Nationals Arm Race

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

Prospect Season kicks off with BA top 10


Nobody improved their prospect value more than Rutledge in 2023 photo via

We havn’t even returned the 60-day DL players back to the active roster, and Baseball America goes and drops its first pre-2024 analysis. They released their pre-2024 top 10, plus their list of “best tools” and their stab at a 2027 roster for the team.

Here’s the top 10 and some quick thoughts.

BA pre-2024 top 10Last NameFirst NamePosition
1CrewsDylanOF (CF)
2WoodJamesOF (Corner)
4CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)
6RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)
7Hassell IIIRobertOF (CF)
8VaqueroCristianOF (CF)
9GreenElijahOF (CF)
10SusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)
  • No surprise on top 3. Wouldn’t surprise me to see all three start in AA in 2024, all three move up together, and all three debut in the majors by mid-season.
  • Cavalli at #4 isn’t terribly surprising … if he shows that he’s got pre-TJ stuff upon his return, he could/should be back up to #2.
  • Morales really had a solid debut, bumping him above some more familiar names. Its about time we had a 2nd round pick work out for us.
  • Rutledge’s 2023 season, which shocked this observer, has him now just outside the top echelon of our prospect royalty. Talk about a turnaround from his 2022 season.
  • Hassell’s season just seemed to drag him down, post hamate-bone surgery. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that he was the #2 prospect in the system. I’d really like to see him regain that luster.
  • Vaquero remains more hype than production, but at least he’s stateside now.
  • Green’s K numbers have officially taken the shine of his star. He’s dropped to #9 here, and that’s low enough that he’s no longer a sure thing.
  • Susana somehow comes in at #10, despite ending the season injured and repeating a level.

Players outside the top 10 looking in. Only one real nit:

  • I’d put Lile above Susana at this point.
  • I guess Bennett is going to be in the mid teens for the next year and a half with TJ recovery.
  • Sykora? Where do you put him?
  • DJ Herz? Who would you rather have right now? Herz or Susana? Just saying.

FYI, the Big Board now has a 2024 tab, and i’ve caught it up to today’s moves, which were to return the 60-day DL guys to the 40-man roster, which required the DFA of Matt Cronin. More moves to follow, since we’re definitely looking at some rule-5 protections in a week or so.

Written by Todd Boss

November 6th, 2023 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Prospects

3 Responses to 'Prospect Season kicks off with BA top 10'

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  1. Welcome back, Todd! It’s a good time to crank up the Hot Stove. Prospect lists like this one drive me crazy, though. Did nothing that actually happened during the season actually matter? (Or, in, Cavalli’s case, didn’t happen.) Are Green and Vaquero REALLY better than Pinckney and Lile? Would you buy actual stock in Susana over Herz?

    I’m certainly glad that Rutledge has progressed, but I still have a hard time envisioning a high ceiling for him. He had a 5.82 FIP in AAA and 5.86 in the majors. Is this someone you truly bet on in the MLB rotation, or keep stretched out in AAA?

    As we’ve previously discussed, the biggest offseason question for the Nats in general probably involves whether they pursue another starting pitcher in free agency. The theoretical answer is “yes,” but man, when you look at the FA list, it’s hard to get too excited about the options. Maybe instead of a Jordan Montgomery or Sonny Gray they go more for a bounceback guy like Flaherty or Giolito (high school teammates).

    This gets directly back to the prospect discussion because it would seem that the question is whether you would trust Rutledge (or Trevor Williams) in the rotation over a free agent, and my answer is that I would not. (There’s also the compounding factor of Adon being out of options, but that’s another discussion for another day.)


    7 Nov 23 at 9:32 am

  2. I’m not surprised to see BA or the other prospect watchers recycle past ratings on these lists.

    There’s basically 4 legit prospects on this list, then a bunch of guys with strong reputations but little in the way of results. For some, Morales especially, it’s no fault of his own. He’s only had 2 months to showcase himself. Still, it’s a pretty ugly top 10, as the majority of them fell pretty far down the prospect ratings ladder in 2023.

    Predictably, who we don’t see on this list are the guys with weak reputations but very good results:
    DJ Herz – whose 405 Ks since 2021 is 9th most of some 6000 minor league pitchers in that period (and the 8 ahead of him have also thrown substantially more innings than Herz), and only 3 of those 8 had lower ERAs than his (3.68)
    Daylen Lile – a toolshed of a player, who hit a robust .269/.355/.452 in his first healthy season since being drafted in the 2nd round
    Jake Bennett is looking like the second coming of Cole Henry: a potential star in the making but plagued by injuries. Unfortunately, those serious injuries keep both off the list (even if a double standard is applied for Cavalli)
    Drew Millas – as Yadier Molina proved, you can be a bad hitter and still somehow be in consideration for the Hall of Fame if you’re good behind the plate. Millas is supposed to be above average defensively, and seemingly a better hitter than Molina (who posted a career .726 OPS). Millas posted a remarkable .833 OPS between AA and AAA, and topped it off with an impressive .839 OPS in DC.
    Andrew Pinckney – a dark horse 4th rounder followed up on his senior year explosion, where he posted a 1.090 OPS at Alabama, with a .872 OPS across 4 (!!) levels.

    If I had my way, I’d go:
    1. Wood
    1a. Crews
    3. House
    4. Cavalli
    5. Morales
    6. Rutledge
    7. Herz
    8. Lile
    9. Millas
    10. Hassell

    Where the org has made much more progress has been in its pitching depth. Several arms made huge strides last season: Alvarez, Saenz, Parker, Lord, Luckham as SPs, and Willingham (ignore his time in the majors), Schoff, Knowles, Pogue, Grissom, Atencio in relief, though none of these guys come close to featuring in a top 10 list, they’ll still be very important parts of our rebuild.


    9 Nov 23 at 9:53 am

  3. Will — don’t sleep on Pinckney. I think he’s legit. As of right now, I’d have Herz higher than Rutledge, as I think Herz has a higher potential ceiling (although might still end up as relievers).


    9 Nov 23 at 12:51 pm

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