Nationals Arm Race

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

Is it time to promote Juan Soto or what?

27 comments

Soto is *destroying* Low-A right now. Photo via minorleagueball.com

Soto is *destroying* Low-A right now. Photo via minorleagueball.com

I happened to glance at the Hagerstown Suns stat page a couple of days ago to look at the pitching stats …. and I was shocked by the leading stat-line from the offense.

Leading the offensive charge in Low-A so far this month is none other than uber nats prospect Juan Soto.   Through 4/21/18 here was his stat line:

  • 16 games, 59 At Bats
  • .373/.486/.814 slash line for an astronomical 1.300 OPS.
  • More walks than Strikeouts (14 versus 13)
  • 5 homers … and 2 stolen bases.

and he’s doing this as a 19-yr old who doesn’t turn 20 until October.

Make no mistake; this shouldn’t be a surprise.  LAST year as an 18yr old he put up a .950 OPS in 23 games before missing the rest of the season with a freak injury.  So … how long before he’s bumped up to see better competition?

 

 

Written by Todd Boss

April 23rd, 2018 at 9:52 am

Posted in Nats in General

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27 Responses to 'Is it time to promote Juan Soto or what?'

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  1. On the flip side, they did start Carter Kieboom at Potomac, and he’s scuffling along at .187. So there’s no “right” answer.

    There’s a fair amount of scuttlebutt that the Nats would move Soto up “quickly” if he hit at Hagerstown. Does that mean six weeks? Two month? It sure doesn’t look like he has much left to prove in the SALLY league. One would think that the Nats hope he can keep rolling at Potomac and perhaps showcase in the AZ Fall League.

    I’ve been quite bullish on Soto. For an organization that has really struggled to produce power, he’s the real deal.

    KW

    23 Apr 18 at 10:27 am

  2. I’m guessing the right answer is about a month. You can’t leave a guy in a level for a half a season if he’s posting above a 1,000 OPS. We’ve seen them move guys up in a month if they’re proving they’re dominating a level. There’s another guy in Low-A right now who’s doing similar stuff on the mound: Ben Braymer. 15.2 innings, 10 hits, 20/1 K/BB ratio, 1.72 ERA, 0.70 whip.

    Todd Boss

    23 Apr 18 at 11:08 am

  3. Braymer needs to move up because he’s turning 24 this week. The clock is ticking fast on him.

    With Soto, as with any prospect, what we don’t have visibility on is the off-the-field stuff–maturity, attitude, work ethic, adjustment to living in the U.S., etc. The Nats left Robles at Potomac last year a lot longer than the Natosphere expected.

    KW

    23 Apr 18 at 12:41 pm

  4. You look at his numbers and you can’t help but smile, a lot.

    Mark L

    23 Apr 18 at 2:43 pm

  5. Whoever had the “under” wins — Soto just got promoted today.

    KW

    23 Apr 18 at 3:28 pm

  6. As it turns out, the answer to your question was “a couple of hours.”

    https://twitter.com/TalkNats2/status/988466246931963905

    DCNatsFan

    23 Apr 18 at 3:29 pm

  7. Wow. Good thing I hit publish this morning. I look like a genius now! :-)

    Todd Boss

    23 Apr 18 at 3:45 pm

  8. With the struggles at the plate, the injuries, the Mets’ hot start, and the difficult road trip, it doesn’t feel too bad at this stage for the Nats to be “only” five games back. They’ve got to start playing better baseball, though, and they’ll be facing the team with the best record in the NL, the D-Backs.

    Among positive notes, Scherzer looks like he is on his way to an incredible season. At this point, considering Kershaw’s struggles, it isn’t outlandish to say that Max is the best pitcher in baseball. Hellickson is for from that, but he’s been decent thus far, through starts in two hostile environments. If the 2016 Hellickson shows up, he could turn out to be one of the steals of the offseason. Fedde and a surprisingly rejuvenated Voth are looking good at AAA, and presumably Ross will reappear at some point, so the starter depth issue is looking a little better. The loss of any of the big four would still be a blow, though.

    At the plate, it’s pretty telling that even through Eaton only played eight games, he’s still third on the team in fWAR. Zim has started to suck a little less over the last few games, and his .207 BABIP indicates that there’s plenty of room for “luck” to change. (But can we all agree that his easy spring was a big mistake?) Turner has encouragingly doubled his walk rate, but as of now, his power (SLG and ISO) is way down.

    The bullpen has become an adventure, but at least they’ve got a closer this year. Other parts are much cheaper to add than a closer. Gott, Adams, and Torres are getting auditions now. Very interesting that they pulled the plug so quickly on Romero and Cole, although of course I argued during the spring that their lack of options shouldn’t be deciding point in keeping them. For now, Albers seems sorely missed.

    KW

    27 Apr 18 at 10:02 am

  9. Well, its one month in, but I think we know enough to say that it is going to be a long season. I’d still make it more likely than not that they’ll come back and win the division, but its very close and that depends on (i) injured guys returning relatively soon to their standard performance, and (ii) no more significant injuries. That may be a lot to ask. With the Phils and braves being better as well as the Mets, now its only MIA as an easy win.

    Overall, in addition to injuries, more bad than good. Pitching is slipping. It’s unfortunate to their record that Stras has been a little subpar – I feel confident that he is as good as ever, but they could have used winning at least 2 more of his starts right now. That’s more optics than anything else, but early games tend to be magnified because it represents a higher sample of the season.

    Bullpen is just subpar, and I don’t know how they fix it. I think its been a big enough sample to say that this is a weakness for Rizzo. I don’t know that the numbers actually support that conclusion, but it sure never feels like it generates confidence.

    I’m frustrated with Eaton’s ability to stay on the field. At what point do you just stop counting on the guy? We’re certainly not there yet, but just saying – when do you get there?

    Martinez – it feels like he may be in over his head. Seems like a talented guy, and like his personality, but so far he looks like a guy that would have benefitted from his first job being with a rebuilding club Bullpen use – sheesh, not a fan.

    last negative – Harp is hurting himself, in terms of contract. It isn’t the slump, he just projects a body language that implies he is letting all of this – injuries, not being pitched too, etc, affect his performance. I still love the guy, but it isn’t the kind of makeup I’d be anxious to throw $400m at. For that money, I’d like to see some personality that others rally to, in addition to elite talent. Like max.

    Positives – max, Turner has matured and I feel like he is going to get hot soon, MAT looks much better at the plate and …. Soto? I guess Gio has looked strong enough that I’d offer a 2 year deal at something reasonable, like $12-13m per.

    overall, if they are in the same spot by ASB, I’d give serious thought to flipping some of these expiring guys and retooling for next year (after the ASB). heresy, but I would do it.

    Wally

    30 Apr 18 at 9:07 am

  10. I’m still more pissed than panicked. The Nats should have won at least two out of three from the D-Backs, if not all three.

    I just keep thinking how Dusty would be getting crucified if he was doing what Davey is doing, yet Davey is getting a pass in most quarters. It’s not just Davey, though — where are the bench pros who were brought in to help him run things, including Hale and Bogar, not to mention managerial finalist Kevin Long? No one else caught the non-PH screw-up? No one can tell him to stop abusing Kintzler and Madson?

    I also sort of fault Davey for keeping Zim in the upper part of the lineup despite his struggles, but then I remember that the lower half is basically direct from AAA plus the struggling MAT.

    Positives: I think Long is building on Kendrick’s success last season and making him more of an offensive threat than he’s ever been. Also, Hellickson looks like the fix for the fifth starter. He’s had three steady starts. I’m thinking Gott may finally be arriving as well, and not a moment too late for the overtaxed bullpen.

    We’ll see where they go with the ‘pen. The back-end trio is fine, just needs less work for Kintzler and Madson. Gott and Solis look decent in two of the other slots. Torres is getting an audition. Adams failed his, which is too bad considering his electric stuff. Voth is up for the first time, presumably as the long man, although he doesn’t have experience out of the ‘pen. In short, they’re getting a look at a lot of guys. Kelley (done?), Grace (probably never more than mediocre), and Benoit (done?) are still lurking on the DL, Suero is off the DL at Syracuse, and Glover has started throwing. So they’ve got guys to try before they start trading for relievers . . . again.

    Sooner or later, they’ll get an infusion of Rendon, Murphy, Eaton, Goodwin, Robles, and Ross. Will it be soon enough? I think so. The Mets, Phils, and Braves have all cooled a bit. The Mets have had their chance to really bury the Nats and haven’t been able to do it.

    I do share the concern about Bryce. That’s a managerial thing to manage, but the jury is still out on Davey’s relationship with him. Dusty never completely connected. Matt W. did with Bryce, but hardly with anyone else.

    And yes, I’d extend Gio. I think he’d be willing. The only place more appealing to him is Miami, but he’s not going to want to play for that terrible team, which won’t be willing to spend much anyway.

    KW

    30 Apr 18 at 2:32 pm

  11. Adams should get another try or two. But nothing in high leverage situations.

    Wally

    30 Apr 18 at 4:48 pm

  12. Eaton is in a walking boot apparently. Seems like a lot of people are blaming Henley. I don’t think that’s right, either the guy can play or he can’t play. If he’s on the field you should treat them like any other player.

    But this guy seems snake bit

    Wally

    1 May 18 at 6:58 pm

  13. Forget Eaton, just call up the dude at the top of this page, who is still raking after his promotion. He hit a bomb in his home debut in Woodbridge last night.

    And no, I don’t really want to forget Eaton, a 6 WAR player who has looked like a difference-maker when he’s been in the lineup. I do agree that if he’s in the lineup, it should be without limitations. Plus blame to Sendley seems curious since A) Eaton scored, so Henley corrected judged the situation, and B) Eaton’s injury isn’t to the knee.

    The Nats also don’t have anyone requiring a TJ like Corey Seager. Man, if you want a team that has a right to start panicking, it’s the Dodgers. They’re already nine behind, with solid AZ and COL clubs ahead of them. Kershaw (1-4) and Jansen (5.06 ERA) both look like their overuse is catching up with them. Wouldn’t it be wild if the Dodgers are sellers by the trade deadline?

    Meanwhile, the Nats are only 4.5 back after a nice little three-game spurt, while the Mets have lost four of six. Max looks to be on his way to a third straight CYA, quite a strong credential for a plaque in Cooperstown that should bear a curly W. Time for Stras to get things pointed in the right direction tonight.

    And at what point do we start needing to have a serious conversation about a regular platoon at 1B? Davey’s Cubbies did it with Heyward, the highest-paid player on the team, so Zim shouldn’t be exempt.

    KW

    2 May 18 at 9:25 am

  14. Grandal and Ryu are off to great starts and will be free agents after this season. Don’t sleep on the Dodgers becoming sellers. (I really doubt they would move Kershaw.)

    If you really wanted to make a ballsy, all-in move, though, would you think about Robles + Fedde for Kershaw? That would be a massive price to pay for a guy who likely will opt out, but man, that would be one of the all-time great rotations for the playoffs.

    KW

    2 May 18 at 9:45 am

  15. Platoon Zim and Adams? I’m there already as far as Zim is concerned but would wait until Goodwin or Eaton is back. Right now Zim is better than Sierra or Bautista or Stevenson, even after accounting for Adams D.

    LAD – I don’t agree with your analysis. If they traded three prospects for Manny, would you still be as negative? Cause I think that’s what happens. Friedman might like to sell, but I don’t Think ownership allows it.

    And no way I do that trade.

    Wally

    2 May 18 at 10:27 am

  16. It may seem strange to say, but May 2 and 3 are huge for the Dodgers, as they have two more games left in Phoenix. If they lose those two, they’re 11 out. If they win both, they’re only 7 out and things don’t look quite so desperate. They’re facing Corbin tomorrow, so they’ll really have their hopes on Ryu tonight.

    There’s lots of buzz about the Dodgers going all in to get Manny, but unless their pitching rounds into form, it may a futile gesture. We’ll see. I don’t think they’ll do anything right away. And I do think they’ll remain in wild card contention.

    If the opportunity did present, I would think about Robles for Kershaw or Bumgarner. I don’t know how much more I’ve give over Robles, but with Soto looking legit, I’d trade Victor for an all-in chance at a title.

    KW

    2 May 18 at 11:57 am

  17. My problem is that Kershaw isn’t Kershaw this year – not saying he is ready to crumble, but I wouldn’t trade a top 10 prospect for someone with red flags who’s gone at the end of the year. If he was as invincible as he has been, maybe (but probably still not). If he was controllable for 2019, then it gets a lot closer to being worth it.

    Wally

    2 May 18 at 1:31 pm

  18. The Mets let de Grom pitch through pain, and now he has a hyper-extended elbow. Sheesh, what a sh@t show of an organization. We’ve said this before, but because Matt Harvey is a jerk, the Mets get a free pass on destroying a guy that was absolutely filthy as a pitcher. He was on Stras’ level. I can’t think of another organization that treats it players so callously

    Wally

    3 May 18 at 6:47 am

  19. It somehow seems fitting that the Mets dropped out of first place on the same day they did something stupid with a pitcher. deGrom figures to be out for a while, and Harvey looks like toast. Without those guys, they’ll have a hard time contending. And the Mets were the only team ahead of the Nats with enough starting pitching to be potentially dangerous. The Phils have more than the Braves.

    Speaking of starting pitchers, the Dodgers did beat the Snakes last night, but they lost Ryu to a groin strain in the process. Hill is already on the DL. Their hole just got deeper.

    I’m feeling better about the Nats after the four-game spurt, particularly with the bats awakening. Rendon is starting the rehab assignment at Potomac tonight. Murph and Eaton are coming along more slowly, but with the ship now sailing a little straighter, there’s no rush. Get them fully healthy and dominate in the second half.

    KW

    3 May 18 at 9:13 am

  20. I’m not optimistic on Eaton. He looked horrible trying to run even before the re-injury. That leg just wasn’t right and was only a matter of time before it turned worse. Reminded me of RGIII trying to play with a torn up knee.

    Eaton must have had a really bad injury originally because he did have plenty of time to rehab. So will he look normal after this bone bruise recovery or still April looking gimpy? The bright side is he played great even on one leg in April.

    Otherwise… Robles really missing a big opportunity. Wow he gets hurt alot. Turner trending up but different than 2016. Davey turning him into a real leadoff walk-bunt -contact speed guy, which is smart. Streaky swing and miss non strikes Turner was getting worrisome. Kendrick is so solid. Just boring tough ab’s every time.

    What you guys think of MAT? Is he going to be the long term answer CF? It’s getting hard to defend Zimm. He does not handle pressure well. No reason he shouldn’t have been exploiting his many Harper pitch around opportunities for years now. And he’s not taking the elevating the ball lessons well either.

    Marty C

    3 May 18 at 10:06 am

  21. I like Michael A, I really do. He seems like a good guy and he plays hard. He could DEFINITELY start for a bad/mediocre team. And his speed and defense make him playable for a contender if he’s the worst hitter on the team.

    But, if I’m the Nats, I view him more as “4th OF of the future” or trade bait than as “CF of the future.” His realistic ceiling as a hitter is league average. If he was able to do that consistently, he’d be a decent regular with his speed and defense. But I don’t think he can do that consistently. He strikes out 30% of the time and walks 7-8% of the time. Those numbers bounce around a bit, but he’s shown no consistent improvement in either measure. So whether he is able to produce at the plate depends almost entirely on BABIP and power. Even with his best BABIP and ISO seasons last year, he was barely above average (105 WRC+). And it’s not like these were the continuation of trends – his power and BABIP bounce around, so we should expect that bouncing around to continue.

    This is who he is as a hitter, and there’s no reason to think he’s going to get better than he is now.

    Derek

    3 May 18 at 10:38 am

  22. Derek I agree on MAT. He teases with the power but then the long bad streaks and K’s ruin it.

    I think the slow start taught some lessons on roster construction. Namely you really can’t build a great lineup with streak hitters, even if those hitters have good overall stats.

    Turner – streak (but Davey changing him to walk-pest apparently)
    Zimm – 100% streak hitter
    Harper – Streak + pure but doesn’t matter as they don’t pitch to him if surrounded by streak hitters.
    MAT – streak

    Kendrick – Pure’
    Murphy – Pure Hitter
    Rendon – Streaky – Pure
    Eaton – Pure – pest

    Marty C

    3 May 18 at 11:18 am

  23. The problem with Taylor as a reserve is that you would prefer that pinch hitters be good at making contact and getting on base. He’s neither. He’s become an exceptional defender, and someone seems to have really worked with him on base-stealing. But . . . he’s hitting only .213, with an awful .280 OBP, and slugging a paltry .361. He’s still striking out a third of the time, like he always has.

    I was hoping the Nats would monetize Taylor’s postseason success by trading him last offseason. They seemed to be able to cover in the OF with Eaton, Goodwin, and with Robles lurking. Considering the injuries to all three of those guys, I guess it’s good that they’ve still had Taylor, although “good” may be relative considering how far below league average he is in nearly every offensive category besides SBs. The problem is that he’s re-devalued himself, to the point that he wouldn’t bring much in trade. I had some hope that Kevin Long could help him improve his contact and selectivity, but there’s no evidence of that yet.

    KW

    3 May 18 at 1:21 pm

  24. I am a little more bullish on Taylor than you guys. A little, anyway. I think he’ll never be a high contact guy but his slugging should come up hundred points from where it is now, so a .750 OPS is reasonable. And that combined with his now-reliable defense and improved base running is a 2-3 WAR player for the next few years. That’s no star, but it’s a league average player and I think that could be the centerfielder on a playoff team provided the rest of the lineup is strong and higher contact.

    Wally

    3 May 18 at 6:36 pm

  25. Here’s a larger question, which does involve Taylor, among others — is the rapid ascension of the kid at the top of this page starting to shake up the Nat OF succession plans? Soto has 3 HRs over the last two days at Potomac. Even as this season started, I would have said that it was foolish to think of him as a possible “replacement” for Bryce. But goodness, he’s looking legit and on the fast track.

    I’m still not sure what I would recommend about Bryce. He remains a top-five talent, as he’s reminding folks this week. He’s also a top-five marketing talent. His power in the lineup would not be easy to replace, particularly if they also lose Murph’s at the same time (and face the potential of losing Rendon’s after 2019). But is Bryce “worth it” to the lineup to hamstring finances with $35-40M/per for several years to come, on top of the Max and Stras contracts?

    I’ve been answering “yes” to that question, but if Soto really is this good and (perhaps) this close to being ready, then some rethinking may be in order. I’ve never been thrilled by the thought of an OF of Eaton/Taylor/Robles. There’s too much loss of power there. But Eaton/Robles/Soto, by June 2019? Hmm. Can the club keep winning with two youngsters learning the ropes?

    To me, the “must re-sign” has become Rendon. They’ll likely have the hole at 2B when Murphy leaves (presumably to be filled by Kendrick in 2019). All the higher-talent young INF prospects — C. Kieboom, Antuna, and Garcia — are struggling at the moment and don’t look to be on the fast track. It’s hard to project any of them being ready by 2019, and a 2020 arrival would be hazy at the moment, particularly for two of them to fill both 2B and 3B. So I’m putting my chips on Rendon right now. Of course this could change if they were to sign someone like Dozier next offseason.

    KW

    4 May 18 at 9:27 am

  26. I do like the idea of a Rendon extension. I think I’ve talked myself out of wanting a Harper extension at his presumed $300+m price tag. I’d also like to seriously consider a Murphy extension if (a) he returns healthy at some point, and (b) we can keep it to three years. Slide him to 1B after Zim is done.

    I think it is too early to slot in Soto for next summer. He’s doing wonderfully at a young age but let him keep this up for another 12-18 months at higher levels. that being said, you can get a stopgap corner OF relatively cheaply for 1 year.

    Wally

    4 May 18 at 10:15 am

  27. I’m not against thinking about trying to keep Murph, as long as there’s a good understanding about where he’s going to be playing. He would have to be able to slide over to 1B within a year or so. But would they really buy out Zim for 2020 when he would only be 35? It would be the smart business move, particularly considering how underemployed bopping 1Bs are these days. (And how dumb the Phils look for giving so much $$$ to Santana.) Murph is a better all-around hitter than most of the boppers, and he would have the utility to play 2B and 3B in a pinch.

    Also, unfortunately for Murph but fortunately for the Nats, his struggles to return this season are lowering his price.

    KW

    4 May 18 at 7:06 pm

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