Nationals Arm Race

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

Baseball America “updates” its Nats top 30 and 1st week impressions


So, BA issued an “update” to its top 30 prospect lists for teams this week.

See for our “new” list.

per BA’s site, this update is… “With the minor league season beginning, we have updated our Top 30 prospect rankings for every major league club. These new rankings now include international players from the current signing class that opened on Jan. 15, with additional player movement based on new looks, information and injuries.”

BA continues to ignore MLB service time and keeps including prospects who have not hit AB/IP thresholds even though they’ve sat on the active roster long enough to exhaust rookie eligibility .. which means that they’ve kept in particular Keibert Ruiz and Riley Adams eligible, as literally no other shop has done.

So what changed between this ranking and the last one (to which I reacted here?).

  • They added Jan 2022 IFA signing Cristian Vaquero at #5.
  • ….. and thats it.

No adjustments for Antuna moving to the outfield, for Lile being out for the season, for Adon making the MLB rotation, nothing else.

So, pretty much a nothing burger of an update. But, thought i’d put a placeholder here to talk about the starts we’re seeing with the MLB club through the first week.

Talking about hitters:

  • Good, as expected: Soto, Bell, Ruiz
  • Good, unexpectedly: Franco, YHernandez (has he now won a starting job?)
  • Bad, as expected: Robles (why is he still in the majors?), Escobar
  • Bad, unexpectedly: Cruz, Thomas

Robles starts the season 0-17 and necessitates the callup of prospect OF Casey. Lane Thomas hasn’t been much better. But maybe we should just frigging play Yadiel Hernandez until he stops hitting? I mean, the dude hit last year, he’s hitting this year … why not just play the guy?

Pitchers? Phew, hide your eyes.

  • Good, as expected: … i’m not sure anyone is living up to their expectations. Rainey maybe? Arano. Fedde maybe.
  • Good, unexpectedly: Rogers, Doolittle
  • Bad, as expected: Corbin, ASanchez (by going straight to the DL), Adon, Voth
  • Bad, unexpectedly: not sure anyone qualifies here.

Lets be honest, i went into this season looking at this pitching staff with very little expectation. Our opening day rotation consisted of

  • a 9-figure contract debacle who hasn’t performed in 2 years in Corbin.
  • A option-less 5+ ERA starter who should have been non-tendered last offseason in Fedde
  • a rookie who has been all hype and no performance as of yet in Grey
  • Another rookie with one MLB start who had, frankly, uninspiring 2021 MILB numbers and who should be in AAA in Adon
  • A frigging NRI has-been who I can’t believe they took over Rogers or Espino in Anibel Sanchez.

What have see seen so far? Adon: shelled in 2 starts. Corbin? Shelled in 2 starts. Sanchez? hurt before he makes a start … and then lo and behold Rogers comes up and gives the Nats their best start so far (shocker!). Grey? Surprisingly decent so far. And Fedde? Shocker he was effective in his first start. Lets see how long that lasts.

Honestly, i’m shocked we’re 3-5 right now with a team ERA right now of 5.91. 5.91 isn’t getting the donuts made.

Long season ahead.

Written by Todd Boss

April 15th, 2022 at 9:41 am

23 Responses to 'Baseball America “updates” its Nats top 30 and 1st week impressions'

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  1. Good morning to all.

    Just watched some video on recently acquired OF Josh Palacios. Any feedback on his potential? Is he a CF? How’s his arm strength? Could he be part of a potential platoon with Lane Thomas in CF?

    Sadly, at least with the Nationals, I think Víctor Robles may be beyond the point where he could continue to be expected to return to his 2019 form. It may seem that Robles went away from what made him such a promising prospect and the CF from the World Champion Nats in 2019. Maybe in another organization he may return back to form… but with the Nationals that seems ever less likelier.

    Happy Easter! Chag Pesach Sameach!

    Le Grande Orange 2

    17 Apr 22 at 11:16 am

  2. Good morning again.

    Given I do not get to watch Nationals games on TV, I value the feedback much of you provide from being able to watch the players perform”; be it either in person or TV.

    Any feedback re: Maikel Franco? How has he looked from a fielding perspective? Is he acceptable at the hot corner? Does Kieboom stand a chance to reclaim his position?

    Thanks for any feedback.

    Le Grande Orange 2

    17 Apr 22 at 11:30 am

  3. Good afternoon.

    Did I jump the gun on my Maikel Franco assessment and questions, given his 3 errors so far in today’s game? I’m still hopeful to see if Franco is able to provide some stability at 3rd Base until House, Berry/Jung or some other prospect comes in and provides the long term solution to this position. Because, I will be very dissapointed to watch Kieboom start another fame for the Nationals.

    Regarding today’s game… again, w/o the benefit of being able to watch the game, I was pleasantly impressed by Corbin’s performance after 5 innings. From my vantage point, after the Vogelbach walk, I would have lifted Corbin for a reliever and re-build his confidence and psyche with a strong 5.1 start. Again, ever since DM has been our manager, I rarely agree with many of his managerial strategy decisions; particularly, letting seemingly obvious situations snowball into bigger disasters.

    This brings me to my last point… Cade Cavalli. Is anyone else concerned like me with DM’s decision in Spring Training to allow Cavalli to get unmercifully pummeled in the game vs the Cards. What good did it do? On the other hand, it is perfectly fathomable to see potentially negative consequences in Cavalli’s psyche and confidence; particularly given his first couple of outings at AAA so far. I hope I’m wrong with my concern.

    From my vantage point, I fondly remember the days of Davey Johnson, Frank Robinson and Dusty Baker… or Felipe Alou, Gene Mauch and Dick Williams if you are an Expos fan. There’s truly no comparison.

    Le Grande Orange 2

    17 Apr 22 at 5:16 pm

  4. If you are recently troubled by Dave Martinez’s incompetence, then welcome to our world.
    You start the season knowing that he will cost the team 5-10 games a year and go from there.
    It’s part of the package.

    Mark L

    17 Apr 22 at 8:33 pm

  5. Davey Martinez will live the rest of his career on an absolutely brilliant/incredibly lucky run of decisions in the 2019 postseason. He barely made a wrong move (as things turned out). But we’ve hardly seen that same manager in the regular season in any of the other years.

    One thing he got right in the postseason but now gets wrong several times a week is staying with a starter too long. That was a big problem last season, too. I do understand why he has limited faith in his bullpen, and in guys like Voth in particular to go more than one inning. But he (and Hickey, who really needs to be more assertive on these things) aren’t reading their starters well at all. You could see from miles away yesterday that Corbin was losing it. If he had come out after five, he would have had a solid outing on which to build. (And if Hickey can turn Corbin around, he’s worth his weight in gold, which essentially is what Corbin is being paid in.)

    In some ways I feel bad for Martinez. He’s out front to take the blame, and ultimately probably the fall, for the really crappy team that Rizzo has assembled. But yes, he’s also making mistakes. And why can’t he tell Rizzo to send Robles to AAA where he belongs?

    As for Maikel Franco, he was never meant to be more than a placeholder, albeit a placeholder for a player in Carter Kieboom who is still yet to prove that he belongs at the MLB level.


    18 Apr 22 at 10:53 am

  6. The Nats have allowed more runs than any other team in the majors. Their number of runs scored is actually tied for 10th best, good enough to have them with a winning record.

    Their pitching hasn’t been great (third-worst ERA in the majors), but they’re only 20th in FIP, so fielding and luck (dead last in BABIP against) have not been with them. But the pitchers also aren’t helping their own luck, as they’re second worst in BB/9. They’re also #24 in ability to strand runners (LOB%).

    Not that the Nats have been an offensive juggernaut. They’re #25 in wRC+, #20 in OBP, #25 in SLG, and next to last in ISO. So really, they’re lucky to have scored at the rate they have, aided by #16 BABIP “luck.”

    Yes, it’s early, and yes, they’re actually only a game out of second place in the the NL Least. But the trend lines aren’t good and seem to match up with the eye test.


    18 Apr 22 at 11:18 am

  7. there has been zero surprise to the Nats performance so far, offense or defense.
    – Team OPS+: 81
    – Team ERA+: 77.

    Yup, that’s about right.

    Todd Boss

    18 Apr 22 at 3:57 pm

  8. According to COTS, the Nats have a 40-man salary total of $161M ($164M per Spotrac). They’re not flat-out tanking, yet the team they put on the field for that relatively large amount screams that they’re not trying. I’ll never understand why they didn’t sign more pitching, even if it was cheap pitching. They could have signed three or four half-decent guys for what they paid Cruz to hit .190. Robles did nothing in spring training to argue that he shouldn’t be sent to Rochester, and he’s done nothing since.

    It all just makes no sense. It’s front-office malpractice. There’s no way to understand why they can’t field a better squad for $161M, even with so much tied up in Strasburg and Corbin. There’s also little way to see how they can easily dig themselves out of this current hole, or convince Soto that they’re going to be competitive after 2024. (And if they’re not, do we — gasp — start talking about trading Soto? The return could be astronomical.)


    19 Apr 22 at 11:15 am

  9. KW, in light of the Lerners money issues you have to think Rizzo did not have much of a green light with spending.
    Agree an innings eater would have been preferable to Nelson Cruz.

    Mark L

    19 Apr 22 at 2:29 pm

  10. If the goal is to turn money into prospects by flipping a one-year FA at the deadline, then Cruz is almost certainly a better investment than an “innings eater.” Teams at the deadline tend to buy for the playoffs, and almost every team could benefit from adding a Cruz. An “innings eater” helps you during the season – by eating innings – but tends to ride the pine in the postseason. At the same time, I agree that using Cruz’s money to buy more pitching would probably improve the Nats win total in 2022 by more than Cruz. The important questions: (a) why do you care about the difference between 67 and 70 wins?; (b) even assuming you do care about that difference, why would it be worth foregoing the possibility of a better prospect that Cruz could return? Of course, we’re dealing in probabilities here – Cruz could be terrible and not fetch anything on the trade market and your innings eater could turn out to be great. But my bet is that Cruz is a more valuable trade piece. Also: Cruz seems to make Soto happy, which is probably more important than anything.

    I don’t understand the desire to punish Robles. Yes, he’s been terrible and a disappointment. But Robles becoming useful would make a huge difference to the team’s future prospects, so you have to do whatever you can to make that happen. For me, that happens in MLB and not AAA. It’s not like Lane Thomas is lighting the world on fire. Robles needs to play CF every day.


    20 Apr 22 at 9:47 am

  11. Robles is 3 for 28 so far this year. How long does anyone put up with this?

    Mark L

    20 Apr 22 at 11:12 am

  12. You put up with it for the following reasons: (1) the alternative is Lane Thomas, who is a worse defender and who is 7 for 39 so far this year; (2) 28 ABs is a tiny tiny sample; if the results remain poor as the ABs get above 150, then we can talk again; (3) the team stinks and is going to stink for the rest of the year; (4) you need to find out once and for all whether Robles can contribute to the next winning team, and that “finding out” needs to happen at the MLB level in 2022 where it’s virtually cost-free because the team stinks and is going to keep stinking.

    I get that you all are mad that Robles is not what we expected him to be. There was a time when a prospect reporter at a major publication (in my memory, at least) said something like “Acuna and Robles are by far the most talented players in the Arizona Fall League.” It’s frustrating that he’s bad.

    But he should play. The world is full of top prospects who never figure it out (Maikel Franco is one of them – and we have enough information to conclude that he never will). The world is also full of top prospects who stink and then do figure it out. Would I predict that Robles is one of those? No, I wouldn’t. But you have to find out, and find out now. At least he makes a lot of good plays in CF. And not playing him to play Lane Thomas or Yadiel Hernandez strikes me as incredibly foolish. Is either of those guys going to be better than a 4th OF on a playoff team? I don’t think so. Robles could be better than that even though he probably won’t be.


    20 Apr 22 at 12:21 pm

  13. Interesting topic, on which I’ll chime in on more when I have the chance.

    In the meantime, I’ll point out that Seth Beer was taken one pick after Mason Denaburg, and signed for $750K less. I’ve previously noted that Bryan Reynolds went one pick after Sheldon Neuse.


    20 Apr 22 at 9:26 pm

  14. Robles discussion. Playing devil’s advocate here … if playing Robles is the “right thing to do” because the team stinks and is going to stink this year … then why the f is Garcia in AAA?

    In that respect, I just don’t understand what the team is doing/did do this off-season. Why did they buy Escobar and Hernandez and Adrianza? Why not just play what they had in-house?

    Todd Boss

    21 Apr 22 at 3:21 pm

  15. YES! In fact, they played Garcia regularly with the big club last year after the trades while they kept Robles in the minors. Now they’ve flipped the script, for no obvious reason, and kept Garcia down while he’s hitting (but being a butcher at SS) and Robles up while he’s not.

    Also, at what point do they realize that some of their on-on-going experiments have failed. Fedde was excruciatingly bad on Wednesday, against one of the worst teams in the majors, one that Adon (who should be in AA) did well against. On Tuesday, the Nats actually looked like they could be not-awful, but that was out the window on Wednesday. Fedde never should have been tendered, as Todd and I both keep saying, but gosh-darnit he’s a Rizzo #1 pick (and a Boras client), so he’s exempt from being judged like a mere mortal. What’s worse, having Fedde actually on the mound, or Romero, Denaburg, and Rutledge no where near one? (They were all “steals,” right?)

    Re “innings eaters,” that’s not what I had in mind. There were 22 starting pitchers who signed with AAVs between $5M and $15.4M. The Nats didn’t get any of them, probably didn’t even bid on any of them. They should have signed at least two, plus two or three relievers whose careers weren’t totally on life support. (Doo’s a great guy, but the only reason he’s here is because he had no other options.) They brought in all these infielders, and a pricey DH, but no help they really needed it. I’m not talking about spending that much more overall, just spending better/smarter. They put a lot of belief in Stras/Ross/Corbin/Harris pixie dust.

    What’s perplexing about that, beyond just not filling what seemed to be obvious need areas, is that Rizzo has always doubled down on pitching, often getting an extra starter we didn’t even know we needed: EJax, Haren, Fister, Scherzer, Corbin, et al.

    I knew the Nats probably wouldn’t contend this year and don’t begrudge them for spending “only” $164M. But spend it better. If Tampa and Oakland can have much better squads for a lot less, why can’t we?


    21 Apr 22 at 6:52 pm

  16. The only differentiator I can offer on Robles vs. Thomas is that Thomas hit for the Nats last year, but Robles didn’t. If you’re betting on who is more likely to find himself against MLB pitching, it’s Thomas. But he was also pretty bad with the Cards, which is why they thought he was expendable.

    Robles is now striking out at Michael A. levels. One positive in his stats is that his hard-hit rate has improved this season. He just has awful BABIP luck. Meanwhile, Thomas’s hard-hit rate is way off. FWIW, he also still has an option. But Stevenson was DFA’d and isn’t even on the 40-man. Casey never has even been successful at the AAA level and was a head-scratching add to the 40-man.

    So . . . the options aren’t good, at all. But hey, Yadiel is hitting! Or is he? His hard-hit rate is an awful 19%; he’s living on an unsustainable .429 BABIP. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.


    21 Apr 22 at 7:13 pm

  17. I think Garcia should be in the MLB lineup every day too! I don’t think it was crazy to send him to AAA for a month to start the season – he has a spotty record as a hitter in the minors and his great stats in AAA last year were in just ~35 games. But given what he’s done so far this year combined with last year – put him in the MLB lineup now. Every day that doesn’t happen is a waste. We watched Ian Desmond make a ton of errors at SS – we cant watch Garcia make them too. My choice would have been for him to start the season in MLB and not sign Escobar (I think lighting $1M on fire is arguably a better use for it than giving it to Escobar – I am not defending all the FO’s choices here, esp not the pupu platter of old bad middle infielder signings).

    If the bet is “who has a higher WRC+ for the rest of their MLB careers, Lane Thomas or Vic Robles” I take Robles. Good organizations do not trade good hitters for two months of the corpse of Jon Lester. Note: this does not mean I think Robles is going to hit well. But he’s younger than Thomas, has a better track record in the minors, extended success in the majors (albeit a long time ago), and is going to keep getting chances because of his defense and prospect pedigree. Don’t believe September hitting stats.

    I just disagree that “filling a need” is a relevant objective for the MLB roster in 2022. The team is bad. There are many needs! For me, the relevant objective is finding players who can contribute to the next MLB roster that might make the playoffs. I think it’s somewhat likely that allocating $13M or whatever to Cruz serves that objective better than using that money on starters (even though it’s obvious beyond a shadow of a doubt that the MLB team needs starters). Will it work better in the real world? I dunno. My main point: I don’t care if using Cruz’s money a different way would result in more MLB wins in 2022 and nobody else should either. If you have a theory as to how that money would fetch a better prospect at the deadline than Cruz will – in expectation – then THAT to me is a good argument to use Cruz’s money in a different way. But it has to be ex ante, not ex post – I’m sure there will be $13M of starters we could have signed who perform well in 2022 and get something good at the deadline. You have to identify them in Feb…


    22 Apr 22 at 9:17 am

  18. I don’t have a lot of confidence in a potential Robles recovery. He’s in his third season of being bad, and really his numbers show that he was already in decline in 2019, disguised by the championship run. Don’t get me wrong, he has all the all-around talent in the world . . . but so did Danny Espinosa. Their career arcs are looking pretty similar right now. The league figured them out, and they didn’t/couldn’t adjust.

    Yes, Robles is still young, doesn’t turn 25 until next month despite seemingly being around forever. There’s still time. But what’s it going to take for him to turn the corner? As I noted, he is hitting the ball harder more often, but he’s also missing more often with the strikeouts.

    And it really shouldn’t be viewed as Robles vs. Thomas, in the grand scheme of things. Thomas was a scrap thrown to them in exchange for a very marginal player. Robles was a top-5 overall prospect. Having a top-5 prospect fail is catastrophic. The Nats hung a lot of their future, and made personnel decisions, based on expected success from Robles and Kieboom. Those failures, plus those of so many of the pitchers on whom they seem to have wasted top picks, are a big reason they’re in the hole they’re in.


    22 Apr 22 at 10:27 am

  19. Overall, I’m less interested in the very curious offseason decisions than I am in how to they get back into contention. A couple of second-tier arms in return for Cruz at the deadline (which is what the Twins got last year) isn’t going to change the trajectory of the franchise.

    As painful as it was to lose Turner, I understood that they thought they’d have difficulty signing both him and Soto, and I appreciated the boldness of the trade to get two ready-now high-level prospects. But when you make such a deal, you really should commit to doing more to rebuild, not bringing in an Oriole infield.

    How do they get back good again? That’s a tough question, but one that would be interesting to discuss. And — heresy alert — at what point does that discussion include trading Soto? They’ve got to be honest with themselves about a) whether they can be contenders again by 2024, and b) whether they can really re-sign him. Right now, his trade value would be astronomical and might even involve a team willing to take on the rest of the Corbin contract as part of the deal.


    22 Apr 22 at 11:15 am

  20. Robles career predictions. Thomas Boswell used to intone that, once a batter got to a certain number of MLB at bats … you know who he is.

    Robles now has more than 1300 plate appearances across parts of 6 seasons, three of which where he’s the inarguable every-day starter. I’m not going to crush him or any other player who has a rough 3-week stretch; baseball is streaky. Yes Robles is just 4-35 this year.

    My bigger issue is that he’s now slashing .233/.313/.368 for his career in the majors. That’s an 81 OPS+. That’s 81 OPS+ when he plays a position that regularly features plus offensive players who also offer similar plus-but-not-gold-glove-calibre defense that Robles provides. So where does that leave us with him? Andrew Stevenson, who we just OUTRIGHTED off the 40-man roster, implying that he passed through waivers and not one team claimed him for free, has a HIGHER career OPS+ than Robles and was as good or better in CF.

    So, for me, I don’t think Robles is getting better. I think his 2019 rookie season was his peak and he’s regressed since. he has a 25% “hard hit rate” for his career, which would put him nearly at the bottom of the entire league if he qualified for the batting title last year. He’s become a soft-hitting slap hitter with little power. The best hitters in the league hit it “hard” at nearly twice the rate he does. I don’t know how you fix that.

    Todd Boss

    22 Apr 22 at 12:42 pm


    So , Keith Law posted a story that purported to talk about “Orioles, nationals, and Rangers” prospects… since he’s a few minutes drive from Wilmington he can see our team’s prospects a ton. AFter writing up a slew of Baltimore 1st and 2nd rounders he got to Washington prospects he saw ….

    and he wrote up exactly one: Jake Irvin.

    • Right-hander Jake Irvin has just returned to the mound for the Blue Rocks after missing the past two years because of the pandemic and Tommy John surgery. He’s showing two above-average pitches but a delivery that isn’t likely to keep him healthy. Irvin was 93-96 with power to a low-80s curveball and a fringy changeup. He’s still lanky at 25 years old, with a delivery that keeps him online to the plate. His elbow is extremely high in the back, which is often a harbinger of elbow trouble down the road, and since he’s already blown out once, all I saw in his delivery was confirmation bias. He didn’t throw enough strikes, although I’d say the command was a full grade worse than the control. He came out after three innings due to pitch count, so I’m not sure I got a complete look, but based on this one sample I’d guess he’s a reliever.

    that’s it. No other player mentioned at Wilmington. Not Antuna, not Barley, not Pineda, certainly not Mendoza or Canning (who are no longer prospects despite being top 5 round picks). In fact, looking at our high-A team you can make the argument that there’s basically two “prospects” there at all who we have any hopes pinned upon: Antuna and Parker. For a high-A team thats. .. bad.

    Todd Boss

    22 Apr 22 at 1:24 pm

  22. I was listening to Law’s podcast and he mentioned offhand that Wilmington’s lineup was nothing special at all.
    Fredericksburg is where all the action is on the farm.

    Mark L

    22 Apr 22 at 1:49 pm

  23. . . . and you’re being kind to include Antuna, despite his decent start (repeating the level). Mitchell Parker is about the only intriguing guy in that mix. Well, at least until House is promoted in a few weeks. Then Law might pay a little more attention.


    22 Apr 22 at 9:04 pm

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