The Washington Nationals officially have a new Top-30 prospects’ ranking courtesy of MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis. The midseason list, which was posted online Friday, is updated to reflect both the Nats’ new cache of top draftees and international signings and the progress (or lack thereof) that prospects have shown so far this season. (Reminder: There’s about a month left to go for minor leagues, not counting the postseason, to which the Double-A Harrisburg Senators have already booked a ticket.)
Here are the Nats’ top 30 prospects, according to MLB.com:
- SS Carter Kieboom (highest level: MLB, age: 21, acquired: 1st round, 2016)
- INF Luis Garcia (highest level: AA, age: 19, acquired: int’l amateur, 2016)
- RHP Jackson Rutledge (highest level: A, age: 20, acquired: 1st round, 2019)
- RHP Wil Crowe (highest level: AAA, age: 24, acquired: 2nd round, 2017)
- RHP Mason Denaburg (highest level: GCL, age: 19, acquired: 1st round, 2018)
- LHP Tim Cate (highest level: A+, age: 21, acquired: 2nd round, 2018)
- 3B Drew Mendoza (highest level: A, age: 21, acquired: 3rd round, 2019)
- SS/3B Yasel Antuna (highest level: A, age: 19, acquired: int’l amateur, 2016)
- OF Jeremy De La Rosa (highest level: GCL, age: 17, acquired: int’l amateur, 2018)
- C Israel Pineda (highest level: A, age: 19, acquired: int’l amateur, 2016)
- LHP Matt Cronin (highest level: A, age: 21, acquired: 4th round, 2019)
- LHP Seth Romero (highest level: A, age: 23, acquired: 1st round, 2017)
- RHP Sterling Sharp (highest level: AA, age: 24, acquired: 22nd round, 2016)
- RHP Reid Schaller (highest level: A, age: 22, acquired: 3rd round, 2018)
- LHP Taylor Guilbeau (highest level: AAA, age: 26, acquired: 10th round, 2015)
- LHP Ben Braymer (highest level: AAA, age: 25, acquired: 18th round, 2016)
- RHP Andry Lara (highest level: N/A, age: 16, acquired: int’l amateur, 2019)
- RHP Joan Adon (highest level: A, age: 20, acquired: int’l amateur, 2016)
- C Tres Barrera (highest level: AA, age: 24, acquired: 6th round, 2016)
- OF Gage Canning (highest level: A+, age: 22, acquired: 5th round, 2018)
- LHP Aaron Fletcher (highest level: AA, age: 23, acquired: 14th round, 2018)
- RHP Tyler Dyson (highest level: A-, age: 21, acquired: 5th round, 2019)
- RHP Steven Fuentes (highest level: AA, age: 22, acquired: int’l amateur, 2013)
- RHP Malvin Peña (highest level: A+, age: 22, acquired: int’l amateur, 2014)
- RHP James Bourque (highest level: MLB, age: 26, acquired: 14th round, 2014)
- RHP Jackson Tetreault (highest level: AA, age: 23, acquired: 7th round, 2017)
- RHP Kyle Johnston (highest level: A+, age: 23, acquired: 6th round, 2017)
- SS/3B Gilbert Lara (highest level: A+, age: 21, acquired: trade with MIL, 2018)
- 2B/OF Cole Freeman (highest level: A+, age: 24, acquired: 4th round, 2017)
- OF Telmito Agustin (highest level: A+, age: 22, acquired: int’l amateur, 2013)
How does this compare to the previous rankings?
Being brand-new to the Nats system and professional baseball, Jackson Rutledge, Drew Mendoza, Matt Cronin, Andry Lara, and Tyler Dyson weren’t ranked previously. Also new to the list are Aaron Fletcher, Steven Fuentes, Gilbert Lara, and Cole Freeman.
Other notable changes:
- Wil Crowe has leapfrogged Mason Denaburg in the system standings. That’s not terribly surprising, considering Crowe has pitched well since being promoted to Triple-A Fresno several weeks ago and Denaburg, since making a belated professional debut at the start of the GCL season, has underwhelmed.
- Jeremy De La Rosa hasn’t done much in the GCL since making his debut shortly after Denaburg did, but he’s nonetheless jumped a few slots, overtaking Israel Pineda (who has had a disappointing first full season) and a few others.
- After breaking into the top ten, Sterling Sharp struggled and has been on the shelf for several weeks with an injury. He’s slid a few spots, notably dropping below also-injured Seth Romero, who has risen.
- Romero’s gains come at the expense of Gage Canning, who has dropped eleven slots as he scuffles at his new level; Telmito Agustin, who has dropped 20 slots as both his power and speed appear to have vanished altogether; and SS Jose Sanchez, who has fallen off the list altogether in the midst of a dreadful season at the plate.
- Among others in the Nats’ middle tier of starter arms, Malvin Peña slid eleven slots down the list, while RHP Jake Irvin and LHP Nick Raquet have dropped off the list. While Reid Schaller, Jackson Tetreault, and Joan Adon have effectively held more or less steady (as has Kyle Johnston, a little further down the list), it’s been Ben Braymer who has actually risen a few slots (seven, to be exact) as he’s had a solid season.
- A tale of two aging relief prospects: Taylor Guilbeau‘s stock is up, as he’s jumped seven slots to keep pace with fellow Baton Rouge-born lefty Braymer, while James Bourque‘s is down, as the Michigander dropped eight slots despite finally making his (brief) major league debut this year.
- Speaking of aging prospects who have logged time in the major leagues this season, C Raudy Read, 3B/1B Jake Noll, and RHP Kyle McGowin have fallen off the list. In fact, Bourque and Carter Kieboom are the only prospects in this new top-30 grouping who have major league service time (as well as spots on the 40-man roster).
- There’s usually churn toward the bottom of these top-30 lists, whether the system is strong (which the Nats farm these days is not) or weak (which the Nats farm these days is). The casualties: RHP Gabe Klobosits, who recently completed a rehab stint and is now working his way back up the A-ball ranks after Tommy John surgery last season; RHP Brigham Hill, who has also been hurt and has yet to pitch this season; and OF Justin Connell, one of a few marginal young A-ball outfielders who might turn into prospects worth watching but haven’t yet.
Some major takeaways:
- The Nats have among the weakest minor league systems in baseball right now, in terms of potential impact prospects. But that doesn’t mean the system is bereft of potential major league contributors — just that few are likely to be perennial All-Star candidates. Crowe, for instance, has a good chance to have a decent career as an innings-eater at the back of a major league rotation. Cate, Schaller, and Braymer are among those being developed for now as starters but with the potential to serve as high-leverage relievers in The Show. Barrera and Freeman might never win hardware, but they could carve out roles as major league reserves. These aren’t necessarily glamorous jobs, but they are jobs, and the Nats could use cheap, optionable homegrown players to fill them in the near future.
- Speaking of homegrown, once again, as you might expect from the system of a team that’s been contending since early this decade, this list shows nearly every one of the Nats’ top 30 prospects was originally signed by Mike Rizzo. The only exception is Gilbert Lara, who was one of the prospects for whom Rizzo traded Gio Gonzalez to the Milwaukee Brewers last August. Lara, a former top prospect who fell out of favor in the Brewers system, has flashed some of his old potential this season with the Nats as he’s trying to get back on track.
- The Nats have gone heavy on pitchers for the past three draft classes, so unsurprisingly, this list skews toward pitchers: 19 out of 30. Of those, 15 are currently being developed as starters. The four pure relievers on this list (and note that Mayo/Callis tend to value starters and swingmen over pure relievers) are Matt Cronin, Taylor Guilbeau, Aaron Fletcher, and James Bourque.
- If you’re breaking this top-30 list into tiers, from where I’m sitting, it’s not too hard. Carter Kieboom, Luis Garcia, and Jackson Rutledge are the undisputed top three. Wil Crowe, Mason Denaburg, Tim Cate, and Drew Mendoza — let’s call them tier 1.5 for the time being, as they’re generally well-established but aren’t seen as having quite the ceiling of the top three on the list (Denaburg being the possible exception here, although his professional career hasn’t had the cleanest start). The next tier down to about #18 is the middle tier, which encompasses some high-upside prospects who still have some question marks around them (or a lot of question marks, in the case of, say, Seth Romero). I really view #19 through #30 as mostly role players even if they make it, although Aaron Fletcher, Steven Fuentes, and Cole Freeman are having breakout years and do have a chance to pop a little higher.
- Mayo and Callis are close to the gold standard, as far as I’m concerned, but I’m a little surprised they don’t like Jackson Tetreault more. He has allowed too many baserunners since his promotion to Double-A, but he just turned 23 and he’s generally been holding his own at the higher level. I thought he’d be a few spots higher. That being said, he’s been outpitched by teammate Steven Fuentes, so it makes sense for Fuentes to rank just above him.
- Apparently the struggles of Israel Pineda and Sterling Sharp weren’t enough for them to fall much, unlike some other prospects from the previous list. Pineda in particular is still young, and while Sharp hasn’t demonstrated elite run prevention abilities at the Double-A level, he was a groundball machine prior to getting hurt this year, so this is probably a case of Mayo and Callis believing in their long-term potential over their short-term results.
- Jake Irvin hasn’t been great this season, but he hasn’t been awful, either, and he literally just got a nice profile in Baseball America. I’m surprised to see him fall off the list altogether while the likes of Telmito Agustin and Malvin Peña, who haven’t been good at all, are still hanging on by their fingernails. It’s probably an academic distinction, but still.
- I’m not stunned that LHP Carson Teel, OF Nick Banks, and RHP Karlo Seijas missed the cut, but along with Irvin, they’re the types I’d expect to pop up if and when trades subtract from this list, or on the off chance that someone above them graduates prospect status before the end of the season.
One last note: Most of the players on this list haven’t been in the system all that long, but there are exceptions, and that’s where the Rule 5 draft comes into play. From this list, the prospects that will need to be added to the 40-man roster if the Nats don’t want to expose them to the Rule 5 draft in December are Sterling Sharp, Ben Braymer, Taylor Guilbeau, Tres Barrera, Steven Fuentes, Malvin Peña, Gilbert Lara, and Telmito Agustin.