Nationals Arm Race

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Prospects1500 Nats top 50 List released

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Henry all the way up to #4 on this list. Photo via mlb.com

With the absence of MLB news (we’re not to mid Feb yet, so no chance we’ll have a new CBA), there still is some analysis to be had. We’re getting into the meat of the Prospect ranking season, and that means more lists being released.

Today, we have Prospects1500.com and their writer Colin Coulahan with perhaps the most aggressive prospect list out there: a top 50 for the Nats system. BA goes 10 deep, Fangraphs goes 30 deep, but these guys go 50 deep. Every list, they add in several guys who have never been ranked before, and this time is no different.

Here’s a link to the raw list, which I highly recommend visiting for the video embeds of key players. If you’ve never seen video on our top guys, this is the place to go. Also online, they don’t just list 1-50, they have tiers built in that kind of serve as predictors of future production. I probably push back on some of the players he lists in Tier 3 (expectation of making the majors) as being a little too rosy, but I like who he has listed in the first two tiers as being a pretty good predictor of the future.

Anyway, here’s some thoughts on the list with an eye-squint towards players they have much higher or lower than the consensus of other shops right now.

  • Top 3 are as expected and the same as everyone else. Put a dotted line between these three guys (Ruiz, Cavalli, House) and the rest of the system right now b/c they’re head and shoulders above everyone else at this point. These three, by the way are also the only 3 guys making the BA top 100. They came in at #11, #27 and #59 respectively in the entirety of the minors. So far, so good on the House drafting.
  • They have Cole Henry all the way up at #4 on the strength of his AFL performance. Bravo. Fangraphs had him all the way down at #13 in September. Lets hope he stays healthy and becomes part of a future Nats rotation. I like him as a sneaky-good #3 starter for a good team; imagine him pitching this way in a rotation along side Strasburg, Corbin, and Cavalli.
  • Antuna pushed down to #8; they’re still decently bullish on the player, but at least acknowledge that he’s going through a position change. At least they don’t have him in “future all star” ranking territory like BaseballAmerica did in October. I’m on record frequently in this space as questioning the continued prospect love for Antuna, especially now that he’s proven without a doubt he can’t play the dirt. Now he’s a corner 6’0″ outfielder with middling power and a career .684 minor league OPS.
  • What a rise for Joan Adon: they’ve got him at #11 and BA had him at #7; last year he was in the 20s or lower.
  • A caveat in the post says it was written just before the official signing of Cristian Vaquero. They would have had him in the #14-15 range apparently. That’s fair as a starting point; i probably would have had him a bit higher but sight unseen its hard to quibble with a mid-range ranking like this.
  • Evan Lee on the list at #16; he wasn’t even on Fangraph’s top 30. This is probably due to his K/9 rate in the AFL and his placement on the 40-man roster, but still seems awfully high.
  • Definitely high on #19 Brandon Boissiere, our 2021 3rd rounder who projects as a low-power 1B who hit .200 in 25 games in Low-A this year. Why would you rank Boissiere above, say, Ricardo Mendez, who plays CF, out hit Boissiere this year, earned a promotion to high-A, and is the same age?
  • Aldo Ramirez: all the way down to #21 on this list but top-10 on others. Interesting.
  • First time prospect mentions for three guys in the mid 20s: Yoander Rivero, Jacob Young, and Ivan Murzi. All three were hitters in the FCL or Low-A this year. Rivero hit .270 as a SS in the FCL with 3 homers and had more walks than strikeouts (a rarity in the game today). Murzi was a backup catcher in the FCL who got 34 at bats in 2021 and barely hits: not sure why he’s even this high. Young was a 7th rounder this year who hit .200 and had a lower slugging than his OBP in low-A. Strange placement for Murzi and Young honestly: there’s probably 10 guys I rate higher than either in the system or ranked below them.
  • Seth Romero, all the way down to #30. And that’s before his DWI arrest. He continues to be a train wreck, and the Nats executives can’t do a thing about it because he’s on the 40-man and thus he’s locked out. Romero is now #1 on my “Next player to get released when the team needs 40-man room” list. I think his time with the team may now be complete. Is this the worst ever 1st round pick by this team? Great post idea; maybe i’ll write that up for when he gets released.
  • Speaking of failed 1st round picks, Mason Denaburg comes in at #38 on this list. It is hard to believe that he was as high as the #2 ranked prospect in our system in January of 2021 in one publication.
  • Tim Cate: all the way to #40. Which is way, way too low, even if he did struggle this year. I mean, a 24-yr old lefty starter in AA with top tools has to rank better than a guy with 20 pro ABs. The fallacy is this: even if you thought Cate sucked in 2021, he’s a lefty who can go straight to the bullpen, focus on two pitches in stead of four, and become an effective MLB reliever almost immediately.
  • There’s a huge discrepancy between where Prospects1500 has some veteran prospects like Drew Millas and Drew Mendoza, buried in the 40s, versus where other shops have them. Just a month ago Fangraphs had Millas #12 overall, and still had Mendoza with some value. I think this ranking is a little to punitive for their bad 2021 seasons.

There’s no real reason to quibble about the rest of the players ranked in the 30s and 40s; some of them i’d never heard of. Could anyone tell me when we acquired #46 Miguel Gomez or how he performed this year?

Ranking a thin system to the 50th player is tough, but this is a good way to get recognition for some lower-level guys who may matriculate forward. Thoughts?

Written by Todd Boss

January 21st, 2022 at 9:55 am

Posted in Prospects

2022 Class Hall of Fame Post

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This year begins the next 10 year cycle of arguing about the HoF merits of PED players. Photo via NYPost

Its that time of year. Its time to put our two cents in on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Past versions of this post: by ballot class: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

The 2022 class is a transitional one, where we’ll (finally) age off a number of the PED-associated players who have plagued this discussion for years, but just as a couple drop off another major one starts his 10 year cycle. Here’s one last chat about these expiring players, plus some thoughts on the players new to the 2022 ballot.

Key resources for HoF discussions:

New to the 2022 ballot: two significant names and a bunch of also-rans.

  • Alex Rodriguez: 3 MVPs, a decade and a half of getting All Star and MVP votes, 696 homers, 3100 hits, and a massive 117 bWAR figure that ranks him 16th in the history of the game. Under normal circumstances of course he’s a 1st ballot, near unanimous hall-of-famer. But A-Rod’s legacy has taken hit after hit: He was reportedly on the 2003 list, he was named prominently in Jose Canseco‘s book … but then he was the centerpiece player involved in the Biogenesis scandal, which resulted in a one-year suspension from the game in his late 30s. Despite his post-playing career reputation reclamation renaissance, which has seen him on national MLB broadcasts on ESPN’s Sunday night game of the week showing off his charm and charisma, we know BBWAA writers are not going to vote for him en-masse; my guess is that he’ll hover in the same 60% range that Bonds/Clemens have hovered in. My take on A-Rod is similar to my take on Bonds & Clemens: yes he cheated, but he’s also one of the best to ever play, so he should be enshrined.
  • David Ortiz finished his career in style, posting a ridiculous .315/.401/.620 slash line at age 40 in his farewell season, leading the league in slugging, OPS and RBI. He seemingly could still be playing the game and producing value. He was the heart of the Boston Red Sox for more than a decade and for three World Series titles, a feared slugger in the middle of the order who wreaked havoc during the post season (his career OPS in the postseason was .947, higher than his career regular season OPS). I push back on anyone who claims he has ties to PEDs, as I discussed at length in this space in 2013 and which has been corroborated by multiple national writers and the commissioner of the sport. The major knock on Ortiz is his DH-only stigma, but that really should no longer exist now that the writers have elected the likes of Edgar Martinez, Paul Molitor, and Frank Thomas. I think he’s a shoe-in but it remains to be seen if the anti-PED voters will believe he’s a cheater.
  • Mark Teixeira, native of Severna Park, probably is more famous for his massive contract than his production on the field. He signed an 8yr/$180M deal with New York, and by the end of it was a shell of his former self. But, in its first year (his age 29 season), he had his best ever season, leading the league in homers and RBIs, finishing 2nd in MVP voting and being a huge part of what has now turned out to be the last title the Yankees have won. For me; hall of very good, or perhaps “Hall of very well paid” along with players like Kevin Brown, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Jason Heyward, Barry Zito, and Mike Hampton)
  • Jimmy Rollins, longtime Phillies SS and my favorite lightning rod for discussions with my long-time Phillies friend Jason. Rollins won the 2007 NL MVP in just about the only season he ever merited league-wide recognition. My friend took this to mean he was a “shoe in” for the Hall of Fame, a claim I laughed at then and discuss now. Rollins won a handful of Gold Gloves, but was a sub-100 OPS+ hitter at the plate. He had a long, illustrious career and was a centerpiece in the 2008 WS winning team. For me, a nice player who played in the wrong era: if he played in the 70s and had this career, we’d be talking about him like we talked about Ozzie Smith.
  • Carl Crawford was a speed daemon, leading the league in SBs four times while starring for an under-noticed Tampa team. He put up a 7-win season, which led to a massive $142M contract before falling apart after leaving Tampa and was out of the league at 34. He has a surprisingly high career bWAR (39.1) but is nowhere near a hall of famer. I will be surprised if he gets 5% to remain on the ballot going forward.
  • Jake Peavy‘s career was highlighted by essentially two great seasons, one of which resulted in a Cy Young. He pitched a large amount of his career in NL West parks, which led him to have a stellar-looking career ERA of 3.63, but a park-adjusted ERA+ of just 110. A long-shot to get anything other than a couple of home-town votes.
  • Justin Morneau won an MVP at age 25, nearly won another at age 27, but couldn’t really create a second half to his career after leaving Minnesota He doesn’t have near enough career numbers to rate in the HoF discussion as a first baseman.
  • Prince Fielder was a beast at the plate, hitting 50 homers in his age 23 season, but a sudden neck injury went from an annoyance to surgery to career-ending issue very quickly. Its a shame; we’ll never know how the second half of his career (when he could have DH’d primarily) would have unfolded. Even given that, I don’t believe he had enough production in his 20s to give anyone any ideas he’d double it and become a HoFame threat.
  • Joe Nathan was a long-time closer who came back from two season-long injuries to pitch into his 40s. He was a solid closer who sits 8th in all time saves and hits the ballot at a time when more and more voters view closers through the appropriate lens; that of a slightly more important reliever than the 8th inning guy. Indeed, Nathan’s two biggest WAR seasons were just 2.4 and 2.1 win seasons, which is about what Mike Trout does in the first couple months of each season.
  • Tim Lincecum: Well, what to do with Lincecum? Absolutely dominant and durable for most of his 20s, winning two Cy Youngs and leading the league in Strikeouts three times…. and then suddenly at age 28 he collapsed and became below a replacement level player. He went from a 3.7 win season to a -1.7 win season over night. This is not a Sandy Koufax case, where he was at least decent for most of his career; Lincecum was great, then awful. HIs two major awards will help keep him on the ballot but there’s no way he gets into the Hall.
  • Jonathan Papelbon, this year’s “candidate with Nats ties,” was an excellent closer for a while, retiring with really excellent numbers (2.44 ERA, 177 ERA+). He sits 10th all time in saves. He made a ton of all star teams and won a World Series in Boston. I doubt he gets enough votes to stay on the ballot going forward.
  • A.J. Pierzynski had a 19-year career as a catcher, known best for his time in Chicago perhaps. He had his best year at age 35 oddly, and stayed behind the dish to the end. He had very few career accolades and i’m somewhat surprised he’s even on the ballot.
  • Ryan Howard, another player who belongs in the “Hall of Massive contracts,” is the lowest-career bWAR player new to the ballot in 2021. He was a late bloomer, exploding onto the scene at age 25 and in short order winning a RoY, an MVP, and from age 25-29 was perhaps the most feared left handed slugger not named Barry Bonds in the NL. Then. … he fell off a cliff at age 30, going from a productive slugger who struck out a lot to a mediocre hitter who struck out a lot. I recall going to Nats-Phillies games late in his career where Howard wouldn’t have been able to hit a lefty if he had a guitar at the plate and soft-tossing Oliver Perez would come out of the pen to make him look like a little-leager seeing a curve ball for the first time. I figure he’ll get a few charity votes and move on. No crying for Howard though; he may have been out of the league at age 26 but he made more than $190M in his career.

So, of all the new-to-the-ballot players, I’d vote for A-Rod and Ortiz. I don’t believe Ortiz actually tested positive for anything, ever, and I’m not in the “never vote for a cheater” camp for transformative players like A-Rod (and Bonds, and Clemens … see below)


As for returning candidates, i’ll leverage a lot of what I wrote last year, but with some new information available to us I’ve changed my virtual mind on a couple of candidates in particular. These are ordered by the % of votes they got last year.

Quick reasoning in order of the above:

  • Curt Schilling can go f*ck himself. I’m sorry, but he was nearly at the point of personal reprehensibility BEFORE the events of January 6th that his candidacy should have been torpedoed (as well described in Jay Jaffe‘s HoF post for a partial list of his social media “takes” before he tweeted broad support for the insurrection. I’m at the point now with Schilling that I can no longer possibly support him, even though I think he merits induction based on his career. If you think that’s incongruous with my support of PED users, so be it. Schilling himself asked off the ballot after the backlash last January, to which the Hall said no, probably to ensure one last cycle of stories about why he didn’t make it. I predict he loses 10% of his support from last year’s 71% and heads deeper into Qanon and MAGA right wing media.
  • Clemens and Bonds are two of the best players ever to play, regardless of later-in-their-career PED transgressions (alleged or otherwise). You can cut both their careers off at the point where they both allegedly used and they’re still HoFamers. However, they’ve remained right in the 61% range for years now with little movement and the electorate has clearly made up their minds. Plus, I think the LAST thing Cooperstown wants is to give either guy a mike for a 45-minute diatribe on the way they’ve been treated, since both players basically continue to deny any culpability to this day. It remains amazing to me, and will going forward, that a 7-time MVP and a 7-time Cy Young winner will not be enshrined.
  • Scott Rolen is an interesting player whose value was much more about his defense than his offense. Interestingly the Hall has no problem electing top-end defensive short stops who couldn’t hit (see Ozzie Smith or Luis Aparicio) but seem to struggle when presented with an equally dominant defensive 3B who actually could hit. That’s Rolen to at. He was at 53% last year; does he have enough star power to move up? Probably a few percentage points.
  • Omar Vizquel was a mediocre hitter who played forever and nearly got to 3,000 hits. He was a solid defender yes, but I’m kind of at a loss as to why voters are giving him so much credence while Rolon struggles. And that was before he was accused of both Domestic Violence AND sexual harassment claims while he was managing. Geeze. I sense his candidacy is permanently done.
  • Billy Wagner: has better numbers than nearly any other inducted reliever. If you have any relievers in the hall, you’d need to consider Wagner (and as long as we’re having that conversation, say hello to Tom Henke). Of course, that’s not the way the world works, so he will continue to languish as the last stand of “closers” to be considered before the sport moves completely away from them (honestly; think about it right now; could you name last year’s Saves leaders? Did you know without looking it up that the MLB leader in saves was Mark Melancon? None other than a Nats hired gun from the ill-fated 2016 season?
  • Todd Helton was better than you remember. He had a season once where he hit .357 AND hit 42 homers. Just look past the fact that he was once arrested for DUI while buying lottery tickets. Lottery tickets! For a player who made $156M in his career. I think he’s permanently suffering from Colorado-syndrome, and if he had played some of his career at sea level maybe we’re having another conversation.
  • Gary Sheffield is a borderline candidate but was nearly as feared as Ramirez was at the plate. Has stronger PED usage allegations than others. He was, unfortunately, a “difficult” player to deal with both for club and media, which has probably led to his tepid support amongst the writers who couldn’t stand covering him. That kind of stuff shouldn’t matter, but it does. I”d support him, but a lot of writers will not. Hence why he’s in the 40% range and not the 60% range like Bonds/Clemens.
  • Andruw Jones was, for the first 10 years of his career, discussed as perhaps being the second coming of Willie Mays before getting hurt and getting run out of the game by the time he was 35. Despite playing just 11 full seasons he had 434 career homers and 10 straight gold gloves in Center. I think voters have just forgotten how good he was. Keith Law had a great post at the Athletic this week about just why Jones is hall-worthy, an interesting analysis that was worth reading. In an interesting Nats-related twist, Jones’ son (also named “Andruw Jones”) is a high school senior this year and is projected to go in the top 10 of the draft, right around where the Nats find themselves picking. Could we be looking at Andruw Jones junior?
  • Jeff Kent is a polarizing figure, both while he played and on the ballot. He’s a borderline guy and his voting totals have indicated that. By all accounts hew as nearly as big of a d*ck to reporters as Bonds was while both played in SF; wow, that must have been an awesome clubhouse to cover as a beat reporter.
  • Manny Ramirez was perhaps the most feared RH hitter for a decade in this league and has career numbers that put him in the top 25 hitters ever to play. Again, less interested in PED transgressions at the end of his career than I am with the bulk of his accomplishments. I realize I’m in the minority here, but I’d support him.
  • Sammy Sosa: too hard to make a case that he reinvented himself as a home run hitter completely thanks to artificial mechanisms. He was a 36–40 homer guy then he suddenly rips off seasons of 66, 63, 50 and 64. I will say though, i do “buy” his corked bat explanation once I read that the league confiscated all his other bats and found no other cork. His post-season career has not aged well; he appeared on the excellent ESPN documentary “Long Gone Summer” about the homer chase, and looked like he’d had more cosmetic surgery than Kaitlin Jenner.
  • Pettitte lead the league in wins in the 90s (much like Morris did in the 80s) but is recognized similarly to Mark Buehrle; a lefty 3rd or 4th starter for most of his career who stayed healthy and accumulated wins and strikeouts, but was rarely even the best hurler on his own team. Both are Hall of very good, not Cooperstown.
  • Torii Hunter had a surprisingly solid, quiet career. Great defender, great teammate. Not enough to make the hall, and i’m kind of surprised he even stuck around for a 2nd year on the ballot.
  • Bobby Abreu: good but not transcendent. Frankly i;m amazed at the support he’s getting so far on the bbhof tracker.
  • Tim Hudson; highest JAWS of any of the 2021 new candidates, nearly the highest total career WAR. He certainly had enough time in the sun, playing for multiple playoff teams in his career (7 seasons pitching in the playoffs). Was frequently in Cy Young talks, but never really came close to winning one. Given that, he barely made it to the 5% threshold to stay on the ballot.

Summary:

Returning Ballot Candidates
Here’s how I’d vote my imaginary ballot. Amazingly, i find myself struggling to get to 10 players.

  • Yes on Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez
  • A more tepid Yes on Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield,
  • Hard No on Curt Schilling, Omar Vizquel,
  • Pass on Billy Wagner, Todd Helton, Jeff Kent, Sammy Sosa, Andy Pettitte, Mark Buehrle, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Tim Hudson, and all other new 2022 ballot names.

Totally understand if you’ve got Hall of Fame fatigue and move on. 🙂

Written by Todd Boss

January 3rd, 2022 at 10:02 am

Posted in Awards,Hall of Fame

Prospects361 Nats top 15 released

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Andry Lara is rising up the prospect boards. Photo via mlb.com

Since I love prospect lists, I’ll write a reaction piece to every Nats prospect list ranking that I see this off-season. What else are we gonna talk about during the lockout?

We already saw the Baseball America top 10 list, which I found laughable for a number of reasons. Let’s see how Prospects361 and its author Rich Wilson did.

Prospects361 does seem to have a fantasy focus, which means we’ll see some oddities in the rankings. Fantasy focused sites generally over-rank several types of players:

  • relievers who have closer ability (since “saves” are generally one of the 5 prime pitching fantasy categories)
  • very, very young prospects and/or brand new prospects which get snapped up in Dynasty leagues
  • positions that are scarce (SS, C, 3B to a certain extent)

Here’s a direct link to his ranking, which i’ve represented in the table below.

NamePositionAcquiredRank
Cade CavalliRHP (Starter)2020 1st1
Keibert RuizC2014 IFA2
Brady HouseSS2021 1st3
Andry LaraRHP (Starter)2019 IFA4
Yasel AntunaSS2016 IFA5
Jackson RutledgeRHP (Starter)2019 1st6
Jeremy De La RosaOF (corner)2018 IFA7
Armando CruzSS2020 IFA8
Cole HenryRHP (Starter)2020 2nd9
Gerardo CarrilloRHP (Starter)2016 IFA10
Aldo RamirezRHP (Starter)2018 IFA11
Daylen LileOF2021 2nd12
Donovan CaseyOF (corner)2017 20th13
Roismar QuintanaOF (CF)2019 IFA14
Cristian VaqueroOF (CF)2021 IFA15

So, some reactions.

  • The same top 3 as nearly every other pundit shop right now, though he has Cavalli over Ruiz. That’s surprising since most legit ranks have Ruiz over Cavalli given Cavalli’s well known challenges, plus Ruiz is a catcher.
  • He has Andry Lara a bit higher than most others at #4, but I don’t think its unwarranted. The guy as an 18yr old pitched well in the GCL, which is now a much, much older league than it used to be. He may have had a 4.54 ERA, but his peripherals were pretty good.
  • Sigh; Yasel Antuna at #5. He’s still listed as a SS, which we know isn’t gonna happen as Antuna has already been banished to the OF. My concerns with Antuna being this high are well documented. All i’ll say is this: he better be one hell of a better hitter than he’s shown in 2022.
  • Even after his crap season, Jackson Rutledge sits above Cole Henry, which is laughable at this point. Perhaps he made this list before seeing anything that Henry was doing in Arizona.
  • He’s definitely high on Armando Cruz, One homer and a .232 BA in 177 DSL at bats this year after signing a ridiculously high signing bonus ($3.9M). So far, bust potential.
  • He’s about where the industry is on the guys in the 10-13 range, so no comment there.
  • Quintana: he’s definitely high on this guy. Quintana barely played this year due to an apparent injury, so this ranking and his potential is entirely that; potential.
  • Lastly, and I hate it when prospect ranking shops do this, he lists a player we’re only rumored to be signing in Vaquero. This is entirely fan service to dynasty fantasy players looking for some deep round pickup.

Omissions:

  • No mention of Joan Adon, who BA had #7. Now, i’m also on record being somewhat skeptical of Adon being a 7th ranked prospect, but i’m ok with him being a bit further down in the 13-15 range.
  • Slightly surprised there’s no Matt Cronin at the edges of his roster, given that Cronin is a closer candidate. It might be due to Cronin’s injury this year.
  • Not much else to quibble about.

Thoughts?

Written by Todd Boss

December 23rd, 2021 at 4:13 pm

Rule-5 Protection Prediction history and existential question: does it matter?

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Evan Lee gets protected; will he be an impact player? Photo via U of Arkansas

The 2021 rule-5 prediction season is over. I predicted we’d protect Tim Cate and Donovan Casey as “locks,” then listed several others as possibles, led by Evan Lee. In the end, the team protected Casey and Lee, but not Cate. And then on the even of the annual meetings, the owners locked out the players, the major league component of the meetings were cancelled, and the rule-5 draft was “postponed indefinitely.”

So, it remains to be seen if Rule-5 will ever matter again. Or if it even happens for this year.

That being said …. Here’s a fun trip down memory lane to show my history of my predicted Rule-5 additions (with links to each prediction piece), along with the Actual players the team protected (with links as well).

Here’s a better question; does Rule-5 matter? The Rule-5 draft used to occur one year earlier into a player’s career, which led to drastically better talent being available. Now though, many pundits (even scouting-heavy ones like Keith Law) don’t even follow it because the Rule-5 rarely leads to impact players changing teams.

So, how many of the above players who were added to “save” them from the Rule-5 draft actually turned into impactful players for the Nationals? Lets work backwards:

  • 2021: Casey and Lee: Obviously it is too early to tell, but we can project their immediate 2022. Casey likely serves as AAA OF depth in the near term of 2022. He is 6th on the depth chart right now, but could supplant the 5th man on that chart (Andrew Stevenson) with a good spring. Lee is now the 14th reliever or the 11th starter on our 40-man roster depth chart (meaning, he’s behind someone like Cade Cavalli who clearly would get called up before Lee if the need arose), and seems like a long shot to even get to AAA in 2022 given how many lefties we’ve signed recently. My guess is that he’ll start the season in the AA rotation, and might get pushed to the bullpen later in the season if the team needs it and is competing since he’s a lefty with big K/9 numbers.
  • 2020: Adon, Antuna: Adon toiled in the lower minors for most of the year, made it to the majors for a spot start and looked solid. Is it sustainable? We’ve argued about Adon’s 2021 season here already. Right now i’ve got him 8th on our depth chart, behind a likely non-tender in Erick Fedde, which might actually push him further up the chain sooner than later. Meanwhile, Antuna has been a disaster, is now moving off of SS and hit .230 in High-A with none of the power he’d need to present with his move to a corner OF position. The team seems to be clinging to the guy simply based on his massive IFA signing bonus. Apologists for Antuna point out that, hey, he was really good for a few weeks in August; that’s wonderful. He’ll be out of options before he’s useful to this team.
  • 2019: Braymer; already been DFA’d and outrighted after struggling; might be a 4-A org-guy as a ceiling.
  • 2018: Bourque: got shelled in AAA in 2019, waived in 2020, then left the team as a MLFA.
  • 2017: Gutierrez, Jefry Rodriguez. Gutierrez never really did anything for us and was traded to KC in the Kelvin Herrera deal. Rodriguez threw a bunch of mediocre starts and was flipped to Cleveland in the Yan Gomes deal; he’s now back with us as a MLFA for 2022.
  • 2016: Voth, Bautista, Marmolejos, Read and Skole. A ton of guys; anyone impactful? Voth has competed for the 5th starter job for years but has a career 83 ERA+ and might be a non-tender candidate. Bautista never did much for us: 33 career MLB plate appearances. Read had a PED suspension and a handful of MLB games. Marmolejos was a 1B-only guy who showed some gap power in AA but never above it. Skole was inexplicably protected as an age 26 corner infield guy whose profile seemed to mirror dozens of veteran free agents readily available on the market; he hit .222 in 2017 and then hit MLFA.
  • 2015: Kieboom, Bostick, Lee: This was Spencer Kieboom, the catcher, not his younger brother Carter, who remains on the 40-man as we speak. Kieboom was a AAA catcher who was worth protecting but he played just a handful of games in his MLB career. Chris Bostick didn’t last the full 2016 season before being DFA’d. Nick Lee lasted even less, getting DFA’d in July.
  • 2014: Cole, Goodwin, Difo, Grace. All four players ended up playing in the majors for various lengths … but all four were role players for this team. AJ Cole was tried out as a 5th starter season after season, finally flipped to the Yankees when he ran out of options. Goodwin was another guy who couldn’t seem to break our outfield, but who has had spells of starting with some success elsewhere. Difo was our backup IF for years, and Matt Grace pitched in the Washington bullpen for years before getting outrighted and leaving via MLFA in 2019.
  • 2013: Solis, Barrett, Taylor. Sammy was good until he wasn’t, and his time with the 2018 Nats was his last. Barrett remains with the team after multiple surgeries, but is a MLFA this off-season and may be forced into retirement after so many injuries. Michael A. Taylor is an interesting one; he had a 2.7 bWAR season for the Nats in 2017, nearly a 20/20 season when he finally got full time playing time in CF. He won a Gold Glove this year for Kansas City, one season after we DFA’d him because we all thought Victor Robles was a better option.
  • 2012: Karns and Davis.  Karns had one good year as a starter in the majors … for Tampa. Career bWAR: 3.0. Davis pitched a little for the team in 2013, then got hurt, then never made it back to the majors.
  • 2011: Norris, Moore, Solano, Perez.  This was a big year; Norris was a big part of the Gio Gonzalez trade and made the all star team in 2014 for Oakland, but didn’t play much afterwards. Tyler Moore was great in his first year as our backup 1B/bench bat type, but never replicated his 2012 season. Jhonathan Solano was always our 3rd catcher and saw sparing duty until he got cut loose. Eury Perez played in just a handful of games for us before getting DFA’d and claimed by the Yankees in Sept 2014.
  • 2010: Marrero, Carr and Kimball. Marrero was a 1st rounder who “had” to get protected to protect the team’s investiment; he just never could get above AAA. Adam Carr and Cole Kimball were both relievers who looked promising after their 2010 minor league seasons but did relatively little afterwards: Cole never made the majors, while Kimball hurt his shoulder and never recovered.
  • 2009: Jaime, Thompson and Severino. three pitchers, none of whom did much. Jaime was a 2004 IFA who has a grand total of 13 MLB innings. Thompson was waived a year after being protected. Severino got a cup of coffee in 2011 then hit MLFA.
  • 2008: Nobody added. Not one eligible pick or signing from the 2004/2005 draft was considered worthy of protecting.

Conclusion: So, after more than a decade of rule-5 additions, who would you say is the most impactful player we’ve ever added? Brian Goodwin? Michael A. Taylor? Sammy Solis?

Two backup outfielders and a middle reliever. Not much of an impact. At the end of the day, Rule-5 is about protecting edge-of-the-40man roster guys, most of whom barely make the majors. So, yeah, maybe it doesn’t matter.

I’ll still do this post though 🙂

Written by Todd Boss

December 6th, 2021 at 10:49 am

Final proposals pre Lockout show some interesting CBA negotiation details

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The Athletic’s Evan Drellich is in Irving, Texas, reporting from the final meetings between the owners and the players before the 12/1/21 CBA expiration deadline and subsequent lockout, and he’s come up with some really interesting nuggets.

I know the Athletic is behind a paywall; i’ll try to summarize some of the back and forth details, some of which I find pretty interesting as a fan.

Here’s some of the things the owners are offering:

  • MLB has proposed an increase to the minimum salary (which is probably a given in every CBA).
  • MLB has proposed an increase in the luxury tax cap (currently at $210M) to $214M growing to $220M. This is a start, since they proposed earlier DROPPING it to $180M along with a salary floor, but is kind of ridiculous to offer basically a 5% cap growth at a time when inflation is nearly that this year alone.
  • MLB has proposed a draft lottery at the top to stop tanking … but only in the top 3 picks (which is basically useless).

The Players have made some proposals too:

  • Basing draft order on a formula, not straight on W/L record. 60% record, 40% market size. I’m guessing they don’t want the large market teams to ever draft in the top 10 again.
  • Teams receiving revenue sharing (14 of the 30 teams mind you, and which includes teams like Colorado, St. Louis and San Diego, each of whom really have no business getting revenue sharing) would only receive draft pick compensation if they finish above .500 (which I love).
  • Proposing a scaled hard line of players getting to FA based on age and service time. Its not a hard “when you get to X years you’re free” but a sliding scale meant to prevent players from languishing in the minors for years and then not getting to FA until they’re in their mid 30s.
  • Some recognition that service time issues aren’t going away, but putting in place “bonuses” that give service time for performance (if you make an All-star team after getting held down like Kris Bryant, then you get a full year of service time). I like this.
  • Arbitration after 2 years, not 3. Owners are dead set against this.
  • Changes to revenue sharing between owners, which they believe (rightly) leads to non-competitive behavior. Hard to argue against this when you watch teams like Miami and Pittsburgh get $50M a year to normally not compete.
  • Offer the owners expanded post-season
  • Offer the owners “patches” on the uniform … aka sponsorship on the uniforms.

These last two items are worth, collectively, hundreds of millions of dollars to the owners. So … if you propose something to owners that will give them that much money, they’re going to expect something back that gives the players that much money too. As in, salary floors, or huge incrases in minimum salaries.

Some interesting factoids here, for those who possibly think the owners are negotiating in good faith:

  • The Average MLB salary has fallen 6.4% since 2017 while revenues for the league rose from $10B in 2017 to $10.7B in 2019.
  • Even more striking … the median salary in the league is down THIRTY PERCENT since 2015. 30%.

This pattern shows what we already know really; that front offices are trending towards younger players at the expense of older veterans, choosing for a pre-arb $575k player instead of a $2M veteran player in his mid-30s for that last bench spot. This has generally gutted the FA market for mid-30s hitters and has run dozens into early retirement. Furthermore, we’ve even seen declines in the top of the salary market; the qualifying offer (which is the mean salary of the games’ top paid 125 players) DROPPED this year for the first time ever, from $18.9 to $18.4M. The players see these numbers, fume at them, and know that they’re being perpetually manipulated by multi-millionaire owners who are gaslighting the public in to believing they’re actually LOSING money but who refuse to open their books.

Get ready for a long winter.

Written by Todd Boss

December 2nd, 2021 at 9:05 am

Nats 2021 Non-Tender Discussion

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Is this the end of the road for Fedde with the Nats? Photo via minorleagueball.com

12/1/21 is the non-tender deadline for this year. It also happens to be “National MLB lockout day” as the existing CBA expires between the owners and players … but for the purposes of this post, we’ll assume that some normal baseball transactions will occur. and because of this uncertainty, the two sides agreed to move up the non-tender deadline a couple of days so as to at least not leave a bunch of edge-of-the-roster guys hanging for months.

(Like a lot of our posts, they’re recurring features. Here’s links to prior years: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.  I’m not sure why i didn’t do it last year, or in 2016, but we’re back).

As of 11/19/21, when the Nats protected Donovan Casey and Evan Lee ahead of the rule-5 draft, the 40-man roster sat at 39 players. The team’s off-season moves included a waiver claim (Francisco Perez), a re-signing (Alcides Escobar), the returning of three players to the active roster off the 60-day DL (Strasburg, Harris, JRoss), and the two Rule-5 protections.

This doesn’t leave much room for a number of FA moves we think the team needs to make this off-season. Luckily, we have a slew of guys who are “Non-Tender candidates.” We also have a slew of guys who are out of options, or who are on the edges of the roster right now who could make way if/when we need space to sign guys. For today though we’re talking about the non-tender candidates. “Non-tender” candidates are arbitration-eligible players who need to be “tendered” a contract offer by 11/30/21, which is thus a promise to enter into arbitration at a later date to negotiate a 2022 salary.

We have at least 6 and likely 10 arbitration candidates on the roster (more on this later), many of them coming off off really poor seasons. For the arbitration salary estimates we’ll use a combination of the predicted Arb salaries from MLBtraderumors.com, the projected salaries from Cots/Fangraphs, and my own opinion. Lets run through all 10 players and give some opinions on tendering.

  1. Juan Soto. Arb2, projected salary $16-$17M. He made $8.5M this year, finished 2nd in MVP voting, and is already being linked in the sport to a potential $500M contract. Tender Decision: Obviously he will be tendered.
  2. Josh Bell Arb3, projected salary $10-$11M. He made $6.35M this year. He’s given the Nats everything they could have hoped for after trading for him and hoping for a bounce-back from his awful 2020. Tender Decision: an obvious tender.
  3. Victor Robles: Arb1, projected salary $1.5-$1.75M. Yes, he ended the year in AAA. He’s still considered a valuable piece and there’s no way they cut him loose at this point to save $1.5M. Goes into 2022 though behind Lane Thomas on the depth chart and might be competing with Stevenson for the 4th OF job (which has cascading considerations .. see below for more). Tender Decision: tender him.

Ok, so that’s the end of the tender locks. The rest of these guys each have a mostly legitimate reason not to tender. We’ll go one by one by rough projection of 2022 salary and make some guesses.

  1. Joe Ross; Arb3: $2.5-$3M projected. He made $1.5M this year. He sat out 2020, pitched in the rotation for most of 2021 to a 98 ERA+ … then tore his UCL in Mid August. Awesome. So we have a 5th starter who has already had Tommy John surgery sitting on a known second UCL tear, but which apparently doesn’t require surgery. Tender Decision: Do you tender the guy a contract? I wouldn’t: i’d non-tender him and immediately offer him a non-40 man minor/major split deal with an opt-out/call up guarantee for when he projects to be healthy. And if i’m Ross i’d take it, because nobody else would offer him anything different.
  2. Erick Fedde, Arb1: $1.9-$2M. Fedde has now pitched in 75 games across 5 seasons for this team. They tried him as a reliever in 2019 and he was awful (more walks than Ks). They’ve used him as a starter and his career starting ERA is 5.32. I think he’s 7th or 8th on our starter depth chart right now, and that’s before looking at AAA and seeing the guys who are there who i’d rather see on the mound. He has no options and has not proven he’s worth carrying even if he doesn’t make the rotation in 2022. Tender Decision: Non-tender him
  3. Wander Suero: Arb 1, projected $900k-$1M salary. Suero basically doubled his ERA and FIP in 2021 versus 2020, tough to do. He went from being a serviceable middle reliever to a guy getting demoted to AAA. It was a weird season; he had three very consistent performances in the three years prior. Was he hurt? Was it something mechanical? Either way, his track record buys him a roster spot for 2022, especially since he’ll be relatively cheap. Tender Decision: tender a contract and hope for a return to previous levels of performance.

Then, the Nats have four players who all are right around the typical Super-2 cutoff date. All four of these players have 2 years and between 125 – 135 days of service. If the Super-2 cutoff comes in at 2years 136 days … all four of these guys will remain under team control and get paid the MLB min. For the purposes of this discussion though, lets assume they all get super-2 status. Post publishing update: just i posted this, MLB announced the Super2 cutoff at the very low 2years, 116 days (the 2nd lowest cutoff in the last decade), so all four players below are eligible.

  1. Austin Voth: Arb1. Proj Salary: $1M. Unlike his fellow 5th starter competitor for the past few years, Voth was actually put into the bullpen this season … and he wasn’t good. 5.34 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 1.48 whip. Way too many walks, way too many homers. He’s got just as poor a career stat line as Fedde, but it likely doesn’t cost half as much to retain him since the league thinks he’s a reliever now++. But, it isn’t so much about the salary as it is the roster space at this point. Voth has no options remaining either, and has not made enough of a case to guarantee a bullpen spot in 2022. Tender Decision: non-tender him.
  2. Andrew Stevenson: Arb1, projected salary $900k. His 2020 glittering stat line is gone; he slashed .229/.294/.339 in 109 part time games this year. He’s now 5th on the OF depth chart and has no options. It seems like his time as a major leaguer might be done. Tender Decision: non-tender.
  3. Ryne Harper, Arb1. Projected salary: $800K. After awful stats in 2020 post acquisition (we got him from Minnesota for Hunter McMahon in a rare prospect-for-prospect trade), he did pitch reasonably well in 2021. His peripherals were not great, but he kept guys off base and was good. He also has options remaining, meaning he can run between AAA and the majors all they want. I see no reason to cut him loose, especially given his low projected salary, Tender Decision: tender him.
  4. Tanner Rainey Arb1. Projected salary: $800K. What in the heck happened to Rainey in 2021? How do you go from a 170 ERA+ season to a 55 ERA+ season? Something seems amiss. Unfortunately, he’s out of options, meaning he’s got next year’s spring training to figure it out or get DFA’d. He’s got too good of a track record and too big of an arm not to gamble on especially since his projected salary is peanuts. Tender Decision: tender him.

My conclusion: Non-tender Ross, Fedde, Voth, and Stevenson, clearing up 4 roster spots. Offer all four minor/major combo deals to try to resurrect their careers. I doubt any would take it save Ross.

Post-publishing update! On 11/30/21 the Nats non-tendered Harper, Suero, and Ford. Ford was not arbitration eligible, but was a curious roster claim last season who was near the top of my “Next Nats 40-man roster guy to get cut when they needed to make a move.” I was completely off on my predictions.

Sources used:

  • Cots Nats page: https://legacy.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/national-league/washington-nationals/
  • Cots Nats 2022 salary page: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Au_xTIni1eJbDGzravS1482wBbzN9DBQaOY1wwo2Mr0/edit#gid=1520401900
  • Roster Resource nats page: https://www.fangraphs.com/roster-resource/depth-charts/nationals
  • Nats Big Board; https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/186nm-v5F-zTCoR2Be7TFYM3e2cZ-gYi2WVqJLEkHdmc/
  • Baseball-Reference.com of course.

Written by Todd Boss

November 27th, 2021 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Nats in General

MLBPA CBA bargaining playbook strategy leaked

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The Athletic got its hands on a huge memo the MLBPA issued to its members, providing guidance and answering questions for the (expected) lockout to occur on 12/1/21.

What’s more interesting to me was the rhetoric that the MLBPA communicated as to its “primary concerns” with the state of baseball right now, and to me it reads like a list of the major demands/strategic positions the union has. We’ve talked at length about all the issues that we think are contention points, but this list prioritizes what the union is after.

Here’s a summary of the 4 main issues the union will be arguing:

  1. Incentivizing Competition. As in, the blatant and open tanking that has been going on. MLBPA wants to change things so that winning is incentivized. Possible solutions here include financial penalties for sustained and purposeful losing (like, loss of revenue sharing dollars), draft pick compensation changes, and salary floors. None of these are going to go over well, especially to the “poorer” owners in the game such as in Kansas City, Pittsburgh etc. that being said, the owners know something is coming, and has already proposed a Salary Floor of $100M. Of course … they also included a salary ceiling thats at least $40M lower than current, which is ridiculous.
  2. Ensuring the most talented players are on the field. This is a direct attack on service time manipulation, and clearly the Union has had it. I don’t blame them: when Kris Bryant was blatantly kept in the minors for two weeks simply to gain an additional year of service, and the grievance went nowhere, the Union knew it had to demand changes. Our own Nats have done something similar in the past with Super-2 considerations, though not as blatantly as some teams (ahem, Tampa Bay, who kept Wander Franco in the minors well into the summer this year). The solution here is pretty simple, and has already been proposed by the owners in one form: a standardized age for reaching free agency, which removes any and all incentives for teams to keep their best players in the minors. The challenge will be figuring out what that age is; to me age 29.5 is too old. My suggestion would be a flat number of years of control based on the age of the player at signing, which basically turns into age 28 for all players. If the player is 16 at age of signing, 12 years before FA. If player is a HS player who has not turned 19, then 10 years. If the player is 19 or a juco signing, then 9 years, and if the player has turned 21 or is from a 4-yr program then 8 years.
  3. Reducing artificial restraints on competition. This is a direct attack on the luxury tax threshold, which has basically turned into a salary cap, even for teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox, which is patently ridiculous. But it also talks about the concept of draft pick compensation, saying that it gives teams a “convenient excuse” to not compete. I can’t help but agree; Scott Boras said it well and accurately when he claimed that the value of draft picks has led to half the league tanking. The challenge here is this: the players never should have allowed the cap, and now they’ll never be able to get rid of it. Clubs are disingenuous with their finances (except for the publicly traded teams like Atlanta, who display for the world how much money they’re not spending on payroll as compared to what they’re making), so we’ll never be able to get to a revenue split like what NHL/NBA has. The Solution won’t be easy: I think the players should get a flat rate of revenues, which is accomplished through both a floor and a ceiling. I like the idea of having what the NBA has in the Larry Bird exemption, allowing teams to go over the cap to re-sign their own players; that would really do much for this issue. I think teams should be inventivized to keep their home grown players; if we had Larry Bird exemption we might still have Rendon and Harper.
  4. Getting players their value earlier in their career. This one is easy; when you have pre-arb players winning MVPs and getting paid 1/50th of their value, something is fundamentally wrong with the system. MLB has already proposed going to a WAR-driven system, which is a start. I’m not sure what the solution here is; if Mike Trout has a 9-war season at age 23, do you pay him $50M the next year? What happens if he gets hurt and misses the entire season? do you pay him $0 the next year? The other challenge with using f-WAR is that it is drastically different in evaluating pitchers than bWAR or WARP; is that fair to non-strikeout guys?

Notably not mentioned here are other issues we know are floating around, such as:

  • International Draft
  • Qualifying Offers
  • Revenue Sharing
  • Arbitration system mods (other than wanting more money of course)
  • Draft signing bonuses
  • International signing bonuses
  • anything having to do with minor leaguers (of course; they’re not union members)

So, look for the players to “give” on these issues to get progress above. This is what really scares me; if the players give up an international draft (which the owners desperately want), what happens to the pipeline of international players?

We’re in for a long winter.

Written by Todd Boss

November 24th, 2021 at 3:43 pm

2021 Awards wrap-up and Bryce MVP #2

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Harper gets MVP #2. Photo via Phila Inquirer

Normally i take pride in being able to predict the 8 major post-season awards MLB gives out. This year I kind of got a time crunch right when the prediction piece had to go out and gave it a quick guess instead of doing deep analysis. how did I do on predictions nonetheless?

Here’s how my predictions went versus actual:

  • AL MVP: predicted Ohtani, actual Ohtani unanimously.
  • AL Cy Young: predicted Robbie Ray, actual Ray with 29 of 30 1st place votes.
  • AL Rookie: predicted Arozarena, actual Arozarena with 22 of 30 1st place votes.
  • AL Manager; Predicted La Russa, actual Kevin Cash of Tampa.
  • NL MVP: predicted Bryce Harper, actual Harper with 17 of 30 first place votes.
  • NL Cy Young: predicted Corbin Burnes, actual Burnes in a very close vote.
  • NL rookie: predicted Jonathan India, actual India with 29/30.
  • NL Manager: predicted Gabe Kaper SF Giants, actual Kapler.

So, I got 7 of 8 right. Not bad.

Current and former Nats are all over this year’s awards. Harper wins MVP, Ray wins Cy Young. Soto finished 2nd in MVP voting, Scherzer finished 3rd in Cy Young, Lucas Giolito got a 3rd place Cy Young vote, Trea Turner was 5th in NL MVP.


Speaking of Bryce Harper; he wins his 2nd MVP award. Certainly it wasn’t nearly as dominant a season as he had in 2015, but it was still a highly impressive season. He now has 40 career bWAR at the end of his age 28 season and two MVP awards. The list of players who have won 2 or more MVPs (and who are not PED-associated) and are not in the Hall is pretty small:  Juan Gonzalez, Dale Murphy, Roger Maris. One more MVP and Harper basically guarantees himself inclusion into the hall.

I mention this because as he stands now he’s already the 45th ranked RF in baseball history by JAWS, and he’s signed for 10 more years in a hitter’s park. The mean career bWAR for all inducted right fielders in the Hall is just 72 bWAR; Harper’s already well past the halfway point and is now basically entering his prime slugging years in his late 20s/early 30s.

There seems to be a lot of antagonism towards Harper; constant droning that he’s overrated or that he didn’t deserve the contract he got. Maybe you can be “over-rated” when you’ve got just one monster MVP quality season .. but two? His career OPS+ is now 142, just a couple points below none other than Albert Pujols. So, at some point the narrative has to change about Harper right?

Written by Todd Boss

November 19th, 2021 at 1:12 pm

Nats 2021 Rule-5 Analysis and Predictions

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Donovan Casey is a possible Rule-5 addition … any others?

Its our Annual rule 5 protection analysis post!

Every time I re-do a post that I know i’ve done in the past, I scan back to get the last few links. For this piece; this is one of the longest running posts I do. Here’s links to past years posts on this topic: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010. We have managed to do this post every year, without fail, since the blog started. That might be the sole recurring piece that I can say that about on this blog. We also do a post-mortem post comparing our predictions to actual roster additions; we’ll post that the day after the roster additions occur.

Each year, around the 20th of November is the “Day to file reserve lists for all Major and Minor league levels” for MLB teams. In other words, this is the day that players need to be added to 40-man rosters to protect them against the rule 5 draft, which occurs a couple weeks later at the winter meetings. 2021 is an odd year of course, since 12/1/21 is the day the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expires between the MLBPA and the owners, and unless there’s an agreement in place (highly doubtful) many pundits believe the MLB-component of the winter meetings may not occur as the owners seem likely to lock out the players. So, this may be academic for now; if there’s no meeting, there’s no rule-5 draft. Maybe they’ll re-do the entire CBA and eliminate the entire concept of rule-5 with some hard deadlines for free agency (instead of the wishy washy service time clock that is annually abused by teams to screw over players’ earning potential). But for now, we’ll assume that we’re going to have a Rule-5 draft, eventually.

Here’s the “rules/guidelines” for rule 5 eligiblity for 2021: any 4-year college-aged draftee from 2018 or before who isn’t already on the 40-man roster is Rule-5 eligible this coming December, and any high-school aged draftee/International Free Agent from 2017 or before is newly eligible this year, assuming they were at least 18 as of June 5th of that year.  There’s always a couple of guys who have specific birthdays that move them up or down one way or the other; i’ll depend on the Roster Resource rules and the Draft Tracker for exact details, but apologies in advance if I miss someone. Also, thanks to the 2021 season sell-off, we’ve acquired a ton of new players, and hopefully I havn’t forgotten anyone in this analysis.

Vital resources for this analysis: the Big Board, the Draft Tracker, and Roster Resource.

Group 1: Newly Eligible 2018 draft College Players this year worth consideration for protection:

Hitters:

  • Gage Canning, 5th rounder in 2018. Started the year in High-A, promoted to AA. Hit decently for the year, but he’s undersized (5’10”) without a ton of pop (just 5 homers this year) and little speed (just 2 SBs this year). I don’t think he’s a prospect going forward, and he’s not a candidate to be protected.
  • Cody Wilson, 13th rounder in 2018: hit a combined .124/.225/.164 across three levels in 2021 as a backup CF. Not a prospect.
  • Jacob Rhinesmith, 18th rounder in 2018: hit .250/.340/.398 across High-A and AA this year; nothing spectacular. 9 homers and 9 SBs in 107 games. Org guy.
  • Onix Vega, 20th round catcher from 2018: hit .233 in Low-A this year, not a prospect at this point nor a candidate to get rule-5 drafted.
  • Cole Daily, 22nd rounder from 2018: hit just .193 across several levels as he was bounced around to provide middle infield cover for the lower minors. Not a prospect.
  • Kyle Marinconz, 24th rounder from 2018. Like Daily, hit poorly across a couple of levels as he moved around to provide middle infield cover. Not a prospect.

Pitchers

  • Tim Cate, 2nd rounder from 2018. 5.31 ERA in 21 starts in AA this year. Cate presents a conundrum for the team in general, and for this exercise. He got hit badly this year, and his peripherals weren’t that great (81/37 K/BB in 96IP). Despite this, BaseballAmerica listed Cate as having both the best Curve and best Control in the system with their recently released prospect rankings (side note: how does a guy who walked 37 in 96 have the “best control” in the system? Really? Baseball America’s output for the Nationals this year was, as I noted in a previous post, really questionable analysis). Nonetheless, he’s a 2nd rounder with a significant bonus figure investment (frustrating those of us who studied Economics and can express what a “sunk cost” is better than most Baseball GMs with ivy league degrees), and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see the team protect him under the guise that he could feature almost immediately in 2022 as a MLB reliever.
  • Reid Schaller, 3rd rounder from 2018: decent numbers as a middle reliever in High-A and AA this year. 48/24 K/BB in 44 innings. Not exactly the numbers that you’d expect to see someone get plucked for a MLB pen next year, so the risk of his getting selected is not high. If he was left handed, maybe we have a different conversation.
  • Jake Irvin, 4th rounder from 2018. spent all of 2021 recovering from Tommy John surgery, not a candidate to be drafted. Hope he recovers and shows us something in 2022.
  • Andrew Karp, 6th rounder from 2018: was pretty solid all year as kind of a middle to long reliever in High-A … but that’s just it; he’s 26 and was in high-A all year. Definitely “old for the level.” He hadn’t pitched since 2018, so this was a good return to the field. I’m thinking Karp could be a solid bullpen piece for this team by mid to late 2022; is that worth protecting? Would a team grab him for their MLB bullpen next year? Doubtful, but we’ll list him as a secondary candidate.
  • Chandler Day, 7th rounder in 2018: never assigned in 2021, spending the entire season either in XST or secretly released unbeknownst to us. Either way, not a prospect nor a candidate to be protected right now.
  • Frankie Bartow, 11th rounder from 2018: 5.40 ERA as AA’s closer once Matt Cronin got hurt. Averaged a K an inning, so not blowing them away. Not considered a prospect by any scouting shop either, so not likely to be a candidate to protect.
  • Evan Lee, 15th rounder from 2018. Eye-opening numbers as a full-time LHP starter in High-A this year: in 21 games/20 starts he posted a 4.32 ERA 1.31 whip but more importantly 104/32 Ks in just 77 innings. This earned him a last minute spot in the AFL this fall, likely for the team to see how he fares against better competition. He has not fared well, posting an ERA north of 7.00 as of this writing. So he presents another interesting case: would you want to keep a lefty with major strike-out capabilities, even if they were “only” in High-A? I think his placement in the AFL and his lefty arm means he’s going to be protected.
  • Carson Teel, 16th rounder from 2018: had a decent 2021 season, earning a promotion from AA to AAA as a long man/spot starter. 4.40 combined ERA, didn’t blow people away but definitely did not put up the same kind of numbers he did in 2019 in High-A. Has never been considered a prospect (has never appeared on any prospect list for this team), so is probably considered an org-arm of sorts. I can’t see him getting protected, nor selected.
  • Ryan Tapani, 21st rounder from 2018: like Teel, decent numbers from 2021 as a multi-inning middle reliever in AA. Nothing special; zero prospect buzz about him. It seems like he’s a decent org-arm middle reliever righty that may just play out the string for us in the high minors next year. Not a candidate to be protected or selected.

Group 1 Rule-5 Protection Candidates: Cate (Maybe), Karp (doubtful), Lee (Maybe)


Group 2: Newly Eligible 2017 High School-age drafted players under consideration for protection

This section is always easy, since we rarely draft HS kids.

  • Justin Connell, 11th rounder from 2017: starting corner OF for high-A this year, showed some speed (21 SB) and some plate discipline (hitting .293). Has never really been a prospect with buzz, certainly did not show any reason he’d be a threat to get picked, but did show some promise for 2022.

Group 2 Rule-5 Protection Candidates: none.


Group 3: Newly Eligible 2017 signed IFAs under consideration for protection:

For the most part, nearly all these 2017IFA under-age signings are now in the age 21 range and if they’re still with us, they’re in the lowest parts of the minors, meaning by default they are not really candidates to get drafted. But we’ll run through them nonetheless:

  • Viandel Pena, SS. Hit .214 in Low-A. Not a candidate to get drafted.
  • Ricardo Mendez, OF. The only guy in this section who has matriculated out of Low-A. Slashed . 287/.343/.440 between low and high-A in 2021 in his age 21 season, promising but not world beating. Not a candidate to get drafted, but someone who might continue to prosper next year.
  • Geraldo Diaz, C. hit .217 as a backup catcher in Low-A in 2021. Not a candidate to be drafted.
  • Leandro Emiliani, hit .165 between the GCL and Low-A in 2021. Not a candidate to get drafted.
  • Pedro Gonzalez, SP. was in the opening day rotation for Low-A, demoted after giving up 19 runs in 9 innings. Ended the year struggling in the FCL. Not a candidate to get drafted.
  • Karlo Seijas, SP. somehow stayed in the Low-A rotation the entire season, making 22 starts and pitching to a 6.84 ERA. Not a candidate to get drafted.
  • Carlos Romero, RP. Pitched as a swing-man in Low-A, posted a 5.00 ERA and a 1.63 whip. Not a candidate to get drafted.
  • Jorge Hurtado, OF. Hit .164 in the complex league. Nobody’s banging down the door for him right now.
  • Andry Arias, OF. had decent numbers in FCL. But he’s 21 in the FCL: not a candidate.
  • Jose Ferrer, RHP. Had great numbers in 2021 … in the FCL. 2.78 ERA and 47/9 K/BB in 35 IP. That sounds great. He just finished his age 21 season, and he’s not a realistic candidate to get picked, but I’d like to see him move forward a couple levels in 2022.

Group 3 Rule-5 Protection Candidates: None.


Group 4: Rule-5 Eligible Drafted hold-overs of note: these are players who were rule-5 eligible previously but who put together a nice 2021 and might need additional thought. They’re sort of organized by draft year, from 2017 to earlier. Note; draft signings from 2015 hit 6-year MLFA this off-season, so they’re not listed here).

  • Donovan Casey, acquired from Los Angeles as the 4th prospect in the big Scherzer/Turner deal. He tore up Harrisburg, then struggled in AAA. He’s got solid power, could be a good corner OF guy. Is he worth protecting? Possibly. I’d protect him and have him compete with Yadiel Hernandez next spring for the starting LF job.
  • K.J. Harrison, acquired from Milwaukee in 2018 for Gio Gonzalez. Catcher/1B guy who played part time in AA this year. So-so numbers, not someone who is threatening to get drafted.
  • Jacob Condra-Bogan, acquired from Kansas City in 2018 for Brian Goodwin. Never made it out of XST this year, meaning he’s either hurt or has already been cut loose. Not a candidate to protect.
  • Cole Freeman, 4th rounder from 2017. Light hitting 2B in AA this year, no real push made for promotion. Not a candidate to protect.
  • Alex Dunlap, 29th rounder from 2017. Hit .181 as a 3rd catcher backup between AA and AAA. Not a candidate to protect. Notable that a 29th rounder made it to AAA; that’s quite a feat.
  • Jackson Tetreault, 7th rounder from 2017. Made his way all the way to AAA, but pitched the most in AA, posting a 3.74 ERA in 10 starts with middling K/BB numbers. Is that worth protecting? Would someone look at Tetreault’s 2021 and say, “wow he could be our 5th starter right now?” Probably not since he didn’t have a 12 K/9 rate as a RHP starter. But he’s posted consistent numbers every year in the minors. Never gotten much prospect buzz. Probably considered an Org arm by the industry, but I’ve always liked him.
  • Alex Troop, 9th rounder from 2017. He missed nearly all of 2018 with injuries, so he’s gotten a late start. He pitched primarily in High-A this season with solid numbers, and could be a sneaky decent org-arm for us in 2022. But not a candidate to protect.
  • Jackson Stoeckinger, 12th rounder from 2017. Never assigned to a team in 2021, which means he’s either hurt or has already been released. Either way, not getting protected.
  • Nick Banks, 4th rounder from 2016. Struggled when he got to AAA, bounced between AA and AAA as kind of an OF filler guy, which is the definition of an “org-guy” in some respects.
  • Armond Upshaw, 11th rounder from 2016. Promoted to AA this year, where he hit .186. Not a candidate to be protected.
  • Andrew Lee, 11th rounder from 2015. Made his way to AAA this year, where he got shelled. He served as a swing man for most of the year in AA, kind of a typical org-arm kind of guy. No prospect buzz, not a candidate to be protected.
  • Ike Schlabach, MLFA from 2021 but a 2015 draft pick. Unclear if he’s rule-5 eligible, or why he didn’t return to MLFA at the end of the season, but he pitched decently in high-A and earned a AA promotion, but not well enough to be in danger of drafting.
  • Matt Merrill, a 2020 MLFA originally drafted in 2017 by Houston. He pitched to a mid 4s era in low-A this year and is not a candidate to get picked.

Group 4 Rule 5 Protection candidates: Casey (maybe), Tetreault (unlikely)


Group 5: IFAs: 2016 and older

  • Israel Pineda, C. Pineda might be the highest ranked prospect on this list, a guy who was once listed in the top 10 for the system but who has stepped back. He hit just .208 this season in High-A, but is in the AFL to get some seasoning. He’s played in just a few games so far, since catchers split time, but it seems unlikely he’ll be protected despite his past prospect pedigree.
  • Jordy Barley, SS, trade return from San Diego for Daniel Hudson. A 2016 IFA, he’s a SS with the best SB speed in the system, but barely hit above the Mendoza line after coming over mid-season. He hit a lot better for San Diego earlier this year. He does have some pop though and is a player to watch; is he a protection candidate? Not likely. Could someone take a flier on him and have him ride the bench as a backup infielder/pinch runner all year? Maybe, I suppose.
  • Wilmer Perez, C. mostly a backup Catcher in high-A, hit .206. Not a candidate.
  • Jose Sanchez, SS. Hit .232 as the part time SS in low-A. Not a candidate.
  • Alfonso Hernandez, SP. Perhaps the best pitcher who started the season in Low-A, then held his own in High-A. Pitched mostly as a starter, 119/33 in 102 innings. Not bad. He’s someone to look for in 2022, but not a threat to get plucked for now.
  • Niomar Gomez, SP. Threw just 6 innings in 2021. Unclear if hurt from the beginning of the season or not.
  • Juan Diaz, RP. 2016IFA but a mid-season MLFA pickup who was assigned to the DSL despite being 23. Not a candidate.
  • Omar Meregildo, a 2015 IFA. Hit .234 but with some power as a 3B for high-A.
  • Gilberto Chu, a 2015 IFA. Decent numbers as a swing man in high-A.
  • Gilbert Lara, a 2014 IFA. Made his way to AAA as a 3B through social promotion, but hit only .233 on the year.
  • Malvin Pena, a 2014 IFA. 5.81 era as a middle reliever across three levels.
  • Francys Peguero, a 2013 IFA. Toiled in the high-A bullpen as a 26yr old. Not a candidate.
  • Richard Guasch, RHP, traded to us by Oakland in the Gomes/Harrison deal. The Cuban was signed in 2018 and was a started all year in High-A. He pitched well, and should be a good piece to watch for going forward, but is not a candidate to get drafted.

Group 5 Protection Candidates: Pineda (not likely), Barley (not likely)


Group 6: Former 40-man guys who have been outrighted previously

  • Jake Noll, 7th rounder from 2016. Hit very well in AAA, solid power. But he’s already been outrighted off the 40-man once. Roster resource lists him as having an option remaining (which is true), but he’s not currently on the 40-man, so I still sense he’s R5 eligible. Either way, the demand for someone like Noll seems limited; he played a lot of 1B this year and put up good numbers … but not good enough to command a RH bench bat position-limited spot. He can play 2B/3B as well; is that enough for someone to grab him?
  • Sterling Sharp, 22nd rounder from 2016. Already rule-5 drafted once, then returned to the team by Miami He pitched to a 4.97 ERA in AAA this year. There’s plenty of game tape on him, so if someone wants another crack at him it doesn’t seem like the team would stand in his way.
  • Ben Braymer, 18th rounder from 2016. Made it to the 40-man roster in 2020 against all odds as an 18th rounder, but then got shelled this year in AAA, which led to a DFA and outright. He did not impress in 2021, but he is a lefty starter. Is that worth putting him back on the 40-man for? I don’t think so.
  • Austen Williams, 6th rounder from 2014. Got hurt, then was outrighted off the 40-man and remains in the system. He spent all of 2021 in XST. Obviously not a candidate to get selected.

Group 6 protection candidates: none.


So, who would I protect?

Summary of above:

Group 1: Cate (Maybe), Karp (doubtful), Lee (Maybe)
Group 2: none
Group 3: none
Group 4: Casey (maybe), Tetreault (unlikely)
Group 5: Pineda (not likely), Barley (not likely)
Group 6: none

So, who would I would protect? As I write this, the Nats 40-man sits at 34 of 40, with 3 slots needed for the three 60-day DL guys to return later this month. So they have 3 slots remaining for Rule 5 candidates plus off-season signings (which they’ll need to do), so I’m guessing Rule-5 additions will be limited. That being said, I think there’s a couple of spots that could be opened up pretty quickly on the 40-man, especially around non-tender candidates (which we’ll get to later this year). I think all the above points to just 2 rule-5 additions, leaving the team with one free spot to make a quick waiver claim if needed between now and the non-tender deadline:

I predict we protect:

  • Tim Cate
  • Donovan Casey

I would consider protecting, in order of likelihood:

  • Evan Lee
  • Jordy Barley
  • Israel Pineda
  • Jackson Tetreault
  • Andrew Karp

Post Publishing Results: the team added Casey and Lee, but not Cate. See https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/11/nationals-select-donovan-casey-evan-lee.html

Written by Todd Boss

November 10th, 2021 at 10:10 am

First Prospect ranking of offseason: BA top 10

19 comments

Kiebert Ruiz remains the #1 prospect in the system. Photo WP

We’re not even done with the World Series (between the cheaters of Houston and the culturally insensitives of Atlanta) but we’ve gotten our first prospect ranking. It comes to us from Baseball America, who normally has relatively reasonable rankings but for the pre-2022 season has given us some rather “interesting” rankings.

click here for the BA top 10 plus their list of best tools and what not.

BA’s top 10:

RankFirst NameLast NamePosition
1KeibertRuizC
2CadeCavalliRHP (Starter)
3BradyHouseSS
4YaselAntunaSS
5AndryLaraRHP (Starter)
6ColeHenryRHP (Starter)
7JoanAdonRHP (Starter)
8GerardoCarrilloRHP (Starter)
9JacksonRutledgeRHP (Starter)
10ArmandoCruzSS

Ok. So lets do some reactions.

  • Hard to disagree with the top 2. Ruiz was already a better prospect than Cavalli when he got here, and most of the prospect shops i’m seeing have them 1-2 in this order.
  • House had such an impressive debut, it isn’t a surprise to see him rocket to #3. This is in line with most other shops.
  • Antuna at #4. Really. What exactly did he do this year to merit such a rise? He was 22 in High-A and slashed .227/.307/.385. The last time we saw him in a full season was three years ago in Low-A and he slashed … .220/.293/.331. Wow. Pretty similar, huh? During his defense of this, the BA writer Joe Healy pointed out that, oh well Antuna started out 4-67 and then “got hot.” Ok, even if you remove his 4-67 start he STILL only hit .260 for the season. Oh, and then BA listed Antuna as having the “Best Hitter for Average” in the entire system! No I’m not kidding: a career .238 hitter in the low minors is our system’s best hitter for average, according to BA. Oh by the way, he’s such a bad SS ( he committed 36 errors in 96 games this year) that the team has pushed him to be a corner OF. Great; so now we have a corner OF with no speed (17 career SBs in 246 games) and no power (.367 career slugging). I don’t mean to shower distain on the guy, but I just can’t believe he’s ranked this high by any scouting shop at this point.
  • Lara and Henry at 5-6 are pretty reasonable. I’d have liked to see more from Lara this year, but he’s still just finishing his age 18 season. Henry remains an orchid; unhittable when healthy, but frequently hurt. Hurt this year, hurt in college, etc. Of course he’s tearing it up in the AFL; he’s healthy again. I’m already getting shades of Christian Garcia: lights out when healthy … but never healthy enough to count on.
  • Joan Adon at #7. What a weird year he had. Throws 17 starts in high-A with nearly a 5.00 ERA and good but not stellar K/BB rates (9 K/9 and a 3/1 k/bb). But he gets promoted to AA nonetheless, where he gives up 20 baserunners in 14 innings to the tune of a 6.43 ERA … but strikes out a ton of guys (24 Ks in 14 innings). On the strength of that, and thanks to an arm shortage he gets moved up to AAA, where he needs 81 pitches to get through 4 innings. But since he’s on the 40-man he gets his MLB debut and throws a pretty solid game against a playoff team in Boston the last weekend of the season, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits in 5 1/3rd innings. Every other scouting bureau has him as essentially an org-guy at this point; Baseball America has him #7. I’m not sure what to think.
  • Carillo and Cruz filling out the top 10 is fine: Carillo by all accounts can’t find the plate with his secondary offerings and might end up being a 2-pitch closer. Cruz is young, struggled this year but the promise is th ere.
  • That leaves us to Jackson Rutledge. What a fall from grace for Rutledge in 2021; he starts the year as the opening day starter in High-A (ahead of Adon and Cavalli), gets hammered, is dumped to Low-A where he doesn’t fare much better, and then hits the DL for a large stretch. Meanwhile Adon ends the season in the majors and Cavalli makes the Futures game. And to think that some pundits had Rutledge ahead of Cavalli as a prospect. So, what happens next? Is this the next Jake Johannsen? Another wasted high-round draft pick in a decade of them?

Per the post-top10 release chat, some of the names just outside the top 10 include the likes of Tim Cate, Jeremy De La Rosa, Aldo Ramirez, Matt Cronin. This seems about right, these are generally the next few names in the 11-15 range on most lists.

Written by Todd Boss

October 29th, 2021 at 9:45 am