The Washington Nationals significantly upgraded their farm system by adding 12 players during a dizzying Trade Deadline. However, the Nats did what few teams do during such sell-offs: they targeted Major League-ready talent in return, and several of the prospects they added in July went more or less straight to D.C. So prospects such as Josiah Gray, Riley Adams and Mason Thompson -- as well as waiver pickup Patrick Murphy -- have already exhausted their prospect status. The end result is a necessary boon of young, controllable talent to the big league roster. But that once again leaves the Minor League system fairly thin.
With that in mind, I have grouped the remaining prospects into tiers, considering how they might affect the Nats' Major League roster moving forward. Please note, not every prospect neatly fits into a box and there are surely players in the system unmentioned here that will emerge.
Cade Cavalli has ace potential if he can learn to harness his stuff.
Tier I: Transformational Talents
RHP Cade Cavalli: Cavalli looks like the Nats' best Draft pick since Anthony Rendon. He has the overpowering stuff to lead a rotation, but the Nats will need to be patient as he's still raw and fairly new to full-time pitching.
C Keibert Ruiz: Wilson Ramos is the only thing the Nats have ever had to a long-term answer at the catcher position. Ruiz, with his advanced approach, burgeoning power and average to above average defensive tools across the board, could become the best backstop in team history.
SS Brady House: The Nats' system has been in desperate need of sluggers for years and in House they got arguably the top power bat in the 2021 Draft class. He has destroyed his first taste of professional pitching and has played spotlessly at short so far. Even if his large frame forces a move to third base, House has more than enough pop to become a star there.
Tier II: Building Blocks
RHP Jackson Rutledge: Rutledge, the Nats' first-round pick in 2019, has the stuff to move into Tier I, but he has lost nearly two years of development due to COVID in 2020 and injuries in 2021. Still, he's an intimidating presence at 6-foot-8 with an upper-90s fastball and swing-and-miss breaking ball. There is still a high ceiling here, and at worst he should be able to fall back on a late-reliever role.
RHP Gerardo Carrillo: One of four players acquired in the Max Scherzer-Trea Turner blockbuster, Carrillo has a live arm and legit four-pitch repertoire. However, he doesn't throw a lot of strikes yet and he's undersized for a starting pitcher. He figures to help in some way in the near future, either as a No. 4 starter type or a potential closer.
RHP Cole Henry: Henry, a second-round pick with first-round talent in the 2020 Draft, often gets lost in the shuffle with fellow draftee Cade Cavalli. Add a months-long elbow injury in 2021, and it's understandable. However, his performance before and after the injury has been outstanding, with a fastball reaching 97. He seems like a good bet to slot into the rotation in 2022-23.
LHP Matt Cronin: The Nats' fourth-round pick in 2019, Cronin is solely a reliever. A dominant college closer at Arkansas, Cronin has moved fast through the system and without an injury in the middle of 2021, there's a good chance he would be in D.C. right now.
OF Donovan Casey: The so-called "throw-in" to the Scherzer-Turner trade with the Dodgers, Casey is too toolsy to be considered a throw-in. He's sort of reminiscent of Michael A. Taylor, with an exciting defense-speed-power profile. But he comes with the same overarching question: Will he hit enough to play every day?
Tier III: The Kids
RHP Andry Lara: A ballyhooed international signing, Lara has pitched to rave reviews within the organization and was recently promoted to full-season Fredericksburg at only 18. He has the size, stuff and look of a plus Major League starter, but he's still years away.
OF Daylen Lile: The Nats' second-round pick in 2021, Lile has great bat-to-ball skills, but a corner-only outfielder with a fringy arm, he will need to hit for power to become an everyday player.
OF Jeremy De La Rosa: De La Rosa's name started popping up in his first pro season in 2019, a year after signing for a modest $300K. He has an exciting package of tools, but the production hasn't followed him just yet.
SS Armando Cruz: The Nats gave Cruz $3.9 million in 2020 due to his defensive wizardry. But the bat has always been the question. He has Gold Glove shortstop skills, but the bat has been light in the DSL thus far.
SS Sammy Infante: A third-round pick in 2020, Infante has solid tools across the board, but thus far no carrying tool. Is he a utility guy or can he become more?
OF Roismar Quintana: Often described as a football player playing baseball, Quintana is a powerful athlete. Unfortunately, his debut season in the FCL was cut short due to a severe hamstring injury.
OF Daniel Marte: Good tools, but no so great a performance in his pro debut in 2021.
Aldo Ramirez is an interesting name to watch among the Nats starting pitching ranks.
Tier IV: Show Me More
RHP Aldo Ramirez: The Nats traded an injured Kyle Schwarber for an injured pitching prospect in Ramirez. Ramirez' arrow was pointing up in Boston's system before the trade, and he has returned from elbow tendinitis to good success in the Nats' system. He has a polished arsenal of pitches and with health could be a solid No. 4 starter type.
LHP Mitchell Parker: Washington's final pick in the truncated 2020 Draft, Parker was signed away from a commitment to Kentucky to start his pro career. He has exceeded expectations thus far and posts good strikeout numbers.
RHP Joan Adon: Adon's stats won't impress you, but they're misleading. The Nats added Adon to their 40-man roster for a reason. He has the stuff to get big league hitters out, and he's starting to put the pieces together in the minors.
LHP Evan Lee: A two-way player at Arkansas, the Nats took a 15th-round flyer on Lee in 2018, hoping to develop him as a reliever. But he is taking off as a starter in 2021 with a fastball now up to the mid-90s and a plus curveball he can bury in the dirt for whiffs.
RHP Zach Brzykcy: Brzykcy is an interesting case. He didn't pitch a ton in college at Virginia Tech, and didn't throw a lot of strikes when he did. But he has a big arm and the Nats signed him as a free agent following the shortened 2020 Draft. He has a mitt-popping heater he pairs with a hammer curve for lots of strikeouts. The command is coming along and there's a potential late-inning reliever there.
Tier V: Role Players
C Drew Millas: The best prospect acquired from the A's in the Yan Gomes-Josh Harrison trade, Millas is an excellent defender behind the plate who has lived on base at High-A Wilmington. However, the bat is light so he has to hit for high average and maintain a high walk rate to become a big league regular. He's an outstanding depth option in the minors.
RHP Gabe Klobosits: The unheralded reliever from Auburn has always posted excellent Minor League stats, earning him a promotion to the big leagues after the Nats' July sell-off. The performance was unsurprisingly inconsistent and admittedly he was forced into higher-leverage situations than he was likely prepared. He was sent back down, but seems likely to play some sort of bullpen role moving forward.
1B Branden Boissiere: The Nats' third-round pick in 2021, Boissiere is a solid defensive first baseman who hit for average more than power at Arizona. There's not currently much competition at first base in the Nats' system, so if Boissiere performs, there's a path to a backup first baseman role down the road.
OF Ricardo Mendez: Mendez can play all three outfield positions well and has made major strides with his left-handed swing in 2021. He has the ideal skillset to become a versatile reserve outfielder.
RHP Richard Guasch: Also acquired from the A's in July, Guasch has sort of stalled as a starting pitcher and could move much faster as a reliever.
RHP Seth Shuman: The third piece in the Gomes-Harrison trade, Shuman is a results-over-stuff guy who could forge a career as a strike-throwing back-end starter or versatile reliever. He gives me Craig Stammen vibes.
SS Jordy Barley: Acquired alongside Mason Thompson in exchange for Daniel Hudson, Barley's carrying tool will be his speed. He'll have to become better defensively at short to make it to the big leagues, but the speed could become an enticing option for a manager looking to employ him off the bench.
Tier VI: Riddle Me This, Riddle Me That
SS Yasel Antuna: Antuna thus far has not lived up to the $3.9 million bonus he received as an international free agent. Luis Garcia, who signed for less in the same year as Antuna, is now starting in the big leagues while Antuna struggles at High-A Wilmington. A good showing at the Nats' alternate site in 2020 convinced the Nats to add Antuna to their 40-man roster, but he's still in A ball due to a terrible two months at the plate and an error count that could approach 40.
LHP Seth Romero: We all know the story. No need to rehash it all. He continues to post excellent strikeout numbers but uneven performances. He has the stuff to positively impact a Major League roster, but the clock is ticking.
LHP Tim Cate: Once considered part of the future Nats' rotation with his excellent 12-to-6 curveball, 2021 hasn't been kind to Cate. He still has enough going for him to get there, but he'll need to show something in 2022 amid improved competition within the system.
C Israel Pineda: Pineda entered the season with a clear path to becoming the Nats' starting catcher someday. But he's regressed at the plate, missed time due to injury and watched the organization acquire Keibert Ruiz, Riley Adams and Drew Millas. Ouch.
Tier VII: Sinking Stock
UTIL Cole Freeman: A personal favorite of mine, Freeman seems stuck in neutral at Double-A Harrisburg. A plus-plus character guy, Freeman is a plus runner you could envision as a super-utility player modern lineups like to employ. But he just isn't hitting enough.
C Jakson Reetz: It's hard to believe Reetz debuted in the majors this year. But every action the Nats have taken since doesn't portray him as a player in their plans going forward.
SS Jackson Cluff: Many like the tools he brings to the table, but the production and consistency isn't there.
1B Drew Mendoza: Mendoza fits the profile of the typical three-true-outcome first baseman. Problem is, he's not hitting for any power.
RHP Holden Powell: Another reliever-only D
raft pick, Powell seemed like a guy who could move through the system quickly, but a bevy of injuries have kept him off the mound.
RHP Tyler Dyson: A talented arm who seemed like a potential steal when drafted, Dyson also has struggled to stay on the mound.
RHP Mason Denaburg: The Nats' first-round pick in 2018, Denaburg came with injury risks ... and well, his career has been derailed by injuries since. He should be be back at it next year and hopefully we see signs of the talent that made him a first-rounder.