Nationals Arm Race

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

Top 10 Arms; Starters and Relievers separately ranked


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

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

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

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

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

My Nats top 10 Starters:

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

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

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

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

29 Responses to 'Top 10 Arms; Starters and Relievers separately ranked'

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  1. Yes, it was challenging to pick the top arms, because the system is sort of a doughnut right now, with very little at Potomac and Hagerstown. That predicament is due in large part to the awful ’13/’14 drafts we’ve been reviewing. A few guys have climbed through, but the depth/quantity isn’t there.

    The Nats have three guys at the top in Fedde, Voth, and Cole who could eat innings at the back of an MLB rotation right now. Or at least Cole and Voth could; don’t want to get too far ahead on Fedde, who only has 29 innings above A+. I’m convinced that the Nats must have really liked what they saw, though, to be willing to give up Giolito, Lopez, and Dunning. The Nats have signed a ton of arms to fill out AAA-AA as well, including Jacob Turner, who is still just 25, much younger than some of their earlier reclamation projects.

    As I noted on Luke’s site, I think out of Mapes, Simms, and the forgotten Jaron Long, at least one should make it to The Show, probably as a long man. They all posted solid numbers at AA.

    Then we enter the black hole, where the best starter between Potomac and Hagerstown may be Andrew Lee, who missed 2/3 of the season with an unknown injury. Crownover is the only lefty left still starting of the 2015 quartet they were high on (including Hearn). Rivera Jr. didn’t make it through 2015 as a starter. Avila got traded, although probably in part because they like the kids just behind his as well or better. I had thought that Dunning might cross this gap quickly and help fill the hole, . . . but not with us.

    The U-20 quartet of Watson/Davis/Mills/Ramirez is impressive, though. That’s truly the next generation, all of whom held their own against the college draftees at Auburn, with Watson getting a taste of Hagerstown at the end (and striking out more than one per inning there).


    19 Dec 16 at 8:16 pm

  2. I’ve been on the Glover bandwagon for a long time. I just hope he’s healthy. If he is, he’ll break camp with the big club and may be working later and later in games.

    Adams and Cordero have huge arms. Cordero is said to be a 100+ guy. We’ll see.

    Yeah, I felt bad for Bryan Harper, who had a strong ’16 and was a call-up candidate until he got hurt. With Harper’s injury and Nick Lee’s ineffectiveness, Grace probably has at least another year as AAA loogy insurance. If they didn’t think Grace could make it last year during their lefty desperation, though, can’t think that they really trust him going forward. To that end, I wonder whether the Nats will sign another loogy or are banking on Tim Collins’s recovery.

    I haven’t given up on Gott. He had a mid-year injury in 2016 and seemed to finish the season strongly. He was effective for the Angels with the big club in 2015, and I think the Nats envisioned him for the 7th or 8th when they got him (which would have made the trade look a lot better). We’ll see.

    Brinley was great at Potomac, got rocked for 14 runs in 11 innings at Harrisburg, but righted himself back at Potomac and had a good AFL.


    19 Dec 16 at 8:32 pm

  3. Sorry, I left Baez out from the “doughnut”-level prospects. He turns 22 next week. I find it hard to get excited until he can get the WHIP down from the 1.5 neighborhood, even if he does allegedly throw 97. He didn’t make my top 10 at Nats Prospects.

    All in all, though, there are a lot of decent-plus arms in the system. It’s a shock when we lose the two guys a the top of the list plus a first-rounder. There may not be many “graduates” soon, but if Fedde can slot as a mid-rotation guy in a couple of years, Voth or Cole can be a swing-man/long-man, and Glover turns into a late-inning monster, that might be all the Nats really need for the near future.


    19 Dec 16 at 8:49 pm

  4. All in all, the Nats are banking on starter health for the next 1-2 years while system replenishes itself. I see a very top heavy group (2-3 top 100 guys) with quite a fall off to young, low level guys that I haven’t paid attention to yet, and need a few years before you can even slot them in to projections.

    It is a consequence of a contending, go for it approach. I think they saw this coming, which is why they invested heavily last year in the DR. The next half of the strategy is health at the major league level, which let them trade their surplus at pitching. I think they were hoping it would bring back more than Eaton but the market moved away from them.


    20 Dec 16 at 7:12 am

  5. But this is bottom third farm system, say 24-25th right now. The good news is that they (I) have little current needs at the big club for the next two years, barring injury, and (Ii) at least have enough inventory at the lower levels for guys to take big leaps through the system over those two years.


    20 Dec 16 at 7:27 am

  6. Wally, we know what a bottom-third farm system looks like from the pre-Rizzo era, and this ain’t it. It was probably a top-10 system before the trades and is now more 12-15 range I would say.

    The Nats have three top-shelf talents in the upper minors (if Robles can step up to AA) in Robles, Fedde, and Glover. People downplay minor-league bullpen arms, but considering the closer market this offseason, Glover is a more valuable commodity than is generally acknowledged.

    A half-step down, they’ve got a series of credible major-leaguers in Cole, Voth, Goodwin, Difo (technically no longer a rookie by service time but has barely played), Severino, Ward, and Stevenson. I’d put guys like Skole, Marmelojos, and Bautista a quarter step lower, but for some franchises, they’d be big-leaguers. Pitchers like Mapes, Simms, and Long would fit into this category.

    Other than Robles, everyone I’ve named thus far has played and held his own at AA or higher. Yet the real talent in the system is probably in the youngsters, including the U-20 arms mentioned above plus Luzardo and then Soto, Kieboom, Franco, Antuna, Garcia, et al. There are also some of the college draftees who may still pan out like Neuse, Wiseman, Banks, Johnson, Upshaw, etc.

    Yes, the system lost a couple of its high-wattage names, but there’s a lot of good quantity from which we hope will have some quality rise to the top.


    20 Dec 16 at 8:55 am

  7. Was Zim actually bad?

    Our friend Marty may disagree.


    20 Dec 16 at 9:46 am

  8. I think Zimm is still getting good velocity when he does make contact because he is just guessing and swinging early and swinging hard. His swing and misses look like he is predetermining, and starting to look DesiEspi’ish.

    I hope he can get streaky hot or streaky lucky for us for at least a couple months. Or finally make some adjustments to that stance and set up. I’m still wondering how a shoulder that is so wrecked he can’t even throw a little ball ball is somehow sound enough to swing a heavy bat effectively. Not sure I buy the whole shoulder okay to hit but not to throw theory. His last couple real hot streaks have come after he’s gotten the needle to that shoulder.

    Let’s hope he can get hot for a bit or at least have some of his fewer hits be timely. I’d like to see his stats hitting behind Harper as well. Seems to me he did especially poorly in 2015 when Harper got a HR or a base hit in front of him.

    Marty C

    20 Dec 16 at 10:34 am

  9. And of course one of the lingering memories from 2016 was Zim hitting, err batting but not hitting, behind Bryce in the LOB debacles in Wrigley in early May.

    Although it has generally been overlooked, Zim was good in the playoffs, on base nine out of 20 PAs (six hits, three walks). Perhaps that’s something he can build on.


    20 Dec 16 at 10:54 am

  10. I wasn’t aware that Zim has gotten a needle to the shoulder since 2012.

    Beware of any fan comment that beings with “it seems to me” – confirmation bias is pretty powerful. I don’t mind a hypothesis (“Zim hit poorly in 2016 after Harper had gotten a hit”) – but the assumption should be that the hypothesis is false until proven true, not the other way around.

    The point of the FG article was that, regardless of “guessing, swinging early” (etc), given his batted ball profile he should essentially be a solid MLB level batter – not 2009-2010 Zim, but not the gaping void in the lineup that he was last year.

    Which is why I think the Nats do start the season with him at 1b, and will give him at least a couple of months to show that he can hit. Hits being timely is not really a repeatable skill, so we’ll all hope that the Nats as a team (and Zim as a hitter) are on the right side of sequencing in 2017.

    John C.

    20 Dec 16 at 1:02 pm

  11. Also beware of taking a number and manipulating it in a way that it agrees with your own personal bias.

    When shown a stat that says basically that Zimmerman’s exit velocity was identical in 2015 and 2016, you can basically say one of two things:
    1. He was thus unlucky that so many of his consistently hard-hit balls were apparently right at fielders instead of falling for hits, and thus his batting average was awful. This point, coincidentally, is also supported by looking at another number; his BABIP. And his 2016 babip was awful; .248. In fact, a .248 babip ranked Zimmerman 6th worst out of 203 MLB hitters in 2016 who had at least400 ABs. (also ranked in the lowest top 20 of babip in the league? Espinosa and Harper, two other guys who under performed in 2016 … and now we have some context).

    2. Oh, he must have been “guessing” the entire time in 2016 and thus his exit velocity matched his 2015 exit velocities, when he was magically a different and better hitter.

    One stance uses a statistic and supports it with another statistic. The other takes that statistic and “supports” it with a personal bias opinion that is unproveable but which justifies trashing a player who, as mentioned above, you already have a personal bias against.

    It is true that baseball players usually begin to regress in their early 30s. Especially with power hitters; the drop off can be sudden and severe. But Zimmerman is not a power hitting slugger; never has been. his wRC+ figures were decent the last few years and then just plummeted last year; that’s not consistent with the aging curve on players, that’s more consistent with a one-off year.

    Personally, I would bank on a rebound year from him at the plate … until his next injury.

    Todd Boss

    20 Dec 16 at 1:40 pm

  12. I don’t have a personal bias against Zimmerman. I like the guy as a player and a human.

    Just to my eyes, many of his swing and misses especially were far off the ball. And he had a hard time catching up to the fastball. You can’t take a stat like exit velocity and not also factor in rise in K’s and drop in walks and say he is still same because exit velocity is the same.

    I just think his shoulder is wrecked and he hasn’t made any apparent stance or swing adjustments to compensate from when he was really right physically.

    I agree they need to and have to start him next year and hope for the best. I don’t agree we have to keep playing him if he hits .218 again with lousy slugging percentage even if you are enamored of his exit velocity.

    And given he is so streaky anyway, I would definitely marginalize him when he looks to be going into one of his long slumps.

    Exit velocity on .218 hitting is not quite as helpful as exit velocity. on

    I’m actually parroting your usual storyline Todd. “Every good player’s slumps are caused by injury” In this case I am agreeing that it’s the chronic injury that has chronically damaged him.

    Marty C

    20 Dec 16 at 3:37 pm

  13. I’m not one who has thought that Zim not starting (if healthy) has even been an option, so I haven’t spent much time contemplating otherwise. However, I would like them to have a Plan B, even if it’s in case Zim gets hurt (not unlikely the way things have been going). Right now, they have CRob, who really didn’t get it done last year, or Murphy moving to 1B and Difo starting. Yes, I just said “Difo starting.” So no, the bench isn’t done. Other unsavory options would be Norris or Loby at 1B . . . or calling up the legendary Matt Skole, I guess. (But they didn’t call him up last year, or even add him to the 40-man.)

    I see a couple of options here. One would be a Drew return, although I suspect he’s still thinking he may get a starting gig (and the salary bump to go with it). He’s certainly be a 2B upgrade for the Dodgers unless they really go after Dozier. Anyway, with Drew back, Murphy could safely slide to 1B, and the defense would improve all around.

    The other option is one I’ve been touting, someone like Logan Morrison who could start at 1B or LF, depending on what may come of a couple of brittle links in the chain. I know some folks at Nats Talk have been big on Brandon Moss for essentially the same scenario, but he would cost and strike out twice as much as Morrison.

    We’ll see. I think they’ll still add a bench piece and a bullpen arm or two. They still have three slots on the 40-man, although a little flexibility never hurts.


    20 Dec 16 at 7:36 pm

  14. Yes, Skole is on the 40-man now, but he wasn’t added for a call-up in 2016.


    20 Dec 16 at 7:37 pm

  15. The never-ending closer quest:

    I’ll reiterate my out-of-the-box suggestion: Tyson Ross, a two-pitch pitcher with a wicked slider. He could ease back into health in the bullpen and also be on hand if a starter goes down.


    21 Dec 16 at 7:49 am

  16. Can someone smarter than me plain why Zim doesn’t sit down with Murphy and figure out how to get closer to the plate and start pulling the ball more? I like many get infuriated when time after time it looks like he can’t come close to reaching balls on the outer half because he’s nearly out of the batters box. And he seems to value going the opposite way perhaps too much. Wasn’t that similar to Murphy before his adjustment?


    21 Dec 16 at 9:35 am

  17. *explain


    21 Dec 16 at 9:35 am

  18. Marty; your message was clear to me: Zimmerman’s exit velocity in 2016 was because he was “guessing” all the time.

    Todd Boss

    21 Dec 16 at 11:05 am

  19. Ryan Zimmerman WRC+/BABIP by year: 2012 – 121 (.313); 2013 – 124 (.316); 2014 – 120 (.313); 2015 – 107 (.268); 2016 – 67 (.248).

    He’s missed significant time with injury each one of those years except for 2013. His K% has bounced around but his BB% has trended down since 2014.

    To me, two conclusions jump out: Zimmerman is trending down as a hitter and 2016 was an enormous aberration. Even with a down BABIP in 2015, he was still a better-than-league-average hitter.

    The exit velocity data is useful because it shows 2016 Zimmerman to (a) have “good” exit velocity numbers, which is incongruous with a 67 WRC+; and (b) have similar exit velocity to 2015, when his WRC+ was 40 points higher.

    The optimist looks at these numbers and thinks there is still some 2014-caliber Zimmerman hanging around. The theory would be that both 2015 and 2016 were down BABIP years, and he’s due for some serious positive regression.

    The realist thinks that Zimmerman’s BB/K numbers are generally trending in the wrong direction (moreso for BB than K), and that at least some of the BABIP decline is real and likely to continue. But even the realist thinks 2016 was an obvious aberration and we should expect something like 2015 Ryan Zimmerman at the plate in 2017.

    The pessimist sees a guy who’s gone off a cliff and thinks, even if his bat does improve relative to 2016, injuries and age-related decline are likely to swamp those improvements.

    I fall somewhere between the realist and the pessimist. I think Nats’ management are optimists, in part because of the contract. I don’t think the optimist position is crazy, but I think the team should do some hedging and pay Stephen Drew a bit extra not to hold out for a starting gig.


    21 Dec 16 at 11:05 am

  20. My top Arms – comments only when necessary


    Grace (was hurt later in the year)
    N. Lee

    (Harper injured)



    Fuentes and Simms are listed as starters because that is, in my opinion, their destiny. Fuentes transition is enabled by the Dunning trade. Simms by the same deal.

    If Fuentes and Simms were relievers, sub in Joan Baez and McKenzie Mills or Matt Crownover.


    21 Dec 16 at 4:01 pm

  21. I’d like to see us take a flyer on Tyrell Jenkins. We have the 40 man space.

    I haven’t followed him closely lately, but I liked his profile as a prospect a few years ago. Be nice to give Maddox a chance with him.


    21 Dec 16 at 4:54 pm

  22. KW – I’ll stand by my guess that the Nats are a bottom third system. They’ve traded five quality guys since the ASB (Giolito, Lopez, Dunning, Avila, Hearn), graduated Turner, Difo and Goodwin since last year. Plus only a few guys really stepped forward: Robles, Fedde, Soto, maybe Stevenson (let’s not forget his forgettable stint in AA). While i like a lot of guys in the system, the bulk are in the very low minors and not guys that you’d put a lot of value on until they prove themselves at higher levels.


    21 Dec 16 at 5:00 pm

  23. That’s correct Todd…. I think his exit velocity is still good because he is guessing and swinging early, so he’s got some bat speed working for him when he does happen to hit it. And conversely, he is swinging and missing at a lot more that bounce 5 feet before home plate or 5 feet outside.

    So are you trying to say he’s just had a 2 year unlucky streak?

    I need to keep remembering you were Espinosa’s biggest advocate. Until you suddenly weren’t.

    if you are not literally watching all the games, it’s easy to get fooled by a box score or stat. It’s hard to explain to some how a Daniel Murphy 0-4 game or strikeout looks different than an Espi or current Zimmerman or Michael Taylor 0-4 game or strikeout.

    Marty C

    22 Dec 16 at 9:35 am

  24. The eyeball can fool you as much as it helps you, Marty. Every hitter has at bats where they look foolish, swing at a pitch in the dirt, etc. When it happens to Zim, it’s a BIG DEAL and reinforces the narrative. When it happens to Murphy or Rendon, it becomes “woah, that was ugly” but is pretty much immediately forgotten. Such is confirmation bias.

    Here’s another take on it from Fangraphs:

    The bottom line quote: “Ryan Zimmerman is by no means in his career prime. One should rightly assume he’s declining, but from the looks of things, one also shouldn’t exaggerate. Zimmerman is better than the results he just posted. He remains an offensive threat, and a player who further deepens the Nationals’ quality lineup.”

    John C.

    22 Dec 16 at 10:17 am

  25. Augh, wrong link. The correct post should be:

    The eyeball can fool you as much as it helps you, Marty. Every hitter has at bats where they look foolish, swing at a pitch in the dirt, etc. When it happens to Zim, it’s a BIG DEAL and reinforces the narrative. When it happens to Murphy or Rendon, it becomes “woah, that was ugly” but is pretty much immediately forgotten. Such is confirmation bias.

    Here’s another take on it from Fangraphs:

    The bottom line quote:

    “Ryan Zimmerman is by no means in his career prime. One should rightly assume he’s declining, but from the looks of things, one also shouldn’t exaggerate. Zimmerman is better than the results he just posted. He remains an offensive threat, and a player who further deepens the Nationals’ quality lineup.”

    Todd, feel free to delete that previous post. Operator error.

    John C.

    22 Dec 16 at 10:19 am

  26. In other encouraging Nats’ news, FG has been breaking down quality of contact for hitters by league and position. They reveal another underperformer for the Nats – and no, it’s not Bryce. It’s Anthony Rendon. He had the second best batted ball profile of all NL third baseman, behind Matt Carpenter (yes, ahead of Nolan Arenado – whose offensive output the analyst felt was largely a production of Coors Field). And while Carpenter is pretty much maxed out, Rendon still has growth potential. As the analyst put it:

    “Anthony Rendon was a whole lot better than his traditional 2016 numbers. His home park killed him in the air; he batted just .252 AVG-.755 SLG (70 Unadjusted Production), despite authority that supported an adjusted 103 mark. He posted the second highest Adjusted Liner (111) and highest Adjusted Grounder (151) Contact Scores among this bunch. His fly ball rate shot upward in 2016, but he didn’t extract very much additional production from that boost. He has additional batting average and power growth potential in him; I consider him a hit-before-power guy (a compliment) and he should reach his ceilings in that order.”

    John C.

    22 Dec 16 at 10:30 am

  27. When a player has 400+ plate appearances in a season and many thousands of swings to review, the eyeball absolutely hurts you more than it helps you. Confirmation bias is a real thing, as is recency bias, as is overweighting events that appear more significant (we’re more likely to remember a good or bad AB in the 9th inning with the game on the line than a good or bad AB in the 1st inning of a blowout). Stats can be misleading too, but they offer testable hypothesis. We can evaluate Fangraphs’ claim that Ryan Zimmerman should have had better results in 2016 than he did because his exit velocity was good compared to the rest of the field and was similar to his exit velocity in 2015. We can do this by questioning whether exit velocity is a useful tool – what does it measure/not measure, how much history do we have evaluating the measurements it does offer – and by looking to other stats – e.g., K/BB numbers that suggest Zimmerman is in decline.

    Marty’s claim that Zim’s exit velocity remains good because Zim is “swinging early,” could conceivably be true (it’s not), but it’s essentially useless because it can’t be tested. Nobody other than Ryan Zimmerman knows how “early” he swung at a particular pitch. It stands to reason that his bat speed is going down as he gets older, and perhaps he’s trying to compensate for that by swinging earlier. But you can’t tell that by watching his ABs.

    And Marty, nobody is suggesting looking at a box score to compare hitters. I know Daniel Murphy is a better hitter than Michael Taylor, even if Murphy goes 0-4 with 3Ks (which probably didn’t happen this year) and Taylor goes 4-4 with 3 bombs (definitely didn’t happen this year), because their season and career numbers make it clear that Murphy is much better. Useful stats like wRC+, wOBA (and OPS to a lesser extent) over the course of a season tell you a lot more. These stats can be misleading too, but a lot less misleading than the eye, in my opinion. Human beings just aren’t very good at aggregating that much information – 400+ ABs and thousands of swings. We need stats – shortcuts – to help us.


    22 Dec 16 at 10:54 am

  28. All good points. What stat has you all so encouraged by Zimmerman?

    Was anyone confident he was going to get hits in those ab’s against the Cubs? Do you think Maddon was looking at Zimm as the serious threat but statistical babip anomaly you guys think he is when he walked Bryce 12 times in a row to get to him? (Bryce was already slumping at the time btw)

    Over 600 ab’s a freak athlete like Bryce is going to put up some kind of stats too, but I’ll argue anyone his post April season was horrendous. (for him). I don’t know why I have to argue that Zimm was horrible last year. Like worst in the entire MLB bad by some statistics. I like his defense though I’ve read some blogs don’t like his d either.

    You guys argument seems to be Zimm was just unlucky rather than bad. I’m just making an argument of how a guy with seemingly horrible stats could also hit the ball hard when he hit it. I’m sure Espi’s velocity was similar, but he didn’t hit the ball much either.

    Problem with some batting stats is that the real floor for a MLB hitter is more like .200 as opposed to .000

    I would probably hit .000 but a major league athlete is going to get close to .200 just by showing up. So i think every batting average point above .200 is much more valuable than those under .200.

    And that’s why Harper’s .340 season in 2015 seemed 5x better and more valuable than just 35% more valuable than his .238 in 2016 the stats would read. Also the difference between a $500 million contact and $100 million..

    (just isolating one stat of course. But you could do it for HR’s too. Bryce’s baseline to judge on should be 20 HR’s just for showing up)

    Marty C

    22 Dec 16 at 11:41 am

  29. Zimmerman was bad last year, both relative to his career performance and relative to league average.

    My contention is not that Zimmerman wasn’t bad last year – he was, no doubt. It’s that there’s reason to believe his results in 2016 were worse than they should have been.

    The first reason to draw this conclusion is because his BABIP was low compared to his career number – .248 in 2016 vs. .310 career. If you add 60 points to his AVG/OPB/SLUG, his numbers look very similar to his career norms. This is a very surface-level analysis, though. Some high-BABIP players become low-BABIP players as they age (see Albert Pujols). This is where the exit velocity numbers some in. And the Fangraphs analysis that suggested he got poor results on balls hit in the air when exit velocity/launch angle is accounted for.

    I think Zim has undergone a real decline – he’s no longer a 120 wRC+ guy. But he’s also not a 67 wRC+ guy, so I also think he had some real bad luck in 2016. I think he’s now more of a “true” .280-.290 BABIP guy, and we should expect a ~110 wRC+ when he’s on the field. Steamer projects him to be .261/.323/.450, which seems about right to me, though I’d probably take the under on those numbers.

    I have no idea what Joe Maddon was thinking about Zimmerman in that series in May. He was probably going to keep walking Bryce until it hurt him, which it didn’t. He also probably thought Zim was going to get it worked out by the end of the season, which never happened. But “what was one manager thinking about a player in one series in a 162 game season” is a bad way to think about a player’s quality, in my opinion.


    22 Dec 16 at 12:13 pm

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