Nationals Arm Race

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

The Athletic Keith Law Nats top 20 Reaction


Law likes Wood. huh huh. Photo via Fredericksburg

Next up during the best time of year (Prospect Season!) is Keith Law, who was a long-time ESPN prospect guy before pivoting to the Athletic, where he’s been their main guy for several years now.

Disclosure: of all the prospect writers, I like Law best. Therefore, i’m more likely to like where he ranks people.

Law is more ceiling oriented than floor; you’re more likely to find a random 18yr old than the 25yr old in AAA who hit .300 but who plays 2B/LF (ahem, Jake Alu). So, keep that in mind.

Here’s his top 20+ for the system.

Klaw RankLast NameFirst NamePosition2022 LevelYear Signed/DraftedAcquisitionBonsu
1WoodJamesOF (Corner)Low-A2021 2ndTrade2600000
2GreenElijahOF (CF)FCL2022 1stDraft6500000
3Hassell IIIRobertOF (CF)High-A2020 1stTrade4300000
4CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)AAA2020 1stDraft3027000
5HouseBradySS/3BLow-A2021 1stDraft5000000
6SusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)FCL2022 IFATrade1700000
7HenryColeRHP (Starter)AA2020 2ndDraft2000000
8VaqueroCristianOF (CF)XST2022 IFAIFA4900000
9De La RosaJeremyOF (Corner)Low-A2018 IFAIFA300000
10BennettJakeLHP (Starter)FCL2022 2ndDraft1734800
11IrvinJakeRHP (Starter)High-A2018 4thDraft550000
12RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)Low-A2019 1stDraft3450000
13CruzArmandoSSXST2021 IFAIFA3900000
14LaraAndryRHP (Starter)Low-A2019 IFAIFA1250000
15QuintanaRoismarOF (CF)XST2019 IFAIFA820000
16DownsJeter2BOO - AAA2017 1stWaivers1825000
17LileDaylenOF (CF)XST (TJ)2021 2ndDraft1750000
18WhiteT.J.OF (Corner)Low-A2021 5thDraft400000
19AluJake3BAA2019 24thDraft10000
20FerrerJoseLHP (Reliever)Low-A2017 IFAIFA?
21LipscombTrey3BLow-A2022 3rdDraft758500
22CarrilloGerardoRHP (Reliever)AA2016 IFATrade75000
23McKenzieJaredOF (CF)Low-A2022 5thDraft410500
24BrzykcyZachRHP (Reliever)High-A2020 NDFANDFA20000
25CoxBrennerOF (CF)FCL2022 4thDraft1000000
26ValeraLeonelSSOO - ??MLFA?
27SanchezJoseSSHigh-A2016 IFAIFA950000
29BakerDarren2BHigh-A2021 10thDraft146800
30RamirezAldoRHP (Starter)XST (inj)2018 IFATrade450000
31WardThadRHP (Starter)OO - AA2018 5thRule-5275000

And here’s some reactions

  • Same top 5 as everyone else.
  • But, he’s got Green above Hassell, which is kind of rare, and is indicative of ceiling based analysis. Law thinks both Wood and Greene could be special and ranks them accordingly.
  • Law is one of the few to keep Cole Henry in the top 10; he notes the TOS surgery, but also notes Henry’s command and raw stuff was #2 starter before the injury. We’ll just see what happens. We’re all hoping he returns at some semblance of his former self.
  • He’s high man on Jake Irvin, putting him at #11 just below Bennett at 10. Which makes perfect sense honestly, b/c they’re the same pitcher. Big body, control and off-speed guys who project to be 4th/5th starters. One’s a brand new draft pick, one was at AA last year. It’s just kind of mind boggling that one shop had Irvin at 35 and MLBpipeline didn’t even rank him in their top 30 last mid-season.
  • Oh my god, he has Rutledge ranked #12. Maybe my fan-boy love for Law is ending. He’s kind of iffy in his analysis, noting that Rutledge throws hard and maintains velocity, but doesn’t seem to have much RPMs or a third pitch. Hint to Nats Player Development: THAT MEANS HE’S A RELIEVER. Maybe 2023 is the year they realize that Rutledge can either be a shutdown 8th inning guy in the majors or a failing starter in High-A.
  • Waiver claim Jeter Downs at #16. Law makes a good point: the guy was in AAA before the Pandemic, had made AA by the time he was 21. So the talent is there somewhere. Though, the Nats aren’t exactly renown for fixing reclamation projects. So, we’ll see. Maybe he’s a change of scenery guy. But nobody else is this high on Downs.
  • He’s a little lower on White than others, but does note that the guy is super young. Law also points out the obvious; given the Nats prospect OF depth (five of our top 10 are outfielders), a guy like White probably is getting bumped to 1B sooner than later. Which mean’s he’s *really* gonna have to hit his way to the majors.
  • He actually mentions Alu at #19. I’m shocked.
  • The first shop to mention MLFA/NRI Leonel Valera in any capacity. It isn’t often you see a MLFA getting prospect buzz, but Law seems to like his tools.
  • Also the first pundit to mention Jose Sanchez, our SS/3B in High-A, in some time. This guy was once ranked as high as 8th in the system in 2019. Maybe he can regain his mojo.
  • His last honorable mention was our Rule-5 pickup Ward, ranking him roughly 30th when other shops have him in the teens.

Players Law is missing:

  • No mention of Mitchell Parker. I’m guessing he thinks Parker’s success is smoke and mirrors lefty with funky stuff. At some point Parker will hit a wall and stop getting guys out regularly; lets hope its in Washington and not Harrisburg.
  • No Cronin; no surprise there, since Cronin entered pro baseball as a reliever and Law doesn’t rate relievers as prospets.
  • No Evan Lee; i guess he really has to show us something health wise.
  • No mention of our Catcher depth Pineda or Millas. Probably not surprising.
  • No mention of anyone in our IFA class. Might be too early, or might be that we didn’t give out a $4M bonus this year.
  • Infante completely off the list; but that’s the same with all the other pundits too. Great 2nd rounder!
  • Lastly … no Antuna, though Law gives him special mention as having fallen so far.

Written by Todd Boss

February 6th, 2023 at 11:28 pm

Posted in Prospects

14 Responses to 'The Athletic Keith Law Nats top 20 Reaction'

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  1. I’ve always felt Law’s list is a good reflection of how other front offices see the Nats’ farm. He used to work in a front office and is extremely well connected. This is more of a trade value list than a who’s-gonna-make-it list.

    Law also tends to latch onto a guy and cling to him long after the ship has sailed, like Antuna in the recent past. I think that explains his continuing faith in Jeter Downs that even the Bosox no longer seem to share, and perhaps the same with Rutledge (although our friend FredMD also is still a Rutledge supporter).

    Law also seems to be smarter that a lot of guys working in baseball. That said, he also enjoys being an iconoclast, so he’ll sometimes make some controversial picks to try to be ahead of the curve (such as Green over Hassell).

    And yes, he’s a big sucker for ceiling, and often seems to discount functionality because of it.

    BTW, Law lives in Wilmington, where a big chunk of the Nats’ future will be playing over the next two seasons. So his picks over the next couple of years should be unusually relevant.


    7 Feb 23 at 12:48 pm

  2. I’ll give Law Henry, Rutledge, Irvin, and Ferrer and I’ll take Ward, Cronin, Parker, and Brzykcy. I’m betting I’ll end up with more MLB WAR than he does.

    Now, I was really high on Henry before he was injured, but as I’ve mentioned before, I have no idea how he should be ranked now.

    I think that Ward has a higher ceiling than Irvin. Ward was the better of the two before their TJs, and he’s been better since.

    Speaking of ceilings, if that is indeed Law’s bottom line, then why isn’t Susana higher? You can count the number of true aces in baseball on your fingers. That’s Susana’s potential. He’s got a long, long way to go to realize it, but he’s right there with Wood and Green in truly unlimited physical potential.


    7 Feb 23 at 1:01 pm

  3. One name conspicuously absent on a potential-heavy list: Brenner Cox. The Nats have been doing victory laps about this guy. I certainly hope he pans out, but as I noted, I think Law sees these guys as other front offices do, and right now, Cox hasn’t made it on the radar yet.

    Even though I was one of the early members of the T. J. White bandwagon, I don’t mind tapping the brakes a bit. He’s very young and still has a long way to go. That said, what he’s actually done on a pro baseball field would put him over about two-thirds of the guys on the list, plus he’s as young or younger than nearly all of them.

    As Todd noted, White also suffers from the curious notion that every OF has to pretend to be a CF or he’s not as valuable. Heck, that’ part of the reason Robles almost always ranked higher than Soto. ‘Nuf said.

    Here’s a question: if Todd and the rest of the readers had to pick a Nat farm hand to total 30 homers in 2023, who would it be? Names to consider: Wood, Green, House, White, Frizzell, Pineda, Infante, Lipscomb, Stehly. Other than Yadiel’s PCL-inflated 33 at Fresno in 2019, no Nat has done it since Tyler Moore had back-to-back 31s in 2010 and 2011. (Well, and Soto did hit 36 in 2018, although 22 of those were at the MLB level.)


    7 Feb 23 at 1:23 pm

  4. BTW, I think I’m the only person in the Natosphere intrigued by Murphy Stehly (10th round pick). Yes, he’s already 24.5 years old, so he’s basically got to click immediately. But he has played every INF (including SS in community college) and OF position and had the fifth-most hits in D1 last season, including 19 homers and 23 doubles. He’s Ben Zobrist. YouTube clips have him hitting homers in conference tournament in an MLB stadium and diving over a fence for a foul ball. Definitely a “gamer.” Even if he doesn’t make it, it will be fun watching him try.


    7 Feb 23 at 2:42 pm

  5. And looking for a top-5 name to add to the prospect list for next year:

    At the start of the spring, nearly everyone seems to have Dollander and Crews as their top two. The top six collegians listed here are in the SEC.

    As we’ve discussed, the Nats seem loaded with OF talent in the system, although there should be a lot of sorting out in the system this season. Right now, they look suspect with starting pitching depth. They’ve got a number of guys who are capable of doing something, but Cavalli is the only one in the upper minors you’d really actually bet on.


    8 Feb 23 at 8:58 am

  6. It’s a fine list, although if Law doesn’t rank relievers, what are Carrillo, Ferrer, and Brzykcy doing on it? Cronin is a weird omission if those three are there; he’s consistently the highest-ranked of that foursome of relief prospects and is coming off a really good season, with a puncher’s chance to break camp with the team this spring.

    Nice to see Valera here. He’s 23, a natural shortstop, and he’s coming off an .840 OPS at Double-A Tulsa. Strikes out too much and maybe his bat quiets down in a less hitter-friendly environment, so I’m not rushing to pin him at the top of any prospect boards, but he’s a lot more interesting than the garden-variety minor league free agent signing. Not much fanfare about him at all.


    9 Feb 23 at 7:03 pm

  7. I’ve never understood what the supposed knocks are on Cronin. Yes, he doesn’t throw that hard, but he’s always gotten guys out, with exceptional K totals, back to SEC days. He made AA in his first full pro season.

    He does have two things a little against him: he’s already 25, will turn 26 in September. The missed 2020 season put him and so many of the other college draftees behind the 8-ball age-wise. Also, as noted, he doesn’t throw that hard — low 90s. But there are plenty of examples of great relievers who never threw hard. Melancon and Jansen are recent big-contract ones who come to mind. Cronin’s high K totals indicate that he has swing-and-miss stuff, and his hits-per-nine are also low.


    10 Feb 23 at 10:45 am

  8. Interesting inclusion of ’22 19th rounder Johnathon Thomas – who had 1 good college season at Texas Southern and in the Prospect League.


    14 Feb 23 at 2:14 pm

  9. Thomas had 62 stolen bases in 53 games as a college senior, which is freakish. He also had 9 homers, despite being only 5’7″. He’s the next Billy Burns.

    The question with Thomas would seem to be where will he get OF playing time with so many other touted prospects in the mix? Fredericksburg likely to have Green, Lile, Quintana, and maybe Cox.


    15 Feb 23 at 1:05 pm

  10. Updated pre-spring draft projections on FanGraphs:,1

    Crews at #1, but Dollander down at #5. I’m looking at #2 Brayden Taylor’s stats, and they sure don’t seem as loud at those of some of the others. I would think there would be more game growth projection left on someone like Jacob Gonzalez than there would on Taylor.


    17 Feb 23 at 1:11 pm

  11. Cole Henry threw a bullpen yesterday. Cross every finger and toe!


    25 Feb 23 at 12:38 pm

  12. Wow, that’s amazing news about Henry. I’m sure they will be in no rush with him, nor should they be.


    26 Feb 23 at 9:04 am

  13. The Nats are so far 0 for 2 with TOS pitchers. Cole Henry is about 10 years younger than Strasburg and Harris so there’s that.

    Here’s hoping.

    Mark L

    28 Feb 23 at 7:59 am

  14. Wake up, Todd! Hope things are OK with you.

    The Ruiz extension is the best development for this organization in a long time. I really believe in this guy, think he can be a .300-hitting catcher with 20-HR power. I hope they will start exploring extensions with Abrams and Garcia as well, although OBP concerns me with both. Those three are the only ones on the everyday roster right now who look like they could be real pieces for the future.


    11 Mar 23 at 2:27 pm

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