Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for December, 2021

Prospects361 Nats top 15 released


Andry Lara is rising up the prospect boards. Photo via

Since I love prospect lists, I’ll write a reaction piece to every Nats prospect list ranking that I see this off-season. What else are we gonna talk about during the lockout?

We already saw the Baseball America top 10 list, which I found laughable for a number of reasons. Let’s see how Prospects361 and its author Rich Wilson did.

Prospects361 does seem to have a fantasy focus, which means we’ll see some oddities in the rankings. Fantasy focused sites generally over-rank several types of players:

  • relievers who have closer ability (since “saves” are generally one of the 5 prime pitching fantasy categories)
  • very, very young prospects and/or brand new prospects which get snapped up in Dynasty leagues
  • positions that are scarce (SS, C, 3B to a certain extent)

Here’s a direct link to his ranking, which i’ve represented in the table below.

Cade CavalliRHP (Starter)2020 1st1
Keibert RuizC2014 IFA2
Brady HouseSS2021 1st3
Andry LaraRHP (Starter)2019 IFA4
Yasel AntunaSS2016 IFA5
Jackson RutledgeRHP (Starter)2019 1st6
Jeremy De La RosaOF (corner)2018 IFA7
Armando CruzSS2020 IFA8
Cole HenryRHP (Starter)2020 2nd9
Gerardo CarrilloRHP (Starter)2016 IFA10
Aldo RamirezRHP (Starter)2018 IFA11
Daylen LileOF2021 2nd12
Donovan CaseyOF (corner)2017 20th13
Roismar QuintanaOF (CF)2019 IFA14
Cristian VaqueroOF (CF)2021 IFA15

So, some reactions.

  • The same top 3 as nearly every other pundit shop right now, though he has Cavalli over Ruiz. That’s surprising since most legit ranks have Ruiz over Cavalli given Cavalli’s well known challenges, plus Ruiz is a catcher.
  • He has Andry Lara a bit higher than most others at #4, but I don’t think its unwarranted. The guy as an 18yr old pitched well in the GCL, which is now a much, much older league than it used to be. He may have had a 4.54 ERA, but his peripherals were pretty good.
  • Sigh; Yasel Antuna at #5. He’s still listed as a SS, which we know isn’t gonna happen as Antuna has already been banished to the OF. My concerns with Antuna being this high are well documented. All i’ll say is this: he better be one hell of a better hitter than he’s shown in 2022.
  • Even after his crap season, Jackson Rutledge sits above Cole Henry, which is laughable at this point. Perhaps he made this list before seeing anything that Henry was doing in Arizona.
  • He’s definitely high on Armando Cruz, One homer and a .232 BA in 177 DSL at bats this year after signing a ridiculously high signing bonus ($3.9M). So far, bust potential.
  • He’s about where the industry is on the guys in the 10-13 range, so no comment there.
  • Quintana: he’s definitely high on this guy. Quintana barely played this year due to an apparent injury, so this ranking and his potential is entirely that; potential.
  • Lastly, and I hate it when prospect ranking shops do this, he lists a player we’re only rumored to be signing in Vaquero. This is entirely fan service to dynasty fantasy players looking for some deep round pickup.


  • No mention of Joan Adon, who BA had #7. Now, i’m also on record being somewhat skeptical of Adon being a 7th ranked prospect, but i’m ok with him being a bit further down in the 13-15 range.
  • Slightly surprised there’s no Matt Cronin at the edges of his roster, given that Cronin is a closer candidate. It might be due to Cronin’s injury this year.
  • Not much else to quibble about.


Written by Todd Boss

December 23rd, 2021 at 4:13 pm

Rule-5 Protection Prediction history and existential question: does it matter?


Evan Lee gets protected; will he be an impact player? Photo via U of Arkansas

The 2021 rule-5 prediction season is over. I predicted we’d protect Tim Cate and Donovan Casey as “locks,” then listed several others as possibles, led by Evan Lee. In the end, the team protected Casey and Lee, but not Cate. And then on the even of the annual meetings, the owners locked out the players, the major league component of the meetings were cancelled, and the rule-5 draft was “postponed indefinitely.”

So, it remains to be seen if Rule-5 will ever matter again. Or if it even happens for this year.

That being said …. Here’s a fun trip down memory lane to show my history of my predicted Rule-5 additions (with links to each prediction piece), along with the Actual players the team protected (with links as well).

Here’s a better question; does Rule-5 matter? The Rule-5 draft used to occur one year earlier into a player’s career, which led to drastically better talent being available. Now though, many pundits (even scouting-heavy ones like Keith Law) don’t even follow it because the Rule-5 rarely leads to impact players changing teams.

So, how many of the above players who were added to “save” them from the Rule-5 draft actually turned into impactful players for the Nationals? Lets work backwards:

  • 2021: Casey and Lee: Obviously it is too early to tell, but we can project their immediate 2022. Casey likely serves as AAA OF depth in the near term of 2022. He is 6th on the depth chart right now, but could supplant the 5th man on that chart (Andrew Stevenson) with a good spring. Lee is now the 14th reliever or the 11th starter on our 40-man roster depth chart (meaning, he’s behind someone like Cade Cavalli who clearly would get called up before Lee if the need arose), and seems like a long shot to even get to AAA in 2022 given how many lefties we’ve signed recently. My guess is that he’ll start the season in the AA rotation, and might get pushed to the bullpen later in the season if the team needs it and is competing since he’s a lefty with big K/9 numbers.
  • 2020: Adon, Antuna: Adon toiled in the lower minors for most of the year, made it to the majors for a spot start and looked solid. Is it sustainable? We’ve argued about Adon’s 2021 season here already. Right now i’ve got him 8th on our depth chart, behind a likely non-tender in Erick Fedde, which might actually push him further up the chain sooner than later. Meanwhile, Antuna has been a disaster, is now moving off of SS and hit .230 in High-A with none of the power he’d need to present with his move to a corner OF position. The team seems to be clinging to the guy simply based on his massive IFA signing bonus. Apologists for Antuna point out that, hey, he was really good for a few weeks in August; that’s wonderful. He’ll be out of options before he’s useful to this team.
  • 2019: Braymer; already been DFA’d and outrighted after struggling; might be a 4-A org-guy as a ceiling.
  • 2018: Bourque: got shelled in AAA in 2019, waived in 2020, then left the team as a MLFA.
  • 2017: Gutierrez, Jefry Rodriguez. Gutierrez never really did anything for us and was traded to KC in the Kelvin Herrera deal. Rodriguez threw a bunch of mediocre starts and was flipped to Cleveland in the Yan Gomes deal; he’s now back with us as a MLFA for 2022.
  • 2016: Voth, Bautista, Marmolejos, Read and Skole. A ton of guys; anyone impactful? Voth has competed for the 5th starter job for years but has a career 83 ERA+ and might be a non-tender candidate. Bautista never did much for us: 33 career MLB plate appearances. Read had a PED suspension and a handful of MLB games. Marmolejos was a 1B-only guy who showed some gap power in AA but never above it. Skole was inexplicably protected as an age 26 corner infield guy whose profile seemed to mirror dozens of veteran free agents readily available on the market; he hit .222 in 2017 and then hit MLFA.
  • 2015: Kieboom, Bostick, Lee: This was Spencer Kieboom, the catcher, not his younger brother Carter, who remains on the 40-man as we speak. Kieboom was a AAA catcher who was worth protecting but he played just a handful of games in his MLB career. Chris Bostick didn’t last the full 2016 season before being DFA’d. Nick Lee lasted even less, getting DFA’d in July.
  • 2014: Cole, Goodwin, Difo, Grace. All four players ended up playing in the majors for various lengths … but all four were role players for this team. AJ Cole was tried out as a 5th starter season after season, finally flipped to the Yankees when he ran out of options. Goodwin was another guy who couldn’t seem to break our outfield, but who has had spells of starting with some success elsewhere. Difo was our backup IF for years, and Matt Grace pitched in the Washington bullpen for years before getting outrighted and leaving via MLFA in 2019.
  • 2013: Solis, Barrett, Taylor. Sammy was good until he wasn’t, and his time with the 2018 Nats was his last. Barrett remains with the team after multiple surgeries, but is a MLFA this off-season and may be forced into retirement after so many injuries. Michael A. Taylor is an interesting one; he had a 2.7 bWAR season for the Nats in 2017, nearly a 20/20 season when he finally got full time playing time in CF. He won a Gold Glove this year for Kansas City, one season after we DFA’d him because we all thought Victor Robles was a better option.
  • 2012: Karns and Davis.  Karns had one good year as a starter in the majors … for Tampa. Career bWAR: 3.0. Davis pitched a little for the team in 2013, then got hurt, then never made it back to the majors.
  • 2011: Norris, Moore, Solano, Perez.  This was a big year; Norris was a big part of the Gio Gonzalez trade and made the all star team in 2014 for Oakland, but didn’t play much afterwards. Tyler Moore was great in his first year as our backup 1B/bench bat type, but never replicated his 2012 season. Jhonathan Solano was always our 3rd catcher and saw sparing duty until he got cut loose. Eury Perez played in just a handful of games for us before getting DFA’d and claimed by the Yankees in Sept 2014.
  • 2010: Marrero, Carr and Kimball. Marrero was a 1st rounder who “had” to get protected to protect the team’s investiment; he just never could get above AAA. Adam Carr and Cole Kimball were both relievers who looked promising after their 2010 minor league seasons but did relatively little afterwards: Cole never made the majors, while Kimball hurt his shoulder and never recovered.
  • 2009: Jaime, Thompson and Severino. three pitchers, none of whom did much. Jaime was a 2004 IFA who has a grand total of 13 MLB innings. Thompson was waived a year after being protected. Severino got a cup of coffee in 2011 then hit MLFA.
  • 2008: Nobody added. Not one eligible pick or signing from the 2004/2005 draft was considered worthy of protecting.

Conclusion: So, after more than a decade of rule-5 additions, who would you say is the most impactful player we’ve ever added? Brian Goodwin? Michael A. Taylor? Sammy Solis?

Two backup outfielders and a middle reliever. Not much of an impact. At the end of the day, Rule-5 is about protecting edge-of-the-40man roster guys, most of whom barely make the majors. So, yeah, maybe it doesn’t matter.

I’ll still do this post though 🙂

Written by Todd Boss

December 6th, 2021 at 10:49 am

Final proposals pre Lockout show some interesting CBA negotiation details


The Athletic’s Evan Drellich is in Irving, Texas, reporting from the final meetings between the owners and the players before the 12/1/21 CBA expiration deadline and subsequent lockout, and he’s come up with some really interesting nuggets.

I know the Athletic is behind a paywall; i’ll try to summarize some of the back and forth details, some of which I find pretty interesting as a fan.

Here’s some of the things the owners are offering:

  • MLB has proposed an increase to the minimum salary (which is probably a given in every CBA).
  • MLB has proposed an increase in the luxury tax cap (currently at $210M) to $214M growing to $220M. This is a start, since they proposed earlier DROPPING it to $180M along with a salary floor, but is kind of ridiculous to offer basically a 5% cap growth at a time when inflation is nearly that this year alone.
  • MLB has proposed a draft lottery at the top to stop tanking … but only in the top 3 picks (which is basically useless).

The Players have made some proposals too:

  • Basing draft order on a formula, not straight on W/L record. 60% record, 40% market size. I’m guessing they don’t want the large market teams to ever draft in the top 10 again.
  • Teams receiving revenue sharing (14 of the 30 teams mind you, and which includes teams like Colorado, St. Louis and San Diego, each of whom really have no business getting revenue sharing) would only receive draft pick compensation if they finish above .500 (which I love).
  • Proposing a scaled hard line of players getting to FA based on age and service time. Its not a hard “when you get to X years you’re free” but a sliding scale meant to prevent players from languishing in the minors for years and then not getting to FA until they’re in their mid 30s.
  • Some recognition that service time issues aren’t going away, but putting in place “bonuses” that give service time for performance (if you make an All-star team after getting held down like Kris Bryant, then you get a full year of service time). I like this.
  • Arbitration after 2 years, not 3. Owners are dead set against this.
  • Changes to revenue sharing between owners, which they believe (rightly) leads to non-competitive behavior. Hard to argue against this when you watch teams like Miami and Pittsburgh get $50M a year to normally not compete.
  • Offer the owners expanded post-season
  • Offer the owners “patches” on the uniform … aka sponsorship on the uniforms.

These last two items are worth, collectively, hundreds of millions of dollars to the owners. So … if you propose something to owners that will give them that much money, they’re going to expect something back that gives the players that much money too. As in, salary floors, or huge incrases in minimum salaries.

Some interesting factoids here, for those who possibly think the owners are negotiating in good faith:

  • The Average MLB salary has fallen 6.4% since 2017 while revenues for the league rose from $10B in 2017 to $10.7B in 2019.
  • Even more striking … the median salary in the league is down THIRTY PERCENT since 2015. 30%.

This pattern shows what we already know really; that front offices are trending towards younger players at the expense of older veterans, choosing for a pre-arb $575k player instead of a $2M veteran player in his mid-30s for that last bench spot. This has generally gutted the FA market for mid-30s hitters and has run dozens into early retirement. Furthermore, we’ve even seen declines in the top of the salary market; the qualifying offer (which is the mean salary of the games’ top paid 125 players) DROPPED this year for the first time ever, from $18.9 to $18.4M. The players see these numbers, fume at them, and know that they’re being perpetually manipulated by multi-millionaire owners who are gaslighting the public in to believing they’re actually LOSING money but who refuse to open their books.

Get ready for a long winter.

Written by Todd Boss

December 2nd, 2021 at 9:05 am