Nationals Arm Race

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

2021 Winding Down; Draft position and Award predictions


Is this it for Mr. Face of the Franchise? Photo via

It has been a while since I posted. My work life has heated up considerably, but also … What is there to talk about really? There’s little to play for, no reason to call up anyone else who hasn’t already been called up, and the team (and the sport in general) faces an interesting off-season.

So, what story lines are there for the first week of October?

First things first: 2022 Draft positioning: the team enters its last series with Boston at 65-94. Tied with Miami for the 5th worst record, and with no chance of either team moving any further up or down the 2022 draft board. Washington and Miami will be drafting 5th and 6th next year; this weekend will determine the order.

Last time the Nats drafted this high, they got Anthony Rendon. The list of players drafted 5th overall over the past 20 years or so is pretty promising: it includes the likes of Buster Posey and Ryan Braun. It includes this year’s likely NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India. And it includes a ton of busts (though most of them were HS blow outs). so we can dream on next year. The 5th or 6th overall pick might net us someone like Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech who started for Team USA this past summer. Or maybe another prep phenom like Andruw “Druw” Jones, OF, Wesleyan HS (Ga.), Son of the original Andruw Jones who has his father’s combination of speed and power. we’ll see

Prediction? With the Nats playing Boston (who still might net a WC spot) and the Marlins playing Philadelphia (who were just eliminated), odds are favorable of the Nats locking up the #5 spot in the draft.

Next story line: is this the end of the road for Ryan Zimmerman? He just finished his age 36 season with decent enough numbers for a bench bat: 103 OPS+ figure is just fine for the amount he’s being paid and what he brings to the clubhouse. Why not give it another go? Yes he’s got the personal services contract thing guaranteed … but I feel like there’s a solid chance the DH is put into the next CBA (both sides want it), which would give added life to someone like Zimmerman. Especially if the team decides not to really “try” in 2022 and to kind of stand pat with the existing roster for a season and allow for its gazillion newly acquired prospects to matriculate up.

Speaking of the CBA and the DH … we’ll be talking more in the off-season for sure about the CBA. I’m currently betting on some variation of the following to all occur:

  • work stoppage
  • Universal DH
  • minimum salary cap and continuation of luxury tax cap
  • international draft
  • Flat rate service time (i.e. you’re automatically a FA at age 29)
  • pitch clocks, robot umpires, lefty pickoff elimination, and shift banning.

Not all of these things will be “good” for the sport, but some will be and I hope we don’t see too much of a work stoppage.

We’re seeing some end of season prospect/farm system lists coming out; verdict seems to be that the Nats’ mid-season barrage has moved them from a consensus #30 system to somewhere in the low 20s. That’s not too bad. Unfortunately we’ve seen some variance in the cream of our top prospects’ performance that probably keeps us in that general area. The good and the bad from 2021:

  • top prospects who excelled/impressed: Ruiz, Grey (now graudated from rookie status), Cavalli (Nats pitching prospect of the year and only Futures game representee), House (just named #2 FCL prospect for 2021)
  • top Prospects who kind of treaded water: Antuna (bad first half, decent 2nd half), Lara (young but iffy FCL results),
  • Top Prospects who struggled/faltered: Rutledge, Henry (hurt most of year), Armando Cruz (did not impress in the DSL despite his massive signing bonus), Mendoza (demoted and poor), Romero (yet another inexplicable set of spring training circumstances and never got out of minors), Denaburg (TJ and a wasted 1st round pick), Cate (5+ ERA in AA), Cronin (hurt, then struggled in AA)

Might have to do a season wrap-up to go into these numbers more.

Next up is the Arizona Fall League; the Nats will be sending 7 or so players there. Who will we send? Well generally the Nats send players who fit one of these bills:

  • guys who were injured and need more playing time: clearly that includes Rutledge and Henry.  Maybe Matt Cronin
  • guys who are set to be rule-5 eligible and the team wants see them against better competition.  That includes a TON of 2018 college draftees for our team this year … from this list I could see guys like Canning, Rhinesmith, Cate especially.    Maybe Schaller.  Donovan Casey is rule-5 eligible and in AAA.
  • Oher top prospects who we want to see challenged: maybe Antuna fits here, maybe Jackson Cluff.
  • Extra Catchers: they always need catchers.  So look for someone random like Reetz (who was just DFA’d) or Pineda.

So, my 2021 AFL roster prediction is: Rutledge, Henry, Cronin, Pineda, Canning, Antuna, Cluff.

Lastly, my award predictions. I usually do a massive post on this but I just don’t have time.

  • AL MVP: Ohtani (Vlad Jr 2nd)
  • AL Cy Young: Robbie Ray
  • AL Rookie: Arozarena (only because Franco showed up so late)
  • AL Manager; no idea. I can’t beleive i’m saying this but Tony La Russa might actually win it.
  • NL MVP: Bryce Harper (who yes i think pips Soto and Tatis).
  • NL Cy Young: Corbin Burnes (over Wheeler, Scherzer)
  • NL rookie: Jonathan India
  • NL Manager: Gabe Kaper SF Giants: has to be; a team that wins 100 games that went into the season figuring it was a 3rd or 4th place team?

Written by Todd Boss

October 1st, 2021 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Nats in General

Tagged with

24 Responses to '2021 Winding Down; Draft position and Award predictions'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to '2021 Winding Down; Draft position and Award predictions'.

  1. Zim: even though everyone would like to know so they can properly celebrate him, my guess is that he will wait until the offseason to decide. DH in the NL might be tempting for him, and he does still look like he’s having fun. That said, I’d say 75% percent likelihood that he retires.

    Phillie Phade: three years with #3, three years with no juice in the stretch. They didn’t fall apart nearly as much as the Mets, though, whose deadline deals now look ridiculous. Meanwhile, the Braves rode Solar and Duvall to a relatively easy win, despite the Phils having a much easier schedule in the last month.

    2022 draft: no need for the Nats to take a catcher at #5 or 6. We’ve fixed that position for a while. I think Ruiz is going to be a star, one of the top-five best-hitting catchers in baseball, maybe by as early as next year. The Nats still need more quality hitters in the organization, though. However, I keep saying don’t discount Rocker ending up with the Nats — a wounded pitcher who is a Boras client. If Boras can’t find a credible place for Rocker to show that he’s healthy, though, he might fall into the 2d round.


    1 Oct 21 at 6:42 pm

  2. AFL: for me, Rutledge, Henry, Cronin, Antuna, and Pineda would be five of the seven. I would give Mendoza a look unless they’ve really soured on him. Schaler would make some sense, as he’s Rule 5-eligible, and Troop might be a possibility as well. Fuentes missed a lot of time this season, but I’m not convinced that he’s been completely healthy. I think Cate has already logged enough innings for the year, plus his confidence can’t be in the best shape. I think Cluff is still out hurt. Rhinesmith, Canning, or Upshaw could be possibilities, as could Connell, although I don’t think the ceiling is particularly high for any of them.

    Really, the AFL will be all about Rutledge, Henry, and Cronin.


    1 Oct 21 at 6:49 pm

  3. I’d love to see Troop get a shot in the AFL. I don’t know if Cronin is healthy.

    I watched a bit of Adon and Lara in September and they both clearly have some rough edges to sand down (especially Lara, who is quite a bit younger and at a lower level) but also have some really good stuff and solid mound presence. I’m excited to see more of them, and I think there’s maybe an outside chance Adon is called up to start a game at Nationals Park this weekend.

    I hate to say it, but I think Fuentes is toast. Gave up nine earned runs today and now has a Triple-A ERA of about 20. He’s surely at or near the top of the list of 40-man roster players to be DFA’d if the Nats need a spot this offseason. Although given how wretched his season was, he could certainly clear waivers and *maybe* get another shot later on. One of the guys I’m most disappointed about this season.


    1 Oct 21 at 11:17 pm

  4. Welcome back Todd! You’ve been missed.

    Mark L

    2 Oct 21 at 12:18 pm

  5. Sao, the thing I cling to with Fuentes is that he has a past track record of being consistently successful, even at AA (albeit with a PED bust). It’s possible that he was never completely healthy this season, both before going on the IL, and then coming off it too quickly. But it’s also possible that you’re right, that he’s hit both his ceiling and a wall at the same time and is toast.

    Even as he has struggled this season, they have kept him as a starter, which just makes me want to bang my head. They have probably at least 15 pitchers who should be moved to relieving, all the way up to Fedde. Why they push and push so many to stay as starters until they utterly fail, I have no idea.


    2 Oct 21 at 2:51 pm

  6. Of all the pending propositions in the CBA, the biggest one for the Nats is the flat-rate service time. Even if the age is put at 28, that would give them three extra years of control of Soto, six more years total. Of course arbitration could go crazy across six years, but at least they would still have him.

    One would think the most agreeable zone for the age would be 28-29, but we’ll see.

    It would be very significant for MLB to adopt a salary floor. That has LONG been needed. I don’t think a $100M floor is high enough, but it’s better than nothing. As I’ve noted before, all NFL teams are required to spend with 11% of the same amount. It’s a very narrow window between cap and floor. MLB probably will still have at least a 50% difference.


    2 Oct 21 at 3:00 pm

  7. You’d have to think that all existing players would be grandfathered into a service time change; i mean, there’s no way you could screw Soto like that and force him to play three more seasons at undervalued salary.

    Owners have already proposed a salary floor, so they clearly recognize the need for it. This year, there were eight teams that fielded a 40-man payroll (not even active, but entire 40-man) under 100M. That’s a disgrace. It has taken hundreds of millions out of the pockets of mlb players, has depressed salaries for years, has driven primarily middle 30s vets out of the game prematurely, and has normalized the culture of purposely losing. None of these things are good for the game, and something needs to be done.

    Todd Boss

    3 Oct 21 at 8:59 am

  8. If I read that Davey Martinez was paid a lot of money to throw the game yesterday everything would make sense. Either that or he’s a total incompetant.

    Any 14 year old could have done a better job.

    Mark L

    4 Oct 21 at 10:30 am

  9. Well, one of the questionable decisions was letting Fedde pitch. I sure hope that’s the last time we see Fedde in a Nats uni. I’m so tired of that guy. He’s never been good, ever. He turns 29 in February. There are zillions of guys that age and ability level kicking around as minor-league free agents. The Nats signed a truckload of them this year. Several are at least as good as Fedde. Trade him or non-tender him.

    Rizzo has got to get over his attachment to some of his draft picks, starting with Fedde and Kieboom. They’ve got no choice but to ride it out with Corbin, but there are several other mistakes they can fix if they’ll let go of projections from five years ago.


    4 Oct 21 at 2:37 pm

  10. What’s out there for the #5 pick?

    I thought House was the highest-ceiling position player in 2021, and he fell to the Nats. Seems almost too much to hope that history would repeat itself with Elijah Green. Then pick up Rocker in the 2d or 3d round.

    Speaking of Rocker, it doesn’t seem right that the Mets get the #11 pick for not signing him. That should become a comp pick at the end of the first round, or something. Teams should be penalized for not making legit efforts to sign. The Mets have picks #11 and 14. That ain’t right.


    4 Oct 21 at 2:44 pm

  11. Speaking of Rocker, has anyone other than Scott Boras seen his medicals? I feel bad for the kid but something there was scary for the Mets.
    It’s a good thing his family is loaded.

    Mark L

    5 Oct 21 at 12:53 am

  12. The lack of coverage of Rocker is curious, considering who his agent is and that an NYC team drafted him. I mean, there are basically no news stories beyond the Mets not signing him. With Boras involved, you would have at least expected a series of stories downplaying any problems and calling the Mets disingenuous, or whatever.

    I thought Rocker was an elite talent, despite his ups and downs in the 2021 season. If there were some underlying elbow issues, those would explain a lot about his struggles. Maybe all he needs is rest. He didn’t go back to Vandy. There was some talk of Boras trying to get him into an independent league for the first part of next summer. But frankly, does he really need any more game action? The scouts have seen what they need to see. All he needs are clean medicals and a showcase.

    It’s very curious that the early mocks are omitting him, though. Sorry, but there aren’t 30 players better than him who will be in that draft. He sure seems like a Nats kind of pick in the 40s if he falls.


    5 Oct 21 at 9:51 am

  13. On the final game … it was meaningless. win or lose they were in the #5 spot. nothing to play for. so it was more about giving standing ovations to likely retiring players. Who cares who pitched.

    Todd Boss

    5 Oct 21 at 11:30 am

  14. Mets getting compensation pick for Rocker: well, it may not seem “fair” but those are the rules. rocker did not offer medicals, so the Mets didn’t even have to offer him a contract. I mean, lets be honest; it isn’t as if the Mets planned on tanking that pick. They wanted Rocker. they were super excited. nobody knows the truth about his medicals; the Mets didn’t like them, Boras said they were fine. the Mets do not have a track record of being cheap or difficult to deal with in the draft, not like franchises like Houston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore.

    He didn’t re-enroll, stating early he wanted to forgoe eligibilty. He had velocity issues through out the season last year; maybe he did have something.

    Todd Boss

    5 Oct 21 at 11:45 am

  15. Can there be anything cooler than Soto and KLong showing up at the wild card game in their homies’ jerseys?


    7 Oct 21 at 6:42 am

  16. Good to see that the Nats have already gotten a deal done with Escobar. His presence will give them a lot of flexibility in the offseason. The hope would be that they would go after one of the many SS/3B candidates. Someone had mentioned Chris Taylor as a possible INF addition, but his price just went up!


    7 Oct 21 at 6:45 am

  17. Agreed KW. Their lineup was surprisingly good after the sell-off. Just need to address the blCk hole at 3B. Big time.
    The needs are pitching, pitching, and pitching.

    Mark L

    7 Oct 21 at 6:55 am

  18. The Nats had some weird offensive disconnects, and it’s hard to put a finger on how to fix whatever needs to be fixed. The Nats led the NL in BA, OBP, hits, BA with runners in scoring position, lowest K%, and best BABIP. They were #3 in wRC+ and #5 in SLG and BB%.

    BUT . . . despite all of that offensive success, they finished #9 in the NL in runs scored and RBIs. They were 12th worst in the NL at leaving runners in scoring position, despite having the best BA in MLB with runners in scoring position. So you can’t even make the anachronistic statement “they need to hit better in the clutch.” The did–better than anyone else. But they still weren’t able to score enough. They did kill a lot of rallies, as they were the worst in all of MLB by grounding into the most double plays.

    Despite being #5 in SLG, the Nats were #9 in homers and #10 in ISO. They were #5 in the NL in doubles, but the four teams ahead of them didn’t make the playoffs. (Weirdly, four of the top five AL teams in doubles made the playoffs, and the Jays just missed.)

    Yes, the Nats traded a bunch of key offensive pieces (plus flushed Castro) at midseason, but runs weren’t a problem down the stretch, despite playing the kids and putting up with Kieboom’s futility (which just sort of offset Robles’s futility in the first half). The problem in the latter part of the season with getting wins was bad pitching, pure and simple. I got tired of looking at the game log and counting the number of games in which they scored 4+ runs and still lost.

    Another point to inject here — I’ve seen a few folks in the Natosphere trying to say that Kevin Long is part of the problem. Um, the Nats traded or cut five of their eight regulars and still led the league in all those hitting categories. That’s a pretty amazing achievement, despite the revolving door. The Nats have some significant issues, but KLong ain’t one of them. And if The Franchise is dragging him to playoff games with him, we dang well better keep riding with that guy.

    I do think the Nats will try to add an everyday bat or two. But they can afford to wait and perhaps be a little choosy. They don’t need to overpay or to reach on someone like Story. More of the money needs to be spent on pitching.


    7 Oct 21 at 12:00 pm

  19. To me, the big changes have to be to two things: the player development staff, and the organizational philosophy around pitching.

    You can fault Martinez for his poor pitcher management, but honestly, I think the guy just does what he’s told to do. The standing directive is pitch the starters as much as possible, so he pushed Adon on Sunday and then brought in Fedde to try to deliver a lead to Finnegan or Rainey in the ninth. Pushing Adon was dumb. Using Fedde in hi-lev was dumb. But I think from his perspective, Mike Rizzo told him that’s how he wanted Martinez to manage his team, so that’s what he did.

    Rizzo gave away the game in his initial postmortem on the season: The Nats are built around starting pitching. They believe their best pitchers should start games and pitch deep into them. Relievers, as Rizzo described them, are usually “failed starters”, which — ipso facto — means they are not as good as the starters.

    Obviously, as anyone who has seen a competent bullpen (perhaps by watching some of the teams the Nats play?) knows, this is a load of codswallop. While it’s true that many relievers are converted from starters — whether that happened in college, rookie ball, A-ball, the high minors, or at the major league level — thinking of them as failures or inherently inferior to starters is all wrong. Pound for pound, good starters offer more value over the course of the season than good relievers — but good relievers can and often do top poor or even mediocre starters in WAR. And having a relief corps you can trust can be the difference between, say, going into the deadline as a bona fide contender and slumping below .500 and then holding a massive fire sale (thanks, Brad Hand).

    We’ve seen, and bemoaned, the Nats basically waste pitching prospects by forcing them into a starter’s role whether they’re actually effective at it or not, treating moving them into the bullpen as a course of last resort. We’ve also seen some of those former prospects go off to other organizations and find a legitimate niche, even if it wasn’t the one the Nats were determined to have them fill. I think at the crux of this is this wrongheaded idea that if a pitcher isn’t a six- or seven-inning starter, they ought to be, and if they can’t be, they’ve “failed”. And we saw, repeatedly, the limitations of that stubborn and outmoded way of thinking this past season.


    7 Oct 21 at 2:02 pm

  20. Whenever you read someone say Kevin Long was a problem it’s usually some stupid kid who knows nothing at all.
    Certainly it’s someone stupid.

    Maybe Sao’s right, but I’m not sure Rizzo is micromanaging Martinez that much. A lot of times he’s playing checkers when the other team is playing chess.

    Mark L

    8 Oct 21 at 4:55 am

  21. To be clear, I don’t think it’s micromanaging, I think it’s the exact opposite. Martinez is told this organization is built around starting pitching, your starting pitchers are your best pitchers, they should pitch as long as possible in every game. And he doesn’t either have the feel or the flexibility to adjust that approach on the fly; he does the same thing in every game, with every starting pitcher, regardless of the circumstances or context.


    9 Oct 21 at 4:38 pm

  22. Lets also not forget that Martinez’ bullpen at the end of the season was essentially an entire roster of AAA players.

    he started the season with this bullpen: Hand*, Hudson, Rainey, Finnegan, Suero, Avilan* plus Voth & Fedde.
    He ended it with this bullpen: Finnegan, Thompson, Voth, Rainey, Harper, Machado, Murphy and Romero.

    They bought veteran back end relievers like hand and Hudson specifically so he wasn’t depending on guys like Finnegan and Fedde in late innings. After 7/31 … it didn’t matter any more.

    Todd Boss

    11 Oct 21 at 7:12 pm

  23. […] Here’s how my predictions went versus actual: […]

  24. […] Here’s how my predictions went versus actual: […]

Leave a Reply