Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats 2020 Draft class by the Ranks

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Cade Cavalli is your 2020 1st round pick. Photo via Lookout Landing blog

Cade Cavalli is your 2020 1st round pick. Photo via Lookout Landing blog

(note: i have updated the Draft Tracker for the 2020 draft, both the master board and the 2020 draft notes boards).

  • Master Draft Board: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Qd5DS9GlmkQOEh_zGhOvlhHK0EegqY1uJB4mLGmRBaY/#gid=0
  • 2020 Draft worksehhet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Qd5DS9GlmkQOEh_zGhOvlhHK0EegqY1uJB4mLGmRBaY/#gid=25540806

(I have more details about signing bonus calculus and player notes/twitter accounts on the 2020 worksheet, in case you’re wondering why i separate them).

By now, you’ve probably heard about our picks and read a ton of responses in the commentary.

Using various pundit draft board rankings (listed at the bottom for reference), here’s how our picks were thought of before the draft.  Along with some commentary from me.

  • 1st Round/#22 overall: Cade Cavalli, RHP Oklahoma.   Law=13.  MLBPipeline=22.  BA=22.  Fangraphs=17.  ESPN=24.  CBS=16.  D1Baseball=9.  20/80=23.  PerfectGame=8.

So, picking 22nd the Nats generally seem to have gotten value per the pundits.  Certainly this wasn’t a reach.  And, by some pundits (Law in particular, Perfect Game as well) this was a steal.

My thoughts: well, we know the Nats like college arms, velocity, big guys and players from Texas/Oklahoma.  Cavalli hits all those markers.  I was sure they’d go Cole Wilcox or perhaps J.T. Ginn but the team passed to go with Cavalli.  ironically, Wilcox didn’t go until the 3rd round, so the Nats passed on  him multiple times, while Ginn went just before their 2nd round pick to the Mets, a like-minded drafting org.  Cavalli is a speculative, scouting-first pick; he has little track record to go on, and this is the kind of pick that you can regret later on if he doesn’t work out.  He was mostly a hitter his freshman year before converting to the mound.  Maybe the team tries him as a two-way player?  He’s a big dude; he looks more like a football player physically.  Nonetheless, he’s got easy velocity and his mechanics look clean.  Some concerns about hit-ability; wonder if he has some spin rate issues.  A professional pitching development shop can do wonders with him.

  • 2nd round/#55 overall: Cole Henry, RHP LSU.  Law=65.  MLBPipeline=45.  BA=44.  Fangraphs=70.  ESPN=72.  CBS > 50..  D1Baseball=16.  20/80=55.

So, a couple of the ranking boards like Henry at 55, while a couple others (Law, Fangraphs, Espn) think its a bit of a reach.  Draft eligible sophomore, so I wonder if this is a potential over-slot bonus guy.  He was LSU’s friday starter from the moment he walked onto campus, quite a statement for a top-line baseball program.  He has an electric arm, four plus pitches (4-seamer, 2-seamer, a 12-6 hammer curve, change).  I’ve watched the video of him; scouting claims that he had such a violent head snap that he “had difficulties keeping his hat on” seem quite overblown; I didn’t see anywhere near that in the video clips of him available online.  I like this pick as a sneaky good starter for this team.  Interesting player comp mentioned by MLBpipeline during the draft: Mike Mussina

  • 2nd-Supp round/#71 overall: Samuel Infante, SS from Monsignor Edward Pace HS, Miami, FL.   MLBPipeline=149.  BA=154.  ESPN=122, Fangraphs=173.

This is an interesting pick for the Nats.  Clearly an overdraft by every ranking pundit, the scouting reports on Infante all say the same thing; lots of loud power in showcases, questions as to whether he can stay at short (he’s played both SS and 3B in showcases), but super fast and with a great arm.  Listed as 6’1″ 185, he’s still in the SS range and with plus arm strength he could very well feature as a top of the line 3B defensive player.  A UMiami commit from a Miami high school; i wonder if that factors into their thinking.  Did the Nats cut a deal here with Infante based on his projection to get slot savings?   One other factor here; he’s already 19, so he’s old for the HS class (a negative in scouting world) but also means he’d be a draft eligible sophomore if he goes to Miami (which might make his signing tougher).  Curious pick.  MLBPipeline guys comped him to Maikel Franco, an interesting comp.

  • 3rd Round/#94 overall: Holden Powell, RHP from UCLA.  MLBpipeline=134.  BA=126.  ESPN=144.  D1Baseball=77.  20/80=HM.

Powell is UCLA’s closer; stopper of the year last year.  He’s got no chance to start but still got ranked in the mid 100s by several shops.  The Nats havn’t picked a reliever-first this high in quite a while (Drew Storen maybe?) , and I suspect we’ll get some bonus savings here to help pay others here.  He projects as a two-pitch guy  with a FB hitting 97 and a wipeout slider who probably moves pretty quickly through the minors if he’s as good as reported.  20 Ks’ in 9 innings this season; he’s just got tough stuff to hit facing him in the late-game.  Can go multiple innings, undersized guy on the mound with kind of whippy arm action.  I don’t hate the pick, if its meant to be cost savings for other picks.

  • 4th round/#123 overall: Brady Lindsly, C from Oklahoma.  unranked by any service

With all due respect, Lindsly is clearly a “senior sign” by the team to save slot money for others.  I’m suspecting that both this and the Powell pick are money savers to pay Infante and Henry a bit more than slot (both those players being higher leverage guys to go to/return to school).  What little we know about Lindsly; known for good defense, didn’t have a great average in college,  hit for a bit of power.  Lefty bat.  As others noted, maybe the team liked him while scouting Cavalli.   Its also notable that he’s already calling himself a member of the Nats organization on his twitter account.

  • 5th round/#153 overall: Mitchell Parker, LHP from San Jacinto College North JuCo in Texas.   BA=179.

16.6 K/9 this year in 30 innings this year.  Last year 1.43 ERA with similar K/9 numbers.  In case you’re wondering … yes this is the same Juco they got Jackson Rutledge out of last year; one has to wonder if the scouts stuck around for a double header or something while scouting Rutledge and liked Parker.  Oddly, despite great numbers last year he was only a 27th rounder and thus has been pursuing D1 scholarships: he’s committed to U of Kentucky for next season if he doesn’t sign.  Big guy (6’4″), lefty who throws over the top.  He’s known for fastball up to 94 with a big curve.  His mechanics are a little concerning; he lands very stiff legged and almost hyper extends his knee as he stops his upper torso’s momentum.  I feel like this needs to be adjusted to prevent over-dependence on his arm.  Might be a tougher sign; i wonder if some of the 3rd and 4th round savings are for Parker too.

Draft summary:

  • 3 college starters
  • 1 college reliever
  • 1 Prep SS/3B
  • 1 Prep C

Conjecture on over/under slot needs:

  • Players who are likely signing for slot: Cavalli, perhaps Henry
  • Players who are likely under slot: Powell, Lindsly
  • Players who are likely commanding over-slot: Infante, Parker, maybe Henry

I have no doubt they’ll sign all six based on the limited draft.  Mike Rizzo has also said they’ll be “aggressive” with NDFA signings … as aggressive as a $20k bonus can take you of course.

I like our first two picks as future prospects.  I like the prep SS.  I could see our 5th rounder as a project but he has potential.  I like the class.

 

Draft Board Rankings

31 Responses to 'Nats 2020 Draft class by the Ranks'

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  1. The C.W. is Henry will need to be shown the money. Mitchell Parker said pre-draft that if his name is called, he’s signing, so don’t expect money is an issue there. Infante said he intends to sign with the Nats, so he’s clearly been given a number he likes.

    SaoMagnifico

    12 Jun 20 at 11:41 am

  2. I think its rather ironic that we took a player with the Rendon compensation pick who … might very well get pushed to third :-)

    Todd Boss

    12 Jun 20 at 11:45 am

  3. Call me crazy, but I’m excited to see Infante play. Sometimes 19-year-olds (he’s 19 next weekend, I believe) just fly under the radar because they’re older, but it sounds like he’s a well-rounded player who moves well and has a chance to stay at shortstop.

    And remember, Junior Martina was picked on Day 3 last year and ended up having the best short-season performance of any hitting prospect in the system and led the GCL in a number of offensive categories despite having *no* prospect buzz.

    SaoMagnifico

    12 Jun 20 at 11:54 am

  4. I like the class. I like the players we got. We didn’t overpay for Wilcox, we didn’t get yet another TJ guy in Ginn (though i would have taken him 2nd round), and we picked top, friday/saturday starters from major programs with our big picks.

    Todd Boss

    12 Jun 20 at 12:55 pm

  5. So agree with the possible Infante moved over to 3 b higher up the ladder
    Always love a lefty who can shoot up the chain fast

    Jeff

    12 Jun 20 at 12:57 pm

  6. Also agree with the scout probably watched a DH with San Jacinto JC

    Jeff

    12 Jun 20 at 1:11 pm

  7. Jeff — I just wish the scouts had watched a DH at San Jac, as in a designated hitter! Maybe they did and will sign a few as free agents.

    KW

    13 Jun 20 at 8:11 am

  8. Law’s take on the draft; https://theathletic.com/1869646/2020/06/13/law-team-by-team-mlb-draft-analysis-national-league/

    I think its safe to say he didn’t like the draft.

    Todd Boss

    13 Jun 20 at 8:26 am

  9. https://twitter.com/dougherty_jesse/status/1271545414286704640

    5th rounder Parker already signed per WP beat reporter Dougherty

    Todd Boss

    13 Jun 20 at 8:28 am

  10. …. though he then complimented the Cavalli pick in his post day 1 draft chat here: https://theathletic.com/1866855/2020/06/11/live-qa-keith-law-on-day-1-of-the-mlb-draft-and-what-to-look-for-on-day-2/

    Todd Boss

    13 Jun 20 at 8:46 am

  11. Read Law’s piece. He calls the Cavalli pick good value and has decent things to say about every pick except Henry; which is odd because just about every other draft expert Ive read is complimentary of Henry. Law says he COULD be a back-end starter. To me that feels like Henry’s floor not his ceiling.

    Chris

    13 Jun 20 at 9:08 am

  12. This was a weird draft for the Nats, right brain vs. left brain, scouts vs. analytics. As Todd said, Cavalli was definitely a scouts pick, and I would guess that Infante was, too. Those are the picks I don’t particularly like. If the Nats had taken Austin Wells at #22 and Tyler Gentry at #71, along with the rest of their haul, I would be doing cartwheels about this draft.

    Cavalli’s career ERA at OKLA was 4.09, including 4.18 this spring, career WHIP 1.47, BB/9 4.7, H/9 of 8.5, including 9.5 this spring. He just wasn’t that good, despite the 10.1 career K/9. I mean, his former Sooner teammate Jake Irwin bested him in every one of those numbers except a close 9.7 career K/9. That would be 4th-round Jake Irwin who spent all of 2019 at Hagerstown. I predict a similar fate for Cavalli.

    Cavalli will sit in Hags and watch Cole Henry master that level with ease and move on up. Why? Henry knows how to pitch and get results. His numbers are better than Cavalli’s in every single category I named, and as the Friday (#1) starter in a conference considerably better than Cavalli’s Big 12. Henry’s stats are better than more celebrated SEC contemporaries Wilcox and Ginn. Not sure what the scouts don’t like about him, but his results best those of a truckload of pitchers picked ahead of him.

    Holden Powell’s stats compare pretty closely to the college numbers of Matt Cronin, who dominated at Hagerstown right out of the draft last year. I don’t mind spending picks on polished relievers. It will be interesting to have those two chasing each other through the system. I know folks always say that you can make relievers out of our (multiple failing) big-armed starters, but it’s different mentality for guys who have always done it. Treinen is an obvious example of a guy who really struggled to get his head around the added stress and focus.

    Sorry guys, I see little to get excited about in over-drafted, old (19 next week) high schooler Sammy Infante. My thought when they took him was that it was a cost-saving underslot, but Todd and Sao seem to think he will want overslot to skip college. I see no logic in that. He’s raw and likely will spend his age-20 season in the GCL, as most high schoolers do. So he’ll turn 21 — college junior draft age — no farther along than a college draftee. Of course I hope he surprises me, but most toolsy Nat higher draft HS picks (MAT, Souza, Hood, Ward, Reetz) have meandered through the system, repeating levels and taking a lot of time to develop. Infante’s age will be a real handicap if that’s the path he takes. I hope he makes it now that he’s ours, but they passed on a lot of good college hitters to take this guy. I much rather would have had Gentry, Nwogo, Hauver, Workman . . . or even Calabrese if they wanted to gamble on a high schooler.

    Lindsly — yes, probably a $10K signee to help pay overslot for others, with very, very little expectation for him. However, he’s a catcher. If he hits even a little, he can advance. Here’s his college career slash: .275/.360/.420. Here’s Barrera’s, in the same conference: .279/.370/.444.

    Mitchell Parker intrigues me. He may have been a scout “find” (although why would he be hard to find at one of the top JUCO programs in the country?), but his numbers are insanely good, except for high walk rates. And Todd, you shorted him — his K/9 this spring was actually a ridiculous 18.99, more than two an inning (64 in 30.1 IP). He’s definitely worth a flyer at pick #153. He does have a pretty violent delivery, but if they can smooth him out, they may have something.

    Or not. I’ll end with a friendly reminder that most baseball draft picks don’t end up amounting to much, even late 1st-rounders. As I noted a few days ago, only 3 of the guys picked at #22 over the last 20 years have topped 10 bWAR for their careers.

    KW

    13 Jun 20 at 9:12 am

  13. KW

    13 Jun 20 at 9:16 am

  14. I’ve noticed that Law’s “take” on pitchers relies heavily on arm motion. When a pitcher is of slight build and uses more arm or has funky mechanics, he generally is down on the guy. And he admits it, frequently calling out his own evaluations of Chris Sale in particular as evidence that his opinions can be proved wrong.

    So with Henry, there’s durability concerns. If Henry was 6’4 and 230 we wouldn’t be having the conversation.

    Interestingly; Cavalli is listed as 6’4 225 and Henry 6’4 211. These figures seem waaaaaay off. I mean, Cavalli is built like a frigging inside linebacker, while Henry looks like he needs a hamburger.

    Todd Boss

    13 Jun 20 at 10:10 am

  15. w/r/t draft coverage; lets be honest with ourselves. The first two guys picked are the most important. Past that what you get is generally gravy.

    Look at our own 3rd round history. Going backwards: Mendoza, Schaller, Raquet, Luzardo, Wisemann, Reetz, Ward, Mooneyham, Purke, Hague, Holder, Espinosa, Souza, King, and forfeited in 2005.

    Look at that list. That’s a testament to awful 3rd round picks for more than 15 years now. I see one (1) replacement level major leaguer in Espinosa, one cup of coffee reliever in Purke and that’s it. Luzardo is the outlier; a HS guy paid an overslot deal to sign in the 3rd who now projects as a possible Rookie of the Year candidate … with another team of course. So I’m not sure he should even count.

    So, temper hopes for our 3rd rounder this year.

    Todd Boss

    13 Jun 20 at 10:22 am

  16. Henry video from this season:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_GepSQ7Dmc

    Cavalli video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljeV0KGV-O0

    One of the guys commenting on the second one says that Cavalli reminds him of Rutledge, although not quite as big. I guess we have a “type.”

    Clearly, Henry has more exertion in his delivery than Cavalli does.

    KW

    13 Jun 20 at 10:29 am

  17. The sad part about those 3d round picks is that most were defensible at the time. A few aren’t/weren’t. Raquet was an extreme overreach and has already retired. Mooneyham wasn’t particularly good at Stanford but filled out a uniform well.

    I thought Mendoza was worth the risk in the 3d, as I did Wiseman. Mendoza had 16 homers in his draft year at FSU, and Wiseman had 15 at Vandy. Both also had a lot of Ks. Hague had 15 homers in his draft year at Rice — as a SS — and continued to hit well that draft summer with the Nats. He hurt his shoulder while sliding in the fourth game the next summer, missed the whole season, and was never the same. Purke was probably worth the gamble of the #96 pick but could never overcome what TCU did to his arm. Purke threw 116.1 innings as a frosh at TCU. By contrast, Cole Henry, who became LSU’s #1 as a frosh, threw 58.1, almost exactly half.

    Like Purke, Luzardo was a sure 1st-rounder without injury so was also worth the gamble/money. Ward and Reetz? Meh. Both profiled better at draft time than Infante does.

    KW

    13 Jun 20 at 10:49 am

  18. I hadn’t heard Raquet hung up his cleats. Looks like he has. Yeah, that was a reach and he just never developed into much.

    The draft is a crapshoot in general. I like Cavalli and Henry’s odds if they can stay healthy, although I don’t know I can honestly project either of them for greatness, exactly. But the obvious clear-and-away 1-1 types like Strasburg or Harper or Torkelson really don’t come along all that often, and other than those few true standouts, there’s no such thing as a sure thing.

    SaoMagnifico

    14 Jun 20 at 4:10 am

  19. Great article on Cavalli in the Athletic yesterday by their Nats beat reporter Ghiroli

    https://theathletic.com/1871045/2020/06/14/this-guy-just-has-it-cade-cavalli-brings-big-arm-leadership-to-nationals/

    Todd Boss

    14 Jun 20 at 8:48 am

  20. Gio Diaz from St. Mary’s. Junior infielder is first announced Nationals FA signee.

    forensicane

    14 Jun 20 at 3:20 pm

  21. I’ve updated the big board, added all 2020 draftees and now will start adding NDFAs. I also figure its worth tracking NDFAs on the 2020 draft worksheet.

    Todd Boss

    15 Jun 20 at 11:35 am

  22. The Nats so far have signed Mitchell Parker for $100,000 and Brady Lindsly for $20,000.

    Parker definitely had some leverage but he must have been very ready to turn pro.

    Mark L

    15 Jun 20 at 2:14 pm

  23. I’m kinda surprised parker went that far below slot. I mean, that wasn’t even close to slot. Interesting. to me that means that Infante and Henry must have both really commanded overslot bonuses.

    Todd Boss

    15 Jun 20 at 4:24 pm

  24. Very interesting NDFA signees. All underclassmen (so far) Diaz has great game speed and a mature eye, middle infield. I suppose there will be Junior Martina comps. The Rhode Island first baseman/OF had a big power stick this year. And the catcher was an LSU commit, very advanced defensively, and with an emerging bat. Considering that none of them are seniors, and typical Nats signees post Round 10 are seniors, this is interesting.

    Most higher rated players remain unsigned. Must be quite the beauty contest going on of organization vs. organization.

    forensicane

    15 Jun 20 at 6:36 pm

  25. Who will be the next baseball commissioner?

    SaoMagnifico

    15 Jun 20 at 9:28 pm

  26. Sao, I think that’s between you and Todd. Which one of you wants it? The bar is, um, pretty low, so it wouldn’t take much to look good at that job!

    KW

    16 Jun 20 at 8:38 am

  27. I’ve been out of the loop but want to make one last point about the 3d-round picks that’s very relevant to Infante. Overdrafting someone at that level puts undue pressure on the player. I’m sure that was true of Raquet. If he’d been picked where warranted, somewhere between the 7th to 12th or so, everyone would have been pleased with his results and progress. Same for someone like Reetz, who has slowly crawled through the organization and just had his best season in 2019.

    Also, the perception of 3d rounders is that they should succeed, since they’re drafted so highly, relatively speaking. But with baseball, that’s just not the case. Basically, 12% of college players drafted in the 3d who sign make it to the majors, and only 7% of high schoolers. That’s right, Sammy Infante, your chance of not making it is 92.6%:

    https://sabr.org/research/chances-drafted-baseball-player-making-major-leagues-quantitative-study

    KW

    16 Jun 20 at 8:47 am

  28. I’m seeing that the Nats actually considered Infante at #55. Good grief, they must really like this kid, but what are they seeing that the rest of baseball isn’t? I’m glad they went on and took Henry anyway, as he wouldn’t have lasted to #71.

    KW

    16 Jun 20 at 9:15 am

  29. the problem with being Commissioner is that you don’t actually rule the sport; you work for the owners. its Owners+Commissioner versus the Players all the time. It’d be depressing. Kind of like rooting for Darth Vader.

    Now, if I was commissioner and I had autonomy to do what I thought was right for the sport irrespective of the desires of the owners, tha’d be a different story. But that’s not generally how the commissioner of any major sport works.

    Todd Boss

    16 Jun 20 at 10:13 am

  30. Todd Boss

    16 Jun 20 at 10:14 am

  31. Hard to tell if that’s a compliment coming from Law being that he has Kieboom ranked as the 74th best prospect in baseball and basically hates Garcia.

    Chris

    16 Jun 20 at 12:04 pm

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