Nationals Arm Race

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

TalkNats and Steve Ghost Mears Top 30 prospects


I don’t normally include Nats blogger prospect list analysis since, well, lets be honest we’re bloggers, not nationally-connected scouting specialists who spend months as their full time job calling scouting directors and texting MLB GMs to get their intel. Plus, i’m doing this as a fan and I hate to criticize another fan’s work. But when I saw respected long-time nats blogger Stephen “Ghost” Mears post a top 30 … and knowing how much I like top 30 prospect lists, I couldn’t help myself, and have included his list here along with the big boys.

By including this list, I promise to generate my own list for the system as well. Fair is fair. I’ve got a preliminary top 50 ranking right now for our system, which I’ll continue to tweak now that the BA scouting reports are updated.

Here’s the pre-2024 list of prospect ranks that have been published so far.

  • BA’s pre-read top 10, announced 11/6/23 (link now defaults to top 30 released today; no changes from the top 10 in Nov to now, a slight indictment perhaps of the BA process)
  • Prospects361 top 10, released 11/24/23
  • MLBPipeline top 30, post rule5/pre off-season analysis released 12/7/23. Note, the MLBPipeline link always defaults to the current, but i retain the rankings at the time of the capture into an XLS
  • Baseball America 2024 top 30 1/24/24:

Here’s Ghost’s list:

TalkNats/Ghost RankFull Name w/ milb linklastfirstpos
1Crews, DylanCrewsDylanOF (CF)
2Wood, JamesWoodJamesOF (Corner)
3House, BradyHouseBradySS/3B
4Cavalli, CadeCavalliCadeRHP (Starter)
5Hassell III, RobertHassell IIIRobertOF (CF)
6Morales, YohandyMoralesYohandy3B
7Lile, DaylenLileDaylenOF (CF)
8Vaquero, Cristhian#VaqueroCristianOF (CF)
9Bennett, Jake*BennettJakeLHP (Starter)
10Young, JacobYoungJacobOF (CF)
11Green, ElijahGreenElijahOF (CF)
12Sykora, Travis SykoraTravisRHP (Starter)
13Susana, JarlinSusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)
14Rutledge, JacksonRutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)
15Lipscomb, TreyLipscombTrey3B
16Herz, DJ*HerzDJLHP (Starter)
17Hurtado, VictorHurtadoVictorOF
18Millas, Drew#MillasDrewC
19White, T.J.#WhiteT.J.OF (Corner)
20Pinckney, AndrewPinckneyAndrewOF (Corner)
21Quintana, RoismarQuintanaRoismarOF (CF)
22Feliz, AngelFelizAngel3B/SS
23De La Rosa, Jeremy*De La RosaJeremyOF (Corner)
24Nunez, Nasim#NunezNasimSS
25Lara, AndryLaraAndryRHP (Starter)
26Baker, DarrenBakerDarren2B
27Parker, Mitchell*ParkerMitchellLHP (Starter)
28Cruz, ArmandoCruzArmandoSS
29Brzykcy, ZachBrzykcyZachRHP (Reliever)
30Henry, ColeHenryColeRHP (Starter)

And here’s some commentary.

  • Same 1-4 as most shops. Most pundits call our system “top heavy” which keeps us from being ranked higher in the overall organization ranks. Fair enough. If Henry had progressed as expected and a couple of these uber expensive IFAs recently were closer to Juan Soto than … well some guy named Juan who isn’t a prospect, we’d be higher ranked. And closer to contention.
  • Despite Hassell’s 2023 struggles, Ghost has him at #5. Lets hope he rebounds in 2024. Remember, he was our clear #2 prospect in most major publications last spring.
  • He remains a little high on Bennett at #9 despite no 2024. The only thing i’m worried about with Bennett (well, besides the fact that he had his arm cut wide open in August or whenever) is that he really didn’t do well in high-A once he got there. A 2nd round major conference draftee should have STARTED in High-A last year. Instead he toyed with kids in Low-A for nearly two months before going to Wilmington and, well frankly, getting hit. 6 starts, 5.57 ERA, 1.62 whip before he blew the UCL. How many of those starts were with a strained UCL? Who knows. He’ll turn 24 before he throws another pitch, will be back in Wilmington, and will be behind schedule. Is that a top 10 prospect? Not for me. Too much risk.
  • Jacob Young #10. Ok. so, prospect lists are a combination of floor and ceiling. What is Young’s floor? Well, before 2023 he had no real floor. So now we know, he’s a gritty Lenny Dykstra undersized CF spark plug who can make sh*t happen. But what’s his ceiling? He got 4 whole games in AAA before getting called up to cover for a thin OF at the MLB level and he didn’t do half bad. Better numbers than Alex frigging Call, that’s for sure. Young had 13 SBs in 33 games; that’s Vinny Coleman SB rates. But the MLB OF has too many guys right now; Robles kind of has to play CF for the arb salary he’s getting, Garrett earned the corner OF spot, and of course so did Thomas. You don’t want Young riding the pine in the majors, so he’ll be in AAA again to start 2024. What’s his ceiling? Can he hit .290 with mid .350 OBP and 50 SBs in the majors? If that’s the case, then heck yeah he’s #10 prospect, maybe higher.
  • Green down to #11. That’s too low for a guy with three tools in the 60s and a team admitting they’re futzing with his swing. Talking about Ceiling; he has as much ceiling as Crews and Wood by BA scouting reports, and he has a power/speed combo that’s Ronald Acuna-esque. But his hit tool grade right now is like that of a high schooler.
  • Ghost has our new IFAs at #17 and #22. Fair enough. He has our new Rule5 guy at #24, right inline with BA. Fine by me; i’m almost to the point of ignoring prospects until they get to the domestic leagues. Quick; can anyone tell me the names of our two 7-figure IFA signings last January? Or how they performed last summer in the DSL? Yeah, I didn’t think so (by the way, its Andy Acevedo and Edwin Solano, both signed for $1.3M. DSL 2023 lines respectively: .170/.299/.248 and .117/.224/.133. that’s right: Solano hit .117; 15 for 128 with exactly two extra base hits all season. That was money well spent.
  • Drew Millas at #18 but Pineda out of the top 30. Here’s a quick comparison of our two other 40-man catchers right now. Millas 26, switch hitter, spent around 2/3rds of last year in AAA, solid offensive numbers, good speed, average defender, 28% CS rate. Pineda is 23, was in AAA at the end of 2022 but was sent back to high-A in 2023 and struggled at the plate. Based on pure stats, Millas is better. But he’s also got 3 years on Pineda and that really discounts Pineda’s 2022, which is mostly why BA has Pineda higher than Millas right now. Right before publishing, Pineda got DFA’d off the 40-man and i’ll bet someone picks him up, so it may not matter, but its certainly a weird choice to cut to make room for Joey Gallo when they have waiver wire RHP relievers who had ERAs in the 5s and 6s last year who they could have cut instead.
  • TJ White at #19. Why?? .170/.277/.279 in 2023 with no position and missed half the year. That’s not a recipe for success.
  • Andry Lara at #25, after BA didn’t rank him at all. Ok, so on the bright side his whip went down in High A, and he’s still only 21, and we know he finished strong in 2023. His aggregate numbers for his career still suck.
  • Cole Henry at #30. This is a ranking that says, “well, I don’t think he’s ever going to be healthy again, but on the off-chance he is, he’s still ranked.”

Unmentioned in the top 30: Acevedo, Made, and Pineda as mentioned. Nothing egregious.

All in all, not a bad list. I agree with big chunks of the rankings of players hoenstly.

Written by Todd Boss

January 29th, 2024 at 9:12 am

Posted in Prospects

3 Responses to 'TalkNats and Steve Ghost Mears Top 30 prospects'

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  1. Yes, interesting list from Ghost. In the article, he really talks up Hassell and Green, but he drops Green behind Lile, Vaquero, and Young. (And sorry Todd, but I see Young as closer to Andrew Stevenson than Vince Coleman. But I’d be glad for you to be right.) I wrote a little about Green at Nats Prospects today so won’t repeat myself. Ghost is definitely right that this is a big offseason for both Hassell and Green. Yes, Green is still very young. But the train moves quickly if you can’t catch up. Just ask Antuna, who got released at age 23.

    I haven’t given up on Green by any means, and it would be terrific if he can figure out that contact thing and become something special. But even before they drafted him, I was comparing him to Byron Buxton, a supremely talented tool box with contact issues. The issues are still there. He hit .207 in 2023, a year after being an All Star.

    I don’t know how much “inside info” Ghost gets, but his ranking of Henry at #30 is concerning. I was really hoping that the addition of Henry to the 40-man was an indication that the team believes in his recovery. IF/WHEN HEALTHY, he’s the second-best pitcher in the organization, behind Cavalli. A healthy Henry would be #5 on this list (and probably already in the majors).

    I’m curious to see that Ghost is so down on Rutledge. Most lists have him well into the latter part of the top 10. I tend to lean with Ghost on this one, as I’m skeptical that Rutledge can be more than a back-end-of-rotation guy. He once had the talent to be more, but I’m not sure where that dominant talent has gone.

    If I worked for another organization, the guy I would be trying to sneak from the Nats in a trade would be Andrew Pinckney. I’d make a small wager that he ends up with the third-most career MLB WAR from among all the outfielders on that top-30 list. Not a big bet, but a small one. I would also be interested in acquiring Lara, if I had a better pitching developmental staff than the Nats have had.

    Speaking of such things, some of these guys will be real test cases for the evolving developmental staff, and not just Hassell and Green. T.J. White was a mess last season but is only 20. Lipscomb showed some real promise last summer as a multi-positional player but got exposed a bit in the AZ Fall League and has got to learn how to take a walk (easier said than done/taught).

    As John C. noted in our last conversation, one of the important things to consider here is the depth of the list. We may not be right about which guys actually make it, but they now have a lot more with a chance, which improves the overall odds. There are guys into the 20s here who have a good shot to be major-leaguers. Before the trades and drafts of the last couple of years, that list only ran around 10 deep.


    29 Jan 24 at 10:08 pm

  2. This is a very solid list, and I appreciate that Ghost has his own “pet prospects” just like I do.

    Ghost described Young’s CF defense as elite, which is really the central crux of whether Young is a serious prospect or not. Since being drafted, his defense was always described as “Adam Eaton-esque”. While he’s athletic and looks the part, he was supposed to be a very poor defensive centerfielder, and his bat just doesn’t play in a corner spot. If his defense is indeed “elite”, then I don’t see how he’s appreciably different from Victor Robles (the prospect of a few years ago, not the shell of the present player), except with less power and better speed. Robles’ career MILB line was .301/.392/.467. Young’s is .275/.359/.362. And it should be noted Young started hitting with more power in 2023, whereas strangely Robles’ power faded as he got older… However, consider me skeptical that Young’s CF defense is elite (or even above average). Just looking at how Nats coaches have used him, they also appear skeptical. In 2023 across 3 levels, he played 33 games in CF and 76 games in the corner OF positions. But that was often to make room for James Wood, so I’d be happy to be proven wrong. I hope we’ll get to see in DC, instead of known and highly underwhelming quantities in Robles and Call… But if Young’s CF defense is good, there’s a strong case to place him ahead of Lile. But if he’s below average in CF, then he’d fall more around 20 (after Pinckney), in my opinion.

    One of my “pet prospects” is Drew Millas, and I’m surprised how little respect he’s been getting in these lists. If we’re going to gush about Young’s impressive cameo, why not Millas? He batted an impressive .286/.375/.464 in DC, but more impressive was his MILB line of .291/.390/.442 in 83 games. Ruiz had a disastrous 2023 season in defense, and I strongly believe a better defensive catcher would have had a significant positive impact on the young rotation. Ruiz hasn’t always been a terrible defensive catcher, so I’m willing to give him more time, but Ruiz should be getting more starts at DH, while Millas gets semi-regular playing time behind the dish. His cameo showed he’s ready for the chance.

    I’m very down on TJ White too, Todd. But I am also very down on Elijah Green, who I see as very similar players. While both have oodles of potential, they still lack the basic fundamentals needed to succeed as a professional hitter. Yes, Green has a prime defensive position to fall back on, unlike White. However, White has actually demonstrated an ability to hit minor league pitching. White is only a few months older than Green, but last season hit .258/.353/.432 in Fredericksburg, where Green a year later struggled to the tune of .210/.323/.306. Given the Nats’ inability to teach contact, I’m particularly pessimistic about both Green and White (and Cox, de la Rosa, and increasingly Hassell). Whereas batters like Young, Millas, Lile and Crews, with well-developed hit tools are much more likely to succeed in this system.

    On the pitching side of things, I’m also turning into a bit of a broken record on this, but I cannot understand how Herz, my other pet prospect, isn’t the consensus 2nd best pitching prospect (there’s even a strong case to be made that he’s better than Cavalli, but I’ll spare you that). I don’t think people appreciate how young he is. He turned 23 earlier this month. He’s almost exactly a month younger than Bennett (while being basically 2 levels higher). 2.5 years younger than Cavalli, and around 1.5 years younger than Rutledge, Henry and Parker. At his age, he’s far ahead of all these players, having spent a season and a half in AA. Yes, the control is a concern, but his strikeout rates are elite. Among minor league pitchers who’ve thrown at least 200 IP in the past 3 seasons, his K/9 (13.43) is the 4th best of 467, and ahead of uber prospects like Grayson Rodriguez and narrowly behind Kyle Harrison.

    Lastly, consistently overlooked in all these lists and prospect watching is Max Romero. Romero is basically Drew Millas, but four years younger. He’s got great plate discipline (18% BB%) solid power (.156 ISO) and an overall impressive line of .268/.413/.424 in mostly low A in his age 22 season. I don’t know how his overall defense is meant to be, but he’s got an above average arm, throwing out 28% of runners. I think he’s earned at least a bit of buzz.


    30 Jan 24 at 10:49 am

  3. Todd – Very kind of you to post this up and give some nice critiques, and your commentors too.

    The list of prospects is the deepest ever and felt unfair to stop at 30 — but wanted to stay inline with the others. Jorgelys Mota was the one I wrestled with the most.

    Pineda was off my list because I saw him as a DFA. Sure enough it happened.

    TJ White is a switch-hitter and was just 19 when he was promoted to Wilmington. He was 121 points of OPS better on the road. Wilmington is a tough place to hit. I saw video of him lately and he has a good lefty swing but is actually a natural righty. He has more righty power but I see it even in BP he drops his hands on his RH swing. I think the switch-hitting might hurt him like Espinosa. 61 higher points of BA when batting lefty so that is kind of opposite of Espinosa. Yes, I’m concerned that Wilmington just did him in.

    Jake Bennett getting hurt was a back-breaker. The best stuff in the Nats system. Ask Jackson Holliday what he thought. His movement is so crazy the A-ball umps can’t get it right. The K-zone data showed he wasn’t getting strike calls. But now he has to recover from the TJ surgery. It was great to hear Rizzo name him at the Hot Stove event on Saturday.

    Agree with KW on the upside of Pinckney. I will say it again, nobody hit Paul Skenes better in college than Pinckney. His problem was keeping up his intensity and reminded me of Victor Robles with the great tools and had lapses. If Pinckney can keep his head in the game, he could be a great one and be that latter pick surprise that everyone wonders why he wasn’t chosen earlier in the draft by XXXXXX team.

    For Will on Herz, real simple: THROW STRIKES. If Herz develops his slider or curveball that has been 4 years in the making, he will absolutely be a starting pitcher with success. But right now he is the lefty version of Tyler Clippard. Do you remember when Clippard was the #1 Yankees pitching prospect and nicknamed the Yankees Clippard? He couldn’t develop a breaking pitch and the Yankees soured on him and traded him to the Nats. Awwww, what could have been.

    Henry dropped to the end of my list because TOS is going to be so hard to overcome. The Nats have been terrible at developing pitchers as we know and even worse with injured pitchers. I always wondered if he was the AJ Cole or Matt Purke. Hopefully the former that they can find his potential. Time is ticking and with Purke they let the clock tick away. I would not have protected Henry this year. I don’t think anyone was going to take him and if they did they probably would have returned him. Bad move by Rizzo if you ask me. So Henry himself has to prove that he is worthy to move back up the list.

    Great description by Todd of Jacob Young. My gosh those tools shined in 2023. If he can hit .240 he will stick. To me, he has to make the roster as the 4th outfielder and Davey has to get him playing time.

    Steve Mears

    30 Jan 24 at 11:42 am

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