Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

Major League Baseball’s offseason is underway, and that means everyone is thinking about the future. In most cities, that means next season; in some, though, it means the bigger picture, the next three to five years. You’re either selling wins or you’re selling hope, the old saying goes. We here at CBS Sports like to provide as much hope as we can around this time of the winter by evaluating each team’s farm system.

Of course, that doesn’t mean every team has an equally good farm system — some, as you’ll find out throughout this process, are lacking in that respect. It does mean, nevertheless, that CBS Sports will be spending the next couple of months examining the top three prospects in each organization. We define “prospects” as retaining their rookie eligibility for the 2024 season, so if a young player is missing that’s likely why. 

These lists and evaluations are formed following conversations with scouts, analysts, and player development types. There’s also firsthand evaluation and bias thrown into the mix. Keep in mind that player evaluation is a hard task, and it’s fine if you disagree with the rankings. These are opinions, and they have no real bearing on the future. You can check out our winter top 25 list by clicking here.

With that in mind, let’s get to it by dissecting the Washington Nationals.

1. Dylan Crews, OF (22 years old)

Top 25 ranking: No. 5The short version: The best prospect in the draft is a well-rounded player.MLB ETA: Summer 2024

One question we contemplate each winter is how to weigh a player’s introduction to pro ball. Crews was considered to be the best player in the class by the talent evaluators who spoke to CBS Sports last draft cycle. As such, is it reasonable to move him below Langford after just a few months? We decided yes for two main reasons: 1) Langford’s dominance at every step; and 2) Crews’ underperforming contact rates. Despite batting .405/.545/.685 with more walks than strikeouts against SEC competition, he experienced turbulence in 20 games at Double-A, posting a .595 OPS and connecting on just 70% of his swings. There’s no sense overreacting to a small sample when there’s years upon years of data demonstrating Crews’ competency, but we do think it’s important to incorporate every new piece of information. Based on that, we decided to roll with Langford ahead of Crews at this point in time. 

2. James Wood, OF (21 years old)

Top 25 ranking: No. 6The short version: Towering outfielder with great patience and power.MLB ETA: Summer 2024

Wood, the key to the Juan Soto trade from the Nationals’ perspective, is a fascinating prospect. He’s listed at 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds and he’s already capable of massive displays of raw power. (Six of his 28 home runs were hit to left or left-center field.) And yet, take one look at him and it’s clear that he has room on his frame to add even more muscle over the coming years. As that comes to fruition, two other developments will take place: 1) he’ll outgrow center field, and 2) he’ll turn into one of the best sluggers in baseball. The one potential snag here is that Wood’s combination of length and patience makes him extremely prone to strikeouts. He punched out in nearly 34% of his trips to the plate in Double-A, which would’ve qualified as the highest rate in the majors. His on-base and slugging potential will enable him to remain productive even with a poor strikeout rate, but there’s superstar upside here if he can get it closer to 30% before he reaches the majors.

3. Brady House, 3B (20 years old)

The short version: Big-time power bat with hit-tool questions.MLB ETA: Summer 2024

House has been a polarizing prospect since even before the Nationals popped him with the 11th pick in the 2021 draft. Some scouts have had trouble overlooking the negative aspects to his game. His strikeout rate soared to 28.4% in 36 Double-A games, and he’s remained prone to popping up the ball. Other evaluators, though, have identified House as an underrated prospect. That’s because of his big-time power potential at the hot corner, as well as his professional track record of producing above-average results despite being young for the level. We would like to see House tighten up his approach and take more walks so as to give his offensive game more breadth. Still, hitting home runs and playing a good third base always makes for a desirable combination on its own.

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