I have always believed outlets that report on and rank baseball prospects are too conservative with their initial in-season updates, either waiting too long to re-rank players or simply slightly reshuffling the deck once they do so. A lot changes from the end of the previous season going into a new one. Some players make massive improvements while some regress. Rankings should reflect that reality. Six weeks into the season is enough time to make some clear adjustments without being reactionary.
With that in mind, here is a brief explanation of my updated top 25 Nats prospect rankings as of mid-May 2023.
1. OF James Wood: I was an outlier not having Wood No. 1 going into the season. I was wrong. He is excellent. He's their best prospect. Carry on.
Previous Ranking: 2 (+1)
2. 3B Brady House: The only question about House was health. He is healthy. He is thriving. He is a top prospect once again.
Previous: 6 (+4)
3. OF Elijah Green: I am a big believer in Green's tools. That has not changed. But the strikeout rate is what it is, and it is hard to get around that. Somehow, he is still a productive player despite the massive K rate. Imagine if he cleans it up?
Previous: 1 (-2)
4. OF Robert Hassell III: Hassell and Green are divergent profiles and I struggled ranking these two. Ultimately, Green's raw tools keep him ahead for now as he has a much higher ceiling than Hassell, who is more a high-floor than ceiling player.
Previous: 3 (-1)
5. RHP Cade Cavalli: Imagine if we had this specimen on the mound to watch alongside Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore this season? Oh well, hopefully he picks up where he left off next spring following Tommy John surgery.
Previous: 4 (-1)
6. OF Daylen Lile: Now healthy, Lile is raking as you hoped when he was taken in the second round in 2021. He has also showed promise and improvement defensively and with his power stroke. This is a fantastic development for the Nats.
Previous: 18 (+12)
7. RHP Jackson Rutledge: While Rutledge still needs to refine his command, it is undeniable the progress he has made this year making a big leap from Low A to Double-A. He looks on schedule to debut this summer.
Previous: 12 (+5)
8. LHP Jake Bennett: Bennett didn't pitch after the Draft last year due to a heavy workload during Oklahoma's trip to the College World Series final. This year, he is overwhelming Low-A hitters and should be in line for a quick promotion.
Previous: 10 (+2)
9. RHP Jarlin Susana: The flame-throwing young Susana has had a tough go early in 2023 but has also showed the triple-digit heat. This ranking is more a reflection of my perceived reliever risk increasing based on my observations.
Previous: 5 (-4)
10. OF Cristhian Vaquero: There's no update here. Vaquero should begin his 2023 season when the Florida Complex League begins its season on June 5.
Previous: 7 (-3)
11. OF Jeremy De La Rosa: Wilmington is a tough place for hitters, but De La Rosa has struggled mightily despite showing some improvement recently. His strikeout rate is Elijah Green-like.
Previous: 8 (-3)
12. 3B Trey Lipscomb: This is the highest jump on the board, though that's probably more due to me having him too low to begin with. Lipscomb is performing well at Wilmington. He's just a solid overall player and the Nats have a good problem with House and Lipscomb both primed to move through the system quickly.
Previous: 25 (+13)
13. 1B TJ White: White actually moves up slightly despite struggling in his first taste of High-A ball. However, he is young for the level and learning a new position on the fly. He still has a good feel for the strike zone and I believe he will figure it out as he always does as a pro thus far.
Previous: 14 (+1)
14. RHP Cole Henry: Henry is set to return to game action for the first time since Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery a year ago. We will know a lot more in a month. Henry has the talent to be a mid-rotation MLB starter or his career could be functionally over soon.
Previous: 16 (+2)
15. RHP Andry Lara: Lara shows signs of being a future MLB rotation piece but still has not been able to perform consistently. That's not uncommon given his age and the level at which he's playing.
Previous: 11 (-4)
16. SS Armando Cruz: Simply put, Cruz's bat has not caught up to his glove, which is phenomenal. There's a real question as to whether he will ever provide anything offensively. But rule changes emphasizing up-the-middle defense and base-stealing help his cause.
Previous: 9 (-7)
17. RHP Jake Irvin: Irvin has been better than expected early in his MLB career and is turning into a nice developmental story. His future still may be in the bullpen, however.
18. C Israel Pineda: Pineda is yet to play in 2023 due to an injury suffered in Spring Training, though he seems close to returning. Given Riley Adams' struggles, Pineda has a strong case to make as Keibert Ruiz's backup. Pineda's strengths (power hitting and a rocket arm) complement Ruiz's weaknesses very well.
Previous: 13 (-5)
19. INF/OF Jake Alu: Alu recently debuted in Washington, becoming the team's lowest drafted player to ever debut with the Nats. He has the makings of a solid utility player given his versatility and lefty bat.
Previous: 24 (+5)
20. RHP Zach Brzykcy: Brzykcy would have played a role in Washington's bullpen this season, but he will have to wait a year due to Tommy John surgery.
Previous: 19 (-1)
21. OF Brenner Cox: Cox has struggled early in 2023 for Fredericksburg, but that is not surprising considering he was a two-sport star in high school as a dual-threat quarterback in Texas. His athleticism and raw tools are exciting. He just needs reps.
Previous: 22 (+1)
22. 1B Roismar Quintana: Given the move to first base, there is now immense pressure on Quintana to produce big numbers at the plate. That's going to hurt his prospect stock considerably.
Previous: 17 (-5)
23. C Drew Millas: An excellent athlete and defensive-minded catcher, Millas has exploded with the bat early in 2023 at Double-A Harrisburg. He has always been good at drawing walks, but MIllas is now starting to do real damage with the bat. The catching spot in D.C. is on lock for years, but Millas can fight it out with Riley Adams and Israel Pineda for the backup job going forward.
24. LHP Jose Ferrer: Ferrer has been solid if unspectacular at Triple-A Rochester so far, but given Washington has zero lefties in its bullpen currently, it seems likely Ferrer will factor into their relief situation at some point soon.
Previous: 20 (-4)
25. 2B Sammy Infante: A lot of names were considered here, but Infante gets the nod due to his ability to play three infield positions and hit with some pop. That profile always has value to any organization.
Graduated: RHP Thaddeus Ward, INF Jeter Downs
Falling Out: LHP Mitchell Parker
On the Cusp, in no particular order: 2B Darren Baker, LHP Mitchell Parker, OF Jacob Young, LHP Dustin Saenz, RHP Aldo Ramirez