Washington Nationals: Five Prospects To Watch

DENVER, COLORADO - JULY 11: Cade Cavalli #20 of the National League team throws against the American League team during the All-Star Futures Game at Coors Field on July 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - JULY 11: Cade Cavalli #20 of the National League team throws against the American League team during the All-Star Futures Game at Coors Field on July 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

With MiLB is around the corner, keep an eye on these five Washington Nationals prospects.

The MLB lockout continues to linger on with both sides holding steadfast on their CBT demands. Fans are left on the outside without baseball but luckily for them, MiLB is still set to start on time. AAA starts April 5, with the other levels starting later that month.

The Washington Nationals are in the first full year of its rebuild and has tied its future to building around Juan Soto. The system still needs work, but the Nationals have plenty of intriguing prospects to keep an eye on.

Cade Cavalli

Washington’s top pitching prospect, Cade Cavalli has ace potential. Coaches raved about him during his time at the Nationals Alternate Site in 2020 and he entered 2021 with high expectations. From the get-go, Cavalli showcased his ability to overpower hitters with his heater that tops out at 101 mph.

Cavalli flew through A+ and AA posting a 1.77 ERA with 71 strikeouts and a 2.79 ERA with 81 strikeouts respectively. He was called up to AAA, where opponents started to lay off of his pitches outside of the zone more and more and his walk rate skyrocketed.

In 24 2/3 innings, he went 1-5, with a 7.66 ERA, 24 strikeouts, and 13 walks. Part of his struggles stemmed from Cavalli never throwing that many innings in a season before (123 1/3). He will start this season at AAA and depending on how his control, could find himself being called up sooner than later.

Cole Henry

Part of the big three with Cade Cavalli and Jackson Rutledge, Cole Henry has some of the best secondary pitches out of the trio. Injuries limited him to 11 appearances at the FCL and A+. Yet when he was healthy, Henry was almost unhittable. In 43 innings at A+, Henry went 3-3, with a 1.88 ERA, and 63 strikeouts, while only walking 11.

Henry represented the Nationals at the Arizona Fall League where he put on a show. In 19 innings, he went 1-0, with a 3.32 ERA, and 30 strikeouts, second-most in the league. Henry has dealt with injuries dating back to his time at LSU and will need to prove he can stay healthy.

Jackson Cluff

An elite defender, Jackson Cluff battled injuries last year and when he was healthy, was unable to find a grove at the plate. In 35 games at AA, he hit .190, with two homers, nine RBIs, and an OPS of .556, while striking out 39 times.

However, he shined at the Arizona Fall League slashing .342/.432/.456, with a homer, 14 RBIs, and an OPS of .887. He ended up winning AFL Defensive Player of the Year and was instrumental in leading his team to the Arizona Fall League Championship where they ended up falling short.

If his bat never matures, at the least Cluff projects to be a utility infielder thanks to his glove. The question arises if his AFL performance was a fluke or a sign of what is to come.

Donovan Casey

Acquired in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner trade, Donovan Casey is one of the best pure athletes in Washington’s farm system. He has an above-average arm and speed, seen by his 27 outfield assists and 52 stolen bases respectively.

Casey finished last season at AAA to mixed results. In 38 games he hit .179, with two homers, nine RBIs, and 57 strikeouts. He strikes out too much and struggles to lift the ball at times, which prevents him from using his athleticism.

Victor Robles, Lane Thomas, Andrew Stevenson, and Yadiel Hernández have yet to solidify themselves in Washingtons’ outfield. Don’t be surprised if Casey starts challenging them for a spot before the season ends. However, he will need to prove his bat can stick in the majors, or he will be used primarily as a defensive replacement.

Branden Boissiere

Washington’s third-round pick in 2021, Branden Boissiere is the Nationals’ top first base prospect. Josh Bell only has one year left on his contract and while the team should extend him, they have yet to start serious discussions with the slugger.

Boissiere lacks the raw power of Bell, but he has a solid hit tool. Last year at the University of Arizona, he slashed .369/.451/.506, with five homers, 63 RBIs, and an OPS of .957. Washington decided to have Boissiere start at single-A where he seemed overmatched.

In 85 ABs, he hit .200, with one homer, 12 RBIs, and an OPS of .593. He also struck out 25 times while drawing only 10 walks. A solid defender, Boissiere has all the tools to take over down the line, but will need to prove his early stumbles was a fluke.