Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for July, 2018

Strasburg to DL again; is this the official white flag?

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"My Neck hurts." "Oh yeah, something always frigging hurts with you, you snowflake." -- photo via WP

“My Neck hurts.” “Oh yeah, something always frigging hurts with you, you snowflake.” — photo via WP

At some point, you have to stop performing CPR and just call it.

I wonder if we’re at that point.  Today we learned that #2 starter Stephen “the Orchid” Strasburg is heading back to the D/L for what will be his 50th* career D/L trip (* estimated).  I just don’t see how this team goes on the run it needs without one of its best starters.

Even given Tanner Roark‘s wonderful start yesterday, the team (as of this writing) sits at 50-51.  They’re 7 games out of the Division lead, 5.5 games out of the WC, and face a massive uphill climb to make the playoffs.

To get to 90 wins (often regarded in the 2-wild card system as the minimum you’ll need) the team needs to go 40-21 in its remaining games.  That’s a .622 W/L percentage.  I suppose they could go on a 20-7 rampage like they did in May and make it up… but it seems less likely the longer this season goes along.

Of their remaining 61 games…

  • 7 against Atlanta
  • 9 against Philly
  • 7 against the Cubs
  • 7 against the Cardinals
  • 3 more against Milwaukee
  • 3 in Colorado to end the season

So that’s 36 of the remaining 61 games against teams that I think are patently better than us.  And we’ll have to play .622 ball against them AND hold serve against the scrubs we’re playing too.

Oh, and now we’re doing it with, by my count, our #9 starter in Tommy Milone called up.  Scherzer, Strasburg, Gio, Roark, Hellickson, Fedde, JRodriguez, Voth ahead of him in the pecking order.  I’m sure things will go great; lest you forget, Milone’s ERA in 2017 was 8.56 in 27 innings.  Actually, with an ERA like that, he’ll fit right into this team.

So yes, the Braves have scuffled recently and the Phillies are treading water.  And yes our Pythag record shows we’re better than 50-51.  All fair points.  But we’re nearly to August and are still playing .500 ball, with no signs of getting better.

And, as become apparent this week, thanks to the Nats doing such a bang-up job with payroll management this year, they snuck over the luxury tax threshold so the comp pick they’ll get for a once-in-a-generation player leaving next year via FA in Bryce Harper will be … voila!  A supplemental 4th rounder??  Are you frigging kidding me?  That’s all we’ll get by offering him a Qualifying Offer??  Wow, that Matt Wieters contract just keeps looking better and better doesn’t it?  I sure hope Scott Boras enjoys the boat he bought off of that commission that he screwed the Nats out of.  Can someone change the Lerner’s cell phone number so Boras can’t go over Mike Rizzo‘s head to make bad deals any more?

Nats should trade Harper and hope to get a MLB top 100 pick for the rental.  They should also shop around basically every other guy set to leave in FA.  That means Murphy, Gio, Madsen, Wieters, Kelley, heck lets through in Benoit and Reynolds and Adams and all the one-year MLFAs we’ve got too.   Its bargain basement shopping time in DC.  First come, first served.

Will this leadership team admit defeat and make these trades?  Probably not.  They’ll probably do something dumb in the next few days like trade a top prospect for 2 months of a dead-arm starter or a catcher we can just go buy next off-season with the $80M of saved payroll.   They’ll leverage the farm system yet again so they can be an 86 win team instead of an 81 win team.

But I could be wrong.  We’ll see what happens.

ps: I managed to write this whole post without mentioning the manager.  My stance is as clear now as it was the day they let Dusty Baker go, and nothing that Dave Martinez has done has made me think that he was in any way a better choice to manage this team and this set of players in the year 2018.  Any argument about the manager is tough to quantify … i prefer arguments I can back up with stats frankly, so my opinion on his handling of veterans, of Ryan Zimmerman, of the bullpen, of baserunning strategy, of lineup-construction, and of his seeming inability to stand up to the veterans on this team will stay with me.

Nats All-Star review: 2018 and years past

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2018-MLB-All-Star-Game-Logo-Washington-Nationals

Here’s my annual Nationals All Star selection post.

Fun Trivia:

  • All-time leader in Nats all-star appearances: Harper with 6 appearances.  Scherzer also has been named 6 times but some pre-dated his time here.
  • All-time leader in All-Star Game starts: Also Harper, getting his 5th start.
  • Total number of Starters in the history of the Franchise: Now is 10; Harper 5 times, Scherzer twice, and one each for Soriano, Murphy, Zimmerman.
  • Most all-star players named in a single year: 5 in both 2016 and 2017.
  • Least all-star game players named in a single year: 1 in multiple years during the “dark years” of 2006 through 2011.

(* == All-Star game starter)


 

2018

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper*, Max Scherzer*, Sean Doolittle
  • Possible Snubs: Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon
  • Narrative: For the home-town All Star Game, Harper gets the starting nod from the fans despite his abhorrent season at the plate (his slash line on 7/8/18: .219/.371/.475).  However, by making the ASG, Harper now keeps his promise to participate in the Home Run Derby one last time before hitting free agency.   There’s no real “snubs” on this Nationals team; The #2 player on the team in terms of seasonal bWAR is Trea Turner but he’s not exactly having a head-turning season.  He was named to the “last 5 ballot” but was a huge long-shot to make it (update; he didn’t: the very deserving Jesus Aguilar did).  Anthony Rendon is having his typical under-rated season and got no love from the voters over the more famous Nolan Arenado (a common refrain when it comes to Gold Gloves/Silver Sluggers too).  None of our starters besides Scherzer are really deserving; Stephen Strasburg was having a decent but not spectacular season but missed a month and is on the D/L.  Nor is any of the bullpen past Doolittle.  Its an odd-season where a team-wide malaise is contributing to the team hovering at .500 at the All Star Break.  Only Juan Soto really is deserving … but he was never going to make the ASG (not when recent more spectacular rookies failed to make it) and thanks to his missing all of April and most of May he wasn’t on any ballots and may struggle to win the RoY over guys who have played longer this season.  Scherzer is named to the team on 7/8/18 was named the  NL starter for the 2nd year running on 7/16/18.

 

2017

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper*, Daniel Murphy*, Ryan Zimmerman*, Max Scherzer*, Stephen Strasburg
  • Snubs: Anthony Rendon, Gio Gonzalez
  • Narrative: For the second  year in a row, the Nats are well and properly represented in the All Star Game.  We have three starters named in the field, including Zimmerman who beats out a slew of 1B sluggers in the NL to not only make the team but get his first start.  Its also likely i’ll be editing this post and adding in Scherzer as an additional starter; he is the obvious choice to start the game for the NL given his first half production (7/10/17 update: yes indeed we did).  Rendon is having a very quiet solid season and is in the “last 5” popular vote, but he seems unlikely to win given that last year’s MVP Kris Bryant is also in the voting (Update: neither guy got in).  Gonzalez misses out despite having a better first half than Strasburg by nearly any statistic; he’s having a career year but seems unlikely to get rewarded with his 3rd ASG appearance.  There’s no other real snub from our 2017 team; certainly there’s nobody in the bullpen meriting a spot, and Trea Turner‘s torrid 2016 2nd half did not translate into the 2017 season (not to mention, he’s had two separate D/L trips).  Once again i’m slightly perturbed that Harper continues to refuse to participate in the HR derby; why the reticence?  Its a fun event that is quickly becoming better than the actual game itself and practically every other slugger is participating.  Is he afraid to lose?  On a larger scale, i’m really happy to see (finally) that deserving rookies are named: Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger are both named and are both on the inside track for ROY awards; too many times in the past we see deserving rookies unnamed.  On July 10th, the fourth Nat starter was named: Scherzer got the starting pitcher nod, a first for the Nats.  August Update: Rendon’s omission is looking even more ridiculous; he’s top 5 in the league in bWAR.

2016

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper*, Stephen Strasburg, Daniel Murphy, Wilson Ramos, Max Scherzer (named as replacement for Strasburg on 7/8/16),
  • Possible Snubs: Danny EspinosaTanner Roark
  • Narrative: The four obvious candidates from the Nats this year were all initially correctly selected, though voting shenanigans out of Chicago elected Ben Zobrist over Daniel Murphy by a scant 500 votes.   I thought perhaps Strasburg would have a chance to start the game, given his 12-0 record, but it seems the team pre-empted any such thought when Scherzer’s naming occurred.  For the first time writing this post, I can’t really name any “snubs” and the team has (finally?) earned the proper respect it deserves in terms of naming its players properly.  Espinosa had a week for the ages just prior to the end of voting but really stood little chance of selection in the grand scheme of things.  He’s not really a “snub” but is worthy of mention based on his resurgent year.  At the break, Espinosa ranked 3rd in NL fWAR but 7th or 8th in bWAR thanks to differing defensive value metrics, so maybe/maybe not on him being a “snub.”  As pointed out in the comments, even I missed the sneaky good season Roark is having; he’s 12th in the NL in bWAR at the break and 9th in fWAR but was left off in favor of any number of starters that stand below him in value rankings.  Unfortunately for fans (and for Harper’s “Make Baseball Fun again” campaign, he opted to skip the Home Run Derby again.  I guess its kind of like the NBA superstars skipping the dunk contest; the Union should really do a better job of helping out in this regard.  The new format is fantastic and makes the event watchable again; is it ego keeping him from getting beat by someone like Giancarlo Stanton?

2015

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper*, Max Scherzer
  • Possible Snubs: Yunel Escobar, Drew Storen
  • Narrative: Harper not only made it in as a starter for the 2nd time, he led the NL in votes, setting a MLB record for total votes received.  This is no surprise; Harper’s easily in the MVP lead for the NL thanks to his amazing first half (his split at the half-way point of the season: .347/.474/.722 with 25 homers and an astounding 225 OPS+).  I guess he won’t be earning the “Most overrated player” award next year.  That Harper is electing to skip the Home run derby in a disappointment; his father is nursing an arm injury can cannot throw to him in the event.  In a weird year for the Nats, the only other regular worth mentioning is newly acquired Escobar, who is hitting above .300 and filling in ably at multiple positions that, prior to this year, he had never played.  Storen is having another excellent regular season … but at a time when mandatory members from each team often leads to other closers being selected (there are 5 NL closers and 7 AL relievers), the odds of him making the All-Star team were always going to be slim.  Scherzer deservedly makes the team and probably would have been the NL starter; he’s got sub 2.00 ERA and FIP and leads all NL pitchers in WAR at the mid-way point of the season.  But his turn came up in the final game of the first half, making him ineligible for the game and forcing his replacement on the roster.

As a side note, the 2015 All-Star game will go down as the “Ballot-Gate” game thanks to MLB’s short-sighted plan to allow 30+ online ballots per email address.  This led to severe “ballot stuffing” by the Kansas City Royals fans, led to MLB  having to eliminate 60 million+ fraudulent ballots, but still led to several Royals being elected starters over more deserving candidates.


 

2014

  • Nationals All-Star representative: Jordan Zimmermann (Update post-publishing: Zimmermann strained a bicep, and had to withdraw from the ASG.  For a bit it looked like the Nats wouldn’t even have a representative, until Tyler Clippard was named on 7/13/14).
  • Possible Snubs: Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rendon, Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen
  • Narrative: Zimmermann’s been the best SP on the best pitching staff in the majors this year, and thus earns his spot.  I find it somewhat odd that a first place team (or near to it) gets just one representative on the team (as discussed above).  Rendon tried to make the team via the “last man in” voting, but historically Nationals have not fared well in this competition (especially when better known players from large markets are in the competition, aka Anthony Rizzo from the Chicago Cubs), and indeed Rendon finished 4th in the last-man voting.  LaRoche is having a very good season, almost single handedly carrying the Nats offense while major parts were out injured, but he’s never going to beat out the slew of great NL first basemen (Joey Votto couldn’t even get into this game).  Soriano has quietly put together one of the best seasons of any closer in the game; at the time of this writing he has a 1.03 ERA and a .829 whip; those are Dennis Eckersley numbers.  But, the farce that is the all-star game selection criteria (having to select one player from each team) means that teams need a representative, and deserving guys like Soriano get squeezed.  Then, Soriano indignantly said he wouldn’t even go if named as a replacement … likely leading to Clippard’s replacement selection.  The same goes for non-closer Storen, who sports a sub 2.00 ERA on the year.  Advanced stats columnists (Keith Law) also think that Stephen Strasburg is a snub but I’m not entirely sure: he may lead the NL in K’s right now and have far better advanced numbers than “traditional,” but its hard to make an argument that a guy with a 7-6 record and a 3.50+ ERA is all-star worthy.

2013

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper*, Jordan Zimmermann
  • Snubs: Stephen Strasburg, Ian Desmond
  • Narrative: Harper comes in 3rd in the NL outfielder voting, ahead of some big-time names, to become only the second Nationals position player elected as an All-Star starter.  He was 4th in the final pre-selection vote, so a big last minute push got him the starter spot.   Harper also becomes the first National to participate in the Home Run Derby.   Zimmermann was 12-3 heading into the game and was on mid-season Cy Young short lists in July in a breakout season.  Strasburg’s advanced stats are all better than Zimmermann’s, but his W/L record (4-6 as the ASG) means he’s not an all-star.  It also probably doesn’t help that he missed a few weeks.  Desmond loses out to Troy TulowitzkiEverth Cabrera and Jean Segura.  Tulowitzki was having a very solid year and was a deserving elected starter, while Cabrera and Segura are both having breakout seasons.  Desmond was on the “Final vote” roster, but my vote (and most others’ I’m guessing) would be for Yasiel Puig there ([Editor Update: Desmond and Puig lost out to Freddie Freeman: I still wished that Puig finds a way onto the roster but ultimately he did not and I believe the ASG was diminished because of it).   Gio GonzalezRyan Zimmerman, and Rafael Soriano are all having solid but unspectacular years and miss out behind those having great seasons.

2012

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Stephen StrasburgGio GonzalezIan Desmond, Bryce Harper
  • Possible Snubs: Adam LaRocheCraig Stammen
  • Narrative: The two SPs Strasburg and Gonzalez were the obvious candidates, and my personal prediction was that they’d be the only two candidates selected.  Gonzalez’ first half was a prelude to his 21-win, 3rd place Cy Young season.  The inclusion of Desmond is a surprise, but also a testament to how far he’s come as a player in 2012.  Harper was a last-minute injury replacement, but had earned his spot by virtue of his fast start as one of the youngest players in the league.  Of the “snubs,” LaRoche has had a fantastic come back season in 2012 but fared little shot against better, more well-known NL first basemen.  Stammen was our best bullpen arm, but like LaRoche fared little chance of getting selected during a year when the Nats had two deserving pitchers selected.

2011

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Tyler Clippard
  • Possible Snubs: Danny EspinosaMichael MorseDrew StorenJordan Zimmermann
  • Narrative: While Clippard was (arguably) the Nats best and most important reliever, I think Zimmermann was a more rightful choice.  He was 10th in the league in ERA at the time of the selections and has put in a series of dominant performances.  Meanwhile Espinosa was on pace for a 28-homer season and almost a certain Rookie-of-the-Year award (though a precipitous fall-off in the 2nd half cost him any realistic shot at the ROY), and perhaps both players are just too young to be known around the league.  Lastly Morse is certainly known and he merited a spot in the “last man in” vote sponsored by MLB (though he fared little chance against popular players in this last-man-in voting).

2010

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Matt Capps
  • Possible Snubs: Adam DunnJosh WillinghamRyan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg
  • Narrative: Capps was clearly deserving, having a breakout season as a closer after his off-season non-tender from the Pirates.  The 3-4-5 hitters Zimmerman-Dunn-Willingham all had dominant offensive seasons as the team improved markedly from its 103-loss season.  But perhaps the surprise non-inclusion was Strasburg, who despite only having a few starts as of the all-star break was already the talk of baseball.  I think MLB missed a great PR opportunity to name him to the team to give him the exposure that the rest of the national media expected.  But in the end, Capps was a deserving candidate and I can’t argue that our hitters did anything special enough to merit inclusion.

2009

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Ryan Zimmerman
  • Possible Snubs: Adam Dunn
  • Narrative: The addition of Dunn and Willingham to the lineup gave Zimmerman the protection he never had, and he produced with his career-best season.  His first and deserved all-star appearance en-route to a 33 homer season.  Dunn continued his monster homer totals with little all-star recognition.

2008

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Cristian Guzman
  • Possible Snubs: Jon Rauch
  • Narrative: The first of two “hitting rock-bottom” seasons for the team; no one really merited selection.  Zimmerman was coming off of hamate-bone surgery in November 2007 and the team was more or less awful across the board.  Rauch performed ably after Cordero went down with season-ending (and basically career-ending) shoulder surgery.   Guzman’s selection a great example of why one-per-team rules don’t make any sense.  Guzman ended up playing far longer than he deserved in the game itself by virtue of the 15-inning affair.

2007

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Dmitri Young
  • Possible Snubs: Ryan Zimmerman, Shawn Hill (though I wouldn’t argue for either)
  • Narrative: Young gets a deserved all-star appearance en route to comeback player of the year.  Zimmerman played a full season but didn’t dominate.  Our 2007 staff gave starts to 13 different players, most of whom were out of the league within the next year or two.  Not a good team.

2006

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Alfonso Soriano*
  • Possible Snubs: Nick JohnsonRyan Zimmerman, Chad Cordero
  • Narrative: Soriano made the team as an elected starter, the first time the Nats have had such an honor.  Our pitching staff took massive steps backwards and no starter came even close to meriting a spot.  Cordero was good but not lights out as he had been in 2005.  Soriano’s 40-40 season is a poster child for “contract year” production and he has failed to come close to such production since.  The team was poor and getting worse.  Johnson had a career year but got overshadowed by bigger, better first basemen in the league (a recurring theme for our first basemen over the years).

2005

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Livan HernandezChad Cordero
  • Possible Snubs: Nick JohnsonJohn Patterson.
  • Narrative: The Nats went into the All Star break surprisingly in first place, having run to a 50-31 record by the halfway point.  Should a first place team have gotten more than just two representatives?  Perhaps.  But the team was filled with non-stars and played far over its head to go 50-31 (as evidenced by the reverse 31-50 record the rest of the way).

Big Draft Bonuses: why you should always take the money

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Carter Stewart just turned down more money than he's likely to see even if he's an All american in 3 years time.. photo via PerfectGame

Carter Stewart just turned down more money than he’s likely to see even if he’s an All American in 3 years time.. photo via PerfectGame

The signing deadline for this year’s draft class has passed, and just four players from the top 10 rounds failed to come to terms with their drafting team.  This was slightly higher than the previous couple of seasons, but interesting this year because all four non-signing players were basically the same situation: high-end 1st round prep players with big price tags who in the end each turned down at least $2M each (and in some cases a ton more) to go off to school and lock themselves in for 3 years of playing for unaccountable, arm shredding, self-interested NCAA coaches who often could care less about player development and more about their next conference title and regional hosting bid.

And each of them probably made a huge mistake.

Its a common refrain among pundits in the amateur baseball world (Keith Law in particular) that HS players should “take the money” if they’re drafted high enough.   Certainly any first rounder would be a fool to turn away that kind of money, and mostly any prep player offered something in the upper 6 figure range should give serious consideration.  MLB contracts generally include college tuition … so even if you sign out of HS you still have 4 years fully paid for in case you wash out.  So instead of gambling on your health, or the fickleness of the baseball draft (where one bad start can cost you 30 spots in the draft and millions of dollars), take the cash when its offered.

But, don’t take our word for it.  Lets look at the empirical evidence of every player over the past seven drafts who has forgone the cash to see if there’s any trends.

Here’s a summary of the last few years of players who did not sign from the top 10 rounds.  This only goes back to 2012, since that’s the beginning of the new draft rules.

  • 2018: 4 (all 1st or supp-1st rounders)
  • 2017: 3
  • 2016: 2
  • 2015: 6
  • 2014: 6 (two of which were Nats picks: Andrew Suarez and Austin Byler in that ill-fated draft class, and one more who didn’t sign thanks to Houston’s screwing up the Brady Aiken deal and who was eventually granted free agency).
  • 2013: 8
  • 2012: 8

These are the total non-signings for the top ten ROUNDS of draftees, meaning anywhere between 300 and 350 guys comprising the top 10 rounds and supplementals.  So in the seven years and roughly 2200 players drafted in the top 10 rounds in the last 7 seasons, a grand total of 37 have failed to sign.

Side note: each year we hear about all these players who aren’t going to sign or that negotiations are tough, when in reality the modern CBA rules nearly guarantee 100% signing among drafted players (unless there’s a huge misunderstanding on draft day, or a huge disagreement about medicals).  The draft pools are structured so that the penalties for NOT signing players can cascade and affect your ability to sign other players  (see Houston’s issue in the 2014 draft), so teams are now basically calling players in advance and saying, “If we draft you at X, will you sign for $Y?” … so the only reason players don’t sign is if there’s a serious breakdown or mis-understanding.

So, why do i say that you should always take the money?  Well, lets ask ourselves: out of these 37 players who didn’t sign.. who actually IMPROVED their draft status by not signing?  Lets go year by year and look at the players who failed to sign.

(a caveat here: I did not look at the dollar amounts offered here; this is basically draft round analysis.  Its possible that a 5th rounder in one year went in the 8th the next and got offered more money … but its quite rare with the new draft rules and bonus pools.  Everything changed with the new CBA that went into effect in 2012.  The Nats in particular spent $14.6M on draft bonuses in 2011.  The next  year?  $4.6M, with most of it going to one player in Lucas Giolito).

2018: 4 players did not sign

  • Carter Stewart, RHP Fla HS. 1st/8th overall. Atlanta didn’t like Physical, offered 40% of slot value ($1.9M); going to Mississippi State
  • Matt McLean: 2B Calif HS. 1st/25: Asked $3M, Arizona offered $2.6M didn’t budge, going to UCLA.
  • JT Ginn: RHP Miss HS. 1st/30th: LA dodgers offered $2.4M, asking $2.9M, going to Mississippi State
  • Gunnar Hoglund: LHP Fla HS. 1supp/36: Pittsburgh didn’t like physical, low-balled and he declined. going to Ole Miss.

Obviously its too early for these four players … but all four turned down significant dollars being 1st rounders, and the odds of them improving their bonus amount and/or their draft value (especially Stewart) seems slim.  Why?  Keep on reading.

Its clear though that Mississippi State is going to be STACKED for the next few years though … they’re getting two first rounders to school and into their rotation.  Phew; good luck to the SEC running up against this rotation for the next three years.  That just doesn’t happen very often.

Verdict: 4 too early to tell.

2017: 3 players did not sign

  • Drew Rasmussen, RHP, Oregon State, 1s/31st overall. Failed to sign with Tampa, who (I guess) didn’t like his medicals.  He was coming back from TJ and only had a few weeks of action before the draft. Went 6th round in 2018 to Milwaukee in 2018
  • Jack Conlon, RHP, Clements HS (Sugar Land, Texas). 4th round/128 overall. Failed to sign with Baltimore, went to Texas A&M
  • Jo Jo Booker, RHP, Miller HS (Brewton, Ala.). 5th round/145 overall. failed to sign with LA Angels, with to South Alabama

Two players too early to tell.  Rasmussen didn’t turn down the Rays as much as they refused to tender him a contract … they must have tendered him something because they got a comp pick in 2018 draft.  So he turned down 40% of first round money in 2017 to sign an underslot deal in the 6th round of 2018 ($135k, just $10k more than the non-top 10 rounds minimum).  I’d say this was a bad move by the player unless Tampa flat out refused to pay a dollar.

Verdict: 2 too early, 1 worsened his draft position.

2016: 2 players did not sign

  • Nick Lodolo: 1S/41st overall; LHP from Damien HS in California. failed to sign with Pittsburgh, went to TCU instead, draft eligible in 2019
  • Tyler Buffett: 7th/217 overall; RHP, failed to sign with Houston. returned to Oklahoma State, drafted in 6th round in 2017 and signed with Cincinnati

One guy still too early to tell, but its fair to say that Lodolo is probably pitching his way into the upper 1st round in 2019.  So he’s trending on improving his stock… as long as he doesn’t destroy his arm in the shredder-program at TCU (thought to be fair the notorious coaches who destroyed more than a few arms there, including a Nats pick in Matt Purke, have moved on).  Meanwhile Buffett improved his draft position one round by going back to school.

Verdict: 1 trending good, 1 improved his draft position one round.

2015: 6 guys did not sign.

  • Kyle Funkhouser: 1st/35th overall: RHP from Louisville, failed to sign with LA Dodgers, turning down an above-slot $2M. 4th rounder in 2016, signed with Detroit.
  • Brady Singer, 2nd/56th overall: RHP Florida HS. failed to sign with Toronto, went to Florida and was 1st rounder in 2018, signed with Kansas City
  • Jonathan Hughes, 2nd/68th overall: RHP Georgia HS. failed to sign with Baltimore, went to Georgia Tech and not even drafted in 2018…
  • Kyle Cody, 2nd/73rd overall: RHP U Kentucky. failed to sign with Minnesota, drafted in 6th round in 2016 and signed with Texas
  • Nicholas Shumpert, 7th/220th overall. SS Colorado HS. failed to sign with Detroit. Went to San Jacinto CC, drafted in 28th round 2016 by Atlanta and signed.
  • Kep Brown, 10th/311 overall. RF South Carolina HS, failed to sign with LA Dodgers. went to Juco, then to UNC-Wilmington, not drafted in 2018.

Funkhouser was the biggest “whoops” here; a poor spring took him from his pre-season top 10 draft position all the way out of the first round, but he still demanded upper 1st round money.  He didn’t get it … and then fell to the 4th round the next year.  That was a big fail.  Singer clearly improved on his 2nd round status by going to college.    Cody slipped from being a 2nd rounder to a 6th rounder.  The other three guys drastically fell on draft boards; one of them going from a 10th rounder to not even being drafted.

Verdict: 1 improved, 5 hurt draft stock

2014: 6 failed to sign

  • Brady Aiken: 1/1 overall, RHP from San Diego HS. failed to sign with Houston, went to IMG Academy in FL, drafted 1/17 by Cleveland
  • Andrew Suarez: 2nd/57 overall LHP from UMiami, failed to sign with Washington. Drafted 2nd round/61st overall in 2015 by San Francisco
  • Trevor Megill; 3rd/104th overall RHP from Loyola Marymount. failed to sign with Boston, drafted 7th/207 in 2015 draft and signed with San Diego
  • Jacob Nix: 5th/136 RHP from Los Alomitos HS; couldn’t sign when Tampa lost bonus money, sued, FA, signed with San Diego
  • Zack Zehner: 7th/204 OF from Cal Poly, failed to sign with Toronto. Drafted 18th round 2015 and signed with NYY
  • Austin Byler, 9th/274 1B from nevada-Reno. failed to sign with Washington, drafted 11th round in 2015 and signed with Arizona

Aiken became quite the rarity; the first #1 overall baseball pick to fail to sign in 30  years.    But his lack of signing cascaded and cost the Astros both their 5th rounder Nix and another player later on thanks to the new draft rules on bonus pools; Nix ended up being declared a FA in a face-saving move by MLB so as not to admit that their new bonus cap circumvention rules were BS.  Aiken had no where to go but down from 1-1 so he obviously cost himself money.  The others all fell, if only slightly in Suarez’s case.

Verdict: 1 didn’t count, 5 lowered draft stock

2013: 8 failed to sign

  • Phil Bickford: 1/10 RHP California HS. Toronto failed to sign. went to Southern Nevada juco, drafted 1/18 by SF and signed.
  • Matt Krook 1s/35 LHP calif HS. Miami failed to sign, went to Oregon State, drafted 4th round by SF in 2016
  • Ben DeLuzio 3rd/80 SS from Fla HS. Miami failed to sign. Went to Florida State, played 4 years … undrafted out of college, NDFA with Arizona
  • Ben Holmes, 5th /151 LHP Oregon State. Philly failed to sign. went 9th round in 2014
  • Jason Monda 6th/181 OF Washington State. Philly failed to sign … then accused him of NCAA violations. he wasn’t drafted again and quit to go to Med school
  • Stephen Woods 6th/188 RHP NY HS: Tampa failed to sign, went to Suny-Albany, drafted 8th round 2016 by SF and signed
  • Dustin DeMuth 8th/230 3B from Indiana, Minnesota failed to sign, became 5th rounder in 2014 and signed with Milwaukee
  • Ross Kivett 10th/291 2B from kansas State. Cleveland failed to sign, became 6th rounder in 2014 and signed with Detroit

Bickford fell 8 slots year over  year but still fell.   DeMuth and Kivett both improved their stock.  The rest fell, drastically in some cases.

Verdict: 2 improved, 6 fell

2012: 8 failed to sign

  • Mark Appel 1/8 RHP Stanford by Pittsburg. failed to sign, was 1/1 in 2013 with Houston
  • Teddy Stankiewicz 2/75 RHP from Texas Hs. failed to sign with Mets, went Juco, 2/45 in 2013 by Boston
  • Alec Rash, 2/95 by Philadelphia from IA HS. went to Missouri, 2015 drafted in 23rd round by Washington but still didn’t sign; quit baseball and started playing NCAA basketball
  • Kyle Twomey, 3/106 LHP Calif HS Oakland. Drafted 13th round 3 yrs later out of USC by Chicago Cubs.
  • Brandon Thomas 4/136 OF from Ga Tech; didn’t sign with Pittsburgh, drafted 8th round one year later and signed with NYY
  • Colin Poche 5/162 LHP texas h s. failed to sign with Baltimore, went to Dallas Baptist, undrafted Jr year, drafted 14th round 2016 by Arizona
  • Nick Halamandaris 8/251 1B Calif HS. failed to sign with Seattle, played 4 years at cal, undrafted jr and Sr year, NDFA with Seattle, played one season
  • L.J. Mazzilli 9/280 2B from UConn. 4th rounder in 2013 signed with NY Mets

Appel managed to improve from 8th overall to 1st overall.  Stankiewicz also improved his stock about a round’s worth.  Mazzilli improved from a 9th rounder to a 4th rounder.  The others all fell.

Verdict: 3 up, 5 down.


Summary: of the 37 players who failed to sign:

  • 7 too early to tell yet
  • 22 hurt their draft stock by failing to sign
  • 7 improved their draft stock.  Of those who improved:
    • Two improved one round
    • Two improved slightly within the same round
    • One went from 8th round to 5th round
    • One went from 10th round to 6th round
    • One went from a 9th rounder to a 4th rounder.
  • 1 didn’t really count b/c of the Houston 2014 shenanigans

So there you have it.  7 of 37 turned down money and look like they slightly made out (19%).   22/37 (60%) did not … and in some cases clearly cost themselves millions of dollars.  And even those 7 who did improve their ranking … not one of them in my opinion drastically improved their stock by going to college.  In fact, you can make the argument that getting drafted in the 8th round in one year, playing another year in college and then going in the 5th round probably *hurts* a player’s pro prospects because now he’s a year older versus his peers and has lost a year of pro development time.  A 22 yr old college senior draftee is already “old for the level” until he gets to at least Low-A, which is no guarantee even in his second pro year.

Now, has it ever worked out for a player to turn down significant 1st round money?  Yeah a couple times; Mark Appel gambled and improved his stock just before the new CBA took hold; in fact he managed to go 1-1 despite being a college senior with zero leverage.  Garrett Cole also made out by going to school.  So did a few others in the pre-2012 CBA eras.   But its a rarity; I’ve got another post that goes over these and some of the biggest nightmares for a later date.

Food for thought.

 

 

Your 2018 Nats Draft Class

11 comments

You'd be smiling too if you just got a $3M check! Photo via MASN

You’d be smiling too if you just got a $3M check! Photo via MASN

July 6th came and went, and the Nats signed their #1 overall pick without too much fanfare, giving Mason Denaburg a nice bump over his slot value and wrapping up the 2018 Draft Class.

Here’s a table of the 29 players we successfully signed, with known bonus amounts.  The MLBpipeline Draft Tracker is the most up-to-date resource for this data now that Baseball America has taken most of its stuff behind a paywall.

Round+JA7:J38OverallNamePositionCol/HSCollege or CmtmStateSigned?Bonus AmtSlot Value
127Denaburg, MasonRHP (Str)HSFloridaFLYes30000002472700
265Cate, TimLHP (Str)Coll JrUconnCTYes986200986200
3101Schaller, ReidRHP (Rel)Coll SoVanderbiltTNYes555100555100
4131Irvin, JakeRHP (Str)Coll JrOklahomaOKYes550000414500
5161Canning, GageOFColl JrArizona StateAZYes308900308900
6191Karp, AndrewRHP (Str)Coll SrFlorida StateFLYes200000239600
7221Day, ChandlerRHP (Rel)Coll JrVanderbiltTNYes188300188300
8251Cropley, TylerCColl SrIowaIAYes10000157200
9281Driskill, TannerRHP (Str)Coll SrLamarTXYes10000144400
10311Shaddy, Carson2BColl SrArkansasARYes10000136900
11341Bartow, FrankieRHP (Rel)Coll JrMiamiFLYes125000
13401Wilson, CodyOF (Corner)Coll JrFlorida Atlantic UFLYes125000
14431Fletcher, AaronLHP (Str)Coll JrHoustonTXYes125000
15461Lee, EvanLHP (rel)/OFColl SoArkansasARYes125000
16491Teel, CarsonLHP (Str)Coll JrOklahoma StateOKYes125000
18551Rhinesmith, JacobOF (CF)Coll JrWestern KentuckyKYYes125000
20611Vega, OnixCJC J1Broward CollegeFLYes125000
21641Tapani, RyanRHP (Str)Coll SrCreightonNBYes10000
22671Daily, ColeSSColl JrNotre DameINYes
24731Marinconz, KyleSSColl JrCal Poly San Luis ObispoCAYes60000
25761Vann, ChrisLHP (Str)Coll SrMercerGAYes3000
26791Morse, ColinRHP (Str)Coll SrShenandoah VAYes3000
27821O'Connor, Pablo2BColl SrAzusa Pacific UniversityCAYes
28851Chisolm, Blake1BColl SrSam Houston StateTXYes
29881Pogue, ColtonSSColl SrPittsburg State UKSYes
30911Vickers, TreySSColl SrWichita StateKSYes
31941Quintana, JonathanOFColl SrBarry UFLYes3000
32971Maley, AlecRHP (Str)Coll SrKentuckyKYYes3000
381151Milacki, BobbyRHPColl JrArizona Christian UAZYes25000

Summary of the 29 drafted players:

  • One High Schooler, 13 College Seniors
  • 16 Arms (including Evan Lee) and 13 Bats
  • Of the 16 arms, 4 were relievers in College and are (presumably) already routed to that role in the pros.
  • Thus, 15 College players with eligibility remaining
  • As of this writing, two guys have already been double promoted to Hagerstown; 11th rounder Frankie Bartow, UMiami’s closer this past season, and 5th rounder Cage Ganning, OF from UCLA.
  • I count $6,800,500 in total bonus money paid out, more than their bonus pool figure of $5,603,800 and a bit more than their 5% cushion figure above the bonus pool figure of $5,883,990
  • A few of the lower level bonus figures have yet to be disclosed; i could see Cole Daily getting a $125k bonus or near to it since he got bought out of his senior year, but the rest of the players w/o known bonuses were College Seniors who probably each got the same $3,000 bonus that other College Seniors got in rounds 20 and up.
  • As of this writing, 2 have yet to be assigned, 15 went to the GCL, 9 went straight to Auburn, and 3 played a week or so in the GCL before getting to Auburn.

Verdict on this class overall: I like the fact that they threw out a ton of max $125k bonuses in the rounds 11-20; that certainly wasn’t the case last  year and it may have bought them some good players.  I’m ok with Denaburg as their 1st rounder and wasn’t as hung up on picking a more “famous” name at that point in the draft.  Unlike in 2017, I liked who they got in the rounds 3-6 area, and I think they may have a real player in 10th round senior sign Carson Shaddy.    In the rounds 11-20 they got a number of weekend starters from good schools to sign for the $125k figure, one of which has already forced his way to be twice-promoted.  Of course, when nearly half your draft dollars go to one kid, and that kid is a high schooler who probably is playing in our minor leagues for the next 5 years … its going to be quite a while til we really know if this was a winning class or not.

 


 

Here’s a table of the 11 guys who did not sign:

Round+JA7:J38OverallNamePositionCol/HSCollege or CmtmStateSigned?
12371Lawson, GrahamRHP (Rel)Coll JrSouth CarolinaSCWon't
17521Chapman, RidgeRHP (Str)Coll JrSouth CarolinaSCWon't
19581Linginfelter, ZachRHP (rel)Coll SoTennesseeTNDidn't
23701Hamilton, ColeCJC J1Linn Benton CCORWon't
331001Haney, JackCHSCedartown HSGADidn't
341031Baca, TylerOFHSThe Linfield School (CA)CADidn't
351061Binelas, Alex1BHSOak Creek HS (WI)WIWon't
361091Blessie, BoRHPHSRobert E Lee HS (TX)TXWon't
371121Wilcox, ColeRHPHSHeritage HS (GA)GAWon't
391181Nardi, AndrewLHPJC J2Moorpark Col (CA)CADidn't
401211Menhart, MichaelRHPHSRichmond Hill HSGADidn't

Quick Summary here:

  • The big misses here of course are the 12th and 17th rounders from South Carolina, both of whom announced on twitter within a few minutes of each other of their intent to return to school.
  • 19th rounder Zach Linginfelter was a draft-eligible Sophomore from Tennessee who made it into their weekend rotation late in the season and had the easy decision to return to school, where he probably is a weekend starter all next year and could easily find his way into the top 10 rounds.
  • 6 of the 11 non-signees were 30th+ round prep players who were never going to sign … either because they were 1st round rumored kids with million dollar price tags or because they were legacy picks
  • 2 of the non-signees are Juco guys who were a little hard to find info on: Cole Hamilton and Andrew Nardi.  Nardi seems to have a committment to go to Arizona; can’t blame him for heading to a good program.  Hamilton doesn’t even have a perfectgame.org profile and too common of a name to research on twitter.

No major misses; highest non-signed player was a 12th rounder.

Written by Todd Boss

July 9th, 2018 at 10:55 am

Panic time for 2018

21 comments

The time has come to officially panic, both about Harper and this team. Photo via ftw/usatoday

The time has come to officially panic, both about Harper and this team. Photo via ftw/usatoday

I’ve certainly been among those making excuses for this team, and for players on the team, for a while now.   These points are true:

  • They are better than their pythagorean record; by runs scored versus runs against, they should be 45-39, in 2nd place ahead of the luckier Phillies but still 5 games back of the surprising Braves.
  • They’ve been incredibly unlucky in one run and extra inning games.  This is a direct input to the pythag record; they’re 8-16 in one run games and 2-4 in extra innings.  Both the teams ahead of them in the NL east have wildly better one-run records (13-6 and 18-7 respectively)
  • They’ve been just slaughtered with injury, at various times this year leading the NL in total players on the D/L and total man-games lost.
  • They’ve experienced a complete gutting of last year’s middle of the order, with Ryan Zimmerman disappearing for weeks on end with little-to-no idea when he’d come back, Daniel Murphy taking nearly half a season to recover from his surprise off-season knee injury, and Bryce Harper putting up one of his worst seasons … clearly pressing, expanding his zone and being amazingly unlucky in terms of BABIP thus far this season.

To add insult to injury, #2 starter Stephen Strasburg threw his annual arm injury into play early this year, our mid-rotation guys have struggled, and our #5 starters keep going down with injury.

What else is true?  This is a team that’s kinda old; average age 29.1 (which is only 10th), but which is helped greatly by the presence of youngest-guy-in-the-league Juan Soto.  And Old teams get hurt, a lot.  Meanwhile  young teams (like Atlanta at 5th youngest and Philly who are the absolute youngest teams) don’t get hurt a lot.

This season is starting to remind me of a couple of past seasons:

  • 2012, when the Nats were significantly improved from 2011 and took the league by storm, frankly, a year before they thought they would.  To me, this is the 2018 Braves.   The Braves only won 72 games last year; now they’re on a pace to win 94 games.  That’s a massive difference year over year and they’re doing it with almost  no off-season moves; all internal.
  • 2015, when the Nats themselves showed similar season-long malaise and only came to life at the end of the season when it was too late and all they managed to do was cost themselves draft position the next year.

So what now?  They just finished a relatively brutal section of the schedule, playing a ton of AL East teams.  AL teams are bad match-ups for any NL team thanks to the DH’s impact on roster construction … even if they’re playing a crummy AL team like Tampa or Baltimore.  But to face off against the likes of Boston and New York, who are juggernauts, with a sputtering offense and missing a couple of key arms … well its no surprise to me they got swept.

The next 3 weeks will be the season.  They have 3 series against poor teams where they should be able to go 8-3 or 9-2 if they’re a legit team.  The should get at least one arm back in Hellickson and maybe Fedde can be replaced like for like with the surprising Jefry Rodriguez until Strasburg shows back up.   Then we have to hope for a post-all star game bump and take it to Atlanta in the first season post ASG to make up some ground.

Now, what does this team have going for it?

  • Harper just cannot continue to hit this badly; at some point he should have a solid month.
  • This team was dominant in May; it can play .600 ball when it needs to
  • Strasburg returns likely after the ASG
  • The Nats have one of the easiest remaining schedules in baseball; slightly easer than Philly and significantly easier than Atlanta.   The Nats have no more interleague games either.
  • Furthermore, the Nats have already done all their West Coast trips; their worst remaining road trip is to Colorado the last series of the season.   Both their NL East competitors still have big west coast trips to make.

So the big question is this: can this team get it together a little now, a little in August and put themselves in a position to take back the division?   If they scuffle and go just .500 between now and the ASG … then no way.

 

 

Written by Todd Boss

July 5th, 2018 at 11:18 am