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Robert Hassell III Headlines Updated Nationals Prospect Rankings

Whether you view acquiring minor league talent as the ideal way of building your major league roster or as a method of stockpiling assets towards making trades for established major leaguers, the last couple days should’ve grabbed your attention.

Tuesday, MLB Pipeline and ESPN both updated their MLB prospect rankings. We’ve talked about how the additions of outfielder Elijah Green and the players received in exchange for Juan Soto have elevated the Nationals farm system into the top 10 – and perhaps the top 5 – in the sport. But we now also have a better sense for how individual players stack up against each other and might be prioritized as time goes on.

How We Got Here

Entering this season, two players (starting pitcher Cade Cavalli and shortstop Brady House) were viewed as consensus top 100 prospects in the league – the general baseline for what constitutes a likely productive, everyday major league starter. Beyond them and perhaps pitcher Cole Henry, the organization boasted few potential, ideal big league contributors.

Selecting Elijah Green with the No. 5 overall pick in the First-Year Players Draft – and rightfully so, in our opinion – provided an easy boost to the system, but that took place fivefold in the Soto trade. In exchange for the generational hitter, the Nationals added five outstanding prospects (although two of them have graduated from official prospect status) that could absolutely become core pieces of their next contending roster – which I opined, in a recent podcast episode, will likely come in 2025, although there’s a chance that they’ll become a .500 team as soon as 2024.

Keep those five players, excluding 1B/DH Luke Voit, in mind. Those names are C.J. Abrams, MacKenzie Gore, Robert Hassell III (affectionately known as “RH3” or “Bobby Barrels”), James Wood and Jarlin Susana. Abrams made his D.C. debut earlier this week, and Gore might do the same before this season ends as he recovers from an injury. Both of them had already accrued major league experience in San Diego this season. The rest had all yet to reach Double-A.

What MLB Pipeline Says

Generally, most folks view MLB Pipeline’s ranking as the most reputable. The site’s experts rated four Nationals in their top 100 prospects: outfielder Hassell (No. 23), Green (No. 29), outfielder Wood (No. 35) and Cavalli (No. 58).

Cavalli is someone we’ve discussed at decent length on multiple occasions, but the trio of outfielders have particularly caught the eyes of industry leaders Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo.

Hassell, who was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg on Tuesday, is viewed as the most polished, although he might also have the lowest ceiling. Green is still playing at the rookie level (lower than Low-A), but has legitimate five-tool upside. Wood is at Low-A Fredericksburg and could be promoted before the season ends, and has similar upside to Green (who was once his high school teammate at IMG Academy), with the exception that he’s less likely to move away from a defensive premium position – perhaps to first base.

Five players that the Nationals drafted this year appear in their new top 30, including the following: Green, Jake Bennett, Trey Lipscomb, Jared McKenzie and Brenner Cox. Among MLB Pipeline’s biggest risers are Jose A. Ferrer and former Hokie reliever Zach Brzykcy. Seven players in their previous top 30 are no longer in it, which is largely a testament to how much talent the Nationals have added. 

Their overall top 30 in the system appears as follows:

MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Prospects

1. OF Robert Hassell III

2. OF Elijah Green

3. OF James Wood

4. RHP Cade Cavalli

5. SS Brady House

6. RHP Cole Henry

7. OF Cristhian Vaquero

8. RHP Jarlin Susana

9. RHP Jake Bennett

10. OF Jeremy De La Rosa

11. SS Armando Cruz

12. RHP Jackson Rutledge

13. RHP Andry Lara

14. RHP Gerardo Carrillo

15. OF Daylen Lile

16. OF Roismar Quintana

17. 3B Trey Lipscomb

18. RHP Aldo Ramirez

19. SS/3B Yasel Antuna

20. OF T.J. White

21. OF Brenner Cox

22. OF Jared McKenzie

23. LHP Jose A. Ferrer

24. RHP Zach Brzykcy

25. LHP Matt Cronin

26. C Israel Pineda

27. LHP Mitchell Parker

28. 3B Sammy Infante

29. LHP Evan Lee

30. C Drew Millas

 Other Outlets

Baseball America’s rankings were released last week. There aren’t many considerable differences from MLB Pipeline, although their parameters viewed Abrams as still prospect-eligible, placing him atop the Nationals’ system. They have Green and Wood flipped; Henry drops to No. 12; they don’t include Bennett at all; and they view Rutledge (No. 9), Antuna (No. 14 and an outfielder), Cronin (No. 17) and left-handed pitcher Tim Cate (No. 19), among others, a bit more favorably.

Kiley McDaniel of ESPN was significantly more bullish on some of Washington’s prospects. Specifically, he rates Wood (No. 13), Abrams (No. 14) and Hassell (No. 16) within his top 20 prospects; and House is just outside his top 50.

The Takeaways

Sure, nothing is ever certain when discussing prospects. However, there’s a wide consensus that the trio of outfielders at the top, plus Abrams and Gore, have joined – and in most experts’ eyes, surpassed – Cavalli and House atop Washington’s suddenly elite farm system.

If nothing else, these re-rankings serve as a reminder of players to look out for in the coming seasons, and it also goes to show how much more promising the future looks than the present does – not to mention how much more favorable it is than it was two weeks ago.

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Friday, 30 September 2022

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