2023 Washington Nationals Top 10 Prospects Chat

Savannah McCann answered questions regarding the Nationals system today at 3 p.m. ET. You can read the transcript here.

Scott (Boston):

     Given all the injuries Cole Henry has faced, is his home now firmly in the bullpen? And if so, is his stuff good enough to be a back end guy?

Savannah McCann: I wish I had a better answer for you, Scott! Henry’s future is a big question mark right now. He had thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) surgery in August and will need at least six to eight months to rehab/recover. The organization expects him to be back for the end of spring training, however that timeline is just an estimate. TOS surgery has been hit-or-miss in its success rate. Some are able to return to the same level of play, while others (like Stephen Strasburg) continue to struggle. The Nats are very high on Henry. So, if he is OK to pitch, there will be a spot for him.

Warren (New London):

     Jake Alu is an older prospect, but he had a very good year and seems to have improved a lot at third base. How close was he to the top 10? Could he win the 3B job from Jeimer Candelario and Carter Kieboom?

Savannah McCann: A few months ago, this question would have seemed crazy (unless of course, you follow the Nats minor league system *wink). Alu has done nothing but produce since he was drafted. I think the organization has always been focused on Carter Kieboom … until now. That is not to say that they have completely moved on. However, both of these prospects are 25-years-old. One has improved defense, makes routine plays and produces at the plate. The other has struggled and faced a few injuries. The starting 3B job is not Alu’s to lose, but I think there will be a healthy competition at spring training.

Chauncey (Centennial):

     How far away is Armando Cruz from the top 10 and what are you hearing about his potential upside?

Savannah McCann: Cruz was juuuust outside the top 10. His ceiling is one of the elite defensive shortstops in baseball. Scouts raved about his glove. Now … he is still very young and needs to prove that he can hit. Those are two keys to his development but his ability to make crazy plays look routine should pave his way to Nats Park.

Warren (New London):

     I was surprised to see Yasel Antuna listed as the best hitter for average, after a season where he drew a lot of walks but didn’t do much else. I assume this means the organization still believes in him, as is also evidenced by them sending him to the Fall League. How close is he to the top 10? This system sure looks a lot better with James Wood in it!

Savannah McCann: Hi Warren! Sorry for the confusion … the Best Tools found on the landing page are the updated ones (not the ones found on the organization page — we are working on that now!) BUT… the best hitter for average is Robert Hassell. He owned that title in the Padres organization too. Now, for Yasel Antuna. He has officially dropped out of the Nationals Top 30. He really struggled at Double-A this season and the bat just isn’t coming along like the Nats hoped.

Ben (New York):

     Who would you pick in a prospect draft between James Wood and Andruw Jones ? Wood might have a slightly lower ceiling but feels like a safer pick

Savannah McCann: This is a great question. I think you are right that Wood is the safer pick. Plus, his hit/power combo is something to be really excited about. He’s proven at pro level (not to mention impressive). Drew just came off shoulder surgery, but hopefully he follows in the footsteps of other Dbacks prospects who come back shoulder injury that and MASH. Not a huge deal, but it is something to watch. I’m stealing this line from Carlos Collazo … Druw Jones might wind up being the prospect we all thought Victor Robles was going to be.

Savannah McCann: I imagine these two prospects are going to rank close to each other on our updated Top 100.

Charlie H (Wheaton, MD):

     Can we assume it will be a full year at Low A for Brady House? Has there been any update to the status of his injury, which was sort of cryptically described as “back isues”?

Savannah McCann: That is a safe assumption. He will need a full, healthy year to get some reps and work on any hitting concerns. From what we heard, House tried playing through a back injury before he was shut down in June. He also had Covid, which messed with his power. This year makes total sense now knowing he was hurt almost all season. Now … if this doesn’t immediately go back to normal the Nationals have a problem on their hands.

Bill B (Glen Allen, VA):

     Cade Cavalli… another good year. A little improved control with his great stuff take him to the majors for good in May or June? Thanks

Savannah McCann: Great year for Cavalli! The Nationals are going to lean on him to be part of the rebuilding rotation. I could see him being on the Opening Day roster (however, that does play into team control … so maybe the Nationals wait). The Nats wanted to see him use his changeup more for strikes. That is the next big step in his development.

Scott (Boston):

     Does Jarlin Susana have the upside that he could follow the trajectory of Eury Perez?

Savannah McCann: Great question! Geoff Pontes helped me out with this one: “While Susana has big upside and loud stuff his arsenal isn’t quite as deep or as refined from a command standpoint as Perez. A majority of Susana’s usage is fastball and slider, while Perez shows four pitches consistently. Stuff wise Susana is right there but there’s more reliever risk and less refinement at the same age.”

Kirk (Virginia):

     Looking at pitchers from outside the top 10 (Jake Bennett, Aldo Ramirez, Andry Lara, etc.) and thinking a few years down the road, who do you see as most likely to push their way into a rotation spot?

Savannah McCann: Jake Bennett landed just outside the top 10. His changeup is a thing of beauty and the best in the Nats system. He’s really effective at collecting outs and working through longer outings. I could see him being No. 4 or 5 starter at some point. Lara is interesting. He’s great at taking feedback and making changes. Scouts are worries about his body and need him to put on some muscle before they see him a a true top prospect. He’s very athletic and has a really smooth delivery. If he can develop a third plus pitch, he could sneak into a rotation spot.

Gibbs (Maryland):

     There have been some new positions posted/hirings with an apparent focus on analytics. How do you see that being used with some of the younger talent in the system?

Savannah McCann: The Nationals are going to install Hawk-Eye tracking software at every level of the minor league system. That will give them A TON of information to use, especially for the younger talent. They really want to utilize biomechanics and data analytics, as well as hiring people that can explain this to players so it is something they can use.

Ben (Indiana):

     Pre-Draft analysis had Brady House having a potential 70 power grade. Given he didnt hit for nearly enough power last year and he had some pretty ugly K/BB ratios and fielding percentages under .900, is he transitioning from an elite all-star caliber potential to a platoon/everyday type player?

Savannah McCann: Before we knew the extent of his injury, I would have the same question as you. However, we are basically going to call this season a mulligan. House was dealing with back issues and Covid, both of which really messed with his ability to hit for power. I said it once … and I’ll say it again. IF House doesn’t look back to his potential 70 power-grade self when he gets started again, the Nats may have a problem. This is not to say that the injury is the only reason House struggled this year. He needs to work on being less aggressive at the plate and hitting balls inside the zone.

Rob (New York):

     What did the Nationals find in Brennan Cox?

Savannah McCann: Cox is right outside of the Top 30 but he is an interesting prospect (and could very well jump on this list). He’s got a nice lefty swing, and a real chance for power. He’s a plus runner and has a great arm. He could stick at the centerfield position (but his arm would be great in right field if needed). He could be a good everyday player. The tools are there, for sure.

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