Nationals Arm Race

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

Harrisburg/AA Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2015

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Voth was your unquestioned AA star pitcher in 2015. Photo via mlbdirt

Voth was your unquestioned AA star pitcher in 2015. Photo via mlbdirt

After skipping the minor league pitching staff reviews in 2014 (that silly thing called work interfered), I’m back for 2015.  I’ll be reviewing the six minor league levels and the major league levels going from high to low.

In this series, we have already published the 2015 MLB review and the 2015 AAA review.

For some AA review historical perspective, here’s 2013’s version (featuring Nathan Karns), here’s 2012’s version (featuring Danny Rosenbaum) and 2011’s version (featuring Brad Peacock) of this post specifically for Harrisburg/AA.  In the missing 2014 post I likely would have “featured” either A.J. Cole or Matt Grace.

All stats are courtesy of either milb.com’s Harrisburg 2015 Stats page or via Fangraph’s Harrisburg 2015 Stats page.   Also useful here are the Big Board and the Nats Draft Tracker.  And here’s the Baseball America Minor League Free Agent (MLFA) tracker.  And here’s a list of the official MLB MLFA declarations for 2015, though these are more useful for the AAA squad frankly.

Harrisburg Pitching Staff movement throughout the year (* == lefty)

  • Opening Day Rotation: Voth, Ross, Espino, Alderson, Swynenberg
  • End-of-Season Rotation:  Bates, Voth, Rauh, Simms, Giolito
  • End of Season spot starts/swingman:  Purke*
  • End of Season bullpen: Mendez, EDavis, Suero, Lee*, de los Santos, Demny
  • 9/1 promotions: Bacus, Roark
  • Mid-Season promotions: Swynenberg, Espino, Ross, Demny, Simmons, Solis*, Bleier*, Runion, Harper*
  • up-and-back: de los Santos
  • down-and-back: Spann*
  • demotions: Self, Dupra, Mapes, Amlung
  • dl/TIL: Benincasa, Alderson
  • cut/released/FAs/traded: Sisk, Ambriz, Pivetta (traded)

Harrisburg starters.  The rotation started the season with Voth, Ross, Espino, Alderson, Swynenberg.  Here’s an overview of the starters used, starting with the original five starters.

  • Austin Voth not only was the opening day starter, he led the team in IP and in starts.  He posted a 6-7 record with a 2.92 ERA, 1.11 whip, 3.07 fip and had a 148/40 K/BB ratio in 157.1 innings.  Nobody else had more than 15 starts on the year for the Senators, meaning Voth was the unquestioned leader of this pitching staff all year.  He proved that his precipitous rise in 2014 was no fluke by posting solid numbers.  Thanks to a glut of starters above him, I can’t quite see him breaking into the MLB rotation (ala Jordan Zimmermann, who jumped straight from a solid AA season to the majors), but I can see him jumping ahead of some of the AAA starter-in-waiting guys (Cole, Jordan, Hill) if/when the opportunity arises to provide injury cover in the majors.  Outlook for Next season: AAA rotation and a MLB debut at some point in 20116.
  • Joe Ross threw 9 solid starts in AA before getting called up and solidifying his place in the 2016 MLB rotation; see the MLB write-up for more.  Outlook for Next season: Nats #4 starter.
  • Paolo Espino threw seven decent starts in AA before getting plucked to move up, spending the rest of the season in AAA.   See AAA write-up for more.  Outlook for Next season: AAA rotation.
  • Tim Alderson had just 5 starts as a Feb 2015 MLFA signing before getting hurt and spending essentially the rest of the season on the D/L.  He has already elected free agency.  Outlook for Next season: in another organization.
  • Matt Swynenberg made just two AA starts, got bumped to AAA to provide cover and then apparently elected to retire, spending the rest of the season on Syracuse’s restricted list.  See AAA write-up for more (though there’s not much more to tell).  Outlook for Next season: retired
  • Colin Bates returned to Harrisburg for his second stint, converting more to a long-man/spot starter in 2015 than the pure reliever he was in 2014.  Results are mixed: he was 6-6 with a 4.28 ERA in 111.1 innings across 28 games/15 starts.  1.37 whip, 4.25 fip.  62/29 K/BB in those 111 innings.  A pretty low K/9 ratio for today’s power-heavy pitching game lends me to believe that Bates has reached his peak; I could see him pushed to the AAA bullpen or staying in AA bullpen again as a swingman based on the numbers, but either way he stands to play out 2016 as an org guy before hitting MLFA.  Outlook for Next season: AA bullpen.
  • Richard Bleier gave AA 15 effective starts before getting pushed to the AAA rotation;  See the AAA write-up for more.   Outlook for next season: in AAA for another organization
  • Dakota Bacus started in Potomac but got bumped quickly to Harrisburg, where he played most of the season (he was a 9/1 call-up to AAA to provide a few days of bullpen cover).  For Harrisburg he was 6-3 with a 3.51 ERA in 22 appearances and 11 starts.  1.29 whip in AA, 4.11 fip and a 53/29 K/BB in 89.2 AA innings.  Not bad, not great.  Bacus was the return for Kurt Suzuki trade in late 2013 and has steadily climbed the ladder; I can see him in the AAA bullpen next year.  He’s still just 24 and we have a couple more years of control, so he could still have an impact.  He’s survived one Rule-5 draft already; his goal in 2016 should be to put himself in a position to earn a 40-man spot.  Outlook for Next season: AAA bullpen.
  • Matthew Spann bounced freely between High-A and AA this year, throwing slightly more innings in High-A but getting 10 starts in AA.  In those 10 AA starts, he was 2-2 with a 4.66 ERA, 1.61 whip, 3.70 fip and had a 35/25 K/BB ratio in 56 innings.  He ended the year where he began it; the High-A rotation.  Spann was the return for David DeJesus and already has 6 minor league seasons in him, so he may have found his peak level.  I could see him back in the mix for the AA rotation for one more season before hitting MLFA/getting released.  The fact that he’s a lefty though gives him a bit more of a stay of execution; his lefty vs lefty numbers are a bit better than against righies, so perhaps he could convert to relief if need be.  But he’s stuck as a starter for an awful long time; most guys wouldn’t last 6 seasons as a starter in the low-minors unless there was something there.  Outlook for Next season: AA rotation.
  • Lucas Giolito had 8 starts for Harrisburg after a mid-season promotion from High-A.  He was 4-2 with a 3.80 ERA in those 8 starts, with 1.37 whip, 3.18 fip and 45/17 K/BB in 47.1 AA innings.  Gioloto took a bit of time to adjust to AA; 10 of the 20 earned runs he gave up (and 6 of his 11 walsk) in his 8 AA starts were in his first two appearances.  It took him weeks to get a home start, and he only made two home starts during his AA season.  Eventually he adjusted; throwing 7 innings of one-hit ball with 11 strikeouts in his home debut for Harrisburg.  Giolito got hit; he certainly wasn’t as dominant in AA as he was in High-A, but he’s also just turned 21 and there’s no mistaking the potential in his arm.  I think the team starts him in AA again, hoping for a 5-6 week earned promotion to AAA and perhaps a mid-to-late season call-up potential for 2016.  Outlook for Next season: AA rotation to start.
  • John Simms earned his promotion from High-A to AA the same day as Giolito and also got 8 AA starts.  His results were mixed: 2-3 with a 4.40 ERA, 1.42 whip, 3.82 fip and 34/15 K/BB in 45 AA innings.  Simms showed more K/9 in AA than he did in High-A oddly, but wasn’t appreciably more hittable.  This was his second stint in AA and improved slightly from his 2014 numbers (where he had 11 starts with a 5.03 ERA).  Nonetheless, good progress for the 2013 11th rounder.  Outlook for Next season: AA rotation.
  • Brian Rauh had an interesting tour of the Nats minor league affiliates in 2015, starting the season in Potomac, getting quickly promoted to Harrisburg, struggling, getting hurt, going to the D/L, doing a rehab assignment in Viera, then working his way back up the chain from Low- to High-A and ending the year back in the Harrisburg rotation.  He proved twice he was too good for High-A, and proved twice why he may  not be ready for AA.  Total AA stats on the year: 8 starts, 4.83 ERA, 1.41 whip, 4.95 fip and 29/10 K/BB in 41 AA innings.   2016 is sink or swim time for Rauh in AA; he can’t go back to Potomac for the fourth straight year.  Outlook for Next season: AA rotation or bust.
  • Matthew Purke had a whirlwind off-season, getting DFA’d off the 40-man roster but then quickly re-signed to a MLFA contract for the 2015. season to give it one last go for the former big-money bonus 2011 3rd rounder.  He rose to AA where he pitched as a swing-man, getting 10 games and 5 starts, and did not impress.  6.29 ERA, 1.64 whip, 3.76 fip.  19/7 K/BB in 24 AA innings.  His lower minors numbers were much better … but at this point in his age 25 season, he needs to be competing well at the higher levels.  I think its clear that he’s not going to recover from his shoulder issues and it seems unlikely he’ll rise much above where he already has.  He has already declared as a MLFA and has signed with the White Sox as a MLFA for 2016.  Thus ends a long, drawn-out saga for a guy who I thought was a huge draft day coup for us.  Outlook for Next season: AA in the White Sox organization.
  • Others who had a few starts for AA Harrisburg:
    • Nick Pivetta had 3 AA starts after getting promoted from Potomac before getting flipped for Jonathan Papelbon: see High-A write-up for more.
    • James Simmons threw a couple of spot starts in Harrisonburg, inbetween his regular reliever duties.  See reliever section for more.
    • Solis, Fister, Strasburg, Janssen and Roark each had one “start” during rehab assignments in Harrisburg; see MLB write-up for each.

Harrisburg Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps.  We’ll organize relievers by going by IP from most to least.  Anyone with less than 10 IP will get cursory analysis at the end.

  • Gilberto Mendez keeps moving on up the system, posting a 3.84 ERA in a full season (61 innings) as a middle reliever in AA.  1.38 whip, 3.51 fip and 52/17 K/BB in those 61 innings.  Mendez’ numbers inflated somewhat dramatically from his last two years, his whip jumping from 0.94 to 1.38 with the jump to AA.  His K/9 stayed impressive though.  His BAA and BABIP look inflated so perhaps he had some bad luck going.  He’s still young (turned 23 after the season), and he could be a middle relief option in the majors relatively soon.  One thing I like about him is the way he keeps the ball on the ground: just one homer allowed in those 61 innings.  I think the team starts him in AA bullpen again looking for a 5 week promotion to AAA where he can hone his craft against more advanced/mature hitters.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see him in AAA, but right now the team has so many MLB-experienced arms that won’t make the 25-man roster that there might not be enough room in Syracuse for Mendez.  Outlook for Next season: AA bullpen to start.
  • Abel de los Santos was a surprise callup in mid July, getting a premature add to the 40-man and a call-up so that he could throw to a handful of batters, then return back to AA.  Perhaps not the best use of an option.  Nonetheless, he was a 22yr old in AA holding his own (much like Mendez; in fact their birthday is just days apart in November).  For the year in AA; 3.43 ERA in 57.2 innings, 1.13 ERA, 3.39 fip and 55/12 K/BB in those 57 innings as an 8th/9th inning guy (he had 8 saves in 11 opportunities).  His numbers look similar to Mendez’s at first, but I think the team starts him in AAA since he’s on the 40-man, in order to get him some more experience against veteran hitters.  Side note: that trade of Ross Detwiler looking pretty good now eh?  de los Santos and new top10 prospect Chris Bostick for the OBE’d Detwiler, who didn’t last half the year before getting flat out released by Texas.  Outlook for Next season: AAA bullpen.
  • Paul Demny started the year in AAA, got demoted after 10 innings and spent the rest of the season in Harrisonburg.  He had fantastic numbers in AA this year; 1.88 ERA, 60 Ks in 48 innings splitting time as the closer with de los Santos.  But its also his EIGHTH minor league season in the system.  He’s already declared as a MLFA and you have to think he’s looking elsewhere at this point, given the fact that half the RH relievers between AA and AAA got callups last year and he didn’t.  Outlook for Next season: with another organization.
  • Bryan Harper, forever to be known as Bryce’s older brother, had a pretty darn good season, posting a 3.02 ERA in 45 innings with decent peripherals (33/15 K/BB, 1.18 whip, held lefties to a .185 BAA).  He earned a late-season call-up to AAA as well.   He survived the Rule-5 draft but sits behind several other lefty relievers at this point, two of which are already slated for AAA (Grace and Solis).  I could see him losing out on a numbers game and repeating AA in 2016, waiting for injuries to open up the log jam of lefty relievers in the organization.  Outlook for Next season: AA bullpen.
  • James Simmons signed out of Indy ball and stuck with the Nats farm system for parts of two seasons, serving as a rubber-armed utility guy between AA and AAA both this year and last.  Oddly, he was hurling for AA, got called up to AAA to make one spot start in July … and then was released soon after.  His numbers weren’t great in 2014 but were improved in 2015, but as a 29-yr old now out of affiliated ball, it may be the end of the road for him.  Outlook for Next season: out of baseball.
  • Erik Davis: returned from Tommy John surgery in 2014, got shelled in AAA and then was demoted to Harrisburg for the duration of the season.  He was effective in AA (2.65 ERA in 34 ip) but you have to ask yourself; where does the team go with him?  He’s now 29, still on the 40-man roster and doesn’t look like he made a full recovery in his first year back.  Given that he was a marginal right-handed middle reliever to begin with, I wonder if he’s ever going to have an impact with this team.  He still has a MLB option left (which he’ll use in 2016), but I have him as either option #1 or #2 to DFA if the team suddenly needs 40-man roster space.  If he survives on the roster to 4/1/16, I can see him tried in AAA bullpen again.  Outlook for Next season: AAA bullpen/release candidate.  1/6/16 update: Davis was DFA’d on the 40-man to make room for Daniel Murphy: we’ll update in this space when his roster status is finalized.
  • Nick Lee earned a mid-season promotion after closing effectively for Potomac and showed some organizational intrigue while in AA.  While at Harrisburg he posted a 3.75 ERA with 29/19 K/BB in 24 innings.   Lots of walks, but also lots of Ks especially for a lefty.  On a whole, the team liked enough of what they saw to not only send him to the AFL but to also protect him on their 40-man roster.   He seemingly slots in as a lefty specialist in 2016 but sits behind Solis and Grace.  I think he starts in AA with an idea of moving up to AAA.  Outlook for Next season: AA bullpen to start.
  • Hector Ambriz was signed in May, then released in June after getting hammered in 10 outings across four weeks.  He remains unsigned.  Outlook for Next season: out of baseball.
  • Other Relievers who got innings for AA/Harrisburg in 2015:
    • Wander Suero: Pitched the first half of the season in High-A: see High-A writeup for more.
    • Sam Runion: split time between AA and AAA; see AAA write-up for more.
    • Derek Self started in AA but was demoted to High-A, where he spent most of the year.  See High-A writeup for more.
    • Sammy Solis: 13.1 IP in AA in-between assignments to AAA and MLB.  See MLB write-up for more.
    • Brian Dupra was up and down between Potomac and Harrisburg; See High-A writeup for more.
    • Robert Benincasa threw four innings in April and spent the rest of the season on the D/L.  A lost season.  Outlook for Next season: AA bullpen again.
    • David Carpenter appeared briefly for Harrisburg on a rehab stint; see MLB write-up for more.

Summary

20 guys got starts for Harrisburg in 2015, though the rotation as it were really was dominated by one crew for the first half, one crew in the second half.   A lot of the guys who featured for Harrisburg in 2015 seem like good bets to return for at least the start of 2016 thanks to the log-jam above them.   At some point though we’ll start to see movement through the system; a good number of these guys in AA need to move up or move on.

 

 

43 Responses to 'Harrisburg/AA Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2015'

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  1. These write-ups are great fun, Todd, and I’m happy that you were able to reinstate them for this offseason.

    John C.

    4 Jan 16 at 2:14 pm

  2. Todd, nice summary. You put a lot of work into tracking these pitchers.

    Everyone is wondering who the surprise player will be for 2016.

    For me, that was Joe Ross for 2015. For 2014, I’d say Aaron Barrett although it didn’t end well and 2013 it was Tanner Roark.

    Ghost of Steve M. (TalkNats.com)

    4 Jan 16 at 7:44 pm

  3. Purke was my big disappointment. A great Horned Frog pitcher who unfortunately had arm issues. The Nats were running out of MiLB options on him and made a crucial mistake leaving him as a starter. He needed to be converted to a reliever to make it work in the short time the Nats had control over him. They didn’t do it and now he’s a White Sox.

    Maybe he has nothing left but the guy I saw 6 years ago was one of the most talented lefties in College baseball.

    Ghost of Steve M. (TalkNats.com)

    4 Jan 16 at 7:49 pm

  4. Thanks JohnC; based on the trickling out of these posts, you can see how long they take to do :-) For me the cool part is what you guys can’t see yet; i’m basically trying to create a whole mapping of the entire system of Arms for 2016. Its pretty cool to see it come together, especially when you think about just how many guys we have throwing for the various levels.

    I’m also bummed Purke didn’t work out. What can you do; shoulder injuries are just tough. Cole Kimball went from a guy who looked like he could anchor the Nats bullpen for years to a guy who was out of the game. Just like that.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jan 16 at 10:06 pm

  5. Todd, thank you so much. You validate our excessive devotion to people who can go from being Matt Purke to being Matt Purke.

    That said, it’s hard to prognosticate who will surprise the most. So I will volunteer a few, without rank.

    AJ Cole
    Drew VanOrden
    Joan Baez

    Cole may be dismissed, but he gets no love here. Van Orden faded after starting dominant. Baez made a few adjustments and came back strong. He is still very young and has thunder for velo.

    forensicane

    5 Jan 16 at 1:32 am

  6. If by “surprise” Ghost is looking for someone who could come from somewhat out of nowhere to the majors, my pick would be Koda Glover. I realize that’s a long shot since he finished the season with only a few appearances at Hagerstown, but 6’5″ relievers who throw in the upper 90s don’t grow on trees.

    Fore, I haven’t given up on Cole. For some perspective, he’s the same age as Simms and just half a year older than Voth. But Cole has been on the radar so long that people tend to lump him with guys like Jordan, who is three years older and will be turning 27 in a couple of weeks.

    KW

    5 Jan 16 at 5:31 am

  7. Love Koda Glover; he was a beast this year and totally justified his overslot deal. You guys are jumping ahead! I don’t talk about Glover for 2 more posts :-)

    I definitely will create an updated “watch list” of sorts per this conversation; guys who really stepped it up in 2015 and will put it into the summary projections post.

    Todd Boss

    5 Jan 16 at 8:57 am

  8. Thanks, Todd. This teams pitching writeup is key to the Nats future.

    Love it.

    Mark L

    5 Jan 16 at 9:49 am

  9. When you get to the Glover profile, make sure to include a link to his priceless MiLB photo:

    http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?player_id=606983#/career/R/pitching/2015/ALL

    I asked Luke Erickson on his site recently about Simms. He said that when he saw him at Potomac, he was very efficient and effective, really knew how to pitch. He said, however, that he believes the organization views Simms as sort of a RH version of Milone. Simms certainly showcased well in the AFL (1.88 ERA), and I thought there might be some trade interest in him. The guy from AZ who sent photos for Luke to post commented about Simms that he seemed completely in control of the hitters, making him hit his pitch.

    Voth has been one I have been following since he was drafted, as he seemed to have a very good pedigree but had fallen a bit from lack of velocity. Well, he’s now through AA and still striking out nearly one per inning. He gets guys out, again a la Milone.

    I have said many times that Voth might end up with the A’s, not wishing him away, just thinking that he is the type of pitcher they have coveted over the flamethrowers. Simms would fit that bill as well. (I’m still working on that deal for Vogt and Reddick.) If Voth stays, it will be interesting to see how he shakes out in the pecking order for a MLB call-up among Cole and that Giolito kid.

    Ah yes, Giolito. There’s a good portion of the Nats World that is going to be disappointed if he doesn’t spend some time on South Capitol this year. Will he? Should he? Will he start the season in April, or after XST? Will he start in Harrisburg, or Syracuse? What I can say for certain is that he won’t go over 140-150 innings. Boz said in his chat yesterday that he didn’t think Giolito would be promoted until June 2017, or perhaps the beginning of 2018. I really think the Nats need a read on how he’ll do in the majors before the next offseason, though.

    The best thing Giolito has going for him is that, unlike when Stras came up, they don’t need him to be a franchise savior. He won’t have that pressure. It will be a big deal, but nothing like Strasmus.

    KW

    5 Jan 16 at 12:42 pm

  10. Koda Glover is now on the radar! We need some of these guys to watch.

    Last year’s surprise just seemingly came out of nowhere. I get almost giddy about Joe “Cool” Ross. That guy has top of the rotation potential and to think that the Padres had just thrown him into the Trea Turner deal is mind blowing.

    Ross and Strasburg starting working out together back in November in San Diego with lots of leg work. It was the first sign of fatigue for Ross during the 2015 season.

    Ghost of Steve M.

    5 Jan 16 at 3:17 pm

  11. To me it seems like the Nationals have a backlog of bullpen arms, especially right handed ones. Assuming the current MLB team bullpen is Papelbon/Storen/Rivero/Gott/Kelley/Perez/Petit, then that means that the following pitchers are jousting for AAA (* means on the 40 man roster … for now):

    RH: Abel de los Santos*; Rafael Martin*; Blake Treinen*; Erik Davis*; P.J. Walters; Sam Runion; Scott McGregor
    LH: Sammy Solis*; Matt Grace*; Aaron Laffey.

    That’s ten guys, six of whom are on the 40 man roster (although Davis is expected to get the boot any moment now). McGregor and Laffey could be considered swing starters.

    The push down continues in AA, with Bates, Bacus, Lee, Harper, and Mendez all candidates even before we look to see who might come up. I think Rizzo had better start dealing or the pipeline is going to overflow.

    John C.

    5 Jan 16 at 4:38 pm

  12. I did not mention Glover as a surprise because his start was so dominant that he and Andrew Lee were the surprises last year, and progress may not be a given but would not be surprising.

    Voth does get overlooked. There is a presumption that Giolito will make it and Voth will be trade fodder. Voth in the DC rotation at some point would be on the order of Joe Ross 2015, for its leapfrogging.

    Forensicane

    5 Jan 16 at 4:41 pm

  13. I’ll re-iterate the Voth love. I think he’s either the 3rd or 4th starter in Syracuse come 4/1/16. And I think he gets a shot at the bigs this year if/when an injury start is needed.

    Todd Boss

    5 Jan 16 at 5:04 pm

  14. Glorious news for you, Todd!

    Ladson’s inbox returns Wednesday for your extreme pleasure.

    Anonymous

    5 Jan 16 at 5:50 pm

  15. Just heard Gammons with this stat on MLB radio: the closer with the best save percentage in 1 run wins in major league history is …. Jonathan Papelbon. Rivera is 4th, Hoffman 5th.

    I have no point here, it’s just January

    Wally

    5 Jan 16 at 7:17 pm

  16. If Andrew Lee turns out to be a reliever, he could advance as fast as Glover. If he can stick as a power starter, though, he may turn out to be more valuable in the long run.

    John has hit on a great point that needs to be discussed, and the discussion needs to range beyond just the relievers. We’ve been told for years now that the Nats are great at identifying and developing pitchers (well, RH pitchers) and that we shouldn’t worry too much about the lack of depth in the field positions because we can always trade arms to fill those needs. Well, it’s past time to make some of those trades.

    The recent track record in trading pitchers has been great. Pivetta brought Papelbon, Ott was part of the Ross/Turner heist, Det netted Bostick and de los Santos, Blevins turned into den Dekker, and Clippard brought Escobar. Only two of those were from the minor-league stock, though. It’s time to move more.

    I thought Taylors Jordan and Hill should have been traded last offseason. Hill has almost no value now, and Jordan’s is reduced. Cole has more value than either, but it will wither on the vine with another AAAA year. I’m not too keen on Fedde, but he’s still viewed as a higher tier prospect so could net a high level return. If there is concern whether Lopez can stay a starter, perhaps they should consider moving him while he can still be valued as a starter.

    No, I don’t think the Nats should trade all of these guys. But it’s time to make some decisions, cull the ranks, and net good returns while they’re available to get. With so many assets, this approach makes more sense than throwing money at some of the mediocre free agents still left on the board. (Just saw that Parra is still in play for the Nats, which makes me want to scream.)

    KW

    5 Jan 16 at 8:34 pm

  17. Heyman has the Nats exploring the catcher market. Hallelujah.

    KW

    6 Jan 16 at 5:15 am

  18. KW, that is precisely why I mentioned VanOrden and Baez. Someone, or more than one, of the Dominican starters will take a big leap this year. Pedro Avila was huge last year, but only now came stateside. Baez is the real article. But Rey Lopez was under the radar until he broke out in 2014.

    For me, from a starter perspective, I think we need to keep an eye on Stephen Fuentes (who statistically regressed last year) and Maximo Valerio. But talk about the Dominican origin starters has cooled, perhaps because Jeffry Rodriguez has not lived up to the hype and Gil Mendez and Wander Suero have cooled. But the Nats Dominican pitching program is high quality and quantity and within a couple of years will be a bigger part of these discussions.

    Like Lopez, we may see nothing of the Dominicans until the summer, because (a great problem) so many starting pitching prospects emerged from last year’s draft, be they Lee or the group of lefthanders. They are logically ticketed for Hagerstown, along with holdovers who will get the chance to seize the year.

    Two pitchers of real promise who were injured last year were Hector Silvestre and Robert Benincasa. We have heard nothing of their injuries. But the former was a fast riser at the end of 2014 and a lefthanded starter, and the latter on a major league trajectory when he was hurt. The discussion of AA and AAA bullpens will have to account for whether Benincasa is back.

    forensicane

    6 Jan 16 at 5:19 am

  19. FWIW, I would rather take a healthier Span than Parra. The guy is a proven asset when in the DC lineup and great in this clubhouse.

    But I am also on the Michael Taylor bandwagon all the way. I hope tinkering with the 25 man does not turn him into the position player version of 2015 Roark. I get the need for a big bat, but I also think Taylor has all-star ceiling. I still remember Ellis Valentine’s stalled development in Montreal and always wondered whether he was mishandled in his AAA-ML transition.

    forensicane

    6 Jan 16 at 5:25 am

  20. Ooooh can’t wait for some Ladson inbox action!

    Todd Boss

    6 Jan 16 at 10:05 am

  21. Valero; another “one to watch” for me once the Rookie review is published. You guys are jumping all my upcoming posts :-)

    Todd Boss

    6 Jan 16 at 10:07 am

  22. 😉

    That’s why this board is the model for others. All you need is to get an insider like Jack Tavaner (sp) to break scoops here and this board would blow up.

    Forensicane

    6 Jan 16 at 11:14 am

  23. Fore, I’m not sure that a site with long-form discussions of minor-league pitching staffs will ever “blow up,” and that’s just fine with me. Some of what you’re describing is what Ghost and his friends are trying to do at Nats Talk. There’s a place for that, and they seem to be more on top of the Nat rumors than any place else. But there’s also a place for Todd’s longer-form pieces . . . and perhaps some of our longer-form comments as well! The comments here have remained intelligent and respectful, and there’s a lot to be said for that, particularly considering what has become of some of the other sites.

    KW

    6 Jan 16 at 12:38 pm

  24. Davis and Hill dfa’d … the two most obvious DFA candidates on my list. Now the waiting occurs to see if they are moved, accept assignment, declare MLFA, etc. I already had them as “release candidates” in my AAA projections but i’ll put some quickie notes in the AAA and AA posts to this effect.

    Todd Boss

    6 Jan 16 at 3:36 pm

  25. Todd, you may get them back if they clear waivers. :)

    Ghost of Steve M. (TalkNats.com)

    6 Jan 16 at 8:23 pm

  26. I wouldn’t mind having Hill back, based on what he did in 2014. With Davis, with the glut of relievers in the upper levels that John ran through above, I think it’s time to wish him happy trails. However, the Nats may feel like they’ve got a lot invested in him after the rehab time. I think Davis will clear waivers; there might be a team in need of starters that would be willing to add Hill to its 40-man.

    Griffey and Piazza to the HOF, with Bagwell, Raines, and Hoffman within hailing distance.

    KW

    6 Jan 16 at 8:45 pm

  27. OK, what three fools didn’t vote for Griffey? Maybe two of them were the two who voted for David Eckstein!

    KW

    6 Jan 16 at 8:48 pm

  28. Coming up next at NAR, the glorious return of Ladson’s inbox!

    Mark L

    6 Jan 16 at 10:25 pm

  29. KW, it’s worse than that.
    One of the stooges who didn’t vote for Griffey DID vote for Bonds & Clemens.

    Can you say fool?

    Mark L

    6 Jan 16 at 10:53 pm

  30. Anytime I see a once-promising pitcher DFA I think of Christian Garcia. Does anyone know whatever happened to him since he was released? Oh, that arm of his. Put the hype of Cole Kimball and Pretty Frickin Bueno Rodriguez to shame….Ghost, what ever became of CG and that four pitch repertoire?

    forensicane

    7 Jan 16 at 1:36 am

  31. I was definitely on the Garcia bandwagon. He made the playoff appearance in 2012 but then had nagging injuries throughout 2013 and barely pitched. Before that, they were “stretching him out” in the spring of 2013, looking at him as a potential starter. He made four starts in the minors in 2013.

    Garcia posted some very good numbers for Syracuse in early 2014 but then got released, for reasons I don’t remember. I think it was a 40-man roster move, but I don’t remember the details. The fact that no one else gave him a chance is surprising, unless he got hurt again.

    Erik Davis has had a similar talented but snake-bitten career, although Garcia was better.

    KW

    7 Jan 16 at 5:34 am

  32. IIRC, Davis was the one who took a brutal line drive to the face, and missed a bunch of time recovering. I think it happened before he got to the organization. I don’t know if it altered his career path, or he overcame it, but that is a tough one

    Wally

    7 Jan 16 at 6:57 am

  33. I’ll take both back if they’ll stay. Both can always get re-added to the 40-man if they earn it.

    we’ll never know which Murray Chass wanna-be didn’t vote for Griffey b/c they’ll never reveal their ballot and face the indignant outrage from the internet. Which is why frankly all the ballots should be made public so that pompous uninformed sports writers can answer for their stupidity.

    Todd Boss

    7 Jan 16 at 8:43 am

  34. I too was on the Christian Garcia bandwagon. Until i realized that it was based on a TWELVE inning short sample size. Which he never came close to repeating.

    Meanwhile, Roark dominated at the end of 2013 for more than 50 innings, then posted a 5-win season in the rotation in 2014 … and there were (are) still people who think he’s a middline reliever with no power. Including Mike Rizzo, who demoted Roark to the bullpen in 2015 and apparently is still considering starter acquisitions to do the same again.

    What do you think it says to players who bust their ass and make it beyond all odds, only to get demoted for their efforts? Roark was a 25th round draft pick, a throw-in for a deadline-deal trade for a player who played a grand total of 15 more MLB games before getting released and disappearing, and a few weeks from a AAA release when he turned it around and basically forced the team to give him a shot through his performance. I know i’ve beat this drum many times before, but i’m not the only person out there noticing the side-effects of the management’s player decisions in washington.

    Todd Boss

    7 Jan 16 at 8:48 am

  35. i’m not the only person out there noticing the side-effects of the management’s player decisions in washington.

    I daresay that some of the “side-effects” that y’all are noticing actually have nothing at all to do with management’s player decisions in Washington. But none of us will ever actually know, so have at it!

    John C.

    7 Jan 16 at 9:07 am

  36. When multiple FAs are taking less money to NOT come to Washington, there can’t possibly be an issue. When a number of leading national baseball journalists point out issues (Heyman, Rosenthal, Schoenfield), its all just a mirage. when one of the only full time beat reporters covering the team writes a scathing, unbelievable series clearling spelling out the clubhouse issues, its just coincidence.

    yup.

    Todd Boss

    7 Jan 16 at 10:07 am

  37. Here is the number of FA’s taking less money to NOT come to Washington: Ben Zobrist. Who also took less money to not go to the Giants, and (possibly) the Mets. Neither of whom are impacted by management’s player decisions in Washington. And whatever one thinks of the Mets, the Giants certainly aren’t regarded as a dysfunctional organization – quite the opposite, with three WS titles in the last five seasons. And yet Zobrist spurned the Giants’ offer (reportedly the same 4 years/$60M as the Nationals) to sign with the Cubs. Indicating that maybe Zobrist’s decision had more to do with the Cubs than with the Nationals.

    Darren O’Day got an extra year from the O’s that the Nationals weren’t willing to offer. So Rizzo walked away.

    Heyward got not one but two opt outs and a higher AAV from Chicago than the Nationals offered. Simply put, he didn’t turn down “more money” from the Nationals because he got a better deal from the Cubs. While the Nats’ offer technically involved more money (guesstimated as a 10 year, $200M offer), it simply wasn’t worth as much. Reports were also that the Cardinals (again, a well respected organization with a history of success, having nothing to do with perceived dysfunction in DC) also technically offered more money than the Cubs. But did not include the two opt outs, and so Heyward quite reasonably took the better offer.

    The Nationals have signed several free agents, one of whom (Petit) said that he came to Washington because of the winning environment. Oh, but he’s bound to say that, right? Yep. So was Heyward when he said nice things about the Cubs. So why dismiss Petit’s remarks and then accept Heyward’s remarks as an indictment of the Nationals?

    Who am I missing here? I’m not being entirely snarky, I’m curious.

    John C.

    7 Jan 16 at 11:07 am

  38. Off topic, I am amused that my initial comment was at 9:07am, Todd’s response was at 10:07am, and my counter was at 11:07am. We’ll look for Todd’s dismissal of my counter to arrive at 12:07pm :)

    John C.

    7 Jan 16 at 11:12 am

  39. I’d go to the Cubs over the Nats right now too. Better short term prospects and no headache. Who’s a better GM? Rizzo or Epstein? What’s a better organization? Who has more money? Who has more history? Who has a more respected, accomplished and stat-saavy manager?

    Can’t necessarily disagree with your analysis of O’day or Heyward decisions; I didn’t know about the multiple opt-outs until well after initially thinking it was Cubs for less $$ over Nationals. That definitely changes the calculus. O’Day going to a 90-loss loser makes a bit less sense but whatever. I made the same throw-away comment to Schoenfield in an ESPN chat a little while back and he didn’t vociferously disagree with the sentiment either.

    Todd Boss

    7 Jan 16 at 11:51 am

  40. Maddon, Maddon, Maddon: Zobrist wanted to play with his old manager, pure and simple. And as much as I was interested in the Nats getting him, I was very uneasy with them giving him four years. The Murphy deal will probably work out better over the course of the contract.

    KW

    7 Jan 16 at 1:06 pm

  41. Todd was 16 minutes early …

    I’m not saying there hasn’t been anything obnoxious going on, I just query whether there has been any actual impact. Like KW said, I think most of the difference for Zobrist was getting to work for Joe Maddon again, with a frisson of getting to work in the Midwest closer to Zobrist’s home. Which is why he also passed over the offers from the Giants (and Mets?). Nats Drama Impact (NDI): zero.

    O’Day went to a “90-loss loser.” Well, the O’s finished 81-81 last year, and pretty much every team in the AL has a somewhat plausible chance to make the playoffs. WE may think of the O’s as a likely 90-loss team, but I doubt that they see it that way – even if they should, which is a question for another day. Putting that aside, getting an extra guaranteed year likely made it a lot easier for O’Day to convince himself that the O’s are a possible contender … or decide that he didn’t really care, because cha-ching. NDI: zero.

    Fans hate Dusty Baker (note: fans pretty much hate all managers, but sabermetric-friendly fans really hate Dusty Baker). Players, pretty much every one that I’ve seen or heard about that has played for him, really like him. Which do you think has more impact on a player’s willingness to sign with the Nationals? If the Nats had hung onto Williams, maybe that would have had an impact. Having Baker as manager? NDI: zero (possibly even a benefit).

    I’m not making an argument that the Nationals haven’t had a turbulent time of it, or even that there aren’t some things that haven’t raised caution flags. But the question isn’t whether the NDI would affect our willingness to sign up with the Nationals. It’s a question of whether players feel the same way that we do. And I haven’t seen any particular sign that this is true.

    John C.

    7 Jan 16 at 3:37 pm

  42. FWIW, Murphy said at his press conference yesterday that he had talked with den Dekker, his former teammate, before signing, and MDD had told him that the Nats had a good, tight clubhouse. By all accounts, Baker will only help that. Yeah, I have some concerns about moves he’ll make on the field, but on the flip side of that, after all the Matty W. stupidity, it won’t be hard to look brilliant in comparison. The stage was too big for Matt. I had some concerns that it might be for Bud Black as well, considering that he never got close to winning anything in SD. We’ll see.

    KW

    8 Jan 16 at 6:57 am

  43. […] Harrisburg/AA 2015 review […]

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