Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each organization and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in each farm system. Next up in our 2022 Organization All-Stars series are the Washington Nationals.
2022 Organization Summary
Triple-A Rochester: 67-81
Double-A Harrisburg: 52-85
High-A Wilmington: 65-65
Single-A Fredericksburg: 75-55
FCL Nationals: 33-22
DSL Nationals: 29-31
Overall record: 321-339 (.486 winning percentage, 20th among MLB organizations)
Nationals Organization All-Stars
Catcher: Israel Pineda
What a year it was for Pineda. The 22-year-old who had never played above High-A, began the season with Wilmington. He ended it in Washington, D.C., with the big league club, recording his first MLB hit in the final series of the year.
The club’s No. 27 prospect finished the Minor League season with his best OPS to date (.783) while recording 16 homers, 20 doubles and 71 RBIs. He found the most success in 26 games at Double-A, batting .280 while collecting more hits (26) and RBIs (21) than strikeouts (18). One of only two catchers on the Nats’ Top 30 Prospects list, Pineda could see significant time behind the plate for the Major League club again in 2023 -- he threw out 23 of 59 would-be base stealers in 99 Minor League games and made strides on the defensive end.
"His game-calling and receiving improved, his throwing accuracy was up," said Nationals director of player development De Jon Watson. "Offensively, at the beginning of the year, he was really pull-oriented. He started using the right-center-field gap a little bit more, became a lot more selective, and was able to get the ball in the air once he got to Double-A. Everything just kind of took off from there."
First baseman: Wilson Garcia
Playing for his fifth different organization in five years, Garcia didn’t miss a beat with Washington. The 28-year-old split time between first and designated hitter, mashing all season long for Harrisburg. He paced all Nats Minor Leaguers with 24 home runs, surpassing his previous career high of 23, while tying with Jake Alu for the most RBIs in the organization with 81. Garcia also led all first baseman in hits (128) while recording the second-best SLG (.498), the third-most doubles (26) and the third-best OPS (.828).
Second baseman: Darren Baker
The son of Astros manager Dusty Baker, 23-year-old Darren had a whirlwind year. Baker was one of two Washington representatives in the Futures Game in Los Angeles and finished out the year in the Arizona Fall League. The California native also had some pretty big moments as a spectator -- he was in Houston to see his father win his first World Series ring.
On the field, the lefty slugger found a lot of success in his first full season, slashing .280/.343/.365 across High-A and Double-A. Baker built off his contact-hitting skills -- his 116 base knocks were sixth among qualified players and he was one of nine batters to amass at least 100 hits, while his 17.5 percent strikeout rate stood sixth-best in the organization.
Third baseman: Jake Alu
Not only did the lefty slugger enjoy the best year of his career, but Alu also led Nats Minor Leaguers in a plethora of offensive categories. The 25-year-old paced the group in average (.299), slugging percentage (.506), OPS (.871), doubles (40), extra-base hits (62), total bases (254) and wRC+ (131) while standing tied for first in RBIs (81). Saying Alu had the best year in the system is an "understatement," according to Watson.
"The biggest thing for him was some swing adjustments and understanding which balls he could manage best in the strike zone," Watson said. "Once he made those minor adjustments in his offensive approach and his mindset, he didn't miss. The results just kept coming. He played a really solid third base for us."
The Boston College graduate made the jump to Rochester halfway through the season and rose to the challenge, hitting over 40 points higher than he did in Double-A with more homers (11) in 59 games than at Harrisburg (nine in 73 games). At the end of the season, the Nats added Alu to their 40-man roster, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft and proving he is a part of their future plans.
"He forced his way into a lot of really meaningful conversations at the end of the year," Watson said. "I'm really excited for him. He had a tremendous year."
Shortstop: J.T. Arruda
Arruda didn’t join Single-A Fredericksburg until mid-June due to injury, but he sprinted out of the gate for his best season to date. Among shortstops in the organization with at least 200 plate appearances, the 24-year-old was second with a 127 wRC+ and paced the group with a .387 OBP and a 16.9 walk percentage.
In 51 games with the FredNats, Arruda put up a .276/.394/.435 slash line with 17 stolen bases, 35 walks, 25 RBIs and 16 extra-base hits. Among the club's shortstops, his .808 OPS across Rookie ball and Single-A trailed only Luis Garcia, who spent most of the season with the Major League club.
With standout speed, the 23-year-old was a force to be reckoned with on the basepaths all season. Young was one of only two Minor League players to score at least 100 runs (118) and steal at least 50 bases (52) on his way to being named the organization’s Base Runner of the Year. He finished the season tied for the most runs scored in the Minor Leagues.
The 2021 seventh-round pick also fared well at the plate in his first full season. Young batted .262 with a .691 OPS across 115 games, amassing 20 extra-base hits, 46 RBIs and 59 walks for Single-A Fredericksburg while holding the lowest strikeout rate among all qualified batters (15.1 percent).
Though Watson noted Young still has some adjustments to make at the plate, his speed and defensive abilities put him in a good position going forward.
"He's an above-average defender in both right and center," Watson said. "The tools are there. There's still some stuff we need to work on with his offensive approach and getting the ball off the ground more, but that was starting to come at the end of the year."
Jeremy De La Rosa
The club’s No. 10 prospect had a breakout year for Single-A Fredericksburg, slashing .315/.394/.505 with 10 homers, 57 RBIs and 26 steals in his first 69 games of the year after struggling mightily in his first full pro season in 2021. While there were some bumps when he was promoted to High-A, the 20 year-old swiped 13 more bags in 32 games after moving up a level and set career highs in just about every offensive category en route to earning Carolina League All-Star honors.
"He hits the ball hard, and he can even hit it harder more consistently. The routes, the defense, the base running, everything was up," Watson said. "The energy that he brought to the ballpark on a daily basis, you expected him to do something electric every night. It was fun to watch him evolve and grow as a young player."
The lefty slugger was one of seven qualified hitters to finish the season with an average of .280 or better and ended up sixth in the organization with a .794 OPS. His 39 steals were tied for second-most among Nats' Minor Leaguers.
De La Rosa was named one of the organization’s Hitters of the Year along with James Wood, who made a very strong impression in just 21 games after coming over from San Diego as one of the centerpieces in the Juan Soto trade.
"It's an exciting time to be working in our development system," Watson said. "Wood is as electric as anybody that we have in our organization, if not the most electric player in our system. ... Tremendous tools, he's an above-average runner, can play all three [outfield positions]. The only tool that needs work is his overall arm strength, but the overall package is pretty special."
Stevenson set several career highs during the 2022 season. The lefty recorded personal bests in games played (135), homers (16, after never previously hitting more than seven), doubles (31), runs (81 -- tied for second-most in the organization), RBIs (67) and walks (46). The 28-year-old matched his career best in steals with 39, second-most among Nats' Minor Leaguers. He was one of five qualified hitters to record an OPS over .800.
Right-handed starting pitcher: Cade Cavalli
The Nats’ 2020 first-round pick made his MLB debut at the end of August, and it was well-earned after a strong sophomore season. Making all 20 starts with Rochester, the 24-year-old put up a 3.71 ERA with 104 strikeouts in 97 innings and held opposing batters to a .212 average, second-best in the organization among pitchers with at least 80 IP.
The Nats’ No. 4 prospect allowed only three homers all year, tied with Mitchell Parker for fewest in the organization, and tied with Lucas Knowles for the fewest hits (75).
"He learned a lot this year. He had to make some adjustments for himself, but he managed his delivery and was able to incorporate his curveball-slider-changeup mix -- really understanding how to use his weapon," Watson said. "From the beginning of the year until the time he was called up, he was ascending toward the big leagues. It was inevitable he would end up there."
Cavalli made his debut on Aug. 26 against the Reds, allowing six runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings before being shut down for the rest of the season due to shoulder inflammation. Despite the abrupt ending, the progress he made puts him in a strong position to be in the rotation on Opening Day.
"The velocity was pretty steady the entire year, the fastball command continued to improve, the strike quality continued to improve, and his ability to spin that breaking ball ... that was definitely a quality pitch for him that he was able to maximize," Watson said.
Left-handed starting pitcher: Mitchell Parker
The southpaw had a somewhat rough introduction to the Minors in 2021, but flipped the script in 2022. The club's No. 28 prospect paced all pitchers in the organization with a 2.88 ERA and a .207 average-against. He tied for second among Nats hurlers with 117 strikeouts in 100 innings, a 26.8 percent strikeout rate. The 23-year-old struggled with walks, but he was incredibly effective at limiting damage -- he surrendered the fewest number of earned runs (32) as well as the second-fewest number of hits (76).
Reliever: Zach Brzykcy
Signed for $20,000 as a non-drafted free agent in 2020 despite being one of MLB Pipeline's Top 200 Draft Prospects, the 23-year-old had a difficult first season before dominating this year. Washington’s No. 25 prospect started off with High-A Wilmington and finished with Triple-A Rochester, posting an ERA below 1.90 at each level.
His 1.76 ERA and 14 saves were second-best among pitchers in the organization with at least 40 innings, and his .156 average-against led the organization. The 23-year-old racked up 95 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings for a 38.7 percent strikeout rate -- second-best among the group.
"It was like he had an invisible fastball. They couldn't touch it," Watson said. "They didn't hit his breaking ball, then he started mixing in this slider when he got to Triple-A. He was incredible."
Stephanie Sheehan is an contributor for MiLB.com.