Nationals Arm Race

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Fangraphs/Longenhagen top 29 Nats Prospects


So … even though its (checks calendar) July, Fangraphs just released its “Top 29 Nats prospects for 2022” ranking. Today its the featured story at Fangraphs, along with the side-eye tag line of “This is one of the worst farm systems in baseball.” So, thanks for that!

I suspect Eric Longenhagen got a little too busy this year, and a ranking that he released in April last year got pushed to mid-season. We’re now basically half way through (or more) of the minor league season and are getting a pre-season ranking list … so it kind of feels silly to analyze it. However it does seem like Longenhagen has taken some 2022 production into account here. Either way, I love prospect ranks and collect every one into a huge spreadsheet, and have for years, and I like writing these reaction pieces … so here goes.

His list, start to finish:

Last NameFirst NamePositionRank
CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)1
HenryColeRHP (Starter)2
VaqueroCristianOF (CF)4
De La RosaJeremyOF (Corner)5
RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)6
CarrilloGerardoRHP (Starter)7
IrvinJakeRHP (Starter)9
RamirezAldoRHP (Starter)10
WhiteT.J.OF (Corner)12
LaraAndryRHP (Starter)13
LileDaylenOF (CF)14
LeeEvanLHP (Starter)17
BrzykcyZachRHP (Reliever)18
AdonJoanRHP (Starter)20
ShumanSethRHP (Starter)21
DenaburgMasonRHP (Starter)23
CroninMattLHP (Reliever)25
ParkerMitchellLHP (Starter)26
QuintanaRoismarOF (CF)27
FerrerJoseLHP (Reliever)28

Longenhagen has long been a maverick in his rankings for prospects, and you can see it here. He’s big on younger players and he’s got a ton of experience in the Dominican market. He absolutely values ceiling more than floor, and has no problem putting 17yr-olds with scant experience high on these lists. There’s a number of player rankings here way out of line with other pundits (some that I agree with, others not). So, lets highlight some of the interesting placements.

  • He goes Cavalli, Henry, House as his top 3, omitting the rookie-exhausted Ruiz from this list. This kind of goes against the trend of pundits putting House at #1, and part of it could be the slight stagnation we’ve seen out of House in Low-A (he exploded out of the gates in April, then crashed in May, and his June numbers are mediocre, and now he’s on the DL).
  • Vaquero comes in 4th, and Longenhagen gushes over his performance at pre-draft camps in comparison to his fellow 17yr olds last year. Notably, I discovered that i’ve been misspelling Vaquero’s first name everywhere (Its Cristhian, not Cristian or Christian or Christhian). Vaquero so far is underwhelming in the DSL, “only” slashing .257/.329/.686 with almost no power (just four XBH and zero homers in 20 games). So, lets hope for more.
  • De la Rosa at #5. Wow; he’s high man here. De La Rosa may have been this high in pre-2021 lists, but he, well, he sucked in 2021 (.209/.279/.316 in Low-A, albeit in his age 19 season. Luckily, De la Rosa has been much, much better in 2022 in Low-A (.310/.392/.481), showing solid power to go with a 50-steal pace. So, yeah, this now looks like a good ranking. And a good player to keep an eye on as a true CF with 20/20 capabilities apparently.
  • Rutledge still too high for me at #6, but its in line with other pundits. Rutledge seems to have turned things around (finally) in Low-A: his last 6 starts have basically been stellar, and in a couple of cases have been (ahem) dominant-even (6ip, 3 hits, 0 runs in one, 7ip 3 hits, in another)
  • Irvin at #9!! That’s just amazing. The HIGHEST reputable source that had Irvin anywhere close to this high in his entire minor league career was a #10 ranking by BA in 2019 just after he was drafted. But here he is, sitting as a top 10 prospect in our system per Longenhagen. Amazing. And his ranking is paying off: 2022 results: 3.14 ERA, 1.11 whip and exactly 9 K/9 in 13 four-inning starts so far.
  • He’s incredibly high on Millas, putting him #11 in the system and extolling his defensive capabilities. He hasn’t hit though this year (.211), which could put a damper on his promotion going forward.
  • TJ White at #12 is also high man amongst peers, and it confirms what a lot of like about White. He’s just 19, has an OPS north of .800 in low-A, and is holding his own.
  • Andry Lara comes in 10 spots lower than basically every other pundit out there, ranking him #13. Most every other major shop has him #5 or close to it. And I agree; he’s struggled this year. He’s got easy mid-90s velocity but is getting shelled to a 5.60 ERA in low-A right now. Yes he’s young, but he should also be doing better.
  • Jake Alu at #16 … the fact that he’s even ranked is amazing. Nobody else out there has him ranked at all. But Fangraphs thinks he’s a big-league utility guy. He’s 25 in AA, with an OPS at around .800, can play most of the infield positions or even a corner OF. Maybe we’re looking at another Jake Noll here.
  • Cory Abbott comes in at #19; not bad for a waiver claim earlier this year. But also a pretty bad indictment of a system in his mind, where we have not one but two waiver claims listed.
  • Joan Adon at #20. Wow. The kid who made the 2022 opening day rotation is ranked lower in Fangraphs than the waiver claim we made on Abbott earlier this year. Think about that. In the writeup Longenhagen gives out two interesting nuggets: Adon has now lost his rookie status so he’s done being considered for these lists …. and he points out that the Nats brain-trust altered Adon’s arm angle, which easily explains why he posted a 6+ ERA in the majors this year.
  • Matt Cronin dumped way down into the 20s (#25); his reasoning is that Cronin has no 2nd pitch. Which if true … is a problem.
  • A few other interesting names in the 20s to point out: Francisco Perez (last year’s waiver claim) is at #24, Denaburg is here in the mid 20s still, and Jose Ferrer (who I had to look up on the big board) comes in at #28.

Now … what’s really interesting about this list is who is NOT listed here.

  • No Brandon Boissiere; not a huge omission, but most other shops at least put him in their 20s. Maybe its because he’s hitting near the Mendoza line in Low-A for the second straight season, showing little improvement.
  • No Jackson Cluff. I never got the love for this guy and I still don’t; for his entire career he is slashing .206/.299/.312 … and his AA numbers this year are even worse than that. Even if he’s the second coming of Ozzie Smith, you gotta at least hit a little to get to the majors.
  • Daniel Marte; completely missing. As he probably should be; he’s now hitting below .200 while repeating the FCL and you have to wonder how much longer he has with the organization. He was a reasonably expensive IFA ($300k in 2018) so he’ll get some rope. By way of comparison, that’s the exact same amount that De la Rosa got in the same year.
  • No Mendoza; no surprise here. What a regression for Mendoza. He had an 1.100 OPS his junior year at Florida State and a career .674 OPS with wood professionally.
  • Tim Cate: nowhere to be found. Ouch. Our opening day starter in AA in 2021, Mr. Amazing Curve ball that scouts can’t help but rave about, but can he succeed north of A-ball?
  • Donovan Casey; not listed. Perhaps an admission of what he really is; a guy who maxes out at AA. He’s struggling this year in Rochester, and struggled last year upon his AAA promotion.
  • Seth Romero; absent. As he has been for his entire career.
  • Jordy Barley; fangraphs is not impressed. Neither is the Carolina league, where he’s hitting .199 right now.
  • Tres Barrera: not listed, though Millas and Pineda are. Interesting.
  • Last but not least; Yasel Antuna. Nowhere to be found. This is amazing. By way of comparison, Baseball America has him listed as our #3 prospect. #3 overall. Fangraphs couldn’t find room for him in their top 30, and sits behind two waiver claims. You hate to dance on a guy’s grave … but this is where we are with Antuna right now.

Written by Todd Boss

July 6th, 2022 at 11:36 am

Posted in Prospects

21 Responses to 'Fangraphs/Longenhagen top 29 Nats Prospects'

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  1. It’s a weird list, man. You point out most of what jumped out at me, but Gerardo Carrillo ranking #7 is bugnuts crazy. He has been pretty much terrible at every level above Low-A, dating back to 2019, and he’s not that young anymore (24 in September). I have him freefalling, right alongside Antuna, down my made-up board.

    The really weird part is Longenhagen’s traditional “here’s some guys I thought about who didn’t make the cut” section, which has lines like:

    – re: Viandel Peña: “His bat-to-ball skills tend to be over-evaluated by eyeball scouts, and he’s actually swinging and missing too much for the main section of the list.” Wut? Don’t believe your eyes, this guy (with a .372 OBP and a bog-standard 25% K rate) isn’t as good as he looks?

    – re: Rodney Theophile: “I can’t find a scout or data analyst who can tell me why he was so dominant at Low-A […] perhaps he has huge deception.” Uh, perhaps? This reads like Longenhagen simply didn’t do his homework on Theophile, which is weird, because you’d think a statistician evaluating prospects would be more curious about how and why Theophile put up those numbers.

    – re: Darren Baker: “Baker has above-average bat-to-ball skills and runs well. He and Pena become more prospect-y if they can play a host of other positions.” I get where he’s coming from here, but this is a few paragraphs down from him not holding *ranked* Jake Alu’s relative inexperience at multiple positions against him in considering him a potential utilityman.

    The most glaring omission here is that Jackson Tetreault isn’t even mentioned, either among ranked prospects or in the “here’s some other guys” section. Come on, man: He’s already started more major league games than a lot of guys in this article ever will. I don’t know where he ought to rank, but again, the fact a CTRL-F search for “tetreault” brings up zero results is a big red flag for how thorough Longenhagen has been here.


    6 Jul 22 at 1:07 pm

  2. While some of the rankings are rather silly, the double-barrel indictment of the organization in the overview section at the end is spot-on with every damning bullet point. About the only thing he left out was questionable (awful) drafting in the first place, instead leaning heavily on their excrementally poor record at development. In the Nats’ case, it has been both the chicken and the egg, with both bad drafting AND poor player development.


    6 Jul 22 at 1:13 pm

  3. Sao, I immediately had the same thought about Tetreault. A lot of these guys are never getting into Nats Park without buying a ticket. The Tetreault story may end up being like the Austen Williams one, but at least he made it.


    6 Jul 22 at 1:35 pm

  4. As totally crazy as the rankings are in some respects, it’s interesting to see in-depth takes on the players presumably drawn from oppo scouts and some others in the industry. That said, if other teams really do overvalue some of these guys like this, please include them in the deadline trades that are dead ahead.


    6 Jul 22 at 1:38 pm

  5. Slice and dice them however you wish, but T.J. White is no worse than the #2 hitter in the organization right now, and that’s only if you give House credit for what he was doing before he was injured. White (who actually still has two weeks to go before turning 19) has figured things out since the beginning of June and is on a tear.

    I want to believe the hype about Vaquero, but I’d believe it more if a) they had been confident enough to send him stateside, as they’ve done with nearly every other competent field prospect other than Cruz; and b) if he was actually doing much. That said, he is the age of a high school junior. And if he really is this great, then don’t make the similar gamble on the similarly talented Elijah Green.

    De la Rosa has finally, in the year he becomes Rule 5-eligible, done something that looks like a prospect. Still, he’s striking out 26% of the time at a level he’s repeating, and a lucky .408 BABIP is making him look really good. There is NO ONE standing in his way at Wilmington, so his lack of promotion is pretty head-scratching. I don’t see enough from him yet to invest a 40-man slot this winter, but they’ve done stranger/worse things (Antuna).

    Beyond those guys, it gets spotty pretty quickly. Infante has had a power breakthrough, but connected with a 30% K clip. Also, he had seven of the homers in April, five in May, and only three since then, so the league has figured him out.

    Armando Cruz does have two homers and two doubles thus far across 17 games, giving a little hope that his bat is improving from wet-noodle status, but he’s still got a LONG way to go.

    Beyond these guys . . . Longenhagen is really low on Quintana, who he had given top-10 hype in other years. Quintana is off to a pretty decent start in FCL, albeit without power yet. Lile is missing the whole season with TJ and Boissere is really struggling. My guy Will Frizzell has just finally gotten on the field in July. And he’s already 23 and still in the FCL. The team has really been hyping Darren Baker, but he’s a 23-year-old with an 88 wRC+ at A+.

    Like Todd, I’ve never seen what was so special about Cluff. I do admit to having had high hopes for Mendoza, now dashed.


    6 Jul 22 at 2:06 pm

  6. No matter how you slice and dice it, this is a bottom-tier farm system, and guys we’re getting “excited” about would barely rate a mention in many other organizations. With a few notable outliers w/r/t Longenhagen’s list (Carrillo, Tetreault, etc.) we’re mostly quibbling about whether borderline 30/35+ FV guys are getting their due.

    We won the World Series in 2019, and this would feel a lot more dire otherwise, but: I look at the current state of this organization and its “future” (the farm) and I don’t see any way, barring Steve Cohen-type reckless spending under new ownership, that we’re not a bottom-third team in MLB for years to come. I am deeply dismayed to see what looks like a burgeoning consensus that the Nats will draft Elijah Green if he’s available at #5, because we’ve shown no propensity at all to be able to properly develop raw, toolsy, power-speed talents like Green. But one draft pick isn’t going to save us either way.

    There is very little worth writing home about, up and down this organization, because the Nats have embodied the “stars and scrubs” approach to building a roster at every level. Each of those “stars” is a gamble, and we’ve repeatedly had homegrown top prospects not named Strasburg, Harper, Rendon, and Soto either flame out or reach a more-or-less “final form” of being a roughly replacement-level MLB player. We’ve invested little into cultivating sleeper prospects and risers, focusing almost exclusively on prospects who got big signing bonuses, so while teams like the Braves and the Dodgers have studs who signed out of the Caribbean for pennies or were picked on the second or third day of the draft, we, well, don’t. We swing for the fences on extreme-risk talent in the first two rounds and then phone in the rest of the draft, or at least, that’s what it feels like. And even if a few of those later-round picks or less-heralded international signings show some promise, they still have to work ten times harder than the bonus babies to get any attention from the brass.

    It is a very frustrating situation tempered only by the not-inconsiderable boon of having a recent world championship title.


    6 Jul 22 at 2:39 pm

  7. Sao, I couldn’t agree more. I have no great confidence that this system will successfully develop any of these guys into successful major leaguers, even guys like Cavalli and House. The Nats have had no success at all in the Rizzo era at drafting and developing guys who were not high first rounders. They had quasi-generational guys fall in their laps in Stras and Harper and the Red Sea part for Rendon to fall to them. After seven pro seasons, Giolito finally developed into an above-average-but-not-true-ace starter (currently with a 4.90 ERA). And that’s it. There’s no one else above the Fedde/Goodwin level of quality, and very few even of them.

    I also agree in wanting nothing to do with Elijah Green, who is all but guaranteed to flounder in this system. Take a college hitter who can be in AA next season. Or even take Rocker over Green, if Boras is feeling neglected.


    6 Jul 22 at 8:14 pm

  8. The incompetence of the FanGraphs article is breathtaking in a lot of ways.
    Let’s start with Carillo, who has been nothing but bad since the trade and he was demoted to reliever before the latest injury.

    He brings up little nuggets of information about this season but doesn’t factor anything that has happened this year in to the rankings. (See White, T.J.)(see Brzkcy,Zach).

    Mark L

    7 Jul 22 at 6:33 am

  9. I think we’re going to need Natosphere spelling quizzes on “Brzykcy,” “Cristhian,” “Tetreault,” and “Theophile,” among others, all of which I have to look up.

    I do think in-season performance has been factored in some, elevating guys like de la Rosa, Brzykcy, and White, but not with others (Rutledge), and not dinging guys like Carrillo and Lile for absence.

    FanGraphs ranks have also long-suffered from their idiotic adherence to “Future Value.” For every tool, they give a present and future value, but only FV for the overall ranking. Rutledge is still ranked so highly because they believe in his ceiling is still high-ish (40 is still “bench player”). But that’s part of what’s ridiculous about the exercise. House has a 60 (“All Star”) ceiling. But they’ve got a 50 (“average everyday regular”) score on him. If you want to give House a score of 50/60, I’d be OK with that. I’d give the same score to Cavalli, and not the 55 they have on him, as there’s still too much reliever risk showing in his struggles. I’d have Henry at 50/55, as I don’t think his ceiling is as high. Vaquero would be 45+/60. I’d have White as 45/60. De la Rosa for me would be more 40/45. Or perhaps you could even reverse it in his case, to 45/40, as he looks better now than I think he’ll end up. (But you never see downward scores on future values.) Rutledge would be about 35/55, to account for the wide range of possibilities. (He’s still not out of dangerous Johanssen territory.)


    7 Jul 22 at 7:06 am

  10. While doing my review of the Fangraphs piece i completely forgot about Tetreault. And that’s probably because most every other pundit has forgotten about him too.

    Todd Boss

    7 Jul 22 at 8:49 am

  11. Theophile credits Hanrahan for teaching him a sinker, a pitch that Rutledge featured prominently in his most successful start. new coach better results?

    I agree with Lara lower than Rutledge but I’m optimistic about both. Lara because he’s young and Rutledge because he talented.

    blast the system all you want, they did in fact acknowledge failures and made a lot of changes. if you’re going to highlight draft failures show me one team that hasn’t missed more than they hit.


    7 Jul 22 at 11:26 am

  12. Todd, nice comp in Noll for Alu. Alu actually outperforms Noll at high A and AA levels.

    his big advantage/opportunity will be coming along when the Nats are rebuilding vs competing.


    7 Jul 22 at 12:48 pm

  13. Worth the paper it’s printed on, but this is roughly what my top 30 would look like (highest level in parentheses):

    1. RHP Cade Cavalli (AAA)
    2. RHP Cole Henry (AAA)
    3. SS Brady House (A)
    4. OF Cristhian Vaquero (Rk)
    5. RHP Jackson Rutledge (A)
    6. SS Armando Cruz (Rk)
    7. OF Jeremy De La Rosa (A)
    8. RHP Andry Lara (A)
    9. RHP Jake Irvin (AA)
    10. OF T.J. White (A)
    11. INF Sammy Infante (A)
    12. RHP Joan Adon (MLB)
    13. SS Viandel Peña (A)
    14. RHP Zach Brzycky (AA)
    15. RHP Mason Denaburg (A)
    16. LHP Evan Lee (MLB)
    17. LHP Mitchell Parker (A+)
    18. RHP Aldo Ramírez (A)
    19. RHP Jackson Tetreault (MLB)
    20. OF Daylen Lile (Rk)
    21. LHP Matt Cronin (AAA)
    22. SS Lucius Fox (MLB)
    23. RHP Rodney Theophile (A+)
    24. C Drew Millas (AA)
    25. RHP Seth Shuman (AA)
    26. RHP Cory Abbott (MLB)
    27. OF Roismar Quintana (Rk)
    28. INF Darren Baker (A+)
    29. LHP José A. Ferrer (A+)
    30. INF Jake Alu (AA)

    Just missing the cut: LHP Dustin Saenz, SS José Sánchez, OF Yasel Antuna, OF Josh Palacios, LHP Alex Troop


    7 Jul 22 at 1:13 pm

  14. Don’t read too much into the order of Henry and House at 2-3, I went back and forth on it and I’m still not sure it’s right. They’re very close for me and both borderline back-of-the-top-100 prospects, with the chance for one or both to take a big step forward if he comes back healthy and effective.

    Cavalli is by some distance the best prospect in our system in my estimation, certainly a top-50 type and likely better, although again, my saying so is not really worth anything.

    The vast majority of the list is guys who already are or who I can see in the future holding down a bit part on the MLB roster. I see few to no potential “impact” players south of #15. Perhaps that is my bias, tending to favor floor over ceiling as someone who mostly looks at stats and has an amateur’s eye, rather than having a scout’s eye for mechanics and projectability.


    7 Jul 22 at 1:26 pm

  15. Sao; definitely a solid list. I’d probably go Cavalli-henry-House 1-2-3 as well right now, then an admitted gap, then i’d probably struggle to figure out who to put next. Vaquero? all hype. Rutledge? shoudl be two levels higher than he is right now. Cruz? what’s he done yet? De La Rosa? promising … Adon? i mean, he is 22 and in AAA at this point, can’t forget that. i’d have to give it some thought.

    Todd Boss

    7 Jul 22 at 4:11 pm

  16. Sao, that’s an interesting and quality list. Thanks for posting. The Alu fan club isn’t going to be happy with you, LOL.

    I completely get what you’re saying about House vs. Henry. Ranking Henry has always perplexed me a bit. I’ve been saying literally since draft night that he might end up better than Cavalli, as he’s a more polished pitcher and had better stats in the SEC than Cavalli did in the Big 12. But we’ve been told all along that Cavalli has a higher theoretical “ceiling” because he touches 100. He also gives up a dang lot of hits, though, and always has, for a guy who is theoretically untouchable.

    With House vs. Henry, I think House has a potentially higher ceiling (40-homer 3B) than Henry does (solid 3d starter). (If you don’t think 3d starters have value, see Corbin’s contract.) But House is way, way farther away from achieving his level than Henry is his. So I don’t know how you account for that in rankings. I also don’t know how you account for the fact that Cavalli has a higher risk of ending up as a reliever than Henry does. So Cavalli has a higher ceiling but a lower floor. And House has a floor of not even making the majors, although he’ll be given every opportunity (see Kieboom, Carter).

    Truth be told, I think House has a higher potential ceiling than Cavalli, but he’s a long way from it. Sure looked like the real deal in April before he got hurt, though.


    7 Jul 22 at 4:13 pm

  17. I miss John Sickels who used to write on SB Nation. While he would still rank the prospects he also assigned a letter grade that indicated the what he expected as their ultimate achievement (star, regular, role player etc). You would see that on a list of 30 players maybe 15-25 would all have the same grade. He published a book every year that I purchased from 2012-2016, I often go back to review his work, he was very conservative, here’s Juan Soto in 2016:

    Soto’s physical tools are considered decent to slightly above average but he is expected to hit for both average and power with a clean swing and good strike zone judgment. We need to see him play in real games but the early reports are good. Grade C with higher potential


    7 Jul 22 at 5:22 pm

  18. here is his explanation of a grade C

    Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.


    7 Jul 22 at 5:25 pm

  19. Sickels started out as a research assistant to Bill James and was one of the early ones to start applying analytics to minor-league prospects. He was on the in the early days, the later ’90s, along Rob Neyer, another one who had worked with James.


    7 Jul 22 at 9:15 pm

  20. Joan Adon is now 1-12 with a 7.10 ERA. What have they accomplished by doing that to this kid? Would they have done that to one of the young Boras clients? (Hell no.) If they needed innings eaten, they’ve got guys who are expendable like Jefry Rodriguez and Sterling Sharp. They aren’t on the 40-man, though, (and neither are Cavalli or Henry), but of course Adon never should have been added to the 40-man, either.

    I have no idea what to think of Adon as a prospect. He was fairly mediocre at the A+ level last year. He should have still been learning his craft at AA this season. He has had flashes where he has looked good, like he could still make it as a #4-5 starter in the majors . . . in a couple of years. But this has become some brutal insistence by the front office that he deserved that 40-man slot the last two seasons.


    7 Jul 22 at 9:28 pm

  21. For those with Insider subscriptions, here is Kiley McDaniel’s final big board update:

    Jones/Johnson/Holliday/Parada/Collier/Lee/Green/Lesko/Berry/Cross. Not a mock, just rankings. Notably, Jones, Johnson, and Collier are all from the ATL area.

    Says every scout he has spoken with thinks Lee will switch to 3B. Says Berry “has the best current hit/power/pitch selection combo in the whole draft.” Doesn’t think Parada has “plus physical ability.” Thinks a lot of teams may be risk-averse with Green.


    8 Jul 22 at 12:57 pm

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