somewhat skeptical of the hype on him anyway, and this just increases my skepticism.

    Also agree with Todd that almost the entire future of what the Nats’ organization has to offer is on the mound in Wilmington. It’s not just the starters, it’s also Cronin, Powell, Schaller, Troop, and Evan Lee.

    Also in Wilmington, also in the not-living-up-to-the-hype department, is Antuna. Some were speculating that he’d jump all the way to AAA. He’s in A+. The hitters who skipped a level were Mendoza, Cluff, and major-leaguer Cody Wilson. Of those three, Mendoza is the only one I see with an outside chance to be an MLB regular.

    And yes, a rather bizarre demotion of Sharp (and Mario Sanchez) to AAA. Also weird if they do indeed keep Fuentes as a starter. I’m not saying he can’t do it — he posted very good numbers starting part of the season at AA in ’19 — but it continues the trend of not letting guys who might be solid relievers gain experience at the relief craft.

    And where have you gone, Seth Romero? Nats Nation turns its lonely eyes . . . away from the scene of one of its greatest draft disasters.


    4 May 21 at 10:36 am

  4. So, on Seth Romero, we finally got a hint of what has happened to him.

    In MLBpipeline’s “where are they starting” for our top prospects:

    romero is listed as injured with a “Rib.” Finally, someone gives us a clue.

    Todd Boss

    4 May 21 at 11:31 am

  5. Good job on the Big Board, Todd.

    Take all news on ‘knucklehead’ with a truckload of salt. Like that ‘fall’ he had last year.

    Mark L

    4 May 21 at 4:06 pm

  6. Nats and their minor league affiliates went 0-5 today. Not so good. But only one way to go from here…


    5 May 21 at 2:22 am

  7. New posted some quick thoughts on the hitters.

    BTW on the big board i’m adding bullpen roles … or at least trying to. closer, setup, middle relief, loogies and swing men. Just like in majors.

    Todd Boss

    5 May 21 at 12:37 pm

  8. Rutledge scouting report from keith law in athletic today:

    Wilmington started right-hander Jackson Rutledge, the Nationals’ first-round pick in 2019 and their No. 2 prospect, all 6’8″ of him, and he was reasonably impressive in his own right even if he couldn’t match Rodriguez’s velocity. Rutledge was at 93-97 mph and pitched entirely off his fastball, without any offspeed pitches at all until the second inning. He eventually showed four pitches in total, with an average to slightly above-average slider at 83-85 that wasn’t as good as expected, but a changeup at 85-86 that flashed plus and exceeded expectations. If that latter pitch becomes more consistent for him — the Nats had him work on it at the alternate site in 2020 — he’s more likely to remain a starter, and to become an above-average one.

    Despite his size, Rutledge’s arm action is extremely short, and that’s come up as a concern from scouts when discussing his eventual role. We have seen pitchers switch to shorter arm actions in the last few years and become more effective as starters without any new arm problems, though and while Rutledge’s is shorter than most, I don’t see anything here to say he can’t repeat it or start, especially since he’s mostly on time. The one delivery hiccup here is that he starts on the extreme third base side of the rubber and comes straight down the hill, rather than landing more toward the plate, which could make it difficult for him to get to his glove side, but that’s a simple adjustment to make it if becomes a problem. He looks like a future mid-rotation workhorse assuming the changeup keeps progressing.

    Todd Boss

    5 May 21 at 12:37 pm

  9. “Mid-rotation workhorse” isn’t a dreadful outcome for Rutledge, especially since his pitch development and sheer *size* give him #1/2 upside. So he seems to have a fairly high floor and then a fairly high ceiling, although I don’t think he’s the second coming of Stephen Strasburg or anything like that. If he ends up being Jordan Zimmermann, I’m very happy with that.


    5 May 21 at 5:13 pm

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