Rankings of the #Nats Top-15 prospects and the future of the farm system!

Youth on display; Photo by Sol Tucker for TalkNats

The first prospect rankings that have included the 17 year old Cristhian Vaquero, aka The Phenomenon, were put out today by MLB Pipeline. and he debuts at №5. In all, MLB Pipeline has  ranked the top prospects from one-to-thirty in the Washington Nationals’ farm system. 

We had done our rankings back in early February with Vaquero as our №4 prospect in the Nats system because we followed Baseball America (subscription required) and included  Keibert Ruiz in there, like Baseball America did. With Josiah Gray graduated and no longer a prospect, and removing Ruiz, we moved everyone up a spot in our updated rankings.

In the December rankings on MLB Pipeline of all MLB farm systems, they bumped the Nats system up to №20 overall — and keep in mind that they are not counting Ruiz in their rankings, or Vaquero at that time. At Baseball America, they had the Nats ranked at №20 and just moved them back to №26 with no explanations as to the decline. The usually pessimistic Keith Law, ranks the Nats as the №27 farm system in his report at The Athletic. Certainly the Nats are in the bottom third of all farm systems. The system is top heavy with future stars like Cade Cavalli, Brady House and Vaquero — then you have a steep drop-off.

The truth is, even if you added all the players acquired in the previous eight months like Ruiz with Vaquero, House, Daylen Lile, Aldo Ramirez, Gerardo Carrillo, Donovan Casey, Drew Millas, Seth ShumanLucius FoxJordy Barley, and Richard Guasch, the farm system is still very top heavy and suffers from years of questionable draft choices and poor player development.

The excuses of blaming the poor farm rankings on players who were traded during the playoff runs — is no longer a valid excuse because none of those key players traded in those blockbuster trades by the Nats for Sean Doolittle/Ryan Madson, Adam Eaton, and Yan Gomes are considered to be prospects at this time.

Even with the dozen newer players  who were added in the last year that we considered in our prospect rankings, this would not be a top farm system ranking in the upper half of MLB’s thirty teams. Whether you believe the Nats have the 20th best farm like MLB Pipeline, that still is not good for a team that is in a rebuild.

At some point, other players have to step up to push this farm forward, hence giving this team a better shot in the future to build from within. Remember, the 2014 Nats playoff team was built on mostly homegrown talent and players the Nats traded for as prospects (Wilson Ramos and Tyler Clippard) and long-shot (Tanner Roark). Think about that team with Nats’ draftees Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, along with Roark anchoring that rotation with 2012’s big trade acquisition Gio Gonzalez. The infield was all home-grown with Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon. The outfield had the Nats’ homegrown youngster Bryce Harper, and it was Ramos at catcher. The bullpen had Craig Stammen, Drew Storen, and Clippard. The team’s biggest free agent on that team was Jayson Werth.

This is the troubling part to foresee enough of these prospects who could be integral parts of the Nats next run at a pennant. You hope Ruiz, House, Cavalli, Vaquero and a couple more are future stars and part of the new core. The teenage defensive whiz, Armando Cruz, is part of minor league camp. Will he be able to step up into the future list of stars? Maybe Ruiz will be better than Ramos, and House could be better than Desmond, and Vaquero can grab the reigns as the best centerfielder in Nats history, but besides Cavalli and Gray — how will the Nats build that killer rotation from within like they had done before? Truthfully that would probably have to come from free agency to at least find their #1 anchor at the top of the rotation like they did with Max Scherzer.

Rank Name Position Bats DOB Age today Projected date of MLB Debut
1 Cade Cavalli RHP R Friday, August 14, 1998 23.5 2022
2 Brady House SS/3B R Wednesday, June 4, 2003 18.75 2024
2 Cristhian Vaquero OF S Monday, September 13, 2004 17.5 2025
4 Cole Henry RHP R Thursday, July 15, 1999 22.75 2023/2024
5 Andry Lara RHP R Monday, January 6, 2003 19 2025
6 Armando Cruz SS R Friday, January 16, 2004 18 2025
7 Jackson Rutledge RHP R Thursday, April 1, 1999 22.9 2023
8 Joan Adon RHP R Wednesday, August 12, 1998 23.5 2021
9 Yasel Antuna OF S Tuesday, October 26, 1999 22.33 2023
10 Jeremy De La Rosa OF L Wednesday, January 16, 2002 20 2024
11 Daylen Lile OF L Saturday, November 30, 2002 19 2025
12 Aldo Ramirez RHP R Sunday, May 6, 2001 20.75 2024
13 Mitchell Parker LHP L Monday, September 27, 1999 22.5 2023
14 Gerardo Carrillo RHP R Thursday, September 3, 1998 23.5 2022
15 Roismar Quintana OF R Thursday, February 6, 2003 19 2024

After the top-2 and giving all the respect to the evaluators on Vaquero, this Top-3 is elite, and for the rest, they have to show it. We dropped Yasel Antuna down on the list, and Jackson Rutledge has to stay healthy and productive to get back to the top of the prospect rankings.

Some notable names who did not make our Top-15 are Matt CroninTim CateSammy Infante,  Branden BoissiereDonovan CaseyJackson CluffDrew MillasEvan Lee, Mason Denaburg, Lucius FoxJordy BarleyRichard GuaschIsrael PinedaSeth Shuman, T.J. White, and Jackson Tetreault. We left Seth Romero off of our list as he was reportedly arrested for DUI  in Texas in January.

The good news on the 22 year old Denaburg is that he began throwing from the mound yesterday in West Palm Beach.

While Cluff and Tetreault are both 25 years old, the Nats still have prospect status on Jake Noll, and he is now 27. Noll hit .300 last year at Triple-A Rochester, and should get an opportunity in 2022 to play again for the Nats. With De Jon Watson in charge of player development under general manager Mike Rizzo, we hope to see at least one or more of these hidden gems emerge as a future star. Watson has a tall order, but as bad as the player development had been, the only way to go is up.

There is plenty of debate as to the placement of players in prospect rankings, and there should be. Keep in mind that Juan Soto was never the Top Prospect for the Nats as Carter Kieboom topped that spot in Baseball America rankings. It is always interesting in hindsight to take a look back at these lists.

Speaking of Soto, if the Nationals are able to extend his contract for another ten years or more, then you can start to see the future if Cavalli, House, and Vaquero at the very least become stars, and whoever the Nats draft at  №5 this year turns out to be a star. You might see the other teams in the NL East fade by the time the calendar turns to 2024, and the Nats could move up to the top.  A lot of “ifs” in there, and we think that quite possibly the Nats could build a really good lineup from within for the future. Sprinkle in a free agent or two, and you might just have the makings of a great team with a free agent ace at the top of the rotation.

Yesterday, Cavalli dazzled against a bunch of the Astros’ minor leaguers to wrap up a win in the third Spring Training game of the Grapefruit League schedule. He struck out six Astros over his three innings to finish the game while only allowing one baserunner via a single. Maybe the future is brighter is than the present.

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