Washington Nationals Top 29 Prospects by Eric Longenhagen July 5, 2022 © Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports 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 my own observations. This is the second year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers. A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here. All of the numbered prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here. Top Prospects Team Lists 2022 2021 ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Nationals Top Prospects Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV 1 Cade Cavalli 23.9 AAA SP 2023 55 2 Cole Henry 23.0 AAA SP 2022 50 3 Brady House 19.1 A 3B 2026 50 4 Cristhian Vaquero 17.8 R CF 2027 45+ 5 Jeremy De La Rosa 20.5 A CF 2024 45 6 Jackson Rutledge 23.3 A+ SIRP 2022 40+ 7 Gerardo Carrillo 23.8 AA SIRP 2022 40 8 Armando Cruz 18.5 R SS 2025 40 9 Jake Irvin 25.4 AA SP 2023 40 10 Aldo Ramirez 21.2 AAA SP 2023 40 11 Drew Millas 24.5 AA C 2023 40 12 T.J. White 19.0 A CF 2026 40 13 Andry Lara 19.5 A SP 2025 40 14 Daylen Lile 19.6 R LF 2026 40 15 Sammy Infante 21.0 A 3B 2025 40 16 Jake Alu 25.2 AA 3B 2024 40 17 Evan Lee 25.0 MLB SIRP 2022 40 18 Zach Brzykcy 23.0 AA SIRP 2024 40 19 Cory Abbott 26.8 MLB SP 2022 40 20 Joan Adon 23.9 MLB SIRP 2022 40 21 Seth Shuman 24.6 A+ SP 2023 40 22 Israel Pineda 22.3 A+ C 2022 40 23 Mason Denaburg 22.9 A SP 2023 35+ 24 Francisco Perez 25.0 MLB SIRP 2022 35+ 25 Matt Cronin 24.8 AAA SIRP 2022 35+ 26 Mitchell Parker 22.8 A+ MIRP 2024 35+ 27 Roismar Quintana 19.4 R RF 2023 35+ 28 Jose A. Ferrer 22.3 A+ SIRP 2023 35+ 29 Lucius Fox 25.0 MLB SS 2022 35+ Reading Options Detail Level Data Only Full Position Filter All All C SS 3B LF CF RF SP SIRP MIRP 55 FV Prospects 1. Cade Cavalli, SP Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Oklahoma (WSN) Age 23.9 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 70/70 55/60 55/60 55/60 30/45 94-98 / 102 Cavalli was an exciting tip-of-the-iceberg type of prospect in th 2020 draft. He barely pitched as a high school senior due to a back issue and barely pitched as a freshman in 2019 due to a stress reaction in his arm. Then he looked incredible during the brief 2020 college season as a draft-eligible sophomore, and some of his shortcomings (his delivery was rather violent and ill-timed, his secondary stuff and command quite crude) could be explained away by how little Cavalli had pitched. He was in the mix throughout the middle of the first round and was scooped up by Washington 22nd overall. Cavalli climbed through the Nationals system last season, starting the year at High-A and finishing it at Triple-A Rochester, with a stop at the Futures Game (where he was the game’s hardest thrower, touching 102 mph) in the middle of all of that. Built like Michael Kopech and Sandy Alcantara, if you could engineer a pitcher’s body in a lab, it would look like Cavalli’s, who is a strapping 6-foot-4 with big, broad shoulders and a powerful (if a bit stiff) lower half. Cavalli’s delivery, though, has a long, somewhat scary arm action that affects his command and the consistency of his secondary stuff, especially his curveball and changeup. His stuff is incredible, though, as Cavalli sits 95-98 mph as a starter and will reach back for more than that on occasion. His heater has riding life up and to his arm side, and is often too much for Triple-A hitters to handle even when it’s right down the middle. His slider (typically 87-90 mph), curveball (83-86) and changeup (86-91, of the tailing/screwball action variety) all flash plus or better, it’s just that Cavalli’s ability to locate them is inconsistent. Some aspects of Cavalli’s pitchability are actually advanced, like his willingness to use a right-on-right changeup, or run his cambio back over the glove-side corner of the plate. But because his command is so loose, he’s only generating a swinging strike rate of about 11% (right in line with the big league average) despite having R-rated stuff. With the context of his scant amateur reps in mind, and considering the sort of athlete and seemingly driven person we’re talking about here (Oklahoma’s head coach brought up his makeup totally unprompted during his post-game presser after this year’s College World Series, two years after Cavalli left the program), it’s fair to project on these elements even though Cavalli is already 24. That he has delivery and command issues together means there’s relief risk here, but if things click, Cavalli is going to be a monster. The Nationals aren’t cranking out pitching prospects at the rate of other orgs, and it’s fair to wonder if they can help Cavalli max out, but he may just coax it out of himself. He belongs ahead of Jack Leiter on the universal list, as they’re both working with premium stuff but below-average feel, while Cavalli is a level ahead. 50 FV Prospects 2. Cole Henry, SP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from LSU (WSN) Age 23.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 55/60 55/60 40/45 95-97 / 99 Often referred to as the third member of Washington’s up-and-coming Big Three along with Cade Cavalli and Jackson Rutledge, Henry put up a 38.7% strikeout rate in High-A in 2021 against 6.7% walks. But there’s a catch: he only pitched 43 innings there (plus another three on the complex), missing an 11-week span from May to August with elbow inflammation. It’s particularly concerning given the upper arm and elbow injuries that also shelved him for a time while he was at LSU, but when he did come back late last summer and throughout the Fall League, he looked every bit as deadly as he had in the earlier part of the season. Henry’s tailing, mid-90s fastball has swing-and-miss utility at the top of the zone because his arm angle is low and creates upshot angle, and that pitch’s movement mirrors the shape of his slider nicely, such that hitters diving to protect against his slider are liable to get blown up in on their hands, and Henry’s low slot helps his slider play against righties. His low-80s changeup is his nastiest pitch, though, with eye-crossing tail and fade. It’s dastardly enough to keep lefties off his fastball, which they get a nice long look at from Henry’s slot. His arm action is still long and violent (his mechanical look is part of why he went in the second round), and his head whack causes his hat to fly off pretty frequently. Head and shoulders aside, he’s improved his command across all of his offerings and has a starter’s repertoire and feel to pitch, is healthy at the moment, and is now on the doorstep of the big leagues after being promoted to Rochester. Though he doesn’t have to be put on the 40-man until after the 2023 season, he’s on pace to debut sometime during it. 3. Brady House, 3B Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2021 from Winder-Barrow HS (WSN) Age 19.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/45 60/70 20/60 45/40 30/50 60 House was one of the more famous prep bats entering the spring of 2021, and his track record of hitting against advanced pitching on the showcase circuit trumped an up-and-down senior season and put him in the mix with several teams picking early in the draft. It was a bit of a surprise, then, to see him drop to Washington at 11th overall, but only five first-round picks garnered higher bonuses, and House followed his signing with an outstanding performance in the Complex League. His biggest supporters had him as the best high school hitter in the country, with some putting plus grades on both his hit and power tools. Nobody disputes the power, which he already has plenty of, and projects for even more of down the road, but the pure bat-to-ball skill was the subject of much debate in draft rooms. At 6-foot-4 and already in the neighborhood of 220 pounds, House is built like an NFL linebacker, but is also quite athletic for his size, and while he debuted at his high school position of shortstop, he projects as a solid defensive third baseman with a plus or better arm. House has been on the IL twice in his first pro season, most recently for a back strain. He was hitting .326/.408/.449 prior to the first one, then hit .230/.303/.299 upon return, before he was shelved again. His more granular contact data, like his in-zone swing-and-miss and chase rates, have been unremarkable, a few percentage points below the big league average across the board. It’s a small and arguably compromised sample due to the injuries (House’s peak exit velos are also down), and even though it would indicate the folks who were more skeptical about House’s hit tool might be right, there aren’t any bright red flags in this area that would point to him busting. The back issues at this age are perhaps a little worrisome because House, to the eye, looks pretty tightly wound. He’s athletic in an explosive way, but not necessarily from a looseness and flexibility standpoint, which is part of why I have him projected to third base. House’s injury makes it more likely he picks up reps at instructs, making Washington’s backfields (which could also boast Cristhian Vaquero) the most important fall activity to scout in all of baseball. 45+ FV Prospects 4. Cristhian Vaquero, CF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2022 from Cuba (WSN) Age 17.8 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/50 45/60 25/60 60/55 30/50 60 Do any of the prospects at the 2023 Draft PDP events in North Carolina look like this guy? Nope. Other than Oneil Cruz and Elly De La Cruz, both of whom have a shot to play shortstop, Vaquero is arguably the prospect with the widest range of possible outcomes in pro baseball. He is built like a 17-year-old SEC wide receiver prospect at an extremely projectable 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, and he had not only the most traditionally projectable frame in his entire 2022 amateur class, but arguably has the best baseball frame of any prospect to enter pro baseball since Luis Robert. Once Vaquero’s legs get churning, he reaches blazing top speeds, and he has a chance to mature in the Goldilocks Zone, where he retains enough of this speed to remain in center field for good, while also adding huge power through additional strength and physical maturity. The mere possibility that Vaquero could end up as a powerful, switch-hitting center fielder separates him from most of the prospect population even though there are all kinds of relatively unknown elements to his game, mostly surrounding his hit tool. At a long-levered 6-foot-3, I had some pre-signing hit tool risk concerns akin to what quickly became evident with Robert Puason and Erick Peña, who both have builds/levers similar to Vaquero and who were almost immediately obviously incapable of hitting pro pitching due to the length of their swings. While DSL pitching isn’t exactly the same as the arms at minor league spring training, Vaquero’s early-career bat-to-ball data are fine, not the ruby red flag we’ve seen with other top-of-the-class prospects. In fact, he has pretty good feel for the barrel from both sides of the plate, and can adjust it to match pitch location with greater competence than most switch-hitters this age. Because he’s only likely to see anything close to consistently big league-quality velocity once he reaches the states, there’s still a huge amount of risk here, and Vaquero’s distance from the majors and our inability to truly know how he’ll do against 92-plus mph heaters needs to be factored into his FV grade. But based on his ceiling, which is that of a global top 10 prospect, he belongs in the top 100 as a potential do-everything center fielder with power from both sides of the plate. And this is not an “either/or” situation; Vaquero has other “outs,” to borrow a poker/Magic the Gathering phrase, in which he stays in center but has a one-note offensive profile, or moves to a corner but hits enough to still be a good everyday big leaguer. Basically every outcome between “boom” and “bust” is possible here because his tools and projection are so huge. 45 FV Prospects 5. Jeremy De La Rosa, CF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (WSN) Age 20.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 55/60 30/55 60/60 45/55 55 Considering how strong and physical De La Rosa already looked at 18-19, I thought he’d quickly slide to an outfield corner, or at least slow down enough to obviously project there long-term. Instead, he’s gotten faster, and scout sources are shocked at the runs times he’s laying down; they think he has not only increased his shot of remaining in center, but that he could be above-average there at peak. And this is as De La Rosa is the best offensive performer in the system so far in 2022, on pace for nearly 20 homers and 50 stolen bases. De La Rosa is capable of generating huge pull-side power even though his swing’s footwork is simple and conservative, just an open stance that he closes off, his front foot planting very early. Even though he’s hitting over .300, he has continued to swing and miss at a pretty sizable clip, and while his strikeout rate (26%) is better than it was in 2021 (34%), he is repeating Low-A and his swinging strike rate (14%) is worse than the big league average. His up-the-middle defensive projection gives him more margin for error in the hit tool department, though, especially if he’s getting to his prodigious power despite the whiffs. This is De La Rosa’s 40-man evaluation year, and he’ll be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft if he isn’t put on the 40-man after the season. Given how well he’s performing at Low-A, it behooves the Nationals to see how he fares against High-A pitching over the last couple months of the season so they can better gauge how ready De La Rosa might be for an emergency call-up next year. They’ve added young, at-a-distance hitters in the past (Yasel Antuna) as a way of protecting them even though they were nowhere near the big leagues. De La Rosa would almost certainly spend his first option year in the mid-minors if they added him, but using a 40-man spot to protect one of the higher-ceiling talents in your system makes sense for a rebuilding team like this. He’ll make for a fascinating Rule 5 case if they don’t: De La Rosa has uncommon ceiling but, as a strikeout-prone youngster who’ll only be the age of a college draft prospect in 2023, it would arguably hurt his development for a team tempted by his long-term upside to add him and try to stash him on their active roster all year. While his 40-man timeline is drastically different (which arguably impacts his development), De La Rosa is similar to the contingent of odd-swinged college outfielders in the mix for the 2022 draft’s mid-to-late first round, like Jacob Melton, Dylan Beavers and Brock Jones, who are all plus athletes with power and speed, but come with hit tool risk. 40+ FV Prospects 6. Jackson Rutledge, SIRP Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from San Jacinto JC (TX) (WSN) Age 23.3 Height 6′ 8″ Weight 245 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 70/70 55/60 45/50 40/45 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 often worked 96-100 mph at San Jac, mixing in a comfortably plus slider and a curveball that was closer to average. After some tinkering, that’s where Rutledge has once again landed. While dealing with shoulder and blister issues in 2021, he leaned on his fastball and slider combination while his curveball and changeup were distant offerings. He closed 2021 in the Fall League as a Jekyll and Hyde prospect, at times up to 97 mph with lots of plus sliders, while sitting 92-93 at others. The 23-year-old Rutledge, who is in his 40-man evaluation year, is back in Low-A and generating mixed results while not striking many guys out even though he’s sitting 94-96. It’s good Rutledge is throwing that hard, but 94-96 isn’t the 96-101 where he was at peak. It’s tough to consider him a starter candidate given how mixed his performance has been as a pro, and how tough it’s been for Rutledge to build a foundation of innings. There’s still a huge fastball and two plus-flashing breaking balls here, so while how Rutledge’s development and rate of promotion have been paced feels odd, he still has more upside than just your standard middle reliever. 40 FV Prospects 7. Gerardo Carrillo, SIRP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Mexico (LAD) Age 23.8 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 163 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 55/60 45/45 45/55 30/40 93-96 / 99 Carrillo first popped up on the Dodgers backfields as yet another of their many hard-throwing youngsters, albeit one with a more violent, open-striding, low three-quarters delivery and spotty command, projecting into the relief role he has already assumed. He was sometimes up to 100 mph and routinely sat 94-97 for entire outings even as a teenager, even as a starter. He complements this upper-90s sinker with two good breaking balls, though the curve doesn’t play great because it’s easy for hitters to differentiate from the sinker out of Carrillo’s hand. His tailing, sinking changeup looked better throughout 2021, when Carrillo’s usage of it usurped that of his curveball by a substantial margin before he was traded to the Nationals as part of the huge package for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. Carrillo had to be added to Washington’s 40-man right away and they deployed him as a reliever at Double-A Harrisburg in April before he was shut down with shoulder discomfort, from which he has yet to return. Carrillo was throwing his slider more than any other pitch prior to being shut down, but it was such a small sample of innings that it might be incorrect to assume this is the approach he’ll take moving forward. His delivery and command were already funneling him to the bullpen and the injury does so even more, though Carrillo’s stuff could enable him to be a late-inning weapon assuming his stuff is back when his shoulder is healthy. 8. Armando Cruz, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (WSN) Age 18.5 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 160 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 was little agreement prior to him signing as to whether he would. So far Cruz has shown fair feel for putting the bat on the ball, just without even a modicum of power, and he’s also an aggressive swinger running a 3% walk rate on the complex, where young pitchers struggle to throw strikes. His measurables indicate projection, but he is slightly built. A good and reasonable outcome here is to hope Cruz develops enough physicality to be a Nick Allen type of player. 9. Jake Irvin, SP Drafted: 4th Round, 2018 from Oklahoma (WSN) Age 25.4 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/50 55/60 40/50 50/60 93-95 / 96 Irvin repeats his delivery with fantastic consistency despite his lanky, 6-foot-6 frame. He fills the zone with a fastball that lacks bat-missing movement, but it sits 93-95 mph, Irvin hides the ball for a long time, and his size enables him to release it right on top of hitters, which takes them at least a few pitches to adjust to. Irvin also has a consistent, above-average two-plane breaker in the low-80s, and while his changeup feel is a little behind what you’d like from a 25-year-old at Double-A, Irvin’s arm stroke is so short and consistent that I think he’ll find enough of a cambio to continue to start. The quality of his changeup will likely be an X-factor that determines how impactful of a starter he will be, but for now Irvin is poised to be a backend guy, and stands a good chance to debut in 2023. 10. Aldo Ramirez, SP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Mexico (BOS) Age 21.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 191 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/50 45/50 45/55 35/50 90-95 / 96 Acquired from Boston in the 2021 Kyle Schwarber trade, Ramirez won’t pitch in 2022 as he deals with an elbow issue that has plagued him for huge chunks of the last two years. Healthy Ramirez has a vertical arm slot and hand position that create backspin that will let his fastball play atop the strike zone, though he doesn’t work up there as often as he could. His slider has effective, vertical movement, and he has fairly advanced arm-side changeup feel. An average athlete with a smaller frame, Ramirez experienced an unexpected velo bump that began at 2020 instructs, where he was 92-94 mph and topping out at 96 without having lost any command, or having begun to overthrow his breaking ball or anything of that nature. He was viewed as a changeup/command backend type before the velo bump, which moved him into the 40+ tier entering 2021 and through the time of the Schwarber trade. In the little bit of 2021 that Ramirez did pitch, he was again sitting 93-94 mph. His injury creates a somewhat awkward 40-man situation, as Ramirez was a possible post-2022 addition, and his injury arguably makes him easier for opposing teams to Rule 5 stash on their 60-day IL. He’s a candidate to be one of the prospects teams request medicals for ahead of the Rule 5. 11. Drew Millas, C Drafted: 7th Round, 2019 from Missouri State (OAK) Age 24.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 202 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/35 45/45 30/30 50/45 50/60 60 Millas’ stats, especially his peripherals, have fallen off a cliff after a promotion to Double-A. His swings are geared for low-ball contact and he swings through a ton of fastballs at the top of the zone, a hole big enough that big league pitchers will feel comfortable approaching him up there. He’s now a low-variance, glove-first backup catching prospect, but some elements of Millas’ defense are really, really good, and he won’t be a vanilla version. He is a plus athlete with ridiculous lateral agility for a catcher, and deft, soft hands that he uses to pick balls in the dirt, and he’s also quite good at framing pitches near the bottom of the zone. There are times when Millas rockets out of his crouch and throws seeds to second base (he had some pop times in the 1.85-1.90 area for me with Oakland and then again during Fall League), but his arm accuracy is scattershot and he gets into the bad habit of throwing from his knees too often, something typically reserved for Erik Kratz types who are so big that they’re slow out of their crouch. Millas also tends to tip breaking balls, setting his legs wide in preparation to block balls in the dirt early enough that runners on second base have plenty of time to relay that information home. He’s a very likely 40-man add this offseason and part of a deep upper-level catching contingent that includes Riley Adams and Tres Barrera, who will all compete for reps behind young star Keibert Ruiz. 12. T.J. White, CF Drafted: 5th Round, 2021 from Dorman HS (SC) (WSN) Age 19.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/30 55/70 25/55 60/60 30/50 50 White is a physical switch-hitter with plus power and speed, and very little present baseball feel, especially on defense. There’s extreme hit tool risk here because White’s swings are fairly grooved, but he is a threat to run into one from both sides of the plate, and he’ll take your breath away once he reaches top speed. This will almost certainly be a slow burn, especially in a system where promotions aren’t made for their own sake, but the ceiling here is substantial if White can polish his hit tool and general baseball feel. 13. Andry Lara, SP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Venezuela (WSN) Age 19.5 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/55 50/55 40/50 25/55 93-95 / 97 Lara is a bigger, mature-framed pitcher with good present velocity for a prospect his age, but without the typical physical projection of a teenager, which means this 94-95 mph fastball range might be where things settle for him. That’s certainly how things have gone so far, as Lara continues to look the way he has for the last couple of years, sitting about 94 and flashing the occasional plus, two-planed slider, while his firm upper-80s changeup and command remain below average. His delivery could be cleaned up a bit, as his arm swing is a little long and ill-timed, with his front side quite stiff and upright throughout, but there’s still a promising foundation for a teenage righty here. To this point Lara had been in the 40+ FV tier, typically reserved for risky young pitchers with big upside. Because there has been little progress in the pitch quality department and because Lara lacks physical projection typical for his age, I’ve dialed that down and have him forecast toward the back of a rotation. His scouting report still reads like that of the kind of high school pitcher who’d get close to $1 million in the draft, albeit one with lower upside since it doesn’t feel like there will be either special velocity or command here. 14. Daylen Lile, LF Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from Trinity HS (KY) (WSN) Age 19.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 50/60 25/55 55/50 30/50 45 Lile was a sweet-swinging high school prospect with plus bat speed who showed all-fields power on the showcase circuit. As sweet as his lefty swing looks, his ratio of contact to whiffs during showcase ball was a little concerning, and his swing looked a little grooved and like he might get tied up inside. Still, the amount of power and bat speed, as well as the lift in his current swing, was enough for teams to have him in their second round mix. His pro debut was unspectacular on paper but the sample was small, and for now things have stayed that way, as Lile had Tommy John in March and hasn’t played at all in 2022. A little behind the developmental eight-ball due to the surgery (for example, T.J. White is almost a year younger than Lile and is basically now a level ahead of him), the lost reps add to pre-existing bust risk around the hit tool. But if he develops even a 40-grade hit tool, there’s enough playable power here for Lile to be a corner platoon bat. 15. Sammy Infante, 3B Video Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from Monsignor Pace HS (WSN) Age 21.0 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 was older than the average high school draftee, but his frame was still quite projectable, and he has the actions and hands to stay on the infield, as well as a good-looking swing. Infante’s on-paper performance since turning pro has been of the power-over-hit variety. His swing has big pull-side lift and he’s clubbed 15 homers as of list publication, but his pull-happy nature makes him vulnerable to pitches away from him, and Infante is striking out at a nearly 30% clip. He has played exclusively third base in 2022 after splitting time at both middle infield spots during his first pro season, and the combination of Infante’s whiffs and corner-only projection put his profile on thinner ice. Like most of the prospects in this system, he is a power-over-hit type who needs to slot behind hitters with similar issues who stand a better chance of playing up the middle of the diamond. 16. Jake Alu, 3B Drafted: 24th Round, 2019 from Boston College (WSN) Age 25.2 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/55 45/45 35/40 40/40 40/45 45 Alu can hit, and the former senior sign out of Boston College is making a push for a 40-man spot next year. The short-levered Alu can let the baseball travel deep before he decides to swing, and after taking a more proactive approach early in his pro career, his walk rates have skyrocketed in 2022. Even if that’s a small sample blip and due for a regression (he does swing over top of breakers fairly often), there are still hitterish elements here. Alu can put the barrel on pitches all over the zone, he pokes stuff on the outer third to left field and can double into the gap that way, and he has enough raw power to be dangerous when he opens his hips to turn on inside pitches. Without big power, Alu isn’t a fit as an everyday third baseman; instead, he could be a good part-time role player at a couple of different spots. While he’s moonlighted at second base and in left field a little bit, he hasn’t been seen enough at either spot to know how he’d play either position. If he can incorporate defensive versatility into his game, Alu will have a consistent place on a big league roster. 17. Evan Lee, SIRP Drafted: 15th Round, 2018 from Arkansas (WSN) Age 25.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/50 60/60 40/40 50/50 88-92 / 94 Lee is a lefty reliever with a plus breaking ball (some of them flash better than that) and a sneaky low-90s fastball that plays off the angle created by Lee’s (lack of) height, and how deep he gets into his legs during his delivery. Lee gets so low that his fastball, which has natural cut at times, has upshot angle and is tough to get on top of. His curveball has enough depth to play as a back-foot weapon against righties, and he’s likely to be a consistent on-roster middle reliever rather than a guy who is up and down during his option years. He was just about to begin rehabbing from an elbow issue as of list publication. 18. Zach Brzykcy, SIRP Undrafted Free Agent, 2020 (WSN) Age 23.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops 60/60 55/55 30/35 94-98 / 99 Brzykcy, who was a power reliever at a Virginia Tech program that has become one of the country’s best, was one of the first 2020 undrafted free agents to emerge as a real prospect. He quickly went from sitting 94-95 mph out of the Hokies bullpen in his first 2020 appearance to sitting 96-98 and touching 99 in his last few just before the shutdown. He spent his first pro season at High-A, performing from a peripheral standpoint but not in terms of ERA, and the Nats sent him back there to start 2022. He leveled hitters at Wilmington and was promoted to Harrisburg in early June, where he’s continued to dominate and punch out more than 40% of opposing hitters. Brzykcy does not have good fastball control; he’s a grip-and-rip type of guy whose heaters often sail to his arm side because they have so much carry. His low-80s power curveball flashes bat-missing depth and his upper-80s changeup will occasionally have enough arm-side action to do the same, but Brzykcy’s feel for both is even less consistent than that of his fastball. He pretty comfortably has big league quality stuff and needs to continue to polish his command to hold down a spot in perpetuity. 19. Cory Abbott, SP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Loyola Marymount (CHC) Age 26.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/40 55/55 50/50 45/45 55/55 88-93 / 95 Abbott tracked through the minors as a four-pitch guy with below-average stuff and above-average command, looking like a quick-moving backend starter. The Cubs DFA’d him early in 2022 and, after a brief period with the Giants, he ended up with Washington via waiver claim. After initially using him in a two-inning relief role at Rochester, Abbott is back to starting and working in the 90-92 mph range with command of a good slider, while his curveball and changeup have been de-emphasized a tad (his curveball is still occasionally plus). He continues to look like a vanilla fifth starter thanks largely to his slider command. 20. Joan Adon, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (WSN) Age 23.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/50 55/55 40/40 40/40 92-96 / 98 After he had spent his first two pro seasons in the bullpen, Washington moved Adon into the rotation in 2019 and his velocity dipped a bit as you might expect. He’s continued on to the big leagues playing a need-based starter role, which allowed him to accumulate enough innings to lose rookie status a few starts prior to list publication. In a vacuum, Adon would project as a reliever. He’s sitting 95 mph and is up to 98 as a starter, and his low-80s slider is a groundball-inducing pitch more than a bat-misser. Adon has a graceful delivery that he struggles to repeat, which impacts his breaking ball quality and command. The Nationals altered his arm angle very early in 2022 and he’s been a little less walk-prone over the last month or so, perhaps because he’s getting feel for his new mechanics. Regardless, Adon would be a low-leverage middle reliever on a contender (would there be more arm strength one inning at a time? It’s why I’ projecting on the fastball still), but is currently eating innings for a rebuilding Washington club. 21. Seth Shuman, SP Drafted: 6th Round, 2019 from Georgia Southern (OAK) Age 24.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/40 55/60 45/45 45/50 50/60 90-92 / 94 Part of the 2021 trade with Oakland for Josh Harrison and Yan Gomes, Shuman is a pitchability righty up to 94 mph, with command of four serviceable pitches, and especially precise feel for a tight 82-85 mph slider. He spent all of 2021 at High-A, split between the Oakland and Washington orgs, and yet was re-assigned to High-A again this year. Shuman has never walked batters at higher than a 6.6% clip at any stop during his pro career. His stuff isn’t sexy but he’s super consistent and projects to have plus command, pointing toward a low-variance back-of-a-rotation role. 22. Israel Pineda, C Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (WSN) Age 22.3 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 40 A physical young catcher with some pull power, Pineda was pushed through the minors very quickly early on, but things have slowed down due to the lost pandemic year and his diminished offensive performance. He went straight to the GCL at age 17, then to a Penn League packed with college draftees 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, though Pineda hasn’t posted an above-average statline since. Washington invited him to the alternate site very late in the summer of 2020 and he finished up at instructs, then got some big league spring training reps the following season and finished the year as one of the younger Fall League participants. Now the Nationals have slowed things down a bit, as Pineda began 2022 where he spent most of last year: at High-A (Wilmington is Washington’s new affiliate), where he still flashes big pull power but has stagnated in other areas. 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 via sheer effort. He projects as a low-OBP hitter with above-average raw power, likely a bat-first backup so long as he remedies his rough-around-the-edges defense. 35+ FV Prospects 23. Mason Denaburg, SP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Merritt Island HS (FL) (WSN) Age 22.9 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 195 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 was a highly-touted high schooler who signed for a whopping $3 million. His pro debut didn’t happen immediately 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 spring training. Once he built back up (92-94 mph, touching 95), he was set to go finish the year at an affiliate, but he felt something in his shoulder and was shut down again. He had surgery, lost 2020 to COVID, went to instructs, then blew out his elbow in the spring of ’21 and required Tommy John. Back in 2022, Denaburg’s arm strength has returned and he’s been sitting 93-95 and has touched at least 97 while working about three innings at a time. He has zero feel for location right now and has been extremely walk-prone, but that feels okay considering Denaburg hadn’t thrown a pro pitch in three years. It’s encouraging that a) he looks great physically, b) his pre-injury velocity is back, and c) he’s still flashing a plus breaking ball that has made A-ball hitters look quite uncomfortable. He’s extremely unlikely to be 40-man’d this offseason (this is his Rule 5 year), and Denaburg’s injury history is an inextricable aspect of his prospectdom, but his stuff gives him a shot to play a big league role. 24. Francisco Perez, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (CLE) Age 25.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 217 Bat / Thr S / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 50/50 45/50 50/55 92-95 / 96 A shrewd waiver claim from Cleveland, Perez is poised to play a near-term relief role in Washington. He had a pretty good 2018 as a starter, then was hurt for much of ’19 and only topped out around 92 mph during the lone rehab outing of his that I saw in Arizona. He moved to the bullpen in 2021 and punched out about 40% of the hitters he faced, way above his career norms as a starter, sitting 92-94 all year. In addition to the little spike in velocity, Perez is very deceptive and hides the ball for a long time, his fastball has a tough-to-hit line, and he has a late-breaking slider and a fair changeup, which Washington has de-emphasized. The Nationals 40-man is short on healthy lefty relievers, making it quite likely Perez ends up in the big leagues for long enough to lose rookie status this year. He projects as a steady, low-impact reliever. 25. Matt Cronin, SIRP Drafted: 4th Round, 2019 from Arkansas (WSN) Age 24.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 197 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/65 55/60 40/45 40/45 93-95 / 96 Cronin has never thrown quite as hard as he did at the very end of Arkansas’ 2019 season, when he was in the 93-95 mph range and up to 97. For the last few years he has generally been 90-92, sometimes dipping into the upper-80s, but he continues to miss bats with his fastball because it has big action at the top of the zone and he executes it there consistently even though he pitches with big effort. Cronin also has a shapely, downer curveball, but that pitch doesn’t miss a ton of bats, or even induce many chases, even though it’s the sort of pitch that should theoretically play nicely off his style of fastball. Instead, it acts more as a way for him to get ahead of hitters before finishing them with high heat. Even if you’re confident Cronin’s fastball will play against big league hitters despite it’s velocity (I buy it), the lack of a truly nasty second pitch puts him in more of an up/down middle relief area. If he can find a way to throw in the mid-90s consistently again, then we’re talking about a guy with a plus-plus weapon who could pitch higher-leverage innings. At nearly 25, that feels unlikely. 26. Mitchell Parker, MIRP Drafted: 5th Round, 2020 from San Jacinto JC (TX) (WSN) Age 22.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 224 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 55/55 30/40 30/40 89-92 / 94 Parker’s velocity has been hovering in the 90-92 mph range since he was in high school, but it’s angle makes it tough for hitters to get on top of it, and it plays nicely with his 12-to-6, mid-70s curveball. He’s missed a ton of bats through the mid-minors, at roughly a 30% clip at each level, up to High-A. While Parker’s elaborate delivery makes him deceptive and is part of why his 40-grade velo has dominated low-level hitters, it’s also tough for him to repeat, and he’s long had well below-average control that is only now manifesting in big walk rates, which have ballooned in 2022. The 2023 season is Parker’s 40-man evaluation year. It makes sense to develop him as a starter for at least that long just to see if things click, though his realistic projection is in the bullpen, maybe as a multi-inning weapon if his repertoire polishes up during the next year and a half. 27. Roismar Quintana, RF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Venezuela (WSN) Age 19.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 220 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 Quintana signed for $820,000 as one of three high-dollar signings in the Nats’ 2019 July 2 class, behind Andy 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, making him likely to end up in a corner. He has fair feel for contact and impressive ball-striking power for a hitter his age, though he’s been a little over-aggressive at the plate early on in his pro career and the OBP portion of the profile is going to be important here since Quintana is a corner bat. There’s still enough of a hit/power combo to consider Quintana a developmental prospect of note. 28. Jose A. Ferrer, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (WSN) Age 22.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 45/50 50/55 35/55 93-95 / 97 The stocky, 22-year-old Ferrer is a hard-throwing relief-only prospect with a short-armed, upright delivery. He sits 94-96 mph with sink and has a changeup that plays nicely off the fastball. He’s one of the many mid-minors pitchers in this org tracking like a low-variance middle reliever. 29. Lucius Fox, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Bahamas (SFG) Age 25.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr S / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/40 40/40 30/30 70/70 50/50 55 Fox was a high-profile signee who has bounced around to four orgs, starting with San Francisco, then heading to Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and now Washington. He’s a 70-grade runner with 30 power and a 40 bat, but his switch-hitting ability, speed, and defensive versatility give him plenty of utility as a bottom-of-the-roster pinch runner, defensive replacement, and situational pinch hitter. While the Royals gave him some run in center field in 2021, the Nationals have deployed Fox exclusively on the infield. Other Prospects of Note Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category. More Power-Over-Hit Types Omar Meregildo, 1B Donovan Casey, RF Leandro Emiliani, 1B Jordy Barley, SS Meregildo is way too old for High-A, but he stands apart from every other Blue Rock except for Jeremy De La Rosa in terms of physicality, and has big power. Casey, part of the Scherzer/Turner deal with the Dodgers, was a two-way college player with power, speed and arm strength, but his hit tool has fallen off against upper-level arms. Emiliani is a lefty-hitting version of Meregildo. Barley will still make the occasional eye-popping play at short or hit a 420-foot bomb, but he’s 22 now, hasn’t developed a more discerning approach and remains inconsistent on defense. Hitters J.T. Arruda, SS Viandel Pena, 2B Yasel Antuna, LF Yoander Rivero, SS Darren Baker, 2B Branden Boissiere, 1B Jackson Cluff, SS I’ve been on Arruda in this area since he was at Fresno State, and he’s hit well in the low minors, though he can’t seem to escape. I like him as a potential switch-hitting bench infielder. Pena is another compact, switch-hitting middle infielder with sneaky pop for his size. His bat-to-ball skills tend to be over-evaluated by eyeball scouts, and he’s actually swinging and missing too much for the main section of the list. Antuna was once a high-profile international signee who dealt with early-career injuries but was added to Washington’s 40-man anyway. While he’s walking much more now than ever before in his career, scouts think it’s out of sheer passiveness rather than feel for the zone, and don’t see him having enough bat to play a left field-only role. The diminutive Rivero, 20, is already in his 40-man evaluation year. He has plus infield actions and enough arm to be developed at shortstop, but currently lacks viable big league strength. Baker has above-average bat-to-ball skills and runs well. He and Pena become more prospect-y if they can play a host of other positions. Boissiere was fifth in Division-I in hits in 2021 but is striking out much more than is typical for a prospect toward the bottom of the defensive spectrum. Cluff can play short and was performing at the lower levels, but he’s been well beneath the Mendoza Line since arriving at Double-A. Can They Throw Harder? Jose Atencio, RHP Dustin Saenz, LHP Alex Troop, LHP Tim Cate, LHP Atencio, 20, sits in the low-90s and touches above. He’s quite physically mature but his delivery is loose and athletic, he throws quality strikes, and both his slider and changeup have bat-missing quality on occasion. Saenz (pronounced “signs”) is a pitchability lefty with a gorgeous arm action who sits 90-92 mph and has feel for an above-average slider. A two-way player at Michigan State, Troop is a well-built 6-foot-5 and has an extremely vertical arm slot that creates weird angle on his upper-80s fastball. He has plus command of three 40-grade pitches and is a fun upper-level sleeper if teams think they can somehow coax more out of his huge frame, even at 25. Cate is an athletic, soft-tossing lefty with a shapely curveball and 30-grade velo. Depth Arms Holden Powell, RHP Sterling Sharp, RHP Richard Guasch, RHP Brendan Collins, RHP Rodney Theophile, RHP Reid Schaller, RHP Seth Romero, LHP Powell has been hurt in 2022. His delivery is funky and violent, but he had a very successful career at UCLA and was experiencing a velo spike throughout 2020-21 (into the mid-90s) before this injury, which has kept him out all year. Sharp is a sinker-oriented spot starter with a loose, fluid delivery. Guasch came over from Oakland in trade; he sits 93 mph and generates above-average action on his slider. Collins throws hard, at times 94-97, and he’ll flash a plus curveball. He only pitched one season at UNC Greensboro and probably has developmental meat left on the bone. Theophile is a big, 6-foot-5 righty from Nicaragua who put up arguably the best numbers in this system (15% swinging strike rate, 62% groundballs) prior to promotion to Wilmington, where his performance has regressed. I can’t find a scout or data analyst who can tell me why he was so dominant at Low-A; he sits in the low-90s, will occasionally flash a good changeup, and his breaking ball lacks power. There are lots of arms and legs coming at hitters, so perhaps he has huge deception. Schaller was an interesting draft pick, an oft-injured pitcher who was also eligible as an underclassman due to his age (he was basically a 21-year-old redshirt freshman). He was up to 97 mph in his draft year but has been more in the 92-94 range this year. Romero has had a variety of injury and off-the-field issues that have prevented him from pitching for much of the last six years, though at times he has shown three plus pitches. System Overview This is one of the worst farm systems in baseball. It has exciting players within the universal top 125 prospects or so, but the layers of prospects beneath the near-ready stalwarts (Cavalli and Henry) and potential superstars at a greater distance (House and Vaquero) are extremely thin. Remember that part of the reason this system looks so bad on paper is because the chief elements of last year’s Scherzer/Turner blockbuster, Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray, lost rookie eligibility last season. Even with them included, though, this system is as top-heavy as a Kevin Mench bobblehead. That’s largely due to the org’s inability to develop pitching at the same rate as most all other orgs. The pitchers Washington drafts and acquires via trade tend to plateau. Not only is there a lack of improvement from the off-the-radar types, which has become more common in our current era of player development, but the org’s inability to actualize the prospects the industry generally likes is also striking. Scouts and personnel from other clubs are also perplexed by the glacial rate of promotions occurring in this system. There are definitely teams that promote prospects for its own sake, and others that do it as a way of toying with other teams’ pro scouting models, but the Nationals occupy the other extreme. For example, Tim Cate, a 2018 second rounder out of UConn who is now 24-years old, made 20 starts at Double-A in 2021, and while he had an ERA over 5.00, his peripherals were much better than that. They sent him back to A-ball this year. Todd Peterson, who is K’ing 11-per-9 and walking 2-per-9 in his 40-man evaluation year, is languishing away at Low-A facing worse hitters than those he saw on a regular basis in college. I’m sure the Nationals have internal benchmarks for promotion, and I’m admittedly at a greater remove from their organizational philosophies than perhaps any other team because of my geographic distance from their operation and because this is one of the orgs whose leadership group seems to have a derisive view of analytics, all of which makes it hard to judge this stuff. But at some point you have to have a better idea of how good your own players are, and one of the ways to assess that is by seeing how they perform at the next level of play. Mike Rizzo and company have an abnormally strong hit rate when it comes to triaging free agents, which is part of what led to their championship. Often that has involved bringing on guys like Josh Harrison, Asdrúbal Cabrera, or Howie Kendrick, who have bankable hit tools. It’s curious then that the farm system is devoid of prospects with water-carrying feel for contact. Even the hitters billed as being relatively polished coming out of the draft, like Daylen Lile and Sammy Infante, have concerning early-career swinging strike rates. Only six players under 23 in this org have a SwStr% better than the big league average, and several of those need to be taken with a grain of salt because they’re older than the typical prospect at their level. Still, with Mike Rizzo’s 2023 option recently exercised by the club, it’s clear he and the org as it is currently constituted will continue to shepherd the early stages of the club’s current rebuild, at least for now. The team’s looming potential sale perhaps makes the group’s long-term prognosis less favorable, especially if the new ownership wants to take a more analytically-inclined approach. Often, new ownership groups take on debt just to buy the team and want the big league payroll to be cut early on in their tenure, which might complicate Juan Soto extension discussions. Any trade involving him would presumably alter the system’s fortunes dramatically as he’s arguably the best young player on the planet.