Nationals Arm Race

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

Keith Law’s top 20 for the Nats


Everyone loves Lile. photo via Masn

I’m a big Keith Law fan, always have been. But sometimes he zigs when others zag, and I feel like this year’s Nats list is in that category. HIs methodology is not quite as big a focus on the “ceiling” of a prospect, but it creeps in. He really discounts DSL Guys until they show up domestically, and if someone’s ceiling is middle infielder/4th outfielder/middle reliever … they’re not a prospect in his eyes.

Law is the 2nd to last “major pundit” to drop his list. Once the MLBpipeline guys (Callis & Mayo et al) drop their updated ranks, I’ll post my list and declare victory for the season.

Without further ado, here’s Law’s top 20 list, behind a paywall at the Athletic but I subscribe and I find it to be the best value for the money on the internet.

Law RankLast NameFirst NamePosition
1CrewsDylanOF (CF)
2WoodJamesOF (Corner)
4CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)
5LileDaylenOF (CF)
7VaqueroCristianOF (CF)
8Hassell IIIRobertOF (CF)
10SykoraTravisRHP (Starter)
11SusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)
12GreenElijahOF (CF)
13BennettJakeLHP (Starter)
15HenryColeRHP (Starter)
15RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)
16HerzDJLHP (Starter)
17YoungJacobOF (CF)
18PinckneyAndrewOF (Corner)
19QuintanaRoismarOF (CF)
20SaenzDustinLHP (Starter)
HMYoungLukeRHP (Starter)
HMLaraAndryRHP (Starter)

Ok, lets go through it.

  • Same top 4 as practically everyone else. Note: we’ve been discussing in the comments what really makes a rookie and have gone through some interesting scenarios. For me. service time manipulation or roster moves that burn their clock but don’t give ABs or IPs don’t count. So i’ll be including specifically Cade Cavalli and Israel Pineda in my list, and even though a commenter pointed out there’s now others technically eligible i’m not sure who else is worth mentioning.
  • Lile at #5. As in, the next big guy in our entire system after the top 4 guys who all seem to be near-guarantees. McDaniel, Law, and the 1500 guys all have Lile in the 5-6 range. After much discussion and further analysis, i’m coming around to the opinion that LIle and Hassell are basically the same. I now have them side-by-side in my rankings, having elevated LIle a number of spots from where I started. Do I think Lile is the 5th best prospect in the system? Well, no but he’s close, and having him #5 and Morales #6 versus the other way around is splitting hairs.
  • Law is absolute high-man on Kevin Made, having him all the way at #9. By way of comparison, BA had him at #24, in the range of guys who are “lucky if they get to AA.” In his writeup, Law thinks Made is a 12-15 homer guy in the majors who could stick at short and be a regular. Wow. Yeah that is a top 10 guy. I guess we’re all forgetting just how young he has been (20 in highA).
  • Sykora to #10, very high on both him and Susana at #11. All Ceiling. It’s easy to dream on 18yr old live arms. After all our (lack of) success with these guys, its tough to get excited. I guess I have to remind myself that Sykora got a 1st round bonus, and If we had draftee him in the 1st round like we did Giolito … we’d be much higher on him.
  • He has Green all the way down to #12. Law’s take on this ranking was interesting: he says Green is perhaps the best example in all of the minors of a player who is too good for complex ball, but not yet ready for LowA, and is being developmentally crushed by the loss of Short-A. I agree. It really amazes me that the sport in general fails to see the value of Short-A ball, or even another 10 rounds of a draft to fill that team. Just look at the ridiculous number of arms that poured into our Low-A team last year; I have 12 guys listed as “Starters” and another 9 listed as “Long Relievers.” 12 starters! There’s no where near enough innings to go around to try to develop 12 guys at starters. Gee, wouldn’t it be great if there was another low-A level league where you could send the lesser 6 of those starters so they could pitch every five days? So dumb.
  • Cole Henry at #15. What piqued my interest in Law’s write up was this simple line: “his stuff was all the way back” after TOS surgery. But he also said that a guy like Henry is too brittle to start, but could be an awesome reliever (97-100 with two 55 pitches). That’s a drop-dead game ender, and hey, if the guy can’t stay healthy then at least we can use him.
  • Quintana at #19: one of the few who rates this guy. BA and McDaniel didn’t even rank him. What do we have with him at this point? He’s only 21 and seems set to go to HighA, but he’s a corner OF limited guy who has to hit for power to earn a promotion … and that’s gonna be hard in Wilmington.
  • Saenz at #20. Yes! Finally someone ranks this guy. He has been completely absent from every prospect ranking this entire spring, even the Prospect 1500 guys who go 50 deep. Why? He’s a 4th round pick, was 24 in AA last year posting a 3.43 era/1.18 whip in 25 games/23 starts. Uh, yeah, sign me up. Those were significantly better numbers than Parker (who is also a lefty), who got a 40-man roster spot out of his performance. Saenz should be going to AAA, doesn’t turn 25 until June … why is he not a prospect? Maybe its smoke and mirrors, with lesser stuff, but he’s solved every level he’s been presented with so far.

Law then mentions four guys as noteworthy, but there’s no way they’re ranked 21-24. Young, Lara, Infante, and Brown. I think it was more notes out of his many visits to see the Nats play in Wilmington, which is right around the corner from where he lives in Delaware.

So, who’d he miss?

  • No mention of our two 2024 IFAs Hurtado or Felix. Not surprising.
  • No Love for Lipscomb, but that’s really splitting hairs if he’s not in the top 20 but is in his top 25.
  • Nothing on Nasim Nunez. Law’s methodology definitely under-rates role players like backup infielders, 4th outfielders, middle relievers, etc.
  • Nothing for De La Rosa, who is as high as #13 on other lists.

Written by Todd Boss

February 18th, 2024 at 8:37 am

4 Responses to 'Keith Law’s top 20 for the Nats'

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  1. watching every one of Henry’s appearances I’d agree that the stuff was there. what was also clear, mostly from his reactions on the mound is that sometimes something was just not right. that falls in line with recovery from a nerve damage issue in my non-medically trained mind. I’m not sure a reliever role is any better for him and we can only cross our fingers and hope for the best.


    18 Feb 24 at 10:42 am

  2. FredMD: that’s good to hear that you thought his stuff was there in mind but perhaps not in spirit. Maybe he’ll put it back together this spring.

    Todd Boss

    19 Feb 24 at 4:47 pm

  3. Henry’s numbers at AA in 2022 were off-the-charts good. We can only hope that he can find his way back to being that guy.

    We spent a lot (probably too much) ink in the last set of comments about the curious attention to Kevin Made. I hope he proves us wrong, but I just don’t see much there. The world is filled with light-hitting middle infielders.

    On that front, I’m more curious to see if Lipscomb can continue to progress. I don’t know that he’s an MLB regular-to-be, but he wouldn’t have to hit much to be a better utility guy than Vargas. And he sure seems to have more pop than Made does.

    I agree with the consensus on the Big Four (other than McDaniel omitting Cavalli entirely). The next phase of the Nats will have a lot to do with how high toward their ceilings those four guys reach. There’s no such thing as a sure thing, even with Crews.

    Who knows how things “should” fall after the Big Four. If Morales truly can be a 30+ homer corner guy, he’s probably #5, although it’s hard to know. We’ve certainly been fooled by college bats in recent years who looked really good on paper.

    All in all, this should be a very interesting “sorting out” year in the Nats’ minor-league system.


    19 Feb 24 at 7:53 pm

  4. Law also gives a (rare) mention to Luke Young. in the spirit of John Sickels I’m listed him in the sleeper alert category.


    21 Feb 24 at 1:25 pm

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