Nationals Arm Race

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Minor League Full Season Staff Review 2017 – XST

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He's back! photo via sbnation

He’s back! photo via sbnation

(Last post in this series, then back to the big club).

We have looked at the four full-season staffs, guessing the roles, and talk about the changes of the staffs from the end of last year til now.

Let’s talk briefly about the 40 some-odd guys in XST or unassigned right now, name some surprises and perhaps talk about where they might slot in if/when they get a chance.

See here for Syracuse 2017 review, here for Harrisburg 2017 review, here for Potomac 2017 review, here for Hagerstown 2017 review.

Quick links for rosters for each full season affiliate:

And don’t forget the invaluable work of SpringfieldFan maintaining the Nats Big Board, now in its 12th season!

Notes: Extended Spring Training is abbreviated XST throughout.  Other abbreviations I use often: MLFA == Minor League Free Agent, OOO = Out of the Organization.

Note: since writing this mid last week, we’ve already seen more than a few names get assigned and removed from XST purgatory.  I’ll just cross them out and not change what I originally wrote below.


Extended Spring Training Players to start the 2017 Full Season

I’m heavily depending on the great work of the Big Board for this list.  I count no less than 46 minor league pitchers who are still under contract to this team but who did not get a full season assignment.  A huge percentage of them were on Short-A or Rookie league teams and were more or less expected to repeat the short seasons.  I have not included anyone who was in the DSL last year as being in this list, coincidentally; I only try to keep track of the domestic leagues.

Below is a rough guess as to where these XST guys are intended to slot in if/when they get assigned:

  • AAA: Eitel, Guthrie, Lannan*, Outman, Nathan
  • AA: JDMartin, Blackmar, Benincasa, Rauh
  • High-A: Mayberry, JThomas*, Mendez
  • Low-A: JMorales, ALee, DeRosier, Howell, Dickey
  • Short-A: WPena, YRamierez, DRamos, Aponte, Cespedes, Fuentes, JGomez, Gunter, Mooney, Morse, Reid
  • Rookie: Alastre, Braymer, Baltrip, Amoroso, Barnett, Conner, Eusebio, German, Luzardo, McDonald, Peguero, NRamirez, Rishwain, Tindall, RWilliamson
  • unknown (been in XST for > 1yr): Bates, CFlores, AMartinez, Shackelford

Discussion

AAA: by the time you read this, Jeremy Guthrie may have already taken a spot start in the majors (update: he has, making Saturday’s 4/8/17 start in Philly), which will have implied that he’ll have been added to the 40-man and 25-man, and that he’ll more or less have guaranteed his spot up there for a while (since as a vet, he won’t be able to be assigned back to AAA w/o his consent/passing through waivers).  I’m guessing the other guys make their way to Syracuse at some point, perhaps as cascading back-fills if there’s injuries requiring call-ups to the majors.  2017 spring training NRI Joe Nathan, after this writing, got signed and assigned to AAA.

AA: I could see Martin slotting in at either AA (where he ended up last year) or at AAA (due to his experience).   Blackmar struggled in AA and could get pushed back to High-A.  The other two were release candidates to me.  Update: Blackmar re-assigned back to AA as expected to replace Arias in the rotation.

High-A: All three guys here pitched for Potomac last year, and all three pitched well.  Mendez earned a promotion to AA where he got hit, so maybe he just got caught in a numbers game.  None are release candidates to me so perhaps they all missed out on the AA team but have nothing left to prove in High-A.

Low-A: Morales, Lee and DeRosier were all hurt in 2016 (Morales for the whole season, Lee/DeRosier for just half), so it all depends on the extend of the injuries.  Howell was the fastest 2016 draft class riser .. so its kind of odd he wasn’t put on a full season team.  Maybe they thought he needed more time in Short-A.  Lastly I’m not sure what  you do with Robbie Dickey; two straight years bouncing between short- and low-A with little to show for it.  The 4th rounder represents a somewhat large investment by the club that hasn’t panned out and (even though the concept of “sunk cost” may apply here) he’ll likely get more shots to work out.

Short-A:  this list includes mostly guys who were at Auburn last  year and who didn’t make the  Hagerstown cut, but it also includes some guys who should have gone further by now, so I’d guess we’ll see some releases out of this list, especially once the Rule4 draft rolls around.

Rookie: same as with Short-A, especially for the college-age guys here.  I do look forward to the 2017 debut of Jesus Luzardo of course; he could quickly become our 2nd best starting pitching prospect.

Unknowns: what do you make of players who are on pace to miss nearly a year and a half of pro time?  I have no idea where any of these guys slot in any more and wouldn’t be surprised to see them all let go at this point.

Minor League Full Season Staff Review 2017 – Potomac

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Baez is the highest profile hurler in Potomac to start the year. photo via milb.com

Baez is the highest profile hurler in Potomac to start the year. photo via milb.com

We’re looking at the four full-season staffs, guessing the roles, and talk about the changes of the staffs from the end of last year til now.  Next up: Potomac.

See here for Syracuse 2017 review, here for Harrisburg 2017 review.

(Note: I know that there’s the most likely chance I have something wrong for Potomac since many readers here attend their games regularly; remember, i’m just a guy sitting at his desk scouting the score line so feel free to tell me where i’m wrong…)

Quick links for rosters for each full season affiliate:

And don’t forget the invaluable work of SpringfieldFan maintaining the Nats Big Board, now in its 12th season!

Note: in the below list, “missing” means that the player was on a 2016 roster, is still listed as active but is not found anywhere on a 2017 full-season roster as expected.  Most are still sitting in Extended Spring Training (abbreviated XST throughout) with the intent of getting assigned as injuries or releases occur, but some may be release candidates.   Other abbreviations I use often: MLFA == Minor League Free Agent, OOO = Out of the Organization.

((h/t as always to Mr. Erickson for the link to insidenova.com with the planned rotation, which I’ll use to correct my predictions below).


High-A/Potomac 2017

  • my predicted starters: Baez, Crownover*, Guilbeau*, Sylvestre*, LReyes, JRodriguez
  • purported rotation per insidenova.com: LReyes, Sylvestre*, JRodriguez, Baez, Estevez
  • spot starts/swingman: Guilbeau*, Bacus, Borne*, Crownover*,
  • bullpen: Orlan*, RPena, Rivera, Schepel
  • dl/restricted: Peterson, Turnbull*
  • cut/released/FAs from 2016: Whiting (FA), MSanchez (traded), Holland (FA)
  • missing from 2016: Mayberry, Thomas*, Mendez

Discussion

Rotation discussion: In Potomac we start to see the log-jam of starters from recent drafts.  I count 6 guys who could be starting and another 3 guys who have mostly started in the past.  As it turns out, a couple of the long-time lefty starters from the 2015 draft have been pushed into bullpen roles, perhaps for the longer term.  The burgeoning investment the team is making in the D.R. is evident here; all 5 rotation members are from the island, along with a huge chunk of the roster.

Of the starters listed above, i’d say that Luis Reyes and Jefry Rodriguez are probably on the thinnest of ice to stay in that role, given last year’s results.  Reyes had a 5.60 ERA in half a season in Potomac last year and Rodriguez had a 4.96 ERA in a full season starting in Low-A.   Wirkin Estevez feels like he’s been around forever; this is his 7th pro season in the system yet is only in High-A; he had a couple spot starts last year and I’m kind of surprised he made the rotation over especially Matthew Crownover and Taylor Guilbeau.   I could also see Grant Borne move into the rotation if one of the stated starters fail; Borne had a nifty 3.34 season in long relief in Low-A, pitching an average of 3 innings a stint, so perhaps he’s in line for getting stretched out.  I guess the old adage “you can never have too much pitching” holds true for Potomac; its nice to have 9 different guys who you know could give you a start.

The preponderance of guys used to going longer stints leaves just a handful of known “relievers” in the pen.  R.C. Orlan was Potomac’s effective closer last year and returns to that role, while Hagerstown’s closer Mariano Rivera Jr. rises up to form a nice 8th-9th inning lefty-righty combo.  Amazingly Ronald Pena returns for this 6th pro season, and returns to Potomac where he started half a season in 2014.  No offense to Pena, but I remain surprised that he’s lasted this long with the org.  The last non D/L name is a 2017 MLFA by the name of Kyle Schepel who I had completely forgotten about until I looked him up.  Kylin Turnbull, who has not thrown a pitch in anger since 2014, remains on the D/L in Potomac along with Tommy Peterson, who had an excellent 2016 season in relief and could be a good reliever if he is healthy.

The guys who are listed as “missing” include three guys who all finished the 2016 season in High-A and seem like they’re intended to start there again.

Who am I focusing on: I want to see what Joan Baez has; we know he can bring the heat but can he be an effective starter?  I’ve always liked the trio of lefty veteran college starters we picked in the 2015 draft early rounds; Hearn (since traded), Crownover, Borne and Guilbeau (picked in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 10th rounds respectively), so I look forward to them all moving up a level in 2017.  I want to see what the two closer-quality relievers (Orlan and Rivera) can do.

 

Minor League Full Season Staff Review 2017 – Harrisburg

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Fedde is the most prominent name in AA to start. Photo via minorleagueball.com

Fedde is the most prominent name in AA to start. Photo via minorleagueball.com

We’re looking at the four full-season staffs, guessing the roles, and talk about the changes of the staffs from the end of last year til now.  Next up: Harrisburg.  See here for Syracuse review.

Quick links for rosters for each full season affiliate:

And don’t forget the invaluable work of SpringfieldFan maintaining the Nats Big Board, now in its 12th season!

Note: in the below list, “missing” means that the player was on a 2016 roster, is still listed as active but is not found anywhere on a 2017 full-season roster as expected.  Most are still sitting in Extended Spring Training (abbreviated XST throughout) with the intent of getting assigned as injuries or releases occur, but some may be release candidates.   Other abbreviations I use often: MLFA == Minor League Free Agent, OOO = Out of the Organization.

Quick Note: just prior to publishing word came out (h/t as always to Mr. Erickson) that a shake-up has already occurred in Harrisburg’s rotation.  I’ll strike-out existing text and replace it with updated.


AA/Harrisburg 2017:

  • starters: Fedde, Valdez, AWilliams, GRoss, Arias, Blackmar
  • spot starts/swingman: Long, Simms
  • bullpen: Brinley, Cordero, Johansen, Lara*, Self, Suero
  • dl/restricted: NLee*, Mapes, ARobinson
  • cut/released/FAs from 2016 (all FAs): Brady, Lively, Runion
  • missing from 2016: JDMartin, Blackmar, Benincasa, Rauh

Discussion

There’s some familiarity with this staff from the end of 2016: seven of the guys on this staff were there last September.  The Nats continue their trend of having their high profile players aim for mid-season promotions as opposed to the beginning of the season: Erick Fedde only had 5 AA starts last  year but by all accounts from his spring performance is ready to test himself at least at AAA if not doing a Jordan Zimmermann like jump straight from AA->Majors.

Rotation discussion: There’s more “starters” than there are spots; Phillips Valdez got 16 so-so starts in AA last year and will look to improve.  Austen Williams is probably getting his last shot to start before getting pushed to the bullpen.  Local guy Greg Ross (from Baltimore, went to Frostburg State) was a 2016 MLFA pickup who dominated … i’m kind of curious to see how how does in a full season.  MLFA signing Gabriel Arias has a ton of AAA time and may be over-qualified for this rotation, and got sent to the D/L just before season’s start.  He’s been replaced by 2016 rotation member Mark Blackmar, who re-signed to extend his MLFA deal in the off-season.  I’ve listed both Jaron Long and John Simms as “spot starters” for now, though I think both deserve a shot at starting on a regular basis.  We’ll see if they switch places with some of the more shaky starters here.  30th round draftee Tyler Mapes starts on the D/L after a great season at AA last year; perhaps he gets pushed to AAA when he comes off the D/L.

In the bullpen, some surprises.  Why is 40-man roster member Jimmy Cordero in AA?   How did top 2013 draft pick Jake Johansen make the AA squad despite never succeeding anywhere outside of Low-A?  Derek Self will be spending his fourth successive year at Harrisburg; there’s more than 40 arms sitting in XST right now; does it make sense to have a guy who clearly isn’t rising up taking a full-season roster spot at this point?   Off-season MLFA Braulio Lara in AA after years in AAA?  Am I being too critical here?  It just seems like some curious picks for our AA squad.

Listed as “Missing” include the return of J.D. Martin as a knuckleballer; he’ll remain in XST until a spot opens up in AA or AAA.  2016 MLFA signing Mark Blackmar ended the year in AA but didn’t make the team; i’m guessing they’re trying to figure out how he fits in after dominating High-A but struggling in AA.  Lastly two guys who I have as “release candidates” are not assigned but not yet cut in long time Nats farm-hands Robert Benincasa and Brian Rauh.

Who am I focusing on: Fedde obviously.  Ross and Simms intrigue me, as does Mapes.  Brinley was *so good* in Potomac; really want to see him succeed in AA as a 27th rounder.  Want to see what we have in Cordero.

Minor League Full Season Staff Review 2017 – Syracuse

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Will Cole be getting yet another AAA opening day start? Photo AP

Will Cole be getting yet another AAA opening day start? Photo AP

I slacked on minor league pitching analysis this off-season.  But i’m as excited as ever to see the four full-season affiliate rosters announced ahead of the beginning of the minor league season this weekend.  And i’m ready for another season of tracking minor league arms (kind of the bread and butter of this blog).

So lets take a look at the four staffs, guess the roles, and talk about the changes of the staffs from the end of last year til now.  I’ll do these in four posts to break them out and get more content/discussion.  First up: Syracuse.

Quick links for rosters for each full season affiliate:

And don’t forget the invaluable work of SpringfieldFan maintaining the Nats Big Board, now in its 12 season!

Note: in the below list, “missing” means that the player was on a 2016 roster, is still listed as active but is not found anywhere on a 2017 full-season roster as expected.  Most are still sitting in Extended Spring Training (abbreviated XST throughout) with the intent of getting assigned as injuries or releases occur, but some may be release candidates.   Other abbreviations I use often: MLFA == Minor League Free Agent, OOO = Out of the Organization.


AAA/Syracuse 2017:

  • starters: Cole, Voth, THill, Turner, JRoss
  • spot starts/swingman:
  • bullpen: Adams, Gott, Grace*, Martin, Albers, Antolin, Broadway, Cotts,
  • dl/restricted: Swynenberg (still restricted), Barrett, Collins*, Harper*, McGowin
  • cut/released/FAs from 2016: Laffey*, Espino, Giolito (trade), RLopez (trade), EDavis, De Fratus, Arroyo, Harmening
  • missing from 2016: none

Discussion:

As often happens with AAA squads, this group of players is about half home-grown (I count 8 drafted players out of the 17 on the roster) and half MLFA or acquired depth.  And this group is missing more than a few names that we know will eventually be here and play major roles; Jeremy Guthrie probably slides into the rotation spot that Joe Ross is temporarily holding.  But XST also currently holds players like John Lannan and Josh Outman, both of whom were MLFA signings this past off-season with the intent of providing AAA depth.

And as you often see in AAA, there’s huge turnover from last year.  Eight guys on the AAA rosters at the end of last year are out of the organization now, 6 by free agency and two by the much discussed Adam Eaton trade.   I was kind of bummed to see Paolo Espino go in particular, but I like the potential of former major leaguers like Jacob Turner and the aforementioned Guthrie (who looked pretty good in spring training, for what that’s worth).

Rotation guess: not too hard to squint and see this rotation go A.J. Cole, Austin Voth and Taylor Hill at the top.  After that i’m assuming it goes Turner-Guthrie (after Ross gets called back up).  Perhaps we’ll also see 2017 MLFA Kyle McGowin after he returns from whatever ailment has him on the D/L.

Reliever thoughts: I was happy to see the team re-sign Aaron Barrett; he may not ever contribute again but it was a good gesture to bring him back into the fold.  Interested to see what Lannan can provide.  The four relievers on the 40-man roster all seem to be on thin-ice with the org; are we expecting anything of value from any of Adams, Gott, Grace or Martin any more?  I don’t mean to sound like a debbie downer, but at this point those four guys are my first four to get cut if space is needed.  Its kind of amazing to me that this team has so little reliever depth at the upper level of the minors given the ridiculous amount of pitching they’ve drafted in the past few  years.

Interestingly, Matt Swynenberg remains on the AAA restricted list, where he’s been since he retired on 5/1/15.  I’m not sure why at this point the team doesn’t just release him, if only to clean up the official MILB.com roster on the web page.  :-)

Who am I focusing on: Voth, Turner, Adams and Gott to see if they’ve got any future value, Guthrie, Lannan when they get there, McGowin when he gets off of the D/L.

 

Top 10 Arms; Starters and Relievers separately ranked

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Fedde probably #1 arm in the system ... and its tough after that. Photo via minorleagueball.com

Fedde probably #1 arm in the system … and its tough after that. Photo via minorleagueball.com

Every year, Luke Erickson over at NationalsProspects.com does a crowd-sourced ranking of the Top 10 “bats” and “arms” in the Nats farm system (link to the “Arms” post)

This year, I had such a hard time deciding upon my top 10 arms for Luke’s survey that I thought it would be worth doing my own post on the subject, temporarily stealing Luke’s idea.  I think its an interesting time for our farm system arm development; we’ve spent the off-season trading away a significant amount of arm depth, and what we have left made it kind of tough for me to even find 10 “arms” that were worth ranking.  Furthermore, how do you really compare starters and relievers?  Isn’t a mediocre starter prospect who has reached AAA better than a high-end reliever prospect in the lower minors?   Is our best reliever prospect (Koda Glover) a “better” or “worse” prospect than a really good-looking starter who is in A-Ball (like a Tyler Watson?)  How do you compare a good starter prospect in A ball with what looks like an org-arm in AAA?  Its potential versus reality, ceiling versus floor.  In the end, you have to make kind of a rolling judgement call to put PlayerA above PlayerB … leading to excellent arguments in the comments section.

So, taking these thoughts into account, here’s my top 10 ranked Arms, splitting guys into starters and relievers.  My rules: a “starter” is someone who was “predominantly” a starter this year.  A reliever is someone who, well, was a reliever and wasn’t getting starts unless there was some weird situation going on.  And since the lowest levels generally were doing tandem starting, if you were clearly a “pitch every 5th day” guy even if you weren’t starting, then i’m calling you a starter for these purposes.  This only comes into play with a couple of guys who were in and out of rotations this year; i’ve put them into the Relievers section.

My Nats top 10 Starters:

1. Erick Fedde: He’s clearly come back from TJ, dominated for most of 2016, and probably debuts in the later half of 2017.
(1a. A.J. Cole, if you still think he’s got prospect status.  He exhausted his rookie status by service time in 2016 … but has yet to reach 50 IP in the majors, so Baseball America qualifies him as a prospect still.  I don’t view him as a prospect anymore; to me he’s a 6th starter/long-man candidate for 2017).
2. Austin Voth: he’s more than earned it, has nothing to prove in AAA, and frankly should have gotten a 40-man addition last September and gotten innings instead of Mat Latos.
3. Tyler Watson: had a great season competing against guys well older than him; could be looking at a jump to high-A in 2017 and he’s yet to turn 20.  I like his potential.
4. Weston Davis: I’m going with Davis over the more highly regarded (on prospect lists) Baez because of a slightly cleaner stat line.  Davis had a nice 2.67 ERA in Short-A as a 20-yr old.
5. Joan Baez: Full year starting in Low-A as a 21-yr old, good K/9 numbers, some wildness.  A step-up to High-A will clear the waters on him.
6. Matthew Crownover: great in Low-A, struggled in High-A.   Should be in the Potomac rotation for 2017, may turn into a useful lefty reliever if he can’t maintain stats as a starter.
7. Jesus Luzardo: entirely based on pre-draft reputation; hopefully he comes back strong, but he’s several years away from even doing what Watson is doing.
8. Tyler Mapes: the fact that a 30th round draft pick is on this list is, well, the obvious evidence of the current thin-ness of our pitching depth.  I love what Mapes has done, don’t get me wrong, but does anyone really expect him to  become an impact player in the majors?
9. McKenzie Mills: I could see Mills a bit higher here, but honestly anyone in the 6-10 rank here could be argued to be higher or lower.
10. Andrew Lee: solid for Hagerstown before hitting the D/L.  His spot here is assuming he didn’t blow out his rotator cuff or something that affects him longer term.

Honorable Mentions: Kyle McGowin, Yonathan Ramirez, Carlos AcevedoJaron LongAusten Williams, Jefry Rodriguez.  I could probably see arguments for Ramirez above perhaps Lee or Mills, but barely.  I don’t really bother looking at GCL or DSL guys, so if you want to argue that someone who got 40 innings of complex ball is better than someone who put up stats in an A-ball league … well i’m going to argue with you :-).

So, clearly there’s a huge gap between the AAA-calibre guys at the top and Watson, both in terms of service time and in career minor league achievement.  Our trades have resulted in this gap.  There also seems to be a pretty significant potential gap right after Baez; you go from prospect to lottery tickets and org-guys pretty quickly it seems.  Prior to these trades, I would likely have had Giolito 1, Lopez 2, Dunning right after Voth and perhaps Avila in discussions for being at the #10 spot.  Still, that’s half of your best starter prospects gone in a couple of weeks.

Nats top 10 Relievers; these are going to be more heavily aligned towards guys who are near the top of the system, for obvious reasons.  If you’re in A-ball and already a reliever … you’re in trouble unless you’re striking guys out at 12 K/9 clip … and we seem to have a habit of trading those guys (Hearn, Sanchez).
1. Koda Glover: for obvious reasons.  Despite how much we’ve talked about him this year, he’s only got 19 MLB innings and still has rookie status by service time.  We were mostly mystified by his drop-off of talent, until learning that he tore his hip labrum.  I, like many others, like him for a future closer.  Grow ’em, don’t buy ’em.
2. Austin Adams: our return bounty for Danny Espinosa: he had 61 Ks in 41 AA innings in 2016.  That’s 13.3 K/9.  That’s crazy.
3. Bryan Harper: he was clearly moving himself ahead of other lefty options in AAA before getting hurt; lets hope he recovers from TJ and puts himself back on the map.
4. Jimmy Cordero: pretty solid AA numbers for two seasons running; i’d like to see him in AAA to see if he’s a bullpen option in the mold of an Aaron Barrett/Craig Stammen role.
5. Matt Grace: may be on the downslope of his Nats career, given that he wasn’t depended upon in 2016 and the Nats felt the need to flip a future Hall of Fame prospect to acquire a 5-week loogy rental.  But he’s still an effective AAA reliever, which the rest of the guys below him cannot say.
6. Trevor Gott: our return bounty for Yunel Escobar was relatively effective for AAA this year, had good MLB numbers, but is anyone counting on him competing for the 2017 MLB bullpen?  He and Grace are my “first two guys to go” off the 40-man if we need room right now.
7. Andrew Robinson: this MLFA signing put up great AA numbers and seems to be sticking around; I think he competes for the AAA bullpen.
8. Wander Suero: Another guy who put up nice AA numbers for the team this year as a RH middle reliever.  He’s a bit old (25) and has been around the system forever (IFA signing in 2010), but should feature in AA or AAA this year.
9. Ryan Brinley: others have him higher based on his High-A dominance; he’s another Tyler Mapes-esque draft success story, a 2015 27th rounder who has rocketed up the system.   I’d like to see what he can do in AA in 2017.
10. John Simms: another one of the Nats great 11th round picks, he really may be a starter, but for now he’s here.  If he was being counted as a starter he’d probably be around the same ranking in the above list.
Honorable Mentions: Nick Lee, Mariano Rivera Jr., Grant Borne, Taylor Guilbeau, Steven Fuentes, Tommy Peterson, Jorge Pantoja: all guys who put up decent numbers for A or AA teams.
What do you guys think?  Did I miss anyone egregiously?

Huge Over-Pay for Eaton

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Eaton should be this excited moving to a playoff contender. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Eaton should be this excited moving to a playoff contender. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

There is no such thing as a pitching prospect.”

So said Joe Sheehan, more than 13  years ago on Baseball Prospectus.

Well, the Nationals just traded three very, very good pitching prospects for one very good outfielder in a move that was shocking to baseball insiders, let alone Nats fans.

In case you’re not sure what we’re talking about: Nats acquired Adam Eatonhe of the 6-win 2016 season and his ridiculously team-friendly contract (he’s signed with options through 2021 for just a measly $38.4M).  In return we gave up three of our four best starting pitching prospects in the form of Lucas GiolitoReynaldo Lopez and 2016 1st rounder Dane Dunning.

To put things in a different way: we just acquired 5 years of Eaton for a combined potential of nearly *twenty* years of  rotation pieces for the south siders.  We likely made their rotation for the next decade with this move, even if you take an entirely pessimistic viewpoint of the ceilings of all three of these players.

For me; it was too much to pay (in case you couldn’t tell how I felt from the title of the post).  The Nats just traded away literally all their near-to-the-majors starter depth in a complete win-now move that, while I’ve been advocating for it, seemed like an overpay.  I could see/make the argument for Giolito and Dunning, or Lopez+Dunning, but all three seems gratuitous.  Ironic because i’ve just beek talking about not over-valuing your prospects.

The best case scenario for these three arms is a #1, #2 and #5 starter for years to come.  But since best case is never going to happen, lets take some worst-case scenarios for these three guys we just traded.  I know Giolito’s critics are large here, but bear with me:

  • Giolito never harnesses his control and turns into essentially Alex Meyers.
  • Lopez never develops a secondary pitch and is turned into a late-inning 100-mph reliever
  • Dunning’s craftiness only takes him as far as a 5th starter or middle-relief guy for a middling team.

Still, that’s three major league arms, cost controlled first round talents with their bonus money already paid for.  The reality will be somewhere in the middle.

What this deal says is the high price of a good contract.  Eaton is getting paid absolute peanuts compared to the value he’s producing, he plays (or can play) a valuable position, and that’s really what the cost was all about.  If Eaton was on a $18M/year contract he’s only costing one of those three arms in return.

The last time the Nats did this big of a prospects-for-players deal it was the Gio Gonzalez move.  And at the time I wasn’t nearly as negative towards the price as I am for this one.

Fallout/other observations from this deal:

  • The White Sox have now gone from having a farm system ranked in the 22-23 range to inarguably the #1 farm system in the game.  In like two days.
  • Lots of head scratching amongst baseball insiders, MLB.tv announcers, prospect guys.
  • Interesting that literally as soon as this trade occurred, you started seeing people “in the know” talking about how the Nationals had “soured” on Giolito.  I’m sure we’ll hear more about it soon; whispers about work ethic and approach.  Where were these comments yesterday?
  • Get ready for spot-starts from A.J. Cole and Austin Voth; you don’t get through modern baseball seasons on 5 starters anymore, and we don’t exactly have the most reliable rotation.
  • I suspect Danny Espinosa (who is now patently surplus to requirements) gets flipped for hopefully an optionable starter to give us some more depth.  I like Voth and am excited to see what he can do … but i’m not trusting him to give this team 4-5 starts and compete.
  • Our respectable farm system is now gutted: no matter what you think of these three arms heading the other way, they were #1, #3 and #6 prospects in our system.  We have mortgaged the future for the present in a large way.

Nats new Lineup:  Eaton (CF), Turner (SS), Harper (RF), Murphy (2B), Rendon (3B), Werth (LF), Zimmerman (1B),  Norris (C).  Decent lefty-righty balance which could be stretched a bit if you broke up Harper & Murphy.  Eaton makes a bit more sense at leadoff since Turner has proven to have a bit more power than we thought, and Eaton is a lefty, but I could see them switched and then going Harper-Rendon-Murphy or something like that so you don’t have 3 lefties in a row.  But this is now a pretty fast lineup at the top.

So, what say you?

 

2016 Season Statistical review of the 2016 Draft Class

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Dane Dunning was a 1st round pick and was arguably the best producer in 2016 of his draft class. Photo via gatorcountry.com

Dane Dunning was a 1st round pick and was arguably the best producer in 2016 of his draft class. Photo via gatorcountry.com

Editor note: from this post forward i’m going to start tweeting out via the new Nationals Arm Race twitter account.  @natsarmrace is the account.  I’m going to try to do a better job promoting the blog and its posts since, hey, why not.  Feel free to follow me there and retweet if you’re into that to get more people involved in the discussion.

In years past, I’ve adapted a topic stolen from minorleagueball.com’s John Sickels and reviewed all our draft classes statistically.  Last years set of posts (2015 draft class, 2014 draft class, 2013 draft class2012 draft class and 2011 draft class) turned into a great way to see how everyone was doing, and helped me write rotation reviews later on.  So let’s do it again!  Using last year’s posts to help make this year’s writing go better, we’re going to do another series of posts on each draft class.

First up; 2016’s class.  Here’s a fast review of the 2016 draft class, looking at their 2016 numbers and making some snap judgments.

Web links to use while reading:

  • Stats are pulled from milb.com and/or fangraphs.com; put the player name into the search bar to get his seasonal stats
  • The MLB.com Draft Tracker (which I believe is the best draft tracker out there) is the best place to get draft class information.
  • The Big Board and the Draft Tracker are the goto resources for prospects for any Nats fan.
  • More obscure stats on players are sometimes found at places like thebaseballcube.com, perfectgame.org, their college websites, twitter accounts for the players, and good old fashioned deep-dive googling.

At the end of each player write-up i’ll put in a color coded trending line for the player: Green for Trending UpBlue for Trending steady, Red for Trending Down.   This is just my knee-jerk opinion of the prospect status of the player system-wide.  And yes I realize this is their first pro ball season, short-sample sizes, scouting the stat line, etc etc.  So apologies in advance if you think i’m being too harsh passing judgement on a 15 inning sample size.  Of course I am; what else are we going to argue about this off-season?  :-).  I solicit any and all feedback from those who actually saw the games, who think differently or who have inside information that i’ve missed here (like last year when we found out that Perkins was converting to switch hitting).

Without further ado:

Round 1: Carter Kieboom, SS, Walton HS (Georgia).  Slashed .244/.323/.452 in 135 at-bats in the GCL, signing four days after being drafted and thus getting as full of a season in as could be expected.  43/12 K/BB in 135 ABs, 4 homers, 1 SB in 36 games.  He played SS exclusively and made 9 errors in 31 games in the field.   When he did hit the ball, he hit for a decent amount of power (.452 slugging).  At age 18 he’s still a year and a half younger than the average age of the GCL, so this is a positive start.   Still, I think he’d be hard pressed to make a full season squad in 2017, so I’d expect him to repeat GCL in 2017.  Trending Steady.

Round 1: Dane Dunning, RHP (starter) Coll Jr from UFlorida.   3-2, 2.14 ERA in Short-A (ignoring 2 innings at the GCL) with 29/7 K/BB in 33 2/3IP (7 app, 7 starts, 1 CG).  0.98 whip, 2.57 FIP, .263 babip.   He gave up 26 hits and one homer in those 33 innings, which is more or less in-line with the numbers he posted for the University of Florida his junior  year in a swing-man role.  I like Dunning and I like his approach; he comes right at you, doesn’t shy away from contact, and makes you hit his pitch.  He had a sub 1.00 whip, which is great from a starter at any level.  He doesn’t have eye-popping stuff, but he seems to consistently getting guys out.  You can’t ask for a better apprenticeship than Florida and SEC baseball, so he seems like a good candidate to jump from Low-A to High-A next season.   Trending Up.

Round 2: Sheldon Neuse, 3B Coll Jr. from Oklahoma.  Slashed .230/.305/.341 in 36 games in Short-A.  26/13 K/BB in 126 ABs, 1HR, 2SB.  Played mostly 3B (filled in 6 games at Short) and made 5 errors in 222 innings while playing third.  Neuse struggled a bit in his first pro season, not hitting anywhere close to the .369/.465/.646 slash line he put up in his stellar junior year.   And he ended up missing nearly half the season in two separate stints of inactivity.  I’d definitely say this is a disappointing debut season, but luckily for Neuse he’s a big bonus kid so he’ll get plenty of time to work things out.  I fully expect to see him starting at 3B for Hagerstown next year; he’s not going to be kept in XST to start the year.  Though I will say it was interesting to see that a 17th rounder from this same draft “jumped” Neuse and finished the year starting at 3B for Low-A (more on that later).  Trending Steady, barely.

Round 3: Jesus Luzardo, LHP (starter) from S. Douglas HS (FL).  No Stats in 2016; he had Tommy John surgery on 3/22/16 and spent the season on the GCL D/L.  We’ll see him in the GCL next year.  Trending Steady.

Round 4: Nick Banks, OF (Corner) Coll Jr. from Texas A&M: Slashed .277/.310/.320 in 60 games in Short-A.  37/11 K/BB in 231 ABs, Zero homers, 7 SBs.   Not a ton of power from Banks in his first pro season; he slugged just 10 points higher than his OBP.  Banks is a tough one; I loved this pick back in June, so I’m not going to kill him yet, but clearly we need to see a bit more from a guy who is already relegated to a corner OF position.  I suppose its possible he’s still affected by the back surgery he had in late 2015 (that was the excuse for his college junior stats falling off), but that’s nearly a year in the rear-view mirror by now.   He’s presumably pushing Rhett Wiseman up a level since they’re both upper round-drafted corner-only outfielders.  Trending Down.

Round 5: Daniel Johnson, OF (CF) Coll Jr. from New Mexico State.  Slashed .265/.312/.347 in 62 games in Short A.   42/7 K/BB in 245 ABs, 1HR, 13SBs split between playing CF and RF.   Wow; just 7 walks in 245 ABs; that’s not good.  As with Neuse and Banks, the slash line isn’t that impressive though Johnson managed better power numbers by showing a bit of gap power (9 doubles, 4 triples).   He should move up with his draft class to low-A next year, but (again, as with Neuse and Banks) we need to see some improvement and some patience at the plate.   Trending Steady.

Round 6: Tres Barrera, C Coll Jr. from Texas.  Slashed .244/.337/.366 in 48 starts behind the dish for Short-A.  22/15 K/BB in 164 ABs, 3HR, 0SB.  A solid season for the catcher, who led Auburn’s qualifying players in OPS on the year.  An interesting decision may eventually await the team; is Barrera good enough for the team to decide to cut bait on Jakson Reetz?   Reetz improved his numbers greatly this year (which we’ll discuss in the 2015 draft class review post), and there’s a straightforward promotion path for Reetz, Raudy Read and for Barrera this year … but it is going to get crowded at the top and soon.   Trending Up.

Round 7: Jacob “Jake” Noll, 2B Coll Sr. from FGCU.  Hit .318 in 18 games in Auburn and earned a promotion on 8/1/16 to Hagerstown.  Slashed .275/.332/.401 across 3 levels in 2016.   26/15 K/BB, 5homers, 3SB in 207 ABs.   A good season for a senior sign, who should start at 2B again for Hagerstown in 2017 and look to continue his excellent start to his career.  Trending Up.

Round 8: A.J. Bogucki, RHP (starter) Coll Jr. from UNC.  0-6, 8.20 ERA in 10 games (6 starts) for Auburn.  17/14 K/BB in 26 1/3 IP.  1.97whip, 4.53 FIP, .378 BABIP.   So clearly a 4-point delta between his ERA and FIP highlights a bit of unluckiness in Bogucki’s numbers this year.  Still, nearly 2 baserunners an inning is an awful place to reside.  He had two especially bad outings that helped inflate his numbers, but overall its hard to see Bogucki having a guaranteed full-season spot next year.  I presume he’s in XST and then re-trying short-A in 2017.   Trending Down.

Round 9: Joey Harris, C Coll Sr. From Gonzaga.  Slashed .301/.414/.329 in 26 games catching roughly every third day in the GCL.   15/9 K/BB, zero HR, 1SB in 73ABs.  He had a nice average .. but non-existent power even despite being a 22yr old in a rookie league.  Harris was a cut-rate bonus senior sign and the odds of him making it past next season’s draft seem slim.   Trending Down.

Round 10: Paul Panaccione, SS/Util Coll Sr. from Grand Canyon U.  Slashed just .205/.254/.250 in 50 games serving as a utility backup for Auburn.   20/9 K/BB, zero homers, 1 SB in 176ABs.   There doesn’t seem to be any cinderella stories with the senior signs this year; like Harris above, Panaccione seems like he’s a quick release once the 2017 class starts signing.  Trending Down.

Round 11: Armond Upshaw, OF (CF) J2 from Pensacola State CC.  Slashed .325/.391/.400 in 13 games (40 ABs) for the GCL.  He missed a couple of weeks in July then did not play after August 1st.  He had a promising start for sure and, assuming there’s not a serious, long-term injury he should make sense to perhaps compete for a spot at Low-A Hagerstown in 2017.  It’s too small sample size to really pass too much judgement, so we’ll go with Trending Steady.

Round 12: Hayden Howard, LHP (reliever) Coll Jr. from Texas Tech.  0-2 with a 5.06 ERA in 11 games for Short-A.  12/9 K/BB in 21 1/3 innings, 1.73 whip, 4.03FIP, .365 babip.   Not the best start from Howard, who was one of the last drafted players to sign and start his career.  He mostly pitched 2-3 inning relief stints but didn’t show much in the way of swing-and-miss stuff.  His BABIP shows he was a bit unlucky, and at the risk of over-reacting to 21 innings, I’d say he’s already on a short leash.  He’ll be competing for a bullpen spot in Hagerstown next year.   Trending Down.

Round 13: Conner Simonetti, 1B Coll Jr. from Kent State.  Slashed .280/.333/.446 for the GCL Nats.  54/13 K/BB ratio, 6  homers, 0 ABs playing 1B for the rookie league squad.  A college junior should have at least made the Short-A team; i’m guessing Simonetti was pushed to the GCL thanks to a numbers game.  54 strikeouts in 42 games played against guys who were 1-2 years younger is the biggest concern i’d have here; I would like to have seen more contact.  Just based on where he played in 2017, i’m going to say Trending Down.

Round 14: Kyle Simonds, RHP (reliever) Coll Sr. from Texas A&M: 0-3 with a 2.51 ERA in 13 games (3 starts) for Auburn.  27/8 K/BB in 32 1/3 innings.  1.08 whip, 3.43 fip, .272 BABIP.  A nice little season for the senior sign Simonds, who got a few “starts” (which I put in quotes because clearly they were doing tandem starts) but mostly was a 2-3inning middle reliever.  Good K/BB ratio, good overall numbers, kept baserunners to a minimum.  I think he’s a shoe-in for middle relief in Hagerstown next year.   Trending Up.

Round 15: Ryan Williamson, LHP (starter) Coll Jr. from NC State: No Stats in 2016; he had Tommy John surgery on 6/22/16 with Dr. Andrews and spent the season on the GCL D/L.  We’ll see him in XST next year to start and then likely with Auburn in 2017.  If he recovers, this could be another nice pick for the Nats; he had promising numbers as a weekend starter for NC State this year (7-2, 2.69 ERA in 13 starts)   Trending Steady.

Round 16: Phil Morse, RHP (reliever) Coll Sr. from Shenandoah U (by way of McLean HS): 1-0, 7.79 ERA in 19 games as a late-innings reliever for Auburn.  23/13 K/BB ratio in 21 innings, 2.24 whip, 3.37 fip, .508 babip.  So, at first glance his ERA and WHIP look awful.  But look at his BABIP: above .500!  That’s 200 points or more above where it should be, and his FIP indicates it.  So, hopefully the Nats officials also see this vast discrepancy and give him another shot.  It looks like he was used as an 8th/9th inning guy because of stuff, so in short outings one string of hits can really inflate your stats.  I think he gets another look in the Hagerstown bullpen next year.  Trending Steady.

Round 17:  Tyler Beckwith, MIF Coll Sr. from URichmond; slashed .253/.330/.331 across 45 games across two levels.  44/16 K/BB ratio, 1HR, 5SB in 166 ABs.  Beckwith spent most of the season in the GCL despite being a college senior sign, then interestingly was promoted to Hagerstown to finish out the season.  He split time evenly between 2B, SS (his drafted position) and 3B.  In the GCL, his OBP was higher than his slugging, indicating very little power potential here.  He will compete for a full season job but already seems behind higher-drafted players from 2016 (Neuse, Noll) plus some aging IFAs from the D.R., plus some hangers on from prior drafts.  He could be a release candidate soon after the 2017 class is drafted.   Trending Down.

Round 18: Ben Braymer, LHP (Starter) Coll Jr. from Auburn: 0-2 with a 4.12 ERA in 8 games (2 starts).   24/13 K/BB in 19 2/3rds innings, 1.32whip, 3.02 fip, .289 babip.  Braymer was used as a notional “starter” despite not getting the official starts; he was kept on a starter’s regime for the GCL but was shut down in early August (unsure if injury or just innings limits).  He was a Junior out of Auburn, where he was a highly regarded Juco transfer and was used as a swingman.  I’d like to see how he’d fare against like-aged players; more than a K/inning but against rookie league guys.  I’m hoping he competes for at least the Hagerstown rotation next year.   Trending Steady.

Round 19: Jarrett Gonzales, C from Madison HS in San Antonio; did not sign, apparently honored his college commitment.  At the time of the draft, I had him committed to Grayson Junior College in Denison, North Texas.   However, perfectgame.org now has him committed to Dallas Baptist University.  He is cousins w/ Garrett (our 32nd round pick, see below) and nephew of Nats scout Jimmy Gonzalez.  Initially I thought this might have been a “favor pick,” but you don’t generally blow 19th round picks (35th round?  yes).  The fact that he’s going to a powerhouse baseball program lends a bit more credence to his drafting in this spot.

Round 20:  Jake Barnett, LHP (starter) Coll Jr from Lewis-Clark State (Idaho).  0-0, 1.80 ERA in 2 games and just 5IP for the GCL.  Barnett signed on 6/20, reported to Florida on 6/24, pitched on 6/25 and then again on 7/1 … and then didn’t pitch again.  There’s no D/L assignment.  I guess we have to say he’s  Trending Steady until we find out his fate next spring.

Round 21: Jacob Howell RHP (reliever) Coll Jr. from Delta State (Miss.).  Posted a 2-1 record with a 3.49 ERA across 28.1 innings and three levels.   Looking just at his time in Hagerstown; 4.57 ERA, 15/7 K/BB in 21 2/3 innings.  1.25 WHIP, 3.59 FIP, .279 Babip.  Howell quickly moved from the GCL through Auburn to live in Hagerstown for most of the year, becoming the first 2016 draftee to matriculate to full-season ball.  Not bad for a 21st rounder from a small school.  His FIP indicates that his numbers are better, and his season was cut short a month with injury.  I’d suspect he’ll start again in Hagerstown in 2017 (unless his injury was serious) and move on up from there.  Good first pro season.  Trending Up.

Round 22: Sterling Sharp, RHP (starter)  Coll Jr. Drury (Mo.).  Posted a 3-0 record with a 3.24 ERA in 11 games (7 “starts”) in the GCL before getting an end-of-season promotion to Auburn.  35/6 K/BB in 41 2/3 innings in GCL.  1.27whip, 2.85 fip, .354 babip.  Nice looking numbers, much better than his college numbers this year, but done against younger competition even given the fact that he went to a smaller school.  His one Auburn start was solid and efficient; 5 innings, 2 runs on 69 pitches.  I like what I see, but will repeat the typical age-related caveat for all college kids in the GCL.  We’ll know more when he hits a Short-A or Full-season league.  Trending Up.

Round 23: Michael Rishwain,  RHP (reliever) Col Sr. Westmont (Calif.); was 1-0 with a 3.63 ERA in 13 relief appearances in the GCL.  14/5 K/BB in 17 1/3 innings.  1.90 whip, 2.58fip, .400 babip.  His usage was odd; he only pitched about every 5th day despite not being a “starter” in the GCL, and had several “gaps” of more than a week between appearances.    He also gave up a gazillion hits; 28 in his 17 innings to go along with a few walks, hence the inflated WHIP.  If they were holding him back to manage his innings that is one thing; if he was only getting brief looks because every time he got on the mound 2 guys got on base, then he may not be long for the season.  I see him as a long-shot to make a full-season bullpen and he may be a mid-season 2017 release.   Trending Down.

Round 24:  Joseph Baltrip RHP (reliever) J2 from Wharton County (Texas) JC; went 2-1 with a 1.38 ERA in 16 relief appearances in the GCL.  17/23 K/BB in 26IP.  1.46whip, 5.40 fip, .194 BABIP.  Well, I loved the ERA until I saw the K/BB ratio; he walked 23 guys in 26 innings.  Look at the delta between his ERA and FIP.  Despite being a J2 guy, he was 21 at the point of drafting so he’s the same age as a typical College Junior.  Clearly he’s got some control issues to work on.  As with previous college RHP relievers who were in the GCL all year, results need to be shown in like-age leagues and soon.   Trending Down.

Round 25:  Branden Boggetto, SS Col Sr. Southeast Missouri State.  Slashed .280/.328/.411 in 32 games in the GCL.  13/6 K/BB ratio, 3 homers, 2 SBs in 107 ABs.  Drafted as a SS, he played mostly 2B in the GCL this season.   Solid enough numbers for Boggetto, but (and I feel like a broken record) he’s 22.  I’m guessing he has a shot at a utility position for a team next season, but the roster’s crowded.  Trending Down.

Round 26:  Jack Sundberg OF (corner) Col Sr. Connecticut.  Slashed .256/.346/.340 while earning two promotions and ending the season in Hagerstown.  33/22 K/BB ratio, 1 homer, 12SB in his three stops.  You cannot complain about a 26th rounder who earned two promotions, even if the jump from Short-A to Low-A seemed odd based on his stat line in Auburn.  He played mostly LF, where you hope for a bit more power.   He did feature at CF a bit, so perhaps it was a positional thing.  A great first pro season.  Trending Up.

Round 27:  Jeremy McDonald, LHP (starter/reliever) Col Sr. California Baptist.  Went 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA in 11 appearances in the GCL.   27/5 K/BB ratio, 1.22 whip, 1.85 fip, .338 BABIP.  Yes he’s old for the level (he turned 23 just after the season ended), but clearly he’s got some command.  Nearly a 6-1 K-BB ratio is great.  I’m slightly surprised he didn’t get bumped up to one of the A-ball levels, but (like a few before him) he seemed to be on a starters schedule all season.  He generally went every 5th or 6th day even though he was only throwing 2-3 innings at a time.  I can see him competing for rotations in Low- or Short-A next year.   Trending Up.

Round 28:  Jonathan “Jonny” Reid, LHP (starter/reliever) Col Jr. Azusa Pacific (Calif.).  Went 3-1 with a 2.50 ERA across two levels, ending the year in Auburn.  24/7 K/BB, 0.94 whip, 4.41 fip (in Auburn), .281 babip (in Auburn).  Reid quickly proved to be unhittable in the GCL (8 hits in 15 2/3 innings) and got jumped to Auburn after a month.  There he pitched on a starter’s rotation, going every 5th day or so for 2-3 inning stints and finished with a 3.10 ERA in 7 outings.  He should compete nicely for a full-season rotation job or at least have a look at being a longer-man out of the pen.  Trending Up.

Round 29:  Sam Held RHP (starter/reliever) Col Sr. Nevada.  Went 1-2 with a 1.86 ERA across three levels, ending the year in Hagerstown.  22/8 K/BB ratio, 1.14whip combined for the year.  Like a couple guys before him. Held quickly showed he was too good for the GCL and got jumped to Auburn after three weeks.  There, he held his own for  a month of tandem starter appearances before finishing the last few weeks in Hagerstown.  He more than held his own once he got to full-season ball and should at least start there in 2017.  Trending Up.

Round 30:  Tristan Clarke, OF J2 Eastern Oklahoma State JC.  Did not sign, honored his commitment out of JuCo to attend the University of New Orleans.

Round 31:  C.J. Picerni, C Col Sr. New York.  Had just 8 ABs for the GCL, and it took 5 weeks for him to even get an appearance.   No idea what to think here; was he hurt?  Given his draft round and his lack of playing time, you can only assume he’s a short-timer until we get more information.  Trending Down.

Round 32:  Garrett Gonzales, 3B HS San Antonio HS in Texas.   Did not sign, honored his college commitment to Incarnate Word.  As noted above, he is cousins w/ Jarrett (our 19th round pick).  This seems like a “favor pick” for sure; he’s reportedly the son of a Nats area scout.

Round 33:  Ryan Wetzel SS Heritage Christian Academy in Overland Park, Kansas.   Did not sign, honored his college commitment to Pitt State.   The son of a special assistant to the GM for the Nationals, so definitely another “favor pick.”

Round 34:  Morgan Cooper, RHP (starter) Col Jr. Texas.  Did not sign, decided to return for his senior year (technically his redshirt junior year) at Texas.  He had Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss the whole 2015 season.  In 2016 he was a mid-week starter for Texas, so likely he wanted to return to Texas to improve his draft standing for 2017.  Makes sense.  If he can produce as a weekend starter in the Big12 two  years removed from surgery he’ll be looking at a decent bonus next year.

Round 35:  Tristan Bayless LHP (starter) Hutto (Texas) HS.  Did not sign, honoring his commitment to McLennan Community College.  Bayless had a nice season on the mound for his prep team but was not a heavily scouted or recruited player apparently.  PerfectGame had very little on him and only some deep googling returned his Juco commitment.

Round 36:  Jordan McFarland OF  Waterloo (Ill.) HS.  Did not sign, honoring his commitment to Arkansas.  McFarland was a big-time player; a 2nd-team PerfectGame All American and this may have been the Nats planting a seed for a pick three years from now.

Round 37;  Cory Voss C J2 McLennan (Texas) CC.  Did not sign, honoring his planned transfer to U of Arizona for 2017.  Voss played his freshman year at New Mexico, went JuCo sophomore year and then was playing in the Cape this past summer.  He joins a very good recruiting class for Arizona and will be back in next year’s draft.

Round 38:  Noah Murdock RHP (starter) Colonial Heights (Va.) HS.  Did not sign, will honor his commitment to UVA.  Murdock was one of the players I was tracking all spring and once he passed out of the top 10 rounds it was clear he’d go to school.  He will help augment a UVA rotation that lost its ace and may be struggling for starters in 2017.

Round 39:  Matt Mervis 1B  Georgetown Prep HS, North Bethesda, Md.  Did not sign, will honor his commitment to Duke.   Another local kid drafted; Mervis was no favor pick.  He was highly ranked (the #1 prep player in Maryland according to one source Prep Baseball) but clearly going to Duke is a better alternative than a minimum bonus at this spot.

Round 40:  Sean Cook RHP (starter) Whitman HS, Bethesda, Md.  Did not sign, will attend Maryland and “attempt to walk-on.”  Definitely seems like a “favor” draft pick to someone, in that Cook was not on anyone’s radar, does not have a perfectgame profile and is not even a guarantee to make Maryland’s team.   Perhaps further evidence that the MLB draft is still 8-10 rounds too long.

 


Trending Summary:

  • Trending Up (10): Dunning, Barrera, Noll, Simonds, Howell, Sharp, Sundberg, McDonald, Reid, Held
  • Trending steady (7): Kieboom, Neuse,  Johnson, Upshaw, Morse, Braymer, Barnett
  • Trending steady b/c they’re injured all year (2): Luzardo, Williamson 
  • Trending Down (11): Banks, Bogucki, Harris, Panaccione, Howard, Simonetti, Beckwith, Rishwain, Baltrip, Boggetto, Picerni
  • Did Not Sign (11): Gonzales, Clarke, Gonzales, Wetzel, Cooper, Bayless, McFarland, Voss, Murdock, Mervis, Cook

Executive Summary

So far, the key names out of this draft have done decently.  I’m worried about Banks and (to a lesser extent) Neuse.  Its great to see 20th+ round guys like Reid and (especially) Held produce and earn promotions; that’s a feather in the cap of the scouting department for those finds.  Its just a half a season of course, but plenty of guys are on course or impressing out of this class.

 

Do the Nats have a LOOGY problem?

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Can we count on this guy in October? Photo via getty images

Can we count on this guy in October? Photo via getty images

We’ve clearly seen some middle relief issues lately, despite nearly sweeping a 4-game set in Atlanta this past weekend.  And one of the issues we’ve been continually discussing is our left-handed relief options.

We traded Felipe Rivero.  Oliver Perez has a 5.61 ERA.  Sammy Solis just had an MRI on his left shoulder.  Matt Grace has nice looking AAA numbers, but got shellacked last year (2.00 whip in 26 innings) during a brief call-up.  Nick Lee was so ineffective this year that he passed completely through waivers when we DFA’d him off the 40-man.  We just paid cash for twice-TJ survivor and ex Nat Sean Burnett, whose AAA numbers look good but is now on his fourth organization of 2016.

Do we have a LOOGY problem?

Well, maybe.

I constantly have to remind myself of this sentence: “You don’t have to be left-handed in order to get lefties out.”  That and this sentence: “If your lefty splits are good … then you’re still a good LOOGY option.”

Here’s the 2016 versus lefty splits for every reliever on our 40-man, RHP or LHP.  And then lets add in some of the call-up candidates just for fun… (all numbers as of 8/21/16’s Atlanta game via baseball-reference.com):

Right Handed reliever options

  • Melancon: .202/.253/.274 for an .527 OPS; as you’d expect, an elite closer gets both lefties and righties out.
  • Treinen: .211/.357/.351 for an .708 OPS.  Not bad.
  • Kelley: .250/.294/.609 for an .903 OPS.  Not good.
  • Petit: .261/.327/.511 for an .838 OPS.  Again, not really that good, but then again that’s not what we’re asking him to do generally.
  • Belisle: .150/.203/.267 for an .470 OPS.  Wow; that’s better than any of our lefties.
  • Glover: minimal stats in MLB; for 2016 he had a .161 BAA in AAA, .250 in AA and .143 in High-A for lefty splits (which are kind of hard to come by at milb.com).   That looks promising, but he seems to be more effective against righties.

Left Handed reliever options

  • Perez: .217/.321/.377 for an .698 OPS.  Its his rightly split that’s killing him.
  • Solis: .200/.279/.273 for an .551 OPS.  Awesome … if we can get him back healthy.
  • Sean Burnett: Again, minor league splits are harder to come by, but Burnett had a .150 BAA against in 12 IP in his longest AAA stint of the year.
  • Bryan Harper: .161 BAA in AAA this year, even better .091 while in AA.  And it’d be cool to have him on a roster with his brother.  But he’s on the D/L right now.
  • Matt Grace: .207 BAA in AAA this year … but as noted above he struggled in his 2015 audition.

Rivero, by the way, has this for a lefty split in 2016: .325/.424/.429 for an .852 OPS.  A .325 BAA; no wonder they were willing to part with him.  He was a lefty who couldn’t get lefties out.

What if we thought outside the box a bit?

  • Reynaldo Lopez: .180/.250/.340 for an .590 OPS.  Interesting; we’ve already talked at length about Lopez being a fire-baller out of the pen for a post-season team and his lefty splits are good.
  • Lucas Gioilto: .269/.406/.462 for an .868 OPS; not nearly as impressive.
  • Aaron Laffey: just a .254 BAA in AAA this year in a swing-man role.
  • Nick Lee: the aforementioned struggling lefty is the only other lefty in the minors above High-A; he’s got a decent .214 BAA against lefties in AA … but his overall ERA/Whip is ugly; 4.73 and 1.77,
  • I didn’t go to High-A, where we have a couple of  lefty prospects but they’re no where near consideration for a call-up.

So, we need Solis back; he’s the closest thing we have to a matchup lefty who we can count on.  But clearly Belisle’s numbers make him a matchup option too, despite his being a rightly.  It reminds me of when we had Tyler Clippard, who always had stellar lefty splits.  Perez’s split line isn’t great; I feel like we should be pushing him almost all the way to the mop-up/Petit role right now.

Are you concerned though?  On a whole, the Nats bullpen has been one of the best in all of baseball.  Are the falterings lately just due to a too many innings thanks to a couple of bad starter outings?

 

Is Lopez better than Giolito? Are all the pundits wrong?

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Clearly the team is trusting Lopez more than Giolito; are all the pundits wrong?  Photo via wp.com/Mitchell Layton getty images

Clearly the team is trusting Lopez more than Giolito; are all the pundits wrong? Photo via wp.com/Mitchell Layton getty images

So, I’ll start off by saying this is absolutely a “short sample size” post.  Reynaldo Lopez now has a grand total of four MLB starts (and just 4 AAA starts) and uber prospect Lucas Giolito himself now has the same number of total starts above AA as Lopez (3 in MLB, 5 for Syracuse).  But after last night’s dominant performance in Atlanta (7ip, 4 hits, 11 Ks and 1 walk in 101 pitches), I’ll ask the question that a lot of commenters have already been saying here: are we looking at the wrong guy as the next Ace in waiting from our farm system?

Here’s what’s striking me about Lopez; check out his Pitch FX data from last night’s start.   He threw 68 fastballs with an *average* velocity of 97.6mph, peaking at 99.5mph.   Yes he tired a bit in the last couple of innings, but (per the graph of his pitch velocity at the BrooksBaseball link) he only “slowed” to the 96-97 range … his overall heat earlier in the game kept his average well into the 97mph range.  That’s a very, very impressive velocity neighborhood, one where only two or three starters are living right now (amongst qualified starters … only Noah Snydergaard has kept a higher average fastball velocity this year than 97.6).  But I also watched him absolutely blow balls by hitters; the most impressive of which was a 98mph fastball right by Atlanta’s best  hitter Freddie Freeman to get a punch-out.

We’re not seeing that kind of velocity out of Giolito.   And we didn’t see this kind of performance either.

Literally every scouting analyst out there thinks Giolito is “the best pitching prospect in the game.”  Now, they’re not exactly light on Lopez; Lopez is routinely in the top 50 of all prospects in the minors, and generally listed #2 behind Giolito and Trea Turner on the 2016 lists.  So it isn’t as if nobody knows who Lopez is.  But results on the field at the MLB level in 2016 are hard to beat when it comes to doing comparisons.

Yes Atlanta is an awful team so perhaps over-reacting to 11 Ks is something to temper.   And both guys are clearly up-and-down (Lopez’ last AAA start was 5 runs in 6ip; Giolito’s last AAA start was 10Ks and 1 run in 7ip).   Two of Giolito’s three MLB starts were against the defending NL champ Mets (not exactly a pushover team offensively) while two of Lopez’s four MLB starts were against the trying-to-lose Mets (who might be starting one out-field player who would start on most other teams right now).

But what are you guys thinking?  I mean, clearly to me Lopez is staying in the rotation until he falters, so it may be a moot point for Giolito anyway (who is quickly running out of innings in 2016; he’s sitting at 117 1/3 right now, which is almost precisely what he threw in 2015, so factoring in a 20% increase he may only have 4 more starts in him).  Does Lopez have innings limit concerns too?  He’s never even thrown 100 innings and is already well past that in 2016…).  In fact, are we looking at an imminent shutdown of *both* prospects in the next couple of weeks?

I know how some of you are going to react to this post … cough cough MartyC and forensicane cough cough.  But how about the rest of you?  Is this heresy?  Is this a changing of the guard-type opinion?  Or is this just all SSS-driven nonsense that’ll be thrown out the window when Lopez gets pounded the next time he faces a half-way decent offensive lineup?

Written by Todd Boss

August 19th, 2016 at 11:21 am

Its Moving Day/Giolito day!

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Graduation day has arrived. Photo unk via federalbaseball.com

Graduation day has arrived. Photo unk via federalbaseball.com

There were a TON of cascading moves announced today, with multiple guys moving up in our system.  Starting at the bottom:

  • GCL: 2016 draftees and RHPs Jacob Howell and Phil Morse got bumped to Auburn after one appearance each in the GCL.
  • Auburn then sent Angelo La Bruna, Robbie Dickey and Randy Encarnacion (who probably should have been higher honestly) to Hagerstown.  This will be Dickey’s third shot at Low-A but he was clearly not touchable in Short-A (8ip, 1H 11Ks in 3 outings so far this year).
  • Hagerstown then bumped up two great hitting prospects Max Schrock, Victor Robles and Trey Lambert to Potomac.  Robles and Schrock were both all-stars and both were flatly out-hitting Low-A.  Lambert has quietly been toiling in the bullpen and had a 27/2 K/BB ratio this year.  I tell you, i’m really starting to get excited about Robles, and I think Schrock is turning into a draft day steal.
  • Potomac then bumped up Drew Ward, Andrew Stevenson, Ryan Brinley and Boone Whiting to AA.   Three of these four were all-stars this year, and Whiting was in AAA all of last year so was wasting his efforts in high-A.  Kudos for Ward to get the promotion and get his prospect career back on track, and even more kudos for Stevenson to earn such a quick promotion to AA.
  • Harrisburg then moved up Chris Bostick, Zack Collier and suddenly dominant starter Reynaldo Lopez to Syracuse (they also put Wander Suero on the TIL list to account for the four promotions).  How about the season Lopez is having?  As noted in the comments, he’s leading AA in K/9 while maintaining a 3+ K/BB ratio.
  • Syracuse’s corresponding moves were mostly bloodshed: they released Scott Sizemore, Tony Campana and RHP Juan Gutierrez to make room.  They also promoted Rafael Martin for at least the day.  Lopez isn’t going to be pitching out of the bullpen though, so I’d imagine that Jared Long will get demoted to fill the vacated spot in AA.

Why is there an extra spot in AA’s rotation?

Because Lucas Giolito got called up!  Mid Monday the announcement came out; he’s making the start on Tuesday.  Get your DVRs ready!  I won’t go into Giolito too much; we all know what he’s supposed to be.  Question is; will he live up to the hype?


(if you want to see all the transactions organized by league, here’s the links I use):

Minor League Transaction announcement links