Washington Nationals: A Deeper Look into the Return for Jeimer Candelario

Washington Nationals v Chicago Cubs
Washington Nationals v Chicago Cubs / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

As the clock ticked passed 6pm ET on Tuesday, August 1st, Nationals fans were hoping for a buzzer beater play from general manager Mike Rizzo, but with a single tweet from Washington Post's Jesse Dougherty the collective hopes of a fanbase were crushed. The Washington Nationals completed just one trade prior to the trade deadline, sending third baseman Jeimer Candelario to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for two prospects.

Initial reactions to the return for Candelario were all over the place, with Cubs fans screaming "overpay" and Nationals fans expressing disinterest in the package. When the dust settled the exchange became more and more intriguing from Washington's side and eventually the return, 22-year-old left-handed pitcher DJ Herz and 20-year-old shortstop Kevin Made, was deemed sufficient for a player of Jeimer Candelario's value as a rental and above-average bat.

Jeimer Candelario
Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

Herz, an 8th-round pick in 2019, has an unorthodox, cross-body delivery that creates deception but also contributes to a lack of command. In 59 innings pitched for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies, the lefty starting pitcher has 80 strikeouts, 37 walks, a 3.97 ERA, and 3.85 FIP.

Due to his command struggles, most experts project the southpaw to end up in the bullpen. With a fastball that sits 91-94 mph, a 70-grade changeup, and an improving low 80's slider, he could prove to be very effective in a relief role.

In 2022, Herz led Chicago's minor league system with 141 strikeouts in 95.1 innings pitched between High-A and Double-A. He was named an Organization All-Star by MiLB.com (for the second time in his professional career) and a High A Class All-Star by Baseball America.

More recently Herz ranked 16th and 19th in Chicago's system according to MLB Pipeline and Baseball America, respectively. Post-trade he is slotted in at No. 17 in Washington's system by MLB Pipeline (that will change with the impending update). He'll enter Double-A Harrisburg's starting rotation upon arrival.

The second piece coming to the Nationals also has clear value, but does not jump off the page as an organization changer either. Kevin Made is 5'9"/160, 20 years old, and a wizard at shortstop. His skillset is reminiscent of another Dominican infield prospect in the system, Armando Cruz. Although, Made has significantly more life at the plate.

The Nationals' system lacks depth at the shortstop position behind CJ Abrams, so this move targets a massive weak spot within the organization. Made has the ability to stay at shortstop in the long run, which is an asset in it's own right. At the plate expect average production, and not much more.

The young prospect has exceptional walk and strikeout rates - 10% BB-rate / 18% K-rate - in 300 plate appearances with High-A South Bend this season, good for a 97 wRC+. Made is coming off a strong July where he slashed .269/.370/.359 with a 113 wRC+ (great) and 0.90 ISO (not great).

Kevin Made left the Cubs as their 6th-ranked prospect according to The Athletic and 14th according to MLB Pipeline. He enters the Nationals' farm at No. 16 (MLB Pipeline). He will be sent straight to High-A Wilmington and most likely start every game at shortstop.

Like any prospect acquired via trade, monitoring Herz and Made's progression through the system will be interesting, and certainly a hot topic for years to come.