Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for the ‘Nats in General’ Category

Nats Off-Season Roster Considerations

103 comments

Do the Nats bring back this famous celebration couple? Photo via Brobible

Since we have no playoffs to discuss, we’re pivoting immediately into off-season mode.

The Nats procedurally on 9/28/20 activated all their 10-day DL players. They also procedurally recalled the last three remaining players from the 40-man alternative site for the purposes of off-season moves. Amazingly, they ended the season with 9 players on the 10-day DL and just one healthy player on the 40-man roster not already playing (Raudy Read).

https://www.mlb.com/nationals/roster/transactions/2020/09

Free Agents to-be are immediately declared FAs at 8am Central time the day after the World Series ends. The team doesn’t have to restore its 60-day DL players until 5 days after the World Series ends, which allows them to add them back after free agents are declared and after the team has a small exclusive window to negotiate. So, we have to wait for about a month to see the next dominos fall, but we can start to speculate now.

Based on my records, here’s how our roster will look in the off-season, which will drive the decisions to make. We’ll classify these players into 5 categories

Category 1: Players under a “veteran” contract for 2021 (7): Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, Hudson, Harris, Gomes, Castro. Seven players but a huge payroll hit (per Cots, these 7 players count for $120M or so in cap space next year.


Category 2: Pre-Arbitration players under full team control (22): Voth, Fedde, Crowe, Finnegan, Harper, McGowin, Braymer, Espino, AWilliams (TJ aug 2020), Read, Garcia, Noll, Robles, Stevenson, Hernandez, Bacus, Rainey, Bourque, Kieboom, Sanchez, Romero, Barrera. That’s a ton of players on pre-arb deals, which is important since they will represent a huge chunk of the active roster in 2021. I think a few of these pre-arb guys are in discussion for “first 40-man guy to get DFA’d when the team needs room” territory (Noll, Williams, Sanchez) but for now, they’re all in play. Note: a couple of these guys were technically MLFA signings in 2020 so i’m not sure if they are now pre-arb or still FAs. Apologies if I got their status wrong).


Category 3: Arbitration-eligible players for 2021 (8). Here’s where we start discussions. Player by player:

  • Suero (A1); lock to tender
  • Turner (A3): lock to tender
  • Soto (A1): lock to tender. I saw something recently that seemed to indicate he may or may not be a Super-2 guy, but he was projecting to be Super-2 after last off-season so i’m assuming he’s Arb-eligible this year.
  • Taylor (A4); Nothing has really changed with Taylor; he struggled at the plate again but hit a few bombs, which drove his OPS+ figure up a bit from what you’d expect for someone who hit below .200. The change in Taylor in 2020 is that his defensive numbers COST him WAR this year instead of helped. Probably Small Sample Size driven, but Taylor’s bigger problem is that his direct competition as “4th outfielder” on this roster Andrew Stevenson just blew up in 2020, making Taylor an obvious non-tender candidate.
  • Guerra (A4); his contract status is odd; he has bounced back and forth on and off the roster and signed a combo major/minor FA deal this past off-season. But Cots lists him as arb-eligible, so i’m not entirely sure if he’s a FA or if he’s arb eligible. My guess is that the team cuts another deal with him and non-tenders him if he’s eligible then immediately re-signs him the next day.
  • Barrett (A3); another odd case; how much does sentimentality count? The team called up a slew of other prospects before recalling Barrett this year, he pitched in 2 games then hit the DL. It seems to me he’s a non-tender candidate and at age 32 could be facing one last shot at making a MLB roster next year.
  • Elias (A3); 2020 a lost season for Elias, who went onto the 60-day DL early and barely pitched in 2019 for this team as well (thanks to the idiotic decision in Aug 2019 to allow him to hit, which resulted in a leg injury with him running out a grounder in a meaningless at bat). The Nats didn’t give up a ton to acquire him (giving up two decent minor league arms in Taylor Guilbeau and Elvis Alvarado) so I can’t imagine them non-tendering him, but how do you do salary evaluation of a player who misses an entire year?
  • JRoss (A3); he opted out in 2020, and his absence was felt immediately when it became clear his 5th starter replacements could not cut it. I think you tender him and he goes back into the starter competition for 2021. Worst case he gets cut mid-way through spring training and the Nats escape with 1/6th of his salary.

Category 4: Players with Options for 2021 (5): here’s where we start having some tougher decisions.

  • Sanchez: $12M club option, $2M buyout: I’m not sure how you take this option if you’re the Nats after the season we just saw. Sanchez was lucky to post the numbers he did in 2019 (his FIP was more than a half a point higher than his ERA), and he bottomed out in 2020. Decline the option, pay the buyout.
  • Thames: $4M mutual option, $1M buyout. Thames posted just a 65 OPS+ playing primarily as a 1B/DH type. That’s just patently awful, considering how many options there were on the market for “non-mobile mid-30s slugger.” Decline the option, pay the buyout.
  • Holt: $5M club option, $750k buyout. He took a significant step back from his Boston numbers, which resulted in Milwaukee cutting bait on him a month into a 2year deal. Despite his positional flexibility (he played 6 positions in 20 games for the Nats) I don’t see how you guarantee $5M to a guy who didn’t “wow” you in his audition. Decline the option, pay the buyout.
  • Eaton: $10.5M club option, $1.5M buyout. Phew; what do you do here. His fourth straight year in offensive decline. He was awful defensively. But he’s only 31; does the team take the $10.5M option and roll the dice that 2020 was an anomoly? If they cut him, do they have a replacement minor leaguer that makes sense (not really no). So do they roll the dice that they can get comparable production on the FA market for the same price? How much does sentimentality factor in here? Clubhouse presence and managerial relationship? Again, he’s only 31, which is a lot different from 36 (see next). I think the team exercises the option.
  • Kendrick: $6.5M mutual option, $2.25M buyout. Word came out a few days ago that Kendrick was considering retirement until he got hurt. I’m not sure I buy that, not with a 6.5M option on the table and more gas left in the tank. Another sentimental pick here; a guy who can plug in multiple positions in a pinch and who now has the DH to settle into if need be. Also a factor here; much like in poker, if you’re into a hand already for the big blind, why not make a call for a little bit more? Declining the option only saves them $4M, and it may be worth the cost to keep a veteran presence around one more time. I mean, if Eaton is there, you gotta keep his buddy Howie right? Exercise the option.

Category 5: Unrestricted FAs (6). Now, there’s nothing the team can really do with these guys since they’re FAs. But we can talk about whether or not we think the team pursues them in the off-season:

  • Suzuki; do you re-sign a 37yr old catcher? He’s been amazingly consistent at the plate the last few years while splitting time pretty evenly with Gomes. Still sporting a decent OBP. Is he getting pushed out by rising minor league depth (hardly, unless you think Read or Barrera is an option in the majors in 2021). I might pursue a 1-yr deal.
  • Cabrera: reverted to his 2018-19 form at the plate, league average providing poor, slow, aging defense at multiple infield positions. I think you move on.
  • Harrison really showed a jolt for this team, but he’s a 2B on a team with a prospect seemingly installed there for the longer run.
  • Doolittle: tough one. Struggled last year, struggled this year. A huge part of the community, outspoken leader. Maybe bring him back on an incentive-laden deal?
  • Freeman (TJ Aug 2020); really bad timing on his TJ surgery, as he’s a FA and will be rehabbing on his own.
  • Zimmerman, the most difficult decision of all. The team was onboard with a $2M deal for 2020 before he opted out for completely understandable family reasons. 2020 was his age 35 season; I’d guarantee him a $2M incentive-laden deal to be a 1B/DH platoon with a lefty slugger for 2021 absolutely. When he’s healthy he can hit, and doing nothing but DHing will help keep him on the field. Its worth a flier for a guy who is either retiring to the Nats front office or playing in 2021.

If the team does exactly what I say here, what would be our needs heading into the off-season? First lets see how this would look from a roster perspective (not counting FAs):

  • SP: Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, JRoss (A3), Voth, Fedde, Crowe, McGowin, Braymer, Espino, Romero
  • RP: Hudson, Harris, Suero, Elias, Finnegan, Harper, Bacus, Rainey, Bourque
  • C: Gomes, Read, Barrera
  • INF: Castro, Turner, Garcia, Noll, Kieboom, Sanchez, Kendrick
  • OF: Soto, Robles, Stevenson, Hernandez, Eaton

Immediate thoughts on areas of need:

  • Another starter. I’m just not sure you can go into 2021 with your 4th/5th starters being Ross, Voth, Fedde and Crowe. I’m not sure I trust what I saw from McGowin or Braymer. Espino has never really succeeded in the majors and seems like the definition of a 4-A guy. And Romero? Maybe he can step up now that he’s gotten his debut out of the way.
  • Reliever help: I see 5-6 mlb-quality relievers here, but we’d need like 12 on the 40-man roster.
  • Catcher; as discussed with Suzuki above
  • Infield: well, right now your starting infield in 2021 is Castro/Kieboom at 3rd, Turner at SS, Garcia/Castro at 2nd, Kendrick at 1st (if they exercise his option), with Noll and Sanchez in AAA or released. They probably need more depth here.
  • Outfield: If they exercise Eaton’s option, then little needs to be done. If they don’t, then they’ll need a starting corner OF.

In other words, they need help basically everywhere.

Thoughts? did I get anything wrong?

Nats finish with 11th pick next season

14 comments

A useless 3-game winning streak against another also-ran from the division ended up costing the Nats at least 5 spots in the 2021 draft.

Assuming that MLB does not do any chicanery with the 2021 draft order, the Nats stand to pick 11th overall, down from projecting to at worst 6th overall a week ago.

http://www.tankathon.com/mlb

Despite the drop, the 2021 draft projects to be a pretty solid draft, thanks to the 5-round draft done this year and the corresponding dozens of decent college prospects who were forced to return to school (and, for prep players, forced to actually attend school, some of which chose the juco route, making them immediately eligible for the draft).

We have some 2021 draft content in the works; a drop out of the top 10 probably costs the nats a shot at one of the more “famous” names in the draft (Kumar Rocker, Jack Leiter, Matt McClean, etc) it does bring into play one of many very solid players from a second tier of guys. Could we be looking at someone like LSU’s starter Jadan Hill or Ole Miss’ starter Gunnar Hogeland? Could a run on starters at the top of the 2021 draft force the Nats to actually take a position player? We’ll see.

Written by Todd Boss

September 28th, 2020 at 8:25 am

Ask Brittany 9/10/20

6 comments

Rizzo (finally) gets paid. Photo via mlb.com

Man, it seems like its been forever since we’ve seen a Nats beat reporter do a mailbag. And unfortunately the one I found is behind the Athletic’s paywall, By Athletic Nats beat reporter Brittany Ghiroli. No worries though; you’ll get the gist.

Q: What are your reactions to the (Mike) Rizzo contract?
A: It’s about damn time. I just do not understand why either Mike Rizzo or Davey Martinez entered this season w/o an extension. The only thing I can think is that both had had informal discussions with the ownership group that promised them extensions at a later time.

Brittany’s take: Finally. 3yr extension, with a big bump in pay from $4M/year on his previous deal. But she also notes how disrespectful this delay was to the rest of the front office staff, who live and die by Rizzo’s contract status. Hard to disagree.

Q: Have you heard about any extension talks with (Juan) Soto?  
A: I hope they have … but it seems unlikely. Juan Soto has already established himself as one of the league’s elite players, so there seems to be little incentive for him to sign away any flexibility. He got a “big” pre-arb raise, which frankly is still peanuts compared to his value, and he’s already guaranteed to be a Super-2 guy, meaning four arb years. If i’m the Nats maybe i’m doing what they did with Harper and Rendon; buy out the arb years with sizeable raises so they’re not arguing every off-season, see if they can get one post-arb FA year thrown in (he’s FA after 2024 season), and make it worthwhile to both sides.

Brittany notes that Soto’s agent is Scott Boras, so forget about an extension. She is unaware of any extension talk, but points out a couple of Braves deals that could serve as landmarks.

Q: Any details on whether the front office has moved on from competing this year to preparing for a stronger ’21 season?
A: Well, we saw no trades this year, meaning zero attempts to shore up multiple areas of need on the current roster. But then again, that might have been a factor of the price tag and our own depleted farm system. I mean, would you have wanted to give up Cade Cavalli or Jackson Rutledge for a month of a #3 starter hitting free agency after the season? Hell no. Meanwhile on the field, the team has been frisky this week, but (as of this writing on 9/11/20) remain 5.5 games out of a wild card spot and still projected for either the #6 or #7 overall pick next July.
Brittany notes the same thing: the lack of moves at the trade deadline tipped their hand.

Q: Any insight on moves Rizzo should consider in 2021 free agency?
A: man, it exhausts me to even start considering this. But here’s 2 minutes on their FA outlook. Using COTS site, they are set to lose Eaton, Sanchez, Doolittle, Suzuki, Kendrick, Thames, Holt, Cabrera, Zimmerman and Freeman to FA (yes some of these guys have options but … right now its hard to see any of these options exercised).

So that means the team is in need of: 1-2 Starting pitchers, a corner OF, two veteran lefty relievers, a starting quality catcher, and a big chunk of their infield depth. Assuming they go young in 2021 the infield could be anchored by Kieboom, Turner and Garcia, so they’d be in the market for a 1B/DH platoon, plus a couple of utility guys who can move around. So, not a ton but also some work to do. the have $126M committed before arb raises of roughly $25M (could be more depending on how much Soto gets), so that leaves about $50M of FA room to work with. We can’t get a good SP and a solid catcher for that, but we should be able to get the edges covered.

Brittany repeats the same list of players, and says the priorities will be similar to what I put.

Nats do absolutely nothing at Trade Deadline

12 comments

https://www.mlb.com/nationals/news/nationals-no-trades-2020-trade-deadline

The Nats on 8/31/20 are 12-20.  They have the second worst record in the NL.  They have the 5th worst record in the majors.  But thanks to the crazy 2020 playoff structure they sit just 3.5 games out of a Wild Card spot.  They’ve had season-ending injuries or opt-outs of multiple planned core players; they’ve lost to presumed rotation members in Joe Ross and Stephen Strasburg, they’ve lost a middle-of-the-order off-season acquisition bat in Starlin Castro.  They’ve lost both their lefty specialist relievers in Roenis Elias and Sam Freeman.  They lost an important bench bat/team leader in Ryan Zimmerman.  They’re now throwing out AAA starters twice every five games, and have had severely disappointing seasons from a slew of players they were counting on (Anibel Sanchez, Adam Eaton, Carter Kieboom, Eric Thames, Daniel Hudson, Sean Doolittle, and so on).

So what did they do at the deadline?  Zip.  Nothing.  Nada.

Maybe the farm system is now so utterly depleted (given that they’ve already called up their consensus #1, #2, #5 and #10 prospects on the year with little impact) that they couldn’t offer enough in trade to actually acquire someone they wanted.   Perhaps more to the point, the price tag it would have taken to acquire starters (given the spate of pitcher injuries this year and the competition in the area) may have been too high for the team’s taste (how pissed would you be if they had flipped someone like Jackson Rutledge or Cade Cavalli yesterday for a 3rd starter one-month rental?).   It seems foolish to think they have the cavalry coming in to help; right now the only 10-day DL player they have is Seth Romero, who is only up because they needed a lefty bullpen arm.  Brock Holt?  That’s not a savior.  Neither is Josh Harrison (though to be honest he has hit well).  So I guess the plan is to assume that all those veterans listed above who have sucked so far are short sample size regression to the mean candidates and they’ll be rebounding … within the next few days?

Meanwhile, the rest of the division at least tried to improve:

Not earth shattering moves, but it is notable that the Braves lead the division with a rotation that’s being held together with scotch tape, and they just acquired Milone to fill in because he’s better than whatever else they apparently have at their disposal (remember when people shuddered at the pipeline of starters in the Atlanta system?  yeah’ they’ve all crapped the bed this year).

So, what to make of this?  Are you happy they did nothing?  did we want a sell-off?  Or do we have confidence they can turn it around and squeak into the crap-shoot playoffs for 2020?

Strasburg done for season; is this the dagger that ends the Nats in 2020?

58 comments

Will Crowe gets the call.   Photo via SportsTalk

Will Crowe gets the call. Photo via SportsTalk

Word today that Strasburg is having surgery on his wrist and is heading to 60-day DL, effectively ending his season.  Wil Crowe becomes the latest Nats top-10 prospect (behind Kieboom, Garcia, Romero ) to get called up this season and attempt to keep the team afloat.  By most rankings, the Nats current #1, #2, and #4 prospects are now active (plus wherever you think Romero ranks, anywhere between 10 and 14 on most boards).  Suddenly its looking like a youth movement in Washington.  (side note: our farm system is going to be dead last next year if all these guys exhaust rookie eligiblity).

Is Strasburg’s injury unsurpassable for this team?  Eh, probably not; he was already hurt but in his absence the team is sputtering along playing about .400 ball.

Of course, in the 2020 crazy season, .400 ball only puts them like a game out of the wild card.  Eight teams out of the NL make it, meaning that ST Louis (currently sitting at 7-8) is in playoff position.  So the Nats at 9-13 are … 1.5 games back?  My math is a little fuzzy on “games back” logic right now given differing numbers of games played.  So a weekend sweep suddenly rockets the team back into play off position.

The larger question is this: The Nats are losing piece after piece, and I wonder how long they conintue to hold on.  Both lefty relievers are done, their #2 starter done, their FA second baseman signing done.   They were already down a 5th starter thanks to Joe Ross‘ opt out.  I mean, i’m glad to see all these prospets coming up; its great to be able to actually see these guys play.  But man, can this team hold on?

Luckily for the Nats … the “class” of the division (Atlanta) is just 4 games ahead, and themselves seem to be falling apart too.  Maybe its a race of attrition until October.

Written by Todd Boss

August 22nd, 2020 at 3:19 pm

Holy Cow Romero has been called up!

38 comments

Romero gets the call. Photo via milb.com

Romero gets the call. Photo via milb.com

 

I first saw this tidbit on Keith Law‘s chat today and was kind of shocked.  Then i confirmed it via the nats transaction page; Seth Romero has been called up.  Thanks to a spate of injuries and ineffectiveness-driven-dl trips (ahem Sean Doolittle), the Nats bullpen suddenly has zero left handers, and Romero has reportedly been impressing the Nats brass in Fredericksburg.

So he’s up.  Big board updated as well as the Draft tracker for all our still-signed draftees (everyone is now either Washington, Fredericksburg or XST for 2020).

So, part of me is not entirely surprised at this move … despite his limited minor’s experience, he’s rule-5 eligible this coming off-season (as is all the rest of the college-aged 2017 draftees, most notably Wil Crowe), so it seemed  highly likely that the team would be adding him at some point anyway.  He’s far enough past the deadline to ensure an extra year of control.  And they have a need.  I suppose they could have tapped a few of the other options they have in Fredericksburg (Matt Cronin and Nick Wells are both lefty and both relievers) … but having Romero up seems to give a higher-ceiling guy in the pen.

I gotta say; quite a turn of fortune for Romero after all he’s gone through.  Can’t wait to see him throw against real MLB hitters.

this by the way makes for the following roster chagnes:

  • 28/28 on active roster: Freeman, Doolittle to DL, Harris back, Romero called up.
  • 38/40: Romero added to 40-man
  • 57/60 on extended; no change here.

Written by Todd Boss

August 13th, 2020 at 2:02 pm

Nats 28-man, 40-man and 60-man announcement observations

148 comments

Romero back in consideration.  Photo via UHcougars.com

Romero back in consideration. Photo via UHcougars.com

Nats have announced their 60-man roster for the new, weird 2020 season, and the announcement has all sorts of new and weird names.

As I’ve updated the Big Board for all these moves, here’s some observations about those names added surprisingly, and those equally surprisingly left behind.

First off; the team has named their “28-man” roster and we have some telling facts as to who did and did not make it

  • SP: Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, ASanchez, JRoss, Voth
  • RP: Doolittle*, Hudson, Harris, Rainey, Suero, Elias*, Harper, AWilliams
  • C: Suzuki, Gomes
  • INF: Turner, Cabrera, Kendrick, Castro, Thames, Zimmerman, Difo, CKieboom
  • OF: Eaton, Robles, Soto, Taylor
  • 60-day DL: Sanchez (achilles)

So, we first see the end of the original spring training “battles.”  Austin Voth has indeed beaten out Erick Fedde for the 6th starter spot.  Austen Williams has held off other 40-man guys like Aaron Barrett and newly acquired Kyle Finnegan for the last bullpen spot.  Wilmer Difo was gifted the last utility man spot over Adrian Sanchez, who apparently has torn his Achilles Heel and probably mises the entire season.  And lastly (no real suprise here but) Michael Taylor has apparently beaten out Andrew Stevenson for the 4th outfielder spot.  No other real surprises here.

This leaves the remaining 10 players who are on the “40-man” but not on the active 28-man roster:

  • SP: Fedde, McGowin, Braymer*
  • RP: Finnegan, Barrett, Bourque
  • C: Read, Barrera
  • INF: Noll
  • OF: Stevenson

So right now the 40-man sits at 38 players.

Next, we have this new list of players now on the “60-man” roster.   Here’s a nice primer on how the 60-man roster will work, but in essence the 60-man pool defines who can and cannot play on the major league team in 2020, and 60-man additions/removals now involve waivers as if they were already 40-man players.

So, who is now on the Nats’ 60-man roster?  A whole slew of original 2020 Spring Training NRIs plus a bunch of new ones.  Here’s the list by position:

  • SP: Cate*, Crowe, Espino, Fuentes, Irvin, Romero*, Rutledge
  • RP:  Abad, Adon, Bacus, Cronin*, Eppler, Freeman*,Guerra, Quackenbush, Wells*
  • C: Castillo, Reetz
  • Inf: Garcia, Snyder
  • OF: Bonifacio, Hernandez

So that’s another 22 players on top of the 38 40-man guys, equaling exactly 60 players.  Nine of these players had to be newly-invited to spring training (see the june transactions for these players), and they all happened to be arms.  Here’s some thoughts on these 9 newly invited players.

  • Joan Adon; may seem like a curious choice, but he’s Rule5-eligible this coming off-season (a 2016 IFA) and showed some promise as a full time starter last year in Hagerstown.
  • Tim Cate has impressed so far, forcing a promotion last year to high-A.  He’s only ever started for the team, but as an undersized lefty may be a bullpen piece at some point going forward.  He’s the kind of guy who could feature in the MLB pen this year before returning to the rotation next summer in AA.
  • Tyler Eppler was a MLFA signing who was pretty effective as a starter in AAA in 2018, then missed all of last year.  I’ll bet he could be a spot starter or middle relief guy right now in the majors.
  • Jake Irvin could be a bit of an aggressive invitee; he only pitched at Low-A last year and I’m not sure he’s ready for MLB hitters.  He’s not in rule-5 jeopardy for another year; a curious call-up.
  • Jackson Rutledge is another perhaps pre-mature call-up; he was our 2019 1st rounder and only threw 37 pro innings last  year.  Do they really plan on featuring him in the majors this year?
  • Matt Cronin was basically unhittable last year, giving up just 2 runs in 22 innings in his pro debut at Low-A … but it was Low-A.  Of course, he is a reliever and may be able to feature in short stints effectively, but he is some what surprising to see called up here.
  • Steven Fuentes is a favorite among Nats prospect-watchers, who missed time last summer thanks to a PED suspension but still put up stellar numbers and somehow passed through rule5 after showing some pretty dominant stuff there.
  • Seth Romero is who he is; we’ve all drawn our lines in the sand with him.  He’s likely here because of the investment the team has made in him, and the fact that he’ll be rule5 eligible this off-season.  I sense the team is rapidly attempting to figure out just what they have with the guy before they consider whether to protect him on the 40-man roster next fall.
  • Nick Wells is another interesting call up; he’s through six pro seasons now and has yet to get out of A-ball.  But he’s a lefty and perhaps the team sees some lefty reliever in him.

——

Lastly, here’s some of the players who did NOT get added to the 60-man (at least not yet; If i understand the rules correctly they can be added later, but someone else on 60-man then has to correspondingly be dumped):

  • Original 2020 NRIs like Jacob Wilson, Carlos Tocci, Taylor Gushue, Brian Bonnell and Jhonatan German: most of these guys are still under contract, but a couple (Tocci and Bonnell) were MLFAs and might be on the cut line.
  • Other MLFA signings who didn’t make the cut, guys like Jecksson Flores and rule5 addition Manuel Geraldo; wonder where they stand going forward.
  • Mario Sanchez; after all the consternation of whether to protect him, and whether he was a MLFA or not … he’s not on the 60-man
  • A slew of long-serving minor league farm hand hitters, guys like Cole FreemanNick BanksRafael Bautista, Rhett Wisemann; what does the future hold for these guys?
  • Jackson Tetreault; he was so good in high-A but struggled in AA, and is passed over for guys who didn’t even make it to high-A last year.  He’s also rule5 eligible; not that I think he’s in jeopardy of being taken, but I wonder where he stands with the org now.
  • Drew Mendoza: he’s gotta be loving the new DH rule; if he’s the hitter he’s supposed to be, why isn’t he in camp somewhere?

————

Good to have some moves to analyze.

 

 

Written by Todd Boss

June 29th, 2020 at 10:39 am

Posted in Nats in General

Do we really think there’s going to be a season?

9 comments

I alluded to this in comments on the previous thread…. but it is a question worth asking.

Here’s the rough timeline for the 2020 season:

  • Friday, June 26: Transactions freeze ends at noon ET
  • Sunday, June 28: Teams must submit 60-man player pool names by 3 p.m. ET
  • Wednesday, July 1: Teams report to Training Camp 2.0
  • Friday, July 24: New Opening Day
  • Monday, August 31: Trade deadline (usually July 31)
  • Tuesday, September 15: Players must be on big league roster to be eligible for postseason

So, notably, here we sit not even to July 1 yet, and we have the following issues:

MLB has a plan, of course.  And true to MLB fashion, its vague and arguable throughout.  Per the “contingency plan” they can stop the season if:

  1.  if restrictions on travel throughout the country are imposed;
  2. if the season poses “an unreasonable health and safety risk to players or staff to stage those games,”; and
  3. if the competitive integrity of the season is compromised by the number of players who are available.

Those aren’t “or” clauses; they’re “and” clauses.  Meaning all 3 need to take effect.  #2 in particular seems particularly vague enough to basically never be agreed as being true by the 35-40% of this country that still seems to think this pandemic is a joke or a media invention.

I mean, what do you do if the virus hits a team and knocks out a third of their roster?  You can’t possibly ask them to keep playing with a bunch of minor leaguers.  That clearly compromises the integrity of the season.  Meanwhile, we already have players like our own Ryan Zimmerman make pretty cogent arguments that they’re in really tough spots personally to expose themselves to three months of high-risk travel and group settings (If you’re Zimmerman, with an immuno-compromised parent and a small child at home … what would YOU do?)

I dunno.  I think its a frigging mess.  As much as I like baseball and want a season to discuss and analyze, as much as I want to see Max Scherzer vs Gerritt Cole on opening day … part of me thinks we’re gonna get to mid-July and there’s going to be huge roadblocks to play.   We’ll see I suppose.

When our 60-man roster is announced i’ll do another post to talk about it.

 

Post-publishing addition: I completely forgot to add in concerns  about (some of which was mentioned in the comments):

  • our foreign players actually being able to fly HERE
  • our foreign players actually being allowed to fly home.
  • state-based flying restrictions just announced.
  • the fact that the DC mayor has apparently banned large gatherings and the Nats may not be able to train at home.

just so many issues.

Written by Todd Boss

June 28th, 2020 at 8:33 am

Nats 2020 Draft class by the Ranks

31 comments

Cade Cavalli is your 2020 1st round pick. Photo via Lookout Landing blog

Cade Cavalli is your 2020 1st round pick. Photo via Lookout Landing blog

(note: i have updated the Draft Tracker for the 2020 draft, both the master board and the 2020 draft notes boards).

  • Master Draft Board: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Qd5DS9GlmkQOEh_zGhOvlhHK0EegqY1uJB4mLGmRBaY/#gid=0
  • 2020 Draft worksehhet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Qd5DS9GlmkQOEh_zGhOvlhHK0EegqY1uJB4mLGmRBaY/#gid=25540806

(I have more details about signing bonus calculus and player notes/twitter accounts on the 2020 worksheet, in case you’re wondering why i separate them).

By now, you’ve probably heard about our picks and read a ton of responses in the commentary.

Using various pundit draft board rankings (listed at the bottom for reference), here’s how our picks were thought of before the draft.  Along with some commentary from me.

  • 1st Round/#22 overall: Cade Cavalli, RHP Oklahoma.   Law=13.  MLBPipeline=22.  BA=22.  Fangraphs=17.  ESPN=24.  CBS=16.  D1Baseball=9.  20/80=23.  PerfectGame=8.

So, picking 22nd the Nats generally seem to have gotten value per the pundits.  Certainly this wasn’t a reach.  And, by some pundits (Law in particular, Perfect Game as well) this was a steal.

My thoughts: well, we know the Nats like college arms, velocity, big guys and players from Texas/Oklahoma.  Cavalli hits all those markers.  I was sure they’d go Cole Wilcox or perhaps J.T. Ginn but the team passed to go with Cavalli.  ironically, Wilcox didn’t go until the 3rd round, so the Nats passed on  him multiple times, while Ginn went just before their 2nd round pick to the Mets, a like-minded drafting org.  Cavalli is a speculative, scouting-first pick; he has little track record to go on, and this is the kind of pick that you can regret later on if he doesn’t work out.  He was mostly a hitter his freshman year before converting to the mound.  Maybe the team tries him as a two-way player?  He’s a big dude; he looks more like a football player physically.  Nonetheless, he’s got easy velocity and his mechanics look clean.  Some concerns about hit-ability; wonder if he has some spin rate issues.  A professional pitching development shop can do wonders with him.

  • 2nd round/#55 overall: Cole Henry, RHP LSU.  Law=65.  MLBPipeline=45.  BA=44.  Fangraphs=70.  ESPN=72.  CBS > 50..  D1Baseball=16.  20/80=55.

So, a couple of the ranking boards like Henry at 55, while a couple others (Law, Fangraphs, Espn) think its a bit of a reach.  Draft eligible sophomore, so I wonder if this is a potential over-slot bonus guy.  He was LSU’s friday starter from the moment he walked onto campus, quite a statement for a top-line baseball program.  He has an electric arm, four plus pitches (4-seamer, 2-seamer, a 12-6 hammer curve, change).  I’ve watched the video of him; scouting claims that he had such a violent head snap that he “had difficulties keeping his hat on” seem quite overblown; I didn’t see anywhere near that in the video clips of him available online.  I like this pick as a sneaky good starter for this team.  Interesting player comp mentioned by MLBpipeline during the draft: Mike Mussina

  • 2nd-Supp round/#71 overall: Samuel Infante, SS from Monsignor Edward Pace HS, Miami, FL.   MLBPipeline=149.  BA=154.  ESPN=122, Fangraphs=173.

This is an interesting pick for the Nats.  Clearly an overdraft by every ranking pundit, the scouting reports on Infante all say the same thing; lots of loud power in showcases, questions as to whether he can stay at short (he’s played both SS and 3B in showcases), but super fast and with a great arm.  Listed as 6’1″ 185, he’s still in the SS range and with plus arm strength he could very well feature as a top of the line 3B defensive player.  A UMiami commit from a Miami high school; i wonder if that factors into their thinking.  Did the Nats cut a deal here with Infante based on his projection to get slot savings?   One other factor here; he’s already 19, so he’s old for the HS class (a negative in scouting world) but also means he’d be a draft eligible sophomore if he goes to Miami (which might make his signing tougher).  Curious pick.  MLBPipeline guys comped him to Maikel Franco, an interesting comp.

  • 3rd Round/#94 overall: Holden Powell, RHP from UCLA.  MLBpipeline=134.  BA=126.  ESPN=144.  D1Baseball=77.  20/80=HM.

Powell is UCLA’s closer; stopper of the year last year.  He’s got no chance to start but still got ranked in the mid 100s by several shops.  The Nats havn’t picked a reliever-first this high in quite a while (Drew Storen maybe?) , and I suspect we’ll get some bonus savings here to help pay others here.  He projects as a two-pitch guy  with a FB hitting 97 and a wipeout slider who probably moves pretty quickly through the minors if he’s as good as reported.  20 Ks’ in 9 innings this season; he’s just got tough stuff to hit facing him in the late-game.  Can go multiple innings, undersized guy on the mound with kind of whippy arm action.  I don’t hate the pick, if its meant to be cost savings for other picks.

  • 4th round/#123 overall: Brady Lindsly, C from Oklahoma.  unranked by any service

With all due respect, Lindsly is clearly a “senior sign” by the team to save slot money for others.  I’m suspecting that both this and the Powell pick are money savers to pay Infante and Henry a bit more than slot (both those players being higher leverage guys to go to/return to school).  What little we know about Lindsly; known for good defense, didn’t have a great average in college,  hit for a bit of power.  Lefty bat.  As others noted, maybe the team liked him while scouting Cavalli.   Its also notable that he’s already calling himself a member of the Nats organization on his twitter account.

  • 5th round/#153 overall: Mitchell Parker, LHP from San Jacinto College North JuCo in Texas.   BA=179.

16.6 K/9 this year in 30 innings this year.  Last year 1.43 ERA with similar K/9 numbers.  In case you’re wondering … yes this is the same Juco they got Jackson Rutledge out of last year; one has to wonder if the scouts stuck around for a double header or something while scouting Rutledge and liked Parker.  Oddly, despite great numbers last year he was only a 27th rounder and thus has been pursuing D1 scholarships: he’s committed to U of Kentucky for next season if he doesn’t sign.  Big guy (6’4″), lefty who throws over the top.  He’s known for fastball up to 94 with a big curve.  His mechanics are a little concerning; he lands very stiff legged and almost hyper extends his knee as he stops his upper torso’s momentum.  I feel like this needs to be adjusted to prevent over-dependence on his arm.  Might be a tougher sign; i wonder if some of the 3rd and 4th round savings are for Parker too.

Draft summary:

  • 3 college starters
  • 1 college reliever
  • 1 Prep SS/3B
  • 1 Prep C

Conjecture on over/under slot needs:

  • Players who are likely signing for slot: Cavalli, perhaps Henry
  • Players who are likely under slot: Powell, Lindsly
  • Players who are likely commanding over-slot: Infante, Parker, maybe Henry

I have no doubt they’ll sign all six based on the limited draft.  Mike Rizzo has also said they’ll be “aggressive” with NDFA signings … as aggressive as a $20k bonus can take you of course.

I like our first two picks as future prospects.  I like the prep SS.  I could see our 5th rounder as a project but he has potential.  I like the class.

 

Draft Board Rankings

2020 Nats Minor Leaguer purge announced

27 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notable/Surprise releases for me:

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

Stating the obvious.

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

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

——-

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

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