Nationals Arm Race

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First Prospect ranking of offseason: BA top 10

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Kiebert Ruiz remains the #1 prospect in the system. Photo WP

We’re not even done with the World Series (between the cheaters of Houston and the culturally insensitives of Atlanta) but we’ve gotten our first prospect ranking. It comes to us from Baseball America, who normally has relatively reasonable rankings but for the pre-2022 season has given us some rather “interesting” rankings.

click here for the BA top 10 plus their list of best tools and what not.

BA’s top 10:

RankFirst NameLast NamePosition
1KeibertRuizC
2CadeCavalliRHP (Starter)
3BradyHouseSS
4YaselAntunaSS
5AndryLaraRHP (Starter)
6ColeHenryRHP (Starter)
7JoanAdonRHP (Starter)
8GerardoCarrilloRHP (Starter)
9JacksonRutledgeRHP (Starter)
10ArmandoCruzSS

Ok. So lets do some reactions.

  • Hard to disagree with the top 2. Ruiz was already a better prospect than Cavalli when he got here, and most of the prospect shops i’m seeing have them 1-2 in this order.
  • House had such an impressive debut, it isn’t a surprise to see him rocket to #3. This is in line with most other shops.
  • Antuna at #4. Really. What exactly did he do this year to merit such a rise? He was 22 in High-A and slashed .227/.307/.385. The last time we saw him in a full season was three years ago in Low-A and he slashed … .220/.293/.331. Wow. Pretty similar, huh? During his defense of this, the BA writer Joe Healy pointed out that, oh well Antuna started out 4-67 and then “got hot.” Ok, even if you remove his 4-67 start he STILL only hit .260 for the season. Oh, and then BA listed Antuna as having the “Best Hitter for Average” in the entire system! No I’m not kidding: a career .238 hitter in the low minors is our system’s best hitter for average, according to BA. Oh by the way, he’s such a bad SS ( he committed 36 errors in 96 games this year) that the team has pushed him to be a corner OF. Great; so now we have a corner OF with no speed (17 career SBs in 246 games) and no power (.367 career slugging). I don’t mean to shower distain on the guy, but I just can’t believe he’s ranked this high by any scouting shop at this point.
  • Lara and Henry at 5-6 are pretty reasonable. I’d have liked to see more from Lara this year, but he’s still just finishing his age 18 season. Henry remains an orchid; unhittable when healthy, but frequently hurt. Hurt this year, hurt in college, etc. Of course he’s tearing it up in the AFL; he’s healthy again. I’m already getting shades of Christian Garcia: lights out when healthy … but never healthy enough to count on.
  • Joan Adon at #7. What a weird year he had. Throws 17 starts in high-A with nearly a 5.00 ERA and good but not stellar K/BB rates (9 K/9 and a 3/1 k/bb). But he gets promoted to AA nonetheless, where he gives up 20 baserunners in 14 innings to the tune of a 6.43 ERA … but strikes out a ton of guys (24 Ks in 14 innings). On the strength of that, and thanks to an arm shortage he gets moved up to AAA, where he needs 81 pitches to get through 4 innings. But since he’s on the 40-man he gets his MLB debut and throws a pretty solid game against a playoff team in Boston the last weekend of the season, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits in 5 1/3rd innings. Every other scouting bureau has him as essentially an org-guy at this point; Baseball America has him #7. I’m not sure what to think.
  • Carillo and Cruz filling out the top 10 is fine: Carillo by all accounts can’t find the plate with his secondary offerings and might end up being a 2-pitch closer. Cruz is young, struggled this year but the promise is th ere.
  • That leaves us to Jackson Rutledge. What a fall from grace for Rutledge in 2021; he starts the year as the opening day starter in High-A (ahead of Adon and Cavalli), gets hammered, is dumped to Low-A where he doesn’t fare much better, and then hits the DL for a large stretch. Meanwhile Adon ends the season in the majors and Cavalli makes the Futures game. And to think that some pundits had Rutledge ahead of Cavalli as a prospect. So, what happens next? Is this the next Jake Johannsen? Another wasted high-round draft pick in a decade of them?

Per the post-top10 release chat, some of the names just outside the top 10 include the likes of Tim Cate, Jeremy De La Rosa, Aldo Ramirez, Matt Cronin. This seems about right, these are generally the next few names in the 11-15 range on most lists.

Written by Todd Boss

October 29th, 2021 at 9:45 am

Fangraphs/Longenhagen Nats top prospect list drops

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Rutledge gets the #1 nod from Fangraphs. Photo via BA

The last of the “major” pundits has released their Nats prospect ranking lists for the 2021 season, with Fangraph’s lead prospect writer Eric Longenhagen teaming with Tess Taruskin to release their top 22 Nats prospects for 2021.

Why 22 prospects, instead of 10 or 20 or some other round number? Fangraphs drives their rankings via a “Future Value” metric, so the deeper your system is, the more prospects you will have on their list. The cutoff is a “35+ FV,” which projects as something between a 4-A career guy and a bench role player. Yes, you may immediately draw some conclusions about the depth of our system by the number who reached that plateau; by way of comparison a “good” farm system in Tampa had no fewer than 62 players make their 2021 fangraphs list by using the same 35+ cutoff.

So, yeah, we have some work to do… but we already knew that since every macro ranking of our system done this year has us dead last as a system.

Anyway, here’s the Fangraphs list, with some commentary about how these rankings fare side-by-side with other pundits.

Fangraphs 2021 rankLast NameFirst NamePositionAcquisition
1RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)2019 1st
2CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)2020 1st
3AntunaYaselSS2016 IFA
4LaraAndryRHP (Starter)2019 IFA
5De La RosaJeremyOF (corner)2018 IFA
6RomeroSethLHP (Starter)2017 1st
7CroninMattLHP (reliever)2019 4th
8HenryColeRHP (Starter)2020 2nd
9PinedaIsraelC2016 IFA
10CateTimLHP (Starter)2018 2nd
11InfanteSamuelSS2020 2nd supp
12CruzArmandoSS2020 IFA
13AdonJoanRHP (Starter)2016 IFA
14MendozaDrew3B2019 3rd
15DenaburgMasonRHP (Starter)2018 1st
16QuintanaRoismarOF (CF)2019 IFA
17CluffJacksonSS2019 6th
18PowellHoldenRHP (Reliever)2020 3rd
19BrzykcyZachRHP (Reliever)2020 NDFA
20BarreraTresC2016 6th
21SchallerReidRHP (Starter)2018 3rd
22PetersonToddRHP (starter)2019 7th

Commentary in rough order of list:

  • FG went with Rutledge over Cavalli for #1. At the end of the prospect season, these two basically split the #1 overall spot among major pundits, with FG, ESPN, and BleacherReport going with Rutledge #1, while BA, Keith Law, and MLBpipeline all went with Cavalli.
  • They’re now high rankers on De La Rosa, putting him at #5 in the system. It sounds like the projection for him is basically a lesser version of Juan Soto; lefty power hitting corner outfielder.
  • They have Romero still high, at #6, but added no intelligence as to why he did not appear in spring training 2021. Still projects two 60-grade pitches, but his fastball has fallen out of favor and they have him with 40-command. That’s a reliever, and not necessarily a good one, at best.
  • One of the reasons FG is high man on both De La Rosa and Romero is because they’re well lower on Cole Henry than anyone else, having him 8th. It sounds to me like they think he’s heading into relief, much like the guy ranked just above him Matt Cronin.
  • They’re well above anyone else on Israel Pineda, and i’m not really sure why. In the middle of last season, the same evaluator ranked him #16. What’s substantively changed since August?
  • He’s pumping the brakes on Armando Cruz, ranking him at #12 where a number of the major evaluators already have him 5-7 range.
  • He’s put Denaburg all the way down to #15, noting that his pro career/injury record now puts him nearly below non-prospects. Great 1st rounder guys!
  • He’s got Zach Brzykcy, a NDFA $20k signing from last summer, in the top 20 of our system. I suppose that does say something about our system depth, but Longenhagen does note that Bryzcky is one of a handful of NDFAs who have impressed and would have been legitimate draft picks with a longer draft. 2-pitch, pure reliever.
  • Last man in the rankings is Todd Peterson, mr coming out of nowhere for this team, who hung around Spring Training longer than most of our 1st round multi-million dollar prospects. He’s projecting as middle relief, with 2 good pitches, decent velocity and excellent deception in his delivery.

Nowhere in this list are a handful of characters that are well regarded on other lists. That includes Daniel Marte, Tyler Dyson, Jake Irvin (likely b/c he’s missing all of 2021 with a TJ), Ben Braymer, Viandel Pena ….

And of course Steven Fuentes is missing … who only just got a call-up…. to the majors … which is kind of the whole damn point of being a prospect? It does make me question what these guys are really looking for … if you project some 2-pitch guy as a possible middle reliever in the major leagues, then flat out don’t rank a starter who actually DOES make the majors … at age 23 … then what are we ranking/evaluating on? I’m not discounting prospect evaluation work entirely by any means (to head off some of my frequent commenters who are bound to pick up on this and disclaim all prospect rankers), but I do sense there’s a specific blind side in these evaluators when it comes to certain kinds of players. Fuentes (and Ben Braymer) fit right into that gap; a starter who doesn’t project as a stud, guys who get by on command/control instead of velocity. Maybe that’s the point; maybe guys like Fuentes/Braymer are such a “dime a dozen” kind of 4-A players that they specifically never get ranked … but if you have a prospect catcher ranked in the teens who does not ever project to make the majors, wouldn’t by definition you have a guy who IS capable of making the majors (whether its as a long-man, or a middle reliever, or the backup 2nd baseman) ranked higher? A theoretical question.

Nats say “Welcome to 2021” … Covid-19 says “Hold my Beer”

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DETROIT, MI – JULY 01: A detailed view of an official Major League Baseball with a surgical mask placed on it sitting outdie of Comerica Park on July 1, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

So, we knew that some Nats players (the numbers keep changing) have tested positive; it started with one known case, then that caused contact-tracing issues with another 4 players and 1 staff member. We’ve heard podcasts and reports that perhaps some of the 4 players might have it as well; regardless they’re now out for at least 10 days. So far, no mention of who popped positive for HIPAA reasons, but by the time you read this we may know.

As of Noon Friday 4/2/21, the entire opening series is now off. Makes sense; the league probably wants to get a handle on the outbreak, plus its an inter-divisional series that can be turned into a bunch of DHs later on with little travel/schedule impact.

Sources (aka Nats Beat reporters) have sniffed out the replacement call ups, which gives us a hint as to who has to sit for a bit. Call-ups are:

  • Sam Clay
  • Luis Garcia
  • Yadiel Hernandez
  • Tres Barrera

Now, based on the fact that its one positive test and then four others who were in close contact … and looking at who these replacements are for … it stands to reason these are the players who are now under quarantine:

  • Sam Clay for Luis Avilan
  • Luis Garcia for Starlin Castro
  • Yadiel Hernandez for either Juan Soto or Victor Robles
  • Tres Barrera for either Alex Avila or Yan Gomes.

It doesn’t take a detective to look at that like for like list and make some quick assumptions on who the players are that got hit or who were named in contact tracing; they’re all Latino. Which makes sense; if a team has natural cliques its around nationality and native speaking tongues hanging out together on planes and in clubhouses. The only other Latino players on the 26-man roster not already named would be Hernan Perez and Wander Suero, so don’t be surprised if we find out one of these guys is involved too.

Bummer all around, and not the best way to get the season started, especially if its taken out half our starting lineup.


In other recent news:

  • H/T to NationalsProspects for the BA story on the 2021 draft: it will be 20 rounds. With a lost year of development and every team now carrying an entire “extra” roster of players who played short-season last year, 20 rounds in 2021 makes sense. I think the natural landing point might be 30 rounds: basically every pick from the 31st round onwards by the Nats as of late is a HS throw-away designed to give notariety to a scout’s kid or cousin, or to throw a player a bone who some area scout who didn’t get any of his guys drafted previously, or to puff up some kid’s ego who was always going to go to college. They’re a waste and you can count on two hands the number of picks who even stuck with our system for more than a couple seasons from the 30th round onwards (Gabe Klobotis, Tyler Watson, Jorge Pantoja, Angelo LaBruna, Robert Orlan, Billy Burns from the last 10 drafts).
  • Also H/T to Luke Erickson for the BA story on Minor League affiliates increasing in size across the board. Again, this is nothing but a good thing.
  • Speaking of BA: they re-released their Nats top30 prospects and built in the Jan 2021 IFA signings, which resulted in the Nats adding their top 2021 IFA Armando Cruz at #5, with no other changes to our top 30 and HMs (I reviewed their list in Feb 2021 here). Cruz at #5 by BA makes them the high men on Cruz’s potential amongst those shops who have rated him. At this point there’s just one major shop who has not released their Nats prospect Rankings: Fangraphs/Eric Longenhagen, who seems to have gotten overwhelmed by his choice to rank 40+ prospects per system … by himself … while also writing other stuff. New Fangraphs and ex-Astros employee Kevin Goldstein is now helping get the list done. we’ll do a similar reaction piece as we did with other major pundits and then will publish the master prospect lists on the Big Board.
  • A reminder; we still don’t have an official opening day 26-man roster; the big board lists 27 …i’m guessing Will Harris will hit the D/L when the roster is officially released. Because the games got postponed, the team was not forced to officially release its rosters and can bide some time.
  • I’ve updated the Big Board to have the Alt training site, and to account for all the big moves, DFAs, outrights, roster sizes, etc.

Waiting in a holding pattern. But lets discuss once we get more news on who is impacted.

MLBPipeline’s Nats top30 Prospects

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Cade Cavalli named #1 prospect in the system by MLBpipeline. Photo via Lookout Landing blog

The 2021 season is almost upon us, which means that the pre-2021 “prospect season” is now winding to a close. One of the last two major prospect-analysis shops in MLBpipeline.com released their rankings for the Nats, so as we’ve done in the past lets take a look and comment on their rankings versus the collective hive of other analysts.

MLBPipeline’s analysis is primarily the work of three people: Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo, and Sam Dykstra (formerly Mike Rosenbaum, who is now a baseball writer free agent apparently).

We’ve now seen Nats rankings from BA, BP, MLBpipeline, Espn/McDaniel, Athletic/Law, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Prospects1500, and Fantrax. The only major shop left is Fangraphs/Longenhagen, who is nearly done releasing team-by-team rankings, and when he does we’ll publish a post for his list like this one.

Thoughts on the MLBpipeline list are below; I won’t repeat the actual list of the top 30; that’s more easily seen here, with links to video and scouting reports by clicking on the player names. There’s been a ton of movement from the last time they ranked the system at the end of December in the wake of the Josh Bell trade.

  • At the top, Cavalli over Rutledge: they’ve switched these guys at the top since December. Rutledge is given a grade-70 fastball was also recently named the Nats prospect with the best FB, but doesn’t have the secondary pitch depth that Cavalli has.
  • Same top 3 as basically everyone else: Cavalli, Rutledge, Henry.
  • Antuna up to #4; three months ago they had him at #10, and this ranking is really in line with many of the other shops. I continue to believe he could be an impactful player this year at the MLB level, despite being optioned officially over the weekend to AAA with the team’s first cuts of 2021.
  • De La Rosa jumped up to #6; they’re the most bullish of the shops on this kid. All we have to go on is crummy 2019 GCL numbers when he was 17, so this will be an illuminating year.
  • Recent IFA signing Armando Cruz debuts at #7 … wow. That’s pretty frigging high for a 16yr old, no matter what $$ he just got.
  • Like most shops, they’ve dropped Denaburg nearly out of the top 10 at this point. I’d like to point out that Denaburg will turn 22 in August, is in his fourth pro season and has a grand total of 20 1/3rd professional innings pitched. I get that he’s been unlucky with injury, but man I’d like to see something out of the guy in 2021.
  • Infante comes in at #13, in line with other shops but drastically increased by MLBpipeline since Dec, when they had him #24. What changed? Did they suddenly decide his scouting reports merited this drastic increase?
  • Romero unceremoniously dumped from #7 in December all the way to #18. #18 in a prospect list for a farm system is basically saying, “this guy is lucky to have a AAA job.” By way of comparison, Tres Barrera is #19; does anyone consider Barrera a prospect anymore? I get the ranking; his velocity and performance in the majors last year was really concerning; if he can’t cut it as an effective starter, does he even have the arm to be an effective reliever? The team seems to be turning him back into a starter; does he have the stuff to be an effective starter? What happened to the guy with two 60-grade pitches coming out of college?
  • Braymer comes in at #21. If I were to hide draft pedigree and signing bonuses, and just put Braymer and Romero’s career accomplishments side by side … how in god’s name do you rank Braymer below him? One guy has a significant minor league pedigree of accomplishment and actually succeeded in 2020’s MLB appearances, while the other guy …. didn’t.
  • Fuentes: another guy who I feel gets downgraded when evaluators look at this bonus amount versus his results. He’s a worm-burner with a heavy fastball that just gets people out, at every level. If I told you that, at the age of 21, the Nat’s had a 1st rounder reach AA and put up a 2.69 ERA and a 63/15 K/BB ratio in 63 innings (Fuentes’ 2019 age-21 season AA numbers), we’d be talking about him being the next Strasburg. But since its Fuentes … he’s barely a prospect. He’s a guy I hope proves the pundits wrong.
  • Schaller’s ranking takes a nose dive, from #16 to #27. I’m not sure why; he was decent in 2019 in Low-A, he’s got a good pedigree (a starter from Vanderbilt). He missed some 2019 time with injury, but it wasn’t arm related. Why dump him so far? I think he could make a statement in 2021.
  • Sanchez, like with BA’s ranking, is thrown in at #30 almost entirely based on the spin rate on his curve (3,000 rpms, which is MLB elite). He’ll use his age-18 season hopefully to pitch in the GCL and impress the staff.

Baseball America’s Nats top 30

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Cade Cavalli named #1 prospect in the system by Baseball America. Photo via Lookout Landing blog

Baseball America announced Top 30 lists for all teams on 2/3/21, which meant we get the first major team-specific review of the prospects.

The lack of a minor league season in 2020 complicates this analysis, as does the late arriving IFA class (delayed 6 months from its typical July 2 date). But we do have some shuffling of prospects from prior lists. This post will call out some of the more interesting prospects on BA’s list, if they’re higher or lower than other shops.

Direct link to the Nats top 30 is here. The top 30 table is here:

2021 BA RankLast NameFirst Name
1CavalliCade
2RutledgeJackson
3HenryCole
4AntunaYasel
5LaraAndry
6De La RosaJeremy
7CateTim
8DenaburgMason
9CroninMatt
10MendozaDrew
11CluffJackson
12InfanteSamuel
13RomeroSeth
14PinedaIsrael
15BarreraTres
16MarteDaniel
17BraymerBen
18PowellHolden
19FuentesSteven
20QuintanaRoismar
21DysonTyler
22IrvinJake
23AdonJoan
24ReetzJakson
25SharpSterling
26AriasAndry
27TetreaultJackson
28BanksNick
29SchallerReid
30SanchezBryan

Notable players:

  • Like pretty much every other prospect ranking shop, the top three includes Cade Cavalli, Jackson Rutledge and Cole Henry. Cavalli comes in ahead of Rutledge.
  • After a down year, Yasel Antuna is now all the way up to #4. As we’ve heard repeatedly, he did well in the XST 60-man last year and is rounding into the prospect shape they thought they were getting when they spent $3.9M on him in 2016. For all the talk we have about whether Kieboom is ready … maybe we’re looking at the wrong 3B prospect right now. Could Antuna win the 3B job this spring??
  • BA continues to be high shop on De La Rosa, ranking him #6.
  • The Pittsburgh trade cost the team two of its former BA top 10 players in Crowe and Yean, which moves up two 2019 draftees Cronin and Mendoza into the top 10. Both were solid college players who have done well so far in the minors. Cronin seems like he could zoom up the minors in 2021.
  • They’re way high on Infante, with him at #12 when most shops have him buried in the mid 20s. I definitely feel like there’s some pretty distinct opinions on Infante in the Natmosphere; some people really hated the pick. He was above slot, buying him out of a UMiami commitment and is listed as having plus arm, plus hands and is “advanced” for a prep draft pick.
  • Romero down to #13. For understandable reasons; his velocity was not impressive in 2020 in his very short season. I’d like to see him in AAA, as a starter, pitching every 5th day for half a season to see just what he’s capable of.
  • The three catchers on this list: Barrera at #14, Pineda at #15, Reetz at #24; does anyone actually think any of these guys ever contribute at the MLB level? Reetz was a MLFA re-signing and comes in at #24 in the system?
  • Daniel Marte pops up kind of out of the blue at #16. Seems like a speculative ranking.
  • Ben Braymer at #17 continues to get half-hearted prospect support, despite his excellent minor league career thus far. A reminder; he has a career 3.64 minor league ERA despite a 7+ ERA in 13 Fresno starts in 2019. He continues to be one of the best middle-round picks we’ve ever had.
  • Steven Fuentes creeping up to #19. Still can’t believe he’s not higher; he dominated AA in 2019 as a 22yr old.
  • BA is much lower on Joan Adon than other shops, bringing him at #23 when most others have him in the 14-17 range.
  • Same with Reid Schaller; having him #29 while other shops have him as high as #16.
  • Why is Sterling Sharp even considered a prospect at this point (he’s ranked #25).
  • Two debutants on BA’s list that i’ve never seen mentioned elsewhere before: Andry Arias comes in at #27 and Bryan Sanchez at #30

FYI: The 2021 IFA picks (specifically Armando Cruz) were not included on this list.

Overall farm system thoughts: top heavy: 3 big arms at the top who project as solid #2-#3 starters. Then three high-risk/high-ceiling IFAs. Then a combination of big-time Div1 studs and failed first rounders. There’s room for improvement.