From 2012-19, the Washington Nationals finished in either first or second place in the National League East, reaching the postseason five times during an eight-year stretch that culminated with the team defeating the Astros in the ’19 World Series. In '20, however, the Nats struggled to the finish line, recording their first losing season (26-34) since ’11 en route to a fourth-place finish in the NL East.
The loss of Anthony Rendon via free agency had a profound impact on the Nationals’ lineup in the shortened 2020 season, creating a production vacuum at the hot corner that top prospect Carter Kieboom was unable to fill. Stephen Strasburg, in the first season of his seven-year, $245 million contract after garnering World Series MVP honors, made only two starts before ultimately requiring season-ending surgery to address right carpal tunnel neuritis in his hand.
Juan Soto and Trea Turner were obvious bright spots for the organization, with the talented duo finishing fifth and seventh, respectively, in the NL MVP Award race. Soto, who’s set to enter his age-22 season, has firmly established himself as one of baseball’s best players, and a franchise cornerstone. Luis García's future looks bright as well after the 20-year-old held his own as Washington's everyday second baseman.
And while the Nationals inevitably will face a starting-pitching turnover in the coming years given the collective age of their staff, the organization has done well in preparing for such an event, using the Draft and international market to flood its farm system with quality young arms. The Nats are poised to add more high-end talent to their system with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 Draft -- the franchise’s highest pick since they took Rendon with the No. 6 pick in ’11.
FARM SYSTEM RANKINGS
2020 Midseason: 30 | Preseason: 29
2019 Midseason: NR | Preseason: NR
2018 Midseason: NR | Preseason: NR
2017 Midseason: NR | Preseason: NR
2016 Midseason: 6 | Preseason: NR
2015 Midseason: NR | Preseason: NR
Only the top 10 systems were ranked from 2015 to 2019 preseason; the top 15 systems were ranked 2019 midseason.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
1. Jackson Rutledge, RHP
2. Cade Cavalli, RHP
3. Wil Crowe, RHP
4. Cole Henry, RHP
5. Andy Lara, RHP
Waivers: Sterling Sharp, RHP (No. 24)
The Nationals selected an MLB Pipeline Top 200 Draft prospect with four of their six picks in the 2020 Draft. Right-handers Cavalli and Henry have drawn rave reviews early in their pro careers and both could move quickly given their backgrounds as advanced college hurlers with big stuff. Powell and Parker are potential bullpen pieces for the club, and Infante has impact potential as a hitter, but will need time to develop. Sharp made Miami’s Opening Day roster as a Rule 5 Draft pick, but he was returned to the Nats in late August after being designated for assignment.
2021 IMPACT PROSPECT
Cade Cavalli, RHP: Physical and athletic with a good delivery and a dynamic four-pitch mix, the 22-year-old Oklahoma product has the look of a future No. 2 starter and could move quickly through the Minor Leagues.
2022 TOP PROSPECT
Eddy Yean, RHP: Signed for $100,000 in July 2017, Yean pitched his way up to the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League at age 18 and was a standout this year at instructional camp, where the right-hander opened eyes with his electric stuff and increasingly physical frame.
Hit: Yasel Antuna
Power: Drew Mendoza
Run: Cody Wilson
Arm: Jackson Cluff
Best athlete: Wilson
Fastball: Jackson Rutledge
Curveball: Tim Cate
Changeup: Seth Romero
HOW THE TOP 30 WAS BUILT
The Nationals’ longstanding competitive window has made them sellers more often than buyers in recent years, and that notion is reflected by the organization’s entirely homegrown Top 30 list. Fourteen of the club’s 20 draftees on the list are pitchers, including 13 from the college ranks. Teenage hurlers Andy Lara and Yean (No. 6) headline the organization’s crop of international signees, a group that also has several promising hitters in Yasel Antuna (No. 12), Jeremy De La Rosa (No. 13) and Israel Pineda (No. 14).
TOP 30 BY POSITION
The Nationals Top 30 Prospects list is teeming with pitchers, as they occupy each of the top 10 spots on the list and 18 of 30 spots overall. The list is particularly heavy with right-handed pitchers, with the group comprising nearly half of the Top 30, including the top seven spots. And while the Nats’ system may not appear to have much in the way of positional talent, the organization does have a promising group of young international hitters and a strong track record of developing such players.