Nationals Arm Race

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

Prospects361 Nats top 15 released


Andry Lara is rising up the prospect boards. Photo via

Since I love prospect lists, I’ll write a reaction piece to every Nats prospect list ranking that I see this off-season. What else are we gonna talk about during the lockout?

We already saw the Baseball America top 10 list, which I found laughable for a number of reasons. Let’s see how Prospects361 and its author Rich Wilson did.

Prospects361 does seem to have a fantasy focus, which means we’ll see some oddities in the rankings. Fantasy focused sites generally over-rank several types of players:

  • relievers who have closer ability (since “saves” are generally one of the 5 prime pitching fantasy categories)
  • very, very young prospects and/or brand new prospects which get snapped up in Dynasty leagues
  • positions that are scarce (SS, C, 3B to a certain extent)

Here’s a direct link to his ranking, which i’ve represented in the table below.

Cade CavalliRHP (Starter)2020 1st1
Keibert RuizC2014 IFA2
Brady HouseSS2021 1st3
Andry LaraRHP (Starter)2019 IFA4
Yasel AntunaSS2016 IFA5
Jackson RutledgeRHP (Starter)2019 1st6
Jeremy De La RosaOF (corner)2018 IFA7
Armando CruzSS2020 IFA8
Cole HenryRHP (Starter)2020 2nd9
Gerardo CarrilloRHP (Starter)2016 IFA10
Aldo RamirezRHP (Starter)2018 IFA11
Daylen LileOF2021 2nd12
Donovan CaseyOF (corner)2017 20th13
Roismar QuintanaOF (CF)2019 IFA14
Cristian VaqueroOF (CF)2021 IFA15

So, some reactions.

  • The same top 3 as nearly every other pundit shop right now, though he has Cavalli over Ruiz. That’s surprising since most legit ranks have Ruiz over Cavalli given Cavalli’s well known challenges, plus Ruiz is a catcher.
  • He has Andry Lara a bit higher than most others at #4, but I don’t think its unwarranted. The guy as an 18yr old pitched well in the GCL, which is now a much, much older league than it used to be. He may have had a 4.54 ERA, but his peripherals were pretty good.
  • Sigh; Yasel Antuna at #5. He’s still listed as a SS, which we know isn’t gonna happen as Antuna has already been banished to the OF. My concerns with Antuna being this high are well documented. All i’ll say is this: he better be one hell of a better hitter than he’s shown in 2022.
  • Even after his crap season, Jackson Rutledge sits above Cole Henry, which is laughable at this point. Perhaps he made this list before seeing anything that Henry was doing in Arizona.
  • He’s definitely high on Armando Cruz, One homer and a .232 BA in 177 DSL at bats this year after signing a ridiculously high signing bonus ($3.9M). So far, bust potential.
  • He’s about where the industry is on the guys in the 10-13 range, so no comment there.
  • Quintana: he’s definitely high on this guy. Quintana barely played this year due to an apparent injury, so this ranking and his potential is entirely that; potential.
  • Lastly, and I hate it when prospect ranking shops do this, he lists a player we’re only rumored to be signing in Vaquero. This is entirely fan service to dynasty fantasy players looking for some deep round pickup.


  • No mention of Joan Adon, who BA had #7. Now, i’m also on record being somewhat skeptical of Adon being a 7th ranked prospect, but i’m ok with him being a bit further down in the 13-15 range.
  • Slightly surprised there’s no Matt Cronin at the edges of his roster, given that Cronin is a closer candidate. It might be due to Cronin’s injury this year.
  • Not much else to quibble about.


Written by Todd Boss

December 23rd, 2021 at 4:13 pm

16 Responses to 'Prospects361 Nats top 15 released'

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  1. Todd, I’ll take this as your Merry Christmas post and wish you and your family the best.

    Re: Cristian Vaquero, the Nats are not allowed to sign until January but he has been living at their Dominican facility for at least 6 months.

    Cole Henry has passed Rutledge and is the #2 pitching prospect in the system.

    Mark L

    24 Dec 21 at 12:43 pm

  2. I guess we just have to laugh at these types of lists. Let’s just say that if Antuna is the Nats’ #5 prospect, they should give up.

    I’m really high on Ruiz. Catchers who can hit for both average and power are among the rarest species on the planet. I don’t think it’s foolish to think/hope that he can be one of the top-ten best-hitting catchers in baseball right away.

    I’m also really high on House. I thought he was the highest-ceiling hitter in the whole 2021 draft, and his FCL start did nothing to diminish such thinking. There are very few hitters in the minors with legit 40-homer potential at the MLB level, but he’s one.

    So . . . Cavalli would have to end up pretty darn good to rate above those two, particularly Ruiz, who is MLB-ready. I was very pleased with Cavalli’s progress in 2021, and it’s also worth saying that he’s still pretty raw in pitching technique/development. It would be super for the franchise if he can develop into a true ace. But as things stand, there are still some who think he could end up in the bullpen, and he did really struggle at AAA.

    Henry is more developed as a pitcher than Cavalli, but he’s got to prove he can stay healthy. His ceiling is lower, but his floor is higher. I have no idea about Rutledge. My hope is that he was never completely healthy in 2021 and that we should just write the year off. He showed dominant stuff in 2019. But if 2021 is really who he is, then that’s bad news about yet another top pick.

    I’m reluctant to get on the hype train about Lara simply because of their total lack of success with all the Latin fireballers they have had. Rey Lopez is the only one who really made it, and only sorta. (Suero was more a junkballer who flew under the radar for a long time.) It would be great if Lara turns out as good as advertised, but their track record isn’t good.

    I was very concerned that Cruz wasn’t thought ready enough to play in the States, and even more that he hit with a wet noodle. We’ll see. They’ve got a lot invested in him. De la Rosa “played up” at Fredericksburg but wasn’t good. Quintana barely played at all. I’m higher on T. J. White than either of them, although it’s hard to make a real judgment on Quintana. White has huge power and only will be in his age-18 season in 2021.

    Most don’t think Carrillo can stick as a starter. Ramirez was very good in the Bosox organization before the trade and is a real sleeper.

    I wouldn’t rank Vaquero, either, but he is intriguing. He is thought to be one of the top two or three players in this international class. As with Cruz, let me know if he actually plays stateside next summer, then we’ll talk.

    It will be great to be adding a Vaquero-level talent to the system, though, along with House and the #5 pick in 2022.


    27 Dec 21 at 11:05 am

  3. Fredericksburg could feature House, White, Lile, Infante, Frizzell (who also potentially has big power), and Quintana and/or De la Rosa. Its rotation could include Lara, Denaburg (remember him?), Saenz, and maybe Ramirez, unless they push him on to A+. The FredNats had very little higher-level talent in 2021, but it will be a radically different story in 2022.


    27 Dec 21 at 11:11 am

  4. Vaquero is currently #2 overall on the international list, and Anthony Gutierrez (also linked to the Nats) is #6. Per FanGraphs: “Vaquero has the most projectable frame in his entire amateur class and might be committed to play wide receiver at some ACC school had he been born in the United States. Instead, he’s a huge power/speed prospect with some hit tool risk.”

    No guarantees with any of these guys, of course, but it’s excellent to be injecting this high level of talent into the moribund farm system.


    27 Dec 21 at 11:33 am

  5. I’m very happy the Nats can compete with more “famous” teams in the DR and get these guys.

    Todd Boss

    28 Dec 21 at 2:35 pm

  6. Just think what they could do if they competed in the Asian market, too. I’d be more interested in going after Seiya Suzuki than I would Schwarber (I think).


    28 Dec 21 at 8:22 pm

  7. But Suzuki has never played for the Cubs or the B-Dacks.


    28 Dec 21 at 8:23 pm

  8. Let’s not forget Rizzo’s severe allergy to Asian players.

    Mark L

    28 Dec 21 at 9:43 pm

  9. But why avoid the Asian market? All it would take would be hiring one or two guys who know what they’re doing in that part of the world. They’re putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage by ignoring a key pipeline. Asia actually is an ideal market for teams with poor farm systems, as you can acquire players who are MLB-ready to back fill where your farm system has failed.


    29 Dec 21 at 11:04 am

  10. I wonder if Rizzo thinks he can compete in the Asian market.

    It seems to me that Asian players prioritize as follows:
    – West Coast teams (closer in time zone to Korea/Japan)
    – Big-name East coast teams (i.e. New York, Chicago, Boston).

    Just testing my theory. Here’s the longest playing Japanese players and who they initially signed for:
    Hitters: Suzuki:Seattle, H.Matsui:Yankees, Aoki: Milwaukee, K.Matsui:Mets, Fukodome:Cubs, Iguchi:White Sox, JohJima: Seattle, Ohtani:Angels.
    Pitchers: Nomo:Dodgers, Kuroda:Dodgers, Darvish:Texas, Ohka:Boston, Tanaka:Yankees, Iwakuma:Seattle, Matsuzaka:Boston, Maeda:Dodgers, Yoshii:mets, Hasegawa:Angels,

    That’s 18 leading Japanese players; 16 of which fall into my theory. Only two did not:Aoki in Milwaukee and Darvish for Texas.

    Here’s south korea:, which has much less of a history of players with more than just a small amount of ABs/IPs
    Hitters: Choo:Seattle, JChoi:Angels, Kang: Pittsburgh, HChoi: Cubs
    Pitchers: Park: Dodgers, Ryu:Dodgers, Kim:Arizona, Seo:Mets

    Frankly, if i’m Rizzo i’m looking at these patterns and i’m basically eliminating my team from considering any big-name Asian player.

    Todd Boss

    30 Dec 21 at 10:35 am

  11. Counterpoints: Washington is one of the most “international” cities in the country, and in past years, the Nats have spent as much or more as a lot of these franchises (except the Dodgers and Yankees). Also, not all of these players are “big-name.” And some have ended up signing for less than expected just because not many teams bid on them.

    Now, after looking at these lists, it also would be fair to ask whether the juice is worth the squeeze. Sorting these lists, only 17 Asian-born players have topped 10 bWAR for their careers (only five of them hitters), and only six are over 20 WAR (three hitters). (Also, I had no clue that Shin-Soo Choo accumulated 35 WAR, or anywhere close to it.) Is it worth the scouting and the money on a market with such a limited success rate? I don’t know. But I’m not too sure about giving millions to Latin 16-year-olds, either (if they really are 16!).


    30 Dec 21 at 12:42 pm

  12. To expand on KW’s international theme, here in Virginia we have the #2 market for Korean-Americans in the country. Yet the Nats F.O. is oblivious to that.

    The Japanese ambassador to the U.S. resigned a few years ago to follow his real passion: he became the Commissioner of Japanese baseball. Again, the Nats f.o. oblivious to any of this.

    Mark L

    31 Dec 21 at 2:03 am

  13. I’m not arguing that a DC-presence for a big Asian super star coming over here wouldn’t be good; its just that (as I showed) they all prefer west coast or big-cities. LA’s korean population dwarfs DCs … its the largest outside of Korea itself, so there’s that. Seattle or the Dodgers have long been the destinations of choice for these guys unless they’re Dice-K and his $100M posting/bonus fee.

    Todd Boss

    31 Dec 21 at 1:50 pm

  14. This is an interesting, and frankly infuriating, post:

    It lists the Nats as one of three teams that are flat-out tanking, along with the O’s and Pirates, who haven’t fielded competitive teams in a long time.

    One suspects that Mike Rizzo did damage to his computer if he read this. The fact that the Nats had a major fire sale last summer, which made sense, considering their circumstances, doesn’t mean that they’ve jumped into the tank with both feet. It’s worrisome that they were barely players in the free agent market before the lockout, but it’s also true that big contracts and QO players didn’t make a lot of sense considering where they are right now.

    The Nats have a competitive lineup right now, even with a couple of holes still to fill, particularly if Ruiz pans out. It’s the pitching that’s a wounded disaster. And frankly, that’s the area of frustration with inaction so far, as they needed to be signing a lot of pitchers but haven’t yet.

    It would be unlikely for the Nats to be able to jump fully back into contention in 2022, but it’s reasonable to hope that they can be competitive and close to .500. That’s not “tanking.” Now, it is fair to ask whether they’re making the right/tough calls to truly be “rebuilding,” particularly when they keep tendering guys like Fedde and Stevenson. (Definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.) My take would be that they would benefit from trading three or four of these guys, even without much in return, just to turn the page with the roster.

    I guess we’ll see. Of course another concern is that whenever MLB does reignite, the Nats are already running behind the curve because they did so little personnel-wise before the lockout.


    2 Jan 22 at 9:02 am

  15. I saw this post but wasn’t quite as infuriated by it :-). On the one hand, lumping Washingotn in with two moribund franchises that havn’t tried for years is patently unfair. But on the other hand, they seem to be predicting that Washington will not actively try to improve the 2022 roster. Which is fine because I don’t think they should try, which in the definition of this article defines “tanking.”

    Nats right now project to $135M payroll, with no additional veteran FA signings. There’s just no way they can fill all the holes they have with FA signings and fit it underneath the $70M or so they’d have to stay under to avoid CBT. I mean, you can make the argument they need 2 starters, several relievers, a 3B, a middle infielder, and two outfielders. That’s a lot of talent.

    What they really NEED is for the $60M of payroll being paid to Strasburg and Corbin to earn its keep and deliver the 10 WAR or so they should expect from those two guys.

    Here’s the interesting part: the Nats could follow the SF Giants 2021 model of adding a bunch of veteran FAs on small deals and hoping to catch lightning in a bottle; that’s kind of how they won in 2019 too. Imagine if they stood pat the rest of the off season and everything went their way:
    – Strasburg and Corbin lit up the league in April
    – Kieboom and Garcia start hitting
    – Ruiz looks like the real deal
    – Cavalli comes up and pitches like the Rookie of the Year
    – Thomas and Hernandez act like middle of the order bats
    – Soto continues to be doing Soto stuff

    That’s… a playoff team. Suddenly the Nats are buying contracts from tanking teams like Atlanta did last year so effectively. I think that’s the hope.

    Todd Boss

    3 Jan 22 at 9:46 am

  16. Hope springs eternal with the New Year! LOL. It’s not impossible, but it would be very surprising . . .

    Perhaps that would make a good place-holder post: what would have to happen for the Nats to have some chance at success in 2022?

    They’re apparently willing to spend at least some money, as evidenced by word that they’ve been in contact with Schwarber. The MLBTR post that they may be looking to move Bell’s salary seemed ridiculous.

    That said, I agree that it would be hard to spend their way fully out of the pitching hole. And even if Stras and Ross were to come back brilliantly, they’ll be shut down at some point. I guess the hope would be that Cavalli and Henry might be ready to back-fill the rotation, although Henry hasn’t pitched above A+.

    With the lineup, they just can’t count on Kieboom. With the signing of C. Hernandez to go with Escobar, I’m not sure they think that they can count on Garcia, either. In general, though, the lineup is fine, even with Y. Hernandez in LF. They were scoring plenty of runs down the stretch. It was pitching that was killing them.


    3 Jan 22 at 10:12 am

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