Nationals Arm Race

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

MILB reportedly agrees to contraction plan

43 comments

1200px-MiLB_logo.svg

A couple of news items hit today that confirm what a lot of us have been fearing; the make-up of the Minor Leagues is set to change drastically, starting next year.

https://www.mlbdailydish.com/2020/4/21/21229598/mlb-reduce-number-of-teams-milb-teams-coronavirus

and

https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/sources-milb-ready-to-agree-to-significant-reduction-in-teams/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email

both confirm the plan to reduce then number of minor league teams by more than 40.  The plan would be to contract entire leagues (both the Short Season leagues like the NY Penn league and the Northwest league) and the non-complex Rookie leagues (like the Appalachian league and the Pioneer league).  Each team would be left with four full-season affiliates plus its complex rookie league.   Even though the conversations about this plan started last fall, the Covid19 situation has drastically affected the finances of nearly every minor league team, and its likely that a number of them are already insolvent (or close to it).

The impact for the Nats would likely be three fold:

  • We’d lose our short-A team in Auburn
  • We’d seemingly lose our Hagerstown affiliate and have it replaced in Low-A by a new city.
  • We’d probably have to find a new AAA team.

The entire concept of Short-A is set to be eliminated.  So that’s our Auburn affiliate.

Hagerstown has been specifically singled out by MLB sources (as reported by Keith Law here: https://theathletic.com/1718395/2020/04/03/law-even-with-baseball-shut-down-specter-of-minor-league-contraction-looms/?article_source=search&search_query=hagerstown) as being a substandard facility and seems like its on the chopping block.

Lastly, Fresno is reportedly going to get moved out of AAA to become a California league team in High-A, which means the Nats would need a new AAA affilliate.  More to the point … some team not currently in AAA would need to get promoted.  This could be great for us … especially if a crown-jewel AA team is suddenly available to use to use as an affilliate.

———–

A side effect of losing 40 or so teams is the obvious: we’re not going to need to draft as many players.  There’s already been Covid-19 driven talks about modifying the 2020 draft down from 40 rounds to as few as 5.  But without a short-season team to draft for (and without advanced complex leagues for other franchises), there’s just not as much need to draft players.

Many observers already thought the draft was too long.  A quick glance at the nats draft tracker: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Qd5DS9GlmkQOEh_zGhOvlhHK0EegqY1uJB4mLGmRBaY/ depicts this pretty clearly; Since the draft went to 40 rounds, the Nats have never signed much more than 75% of its draftees.  Often times their last 8-10 picks were throw away picks on relatives or friends of Nats staff, or on HS players with strong div-1 committments who they had zero chance to sign for the $100k-$125k slot figure.  Here’s some details on the last few years in particular:

  • 2019: 11 of 39 players drafted went unsigned, including the last 6 rounds.  Draftees included the son of a Nats scout
  • 2018: 11 of 40 players drafted went unsigned, 7 of the last 8 picked didn’t sign, most of whom were HS picks.  Three of these draftees were sons of Nats staff members.
  • 2017: 7 of 40 players drafted went unsigned, including 4 of final 5 picks.  Draftees included Dusty Baker‘s son, a cousin of a Nats scout and the grandson of Bob Boone.
  • 2016: 11 of 41 players drafted went unsigned, including last 9 picks.  Draftees included two nephews of a nats scout, the son of a Nats front office executive and a Bethesda player who was unrecruited by any collegiate team.
  • 2015: 10 of 40 players drafted went unsigned, including 5 of last 6 picks.

Its pretty clear that the Nats would be a-ok with a 30 round draft to start with.

Now, how many players are assigned straight from the draft to Short-A every year?  Based on my “initial assignment” notes over the past few years…

  • 2019: 9 straight to Short-A, another 4 who were in the GCL for like a week before heading to Short-A
  • 2018: 7 straight to Short-A, another 4 GCL/Short-A
  • 2017: At least 5 straight to Short-A, another 8 GCL/Short-A combos
  • 2016: 5 straight to Short-A, another 5 GCL/Short-A

So, if there was no Auburn, that’s at least 10-13 players per year that the team … wouldn’t need to draft.  This is consistent with dropping the draft down to 20 rounds, possibly even just 15.

———-

Now, am i a proponent of this?  Of course not.  I think MLB is forcing a lot of cities to forgo long-held minor league baseball teams for the purposes of … saving a few dollars?  I mean, lets be honest; short-A squads are generally filled with lower-round draft picks paid $1,200-$1,500 a week for half a summer.  I feel like this is yet another effort by MLB to cut minor amounts of amateur player acquisition spending because they can, not because it benefits the sport or its fans in general.

But, I also get their general point that fewer minor league teams may be better.  The odds of a 25th rounder turning into a major leaguer are low, so why bother drafting them?  As i’ve demonstrated, the last 10 rounds of the draft now are generally throw away picks, and the next 10-15 rounds generally exist so as to populate short-A teams.  No short-A team … no need to draft them.  If you focus your efforts on the full season teams, improve facilities, maybe even increase their pay (what a novel idea!) maybe the guys you do draft are better served.

MLB’s transition plan doesn’t really hold water; they’re suggesting the 40-some odd teams that do get cut form yet another wood bat league?  I suppose there will be some appetite for this from the huge number of players who will no longer get drafted.  But will people pay to watch?  Maybe so: the Northwoods wood bat leagues draw, so maybe others will draw if the competition is known to be better.

Either way, get ready for some significant changes.

Written by Todd Boss

April 21st, 2020 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Draft

Tagged with , , ,

43 Responses to 'MILB reportedly agrees to contraction plan'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'MILB reportedly agrees to contraction plan'.

  1. Great synopsis Todd. I’ll have more later but at this point I’m glad only 1 level is being removed from the minors. I thought there was a chance at maybe two.

    I spend a couple of months in Tennessee 4 years ago and went to 4 of the Appalachian League towns to watch and those stadiums were in even worse shape than Hagerstown is. It’s a short season A league so that wipes out that level everywhere.

    This is baseball kicking everyone when they’re down.
    Congress was looking to fight back hard but not now.

    Mark L

    21 Apr 20 at 5:45 pm

  2. I gamed out how the reconfigured minors might look, based on the “kill list” that leaked last fall. That could be out of date now, though. I can picture teams that have some clout in the world (Staten Island, for instance) being spared the chopper even after appearing on that list.

    Triple-A:
    Pacific Coast League (14): Wichita, Albuquerque, Des Moines, Oklahoma City, Omaha, St. Paul, Tacoma, Reno, Sacramento, Round Rock, San Antonio, El Paso, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City
    American Association (16): Nashville, Columbus, Durham, Memphis, Syracuse, Buffalo, Pawtucket, Rochester, Lehigh Valley, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Charlotte, Norfolk, Gwinnett, Indianapolis, Louisville, Toledo

    Double-A:
    Eastern League (12): Brooklyn, Hartford, Harrisburg, Manchester, Portland (ME), Reading, Trenton, Akron, Altoona, Lakewood (NJ), Hudson Valley, Albany (NY)
    Southern League (10): Little Rock, Bowling Green, Birmingham, Montgomery, Pearl (MS), Knoxville, Madison (AL), Biloxi, Pensacola, Jacksonville
    Texas League (8): Sugar Land, Corpus Christi, Tulsa, Amarillo, Frisco, Midland (TX), Springfield (MO), Springdale (AR)

    High-A:
    California League (8): Modesto, San Jose, Stockton, San Bernardino, Visalia, Lake Elsinore, Rancho Cucamonga, Fresno
    Northwest League (6): Eugene, Hillsboro, Vancouver (BC), Everett, Spokane, Boise
    Carolina League (16): Greensboro, Zebulon (NC), Kinston (NC), Fayetteville (NC), Myrtle Beach, Winston-Salem, Asheville, Kannapolis, Charleston (SC), Columbia, Hickory, Greenville, Rome, Augusta, Richmond, Salem (VA)

    Low-A:
    Florida State League (10): Clearwater, Dunedin, Port Charlotte, Tampa, Lakeland, Fort Myers, Jupiter, Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie, Bradenton
    Mid-Atlantic League (8): Fredericksburg, Lynchburg, Pulaski (WV), Delmarva, Morgantown (WV), Wilmington (DE), Aberdeen, Bowie
    Midwest League (12): Dayton, Eastlake (OH), Grand Rapids, Midland (MI), Fort Wayne, Lansing, South Bend, Beloit, Appleton, Peoria, Geneva (IL), Cedar Rapids

    This is already 1) a lot to digest and 2) purely speculative, but some additional thoughts:

    – Vancouver and Tacoma have the same size stadium, and Tacoma is nowhere near any other Triple-A team. To me, it makes more sense to demote Tacoma than Fresno, but then maybe you have to consolidate the California/Northwest leagues to make it pencil, or keep Lancaster and one of Salem-Keizer, Tri-City, or Missoula to make both leagues even, in which case you have to make cuts elsewhere. Might be too much hassle.
    – Which reminds me, there were some puzzling things on that kill list. I get why Pulaski, Hudson Valley, and Albany escape the all-around carnage in their leagues (strong attendance), but the Mississippi Braves in Pearl draw horribly and are not that close to other teams in the Southern League (with Biloxi and Mobile gone), and attendance at Kannapolis is almost as bad as Hagerstown. Meanwhile, Frederick is under the gun despite having the best attendance in the Carolina League and a nice facility, while lousy-drawing Lynchburg in its ancient ballpark is supposedly safe. Politics are always a factor, but that’s some strange stuff.
    – Reports have the Sugar Land Skeeters and St. Paul Saints coming into affiliated ball under this plan, but of course, it’s possible there are other independent teams that could be assimilated as well. For this exercise, I assumed it’s just those two. But it’s worth noting the Somerset Patriots and Long Island Ducks also draw very well (better than Sugar Land, actually) and could fit geographically into an affiliated league.
    – Likewise on the topic of minor league teams potentially arising from whole cloth, I’ve seen suggestions (not sure how solid) that MLB really wants to put another minor league team in New Orleans after the Baby Cakes peaced out at the end of last season. Again, I’m assuming that since there’s not a team there now, there isn’t one envisioned as part of this realignment plan.

    SaoMagnifico

    21 Apr 20 at 11:56 pm

  3. One last thought on Tacoma/Fresno:

    For what it’s worth, there is a collegiate wood bat team in Victoria, B.C., that has by far the largest and best-situated ballpark in the West Coast League, and the ownership group is already planning to start an expansion team just up the road in Nanaimo. If it wanted to put a minor league team in Victoria, MLB would have to find an operator, obviously, but that seems like a market, the team would have a place to play, and it’d re-balance the Northwest League: Hillsboro, Eugene, Tacoma, Everett, Spokane, Boise, Vancouver, Victoria

    Again, though, creating new teams is outside the scope of realignment and seems to kind of defeat the purpose of contraction, unless there’s a need to backfill as clubs go under due to financial stress.

    SaoMagnifico

    22 Apr 20 at 12:09 am

  4. Sao — So you’re bumping off Fredericksburg, even though they’ve just built a new stadium? Of course we in Northern Virginia have seen sort of the dirty side of “affiliates” having to scavenge for themselves instead of being owned and supported by a big club, as Prince William County and then Frederickburg got hit with the build-us-a-new-stadium dance.

    And you’re moving Richmond down to A+? Richmond has always seemed like an ideal spot for AAA for the Nats. I know they’ve got a larger stadium, just from having driven by it on the freeway, but I’ve seen comments that it needs some upgrading.

    Also, what happens to the GCL rookie league in all of this? Doesn’t seem to be mentioned.

    I do think there have been too many levels, particularly without the MLB clubs putting more into each level of the affiliation. I also think they string too many young players along for too long, paying very paltry wages. All of that said, this looks like a very ham-handed way to go about it. If you’re going to contract, make the teams more financially involved with their affiliations, intentionally realign them so they’re closer to the big clubs, and make teams pay much more reasonable minimum salaries to the minor-league players.

    KW

    22 Apr 20 at 9:32 am

  5. Gerat work Sao on the possible list.

    One thing Keith Law noted, for context of some of the curious decisions on which temas were going and which were getting kept, was to look at the ownership. law noted this in his analysis, pointing out that crummier teams/stadiums were being kept mostly because they were either MLB owned or owned by a team, while nicer, newer independently owned teams were on the cut lines. Its dismaying but typical of the cartel that runs MLB.

    Todd Boss

    22 Apr 20 at 10:47 am

  6. KW: i think Fredericksburg gets moved to Low-A in his scenario. Richmond’s stadium may once have been AAA but its in disrepair. What’s equially surprising to me is our own Fresno getting dumped from AAA to high-A. wow.

    “Complex leagues” like GCL and AZ stay. other “advanced rookie league” leagues get the axe.

    I’d be really curious to see who the nats end up with as an affilliate if Fresno gets dumped. If its a like for like switch, then Washington “inherits” St. Paul. But you’d have to think Minnesota Twins would want St. Paol as their AAA team …so maybe they’d “trade” us back Rochester. man that’d solve some problems.

    Todd Boss

    22 Apr 20 at 10:57 am

  7. Most of the moves were based on geography and trying to read between the lines on the “kill list” (for instance, the teams in eastern Kentucky and Charleston, WV, being targeted seemingly because it’s a pain to send team buses back and forth over the Appalachians). My new Carolina League and the Mid-Atlantic League that basically replaces the current South Atlantic League are a lot more compact to minimize travel time.

    The only team from the Pioneer/Appalachian leagues not on that list was the Pulaski Yankees. All of the Pioneer League teams and every other Appalachian League team would be cut.

    SaoMagnifico

    22 Apr 20 at 11:33 am

  8. It’s kinda funny to mention bus rides to Lexington (KY) and Charleston but leave the transcontinental insanity of the PCL intact. Of course Sao’s list only has one team left that’s anywhere near the Pacific — Sacramento. Lexington has a nice, newish stadium that could probably support a move up to AA. Lexington would be a much better location than Pearl.

    I now see where Sao has kicked Fredericksburg down to low A, I guess replacing Hagerstown, and Bowie all the way down to the same level, presumably replacing Frederick.

    So much of this (still) looks completely illogical. If you’re going to revamp, then fully reorganize, get franchises in logical regional groupings and closer to their parent franchises. Raise minor-league salaries and make parent clubs more responsible for putting money into affiliate facilities. But of course all of that makes too much sense for them to actually do it . . .

    KW

    22 Apr 20 at 12:34 pm

  9. @KW — You’re not wrong. I was working against the constraint of that leaked kill list, which, as I noted, I find to be completely illogical in places. Eliminating Lexington makes little to no sense to me, and yet it’s on the kill list. Ditto Frederick, Lancaster, Chattanooga, Lowell, and more. And keeping Pearl, Biloxi, Lynchburg, etc., is bizarre considering what else is slated for the ax. I don’t understand demoting Fresno instead of Tacoma. I don’t know why you add Sugar Land out of the Atlantic League and not Long Island or Somerset. It’s not my list, it’s not my plan.

    I’m just trying to make sense of it the best I can. I could be off base, sure — this is all just speculation until there’s an official re-organization — but this is about the most logical configuration I can figure if that kill list is an accurate reflection of which minor league teams are going to be de-affiliated.

    Here’s the list, if you missed it last fall or forgot what was on it: http://www.fieldofschemes.com/2019/11/18/15466/mlbs-minor-league-hit-list-would-kill-42-teams-that-cities-spent-hundreds-of-millions-on-stadiums-for/

    SaoMagnifico

    22 Apr 20 at 3:21 pm

  10. As for why the PCL is configured the way that it is right now, it beats me. Inertia, I guess. Each team would probably save tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on airfare every season if the league were broken up into more geographically compact areas instead of stretching from Washington to Texas and California to Tennessee. I think I managed to keep all of the PCL teams at least on the west side of the Mississippi River (except St. Paul, which is on the river’s east bank), but it would make more sense for the Triple-A teams to be divided between three leagues instead of two.

    SaoMagnifico

    22 Apr 20 at 3:27 pm

  11. the “Pacific Coast” league now has teams that are literally 2,000 miles from the Pacific coast (Nasville is 2,000 miles from Los Angeles, jsut about the closest as the crow flies point to the Pacific ocean). not sure why its this way; if anything there should probably be 3 AAA leagues;
    – one east coast: 10 temas: Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Rochester, Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Lehigh Valley in the northern division, Norfolk, Durham, Charlotte, Gwinett in the southern one.
    – one texas and midwest states (12): El paso, Round Rock, OK City, Wichita, Omaha, and Iowa in one division, then Toledo, Columbus, Indy, Louisville, Memphis and Nashville in other.
    – one west coast (8); Fresno, Reno, Sacramento, Tacoma in one division, then las Vegas, Salt Lake, then also probably Colorado Springs and Albuquerque in the other

    You play unbalanced schedules to avoid a ton of travel intradivision, and this cuts out lots of longer trips.
    http://billsportsmaps.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/triple-a_affiliated_2016-map_international-league_pacific-coast-league_2015-attendances_i_.gif

    Todd Boss

    22 Apr 20 at 5:12 pm

  12. Baseball America reports that there have been changes to the original “kill list”, but it’s not clear what the list is right now, other than it’s ~42 teams and all or most of the ten Appalachian League teams are very likely on it: https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/which-milb-teams-are-on-the-list-to-be-eliminated-its-impossible-to-say/

    SaoMagnifico

    22 Apr 20 at 9:37 pm

  13. There are so many things about what they’re trying to do that could be done much better. Geographically rearranging the leagues just makes so much sense . . . and yet doesn’t really seem to be on the agenda at all. In fact, there’s not a lot of logic to any of it. As Sao has mentioned, why not start with teams/towns where the operations have been poorly managed/poorly supported and/or where there’s a desperate need for a stadium upgrade? The proposals just seem so random.

    KW

    23 Apr 20 at 10:27 am

  14. The one that just doesn’t make any sense is Frederick. Its a relatively new stadium (1990), its close to its parent club, its close to a major metro area and can draw. just makes no sense.

    Todd Boss

    23 Apr 20 at 12:01 pm

  15. Now, if I *had* to cut the existing minor leagues down to 120 teams, without adding any new ones except a couple from independent leagues*, it’d look something like this…

    Triple-A:
    Pacific Coast League (8): Reno, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Fresno, Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs, El Paso
    American Association (12): Omaha, Des Moines, Indianapolis, Louisville, Dayton, Columbus, Toledo, Nashville, Memphis, Wichita, Oklahoma City, Springfield (MO)
    International League (10): Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Worcester, Lehigh Valley, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Norfolk, Richmond, Charlotte, Durham

    Double-A:
    Texas League (10): Round Rock, San Antonio, Sugar Land*, Frisco, Amarillo, Tulsa, Corpus Christi, Little Rock, Tulsa, Springdale (AR)
    Eastern League (12): Brooklyn, Hartford, Manchester, Harrisburg, Staten Island, Reading, Portland (ME), Trenton, State College, Hudson Valley, Tri-City (NY), Lowell
    Northwest League (8): Hillsboro, Eugene, Tacoma, Vancouver, Spokane, Everett, Boise, Idaho Falls

    High-A:
    Southern League (12): Birmingham, Chattanooga, Gwinnett, Rome, Augusta, Jacksonville, Pensacola, Madison (AL), Montgomery, Sevierville, Daytona (FL), Jackson (TN)
    Mid-Atlantic League (8): Delmarva, Wilmington (DE), Frederick, Bowie, Aberdeen, Fredericksburg, Morgantown, Lakewood (NJ)
    Great Lakes League (10): South Bend, Fort Wayne, Eastlake (OH), Akron, Mahoning Valley, Grand Rapids, Midland (MI), Lansing, Erie, Altoona

    Low-A:
    Midwest League (6): Cedar Rapids, Appleton, Peoria, Geneva (IL), Quad Cities, Schaumburg*
    California League (8): Modesto, San Jose, Stockton, San Bernardino, Visalia, Lake Elsinore, Rancho Cucamonga, Lancaster
    Carolina League (8): Fayetteville, Winston-Salem, Myrtle Beach, Greenville, Greensboro, Columbia, Charleston (SC), Kinston (NC)
    Appalachian League (8): Pulaski, Lexington, Bowling Green, Salem (VA), Asheville, Johnson City, Charleston (WV), Hickory (NC)

    SaoMagnifico

    24 Apr 20 at 5:21 pm

  16. Sao — That list makes A LOT of sense . . . which is why it probably has no chance! Please do send it on to Manfred, though; after all, he has nothing else to do right now, so he might actually read it! (Well, nothing other than suspending reality to accept the Bosox [non-]cheating report.)

    KW

    27 Apr 20 at 2:22 pm

  17. Boz comments on the Bosox in chat today, as well as some interesting notes, including a hint at whether a missed season might hurt Max’s HOF credentials:

    https://live.washingtonpost.com/ask-boswell-20200427.html

    Truth be told, I think Max is probably in, regardless of what happens. I think it hurts a borderline guy like Stras more. Max likely can get to 200 wins with a missed season, but Stras is at his career peak and really needed 18 or so wins from his age-31 season, and perhaps a high CYA finish to go with it. On the flipside, though, maybe a year off for a guy working on his second elbow will help give him more longevity. Who knows?

    KW

    27 Apr 20 at 2:25 pm

  18. Todd,

    I think it would be great for you to do a thread about the Nats draft prep, economics, etc and the new rules for this year. I have a number of thoughts and am truly interested in your take and that of the crew.

    forensicane

    28 Apr 20 at 11:50 am

  19. Scherzer and the Hall; he’s a lock.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cy_Young_Award#Multiple_winners

    Thats a list of all multiple Cy Young winners. His 3rd cy young basically makes it a lock he’s elected unless he does some Clemens-level cheating.

    Todd Boss

    28 Apr 20 at 12:39 pm

  20. Draft prep for this coming draft? maybe when we get some more clarity on how many rounds it’ll be for sure.

    Todd Boss

    28 Apr 20 at 12:39 pm

  21. Either way, all of the rules make for very interesting g strategic decisions, whether it is 5 or 10. It’s still truncated, then there are the financial issues, then the eligibility ramifications.

    forensicane

    28 Apr 20 at 1:10 pm

  22. Multiple reports today say the draft will be held in June, as usual. Sounds like ten rounds is the hope, but we’ll see.

    I saw the latest MLB.com mock draft linked the Nats to Cole Wilcox, who was reportedly their second choice behind Mason Denaburg a couple years ago. But I saw it suggested on Baseball America that there may be signability concerns, as he’s a draft-eligible sophomore who will likely want a significant amount of money to go pro.

    SaoMagnifico

    28 Apr 20 at 7:57 pm

  23. Perhaps the great commercial success of the NFL Draft for ESPN has execs thinking that getting in step with the country opening up is good business. Ergo, a June draft.

    If the draft is limited to ten rounds, that still opens up the rest of the prospects to an NFL type post-draft free agency. Teams target and hustle for the talent that falls out of the draft, and players like Tony Romo make it every year.

    In this setuup, the Nationals have formidable selling points for wide-open bidding that has its ceiling — 1) A World Series organization 2) A well-thought of management and ownership from a players’ perspective 3) Organizational need in target positions.

    I would expect the smaller draft will be offset by plans the Nationals have to expand their international signing this year, back to the levels of a few years back. The Latino-DiPuglia scouting program continues to have a greater yield for the buck than the earlier rounds of the MLB draft. And, it offers the same advantages of organizations competing for the talents they want, as opposed to one-by-one drafting. Essnetially they will now draft and sign to fill organizational numbers that are lower – but the Nationals can sign more of their draft board BECAUSE the draft is only ten rounds.

    The key is whether the Nationals scouting can properly identify those high ceiling talents that will respond to 20K bonuses (or whatever is left over from the ten round allotment).

    forensicane

    29 Apr 20 at 3:57 am

  24. Is it too early for me to start jumping up and down and saying “hitters, hitters, HITTERS”?! We need signs of normalcy, to I’ll return to my normal role on that front. Good grief, they desperately need hitters. They’ve got 2.5 in the whole minors: Kieboom, Garcia (who has shown NO power yet), and Mendoza (maybe, although there’s a reason he dropped like a stone in the draft). That’s it for potential MLB starters, unless you’re counting high-school-aged Dominican lottery tickets (or miracle recovery/development by Antuna).

    Yes, Wilcox is “high ceiling,” but he’s also got a lot of question marks and really needed this college season. He turns 21 this summer and is still very raw. He would require over-slot buyout. And some reports already profile him as bullpen-likely.

    Denaburg — who’s that? Oh, you mean that fella who also turns 21 this summer and has a total of 20.1 pro innings, all at the GCL level? Maybe the long break will help his arm, as well as Romero’s. But goodness, neither of those guys has done anything thus far. (For frame of reference, Rutledge also just turned 21 this month and has already dominated at A-level.)

    KW

    29 Apr 20 at 9:54 am

  25. I know there has been discussion of running MLB games in AZ. Not sure that’s gonna happen, but how about MLB running its own winter league of minor-league teams in AZ and FLA? Certainly would benefit player development, although it would be risky as far as overuse/burnout if they then rolled into a regular 2021 summer season, particular for pitchers.

    KW

    29 Apr 20 at 9:57 am

  26. The complete lack of credible catching prospects in the pipeline has to be a source of concern. This draft class has some pretty good-looking catchers. The Nats love to load up on arms, but after adding Rutledge and Lara to the system last year and with Romero and Denaburg coming off injuries, maybe it’s time to go heavy on position players.

    SaoMagnifico

    29 Apr 20 at 11:36 am

  27. Can Austin Wells stick at catcher? Or is he going to end up like KJ Harrison? Wells certainly has an interesting bat. Dillon Dingler supposedly has better defensive skills than Wells. Patrick Bailey also could be interesting, although he may be gone by the time the Nats pick. Wells, Dingler, and Bailey seem to be the only college catchers anywhere near 1st-round conversation.

    KW

    29 Apr 20 at 12:56 pm

  28. Draft and nats: i have a post full of mock drafts from the usual sources; i think the last 5 or 6 straight mocks i’ve seen have all had the Nats picking the same guy: JT Ginn.

    As one guy noted (i’m paraphrasing): nothing in this draft screams the Nats more than JT Ginn. Former top 10 or higher projected pick, got hurt, draft stock falling, so the Nats can swoop in and get a top 5 talent at 22.

    Todd Boss

    30 Apr 20 at 4:46 pm

  29. Ginn, Mlodzinski, and Wilcox all make a lot of sense if the Nats follow pattern. If a highly ranked cold-weather prep arm like Abel or Bitsko slides due to signability concerns or teams getting cold feet because of the missed high school season, I can see the Nats pouncing, but that’s a pretty big “if”.

    I do think Rizzo should be looking for hitters now, with the farm system heavily weighted toward pitching already, but consensus seems to be it’s a deeper class for pitching than it is for hitting, and there are a few guys expected to go toward the end of the first round who really fit the Nats’ profile.

    SaoMagnifico

    1 May 20 at 4:36 am

  30. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Remind me again how many of vast number of wounded-wing pitchers the Nats have drafted over the years played any part at all in last year’s post-season. That number would be ZERO. Fedde didn’t even pitch. He’ll be 28 before the 2021 season and has yet to prove anything. The only wounded-wing draftee to really make it is Giolito . . . with another team, and SEVEN years after he was drafted. Luzardo appears on the cusp of making it, with another team, but he was a lot less of a gamble in the 3d round.

    All of that said, to me, Ginn profiles better than Wilcox, even though that’s not how they fall on most boards. To me, Wilcox profiles a lot like Reid Schaller, a college hard thrower who couldn’t crack the rotation of a good college team and who only has two pitches and is likely destined for the ‘pen. Sigh. As for Ginn, he just had his TJ in March, will be on light work at age 22, so not really ready to pitch until age 23. See “Fedde, Erick.”

    At the risk of repeating myself, the Nats have NOTHING in the minors on the hitting side. Nothing, other than Kieboom, who presumably is ready to “graduate.” The alleged #2 is Garcia, he of the .280 OBP in ’19, with 4 HRs and a 3.1% walk rate. Behind him is Drew Mendoza, who fell like a brick in the draft and hit only 4 HRs in 55 pro games. And that’s it, folks. That’s all there is, unless and until some of the young Dominican lottery tickets hit, at least three or four years from now.

    KW

    1 May 20 at 9:21 am

  31. OK, here’s my list:

    https://www.fangraphs.com/prospects/the-board/2020-mlb-draft/summary?sort=-1,1&type=0&pos=bat&filter=statfilter%7CAge%7Cgt%7C19&team=

    This is college-aged hitters. I’ve seen all the way down to Foscue (#48) listed as potential 1st-rounders. That leaves 10 guys between Loftin and Foscue (inclusive) who could be considered by the Nats. Dingler is the only true catcher, with Wells also a catching possibility.

    What do the Nats need? Catching and corner power. They’ve got almost no power in the system (unless we’re counting Yadiel, who didn’t exactly distinguish himself in the spring). Most teams concentrate up the middle: C-SS-CF. CF should be locked down for a while with the Nats, and SS will be if they extend Turner and/or Garcia pans out. But they’ve got old place-holders at 1B, and there are questions about whether Kieboom has enough power to stay at 3B long term. Eaton is nearing the end of his deal in RF. As much as Soto has improved defensively, it’s at least possible he might be considered for a move to RF at some point. Anyway, that’s at least two of the four corner positions where they’re going to need players soon, and maybe three if Kieboom doesn’t hit for power and needs to move to 2B. And of course they’ve got nothing at catcher. I doubt Barrera is a viable option for an MLB back-up, at least not for a contender.

    KW

    1 May 20 at 2:33 pm

  32. It seems to me that the Nats draft philosophy is basically this:
    – “We know pitching”
    – Nobody develops pitching like we do
    – we’ll just develop pitchers, then trade them for the hitters we want.

    Here’s a list of prospect pitcher’s we’ve traded away in just the last few years to acquire MLB players we needed: McKenzie Mills, Mario Sanchez (who we got back), Nick Pivetta, Felipe Rivero, Taylor Hearn, Kyle Johnston, Hunter McMahon, Tyler Watson, Mick VanVossen, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Dane Dunning, Jefry Rodriguez, Daniel Johnson, Jesus Luzardo, Aaron Fletcher, Taylor Guilbeau.

    that is a LOT OF pitchers. If that’s your MO, then do it.

    Todd Boss

    1 May 20 at 6:06 pm

  33. The ProspectsLive draft is going on right now. The Nats’ simulated pick is probably going to come around 6:30/9:30 ET: https://www.prospectslive.com/featured-articles/2020/4/30/inaugural-prospects-live-mlb-draft-information

    SaoMagnifico

    1 May 20 at 9:07 pm

  34. @KW: To me, Austin Wells makes good sense for the Nats if they think he can stick at catcher, and even if he slides to corner infield, the organization is really thin there even if Mendoza comes around. Dingler would be fine but the bat is a touch light, and while there are exceptions (see “Realmuto, J.T.”), wheels on a catching prospect tend to be about as useful as home run power on a pitching prospect.

    SaoMagnifico

    1 May 20 at 9:15 pm

  35. And whoever is drafting for the Nats chose somebody named Masyn Winn. Two-way player (pitcher and shortstop) out of a Texas high school. Apparently some makeup concerns. MLB Pipeline ranks him #54 among draft prospects. I don’t see it.

    SaoMagnifico

    1 May 20 at 9:45 pm

  36. Just what’s needed, another prospect with ‘makeup concerns’.

    Mark L

    2 May 20 at 7:31 am

  37. Luke and I volunteered to “represent” the nats but he found some random guy. Burke Granger? no connection to the nats blogosphere. really poor choice to represent us. there’s a dozen guys he could have picked from one of the nats blogs.

    Todd Boss

    2 May 20 at 9:52 am

  38. I didn’t like any of his draft picks. Apparently he’s from Ohio; doesn’t mean he can’t be a Nats fan, obviously, but 1) it’s weird no one on the Nats blogosphere seems to know him and 2) I don’t think he drafted the way Rizzo would at all.

    SaoMagnifico

    2 May 20 at 12:42 pm

  39. Sao: the guy they picked works for 2080 and does other work. Not a nats specialist. And he clearly hadn’t read any of the other mocks being put out by leading scouting pundits (callis/mayo, Baseball America, Keith law), nearly all of whom are pegging the Nats to pick JT Ginn in particular in round one. Its just too obvoius of a pick based on the way the nats have picked over and over.

    The final draft board of their mock is here, btw: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1A_5qSuHmOgP4WOpFg5E7dPZ9UqLKiq5RVlR8_IysCj8/edit?pli=1#gid=0

    past the obvious incorrect 1st round pick, i don’t have a problem with the players he picked then on; all three college players, two pitchers, one outfielder. One Ohio State, one Dallas Baptist, one from alabama.

    the nats really hit the Texas-Oklahoma area heavily during drafts; 13 of their 40 picks in 2019 were from Texas or Oklahama. that’s a lot, and its consistent year over year. for me, if i’m mocking i’m picking Ginn first round, then picking two college arms and one college hitter with the 2nd, supp-2nd and 3rd round (precisely what this guy did), but i’m focusing more on southwest players.

    Todd Boss

    3 May 20 at 10:17 am

  40. Other Nats top round trends to note:
    – they’re not afraid of Boras clients (Romero, Fedde, Mendoza, Denaburg off the top of my head recently)
    – they like “value” in injured players who have dropped (Giolito, Fedde and this year Ginn being obvious examples, Luzardo another great example, maybe even Purke)
    – they like “value” in players who have dropped for whatever other reason (Romero being the big recent example with mixed results)
    – they like “famous” players. Big names, big reputations. Mendoza, Denaburg, Romero are good examples

    Todd Boss

    3 May 20 at 10:29 am

  41. If Ginn is still on the board and Crochet, Abel, Kelley, Bailey, Meyer, and Detmers are already spoken for, I think he’s probably Rizzo’s guy. Others I can see in the same range would include Soderstrom, Miller, and Wilcox, with the likes of Mlodzinski, Mederos, and Wells a half-step or so down.

    I just don’t see Masyn Winn as a Rizzo project; it’d be pretty funny for them to go from drafting a jacked, 6-foot-8 behemoth in the first round in 2019 to a slight, 5-foot-11-in-cleats guy in 2020.

    SaoMagnifico

    3 May 20 at 1:36 pm

  42. Sao — I like the Wells idea, for the reasons you note. Even if they decide he can’t catch, his bat is legit and will play somewhere. Even if both he and Mendoza pan out, one of them can stand in LF, or something. Mendoza theoretically can play 3B, albeit probably as well as Drew Ward, and Matt Skole before him.

    Yes, very weird that they went with some guy with no Natosphere connection to make the also-weird pick. I will say that as much I usually hate picking any high schooler, this might be a year where there’s some unusual value in it. A high school hitter, though; pitchers, no.

    Todd — I laughed at your “we know pitching” draft defense, particularly after you’ve been skewering them for years over their questionable high picks, including Romero and Denaburg. No time at the moment to get into it in detail, but a couple of quick points. 1) If they “know pitching,” then why did they only have one pitcher they drafted on their championship playoff roster? It didn’t take a lot of know-how to draft Stras anyway (although I have always given them, particularly Rizzo, tremendous credit for shutting him down). The only other Nat-developed pitcher on the playoff roster was Suero, a late-signed, late-developing Dominican, not one of their multitude of Latino fire-ballers. 2) I completely agree with you that they deserve credit for finding pitching talent in later rounds that they’ve been able to use to flip for needs . . . often for bullpen help, since they STILL can’t seem to develop their own. It’s all the top-pick capital that they’ve poorly invested in pitching, though: Purke, Johansen, Mooneyham, Fedde (still TBD, but a lot of wasted time/development), Suarez (good talent but wiffed on signing), Romero, Raquet, Denaburg, Schaller, et al.

    In the Rizzo era, the Nats have only drafted three hitters in the first round, and thank goodness they’ve hit on all of them: Harper, Rendon, and Kieboom (assuming he “makes it.”) Stevenson has sorta made it from the second round, and Neuse looks very promising with the A’s, but most of their other hitters taken 2d-5th rounds haven’t done much. I guess Souza was a 5th-rounder, and Taylor a 6th-rounder. Otherwise, though, it’s pretty much a wasteland.

    KW

    4 May 20 at 11:24 am

  43. “they know pitching” …. and have traded it all away to acquire hitters. :-)

    Todd Boss

    4 May 20 at 1:24 pm

Leave a Reply