2022 Washington Nationals Top 5 Prospects

2022 Washington Nationals Top 5 Prospects

by February 9, 2022 1 comment

The Washington Nationals saw MVP and former top prospect Bryce Harper leave in free agency ahead of the 2019 Major League Baseball season. They responded by winning their first-ever World Series that same year. Despite this great success, the Nationals recently chose to trade away several key pieces of that championship team.

Entering the 2021 season, MLB Pipeline had the Washington farm system ranked dead last. This changed in the midseason rankings due to a fire sale at the Major League level at the 2021 trade deadline. Most notably the Nationals sent stars Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Los Angeles Dodgers in return for four prospects. Along with other trades, this helped to bump the Washington system up to 20th overall in MLB Pipeline’s midseason rankings. The Nationals’ top four prospects were all listed in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospect list at the midseason rankings. The success of their rebuild will be greatly affected by how these four develop.

Make sure to check out all of our other MLB Team Top Prospects.

1. Keibert Ruiz, C

Hit: 55
Power: 50
Run: 40
Arm: 50  
Field: 55
Overall: 55

The centerpiece of Washington’s blockbuster trade with the Dodgers this past summer, Ruiz is now the Nationals’ number one overall prospect. He was originally signed by the Dodgers in 2014 out of Venezuela. In 2020, Ruiz made his Major League debut with the Dodgers, playing in two games. He split the 2021 season between Triple-A and Major League stints with both the Dodgers and Nationals. In 72 Triple-A games in both the Washington and Los Angeles systems, Ruiz hit .310/.377/.616 with 21 home runs and 59 RBIs. He showed good contact in 23 Major League games with the Nationals, slashing .284/.348/.395.

Ruiz’s power mainly comes from the left side of the plate, but he shows the ability to squarely hit the ball and good plate discipline from both sides. Defensively, Ruiz has soft hands and a solid framing ability behind the plate. He has an above-average arm but needs to work on throwing out more runners. The switch hitter was originally signed for his defense, but he ended up being a far superior hitter than originally advertised. As he has gotten older, it has been his defense that appears to be the weakness in his game. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old has tremendous potential and defense should not be a glaring issue in the long run. Baseball’s 19th ranked prospect is poised to spend all of 2022 with the Major League club in Washington.

ETA: Debuted 2020

2. Cade Cavalli, RHP

Fastball: 65
Curveball: 60
Slider: 55
Changeup: 55
Control: 50
Overall: 55

The flamethrower was originally drafted out of high school by the Atlanta Braves in 2017 but opted to attend the University of Oklahoma. Interestingly enough, Cavalli was a two-way player when he first began his career at Oklahoma. He transitioned to just the mound during his sophomore season and it certainly paid off as the Nationals inked him to a $3,027,000 contract upon drafting him with the 22nd overall pick in 2020. With no minor league season in 2020, Cavalli, a top 50 prospect in baseball, reported to Washington’s alternate training site. In 2021, he skyrocketed through the Nationals’ farm system. He began the year in High-A but only lasted seven starts after striking out 71 batters over just 40.2 innings and pitching to an ERA of 1.77. Cavalli continued this dominance in Double-A, posting a 2.79 ERA and 80 punchouts over 58 innings.

In six Triple-A starts in 2021, Cavalli faced some adversity and some control issues. He finished with a 7.30 ERA over 24.2 innings, but this should be of little concern going forward. The 6’4” righty sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and can even top out at 99 MPH. His curveball is also known as a plus pitch with tremendous depth. It is important to remember that Cavalli is still new to pitching so that only increases his potential. If the 23-year-old does not make the Opening Day roster, expect him to play for the Nationals at some point this season.

ETA: 2022

3. Josiah Gray, RHP

Fastball: 60
Slider: 55
Curveball: 50
Changeup: 50
Control: 55
Overall: 55

The 2019 Minor League pitcher of the year in the Dodgers’ system, Gray was the other main return piece in the Scherzer/Turner trade. This was the second time the 6’1” righty was a part of a mega-deal. He was previously sent to the Dodgers from the Cincinnati Reds in a 2018 blockbuster deal. Gray likely would have debuted with the Dodgers in May 2021, but he was sidelined with a shoulder impingement. He only ended up throwing eight innings for Los Angeles before being sent to Washington in July. After the trade, the Nationals sent Gray directly to the majors.

A top 60 prospect in all of baseball, Gray threw 62.2 innings for Washington in 2021. He posted a 5.31 ERA in 12 starts and finished with 63 punchouts. The 24-year-old has a fastball that averages at 95 MPH, however opposing hitters slugged .620 off of it last year. Better control and implementing his changeup more should help this issue. Gray will begin the 2022 season in Washington’s rotation. After the shoulder injury in early 2021 and no Minor League season in 2020, he will also look to put a full season under his belt. He recently set a goal of throwing 200 innings in 2022, which would be tremendous for his development. The former collegiate shortstop should slot into the Washington rotation for years to come.

ETA: Debuted 2021

4. Brady House, SS

Hit: 50
Power: 60
Run: 50
Arm: 60
Field: 50
Overall: 55   

At one point, House was considered to be the future number one overall draft pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. Luckily for the Nationals, his stock fell off a bit during his senior year in high school and they were able to select him with the 11th overall pick in 2021. After the draft, the 6’4” righty was assigned to Washington’s Florida Complex League team. Here, the 18-year-old flourished. Over 16 games he posted a .322/.394/.576 slash line, slugged four home runs and had 12 RBI.

House is known for his bat speed, raw power to all fields, and general strength. Late in his high school career, he began to sell out for home runs, causing his bat speed to drop. However, he has since fixed this hiccup and returned to his old ways. House may only possess average foot speed, but he has a rocket for an arm. He once clocked in at 96 MPH off of the mound.

As with any big, powerful shortstop prospect, there are some doubts if House will stick at the position. If not, he will become a more than capable third baseman as he matures as a player. Since he is still only 18-years old, House will likely spend a few full seasons in the minors before joining the Major League club in Washington. A top 60 ranked prospect in all of baseball, House projects to begin the 2022 season at the Low-A level.

ETA: 2024

5. Jackson Rutledge, RHP

Fastball: 70
Slider: 60
Curveball: 50
Changeup: 50
Control: 45
Overall: 50

Rutledge was selected by the Nationals with the 17th overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. Despite beginning his collegiate career at the University of Arkansas, an injury forced the righty to transfer after just one season. He landed at a Junior College, San Jacinto (Texas), and flourished. This was reason enough for Washington to sign him to a $3.45 million signing bonus. Directly after the 2019 draft, Rutledge played at three different levels of Washington’s farm system that same year. In total, he made 10 starts, posted a 3.13 ERA, and struck out 39 hitters over 37.1 innings.

Rutledge was then noted as a standout at the 2020 alternate training site. Standing at an imposing 6’8”, he throws a mid-90’s fastball with fantastic control and surprising spin. His slider stands out as his best secondary pitch, while his curveball and changeup both need some work. Nevertheless, they all project to become solid Major League caliber pitches. Rutledge’s 2021 season was shaky, and he will need to get back on track in 2022.

Across three levels in 2021, he made 13 starts and threw 36.1 innings, but gave up 40 hits, 35 runs, and posted an ERA of 7.68. He additionally missed seven weeks of the season with shoulder soreness. Hopefully, a fresh start will help the soon-to-be 23-year-old post some better numbers in 2022. Rutledge will most likely begin the season at High-A, but he will ideally get called up to Double-A at some point this year. He should eventually slot in as a mid-rotation starter for the Nationals.

ETA: 2022

What Does the Future Hold?

The Nationals’ top five prospects all have great potential and should help Washington compete for a second World Series sooner rather than later. This of course was the goal when the Nationals opted to trade away their stars and drastically improve their farm system. Assuming both Ruiz and Gray play full seasons with the Major League team in 2022, they will soon graduate from the list. Right behind them are right-handed pitcher Andry Lara, shortstop Armando Cruz, and right-handed pitcher Cole Henry. Hopefully, this crop of prospects will provide the same success as the previous group did in Washington.

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