Nationals Arm Race

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

Ask Collier 8/3/17

90 comments

Did the Nats do enough at the deadline to shore up the bullpen? Photo via UPI

Did the Nats do enough at the deadline to shore up the bullpen? Photo via UPI

Another Nats off-day, another Jamal Collier twitter-driven mailbag.  If people tweeted me a bunch of random questions, I’d probably do “mailbags” too!

Here’s how i’d have answered the questions he took.


 

Q: To me it looks like Dodgers vs Nationals NLCS unless bracketed before…who can u see beating either of these 2 teams???

A: Well, lets not put the cart before the horse.  What’s looking more and more certain by the day isn’t a guaranteed NLCS matchup, but rather an NLDS matchup between the Nats and the Cubs.  And who can beat the Nats?  Certainly the Cubs can.  Heck, the Nats just got their asses handed to them by the Marlins in a 3-game series; certainly they could lay an egg in a 5-game series against a good offensive team that’s the defending World Series champs.  It bears repeating: in a short series, anything can happen.  The Nats outscored the Dodgers in the 2016 NLDS 24-19 and had the lead in the deciding game heading into the 7th inning … and still managed to lose.

I’ll also point this fact out: the 116 win 2001 Seattle Mariners got their asses handed to them in 5 games by the Yankees in the playoffs.

Lets make it to October, then see how our health looks and see how we’re hitting.  All we can hope for is 100% all hands on deck to give the series our best shot.

Collier notes that anything can happen in the playoffs, that the wild card teams all improved at the trade deadline, and that he’d love to see an LA-Wash rematch.


 

Q: Do you see the Nats going after a waiver Starting Pitcher this month in case Strasburg needs to be out for an extended period?

A: Hmm.  Yeah I could.  I don’t think the team trusts Jacob Turner, nor A.J. Cole.  Certainly not 40-man member Austin Voth (demoted to AA a month ago).  But I also think Erick Fedde was better than his stat line showed, and his dominant 2nd inning was clearly a sign of what he “can” do if he stays consistent.  But we need to get to October first and that might mean a waiver-wire trade.  It all depends on how much more time their two aces miss at this point.

Collier disagrees, saying that Rizzo was adamant about not getting antoher starter at the trade deadline … but things have changed.


 

Q: With Matt Wieters recent offensive and defensive struggles, do you think that the Nats should give Pedro Severino a closer look in Sept?

A: In a word, No.  Severino‘s 2016 stat line was a mirage; he’s hit just .213 in AAA this year.  That might not even be good enough to supplant Jose Lobaton as our once-a-week catcher.  I agree with those who complain about the Wieters signing … but then again Derek Norris has hit just .201 for Tampa, and Wilson Ramos is hitting even worse after missing half the season.  So its not like they really had a choice.  Lets just hope some of our lower minors Catcher depth pans out.

Collier agrees.


 

Q: How are they going to fit everyone back into this pen when Kelley and Glover come back?? Surely they can’t send anyone down for Kelley

A: Good question.  As of today (prior to the Romero injury, their pen was as follows:

Kintzler, Doolittle*, Madsen, Albers, Romero*, Perez*, Blanton, Grace*,

They’ve been carrying 8 relievers for a bit, probably since their 5th starters rarely make the 5th inning.  Now look at that crew and ask yourself; who could even be optioned?  Kintzler, Madsen, Perez and Blanton are all vets that could refuse demotions.  Albers too; they all have 5+ years.  Doolittle doesn’t … but he’s also pretty much your closer right now.  So that’s 6 of your 7 guys.  Romero is out of options.  That’s 7 of 7 right there.  Despite how well Grace has pitched, he’s on the outside looking in right now.  If/when Kelley and Glover come back … yeah you have to make some tough decisions.  If I had to guess, the team is going to have to D/L some guys (like Blanton) in order to get others in.  And if you were putting together an 8-man playoff bullpen, you’d probably go Kintzler, Doolittle, Madsen, Kelley, Glober, Albers, Romero and Grace.  Man it’d be tough leaving Perez off a post-season roster though.  And we havn’t even mentioned Solis, banished to AAA but very much an integral part of last year’s playoff bullpen.

Collier notes that by the time some of these roster squeezes happen, we’ll be past the 9/1 expansion deadline and it may not matter.  Which is a good point.


Q:  It’s definitely a long shot, but do you think there’s any chance whatsoever that a ’17 draftee pitches in our bullpen by end of September?

A: Zero chance.  For reasons inexplicable, the one guy who may have had a shot (Seth Romero) failed to sign until the deadline, apparently squeezing out the ever last drop of over-slot bonus money, then failed to even appear in a game for several weeks beyond that (despite not having pitched since mid-March?).  Clearly the organization was not in a hurry to move him along.  Times are changing; we still havn’t even seen a 2016 draftee appear in the majors yet, so to project a 2017 player moving up that fast would be crazy.

Collier agrees.

 

 

90 Responses to 'Ask Collier 8/3/17'

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  1. Everyone keeps assuming that the Nats will be playing the Cubs. Well, the Nats could put the Cubs in 2d place with a strong weekend. They’re only 1.5 games up on the Brewers, meaning they’re hanging onto a playoff spot by a thread. The Cub starting pitching has sucked all year, across the board, and Quintana just got lit up yesterday. Davis, their “shutdown closer,” gave up two homers to lose the game yesterday. I don’t like the Cubs, or their sense of entitlement, and would roll on the ground laughing if they lose the division to the mediocre Brewers.

    On the other side of the draw, the D-Backs would be the favorite to win the WC with home field + Greinke. The D-Backs are a match-up nightmare for the Dodgers. They have two strong lefty starters plus Greinke. They have a RH-heavy lineup to face all the Dodger lefty starters, plus their hitters have familiarity with the Dodger pitchers. Also, the Dodger lineup is full of high-strikeout guys, the type who don’t tend to fare well in the playoffs.

    I’m not saying that the Nats won’t end up facing the Cubs, or that the Dodgers won’t make it through to the NCLS. I’m just saying that there are some bumpy paths ahead that everyone seems to be missing.

    KW

    4 Aug 17 at 11:18 am

  2. Nats likely will take eight relievers to the playoffs. They’ll have the eight everyday players, four starting pitchers, five on the bench, and eight in the bullpen. The ‘pen could include EJax, but it doesn’t have to.

    Locks: Kintzler, Doolittle, Madsen, and Albers

    Very likely if healthy: Romero, Kelley

    Good possibility if healthy: Glover

    Still in the running: Blanton, Solis, Perez, Grace, EJax

    That’s twelve guys for eight spots, plus they’ve already moved Tim Collins through the system to Harrisburg. Don’t be surprised if he’s getting a look with the big club in September.

    Now, it’s doubtful that all of these guys are going to be fully healthy, but there will still be some choices to be made. Guys like Blanton and Solis in particular need to start showing some of their 2016 form if they want to be around in October. If the 2016 versions of those two plus Kelley miraculously show up, that would be a heck of a ‘pen.

    KW

    4 Aug 17 at 1:06 pm

  3. At what point does it become a question of whether Werth can actually beat out Kendrick as the better option in LF? If Kendrick keeps playing like this, he’s got to stay in the lineup, doesn’t he?

    (Also, the question of who should be batting second looks solved!)

    KW

    4 Aug 17 at 3:14 pm

  4. The Nats needed at least one win this weekend. Check.

    They needed to see Roark make a stronger start. Check.

    They needed Murph to break out of his mini-funk. Check++.

    They needed the new-look bullpen to strut its stuff. Check.

    They’re playing with house money the rest of the weekend.

    KW

    4 Aug 17 at 6:01 pm

  5. Welll that’s a bummer, I thought it was a night game. I was off today too, so could have watched.

    Totally agree about house money, even though I would have felt the same if they lost. I would stop pitching Key bullpen guys two,days in a row, too, and maybe skip Max a while turn in the rotation.

    Wally

    4 Aug 17 at 7:06 pm

  6. Interesting question kendrick vs Werth. I mean, just how badly did he hurt his foot?

    Todd Boss

    4 Aug 17 at 7:38 pm

  7. Brewers won, so Cubs only up by half a game going into Saturday. There are still more than 50 games to go, but it’s fun watching them sweat.

    KW

    4 Aug 17 at 10:42 pm

  8. If Roark has righted himself, that’s huge. Next big thing would be Trea’s return. They can get by without Werth or even Taylor, but Turner is a huge piece of their offense.

    Man, Dusty needs to go softly with the staff. That’s the biggest controllable thing he can do.

    Wally

    5 Aug 17 at 10:26 am

  9. If the injuries to Max and Stras truly aren’t significant, they may be a blessing in disguise for the break they are affording those guys. I have heard Dusty, in a recent post-game presser, talking about wanting to “get Max to 20” wins again. Max was a quart low by playoff time last year after his drive for 20. Let’s focus on the ring this year, guys, not arbitrary numbers.

    KW

    5 Aug 17 at 10:52 am

  10. I was looking at the box score of last night’s game and something struck me. Roark for 6+, Knitzler finishes the 7th, Madson in the 8th, Doolittle in the 9th. No drama, little problems finishing off the game.

    Sigh of relief.

    IN April, that sequence of relievers would have been something like Blanton, Kelley, Treinen, with predictable results.

    Todd Boss

    5 Aug 17 at 2:06 pm

  11. Hey Joe the Genius, your bullpen sucks! We’ll be glad to see ol’ Carl’s Jr. every night in the playoffs. Eat dirt and die, Cubs. Too bad Souza helped you out to keep you in first place.

    The Nats crawled into Chitown after laying multiple eggs in Miami, threw their #4, 6, and 7 starters, and won two out of three.

    And while I don’t take back all of the bad things I’ve said about Wieters, I take back a few of them!

    And yes, the back end of our new bullpen is serious. Madson is hitting 98 and looks awesome.

    KW

    6 Aug 17 at 5:45 pm

  12. These are great times. The bullpen back end trio look very strong, but more important it impacts the rest of the team, even when the Nats are trailing. Kudos to Rizzo for bringing in three assets who are all playing key roles, and a 4th in Kendrick. the quantity and quality of upgrade is even bigger than last year’s Melancon addition.

    That the Nats have now given Fedde (who has to be still building up arm strength) two starts already is terrific. I love the auditions being worked in, and seeing how certain players are truly stepping up. No doubt there will be other showcasing happening by years end. As I mentioned several weeks ago, I do hope they rethink Spencer Kieboom as Lobaton is a free agent at years end and we ought to have the talent in house to at least replace a backup or (hey, Leon surprised everyone) to grow a successor to Wieters.

    But after weeks of suffering the bullpen, we are now watching for the return of the wounded. Taylor is struggling in A+. Goodwin turning in terrific defense and unexpected power. Difo looking more and more like a guy who can make it every day. No sign of Turner or Werth. Eaton pushing hard. Scherzer and Strasburg may be cooling heels on the “DL” while EJax holds down innings.

    Robles has been a bright star in AA. Service clock aside, I think it would be great to expose him to the bigs down the stretch if he tears up AA this month. Having him ready to go in 2018 if it appears they will not sign Harper is important. Or, if Harper were to go down.

    forensicane

    7 Aug 17 at 9:49 am

  13. I was very impressed with Fedde yesterday, particularly his ability to throw offspeed stuff for strikes. With a little seasoning – he needs to do a better job missing the zone ahead in the count with two strikes – and improved stamina, I see a quality rotation piece. He clearly hit the wall yesterday, though as Forensicane mentions, he’s still probably building up stamina after his turn in the bullepn.

    Derek

    7 Aug 17 at 10:13 am

  14. ‘Eaton pushing hard’. Was there some news on him recently?

    Wally

    7 Aug 17 at 10:40 am

  15. Fedde: again his velocity seems to be a ton higher than promised; he’s not 90-93, he’s averaging 94+ peaking at 96 and holding that velocity all teh way into the 6th. Lots of strikes even with 4 walks, throws all his pitches for strikes. He gave up really cheap homer to schwarber (the distances on his 3 homers were 416, 427 and just 372 for Schwarber’s dinger), which represented 3 o the 4 runs he gave up.

    http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/pfx.php?month=8&day=6&year=2017&game=gid_2017_08_06_wasmlb_chnmlb_1%2F&pitchSel=607200&prevGame=gid_2017_08_06_wasmlb_chnmlb_1%2F&prevDate=86&league=mlb

    Todd Boss

    7 Aug 17 at 9:10 pm

  16. From a stats perspective, Fedde is currently sporting a .517 Babip (the babip gods smiled a little better upon him against the cubs compared to the rockies, but not by much) and a completely insane 100% FB/HR ratio. It seems impossible to believe, but every ball put in play in the air against him has gone for a homer.

    Derek

    8 Aug 17 at 10:19 am

  17. This is he perfect time for Fedde to get introduced to the majors. No pressure.

    Rizzo should put Doolittle on the 10 day DL just to keep him away from Dusty. 14 game lead and he’s still using the guy on back to back days. With an extensive injury history even in the best of circumstances. And throws Max at 114 pitches after an injury scare.

    Wally

    8 Aug 17 at 11:14 am

  18. I have no problem with Fedde getting an extended look with a 14-game lead, or with Stras getting an extended rest. Of all the players on the DL, Trea included, Stras is probably THE most vital for a legit chance at a postseason run.

    FWIW, I’ve been more impressed with Fedde than I was with Giolito last year, both with velocity and with temperament. Of course I also thought Lopez showed good composure, but he kept giving up rockets. Anyway, we’ll see. They really needed to find out what they’ve got in Fedde anyway as they contemplate what to do with Ross’s slot in the rotation for the next year or so. I guess the hope would be that Fedde could be the #5 next year, with some result from Ross/Romero/Crowe ready Gio rides off into the sunset after next season. (Gio looks sure to reach his 180-inning vesting option this season.)

    KW

    8 Aug 17 at 12:38 pm

  19. Along the same lines, it was interesting during Cubs-Nats over the weekend to think about the different approaches the two teams have taken in terms of the future over the next few seasons. The Cubs have completely drained their farm system to really go for it now. Most of their lineup is younger and controlled, but they’re going to have some big holes in the rotation and the bullpen after this year. They did pick up a controlled potential closer for a couple of years in Wilson, but he has no “high-leverage” experience, which was the main reason I wasn’t sure he would have taken the high price for the Nats to get him.

    The Nats, meanwhile, didn’t give up much to fill their holes. Whether they got enough in return will remain to be seen, but they didn’t give up much. The only one I truly hated to lose was Luzardo, and the supposition is that Romero can give them the same stuff and is a couple of years more advanced.

    The other remaining question, of course, is whether the prospects make it, and at what caliber of “making it.” Is Fedde a #2 or 3, or a #4 or 5? Will Robles hit for much power, and will he be ready in time to “replace” Bryce? How much did injuries set back Soto and C. Kieboom this year? Will Stevenson’s game translate at the MLB level? How quickly can Romero and Crowe progress to fill the starting void in the upper minors? Are Difo and Goodwin proving themselves as legit major-leaguers (or at least good enough to replace Drew and Lind on next year’s bench)?

    KW

    8 Aug 17 at 12:58 pm

  20. Look at the lineup tonight. Its like the Nats are playing a split squad game. Sanchez, Lind, Lobaton replacing regulars and Cole on the mound with predictable results. I’m surprised he’s even playing Rendon or Harper.

    Todd Boss

    8 Aug 17 at 9:08 pm

  21. I think the trade with the A’s needed to happen, but I can’t help but point out that, since the trade, Treinen has almost as much WAR as Madson and Doolittle combined. I don’t think he would have achieved that here, but he is a talented guy and Dusty probably deserves some of the responsibility for not using him in a way that helped him achieve it.

    But all in all, Rizzo did a nice balancing act of adding help for this year without decimating the farm. It still is likely a bottom third org, but has a talented top 5, with some lottery tickets in short season ball.

    I’d like to see Lind return. He probably won’t do this well again, but he is a legit lefty bopper. Difo probably could take over for Drew, especially if Lind comes back.

    Wally

    8 Aug 17 at 9:18 pm

  22. Cole didn’t do that badly, at least until Stanton. But he has been showing enough to think that maybe he can have a career in the pen. I don’t think he has the command and stuff to be a starter.

    Wally

    8 Aug 17 at 9:20 pm

  23. I was a BIG fan of the Blanton signing, but goodness, at what point do we reach the end of the road with him? Without a drastic improvement, I can’t see him on the playoff roster.

    Wally, I think you were the one who was advocating for Lind for several weeks before they signed him. Of course the guy I wanted was Logan Morrison, who has 28 HRs, so for once, we both had a good eye for undervalued talent. Anyway, I think Lind goes back to the AL for a much bigger payday than the Nats would be able to give him. He’s making peanuts this year, although he does seem to be having a good time.

    As for Treinen’s role, it seems to have been made pretty clear, through Boz and others, that Dusty didn’t want him as the closer. That was a Rizzo decision, one of the few known times where Rizzo has dictated on-field deployment. Treinen not only wasn’t up for the job, but the failure messed with his head and left him struggling for months. (If he gets his stuff together in OAK, his potential return will only be a phone call away!)

    I’m looking for the spring training stats out there but can’t find them. There seem to be a lot of revisionist historians who think the Nats should have kept Worley. The Nats WANTED to keep Worley, but he was awful. He gave up a run or two nearly every outing. Guthrie’s ERA was at least two or three runs better than his. As I recall, the Nats did offer to take Worley at Syracuse, but he opted out but couldn’t get an MLB deal and ended up in New Orleans. He couldn’t even make the pitching-poor Fish out of camp.

    KW

    9 Aug 17 at 5:25 am

  24. I think they’ve given up on Blanton, at least to the extent that he won’t be on the postseason roster. Whether they cut him, or hang on to him through the end of the regular season, probably comes down to whether they need the 40 man spot over the next few weeks until rosters expand.

    I agree that Lind could possibly get a bigger role in the AL, although I think this role – PHer and platoon 1B – is what he is, so only a team with a bigger platoon opportunity makes most sense (and Zim has fallen off quite a bit since the first two months, so maybe here is a bigger platoon opportunity). And if the Nats cut Drew, maybe they have the payroll to give him $5m + incentives. I don’t see him getting more than that anywhere else.

    On Worley, I’m sure Guthrie out performed him in ST. I do remember thinking they should keep Worley, though, because he was coming off two seasons of quality (average-ish) reliever pitching, whereas Guthrie hadn’t pitched well in over two years. Maybe I was just surprised that didn’t count for more. But this wasn’t a big decision; it wouldn’t have changed much for the Nats’ season.

    Wally

    9 Aug 17 at 7:20 am

  25. The Nats do figure to have a much cheaper bench next year, likely including Goodwin, Difo, and Severino. It will be interesting to see if they make an effort to bring back Kendrick and/or Lind.

    The market for the AL 1B/DH type ain’t what it used to be, that’s for sure. It took forever for Lind and Morrison to get signed, and not for much. Moss stayed available for a long time as well and got less than he hoped. Even at the non-waiver trade deadline, there was limited interest in such players. Alonso finally moved in a waiver deal.

    KW

    9 Aug 17 at 8:04 am

  26. Difo is an everyday player and is a waste on the bench. He is a candidate for a Souza like haul this winter if Trea comes back to show he can be the everyday guy. Even if you disagree with my point, I am sure that other teams would be delighted to pencil him in through 2021, including teams with commodities the Nats want.

    Drew is the veteran bench guy and the Nats will find another utility piece to plug in.

    Taylor has a high ceiling and seeing that the Nats gave up a controllable star outfielder, they would have to think twice with Harper yet unsigned. If Harper signs, it does change things because of Robles, who is not going anywhere.

    forensicane

    9 Aug 17 at 9:45 am

  27. Of course, the Murphy and Rendon plan have something to do with Difo planning as well, especially Murphy.

    forensicane

    9 Aug 17 at 9:46 am

  28. I don’t see Difo as an everyday player for a contender. There is a steep, steep step down if he’s Murphy’s replacement. There is nothing in his minor-league background that marks him as an elite-level player.

    I’m not sure what they’re going to do to replace Murph, though, as they’re hurtin’ for decent middle infielders through the top three levels of the minors, and Carter Kieboom has missed most of the season at Hags. With distant projection, Kieboom would seem more targeted as Rendon’s replacement in 2020. But that’s a long, long way off, and things happen. Remember when we thought Skole might be able to replace LaRoche and that Goodwin would certainly follow Span?

    I’m still not sold on Taylor (who has not been hitting well at all on his minor-league rehab tour), but I think the Nats will probably go with Taylor, or Taylor/Goodwin, to fill the Werth hole, in part to see what they can do, in part to save some money.

    But losing Harper and Murphy at the same time after next season will be monumental, no matter how you slice it. The “window” won’t close completely, but it won’t be nearly as open, sorta like what the Caps seem to be facing now.

    KW

    9 Aug 17 at 10:05 am

  29. Agree with KW on Difo; I think he’s your 2018 Stephen Drew, saving several million dollars and constant injury issues for a bench player.

    I can see the team selling high on either Taylor or Goodwin or both. If it were me, i’d flip Taylor and Goodwin for SP depth (since we have none basically), sign a veteran FA to play LF and provide power in the lineup, say good bye to Werth with a full page ad in the paper, make STevenson your 4th outfielder, and cross fingers that Fedde can be a reliable 5th starter.

    Todd Boss

    9 Aug 17 at 10:35 am

  30. In other news … Romero had a nifty little short-A debut. 3ip, zero hits, zero runs, 1 walk, 5 Ks.

    http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?gid=2017_08_08_conasx_aubasx_1&t=g_box&sid=milb

    Todd Boss

    9 Aug 17 at 10:42 am

  31. Also interesting note from Luke’s post today: they’ve resigned Matt Skole and assigned him to … Auburn??

    http://web.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=l127&player_id=605474#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL

    Todd Boss

    9 Aug 17 at 10:47 am

  32. I’m curious about what J. D. Martinez would want. If I’m Rizzo and I’m convinced that I won’t be able to keep Harper, I’d think about something like 5/$100M for Martinez to play LF to pick up another high-quality bat in preparation for a potential Harper/Murphy departure. That may not be enough, and Martinez would really need to be/stay in LF, but he may be one of the more “affordable” transition options.

    I would definitely think about flipping Taylor. Contact has never been his friend (7 Ks over his last three rehab games, including two at Potomac).

    KW

    9 Aug 17 at 10:54 am

  33. Much debate at Nats Prospects today on what the story is on Skole.

    KW

    9 Aug 17 at 10:55 am

  34. I don’t think we’ve seen Difo’s ceiling.

    No one is Murphy’s peer offensively, but he was not always at this level of production. Difo was a former minor league POY who has the work ethic of a champion. No one here was pegging Souza as an all star, either.

    But as you say, there is no plan for replacement of Murphy right now, barring a pickup.

    As for Difo, he has a lot of value as an everyday SS. Why would Cincinnati, for example, not want him once Cosart leaves? There are many other teams that would want him, and precisely because his teams win.

    As for Skole, he was granted his release, but how does that help him at the beginning of August, when he would start in a new organization and the end of the year only a short distance away? He was already rehabbing. Best for him to complete his rehab with the Nats, leave the organization as a MLFA, and generate some momentum in the last months that translate into a AAA opportunity on the open market.

    forensicane

    9 Aug 17 at 11:35 am

  35. With time dwindling, does Romero get the quick push to Hagerstown for his next start? Especially with them in a playoff race? Would think that is in the cards for CKieboom.

    forensicane

    9 Aug 17 at 11:38 am

  36. I don’t think Romero has enough time left this season to make any impact.

    Todd Boss

    9 Aug 17 at 12:00 pm

  37. Interesting analysis here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/getting-the-tigers-a-real-prospect-for-justin-verlander/

    Would you give up Fedde+ or Kieboom+ for Verlander if the Tigers paid half his contract? I think I would for a few reasons: (1) Verlander serves as Strasburg insurance in 2017; (2) as I’ve said, I’ve been impressed by Fedde, but it’s probably too much to expect 200 innings from him in 2018. The Nats probably need another starter next year anyway; (3) though Verlander hasn’t been elite for a while, and has been up and down over the past few years, I think he might get a boost from switching to the NL.

    FWIW, I think the Tigers probably want more than Fedde+ or Kieboom+. Frankly, I’d consider it even for a Fedde/Kieboom package.

    Derek

    9 Aug 17 at 12:11 pm

  38. I’m not thinking of ML impact. I’m thinking of getting enough of a challenge that he gets consideration for the AFL.

    forensicane

    9 Aug 17 at 12:19 pm

  39. I tried to talk myself into Verlander before the non-waiver trade deadline but couldn’t get excited about him. As the article points out, his more recent outings have been encouraging, though, and he was second place in the CY voting just last year.

    The two overriding questions, of course, would be how much would the Tigers eat, and what level of haul are they wanting in return? I don’t know that I’d do Fedde + Kieboom, even if they eat a huge amount. I might do Fedde+, though. Cameron is right that the Nats would want at least $20M eaten, including all that is owed this season ($8M). That would still leave the Nats on the hook for 2/$44M, though.

    I don’t hate the idea, but I’m still having a hard time getting convinced . . . unless Stras is hurt worse than they’re letting on. (But if he was, wouldn’t they have gotten someone before 7/31?)

    KW

    9 Aug 17 at 12:40 pm

  40. Trading Fedde now is selling low. He may not be Verlander, but if he advances and matures into having the value of Shelby Miller as an Atlanta piece, trading him now is crazy. It’s just a matter of whether the Nats believe in him or are merely talking him up.

    This is not the Nats organization of the Karns trade. trading controllable starting pitching is not wise yet. Too many risks and variables of the core 4, especially with Ross out all 2018.

    And that’s before we get to Kieboom – with both Rendon and Murphy unaccounted for.

    forensicane

    9 Aug 17 at 12:51 pm

  41. I don’t think Stras is hurt worse than they’re letting on, but we have to accept the fact that the probability he makes a postseason start this year is lower than the same for Max, Gio, and Roark. I don’t know what that probability is, but it’s probably high enough to insure against a bad outcome.

    In the event Stras is healthy, I’d probably rather have Verlander start game 3 than Gio or Roark (except against the Dodgers, where I’d want Gio). And Verlander is the kind of guy who could come out of the bullpen on an off day and throw 100 for an inning, something Gio and Roark can’t do.

    In a perfect world (Strasburg healthy), Verlander moves the needle only a little bit for 2017. But he potentially helps quite a bit in 2018.

    Derek

    9 Aug 17 at 12:54 pm

  42. Trading Fedde now is not selling low (no GM is going to care much about stats in 2 MLB starts). Fedde’s value is probably higher than it was at the beginning of the season: a top-100 SP prospect with a mid-rotation ceiling and a relief pitcher floor who has some TJS-related injury concerns.

    It’s certainly reasonable to question whether Fedde’s too much for Verlander, but unless you think Fedde is a #2 starter, trading him now is not selling low.

    Derek

    9 Aug 17 at 12:59 pm

  43. Fedde was not drafted as a #3 starter. He was drafted as a polished college product with a higher ceiling.

    He is coming back from TJ with fits and starts. He has not shown dominance at any time since AA. That’s why selling Fedde is selling low.

    I don’t have an opinion on his ceiling. But take Robbie Ray, for example.

    The Nats sold him and refused to sell Taylor Jordan in the same Tigers trade. Jordan was a rapidly ascending arm, dominating and consistent but not quite there. Ray was a guy who showed real dominant flashes at AA, but had bouts of less command. It’s impossible to project what Jordan would have been without his injuries. But I doubt the nats saw Ray becoming this excellent. Nor did even the Indians see Cliff Lee becoming whom he became when they got his from the Expos.

    All I am saying is that when a player is still on the road back from TJ and climbing the minors and herky jerkied from bullpen to starter, and playing for the miasma that is Syracuse, all bets are off.

    So I think Fedde is selling low because he has not yet shown the capacity to dominate (that he has) above AA. When he gets there, and that is a when, it may be at AAA or it may be in the majors. That is when his value will be affected, I think.

    forensicane

    9 Aug 17 at 1:12 pm

  44. I was advocating a Verlander trade here last month in the weeks before the 7/31 deadline. But that is conditional upon whom the Nats give up.

    Assets like Brian Goodwin and Difo, especially if they get the SS Iglesias as well, and minor league pieces like Raudy Read are easier for me to live with than the little front line starting pitching now in the system. The Trienen trade proves that a player like Solis also probably has value to some organizations, and is expendable because of the Kintzler, Madson, Doolittle success and the latter two being controlled through 2018.

    Let’s see who materializes from trades to come, from the 2017 class, and from the international pool over the next year. Until then, there is no depth that is close to the ML for 2018 from which to trade for a risk like Verlander.

    Notice that the whole premise of the idea is ‘who aactually has prospects worth acquiring?” Why would the Nats be any more willing to shell out that much for even a 36 m commitment with Murphy not yet accounted for and Rendon a higher but really important price tag?

    If the Nats think Fedde is expendable and would be selling high, better to trade him for a controllable starting pitcher who is not yet peaked and much much more affordable. The finances of Fedde make him a far more valuable asset for those who believe in him enough to acquire him.

    forensicane

    9 Aug 17 at 1:25 pm

  45. FWIW, even with Verlander showing some regression, the odds are above 90 percent that he’ll be better than Fedde in 2018 and 2019.

    I would think the Tigers would want win-soon pieces, as they’re still on the hook for some big salaries with Miggy, JZim, and J-Up if he doesn’t opt out. Plus no one is really setting the AL Central on fire right now. So I would think they would be more interested in ready or nearly ready guys like Fedde, Cole, Difo, Stevenson, Taylor, Goodwin, Severino, Ward, Read. They aren’t getting Robles. They can have Kieboom the Elder!

    My “ceiling” on Fedde would be about a #3-4. That’s not an insult or selling him short. Keep in mind that a good #3 can make around $20M per now on the open market (see Shark’s contract with the Giants).

    KW

    9 Aug 17 at 2:05 pm

  46. Gio is up to 5.5 bWAR for this season. Wow. His level of success this year has been nearly as Zim’s. Gio does have an unusually high FIP, though, at 3.95, his highest as a Nat. Yet his WHIP is nearly his lowest, within a hair of his great 2012 year.

    KW

    10 Aug 17 at 8:21 am

  47. I wonder, when some years have passed from this group, how we’ll view the team’s current talent level? Numerous all star types, or some good players who lucked into a 3-5 year stretch where almost all their division competitors weren’t trying to win? Have we ever had a season since 2012 where at least 2.5 division foes weren’t rebuilding? I get that it’s somewhat circular- the Braves in 2014 decide to tear down and rebuild because they don’t think they can beat the Nats. But still, it’s fairly remarkable that, for the last 4 years, they usually just have 1 team to worry about.

    Anyway, on another kind of downer point, doesn’t Trea need to start baseball activities soon to feel good about him for the playoffs? If he goes two more weeks without playing, he’s going to need 3-4 weeks to be in a good game shape, no?

    Wally

    10 Aug 17 at 10:55 am

  48. Wally, having grown up far from here following a team that was perennially bad and never made the playoffs until I was in college, I learned a long time ago not to take success for granted, or to question it too much.

    That stated, the Nats have been competitive since 2011, so this is the seventh season of them being good. In that time, this is the first year there hasn’t been at least one other team in the division that was good, often very good. The Phils won 102 games in 2011. The Braves won 94 in 2012 and 96 in 2013. Much to our consternation, the Mets went to the World Series in 2015. Those were all very good teams. Yet over the last half-decade, as Wally has noted, every one of them has had to retool/rebuild to keep up with the Nats. None has succeeded for any sustained period thus far, and all are floundering a bit right now.

    Are the Nats “lucky” to have the current situation, or did they drive the other teams into their holes? Perhaps it’s a bit of both. The Marlins have never needed outside incentive to do dumb things. The Phils made the fatal mistake of not turning the team over, to the point that everyone got old all of a sudden. (The funny part about that is that the one player who stayed reasonably good into his dotage is the one they let walk: Werth.) The Braves ruined the young arms that were their ticket to ongoing success, then compounded matters by giving up pretty quickly and unloading a lot of good young players. The Mets seem to be drawing from all of these playbooks: they’ve had a number of guys get old on them quickly, they’ve damaged their young arms, and they let their main “glue guy” walk and end up with the Nats.

    KW

    10 Aug 17 at 1:03 pm

  49. KW, I agree with almost everything you say. Re the Phillies: Werth has accumulated 14 fWAR over his Nats career. During that same time, Utley has put up 18.7. A lot of Utley’s value during that time was tied up in playing good 2B defense, and he never had the monster offensive years like Werth did in 2013-14. But I think it’s fair to say Utley has aged pretty well (though he, like Werth, has had trouble staying on the field). But, to the extent the Phillies were choosing between Werth and Howard to keep, they obviously chose very poorly.

    Derek

    10 Aug 17 at 1:14 pm

  50. The follow-on, of course, is can the Nats keep the run going? Rizzo certainly hasn’t fallen into the trap of not turning over the roster. The only holdovers from 2011 are Werth (likely gone after this year), Zim, and Stras (out most of that year). Gio and Harper arrived in 2012 (and EJax has come back six seasons later). But the Nats have turned over 80 percent of their team since first winning the division.

    What does the future hold if they lose Werth after this year and Harper, Murphy, and Gio after 2018? Who knows! All the more reason to enjoy the ride now while it’s going.

    For the record, I think they’ll still be competitive after 2018. The starting pitching will still largely be intact. I think they’ll need to add at least one bigger bat by trade or FA and also pray that Robles pans out. We haven’t felt the full benefits of the trades for Turner and Eaton yet, but those guys are going to need to be the next generation of offensive cornerstones. I still have trouble seeing Taylor or Goodwin take the step up to “star” level to be mentioned as part of the main core. But we’ll see. Guys like Taylor, Goodwin, Robles, Ross, and Fedde are going to determine whether the Nats can keep winning mostly with what they’ve got, or if they have to look elsewhere. Of course the 2018-19 FA class could have seismic consequences for a number of teams.

    KW

    10 Aug 17 at 1:21 pm

  51. Derek, I’ve been trying to forget about Utley for at least a decade now!

    KW

    10 Aug 17 at 1:34 pm

  52. To be clear, I was speculating. I don’t know that I have an opinion on whether the Nats are more good than mostly lucky their division has been bad. I’m not even sure it’s knowable. I guess I think it’s more likely that they are good.

    As for 2019 and beyond, I feel better about the lineup than the pitching. Turner, Easton, Robles and maybe Rendon are a pretty good top 4. Buy one or two decent bats on the market and that’s a quality lineup offensively and defensively, and on the bases.

    But pitching may be a real concern. Stras will likely either be gone or hurt. Max will be pretty old. Goo is gone. And who are the replacements? I have confidence in rizzo to find them but since they aren’t visible, it’s hard to feel good about it. They may become a bat first, weak pitching team, something we’ve never seen in DC.

    Wally

    10 Aug 17 at 3:42 pm

  53. On the broadcast, they just showed Trea fielding and throwing, said he hopes to be hitting in a couple of days.

    KW

    10 Aug 17 at 7:29 pm

  54. Is it just me, or do kintzler and Madson look better than doolittle? They are all good, but doolittle, with the one pitch, looks like he would be more effective as a spot guy in the 7th and 8th.

    I’ve been very impressed with kintzler. I wonder if he is affordable enough to resign on a Kelley-type deal.

    Wally

    11 Aug 17 at 9:39 am

  55. I’ve not understood the insistence that Doolittle gets the 9th, either. Madson as a Nat has been almost untouchable and has been grazing 100.

    I agree that a Kintzler extension might be a good move. He’s only making slightly less than $3M right now, so he shouldn’t be too expensive.

    In other news, I’m just looking at the standings. The Nats are now nine games ahead of the Cubs for home field. They’ve picked up three games on the Cubs in a week despite starting Cole, Fedde, and Jackson and with rarely playing all of the Big Four hitters on the same day.

    The Cubs, meanwhile, are just one game up on the Cards, two on the Brewers, and three on the Pirates (who have a sub-.500 record). The Cubs aren’t a postseason lock by any means, particularly with lots of intra-divisional games left.

    KW

    11 Aug 17 at 9:55 am

  56. Even more reason to go easy with the health of the key guys. That has to be the most important consideration now.

    Wally

    11 Aug 17 at 12:37 pm

  57. Ha, the Mets attempted to get Blevins through waivers but got blocked. I’d like to think Rizzo did it, but with so many teams with lesser records than the Nats in contention in the AL and in the NL Central, you know some other team did.

    As it was, the Mets got less than peanuts for Bruce.

    KW

    11 Aug 17 at 2:38 pm

  58. Also in the division, it looks like the Fish are finally getting their new ownership group. Thus will end (hopefully for good) the saga of one of the worst owners in MLB history, who drove two franchises into the ground.

    (And no, we don’t have him to “thank” for getting the Expos. An MLB team would have ended up in DC at some point in the 2000s, probably with the same ownership group, and likely better stocked than the bargain-basement crew that arrived [despite the spirited early success in 2005].)

    (And how would the universe have been different if Loria had outbid Angelos for the O’s before he bought the Expos?)

    Anyway, now what are the Marlins going to do? Do they try to make some Chisox-like trades with their key assets, or do they pump some cash into pitching and try to go for it with what they’ve got? As discussed above, they’ve got a formidable obstacle ahead of them in the division right here in DC.

    For one thing, if it were me, I would be trying to move Stanton and his contract while he’s got some market value.

    KW

    11 Aug 17 at 9:42 pm

  59. Meanwhile, the mighty Giants are 46-70. Wow, how the mighty have fallen. They don’t have an easy path to rebuilding, either.

    KW

    11 Aug 17 at 9:45 pm

  60. Stras likely making a rehab start on Monday evening at Potomac, where, conveniently, it’s Dollar Monday.

    KW

    12 Aug 17 at 10:08 pm

  61. So I wake up to find that Harper hurt his knee on a wet base during a game that NEVER should have been played. So what if the Nats only end up playing 161? The Cubs (tied with the Cards) are now 9.5 back from there being anything meaningful in that additional game.

    On a positive note, EJax got his third win in five starts and now has a 1.04 WHIP and 3.30 ERA with the Nats this year. And the back-end bullpen trio continues to be lights out.

    And we all hold our collective breath awaiting the Harper MRI. I assume Taylor will be activated for the DH today regardless of the Harper news. Taylor has been awful at the plate in his rehab games. He was hitting .091 before two hits in the second game of a DH yesterday. He has 15 Ks in 45 ABs against minor-league pitching.

    KW

    13 Aug 17 at 7:19 am

  62. Yeah, that Harper injury looked really bad. They say he was walking fine afterwards but I’m fearful of the worst. Hope I’m wrong.

    I’d like to see them call up the Cuban guy in AA, to get a look. No better time than now.

    And Dusty, let’s stop using those new relievers so much, for the 1000th time.

    Wally

    13 Aug 17 at 9:07 am

  63. “No structural damage.” Still, someone needs to call out Major League Baseball for ordering them to play the game. Totally nuts. They nearly lost one of the game’s biggest stars because of an asinine decision.

    As it turns out, a few weeks off for Harper isn’t such a bad thing, just as it hasn’t been for Stras.

    KW

    13 Aug 17 at 1:07 pm

  64. Fangraphs came out with a revised top 10. http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/updated-top-10-prospects-nl-east/

    Robles
    Soto
    Kieboom
    Luis Garcia
    Fedde
    Romero
    Stevenson
    Gutierrez
    Daniel Johnson
    Crowe

    A few surprises in Garcia and Gutierrez being so high, and even Stevenson for that matter, and no Antuna. But otherwise seems reasonable. Described Kieboom as a slam dunk top 100 guy before the injury and said he had a Tulo comp from a scout.

    Wally

    14 Aug 17 at 9:02 pm

  65. Sorry, but that’s a nutty list. Garcia has done nothing to place himself above a nearly MLB-ready starter. Garcia has been pretty marginal at the plate in the GCL but solid in the field, with only 3 errors, vs. 19 for Antuna, who has hit better and taken a good number of walks.

    Gutierrez looks like a major-leaguer size-wise. He’s an impressive-looking kid who “fills out a uniform.” However, he’s shown NO power and turns 23 next month (out injured since early June). I wouldn’t have him on any top 10 list right now.

    Considering the general lack of top-tier talent, I guess they’ve got Stevenson about right. He made The Show two years after being drafted, which is about all that you can ask of any pick. Whether he’ll hit enough to be anything more than a speedy reserve still remains to be seen.

    It’s still hard to know what they’ve got in Johnson, but you’ve got to love his progress. I saw him a couple of weeks ago, and a “crafty lefty” had him tied in knots, so I didn’t have much by which to judge him based on some awkward swings. If he can retain his new-found power as he progresses, he’s going to be one to watch.

    And my, how the pitching prospects have thinned, to the point that two draftees pop up as the second and third arms on the list. Hard to argue about that, though.

    KW

    15 Aug 17 at 8:47 am

  66. We’re getting to the end of the minor league season, and time is running out on the potential for promotion for any meaningful scrutiny of a prospect. Notwithstanding the list above, the fact that so few Nats have been promoted this year is offset by the fact that four of those who would have been promoted by now were traded in season (Mills, Neuse, Luzardo, and Watson). Still, the otherwise minimal upward movement points to an undeniably disappointing year of unmistakeable underperformance among many “top” hopefuls in the minors, and overperformance by three prospects in the majors (Difo, Goodwin, Grace). When you see a list that includes people with no performance track record, it’s because the bloom has faded on many roses, not because of the Adam Eaton trade. There are indeed sacrifices a team has to make, and then there are deals like Pedro Avila and Max Schrock.

    Rizzo did an amazing job of trading like Rizzo again after a more uneven several months. The Kintzler and Kendrick deals bought rentals but one can easily envision the Nats bringing both back in 2018. Especially because the Nats are a more far formidable team without having to account for a chaotic bullpen.
    Since injuries happen, and Doolittle and Madson are both part of the plan, Kintzler is the All-Star insurance plan. Not bad. And worth the coin, and far cheaper than Melancon.

    There are several players who ought to have the chance to show what they can do at the next level up, before year’s end.

    Yadiel Hernandez
    Dan Gamache
    Haydon Howard
    Juan Evangelista
    Seth Romero
    Will Crowe
    Matt DeRosier
    Gabe Klobosits
    Branden Bogetto
    Neftali Soto
    Pedro Severino
    Jose Marmolejos

    Whether they do or not is another story.

    The winter instructions will sort out the casting call of arms at the lower levels.

    Amidst the deflating numbers, there are lots of hopeful signs, insofar as the law of numbers will always provide same.

    1) Stevenson is a major league player.
    2) Bautista was hurt and lost a year. So we never saw what he brings. But he brings OF depth to an offseason that will likely see trades of OF depth
    3) Fedde is a guy to watch
    4) There’s a lot of pitching talent percolating at GCL.
    5) Gushue faded terribly and will be interesting to follow next year as a better conditioned player
    6) Juan Soto and CKieboom are the truth
    7) The three 17 year olds in the GCL held their own, although Antuna needs a position

    College position player drafting has been a big disappointment. Lots of 1-3 years and done coursing through the system, with AA-AAA then reliant upon others’ castoffs. The scouting at the college levels must have the success of the Latin treasure hunting of top below the radar talent. I hope the Nats make the investment to upgrade scouting at that level.

    forensicane

    15 Aug 17 at 9:31 am

  67. A fruitful exercise right now tis to watch players who now, late in the season, are really turning it on. It shows their stamina and longer term potential, the tenacity of their character, their response to instruction that finally sinks in, or just simply health.

    Tanner Roark is an example whose light went on in AAA, during a season in which he lost 17 games, the year before he made his amazing ascent to the Nats, to stay.

    The silver lining is that there are a few players who have been shifting it into gear in a big way, and I find myself tracking them with the idea that we will be talking about them this spring — at least after the prospect mavens then tell us we are allowed to.

    Yadiel Hernandez is making a big statement. There are some others. For a few, it’s just saving their place in the organization for another year. For others, it’s a step up into relevance.

    forensicane

    15 Aug 17 at 9:41 am

  68. I meant to say with Roark it was in August 2012. The light went on and it was clear, even though he was losing games. It happens every year to a few.

    We are watching the future all through the system right now.

    forensicane

    15 Aug 17 at 9:45 am

  69. The Nats took only one hitter in their top 10 2017 picks, a pint-sized 2B who has yet to play. What’s the deal? I wasn’t fond of the Freeman pick from the beginning, but he hasn’t even surfaced. The hitter I liked the most, Eric Senior, played a little but hasn’t appeared for three weeks, presumably hurt, but not on the DL. The only four-year college hitter who has shown much thus far has been Kameron Esthay, although he’s also striking out at an alarming rate (30%).

    Anyway, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the Nats don’t seem to be showing much return at the plate from this draft, as they invested very, very little in hitters.

    KW

    15 Aug 17 at 12:35 pm

  70. I agree that Garcia seems overrated, but there must be a reason this guy likes him so much. And the system has lost a significant amount of depth, mostly pitching and in the 5-20 range. But I don’t fault them much, since the big league team needed the help and their acquisitions seem good. Plus, they’ve kept the top 5-6 guys, which is pretty remarkable. And that group is strong – one consensus top 10 guy, two high upside (but low level) guys, and a very solid looking starter. Plus Romero, whatever he is.

    So the system is really top heavy, and needs depth, but that still is a pretty good place to be for a perennial contender for the last 5 years with low picks/pool and the need for trades. Hopefully that big IFA crop starts to make their way into full season ball next year and provides that depth. I’m not sure anyone other than Fedde graduates from the system in 2018 either, so time to fill out the depth, either through leaps from existing guys or new additions.

    As for Stevenson, I’m skeptical he’s ever a starter on a playoff team, but his glove and legs can provide 1-2 WAR without a major improvement in the bat. Sam Fuld isn’t a bad outcome for him.

    Wally

    15 Aug 17 at 7:51 pm

  71. I’m not too bothered that Freeman has not appeared. There is clearly a surplus of position players at the bottom minors that is heightened by the influx of international signees. Do the Nats hold onto young players too long before cutting them loose?

    Maybe, but some players ripen slower, and then they really ripen. How to keep the fruit in the basket without rotting is a big challenge the organization faces.

    Branden Bogetto was buried last year. He is an Auburn All-Star this year (but old). Tyler Beckwith had a few chances last year. He was kicked upstairs and has underperformed. Jorge Tillero had to claw for playing time last year, but produced. He his over .400 to start this year, and now he is out of the organization, cut loose! Does that make sense? Joey Harris was a promising and relatively high draft pick at catcher who has disappeared but in the organization. So Freeman is but one of many, especially in the up the middle positions.

    The bigger problem is more than this year’s draft of few position players. The organization has more position players than it can sort out. Consider who is not seeing the field or barely seeing the field:

    C: Harris, Peroni, Carillo
    2B: Freeman, Caulfield
    OF: Senior, Guibor

    Position players from college coming into the organization, with the exception of the very top picks, are not rising through the minors. If they were, there would be no draft with no position players.

    The scouts are not pegging position players coming out of college who can make it all the way. They are stalling at Hagerstown which is arguably college level, or at Potomac. Very few are even earning their way to AA.

    Trivia question: Who are the only two Nats college draftee position player in over ten years to make it to an everyday starting role in the major leagues?

    Answer: Billy Burns, Danny Espinosa.

    That has to change.

    forensicane

    16 Aug 17 at 4:20 am

  72. Rendon and Harper were college position players, even though Harper was a JUCO and only 17. He hit 31 homers and won the Golden Spikes Award as national college player of the year.

    And Burns wasn’t a regular for long.

    But in general, your point is right: the Nats haven’t drafted well for everyday players. This year, they totally ditched drafting for position players at all. Anyone after the top 10 rounds is a lottery ticket.

    (By the way, my draft crush this year, Brent Rooker, already has 13 homers in the minors.)

    KW

    16 Aug 17 at 7:47 am

  73. Wally, I don’t know how “overrated” Garcia is. I just find it hard to think of a so-far light-hitting, very young SS as ranking ahead of Fedde, Romero, and maybe some others. At just a year older, Kieboom hit significantly better in the GCL last year. Antuna has hit somewhat better than Garcia this year. Garcia is a long, long way away from the majors, to the point that he may not be fully a part of the plan until they have to think about replacing Trea in 2023.

    I’ve been skeptical of Stevenson’s ceiling since he was drafted. Can’t fault his rapid progress through the system, though. In comparison, it’s taken alleged-higher-ceiling college draftee Brian Goodwin six years to sorta make it to where it looks like he may stick in the majors (which speaks to Fore’s point about the lack of development of position players).

    KW

    16 Aug 17 at 9:14 am

  74. I know it’s nuts on several levels, but Stanton passing through waivers has renewed my fantasy of the Nats acquiring him. The price for him couldn’t be ungodly because the team getting him would be taking on The Contract. When you look at The Contract in light of what Harper will want, though, it looks pretty mild by comparison.

    Plus the Nats getting Stanton would absolutely make Kasten and Epstein pee their pants.

    Anyway, the Fish would would pitching, so I assume the conversation would start with Fedde. They’d want some win-now/win-soon players, so maybe Taylor and Cole as well, plus other stuff.

    It’s nuts, I know. Still, can you imagine going into the postseason with Stanton in the middle of that lineup?

    KW

    16 Aug 17 at 9:23 am

  75. I think the development of college position players has lagged, with Wiseman and Banks being notable misses (at least so far), but position players generally are the farm’s current strength. Both in terms of recent contributions like Difo, Goodwin and Stevenson (and even Sanchez, although that seems less sustainable), and in the upper ranks of their prospects. So I didn’t mind a pitching focused approach to the draft.

    But I agree with Fore’s original point, and maybe even expand it a bit: their college scouting in general seems like it could use an upgrade. They don’t really find many quality big leaguers from college (I’m excluding the superstar picks, like Stras, Harp and Rendon, since I think they were no brainers)

    Wally

    16 Aug 17 at 9:30 am

  76. Folks,

    I was pretty clear above that I was not referring to the top picks (Harper, Rendon, Goodwin, Stevenson), but all of the others. But of course! If all of your 1st picks, be they round 1 or 2, are Jake Johannsen, you end up as a pundit or otherwise working for ESPN giving social commentary.

    It’s clear to anyone here that I am a big fan of Rizzo and the Lerners (though not an apologist). And it is also clear that if one peruses recent history of high school position players, there are successes like Souza and Michael Taylor, as well as the Dominican successes at the discount table. My point is to say that for an organization that is so successful in player procurement and scouting on the high school, international, and even minor league (Roark, Robinson) and major league level, developing one of the best clubhouses in the game, and building an organization everyone wants to play for (in contrast to the chatter of the insipid Washington Post) this conspicuous underperformance should be forcefully addressed — particularly because the Nats have taken to college emphasis drafts to find players who are closer to the majors.

    forensicane

    16 Aug 17 at 10:09 am

  77. I agree that they aren’t getting a lot of four year college position players (as noted above, Harper and Rendon were, technically, college draftees; so is Goodwin) from the draft through the system to the majors. I have no sense at all that the Nats are underperforming reasonable expectations in that group. If a player is a good enough prospect to make it, he is usually drafted high enough out of high school or while in college to lure him away.

    The Nats’ farm system has been providing talent on a regular enough basis for years to keep the big league club in the top tier for several seasons now. Some of that talent contributes directly, some indirectly through use in trades. For those who sniff that superstar picks were “no brainers” – a lot of those no brainer picks don’t make it. The Nats should absolutely get credit for doing so well in picking and developing their top picks. Unless one is in the camp (as many fans seem to be) that success is all luck, and failure is on merit.

    John C.

    16 Aug 17 at 10:16 am

  78. KW, I’m with you on the Stanton watch too. It has Harper implications, especially when you consider him a threat to 60 HR. Chicks dig the long ball, and 290 million over that period suddenly looks affordable by comparison to a team that really should do what it can to sign…Rendon :) (too).

    I’m reminded of the Scherzer insurance policy that they targeted even with the possibility available of JZimmerman signing (they did make him a great offer). Stanton healthy has generational power and will have a financial impact wherever he goes.

    And yes, the Nats have the minor AND major league pieces to acquire him. They just don’t have the TV contract to pay him — unless we consider what they were going to pay Jason Heyward!

    forensicane

    16 Aug 17 at 10:18 am

  79. John, I agree with you, but again, the only college position player products the system has developed who have been traded in recent years have been Burns and Schrock (coincidentally, for what ended up being no value).

    The Nats seem to be able to spot and to develop pitching to flip it, and high school position players as well. But by comparison, the position player yield from college (again, with the exception of those noted above) is meager.

    forensicane

    16 Aug 17 at 10:23 am

  80. Everyone is more or less right here, but I’d like to highlight a couple of things that John said. First, as I’ve said in other contexts — and at least since they had to eat Crow — when the Nats have had high picks, they haven’t missed. Strasburg, Harper, and Rendon have become established, consistent stars. Storen, for whatever you want to say about him, has produced more WAR than six of the nine guys drafted ahead of him, as well as the five stiffs drafted immediately after him. If you think all of these picks were slam dunks to get right, just take a look at the top 10 of those drafts. Two of the guys drafted ahead of Rendon haven’t made the majors, and one is out of baseball.

    The other point John mentioned is that it’s hard to know what qualifies as a “successful” draft. We discussed that here around draft time. We’d like to think that our brilliant front office will pick five or six major-leaguers every year, including a couple of stars. That’s never the case, with any team. Perhaps there have been some SABR articles trying to quantify how many picks actually hit, and I’d love to see them if anyone has links.

    Failing that, just eyeball some of the first, second, and third rounds. Even there, it’s hard to make apples-to-apples comparisons because the number of picks have varied because of comp picks and Bud’s asinine “competitive balance” picks. On B-R, you can see immediately how many players actually made The Show, and then you can relatively easily scan to see how many made double digits in WAR. Out of the 49 (!) first-round picks in 2009, 35 made MLB; 14 didn’t at all. But only FOUR out of 49 have made double digits in WAR. Trout is a megastar, of course, Stras and Pollock are stars, and Mike Leake is functional (3.98 career ERA). The second round has Arenado, Kipnis, and LeMahieu. The first pick of the second round was the immortal Jeff Kobernus.

    Anyway, out of the first 80 picks in 2009, 52 made the majors (including Kobernus), but only 7 have produced more than 10 WAR, and only 14 have produced more than 5 WAR. The Nats had 2 of those 14 in Stras and Storen.

    KW

    16 Aug 17 at 1:50 pm

  81. Wally, I confess, I was quite excited at the drafting of both Wiseman and Banks. I thought both were “steals” where they were picked. Of course there are no career repercussions for me if I’m wrong!

    KW

    16 Aug 17 at 1:56 pm

  82. The only credit anyone deserves for drafting Strasburg and Harper 1:1 is the Nats of previous years, who sucked so badly as to give the Nats the chance to draft the obvious choices. If the Nats did not draft those two, their management would have been referred for MRI of the brain to rule out dementia.

    So that leaves us with Rendon & Goodwin (same draft),and Stevenson (impressive). And that’s it (other than Burns and Espinosa) — for over ten years.

    You don’t need a research study to ascertain whether that is inadequate. If you look at the drafts of years past, and the sheer number of college position players taken and how many of them never advanced even beyond A+, one has to appreciate that there is work to be done in the college scouting approach.

    Whether the team is successful is beside the point. The Nats are an amazing organization. But that is the weak link, considering that the team emphasizes college drafting in June more than many other teams.

    forensicane

    16 Aug 17 at 2:21 pm

  83. Oh, I agree that the Nats don’t have enough position players to show for all those drafts. Some years (like this one) they haven’t devoted many higher picks at all to hitters. At other times they’ve used high picks on guys whose ceilings weren’t very high at all even if they totally panned out, including Kobernus and Renda (and now Freeman). I would also include Stevenson and Perkins in that list as well, although I know others think more highly of them than I do. (As always, I hope I’m wrong.) As noted, I applaud Stevenson for his rapid progress.

    There are a lot of other hitters from the first five rounds over the years: Wiseman and Banks have already been mentioned, but Brandon Miller also comes to mind. Skole and S. Kieboom progressed to the edge of making it but didn’t quite get over. High school picks Ward and Reetz are progressing, slowly, but not in a way that generates much excitement. Destin Hood was a slow progressor who eventually moved on and only marginally “made it.” Taylor was drafted in 2009 and Goodwin in 2011, and there’s still no guarantee that they will or should be everyday regulars going forward.

    And yet the Nats have one of the best teams in baseball, and have managed to stay afloat despite an incredible number of injuries this season, and despite really crappy AAA and AA squads.

    KW

    16 Aug 17 at 3:56 pm

  84. And yes, Stras and Harper looked so obvious as 1/1s that Stevie Wonder could have scouted them. However, there are enough Tim Beckhams and Mark Appels floating around out there to show that there’s no such thing as a sure thing. Brady Aiken is struggling as well. Think the Astros might want a do-over on Appel over Kris Bryant? I know the Royals, who picked 5th in 2011, would love to swap Bubba Starling for Rendon!

    (FWIW, Starling once hit a grand slam off Gio, during a rehab start at Potomac three years ago.)

    KW

    16 Aug 17 at 4:07 pm

  85. So that leaves us with Rendon & Goodwin (same draft),and Stevenson (impressive). And that’s it (other than Burns and Espinosa) — for over ten years.

    You don’t need a research study to ascertain whether that is inadequate.

    Steven Souza says hello. Unless you’re only counting college players. Heck, even Norris was a starter for a couple of years.

    More seriously, you do need a research study to ascertain whether that is adequate, because if the Nats’ hit rate on such players is at or above league average, then it is “adequate” even if we wish that they had done better. I’ve always been of the opinion that a person making an assertion (“Nats’ hit rate on the draft/college players in the draft/etc. is poor”) has the obligation when challenged to back the assertion up with evidence, not anecdotes.

    John C.

    16 Aug 17 at 4:44 pm

  86. I don’t really have an opinion on whether the Nats have done well or poorly drafting college position players. But if the metric to evaluate the question is “they’ve only produced X big league players from this category over 10 years,” then excluding Strasburg and Harper from the analysis without making some other adjustment is wrong.

    It’s reasonable not to want to give management credit for picking two players anybody with a pulse would have chosen. But excluding those two picks and then saying the Nats haven’t drafted college players well makes the ratio look worse than it actually is, because you’ve changed the numerator without also changing the denominator. The relevant counterfactual is “who would the nats have chosen in the first round if there wasn’t an obvious choice.” I see no way to approximate that. But including the 2009/10 drafts in the analysis while excluding Strasburg and Harper makes it seem like they missed on their 1st round picks, when they (of course) didn’t, even if you’re reluctant to give credit for those two picks.

    Derek

    16 Aug 17 at 4:54 pm

  87. Numerator = # of college position players chosen, beyond the first round or first pick, that reached the major leagues and were starting at any point in their career.
    Denominator = 2008-2017 drafts

    No one has changed anything in the analysis.

    Billy Burns, Danny Espinosa. That’s it. Excluding no one.

    Everyone else mentioned above is bringing something up tangential to the point I’ve made – HS players, pitchers, not relevant.

    The Nats have built a championship organization with four high draft picks from bad years, with shrewd trades and major free agent acquisitions. The trades in earlier years involved veterans for younger talent, and in more recant years, young pitchers and emerging AAA+ players who were matured HS products for other key pieces.

    All I am saying is that if the organization can figure out how to get better yield on its college position players at draft, that would take the organization to the next level.

    If Billy Burns + Danny Espinosa/2008-2017 holds up under rigorous research as better than league average, I’ll gladly bow my head in respect.

    forensicane

    16 Aug 17 at 6:05 pm

  88. Now you’ve got a clear question and an approach that makes sense: how many starting players should an organization expect from college position players drafted outside the first round over a ten year period?

    The Nats have drafted 2. I suspect that’s bad but I don’t know. It’s probably too heavy a lift to find out where all the other teams stand on this front. I bet there’s quite a bit of variance and a lot of clustering around 2-5 players.

    I wonder whether the better question is total WAR from that category of players rather than just counting them. That probably doesn’t make the Nats look much better.

    Derek

    16 Aug 17 at 8:24 pm

  89. Fore, you’ve lost me. “Excluding no one” from college draftees includes Harper and Rendon. If you’re including Burns, who didn’t spend a lot of time as a starter, you could include guys like T-Mo (pre-2008) and Lombo as well, maybe even Renda, and now Goodwin. Goodwin likely will end up starting more games in the majors than Burns has. The guys from your sample period and parameters (college hitters) who have been MLB regulars for more than a season are Harper, Rendon, and Espinosa. Of those, Espinosa is the only one taken beyond the first round.

    Are those bad success numbers? Yeah, probably, but they don’t show the whole picture, which includes things like trading Meyer for Span, Souza for Turner and Ross, etc.

    Do I wish the Nats had been more successful? Of course. Do I think they’ve had some particularly fallow drafts 2012-14? It’s sure looking like it. Let’s hope Roy Clark has similarly bad success with his Dodger drafts.

    KW

    16 Aug 17 at 8:54 pm

  90. Derek – it’s an interesting question: most WAR, or most players with at least [5] WAR? The first initially feels right, but it may disproportionately reward a team for finding 1 superstar. LAA would probably score highly on this measurement, largely just due to Trout. The Nats too, due to Harp and Rendon. But is it better to be able to produce numerous contributors? I think that’s especially valuable to have quality depth at cheap prices, and pay your superstars.

    Anyway, no easy answer. It’s a pretty complicated analysis but one worth reading.

    Wally

    16 Aug 17 at 9:39 pm

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