One year after the Nationals failed to land a single prospect in Baseball America’s annual top 100 rankings, the club enters 2022 with three players on the well-respected list.
Washington hit the reset button on its franchise at the trade deadline last July, trading eight veterans in exchange for 12 prospects to boost its farm system. The biggest headliner from the Nationals’ flurry of moves was catcher Keibert Ruiz, acquired as part of the deal that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He ranked 11th on BA’s Top 100 released Wednesday to mark the fifth consecutive season he’s earned a spot in the rankings.
The 22-year-old switch-hitter out of Venezuela made his Nationals debut in August and hit .284 with two home runs and a .743 OPS in 23 games. Perhaps most impressive was his plate discipline, as he tallied more walks (six) than strikeouts (four). Ruiz is expected to be the Nationals’ everyday catcher this season and a key member of their rebuild moving forward.
Beyond Ruiz, the Nationals saw both of their top draft picks from the last two years appear in the top 100 in right-handed pitcher Cade Cavalli (27th) and shortstop Brady House (59th). Cavalli broke into the top 100 early into last season and his impressive campaign helped him skyrocket up the rankings. House, despite being drafted out of high school, was an immediate addition to BA’s top 100 and he didn’t wait long to make an impression in the minors.
The Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks led the majors with six prospects in BA’s top 100. Eight teams garnered five including the rival Baltimore Orioles, who employ the No. 1 overall prospect in catcher Adley Rutschman. After the Nationals were the only team without a top-100 player last year, that dubious title now belongs to the Chicago White Sox.
Washington’s farm system still has a ways to go before it's considered one of the better pipelines in baseball, but the team has taken tangible steps in that direction. The Nationals announced Tuesday that they’ve created 14 new positions on their player development staff and hired 20 employees to fill those positions and bring in some new voices.
The Nationals also made a splash in the international market, inking Cuban outfielder Cristhian Vaquero to a club-record $4.925 million Saturday. The 17-year-old Vaquero was MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 prospect from his international class. Washington also signed the No. 5 international prospect a year prior in Armando Cruz, who made his professional debut in rookie ball last year.