Top 22 Prospects: Washington Nationals

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Washington Nationals. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as our own observations. As there was no minor league season in 2020, there are some instances where no new information was gleaned about a player. Players whose write-ups have not been meaningfully altered begin by telling you so. Each blurb ends with an indication of where the player played in 2020, which in turn likely informed the changes to their report if there were any. As always, we’ve leaned more heavily on sources from outside of a given org than those within for reasons of objectivity. Because outside scouts were not allowed at the alternate sites, we’ve primarily focused on data from there, and the context of that data, in our opinion, reduces how meaningful it is. Lastly, in an effort to more clearly indicate relievers’ anticipated roles, you’ll see two reliever designations, both on team lists and on The Board: MIRP, or multi-inning relief pitcher, and SIRP, or single-inning relief pitcher.

For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of Future Value’s merits and drawbacks, read Future Value.

All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It can be found here.

Nationals Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Jackson Rutledge 22.1 A SP 2022 45+
2 Cade Cavalli 22.7 R SP 2023 45
3 Yasel Antuna 21.5 A 3B 2022 45
4 Andry Lara 18.3 R SP 2025 40+
5 Jeremy De La Rosa 19.3 R RF 2024 40+
6 Seth Romero 25.0 MLB MIRP 2021 40+
7 Matt Cronin 23.6 A SIRP 2022 40+
8 Cole Henry 21.8 R SIRP 2022 40+
9 Israel Pineda 21.1 A C 2022 40
10 Tim Cate 23.6 A+ SIRP 2021 40
11 Sammy Infante 19.8 R 2B 2025 40
12 Armando Cruz 17.3 R SS 2025 40
13 Joan Adon 22.7 A SIRP 2022 40
14 Drew Mendoza 23.5 A 1B 2023 40
15 Mason Denaburg 21.7 R SP 2023 35+
16 Roismar Quintana 18.2 R RF 2023 35+
17 Jackson Cluff 24.4 A SS 2022 35+
18 Holden Powell 21.6 R SIRP 2024 35+
19 Zachary Brzykcy 21.8 R SIRP 2024 35+
20 Tres Barrera 26.6 MLB C 2021 35+
21 Reid Schaller 24.1 A SIRP 2022 35+
22 Todd Peterson 23.3 R SP 2023 35+
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45+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from San Jacinto JC (TX) (WSN)
Age 22.1 Height 6′ 8″ Weight 245 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/70 60/70 45/50 45/50 30/40 95-98 / 101

After an up-and-down freshman year at Arkansas, Rutledge transferred to Houston-area junior college powerhouse San Jacinto and immediately looked like a first-round pick. He had trouble getting on the mound in Fayetteville in part due to his command, which still isn’t great. Rutledge often worked 96-100 at San Jac, mixing in a comfortably-plus slider and a curveball that was closer to average. He would occasionally flash a good changeup, too, but that pitch was a distant fourth offering at the time. That’s not really the case anymore, as Rutledge has hit the breaks on his curveball and spent most of 2020 focusing on his changeup, which had good fade and tailing action during spring training this year.

There’s clearly a starter’s repertoire here, and potentially that of a very good one, but Rutledge has considerable relief risk because of his command and health history. Some clubs were scared off of his pre-draft medical, which most notably included surgery on his hip. He was a little wild during his 2019 post-draft summer, then spent 2020 behind the curtain of the alt site, and threw just one 2021 big league spring inning. It was a good inning, though. Rutledge beat up the outer half of the plate against all three batters he faced, relying heavily on his fastball, which sat 94-97, and touched 98 once. He also flashed a mid-80s slider twice, fooling the batter both times. He mixed in two changeups (which had fade but did not elicit swings), and his curveball (82) to lesser effect. He erased his only baserunner of the day with a quick pickoff move, catching the runner leaning at first, then made the rest of the batters he faced look uncomfortable and off-balance.

Will he throw strikes consistently? Well, Rutledge was 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds in the past but looks considerably more svelte now and was listed at 245 this spring. Maybe that will help him better control his body/delivery. He already has a pretty short arm swing, so there’s no low-hanging fruit to change there. He belongs in the back of the Top 100 purely on stuff, relief risk included, and is only just outside looking in right now because of short track record of performance and perceived injury risk. (Alternate Site)

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Oklahoma (WSN)
Age 22.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 55/55 55/60 40/50 35/45 93-97 / 98

A chiseled 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Cavalli has a relatively short track record compared to other recently-drafted college pitchers because he was mostly a hitter as a freshman (he was coming off a back injury that kept him from pitching as a high school senior), missed time as a sophomore with a stress reaction in his arm, and had most of his junior season washed away by the pandemic. In his four 2020 starts, Cavalli was electric, routinely sitting in the mid-90s and touching above, locating a late-breaking, mid-80s slider, and even getting some chases on a hard, sinking changeup. He still spikes too many of those changeups. In his only appearance during 2021 spring training, Cavalli pitched one inning, facing the back half of the Mets’ lineup. He mixed his four-seamer (95-98) and changeup (88-90) for all but one pitch, a sharp, late-breaking 85 mph slider that missed low, but pulled a check swing out of the whiff-resistant Luis Guillorme. Cavalli hasn’t pitched a whole lot, so the feel for locating and other minutiae could come later. He has a huge, Adonis-like frame and a huge arm, but he needs to prove he can stay healthy, and his arm action is kind of scary in that regard. (Fall Instructional League)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (WSN)
Age 21.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 50/55 35/50 40/40 40/45 55

Antuna hasn’t put any kind of public statistical performance on paper since 2018 because he missed most of ’19 rehabbing from TJ and dealing with lower-body injuries. Even though he was at the alt site last year, the industry did not have widespread looks at Antuna because the Nationals opted out of alternate site video sharing, per Baseball America. So within the last year, Antuna has only been seen at 2020 instructs and working out (but not playing) with Licey in the Dominican Republic over the winter. It’s fair to think the prolonged layoff from real games would make it hard for teams to truly consider him as a Rule 5 selection but Washington added him to their 40-man, just in case.

Eyeball looks in the fall of 2020 were fair. Antuna has gotten thicker and stronger than before and is now in the bat-first infielder mold, likely to be passable at a combination of second and third rather than be an everyday shortstop. We don’t think there’s huge physical ceiling here; the cement on the frame here is pretty dry. There are data-driven aspects of Antuna’s profile that are hazy because of the lack of performance, but his 2020 fall eyeball report reads like a good role player. This is a switch-hitter who swings with lift and power from the left side of the plate, and has a shorter, contact-driven look with line drive spray toward the gaps from the right side. Antuna will punish you for missing toward the middle of the plate; the rest of the time, he’s throwing the bat head at the ball and doing strength-driven damage. He seems able to identify fastball balls and strikes but is apt to swing over breaking balls, and this is where the data performance piece would be more telling and reliable than scattered looks on the backfields. There’s risk Antuna is an incomplete offensive player but unless his breaking ball recognition proves to be so bad that he can’t hit at all, he projects as the long end of an infield platoon. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

40+ FV Prospects

4. Andry Lara, SP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Venezuela (WSN)
Age 18.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/55 50/55 40/50 25/55 89-93 / 96

Lara is a bigger, mature-framed pitcher with present velocity. The high end of his velo band is already creeping into the mid-90s (he was 91-95 during a source’s 2020 instructs look), so it’s less of a problem that he lacks traditional physical projection. However, it’s also possible that Lara becomes more fluid and athletic as he matures, so maybe he’ll back into more velocity that way. Eyes on him during arrival to 2021 camp indicate that might be about to happen, as Lara looks a little more lithe. Many other traits typical of top high school pitchers — the arm action, the glove side fastball/slider command, and the slider quality — are also promising here, just without the obvious physical projection. Lara has a fantastic pitchability foundation, with an outside shot for his stuff to explode as his body matures. (Fall Instructional League)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (WSN)
Age 19.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 199 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 55/60 20/55 50/50 35/45 50

De La Rosa popped up quickly after signing for $300,000 (normally below our radar on signing day) by standing out in his first stateside instructs. He had a solid pro debut the following summer as a 17-year-old in the GCL in 2019. Scouts described a well-rounded ballplayer without an identifiable weakness: solid average speed, arm strength, a chance to play in center field, and average raw power. Reports coming out of 2020 instructs were similar, if perhaps less enthusiastic about De La Rosa staying in center. A scout source who tends to grade players pretty conservatively said they thought De La Rosa actually has a chance to be a five-tool player. He has strong, quick hands that produce impressive pop for a player this size and age. As a compact-framed, shorter-levered hitter, we have a higher degree of confidence and comfortability betting on De La Rosa’s hit tool. He’s not a true burner and is a pretty physical kid, so we’re projecting an eventual move to a corner, but there’s also a real chance the hit/power is enough to profile there. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

6. Seth Romero, MIRP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Houston (WSN)
Age 25.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 55/60 55/60 40/40 91-93 / 96

Any discussion of Romero begins with the litany of off-field issues that got him kicked off his college team and slid a top-10-overall talent to the end of the first round, another Boras client who fell into the Nationals’ safety net. His early pro ball tenure was rocky, too. He was sent away from the team during his first spring training then had a Tommy John surgery later that summer. He returned from surgery to pitch in the 2019 Instructional League and sat 93-95 mph, throwing strikes.

Romero’s changeup had moved ahead of his slider just before he blew out, but his slider is still quite good. Both flashed plus during his three-game 2020 relief debut. His cambio has bat-missing fade while his slider has in- and out-of-zone utility against lefty batters. His velo, mostly 91-93, was down, but 2020’s start-and-stop nature might have been at play here, and a fully actualized Romero probably gets back to throwing harder than that. Romero’s 2020 season ended when he slipped and broke his right hand using it to try to break his fall. The Nationals put him on the IL and he went to instructs listed as a rehabber. He curiously did not appear in a 2021 spring training game even though he would seem to be high on a rather shallow pitching depth chart, potentially someone who’ll take the ball as a spot starter this year.

His conditioning and injury track record, as well as what the 2020 season did to everyone’s innings workload, make it feel more likely that he ends up pitching in relief for the next year or two as he builds back up. There’s uncommon upside here, though. Romero has three real weapons coming at hitters from the left side. Toward the back end of his years of team control, he could be a mid-rotation starter. (Alternate site, MLB, Fall Instructional League)

7. Matt Cronin, SIRP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2019 from Arkansas (WSN)
Age 23.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 202 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/65 55/60 40/45 40/45 93-95 / 96

Cronin made three appearances in the spring of 2021, walking three, striking out three, and allowing only one hit. He leaned heavily on his fastball, but also flashed a mid-80s changeup and his trademark overhand curveball, including one with 54 inches of vertical break. By his final spring appearance, he was relying solely on his four-seamer, but he might be able to do that for entire big league outings because it’s such a good pitch. Cronin has Greg Holland’s build (scaled up a little bit) and arm slot, which gives him big time carry on that fastball and makes for a traditional power reliever profile when paired with his curve. While at Arkansas, one of Cronin’s teammates would smack him across the face before he entered games. We don’t know if that tradition has continued in pro ball, but as long as he throws strikes and the stuff stays the same, Cronin is a potential high-leverage reliever who could slot into the lineup sooner than later. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

8. Cole Henry, SIRP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from LSU (WSN)
Age 21.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/60 40/50 30/45 91-96 / 96

The son of a former Pirates’ draftee, Henry turned down some money out of high school and instead went to LSU. He was an out-of-control reliever with a head whack so violent that he had trouble keeping his hat on pitch-to-pitch, and his freshman year was shortened by upper arm and elbow injuries, but he still managed an impressive 72 strikeouts and only 18 walks in 58.1 innings pitched. He looked to be continuing that pace before his draft-eligible sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and Washington popped him 55th overall. At his best, he’s regularly into the mid-90s with a plus curveball and solid average changeup along with other starter traits.

Henry struggled in his one and only inning of 2021 spring work against the Mets. He had trouble throwing his mid-80s changeup for strikes, and only threw one curveball, also for a ball. He attacked the top of the zone with his four-seamer, and the lower half with his sinker, both of which sat 94-96, but didn’t miss many bats with either pitch. His outing ended with a 428 foot grand slam on his first pitch to Pete Alonso. There are some fastball playability concerns here, but Henry should be able to bully hitters with velocity in shorter outings. He has a starter’s repertoire but his health track record and the importance of the velocity to his fastball’s playability make him more likely to end up in the bullpen. (Fall Instructional League)

40 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (WSN)
Age 21.1 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 45/50 35/45 30/20 40/45 45

A physical young catcher with some pull power, Pineda has been pushed through the minors quickly so far, Washington’s modus operandi with their best young players from Latin America. He went straight to the GCL at age 17, then to a Penn League packed with 21-year-olds at age 18, then to full-season ball in 2019. His offensive production took a dip that year at least in part because he was playing through a broken finger. Washington invited him to the alt site very late in the summer of 2020 and he finished up at instructs, then got some 2021 spring training reps. Scouts don’t think Pineda is a lock to catch because he doesn’t have a great arm, but they love his workmanship and makeup, and think he’ll find a way to be a viable defender through his competence in the other facets of catching through sheer effort. He projects as a low-OBP hitter with above-average raw power. How much of it he gets to will dictate if he’s an everyday catcher or a bat-first backup. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

10. Tim Cate, SIRP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Connecticut (WSN)
Age 23.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/45 60/60 40/45 45/45 87-91 / 93

Cate has long been compared to Tim Collins as a smallish power lefty with mid-90s heat in short stints and a knockout breaking ball. Cate was first seen by most scouts in relief for two summers for College Team USA but was always a starter for UConn. His 92-95 mph heater in relief was more 88-92 in the rotation and he had forearm tightness early in his 2019 draft spring, hit the IL that same year, and dealt with more arm soreness during 2021 spring training. His size and style of pitching present a power relief look and the history of arm issues makes it more likely that Cate ends up there than in a rotation. His fastball velocity was only in the low-90s during 2020 instructs, though, and it’s been a while since we saw that 92-95 band. We think it’s still a viable pitch in the low-90s because of its other traits, but at that velo he’s more of a middle-inning piece rather than an impact one. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from Monsignor Pace HS (WSN)
Age 19.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 50/55 30/50 50/40 30/45 45

Infante probably slid down the boards of model-driven teams who care a lot about a hitter’s age in the draft room (he’s already nearly 20 but hasn’t played in an actual minor league game yet). But Washington is not that type of team and Infante checks a lot of traditional scouting boxes. Certainly if you asked us to choose between him and a player exactly like him except 10 months younger, we’d take the younger player, but he frequently squared balls with power during pre-draft looks at him and is likely to stay on the infield dirt, so this feels like a $1 million player to us, too. Infante is a physical hitter likely to move off shortstop (where he played in high school) and to second base due to his middling arm strength. He has a shot to profile there everyday, though he could fall short of that and still be a valuable role-player in a shift-enabled, thumping infielder role. (Fall Instructional League)

12. Armando Cruz, SS
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (WSN)
Age 17.3 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 20/30 20/30 55/55 50/70 50

Cruz was the consensus best defensive player in the 2020 international amateur class, a flashy and acrobatic shortstop defender. He is not very physical and needs to get much stronger in order to be a viable offensive player, and there’s little agreement as to whether he will. His measurables indicate projection, but he is slightly built. A good and reasonable outcome here is a Freddy Galvis or Nick Allen type of player. (International Signee)

13. Joan Adon, SIRP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (WSN)
Age 22.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 45/45 50/55 40/40 92-96 / 98

Washington moved Adon into the rotation after he had spent his first two pro seasons in the bullpen, and his velocity dipped a bit during the second half of 2019. His long-term projection remains in relief. Adon has a graceful delivery that he struggles to repeat, which impacts his breaking ball quality and command. In the bullpen he might sit 94-plus with serious movement, which, even with relatively tepid offspeed projection, puts him in a solid middle relief role. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

14. Drew Mendoza, 1B
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2019 from Florida State (WSN)
Age 23.5 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 228 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/30 60/70 45/55 45/40 40/45 55

Mendoza had some first round buzz early in his high school career because he had at least 70-grade raw power projection, but he struck out a lot and his stock fell a bit down the stretch while his price tag did not, so he ended up at Florida State. There he continued to strike out while posting relatively modest underclass statlines before exploding as a junior in 2019. He still struck out a ton, but also slugged just shy of .600 and walked 23% of the time. Some scouts describe his approach as more passive than patient, which contributes to a healthy heaping of true three outcomes. There’s real risk that Mendoza’s hit tool is just a binary “no,” and that he ends up flaming out in Double-A. But he also has so much raw power that his swing might be made so simple that he can cut down on the K’s and become a viable role player. Because the power here is so titanic, we suppose there’s more ceiling than that, but a good realistic outcome for Mendoza would be to become a 1B/DH platoon partner and high-leverage bench bat. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

35+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Merritt Island HS (FL) (WSN)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 60/60 50/55 30/50 92-95 / 98

Denaburg’s injuries have already stacked up so high that while we’d take him over someone we considered a non-prospect, it’d be hard for teams to do so now considering he’ll have barely thrown over the last several years when he finally returns from a recent Tommy John surgery. Denaburg was a highly-touted high schooler who signed for a whopping $3 million. His pro debut didn’t happen after signing, as the biceps tendonitis that dinged his draft stock flared up again. In 2019, it looked like he would get to Low-A at some point, but his velocity ticked down and the Nationals held him back in extended ball. Once he built back up (92-94, touching 95), he was set to go to short-season ball and then Low-A to finish the year, but he felt something in his shoulder, which led to him being shut down again and never leaving Florida. He had surgery, lost 2020 to COVID, went to instructs, then blew out his elbow in the spring of 2021. The usual TJ timeline puts him on track to return mid-2022. At his best, Denaburg would sit 93-95, touch 98, and mix in a consistently 60-grade curveball and an emerging 55-grade changeup with the size and athleticism scouts can project into the middle of a rotation. (Fall Instructional League)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Venezuela (WSN)
Age 18.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 55/60 20/50 55/50 45/55 50

There’s no change here: Quintana signed for $820,000 as one of three high-dollar signings in the Nats’ 2019 July 2 class, behind Lara and left-hander Pablo Aldonis. Quintana made a solid first impression stateside in the Instructional League. He’s an average runner with an average arm and above average raw power. He has a well-developed 6-foot, 205 pound frame that reminds some of Marcell Ozuna , but Washington thinks Quintana can play center field for a while, maybe even long enough to be an everyday player there in the big leagues. With no organized games to go off of, we’re projecting a lot on the bat, but his swing path is direct, there’s raw strength, and he’s already showing opposite field BP power. (Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 6th Round, 2019 from BYU (WSN)
Age 24.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 40/40 20/30 50/50 45/50 60

Many BYU prospects face an uphill battle against draft models because their Mormon mission takes them away from baseball for a year, making them much older than their peers when they’re finally draft eligible. We weren’t really on Cluff pre-draft, but he performed during the summer and his eclectic collection of tools, feel to hit, lefty stick, and the likelihood that he stays on the dirt have him looking like a high-floor bench infielder already, and he’s trending up. He has a compact lefty swing that looks like it will be tough to beat with big league velocity on the inner half, but he hasn’t faced a ton of that yet. He probably doesn’t have the bat speed, and won’t make the offensive impact necessary, to be an everyday player, but Cluff’s defensive fit gives him a high floor. His hands aren’t great, but once he secures the ball he can turn it around pretty quickly and he has plenty of arm for the left side of the infield. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

18. Holden Powell, SIRP
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from UCLA (WSN)
Age 21.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
60/60 50/55 30/40 94-97 / 99

In the summer between his freshman and sophomore years at UCLA, Powell played in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. But although he was likely among the hardest throwers in the league, command issues dogged his performance, forcing him to pitch from behind in the count often, and limiting his slider usage. During his sophomore year, he seemed to hone his command, which allowed him to better utilize his two-pitch mix, blowing his fastball by batters and fooling them with an above-average, late-breaking slider that played well against both righties and lefties, eventually earning Powell NCAA Stopper of the Year. That summer, he played in the Cape Cod League, and was the closer for Team USA, before returning to UCLA for what would end up being a shortened junior season. But even with his time at the college level coming to such an abrupt end, by the time Powell was selected 94th overall in the 2020 draft, he had already racked up 26 career saves, enough to rank him second in UCLA’s history.

Chosen despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that he is only projected as a reliever, the 6-foot righty may not be as physically imposing as some of the other behemoths in the Nationals’ system, but the negative impact on his command caused by his long arm action may be negated by its deception, making for an uncomfortable in-the-box experience for batters. His fastball now consistently sits in the mid-90s and touches 97 (up from 92-94 in 2019), and if he can continue to work through any lingering command issues to optimize both of his offerings, he could find himself on Washington’s big league roster very quickly. (Fall Instructional League)

19. Zachary Brzykcy, SIRP
Age 21.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops
60/60 55/60 30/35 94-98 / 99

A few really strong 2020 undrafted free agents have emerged and one of them is curly-locked Brzykcy, who was a power reliever at Virginia Tech. He quickly went from sitting 94-95 out of the Hokies bullpen in his first 2020 appearance to sitting 96-98 and touching 99 in his last few. Brzykcy does not have good fastball control; he’s a grip-and-rip type of guy whose heaters often sail to his arm side. His low-80s power curveball flashes plus and he buries it just beneath the strike zone with much more regularity than he locates his fastball. A pure relief prospect, Brzykcy’s ultimate role is dependent on his fastball command becoming a little more precise. He has obvious middle relief stuff with an up/down reliever’s control at present. (Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 6th Round, 2016 from Texas (WSN)
Age 26.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/40 40/40 30/35 30/30 50/50 60

Felipe Barrera III, aka “Tres,” was a three-year starter at Texas and slowly usurped bat-first Raudy Read as the Nationals’ third catcher on the 40-man. He’s performed above the league average at each of his minor league stops, including at Double-A in 2019. He spent 2020 on the restricted list serving a suspension for using a banned substance and played a little bit of winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Barrera has barrel utility middle away, and that’s about it. On defense, he is a traditional squatter and an average receiver with above-average ball-blocking skills. He’s capable of popping 1.9s to second base, which is above average. He has a backup catcher ceiling due to the lack of impact offense, and is really more of a third catcher, but Barrera will probably be have a long big league career hopping around to different 40-man rosters in one of those roles. (LIDOM)

21. Reid Schaller, SIRP
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2018 from Vanderbilt (WSN)
Age 24.1 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/55 50/55 40/45 45/50 91-94 / 96

Schaller would have been a draft-eligible sophomore at Vanderbilt but he lost his true freshman season to Tommy John, so he was a rare draft-eligible redshirt freshman instead. Pitching out of the bullpen in college, Schaller was 94-97. He’s been more 91-94 as a starter in pro ball, but we have him projected as a two-pitch reliever and think the heater will have an extra gear in single-inning outings. (Fall Instructional League)

22. Todd Peterson, SP
Drafted: 7th Round, 2019 from LSU (WSN)
Age 23.3 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/55 35/45 93-95 / 96

Peterson went viral for pitching five good relief innings and then hitting a big double in the SEC tournament before admitting in his post-game interview that he’d lied to head coach Paul Mainieri about hitting in high school so he’d let him bat. He sat 90-94 in 2019 as a reliever at LSU but has added to that since then, averaging 93-95 over the course of five innings of short relief in spring ‘21. He mixed his sinker and four-seamer along with his high-80s slider, which has sharp movement straight downward when it’s working for him. His sinker and slider both missed low, but when he followed that up with his fastball up in the zone, it threw batters’ timing off, causing ugly swings. He carries an imposing, 230 pound frame, which seems a bit more athletic than in his days at LSU where he appeared heftier, and his delivery includes an over the top, whip-like arm action that befuddles batters on both sides of the plate. Peterson projects in middle relief. (Fall Instructional League)

Other Prospects of Note

Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.

Younger Potential Helium Types
Pablo Aldonis, LHP
Viandel Pena, 2B
Junior Martina, SS
Yoander Rivero, SS
Justin Connell, RF
Leandro Emiliani, RF
Mirton Blanco, RHP

We’ll try to plow through these pretty quickly, as this system has more of this tier of prospect than most clubs. Aldonis turned 19 in March. He’s a medium-framed, 6-foot-1, 55 athlete with a smooth delivery and advanced feel for three pitches. He’s a long-term physical projection sleeper. Pena is a stocky switch-hitter with bat-to-ball skills who hit .360 in the GCL in 2019. He’s a 50 runner and infield defender who’s about 5-foot-7. It’s softer contact right now, and he needs to get stronger, but the barrel feel is there. Martina is a native of Curaçao and a 19th rounder out of Western Oklahoma State who crushed the GCL after the 2019 draft. He takes big hacks and could be a power-over-hit middle infield utility type. Rivero is a 19-year-old glove-first shortstop. Connell and Emiliani are bat-to-ball 1B/LF sorts; they have promising contact skills but probably need to end up with premium hit tools to profile. Blanco is a 17-year-old who has been up to 98 but he’s very wild and recently had a Tommy John.

Major-League Ready Depth
Rogelio Armenteros, RHP
Sterling Sharp, RHP
Ben Braymer, LHP
Yadiel Hernandez, 1B/OF
Steven Fuentes, RHP
Raudy Read, 1B
Andrew Lee, RHP
Nick Banks, OF
Jacob Condra-Bogan, RHP

Armenteros’ velocity has been in decline but he still throws strikes and has a plus changeup. He’s a spot starter. So is Sharp, who works with sink and tail in the upper-80s, and has a plus changeup. Braymer is also on the 40-man and looks like a lefty pitchability swingman with a 55 breaking ball. Hernandez is a weird one. He signed out of Mexico at age 29 and is now 33, but he rakes (it’s hit over power due to lack of launch, but the contact is very hard) and might end up as a great short-term bench bat. Fuentes has reached Double-A, has a tailing low-90s fastball and above average changeup, and his velo is up a couple of ticks since 2019. Read would be a 40 FV if he could catch, but instead he’s a bench bat with less sock than Hernanadez. Lee in an overhand four-seam, curveball relief type. Banks has several above-average tools (speed underway, raw power, arm strength) but the bat is well below. Condra-Bogan touches 100; he’s still working on a breaking ball.

A Complete Mess of Other Guys
Jake Irvin, RHP
Jakson Reetz, C
Orlando Ribalta, RHP
J.T. Arruda, SS
Jhonatan German, LHP
Gage Canning, CF
Alex Troop, LHP
Felix Taveras, RHP

Several of these guys signed late out of Latin America, around age 21. German (24, Double-A) has a mid-90s sinker, and Taveras (24, GCL) has been hurt for most of the past three years but was up to 97 with 2500 rpm on the heater. Irvin has bigger velo when he works in relief. He’s 6-foot-6 and sits 93-96 when things are right, with an average curveball on the side. Reetz is another athletic, late-bloomer type who makes consistent hard contact; he’s probably a depth catcher. Canning is a 7 runner with bench outfield ceiling due to the bat. Ribalta is a big-bodied fastball/curveball relief prospect who was up to at least 96 at Miami Dade College the summer after the 2019 draft. Arruda was a sophomore-eligible 11th rounder out of Fresno State. He’s a lefty-bat infielder with good feel to hit. Troop is a lanky, over-the-top lefty whose fastball has carry.

System Overview

Even though this system is one of the worst two in baseball, the Nationals and their fans should still be basking in the luscious afterglow of their 2019 World Series win enough not to care. Juan Soto is only 22 and not eligible for the list, but he is an elite young player in the organization who isn’t captured in farm system rankings. Luis García and Victor Robles are talented long-term pieces who are still of typical prospect age, but aren’t eligible to be included here.

At some point, though, this is going to present a problem. Especially now that the division is so deep and difficult, having the ammunition to make a trade may end up being what separates the wheat from the chaff in the NL East, and every year the Nationals don’t reach the apex of the division is another year closer to Father Time catching up with Scherzer and Co., as he inevitably will.

A couple of weeks ago, Eric mentioned in a chat that he’d take the Vanderbilt roster and commits over the entire Nationals farm system, and he wasn’t being facetious. These aren’t all currently reflected on the amateur section of The Board, but if he were doing a Vanderbilt prospect list, it would look like this:

Vanderbilt and Vanderbilt Commits Prospects
Player School Draft Pos. FV Scouting Overview
Jack Leiter Vanderbilt 2021 SP 50 Power pitcher with four weapons.
Kumar Rocker Vanderbilt 2021 SP 50 Recent velo swoon. Usually mid-90s, plus slider, flash plus changeup
Jordan Lawlar Jesuit Prep HS (TX) 2021 SS 45+ Well-rounded everyday shortstop prospect
Dylan Lesko Buford HS (GA) 2022 SP 45+ Top-of-the-class HS pitcher. T97, shapely curve, projectable frame.
Joshua Baez Southfield HS (MA) 2021 RF 45 Huge-frame, huge power, NE prep track record is scary.
Andruw Jones Wesleyan HS (GA) 2022 CF 45 Glove/speed/power projection CF. Yes, that Andruw Jones’ kid.
Carter Young Vanderbilt 2023 SS 45 Slick-fielding, switch-hitting SS with some pop, K’s.
Davis Diaz Acalanes HS (CA) 2021 SS 45 Plus-gloved SS in the Anthony Volpe mold.
Spencer Jones Vanderbilt 2022 1B/SP 40+ 6-foot-7 two-way guy who hasn’t pitched yet (TJ). Power w/K’s as a 1B.
Enrique Bradfield Vanderbilt 2023 CF 40+ Elite speed, catalytic offensive qualities.
Christian Little Vanderbilt 2023 SP 40+ Prototypical prep arm who graduated HS early to matriculate.
Ethan Robinson Donelson (TN) 2023 SP 40+ 6-foot-5, great frame, low-90s with a breaking ball.
Thomas Schultz Vanderbilt 2021 SP 40 Four-pitch backend starter look with below avg velo, plus change and command.
Isaiah Thomas Vanderbilt 2021 RF 40 Plus power, great frame, swing may not work in pro ball.
CJ Rodriguez Vanderbilt 2021 C 40 Well-rounded backup catching prospect.
Jack Bulger Vanderbilt 2023 C 35+ Polished hit tool, otherwise unspectacular, caught in HS OF so far at Vandy.
Max Romero Vanderbilt 2022 C 35+ Positionless(?) lefty stick with huge power.
Dominic Keegan Vanderbilt 2021 1B 35+ R/R 1B with big 2021 numbers, K/BB rate is kinda scary.
Luke Murphy Vanderbilt 2021 SIRP 35+ Up to 97, wild, inconsistent slider and curve.

And he is pretty conservative with the commits included here. That isn’t to say Vanderbilt would beat an upper-level Nationals affiliate in a seven-game series or anything like that, as even a bad Double- or Triple-A team is collectively better at baseball than even the best college team (pitching depth is a huge part of this). But from a long-term prospect standpoint?

Again, this is largely because the Nationals have either graduated prospects into big leaguers or traded pieces away to add to their big league roster as they’ve pursued the playoffs for most of the last decade, winning a World Series along the way. It’s a bad system, but for good reasons.

As far as trends are concerned, we don’t know a ton about Washington pro scouting because they’ve been as far away from rebuild mode as you can be for a long while. On the amateur side, there’s been an affinity for big, hard-throwing college arms (e.g. Rutledge, Cavalli, Peterson) and guys from bigger conferences generally, which is probably more about which schools are best at recruiting/dev than the Nats’ taste for players. This is a system generally characterized by having a couple of higher upside guys who are still a few years away, and several role-player types who are more big-league ready in terms of timeline.

In memory of Fausto Segura

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2 years ago

“While at Arkansas, one of Cronin’s teammates would smack him across the face before he entered games.”

This is the content I crave. Eat your heart out, Wade Boggs!

Brian Reinhartmember
2 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

I hope he does this on camera in the majors. Would be an even more exciting reliever entrance than Todd Coffey’s sprint.