Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats finish with 11th pick next season


A useless 3-game winning streak against another also-ran from the division ended up costing the Nats at least 5 spots in the 2021 draft.

Assuming that MLB does not do any chicanery with the 2021 draft order, the Nats stand to pick 11th overall, down from projecting to at worst 6th overall a week ago.

Despite the drop, the 2021 draft projects to be a pretty solid draft, thanks to the 5-round draft done this year and the corresponding dozens of decent college prospects who were forced to return to school (and, for prep players, forced to actually attend school, some of which chose the juco route, making them immediately eligible for the draft).

We have some 2021 draft content in the works; a drop out of the top 10 probably costs the nats a shot at one of the more “famous” names in the draft (Kumar Rocker, Jack Leiter, Matt McClean, etc) it does bring into play one of many very solid players from a second tier of guys. Could we be looking at someone like LSU’s starter Jadan Hill or Ole Miss’ starter Gunnar Hogeland? Could a run on starters at the top of the 2021 draft force the Nats to actually take a position player? We’ll see.

Written by Todd Boss

September 28th, 2020 at 8:25 am

14 Responses to 'Nats finish with 11th pick next season'

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  1. Not just winning the last three; the Nats won seven of nine over the last eight days of the season, including wins over deGrom, Nola, and Wheeler. With five more losses, they would have been picking #2. One very positive note, though, is that they more or less knocked the Phils out of the playoffs for the second straight year on the last week of the season. Eat it, Bryce. Only 11 more years in hell to go. Hope Bryce entered for the chance to win a ring from the Nats’ charity raffle, as that’s the only way he’s getting one.

    Wild guess on the Nats’ #11 pick: Alex Binelas, power-hitting 3B out of Louisville, who the Nats drafted out of high school and presumably have followed.


    28 Sep 20 at 8:44 am

  2. I’m very happy with the 11th pick. This was a very good, but old, team that fell apart in August.
    This is going to be a very deep draft for all the reasons Todd mentioned and the Nats should be able to get some impact bats.

    We also got to see a player,Stevenson, blossom. He certainly proved better than Adam Eaton at all phases of the game this year.

    Mark L

    28 Sep 20 at 9:19 am

  3. Soto wrap-up, in his age-21 season (with an asterisk, of course):

    Won NL batting title, second in majors in BA behind LeMahieu. (And unlike LeMahieu in 2017, Soto actually played in his final weekend and EARNED the title.)

    Soto led the majors in: OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, wRC+, ISO, BB%, wOBA, and intentional walks. His OPS was 25th highest all time, higher than any current player has ever posted. OPS+ 26th all time, OBP 31st all time, SLG 43d all time.

    The sad part is that Soto likely will finish no better than 3d in the MVP voting! At least he gets his first “black ink” toward those HOF standards.

    Soto led the NL and was second in the majors in BB/K (Rendon was #3).

    Soto finished on 21st in the majors in hard contact %, so it’s kind of scary to think that he could hit it harder and get even better.

    Not to be outdone by too much, here are Trea’s MLB placements in his age-27 season: triples (tie for 2d), SBs (4th, 2d in NL), BA (5th, 4th in NL), Runs (5th), fWAR (9th), SLG (12th), wRC+ (12th), OBP (13th). The most amazing of those is probably SLG, in which he finished 6th in the NL.


    28 Sep 20 at 9:47 am

  4. Thanks KW. My favorite statistic on Juan Soto was when he had 69 career homers there were 23 to right,23 to center, and 23 to left. Amazing!

    Mark L

    28 Sep 20 at 10:50 am

  5. A few thought experiments: (1) is there any player you would predict to have a higher OPS+ than Soto over the next five years? (2) if you had to pick Soto vs. the field for who will have the highest OPS+ over the next five years, what would you pick? (3) Will Soto ever have positive defensive value in a single season? (4) Mike Trout’s career WRC+ is 172. Will Soto’s be above or below that over the next five years?

    My answers: (1) No; (2) the field (but close); (3) yes; (4) I think the smart bet is below, but that seems clearable for Juan.


    28 Sep 20 at 12:03 pm

  6. Re Stevenson, I’m happy he played well, and I think he belongs in a conversation for the 5th OF slot next year. But we can’t let a .464 BABIP and a totally-out-of-character-for-him power surge fool us. It’s possible there’s some signal in his increased power – he’s at the age where hitters do tend to hit for more power. But that BABIP is obviously not going to continue – if you take 100 pts off his 2020 AVG/OBP, he’s a .266/.347 hitter, which strikes me as a reasonable target for me. I’d love to be wrong, but I still see him as a bench guy.


    28 Sep 20 at 12:14 pm

  7. Derek — I’ll start with a few caveats. First of all, we thought Harper was on his way to the stratosphere after 2015, perhaps even surpassing Trout. That didn’t happen. But Bryce has never had the Zen plate discipline of Soto, particularly with two strikes.

    Soto-specific caveats: he dropped his K% six points in 2020 and increased his BB% 4.5 points. Will he be able to sustain those levels, or will they shift back? It’s very unlikely that he can maintain anything close to a .363 BABIP on a regular basis, although as Mark noted with the HR distribution, he’s a lot less susceptible to shift diminishment than others will be. Acuna had a .302 BABIP, and Tatis was at .306. They both figure to have “luckier” years.

    Those are supposed to be the other two great young sluggers, right? Yet Soto’s SLG was 114 points ahead of Acuna and 124 ahead of Tatis. Acuna managed an amazing .406 OBP considering that he struck out 30% of the time. His walk rate is almost as high as Soto’s, so if he can get the K’s down, he has the possibility to move into Soto OBP territory. Tatis walks half as often as Soto and strikes out 9% more, so it’s going to be hard for him to get into the OBP and OPS/OPS+ conversations. Soto’s career .415 OBP is right in line with Trout’s .418. But Trout has never had an OBP as high as .490, or a SLG as high as .695. (Also a reminder here that Soto’s 47 games and 196 PAs aren’t even quite a third of a full season’s worth.)

    Nevertheless, I’ll buy Soto over the field for the next five years. Freeman is 30, and Trout is 29 (age-28 season), as is midlife phenom Mike Yaz. As noted, Acuna and Tatis have some gaps, although they certainly have the capability to top Soto in SLG in some years. I don’t think Soto will be the OPS+/wRC+ leader every season over the next five, but the odds seem good that he’ll have the cumulative best total. If he nudges his OBP over .500 and into Bonds/Williams/Ruth territory, he’s going to have such a lead in that category that it will overcome some ebb and flow in SLG. It seems wise, however, to still pick him to be under a five-year wRC+ average of 172, though.

    Defensive stats are so nuts that they’re hard to predict. Also, they may be harder on Soto if he moves to RF, but also give him more possibility to build a little WAR value there. He’s such a hard worker that it does seem likely that he’ll have a least one positive defensive-stat year.


    28 Sep 20 at 2:29 pm

  8. Re Stevenson — I want to know who was working with him in the Fredericksburg camp. He’s been on an unbelievable run since being recalled. Maybe deGrom’s 99 doesn’t look so bad when he’s been facing Rutledge!

    I do think/hope that Stevo’s run has made the decision to non-tender Taylor easier. They can find plenty of guys who can “hit” .196, with a frightening .253 OBP, for $3.25M.

    Here’s the big teaser: did Stevo do enough to tempt them into thinking about trading Robles? Does Robles still have much trade value? The Brewers did have a somewhat tarnished Brinson still be the main piece in bringing Yelich in return. For the record, I’m not advocating this. It just crossed my mind. But neither has Robles done anything that should make them wedded to him if he starts being asked about in substantive conversations. Same for Kieboom or Garcia. (In fairness to Garcia, his bad final week put a dent into what were going to be decent stats.)

    For the record, if they were to trade Robles and think about Stevenson as an everyday guy, they’d still need to sign another big-bat OF, or Soto is never going to see a good pitch.


    28 Sep 20 at 2:45 pm

  9. Here’s a massive question that will inform the Nats’ offseason — is the new playoff format staying? For the record, the Nats finished only three games out of a wild-card slot after totally sucking all year and not having Stras. If making the playoffs is going to be that relatively easy in coming seasons, perhaps they don’t have to spend like they’re trying to come up with a lineup comparable to what they have in ATL. Perhaps they could also live with finding two starters from among Ross, Fedde, and Voth. Not sure that would be my preference, but it’s a possibility.

    And yes, the damn cheatin’ Trashtros made the playoffs with a losing record, as did the Brewers.


    28 Sep 20 at 2:54 pm

  10. FG free agent tracker is up:

    LeMahieu, Bauer, Springer, and Realmuto are locks to get QOs. Ozuna was QO’d last year so isn’t eligible to be tagged again. He’s really going to get overpaid for someone who posted a career year built on a .391 BABIP. I would guess that the starting point on Ozuna will be around 4/$100M. Realmuto may be looking for something similar, but I’m not sure a catcher who will be 30 next season should get that. Grandal has had trouble getting a great contract with similar stats (ending up with 4/$73M).

    I’m very, very skeptical of the Nats biting on a QO guy as they would be giving up a top-60 2d-round pick to do so. That would really limit their OF possibilities, though, to something like Pederson, JBJ, Brantley, or . . . Puig. Pederson intrigues me. He had awful BABIP luck in 2020, at only .200. His hard contact dropped 10%, though, which is quite worrisome. Someone like Profar would have a lower ceiling but perhaps a higher floor. Profar isn’t a bat you could put behind Soto, though. The 36-HR version of Pederson might be.


    28 Sep 20 at 7:30 pm

  11. I agree the Nats shouldn’t go after a QO guy, although we know Rizzo loves Realmuto and this is probably his last best chance to put him in a Nats uni. If the Nats do sign Realmuto, the thinking might be that they can shop Gomes and hopefully get a couple prospects for him to cushion the loss of those draft picks.

    JBJ is from the Richmond area (Prince George, specifically) so the Nats are the closest thing to a hometown team. That could be an intriguing connection. On the other hand, JBJ is a .750 OPS type and the Nats may still be hoping Robles can course-correct and be at least a .750 OPS type himself. Still, the idea of signing JBJ and hoping some other front office loves Robles is a tempting one, given that the clubhouse could use some veteran leadership in 2021 and Robles has largely disappointed in MLB.

    Pederson is a low-average player, and Rizzo typically does not gravitate toward low-average players unless he can get them for insanely cheap. Consider the type of players Rizzo has pursued in past offseasons: Jayson Werth (career .272 hitter before signing with Washington), Adam LaRoche (.271), Daniel Murphy (.288), Adam Eaton (.284), Starlin Castro (.280). Even the ones that didn’t get done, like Brandon Phillips (.275) and Andrew McCutchen (.290). He likes guys who hit for a high average. Joc Pederson’s career .230 is not a high average. I don’t think he’s likely to be anywhere close to Rizzo’s shopping list.

    JBJ’s career average, if you’re wondering: .283.


    29 Sep 20 at 1:02 am

  12. Sorry, meant to say .283 was JBJ’s *2020* average. He had a good season. As I said before, he’s been a .750 OPS type, so while he’s intriguing based on geography, his 2020 results, and his projected team role, that career .240 batting average will stand out to Rizzo in a negative way.


    29 Sep 20 at 1:04 am

  13. The only outfielder worth considering is Brantley.

    Ozuna plays DH quality defense when he’s on the field. JBJ career OPS is .736. Springer needs a trash can to hit. Pederson has extreme platoon splits.

    Mark L

    29 Sep 20 at 6:47 am

  14. Man, you guys are killing me with the off-season analysis a day after the season ends. I need hours to write a thoughful piece on what happens next.

    Derek’s 4 questions.

    (1) is there any player you would predict to have a higher OPS+ than Soto over the next five years?
    (2) if you had to pick Soto vs. the field for who will have the highest OPS+ over the next five years, what would you pick?

    Soto’s 2020 was crazy good, but so was Betts and Trout and Freeman. Last year Trout led the league and was 40 points better than Soto. 2020’s SSS saw other contenders like Yelich and Bellinger disappear. I’d lke to see if Soto’s sudden ability to hit .350 is sustainable. So for now i’ll hedge and take the field.

    It is interesting though how quickly the tides turn; lots of “who would you rather have, Soto or Acuna?” questions last year … man nobody’s picking Acuna right now.

    (3) Will Soto ever have positive defensive value in a single season? If he can’t show positive value in LF at age 21 … phew i don’t think he ever will. Now, in 2019 his DRS was 0 and his UZR/150 was just slightly negative, so 2020’s really negative figures are chucked up to SSS.

    (4) Mike Trout’s career WRC+ is 172. Will Soto’s be above or below that over the next five years? A 5 year average of 172 WRC+. damn. His three seasons he’s gone 145, 142 and 200. So he needs to sustain a 20% improvement over his 2019 for the next 5 years. Man that’s a tough ask.

    Todd Boss

    29 Sep 20 at 10:29 am

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