Nationals Arm Race

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

Baseball America May 2024 Updated top 30


Reviewing off-season ranks from pundits last winter was a ton of fun, culminating in my publishing my own ranks once all the major pundits had reported.

We’re now a month into the season, and the first of a few expected “mid season updates” have published. These are useful re-ranks that take into account promotions, graduations, injuries, and the like. So, here’s a reaction to the 5/6/24 Update to the Baseball America Rankings for the Nats.

Here’s the May 2024 rankings.

BA May2024 rankLast NameFirst NamePosition
1WoodJamesOF (Corner)
2CrewsDylanOF (CF)
4CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)
6RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)
7Hassell IIIRobertOF (CF)
8VaqueroCristianOF (CF)
10ParkerMitchellLHP (Starter)
11SusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)
12GreenElijahOF (CF)
13LileDaylenOF (CF)
15BennettJakeLHP (Starter)
16SykoraTravisRHP (Starter)
17HerzDJLHP (Starter)
19PinckneyAndrewOF (Corner)
20BrzykcyZachRHP (Reliever)
22HenryColeRHP (Starter)
25De La RosaJeremyOF (Corner)
28WhiteT.J.OF (Corner)
29AlvarezAndrewLHP (Starter)

In this post, i’ll highlight just those changes in these rankings from their Jan 2024 system rankings, reviewed here (all stats quoted were as of 5/8/24 and may be slightly different when you read this).

  • At the top, BA officially does what many others have been threatening to; switch Crews and Wood at the top of the ranking. Wood had a monster spring and is at AAA, while Crews has scuffled out of the gate to continue his poor AA career numbers (he hit .208 there for a month last year and is hitting .235 there so far this season). Meanwhile, Wood is destroying AAA pitching so far in 2024; current slash line .339/.444/.529. I think it’s more than safe to say that the current depth chart of outfielders on the 40-man roster (roughly: Winker, Thomas, Young, Robles, Rosario, Call, and Garrett) may be ready for a shake up the next time they have an injury. I’m not sure how much longer the team will stand for Rosario to hit .125 when they have a top-5 prospect in AAA with nothing more to prove.
  • Lipscomb bumped up from #16 in January to #9 today, and he may not be eligible for this list much longer. He’s already got 87 ABs this season and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere as a useful backup infielder. Meanwhile, Rule5 draftee Nasim Nunez has three (3!) total ABs this season, and if the team stays in Wild Card contention much longer I see his usefulness being exhausted pretty soon.
  • Parker bumped up from #29 to #10. Well of course he’s been bumped up. Show up in the majors as a mid-20s prospect on every sheet, shut down the Dodgers, shut down the Astros? Come on. Nobody saw this coming. I liked Parker a lot after seeing him in person last year and I could only push him into my mid 20s. Hopefully its not a complete mirage and he continues along an bests what most pundits saw initially; 4th/5th starter ceiling.
  • Susana jumps ahead of Green in the rankings. Not sure what Susana has done to merit jumping ahead of anyone, let alone being this high. So far in 2024: 5 starts, 16 innings, and a 5.51 ERA. Interestingly, his K/9 is way up and his BB/9 is way down … but they can’t let him throw more than 3 innings a stint? Meanwhile, Green continues to not hit in the low-A, with a .170 BA and 52 (!!) Ks in 25 games so far this year. I mean … unless the franchise has told him to swing out of his ass every time he gets up, this is just not good.
  • Nunez remains 18th on the list, with no movement up or down relative to where he was in January. Really?
  • Jacob Young, ranked 18th in January, has officially graduated from rookie eligibility/prospect status by hitting his 150th PA in April. Like Parker/Lipscomb he never really was a heralded prospect but is succeeding so far in the majors.
  • The rest of the list from 19 to 29 is identical from January.
  • To add in the new 30th prospect to replace Young, BA has added … Marcus Brown. Which is weird b/c they had a list of 8-10 “honorable mentions” after posting their Jan 2024 list, and Brown wasn’t on it. I guess they released this before seeing what Marcus did in High-A when he got promoted earlier this year (.129/.206/.145). In January their “31st”prospect was Andry Lara, who has looked awesome so far in 2024, so that doesn’t make much sense.

So, some movement for some players, but not a full overhaul based on the SSS of 2024.

Written by Todd Boss

May 10th, 2024 at 9:51 am

Posted in Prospects

8 Responses to 'Baseball America May 2024 Updated top 30'

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  1. One point about Nunez’s roster status. May is pretty much the sweet spot to try to waive him through the league and cut a deal with the Marlins if the Nats want to get him off the roster but keep him. I’d say that, if the team tries that sort of move in July or August, a contender looking to polish its roster with a pinch runner and defensive replacement would not let him pass through waivers. It’s not uncommon for a Quintin Berry type to be added down the stretch even in the days of 25 man rosters, and Nunez has shown those skills. It would be a travesty if we let him hold a roster spot for 3-4 months then decide that someone like a Millas or a Blankenhorn is a better use for the spot in any sort of push for a better record. The decision on whether it is worth it to play the year with 12 position players plus Nunez or whether we are going to need the 26 man and 40 man slot needs to be made soon.


    10 May 24 at 10:50 am

  2. You nailed the clearest mistake on the list – bringing in Brown instead of Lara for #30. After Lara’s great start, given his youth and scouting pedigree, he’s 25th at worst and likely higher. Brown was completely lost at A+ before he was demoted. This is the kind of thing that makes me wonder if these guys take the exercise half as seriously as the fans do. I know they’re doing all 30 teams, but I feel like you could catch something like that in a couple hours of research. I suppose maybe one of their scouts saw Brown in person and just loved something about him, but I feel like that’s meeting them more than halfway.

    On Parker and Lipscomb, it’s not that it’s odd they’ve risen, but it does feel like big bumps pretty quickly. Honestly, especially for Lipscomb. At least if Parker continues nearly at this pace, he’s a solid SP 3/4, and that would comfortably land you on the back half of top 100 lists as a median outcome. Lipscomb, on the other hand, looks like a useful utility player without much upside beyond that. I certainly don’t think we should expect much improvement on the offensive side by betting on “Lipscomb adjusting to the league” over “the league adjusting to Lipscomb”. So what have we seen so far: a playable but below average bat, very good 3B defense and reasons to believe he can learn to field other positions. How different is that from what we knew 2-3 months ago?

    With Parker, I guess I can see him at 9th or 10th, but I’m still not sure I have him over Lile or Susana yet. (And by the time I would, he’ll probably be graduating off the list anyway.)

    Speaking of Susana, I don’t know why you’re so confused. ERA in small-ish samples can be misleading, and especially so in the low minors. Strikeouts and walks are the most important stats in that they normalize quickly and are the most predictive of future results. 16 IP underpowered even still, but it looks like Susana has taken big steps in the right direction on both. Given his electric stuff, it’s an incredibly exciting development that he’s improved his control. He’s still 2-3 years away from the majors, but if all he does this year is maintain those peripherals at low-A, this season would be a resounding success.

    I will agree that it’s odd that he’s on such a short leash. His youth is part of it, I’m sure, but I’ve always thought that the org was specifically worried about his mechanics as he tired for some reason. Now that his control issues look solved, I hope his main development goal for the season is to work up to regular 5 inning starts.

    And I’ve had Wood over Crews from the beginning, so I actually didn’t even notice that change when I first scanned the list. I never understood how folks were ranking the “high floor” guy over the “high ceiling” guy when the latter was outperforming the former at the same level while a year younger. But I’m also not sure that part of the ranking matters much. They’re both killer prospects who will get lots of support and plenty of chances (if they need them). They are extremely unlikely to be traded, and the only really meaningful question around them is “how soon?”. They’re 1 and 1a; FV60+ means more than the order.


    10 May 24 at 1:51 pm

  3. JCA: I agree with that take. I’ll ask a follow-up: what about Nunez has indicated he’s worth keeping? Ok, so the guy can play middle infield. here’s a rough look at the depth chart we have for 2B and SS:

    Short Stops:
    – MLB: Abrams (MLB entrenched), Vargas, Nunez (MLB backups),
    – AAA: Jack Dunn/Erick Mejia (both org guys).
    – AA: Lawson & Barley (marginal prospects: Barley struggling since trade acquisition, Lawson just got promoted)
    – High-A: Kevin Made & Samuel Infante. Made a decent prospect, Infante a 2nd round pick who’s turning into a bust.
    – Low-A: Armando Cruz & Everett Cooper. Cruz is a heralded prospect and Cooperi is a 16th rounder with no expectations.

    So, Not a ton of SS depth honestly. Which probably is why they grabbed him in rule5.

    How about 2B depth? Same analysis:
    – MLB: Garcia (entrenched for now; he’s raking this year), with Vargas, Lipscomb as backups
    – AAA: Baker, Alu, Cluff: Baker may be a backup infielder ceiling despite his fast rise. Alu is already off 40-man and seems unlikely to get back on. Cluff org guy
    – AA: JT Arruda; org guy
    – High-A: Infante and Viandel Pena; not much here
    – Low-A: Dugas and now Marcus Brown, who was up and down already. Dugas crushing in 2024 of course but he’s also several years older than his competition and has low expectations as a below-slot 6th rounder.

    Garcia is, of course, a SS who ate too many cheeseburgers and is now at 2B. You can always turn a SS to a 2B, and sometimes take a decently athletic 3B or LF and have them play a passable 2B as well. I don’t need 15 gold gloves at 2B. So, really this Nunez conversation is about whether or not he brings value as a starting SS or a backup infielder who can play any position on the dirt. And, right now, there’s nobody pushing at him to replace his position as the backup to the backup of Abrahams.

    Todd Boss

    10 May 24 at 5:10 pm

  4. Susana “confusion.” yes, ERA in SSS is misleading. I always look at peripherals as well. right now he’s got a 5.51 ERA, a 1.47 Whip (same as last year) a .284 BAA (that’s not impressive). Now, to be fair, his BABIP is way high .432, his GO/AO is improved a ton this year and as mentioned before his K/BB ratio is also greatly improved. I dunno; i realize he’s only 20, but this is now his third year in Low-A. He should have “figured it out” last year.

    Todd Boss

    10 May 24 at 5:16 pm

  5. Crews vs Wood: I’ve always had Crews ahead of Wood for one main reason: positional flexibility. Crews projects as staying in CF, while Wood projects going to a corner. If you have a guy with a .900 OPS who plays RF versus a .900 OPS guy who gives you CF, you take the CF. Yes, its proejcted vs actual … except we just saw Crews put up ridiculously insane numbers for three years in the SEC, and the list of College Golden Spikes POTYs who did NOT pan out is pretty small. .

    Todd Boss

    10 May 24 at 5:19 pm

  6. I have a question on Nunez: if there’s a deal with the Marlins, does he also have to pass through R5 waivers first? Or can the Nats and the Marlins just work out a trade if they choose.

    Re Susana: totally fair enough. We all have our preferred stats, and I am by no means all in on FIP in all cases. But K% and BB% are the ones I care about most in the low minors and the ones I care most about in small small samples. Here it’s both, so I’m almost entirely looking at xFIP. I guess we’ll see how the year develops, but I’d bet on his ERA falling below 4 before too long.

    Re Crews: That’s an interesting point about the positional value. And I certainly agree with you in the general case, but usually that decision is about defensive ability. In this case, my sense is that scouts rate them both as above average but not plus CFers, and that the conventional wisdom to put Wood in RF was more about saving his some body wear and tear long term. Even so, clearly Wood would provide less defensive value in RF than Crews would in CF, but if is Wood comfortably plus defender in RF and Crews is average in CF, the difference in value is somewhat mitigated. Which is why I’ve been pretty much just comparing their bats, but that could have been a mistake.

    (By the way, I am 100% in on your last point — I’m not worried about Crews at all. If he’s still “struggling” to a 120 wRC+ this time next year, we can talk about downgrading him.)


    10 May 24 at 6:41 pm

  7. Well, that was a pretty bad start by Susana and, worst of all, the 6BB undercuts my whole theory of the case. Still not giving up on him, but maybe I was too hasty to buy in to the step forward.


    10 May 24 at 8:29 pm

  8. Nunez acquisition from Marlins: we can trade “something” for him to Marlins yes, then that would allow us to option him to the minors but he’d still be on 40-man. If we wanted to remove him from 40-man, it’d have to be through waivers. now, if we returned him to Miami, they’d have to pay us some money to take him back, but then he’d be OFF their 40-man.

    Susana; yeah, not a good start.

    Crews/Wood: Here’s their current tool grades on MLBpipeline:
    – Wood: Hit: 50 | Power: 70 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 60
    – Crews: Hit: 70 | Power: 60 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 65

    Its the hit tool that really differentiates them. Otherwise almost identical tools. And that tracks with what you see when you watch Crews bat: he’s not selling out for power, he’s all-fields line drive. Well, he was until he got to AA anyway.

    Todd Boss

    11 May 24 at 8:42 am

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