Nationals Arm Race

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

First Prospect ranking of offseason: BA top 10


Kiebert Ruiz remains the #1 prospect in the system. Photo WP

We’re not even done with the World Series (between the cheaters of Houston and the culturally insensitives of Atlanta) but we’ve gotten our first prospect ranking. It comes to us from Baseball America, who normally has relatively reasonable rankings but for the pre-2022 season has given us some rather “interesting” rankings.

click here for the BA top 10 plus their list of best tools and what not.

BA’s top 10:

RankFirst NameLast NamePosition
2CadeCavalliRHP (Starter)
5AndryLaraRHP (Starter)
6ColeHenryRHP (Starter)
7JoanAdonRHP (Starter)
8GerardoCarrilloRHP (Starter)
9JacksonRutledgeRHP (Starter)

Ok. So lets do some reactions.

  • Hard to disagree with the top 2. Ruiz was already a better prospect than Cavalli when he got here, and most of the prospect shops i’m seeing have them 1-2 in this order.
  • House had such an impressive debut, it isn’t a surprise to see him rocket to #3. This is in line with most other shops.
  • Antuna at #4. Really. What exactly did he do this year to merit such a rise? He was 22 in High-A and slashed .227/.307/.385. The last time we saw him in a full season was three years ago in Low-A and he slashed … .220/.293/.331. Wow. Pretty similar, huh? During his defense of this, the BA writer Joe Healy pointed out that, oh well Antuna started out 4-67 and then “got hot.” Ok, even if you remove his 4-67 start he STILL only hit .260 for the season. Oh, and then BA listed Antuna as having the “Best Hitter for Average” in the entire system! No I’m not kidding: a career .238 hitter in the low minors is our system’s best hitter for average, according to BA. Oh by the way, he’s such a bad SS ( he committed 36 errors in 96 games this year) that the team has pushed him to be a corner OF. Great; so now we have a corner OF with no speed (17 career SBs in 246 games) and no power (.367 career slugging). I don’t mean to shower distain on the guy, but I just can’t believe he’s ranked this high by any scouting shop at this point.
  • Lara and Henry at 5-6 are pretty reasonable. I’d have liked to see more from Lara this year, but he’s still just finishing his age 18 season. Henry remains an orchid; unhittable when healthy, but frequently hurt. Hurt this year, hurt in college, etc. Of course he’s tearing it up in the AFL; he’s healthy again. I’m already getting shades of Christian Garcia: lights out when healthy … but never healthy enough to count on.
  • Joan Adon at #7. What a weird year he had. Throws 17 starts in high-A with nearly a 5.00 ERA and good but not stellar K/BB rates (9 K/9 and a 3/1 k/bb). But he gets promoted to AA nonetheless, where he gives up 20 baserunners in 14 innings to the tune of a 6.43 ERA … but strikes out a ton of guys (24 Ks in 14 innings). On the strength of that, and thanks to an arm shortage he gets moved up to AAA, where he needs 81 pitches to get through 4 innings. But since he’s on the 40-man he gets his MLB debut and throws a pretty solid game against a playoff team in Boston the last weekend of the season, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits in 5 1/3rd innings. Every other scouting bureau has him as essentially an org-guy at this point; Baseball America has him #7. I’m not sure what to think.
  • Carillo and Cruz filling out the top 10 is fine: Carillo by all accounts can’t find the plate with his secondary offerings and might end up being a 2-pitch closer. Cruz is young, struggled this year but the promise is th ere.
  • That leaves us to Jackson Rutledge. What a fall from grace for Rutledge in 2021; he starts the year as the opening day starter in High-A (ahead of Adon and Cavalli), gets hammered, is dumped to Low-A where he doesn’t fare much better, and then hits the DL for a large stretch. Meanwhile Adon ends the season in the majors and Cavalli makes the Futures game. And to think that some pundits had Rutledge ahead of Cavalli as a prospect. So, what happens next? Is this the next Jake Johannsen? Another wasted high-round draft pick in a decade of them?

Per the post-top10 release chat, some of the names just outside the top 10 include the likes of Tim Cate, Jeremy De La Rosa, Aldo Ramirez, Matt Cronin. This seems about right, these are generally the next few names in the 11-15 range on most lists.

Written by Todd Boss

October 29th, 2021 at 9:45 am

20 Responses to 'First Prospect ranking of offseason: BA top 10'

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  1. Good writeup Todd.
    The only headscratcher for me is Carillo. He was not special at all after coming over from L.A.

    Cole Henry has raced past Rutledge in the system.

    Mark L

    29 Oct 21 at 1:13 pm

  2. My thoughts…

    1. Ruiz isn’t considered a prospect by anymore, but BA has more generous standards. Anyway, he’s clearly the best young player in the system not named Juan Soto, prospect or not.
    2. No surprise to see Cavalli here. Most evaluators seem to think the command issues in the high minors can and will be ironed out, although obviously he’s never going to be a finesse guy. BA loves his stuff.
    3. House belongs here for now. Not much else to say about that. He had a really good run in the FCL and should start next year as an 18-year-old in Low-A.
    4. BA seems to really like Antuna, and I think it’s a matter of him passing the eye test for their evaluators regardless of his performance. He did get hot later on.
    5. Lara is a few months older than House and will be 19 when the Low-A season starts, but again, teenagers who hold their own in full-season ball get people talking.
    6. Henry has more upside than this, but I think this is reasonable for now. Arguably he showed enough to leapfrog Lara, but the sore elbow was concerning.
    7. Peripherals all year said Adon was unlucky to allow so many runs. Clearly, both BA and the Nats are looking past the results and see the guy we saw against Boston.
    8. Again, Carrillo’s stats post-trade were nothing special, but BA loves his stuff enough to think he’ll succeed with minus command. Let’s see him in relief.
    9. The fall was expected, but still tough to see. Rutledge continues to flash the qualities that made him a first-rounder. Health and consistency let him down.
    10. Cruz is 17. Hard to read anything into his DSL stats. I don’t think we should even read too much into his 2022 stats. He’s the age of a high school junior.


    29 Oct 21 at 3:51 pm

  3. Regarding Cruz, he’s too young and raw to be here.
    If House is #3, T.J. White was almost as good as House and would be more worthy.

    The standard to be a prospect has been 130 AB’S for quite awhile. Keibert Ruiz is not there yet.

    Mark L

    29 Oct 21 at 4:23 pm

  4. Ruiz: 104 ABs and 22 days service time … Rookie qualification is 130 ABs/50IP/45 days on the roster. So for me he’s still a prospect.

    Antuna: laughably high. One of the precious few 40-man guys in all of high-A, he basically hit this season his minor league averages. I really don’t care if he “got hot” for two months; its a 6 month season. If he got hot for two months … and that’s what we’re hoping for … well where has that 2 month stretch been for the rest of his career? And now he’s a corner OF? Well he’s certainly not hitting for the power he needs to be a corner OF prospect, yet he retains his lofty status.

    I mean, if we’re ranking players based on their signing bonuses, then just say it. BTW, if you were doing that, here’s our top 10:
    1. House $5,000,000
    2. Antuna $3,900,000
    2T. Cruz $3,900,000
    4. Rutledge $3,450,000
    5. Gilbert Lara $3,100,000
    6. Cavalli $3,027,000
    7. Denaburg $3M
    8. Romero $2,800,000
    9. Cole Henry $2M
    10. Daylen Lile $1,750,000

    (technically Mason Thompson would be #10 but we didn’t pay him that bonus)

    Adon: i’ll be amazed if he repeats his one-start magic against Boston. For me he was a 40-man guy who got socially promoted all year. And what peripherals were so amazing? High-A: 4.97 ERA and a 4.06 FIP/4.63 xfip with a .297 BABIP. I mean .. that’s just mediocre to me. He struckout a ton of guys in his 3 AA starts so his FIP looks glittery … SSS. Look; found gold if he’s actually good; i’m just saying that every other scouting shop has him as an org arm. Fangraphs: 21, Prospects1500 26, MLBpipeline 27. AND, BA didn’t even have him in their top 30 at mid-season!! Not even in the top 30, now he’s #7. I don’t get it. Either they completely forgot him mid-season or someone really, really, really has a boner for him there now.

    Todd Boss

    29 Oct 21 at 5:09 pm

  5. I’ll say this for Adon: That swingback mid-90s fastball might be the best heater I saw this season from a Nationals pitcher who didn’t get traded at the deadline.

    I’m not a big believer in xFIP, so I think a FIP nearly a full run under his ERA is pretty suggestive of bad luck at High-A. As you note, his FIP in the high minors was quite low. I’ve seen the stuff, I’ve seen it play, and I don’t think the strikeouts are really flukey. For me, the question is whether he throws enough strikes to stick in a big league rotation. We don’t have enough data to answer that question. But he finished his age-22 season (turned 23 in August) in the major leagues and struck out more batters in his debut than any debuting Nats pitcher since Rey López in 2016. His arrow is assuredly pointing up.


    29 Oct 21 at 5:55 pm

  6. With Adon i’m just afraid of SSS. Yes his FIP at AA was great; it was 3 starts where he struck out a ton of guys relative to IP. FIP *loves* strikeout guys. So that’s great.

    My salient question is basically this: If he was so amazing in his MLB start, why did he get pounded in high-A all year?

    Todd Boss

    30 Oct 21 at 2:51 pm

  7. With Adon, let’s enjoy a young player making his debut.
    He just turned 23 and the average debut age for MLB pitchers is 25.3 so he’s ahead of the curve.

    Mark L

    31 Oct 21 at 9:30 am

  8. To answer that re: Adon at High-A, consider the defense he had behind him. Yasel Antuna? Drew Mendoza? “Butchers” is too kind.

    Plus, to me, a guy getting stronger over the course of a season is a *good* thing. If it were the other way around, that’d be more concerning.


    31 Oct 21 at 7:03 pm

  9. Hey guys, sorry I’m late to this party. I hope some are still reading.

    Let’s start with Antuna. He wouldn’t be in my top 10, perhaps not even in my top 10 hitters. He just turned 22 a week ago, so it’s way too early to declare him a failed prospect. At the same time, it’s really difficult, from the hole he’s in, to project him as a major leaguer, much less an MLB starter. He’s failed as a middle infielder so doesn’t really have a position, and his bat has yet to show itself as a carrying tool, particularly for someone who is going to have to make it at a corner position.

    All of this is particularly disappointing based the hype about Antuna (and several others that also was not realized that came out of the alt-site training last summer, then with Antuna also about the bombs he supposedly was hitting in the instructional league. The Nats added him to the 40-man, and there were a lot of indications that they’d skip him to AA. Not only did they not do that, he got off to such an awful start at A+ that they probably should have demoted him. He didn’t hit, didn’t show the alleged power, and kicked the ball all over the yard at SS (36 errors in 96 games at the position).

    I then expected Antuna to be sent to the AFL, but he wasn’t. Maybe he’s in the Instrux learning a new position, or something. Who knows? What I do know is that if he truly is the #4 prospect in the organization, then the organization is in even worse shape than we suspected. He’s still got a LONG path to the majors, and I have no earthly idea why he’s still on the 40-man. Sure hope they can include him in a trade during the offseason.


    7 Nov 21 at 1:53 pm

  10. I love Ruiz. Yes, the price was steep, but how many catchers are capable of hitting .300 with 25 homers? He’s legitimately something special. There are said to be some questions about his defense, but I didn’t see anything that really concerned me in his MLB SSS. He even did some nice framing at times. This guy has All-Star potential, and he and Riley Adams should have the Nats covered behind the plate for the next half-decade.

    I think House has a higher ceiling than Cavalli, but mainly because I think House has a really high, 40-homer/year ceiling. I thought House was the highest-ceiling field player in the whole draft last year. I know there were some contact concerns with him coming out of high school, but those weren’t really an issue as he exploded onto the scene with the FCL team.

    I’ll admit to schizophrenia about Cavalli. I wasn’t a big fan of the pick, mainly because he gave up a lot of hits in college despite his great stuff. (And because the Nats needed hitters more.) I was positivity impressed with how he moved through A+ and AA, though, . . . only to see his issue of getting hit all over the yard return in AAA. So we’ll see. Until he shows more polish to support his “stuff,” it’s hard to project him as an ace. But he’s clearly the #2 or 3 in the system right now, probably #2 until House has a chance to rock Fredericksburg.


    7 Nov 21 at 2:09 pm

  11. How big is the gap between #3 and #4? Well, it’s about the size of the Pacific Ocean if one really believes that Antuna really is the #4. But I don’t.

    Who would I have at #4? Probably Henry I guess, if he can stay healthy. He’s been really sharp in the AFL. He was a much better, and more successful pitcher in college than Cavalli was. I see him as a more polished product than Cavalli and Rutledge, and therefore with a higher floor and less potential of washing out.

    I still believe in Rutledge’s stuff, apparently more than Todd does. I would write off most of the 2021 struggles to him not being completely healthy. Is he healthy in the AFL? We don’t know. Henry certainly has been the more successful of the two there.

    I do think that there’s still substantial risk that Rutledge ends up as a reliever, and at least some that Cavalli does as well. However, considering the direction MLB pitching his headed (did Rizzo actually watch any of the playoffs?!?), perhaps that’s not as dreaded a development as this organization seems to make it out to be.


    7 Nov 21 at 2:19 pm

  12. Mark, I’m glad you mentioned T.J. White, as I’m really high on him. He has a 60-70 power grade, which he backed up with his FCL performance, plus he’s so young that next year will only count as his age-18 season. White would be somewhere in the second half of my top 10.

    Speaking of teenagers, I expected the much-hyped Armando Cruz to start in the FCL, which the Nats usually have done with their big-bucks signees. Not only did he not show up in FLA, he didn’t hit much at all in the Dominican. Yes, he’s still young, but only half a year younger than House and White. Cruz is totally ranked based on signing bonus at the moment, plus all the chatter that built up around him in the two years before that international class could be signed. Anyway, there’s nothing tangible about him yet that would argue for having him in the top 10.

    I like Daylen Lile’s profile, but he didn’t hit much in the FCL. Jeremy de la Rosa struggled with being pushed to full-season A. His numbers are yet to align with his hype. Same with Sammy Infante, who I had expected to see in Fredericksburg. Instead, he stayed in FLA and only hit .215. Next year will already be his age-21 season. So much for paying the premium to sign him as a high schooler. There’s a fair amount of hype about Roismar Quintana as well, but he only managed to get on the field for seven FCL games. Would they push him on to Fredericksburg anyway?

    I didn’t quite understand why the Nats picked Branden Boissiere so high. Will Frizzell had a much better corner-position hitting profile, and he delivered in SSS in the FCL. Yet he’s not even in the top 30 on the list.

    Speaking of guys who showed up and hit, I’ll admit that I sort of laughed off the redraft of Darren Baker, but darned if he didn’t show up ready to prove something. Speed is going to have to be his calling card, as he doesn’t seem to be developing his father’s body, but he’s a better-developed overall baseball player than Antuna is, at only half a year older. Is he a top-10 player in the system? No. But as of now, I’d give him a better shot at getting more ABs in the majors than Antuna does.


    7 Nov 21 at 2:41 pm

  13. I have no idea what to think about Adon. I think I used the “social promotion” label on him this season like Todd just did. The stats just don’t show much, certainly nothing to support a lot of belief in his MLB debut. This is a guy with a 4.97 ERA at A+ and 6.43 at AA. Yes, he strikes out guys, and yes, 2022 will only be his age 23 season. But I expect him to be back at AA, and mostly struggling.

    Lara is all based on hype. There’s very little performance to go on. Let’s hope he’s that good, but who really knows?

    Let me add here, though, a total overall skepticism of the Nats and Latino pitchers. The only two of their Latino signees who have stuck in the majors have been Suero and Rey Lopez. Neither has set the world on fire, although Suero used to be pretty decent. Jefry Rodriguez flashed a little but really hasn’t amounted to much. That’s it, folks. Every year, there is all this hype about this or that Latino flamethrower. It has amounted to almost nothing. Until it does amount to something, or even at least show itself in the stats, I’ll remain a skeptic.

    Of course the same could be said about a lot of the Nats’ domestic draftee arms as well. So-so-so many wasted picks, not to mention on-going delusions in guys like Fedde. It’s also pretty disconcerting to see top-10 lists that don’t include two #1 picks in Denaburg and Romero. If we’re “projecting” Lara and Adon based on some magic pixie dust, does Denaburg not have similar dust? Next year will still only be his age-22 season.

    Mitchell Parker is a month younger than Denaburg and struck out everything that moved in 2021. Yes, he’s still got a lot to learn about pitching. Yes, he may end up in the bullpen. But there seems to be a good bit to dream on with him.

    As for Carrillo, let’s start banging the bullpen drum. I’ve seen Sao go on similar rants. The Nats have a MASSIVE need for bullpen arms, yet they continue to insist that everyone is a starter. No, they’re not. Everything says that Carrillo belongs in the bullpen. At this point, Romero belongs in the ‘pen, no matter where he was drafted. Fuentes does as well, Braymer, probably Cate (who really shouldn’t be ranked very highly anymore coming off an awful season). Parker likely is headed for relief. Why, oh why, are the Nats so resistant to having guys learn the craft, and mental preparation, of pitching in relief? It’s totally different from starting. They need a whole different system-wide approach to defining pitching roles.


    7 Nov 21 at 3:06 pm

  14. KW, I’m glad your on the T.J. White bandwagon. Both he and House tore up the FCL and are very young.

    Next year in Fredericksburg is going to be very exciting.

    Mark L

    8 Nov 21 at 11:10 am

  15. I honestly don’t understand why there isn’t more excitement about White. Maybe he pans out, maybe he doesn’t, but he was already 6-2, 210, when he turned 18 and homered four times in 17 pro games. You don’t have to “project” whether he’s going to grow, or develop power. It’s already there. And big power is as much or more of a commodity in the game right now as it’s ever been.

    If Luke does his Top Bats list this year, I may put White at #3, behind only Ruiz and House. I don’t see anyone else with more of a ceiling, and it’s a lot easier to “project” on 6-2/210 than it is on de la Rosa, Quintana, Lile, Cruz, Infante, et al.

    House, White, and Frizzell together in F’burg next summer could be quite a power show. I assume Lile and Infante will be there as well, maybe Quintana, maybe de la Rosa repeating the level. And Darren Baker trying to steal 40 or 50.


    8 Nov 21 at 2:37 pm

  16. There’s even less buzz about Frizzell. Yes, he was a senior signee and will turn 23 in February. He’s also pretty position-limited. He’s got a narrow time frame in which to perform, and he’s got to show a lot of power or he’s got no path. At Texas A&M as a senior, though, he slashed .343/.451/.686 with 19 homers and 13 doubles in only 56 games. It was a huge power surge for him as a senior. He also took a lot more walks.

    Who knows whether he’ll make it, but those numbers in the SEC sure make him worth a look. So do 6-5/225. Nothing to “project” there, either. He, House, and White will bring some serious size to the FredNats.


    8 Nov 21 at 2:47 pm

  17. And then there’s the guy who wasn’t rated the Nats’ top prospect, because people kept deluding themselves about Robles’s alleged “five tools”:

    Really, this is the deal that the Nats HAVE TO make, right? They can’t let Soto walk. It would crush the franchise. To be able to pay him like this, though, they have to develop more cheap, controlled internal talent, like the guys we’re discussing here.


    9 Nov 21 at 6:51 am

  18. And boy, Rutledge isn’t looking good in AZ. I’m not ready to follow Todd into the Jake Johannsen label yet, but he isn’t fooling anyone right now. Henry is looking a whole lot better against the same competition.


    9 Nov 21 at 12:33 pm

  19. […] already saw the Baseball America top 10 list, which I found laughable for a number of reasons. Let’s see how Prospects361 and its […]

  20. […] 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: […]

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