Major League Baseball's offseason is in full swing, 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 few weeks examining the top three prospects in each organization. We define "prospects" as retaining their rookie eligibility for the 2023 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..
With that in mind, let's get to it by dissecting the Washington Nationals.
1. James Wood, CF, No. 5 on top 20 (2023 seasonal age: 20)
Our belief is that a team can never win a trade in which they send out a generational talent like Juan Soto years before he's set for free agency. Be that as it may be, Wood has the potential to help Nationals fans forgive the move. (One talent evaluator who spoke to CBS Sports even suggested he should be ranked No. 1 overall.) Wood may be listed at 6-foot-7, but he's no Big 10 ogre; he's quite athletic, to the extent that he's primarily played center field so far in his professional career. Some mechanical tweaks he made last season left him with a 21 percent strikeout rate, an improvement over his initial professional introduction. Wood has big-time power, as you'd expect, and in a perfect world he'd turn into a middle-of-the-order, middle-of-the-diamond player. At minimum, he's raised his stock since being selected 62nd in the 2021 draft.
2. Robert Hassell, OF (2023 seasonal age: 21)
Another member of the Soto return, Hassell showed enough hitting prowess as an amateur to convince the Padres to select him eighth overall in the 2020 draft. He hasn't lived up to that standing yet. Instead, he's struggled to hit for power, tallying just seven extra-base hits in 37 contests following the trade while his strikeout rate also ballooned to over 27 percent. Hassell could lighten his offensive burden if he proves capable of remaining in center field. Otherwise, he'll need to learn to slug to avoid becoming the new Jeremy Hermida.
3. Elijah Green, CF (2023 seasonal age: 19)
Green, the No. 5 pick in last summer's draft, could emerge as the best player from the class -- or, he could very much not. How's that for analysis? Green has outstanding tools and physicality, the kind that give him an ultimate upside of a middle-of-the-order hitter and top-notch center fielder, but his game needs refinement for him to reach such lofty heights. He's prone to swinging and missing, to the extent that he used to ditch his stride with two strikes to improve his chances of making contact. Green has an unusually high ceiling and an unusually low floor for a top-five pick. It's anyone's guess where, exactly, he'll fall on that spectrum over the coming years.