Nationals Arm Race

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

Baseball Prospectus Nats top 10


Andrew Pinckney gets love from Baseball Prospectus. Photo via MASN

A quick one today; Baseball Prospectus released both their Nats top prospect list and the Organizational rankings. Now, interestingly, BP’s stuff is normally 100% behind a paywall, and i’m just not inclined to pay for their stuff anymore (unlike the subscriptions I maintain for BA, ESPN+, the Athletic, D1Baseball, etc). I just never see stories that interest me. But, for reasons inexplicable, BP’s link actually revealed their top 10 for the system. I’m not sure how much further they rank, but we get their top 10.

And, their top 10 is super interesting. Here’s a quick cut n paste of BP’s top 10. If anyone out there has the rest .. i’d love to see it.

The Top Ten:

  1. Dylan Crews, OF
  2. James Wood, OF
  3. Brady House, 3B
  4. Cade Cavalli, RHP
  5. Yohandy Morales, 3B
  6. Jarlin Susana, RHP
  7. Travis Sykora, RHP
  8. DJ Herz, LHP
  9. Andrew Pinckney, OF
  10. Robert Hassell III, OF

Here’s some quick commentary. Clearly BP likes young arms.

  • Same 1-4 as basically everyone else.
  • Morales is generally settling in as #5 on a lot of lists now. That’s great news for a 2023 draftee, and it’ll be interesting to see what the team does with him positionally since House is pretty entrenched at 3B. The guy is 6’4″ 250lbs. Phew, that’s a 1B for sure. No chance he’s moving to a corner OF spot at 250lbs.
  • Susana at #6. Easily the highest we’ve seen so far for Susana. Ok, so why is he so high? well its easy: He’s 6’6″ and can hit 103 and he’s still 19 (turns 20 in March). Aggregate 2023 numbers: 1-6, 5.14 ERA, 1.52 whip. 17 starts but only 63IP; he generally went 4 innings a stint. Was fantastic in June, then got shelled in July and Aug. He’s ranked this high b/c you can’t teach 103mph, plain and simple.
  • Sykora at #7. BP again the high rank on this guy. Electric fastball, secondary pitches and control needs work. Typical for a prep draftee. This is a ranking entirely driven by ceiling, but so much can go wrong with a guy like Sykora its hard for me to put him this high.
  • Herz at #8. Nobody else has him even in the top 15. He certainly pitched well enough in 2024. Interestingly, BA lists his changeup as a 65, easily his best pitch. Can’t be effective with a change like that unless you’re a starter, and unless you can command the fastball though, two issues he has right now.
  • Pinckney at #9, again easily high ranking for this guy. He was a below-slot senior draftee who blew through the lower minors as a 22yr old (now 23). Is he really our 9th best prospect?? A senior draftee who was probably a 6th round projection six months ago is a higher ranked prospect than an upper 1st round talent like Green who has two 70-grade tools? Or an IFA who got nearly $5M in 2022 and who is already stateside in Vaquero?
  • Hassell dumped down to 10, in a “what have you done for me lately” move.

Well, I guess BP really likes young power arms and old college bats.

Written by Todd Boss

January 31st, 2024 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Prospects

8 Responses to 'Baseball Prospectus Nats top 10'

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  1. My guy Pinckney! This is a fascinating list. It’s sort of an All-Ceiling Team, with the notable exception of Green, unless they’ve already decided that he’s closer to the floor. They’re also missing the injured Bennett, who at this point would be a safer bet — even injured — than Susana and Sykora (and basically just as big).

    There was some interesting back and forth in the comments of the last post between Will and Steve “Ghost” Mears. Will was arguing that Herz should be higher, to which Ghost responded, “THROW STRIKES.” I’m a bit in both camps on this one, as I do think Herz should be higher, but I also completely agree that he’s gone about as far as he can go without being in the zone more consistently. Of the arms in the system who are both healthy (counting Cavalli as still recovering) and who have actually been successful and progressed, Herz may be the best of them right now.

    Ghost said that the word on Pinckney is that he has all the tools but needs to show consist effort. Todd has jumped in above to argue for Green and Vaquero over Pinckney. It’s sort of a difficult comparison to make because Green is almost exactly three years younger than Pinckney, and Vaquero is even younger. What we need to remember is that it’s not a “competition,” that this is a case where it would be unbelievably fantastic if they all pan out with star-level talent (and provide the Nats with some wonderful trade chips).

    To me, the most interesting thing in this discussion is that a reputable publication has now elevated Pinckney into the same conversation with Hassell, Green, Vaquero, and Lile. That’s five talented guys basically for one MLB slot, if we’re buying that Crews and Wood are on a higher plane. Those are damn good odds, five for at least one to really make it.


    31 Jan 24 at 7:14 pm

  2. My guy Herz!

    Regarding the control issues of Herz. I fully admit it’s a very real criticism. The thing is that nearly every single one of the Nationals’ top arms have control issues, so to ding Herz (5.4 BB/9 in ’23) for it and not Cavalli (3.6 in the minors in ’22, a career low), Rutledge (4.2 BB/9 in ’23), Susana (5.7 BB/9), Parker /4.4 BB/9), even Henry (4.3 BB/9) is inconsistent. The only serious pitching prospect in this org without serious control issues is Bennett, who’s been consistently below 3 BB/9 (maybe that’s worth a deeper look)

    I was reading a scouting report on DJ Herz from his time during the Cubs, which I now can’t find. It was about how Herz may look good now in the lower minors, bullying inexperienced batters, but he’d likely be exposed once he reached the upper minors. Well, he now has 126 IP in AA, and especially came to life upon joining the Nats. He had the 4th best strikeout rate among starters in AA (split between the Cubs and Nats), 15th best ERA (3.43) and 9th best FIP (3.37). All that to say, I’m glad someone has recognized his performance!

    But altogether, it’s a kind of weird list. You have guys that are all hype/no performance (Sykora, Susana) and the no hype/all performance types (Herz, Pinckney). Lists like these tend to favor types. Those high on high ceiling players like Susana tend to also like Green or Vaquero. So it’s weird to then go against the grain with picks like Herz and Pinckney. It’s also surprising to not see Lile feature here, as he falls pretty firmly in the no hype/all performance camp (or Young or Millas). I mean, he’s doing exactly what Hassell was hyped to do.

    Player A: age 20, split between CF and LF, .269/.355/.452, 23 SB
    Player B: age 20, played mostly at CF, .273/.357/.407, 24 SB

    (Player B is peak hype Hassell in 2022 before the hamate injury, and A is 2023 Lile).

    That’s not to say that it’s a bad list. There’s strong reasons to have each of these players where they are, it just kind of feels like two different prospectors wrote this.


    1 Feb 24 at 4:41 am

  3. I had in my mind that Herz’s walk numbers had improved after the trade, but they really didn’t: 5.6 per 9 down just to 5.1 (both at AA). Nearly everything else improved, though, most significantly hits per 9: 7.2 to 5.1, which helped improve his WHIP from 1.42 to 1.13. ERA dropped from 3.97 to 2.55. FIP (2.60) thought the improvement was legit. And his already-outstanding K/9 improved from 12.2 to 13.5, which is basically off the charts for a starting pitcher.

    One key question about Herz, and Mitchell Parker too, is whether they’re truly starter material, or should the Nats be consciously developing them as relievers? Funky lefties have a long shelf life. Herz had a better year than Parker in almost every category.


    1 Feb 24 at 6:06 pm

  4. Lile raked at Fredericksburg but hit a wall in the Wilmington cavern, as everyone else seems to do. I was thinking as I read Ghost’s defense of TJ White: at what point do the Nats demand changes in the Wilmington park? White isn’t the only prospect who has struggled there. De la Rosa went from on the 40-man to DFA’d without ever escaping.

    Anyway, Lile really seems to have the hit/contact tool, which will move him up faster than some others we can name. My big question with him has always been whether he’ll generate enough HR power for the corner position for which he seems destined. As young as he is, we may not have a full answer to that question for four or five more years. There were reports that he did a lot of body development during his TJ recovery year.


    1 Feb 24 at 7:20 pm

  5. An interesting stat about Herz: he’s allowed fewer hits (176) than walks (179)! Lol. While typically that’s a terrible stat, it’s actually quite remarkable about how well he’s managed to deceive hitters and limit contact. 5.6 H/9IP is pretty nuts, and it’s not driven by an unsustainable BABIP (.275).

    On Lile, agreed on the power question. It remains to be seen whether he can sustain power at the higher levels, but his stint in Fredericksburg sure was impressive. A .219 ISO will play at any position, and even his power in the cavernous Blue Rocks stadium was still solid (.123). But I wouldn’t write him off just yet as not being a CF. He started half his games in Wilmington in CF, though that does seem like a bit of a longshot, especially since it’s rare for a player to develop a good enough arm for CF.


    2 Feb 24 at 1:02 pm

  6. Yes, give me a pitcher every time who guys can’t get hits off of. Herz’s H/9 and K/9 numbers are off the charts, particularly for a starter. Even if he can’t sustain it as a starter, you’d take a reliever with those numbers every time . . . as long as he’s not also walking 5 per 9.

    With all the other guys who play CF, including several of whom are ahead of Lile in advancement — Crews, Wood, Young, Hassell, Green, Vaquero, etc. — it’s really hard to see there being an open spot in center when Lile is ready for the majors in a year or two. Judging by the brief overlap in Harrisburg, when Crews stayed in center and pushed Wood to right, it would seem that Crews is the anointed CF of the future. That doesn’t just raise the power threshold on Lile, it does on Hassell and the others as well. Pinckney has shown more power (counting college), but he’s also older, so it’s not a balanced picture yet. Here’s hoping that they all become stars so we can trade a couple of them for the pitching we’re probably going to need!


    2 Feb 24 at 5:01 pm

  7. Keith Law has posted his top 100:

    Crews 7
    Wood 19
    House 53
    Cavalli 74


    5 Feb 24 at 7:53 am

  8. good to see Law still has faith in Cavalli.

    Todd Boss

    5 Feb 24 at 12:59 pm

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