If you’re gonna pull the early plug on a contention window, you better walk away with some future stars. To their credit, the Nationals did that. A better move might’ve been to hold Trea Turner in 2021 and hope for the best in 2022, but that wasn’t the play this team wanted to make, preferring to off-load Max Scherzer’s deferred money along with their star shortstop. 2022 then became an exercise in futility. It’s tough to imagine the front office saw the Turner trade as precursor to a Soto sale. I guess the checks keep clearing when an ownership group opts to quit an entire MLB season, but the cascading impacts of those tank-thoughts will be felt throughout the organization for years. Players might simply stop wanting to play. They didn’t have to move Soto, of course. Could’ve left him malcontent on the roster then watched him walk in free agency, but I don’t think any amount of free agent spending could undo the damage that had been done. 


1. OF James Wood | 20 | A | 2025

There’s a lot riding on the broad shoulders of the 6’7” 240 lb center fielder. If he remains a high-contact, big-power bat through the upper minors, the Juan Soto trade could look okay a couple years from now. CJ Abrams has a big part to play in that math as well, and he started hitting better down the stretch with regular at bats. Like Abrams last winter, Wood should be a consensus top ten fantasy prospect this off-season after slashing .313/.420/.536 with 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 76 games this year. He also walked 50 times and struck out 75. So far, his game has no apparent weaknesses. Depending on the timelines of Jackson Chourio and Elly De La Cruz, James Wood could be baseball’s number one overall prospect early in 2024.


2. OF Elijah Green | 19 | CPX | 2025

Green will turn 19 in December but has already posted major league exit velocities. The fifth overall pick in this year’s amateur draft, Green could’ve gone first overall and might’ve been the best athlete on the board. He’s already 6’3” 225 lbs and figures to get even bigger in his twenties. Despite the size, he’s an easy plus runner and defender who will probably push Wood to a corner outfield spot. Hit the ground running in the Florida Complex League, too, slashing .302/.404/.535 with two homers and a steal in 12 games. Struck out 21 times, for what it’s worth, which will be the primary hurdle between Green and becoming an impact major leaguer.


3. OF Robert Hassell III | 21 | AA | 2024

Hassell III’s name is bigger than his game in dynasty circles, where the nickname “Bobby Barrels” has infected the collective unconscious and will keep some people from really digging into the player’s processes and outcomes. Hassell seems to be caught between swinging for the fences and accepting a contact-focused approach, which is fine for a gifted guy with plenty of time left on his pro-baseball clock but is not ideal for the kind of player who gets traded for more established assets in dynasty leagues. He’s a good player; it’s just hard to pump the brakes when a prospect’s name value starts taking off while he’s struggling to adapt to new settings. Hassell spent just 27 games in Double-A but slashed .222/.311/.296 as the level, which was a continuation of a slump that began in High-A.


4. RHP Cade Cavalli | 24 | MLB | 2022

A linebacker-sized power arm who’s ready for his close-up, Cavalli should open the 2023 season in the Nats’ rotation. The command comes and goes, but the stuff is electric. He posted a 1.18 WHIP and 3.71 ERA in 97 Triple-A innings, which is indicative of the path Cavalli’s on: even when he’s good, the ratios won’t be elite, at least not for a while yet. Cavalli missed out on some innings due to covid-19 and being a two-way player early in his career, but his plus athleticism gives him an advantage when it comes to refining and maintaining his mechanics, which move a little too quick for his own good at the moment.


5. OF TJ White | 19 | A | 2025

The switch-hitting White got better throughout the season and punctuated his full-season debut over his final 20 games, slashing .329/.422/.513 with four homers and four steals to go along with a 12.2 percent walk rate and 17.8 percent strikeout rate, bringing his full-season line to .258/.353/.432 with 11 home runs and eight stolen bases in 92 games. He’s a plus athlete at 6’2” 210 lbs and might be too low here coming off the impressive debut against older competitors.


6. OF Cristhian Vaquero | 18 | DSL | 2027

Vaquero signed for $4,925,000 and has the five-tool topside to reward that kind of investment. Covid-19 has delayed his timeline a little, but Vaquero can catch up in a hurry. He’s become a switch-hitter to help him handle lefties, so there’s probably a little extra waiting time on his development, but his .379 OBP and 33-to-38 walk-to-strikeout rate are encouraging signs.


7. SS Brady House | 19 | A | 2026

He was supposed to be mighty mightay, lettin it all hang out, but Brady House hasn’t hit for power the way scouts expect he will, slugging just .375 with a 5.9%-to-29.1% walk-to-strikeout rate across 45 Low-A games. I’m officially worried. He still hit .278 and produced a 108 wRC+, but he isn’t going to provide speed, so he’ll have to produce consistent power to be useful for our purposes.


8. RHP Jarlin Susana | 19 | A | 2025

Another Padre who came over in the Juan Soto trade, Jarlin Susana checks in at an enormous 6’6” 235 lbs and throws easy gas in the upper nineties and a dynamite slider. His mechanics are smooth and repeatable, and he’s a great athlete for someone so big so young. He ended his season with three short but solid turns in Low-A (2.61 ERA) after dominating on the complex and is all-systems-go to climb the minors in 2023.


9. OF Jeremy De La Rosa | 21 | A+ | 2025

A plus athlete with breakout potential, De La Rosa thrived in Low-A (.315/.394/.505) before faltering across 32 High-A games, but in general, 2022 represented a step forward. The 5’11” lefty will likely return to High-A this season after slashing .195/.273/.271 with 37 strikeouts at the level this year, but he remains ahead of the age-to-level curve and won’t turn 21 until January 2023.


10. RHP Cole Henry | 23 | AAA | 2024

Henry looked great out the gate this year, posting a 0.59 WHIP across 23.2 innings in Double-A before being promoted to Triple-A, where Henry hurt his elbow and wound up needing thoracic outlet surgery in August. Fingers crossed. Burn some sage. If he gets all the way back, Henry will be a viable rotation option with upside in the ratio categories, powered by two fastballs, a changeup and a curveball. The mix tunnels well, and Henry can command it. Health has been the primary concern since his college days, and it could be that his balky right elbow simply won’t allow him to actualize. OF TJ White is probably a better pick for long-arcing builds more focused on topside than near-term functionality.

Thanks for reading!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.