If you read my Nationals Top 50 Prospects article, you know I, along with others, view their farm system as one of the league’s worst. Before you go feeling sorry for the organization, remember this, they won the World Series. Organizational depth does not equate to wins and losses at the MLB level. By trading away prospects for immediate MLB help and a continued emphasis on pitching, the Nationals have been able to be competitive at the highest level. My concern is that they are leaving the prospect cupboards bare. Doing so will decrease the ability to make impactful trades and have homegrown talent reach the majors.
I want to take a look at this year’s MLB Draft and identify a few players that could begin the upward trend of the farm system. The 2020 Draft will be interesting. The effects of COVID-19 have put into jeopardy the number of selections each team will be able to make. Currently, a proposed draft of 5-10 rounds is being discussed. Fewer picks will put significant importance on the Nationals identifying talent and being efficient with their choices. Several changes to the draft structure will also hamper all organizations. With possibly only ten rounds, many prep players may opt to go to college to improve their draft stock. Draft eligible sophomores may stick around for another year in hopes some normalcy will return in 2021. MLB is also significantly lowering the amount teams can use on undrafted players. Previously, organizations could spend $125,000 on undrafted players, while this year, that number is $20,000. With fewer players selected, many who would be drafted in later rounds may rebuke a $20,000 offer to go back to school or attend college.
To improve the system, I feel that the Nationals need to focus on position players that project to make an impact. Over the last eight years, one position player has been selected with a 1st round pick by the Nationals. The international signing period has been successful for the Nationals with the likes of Juan Soto and Victor Robles being integral in the recent success of the team. I feel that the draft can change the complexion of an organization with more immediate results, with rare exceptions like Soto and Robles being outliers.
|2012||Lucas Giolito (16th Overall)|
|2013||No 1st Round Pick|
|2014||Erick Fedde (18)|
|2015||No 1st Round Pick|
|2016||Carter Kieboom (28)|
|2017||Seth Romero (25)|
|2018||Mason Denaburg (27)|
|2019||Jackson Rutledge (17)|
I’ve identified six players in this year’s draft that I think could be available when the Nationals pick at number 22. I’ve chosen three college and three prep players that could help boost the system and be an instant top 5 prospect in this system.
Austin Wells, C, Arizona
In 2019 Wells stepped in as a Freshman and was the starting catcher for the Wildcats. He is an offense-first catcher who also plays 1B and all three outfield positions. While his position may be unsettled, you can’t argue with his offensive production. His freshman year, he hit .353/.462/.552 and was well on his way to similar numbers in the 2020 season. His pitch selection is impressive as he struck out fewer times than he walked (46 BB/43K). Wells also provides some speed with seven triples and six stolen bases.
Not a bad couple of months for @ArizonaBaseball catcher Austin Wells…
✅ Freshman All-American
✅ Top 5 prospect in the Cape League
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) August 29, 2019
Dillon Dingler, C, Ohio State
One of the biggest risers in this year’s draft buzz, Dingler, brings with him a strong defensive game and solid offensive production. A leader and captain for the Buckeyes, Dingler has improved his OPS every year from .701 in 2018 to 1.164 in a shortened 2020 season. His power numbers are not impressive (48.7 AB/HR), but he has displayed excellent plate discipline as well as some speed and athleticism that you usually don’t associate with the position. Dingler has a big arm, and in 115 games threw out 21 of 42 potential base stealers.
— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) May 22, 2019
Daniel Cabrera, CF, LSU
Of the three college players I’ve listed, Cabrera has been the most consistent when it comes to hitting. Before the season was suspended, he was well on his way to setting new offensive highs by slashing .345/.466/.500. He is a pure hitter; can hit the ball to all fields, and his power numbers have increased (.220 ISO career). Defensively, he is nothing special, so a switch to one of the corner outfield positions seems likely.
LSU’s Daniel Cabrera is one of the best pure bats in college baseball, here he is lacing a double the other way. Loose wrists with whippy bat speed, barrel accuracy is high end, whole-field with juice, went way out pull-side yesterday. #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/wF3ovAHvSN
— Brian Sakowski (@B_Sakowski_PG) February 29, 2020
Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock HS CA (UCLA)
This year’s draft is heavy with top tier catchers, and Soderstrom may be the best prep catcher in the draft. An offense-first player, he provides a plus raw power tool that scouts love to project. At 6’2″ and 195 lbs., scouts expect that as he fills out his frame that those power numbers will improve. There is a strong chance that he will eventually be moved from the catcher position as he grows and matures. He is athletic enough that he could eventually play the corner outfield or infield positions as he moves through a system.
‘20 C Tyler Soderstrom (@tylersode) of @turlockbeisbol had a huge day yesterday going 4-4 3R 3RBI and this #PBRBombSquad. The #UCLA commit is arguably one of top 2-3 #MLBDraft prospects in the state. #ShapeTheState #BeSeen SOUND UP! @PBR_California @NathanRode @Clemmens_PBR pic.twitter.com/1VVejZZP8J
— 𝐋𝐞𝐬 𝐋𝐮𝐤𝐚𝐜𝐡 (@LesLukach) March 6, 2020
Pete Crow-Armstrong, CF, Harvard Westlake HS CA (Vanderbilt)
Crow-Armstrong has been on the radar for several years already as he has played for Team USA 18U. Going into 2019, he was probably the highest-rated prep player in the country. A disappointing summer circuit dampened some of that, but he is still an outstanding player. He is a plus defender with speed and ability to make contact, which projects him to be a top of the lineup hitter. The power numbers are not overwhelming, but some scouts think that the home runs will inevitably come because of his contact skills. Of the six players mentioned in this article, this is the player I would personally select. There isn’t one tool that wows you, but he does so many things well that its tough to ignore the potential.
Not only can Pete Crow-Armstrong get it done at the plate.
He’s also an exceptional defender.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) September 24, 2019
Jordan Walker, 3B, Decatur HS GA (Duke)
Walker is the top prep third basemen in the draft and one that has plenty of upside. At 6’5″ and 210 lbs., Walker has plus raw power and more to come as he adds some weight to his frame. Right now, he is an average hitter who does have some swing and miss to his game. Walker plays well enough at third to probably stay there as long as he can add muscle and maintain athleticism. Walker is a Duke commit, and some scouts wonder if he will be tough to sign as he may want to better his draft stock by refining his skills in college for a few years. With the draft rules still unsettled at the moment and the possibility of going to college, Walker may be too much risk for the Nationals to use their first-round pick.
Jordan Walker. Premium power 💪
The @DukeBASE commit can put a charge into the ball and is already among the 50 best draft prospects in baseball.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) March 23, 2020