Although young, Nats farm restocked with position players

Last week, we discussed which Nationals pitching prospects could make their major league debuts this season, aside from Cade Cavalli.

This week, we're pivoting our attention to the position players on the farm. Amy Jennings and I wondered, during this week's episode of the "MASN All Access Podcast," when we might see them in Washington.

But for the purposes of this post, this exercise is going to be more of an appreciation of the restocking of the Nats farm system with position players rather than trying to predict when they will debut in the major leagues.

Unlike most of the pitchers we discussed last week, a vast majority of the top position player prospects are in the lower levels of the Nats minor league system. There are 14 position players in's top 30 list of Nationals prospects. An almost even split between pitchers and position players creates a nice balance of prospects.

However, 11 of those 14 position players have only played at the high Single-A level or lower. (Jackson Cluff at Double-A and Donovan Casey and Lucuis Fox at Triple-A are the only exceptions.)

Though most of these players are young and probably a ways away from the major leagues (the average age of those 11 players is 20 years old), it should be noted how the Nationals have revamped their farm system in the last couple of years by adding highly rated position players.

If you go back to the 2019 top 30 rankings, the Nationals only had 11 position players, led by Victor Robles, Carter Kieboom and Luis García in the top three. They've closed that gap through the First-Year Player Draft, international signings and trades.

And this isn't to say the Nationals have had trouble developing position players, knowing that general manager Mike Rizzo prioritizes starting pitching above all. On the contrary, it's that the Nats have a history of position players graduating to the majors relatively quickly and not holding the prospect status for very long.

Bryce Harper played only 130 games of minor league baseball before getting the call to Washington less than two years after being drafted with the No. 1 overall pick. Anthony Rendon only played 79 minor league games before debuting in 2013, the same timeline as Harper, and sticking with the major league club. Juan Soto, of course, was brought up as an 18-year-old with just 122 games of minor league experience across three seasons as an international signee.

You can even go all the way back to 2005, when Ryan Zimmerman debuted just three months after being the Nationals' first-ever draft pick and playing just 67 minor league games. (Different circumstances and front office, but still.)

Now there's a new crop of position player prospects, and if it takes them a little longer than the aforementioned guys to reach the majors, that'll be just fine.

Those guys were brought up to help the Nationals win at the major league level and, in Zimmerman's case, give the fans a glimpse into the future.

That's not the case now. The focus is on the development of these young players in the hopes that, when they're ready, they can be a part of the next competitive club in Washington.

Brady House leads this new wave of young talent as the No. 2 ranked prospect in the system and the top-ranked position player. Last summer's consensus top prospect in the 2021 high school class, House fell to the Nationals at No. 11 overall in the draft, bringing a 6-foot-4, 215-pound, power-hitting shortstop to the system.

Thumbnail image for Brady-House-Team-USA-Sidebar.jpgHouse's right-handed swing displays a lot of strength and speed. Scouts say he looks like he can be a power hitter with above-average pop to all fields.

And he has shown that he is capable of crushing high-velocity fastballs and handling solid breaking balls. That skill set helped him impress in his first action of professional ball.

In 16 games at the Rookie-level Florida Complex League, House slashed .322/.394/.576 for a .970 OPS with 14 runs scored, three doubles, four home runs, 12 RBIs, seven walks and 13 strikeouts. The pop was prevalent.

Two questions surround the 18-year-old, however. First, will he eventually make the switch to third base? And secondly, does that decision ultimately affect how he rises through the system?

House has said he wants to stick at shortstop professionally. But scouting reports say his size, arm strength and average speed suggest he's a better fit at the hot corner.

Plus, the competition is steeper at shortstop in the Nats system. There are six other shortstops listed in the Nats' top 30 prospect rankings. Not to say House isn't or can't be the best of them, but the path to the majors might be quicker if he moves over to third.

Either way, House can fill a long-term role for the Nationals. They will be looking for their shortstop of the future after trading away Trea Turner last summer, and they could also be looking for their third baseman of the future if Kieboom doesn't take the necessary steps forward this season.

But that's a conversation for another time. Right now what's important is that House leads a talented group of highly rated position players that the Nats took a couple of years to bring together.

Other names that fill out the position player prospect list include Armando Cruz, Daylen Lile, Jeremy De La Rosa, Sammy Infante and Cluff. (Three of those guys are shortstops, by the way.)

Don't forget that the Nationals just added the top international prospect in Cristhian Vaquero, who has yet to enter the prospect rankings, and own the No. 5 overall pick in this summer's draft. Whether they use that selection for a position player or pitcher remains to be seen, but it's a great opportunity to add another top talent to the farm nonetheless.

These position player prospects are young and seemingly far away from South Capitol Street. But that's not a bad thing for now. They might be worth the wait.

You can check out our projections for the debuts of some of these prospects on this week's podcast episode. The full show is available for viewing below or listening in the link above.

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