Nationals Arm Race

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

Stewart to do end-around of MLB Draft; brilliant!

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Carter Stewart is going to be a heck of a trail blazer. photo via PerfectGame

Carter Stewart is going to be a heck of a trail blazer. photo via PerfectGame

(tangent from our Nats miseries; yes we just got swept in NY, yes our manager needs to be whacked, yes the team is in serious trouble for 2019.  We’ll talk about it more next week).

Here’s a quick story about Carter Stewart.

He was a top prep player last spring, recording the highest spin rate *ever recorded* on his curve ball.  He was the 9th overall pick of the 2018 draft, couldn’t come to an agreement with the Braves over medicals (not related to his elbow or shoulder fyi .. they were related to MRIs of his wrist, stemming from a skateboarding injury apparently incurred when Stewart was a kid), didn’t sign, bailed out of his 4-yr college commitment to Mississippi State, enrolled in a Florida JuCo so he could do one-and-done in college and re-enter the 2019 draft, played this spring and didn’t wow the scouts (despite sterling statistics) and saw his draft projection (and thus his bonus) fall to perhaps an early 2nd round status.

So what is he doing?  He’s doing what Scott Boras  has dreamed of for two decades representing (ahem, “advising”) amateur players: he’s doing an end-around on the MLB draft.  Stewart announced that he’s opting out of the MLB draft, and signing a 6yr, $7M deal in Japan.

And its a brilliant plan.

Here’s how the numbers work.  Lets say that, for sake of argument, Steward got drafted in 2019, signed for $2M (a stretch frankly, but useful for this conversation).  Here’s likely how the next 6-10 years of his life would go:

  • 2019: signs, $2M bonus.  Barely plays, since most prep pitchers spend their draft year in XST learning how to be a pro.
  • 2020: XST and then GCL time as a minor leaguer earning $1200/month for 6 months.  Call it $10,000 in total salary for ease of calculation.
  • 2021: pitches full season in Low-A as a 21-yr old.  Another $10k in salary
  • 2022: moves up to high-A.  Maybe we’ll even give him AA.  10k in salary
  • 2023.  He’s not breaking camp with the team, even if he merits a rotation spot .. so he starts in AAA for a few weeks, then moves up and basically earns a full MLB pre-arb salary of $575k.
  • 2024: 600k as a 24yr old, 2nd year pre-arb; he earns a small raise

Total earnings through 6 years of service: $2m + 30k + 575k + 600k = $3,205,000 total pay.

So, now he’s through 6 pro seasons, he’s at the end of his age 24 season and he’s got two full years of MLB experience after 4 minor league seasons … and he’s facing another two full pre-arb seasons thanks to service time manipulation in 2023 (which everybody does), taking  him through 2026/age 26, then 3 years of arbitration that limits his salary drastically versus what he’s worth on the open market … and he hits FA in 2029 after 10 years of team control … possibly with a Qualifying Offer tagged to him (unless they CBA it out of existence).

INSTEAD, he signs a $6M deal to go to Japan for those same 6 years, nearly doubles his potential pay, gets legitimate pro experience, and comes out of his experience as a completely free 25yr old.   Oh, and if he hits incentives he can actually triple that $6M pay.  If he had played by the rules of the MLB system at the end of 2024, he’d still be facing another FIVE seasons of artificially limited pay.

Oh, and if he burns out (like a lot of HS arms) and never gets to the majors … he’s got basically 3 TIMES the pay versus his projected bonus.

It makes one wonder; why hasn’t this happened before??  This is a complete no-brainer plan for huge chunks of pro prospects.  If you’re a college-aged top 5 pick making $4-$5M of bonus and perhaps facing just a year and a half in the minors, no.  But consider what Mason Denaburg is now facing (our first round pick out of HS last  year).  He signed last year for $3M … and has YET TO PITCH for our organization now a 1/3rd of the way through his 2nd pro  season and still hasn’t been assigned.   Unless Denaburg is the second coming of Clayton Kershaw, he’s going to spend a good chunk of the next  3 years in the low minors, earning less in a month than major leaguers earn in a day.

The downside to this is, of course, a 19yr old kid from Florida has to go halfway around the world to a culture and a language he doesn’t know.  Sounds daunting … except for the fact that MLB basically has half its minor leagues in the same position, importing non-english speaking talent from the DR, Venezuela, Mexico, etc as well as a slew of other international players who end up here w/o knowing our culture or language.  It isn’t the end of the world.

Honestly … I hope he blazes a path towards forcing MLB to take a pretty hard look at its entire draft and pay structure, which is incredibly tilted towards the owners as the MLBPA has failed for more than 2 decades now to stem the tide of owners chipping away at younger players salaries and earning possibilities.  And, given the embarrassment baseball  (and Oakland) just went through having their 2018 1st rounder Kyle Murray very publicly reject a $4M+ bonus amount and a guaranteed contract offer (specifically outlawed in the last CBA but offered here) so as to go pro in the NFL … it makes you wonder if there’s a need for a revamping of the system.

I hope this isn’t a one-off; I hope Stewart succeeds in Japan and makes a mint coming back to the US as a top-line 25-yr old un-encumbered free agent.  Because that might really spur some change.

Written by Todd Boss

May 24th, 2019 at 9:21 am

How did so many of Rizzo’s off-season moves fail to pan out?

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How is Corbin basically the only "good" off-season acquisition?

I just perused some team splits for 2019.  Your Washington Nationals offense is, as of this writing, (per Fangraphs):

  • 20th in fWAR; a *combined* 3.7.
  • 20th in wRC+, a paltry 91
  • 22nd in Batting Average, hitting .243 as a team
  • 9th in K% .. sitting at exactly 25% , but…
  • sitting 21st in ISO, meaning they’re striking out a ton but not getting the added benefit of the power.

How about the defense?  The team is

  • 27th in Fangraphs’ total Defense stat
  • 29th in UZR/150
  • 28th in DRS, a combined -27 of runs “saved”  (interestingly …their run differential sits at 32 right now, almost entirely on the defense)

And then there’s the bullpen:

  • 30th in bullpen ERA
  • 30th in LOB%
  • 25th in bullpen FIP
  • 21st in K/9
  • 24th in bullpen fWAR .. somehow grading out as a group to exactly neutral 0.0 fWAR.  In other words … completely replaceable across the board as a whole.

At least we have the starters:

  • #1 in fWAR
  • 13th in ERA, but
  • 4th in FIP (Fangraph’s fWAR for pitchers is heavy on the FIP … and the Nats starters are doing this with a .306 BABIP.
  • #2 in K/9.

Anyway … point is; the hitters are bad, the bullpen is awful, and the defense is atrocious.

How exactly did we get here?  Well, Mike Rizzo was incredibly active over the winter.  But, amazingly, practically all of his moves have turned out bad.  Here’s a list of all his major transactions in the off-season:

  • Kyle Barraclough: 4.67 ERA
  • Trevor Rosenthal: complete train wreck
  • Yan Gomes; hitting .228
  • Tanner Rainey: walked 12 in 18 innings in AAA.
  • Meanwhile Tanner Roark has a 3.51 ERA and a 127 ERA+ in 10 starts for Cincy this year.
  • Matt Adams: 89 OPS+ as our big “bench bat”
  • Anibal Sanchez: 5.10 ERA in 9 starts
  • Brian Dozier: hitting .205
  • Jeremy Hellickson: 6.23 ERA in 8 starts.
  • Tony Sipp: 5.79 ERA.
  • He cut loose Trevor Gott in February but kept a slew of other minor league arms: here’s Gott’s SF line so far this year: 21 innings, 2.11 ERA, 193 ERA+
  • He cut loose Austin Adams, who had a ridiculous 24/3 K/BB ratio in 12.1 Fresno innings, who then got picked up by Seattle and has punched out 7 of the first 11 batter’s hes faced.  But was he good enough for our bullpen?  Nope.
  • He brought in Dan Jennings: 13.50 ERA in 8 appearances.  Why exactly did he get the last 3-4 outings?

Even his AAA MLFA moves to provide veteran pitcher backup have been suspect:

  • Henderson Alvarez: 8.01 ERA in Fresno
  • Scott Copeland: 6.33 ERA in Fresno
  • Vidal Nuno; also a 6.33 ERA in Fresno
  • J.J. Hoover: 5.70 ERA in Fresno
  • Brady Dragmire: 11.48 ERA in Fresno, now mercifully on the DL.
  • Logan Ondrusek: had an ERA north of 5.00 in AA (as a 34-yr old).

In fact, really only a couple of his moves  have actually worked out:

  • Kurt Suzuki: 108 OPS+ in a backup catcher role.
  • Patrick Corbin: 3.25 ERA in 10 starts … well heck for $140M i sure hope he’s working out.

Look back at the performance of his roster moves.  Its absolutely astounding how badly he’s judged the talent he’s traded away versus the performance of what he acquired.

Look, this is not hindsight is 20/20 analysis.  I was totally on-board with a ton of these moves.  I really thought that Dozier and Rosenthal were good bounce back candidates and that Sanchez was a sneaky good signing.  And i’m genuinely dumbfounded that basically every off-season veteran gamble has failed to pay off.  Some of the moves I questioned at the time and continue to question (Gott, Roark, Adams).  You have to wonder how much of an indictment of the pitching staff it is when guys like Gott (to say nothing of someone like Blake Treinen) depart here and succeed elsewhere.  Even Lucas Giolito is starting to round into form with another organization, after clearly being dumped as being “unfixable” by this org.

The question is, now what?  What can this team really do?  If suddenly every guy with a sub 100 OPS+/ERA+ turned it around and succeeded, can this team run off a 20-8 month and get back into this race?  With this manager?

Minor League Rotations: Mid-May Check-in

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Wil Crowe is the best starter in the system right now. PHoto via insidenova.com

Wil Crowe is the best starter in the system right now. PHoto via insidenova.com

Since its so depressing to talk about the train wreck that the Major League team is … lets look at the minor league pitching pipeline.

We last checked in a couple weeks into the season on 4/15/19, so we’re just about a month past that post.  Lets revisit where we are.


 

AAA/Fresno 2019

The rotation is: Voth, McGowin, Copeland, Espino, MSanchez.   Changes from last post: Alvarez got dumped to the bullpen thanks to his  8.20 ERA, Dragmire is on the D/L,  Ross got promoted to the needy MLB bullpen, and MSanchez was promoted up from AA to fill the rotation gap.

The Bullpen is: Rainey, Hoover, Self, Bacus, Nuno, JMills*, Blazek with Alvarez as long-man/spot starter.   Changes from last post: Adams was DFA’d and traded for Nick Wells, a Battlefield HS grad who now gets to play closer to home.  Cordero was also DFA’d and as of this writing sits in DFA limbo.  To replace them the team promoted JMills from AA and signed Blazek off the street a day before this writing.

Who’s hot:  McGowin has thrown 4 straight QS.  Voth remains the best AAA starter, keeping his ERA under 4.00 despite playing in the PCL.  Self and Bacus continue to perform well in their first AAA experiences.  I continue to be dumbfounded why Adams was DFA’d; here’s his AAA line this year for Fresno: 12.1 IP, 2.19 ERA, 0.89 Whip, 24/3 K/BB.  Yet the team (at the time) thought it was more important to keep Cordero on the roster.

Who’s not?  Dragmire may go straight to release waivers off the D/L (28 hits in 13 IP).  Mills does not look ready for AAA (13.50 ERA in 8 IP).  Neither does Mario Sanchez (13 hits in 7IP in 2 starts).

Who’s next guy to get the call?   Voth if they need a starter.  The only 40-man reliever left here is Rainey and he can’t find the plate (28ks and 12 walks in 16.2 innings).

Who’s next to get the Axe?   the JJ Hoover experiment may be over.  Both Mills and Sanchez probably should return to AA.  Dragmire continues to be in jeopardy of his roster spot when he gets healthy.


AA/Harrisburg 2019

Rotation: Crowe, Tetreault, Sharp, Mapes, Braymer*.  Changes from last time: Fedde got promoted to the MLB bullpen, replaced by the promoted Tetreault.

Bullpen: Bourque, Condra-Bogan, RPena, Guilbeau*, ABarrett with Baez, Ondrusek, Fuentes as swingmen/spot starters.  Changes from last time: Brinley on the D/L, JMIlls promoted, Ondrusek demoted from AAA’s D/L, Fuentes promoted up from High-A.

Who’s hot: Crowe remains the best AA starter and is probably now the best SP prospect in our system.  Bourque has a 29/5 K/BB ratio in 18 innings and its rather inexplicable that he a) remains in AA and b) has not yet gotten called into the MLB relief corps to alleviate the bullpen issues.  Tetreault has picked up right where he left off in High-A, with a 1.43 ERA through 3 AA starts and now has a 1.50 across 7 starts and two levels on the year.    Barrett continues to look solid and has MLB experience, so may be an option in the future.

Who’s not? Mapes has the worst ERA of the rotation, really the only starter  you can quibble with.  Pena and Guilbeau are struggling in the bullpen.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  Crowe, Bourque

Who’s next to get the Axe? Pena; the org has stuck by him a long, long time fora  16th round pick.  He’s 27 in AA and now in his 8th pro season here.  But an ERA in the 6s puts him on the chopping line when the next reliever needs to be promoted.


 

High-A/Potomac 2019

Rotation: Johnston, Borne*, Raquet*, ALee, MPena.  Changes from last time: Tetreault promoted, Reyes dumped to the pen after posting an ERA > 9.00.   Replaced in the rotation by Lee, who was bumped up from spot-starter/swingman.

bullpen:  Bogucki,  McKinney,  Bartow, JRomero, LReyes, German with Howard*,  Teel* as swingmen and (presumably) Nick Wells showing up soon.  Changes from last time: Acevedo released, Fuentes promoted, JRomero re-instated from XST, German and Teel promoted from Low-A.

Who’s hot:  I like what I see out of Lee in the rotation so far; he’s got the best ERA and peripherals of any High-A starter.   Teel and Bartow are the best relievers right now by stats, and Bartow has 2 of the 3 saves the staff has on the entire season (how is that possible?  In 14 victories they only have 3 saves.  that’s saying something).

Who’s not?  Raquet and Pena both have ERAs north of 7 in the rotation.  Nothing personal against Raquet, but I hated the draft pick at the time, and now he’s repeating high-A with the same crummy numbers and lack of swing and miss he exhibited there last year.  Every time I see him get shelled in a start its another indictment of that draft pick and that draft class in general.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  They’ve already promoted the two best arms (Tetreault and Fuentes).  No starters really pushing for a promotion right now.

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Bogucki is putting on > 2 runners an inning but was solid in High-A last year.  The fact that Reyes continues to have a roster spot astounds me: he is now in high-A for the 3rd year; he was also in High-A in  2016 and 2017, neither season of which merited his 2018 promotion to AA (where he got shelled).


Low-A/Hagerstown 2019

Rotation:  Alastre, Adon, Cate*, Irvin, FPeguero.  Changes from last time: Strom was demoted to XST, and the tandem starting seems to have been somewhat relaxed in that this set of 5 starters has rotated for several turns now.

Bullpen: Stoeckinger*, AGuillen, RWilliamson*, Tapani, Fletcher*, Day as swingmen/spot starters, along with Brasher, TTurner in the pen as more conventional relievers.  Changes from last time: Teel and German promoted, and RWilliamson and Tapani promoted from GCL/XST.

 

Who’s hot: Cate and Peguero, the two  starters I noted as being “hot” in the last post, remain the two best starters in Low-A.   Cate, a college Sr 2nd rounder last year, is probably too old for the level and needs to be moved up.  Fletcher, Stoeckinger and Guillen are pitching well in their “tandem” multi-inning roles.

Who’s not?  Irvin’s seasonal numbers are skewed by a 1ip/9-run outing, but he has the worst ERA in the rotation right now.  Brasher has gotten hit hard in limited action.  Alastre continues to not find the plate; he has 25 walks in 35 innings.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  Cate needs to move up stat.   Same with Peguero; he’s now 23 dominating Low-A.  Why are they still there?   Same with Fletcher; he’s now 23, was a senior sign and has 6 weeks of dominant numbers in low-A.  Why wait?

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Brasher seems most likely to be the next guy sent back to XST.


XST names of interest

  • Where is Istler?    He was solid in AA and even had some AAA time last year.  Still unassigned.
  • Where’s Jhon Romero?  He got assigned to High-A.
  • Pantoja? Still missing; may have been a “quiet” release.
  • No word yet about Seth Romero‘s rehab progress.
  • Since the last posting, the team officially assigned 5 guys to Low-A and put them directly on the DL: Barnett, WDavis, Howell, SRomero, Troop.  Barrett and WDavis were on the GCL team last year.  Howell and Troop were “missing” names from last year’s Low-A team now found, and of course Romero remains perhaps the worst 1st round pick this team has had since the Aaron Crow/Jim Bowden debacle.

 

Nats are quickly letting this season slip away

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So, how long before Martinez gets fired? Photo via Geoff Burke/USA today

So, how long before Martinez gets fired?
Photo via Geoff Burke/USA today

“Its early.”

“Its only May.”

“Its a long season.”

Yeah.

The Nats woke up this morning (after a well deserved night’s sleep presumably after their interesting plane odyssey from Philadelphia sunday night) and find themselves seven games under .500.  And their next 15 games, taking them completely through the month of May, are against Milwaukee (best team in the NL last year by record), Los Angeles Dodgers (2x defending NL champs), New York Mets (who have 3 arms who at any given time will shut down a team), and the Cubs (currently in 1st place in the Central and of course 4x straight playoff participants).

So, we probably shouldn’t be surprised when they go 5-10 or 6-9 between now and June 1.  Lets give them the benefit of the doubt and they go 6-9; that’d put their record at 20-30 through their first 50 games.

That’s ridiculous.

Yes they’ve gotten hit with injuries.  Tell that to the Yankees, who (as of this writing) have 12 guys on the IL yet are seven games ABOVE .500.  They too have lost key hitters (they’ve yet to have Aaron Hicks take an AB this  year, and have both their primary sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge on the IL as we speak), yet they keep on cruising despite being in a division with Tampa AND last year’s 108-game winning Boston team.

So what’s the difference?   Why is a team like NY able to weather this storm but the Nationals seem impotent?  It isn’t payroll; while the Yankees have a higher payroll than the Nats, the delta is almost entirely made up by one awful contract to Jacoby Ellsbury, who hasn’t played a game for the team since late 2017.

Is it management?   Both the Nats and the Yankees jettisoned experienced, veteran managers at the same time in Dusty Baker and Joe Giradi; both got replaced by rookie managers (Dave Martinez and Aaron Boone).    Boone came straight to the Yankees dugout from the broadcast booth, having spent basically every day after his playing retirement in the ESPN broadcast booth.  Boone did not have *one day* of professional managerial experience or even professional coaching experience before taking over the club.  Meanwhile Martinez was Joe Maddon‘s bench coach for more than a decade, interviewed with half the league for managerial openings before the Nats picked him.   What’s happened since?

  • Boone inherited a 91 win team, won 100 games in his first season and they have a .600 winning pct this year
  • Martinez inherited a 97 win team, guided them to an 82 win season in 2018 and they have a .400 winning pct this  year.

I guess those 12 years as a bench coach weren’t nearly as valuable as broadcasting games and eating off of expense accounts that Boone did for a decade.  Maybe we should hire J.P. Santangelo to be Martinez’ replacement when he gets fired in a few weeks time.

Is it ownership?  If you’ve read a single word that Tom Boswell has written about the Nats managerial situation, you’ll have read these points:

  • Mike Rizzo and the “baseball people” absolutely did not want to get rid of Baker
  • They were more or less bewildered by the choice of having to “find” someone to manage in 2018
  • The owners, for reasons inexplicable, continue to view the on-field manager as a lowly mid-manager and not a well-paid, important position.

Is it roster construction?  I personally thought that the off-season moves were fantastic.  Gomes, Suzuki, Dozier, resigning Adams, signing Corbin, getting two closer-quality arms in Rosenthal and Barraclough.  So what the heck is going on?    Why can’t this team find 7 competent relievers to sit on the bench in RF awaiting a chance to “do no harm?”

Here’s the ERAs of the current 8 guys in the bullpen: 0.00 (Fedde), 1.15, 1.42, 6.75, 7.07, 3.55, 10.80, 16.88.  So of course last night, when you needed someone to bail out the team after Strasburg‘s start fell apart in the 7th … you pick the f*cking guy with the 16.88 ERA!  Why??  At what point do you look at the bullpen decisions of the manager and say to yourself, “enough is enough?”

This team, instead of dipping into any one of a dozen arms in AAA or AA who are pitching lights out, chose to give a contract to a re-tread who sat out the entirety of the spring training w/o a deal … and who now has retired just 8 of the 21 batters he’s faced.  Why does he still have a job?   How is it possible that this team missed so badly in their roster decisions w/r/t Trevor Gott (who currently has a sub 2.00 ERA for San Francisco) this spring?  Was Gott really a lesser arm than Tanner RaineyJames BourqueAustin Adams and Jimmy Cordero?  Clearly he was, since the all four of these guys were kept instead of Gott.

Why is the team signing guys off the street instead of trying out Rainey, Bourque and Cordero?  Why are they on the 40-man roster if you’re not going to use them?    Go look up Bourque’s numbers in AA last year and this year; they’re phenomenal; why isn’t he getting called up?  If your argument for not calling up Rainey and Cordero is, “they’re too wild in AAA” then, *why the hell are they on the roster?*  If the answer is, “Oh well Rainey throws 100” well who frigging cares how hard you throw it if you can’t find the plate and thus can’t get called up and be trusted in MLB settings.   Same with frigging Cordero; he was *awful* for the team last year, yet still occupies a roster spot, walking guys in AAA at nearly a guy an inning.  Why?

DFA these guys, call up guys in the minors who ARE pitching well.  There’s a slew of candidates at AAA (Derek Self, Dakota Bacus, Vidal Nuno has improved lately) who are pitching well.   Same with AA (Mario Sanchez, Jacob Condra-Bogan, even Aaron Barrett are pitching great).  I would have Included Adams here, with his ridiculous 21/3 K/BB ratio in AAA this year, but for reasons inexplicable the team opted to DFA him and trade him for a non-top 30 prospect and keep the  unused Rainey/Bourque/Cordero crew instead of retaining him and seeing if his stuff would play this year in the majors.  He got one inning of work this year; unlike Trevor Rosenthal he was actually able to COMPLETE said inning despite walking a couple of guys.   You mean to tell me that was any worse than what Jennings could give us?

And then there’s the bats.  Here’s our current non-catcher bench: Sanchez, Noll, Stevenson.  Wow; do these guys have 5 career homers between them??   Way to really pack the bench with slap hitters for those crucial late-inning PH opportunities.  Meanwhile Fresno has three veteran guys who are hitting the cover off the ball in Brandon Snyder (Westfields HS grad!), Jacob Wilson and Yadiel Hernandez.  Any of them getting a sniff?   Of course not.  Because the team has to keep around guys like Kyle McGowin as an 8th starter (current AAA ERA: 5.00 in 7 starts) and a catcher they’ll probably never use in Raudy Read.  Why??  Are you *trying* to win games?   Why is Jake Noll taking pinch hitting duties at the major league level??

I dunno.  Something needs to change.  I just don’t get the way this team is being managed right now, both on and off the field.

/rant off.

Stephen Strasburg now halfway to 3K strikeouts … is he a hall of famer?

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 Photo via allansgraphics.com via free-extras.com

Photo via allansgraphics.com via free-extras.com

Earlier this month, some breathless headlines pointed out that Stephen Strasburg reached a surprising career milestone; he’s now eclipsed 1,500 career strikeouts.  Strasburg is the fastest to 1,500 career strike-outs by IPs than anyone in the history of the game.

He’s likely to add at least 100 more punch-outs this season (his average is about 150 Ks/season and is in his 10th pro season), but may add even more since we’re only about 1/6th of the way through the season.  So lets say he finishes the season with 1,650 strike outs.

So it occurred to me … is Strasburg really halfway to becoming a hall of fame pitcher?

We’ve generally in the history of the sport basically annointed anyone who hits that threshold a Hall of Famer.   Of the 17 pitchers who have hit 3,000 career punchouts, 14 are in the Hall of Fame, one is Roger Clemens, one is Curt Schilling and one is newly minted 3,000 club member CC Sabathia (another interesting test case for Cooperstown coming up in the next 5-6 years presumably … we’ll come back to him in a moment).

But nothing about Strasburg’s career so far screams “Cooperstown.”  He’s made a couple of all star games, finished 3rd in Cy Young voting in his best season, and for most of his career has not been the best pitcher on his own staff.   He’s been a very good pitcher, but injury prone with just one season out of his career 10 that didn’t feature at least a few weeks of D/L time.  He has one stellar season: 2017’s 6.4 bWAR season (also his peak Cy Young voting) but otherwise has a handful of 3-war seasons throughout his career.  He’s nowhere close to Hall standards by JAWS or any of the baseball-reference.com metrics.

Lets say for the sake of argument that Strasburg pitches another 9 seasons after this one, averages 150 K/s a year and is sitting basically where Sabathia is this season: upper 30s, in his 19th pro season and right on the cusp of 3,000 strikeouts.  Does that sound like a hall of fame resume to you?

(yes i know this is a huge leap of faith; you can’t project pitchers, he may blow his arm out again, yadda, yadda.  For sake of argument, assume Strasburg goes 10 more  years, averages 14-11 with 150 Ks/season).

Coming back to Sabathia: he won a Cy Young, finished in the top 5 four years out of five (missing one  year b/c he got traded between leagues) and was absolutely one of the top pitchers in baseball during his peak JAWs period.  He also will eclipse 250 wins (perhaps the new 300 wins of our era of the sport) and has had a nice late 30s rebound.  Is Sabathia a Hall of Famer?   Strasburg doesn’t even have 100 wins yet at age 30 (but will pass it by the all star break this year), and seems unlikely to even get to 200 wins based on his average/season.

I wonder if Strasburg is really this generation’s version of Kevin Brown, who was more remembered for his contract (he was baseball’s first 9-figure $100M deal) than his production.  Brown was a very good pitcher, but never won a Cy Young, never got to marquee career thresholds (300 wins, 3,000 strikeouts), but interestingly had a significant 5-year stretch in his late 20s/early 30s that has him ranked 49th by JAWS, ahead of 16 other Hall of Fame pitchers and perhaps leaving him as one of the most under-rated Cooperstown snubs of all time.  Strasburg isn’t even this right now: he’s a good #2 starter who can’t stay healthy for more than a few months at a time.  And I say this as a Strasburg defender.

What do you think?  Is the sport about to really start re-evaluating its pitcher career landmarks as the K rates skyrocket and the starter disappears.   And a guy like Strasburg has a chance to really demonstrate the issue if he can achieve some important career thresholds over the next 10 years.

 

 

Written by Todd Boss

May 6th, 2019 at 3:25 pm

Kieboom up; for how long?

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Kieboom up. Photo via PerfectGame

Kieboom up. Photo via PerfectGame

The demands and prayers of many of the readers here were answered (albeit a bit late for some) when it was announced that Carter Kieboom is getting the call-up.

Clearly, the team has decided:

  1. they’ve seen enough incompetence from Wilmer Difo both in the field and at the plate.
  2. they’ve run out of excuses as Kieboom continues to destroy AAA pitching as a 21 yr old
  3. they’ve passed the critical 180 service time day that typically happens mid April to ensure a full extra year
  4. and, apparently, they’ve decided that (unlike nearly every other scouting report I’ve read on Kieboom) Carter can indeed play SS at the major league level.

So, we’re going to see him get a run.  As others note, the team generally doesn’t promote top prospects like Kieboom in order to have him ride the pine.  So he’s going to play.

For how long remains to be seen.  Turner is likely out until at least late May, so Kieboom could have about a month-long run at Short.  But the team has expensive veterans now at 3b, SS and 2B, so when all three guys (Rendon, Turner, Dozier) are healthy its hard to see a spot for Kieboom to play.  So perhaps this is a month-long tryout.

That being said, Dozier has really, really under-performed so far.  He looks to be a far ways away from his 42-homer form from just a couple years ago.  He has heated up a bit in the last week (helped by Colorado’s thin air of course), so maybe it was just a slow spring, but it goes without saying that Kieboom as a SS can more than ably play 2B … so perhaps this is also a month-long trial for Dozier to prove he is worth the roster spot.  Like Trevor Rosenthal, Dozier is basically on a one year expensive deal ($9M with some deferrals to 2020), so cutting him in May would be a big decision … but this team is built to win now and needs to start winning now.

Here’s to seeing how our next big prospect plays.

Oh; his call-up needs some corresponding moves (a 25-man and 40-man).  We’ve already heard that Jake Noll is back in Fresno, so there’s the 25-man move.  I predict they stick Koda Glover on the 60-day DL for the other.  I don’t think anyone is getting the chop right now (as much as you may want to “chop” Rosenthal right now).

 

Written by Todd Boss

April 26th, 2019 at 11:04 am

Minor League Rotations: Good and Bad Starts

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Voth has looked pretty good so far. Photo mlb.com official

Voth has looked pretty good so far. Photo mlb.com official

We’re now a couple turns through the four full season minor league rotations and I thought i’d take a quick gander at what the “rotations” looked like, with some short sample size judgements as to who has come out of the gate hot or not from a stats perspective.  I have not seen any of these games, just looking at milb.com’s stat page.  So feel free to add in any personal opinions :-)


 

AAA/Fresno 2019

The rotation is looking like: McGowin, Copeland, Voth, Espino, Alvarez, with Dragmire as a spot-starter and Joe Ross having been yanked up to MLB bullpen duty (replaced by Alvarez).  Espino returns to the fold, having signed elsewhere as a MLFA a couple years back.

The Bullpen is looking like: AAdams, Rainey, Hoover, Nuno, Self, Cordero and Bacus (recently promoted to replace Austen Williams, himself promoted to cover for MLB injuries).

Who’s hot: Voth and McGowin have started well out of the rotation, Voth sporting a 16/1 K/BB ratio and McGowin 12/2.  I’m liking the first start from off-season signing Copeland too.   In the bullpen, Adams has 5 innings, 1 hit and 11 punch outs while Hoover has yet to give up a hit (though.. he’s walked 7 guys in 6 innings).

Who’s not?  Dragmire.  In three appearances so far, he’s pitched 9  2/3rds innings, given up 21 hits and only struck out 3 guys.   Ouch.  In the bullpen, both Rainey and Hoover have more walks than Ks so far.

Who’s next guy to get the call?   Honestly, it might be time to give Adams another shot.  His numbers merited the promotion moreso than Williams (who has the highest ERA in Fresno).  Next time there’s a spot start you have to think Voth is putting his name first in line.

Who’s getting the Axe?  Dragmire seems to be in trouble; he’s a MLFA re-signing so I can’t imagine the team has much invested in him, especially now that Alvarez and Espino are in the AAA rotation.


 

AA/Harrisburg 2019

Rotation: Crowe, Fedde, Sharp, Mapes, Braymer*, with  swingman/spot starts by Baez and MSanchez (who we get back after having flipped him for Jimmy Cordero on the AAA squad).

Bullpen: Bourque,  Brinley, Condra-Bogan, JMills*, RPena,  Guilbeau*, ABarrett (Bacus already promoted).  Great to see Barrett back here and hope he can re-contribute at the MLB level.

Who’s hot: Crowe and Fedde in the rotation: Crowe’s given up just 6 baserunners in his first two starts, Fedde just 7.  Mapes has an 11/1 K/BB ratio in his two starts.  In the bullpen, Barrett and Condra-Bogan have been solid.

Who’s not?  Sterling Sharp has a 6.30 ERA through 2 starts.  Bourque and Gilbeau have elevated whips but they’ve only thrown a handful of innings.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  I think Crowe may merit a promotion to AAA if he keeps this up for the rest of the month, perhaps to cover for injury or if one of our veteran guys exercises an opt-out.   We know Fedde is staying put to serve as the Nats 6th starter.

Who’s next to get the Axe?   Nobody really; Sharp has the highest ERA but he’s a solid prospect who is in AA at age 23.  We may have to keep an eye on Guilbeau; 2019 is his make-or-break season after two successive full seasons in high-A.


High-A/Potomac 2019

Rotation:  Johnston, Borne*, Tetreault, Raquet*, MPena, LReyes with swingman/spot starts by Howard*,  ALee,

bullpen:  Acevedo, Bogucki, Fuentes,   McKinney,  Bartow,

Who’s hot: Tetreault and perhaps Malvin Pena in the rotation, McKinney & Fuentes in the bullpen.

Who’s not?  Reyes’ first start was not good.   Bourne’s sporting a 2.31 whip so far.  And Howard has given up 12 hits in 6 IP.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  Nobody really screaming for a promotion so far; if you had to pick one of each i’d go with Tetrault and Fuentes (who is just 21 but has started great).

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Reyes struggled last year in AA; if he can’t get guys out this year in High-A he’s not long for the league.  Borne missed all of 2018 but is repeating a level and is now 25; its put up or shut up time.


Low-A/Hagerstown 2019

Rotation:  Alastre/Day, Adon, Cate*/Tapani, Irvin/Teel*, FPeguero/AGuillen, Strom/Stoeckinger*

bullpen:   German,  Fletcher*

Lots of “tandem” starting going on, though the roles seem to have settled into the “starter” going 4-5 and the tandem guy typically going 2-3.  So its likely at some point the tandem guys either move into starters or purely bullpen roles.

Who’s hot: Peguero and Cate.  Peguero has 10/1 K/BB in 10 IP while Cate has struck out 12 in 9.   Both the “relievers” in Hagerstown have been solid: German sporting 8 Ks and a 0.75 whip in 4 games, and Fletcher an even better 0.53 whip in 3 outings.

Who’s not? Alastre; the opening day starter has 11 walks and 12 hits given up in his 12 IP of work.  Adon’s first start was a struggle; he’ll get another crack at it tonight before passing too much judgement.

Who’s next guy to get the call? I’d promote Peguero and Fletcher first from each group.

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Alastre is only 20, but is repeating low-A with similar results to last  year.


 

XST names of interest

  • Where is Istler?    He was solid in AA and even had some AAA time last year
  • Where’s Jhon Romero?
  • Pantoja?  I wonder if he’s been released as a 25yr old and we just havn’t seen it updated on milb.com yet.

Nats first Week of Results and Over-Reactions

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Well, what did you expect him to do after booing him for 5 innings? (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ORG XMIT: NAT126

Well, what did you expect him to do after booing him for 5 innings? (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Nats are through their first week.  They’re 3-3.  The sky is not falling, as opposed to general sentiment coming out of the opening series.

Here’s a quick summary of what happened in the last week or so:

1. The Nats faced this gauntlet of Starters: Jacob deGrom, Noah SnydergaardZack Wheeler, Zach Eflin, Aaron Nola and then Snydergaard again.   That’s one hell of a way to start your season; these 6 games include four starts against guys who are all in perhaps the top 5-6 starters in the NL, last year’s Cy Young Winner, last year’s 3rd place Cy Young winner and a guy who had a 111 ERA+ in 2018 (Wheeler).

This is one heck of an ask for any team, and the fact that the Nats beat Thor, battered Nola and snuck out third win is pretty good.

2. The Nats managed to lose BOTH of Max Scherzer‘s starts.  That’s not good, but also not really predictive.  The Nats went 22-11 in his 33 starts in 2018.

3. The team lost Trea Turner to a broken finger, watched Matt Adams flip over a railing and land on his head (dtd with a sore back), and watched Anibal Sanchez get pegged with a 100+ exit velocity line drive on his hip flexor and hobble out of his first start (also dtd).  That’s not good.

4. The team’s bullpen collectively has a 9.64 ERA (improved by yesterday’s win to now “only” be 29th out of 30 in the sport).  Ironically, despite being 29th in ERA they’re somehow 3rd in fWAR.  This is probably due the fact that their FIP is like 6 full points better than the ERA, with hitters pummeling the bullpen arms to the tune of .453 BABIP.  They’re going to get better and have more games like the last one we just saw (where four guys white washed the Mets to end Strasburg‘s last start).

5. Trevor Rosenthal has now faced seven batters and retired none of them.  Now, to be fair, I thought the ump in Wednesday’s game was really squeezing both sides, so it wasn’t like he was all over the place … but this is not a good sign.  He needs a confidence booster game and soon.

6. All in all, our big three starters have looked pretty solid: Corbin‘s nifty QS, Scherzer striking out 12 on opening day, and Strasburg’s sub 1.00 FIP all giving me some good confidence.  Sanchez is a battler and I like him as our fourth, and I hope he isn’t affected longer term.

7. On the offensive side: Rendon: wow.  Dozier: geeze (just 2 for 22).   Soto and Robles are doing precisely what I’d like them to do. Otherwise … its hard to really pass too much judgement against a squad that’s faced four Cy Young candidates in six games.

8. In general … the Nats have a good shot at sweeping in NY given who is going for us next (Corbin and Scherzer), then return to Philly and probably face more of the same until they get to their mid-April slate of easier opponents (Pitt, SF then Miami).   I like the team’s chances of sitting somewhere in the 12-8 or maybe even 13-7 range by the time they finish the Miami series on 4/21/19.

Lastly …..

9. Bryce Harper played two games here; he wiffed in his two first at-bats to the utter glee of the “fans” who had  clearly only purchased tickets to boo him (or wear t-shirts that spelled out TRAITOR prominently in the outfield), and then he did this in his next eight plate appearances: three singles, a double, a homer and three walks, reaching base in 8 consecutive plate appearances, helping to push his current seasonal slash line through the first week to the gaudy .500/.652/1.840.  I had a sneaking suspicion that Harper was going to just blow up in 2019, especially hitting in Philadelphia, and if the Phillies make the post season I think Harper is a shoe-in for his second MVP.

Tangent question: Harper continually manages to be voted as “most over-rated” player in anonymous polls and in biting commentary all around the sports-internet.  This baffles me honestly; over-rated compared to what?    I mean, the guy has 6 all star appearances, a rookie of the Year and a unanimous MVP through his age 25 season, to go along with between 27 and 31 WAR depending on the system.  Ask yourself this: what exactly does he need to do in order to NOT be “over-rated?”  If he put up another season like he did in 2015 and ran away with the MVP, would he then stop being over-rated?  How many MVPs does he need?  If your answer includes something along the lines of, “well he needs to lead his team to a playoff win” then remind yourself that Mike Trout has never won a playoff GAME let alone a playoff series and went 1-15 in his sole ALDS appearance.

I just don’t get the general vitrol that surrounds Harper sometimes.  Especially with respect to what we now know about his contract situation.  The Nats offered him deals that included massive amounts of deferred data going out decades and that, even in a conservative analysis, were probably 40% less in net present value than what he eventually signed in Philadelphia, but yet somehow he’s the bad guy and the Traitor and the money-grabbing bastard here?  Where’s the vitriol for the ownership group, that opportunistically offered him a *lower* contract as their follow-up offer in December?   What did people expect Harper to do?  Just accept 40% less than what others were offering him just to appease DC-area residents who may attend 2-3 games a year because that’s what they think they’re “owed” as fair-weather fans?  Let me know the next time you change jobs so I can tell you that you should take 40% less in salary and just stay with your same employer instead of taking the better offer to move on.

 

Opening Day Starter Trivia 2019

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Verlander makes his 11th career opening day start, tying him for the active lead. Photo via sporting News.

Verlander makes his 11th career opening day start, tying him for the active lead. Photo via sporting News.

Every year I update this long-running XLS for this increasingly anachronistic relic of tracking Opening Day Starter honors for teams.  But it does make for some good trivia questions.

After this year’s opening day (including the two-day series in Japan), here’s some interesting stats related to Opening Day Starts from around the league:

  • Most Opening Day Starts, Active Leaders:
    • Justin Verlander makes his 11th and he seems well suited to increase that total given current form and new contract.
    • 11 ties him with both CC Sabathia and Felix Hernandez for the most active, neither of whom seem like they’ll get another shot to extend their totals.
    • Next closest are three tied with 8 each: Jon LesterClayton Kershaw and James Shields.  Lester’s is active, Kershaw’s should continue, while Shields remains unsigned for 2019 and seems unlikely to get another shot.
  • Current Leading Consecutive streak:
    • Julio Teheran with 6, which is pretty amazing because there was talk of him not even making the team with all the pitching depth Atlanta has.
    • Next closest is Corey Kluber with 5.
    • Nobody else really is close.  Lester has 3 straight for the Cubs, to add to his total of 8 between Boston and Chicago.
  • Consecutive streaks ended in 2019:
    • Felix Hernandez has his streak of 10 starts broken, and he wasn’t happy about it.
    • Kershaw had his streak of 8 broken thanks to the spring training injury.
    • Chris Archer has his streak of 4 broken thanks to a mid-season 2018 trade.
  • Number of first-time Opening Day Starters in 2019: 14.
    • deGrom, Castillo, Taillon, Mikolas, Freeland, Ryu, Lauer, Snell, Rodon, Keller, Berrios, Fiers, Gonzales, Minor
    • I’d say half of these are rewards for excellent 2018 seasons (deGrom, Taillon, Mikolas, Freelan, Snell for sure, perhaps also Berrios), some are covering for obvious candidates who are injured (Ryu), while the rest mostly play for tanking teams who have little better choice than to name a starter for opening day (Castillo, Lauer, Rodon, Keller, Fiers, Gonzales and Minor).
    • This is the highest number of first-time opening day starters in my decade of tracking this.

Historically, here’s the all-time record holders:

  • Most Ever Opening day Starts: Tom Seaver with 16.  Tied for 2nd place with 14 is Jack Morris, Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton
  • Most Consecutive Opening Day Starts: Jack Morris, all of whom’s 14 opening day starts were in a row.

Hope you enjoy this useless trivia!

 

 

Ask Jesse; a just-before-the-season Mailbag

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Jake Noll looks to make the 2019 opening day roster. Photo via milb.com

Jake Noll looks to make the 2019 opening day roster. Photo via milb.com

In order to move on from my Fantasy Baseball post, here’s a mailbag that WP Nats Beat reporter Jesse Dougherty posted on 3/25/19.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/03/24/nationals-mailbag-regular-season-is-just-about-here/?utm_term=.e92f4a56efd8

Interesting notes here from today: the demotions of Adrian Sanchez in particular, which seems to indicate that NRI and 2016 7th round draft pick Jake Noll may very well be making this team.  Noll signed for $190k in 2016, which definitely wasn’t a senior sign/throw away pick out of FGCU, but he’s gotten absolutely zero prospect love in his career thus far.  He was ranked 26th on 2080 Baseball’s 2019 list, and got an “Honorable Mention” in John Sickel‘s post 2016 minorleaguebaseball.com list, but that’s it.  And how he’s set to be the Nats primary backup middle infielder until Howie Kendrick can return.  So great for Noll.

Questions she took and how i’d answer them:

Q: What do you think the chances are the Nats extend Rendon? I’m not too optimistic after this most recent report.

A: A good question.  I’m guessing that at this point, Anthony Rendon will head to FA.  He better have an action plan though with his agent Scott Boras, who has absolutely blown several high profile cases over the last couple of off seasons.

That being said, I’m hoping Rendon is taking a hard look at the landscape, taking a hard look at the contracts that some of his comparables are signing (Nolan Arenado 8yr/$260M for $32.5 AAV) and perhaps coming back to the table before he faces an embarassing off-season.  Rendon is a year older than Arenado, less accomplished from awards and year end recognition … and will have to eat deferred money to stay here.  Can a deal get done?

Dougherty notes that Rendon has instructed Boras to work on an extension, and they’ll work into the season.  So perhaps we’ll see something like a 6yr/$180M deal in our future with deferred dollars.

Q: How is the team preparing for having AAA players in Fresno instead of Syracuse? Any chatter from likely minor leaguers about the switch?

A: That’s a great question, one that fans like us can’t really answer other than noting the obvious: the team has “demoted” the likes of Erick Fedde and Spencer Kieboom to Harrisburg so they can be a couple hours away in case of an emergency.  Meanwhile longer-term strategic assets like Joe RossKyle McGowin, and Raudy Read are instead heading to Fresno to get stretched out or further tested against more senior competition.

Ironically, Spencer and his younger brother, phenom prospect Carter Kieboom, are both scheduled to now be in AA.  I wonder if they’ll room together 😉

Dougherty notes the same players that I do, but has little else to offer in terms of player insights.

Q: Can you talk about the OF depth issue with Michael A. Taylor’s injury and Kendrick’s? Any insight on the organization’s view of its internal outfield options? Any indications if General Manager Mike Rizzo thinks he needs to go outside the organization to address?

A: Well, it certainly didn’t help when exactly one third of the outfielders on the 40-man got hurt (Taylor and Kendrick).  So the team is breaking camp with their 3 starters and their one remaining option in Andrew Stevenson to start the season.  Depth?  The next likely guy up probably is Rafael Bautista, who was on the 40-man last  year and got DFA’d/assigned to AAA .  Our top OF prospect is probably Gage Canning, who was in short season last year.  Brian Goodwin just got released by Kansas City; maybe he’s worth taking a MLFA flier on and getting him back into the fold.   The team has added some MLFA 4-A type talents that are also sitting in AAA; my guess is that they’d go there first for a short-term fix.  If it turned out that Taylor was done for the season, may be then we’d go for an outside option.

Dougherty says that since Taylor’s injury is short term, nothing will happen, and that in-house options like Wilmer Difo and Matt Adams can cover.

Q: Jake Noll has been tearing it up in spring training, Nats’ OF depth is thin, does Jake have any experience in the OF? Could his success translate to the big leagues soon?

A: This question was a day early, given today’s press reports of Noll’s likely making the team.   So his hot spring training has definitely paid off.

I see no evidence of his playing the OF: he spent his first two pro seasons playing 2B, then split time between 1B and 3B last  year.  Conventional wisdom would seem to indicate that this level of athleticism on the dirt would translate to at least a passing ability to play LF in a pinch.  But it doesn’t seem like that’s his path for now.

Dougherty notes that Noll played some OF in high school, but he only played the three positions in which he has pro experience this spring.

Q: Do Nats fans boo Bryce on April 2?

A:  I’ve been asked this many times by my Bryce Harper hating friends.  His first AB will be a video tribute and a standing ovation.  Perhaps by the 3rd or 4th AB he may get some boos.  He’s slated to face Scherzer in the 4th game of the season on regular rest, unless the team decides to keep its rotation intact.

Dougherty seems to think the reception will be chilly.  We’ll see!  Maybe the team should sell out the stadium to traveling Philly fans to make a buck like they used to in the old days.