The Washington Nationals officially turned the page from their 2019 championship team on Tuesday by sending franchise cornerstone Juan Soto to the San Diego Padres in one of the biggest MLB blockbusters in recent memory.
Moving off the 23-year-old outfielder was bittersweet for front office head Mike Rizzo and Co. But it’s something that needed to be done after Soto turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract offer from Washington back in July.
In return, Washington nabbed one of the greatest prospect hauls in baseball history as the worst team in baseball looks to rebuild from the ground up.
Padres No. 1 prospect, outfielder Robert Hassell III, is one of the major headliners in the deal. The same thing can be said about former prospects, shortstop C.J. Abrams and pitcher MacKenzie Gore. Both were at one point the top prospects in San Diego’s previously loaded farm system. No. 3 prospect, outfielder James Wood, also heads to the nation’s capital in this deal as does 18-year-old right-handed pitcher Jarlin Susana.
While there’s a chance that some of these players won’t live up to their billing in D.C., at least of couple of them will end up being cornerstones for the struggling Washington Nationals.
Robert Hassell III could bring new life to Washington Nationals lineup
Per MLB.com, Hassell III immediately slots in as Washington’s top prospect ahead of the well-known Cade Cavalli. The former eighth overall pick of San Diego out of Independence High School in Tennessee, the 20-year-old Hassell had been playing in high Single-A ball prior to the blockbuster to Washington.
- Robert Hassell III stats (2022): .299 average, 10 HR, 55 RBI, 20 SB, .846 OPS
Hassell III is seen as a five-tool prospect with an ability to play all three outfield positions. He led the U.S. National team in hitting at the under-18 World Cup in South Korea back in 2019 while catching the eyes of MLB teams in the process. With good luck, he’ll make it to D.C. at some point in 2023.
C.J. Abrams will head to the Washington Nationals immediately
The No. 6 overall pick of San Diego back in 2019 out of Georgia, Abrams was the organization’s top overall prospect heading into the 2021 season. The infielder showed promise between rookie and Single-A ball in 2019 — hitting a combined .393 with a 1.093 OPS. As with other prospects, his ability to progress was impacted by the 2020 Minor League Baseball season being canceled due to COVID-19. Abrams has not found that same type of success since.
Despite all of this, Abrams entered the 2022 season as the ninth-best prospect in all of baseball even after missing the end of the 2021 campaign due to a sprained ACL.
Known for his elite-level defense and ability with the bat, Abrams struggled in his initial action with the Padres. He hit .232 with a .605 OPS in 125 at-bats prior to Tuesday’s trade. He’ll still likely take over as an immediate every-day player at second or short for the Washington Nationals.
MacKenzie Gore has long been considered a potential ace
Gore, 23, was the Padres’ No. 2 prospect back in 2019 behind only Fernando Tatis Jr. Once the latter graduated to San Diego, Gore took over the No. 1 slot the following year. Selected with the third pick in the 2017 MLB Draft out of Whiteville High School in North Carolina, he’s been considered a potential ace since making his professional debut.
It started out swimmingly for Gore once he advanced past Single-A ball back in 2019. In stops with both high Single-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A Amarillo, he dominated lower-level hitting.
Unfortunately, it’s been a downhill trend for Gore since. He posted a near 4.00 ERA in the minors last season before getting the call early in the 2022 season with the Friars. Thus far, Gore’s excellence in the minors has not translated to MLB with him posting a 4.50 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 16 games. Gore is currently sidelined to left elbow inflammation and isn’t expected back until September. At least short-term, this has to be concerning to the Washington Nationals organization.
James Wood compared to an all-time great
Following Tuesday’s trade, MLB insider Jon Heyman noted that Wood has been compared to Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. This is a thing that actually happened.
Currently dominating Single-A pitching, Wood immediately becomes the National’s No. 4 prospect. The two-sport start attended IMG Academy to focus on both baseball and basketball back in 2020. That’s when he caught the attention of MLB teams.
He ended up going in the second round of the 2021 MLB Draft and inked a resounding $2.6 million bonus with the Padres. Still ways away from the Majors, Wood is hitting .321 with a 1.004 OPS in minors this season.
Jarlin Susana as the unknown new Washington Nationals prospect
Despite his standing as San Diego’s No. 14 prospect prior to the trade, Susana isn’t anywhere near the headliner in this package. He’s just 18 years old and playing rookie ball. With that said, the young righty has posted a 2.45 ERA and 0.89 WHIP in eight games (seven starts) to open his professional career.