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Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals built their 2019 Championship on the back of their minor league system.  Their core was built from within.  That’s the way you want to do it.  However, as with most organizations, their minor league system got depleted in the process.  While I’m not sure there are any surefire Top 100 prospects in the system, I like both Cade Cavalli and Cole Henry, their first two picks in the 2020 draft.  Both have live arms with Major League talent.  Further down, I like Eddy Yean and Andry Lara.  While both are young, they have power arsenals that could look good in the Nationals bullpen in a few years.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: Cade Cavalli
  • Biggest Mover: Andry Lara
  • Emerging Prospect: Armando Cruz

1. Cade Cavalli (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 40 SP
  • Tools Summary: Raw, athletic pitcher with front-of-the-rotation stuff.  He doesn’t always throw strikes but there’s a lot to like

The Nationals selected Cade Cavalli with the 13th pick last June out of the University of Oklahoma.  He began his college career as a two-way player, but after striking out 30% of the time in his freshman year, turned his focus to pitching.  It’s a good thing as he has great stuff.  He has a fastball that he can scrape the upper 90s with a wipeout slider.  He also shows a feel for a change-up.  While the stuff is good, he doesn’t always throw strikes and until his truncated junior year, he lacked a true putaway pitch.  He has mid-rotation upside, perhaps more, but he’s raw and needs more development time than a typical college first-round pick needs.

2. Jackson Rutledge (RHP)

Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 SP or High-Leveraged Bullpen arm

Tools Summary: Great size with a double-plus fastball. 

The Nationals selected Jackson Rutledge in the first round of the 2019 MLB Draft (Pick #17).  While he only pitched in Junior College, Rutledge has the size and stuff that attracted a lot of attention prior to the draft.  He’s 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds with a fastball that can touch the upper 90s.  His slider is also a nice weapon with tight spin that misses plenty of bats.  He doesn’t always repeat his delivery and that is leading to inconsistent control.  The upside is a number three starter with a floor of a reliever.

3. Cole Henry (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP or Closer
  • Tools Summary: Good size with a power-arsenal.  There is effort in the delivery though and that could mean a bullpen role long-term

The Nationals drafted Cole Henry in the second round last June after a short, but successful career at LSU.  In 18 games, he pitched to a slightly over three ERA striking out 11 per nine while walking 2.8.  He has a power-arsenal with a plus fastball-slider combination.  In looking at Video, there is a lot of effort though in the delivery.  Pitchers with that effort many times wind up in the bullpen. However, I like the arsenal a lot and believe he’s a kid worth investing in a deep Dynasty League.

4. Tim Cate (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 SP
  • Tools Summary: Average fastball, plus curve and control. 

Tim Cate had a nice season in 2019 and had a chance to see the Major Leagues in the second half of 2020 but the Covid-19 virus did not allow that to happen.  He commands three pitches with his curveball grading out as plus, if not more.  His fastball runs a little light at 89 to 91 MPH but there is enough movement so that it grades out at average.  Each pitch plays up because of his plus control.  If you put it all together, the upside is a number four pitcher, maybe slightly more at the highest level.

5. Wil Crowe (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP or reliever
  • Tools Summary: Strike thrower with average stuff

Wil Crowe got a late-season call-up in 2020 and started three games down the stretch for the Nationals.  He threw 8.1 innings, striking out eight but also walking eight.  The result was an ugly 11.88 ERA.  While his fastball velocity only averaged 91.5 MPH, it had a solid active spin rate.  His slider and curveball both had good spin but with modest whiff rates.  In the minor leagues, he always threw strikes, so the eight walks in eight innings were disappointing.  If you add it all up, the profile suggests a back-of-the-rotation starter or bullpen arm.

6. Armando Cruz (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Int’l Player projected to sign ETA: 2023+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS with risk
  • Tools Summary: Glove-first profile with potential soft offensive tools.

Armando Cruz is slated to collect on one of the largest international bonuses for the 2020-21 class.  One source told me that defensively, he looks like a young Andrelton Simmons.  Offensively, he has good bat speed, a solid approach at the plate but candidly, he doesn’t project to having any true offensive carrying tool.  I’ll take a stab at a potential stat line.  I could see him hitting .270 with 10 to 12 home runs and a handful of stolen bases.  That’s not a great ceiling, but from what I’ve been told, it’s a glove-first profile.

7. Yasel Antuna (SS/2B)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS/2B
  • Tools Summary: Highly thought on International signee but two years of injury has cast doubts on his ultimate ceiling.

The Nationals spent nearly four million dollars to sign Yasel Antuna in 2016 and after his professional debut in 2017, it looked like they had hit on an impact player.  He walked nearly as much as he struck out in rookie ball and while he didn’t hit for a ton of power, he showed great bat speed.  Unfortunately, he had Tommy John surgery in 2018 and only appeared in three games in 2019.  Then 2020 came and well, it’s been a long-time since Antuna has played. The International scouting report was strong enough to warrant a huge signing bonus and his initial professional debut was great.  So, for now, Dynasty League owners need to just be patient until we can see some at-bats.

8. Drew Mendoza (1B)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 1B
  • Tools Summary: Size and strength but tools do not suggest an impact performer at the highest level.

The Nationals drafted Drew Mendoza in the third round of the 2019 MLB Draft.  At 6-foot-5 and a listed 230 pounds, he’s a big kid with a simple swing that on first look, appears to be able to hit and hit for power. However, when I saw him, the bat speed wasn’t great, and he expanded the strike zone.  He played third in college but appears to have moved full-time to first base.  The position change will put pressure on his bat and while I think he’ll make it to the Majors; I don’t see an impact performer.  A good baseline would be a .250/.340/.450 hitter with 15 to 20 home runs.

9. Mason Denaburg (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 SP
  • Tools Summary: Athletic with a great arm but has not been able to stay healthy.

Mason Denaburg was the Nationals’ first-round pick in 2018 and has yet to stay healthy.  Since being drafted, he’s pitched only 20.1 innings posting a 7.52 ERA.  Despite the injuries, there continues to be a lot to get excited about.  He’s athletic with a fastball that can touch the upper nineties (although he didn’t show that in 2019) and a curveball and change-up that both flash plus.  He needs to get out and pitch and candidly pitch well to prove to the Nationals and the baseball world that his injury issues are behind him.

10. Andry Lara (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: Athletic with potentially top-of-the-rotation stuff

A lot of people across the industry believe in Andry Lara.  He’s athletic with size and a big explosive fastball.  He’s also 17-years-old and extremely raw.  While I’m intrigued, I’ve been doing this long enough to not bet much on a 17-year-old Latin player who has yet to play in a professional game.  Dynasty League owners need to bid accordingly.

11. Eddy Yean (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: Power arsenal but height could make him homer prone

Signed in 2017 for a modest $100,000, Eddy Yean has become one of the more interesting arms in the Nationals system.  He has a power-arsenal with a fastball that can scrape the mid-90s, a slider that misses bats with a feel for a change-up.  It’s a starter arsenal but at 6-foot-1, he could be homer prone.  He should start the 2021 season in Low-A with a chance to finish the season in Fredericksburg (Carolina League).

12. Sammy Infante (SS)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Middle Infielder
  • Tools Summary: Solid offensive and defensive tools but nothing that stands out

The Nationals drafted Sammy Infante in the supplemental second round last June out of Monsignor High School in Miami.  He’s long been a fixture on the showcase circuit with evaluators impressed with his all-around skills.  From a Dynasty League standpoint, there are no standout tools.  That said, there is good bat speed, and the hope is that he will develop 15+ home run power.  For now, he’s on our watch list and not someone who should be considered in a Dynasty League.

13. Holden Powell (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Closer
  • Tools Summary: Top closer taken in the 2020 Draft

The Nationals drafted Holden Powell in the third round of the 2020 Draft.  He served as UCLA’s closer for his three-year college career, saving 23 games, posting a 2.52.  His bread and butter pitch is a double-plus slider that he pairs with a plus fastball.  He can throw both for strikes and assuming he does that once he starts pitching professionally, he should make quick work of the minor leagues.

14. Telmito Agustin (OF)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 OF
  • Tools Summary: A little speed and power, but he hasn’t been able to repeat his early success at controlling the strike zone.

I got very excited about Telmito Agustin when he got off to a blazing start to the 2018 season.  He was showing power, speed, and a great understanding of the strike zone.  He got hurt in July and clearly, the small sample size caught up to him because he’s been very ordinary since.  But, I usually give athletic players with speed a little extra time, particularly when we didn’t learn anything new because of a pandemic.

15. Seth Romero (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Not sure
  • Tools Summary: Poor Major League debut might signal it’s time to move on

Seth Romero got a chance to see what he could do in the Major Leagues in 2020 and while it was only three outings and 2.2 innings, it didn’t go well.  Sure, he gave up four runs and walked three, but it was the stuff that didn’t resonate for me.  The fastball sat 91.7 with a poor spin rate and the slider wasn’t good either.  I keep telling myself it was a tiny sample size, but it wasn’t a good showing.  When you combine that with his injury and disciplinary history, it might be time to move on.

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