The future stars are coming to Washington. Over the last three drafts combined with trades with competing franchises yearning for superstars, Mike Rizzo and the Nationals have brought several high-profile talents into the organization. Eight years of contention and low-ceiling players being drafted in the first round have come and gone, and the Nationals have seemed to blossom a new strategy in rebuilding its long-forgotten farm. Christan Vaquero, Jarlin Susana, and others in my top 5 have represented an ideological shift toward toolsy, high-potential players. This new approach by Mike Rizzo shows confidence in the development department of an organization that has long been seen as one of the worst in baseball. From Carter Kieboom to Victor Robles, the Nationals have a track record of not properly developing players. Hopefully the recent organization focal point from winning to long-term stability and player development produces changes, and through that, the players on this list will blossom. Lets hope.
Today, I’ll rank the top 5 prospects in the Washington Nationals system. Unlike most public lists, which tend to favor reliability over upside, I won’t be giving significant boosts to players closer to the majors or that have a relatively high floor *cough cough* Robert Hassell. For this list, I’ll be giving each prospect an FV(Future Value) grade, ranging from 20–80, and an ETA, which is the first year I think they should see significant playing time in the majors. Here is what each FV grade roughly translates to;
20: career minor leaguer
30: AAAA player
40: bench player/backend starter
45: low-end regular/4 or 5 starter
50: everyday player/4 starter
55: above average regular/mid-rotation
70: top 10 player in baseball
80: top 5 player in baseball
Now, without further ado, here we go…..
5. Robert Hassell III
With the 8th pick in the 2020 MLB draft, the Padres selected Robert Hassell III. Many might expect Hassell to be higher than he is based on where many top 100s have him. The main concern with Bobby Barrells is that ironically he doesn’t hit the ball hard at all. Last year he had an 84.3 AVG EV and a 104.7 max EV, both of these would be the second-worst marks of any player in baseball, even worse than Victor Robles. However, the good news is that Hassell does pretty much everything else decently well and should be the everyday CF in DC by the Summer of ‘24.
Last season Hassell had a 113 wRC+ across high-A, and AA. Although he struggled when he got to the Nats system with an abysmal 73 wRC+ after being promoted to AA in late August. Despite his struggles, he still had an above-average walk rate in Harrisburg but he hit for almost zero power. What makes Hassell such a promising prospect to many even with the raw power concerns is his very good swing decisions, a plus hit tool, and good speed plus defense. Hassell has amazing chase rates, especially on breaking and off-speed pitches. This doesn’t even include his above average zone-swing rates, which shows advanced pitch recognition and knowledge of the strikeout zone. I have Hassell’s hit tool at a 50 grade because even though his contact rates are mediocre he does a very great job at letting the ball travel and hitting it to all fields, although he does sacrifice pulled-fly balls to do this. This ability coupled with his plus speed helped Hassell run BABIPs well over .300 last year and should allow him to maintain a great batting average. An underrated aspect of his hitting profile is his approach against lefties, which helps to alleviate the concerns of ending up as a platoon bat instead of an everyday player.
Hassell’s most promising tools might be his glove and speed. Hassell has stolen 58 bases in his 2 years in minor league baseball with an elite 87 percent success rate. That 87% is better than 7 out of the 10 leaders in steals from 2022. Considering this, the new bases and pick-off rules, plus the Nats’ historic steals-friendly philosophy, I expect Hassell to be a perennial 20+ base stealer and provide significant value on the base paths. Now onto his glove. He’s a plus defender in CF and he has shown a great arm which helps to make up for his lack of top-end athleticism. I think as of now he’ll stick in CF, especially if he stays on this development track since the only player he’ll have to beat out is Victor Robles.
Overall I view Hassell as having the lowest ceiling in my top ten not including relievers, as I don’t see him ending up as anything more than a 10-homer guy unless he can add and grow into more power. Although if he can, he can be a very good major league player for a long time. I think he’s tough in relation to many prospect lists as most overrated him and some underrate him. If I were to make a top 100 he would probably end up as a fringe top 100 prospect.
4. Cade Cavalli