The Washington Nationals had one of the worst farm teams in baseball going into the 2022 season. On top of that, they have held the worst record in baseball this season. The biggest domino to fall was whether or not they would trade superstar Juan Soto. They did just that, resulting in one of the biggest blockbuster trades in major league history. In sending Soto to the San Diego Padres – along with Josh Bell, Washington received six players including five prospects – two of which are in our Top 200 prospect list – and Luke Voit. This helped to make the Nationals farm system much better. The full prospect package was left-handed pitcher Mackenzie Gore, outfielders Robert Hassell III and James Wood, shortstop C.J. Abrams, and right-handed pitcher Jarlin Susana.

In the inaugural MLB Draft lottery, Washington lost the first overall pick to the Pittsburgh Pirates and instead will pick second. It will be the second year in a row they are picking in the top five after selecting at fifth in 2022. Let’s dive into the top 10 prospects in the Nationals’ system.

#1 Robert Hassell III, OF, Independence HS (TN), 8th Overall Pick (2020)

After a full season in the Padres system last year – across Single-A and High-A – Hassell spent the first half for San Diego’s High-A club, Fort Wayne. Then after the Soto trade, the Tennessee native joined the Nationals High-A team Wilmington, where he spent just 10 games. He would finish up the season at Double-A Harrisburg, but struggled to adjust to his new organization. Hassell posted a .299/.379/.467 slashline with 10 homers and 20 stolen bases over 75 games with the San Diego organization. Obviously a smaller sample, but in 37 games in the Washington system, he had a .217/.312/.267 slashline with just one homer and four stolen bases. There isn’t anything to panic about yet, though, as Hassell has all the tools especially with his bat and speed that he has yet to fully tap into. The power will start to develop more as he fills out.

#2 James Wood, OF, IMG Academy (FL), 62nd Overall Pick (2021)

Another big piece to the Soto trade, Wood was drafted by the Padres 62nd overall in 2021 and made his pro debut in the Arizona Complex League later that year. The product out of IMG Academy in Florida got off to a fast start at the ACL, posting an 1.000 OPS with three homers and 10 stolen bases over 26 games. The toolsy prospect showed more of his potential with Single-A Lake Elsinore this summer after starting the season in the ACL. In 50 games at Lake Elisinore, Wood recorded a .337/.453/.601 slash line with 10 homers, 45 RBI, 55 runs, 19 doubles, and 15 stolen bases. He also improved his plate discipline with 42 strikeouts to 37 walks. This lead to him being a key part of the Soto trade as Washington really valued his makeup. After the trade, Wood played 21 games with the Nationals’ Low-A club Fredericksburg where he put up an .829 OPS with two homers, eight doubles, and four stolen bases. Wood maximizes his speed on the bases and the outfield, where he also shows off a strong arm.

#3 Elijah Green, OF, IMG Academy (FL), 5th Overall Pick (2022)

With their first top five pick since taking Bryce Harper at first overall in 2010, the Nationals snagged one of the top prep bats in the 2022 MLB Draft. The son of former NFL Pro Bowl tight end Eric Green, Elijah Green is a very well-rounded athlete. The right-handed hitter hits the ball well to all fields, is an elite runner which he uses to steal bases and cover ground in the outfield, and has a plus arm. He has a full toolbox that also includes plus raw power, which gives him a very high ceiling. In his first taste of pro ball this year, Green came on strong with a .302/.404/.535 slash line with two homers, nine RBI, nine runs, four doubles, and one stolen base in 12 games at the FCL.

#4 Cole Henry, RHP, LSU, 55th Overall Pick (2020)

After a strong commitment to LSU kept Henry from signing with the Tigers as a 37th-round pick in 2018, the Nationals snagged him in the second round of the shortened 2020 draft. Washington saw the flashes and bright spots with the draft-eligible sophomore after he put up a 3.03 ERA, 95 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings. This was all despite missing time with injury and missing out on a full 2020 season due to COVID. Henry was dominant in his pro debut season in 2021, as he pitched to a 1.88 ERA, 0.791 WHIP, and 63 strikeouts to just 11 walks over 43 innings for the High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks. The right-hander has a solid three-pitch, a high-90s four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball with arm side sink and run, and a low-80s changeup with arm side fade that tunnels well with the heater. In 2022, Henry started nine game overall, seven at Double-A Harrisburg and two at Triple-A Rochester. Injuries were a concern again, as he missed time with shoulder tightness in mid-June. But when he was healthy, Henry pitched fairly well as he recorded a 0.76 ERA, 0.592 WHP, and 28 strikeouts to nine walks in 23 2/3 innings for Harrisburg

#5 Cade Cavalli, RHP, University of Oklahoma, 22nd Overall Pick (2020)

Another first round pick in 2020, Cavalli pitched for three seasons at Oklahoma after deciding not to sign with the Atlanta Braves when they drafted him in the 29th round of the 2017 draft. The right-hander originally opened his college career as a two-way player, but he transitioned to a full-time pitcher his sophomore year. The Oklahoma native never had a full season on the mound, as he suffered a stress fracture in his arm after 12 starts in 2019 then the pandemic ended his 2020 season after four starts. The Nationals saw enough from him to take him with the 22nd pick as he posted a 4.09 ERA, 1.470 WHIP, and 114 strikeouts to 53 walks over 101 1/3 innings and 27 games – 18 starts – over his three seasons. Cavalli had a strong debut season in 2021, as he struck out 175 batters over 123 1/3 to lead the minor leagues, and rose three levels up to Triple-A Rochester. He has one of the best fastballs of any top prospect as he sits around 96-97 mph and can touch 100, while having strong secondary pitches in a mid-80s curveball and upper-80s slider that flash plus potential. These pitches have helped elevate his strikeout rate, although his walk rate was high at times due to struggling to find the zone. Cavalli spent most of 2022 at Rochester and also made his major league debut, although he struggled. In his lone MLB start against the Cincinnati Reds, he surrendered seven runs on six hits, two walks, and three hit by pitches over 4 1/3 innings. In 20 starts at Triple-A, Cavalli still had a high strikeout rate with 104 punchouts in 97 innings.

#6 Brady House, SS, Winder-Barrow HS (GA), 11th Overall Pick (2021)

Arguably the top prep bat going into the 2021 MLB Draft, House lost time to a back injury last year and wound up playing just 45 games in total at Low-A Fredericksburg. The Nationals shut down his season at the end of August. He burst onto the scene in his pro debut season of 2021, slashing .322/.394/.576 with four homers, 12 RBI, and doubles triples in 16 games in the FCL. The 6-foot-4, 215 pound shortstop generates quick bat speed and raw power from the right side and was able to shorten his swing enough to give him at least an average hit tool. House had trouble handling velocity this past season but that could be due to his back issues and some growing pains to the level. It would be wise to assume that the Winder, Georgia native will get a full season at Low-A in 2023 to get more accustomed to pro ball while getting fully healthy from the back. House has a very strong arm to play a good defensive shortstop and at least average range to make most plays in the 6-hole.

#7 Jarlin Susana, RHP, Dominican Republic, January 15, 2022 (SD)

The final prospect piece to the Soto trade, Susana was signed by Padres for $1.7 million on January 15, 2022 out of the Dominican Republic as the top-ranked pitcher in the 2021-22 international class. The 18-year-old made eight appearances, including seven starts, for the ACL Padres in which he posted a 2.45 ERA, 0.886 WHIP, and 44 strikeouts to 11 walks. He showed enough with his repertoire – upper-90s fastball that can hit triple digits, mid-to upper-80s slider, and a low-80s curveball – to be included in a big trade. Susana is also developing a changeup with late sink to round out his pitch mix. He has a smooth and repeatable delivery that will benefit him in his development as he irons out the kinks, most notably control. Upon going over to the Washington system, Susana made two starts for the FCL Nationals before getting the call to Low-A Fredericksburg, where he made three more starts. Across the two levels, he struck out 22 while walking nine in 15 2/3 innings.

#8 Cristhian Vaquero, OF, Domincan Republic, January 15, 2021

One of the top international prospects in the 2021 class, the Nationals signed Vaquero for $4.925 million last January. A Cuban native who moved to the Dominican Republic before becoming eligible for the international signing window in 2021, he has legitimate five tool potential. His best tool is his speed which translates well to the bases and center field in the pros. At 6-foot-3, Vaquero will grow into true plus power potential and his switch-hitting ability gives him an even higher ceiling. His natural side is from the left side and he will need more time to prove his ability to hit right-handed. Just turning 18 in September, Vaquero has a lot of time to develop his hit tool from both sides and show his potential with speed and defense. With the strong development of Soto before Washington moved on from him, Vaquero has the chance to be just as big of a success as an international signing.

#9 Jake Bennett, LHP, University of Oklahoma, 45th Overall Pick (2022)

The Nationals certainly have a liking for pitching out of the University of Oklahoma as they took another one in Bennett this year after Cavalli in 2020. The two are actually very familiar with each other, as they both attended Bixby High School in Oklahoma before Bennett followed Cavalli to the University. The Nationals originally drafted Bennett in the 39th round in 2019 which he thus turned down. The southpaw is a contrasting pitcher to his counterpart, as he is a polished left-hander who uses finesse over power. His low-to-mid-80s changeup is a plus pitch that swoops down at the plate, which he uses almost exclusively against opposite-handed hitters. Bennett has a four-seamer that can touch 98 mph but mostly sits in the 91-94 mph range. He looks to built to be a workhorse starter and he pitched 117 innings in 2021 for the Sooners in 2022 while striking out 133 and walking just 22 in 20 games – 19 starts.

#10 Jackson Rutledge, RHP, University of Arkansas, 17th Overall Pick (2019)

Rounding out the top ten Nationals prospects is another pitcher and first round pick. The only prospect on here that goes as far back as 2019 when they joined the system, Rutledge was the 17th overall pick that year out of San Jacinto Junior College in Texas. After transferring from Arkansas, the Missouri native was lights out to the tune of a 0.87 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings. Rutledge saw the beginning of his professional career take some big hits, with the alternate site in 2020, then shoulder and blister issues limiting him to 36 1/3 innings across three levels in 2021. The 6-foot-8 right-hander stands tall on the mound and can reach triple digits with his fastball while his mid-80s slider is a big breaker and his best secondary pitch. The breaker, which he can manipulate to add more or less break, led to nine whiffs in the 2021 Arizona Fall League championship. He also adds an upper-80s changeup and low-70s curveball which can be average in the pros. The stuff has shown promise, but it hasn’t translated too well to the mound just yet, as he held a 4.90 ERA and 1.387 WHIP at Low-A. Although, he did punch out 99 over 97 1/3 innings.

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