- The Washington Times - Monday, July 11, 2022

It’s been a long three months for the Washington Nationals, but the next three could feel even longer.

The Nationals are on pace to lose more than 100 games, and with the team expected to be a seller at the trade deadline, the dog days of this summer could be especially oppressive. 

While there aren’t major reinforcements readily available in the minor leagues, that doesn’t mean the Nationals’ farm system is barren. Washington entered the season with a bottom-third farm system, according to MLB.com, but there are still multiple top prospects and other interesting players making their way through the minors.

So, as the big league club continues to wither, here are 12 Nationals prospects for fans to follow this summer:

Zach Brzykcy, 23, relief pitcher: Brzykcy, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound right-hander, is one of the organization’s best swing-and-miss pitchers. Through 35 2/3 innings between High-A Wilmington and Double-A Harrisburg as of Tuesday afternoon, Brzykcy is 7-1 with a 1.26 earned-run average and an eye-popping 59 strikeouts. 

Cade Cavalli, 23, starting pitcher: Most Nationals fans know who Cavalli is, given he was the team’s first-round pick in 2020, is the organization’s top prospect and is ranked No. 47 on MLB.com’s prospect list. Cavalli’s season-long numbers with Triple-A Rochester aren’t great — 4.54 ERA in 67 1/3 innings — but he’s been dominant recently, evidenced by taking a perfect game into the sixth inning last week. If he continues to have success, he could get the call up to the big leagues later this season. Cavalli is also one of two players who will represent the Nationals at the All-Star Futures Game on Saturday. Wilmington second baseman Darren Baker, son of former Nationals manager Dusty Baker, will also play in the Futures Game. 

Matt Cronin, 24, relief pitcher: Like Brzykcy, Cronin is a high-strikeout reliever who has jumped a level this season. After dominating Double-A competition — allowing only five hits and zero earned runs in 16 1/3 innings — Cronin was called up to Rochester. On the season, Cronin has a 2.33 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 27 innings. In his minor league career, the 2019 fourth-round pick has a whopping 14.2 strikeout-per-nine ratio. 

Jeremy De La Rosa, 20, outfielder: De La Rosa is one of several standout prospects with the Nationals’ Single-A affiliate in Fredericksburg — a team that is 11 games above .500. The Dominican Republic native is one of the fastest players in the organization, showing off that speed with 26 stolen bases in 69 games. The center fielder is also slashing .315/.394/.505 with 10 home runs, 19 doubles and 57 RBIs. De La Rosa was called up to Wilmington on Monday night. 

Brady House, 19, shortstop: After dominating rookie ball last season, the No. 11 overall pick of the 2021 MLB draft was having success in Single-A this year before back soreness landed him on the injured list. House, who joins Cavalli as the only Nationals prospects on the top 100 list, is ranked No. 52 by MLB.com. The 6-foot-4 shortstop was hitting .278 in Fredericksburg before his injury. 

Cole Henry, 22, starting pitcher: As the Nationals’ No. 3 prospect on MLB.com, the 6-foot-4 right-hander was dealing in Double-A before getting the call up to Rochester and going on the injured list. Henry, the Nationals’ second-round pick in 2020, has a 1.71 ERA and 34 punchouts in 31 2/3 innings across both levels this year. 

Sammy Infante, 21, third baseman: While he’s hitting just .221 with 85 strikeouts in 68 games this year, Infante is one of the best power hitters in the Nationals’ farm system. The former second-round pick in 2020, Infante has 15 long balls and 13 doubles with Fredericksburg this season, culminating in an impressive .457 slugging percentage. 

Mitchell Parker, 22, starting pitcher: Parker, a fifth-round back in 2020, has been one of the best starting pitchers in the Nationals’ farm system this season, posting a 4-1 record and 1.93 ERA with Wilmington. The southpaw is a strikeout machine — punching out 224 batters in 162 1/3 career innings over the past two years. But he also has some command issues to figure out, as he’s walked 44 batters in just 60 2/3 innings this year. 

Jackson Rutledge, 23, starting pitcher: Following Rutledge, the Nationals’ first-round pick in 2019, may not be as satisfying as many of the other prospects, but he’s still considered one of the organization’s top minor league arms. The 6-foot-8 righty is struggling in Fredericksburg with a 2-5 record and 6.50 ERA, although it hasn’t been all bad for Rutledge, who tossed a seven-inning, three-hit gem just two weeks ago. 

Rodney Theophile, 22, starting pitcher: Theophile was so dominant in Single-A that he quickly got the call up to Wilmington in June. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound right-hander was 5-1 with a 1.29 ERA and 62 strikeouts with Fredericksburg. However, Theophile, a Nicaragua native, has struggled with his command in Double-A, walking 12 batters in his first 19 innings. 

Cristhian Vaquero, 17, outfielder: Vaquero is far from making it to the big leagues, but the youngster is still the fifth-ranked prospect in the Nationals’ system, according to MLB.com. In his first season of professional ball, the Cuba native is slashing .265/.354/.349 in 24 games for Washington’s Dominican Summer League team. 

T.J. White, 18, outfielder: After raking in rookie ball last season, White is having similar success in Fredericksburg this year. The Nationals’ fifth-round pick in last year’s draft, White is slugging .462 versus Single-A pitching thanks to 15 doubles, two triples and seven homers in 55 games.

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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