The Arizona Fall League came to a close this past weekend, with the Surprise Saguaros (the team that includes all Nationals prospects) finishing runner-up. It was mostly a productive fall for the Nats prospects who participated in the league. So, let's see how they did.
(3) RHP Cole Henry
Henry continued to open eyes and improve his prospect stock in the desert. More importantly, he was able to make up for lost time due to a midseason elbow injury, against the best competition he's faced yet. Henry started three times and came out of the bullpen three times, finishing second in the league in strikeouts with 30 despite only pitching 19 innings. If there's a concern, it's the 15 free baserunners he allowed via walks and hit batsmen. Despite that, he still posted a strong 1.11 WHIP and only a .176 batting average against. Henry earned a place on the Fall Stars roster and should start next season in Double-A Harrisburg with D.C. on the radar as long as he stays healthy.
(6) RHP Jackson Rutledge
As you can see in the video above, Rutledge continues to possess dynamite stuff. But the Nats send Rutledge to Arizona hoping to make up for a lost Minor League season. Unfortunately, he left with still more questions than answers. Rutledge struggled big time, posting a 6.98 ERA and 1.97 WHIP in six appearances. Opposing batters hit .329 against Rutledge and he walked 10 guys in 19 1/3 innings. It's back to the drawing board with Rutledge. He will be a good test case for the player development overhaul. Despite his struggles, the stuff is still premium and there's still every reason to hope he can harness it going forward.
(12) OF Donovan Casey
Casey got off to a slow start in Arizona, but really picked it up late to finish with a solid .255/.368/.447 slash line. Casey belted two homers and three doubles, driving in 10 in limited playing time (47 ABs). The most encouraging split is his even K/BB ratio of eight apiece. Casey is an aggressive hitter with plenty of swing-and-miss in his game, so the improved plate discipline is noteworthy. Casey is an outstanding defensive outfielder and he is now on the Nats' 40-man roster, which should lead to his arrival in D.C. sometime next summer.
(16) LHP Evan Lee
Lee pitched exclusively in relief in the AFL after a breakout season as a starter for High-A Wilmington. The results were mediocre over nine appearances, with Lee posting a 4.66 ERA, 1.66 WHIP and .270 average against. However, Lee did continue to miss bats, with 10 Ks in 9 2/3 IP. Six walks and two hit batters in a small sample didn't help. Lee remains an ascendant prospect in the system and the Nats thought highly enough of the southpaw to add him to the 40-man roster and protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
(17) C Drew Millas
Millas, acquired from the A's in the Yan Gomes/Josh Harrison trade, lived up to his offensive profile in the AFL. Although Millas did slug his first and only homer as a member of the Nationals' organization, he only hit .196 and slugged .295. However, Millas is an on-base and contact machine. Millas finished in the top 20 in walks (13 in only 17 games) despite limited playing time. And he only struck out four times in 51 at-bats. Millas is an excellent defensive backstop and he will have to carve a path to the Majors as an excellent defender who walks and puts the ball in play. That's likely a backup role, and the depth chart ahead of him is daunting with Keibert Ruiz, Riley Adams and Tres Barrera.
(25) SS Jackson Cluff
Cluff was the Nats' breakout performer of the AFL. He has been on the radar since being drafted in 2019 as a dynamite defensive player, but partly due to injuries, Cluff struggled on both sides of the ball in 2021. The AFL was a godsend for Cluff, as he was healthy and shined in the field and at the plate. Cluff was named the AFL Defensive Player of the Year, but more excitingly his bat made the trip, too. Cluff slashed .342/.432/.456 and stole eight bases without getting caught. He did continue to strike out a lot (24 in 79 ABs), but made up for it with plenty of walks (14). If Cluff can stay healthy and build off this showing, he profiles as a utility infielder in the near future.
C Israel Pineda
It's hard to draw many conclusions about Pineda, as he was a taxi squad member of the Saguaros and only played in nine games. He did post a respectable offensive showing in his limited time, slashing .296/.355/.370. The future remains murky for Pineda, whose stock took a major tumble in 2021 and now looks up at Keibert Ruiz, Riley Adams, Tres Barrera and Drew Millas on the organizational depth chart.
RHP Todd Peterson
A true reliever since his college days at LSU, Peterson built on his case as one of the better relievers in the Nats' system and someone who figures to factor into the bullpen mix at some point. Peterson posted a 2.61 ERA over eight appearances with middling numbers otherwise -- 1.16 WHIP, .200 average against, eight Ks in 10 1.3 IP, four walks. There's not a lot of ceiling here, but there is a path to a role in a Major League bullpen.