Nationals Arm Race

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

Keith Law had some interesting comments on our High-A prospects … including one who isn’t there any more


Juan Soto has picked up in High-A right where he left off in Low-A. Photo via Getty images

Juan Soto has picked up in High-A right where he left off in Low-A. Photo via Getty images

ESPN Insider only link, but Keith Law wrote up a scouting report on his visit to see Potomac visit Wilmington recently.

I won’t cut and paste his content in the spirit of ESPN’s insider paywall, but will summarize what he wrote, because I found it interesting.  He wrote up three guys:

  • Juan Soto: great bat speed, 70 speed, lots of power.  Law’s concerns were with pitch recognition, which has yet to be exposed but may force some adjustment from Soto in higher levels.  But he described him as having “superstar tools.”
  • Telmito Agustin: he’s hitting 180 points higher in Potomac this year versus last and Law took note.   Says he thinks Agustin’s adjustments and power will stick and we may have found gold for a prospect who signed for practically nothing and who barely registers on anyone’s prospect lists for the organization.
  • Carter Kieboom: struggling in High-A as his stats show; Law wonders if he isn’t better suited for 2B or 3B (likely 3B because of his arm strength).

Law also talked about one player from Wilmington (Kansas City affilliate); that being local kid Khalil Lee (Flint Hill HS).  Lee was the 2nd prep player drafted out of the area in  2016 (Joe Rizzo of Oakton HS being the other): both guys are now at High-A in their 3rd pro years.

And, just after writing this post … the Nats have promoted Soto again.   He’s heading to AA Harrisburg to get some more challenge.  Wow; are we looking at a guy who needs to have Vladimir Guerrero Jr. level hype?

Always enjoy reading about our guys from a national scout.



Written by Todd Boss

May 10th, 2018 at 3:01 pm

18 Responses to 'Keith Law had some interesting comments on our High-A prospects … including one who isn’t there any more'

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  1. Todd – you have impeccable timing. I was just reading Law’s chat and noticed that he wrote them up. Was coming here to ask if anyone still had the Insider subscription, and there you were!

    very interesting note on Agustin, I was wondering about him and tried to get in a question on the fangraphs chat.

    I think Kieboom is showing enough that I’m not worried – 5 HRs and > .700 OPS is ok for 1/3 of a season for a 20 yr old in High A, no?

    As for Soto, train keeps a’ rolling. Fun to see it happen, but kind of irks me since I was planning to go to a P-nats game next week to see him. You would think that Rizzo would consult us first?


    10 May 18 at 3:13 pm

  2. That Soto train keeps a rollin’

    Eaton – bah, this is turning into a sh!t show. I can’t blame him for being hurt, but losing two years of this guy makes this a hard trade to feel good about.


    10 May 18 at 8:50 pm

  3. makes it hard?? It was already hard last year. Now its an abomination. The trade was already heavily tilted towards the CWS and now its ridiculously so.

    Todd Boss

    10 May 18 at 9:38 pm

  4. Abomination? Giolito is looking kinda bust-y, Lopez is wildly outperforming his peripherals this year after being more AAAA than MLB before. Dunning is still a pitching prospect at least a full season away. Prospects will break your heart, Todd.

    John C.

    10 May 18 at 9:51 pm

  5. On the MLBTR chat yesterday, in response to a question about Giolito they’ve taken to referring to it as “the Dane Dunning trade”


    11 May 18 at 7:16 am

  6. Soto’s first game in AA: HR, double, 4 RBIs, SB. OK, forget AA, time for AAA! Wow. Concerning his pitch recognition, Law needs better sources. Tripp Keister, the manager at Potomac, raved about Soto’s eye. (I’m kicking myself for missing Soto at Potomac, but who would have thought he would be moving so fast.)

    Speaking of moving so fast . . . Eaton just had surgery, and Robles appears to be out for a long time. Is the Soto Express headed for Half Street by mid-season? I would have said six weeks ago that such a projection was insane.

    The “Dane Dunning trade.” Hehe. Lopez has a FIP of 4.94, strongly suggesting that his 2.44 ERA is an aberration. But it beats the heck out of Giolito’s 6.02 FIP . . . which actually gives some hope (relatively speaking) for his 7.25 ERA.


    11 May 18 at 8:27 am

  7. So the relevant question in evaluating a trade is whether Rizzo got good value AT THE TIME for what he gave up AT THE TIME. Players get hurt (pitching prospects moreso than position players), but the likelihood of injury is baked in to their market values. I thought five years of a consistently good MLB outfielder at very low salaries was a fair recompense for three pitching prospects of varying experience and quality, one of whom was a true gem that had lost some luster. So, Todd, I totally disagree that the trade was heavily slanted towards the White Sox at the time.

    Post-trade, the outfielder has been mostly injured, the gem pitching prospect has lost even more luster. The other two pitching prospects have gone in different directions. But, if we’re actually going to look at post-trade contribution, Adam Eaton has been worth exactly 1 fWAR in 31 games as a Nat. Giolito and Lopez have been worth a total of 1.1 fWAR in 170 innings (Giolito .2 and Lopez .9). This doesn’t look good for the Nats because part of the benefit of the deal is shifting value to the nearer term and away from the longer term, and Eaton has been hurt. But it also looks like the Nats traded away two pitching prospects that just aren’t particularly good pitchers.

    Rizzo may not have sold Giolito at his high point, but he should get credit for selling before the bottom dropped out. The problem is that what he bought got hurt.


    11 May 18 at 9:26 am

  8. Eaton/Robles/Soto – my initial reaction was similar to KW’s speculation, in that the Nats may not be feeling good about Robles and Eaton returning fully healthy this ear, and they are accelerating Soto’s timetable a bit to see if he is a late season option. Admittedly, that is speculating on tea leaves.

    As for the Eaton trade, I mostly agree with the thought process that Derek outlined, however, I stand by my wording that the injuries make the trade hard ‘to feel good about’. They’ve likely lost most of the first two seasons of him, so its no longer 5 years of control, and he is moving towards the end of his prime. I’m hopeful that he will still have value when he returns, but this has been a big loss. So it sucks, frankly. For me, how the traded guys do is not relevant to my evaluation of a trade, beyond providing some indication of what their value might have been at the time of trade (compared to what was known in the media about the guys beforehand – but even that is slippery, since you never know what the industry really thinks of prospects). I could make an argument that it is in the Nats interest for their traded guys to do well, since it may give more confidence to teams about evaluating future prospects.

    lastly, what gives with the Nats entirely revamped, state of the industry medical staff? I am not sure I know how best to evaluate it, but it doesn’t seem to me that there has been any improvement. Its certainly not helped any by the Nats policy of never telling the media and fans anything to manage our expectations, but sheesh, this appears to be a mess.


    11 May 18 at 9:51 am

  9. Wally – I totally agree with your conclusion that Eaton’s injuries make the trade “hard to feel good about” apart from what you thought about the trade when it happened.

    I’m a bit skeptical that Soto’s promotion has much to do with what’s happening at the MLB level. I think they’d need to see him rake for ~50 games at AA to consider promoting him. I would hope that Robles or Eaton is back in the fold by that time.

    Regarding the Nats’ medical staff, I think this is an “as compared to what” issue. There’s a sense that the Nats don’t manage fans’ expectations vis-a-vis injuries very well. There are dozens of events we can point to as fans where we’ve been frustrated by the communication. The important question to me is how this compares with other teams. I have no idea – because I don’t follow any other teams remotely as closely as I follow the Nats. I have no sense of what, say, the Brewers’ day-to-day injury communications are like. It’s totally plausible to me that the Nats are well within the mainstream approach. But, ultimately, I just don’t know.

    Having said all that, I am going to criticize the Nats for not saying anything useful about Robles. A hyperextended non-throwing elbow doesn’t SEEM like a big deal, even though the injury looked gruesome. They haven’t said anything about a timetable other than it will be measured in “months.” This is frustrating on its own, but is especially frustrating given the situation with Eaton. It would be a lot better for the team if Robles was able to sub for Eaton (and, frankly, a lot easier to replace MAT with Robles later in the season if Robles was raking in Eaton’s place).


    11 May 18 at 10:14 am

  10. Giolito is 23. Lopez is only slightly older. Sandy Koufax was poor for nearly 5 years before figuring it out. Dallas Keuchel was a mid 5+ ERA til he was 25; now he’s a cy Young winner.

    You can’t teach velocity or size; Lopez has one and Giolito has the other. AND none of this talks aobut how well Dunning is doing.

    What’s harder to find? A top end starter or a decent outfielder? So if you trade three top-end ceiling prospects for one decent outfielder … that outfielder BETTER pan out.

    So … yeah i’m still sore. Hated it when it happened, hate it even more now.

    Todd Boss

    11 May 18 at 11:18 am

  11. Eaton trade: fully realize i’m being “unfair” by judging this trade by the unluckiness factor of Eaton’s two injuries. Obviously, you couldn’t project this.

    I was, at the time and continue to be of the opinion that the Nats bailed on Giolito early for some reason. Fiddled with his mechanics, screwed around with his approach, then made an organizational decision that he was to be dumped. Fine; none of us are privy to those conversations. All we can do is look at his results and make some guesses as to what happened. It seems like his velocity is down from pre tJ; is that it? Was it a personality/approach/committment issue? Was it a determination that he just never was going to be able to command and control his fastball, even at lower velocities? He is, after all, a big dude 6’6″ and the adage goes that bigger guys are more prone to mechanical repetition issues.

    They invested an *awful lot* into Giolito; essentially blowing the entire 2012 draft to get him along with the massive over-slot bonus. I just continue to be surprised by the decision to dump. maybe someday we’ll get an inside story.

    Todd Boss

    11 May 18 at 11:28 am

  12. I don’t want to relitigate too much. I liked the trade at the time, although adding Dunning seemed a little steep. Eaton had one of the best WAR-per-buck contracts in baseball. He was/is part of the process of starting to cumulatively replace Harper’s production. If Harper happens to stay, then they just get added benefit, as they did when Stras stayed after they signed Max.

    I wrote at the time of the trade that the Nats were betting big on Fedde. Fedde is 25 already, and he’s pretty mediocre right now at AAA. So right now, they’re “losing” that part of the bet along with what they’ve lost from Eaton not being able to play. But it’s not that evident that the White Sox are really “winning” the trade, yet, either.

    Also, just FWIW, if the trade hadn’t happened, the Nat rotation wouldn’t look much different than it does now. Lopez probably would be the fifth starter. Giolito would be somewhat of an anchor for a contending team because he’s out of options. The Nats would still have no lefties on the horizon and would still be contemplating whether they need to extend Gio. Maybe they wouldn’t have made the draft reaches they did Romero and Raquet, but considering the need for lefties, maybe they might have.

    And when Eaton comes back and ignites the offense, perhaps we’ll even forget we had this conversation.


    11 May 18 at 12:57 pm

  13. On Soto, who I would rather discuss, I agree that he’s probably not an option with the big club this year, unless things get really crazy. Taylor is really struggling, though. I’m sure they’d prefer that Eaton not have to play CF, but they may need to keep a hot bat in LF . . . unless Adams totally Pipps Zim. We’ll see. Right now, they’re being very patient with Taylor and Zim because they don’t have a lot of other options.

    To me, the aggressive push with Soto has more to do with them trying to figure out how close he is to being able to be a part of trying to replace Harper next year, which would figure into if and how much they would bid on keeping Harper. I’m not saying that Soto is Bryce’s replacement, and neither is Robles. But if both of those guys can be above-average major-leaguers by 2019, the need to bid on Bryce diminishes significantly.


    11 May 18 at 1:06 pm

  14. I’m going to defend Fedde a little bit. His ERA in AAA in 2018 is high, 4.55, but his FIP is a solid 3.44, which is quite consistent with his FIPs across other levels of the minors earlier in his career. One concern I had about him last year is his Ks dipped quite a bit when he went from AA to AAA – he was at 8.6/9 and dipped to 6.6/9. His K/9 in AAA this year is a robust 9.7, which is a) very good and b) probably a bit inflated by one start where he had like 10 Ks in 4 innings or something similar. Fedde is not AJ Cole, who had 100s of AAA innings at a 4.00 FIP, with mediocre (but not terrible K numbers). I think Fedde could step in and be a serviceable back-end starter with a ~4.00 ERA right now with some upside (though I certainly don’t think there’s any need for him at this point with Hellickson pitching well). If you ask me to pick one of Fedde, Giolito, or Lopez to make crucial MLB starts in 2018, Fedde is clearly the one I’d pick. The latter two have worse MiLB stats, in addition to their struggles at the big league level. The issue with Fedde is whether he can stay healthy, and I have no idea whether he can.

    Zim and Taylor have both struggled, and the injuries means both are going to stay in the lineup. But I would evaluate them differently. Zim has a track record, and the exit velocity numbers/BABIP suggests he’s played a bit better than his results. I think there’s some positive regression coming for him. Taylor has had some bad luck too, but the positive regression needs to be enormous for him to be a good hitter.


    11 May 18 at 1:51 pm

  15. I’m not anti-Fedde, and I was lobbying for him to be considered as the fifth starter this year, certainly over Cole. And you’re right, what Fedde is doing at AAA thus far this year isn’t nearly as bad as what Cole did there the last two years. In fact, Fedde’s stats were looking very good until he gave up five runs apiece in his last two starts.

    However, we still don’t know whether he’s good enough to be a starter for a contender, and he’s 25. I assume he’s currently the “6th starter” and would be the first call-up for an injury or double-header. But are we any closer to answers about whether they need to re-sign Gio and/or Hellickson? (And has anyone heard even a peep about Joe Ross? Talk about someone who no one ever mentions.)


    11 May 18 at 3:20 pm

  16. Zim will get multiple chances because of what he’s meant to the franchise and because of how much he’s still owed. And yes, he does has a track record, albeit one that has ebbed a flowed quite a bit over the last few decades.

    Taylor is exactly what he is, and exactly what he has always been, a guy whose tools are so great that people lose sight of that hole in his swing. I cheered his dramatics in the playoffs . . . but thought the Nats should have capitalized on that peak to get something for him in a trade.


    11 May 18 at 3:24 pm

  17. Kieboom callup … meaning an old name gets removed from the Nats to Oblivion roster!

    Todd Boss

    11 May 18 at 8:51 pm

  18. Collective MLB games appeared in for the Nats thus far by 2012 Nat draft picks: 7 (six by Giolito, one by S. Kieboom). Renda also had an MLB cameo for an awful Reds team that lost 94 games.


    12 May 18 at 6:15 pm

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