Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for September, 2013

Mariano Rivera: a moving last appearance

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Rivera's last Yankee Apperance.  Photo Jim McIsaac/Long Island Newsday.

Rivera’s last Yankee Apperance. Photo Jim McIsaac/Long Island Newsday.

As cool and awesomely thought out as it was for the Yankees to get Metallica to perform a live version of Mariano Rivera‘s signature walk-on song Enter Sandman earlier this week, this was even cooler; Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte coming out to pull him from his last home game.  The 5 minute ovation was great, but I gotta admit this video is pretty moving.  You’re not a baseball fan if you’re not a least a little choked up here.

A legend moves on.  The greatest reliever by any measure (opinion or stats) will set the bar pretty high going forward for any hall-of-fame calibre closer to achieve once he’s enshrined.

Written by Todd Boss

September 30th, 2013 at 4:33 pm

The One-game playoff before the One-game playoff

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Tampa or Texas tonight, who you got?  Gut check says Tampa.  Reasons:

Pro Tampa:

  • David Price is going to give his team a better chance of winning than Martin Perez.  Overall pedigree, last couple of starts, big-game experience all favor Price over the rookie Perez.  Texas blew their ace (Darvish) last night.
  • Texas’s schedule is just a ton easier than Tampa’s, meaning Tampa is just a better team. Texas had ten more intra-division wins than Tampa did thanks to a 17-2 season series over the hapless Houston Astros.  Frankly. Tampa is probably at least 5-6 games better than Texas had they played even schedules.

Points of note that favor neither side:

  • Both teams hit lefties well (they’re ranked 3rd and 5th in the majors in BA vs lefties), so this isn’t likely to be a 1-0 nailbiter.

Pro Texas:

  • Texas has the travel advantage; they’ve been at home for more than a week.  Tampa meanwhile hasn’t seen home in a week, having played in NY and Toronto their last two series, and now they have to travel to Dallas for the do-or-die.
  • Texas took the season series 4-3, wining 2 of 3 at home very early in the season.
  • As David Schoenfield points out, Price is not good historically versus the Rangers.

We’ll see though.  These coin-flip games are tough to predict.

I tell you, the Tampa guys may be pretty exhausted by the end of this week if everything plays out for them.  If they win all the way through to the divisional series, they will have flown to New York, played 3, then flown to Toronto to play 3, flown to Texas to play 1, then flown to Cleveland to play 1, then flown to Boston to start the Divisional series on October 4th.  That’s a lot of miles in a week and a half.

Whoever wins has to be disadvantaged at Cleveland.

Full MLB playoff schedule at

Written by Todd Boss

September 30th, 2013 at 10:45 am

Ladson Inbox 9/26/13


Could the team deal LaRoche to improve at 1st? Photo Rob Carr/Getty Images via

Could the team deal LaRoche to improve at 1st? Photo Rob Carr/Getty Images via

Phew.  I was running out of things to talk about lately.  Well, other than the ridiculous John Feinstein article this week or perhaps a missive on what a bunch of a-holes the Atlanta Braves seem to be.  The federal end of year cycle has consumed all my time recently, so I’ve been late to post end-of-season minor league pitcher reviews.  We’ll get there; its a long winter.

But thankfully a gift arrived via an unexpected Bill Ladson inbox dated 9/26/13.  Lets see what questions Ladson took this time around.  As always, I write my response here before reading his and edit questions for clarity.

Q: How disappointed were you in the 2013 Nationals?

A: Not so much disappointing as frustrating; when you’ve claimed “World Series or Bust” and your team isn’t gelling correctly, why not try to do more to fix the problem mid-season?  What was the sum total of the changes this team tried to make after it was clear the team was consistently playing .500 ball?  Replace a hitting coach?  Demote a couple guys who deserved demoting?  Trade for a 25th guy/bench player?  I dunno.  Why massively increase payroll and sign luxury players like $15M closers and then do nothing when the team is clearly mired in a malaise for 4/5ths of the season?  Ladson says he was disappointed too.

Q: What do you consider the team’s greatest need in the offseason?

A: A better question may be this: where *can* you upgrade this team as it sits now?  There’s not a single starting fielder who is a FA or who really needs to be replaced.  The two worst performing hitters (Span and LaRoche) are both under contract for 2014.  I’ve already seen quotes that say that Rendon will have “competition” for 2nd base next spring; from who exactly?  Lombardozzi and his 68 OPS+ or Espinosa and his 27 OPS+?  Right.  How about the starters?  The 3 main guys are not going anywhere.  Getting rid of Detwiler would be selling very low.  It seems clear from the FA market and from the Haren experience that the team should have a #5 starter competition between RoarkJordan and Karns.   How about the bullpen?  Not really; maybe you tweak it and find a 5th or 6th guy who may pitch better than Mattheus did this year, but by and large the bulk of it already seems set (Soriano, Clippard, Stammen all seem like locks, Storen will be given a chance to rebound, one from Ohlendorf/Roark probably fits in nicely as a long-man, and your lefties Abad and Krol have both been good).  So you’re left with bullpen scrubs and the bench.  Not exactly high-impact spots to improve.

I was talking about this with friends recently; one thing I’d do if I was GM would be to sign Shin-Soo Choo.  He posted a .424 OBP with 21 homers for Cincinnati from the leadoff position this year.  Career .389 OBP.  You put him in LF (since his defense in center is atrocious) and install Harper in center where he belongs.  Dump Span somewhere, anywhere.  Instantly you get power and a significantly improved OBP at the top of your order.  The knocks on Choo are that he’s older (30 this year), that he doesn’t hit lefties (true … but his OBP split versus lefties is STILL higher than Span’s season long OBP, even given the run he’s had the last 6 weeks), and that he’ll be expensive.  A move like this likely never happens; Choo will command probably 4/$40M or more, and I doubt the team wants to pay him that much or block an OF spot given the guys coming up.

I wonder if we’re not going to see something bigger and unexpected happen.  A big trade that opens up a spot and lets the players move around.  Or a big FA signing that forces a trade of one of these entrenched players.  Because otherwise its hard to see how this team dramatically improves this off-season.   Ladsons says the team needs dependable loogies, bench and the back of the rotation.  Safe, obvious statements.

Q: Do you think Adam LaRoche will be traded after this season?

A: I don’t see it; I think LaRoche is a team favorite.  Rizzo wants plus-defenders manning the positions and that’s how he views LaRoche.  But here’s a dirty secret; LaRoche wasn’t that great this year defensively at 1st.  His UZR/150 was negative, he was ranked 18th among first basemen with more than 500 innings at the position this year, and only slightly better than the very sedentary Ryan Howard and equally glacial Chris Davis on the year.  And we have all seen his throwing arm; accurate but weak.  But if you jettison LaRoche, who’s taking him after he hit just .230 this year?  And who are you replacing him with?  The FA crop is weak; who on that list would you want?  Mike Napoli maybe?  He can rake … but he also probably earned himself a ton of dough with his performance in Boston this year.   Ladson says LaRoche is going nowhere.

Q: Why don’t the Nationals sign Michael Morse? He has been injured, and they could get him for a cheap price.

A: …. and they’d play him, where exactly?  He can play left field and first base, and last time I checked we’ve got those positions covered.  I like Michael Morse like every one in DC else but he was *awful* this year.  And he picked an awful time to do it; age 31, in a contract year, playing in the relative media obscurity of Seattle.  If he had just hit a couple bombs down the stretch for Baltimore, maybe that would have helped.  Now you have to wonder if he’s just looking at a minor league deal.  Would the team consider him for a bench role?  Probably not, he likely still considers himself a starter and may not handle the bench well.  Ladson says it isn’t happening.

Q: Is Cal Ripken Jr. managing the Nats next year just a rumor or a realistic possibility?

A: Just a rumor.  What experience does Ripken have managing?  He’s not like other former players like Don Mattingly (who cut his chops watching the great Joe Torre for years in New York) or Ryne Sandberg (who worked his way up the minors and earned his job in Philadelphia).  I’d be worried about him being completely out of his element.  What proof is there that he can handle a pitching staff or manage a game?  Give me a serious, experienced, no-nonsense guy to manage this team and get the guys in line after this year’s season-long drift.  Give me Matt Williams.  Ladson says it isn’t going to be Ripken.

Q: Do the Nats have any interest in signing Robinson Cano?

A: Not at these prices; he reportedly wants 10yrs/$305M!!  And already turned down 6/$144M.  Phew.   I wouldn’t pay him $24M/year in his decline years.  He’s no doubt a great player; is he that good?  Whoever signs him (Dodgers?) is going to really, really regret any deal longer than 6 years.  Well, unless it IS the Dodgers, who may make a complete mockery of the game in the next few years in terms of payroll.  Fun fact: The Dodgers already are committed to $165M in payroll next year … for just ELEVEN players.  They still have to handle arbitration for Clayton Kershaw (who may command $20M) and fill out the rest of the lineup.    Ladson also mentions this contract demand.

Q: How about Jayson Werth as player-manager next year? It worked for the Senators, after all, with Bucky Harris and Joe Cronin.

A: Well, if we don’t Cal Ripken can manage, what makes you think Werth has any such qualifications either?  Baseball has come an awfully long way from the days where teams thought a player/manager was a workable idea.  Now a-days, the money involved and egos involved almost necessitate an experienced, veteran guy for nearly every team.  Ladson thinks Werth would make a great manager.

Q: What do you think is the main cause of the Nats’ struggles this season, and do you think they will be better next year?

A: (see upcoming blog post that I’ll hit “publish” on when the season is over).  Ladson says in order injuries, bullpen, bench, and St. Louis.

Q: At this point, how would you handicap the likely 2014 Nats managerial candidates?

A: Who knows.  Is this really the pressing issue on the minds of Nats fans like Ladson makes it out to be?   Somehow I don’t think its going to be anyone on the current field staff (sorry Randy Knorr).  I think it will be either a big-name manager who gets the axe this off-season unexpectedly (Mike Scioscia or Joe Girardi would be decent choices) or a former player that Rizzo knows (which is why I keep coming back to Matt Williams).  Ladson says Knorr is the leader but also mentions Williams and Trent Jewett.


Reaction to John Feinstein’s ridiculous article


John Feinstein, a guy whose opinions on things I used to read and look forward to, completely lost my respect with his ridiculous Sept 25th column where he argues, somehow, without anything in the way of proof, that the 2012 Stephen Strasburg shutdown affected the 2013 team.  He lost most of my respect last year with a similarly ridiculous article (discussed further on) but this one took the cake.

This column was so bad that the mild-mannered Adam Kilgore felt the need to post a rebuttal, to his own Washington Post colleague, online soon after it was posted.

This column was so bad that noted Nats troller Craig Calcaterra of HardballTalk (who has clearly criticized the team for the 2012 shutdown) lambasted the article in this blog.’s Ted Leavengood posted a similar critique.

This column was so bad that when asked for a response, Davey Johnson called Feinstein “an idiot” during a radio appearance.

Do you know when the last time Feinstein wrote an article about baseball was?  Take a guess.  Yup; October 13th, 2012, the day after the Nats were knocked out of the NLDS, in a clearly canned article the he probably wrote in late August waiting for the Nats to lose in the playoffs.  Go back and read the 2012 article and see how awful it was as well; dripping with lazy sportswriter narrative and with not one mention or occurence of these key words: doctor, injury, medical or rehab.  You know, all the words that were key reasons as to why Strasburg was shutdown in the first place.

My opinion on this is pretty clear (most succinctly stated in this article titled “Innings Limits and Media Hypocrisy” earlier this year); if you want to criticize the Nats decision to shutdown Strasburg, then you HAVE to similarly criticize all the other “shutdowns” of pitchers we see.  If you don’t, then you’re a hypocrite; the placement of the team in the standings should NOT dictate medically-driven decisions for a 24-year old.  What really gets me is writers like Feinstein who don’t even bother to address the medical reasoning for the shutdown and act like its 1950.  Thankfully Feinstein doesn’t have a Hall of Fame vote or else he’d be posting drivel like what we get out of Murray Chass and making inane arguments about why the modern revolution of statistics is “stupid” and “ruining the sport.”

Feinstein needs to stick to his little niche of College Basketball with occasional complaints about how the PGA tour has screwed him, and keep his nose out of sports that he clearly doesn’t understand.



Written by Todd Boss

September 25th, 2013 at 9:19 am

August-September 2013: Minor League Monthly Rotation Review


Roark is our ML inspirational story of the year.  Photo via

Roark is our ML inspirational story of the year. Photo via

Here’s the final Minor League Rotation Review post for the season (Here’s April 2013May 2013, June 2013 and July 2013‘s posts for historical viewing).  Since the minor league seasons mostly end right after the Labor Day weekend, this post actually includes a few days in September for each non-playoff team.  We’ll also include the playoff starts for those teams that made it, which has pushed this post well into September (and very late) to include all the playoff starts for our many minor league playoff teams.

For each level, I’ll put out the rotation members, their “letter grades” per start for this month only, and then throw in a quick link to show their seasonal stats for context.  For each team there are 3 distinct groups of starters: the top group of 5-6 Starters per level is the “current rotation” as best as I can figure it, then the next section of pitchers are swing-men or spot-starters or guys who had “2nd start” or longer outings worthy of grading, followed by a 3rd group of guys who are generally no longer with the team (either by D/L, promotion, demotion or release).  I’ve only listed the third category if something transactionally has happened to the player this particular month.


AAA Rotation: click here for Syracuse stats

  • Rosenbaum: A,D,D,C+,B+,C+,C-
  • Maya: A,C,B+,C+,B+
  • Mandel:B,A,A,A,D+,B+
  • Clay: A,C+,A,B+,C,A
  • Tatusko: F/inc,F,A-,D,D,D-,D
  • Robertson: A-
  • Kimball: B
  • Roark: B- -> promoted
  • Ohlendorf: B+ (rehab)
  • Hill: C-,C- -> demoted back down post spot starts

Discussion: Syracuse drug itself to the finish line of a disappointing season withat least some stability in the rotation.  The 5 guys standing at the end were basically the rotation for the entire month.  Tanner Roark was rewarded for a great season by getting called up to provide some long relief in the MLB bullpen and 6 weeks later is now 7-0 with the best ERA for any pitcher with more than 40 innings in the entire MLB.   Roark’s trade-mate Ryan Tatusko really struggled down the stretch and finishes with a 4.33 ERA and a 1.58 whip on the season.  Meanwhile, Caleb Clay continues his career resurgence and may have put himself in place to pick his spot in MLFA next year (well, unless the Nats hold onto him by putting him on the 40-man, not a bad idea).  Jeff Mandel and Yunesky Maya pitched well while playing out the string; both are MLFAs and both may choose to look elsewhere.


AA: click here for Harrisburg stats

  • Karns: B+,A,D,A,C+,A,A+ (playoffs), F (playoffs)
  • Treinen: C+,A,F (playoff)
  • Cole: A+,C,C-,B-,A,C (playoff),C+ (playoff)
  • Hill: B -> up/down,A-,D,C+,A (playoff)
  • Ray: A,B,D,B-,D,A+,A+ (playoff)
  • Gilliam: D,D+,C-,D -> demoted to bullpen for Treinen?/spot starts?,A-
  • Swynenberg: D,B -> back to bullpen,B+

Discussion: Harrisburg played great down the stretch to reach the playoffs, then won a series before losing in the League Final.  Nathan Karns recovered from his to really pitch well in August and in the first round of the playoffs before getting hammered in the league final series.  Robbie Ray did nothing to damage his career advancement, pitching a gem in his playoff appearance.  Fellow HS phenom draftee A.J. Cole pitched well enough in the playoffs, good enough to get the wins each time.

High-A:  click here for Potomac stats

  • Purke: B,A,B,B+,C,A,C (playoff)
  • Demny: B+/weird game,D+,C+,C+,A,C
  • Mooneyham: F,D,F-,C (playoff)
  • Solis: A,D,C+,B,B-,F,A (playoff),F (playoff)
  • Schwartz: A,D+,A-,B-,A+,C,A+ (playoff)
  • Rauh B+,A,D-,C- (lost rotation spot to Mooneyham?)
  • Fischer: -> D/L
  • Bates A-
  • Holt: B+ (abbr)
  • Dupra: D-,A-
  • Ohlendorf | | | | D (rehab)

DiscussionBlake Schwartz was the most consistent of the starters for Potomac this month (and this season really).  Mooneyham struggled after his promotion but saved his best game for the playoffs.  Matthew Purke pitched decently in the month but his seasonal numbers remain poor.  Sammy Solis had a couple of dud outings, including his playoff appearance, but on the whole I think his 2013 is a success coming off surgery.  Paul Demny seems like he’s bound for the bullpen soon; he’s shown multiple times he cannot compete as a starter above the high-A level.


Low-A: click here for Hagerstown stats

  • Turnbull: B+,A-,A,B,B,A,B- (playoff),F (playoff)
  • Encarnation: C-,C,B+,B-,C+,B-,F,B (playoff)
  • Bacus: A,A+ (playoff long relief),D (playoff)
  • Voth: D+,A+,A (playoff)
  • Johansen: D,D,A (playoff)
  • RPena: B+,A-,A+ (playoff long relief)
  • Dickson: D-,D+,A,B+,A- -> demoted to bullpen for Bacus
  • Mooneyham: A,A+,A,A+ -> promoted
  • Lee: F,C+,A+,D,B+ -> d/l for Bacus

Discussion: I wonder how it played in the Hagerstown clubhouse that 3/5ths of their playoff rotation had been with the team less than 3 weeks?  Dakota Bacus especially; he was acquired, made one start and was a playoff starter.  Austin Voth and Jake Johansen were due promotions no doubt, but to immediately get thrown into the low-A playofs in place of guys who had worked longer and harder to get the Suns there seems, well, wrong.  Nonetheless, longer serving Sun pitchers such as Ronald Pena, Kylin Turnbull and Pedro Encarnacion (not Edwin, thanks to commenter Melissa) all finished off good seasons and will look at high-A next spring.


Short-A: click here for Auburn stats

  • Orlan: | | C+,A,C- | F-,B-,A,A,F | B,A,A-,D+,D,B+
  • Giolito: | | | | A,A,B
  • Selsor: | | B-,F,C+ | B,D,D -> demoted to bullpen | A,B+,D+
  • Pivetta: | | | | D,D,D -> demoted to bullpen for Selsor?/maybe not,B+,A
  • Ullmann: | | | F,B+ | B,D-,B+,C-
  • Simms: | | | | D+,F
  • Barrientos: F,F,F -> demoted to bullpen for Simms
  • DWilliams: F -> demoted
  • Voth: B+,A+,A+ -> promoted
  • Treinen: A/inc (rehab start),A+ (rehab)
  • Johansen: A-,A,A+ -> promoted
  • Young: A (rehab)

Discussion: Lots of ugly pitching lines for Auburn this year.  Casey Selsor and Nick Pivetta struggled to stay in the rotation, the team struggled to replace the production they got out of promoted starters Voth and Johansen, and the results showed on the field.  Robert Orlan was the staff-leader in innings and seems like a good bet for a full-season starter’s job next year.  The rest of this motley crue of starters leaves Auburn with ERAs in the 4s and 5s (or higher) and likely bullpen roles going forward.

GCL: click here for GCL-Nationals Stats on

  • JRodriguez: B+,C,C,D/inc,A-,B+ (playoff)
  • Silvestre: A-,A,A,A-,A+ (playoff)
  • Suero: A,A+,A+ (playoff)
  • Ott: B,A,A,B/inc
  • DWilliams: B+,D-,A
  • KRodriguez: D-,C
  • Valdez: C,B+
  • DeRosier: C,B
  • Waterman: B,B-
  • Sylvestri: A-
  • Reyes: D
  • Pivetta: promoted
  • Giolito: A,A,A -> promoted
  • Young: 2-inning rehab

GCL’s trio of dominant pitchers (Jefry RodriguezWander Suero and Hector Silvestre) powered the team to an easy GCL victory after its record breaking season.   Most of the rest of the staff had graded outings of chunks of like 3-4 innings, so it was difficult to really pass judgement on the chances of sticking as a starter.  Lucas Giolito of course earned his promotion to short-A at the end of the season and seems a good bet to be a low-A migrating to high-A starter in 2014.



11 games over .500, 4 1/2 games back.


For the most part, I gave up on this team in mid July.  Told my buddies they didn’t have it.  Still have the email to prove it.

Today they swept the best team in the NL throwing a guy who at one point was the worst qualified pitcher in the league by most statistical measures (Dan Haren) and throwing another guy who at one point this year was demoted out of the AAA rotation (Tanner Roark).  Roark and Haren combined for 13 innings and gave up a combined total of 1 run and 5 hits.  Amazing.

At what point do we say that Roark is more than just a fluke?  He’s now thrown 41 2/3 innings and given up 26 hits, 9 walks and 5 earned runs.  And gotten 7 wins.  As many as Stephen Strasburg, if you believe the “Win” statistic is indicative of anything.

Is there actually a chance after this team has underperformed so badly for 130 games that they could possibly make a race out of this?  Am I really going to check out the Reds’ remaining schedule tomorrow to see how tough it is?

Yeah I think so.

Written by Todd Boss

September 17th, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Season Statistical Review of all Nats 2012 draft picks


Lucas Giolito still leads the line of the Nats 2012 draft class. Photo unk via

Lucas Giolito still leads the line of the Nats 2012 draft class. Photo unk via

I recently did a John Sickels style review of all our 2013 draft picks.  And I thought it’d be fun to do the same for our 2012 draft class one year in (see here for the 2012 version of the post).  Lets check in to see how these guys are doing in their 2nd pro seasons.

As always; the Big Board and the Draft Tracker are the two best Nats prospect resources out there.   Thanks SpringfieldFan for doing all that you do.  Stats are pulled from and and are current as of the end of the regular minor league seasons.

Finally, at the end of each writeup i’ll put in a color coded trending line (my own opinion) for the player: Green for Trending Up, Blue for Trending steady, red for Trending Down.  

Round 1: (#16 overall) Lucas Giolito HS RH Starting pitcher: 2-1, 1.94 ERA with 39/14 k/bb in 36 2/3 innings, 28 hits mostly in the GCL.  All Nats prospect fans should know of Giolito’s status these days; he has come back from surgery, pitched effectively in the rookie league and was lights out in 3 starts in short-A (one run conceded in 14 innings).  Per comments and scouting reports his velocity is back, he seems healthy, and he could be just a season away from being breathlessly talked about as one of the best prospects in the game.  Should feature in full-season ball (likely starting in low-A with an eye for finishing in high-A) in 2014.  Trending Up.

Round 2(80) Tony Renda, Coll Jr 2B: .294/.380/.405 with 3 homers, 68 walks, 65 Ks in 521 ABs at Hagerstown.  Also was 30 for 36 on the basepaths.   Those are solid full season numbers.  I like that Renda makes a lot of contact; a K rate of just 12% on the year isn’t too bad.  Renda was a young college draftee (he turned 22 in January of this year), so he isn’t necessarily “too old” for Hagerstown.  He will continue to move up the food chain in 2014.  Trending Up.

Round 3(111) Brett Mooneyham, Coll Jr LH starting pitcher: 10-6, 3.19 ERA with 85/54 k/bb in 104 1/3 innings, 67 hits mostly for Hagerstown.  I was worried when Mooneyham couldn’t break the high-A roster, given his age and draft day pedigree.  He started out strong, endured a D/L stint, then dominated towards the end of the season, forcing a promotion.  In high-A?  Not so great; he had three awful starts to close out the season.  Mooneyham continues to “look” like a better pitcher than his numbers; he’s too wild, he doesn’t miss as many bats as you like, but he gets the job done (well, in low-A anyway).  Clearly he’s going to be in the Potomac Rotation for 2014; lets see how he does.  But i’m beginning to question his true “ceiling” in this organization; is he going to top out like a Danny Rosenbaum, a mediocre AAA starter?  Trending Steady.

Round 4: (144) Brandon Miller Coll Sr Corner OF: .255/.317/.457 with 20 homers, 41 walks, 164 strikeouts in 505 at bats splite between Hagerstown and Potomac.   His statline seemed to feature as a power hitting corner outfielder in Hagerstown: 18 homers in 103 games, a homer every 22 at-bats or so.  But then in Potomac he’s hit .300 with a .350 OBP and just two homers in 110 at-bats.  It could be a case of being slightly old for low-A: he turns 24 in a month’s time.  Either way, he really needs to cut down on the K’s; 164/505 equates with nearly a 33% strike-out rate.  That’s going to catch up to him unless he starts hitting 40 homers instead of 20.  Otherwise, he’s done nothing to jeopardize his continued rise up the system for 2014.  Trending Steady.

Round 5: (174) Spencer Kieboom, Coll Jr C: 6 at-bats in 4 games for the GCL Nats in late August; a lost season for Kieboom due to Tommy John surgery undergone in early 2013.  Since he’s not a pitcher, he returned to the field in less than a year’s time.  But he’s lost a year of development and now will compete with 2012 draftee catchers such as Geoff Parrott and rising DSL grads like Pedro Severino for playing time in the full-season A-ball teams in 2014.   Trending Down.

Round 6: (204) Hayden Jennings, HS OF/CF: .248/.313/.343 with 0 homers, 11 walks, 48 Ks in 137 at-bats while repeating the GCL in 2013.  Jennings struggled in his rookie league pro debut in 2012 and repeated the level, improving his OPS nearly 200 points.  He has improve upon a horrible strikeout rate but still is striking out 35% of the time.  That’s really not a good sign for the leadoff/CF guy he seems to project as right now; he needs to show a much higher OBP, put more balls in play, and do more on the basepaths (12 SBs in 44 games).   I think he gets moved up for 2014, but may really struggle in full-season ball.  Trending down.

Round 7(234) Robert Benincasa, Coll Jr. RH relief pitcher: 0-5 with 27 saves, 3.00 ERA with 64/14 K/BB in 51 IP, 45 hits split between Hagerstown and Potomac.  Benincasa has settled into a closer role, getting 10 saves for Hagerstown to open the season before earning a promotion to Potomac about halfway through the season and continuing as their closer.  His K/BB rate stayed high even with the promotion, though his ERA and hits/9 crept up a bit.  He seems set to move up to Harrisburg and could compete with Richie Mirowski for the AA closer role in 2014.  Trending up.

Round 8: (264) Stephen Perez, Coll Jr. SS: .248/.303/.326 with 4 homers, 11 walks, 40 Ks in 107 at-bats in low-A Hagerstown.  Wow; 107 strikeouts in 432 at-bats; 25%.  You just can’t have a 25% strikeout rate for a weak hitting, no power middle infielder.  These numbers were in line with his short-season numbers too.  He’s a college junior draftee from a very good baseball school (U of Miami) in low-A who looks like a draft bust right now.   Trending down.

Round 9: (294) Derek Self, Coll Sr. RH relief pitcher: 4-5 with 8 saves, 4.66 ERA with 49/16 K/BB in 56 IP, 64 hits split between Hagerstown and Potomac.  Self started in Potomac, had a 6.29 ERA in 23 apperances and was demoted mid-season to Hagerstown.  In low-A he had more respectable numbers but nothing eye-popping.  He was a low-bonus college senior draftee who’s struggling to make a mark in a league where he’s one of the older guys out there.  I could see him being a post-2014 spring training cut.   Trending down.

Round 10(324) Craig Manuel, Coll Sr C: .282/.364/.347 with 1 homer, 24 walks, 20 Ks in 170 at-bats mostly in low-A Hagerstown.  He missed a month mid-season, then was mostly the backup to Adrian Nieto in Hagerstown.   Unfortunately, a low-bonus college senior draftee who’s backing up guys in low-A probably isn’t long for the organization.  He may be a victim of the catcher numbers game at some point (though, that being said, the team only drafted one catcher in 2013; maybe he sticks around for a while).  Trending down.

Round 11(354) Brian Rauh, Coll Jr RH starter/reliever: 7-4, 4.50 ERA with 68/34 K/BB in 106 IP, 107 hits split between Hagerstown and Potomac.   An odd season for Rauh; he struggled in middle relief in low-A (posting a 5.21 ERA), then was promoted to Potomac, where he was installed as a starter.  He had 12 mostly mediocre starts (4.22 ERA) before being moved to the bullpen the last week of the season when Brett Mooneyham was promoted up.  Is he a starter?  Is he a reliever?  More time in the system is apparently needed; i’m guessing he begins in the bullpen in high-A next year.  Trending Steady.

Round 12(384) Carlos Lopez, Coll Sr 1B: .296/.441/.407 with 0 homers, 7 walks, 7 Ks in 27 at-bats in low-A Hagerstown.   Lopez went on the 7-day DL in mid-April after just 9 games and never came off.  I cannot find word of his injury.  But with newly drafted James Yezzo in the mix as a 1B-only draftee, Lopez has his work cut out for himself to retain his standing in the organization.   Especially considering that he was a College senior sign who is positionally limited and hasn’t shown much in the way of power at the professional level.  Trending down.

Round 13: (414) Elliott Waterman, Coll Jr LH reliever: 2-0, 2.96 ERA with 13/12 K/BB in 24 1/3 IP split between the two short season teams.  Waterman performed poorly in Short-A last year, did not make a full-season team out of camp, then got hammered again in his early outings for Auburn this year before getting demoted to rookie ball.  He pitched better in the GCL, eventually earning a call-back to Auburn but has not appeared since 8/31/13.  He’s still relatively young (does not turn 23 until November) and he’s a big tall lefty, but he’s putting too many guys on base and not getting enough swing and miss stuff to stick as a situational arm.  He may get one more spring training but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him cut loose if he doesn’t make a full-season team in 2014.  Trending down.

Round 14: (444) Jordan Poole, Juco-2 corner OF: .222/.278/.403 with 3 homers, 6 walks, 40 Ks in 72 at-bats split between the two short season teams.  I’ll repeat this metric: 40 Ks in 72 at-bats.   He struggled in Auburn and then got hurt in late July, missing 3 weeks.  He finished the season in Rookie ball, probably a combination rehab assignment/demotion.   He does feature some pop; his isolated slugging of .441 in Auburn shows some promise.  But that’s a lot of strikeouts.  He’s still very young (he turned 22 just this week) so he will continue in the system.  Trending down.

Round 15: (474) Brandon Smith, OF: Didn’t sign.  Hit .318/.370/.406 as a freshman corner outfielder at Division II Grand Canyon University.

Round 16: (504) Ronald Pena, Juco-2 RH starter/reliever: 4-3, 3.48 ERA with 55/34 K/BB in 88 IP for Hagerstown.  Pena started the season in the Hagerstown rotation, where he stayed mostly until the end of May.   He had a 4.70 ERA as a starter on the season; not good enough given the arms matriculating upwards.  From there he worked the bullpen, where in the same number of innings his Ks were up, his walks down and his hits allowed down.  It seems to me he’s bullpen-bound from here.   Trending Steady.

Round 17: (534) Blake Schwartz, Coll Sr RH Starting pitcher: 13-4, 2.51 ERA with 101/28 in 147 IP for Hagerstown and Potomac.  Schwartz started the year in the Hagerstown rotation and ended it in Potomac, getting the ball for their 2nd playoff game.  After striking out 21 guys in his first 14 low-A innings, he was quickly promoted up and threw 132 additional innings in Potomac.  His ERA was low upon promotion, he fared equally well against lefties and righties.  I’d like to see more K’s, but it is hard to argue with the results.  He had to be in the “player of the year” discussions for the organization.  So far looking like a great find this late in the draft from a small school.  Trending up.

Round 18: (564) David Fischer, Coll Sr RH reliever: 5-0, 4.06 era with 81/52 K/BB in 58 IP for Hagerstown and Potomac.   He got a quick bump up from Hagerstown after just 9 apperances and spent the bulk of the season in Potomac’s bullpen providing longer relief stints every few days.   He hit the D/L in mid August and never came back off of it.  This beanpole (6’5″ 175lbs) clearly has some strikeout type stuff (53 Ks in his 44 high-A innings) but he is also wild as hell (44 walks in 44 innings to go with 8 wild pitches and 5 HBPs in high-A).  It sounds like someone needs to coach Nuke LaLoosh up here.   Trending Steady.

Round 19: (594) Bryan Lippincott, Coll Sr 1B: .273/.346/.434 with 7 homers, 25 walks, 39 Ks in 198 at-bats split between Auburn and Hagerstown.  A small-college senior signee, Lippincott spent all of 2012 in the GCL (where he clearly was “old for the level.”).  In 2013, he waited for short-season to start, then slugged .464 in 44 games for Auburn before getting the call-up to Hagerstown to play for the team during the playoffs.  He struggled in 10 playoff games (understandible; they’re the best teams in the league) but otherwise had a nice season.  He’s seemingly set to compete for perhaps the 1B or DH in High-A for 2014.  Trending Steady.

Round 20: (624) James Brooks, Coll SR SS/3B: Released May 2013; he was a senior sign who played last season mostly in the GCL, save for a 2 week stretch where he went 1-32 in Short-A.  Apparently he didn’t make a team out of spring training and was released just before Short seasons started.

Round 21: (654) Austin Chubb, Coll Sr C: .200/.241/.238 with 0 homers, 2 walks, 12 Ks in 105 at-bats for Auburn.  Chubb was a part-time catcher, splitting time with others in Auburn, and followed up his generally poor 2012 GCL numbers with even worse numbers in 2013.  He had just two walks in 100+ plate appearances?  With no power to show for it?   Chubb may not be long for the organization, despite the positional scarcity.  Trending Down.

Round 22: (684) Will Hudgins, Coll Sr RH reliever: 3-2, 4.41 ERA with 28/21 K/BB in 32 2/3 innings, 25 hits split between low- and short-A.  Suddenly retired July 12th on Twitter.

Round 23: (714) Casey Selsor, Coll Sr LH Starter/Reliever: 0-6, 4.29 ERA with 30/14 in 42 1/3 innings, 56  hits for Auburn.  Selsor was drafted with 2-way capabilities but has only pitched for the Nats.  He started the season in Auburn’s rotation, got demoted to the bullpen after 6 starts, but eventually made his way back into the rotation in some sense by the time the season was over.  He gave up a ton of baserunners, but his babip was high.  Despite a 4.29 ERA his FIP for the year was just 3.15.  So he pitched better than his stats look.   Trending Steady.

Round 24: (744) Kevin Dicharry, Coll SR RH pitcher: 0-2, 14.54 ERA with 4/2 K/BB in 4 1/3 innings, 8 hits for Auburn.  Dicharry pitched very poorly in his first three Auburn appearances and then was released 7/1/13.   Without any knowledge of how well he recovered from the arm issues he had in college, this seems like an incredibly quick release considering how well he pitched (even if he was overaged) last year in the GCL.

Round 25: (774) Freddy Avis, RHP: didn’t sign.  Attending Stanford, where in 2013 he appeared in exactly one game and pitched 2 innings before suffering a season-ending injury.  Google research is spotty, but it seems like he aggravated the same knee which he had ACL surgery on in 2012 and which ended his HS career prematurely.

Round 26: (804) Skye Bolt, RHP: didn’t sign.  Attending UNC, where in 2013 he hit .349/.449/.550 as a freshman starter for one of the best teams in the nation.  That’s a pretty darn impressive slash line for a freshman in the ACC.  Those are 1st round pick numbers.

Round 27: (834) Cody Poteet, RHP: didn’t sign.  Attending UCLA, where in 2013 as a mid-week starter/weekend reliever he was 4-6, 4.84 ERA with 56/31 K/BB in 70+ innings for the CWS champions.  We don’t have advanced stats, but his BAA of .227 seems to indicate his ERA was incredibly unlucky.  He should be a weekend starter for UCLA next season.

Round 28: (864) Hunter Bailey, Coll Sr SS/2B: .182/.265/.205 with 0 homers, 4 walks, 11 Ks in 44 low-A at bats earlier this season.  Bailey was released May 2013.  The jump from GCL to full-season ball proved too much for Bailey and he was cut loose as an expendible backup middle-infielder in a system full of them rising quickly up the ranks.

Round 29: (894) Leonard Hollins, Juco RH reliever: 1-4, 2.91 ERA with 36/16 in 46 1/3 innings, 48 hits mostly for Auburn.   The submariner made a successful jump to short-A out of the GCL, and still has not given up a professional home-run.  All we have to do now is figure out if he’s “Leonard” or if he’s “L.J.” since and Fangraphs differ in their names for him.  Trending Up.

Round 30: (924) Robert Orlan Coll Jr LH Starter: 1-5, 3.65 ERA with 47/22 K/BB in 56 2/3 innings, 54 hits for Auburn.  Orlan was the leading innings-eater for Auburn in 2013 after missing the whole 2012 season following TJ surgery.   Orlan kept the ball down, pitched better than his ERA shows (3.38 fip) and shows no reason not to continue up the chain and compete for rotation jobs in full season ball next year.  As I said last year, he could be a great sleeper pick.  Trending Up.

Round 31: (954) Michael Boyden Coll Sr RH reliever: 0-0, 4.61 ERA with 15/14 K/BB in 13 2/3 innings, 17 hits for GCL.  14 walks and 17 hits equates with a balloned 2.27 whip for this 23-year old in the rookie league (which means he’s likely throwing against guys 4-5 years younger than he is).  It is hard to understand why he was back in the GCL after having shown he could handle Short-A last year.  Either way, his control issues from last year caught up with him in 2013 and I don’t think he’ll be long for the organization.    Trending Down.

Round 32: (984) Michael Mudron, Coll Sr LH reliever: 1-3, 6.82 ERA with 32/15 K/BB in 30 1/3 innings, 43 hits.   Great K/9 rates for a matchup lefty (reminder: lists him as a RHP when he’s actually a lefty).  His game-logs show what a weird season he had: of the 23 earned runs he gave up in his 30 innings, 20 of them came in four awful outings, highlighted by his 8/24/13 outing: he gave up 5 hits and 5 walks in an inning and a third, resulting in 6 earned runs.  These factors contributed to his FIP being just 2.77, a huge delta from his ugly ERA.  I’d imagine this stat line makes it hard for higher-ups to evaluate him.  Nonetheless, he should feature in a full-season bullpen in 2014.  Trending Steady.

Round 33: (1014) Mike McQuillan, Coll Sr 2B/3B: .277/.372/.367 with 2 homers, 40 walks, 66 K’s in 264 low-A at-bats (skipping 5 rehab games he did in the GCL).   As with last year, good average and great OBP, but little to no pop.  He missed 2 full months of the season with an injury that I cannot easily google.  Otherwise he continues to profile as an undersized, speedy 2nd baseman with good OBP capabilities.  He’ll move up to Potomac in 2014.  Trending Steady.

Round 34: Jake Jeffries, 2B: didn’t sign.  Attending Cal State Fullerton, where in 2013 he hit .260/.327/.360 as a starting middle infielder.  

Round 35: Corey Bafidis, LHP: didn’t sign but Washington picked him in 2013.  From the 2013 version of this post: Coll Sr LH relief pitcher.  2-0, 2.73 ERA with 22/13 K/BB in 26 1/3 relief innings mostly in Auburn, 18 hits.  He got pushed to low-A too early, settled into short-A where he probably belonged to begin with, and pitched relatively well for 20 innings.   Too many walks for a relief pitcher, though, he’ll have to work on that.   He mostly worked in 2 inning stints and never got any looks at starting.  Trending steady.

Round 36: Max Ungar, Cdidn’t sign.  Attending Division III Denison, where he does not appear to be playing baseball at all.  Seems to have quit the sport.  Was th is a “favor draft pick” to give someone’s friend’s kid some notariety?  

Round 37: Tyler Watson, LHPdidn’t sign.  Threw just 3 2/3 innings over 6 games for Kansas U as a freshman.

Round 38: Jarred Messer, RHPdidn’t sign.  Finished 6-4 with a 2.70 ERA his senior year at Malone University but then went undrafted, and as far as I can tell did not get picked up by either a MLB org or an independent league team.  He seems to be playing in the Ohio Tuscarawas County Class A league, an Adult baseball amateur league.

Round 39: Mitchell Williams, Cdidn’t sign.  Attended the Marion Military Institute in Alabama, for which I cannot find any current stats.

Round 40: Ricky Gutierrez, CFdidn’t sign.  Presumably playing football for U-Conn, as per the Draft Tracker.  I could not find any individual football stats for him in rudimentary googling.

Summary: our top end guys are doing well and we may have some finds in the later rounds.  On the downside, most of the rest of the first round picks are struggling.   Such is the nature of the new draft classes; picks 7-10 are more like 25th rounders while picks 11-15 are more like 6th-10.

Great performances from Nats minor league teams in 2013…


Most people have heard about the historic Nats Gulf Coast Rookie league team’s performance this year, but the Nats farm teams were great up and down the system in 2013.   Here’s a recap of each level’s season, in case you havn’t already gotten the summary from Dave Huzzard or Luke Erickson:

  • AAA Syracuse: Last place, International League North.  Season record: 66-78.  Contrary to the title of this article, our AAA team was pretty bad this year.  Culprets?  A middle-of-the road offense and a relatively weak pitching staff (they were easily last in the league in strikeouts, lower ranked in other major pitching categories).
  • High-A Potomac: 1st half AND 2nd half champions, Carolina League North.   Season Record: 84-55.  Winning both halfs earned them full home field advantage in the first round of the divisional playoffs, which they used to beat Lynchburg easily enough.  However in the Carolina league final the Nats lost both games at home before getting swept by Salem in the league championship series (Salem is Boston’s high-A affiliate).
  • Low-A Hagerstown: 1st half champs of the South Atlantic League Northern.  Season Record: 80-57.  They dispatched the 2nd half champs from West Virginia in the divisional series to face Savannah in the Sally League championship.  After splitting the first two games at home, Hagerstown traveled to Savannah and lost two straight to drop the championship (Savannah is the New  York Mets’ low-A affiliate).

  • Short-A Auburn: Last place, NY-Penn Pinckney.  26-49.  Culprets include a team .230 batting average and near league bottom OPS combined with the worst team ERA and worst team WHIP in the league.  Bad hitting and the worse pitching equates with last place.

  • Rookie GCL Nats: 1st place, GCL League East with an amazing 49-9 record.  That according to press releases by the team is the highest W/L percentage in (domestic) minor league basebal history.  Wow.  They then swept the GCL Red Sox to win the GCL championship.
  • Dominican Summer League Nats: 4th Place, Boca Chica South.  Season Record: 38-31.

So that’s four playoff teams out of six US affiliates (I often ignore the DSL, fairly or otherwise, since it has such a low percentage of players even making it to the US leagues, let alone advancing into relevance).

What  makes these performances even more amazing, especially for Potomac, is that they persevered on despite losing significant numbers of pitchers through out the season to promotion.  Quick glances:

  • Harrisburg lost 3 starters (Clay, Jordan, Hill) and two relievers (Broadway and Krol) to promotions.
  • Potomac lost an entire rotation of starters (Jordan, Gilliam, Hill, Ray and Cole) in addition to four other relivers (Herron, Grace, Frias and Mirowski).
  • Hagerstown graduated at least 5 starters (Schwartz, Dupra, Rauh, Purke and Mooneyham), traded another starter (Pineyro) and matriculated a couple of relievers along the way (Benincasa and Henke).

I know this only focuses on arms on these minor league teams, and that isn’t necessarily fair to the offense, but Potomac especially was amazing in chugging along while losing its best starter month after month to promotion.

Ask Boswell 9/9/13 Edition


Haren continues to make friends in Washington.  Photo nats official via

Haren continues to make friends in Washington. Photo nats official via

With the NFL kicked off and Washington set to return to hits sports normalcy (95% redskins, 5% for the rest of the town’s sports), Tom Boswell did  his weekly chat on 9/9/13.  Lets see if he took any baseball questions:

As always, I write a response here before reading his, and edit questions for clarity:

Q: I guess they should have traded Haren; Oh Well.

A: If Mike Rizzo got any sort of viable offer for Dan Haren after he passed through waivers, then  yeah I’d be pretty irritated right now.  The “rumors” were that he was asking for a ton in terms of prospects; but who knows if anonymous GM quotes are reliable.   But this is also quite a bit of hind-sight is 20/20; you can’t know if Haren’s going to continue to be good or if suddenly he’s going to fall off a cliff.  If any player struggled, hit the D/L, returned and then was great 4 starts in a row, i’d also have thought to myself, “hey, that D/L trip fixed him!”  I’m not going to kill the Nats management over not moving Haren post-trade deadline, other than to say this: the entire organization has been in denial for MONTHS about this team, its construction, its manager, its makeup and its capabilities.  I’m on record saying there should have been a managerial move long before it came to where we are today.   That is the bigger problem with this organization.  Boswell seems to be less forgiving than me; he calls this one of Rizzo’s worst moves.

Q: Should the Nats just shut down Harper at this point?

A: No, not unless there’s a medical reason.  Bryce Harper came back home to  have a hip analysis and it looks like a couple of games.  If there was something deeper, this organization (which has clearly shown itself to be medically conservative) would absolutely make a move.   Boswell has a different take, clearly criticizing Nats management for bungling several injury recoveries this year.  Hmm.

Q: NL Central predictions?

A: St. Louis wins it with their home-heavy schedule running in, Cincinnati uses a ridiculously easy schedule heading in to claim the WC home game and Pittsburgh still wins 90 but has to go to  Pittsburgh and loses the coin flip game.  Boswell just says that the Nats aren’t going to make it.

Q: How much do you attribute the Nats decline this year to poor medical management? For some reason, they continue to let Harper self-manage. And now the LaRoche weight loss issue.

A: There’s definitely some odd things going on medically with this team, and have been all year, but I blame the bulk of this team’s troubles primarily on three factors:

  1. Too much clubhouse chemistry damage; adding a cancer in Rafael Soriano, removing fun loving respected vets Michael Morse and Mark DeRosa, and really leaving the team leaderless in some aspects.  Ask yourself: who is the “leader” of the offense?  Of the pitching staff?  There’s no Dustin Pedroia on this team; a guy who is vocal and loud and rallies the troops; the long term contract vets on this team aren’t leaders, and guys like Harper clearly aren’t generating the respect he deserves in his own clubhouse (as evidenced by the beanball war with Atlanta and nobody stepping up to get his back).
  2. Offense: The bench offense just falling apart, along with key guys (Adam LaRoche) just not coming close to performing like he did in 2012 and Denard Span really failing to be the guy we thought he was going to be.  Oh, and Davey Johnson really failing to react soon enough to make changes.
  3. The starters really taking a step back with no roster coverage, with Haren really, really hurting the team (they are now 9-18 in his 27 starts).

Boswell says the Nats have an explanation for every medical issue that has arisen.

Q: Does Strasburg have a composure/maturity problem?

A: This goes back to the whole meltdown Stephen Strasburg had earlier in the season when Ryan Zimmerman threw a ball away; the most recent issue was the Chicago Cubs game when a tough grounder to short wasn’t converted into an out by covering-man Anthony Rendon and he promptly gave up a 3-run bomb.

I think I’d answer two ways: First yes I think he needs to work on keeping his emotions in check on the field.  But Secondly, pitchers have an absolute right to be upset when they work a hitter to hit his pitch, get the grounder he wants and a guy who shouldn’t even been playing SS throws the ball away.  Boswell makes a good point; he’s only 25.  He’s still young.  But yes he still has a ways to go.

(Note: I did not see the 2-balk game, nor read about it.  That was the genesis of this question.  If the questioner meant to ask, is Strasburg mentally focused enough?  Then I’d probably say, not yesterday!)

Q: Athletics or Rangers?

A: Tough call with Oakland vs Texas; I’d go Oakland.   As does Boswell.

Q: Nats are 65-51 in games not started by Haren: wouldn’t even a .500 or a little better starter have put the Nats in contention?

A: Possibly.  Assume you replace Haren’s 9-18 team record with a 5th starter who guided the team to a 13-13 record in his games; that’s only 4 games more in the Win column, pushing them from 73-69 to 77-65.  That’s still outside the division and outside the wild-card.  But you’re closer.  Boswell basically does the same logic.

Q: Is Ryan Zimmerman’s abdominal surgery part to blame as well as his shoulder?

A: Possibly; it isn’t hard to see a direct link between the drop of Ryan Zimmerman‘s UZR/150 numbers and his surgeries.  They both happened the same instant.  Boswell embarrasses himself by saying to ignore the fangraphs numbers.  Sorry; stats are stats; Zimmerman just made his 20th error of the season, by itself indicative of nothing but a clear indicator of what he’s done to the team this year.

Q: Do the Nationals tweak for 2014, or do they need to make big changes in the roster. What do you think of these predictions: LaRoche becomes an expensive bench player, Span and Gio traded.

A: Reactions to these predictions?  Ridiculous, more ridiculous and ridiculously ridiculous.  LaRoche is Rizzo’s buddy; he’s going to play 1B.  Span‘s value is nearly nothing right now, despite his 19 game hitting streak, why trade someone who’s worth nothing when you can keep him on the cheap and see if he regains his hitting stroke?  If not, trade him for nothing next year.  Lastly; go look at Gonzalez‘s contract for the next 4  years and tell me who we get in return that gives us that kind of value?   And if you trade these three guys, who’s playing 1B, CF and #2 starter??  Why even take this question?

Larger question: Tweaks or major changes for 2014?  I think you’re looking at tweaks.  Basically the entire team is signed through next year.  They thought this was a winner this year.  I’m sure Rizzo’s ego will continue to tell him its a winner next year.  Absolute worst case for the next 12 calendar months for Nats fans: team starts hot next spring, fades slowly, slowly but stays a few games out of WC through the trade deadline, then falls apart after the point at which we could move all these expiring contracts for prospects.  Boswell says tweaks, though a new SP is needed.


Roark throwing his hat in the 2014 rotation ring


Roark is putting himself into 2014 rotation contention.  Photo Alex Brandon/AP via

Roark is putting himself into 2014 rotation contention. Photo Alex Brandon/AP via

I’ll admit it; I’m a fan of Tanner Roark.  I’m a fan of the underdog.  I’m a fan of the 25th round draft pick working his way up and making an impression at the MLB level.

I never could understand how his decent numbers in Texas’ AA hitters league AA didn’t translate once he got to the Eastern league (after he was included in a trade for Cristian Guzman back in 2010).  I figured that he was bound for the dreaded “org guy” title after his 2011 season; a middling .500 record with a 4.69 ERA while repeating AA in his fourth pro year.  I figured he was just playing out the string when he passed through Rule-5 drafts and posted a 6-17 record in AAA.

Nobody thought he could suddenly be dominant.  And around August of this year, it seemed like calling him up to cover for a suddenly open “long man/spot-starter” role in the bullpen made complete sense.  And so far, he’s done nothing to disappoint.

Is he putting his name into the lead for the 5th starter spot on this club in 2014?

After Ross Ohlendorf failed to make a case to stay in the rotation, Roark was given a start over the weekend and threw 6 incredibly efficient innings of 4-hit ball.   71 pitches, 46 for strikes, giving up 4 hits and zero walks to earn his 5th victory of the season and first by way of being a starter.   Since this was Roark’s first start of the season, his pitch f/x data is telling (in shorter stints pitchers can throw harder knowing they’re done after 20 pitches).  Roark threw his 49 fastballs at an average of 93.07mph with a max of 94.81mph, had great success with his change and curve (throwing 5 of each and getting 8/10 for strikes).   He maintained the same velocity he was showing in shorter stints before his start.  Roark got excellent movement on his fastball, hit corners well (as he has shown he can do), and controlled the Marlins for 6 innings.

Now, this is the Marlins we’re talking about.  So we’re not talking about the 1927 Yankees.  And one telling stat about Roark was this: he only got 2 swinging strikes the entire game (he had 4 punchouts for the night, mostly called).  He does not have swing-and-miss stuff.  But he does seem to really have “weak contact” stuff; there were only 2-3 really well hit fair balls on the night.  But, like I’ve pointed out in the past, Roark works the corners, throws a heavy ball, gets a lot of weak contact, and doesn’t need to have 8.5 k/9 stuff to succeed.  And it isn’t like this Marlins team is a little league team; they pounded Dan Haren the night before (you know, Dan Haren, the guy who’s making 26 times what Roark is and the guy who, when he’s on the mound his team is now 9-18 on the year.  Great signing he’s turned out to be…).

Taylor JordanNathan Karns: attention; Roark’s making a name for himself.  Spring Training could be fun.

Written by Todd Boss

September 9th, 2013 at 8:15 am