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Prospect Progress Report: April 2023

A month into the season, it is simultaneously too early to make sweeping judgements about Nationals prospects but also enough of a sample size has accrued to credibly judge performance.

With that in mind, here is a brief progress report on each of NexGen Nats’ preseason top 25 prospects through April.

1. OF Elijah Green (Low-A Fredericksburg)

Green continues to confuse. Despite an alarming 48.1% K rate, he is still posting respectable numbers with a .250/.338/.397 slash line and a 108 wRC+. He may have turned a corner, homering in the last two games of April. He’s also on pace for 50 stolen bases and has been excellent defensively.

Grade: C

2. OF James Wood (High-A Wilmington)

Wood has been doing exactly what you’d want to see from such a highly touted prospect. Wood has posted a .297/.342/.531 slash line in one of the most pitcher-friendly leagues in Minor League Baseball. If you want to nitpick, he only has two homers due to pounding the ball into the ground more than you’d like to see, averaging 2.11 groundouts per flyout. But he also has five doubles, is 3-for-3 in steal attempts and has been good defensively.

Grade: A-

3. OF Robert Hassell III (Double-A Harrisburg)

Given he missed the Arizona Fall League and most of Spring Training with a hamate injury, you have to take Hassell’s production with a grain of salt as he has been rehabbing at Fredericksburg for the past few weeks. He has struggled as he gets back into game shape, hitting .192 with a measly .308 slugging percentage. However, he still has a tremendous feel for the zone, walking nearly twice as many times as he has struck out. Hassell has been much better lately and is probably close to returning to Harrisburg to face appropriate competition.

Grade: C

4. RHP Cade Cavalli (Nationals)

Cavalli will miss the 2023 regular season due to Tommy John surgery.

Grade: I

5. RHP Jarlin Susana (Low-A Fredericksburg)

Susana has done largely as one might expect for a 19-year-old flamethrower in full-season ball. He throws very hard, up to 102 mph, and he doesn’t throw a lot of strikes. Susana has struck out 13 batters in 9 2/3 innings with 10 walks. He has a 4.66 ERA, 4.31 FIP and 5.13 xFIP. You would hope to see more strikeouts with his overpowering stuff. His last scheduled start was skipped. His ceiling remains quite high.

Grade: C

6. 3B Brady House (Low-A Fredericksburg)

House, the Nats’ first-round pick in 2021, got off to a great start in the organization until a back injury sidelined him for the majority of 2022. He was moved from shortstop to third base before this season and hopes were high House would find his previous form. He has done that and then some. He has been by far the best prospect through April, slashing .354/.466/.646 with nearly a 1-to-1 K/BB ratio. He has been smooth at third base. He should be a consensus top-50 prospect in baseball when sites update their rankings.

Grade: A+

7. OF Cristhian Vaquero (FCL Nationals)

Vaquero has yet to make his full-season debut as he stays behind in West Palm Beach, Fla., training and waiting for his opportunity.

Grade: I

8. OF Jeremy De La Rosa (High-A Wilmington)

De La Rosa, the Nats’ 2022 Minor League Player of the Year, had a nightmarish April. De La Rosa slashed .200/.302/.236 with a ghastly 47.6 K rate. Not much else to say.

Grade: D-

9. SS Armando Cruz (Low-A Fredericksburg)

Cruz’s bat was a major question since the day the Nats gave him a then-team record signing bonus as an international signee. He has done little to put those concerns to rest. He is slashing .236/.295/.292 with a disappointing 50% success rate on attempted steals. He will have to improve to become a big league starter down the road but it must be emphasized his defense lives up to its lofty billing. He is simply fantastic at short and may be the type of player who can warrant a starting role with no offensive profile. His defense is special at a premium position.

Grade: C

10. LHP Jake Bennett (Low-A Fredericksburg)

Bennett, last year’s second-rounder from Oklahoma, has been arguably the best pitcher in the system thus far, posting a 2.93 ERA in four starts to go with a 1.11 WHIP and a 31.8 K% and 24.2 K-BB%. His performance has exceeded his good numbers as some poor defense and inherited runners scoring have somewhat tainted the stats. He was projected as someone who would move quickly through the system and that appears to be the case. He will probably be in Wilmington soon.

Grade: A

11. RHP Andry Lara (High-A Wilmington)

Lara is a tricky player to assess thus far as the eye test greatly exceeds the stats. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning two starts ago before poor defense unraveled it all, but Lara was battered in his final start, allowing six runs in three innings to nearly double his season ERA from 2.93 to 5.40.

Grade: B-

12. RHP Jackson Rutledge (Double-A Harrisburg)

Rutledge, the Nats’ first-rounder in 2019, skipped a level to begin this season as he eyes a hopeful call to the big leagues before the season ends. The early returns have been … fine. The 6-8 righty is still fighting his command a little, often working behind in the count which has led to low K numbers (8.31 K/9) relative to his stuff and too many walks (4.15 BB/9). That said, the stuff is there and his 3.89 xFIP suggests he is pitching better than the numbers indicate.

Grade: B-

13. C Israel Pineda (Triple-A Rochester)

Pineda, who made his Major League debut last September, has yet to play in 2023 due to injury.

Grade: I

14. 1B TJ White (High-A Wilmington)

White, a young slugger who was moved to first base to accommodate a positional need before the season, has struggled in his High-A debut thus far. But it’s important to remember he is still only 19 and Wilmington is a bad environment for hitters. White is slashing .188/.344/.250 with one homer. The on-base percentage is particularly encouraging as he has always had an advanced feel for the zone for his age. So, there’s reason to think the hits and extra-base hits will come. But now at first base, there is a lot of pressure on him to hit for power.

Grade: C

15. RHP Thaddeus Ward (Nationals)

A Rule 5 pickup from the Red Sox, Ward hasn’t pitched a ton for the Nats, but what he has delivered has mostly been encouraging. He has struck out 12 in 9 1/3 innings but has walked seven. Mostly used in low-leverage situations, Ward has shown enough with his secondary pitches that he looks like a guy who will stick on the roster throughout the season and serve as a utility pitcher down the road.

Grade: B-

16. RHP Cole Henry (Triple-A Rochester)

Henry underwent Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery and is still working his way back. Reports say his velocity is back in the high 90s.

Grade: I

17. 1B Roismar Quintana (Low-A Fredericksburg)

Quintana moved to first base before the season, putting more pressure on his bat to produce. After a slow start, Quintana has heated up significantly and sits at .265/.327/.408 through April.

Grade: C

18. OF Daylen Lile (Low-A Fredericksburg)

Lile, the Nats’ second-rounder in 2021, is making the top of the 2021 Draft class look great right now alongside Brady House. Lile was a curiosity coming into the season given he was considered one of the best pure hitters in the 2021 high-school class. But Lile missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery. He is making up for lost time in a hurry, slashing .333/.409/.632 thus far. The only knocks on Lile as a draftee were athleticism and defense. He has improved there, too. Lile is 5-for-5 stealing bases and has played an error-free left field. He is a candidate for promotion to Wilmington.

Grade: A+

19. RHP Zach Brzykcy (Triple-A Rochester)

Brzykcy underwent Tommy John surgery during Spring Training.

Grade: I

20. LHP Jose Ferrer (Triple-A Rochester)

Ferrer is pure lefty reliever who throws in the upper 90s. His stats are solid on the surface, but the eye test and advanced stats tell a different story. His xFIP (5.09) is nearly double his 2.63 ERA and his 6.59 K/9 is way too low for a power reliever. There’s still an opportunity in Washington if he can refine things in short order.

Grade: B-

21. LHP Mitchell Parker (Double-A Harrisburg)

Parker racks up a lot of Ks despite not throwing terribly hard. He has continued that trend in Double A with 12.27 K/9 but he simply has never thrown a lot of strikes, evidenced by a terrible 9.82 BB/9 ratio. His stock is way down considering he likely can’t stick as a starter with his lack of control and he doesn’t have a secondary out pitch to make it as a late-inning reliever.

Grade: D-

22. OF Brenner Cox (Low-A Fredericksburg)

Cox is still only 18 and was a football star in high school so it is important to keep that in context when evaluating his early struggles this year. Cox is a phenomenal athlete who needs reps and has been sitting often recently with Robert Hassell III rehabbing in Fredericksburg. Look past the .443 OPS in 43 at-bats and see he is 5-for-5 stealing bases and already has three outfield assists in only 11 games and you know why Texas recruited him as a dual-threat quarterback. Cox is a long-term play.

Grade: C

23. INF Jeter Downs (Nationals)

Downs, a former top prospect, was a worthwhile pickup after the Red Sox designated him for assignment in the winter. But so far, he hasn’t hit a lick in Rochester and is glued to the bench in Washington until Ildemaro Vargas returns. He would seem to be a DFA candidate pretty soon as it’s clear the organization doesn’t view him as a future piece based on his lack of playing time.

Grade: D

24. INF Jake Alu (Triple-A Rochester)

After a strong start to Spring Training, Alu looked like he could earn the last spot on the Nats’ bench. But an injury stalled his progress and he is off to a slow start in Rochester, posting a .619 OPS. That said, if he starts hitting like he always has in the minors, he has a good chance to get promoted to the majors before the summer ends.

Grade: C+

25. 3B Trey Lipscomb (High-A Wilmington)

The Nats’ third-round pick last year, Lipscomb possesses serious power, but it hasn’t shown up yet in an offensively starved league. Lipscomb hasn’t homered and is only slugging .293. He has done a better job working counts and drawing walks and the production should show up before too long. Lipscomb still needs work defensively, as well.

Grade: C

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