Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

2020 Draft Coverage: Mock Draft Mania and Nats Prediction

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I collect Mock Drafts in baseball.  The first of these I found this year was the day after the 2019 draft, then the next was in early Oct right after the final 2020 draft order was finalized.  These early ones are pretty crazy; so much can change (especially with prep players) in a year’s time that the early projections are mostly useless.  But, they’re also interesting to see how player rise and fall on draft boards over the course of a year.

I’ll keep adding to this list as Mocks come in; they’re generated all the way up to the day of the draft by the major pundits.  If i’m missing a ranking here, please let me know.

 


Here’s the Mock draft collection.  I’ve generally listed their top-5 and then who they project the Nats to take at #22 (if they project out that far).  this year i’m ordering them Chronologically as rec’d instead of grouping by pundit…. this should let us see kind of an evolution of the top of the draft.  Players are bolded the first time they’re mentioned, not again afterwards.

  • Baseball America (Carlos Collazo/Teddy Cahill): July 2019 Way-too-Early Mock DraftEmerson Hancock, Spencer Torkelson, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Austin Martin, Patrick Bailey
  • Baseball America (Carlos Collazo) Oct 2019 Draft Order finalization Mock: Austin Martin, Torkelson, Hancock, Nick Gonzales, Asa Lacy.
  • Baseball America (Carlos Collazo) Jan 2020 Mock: Martin, Hancock, Torkelson, Gonzales, Lacy.  Nats take Heston Kjerstad, Arkansas corner OF.
  • Baseball America (Carlos Collazo) Feb 2020 Mock v2.0: Martin, Torkelson, Lacy, Gonzales, Hancock.  Nats take Ed Howard, prep OF from Illinois.
  • CBSSports (Mike Axisa): apr 2020 mock: Martin, Gonzales, Torkelson, Hancock, Lacy.  Nats take J.T. Ginn, who blew out arm one start into 2020.
  • Baseball America (Carlos Collazo) April 2020 Mock: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Gonzales, Hancock.  Nats take Ginn.
  • ESPN (Kiley McDaniel) 5/13/20 Mock draft: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Hancock, Zack Veen,  Nats take Cole Wilcox.
  • The Athletic (Keith Law) 5/13/20 Mock Draft 1.0: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Veen, Hancock.   Nats also taking Wilcox
  • Baseball America (Carlos Collazo) 5/13/20 Mock draft: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Gonzales, Hancock.  Nats taking Slade Cecconi, a RHP from uMiami
  • MLB.com (Jim Callis): 5/13/20 Mock draft: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Hancock, Veen.  Nats taking Cecconi
  • CBSSports (Mike Axisa): 5/29/20 Mock draft: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Hancock, Meyer.  Nats still on Ginn
  • Baseball America (Carlos Collazo5/27/20 Mock Draft v5.0: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Veen, Gonzales.  Nats taking Jared Kelley, a prep RHP from Texas HS.
  • ESPN (Kiley McDaniel5/26/20 Mock 2.0: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, VeenMax Meyer.  Nats still on Wilcox.
  • Fangraphs (Eric Longenhagen) 5/27/20 Mock 1.0: Torkelson, Lacy, Martin, Gonzales, Meyer.  Nats on Wilcox.
  • MLB.com (Jim Callis): 5/27/20 Mock draft: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Gonzales, Veen.  Nats taking Clayton Beeter, RHP, Texas Tech
  • Athletic (Keith Law) 5/28/20 Mock 2.0: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Veen, Hancock.  Nats on Wilcox
  • Radio.com (Tim Kelly) 6/1/20 Mock Draft: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Veen, Meyer.  Nats on Justin Foscue, 2B Mississippi State
  • CBSSports (Mike Axisa): apr 2020 mock: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Veen, Hancock.  Nats still on Ginn
  • Athletic (Keith Law) 6/3/20 Mock 3.0: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Veen, Hancock.  Nats on Wilcox again (Garrett Crochet if Wilcox goes early)
  • Baseball America (Carlos Collazo) 6/3/20 Mock Draft v6.0 ; Torkelson, Veen, Lacy, Martin, Hancock.  Nats on Foscue.
  • MLB.com (Jonathan Mayo) 6/4/20 mock: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Gonzales, Meyer.  Nats on Cecconi (with a Wilcox caveat)
  • BA Staff Mock Draft 6/4/20: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Hancock, Veen.  Nats take Dillon Dingler, C from Ohio State.

 

Mock draft posters from past years who didn’t seem to do one this year.:

  • D1Baseball (Frankie Piliere); took a job with Seattle, no longer at d1baseball.
  • HeroSports.com (Christopher Crawford); moved to nbcsports/roto world, now focused only on fantasy impact.
  • MinorleagueBall.com (John Sickels); moved to TheAthletic, site dead.
  • SI.com (Jay Jaffe), now with Fangraphs, so probably not doing prospect work anymore.
  • Baseball America (John Manuel): seems to have passed the torch at BA to Collazo
  • Baseball Draft Report (Rob Ozga); Last post was Sept 2018; out of business?
  • Seedlings to the Stars/Calltothepen.com: main writer left to form Video Baseball Scout.
  • Prospect Digest (Joseph Werner); hasn’t covered the draft since 2018
  • Sporting News: can’t find Draft content any longer; more of an AP headline shop.
  • Video Baseball Scout; no mocks in 2020 after a bunch in 2019

Draft Rankings: these are prospect ranking lists, NOT mock drafts.

Past prospect rankers that are not doing ranks this year

  • 2080baseball; looks like it just stopped posting mid 2019 off-season
  • Baseball Draft Report (Rob Ozga); stopped writing sept 2018, one cryptic post in July 2019, seems like he was workign for a team but no new content.
  • Video Baseball Scout; no rankings for 2020; site may have died
  • MinorLeagueBall.com site dead, John Sickels now at the Athletic

 

Todd Boss’ Mock draft top-5 prediction?

My top 5 prediction: Torkelson, Martin, Lacy, Veen, Hancock.  I think Veen sneaks in and Gonzales falls out of the top 5, making someone in the 6-7 range very happy.

Who are the Nats going to take at #22?

We’ve talked about this a lot in the comments, but i’ll summarize my thoughts.  Here’s what the Nats like to take in the 1st round:

  • College
  • College Arm
  • College Arm from either Texas/Oklahoma area or a SEC arm
  • College Arm who was higher ranked earlier in the process but has fallen for some reason (injury, discipline) so they think they can get “value”
  • College arm who is advised by Scott Boras or who is similarly “famous” for some reason or another.

All of these things point to one guy; J.T. Ginn.  Only now it seems like Ginn is falling entirely out of the 1st round and may be had later on.  Kinda like how a few years back the Nats were attached with Alex Meyer at the 6th overall pick at one point … then were able to take him later on in the 1st.

So i’m going to predict the team skips Ginn, sees if they can sign him in the 2nd for 1st round money, and will take Cole Wilcox in the 1st.  Wilcox is also the Nats’ kinda guy; SEC school, big arm, big numbers, and a player who they’ve already tipped their hand on (picking him in the 2018 draft with one of their late 30th round throw-away picks).

Signability in this weird season is a factor of course.  The Nats have $6.6M to sign players this year; why wouldn’t they throw $3M at two players then punt the rest on college seniors?  Kinda like what the Mets did last year.

My prediction: Wilcox.


ACTUAL TOP 5 DRAFT Results (added after the draft):

Actual Nats #22 Pick (added after the draft):


2020 Nats Minor Leaguer purge announced

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Thanks to Luke Erickson, who culled through Brittany Ghirolis Athletic article and Baseball America minor league transaction details to list out the 39 players who got cut from the various Nats minor league affiliates on 5/31/20.

Luke’s post at Nats Prospects here: https://nationalsprospects.com/2020/06/nats-backtrack-from-minors-pay-cut-releases-revealed/ , The Athletic’s link here: https://theathletic.com/1847453/2020/06/01/nationals-make-cuts-drop-minor-league-pay/ and BA’s here: https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/milb-releases-we-learned-about-today

With this posting, we have completely updated both the major links for all these releases:

  • Big Board: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/186nm-v5F-zTCoR2Be7TFYM3e2cZ-gYi2WVqJLEkHdmc
  • Draft Tracker: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Qd5DS9GlmkQOEh_zGhOvlhHK0EegqY1uJB4mLGmRBaY

As always, if you notice an error/omission on these two resources let me know.

I wanted to go through some notable releases, perhaps identify some surprises and speculate on the obvious ramifications going forward.

Notable/Surprise releases for me:

  • Luis Sardinas: mlb-experienced middle infielder who was relatively successful last year between AA and AAA; marginally surprised they cut him.  But, they did NOT cut Emilio Bonifacio so perhaps that’s the decision/either or player.
  • Drew Ward: the highest draft pedigree of any player released, this 3rd rounder put 7 years into the org, and wasn’t too bad in AAA last year.  He’s only 25; its not like he’s in his upper 20s.  I think he gets another chance somewhere, perhaps with us, perhaps elsewhere.
  • Tyler Mapes; one of my favorite Nats draft stories of all time.  30th rounder, cruised through the minors and was the best starter on our 2016 AA team.  What a steal.  But then he got hurt, missed 2017, and couldn’t regain his old AA glory.  Now he’s too old to keep around.  He’s a perfect example of a guy who perhaps gets one more shot with someone’s AAA team in 2020, but the loss of the season cuts his career short.
  • Bobby Milaki: drafted as a favor to a staff member, he was effective in the lower levels.  Why cut him now?  Why not see what he can do in low-A as a 25yr old?  Don’t get this release.
  • Jorge Pantoja: I never understood the team’s usage of Pantoja.  Four years straight he was in High-A; in 2019 he was actually good.  So why cut him now?  Why not after 2016 season when he posted a 6 ERA in Potomac?
  • Hayden Howard; two straight solid seasons in high-A; why cut him now?  Why not see what he can do in AA?  Oh yeah that’s right; there won’t be a AA this year.  He’s a great example of a player who was released for no other good reason.
  • Ryan Williamson: man the team was patient with this guy; drafted in 2016, did not appear professionally for another two seasons.  Put up acceptable numbers in low-A in 2019, but was way too old for hte level and I guess his time was up.
  • Derek Self: cut loose after 8 full seasons in our system.  Drafted in 2012, re-signed as  MLFA, a long serving org arm.

Stating the obvious.

Clearly the team is anticipating the loss of two full teams going forward.  Covid19 couldn’t have come at a better time in this respect for MLB’s wishes to gut the minor leagues.  We cut 40 players, add just 5 in the draft and voila; you have most of the legwork done to cut lower minor league levels.  Next spring training you have tryouts for the lowest full season team and we’ll see another huge round of cuts.

And then there’s this: the cost of keeping a player is $400/week for the rest of the season versus cutting them right now, so we’re not talking about a ton of money to keep them under contract.

——-

Last thing: fun facts.  After cleaning up/updating the draft tracker for all these releases, here’s some useless information.

  • Ryan Zimmerman remains the longest serving player by tenure from draft day obviously, being the first player drafted by the team in 2005.
  • Next up?  Michael Taylor and Stephen Strasburg, 2009 drafteees.  Aaron Barrett did not get cut with this purge; he’s a 2010 drafteee.
  • Oldest serving non-40 man player?  Jakson Reetz, 2014 3rd rounder.  There’s now basically nobody left from the 2013, 2012, 2011 drafts on the team.

MLB 2020 Draft to be just 5 rounds

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Amateur players who have already lost an entire year of playing time got another huge punch in the gut late friday, when MLB took their option to have the shortest possible draft in 2020 (5 rounds), to drastically reduce the max bonus for anyone not drafted in those 5 rounds (just $20k, as compared to $125k last year), and to basically screw hundreds of players who were set to matriculate into the pros this season.  They’ve even negotiated to delay bonus payments!

All in the name of saving a few bucks (estimated to be $1M each at best likely a lot less)  for franchises whose values are generally measured in the billions.

MLB officially shortens 2020 draft to five rounds

I agree with Scott Boras here, who blasted this move.  https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2883387-scott-boras-slams-mlbs-2020-coronavirus-draft-plan-says-it-hurts-young-players

I just can’t get over how, year after year, in the name of minor savings figures, the owners continually attack the draft, the international signing period, over and over, putting in limits and regressive taxes that while saving a few dollars ends up driving away players from the game.   This comes on the back of the highly opportunisitc plan to eliminate entire  *leagues* of minor league players, again in the name of saving money on the backs of players who are non-unionized.

I mean, is the goal to eliminate the entirety of the minor leagues too?  To somehow improve the major league product by doing what the NFL does; throwing rookies right onto the active roster of the NFL and have them basically sit until they learn?

As for the current crop of players, hundreds of them now face a brutal choice:  sign for a pittance to then earn a pittance and try to make it, or go back to college, where their partial scholarship may not even be guaranteed anymore, or … give up.  I wonder how many players are just going to give up.  How is this a good solution for anyone involved?

 

Written by Todd Boss

May 9th, 2020 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Draft

Tagged with ,

Nationals Best player drafted but Not signed

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Stromah from Sept 2015 with Toronto. Photo via wikipedia

Stromah from Sept 2015 with Toronto. Photo via wikipedia

I saw an article this morning on Prospect Insider titled “Every MLB’s best Unsigned Draft pick.”

Being that i’m a big draft guy and hyper-follow our draft picks, I was excited to see who they picked.  And, to my chagrin, they chose to combine the Expos history with the Nationals and ended up picking Mark McGwire, who the Expos drafted in 1981 but didn’t sign out of high school.  In fact, most of their honorable mentions were also Expos picks.

Well, with all due respect to the franchises time in Montreal, I wanted to do this analysis and bound it by the time of the franchise here.

So, here’s some analysis of the National’s best unsigned draft picks since 2005.  For the below, up until the 2012 draft year only players who appeared in the majors are listed; from 2013 onwards we’ll also mention prospects who are highly regarded and/or who seem close to the majors.  And, frankly, there’s nobody worth identifying past the 2016 draft since they’re all still in college and we won’t know if they get drafted until we figure out the 2020 draft.

Using the Draft Tracker as a guide, here’s the candidates (from earliest to latest):

  • Scott Barnes; 2005 43rd round pick out of Cathedral HS in Mass, went to St. Johns instead and was an 8th rounder in 2008 by San Francisco.  He was flipped to Cleveland, appeared in parts of two seasons 2012-2013 then played out the string in the minors.
  • Khris Davis, a 2006 29th round pick out of Deer Valley HS in AZ, went to Cal State Fullerton and was a 7th rounder in 2009 by Milwaukee.  He was traded to Oakland in 2016 and  has blossomed into one of the premier power hitters in the league (leading the AL in homers in 2008 despite playing in Oakland’s hitter’s park).
  • Aaron Crow, our 2008 1st round pick (9th overall) who failed to sign out of Missouri, went back to school then became the 1st round (12th overall pick) by Kansas City the next year.  Crow put in four solid years as an 8th inning reliever, blew out his elbow and had TJ surgery in 2015.  He barely pitched in 2016, then missed all of 2017 before getting cut loose and moving to the Mexican league.  Not signing Crow was a pretty embarrassing situation for Jim Bowden and the franchise at the time, one more additional data point proving the incompetence of the organization.  The Nats recouped the pick in 2009 of course, picking Drew Storen in his place.  Even given Storen’s challenges, most would not argue that the Nats (on the field anyway) got the best out of this pick in the end.
  • Louis Coleman, a 2008 14th rounder from LSU who went back for his senior year and became the 5th round pick of Kansas City in 2009 (I guess KC just picked up all our rejects in the 2009 draft).  Coleman became a middle RH relief pitcher in the KC bullpen for several years.
  • Cory Mazzoni was a 2008 26th rounder out of a PA HS, went to NC State and became a 2nd round pick in 2011 by the Mets.  He eventually got moved to the bullpen, traded and had a grand total of 22 appearances over 3 seasons.
  • Chris Heston was a 2008 29th round pick out of Seminole Juco in FL, then was drafted and signed as a 12th rounder the next year in 2009 by San Francisco.  He matriculated to the majors with San Francisco, had one solid season in the Giants rotation in 2015, then struggled to stay on the field ever since.
  • Robert Brantly, a 2008 46th round pick out of an AZ HS, went to UC Riverside and became a 3rd round pick by Detroit in 2010.  He’s bounced around as an “org-guy” catcher since, and is currently with San Francisco.
  • Alex Dickerson, a 2008 48th round pick out of Poway HS in California.  Went to Indiana and became a 3rd rounder by Pittsburgh in 2011.  He’s bounced around a bit as a lefty corner outfielder type and is currently with San Francisco.
  • Marcus Stroman, a 2009 18th rounder from a NY HS, went to Duke and became a 1st round pick (22nd overall) by Toronto.  Interestingly, he was listed as a SS out of high school but became (and was drafted as) a starter in college.  He’s most people’s immediate answer for this question, but there are more than a few possible alternatives.
  • Kyle Martin, a 2009 39th round pick out of a TX HS, went to Texas A&M, was drafted again after his Junior season and again after his senior season, when he signed with Boston.  His entire MLB career was two games in 2017.
  • Hoby Milner, a 2009 44th rounder out of a TX HS, he went to Texas, became a 7th rounder by Philadelphia in 2012, has bounced around a bit and signed as a FA with the Angels for 2020.  He’s a lefty starter converted to reliever and was a closer for Durham in Tampa’s system last season.
  • Ryan Sherrif was a 2010 33rd rounder out of a Los Angeles Juco, then signed as a 28th rounder in 2011 with St. Louis.  He appeared in their bullpen for parts of two seasons.
  • Skye Bolt, a 2012 26th rounder from a GA HS, went to UNC and starred there, became a 4th rounder by Oakland in 2015.  He debuted in 2019 and is profiling as a switch-hitting center fielder with some decent power, but looks like perhaps a 5th OF for the Oakland team in 2020.
  • Garrett Hampson, a 2013 26th rounder out of Reno, went to Long Beach State, became a 3rd rounder in 2016 by Colorado and debuted in 2018 for the Rockies.  He currently projects as a utility guy for the Rockies, with the ability to play inf and of.
  • Shaun Anderson was our 2013 40th round pick out of American Heritage HS in FL, he went to the U of Florida and was Boston’s 3rd rounder in 2016, he got flipped to San Francisco in 2017 and had matriculated to the majors by 2019, appearing as a swingman/spot starter last season.  He isn’t projecting to the Giants rotation in 2020 with their off-season veteran acquisitions.
  • Austin Byler was our 2014 9th rounder out of Nevada; he declined to sign and was drafted in the 11th round the next year by Arizona.  Byler struggled to produce as a 1b-only player, never got out of A-ball and was released out of affiliated ball after 2017.  I mention him less as a candidate here, but more as a post-mortem on one of the few top-10 round signing failures we’ve had.
  • Stuart Fairchild was our 38th round pick in 2014 out of a Washington HS, went to Wake Forest, then was the 2nd round pick of Cincinnati in 2017.  He is listed as as the 13th best prospect by one pundit in the Cincinnati organization and is projected for AA.
  • Andrew Suarez was our 2nd round pick in 2014 out of U of Miami, declined to sign, then became San Francisco’s 2nd rounder the next  year.  He debuted in the SF rotation in 2018 making 29 starts, then got dropped to the rotation for 2019 and struggled.   He is projecting as the 5th starter in 2020.

So, who is the “best” player we drafted but didn’t sign?  probably Stroman, then Davis, then Suarez.

Who of these was our “worst” non-sign?   for me its the only three top-10 picks on this list: Crowe, Suarez and Byler.  I think Crowe was the worst just for the reputational damage it did to the front office here (even if, in hindsight, we got the better player).  Suarez #2; I think he could still feature in this league.

 

 

 

MILB reportedly agrees to contraction plan

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1200px-MiLB_logo.svg

A couple of news items hit today that confirm what a lot of us have been fearing; the make-up of the Minor Leagues is set to change drastically, starting next year.

https://www.mlbdailydish.com/2020/4/21/21229598/mlb-reduce-number-of-teams-milb-teams-coronavirus

and

https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/sources-milb-ready-to-agree-to-significant-reduction-in-teams/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email

both confirm the plan to reduce then number of minor league teams by more than 40.  The plan would be to contract entire leagues (both the Short Season leagues like the NY Penn league and the Northwest league) and the non-complex Rookie leagues (like the Appalachian league and the Pioneer league).  Each team would be left with four full-season affiliates plus its complex rookie league.   Even though the conversations about this plan started last fall, the Covid19 situation has drastically affected the finances of nearly every minor league team, and its likely that a number of them are already insolvent (or close to it).

The impact for the Nats would likely be three fold:

  • We’d lose our short-A team in Auburn
  • We’d seemingly lose our Hagerstown affiliate and have it replaced in Low-A by a new city.
  • We’d probably have to find a new AAA team.

The entire concept of Short-A is set to be eliminated.  So that’s our Auburn affiliate.

Hagerstown has been specifically singled out by MLB sources (as reported by Keith Law here: https://theathletic.com/1718395/2020/04/03/law-even-with-baseball-shut-down-specter-of-minor-league-contraction-looms/?article_source=search&search_query=hagerstown) as being a substandard facility and seems like its on the chopping block.

Lastly, Fresno is reportedly going to get moved out of AAA to become a California league team in High-A, which means the Nats would need a new AAA affilliate.  More to the point … some team not currently in AAA would need to get promoted.  This could be great for us … especially if a crown-jewel AA team is suddenly available to use to use as an affilliate.

———–

A side effect of losing 40 or so teams is the obvious: we’re not going to need to draft as many players.  There’s already been Covid-19 driven talks about modifying the 2020 draft down from 40 rounds to as few as 5.  But without a short-season team to draft for (and without advanced complex leagues for other franchises), there’s just not as much need to draft players.

Many observers already thought the draft was too long.  A quick glance at the nats draft tracker: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Qd5DS9GlmkQOEh_zGhOvlhHK0EegqY1uJB4mLGmRBaY/ depicts this pretty clearly; Since the draft went to 40 rounds, the Nats have never signed much more than 75% of its draftees.  Often times their last 8-10 picks were throw away picks on relatives or friends of Nats staff, or on HS players with strong div-1 committments who they had zero chance to sign for the $100k-$125k slot figure.  Here’s some details on the last few years in particular:

  • 2019: 11 of 39 players drafted went unsigned, including the last 6 rounds.  Draftees included the son of a Nats scout
  • 2018: 11 of 40 players drafted went unsigned, 7 of the last 8 picked didn’t sign, most of whom were HS picks.  Three of these draftees were sons of Nats staff members.
  • 2017: 7 of 40 players drafted went unsigned, including 4 of final 5 picks.  Draftees included Dusty Baker‘s son, a cousin of a Nats scout and the grandson of Bob Boone.
  • 2016: 11 of 41 players drafted went unsigned, including last 9 picks.  Draftees included two nephews of a nats scout, the son of a Nats front office executive and a Bethesda player who was unrecruited by any collegiate team.
  • 2015: 10 of 40 players drafted went unsigned, including 5 of last 6 picks.

Its pretty clear that the Nats would be a-ok with a 30 round draft to start with.

Now, how many players are assigned straight from the draft to Short-A every year?  Based on my “initial assignment” notes over the past few years…

  • 2019: 9 straight to Short-A, another 4 who were in the GCL for like a week before heading to Short-A
  • 2018: 7 straight to Short-A, another 4 GCL/Short-A
  • 2017: At least 5 straight to Short-A, another 8 GCL/Short-A combos
  • 2016: 5 straight to Short-A, another 5 GCL/Short-A

So, if there was no Auburn, that’s at least 10-13 players per year that the team … wouldn’t need to draft.  This is consistent with dropping the draft down to 20 rounds, possibly even just 15.

———-

Now, am i a proponent of this?  Of course not.  I think MLB is forcing a lot of cities to forgo long-held minor league baseball teams for the purposes of … saving a few dollars?  I mean, lets be honest; short-A squads are generally filled with lower-round draft picks paid $1,200-$1,500 a week for half a summer.  I feel like this is yet another effort by MLB to cut minor amounts of amateur player acquisition spending because they can, not because it benefits the sport or its fans in general.

But, I also get their general point that fewer minor league teams may be better.  The odds of a 25th rounder turning into a major leaguer are low, so why bother drafting them?  As i’ve demonstrated, the last 10 rounds of the draft now are generally throw away picks, and the next 10-15 rounds generally exist so as to populate short-A teams.  No short-A team … no need to draft them.  If you focus your efforts on the full season teams, improve facilities, maybe even increase their pay (what a novel idea!) maybe the guys you do draft are better served.

MLB’s transition plan doesn’t really hold water; they’re suggesting the 40-some odd teams that do get cut form yet another wood bat league?  I suppose there will be some appetite for this from the huge number of players who will no longer get drafted.  But will people pay to watch?  Maybe so: the Northwoods wood bat leagues draw, so maybe others will draw if the competition is known to be better.

Either way, get ready for some significant changes.

Written by Todd Boss

April 21st, 2020 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Draft

Tagged with , , ,

So…. what the heck do we talk about?

9 comments

Its been a whirlwind few weeks, I tell you.

With today’s announcement that Virginia schools are now closed for the rest of the school year, I thought i’d chime in.  Virginia was not the first state to take such drastic measures, but certainly won’t be the last.

We’ve already had the NCAA shutter all spring sports, including baseball and the far-too-early-but-now-seemingly-sensible cancellation of the College World Series in June.

We’re also basically at a point where its likely that all prep sports around the country will be cancelled as well.

Its amazing.

I’ve covered the CWS for years, covering prep baseball in the DC/MD/VA areas is an annual tradition; not in 2020.  There’s nothing.

My son’s little league?  Probably gone.  He’s in a critical development year in the 7-8yr old range; this will set back his class for years to come.

So, now the question is … when do you think MLB will return?  Will it?  Do you think we’ll be past this crisis by the all Star Break in mid July?

If this stretches into August … and the players need a 4-week spring training … what time is left?  Would you run a season for a month and a half?

There’s all sorts of articles about service time, negotiations ongoing, etc.  To take a simple example: what would you do with Mookie Betts and the Dodgers if the season goes poof?  Both sides have pretty decent arguments:

  • Betts would argue he was blocked from fulfilling his end of the contract and should be a free agent.
  • Dodgers would argue that they traded assets to acquire  him and never got a day of playing time out of him so he should play another season for htem.

What a mess.

Any predictions out there?

My hope is for a mid-July restart, then a two month sprint of a season Aug and Sept (60 games or there abouts), maybe entirely within division, to determine the conventional playoff slat of 5 teams/league.  It will be an entirely unbalanced schedule but so be it.  I’d exactly pro-rate a “year” of service time to the actual days played (meaning if they do a 60-day season that’s the new 182-day “service year prorated so that each 2020 day is worth 3 non-2020 service days).  Yeah the teams like the Dodgers that acquired players get screwed, but they’re also paying pro-rated salaries thanks to natioanl emergency clauses and force majeure clauses in contracts.  Not fair to all players … but everyone takes a hit.

Written by Todd Boss

March 23rd, 2020 at 8:33 pm

Evaluation of IFA draft classes; 2005-present

6 comments

Soto is by far the best IFA product in the Nats history.  And he's only 20.  Source NYPost

Soto is by far the best IFA product in the Nats history. And he’s only 20. Source NYPost

So, i’ve been critical of the Nats top-end drafting lately in this space, as it has contributed to our overall paltry farm system rankings.  And i’ve been critical of the handling of the farm system in general.
But a counter argument is, if you do well in the IFA market … you can paper over bad drafts.  Absolutely true!  So, lets take a look at the fruits of the Nats IFA endeavors over the years.
Here’s an overview of the best products from each IFA July 2nd signing class.
Before we start, its worth reviewing the CBA rules set forth that govern IFAs over the years.  Full CBA details here: https://legacy.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/league-info/cba-history/ .  As the rules change here i’ll put in a note, because they drive context for various IFA years.

IFA starting point for 2005: no rules; free-for-all, no spending limits, its the true wild west.
The Nats, of course, are a steward of the MLB and were barred from even attempting to improve the 2005 roster mid season, let alone spend big money in the IFA market.
  • 2005: Jhonatan Solano only real prospect
  • 2006: Smiley Gonzalez; $1.4M bonus: all eggs in this one basket; nobody else from class ever appeared as a prospect

In July 2006, the Lerner’s took over.  But retained the existing management team and (as was frequently noted at the time), did not really invest in the team for some years (“Lerners are cheap!”)

  • 2007: Adrian Sanchez, Sandy Leon, Eury Perez; not bad in that three players made the majors; none really an impact player
  • 2008: not one signee ever appeared on any prospect ranking; fall out from the Smiley Gonzalez situation
  • 2009: No prospects of note and none remain, still fall out from rebuilding of entire DR operation under Rizzo
So, we’ll take a break here to discuss the obvious.  For basically three years as the team transitioned away from the Smiley Gonzalez scandal we had basically nothing come from international scouting.  The team had to cut ties with all its DR operations, it fired its staff in-country (Jose Rijo) and fired its general manager Jim Bowden.  So, its worth a quick discussion as to the context the team and Mike Rizzo began with starting in 2010.
  • 2010: Big money signing in Yunesky Maya that didn’t really pay off.  Also got Difo and Suero, each for almost no money.  Ruiz in AA remains in org.  Pretty good class.
  • 2011: 7 players from class appeared on rankings at some point: Raudy Read, Pedro Severino best players, several guys got to AA or AAA.  Jose Marmolejos in this class too.

When you’re signing 16yr olds … it may very well take 7 years to see any progress.  Here we are in 2020 and Raudy Read still has options, is still in the mix.  Difo an edge-of-the-roster backup middle infielder, Suero a solid middle reliever.


Starting for the 2012 season, the new CBA attempted to put limits onto IFA spending, imposing taxes and penalties for those who went over the bonus limits.  But what teams discovered was that the pathway forward with these new rules was to pick a year and “blow it out,” basically spend without limits and then take the penalties for the next two seasons.  You saw lots of teams attempt this strategy, including the big-money teams like New York and Los Angeles.
  • 2012: Reynaldo Lopez for just 17k biggest win, Rafael Bautista still in org
  • 2013: 7 guys on prospect lists, Anderson Franco biggest money signing for $900k, Steven Fuentes probably highest ranked prospect at this point.  Still several guys on AA and high-A rosters from class.
  • 2014: Victor Robles big win for just 225k.  Pena, Baez still in system.  Gilbert Lara was the big money guy, but he’s not exactly lighting it up in A-ball right now.
So, the first 5 years of the Rizzo regime featured a big swing and miss on the Cuban Maya.  I always liked him; loved that he had 8 pitches, but his fastball was just never as advertised.  We thought we were getting the next Livan Hernandez (age 23) but instead we got the next Livan Hernandez (age 35).  But, they had some HUGE wins here: Lopez for $17k is fantastic.   We still have some Fuentes fans who think he may succeed.  Robles for just $225k is perhaps an even bigger win than Lopez, given his development path and all star projection.  Plus we still have a ton of guys who might feature as role players.  So the rebuilding plan is back on track.
  • 2015: Juan Soto for 1.5M; obviously a win.  but little else from class to note.  Taveras, Chu, German, Alastre at various lower minors stops.
A change in strategy; the Nats went for an “all eggs in one basket” approach for the first time since 2010.  And it has paid off in spades.  $1.5M for Soto, who is now an MVP candidate.  One hit like this from your IFA makes up for more than a few classes.  We still may see something out of someone like German, who got an NRI this year and may be the next Wander Suero.
  • 2016: a TON of money spent: Garcia (1.3), Antuna (3.9m), Pineda (450k), Sanchez (950k); so far, plus Yadiel Hernandez as an older signee.  The potential is there for sure, as at least four of these guys are listed as top prospects.  Niomar Gomez in low-A rotation a sleeper.
This was finally the year Washington exploded their bonus pools, and the timing was solid.  They figured that the new CBA would eliminate the “binge mode” loophole so they spent and spent.  Lots of these acquired prospects remain in the system now and will for years to come.    Garcia is our #2 prospect, Antuna should return to the prospect fold after he gets over his injury-riddled 2019.  A lot of people look at Pineda as a sleeper; his star dimmed in 2019 but it might improve with a solid bounce back season.  I know there’s Hernandez fans out here who point at his massive 2019 AAA numbers … but the dude is 32 now, limited defensively to a corner at best; how is this a prospect?

In late 2016, a new CBA was signed that changed the rules here yet again.  The complete rules are detailed here: http://m.mlb.com/glossary/transactions/international-amateur-free-agency-bonus-pool-money, but basically we went from the soft limit with penalties to more hard caps.  So the IFA market now operates more like the Rule 4 draft; no going over, no chicanery.
It also means that, like the draft, you have to hit on your money picks.  Of course, its also far, far too early to pass any judgement on our three classes since.
  • 2017: way too early to tell; the 4 guys getting prospect love from this class are all at GCL.  Yeah, Arias leading guys right now.
  • 2018: Jeremy De La Rosa only top-30 prospect so far but the GCL/DSL is littered with 2018 IFA signees
  • 2019: Already getting prospect love for Andry Lara and Roismar Quintana; we spread more money around this year so promising.

Conclusions?
So, since moving to Washington really they’ve had just two stars out of IFA work; Robles and Soto.  they’ve had a couple more slightly better than replacement players (Lopez, Suero).  And they’ve had a ton of guys who have hit the majors in some fashion or another at the replacement level (Difo, Solano, Perez, Leon, etc).
The nats will probably roll out a 2020 lineup that contains at least three and perhaps four IFA home-grown signings (Robles, Soto, Suero for sure, perhaps Difo or Sanchez).  That’s pretty darn good, considering that the 2020 25-man roster likely only features 5 players that the team drafted (Stevenson, Taylor, Zimmerman, Strasburg and Voth) and only one of them will be in the “core 14 players” that comprise our starting 8 positional players, 5 rotation mates and closer.
but you have to ask; in 15 years they’ve generated precisely two above-replacement level WAR guys.  Is that a failure?

Farm System Rankings; a comparison and contrast

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We’re basically at the end of “Prospect Season” now … and the last of the major pundits (mlbpipeline.com) has published its org rankings.  We talked about the Nats system top X in a previous post, now here’s a more macro view on how our system looks in general.

Short answer: “Not Good, Bob!”

(TV reference, anyone?)

Anyway.  Here’s links to the major pundits and their system rankings:

I havn’t seen anything from Fangraphs (i’m not sure they do entire system rankings), Baseball Prospectus now has their entire site behind a paywall, ESPN is in a transition year after Law left, and John Sickels at the Athletic  (who has done rank ings in the past) seems to have re-focused his attentions for now, so we’re down to these four major pundits.

I’ve seen a couple other rankings (one from Bleacher Report, another from Myworldofbaseball.com) that are mostly driven by the rankings of the top prospects in each system, which is a somewhat limited way to view an entire system comprised of hundreds of prospects.  If a system has (say) three top 100 players that are sure fire MLBers then absolutely nothing else in the time line … how strong is that “system” in general?  I’d rather have a ton of percolating talent than having a top heavy system.   This generally describes why there’s sometimes wild differences in the way systems are ranked, especially in the Law rankings (b/c he’s heavy on ceiling and is the anti-famous

Nats observations: Both MLB and Law have the Nats at #29.  MLB says that “trades and free agent signings” have led the system to be depleted.  Law says the team “worked the heck out of the system” in trades to acquire players.  Neither mention the poor drafting at the top levels over the past seasons (as I laid out in a previous post).  MILB and BA are a bit more friendly, perhaps because they still think rather highly of some of our more “famous” prospects (Romero, Mendoza, Antuna etc).

 

Overall system ranking observatiosn:

  • Everyone has Tampa #1.  Pretty scary given that they won 96 games in a very difficult division last year.
  • There’s generally a consensus on the rest of the top 5 farms: San Diego (who was #1 last year by most rankers), LA Dodgers, Atlanta are mostly considered for top 5 by the pundits.
  • There’s a  huge disconnect between Law and the rest of the industry on some of the systems: he has Detroit far lower than others, while he has the Yankees and St. Louis generally far higher than others.
  • but at the bottom end of the rankings, also some consistency: Milwaukee is dead-last on every list.  Washington, Colorado, Houston, Cincinnati and Boston also generally at the bottom.

Its ok to be at the Bottom of these rankings if you’ve used your system to get to a WS title.  Washington, Houston, Boston are definitely in this category.  Cincinnati has really shredded their depth lately to stock up and make a run, so their low ranking is understandable.  Colorado’s location here is a bit more of an indictment of their approach lately.

Its incredible that the two wealthiest teams (Yankees and Dodgers) continue to not only win 100+ games but maintain among the strongest farm systems.  How does this happen?  They both should have the least amount of assets to leverage in the draft and the IFA market (by virtue of having the smallest bonus pools for being among the best teams), yet they both continue to churn out prospect after prospect.  They’re both clearing doing something right.

Lastly its notable that a couple of the serial “tankers” of late (Baltimore, Miami, and Seattle in particular) have made huge strides in their system rankings over the past couple of years.  They’re on the Houston and Chicago Cubs plan of bottoming out to build back up.  We’ll  have to wait and see how it goes in the next few  years.

Written by Todd Boss

March 10th, 2020 at 12:25 pm

MLB Pipeline top 30 comes out: who are they up/down on?

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Rutledge is holding stead at #3 on nearly everyone's list. Photo via BA

Rutledge is holding stead at #3 on nearly everyone’s list. Photo via BA

In quick succession to Keith Law‘s list of top Nats prospects, the prospect team at MLBpipeline.com (Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo) has released their top 30 for the nats system.

Here’s the major pundits in the space and links to their top X lists:

  • MLBpipeline (Callis, Mayo): https://www.mlb.com/prospects/2020/nationals/
  • Athletic (Keith Law): https://theathletic.com/1646222/2020/03/03/keith-laws-prospect-rankings-washington-nationals/ (paywall)
  • Fangraphs (McDaniel and Longenhagen): https://blogs.fangraphs.com/top-21-prospects-washington-nationals/
  • Baseball America: https://www.baseballamerica.com/teams/1012/washington-nationals/organizational/?year=2020&type=P
  • Baseball Prospectus: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/prospects/article/55796/2020-prospects-washington-nationals-top-10-prospects/ (paywall)

The only major pundits remaining without published lists are John Sickels, who ran minorleagueball.com for years but who is now at the Athletic and i’m not sure if he’s still in the business of prospect rankings (he did not do one last year but it was perhaps still during the transition to the site) and Kiley McDaniel, who recently left Fangraphs to take over for Law at ESPN and probably doesn’t have time in 2020.

Anyway, lets take a look at the MLBpipeline guys and see who they’re “up” and “down” on.  From a prospect perspective, I perceive that Callis/Mayo tend to more heavily weigh the “famous factor” in these rankings, often keeping players around just due to draft pedigree or signing bonus.  They also seem to weigh floor a bit more than ceiling (hence why we have a few “edge of the 40-man roster types” lingering on this list, and often will have promising but younger players omitted to include older guys … that is unless the younger guy is in the “famous” category.

  • Same top 3 as everyone else
  • They’re definitely high man on both Andry Lara and Eddy Yean.
  • As per the “famous factor,” Romero continues to linger in their top 10
  • They like 2019 IFA Roismar Quintana; Law and BA didn’t rank him at all and they have him 15th despite never having played an inning in pro ball.
  • They have a bunch of  higher-round college arm draft picks in teh 20-30 range (guys like Schaller, Irvin, Bourque, Braymer) that seem to be to be low ceiling guys; are any of these guys anything other than org-arms?
  • Raudy ReadJakson Reetz and Tres Barrera listed as 25,28 and 19 respectively.  Is this how you’d rank these depth chart catchers right now on your prospect  list?
  • They’re much lower on German than Law was, but are in line with BA and Fangraphs.   I wonder what Law sees in the guy.

Who’s missing?

  • as others noted, no Jackson Tetrault anywhere.  No Malvin Pena mentioned either.  No Augustin on mlb’s list; only Law likes this guy.

Keith Law’s Nats top 20 comes out; who is he up and down on?

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Kieboom is Law's number one ... like everyone else. Photo via federalbaseball.com

Kieboom is Law’s number one … like everyone else. Photo via federalbaseball.com

Keith Law, long-time ESPN baseball writer and prospect lead, moved to the Athletic this past off-season and he’s put out most of his 2020 pre-season prospect content.  Yesterday he put out his Nats top-20 list.

We already know that Law is bearish on the Nats system in general, ranking it 29th out of 30 teams.  A lot of that has to do with his being “lower” on Carter Kieboom and especially Luis Garcia than any others.  But its also a pretty specific indictment of the Nats top-end drafting (and to be fair, trading of prospects to acquire MLB players) over the past years.  Consider the top 3 rounds of draftees lately (see the Draft Tracker for more: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Qd5DS9GlmkQOEh_zGhOvlhHK0EegqY1uJB4mLGmRBaY/)

  • 2019: Rutledge, forfeited 2nd round pick, Mendoza
  • 2018: Denaburg, Cate, Schaller
  • 2017: Romero, Crowe, Raquet
  • 2016: Kieboom, Dunning, Neuse, Luzardo
  • 2015: forfeited 1st round pick, Stevenson, Perkins, Wisemann
  • 2014: Fedde, Suarez (who refused to sign), Reetz
  • 2013: forfeited 1st round pick, Johansen, Ward
  • 2012: Giolito, Renda, Mooneyham

So, take a look at this list of top end picks.  You have to go all the way back to 2011 to find a first rounder who has starred for this organization (Anthony Rendon).  The team gave up on Giolito and he’s now starting for the White Sox.  Fedde is heading to the minors again in 2020 and seems topped out as a 4-A starter, and so far the team has gotten nothing from its 2017 and 2018 $3M arms Romero and Denaburg.  You can credibly say that the team lost or outright blew its first round picks in 5 of the last 8 seasons, and the guys who have succeeded not named Kieboom are playing for other teams.

The 2nd rounders are even a worse indictment; Renda and Johansen were failures. Suarez refused to sign (a huge gaffe in the modern bonus-structure driven draft).  Stevenson is a 5th outfielder.  Dunning and Neuse are solid … for other teams.  We gave up last year’s 2nd rounder to sign Patrick Corbin.

Lastly the 3rd rounders have also basically done nothing: the team was obsessed with Mooneyham for years and he never got above A-ball.  Ward and Wiseman are org players.  Reetz is finally showing some promise … in his 6th pro season.   Luzardo?  Awesome … for another team.  Raquet was serviceable as a starter in high-A last year repeating the level, but may be heading to relief as a lefty specialist.  Schaller didn’t even make Law’s top 20 list despite being a Vanderbilt product, and Mendoza is already a 1B limited guy more famous for his HS pedigree than his abilities.

Yeah.  Its no wonder our system is so poorly ranked.

(No, i’m not taking into context who we traded these assets for.  Yes i’m aware that the trades of Giolito, Dunning, Neuse, and Luzardo netted the team several crucial pieces at the MLB level in Adam Eaton, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madsen.  That’s not the point here; we’re isolating reasons why the farm system has collapsed; part of is is poor drafting and part of it is trading away 1st and 2nd rounders.  I’m less concerned with the traded assets as I am with the 1st and 2nd round pick failures that are starting to mount up; Denaburg and Romero in particular.).

———–

Anyway.  Lets take a look at who Law likes and doesn’t like as compared to the rest of the prospect ranking world.  Law’s methodology generally favors ceiling over floor (so he likes younger prep guys with potential versus boring guys in AAA with demonstrated but un-flashy talent).  He favors those in the skill positions (SS, CF) versus corners.  He really discounts relievers.  He likes IFAs.  So with that in mind, here’s some names worth mentioning:

  • He has the same top 3 as most every one else for our system: Kieboom, Garcia, Rutledge.  BA, Fangraphs, MLBpipeline and Law all have these three in a row.
  • He’s generally down on Kieboom though versus other shops: I’ve seen Kieboom in the 11-15 range on a lot of minors-wide lists; Law has him all the way down at #74.
  • We know he’s down on Garcia versus others.  I’ve seen Garcia mostly in the 60s to 90s range on these minor’s wide lists; Law doesn’t have him anywhere close and has made mention of it whenever asked, saying that Garcia’s sole “tool” seems to be that he was 19 in AA last season.  This is definitely at odds with the way Garcia is portrayed within the organization (he did get an NRI this year and has already hit a flashy homer), nor with other evaluations.
  • He remains higher on Denaburg than others: see “ceiling” versus “floor” reasoning above.
  • he’s a little higher on Jeremy De La Rosa and Eddy Yean than other shops, noting that Yean’s name frequently comes up in trade talks but the Nats are holding firm.
  • He’s lower on Matt Cronin than other shops despite his eye-popping numbers: see “reliever all the way” reasoning above.
  • He’s suddenly much higher on Reetz than basically anyone else, citing 2nd half splits that really look rosy.  Hey, i’ve been down on Reetz for a while, using him as my classic “Baseball doesn’t know what a sunk cost is” economics argument for hanging onto failed prospects just because they ahve a big bonus.  But maybe we’re finally going to see something out of him.
  • He’s way higher on Jhonatan German than anyone else; despite his being a pure reliever, perhaps a reliever-only starts getting his attention once he starts getting AA hitters out.
  • He’s bullish on Telmito Agustin, but i’m not sure why.  Agustin cratered while repeating high-A, though he’s still just 23.
  • He does not like Mendoza nearly as much as others.  Mendoza has a big bat, no doubt, but he can barely play 1B and may end up being a DH-only guy.  That’s a ding on the prospect ranking set unless you’ve got Vladimir Guerrero Jr. batting lines in the minors.
  • he’s down on some of our mid-minors college arms, guys like Jake IrvinReid SchallerJackson Tetreault and Ben Braymer.  Braymer in particular probably is a “floor versus ceiling” discussion;  yeah he’s on the 40-man but what does he project to?  A 5th starter?  A reliever?
  • Lastly, he’s completly at odds with one shop in particular that has Tres Barrera as the 11th ranked prospect.  And I get it; what exactly is Barrera going to give this organization going forward?

Anyway.  If you’re not an Athetic subscriber I would encourage you to sign up.  They’ve got some of the best talent in the game writing for them now and they just keep adding more good stuff.