Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver Nats top 30


Brady House continues to be one of our “big 3” prospects. Photo via

Thanks to Luke Erickson, who pointed out this new prospect ranking shop that I wasn’t aware of. They released their Nats top 30 prospect list last week, the bulk of it behind a paywall. Their lead evaluator for the Nats seems to be Brandon Smith, so lets take a look at their rankings as we’ve done with other shops, and discuss who they’re “high” or “low” on relative to everyone else.

I’ve never seen a list from this site before, and based on the players they’ve listed, I can only assume this site has a distinct fantasy focus in its rankings, which is a little disappointing. I say this because of the way-too-high ranking for several relievers and the astronomically high ranking for our newly signed IFA prize, things you generally only see in fantasy heavy analysis who are making recommendations to diehards who play in keeper leagues and who are looking for deep prospects to draft and bury and/or possible future closers (thus resulting in over-emphasis of relievers versus other conventional scouting analysis). That being said, this is the first service that really seems to evaluate our prospects in light of their production, and less about their bonus size, which has resulted in a pretty good ranking.

Lets get to their rankings.

Since they’re a pay-for service, i won’t print the whole list, but i will do some highlights of players who are notable. the top 10 are visible for free and are:

  1. Cavalli
  2. Ruiz
  3. House
  4. Vaquero
  5. Henry
  6. Rutledge
  7. Cruz
  8. Lara
  9. Adon
  10. Carrillo
  • Same top 3 as everyone else right now; they have Cavalli ahead of Ruiz, which I know some find arguable. Meh; i’m just glad to have a “big 3” back in the system to be excited about, and I’m not sure I care who is #1. Ruiz is going to be the opening day starter, while Cavalli is going to be in AAA, so for me that’s how the ranking should go 1-2 at the top.
  • New Cuban IFA signee Cristian Vaquero comes in at #4. Wow. That’s a statement. Of those shops who have ranked him, i’ve seen him 9th on one amateur list (DistrictonDeck, which ranked him mid-last season based on the rumors of his imminent signing), and in the 14-15 range on a couple of professional sites (Prospect361, Prospects1500). But #4 is… well that’s bullish. And one of the reasons I suspect the fantasy focus in these rankings.
  • A little high on last year’s IFA darling Armando Cruz, who got $3.9M and did very little in 2021 to merit that bonus figure.
  • They’re super high on Mitchell Parker, coming in at #12. I like Parker and I like what he did in 2021. You may not like the ERA, but 144 Ks in 101 innings is amazing.
  • They’ve got Yasel Antuna all the way down at #15. Finally, someone appropriately ranks the career .238 hitter who no longer plays a premium position and has no power.
  • They still have hope for Mason Denaburg, listing him at #16. I do not have #16 ranked hope for Denaburg; I sense he’ll be lucky to get out of rookie ball at this point.
  • They have two relievers ranked #18 and #19: Holden Powell and Gabriel Agostini. Powell was a closer in college, pitched a grand total of 4 2/3rds innings in 2021 before missing the rest of the season with an injury. Putting him #18 is ridiculous. Agostini is 17 and had stellar numbers in the DSL … but its the DSL. If you’re a lefty with a decent pitch, you can get guys out immediately in the DSL. 15 games, 32 innings and a great K/9 rate; he has to replicate this stateside before being listed this high.
  • They’ve dumped Jeremy De La Rosa all the way to #22, when most other shops have him in the 7-10 range. I guess they were not impressed with his .209/.279/.316 line this year in Low-A as a 20-yr old. Or maybe it was his 37% K rate. That’s right: 122 strikeouts in 326 ABs in low-A this year. A better question is probably … why does every other shop still have him in their top 10?
  • One of the few shops to rate Jackson Cluff after he tore up the AFL this past November. He comes in at #24.
  • Our buddy Seth Romero comes in at #27; still hanging on. I’m sure he won’t be #27 for long, once the team releases him the moment the new CBA is signed.
  • Two AA lefty starters round out the bottom of the top 30 in Tim Cate and Evan Lee.

Notable names not ranked. In a top 30, its hard to “miss” guys, but here’s some who are not mentioned:

  • Drew Mendoza: the polish is off here.
  • Jake Alu: no love for the 24th rounder despite a solid 2021 at the plate.
  • Riley Adams: so, a lefty reliever in the DSL is worth of #19, but a AAA catcher with competent numbers at the plate is not worth ranking. Got it.
  • Israel Pineda: man, it wasn’t that long ago he was a top 10 prospect.
  • Tres Barrera: generally not a lot of love for Catchers here.
  • Mason Thompson: Baseball America literally had him in our top 10 post trade deadline.

Written by Todd Boss

January 26th, 2022 at 9:55 am

Posted in Prospects

16 Responses to ' Nats top 30'

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  1. More rearranging of the deck chairs, LOL. But some of this is interesting. Yes, glad to see someone demoting Antuna and de la Rosa based on actual non-performance.

    With the “big three,” Ruiz is my clear #1. He’s ready now, and he’s a catcher who could hit .280-.300 as a rookie and possibly be a middle-of-the-order bat. There are maybe five guys like that on the planet. Realmuto and Posey make in the $22-24M range to do that.

    I would agree with having Cavalli ahead of House for now, based on Cavalli’s rapid progress, but House has a higher projected ceiling. I thought House was the highest-ceiling player in the draft, one of the few real 40-homer-potential guys.

    If they’re going strictly by “potential,” then I could see Vaquero at #4. The Nats don’t have a lot of guys who project as good-to-better MLB regulars. That said, I don’t know that Vaquero has that much more potential than a group that would include White, Lile, and Quintana. They’re all very young. But de la Rosa is just the most recent example of how difficult it is to turn hype into success. And Antuna shows that signing bonus doesn’t really mean anything.

    And yes, Riley Adams will be on the MLB roster this season and probably play for 10-plus years. Catchers who can hit-half reasonably can stay employed forever. It’s rather silly to rank him behind a number of guys who probably won’t see MLB games without buying a ticket.

    I’m not giving up on Denaburg. I expect to see him in F-burg this year, and hopefully able to progress at some pace. He’ll either be a top-10 player by this time next year, or completely off the list. Actually, he’ll be Rule 5-eligible, so the Nats really need to know something about him. He could be another Adon, though, added to the 40-man while still at A+.


    26 Jan 22 at 10:58 am

  2. Unfortunately, now that I’m limited to seeing guys to once a week max, I can’t dispute the scouting reports… and even then, you’ll find some disagreement. For me, the “third way” is critical because (too) often BA and MLB Pipeline overlap. Even though the system is now closer to #20 than #30, it’s hard to find stuff outside of the Top 10 guys.

    So from that standpoint, I’m inclined to cut them some slack. With MLB hiking up its skirt for gambling and fantasy baseball, we’re going to have to learn to live with that element. Even if it might not work in the long term, turning baseball into horse racing or boxing in terms of its national appeal.

    Luke Erickson

    27 Jan 22 at 6:14 am

  3. Concerning Mendoza, I was thrilled when he fell to the Nats at the 94th pick. He was one who, in the “too early” mocks a year earlier, had been mentioned as a possible top-five overall pick. After being drafted, they sent him straight to the full-season low-A team, and held his own (128 wRC+).

    Then COVID happened. I don’t know what happened at the alt sight in Fredericksburg, but internal prospect evaluation there was bad. There’s just no two ways around it. Development efforts don’t seem to have been good, either. About the only prospect who spent much time there in 2020 who excelled in 2021 was Cavalli. So many others had marginal to poor seasons: Mendoza, Autuna, Rutledge, S. Romero, de la Rosa, Adon, Cluff, Pineda. (There were probably others; that’s off the top of my head.) Based on what happened there, they added Antuna and Adon to the 40-man ahead of Rule 5, even though it turned out that they had to be sent only to A+ and struggled there. They pushed Mendoza and Cluff to AA, where they struggled, with Mendoza demoted and Cluff injured. De La Rosa seemed way over his head with the full-season A team. In sum, the judgment and develop of so many of these guys at the alt sight was poor.

    Is Mendoza still a “prospect?” I have no idea. The big power he showed in college (.594 SLG in his draft year) has evaporated in the pros (.312 SLG at Wilmington in 2021). He can’t make it at 1B without big power. He’s 24, turning 25 in October, and will be Rule 5-eligible in December. It’s definitely a make-or-break summer for him. It’s not impossible, as Souza really figured things out around that age, but the odds are against him. Sure would be a boon for the organization if he finds a way to re-emerge as a top-level talent, though.


    27 Jan 22 at 11:25 am

  4. It would be an interesting approach to really factor in fantasy future. You would lean more toward ceiling than certainty, I guess, except in the case of guys like Ruiz and Cavalli who are particularly close to the majors.

    Ruiz would still be my #1. He’s MLB-ready and should immediately be one of the best-hitting catchers in the game. That’s pure gold, fantasy and otherwise.

    I’m still not completely convince that Cavalli can stick as a starter, so in some ways, he’d be just as much of a long-term risk as someone like House, who is still a long way away. I personally think that House’s ceiling is higher than Cavalli’s, but so are the odds against him not achieving that ceiling.

    Among the other pitchers, Henry seems a safer bet to make it than Rutledge. Henry may even be a safer bet to actually stick in an MLB rotation than Cavalli is. Stuff-wise, Rutledge may have a higher ceiling than any of them, but he’s also got much farther to go in the polish department. We are told that Lara could be in the conversation with these guys ceiling-wise, but who knows? For all the hyped Latin arms in the organization over the years, few have developed. It’s also possible that a healthy Denaburg could be in the discussion of this quality level, but again, who knows?

    Next there is a crop of very young OFs with potentially high ceilings: Vaquero, White, Lile, Quintana. Between de la Rosa’s struggles in 2021 and his lack of size, I wouldn’t have him in the conversation about this level at the moment, but I know some would. I also personally would have most of these guys ahead of that OF newbie, Antuna. There’s a lot of hype about Vaquero, but it may be a couple of years before we can can even gauge his actual chances/value. I’m really high on White, despite him falling to the 5th round. He has big power, he hit right away in pro ball, and he’s very young. Lile was drafted higher, supposedly has better bat-to-ball skills, but struggled in his pro introduction. He is said to have put on muscle this offseason. Quintana is an international man of mystery, having played just seven games in 2021.

    Among infielders, they’ve paid Cruz and Infante like they think they’re elite. Neither got off to elite starts as pros, though.

    Beyond these, Todd has mentioned that the gurus seem to be turning their noses up at Riley Adams. He’s likely to be in the majors right now, albeit as a backup. There seems to be a lot of buzz about him getting reps at DH if the NL gets it, though. All I know is that the Nats have spent a lot of time looking for backup catchers over the last decade, so I’m glad we have a guy who looks to be an above-average one. And Barrera did more than enough to show that he’s a good choice as the AAAA shuttle catcher, at least while he still has options over the next two seasons.


    27 Jan 22 at 12:19 pm

  5. With the guys they left off like Adams and Thompson relative to the guys they ranked like Agostini and Powell, I don’t think this list is worth taking seriously. So I don’t have much to say about it at all.


    28 Jan 22 at 3:59 pm

  6. The point I keep coming back to with Mason Thompson is that between age 21 (2019) and 23 (2021), the Padres decided to make him a reliever. He skipped AA and did well enough at AAA to make the majors and become a trade piece. For reference, he was a 3d-round pick.

    How many pitchers, particularly those taken in the upper part of the draft, have the Nats been willing to move to relief? Heck, they even take successful college relievers and try to make them starters. To the Nats, every pitcher of any substance is a starter, at least until he’s out of options. It’s pure insanity. And EVERY summer — even this last one, when they unloaded everyone but picked up Thompson — they trade for relievers.


    28 Jan 22 at 5:41 pm

  7. Good afternoon all.

    It’s been awhile since I posted (even forgetting my previous posting name), though I remain a fan and reader of the best and most incisive blog on my team.

    Given how I admire all of you very highly for your knowledge of our National Pastime (and in particular our Organization), as well as all sort of metrics and stats that seem alien to someone who grew up with an old school analysis of performance. To me, this new way of following baseball rewards those who want to challenge themselves intellectually to a more thorough and correct use of metrics regarding performance… or a search of the truth beyond what used to be taken from granted.

    It is in this vein that, as a proud American from Puerto Rico and a baseball first fan all my life, I could not stand silent by a remark made recently about the alleged effect of having Puerto Rico be part of the MLB Draft. For quite some time the easy conclusion about the demise of baseball as the #1 sport in the Island has been attributed to that fact. Regretfully, when people around baseball repeat that spiel, little effort is made to research it much further.

    I’ll write a follow-up comment so as not to make this one too long.

    Thank you for the site and the in-depth analysis and discussion which make Nationals Arm Race the premier site for Nats fans.

    Le Grande Orange

    Le Grand Orange 2

    30 Jan 22 at 10:04 am

  8. Good morning (not afternoon) again.

    (1) The Baseball World without a draft.

    This sole topic deserves a truly thorough analysis, way beyond an entry into a blog. Do keep in mind that most baseball fans only know how this system works from its few success stories… from Juan Soto to the Vladimir Guerrero’s. Yet little do we know beyond those few “exceptions”.

    The world out there beyond the glamour of stateside facilities is way different than any of us can even fathom. Little REAL attention is paid to how talent seekers “get talent” and direct them to an MLB franchise. Suffice to say that it is not to the future wellbeing of tge youngsters involved and, even more so, with proper regard for guiding them to the alternate world of a future without baseball.

    For every Juan Soto… there is an Anderson Franco or even others whose name is soon forgotten. What becomes of them? Does “Baseball” even care? Is there an interest in what happens to them when their dream fades away? Were they ever given guidance to such a future, to proper use of their signing bonus, their salary? Were they ever guided to receive an education… even if just English language courses or an associate degree?

    Yet even the Anderson Franco’s were winners in this “process”… as tgey received their bonus and salaries (presumably used wisely). Yet how about those who come up short and never come to the US, or worse, are never signed? Were they studying in high school simultaneously, or did they try out the parallel process of trying to “succeed” in baseball ‘s versionof maquiladoras and sweat shops? Regretfully, the vast majority of those who do not make it… end up uneducated, sometimes raddled up with debt, injured, etc. Furthermore, do you think the talent seekers pay attention to proper health and exercising habits? No, not really. The lure of $$$ is too great… as seemingly every youngster might still be the next Juan Soto.

    Stories of pitching overuse, forcing early teenagers to engage in throwing breaking balls at an alarming rate, improper exercise habits or facilities, are also the rule in the non-draft world.

    Is the system perfect under a draft? Far from it. Yet most importantly, you take away from the system an element of profit or greed by eliminating those talent seekers.

    Finally, please, do consider that this stark reality of youth baseball in Latin America (including Puerto Rico pre-draft) is nothing for MLB to be proud of. It benefits only the wealthy teams who can survive the Smiley Gonzalez fiasco, or signings like Yasel Antuna, José Sánchez, Anderson Franco which never pan out.

    In an ever more socially and racially conscious society like ours, THERE IS NO ROOM in the mid-part of the 21st Century for this practice. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. If there are reasons for keeping the imperfect draft and amateur baseball system in the US… why the disparate treatment for Latin America? Are latino youngsters less worthy? Let’s fight for the future wellbeing of the Anderson Franco’s even if does not end up being in baseball? I’d rather hear that he got an education because of baseball, and not end up being unemployed or working on a canefield in San Pedro de Macoris.


    Le Grande Orange 2

    Le Grande Orange 2

    30 Jan 22 at 10:41 am

  9. Good afternoon all (as we’re past noon in PR).

    (2) Why a draft makes sense?

    Another topic that requires much discussion and analysis… being aware that even in the mainland is far from perfect.

    The existence of the draft (at least in Puerto Rico) has led to a more structured system (like most of you are used to in your respective states). Players need to come up through organized amateur baseball, ranging from high school, colleges or AAU, etc. The sad stories have not been eliminated (heck, they may also be happening in every state)… but they are not as sad and/or concerning as in the non-draft world. Educational and health concerns are better of today as opposed to the past.

    Again, even though it is far from perfect, the draft was a NECESSARY AND HUMANE step forward. Why protect youngsters under the US Flag… yet leave out those of other countries to swim in a pool full of sharks?

    Plus, if the draft is the culprit of the demise of baseball’s sport pre-eminence in Puerto Rico… ask those who are anti-draft to flesh out their arguments and how would a return to the cannibalism of the non-draft world is of benefit to thousands of youngsters; particularly those who do not end up being the next Juan Soto?

    Most respectfully,

    Le Grande Orange 2

    Le Grande Orange 2

    30 Jan 22 at 10:57 am

  10. Good afternoon all.

    (3) Present state of baseball in PR.

    Finally, another topic that truly deserves much more analysis.

    Let me begin by saying that baseball in general (not only in PR, but throughout our nation) may be in peril as our “National Pastime”, not to us, “baseball nuts” since early age, but to the new generations. The lure and flashy nature of the NBA, NFL Soccer and extreme sports is ever greater (just look at the list of sports in Moreover, in an era of instant gratification, baseball has not kept up to the realities of the times (though not implying easy solutions). A worrisome example that os happening in PR is how baseball is losing ground to soccer. While I was growing up… I remember my mother talking about how all girls her age use to drool about the “handsome Joe DiMaggio”. During my time, I’m sure many girls still were at least aware of baseball stars like Reggie Jackson or even Bo Jackson. Recently, while my girls were in grade and high school, they were the only ones with Harper jerseys or knowledge of baseball. Now all young girls in PR care are the players from the Real Madrid, FC Barcelona or even ManUnited. In my law firm, important international soccer games were put for all to watch in one of our conference rooms… but NEVER HAPPENED with a world series game.

    A story for another day would be the demise of the PR Winter League. A very sad story by itself, whose reasons go way beyond easy irresponsible answers like attributing that to the draft.

    My apologies for the lengthy discussion. Thank you for the opportunity and for the best site for true Nats fans.

    Respectfully yours,

    Le Grande Orange 2

    Le Grande Orange 2

    30 Jan 22 at 11:18 am

  11. BTW… does anyone remember the real “Grande Orange”? He was truly beloved in Montreal.

    Le Grande Orange 2

    30 Jan 22 at 11:46 am

  12. Good evening to all.

    (4) Concern re: baseball academies.

    The point that was made about an international draft resulting in the elimination of the baseball academies most respectfully has some flaws.

    (A) Certainly, the academies as they function and exist today might not survive a draft system; at least to maintain them as a cost-effective tool to develop talent. Yet, that does not mean that it would inevitably lead to the elimination of the concept and the DSL. I would believe that the need will always remain for the academies and the DSL as the initial staging ground for the plethora of talent from the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Central and South America. The business need for them will always remain, as it is more cost-effective than bringing them to mainland facilities (as it happened with many labor intensive industries in the US over the years… basically, the baseball version of the maquiladoras).

    BTW, Puerto Rico never had these baseball “academies”, as the applicability of federal and “state” labor and othet laws never made such a “lofty” concept attractive to be implemented in the Island.

    (B) Are the academies a perfect system, better than the draft? From what perspective… the sport, the business side of each organization, the players individually. Let’s begin with the players… what would be a measure of success, baseball stardom, a source of stable income for a few years, better quality of life, including stable nutrition, health benefits, and EDUCATION. Has MLB done a fair and profound analysis of its “policies” in Latin America , not just from a business and sports perspective? Or is baseball comfortable with the possibility that in order to continue churning in talent from Latin America, it is potentially falling prey to turning a blind eye to policies that are not the sort of legacy for our beloved sport, particularly in the thankfully more socially conscious and responsible era in which we live right now? Let’s avoid doing baseball’s version of Europe turning a blind eye to King Leopold’s Congo policies as long as rubber, ivory and other raw matetials continue to benefit the Western World’s business community.

    (C) If the non-draft, “baseball academy world” is so good, why not scrap amateur baseball in the States, and rather do academies throughout the 50 states? Or what would be the argument for totally disparate policies for young players in Louisiana or California vs those of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela?

    (D) Therefore, are we sure that the DRAFT is the culprit for baseball’s fall from the top spot as the National Pastime in the US and also in Puerto Rico or could there be more profound and complex reasons for this? In the spirit of the best website/blog for Nata fans, with an unparalleled commitment to doing a thorough analysis on all matters, I MOST RESPECTFULLY urge you all to do likewise with this issue. DO NOT TAKE MY ARGUMENTS as necessarily true… I only urge you to do as you do always. Research, analyze, without taking rehashed and simplistic arguments as truth. Our beloved sport… the king of all sports, deserves such an effort.

    Most respectfully,

    Le Grande Orange 2

    Le Grande Orange 2

    30 Jan 22 at 9:26 pm

  13. Ah, good ole Rusty Staub. The near identical comparison in this area was/is Boog Powell in Baltimore.

    Very similiar players, same careers.

    Mark L

    31 Jan 22 at 8:57 am

  14. C’est vrai! Very similar ballplayers. I just remember Staub much more vividly given his two tour of duties for the Expos and being one of the franchise’s most beloved players of all time.

    Regards to all.

    Le Grande Orange 2

    Le Grande Orange 2

    31 Jan 22 at 9:41 am

  15. Luis; thanks for your discussion of PR baseball.

    Most of your discussion was about the moralities of the baseball academies. I don’t think anyone here believes that its wise to have teen agers getting preyed upon by buscones, or signing deals at 16 and giving up their education. Nobody wants that.

    My comment was pretty simple: when PR wasn’t in the draft, more players were developed. Once it got into the draft, MLB teams lost the incentive to develop players there and now we see the obvious results; there’s just a handful of PR players drafted every year and just a handful in the majors right now. Its painfully obvious the difference in puerto rican-born players who have made it in the majors pre and post the 1989 decision.

    there’s plenty of well-researched and well-written articles on the topic;

    Todd Boss

    31 Jan 22 at 10:38 am

  16. Interesting perspectives on Puerto Rico. PR produced Lindor and Baez in the 2011 draft and Correa at 1/1 in 2012, and then . . .

    I do think what the commenter has to say about current soccer infatuation in Puerto Rico is telling. Baseball has similar issues in the U.S. with football and basketball. One exec described Vaquero as an Alabama wide receiver. He’ll soon be coached by someone who could have been one, Destin Hood. (Hood was a high school teammate of Mark Barron, who did sign with the Tide.) But it’s been quite a while since the Nats were talking guys like Hood and Sousa out of potential football commitments.

    I do think that MLB ultimately is going to have to have an international draft. Will it dry up prospects in Latin areas? MLB ran the baseball academy in PR that produced Correa, but I don’t think much has come out of it since. An MLB investment in DR and Venezuela would be important.

    On the flipside, the Nats have a strong program in DR and great connections in Venezuela and have benefited considerably from those. With Cruz, Vaquero, and (presumably) E. Soto, they’re getting some of the top “recruits” every year. Of course as Antuna can tell them, success isn’t guaranteed, no matter how big the check.


    1 Feb 22 at 2:37 pm

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