Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for November, 2023

Prospects361 Top 10 Nats Prospects for 2024


How long Before House gets to the majors? Photo via

Happy Thanksgiving!

The second early publisher of prospect top 10s is Prospects361, written by Rich Wilson, with a definite fantasy focus. I believe he ranks deeper than 10, but you can only see 10 without a premium account.

Pre-2024 Prospect Lists and Analysis:

Here’s his top 10 list for us.

peLast NameFirst NamePosition
1CrewsDylanOF (CF)
2WoodJamesOF (Corner)
4VaqueroCristianOF (CF)
5Hassell IIIRobertOF (CF)
6CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)
8GreenElijahOF (CF)
9SusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)
10SykoraTravisRHP (Starter)

Quick reaction to this top 10 list.

  • Nothing really shocking here, despite Wilson’s fantasy tint. For the most part this is a defensible list.
  • In the lead-up to the list, he does notice that a lot of our top prospects took steps back or struggled in 2023. And yes he’s right. Hassell didn’t seem right all year. Cavalli missed the entire season with TJ. Bennett GOT TJ. Green strikes out half the time he bats. Susana can’t find the plate. So yeah there’s some angst in the system.
  • His top 3 are basically the same as anyone elses right now: Crews, Wood, House.
  • Putting Vaquero 4th is ridiculous … and is one of the two really notable fantasy-tinged picks in this list. He’s doing analysis for dynasty leagues who are drafting 18 and 19yr olds, and in those leagues guys like Vaquero are getting snapped up.
  • He’s dinged Green down to 8th, whereas most have him a bit higher. He has to figure out how to not strike out.
  • 10th was Sykora, entirely on draft bonus amount and hype.

The highest players he doesn’t have ranked would include the likes of:

  • Rutledge, who still maintains rookie status. I guess when you’re a 6th starter in the majors, you’re less valuable than an 18 yr old who hasn’t thrown a pitch in pro ball.
  • Lile, who MLBpipeline is super-high on.
  • Bennett, though to no surprise since he is missing all of 2024.

Written by Todd Boss

November 24th, 2023 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Prospects

Rule-5 Protection Prediction history updated for 2023


Rutledge could be one of our best ever Rule5 protections. 2023 photo via

Here’s a complete 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), to show my (lack of) predictive powers. It’s updated for 2023 and has narratives about each class and how the players turned out later on.

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:

  • 2022: Cronin, Alu, De La Rosa, Rutledge, Ferrer, Irvin. Some good, some bad so far out of this crew. The Good: Irvin spent most of 2023 in the MLB rotation, Rutledge pitched great all year and ended in the rotation as well, Alu became a solid MLB player, and Ferrer got 39 appearances this year). The bad: Cronin and De La Rosa both already outrighted right back off the 40-man.
  • 2021: Casey and Lee: Casey was DFA’d mid 2022, outrighted, then demoted to AA for most of 2023 before hitting MLFA. He never once played in the majors for us. Lee got hurt in 2022, made a few starts in AA, got outrighted (ironically to make room for the 2022 Rule5 guys) then was converted to relief for 2023 where he struggled badly in 2023. He was a bad rule5 protection selection; someone who was “good” for a brief second and had crazy K/9 numbers but who couldn’t come close to sustaining it at the higher levels of the minors.
  • 2020: Adon, Antuna: Adon toiled in the lower minors for most of 2021, made it to the majors for a spot start and looked solid. His performance since? Absolutely abhorrent: 1-12 with a 7.10 ERA in 2022 before mercifully being sent down. 2023 was not much better. His outlook for 2024? Probably another year in AAA, i’ve got him probably 7th or 8th on the pecking order before considering this year’s rule-5 adds. Meanwhile, Antuna was a disaster, had to move 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. Finally at the end of 2023 he hit MLFA; final career minor league totals: .224/.326/.675 and the only level where he even came close to an .800 was rookie ball.
  • 2019: Braymer; got DFA’d mid-season 2021 and outrighted after struggling in both seasons. Never amounted to much after that.
  • 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 was waived; he then went on to Baltimore to succeed, a pretty black mark for this team’s usage of him (since Baltimore ins’t exactly known for being a pitching development team). 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? Maybe it’ll be one of the two starters from 2022 Jake Irvin and/or Jackson Rutledge.

Written by Todd Boss

November 20th, 2023 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Rule-5

2023 Non Tender Candidate Analysis


Robles gets to hang out one more year. Photo via nbcsports

Hot on the tail of the Rule-5 analysis we have the tender deadline for arb-eligible players. Well, technically the entirety of the arb-eligible plus pre-arb players are up for non-tendering, but the priority this week is usually just dealing with the players who have arbitration cases coming up (we can simply assign salaries to the pre-arb guys if we want them, and we can DFA them any time otherwise).

Note: I wrote the below BEFORE the Rule-5 deadline and subsequent deals, so I’ll cross-off what is no longer relevant and put in updated notes, since most of our decisions were basically made for us presumably.

So, looking at our 40-man roster and the arbitration-eligible guys (thanks to Cots and to MLBTraderumors for candidate lists), here’s a quick rundown on our Arb guys (salary estimates come from another MLBTraderumors post, and even though i sometimes quibble with their estimates they’re usually pretty spot on)

  • Kyle Finnegan (A2): $2.3M this year, $5.1M estimate for 2024. I’ll take $5M for a closer. Tender him, and trade him for prospects next year.
  • Victor Robles (A3): $2.3M 2023, $2.7M for 2024. Had a club option declined to make him arb-eligible for one last time. An interesting decision; he actually looked decent for a month and a half before hitting the DL. $2.7M for a guy who, if he’s healthy and hitting .299/.385/.364 at the trade deadline will absolutely net prospects. Alex Call didn’t exactly earn the starting CF nod with his Mendoza-line batting. Young may need more AAA time. I say you tender him, he starts in CF until Young or (ahem) Crews is ready to take over CF on the big league club then flip him. Update: signed for 2024 for undisclosed money, but they turned down a club option for $3.3M so it’s likely somewhere in the $2.7-$2.8 range.
  • Lane Thomas: $2.2M this year, $7M next. No brainer. Tender him. The bigger question with Thomas is … how long do you hold on to him? Is he a long-term piece on this team or does he make way once the litany of OF prospects arrive? All our top prospects are outfielders. Woods, Crews, Green, Lile, Hassell, and Vaquero. Do you hold onto Thomas until you have all three prospects up and producing? Probably. This is a larger bit of analysis but i’ve distilled what the front office is probably thinking.
  • Dominic Smith: $2M this year, $4.3M next. .366 slugging and 12 homers for your 1B free agent guy who you were counting on flipping at the deadline? That’s not going to cut it. Non-tender him, cut him loose and try again in the FA market this coming off-season. Probably should have done this non-tender before the rule-5 deadline to open up cap space. Update: DFA’d ahead of Rule-5 additions to make room, just as I said they would.
  • Tanner Rainey: $1.5M this year, $1.5M next year. Hurt all year, but closer-quality guy for a song. Tender him. Update: club signed him for exactly $1.5M next year. Fair gamble.
  • Ildimaro Vargas: $975K this year, no official estimate for salary next year (probably $1.1M) He may not have gotten an estimate because he was a MLFA. A decent hitting middle infielder backup. if Carter Kieboom is healthy, he may not have a spot, but no reason not to tender him. The team DFA’d Chavis, maybe so they could keep Vargas. Remember; even a contract tender only puts the team on the hook for a fraction of it if they whack a guy in spring training next year. Correction: as pointed out in the comments, Vargas resigned at the end of the season already. so this analysis is moot.
  • Hunter Harvey: $870k this year, $2.2M next. Easily our best reliever this year. Tender him. Another guy who you’d think could net prospects at the trade deadline.
  • Carter Kieboom: $733k this year, maybe $1M next. MLBtraderumors doesn’t have him as being arb eligible in its analysis, but Cots does. He’s got 2+ years of service, finally got healthy and onto the field. Still isn’t hitting like he did as a prospect, but the opportunity cost of playing him one more season isn’t very high. He either sticks, or you wait out House. It is still baffling to me why he didn’t make the leap to the MLB; its hard to remember just how good a prospect he was in AAA; he was top 20 for all of the minors on major lists in 2020. I’d love to really know what happened to him.
  • Luis Garcia: $738K this year, $2.2M next. This estimate seems high, especially since the team had to send him down mid-season, but they won’t cut him yet. Tender him. Can he be our long term 2B? Maybe. There’s a couple of middle infield types who are making a case in the near future: Darren Baker has moved all the way to AAA as a 2B primary fielder, Kevin Made is a SS who could move to 2B, Jordy Barley just resigned, and Trey Lipscomb was one of our minor league POTYs this year and featured in the AFL. So, the pressure is on.

The team had already dfa’d a couple of the more obvious non-tender candidates (Chavis, Banda, and Arano) well ahead of this week. So that plus the Smith DFA made this analysis pretty trivial.

Written by Todd Boss

November 15th, 2023 at 11:34 pm

Posted in Non-Tender

2023 Rule-5 Discussion


DJ Herz is seemingly a lock to get protected. Photo via Wash Post

We do it every year. Its our annual deep dive into our older prospects to see who the team may be thinking about protecting. Here’s links to past years posts on this topic: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010. And here’s a summary of all these posts and my predictions versus who we actually protected.

November 14th is the Deadline to add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft

As a reminder, Rule 5 eligibility is as follows for any player not on a 40-man roster:

  • Signed at 18-years-old or younger, has been in the organization for five seasons
  • Signed at 19-years-old or older, has been in the organization for four seasons

So, generally speaking this translates to:

  • IFAs or High Schoolers drafted/signed in 2019 or before
  • College players drafted/signed in 2020 or before

2020 of course was the Covid draft, so there were only 5 rounds of players picked, making this a thinner analysis than it often is. Also of note; this isn’t a hard and fast rule; a prep player could have turned 19 by the time they got drafted and be Rule-5 eligible on year earlier. Also (as was the case for Bryce Harper way back when) a college player could be 18 or younger and hang onto an extra year. Same with IFAs; sometimes an IFA is actually 19 or older so they’re due a year earlier. If i forgot someone in here, its likely due to one of these factors.

Now, in 2023, heading into this effort, the 40-man roster is full. So full in fact that just to return all our 60-day DL guys to the active roster a few days ago we had to DFA a prospect in Matt Cronin (who, if he clears waivers and is outrighted is a 19D and would be subject to this draft).

Important resources useful to this analysis:

  • Nats Draft Tracker
  • Nats IFA Tracker; this is a newer resource you may not have seen that i’ve created in the spirit of the Draft tracker, but for IFA “classes.” I could only go back to 2015.
  • Nats Big Board; which helps add in the Rule5 candidates we’ve acquired via trade.
  • Roster Resource: Fangraphs-based resource that tracks R5 and options status for “key” Minor leaguers.
  • 2023 MLFA List: which took out some of the older names at the end of this analysis.

Here’s the analysis, group by group.

Group 1: Newly Eligible 2020 draft College Players this year worth consideration for protection:

The draft class was so small, we can go through them one by one:

  • Cade Cavalli: already on the 40-man
  • Cole Henry: man, what a dilemma. If he’s healthy, he’s a #2 starter ceiling in the majors. But after a risky shoulder surgery in 2022, Henry only threw 33 innings in 2023, to a 6.23 ERA. Is he even healthy? I’ve seen him ranked anywhere between 5th and 20th in prospect rankings, but everyone out there can see his performance.
  • Holden Powell, the closer in college who has missed a ton of time, but pitched most of this year in High-A. He walked nearly a batter an inning. Even for a team looking for middle relief, I can’t imagine someone taking Powell. That didn’t stop the Nats from sending him to the AFL, to showcase/test him. In Arizona as of this writing: 0-2,12.00 ERA. He’s pitched 9 innings and given up 12 ER on 12 hits and 8 walks. Not Good. That probably seals it; no Rule5 for Powell.
  • Brady Lindsly: I thought this was a throw-away pick in 2020: $20k senior sign from Oklahoma. But damn if he hasn’t stuck around. He split time between AA and AAA this year, didn’t hit half bad. He’s a minor league backup catcher though; very little chance he gets picked.
  • Mitchell Parker: opening day starter for AA, durable lefty, better than his numbers, made it to AAA by season’s end. I think he’s someone the team has to protect.

Group 1 Protection candidates: Parker, maybe Henry.

Group 1-A: 2020 NDFAs

A new category b/c the 2020 draft was just 5 rounds and we signed a slew of NDFAs that year:

  • Paul Witt: CA/OF who’s at AAA. not great numbers but hanging around.
  • Zach Brzycky: RHP who is routinely on prospect lists for this team and who has been a back of the bullpen guy his whole career. He was an NRI in spring training this year after lighting up the minors in 2022 to the tune of a 1.76 ERA across 61 innings. But … he got hurt. And missed the entire 2023 season. So he’s not a candidate to get drafted this year, but could be in the future. This is just the kind of guy (minor league closer) who gets plucked all the time to be the 6th guy in a MLB bullpen.

Group 1A protection candidates: none.

Group 2: Newly Eligible 2019 High School-age drafted players under consideration for protection

Thanks to the rarity in which we draft HS players, there’s exactly one player from 2019 who remains in the organization who was a HS draftee.

  • Michael Cuevas. RH starter. Pitched the entire year in AA, 5.53 ERA in his age 22 season. Now, that’s impressive to me as a 22yr old in AA, but is this someone we think would get plucked? He’s never appeared on a single prospect ranking list, ever. So he has almost no prospect fame. I don’t think he’s a likely candidate to get picked, but I do like the possibility of him turning into a decent starter as a 23yr old next year.

Group 2 Protection Candidates: Cuevas, Maybe.

Group 3: Newly Eligible 2019 signed IFAs under consideration for protection:

I count 12 IFAs signed in 2019 who remain active in the system as per the IFA tracker. Some have yet to make it off the Island, let alone get out of rookie ball. So, here’s those who have made it any further:

  • Roismar Quintana: he’s now morphed into a corner OF/1B guy with no power and no speed. He’s generally ranked in the 20s on these prospect rankings. Certainly he’s not a notable prospect. Not a candidate to get drafted.
  • Kevin Made: Might be the highest ranked prospect to be evaluated (depending on where Henry is ranked on your list du jour). Made was part of the bounty for Candelario from Chicago (along with DJ Herz, who’s mentioned in the next section), and you’d have to think one of the reasons Chicago suggested him was because of his Rule-5 eligibility this off-season. He’s a 21-yr old high-A SS who didn’t exactly light the world on fire upon getting here (.137/.232/.192). He’s not getting drafted.
  • Andry Lara: The Nats aggressively pushed Lara to High-A this year, where he pitched an entire year in the rotation as a 20yr old. Numbers were decent: 4.58 ERA, 23 starts, 1.26 whip. Easy arm action, lots of velocity. He’s definitely a valuable prospect, but is he someone you have to protect? Its the same argument the team used last year to protect Jeremy De La Rosa coming out of A ball, and I’ll bet the Nats protect Lara under similar thought process.
  • Juan Abreu: reliever in Low-A. 23yr old with a 5+ ERA in Low-A; more likely to get cut than drafted.
  • Franklin Marquez, long reliever in Low-A. 37 walks in 35 innings. Not a rule-5 draft candidate.
  • Pablo Aldonis: hurt in May, went on season-ending 60-day DL. I like his future prospects but for now he doesn’t seem like he’ll get picked.

Group 3 Protection Candidates: Lara

Group 4: Rule-5 Eligible Drafted/Domestic hold-overs of note

So, anyone drafted in 2019 or before falls into this category. Everyone on this list has already passed through Rule-5 at least once, and is mentioned here b/c they’re now improved enough to be notable. If someone’s not above High-A, they’re not mentioned.

  • Jackson Cluff: .206 as a SS in AA. Not a candidate.
  • Jack Dunn: corner OF who made his way to AAA. he’s now 27, having been an old senior sign in 2019. Org guy.
  • JT Arruda: backup 2B in AA. Not a candidate
  • DJ Herz: trade bounty along with Kevin Made for Candelario. Sent to the AFL just to make sure everyone in baseball knew who he was and that he was rule-5 eligible. He sparkled in 2023 for two teams, 3.43 ERA in 22 starts as a lefty, striking out 133 in 94IP. 100% guarantee he’s protected.
  • Lucas Knowles: rubber armed lefty who ended up in AAA this year as kind of a long-man/multi inning guy. Never been on a prospect list, but just keeps moving up. Not notable enough to get plucked, but someone who may contribute to this team in the future.
  • Orlando Ribalta, who the team sent to the AFL after he pitched well enough in AA for most of the year. He’s got decent career stats, but is now a 25yr old Juco signing who’s still hanging around and has never once been named to a prospect list.
  • Garvin Alston, who we got in trade from the White Sox in April of 2022 for … cash? Nonetheless he’s a 19D who had 44 appearances this year for AA.
  • Seth Shuman: 19D who we got in trade and finished year on 60-day DL.
  • Cody Wilson: an 18D who keeps hanging around, bouncing between AA and AAA this year.
  • Onyx Vega, also an 18D who’s facing his 3rd Rule-5. Backup catcher in AAA.
  • Trey Harris, who we got in trade last year from Atlanta for Ehire Adrianza, is still hanging around but has been layered in AA by all our prospects. Now 27; not a prospect really.
  • Reid Schaller, 3rd rounder in 18D who pitched in the back end of the AA bullpen this year. Decent numbers repeating AA, but very little prospect mention in his career.
  • Tim Cate, still trying to make it, now converting to relief and had decent AA numbers. We would have expected more from a 2nd rounder, but he’s still not in the rule-5 conversation.
  • Mason Denaburg. Our 1st rounder in 2018 is still out there, still throwing the rock in low-A.
  • (Possible): Matt Cronin, who is in DFA limbo as we write this and could be outrighted. If so, he’s technically rule-5 eligible, which would be silly for someone to draft since they could have just claimed the guy a week prior. Not getting drafted.

Group 4 protection Candidates: Herz a lock. Ribalta? Maybe?

Group 5: IFAs: 2018 and older

We’re only listing IFAs from 2018 or previously who have gotten out of Rookie ball, since there’s just so many of them on that roster.

  • Yoander Rivero, 18IFA backup SS in Low-A. Hit. 186 this year. Not a candidate.
  • Rodney Theophile. 18IFA who put up pretty decent numbers in High-A this year. But, he was an older IFA (he’s 24 this year) and didn’t pitch after July 7th. Another one of these “injured but never hit the DL types,” so who knows what actually happened to him. Not a candidate.
  • Aldo Ramirez. 18IFA trade bounty for Kyle Schwarber two summers ago. Still not healthy, despite being a solid SP prospect. Has not pitched now in two full seasons. Obviously not a candidate to get drafted; just hoping he actually pitches for us at some point.
  • Richard Guasch; an 18IFA that we got in trade from Oakland in the 2021 trade deadline. Missed two chunks of time on the DL this season, is now 25, and would never stick on a MLB roster. not a candidate.
  • Leandro Emiliani: 17IFA who hit .212 in low-A. Nope.
  • Gerardi Diaz: 17IFA 3rd catcher in Low-A. Nope.
  • Viandel Pena: 17IFA backup 2B in Wilmington who hit .212. nope.
  • Bryan Caceres, 17IFA starter in Wilmington with an ERA in the 6s. nope.
  • Carlos Romero, 17IFA reliever in Wilimington with an ERA in the 6s. nope.
  • Jordy Barley, 16IFA who still maintains eligibility despite now being in the minors for 8 years. He’s famous for his speed, made it to AAA this year, where he hit .283 despite hitting .228 in Hihg-A for most of the year. The scouting report is seemingly out on the guy, and I don’t think he’s a prospect anymore.
  • A slew of 18IFAs amongst the 30+ arms on the Low-A Roster: Diaz, Rodriguez, Otanez, Atencio, Sanchez, and Hiraldo. None of them are even likely to get a chance at being a rotation member, and are probably closer to a release than a Rule-5 drafting. None are candidates.

Group 5 Candidates: none.

Group 6: Former 40-man guys who have been previously outrighted

  • Evan Lee: went from 104 Ks in 71 High-A innings in 2021 to a 40-man spot, then was outrighted in November 2022 and spent 2023 in AA posting a 6.45 ERA before missing the last three months with injury. Not a candidate.
  • Rico Garcia, who signed as MLFA in July, then was added to the active roster like 8 days later, released on 9/1, re-signed a day later. .. is he Rule5 eligible if he signed a MLFA deal? Unclear.

Group 6 candidates: none.

So, where does that leave us? Summarizing the Groups:

  • Group 1 Protection candidates: Parker, maybe Henry.
  • Group 1A protection candidates: none.
  • Group 2 Protection Candidates: Cuevas maybe.
  • Group 3 Protection Candidates: Lara
  • Group 4 protection Candidates: Herz a lock. Ribalta maybe.
  • Group 5 Candidates: none.
  • Group 6 candidates: none.

I predict the team protects three starters: Parker, Lara, and Herz. They roll the dice on Henry, Cuevas, and Ribalta. In order to make room, they DFA Abbott, Rico Garcia, and Downs.

11/15/23 Rule-5 results (post publishing): Nats protect four: Parker, Herz, Henry, and Brzycky. To make room, they DFA Smith (a non-tender candidate), Abbott, and Machado (who has a Japan opportunity).

So, we were right about Parker and Herz. We hedged on Henry, and the team added him. This is a good sign for me; it means the team is confident enough in his ability to rebound (either that or they know other teams are looking at a former top 10 prospect arm/2nd rounder and want to prevent some other team from getting essentially a “free” arm to try out in spring training). The surprise was Brzycky; not because he isn’t worthy, but because he’s not coming back from TJ until mid-season.

Written by Todd Boss

November 13th, 2023 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Rule-5

2023 MLFAs Announced


Tetreault declared a MLFA along with several other notable former prospects. Photo via

As was posted yesterday (early this morning?) by Luke over at, BA released its list of known 2023 Minor League Free Agents by team this week. The Nats had no fewer than 30 (!) players listed on BA’s list, to go along with a couple of guys who elected FA a bit earlier this off season plus one guy in Sean Doolittle who was technically declared a MLFA but who announced his retirement in September.

Nats Big Board is now updated; go to the “2024 Releases” tab to see the 30-some odd names just declared FAs.

This massive number of names to me is indicative of one main fact w/r/t our player development lately: we have been signing an inordinate number of MLFAs to one year deals to cover the upper levels of the system. By my count, 19 of these names were signed as MLFAs ahead of the 2023 season. Some of them got MLB playing time as experienced vets (Derek Hill, Anthony Banda) and some of them are still on the 40-man (Meneses, Vargas, and Weems were all MLFAs). But we’ve depended on so many of these guys lately, especially to fill the AAA rosters.

Eight of these newly declared MLFAs were home-grown, which means they’ve been in our system for a long, long time. Many were once well-regarded prospects and we’ve discussed them in this space for years. For all these players, the Draft Tracker and IFA trackers are now updated to indicate their departure. These releases officially cut ties with most of the 2016 IFA class and 2017 Draft class.

  • Jake Noll: 16D 7th rounder. Earned a 40-man spot, couldn’t hold on to it.
  • Wilmer Perez: 16IFA Catcher who has bounced around levels for years as a backup catcher.
  • Yasel Antuna: 16IFA with a massive bonus who never paid off and clogged our 40-man roster for years. A perfect example of teams ignoring simple Economic theory w/r/t Sunk Costs and continuing to treat signing bonuses as “investments” instead of the transactional cash payments they really are.
  • Jose Sanchez: another 16IFA backup SS who filled in at High-A and AA this year.
  • Alex Troop, 17D 9th rounder who became the classic lefty Long Reliever/Spot Starter rubber-armed guy who soaked up innings for both AAA and AA for this team for years. I could see him re-upping if given the opportunity; he ended up being in the AA rotation for a big chunk of 2023.
  • Pedro Gonzalez, 17IFA middle RHP multi-inning reliever who just kind of soaked up innings for Low-A this year.
  • Jackson Tetreault: 17D 7th rounder who always seemed to fly under the radar, but got a bunch of starts in AAA in 2022 and looked like he could be a find, getting promoted to the big club. But, he got hurt, missed most of 2023, and now he’s in career limbo. Like Troop, I wonder if he’ll re-up with the team.
  • Malvin Pena, a 14IFA (wow) who’s been pitching in this organization for nearly a decade. Had decent numbers as a AA middle reliever.

Other notable names declared MLFAs:

  • Gerardo Carillo: the 3rd guy out of 4 prospects in the LA Dodgers Turner/Scherzer deal. Just never seemed like he could find the plate.
  • Donovan Casey, the 4th guy out of 4 prospects in the LA Dodgers Turner/Scherzer deal. Was on the 40-man, couldn’t make it.
  • Alameo Hernandez: I liked this guy this year, solving AA as a starter at age 24 and moving up to AAA. I really hope they re-sign him.
  • Matt Adams, who stuck with AAA for the entire season despite being 37 and having made millions as a major leaguer. I wonder if he was auditioning for a coaching role.

There’s still some guys who were 16IFA classes or older who remain on the roster despite them seemingly being at the end of their 6-7 years of minor league service. The oldest such name is a 13IFA Luis Reyes, who still is listed as active. Jordy Barley was a 16IFA and remains, as does guys Niomar Gomez and Gerardi Diaz. Either they’ve been declared MLFAs and’s site isn’t updated (which happens all.the.time.) or they’ve signed multi-year deals to remain.

Fun fact: The oldest remaining originally drafted player for the team remains Stephen Strasburg, 2009 draftee. After that, the next oldest is Carter Kieboom, 1st rounder in 2016. Zero players now remain with the system for the entire 2017 draft with the MLFA declaration of guys like Troop and Tetreault (this was the Seth Romero draft).

Written by Todd Boss

November 9th, 2023 at 10:06 am

Posted in Prospects

Prospect Season kicks off with BA top 10


Nobody improved their prospect value more than Rutledge in 2023 photo via

We havn’t even returned the 60-day DL players back to the active roster, and Baseball America goes and drops its first pre-2024 analysis. They released their pre-2024 top 10, plus their list of “best tools” and their stab at a 2027 roster for the team.

Here’s the top 10 and some quick thoughts.

BA pre-2024 top 10Last NameFirst NamePosition
1CrewsDylanOF (CF)
2WoodJamesOF (Corner)
4CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)
6RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)
7Hassell IIIRobertOF (CF)
8VaqueroCristianOF (CF)
9GreenElijahOF (CF)
10SusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)
  • No surprise on top 3. Wouldn’t surprise me to see all three start in AA in 2024, all three move up together, and all three debut in the majors by mid-season.
  • Cavalli at #4 isn’t terribly surprising … if he shows that he’s got pre-TJ stuff upon his return, he could/should be back up to #2.
  • Morales really had a solid debut, bumping him above some more familiar names. Its about time we had a 2nd round pick work out for us.
  • Rutledge’s 2023 season, which shocked this observer, has him now just outside the top echelon of our prospect royalty. Talk about a turnaround from his 2022 season.
  • Hassell’s season just seemed to drag him down, post hamate-bone surgery. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that he was the #2 prospect in the system. I’d really like to see him regain that luster.
  • Vaquero remains more hype than production, but at least he’s stateside now.
  • Green’s K numbers have officially taken the shine of his star. He’s dropped to #9 here, and that’s low enough that he’s no longer a sure thing.
  • Susana somehow comes in at #10, despite ending the season injured and repeating a level.

Players outside the top 10 looking in. Only one real nit:

  • I’d put Lile above Susana at this point.
  • I guess Bennett is going to be in the mid teens for the next year and a half with TJ recovery.
  • Sykora? Where do you put him?
  • DJ Herz? Who would you rather have right now? Herz or Susana? Just saying.

FYI, the Big Board now has a 2024 tab, and i’ve caught it up to today’s moves, which were to return the 60-day DL guys to the 40-man roster, which required the DFA of Matt Cronin. More moves to follow, since we’re definitely looking at some rule-5 protections in a week or so.

Written by Todd Boss

November 6th, 2023 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Prospects