After years of trading away prospects to win now and missing on first-round picks, the Nationals farm system had become barren. Entering the 2021 season, they had the worst farm in MLB, but the Nationals firesale added a much-needed infusion of youth and talent. The farm still has a ways to go, but it’s in the best shape in years.
Washington has the fifth pick in the upcoming draft in addition to three top 100 prospects per Baseball America, making for a solid foundation. With Spring Training around the corner (baring the lockout ends) now is a perfect time to rank the Nationals’ top 50 prospects entering the season.
Special thanks to Nationals Source for help with the rankings and analysis of the Nationals system.
50) Cole Quintanilla, RHP, 22
A strong arm that could impact the bullpen in the near future, Cole Quintanilla has a fastball that he can throw 98 mph and a breaking ball combo. He has already gone through Tommy John and proven he can do well in the bullpen after the surgery. The bullpen has always been an issue for the Nationals and it is nice to have a few good bullpen arms coming through the system.
49) Jacob Young, OF, 22
Young falls into a similar type to Connell in that he is an outfielder drafted in a later round, but one that will likely find his way onto a big-league roster. Young was drafted in 2021 out of Florida and 26 games at Fredericksburg he did not do much. His college stats on the other hand were much more exciting. Over 3 years in the SEC he hit .330/.400/.447. He is going to have to improve at the professional level next year, but I can certainly see him being a bench player in the future.
48) Justin Connell, OF, 22
If someone was to ask me who would be the next Andrew Stevenson for the Nationals I would pick Connell. He was drafted a little later but he is the type of player that can do a little bit of everything. A solid outfielder, can steal a bag and get on base at a pretty solid rate. His peak is likely a 4th outfielder, but he is all but certainly going to make the bigs somewhere in that role.
47) Jose Atencio, RHP, 20
Atencio is a lot like Cedeno in that he excelled in limiting home runs and walks in 2021. He also pitched just over 50 innings and had a sub 2.00 ERA. These two could really be in either order and we will learn a lot more about both of them in 2022.
46) Jose Cedeno, RHP, 20
Cedeno used 2021 to open some eyes in the Nationals organization. He is 20 years old and has yet to make it stateside, but the numbers he posted this past year were very impressive. He threw 58 innings and started 10 games. Over those 10 games, he posted a 5-0 record and an ERA of 1.24. The most exciting part of his game is his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark (2 HR) and limit walks (11 walks). He will make his way to the states in 2022 and is definitely a guy to keep an eye on.
45) Gabriel Agostini, LHP, 22
The 2020-21 international signing class was headlined by Armando Cruz for the Nationals, but they also added some high upside pitchers. Lefty Gabriel Agostini had a promising debut with the Nationals DSL team. In 32 innings this year he only gave up 4 earned runs and struck out 42 while only walking 6. At 17 years old he is sitting in the low 90s with his fastball and has also shown glimpses of a quality changeup and curveball. I expect his velocity to increase as he grows and I am very excited to see his stateside debut in 2022.
44) Dustin Saenz, LHP, 22
The last of the players acquired this past trade deadline is Dustin Saenz, the Nationals fourth-round pick in 2021. He does not really have a stand-out pitch, but he does have above-average control. His ability to limit walks could allow him to be starting pitching depth for the Nationals if he is able to continue to do that as he moves up through the system.
43) Viandel Pena, SS, 21
After 2019 Pena was one of the most exciting bats in the system. He slashed .359/.455/.481 in 37 games and really opened some eyes. He did not have a home run during that time, but he had 13 XBHs. 2021 was a different story for Pena as he struggled in Fredricksburg. He is only 21 years old but getting back on track in 2022 would be a great sign for the Nationals going forward.
42) Darren Baker, 2B, 23
Darren Baker is doing a pretty solid job making his own name in baseball. He hit very well in rookie ball and kept that going after he moved up to Low A. He does a lot of things very well. Baker is a sure-handed defender, has plus plus speed, and knows how to get the bat on the ball. He has almost no power, but I really think he is going to be a valuable piece for the Nationals going forward.
The reason he is ranked so low on this list is that a 4-year college player at the age of 22 should be doing this good at rookie ball and low A, I need to see him continue to produce as he moves up and he will move up this list quickly.
41) Will Frizzell, 1B, 22
Will Frizzell is another player from the 2021 draft class that is putting together a solid run so far with the Nationals. He is a hitter first and if he is going to be valuable at the big league level it will likely be at DH. His college numbers were absurd as he hit .343/.451/.686 his senior year. He continued to show that he can be an offensive force at the pro level and I expect his hit and power tools to allow him to move quickly through the system. Not having a true position really limits his upside which is why he is ranked so low on this list.