Washington Nationals 2021 MLB Prospects Chat

Happy Nationals prospects day! On the heels of their new top 10, we’ll be answering Washington farm system questions at 2 p.m. ET. 

Bob (Florida):

     I already had Antuna on my radar and the writeup is exciting. Where might he rank among minor league SS/2B prospects?

Lacy Lusk: That’s more of a question for the overall BA staff, but if he backs up his play from this summer with a strong 2021, I’d say he should have some Top 100 consideration. I know international scouting director Johnny DiPuglia believes Antuna and several other players are underrated at this point.

Ben (CA):

     Thanks for making time to take questions. I for one always appreciate it. Any reports out of the alternate site on Israel Pineda?

Lacy Lusk: My pleasure. It’s great to be with you all and discuss the Nats farm system. The reports on Pineda were good. He’s maturing as a hitter and learning how to take more pitches. He showed improvement on both sides of the ball.

Edward (Chicago):

     Seth Romero didn’t make it into the initial 2021 Top 10 prospects for the Nationals. Coaches were speaking highly of him of his improved maturity and also the lethal stuff he was showing at the Alternate Site before being called up by the Nationals. How close is he to breaking the Top 10 and what level do you think he will start at in 2021?

Lacy Lusk: He’s in the next group of five or six outside the top 10 but certainly capable of performing like a Top-10 prospect for the organization. Nats officials do like how he matured this year. They still want him to start, so I’d guess Double-A or Triple-A for Romero. That’s a tough call since he hadn’t pitched above low A before making his big league debut in 2020.

Edward (Chicago):

     Yasel Antuna was a big riser despite the lack of a Minor League Season. Does his rise have more do with the loss of talent to the MLB team (Keiboom and Garcia) or would he have broken the Top 10 regardless based upon the feedback from his performance at the Alternate Site. How does he compare to Keiboom and Garcia?

Lacy Lusk: He would’ve been a fast riser in either case. He has more power potential than either Kieboom or Garcia. All those guys are still young. Garcia probably has the best chance for long-term success, but it would be interesting to see what Antuna could do in a fully healthy season.

Warren (New London):

     What’s your current thinking on Seth Romero? Might the Nationals gamble on him yet pay off?

Lacy Lusk: It certainly could. He has a nasty slider and should eventually find a key role in the bullpen at minimum.

Mike (Honolulu):

     With 8 of the Top 10 being pitchers, is it likely that they use some of them as trade chips? Which pitchers would intrigue OTHER teams the most?

Lacy Lusk: I’d think the Nationals would have hard time parting with Cavalii, Rutledge, Henry or Lara. Anyone outside that group could move in the right deal, but other teams probably don’t have much to go on with a lot of those guys who are either young or coming off injuries.

Mike (Honolulu):

     With Trea Turner and Carter Kieboom on the left side of the infield, where does Yasel Antuna fit in long-term? Does he plug in at SS if Turner leaves in 2023 as a free agent? 2B?

Lacy Lusk: Antuna has improved his footwork around second base, so that’s certainly reasonable that he could wind up at 2B. Either corner is a possibility, too. Garcia would probably be the first option at SS, but Antuna has a chance to stay at the position.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     Cole Freeman looks like he is a speedy fellow who can hit for average, and was a 2nd round draft choice – did he make the top 30 Nats prospect list so he will be in the Handbook?

Lacy Lusk: He’ll probably fall out of the 30 this year. It was a tough year for several of those 2019 Potomac players who didn’t quite earn a spot in the 60-man player pool and were too old for instructional league. Hopefully they’ll show in 2021 that they should still be on the radar.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     So it looks like the Nationals farm system will be Rochester (confirmed), Harrisburg, Fredericksburg (with new stadium), ?, and the GCL team. Bye bye to Auburn and Hagerstown. So who is your guess on ?

Lacy Lusk: I’m following JJ Cooper’s feed a few times a day hoping to see who the other Class A affiliate will be. I know the Mets and Yankees have left Columbia and Charleston available, so the Nats should be able to land in a good market from the former South Atlantic League — whether’s it’s one of those two or a different one.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     An old guy at 33 years of age Brandon Snyder hit 31 homers in Fresno in 2019. With this power do you figure he makes it to 2021 Washington roster, and maybe the position player lineup?

Lacy Lusk: The Westfield High grad certainly has the power, but he’ll need an opportunity like the one Yadiel Hernandez got in 2020 to show what he can do.

Andrew (MA):

     Among players outside the top 10, who stood out at the alternate site?

Lacy Lusk: Matt Cronin, Drew Mendoza and Jackson Cluff, among others. All were 2019 draft picks, and they all improved their stock this summer.

DR (RIP Hagerstown):

     Is Yasel Antuna’s status as best hitting prospect and best power prospect More a function of a weak system? Or is he that good? His slide down the spectrum reminds me a bit of Mountcastle. Is that a fair approximation?

Lacy Lusk: I think Nats prospect fans were spoiled with Robles Soto and Garcia being so advanced at such young ages. Those tools have been there for Antuna, who signed for $3.85 million, but he just hasn’t been healthy. There are only so many Sotos — or even Robleses and Garcias — who can reach the majors that quickly, but Antuna is still just 21. Even sliding down the spectrum wouldn’t be so bad if he can hit like Mountcastle, but he also has more arm than Mountcastle and I think a chance to stay in the infield.

Bored Lawyer Esq. (MD):

     I know Israel Pineda was mentioned as a potential dude this time last year, but had an uneven 2019. Any word on how 2020 has been for him?

Lacy Lusk: It was a good summer for him, and he’s still a potential dude who could become a No. 1 catcher. Just has to stay healthy and develop — like a lot of these guys.

Bill B (Glen Allen, VA):

     Thanks for taking our questions… I guess mine revolves around player development in the Nationals system. Their team seems to have so gaps in terms of who is up next at multiple positions. Soto is awesome and hopefully Robles will continue to develop… but concerned about Carter Kieboom (are you?) and the overall state of the minor leagues. A World Series win sometimes begins the exodus of key role players, and some stars too. Just wondering if the Nationals farm system will help the Nationals short term, given that the Mets will likely improve, the Braves are looking like division winners for many years, and the Marlins overachieved last year and appear to be on the upswing.

Lacy Lusk: It’s hard not to be concerned with Kieboom after he had just one extra-base hit in 2020, and yes, there aren’t many top prospects in the upper minors now. There does seem to be some pitching depth, and I expect a few international prospects to really step forward soon. It did take some trades to build a World Series winner, but many of the same officials are still running the minor leagues, and I expect the system to get restocked to a level where the big league team will stay competitive.

Jacob (Wilmington, NC):

     Is 2021 the year Jake Noll gets a real shot as the Nats utility infielder? Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia look like they need a bit more time at AAA.

Lacy Lusk: Jake Noll’s another guy who drew raves for his play at the alt site. If he keeps hitting like he has, he could find some big league at-bats.

DR (Earth):

     Anything on Jake Irwin? I know the stats aren’t loud, but I saw him a fair few times in Hagerstown and he looked the part of a potential big league arm.

Lacy Lusk: He was on the cusp of getting a major league shot, but now he needs Tommy John surgery. The Nats expect to have Irvin back as a key part of the system in 2022.

Dan (Lansing):

     Do you feel Cavalli could have #2 upside? Or is he more of a #3/4? In your pre draft report it was stated even with his premium stuff he was more hittable then expected. At the alternate site did this seem better, worse, or the same? Thanks for the chat! Absolutely love these!

Lacy Lusk: I’d say No. 2 upside. He has four plus pitches and fit right in at the alt site.

Kirk (VA):

     What does Drew Mendoza need to improve upon for the Nats to consider him a future fit at 1B or DH? I recently read that Troy Gingrich was impressed with adjustments made to Mendoza’s swing that will hopefully unlock more power.

Lacy Lusk: The Nats would still like to see him be more aggressive early in counts, but he’s making good adjustments.

Jeff (CT):

     If Antuna stayed healthy the past two years, based off what you have seen from him recently, would have a shot at being the number 1 prospect in this system? Is part of the reason he was ranked 4th due to his injury history? Does he have a higher ceiling than the players above him?

Lacy Lusk: Those top two pitching prospects are solid, but a healthy Antuna would’ve been capable of being right there with them. I look forward to seeing what he can do in a healthy season.

Mark (OR):

     Any sense of where Armando Cruz would rank among Nats prospects if/when his signing becomes official?

Lacy Lusk: He’d go up somewhere in the top six or seven (and probably higher), just on his defensive talent alone.

Chuck (White House):

     I’ve heard nothing but great things about Andry Lara without him pitching in a pro game yet. Anyone else from the 2019 int’l class making waves?

Lacy Lusk: Outfielder Roismar Quintana stands out the most out of the rest of that bunch. He has a feel to hit and legitimate power potential.

JD (AZ):

     How does the Nats organization view Kieboom in view of his major league struggles, notably the lack of extra base power?

Lacy Lusk: He’s still just 23, but 2021 will be a key year for him.

Edward (Illinois):

     Jeremy De La Rosa has been a fast riser in the Nats system without not alot of Minor League Experience. Do you envision him as someone that could make a Soto like jump to the majors based on the Nationals thin outfield depth (and possible regression by Robles)? Also any thoughts on Daniel Marte, another guy that is being hyped by the Nats?

Lacy Lusk: Glad you asked about Marte. He’s definitely a candidate to be a breakout prospect. He’s only 18 and can hit to right-center field with power. De La Rosa will probably need some time, but he held his own against older competition in the summer in Fredericksburg. Thanks so much for all of your questions. Hope to see you at a minor league ballpark next year!

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