Nationals Arm Race

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

Baseball America 2023 Short List Released


Rutledge continues to impress scouts with h is 4.90 ERA in low-A. photo via

Hat tip to Luke Erickson and, because I had no idea that Baseball America had released its organizational top 10 list yesterday. This is incredibly irritating to me as a Baseball America subscriber; I somehow failed to get an email notification of this event, which means I missed the chat they held yesterday, which would have allowed me to ask the most obvious question, “Why in the hell would you still have Jackson Rutledge in your top 10??”

But, more on that later.

BA releases its top 10 in the fall, then works on its Prospect handbook for several months, and releases a full top 30 usually in Late Jan/Early Feb. So this is just a preview of what we’ll get in a few months.

Here’s the top 10, and in parentheses i’ve listed where BA had the player ranked in their last 2022 ranking (released on 8/10/22 after all draft and trade machinations).

  1. James Wood, OF (#3)
  2. Robert Hassell, OF (#2)
  3. Elijah Green, OF (#4)
  4. Cade Cavalli, RHP (#5)
  5. Brady House, SS (#6)
  6. Crithian Vaquero (#7)
  7. Jarlin Susana, RHP (#8)
  8. Jeremy De La Rosa, OF (#10)
  9. Jackson Rutledge, RHP (#9)
  10. T.J. White, OF (#29)

So, some comments.

  • Their #1 prospect in August was, of course, C.J. Abrams. It must have been published during the 24 hours that dude was at AAA before getting called back to the majors and losing his rookie eligibility.
  • In BA’s eyes, Wood did enough in a month at our Low-A post trade acquisition to jump over Hassell to be our #1 prospect. Its the first ranking i’ve seen with Wood at #1.
  • However, in all honesty, BA has the top 3 guys correct, and then the next two guys correct. A consistent top 5 with basically every other shop since these guys arrived in 2022.
  • Not too much to quibble about with Vaquero at #6, or Susana at #7. Prospects361 had Susana slightly higher, but this is in line with where MLBpipeline has these guys as well.
  • De la Rosa: he’s been in the 8-10 range in every ranking i’ve seen since the 2022 trade deadline.
  • I’ll jump over the elephant in the room to note that in the last two months, BA has decided that T.J. White has gone from a fringe, useless prospect (A guy in low A ranked #29 is not someone you’d expect to ever amount to anything), to our top 10. White’s low-A numbers: .258/.353/.432, 10 homers in 92 games and 329 ABs/382 PAs. But, wait for it … 104 strikeouts in those 382 PAs. 104! that’s more than 27% K rate. I mean, hell, for 27% K rate in the low minors i’d expect a homer at least every 20 PAs. But we got 10 homers in 382 PAs, or one homer every 38 PAs. that’s awful. That’s one homer a week. That’s 10 punch outs for every homer. That’s a lot.

So we get to Jackson Rutledge.

Rutledge, who had 20 starts in Low-A as a fourth year pro out of a Juco. A 1st rounder college draftee in his 4th pro season, still in Low-A b/c he has yet to prove he can cut it any higher. Rutledge, who pitched to a 4.90 ERA in 20 starts in low-A, with a 99/29 K/BB ratio (so, not even a K/inning!). 1.39 whip. Averaged less than 5 innings a start against a bunch of 20 and 21 yr olds.

Rutledge. This is a top 10 prospect in our system. Not Henry (who’s hurt yea but dude was still in AAA at the same damn age). Not Cruz or Lara, or Bennett or any of the 2022 draftees who immediately debuted at a higher level. Rutledge.

Some people were like, “oh he finished strong.” No he didn’t. His last 2 starts were the 4 ER in 5 IP variety.

He had 20 starts in Low-A: any guesses as to how many quality starts that comprised? Eight. He had 8 QS in 20 low-A starts this year. A guy with his pedigree should be dominating Low-A of course, but i mean, not even a 50% QS rate? That’s a pretty low bar.

And now he’s on the 40-man. Did he prove he had mastered Low-A in 2022? I don’t think so; if his bio started with anything else besides “1st round pick …” he’d be closer to a release than a promotion.

But here we are. Rant off.

Written by Todd Boss

December 1st, 2022 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Prospects

23 Responses to 'Baseball America 2023 Short List Released'

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  1. As I’ve mentioned on earlier posts, I think we’ll be shaping up with Wood vs. Hassell as Soto vs. Robles 2.0. That one seems like an unfair fight now, but Robles was a top-5 overall prospect in baseball based on his multiple tools. Hassell is a similar “toolshed” who still hasn’t shown a lot of HR power. He’s more of a Rendon-like gap-power guy right now. His rise in K% after the trade is concerning, though. He really needs contact to stay relevant. (Just ask Victor.)

    It’s hard to know yet whether White truly is a stud, but age matters. He’s a year and a half younger than de la Rosa, who was awful at that level at the same age. White is only a year older than Vaquero, who, despite all the hype, very likely won’t be playing at the full-season A level next year. (I didn’t understand why Vaquero wasn’t playing stateside in the FCL this year with all the hype, and bonus money. As it was, he didn’t do much in the Dominican, with only one homer in 55 games.) White is also half a year younger than Quintana, who was credible in the FCL.

    De la Rosa doesn’t excite me. He finally got on the radar while repeating the A level, but he did so by riding a .408 BABIP. He then fell hard to earth after being promoted. He’s not bad at all, but all reports are that he’s going to have to be a corner OF, which means you’ve got to show big HR power, which he hasn’t yet. There’s going to be a lot of sorting out in the Nat OF ranks in 2023, and de la Rosa may be one who gets sorted.

    A+ OF: Wood, de la Rosa, White, McKenzie
    A OF: Green, Lile, Cox, Quintana
    FCL OF: Vaquero, maybe Soto? (are the Nats still expected to sign him?)

    That’s a heck of a lot of OF talent fighting for playing time in the lower minors. That’s also part of the reason I didn’t think they needed to add de la Rosa to the 40-man. In the very unlikely event that they were to lose him, they’ve already got replacements in the pipeline.


    1 Dec 22 at 3:32 pm

  2. I don’t understand what has happened to Rutledge. He was promoted to the full-season A level the summer he was drafted (2019) and was dominant in six starts. That would be the same level where he wasn’t good in 2022, three years later. During the COVID year, he was at the alt site with Cavalli and was talked about as being on the same trajectory. Some thought Rutledge’s stuff was better. So WHAT HAPPENED?

    Also, there’s this general impression that Rutledge, despite how bad he was, was still better than Denaburg. Um . . . Rutledge’s ERA was more than half a point higher and he surrendered 2.2 more hits per nine than Denaburg did. Now, Denaburg’s walk rate was terrible, and Rutledge’s wasn’t bad at all, which actually leads to more head scratching, to wit: if control wasn’t really Rutledge’s problem, then what was? A FanGraphs guy once declared that Rutledge has “some of the best stuff on Earth,” but low A hitters are averaging more than a hit an inning off of him. His H/9 at A level in 2019 was HALF of what it was in 2022. What gives? Why is he so hittable now?

    Looking at this numbers actually gives me a little hope about Denaburg. If he can fix his control, and stay healthy, he still has a way forward. He’s eight months younger than Rutledge. But 2023 will be a fish-or-cut-bait season for both of them.


    1 Dec 22 at 3:56 pm

  3. Yasel Antuna and Josh Palacios have cleared outright waivers. Antuna has been assigned to Triple-A Rochester and Palacios to Double-A Harrisburg.


    1 Dec 22 at 4:21 pm

  4. The long Antuna nightmare is over! They now have three slots on the 40-man for the Rule 5 draft next week.


    1 Dec 22 at 8:33 pm

  5. Finally they come to their senses on Antuna. Btw I think we have 2 open slots, not three.

    Todd Boss

    2 Dec 22 at 8:00 am

  6. Oops, sorry, I slept on the Stone Garrett signing, although why that needed to be to an MLB contract, I have no idea. Garrett did have really good numbers in the rare air of the PCL, though — 28 homers and 22 doubles, better than Reno teammate Dominic Canzone, who I had ID’d as a potential Rule 5 pick. Another positive note is that I see that Garrett still has three options left.


    2 Dec 22 at 9:44 am


    he was injured and unable to pitch. he pitched more innings this year that the previous three years combined. I’m not sure why this is consistently unmentioned when looking at his development.

    maybe I like him too much but I watched all of his starts this year and I am expecting good things in 2023. we’ll see.


    2 Dec 22 at 10:27 am

  8. FredMD — I know you’ve been a regular defender of Rutledge. I respect your opinion, particularly since you’ve taken the time to watch him, and I hope you’re right. But the trajectory isn’t good. And of course the Nats never help the situation by never being too clear about injuries. The main ones with Rutledge of which I was aware in 2021 were blisters, not actual arm problems, but it’s certainly possible there was more to it.

    As I said, my biggest concern with him is that he’s getting hit, at twice the rate he was three years ago (at the same level). His control is good. When healthy, his stuff is supposed to be exceptional. So why is he getting hit so often and so hard? It’s easier to fix control than it is getting hit, which is what concerns me.

    I’m rooting for the guy. I used to vote him ahead of Cavalli because I thought he had a higher ceiling. But right now, I don’t see a lot that’s encouraging. And it’s not just me. Luke Erickson just referred to him as “Jake Johansen II.”


    2 Dec 22 at 11:01 am

  9. in the playoff game, he went 8 shutout innings in what was without a doubt the biggest start of his pro career. they hit .222 against him in his five August starts. his walk rate is good. from what I can tell he made strides working with Hanrahan, something I hope he gets to continue to do in A+. he stayed healthy.

    I don’t know if that’s enough for you or others to be encouraged about. but what do I know anyway.

    Happy Holidays!


    2 Dec 22 at 11:47 am

  10. Sounds encouraging. The organization certainly would benefit mightily if Rutledge and Denaburg bounce back to what was expected of them.

    Organizational starting pitching in the upper minors is very thin, though. I wouldn’t be surprised is they roll the dice on a starting pitcher in Rule 5.


    2 Dec 22 at 12:54 pm

  11. FWIW, NatsTalk has a quote from Hassell saying that he thinks his power was really affected for much of the season by the hand issue for which he ultimately had surgery. He thinks people are going to be surprised by his power surge when he’s healthy.

    As I have said, I look at Hassell’s numbers and try to think in terms of Rendon. Except for his amazing 2019 season, he has never hit more than 25 homers. But he was consistently 20-25 homers with massive doubles numbers.

    (BTW, Rendon really has fallen off a cliff the last two seasons. Thank goodness the Nats don’t have that contract in addition to Stras’s. Rendon is still owed $154M over the next four seasons, which is more than he has made across his career thus far.)


    3 Dec 22 at 9:33 am

  12. Glad to read the Hassell quote. A good comp would be Ian Desmond, who’s career took off after he had his hamate bone removed. We should know by May 1 whether he’s right. Fingers crossed.

    Mark L

    3 Dec 22 at 12:11 pm

  13. Interesting week ahead for the Nats. On Tuesday evening, we find out how screwed they’re going to be by the new draft lottery. On Wednesday, they may make a pick or two in the Rule 5 draft for the first time in more than a decade. Since they have signed players at the field positions where I thought they might draft (3B and OF), my bet is that they’re leaning more toward pitching.

    There’s a lot of buzz that the Nats should sign a couple of starting pitchers, but I’m not completely sold on that approach/necessity. They’re not close enough to being good warrant spending $10M+ a season to get guys who might be a real upgrade. But it makes no sense to me to spend $5M to get innings-eating stiffs. They could have paid less than that and kept Fedde.

    Assuming that Stras isn’t part of the picture, the Nats still have Corbin, Gray, Gore, and Cavalli. If they really believe in Adon, then put him out there too. Let’s find out what we’ve got once and for all. They may also draft a starter in Rule 5, and they’ve got Espino if they want innings eaten in an inexpensive way. It’s a stretch to think that Irvin is particularly close to the majors, but he should be stronger in 2023 in his second year after TJ.

    To me, this is the season where you throw them in the deep end and find out who can do it and who can’t. Then next offseason, when they’re closer to being better, spend to replace the ones who don’t look like they’re going to make it. Yes, it may get ugly at times. But I’d rather it be ugly with a guy who might still be figuring things out than with some 37-year-old huffing to the finish line. (Also, there’s such desperation for back-end pitching that I think there’s going to be some significant price inflation even for guys with ERAs near 5.00.)


    4 Dec 22 at 9:11 am

  14. In other news, since Todd is a big HOF watcher, Fred McGriff has been elected by the Contemporary Era Committee, the only one elected. They bypassed Bonds, Clemons, Palmiero, Schilling, et al, as well as older favorites without big career stats like Mattingly and Murphy, and the curious case of Albert Belle.


    4 Dec 22 at 8:31 pm

  15. Think the committee got the HOF vote right. Good for McGriff

    Mark L

    5 Dec 22 at 6:38 am

  16. no disrespect to Crime Dog but when he saw Chipper and Maddux on the committee he could have booked his ticket to Cooperstown


    5 Dec 22 at 6:21 pm

  17. Sad day for Trader Trea. Oh, I don’t blame him for taking the money and running . . . at least as long as he’s able to run. But that’s the thing, even when there was talk of extending him as a Nat, I wanted no part of him beyond age 34 or so. Why? Well, look no further than . . . the City of Brotherly Hate. You would think they would remember how well those Rollins and Utley deals worked out. Trea won’t even be halfway through his contract by the time he reaches the ages when those guys hit the wall. I’m not wishing him ill, but there’s no way it ends well . . . except in his bank account.

    Meanwhile, the Mets are reassembling Detroit’s 2012 rotation. I’m sure Anibal is awaiting his $40M contract as well.

    As I said, I don’t blame the players. But these really are crazy things going on in the NL East. Maybe some of those deals will be starting to go South in a year or three when the Nats are starting to get good again.

    Also, think of all the crazy contracts now signed by members of the 2018 Nats, with Soto’s still to come — Harper, Rendon, Stras, Trea, and Max. That’s six guys (counting Juan) getting contracts over $25M AAV, and it will be four over $30M when Juan signs. Two of those contracts are already under water, BTW.


    5 Dec 22 at 7:37 pm

  18. oh they remember how those deals turned out, they also remember 2007-2011 when they were on top of the baseball world. this is called going for it, and I know you know that too.

    as much as we bemoan the current state of the Nats, that’s what they did. I am hopeful that new ownership will navigate a balance of player development and aggressive spending when needed to avoid the roller coaster.


    6 Dec 22 at 7:57 am

  19. Oh, I know the Phillies are “going for it.” I also know that they lost the World Series mostly because of not having enough starting pitching. It seems that they’ve taken the beer league softball approach and decided that they’re just going to try to outscore everyone, rather than address the real problem. The deal that would have made more sense for them for what they actually needed would have been the Verlander one. (Also interesting to note that Nola will be a free agent after the 2023 season, making their shaky rotation even shakier.)

    Of course the flip side of that calculus is that the Phils just barely made the playoffs (by one game) in 2022, and they’ll be without Harper for a good chunk of 2023, so maybe they do need more offensive punch. But paying for 11 years to keep the window open for three or four is still a bit head-scratching. I also understand, though, trying to lower the AAV hit per season, because of the tax line. Just makes for some weird ways of doing business, and ultimately for some guys being bought out just to have them go away (Heyward most recently).


    6 Dec 22 at 8:30 am

  20. For those with ESPN+, here is Kiley McDaniel’s review of potential #1 picks in advance of the draft lottery tonight:

    McDaniel: “Since there isn’t a clear, slam-dunk No. 1 prospect, which team wins the first pick and the exact order of the draft will have a significant impact on who goes early.”

    As I’ve noted, I’m all in on Dollander for the Nats, with a partial side of Jacob Gonzalez if Garcia at 2B and/or the 3B candidates struggle. They have literally 8-10 very good OF prospects, so unless Dylan Crews truly is a superstar, with a higher ceiling than Green/Wood/Hassell/Vaquero, in whom they’ve already invested heavily, then he doesn’t make a lot of sense for what the Nats actually need.


    6 Dec 22 at 8:46 am

  21. Just out of curiosity, I added up what Turner, Soto, Stras, Rendon, and Max made in 2019 and what they’ll make in 2023. In 2019, that quintet made a substantial $82M, weighted heavily to Stras (first year of his contract) and Max. But in 2023, those five will make literally twice as much: $165.5M (using Soto’s estimated arb number and Trea’s AAV).


    6 Dec 22 at 12:17 pm

  22. OK, breathing sigh of relief to end up with #2 pick. I was convinced that the Nats’ “luck” would treat them like happened to the A’s and parachute them down. There’s no clear #1 in this draft. They’re going to end up with a quality player, and likely a college player, saving them some pool money to do some interesting things on down the board.

    Moving on to Rule 5 draft on Wed. at 5 p.m. EST. came up with one of the same names at the top of the list that I had:

    Except that the Nats just signed Canzone’s non-tendered Reno teammate, Stone Garrett, who had even bigger numbers and can be optioned.


    6 Dec 22 at 8:55 pm

  23. From an earlier post, here are some projections for Rule 5 possibilities:

    Steamer (wRC+/SLG) for hitters:

    Andres Chaparro, 3B/1B (NYY) 121 / 459
    Dominic Canzone, OF (AZ) 108 / 437
    Malcom Nunez, 1B (PIT) 103 / 408
    Grant Lavigne, 1B (COL) 91 / 401
    Jake Mangum (NYM), OF 91 / 365

    Among the pitchers, using FIP/ERA:

    Victor Vodnik (ATL) 4.03 / 4.11
    Thad Ward (BOS) 4.45 / 4.71
    T.J. Sikkema (KC) 4.47 / 4.43
    Austin Bergner (DET) 4.50 / 4.48
    Jaden Murray (HOU) 4.82 / 4.76
    Erik Miller (PHI) 4.89 / 4.67


    6 Dec 22 at 9:06 pm

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