Washington Nationals 2022 Top 10 MLB Prospects Chat

Joe Healy discusses our brand new Nationals Top 10, which you can see here.

Brad (NJ):

     Cole Henry looks like he has great stuff, but with the injury issues, and workload concerns, how likely is he to be a SP or is he likely to end up being a RP long term? This seems to be a big risk to his value for us fantasy owners.

Joe Healy: I did get some reliever risk feedback from at least one evaluator in this process, and specifically that he has a bit of a reliever arm action. The workload question is very real, as he just doesn’t have that many innings under his belt, even going back to his LSU days. But everything else — the stuff, the repertoire, the build — points to a starting pitcher. I understand the worry, especially from a fantasy standpoint, but I’d give him some more time to prove it.

Joey (New Jersey):

     It feels like Cole Henry is flying under the radar because he missed the middle of the season this year. But when he was on the mound, he was untouchable. Is it crazy to think he could be better than Cavalli? He’s more refined, throws strikes, etc.

Joe Healy: First off, I think you’re right that the timing of Henry’s injury kept him from getting as much attention as he otherwise would have. Could Henry end up better than Cavalli? Sure, but Cavalli’s stuff is a separator. Henry has very good stuff. Cavalli’s stuff is some of the best in the minor leagues. While Cavalli has work to do to catch up to some of the finer points of the pitching craft, as you allude to, I’m betting on that stuff.

NexGen Nats (DMV):

     Overall I like your top 10, with one exception: Yasel Antuna at 4? He was objectively bad this year. A 40-man roster guy who committed nearly 40 errors and could not hit his way out of A ball? Oof. I just don’t see much there anymore. He still has upside with the bat IMO, but where in the world will he play? Can he hit enough to play a corner outfield spot?

Joe Healy: It was a tale of two seasons for Antuna. He got off to a 4-for-67 start, and so even though he got hot in the middle of the season, he was never totally able to come out of that hole. I talked to enough people who believed in the bat to think that his second-half form was more real than the slump of the first half. Remember that he had only played three total games since the 2018 season. That’s a lot of rust to knock off, and I think that’s what we saw in his slow start. He’s moving to the corner outfield full time now, and I think he’s got a real chance to hit enough for that.

Hogie (MoCo, Md.):

     Jackson Rutledge has deservedly fallen on your list. I’m not ready to give up on him yet, but it feels like two lost seasons for him after an encouraging pro debut in 2019. However, I think there’s a viable path for him as a nasty late-inning reliever. How long until the Nats should consider taking that path?

Joe Healy: It was a tough year for Rutledge, no doubt, especially coming off of a 2019 season that I would agree was quite encouraging. Most of the feedback outside of the organization I got on him was couched in assuming he was never fully healthy in 2021, and his viability as a starter is very much in question according to many of those same folks. That said, there’s not a ton of reason to rush to pushing him to the bullpen. That option will always be there, and as you suggest, he has the stuff for it. Better to give him some extra leash to try to start than give up on it too early. One piece of feedback I got on Rutledge really stuck with me. It said that as of 2020 instructs, this person felt that Rutledge was neck and neck with Cavalli in terms of prospect status. That’s just one opinion, sure, but it’s that potential that will keep the Nationals pushing for Rutledge to start.

Turge (College Park):

     Armando Cruz didn’t hit a lick in the Dominican Summer League. His skillset was always about speed and D. But should we be concerned about that?

Joe Healy: Offense is the biggest question mark in his game, so you’re right to look at that critically, but I’d say it’s too early to be overly concerned. The club likes his natural bat-to-ball skills and that’s always a good starting point. And when his defensive ceiling is such that some think he could be an elite big league defensive SS, you’re willing to give a lot of benefit of the doubt that the bat will come along.

Belvis (A pit of despair):

     Should I still be optimistic about Tim Cate? His numbers were pretty bad this year, but he looked better late. Seems like maybe his path is as a curveball-heavy reliever.

Joe Healy: I think you should be fairly optimistic that he’ll find his way to the big leagues for intangible reasons as much as anything else, but the margins are just so thin for him. His curveball is excellent, but if he isn’t locating everything else in his repertoire, he’s going to get hit. The stuff just isn’t good enough otherwise. I had to banish Cate to the bullpen too quickly, because he has proven to be pretty durable and one of his strengths is his ability to truly pitch to get outs, but if he ends up with just one above-average pitch, a move to the bullpen might be tempting.

Joey F. (New Jersey):

     Watching the postseason, every time I see Austin Riley I think “This is potentially what Brady House could look like if he outgrows shortstop.” Is that fair? Crazy power but still athletic enough to field the position at a very high level.

Joe Healy: Since I’m not a scout myself, I try not to delve into the player comp waters all that often, but I don’t think that’s crazy. Obviously, the org loves what he did at the plate in his debut (I have him as the best power bat in the system already), and while he’s not the flashiest defender, he has good hands and instincts, which helps him make basically every routine play. And oh by the way, people inside the org have him as one of the closest 2021 draftees to the big leagues, a real rarity for a HS player.

aholla (NYC):

     Joan Adon opened a lot of eyes in his MLB debut, more than holding his own against a great Red Sox lineup. It feels like he may be a lot better than any of us realize. His stuff is electric. What do you see as his future role? He reminds me a lot of former Nats prospect Reynaldo Lopez: electric arm but not very big.

Joe Healy: I think Adon did himself a lot of good in 2021, even before his debut against the Red Sox. He went from a guy with a lot of reliever red flags to someone who has given himself a chance to be in the big league rotation next season. There’s a reason he’s catapulted all the way into the top 10. Would his stuff (electric is a good word) play well in a relief role? Yes, but he’s proven he’s a starter.

NexGen Nats (DMV):

     I watched every Gerardo Carrillo start after the trade and am left confused by what to make of him. His stuff is clearly plus, but he is quite inconsistent with it. He’ll pepper the outside corner at 95, then throw a slider in the opposite batters’ box. He also seems to lack poise and get bothered by the umpire. Personally, I think he’s a reliever. Am I making too much of a small sample for a guy transitioning to a new organization?

Joe Healy: You’re right to zero in on control concerns with Carrillo. It’s below-average control, plain and simple. In the projected 2025 lineup, I have Carrillo listed as the closer, so that tells you where I’m at with his future role. But the thing is, he has the stuff to be one of the best short relievers in the game. He has one of the three best fastballs in the system alongside Cavalli and Rutledge, and his might be the nastiest of the three when you consider it’s high-90s velocity paired with crazy run. When you can then run his power slider the other direction, that’s nearly impossible to hit.

NexGen Nats (DMV):

     One guy I like who doesn’t get much pub is OF Ricardo Mendez. He quietly had a very nice season. Do you have any thoughts about him?

Joe Healy: This is a great name to file away. I had a rival evaluator describe Mendez as a “cheap five-tool player,” because there really aren’t any standout tools, but he has average tools across the board. The key for him has been that he’s improved defensively, because for him to really be able to provide value long-term, he’ll probably need to stay in CF.

Cletus Van Damme (Murrlan, Hon):

     The Nats really wasted almost a decade on really bad Draft yields, but I’m pretty optimistic they have righted that ship with the 2020-21 classes. Other than high-end talents such as Cavalli and House, there are some good signs with non-first-rounders: Henry, Parker, T.J. White, etc. Is my optimism warranted?

Joe Healy: It’s early, of course, but I think so. It’s still not a loaded system, but the hauls the org got from the deadline deals and the last two drafts have really started to turn the tide in terms of organizational talent.

Frederick (Boston):

     Hi Joe, thanks for the chat! Two young guys making their debut stateside this year, what are the reviews like for Jeremy De La Rosa and Daniel Marte? Were they close to the top 10 at all and what would you say they need to do to get there?

Joe Healy: De La Rosa was close to the top 10. He really got squeezed mostly because the organization has more talent in it this year thanks to the deadline deals and the 2021 draft. He’s really raw, not just in terms of his play on the field, but right down to things like how to properly set up and position himself in the outfield. But he’s a plus runner underway and there’s lot of confidence he’s a future plus defender. There’s a lot more varied opinions on what he is offensively. Most see at least an average hitter. He shows plus power in spurts, so the tool is there, but some still doubt if he’ll be more than a below-average power hitter in games. The numbers might not show it, but some of the feedback on Marte is that he was one of the most consistent guys in the FCL Nats lineup. Defensive tools are there, including a strong arm and plus speed. Looks like a CF so far. The biggest thing with him is plate discipline.

Ben Badler Stan (Here and There):

     If you had to pick someone not in the top 10 who has potential to make a big jump next year, who would it be and why?

Joe Healy: Always a fun question. I’ll go with Aldo Ramirez. He’s not too far from the top 10, so he’s not necessarily a deep sleeper. He has long been lauded for things like command, feel for his secondary pitches and his ability to pitch rather than just throw. But his stuff has also ticked up over the last couple of years, to where his fastball is now touching the high 90s. If that progress continues and he doesn’t lose his knack for those more nuanced aspects of pitching, now you’ve got at least a mid-rotation starter with a chance for more.

Keegs (Mizzou):

     I personally think people need to cool down a little on Cavalli. His ranking is deserved because he has ace stuff, but he doesn’t throw strikes at all. I believe he’s further from the Majors than the casual fan realizes. I’m hoping the Nats’ unlikeliness to be competitive next year allows them the patience not to force it. I don’t think it’s the worst thing if he spends the majority of next season in AAA. Do you agree?

Joe Healy: I can’t necessarily speak to the organization’s feeling on whether they’ll push to compete in 2022, but on your general premise, I’ll agree. Cavalli is still a stuff-based prospect, and a little extra seasoning tends to not hurt. One of the focuses for Cavalli and the organization this year and going into next is to get him to get more outs in the zone rather than relying on having batters expand the zone. Obviously, that’s something that’s a bit easier to work on in the minor leagues.

AJ (DC):

     What’s the outlook for Aldo Ramirez? It sounds like his stuff popped before he got hurt.

Joe Healy: See my previous answer when asked about a player outside the top 10 that could move into the top 10 at this time next year. His stuff has improved. If he can continue to show good command and feel for his secondary pitches, the Nationals really have something in him, I think.

Jimbo (College Station):

     How close was the decision for the first 2 spots? Did Cavalli’s excellent year make the top spot difficult? Did you ever seriously consider Housee for #2?

Joe Healy: The decisions that came after the top three were actually much more difficult. I kind of saw the top three as pretty clear, if for no other reason than the three are so very different. Ruiz is a big league-ready catcher, Cavalli is a stuff over polish starter with an impressive but limited track record and House had just debuted. I will saw Cavalli was closer to Ruiz than House was to Cavalli, but that’s no knock on House, who I got nothing but extremely positive feedback on.

Bill B (Glen Allen, VA):

     Sure you will get lots of questions about cade cavalli. Great year this year. Seems very ready to contribute. Any red flag that might keep him from real success in 2022 for the Nats? Thanks

Joe Healy: In terms of performance red flags, just his strike throwing. Walking five batters per nine at Double and Triple-A last season wasn’t ideal. But the bigger thing might just be whether or not the Nationals want him in Washington next season. Ultimately, how they feel about where they are in the rebuild cycle will have a lot to do with how they handle him, I have to assume.

KB (New York):

     Luis Garcia is the 2nd baseman of the future for the Nats. He has a bigger than average frame for that position. He only hit 6 homers last year in the majors but hit several more in AAA. Do you see him adding more power down the road?

Joe Healy: I’ll say first that since Garcia has graduated from being a prospect, I didn’t have many conversations about him as part of this process. With that out of the way, I think there’s a shot he hits for a bit more power because how many times have we seen that progression in players lately? But the scouting reports from previous years on Garcia seem to suggest fringe average power for him, so I wouldn’t expect any sort of big jump in power production.

Dan (NoPo, MD):

     I know it’s a “predicted” closer four years from now, but I was surprised to see Carrillo over Cronin. Why’s that?

Joe Healy: For one, Carrillo’s stuff is borderline elite, especially his fastball. That would play well as a closer. Cronin’s stuff is quite good, but just not quite the same. Also, in the projected lineups, being a top 10 prospect often ends up being a tiebreaker, and that was the case here. So I say all that to say that it’s not inconceivable that Cronin actually ends up as the closer in 2025.

Dan (NoPo, MD):

     Yasel Antuna’s hot July and August: two-month hot streak, or did he make adjustments/improvements?

Joe Healy: Is it a cop out answer to say a combination of the two? He got off to such a slow start that reversion to the mean was bound to take over. But also, he did make some adjustments, namely involving his lower half better and changing his finish from a two-handed finish to a higher one-handed finish.

Sean (NY):

     House seems like one who could quickly rise through the system if his hit tool comes through, he looks like a full on man out there. What’s the earliest you could see him get the call? Do you consider him a high likelihood major leaguer?

Joe Healy: Yes to him being a high likelihood major leaguer. He certainly looked the part to a much greater degree than your typical high school draftee in his debut season. I have him as the club’s starting SS in 2025, so there’s your starting point. He’d be 21 at the time, so anything sooner than that would be very aggressive, but I wouldn’t rule it out given what he did last season.

Taylor (VA):

     How weak overall do you think the Nationals top 10 is? I feel like in most organizations the back half of the Nats top 10 would be in the 15-25 range. True/False?

Joe Healy: It’s a good question and I’ll split the difference a bit. One through three in this system is legit and stacks up well with the one through three in most other systems. But things get much dicier beginning at number four, so I would say most of the rest of the top 10 would be slotted lower in other systems, yes.

todd Boss (Lynchburg, VA):

     Joan Adon got promoted twice this year, each time inexplicably. A 5.00 era in A ball, then getting shellacked in three games in AA … and now you’ve got him as your 7th best prospect? What am I missing here?

Joe Healy: I think the simple answer is that the promotions aren’t coming out of nowhere. Whether people on the outside like you or me agree or not, the org saw something in him and moved him aggressively and he looked pretty good in his debut start. They were not alone by the way. Before his debut in September, I had one rival evaluator rave about him to me. You also have to consider that prospects in the middle-to-back half of the top 10 in this system are more fluid than they might be in systems that have a bit more high-end depth.

Jonathan (OH):

     Thanks for the chat! Thoughts on Jackson Rutledge? Is he a potential 1 or 2 in the nats future rotation? How soon could we see him?

Joe Healy: The thing about Rutledge, to me, is that his stuff is good enough that he either ends up as a top-three starter or he ends up as a reliever.

Todd Boss (Lynchburg, VA):

     You guys are awfully bullish on Yasel Antuna, a guy who hit .227/.307/.385 as a 22yr old in High-A and who might not stay at Shortstop. He hasn’t had a respectable slash line since rookie ball in 2017. What are we missing?

Joe Healy: Well, he definitely won’t be at shortstop. The organization is in the process of moving him to corner outfield. Offensively, the tools are still very much there, and I got positive feedback on some adjustments he made the second half of the season. Remember that he hadn’t really played since the 2018 season, so it’s not like we’re talking about four straight seasons of subpar play. The layoff is a concern in and of itself, but I’d give him 2022 to prove that he is more the hitter we saw in the second half than the one we saw in the first.

Dan (NoPo, MD):

     Jeremy De La Rosa–overmatched at Frederickburg with a Danny Espinoza like ~30% K rate. Is he the type of player that would benefit from Short Season ball that was cut last year? What is his long-term prognosis? Will he hit enough to be an actual prospect?

Joe Healy: He just needs at-bats; that’s the consistent feedback I got on him. There is confidence in and out of the organization that he will be at least an average hitter. The question offensively is if he ever has more than below-average power in-game.

Kyle Weatherly (Timmonsville, South Carolina):

     Cole Henry’s numbers this year look great. Granted it was in limited time, but do you see him as a possible top 100 prospect next year? Or am I too high on him?

Joe Healy: He certainly could be. The variable is where players in other organizations slot in and I can’t speak to that. The big thing for Henry is staying healthy and increasing his innings workload, and those two things are obviously tied together. The stuff is good and the performance is good, but if he’s going to be a big league starter, at some point he’ll have to prove he can handle a starter’s workload. That’s it for me today, everyone! Thanks for your questions!

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