Nationals Arm Race

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

Pundits all Agree (so far): Washington farm system dead last


It is prospect ranking season, and the regular shops are starting to publish their pre-2021 organizational system ranks, analyzing the prospect depth each system has. And nearly across the board, all the pundits seem to agree on one thing:

Washington has the worst farm system in the game.

Here’s a quick one-paragraph overview of the system from each pundit, so you can gauge what they’re saying about us. Callis/Jonathan Mayo Farm systems mid-season 2020 9/1/20. Nats Ranked 30th.

“The Nationals have tapped into their farm more than ever this year, assigning Kieboom to their Opening Day roster and promoting prospects such as Luis García, Wil Crowe and Seth Romero within the season’s first month. The organization won’t have a Top 100 prospect after Kieboom graduates, though right-handers Jackson Rutledge and Cade Cavalli, Washington’s first-round picks in 2019 and ‘20, both are future Top 100 candidates.”

(Note: this is from Sept 1st, before the Crowe trade, but it was the first time that MLBpipeline had dumped the Nats to the bottom. They’ll be re-issuing their rankings for players and systems within the month).

Joel Reuter/Bleacher Report 2021 Farm system ranking Jan 2021: Nats ranked 30th

Farm System Snapshot: With infielders Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia moving on to the majors and pitchers Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Josh Bell deal, the Washington Nationals system is down four top prospects from the last time these rankings were updated—when they also claimed the No. 30 spot. The front office has invested first-round picks in Mason Denaburg (No. 27 in 2018), Jackson Rutledge (No. 17 in 2019) and Cade Cavalli (No. 22 in 2020), and that trio now represents the best of baseball’s thinnest farm system.

Keith Law/The Athletic Pre 2021 Farm system ranking Feb21. Nats ranked 30th

“The Nats won the World Series in 2019, and as is often the case with teams that do so, they spent a lot of their prospect capital to get there. They’ve traded prospects, drafted lower in the first round and given up some picks for free agents. Their international scouting department has been very aggressive under the new system, however, and the Nats’ system could look a whole lot better in a year if all of their teenage Latin American prospects get a chance to play and show us if their abilities line up with their tools. “

Prospects1500/Jacob Swain Rankings Feb 2021. Nats ranked 30th

” Even though the Nats farm system ranks at or very near the bottom, there is some promise on the horizon. Several of their prospects could see themselves in consideration to be included in Top 100 lists by mid-season. -Jacob Swain (@jacob_swain3) “

Baseball America Farm system Rankings Feb 2021. Nats Ranked 30th

“The last time the Nationals were dead last in our talent rankings (2008), they were trying to dig out from the everything-must-go mentality of the final years of the Expos. This time they are recovering from winning a World Series in 2019. Thinning a farm system to win a World Series is a much more enjoyable reason than thinning a system because of potential contraction. “

ESPN/Kiley McDaniel Rankings 2/13/21. Nats Ranked 30th.

The Nats are perennially in an unusual position: a bottom-five farm system with a number of big league stars who have come through that system. The system has produced Stephen StrasburgJuan SotoAnthony RendonBryce Harper and Victor Robles, along with a brief stop from Trea Turner, and this is largely because (or why) the Nats target upside in the amateur markets. Righties Jackson Rutledge and Cade Cavalli are their past two first-round picks and have frontline potential at the top of the system.

The other side of this coin is graduating prospects to the big leagues (two top-100 members from last year in potential stars Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia) and trading midtier prospects for big league help (Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean for Josh Bell).

Major shops Still to publish: Baseball Prospectus, MLBPipeline’s updated rankings, Fangraphs, and I’ll probably post another iteration of this post when these guys publish, to put their take up as well.

Written by Todd Boss

February 11th, 2021 at 11:10 am

34 Responses to 'Pundits all Agree (so far): Washington farm system dead last'

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  1. No one was in a position to evaluate 1) the readiness of 2019 draftees to accelerate in the pro game 2) the quality of 2020 draftees 3) the progress of 2020 minor leaguers in each team’s COVID minors bubble. Therefore, these rankings are transparently speculative.

    Taking them at their word, we can see that each of the excerpted comments above allow for the rapid rise in prominence of Nationals’ Latino players, some of whom will have reached AA this year. But again, they just don’t know. We also witnessed the graduation, because of injuries, of a 20 year old Garcia who is big and has various yet-developing tools and has risen out of “prospect” status only because he was forced to use up eligibility time.

    The fact is that the only Nationals talent who does not have lost luster that the team traded this year was Eddy Yean. I would say that reflects a team protecting its minor assets. We want that and we are getting that. We even have Sterling Sharp back – and he is rated lower even though he made a major league roster out of spring training, and that team actually had enough players to get to the playoffs.

    The only way to fast track a rise up these lists is to trade stars in a rebuild, and even then many of these trades do not yield high grade prospects. The Nationals are not about to rebuild.

    The other point is that when Rizzo has traded ML surplus in recent years, he had obtained good-very good minor league talent. Perhaps these players did not light up prospect lists, but they have major league futures.

    Felipe Vasquez made the majors (ranked #15 in the system after they got him). Tanner Rainey has made it. Trea Turner was a product of a surplus trade (and a top prospect), as was Joe Ross (who became the Nationals #5). Blake Treinen made it (was ranked #17 in the system), as has Austin Adams (unranked) and maybe Kyle McGowin (as high as #21).

    Really, how much do rankings mean when Juan Soto, one of the greatest players of his generation, was never even ranked higher than the #2 in his own organization?

    The Nationals are now at a stage where they have surplus to trade (ML-ready starting pitching and relief pitching). They have to make the right trades once free agency inventory dries up but cannot see players before spring training. Let’s see what their operations allow for in scouting other organizations.
    These prospect-fishing trades are best enabled by FA signings that create surplus. Some teams do that very well. In the current marketplace and baseball economics it is a very aggressive approach but a wise one because you can get high quality players for much cheaper and a smaller delta relative to players you would trade for prospect depth. I’d love to see the Nationals manage their roster that way. It would mean more dealing, in a Tampa sort of way, but would allow a team to refresh with players in other organizations that the scouting staff love as unpolished gems.

    I can’t get bothered over the Nationals holding their cards without trading for minor league prospect talent until they have a chance to gauge other teams’ minor leaguers.

    This whole discussion has to factor what it takes to restock a system with the reality of expectations when scouting is impossible. One can take the approach of the Mets and trade for falling stars like Khalil Lee based on aging evaluations. I prefer relying on how players have come out of this unusual period to gauge whether the player is a fit for this organization.

    Until then, the 2020 draft and free agent class, and of course the high school restocking (the Nationals were very active on both fronts) is where the action is. They are making the efforts and it will pay off soon enough.


    11 Feb 21 at 12:10 pm

  2. It’s not a threadjack to point out that the Benintendi deal is an example of where certain teams are at in a game of chicken. Teams knew he was available, and teams waited to get desirable prospect terms.

    And so it was with Nolan Arenado. And Kris Bryant. And Eugenio Suarez. And Sonny Gray. And Trevor Story. And others we may not even know about. Teams know they are available and that their respective teams are shrinking payroll. How bad do you want that player? What is the prospect capital you have to give to a team that REALLY is committed to their budget?

    The fact that Rizzo is being disciplined, even with the pressures of gambling at 3B and with this lineup, is OK by me. Other than Arenado (the terms the Rockies agreed to), I don’t see a deal that yet passed the Nationals by. I like the Crowe-Yean for two years of Bell control, especially seeing what Cherington got for Taileson and Musgrove. So I think Rizzo gets these points well. That does not mean the Nationals are dormant. It does explain why we are not yet loading prospects in deals we could yet make.

    But again, having signed Armando Cruz, the team is being aggressive with people they believe in. So that is hardly cheap or passive or without strategy.


    11 Feb 21 at 12:21 pm

  3. Let me add this. With the team perhaps three weeks away from live action of seeing players under game conditions (and no clear sense of when the ML season will start), and even Turner on the market still. Doesn’t it make sense to see how Kieboom and the others look in gae conditions at third before making a (potentially) major investment?


    11 Feb 21 at 12:41 pm

  4. My opinion is we’ve gotten a real good look at how Kieboom looks in game conditions over the past year and a half, and the answer is “bad”.

    Contending teams don’t hand a spot in the starting lineup to a prospect who put up a .556 OPS in the majors the previous season and ended the season before that on a sustained skid in the minors. They send him back to the minors to work on stuff and find someone else to start for the major league team.


    11 Feb 21 at 1:00 pm

  5. We are not disagreeing on Kieboom. you are talking past me to an echo chamber. I’m talking about calibration of risk based on various factors in cost/benefit and you are talking obtusely. Teams that act obtusely make decisions like the Redskins.

    It doesn’t mean that Rizzo or anyone else does not recognize the risk. It’s how to address it in terms of cost and timing.


    11 Feb 21 at 1:10 pm

  6. Hey Todd, where’s the photo?

    I’m not going to add anything to fore’s first post, he said everything I’m thinking.

    Mark L

    11 Feb 21 at 2:00 pm

  7. The Nats haven’t drafted a player since 2011 who has become a regular starting position player in the majors (Rendon), or even an irregular starting position player (Goodwin, Burns). Of course they’ve only invested one first-round pick in a hitter since then, in a guy you’re debating above (Kieboom). Stevenson also was their first pick in one draft as a mid-second-rounder.

    It’s really, really hard to develop good players if you don’t invest draft capital in them, no matter how good a trader you are. (Trea was stolen in a deal that didn’t even directly involve the Nats.) (Can you imagine the Padres now if they had kept Trea?) Their Latin scouting has kept them afloat with position players, but that tilt has been really heavy. Their U.S. scouting has resulted in a number of questionable picks on position players (Renda, Perkins, Freeman), as well as several good college players who really stalled out in the pros (Hague, Wiseman, Banks). We hope Mendoza breaks that latter trend. HS picks Ward and Reetz have taken a long time to do anything, and Infante is said to be fairly raw.

    I don’t begrudge the trades made that led to the championship. But the Dodgers have managed to win, trade for guys like Betts and Machado, and still have a much more highly rated system. It can be done. The Nats aren’t doing it, no matter how much we want to tout certain teenaged Latinos.


    11 Feb 21 at 3:04 pm

  8. KW, a more accurate read of your point is:

    Despite the fact that the Nats haven’t drafted a player since 2011 who has become a regular starting position player in the majors (Rendon), or even an irregular starting position player (Goodwin, Burns), they have regularly made the playoffs, boast one of the best records in baseball in that span, and won the World Series in 2019.

    Therefore, while the criticism of the draft of position players is accurate (as is the accuracy that 2/3 of the starting outfield is homegrown, as are Kieboom and Garcia), what is the track record of other teams to which we would be compared?

    How many other teams boast starting position players that they drafted? I am sure the Nationals don’t rate well, but I am also sure that statistics will show other teams to be surprisingly low in that figure as well, particularly when they don’t draft position players in the first round.

    The Dodgers have four home grown draftees in starting positions. But they have none who were international signees — and they spend as big as anyone internationally. The Rays are two draftees and an international signing.

    The criticism you raise is an interesting question, but one that does not account for the variables of how the organization chooses to draft and what it uses its minor leaguers for. Indeed the Nationals traded players — including position players — they had drafted in nearly all of the above referenced deals (Roark the exception).


    11 Feb 21 at 4:13 pm

  9. Its one thing to have a bottom-ranked farm system with nothing to show for it (see Los Angeles Angles in the mid 2010s, Miami during the 2017 era) versus having a dead-last farm system that’s been used efficiently (Washingotn now, Boston two years ago, Kansas City right after their big playoff run, Detroit at the end of their reign, etc).

    Personally, i’m on record enough pointing out that the Nats have not done well with their 1st rounders or their 2nd rounders for a decade. And since most orgs look for two MLB regulars out of each draft as a benchmark … when you blow your top two picks it becomes that much harder.

    Here’s our last 10 1st and 2nd rounders, in chronological order
    – 1sts: Cavalli, Rutledge, Denaburg, Romero, Dunning/Kieboom, No Pick in 2015/Scherzer, Fedde, no pick in 2013/Soriano, Giolito, Rendon/Meyer/Goodwin
    – 2nds: Henry/Infante, No pick in 2016/Corbin, Cate, Crowe, Neuse, Stevenson, Suarez, Johansen, Renda, No pick in 2011/Werth

    We’ve talked about the 1st rounders a ton, but lets squint a little bit at the 2nd rounders.
    – Lots of criticism so far of Infante
    – Cate looks promising, but what is his ceiling? 4th starter?
    – Crowe debuted … and frankly looked awful. But he netted the team a solid batter
    – Neuse debuted in 2019 for Oakland but did not play in 2020 and seems like perhaps a 4-a guy, but he did help us net Doolittle/Madsen
    – Stevenson: 4th oufielder at best
    – Suarez; didn’t sign! I don’t recall what happened here, but having a 2nd rounder refuse to sign is a pretty bad bit of business. Was in SFG’s rotation in 2018, but just got released.
    – Johansen; complete failure
    – Renda: I just never got this pick. 5’8″ slap hitting 2nd baseman from UC Berkeley? That’s your 2nd rounder? Career bWAR: -0.4

    Just a mess they’ve made of their 2nd rounders for the last 10 years.

    Todd Boss

    12 Feb 21 at 9:53 am

  10. Todd, we’re singing a very similar song. In fact, it’s pretty amazing that an organization that has drafted so poorly has managed to be so consistently good. It’s a harder act to keep-keep-keep doing it with trades, though, and it does strip you some of your top potential assets along the way.

    I still see a lot of folks who begrudge the Eaton trade. I don’t, because that flag will fly forever. But they HAD to make that trade, as they had not drafted and developed any OFs. Goodwin and Taylor were not going to be regulars. The only guy they developed (drafted pre-Rizzo) into a quality MLB OF, other than Harper, was Souza. They’ve had nothing else until their Latin stock started paying off over the last couple of years.

    Folks begrudge losing Luzardo. Well, they also had to make that trade, due to continual failure to develop relievers despite drafting 20+ arms every year. They’ve traded, and traded, and traded to acquire relievers, and OFs (Eaton, Span), and catchers (Sheriff Lobo, Gomes). And they’ve spent truckloads of money to sign free-agent starting pitchers, despite drafting one at the top of their drafts nearly every year. They’ve also spent, over and over, on guys like Werth, LaRoche, Murphy, Kendrick, Thames, Schwarber, etc. Yes, all the other successful teams sign free agents. But generally they become a necessity to sign when an organization isn’t producing high-quality players to fill those positions.

    Curiously, Rizzo & Co. have been much better at identifying, acquiring, and developing young talent from other organizations than they have drafting and developing their own: Morse, Treinen, Roark, Ramos, Rivera/Vasquez, Turner, Ross, McGowin, (sorta with Austin Adams), Rainey, Finnegan, et al. Of course they’ve also had a few whiffs, most notably in the Henry Rodriguez/Corey Brown deal, although both of those guys looked really good on paper.

    Also, at some point, even the best traders run out of luck if their internal capital doesn’t regenerate. The Nats had a really bad record in 2020, leaving them with tons of holes to fill for 2021. They may not be able to get back to a winning record this season. The fulcrum on which the season may tip could be on the success or failure of several internally developed players: Robles, Kieboom, Garcia, Fedde, Voth.


    12 Feb 21 at 11:17 am

  11. Officially official on the professional development licenses. Nats affiliates for 2021-30…

    Triple-A Rochester (East)
    Double-A Harrisburg (Northeast)
    High-A Wilmington (East)
    Low-A Fredericksburg (East)


    12 Feb 21 at 11:41 am

  12. If you go through each team’s drafts and who is in their starting lineups now, you will be surprised to see how few first and second round picks are starting as position players in the majors right now, and how many are actually picks from lower rounds.

    It does not mitigate the underperformance that Todd highlights, but it does suggest that performance is far from guaranteed from high draft picks for any teams.

    The Nationals ran out of season last year. They were gelling and turning the corner. They had a lot of key injuries and that is not an excuse, it is a reality. They did not delude themselves to think that changes did not need to be made, and have made plenty of changes, including to the coaching staff.


    12 Feb 21 at 11:44 am

  13. Evidently the Dodgers appreciate our draft choices. Hopefully not a latest installment of what might have been.


    12 Feb 21 at 12:26 pm

  14. Rizzo-drafted players who will be in the everyday lineup in 2021: zero, unless Kieboom has a miraculous bounce-back. (I do still hold out hope that Kieboom will eventually turn things around, though. I thought he was a good pick, and he moved through the system well. But he was totally lost last year.)

    Rizzo-drafted players who have become everyday regulars for an extended period of time for any team: 2. One was a 1/1 pick, and the other was 1/6. (Admittedly, teams have managed to screw up those picks, including the immortal Bubba Starling going the pick ahead of Rendon.) Billy Burns and Brian Goodwin have been semi-regulars at times for other teams.

    Rizzo-drafted players who have become regular starting pitchers for the Nats: 1, a 1/1 pick who was a generational talent. We’re still hoping that Fedde or Voth figures it out. (Giolito, who struggled for several years before things clicked in 2019, is the only successful traded Rizzo-Nat-draftee starter thus far. Luzardo may succeed as well, and Crowe and Dunning will have their chances. Karns pretty much had a full season starting in Tampa, but only one.)

    Rizzo-drafted players who have become regular closers for the Nats: 1, a somewhat questionable use of a 1/10 pick. But despite all the pitchers Rizzo has drafted, Storen is the only one who has become a regular closer, or even a regular reliever for the Nats. Glover was on his way, possibly (projected memories of him are better than his actual stats).

    The Nats had only four of their draft picks on the World Series roster: Zimmerman, Rendon, Taylor, and Strasburg. Two of those were from the Bowden era.


    12 Feb 21 at 1:28 pm

  15. On the plus side, we should get a decent draft spot in 2022 if Rizzo doesn’t have something shocking up his sleeve and/or the stars don’t align just about perfectly for us.


    12 Feb 21 at 9:01 pm

  16. Sao — Yeah, that what I’m worried about, too; I had responded to your concerns on the last post. I share them. This is a team coming off a 70-92 pace in 2020 that hasn’t significantly upgraded that much. They would need just about everything to go right . . . which can happen, and did for the last three-quarters of 2019. Nearly everything went wrong in 2020.

    In the meantime, farewell to Asdurbal Cabrera, one of the real unsung heroes of the 2019 stretch drive — .323/.404/.565, with 40 RBIs in 38 games. He went stone cold as a LH hitter in 2020 (.216) but still hit .314 RH. He wasn’t used very intelligently in that platoon role, though. Anyway, he will always be remembered here for 2019. It’s quite possible the Nats wouldn’t have made the playoffs without that essentially free pickup.


    12 Feb 21 at 10:39 pm

  17. The Nats have a very healthy #11 pick in 2021, followed by 47/82/112/143. With Cavalli/Rutledge/Denaburg/Romero/Lara/Cate/et al. already in line, PLEASE pick a hitter at #11. I’m already pointing to a redraft of
    Alex Binelas, 3B, Louisville, who the Nats took in the 35th round out of high school and presumably have followed.


    12 Feb 21 at 10:53 pm

  18. ESPN/Kiley McDaniel just dropped his rankings

    Guess where we are? 🙂 I’ll update the post with the write-up

    Todd Boss

    13 Feb 21 at 8:55 am

  19. Not one person in this group was clamoring to sign Cabrera. Yet now that he is gone, and cheaply, he is missed.

    I would read this news to mean that Nationals have “bigger” plans for their 3B and infield situation.

    I very much disagree that the Nationals have not made significant upgrades. Perhaps they have not made ALL desired upgrades, but they have made them. Would you rather have Brad Hand or Sean Doolittle? Eric Thames or Josh Bell? Adam Eaton or Schwarber? Anibal Sanchez or Jon Lester? Alex Avila or Kurt Suzuki?

    I realize that there is debate about the last two points, perhaps the last three even. But that’s 20% of the roster and I don;t think the first two are even close. As for Schwarber vs. Eaton, the team got younger and perhaps healthier and added power. Sanchez was awful last year. Whether Lester was the best choice is debatable. But he certainly had more reason for hope than a player (Sanchez) that NO ONE has yet offered a ML contract to. As for Suzuki, we don’t know how banged up he is. But we definitely need a player who can actually play catcher.

    I am also inclined to believe that a team with the pitching problems that the Nats had will benefit from the swap of Menhart for Hickey.

    And I believe there is more to come. It is 2/13 and there is a roster spot being conspicuously held open.


    13 Feb 21 at 6:30 pm

  20. I think Cabrera as a solution for 3B for the 2021 nats would have been worse than just using Kieboom. He’s a statue out there and outside of his half a season of rejuvination in 2019 is sliding fast at the plate. Clearly the team made this determination on their own and didn’t pursue him.

    It’s worth noting that … there are plenty of teams who are successful without an all-star at every position. If Kieboom hits .220 starting at 3B, is it that big of a deal to this team? Mark Belanger was a career 68 OPS+ hitter and played in plenty of postseasons.

    Todd Boss

    13 Feb 21 at 6:50 pm

  21. Turner and the Dodgers off the board. Good news! This leaves the Nationals, Braves, and Brewers for Suarez, Ramirez, and Bryant. Who blinks?

    As for Paxton, we now revisit the Lester vs. Paxton argument. But I doubt he was available for this contract when the Nationals signed Lester, anyway. There is obviously more pressure on players now to settle, and so the board is now filling up.


    13 Feb 21 at 10:23 pm

  22. Poor production from Kieboom would be more tolerable if he were still a second baseman. But third base is supposed to supply a lot of offense. There are some truly fantastic third basemen in the league. Hell, one of them played in D.C. for a few years.

    I talk a lot about premium defensive and premium offensive positions. Third base is a premium offensive position; all four of the corner spots are. You can put up with a weaker bat up the middle as long as the glove plays there. But if you play a corner spot, you need to carry a bat. (Increasingly that’s true of shortstop as well.)


    14 Feb 21 at 2:04 am

  23. Sao, i do not disagree. Put Castro at 3B, Kieboom at 2B (where he can do less defensive damage) and Garcia in AAA and that makes this situation more palatable? That’s how i’d do it … except that Castro apparently does not want to play 3B.

    I’m just not sure what the team can do at this point. Can they get a premium 3B for around $7-8M? They’re at $17M under teh cap, you have to leave some room for mid-season acquisitions, which limits their

    Todd Boss

    14 Feb 21 at 9:25 am

  24. The other issue with the concept of “carrying” a light-hitting Kieboom is that they’ll also be “carrying” Robles (.180/.250/.279 vs. RHP in ’20) unless he rebounds, “carrying” Castro at 2B who slashed a Kieboom-like .182/.217/.341 against RHP, and “carrying” Avila for around 70 starts, who “hit” .184/.355/.286 overall last season. That’s 3.5 slots in the lineup that are seriously challenged, not to mention how bad Schwarber and Bell were at times last year, or how much Gomes struggles in 2019. It’s not just one position where there’s potential hole. The focus has been on 3B more so because there were players available who could have been significant upgrades.

    Turner back to Dodgers — I always sorta thought he would go back, at least until they signed Bauer. But wow are they over the tax line now, by about $42M. They’re truly treating their window like its now or never and pushing in all the chips. I’ve noted that it would be great for the Nats to offer to take Seager off their hands, but I don’t think they have an obvious SS in waiting.

    But yes, the juxtaposition is sharp: the Dodgers are willing to blow past all the levels of tax penalties to sign the best pitcher on the market, despite already having several very good ones, and to get a legit 3B. The Nats went dumpster diving for Lester and are crossing their fingers on Kieboom.


    14 Feb 21 at 9:36 am

  25. What this discussion forgets is that the Nationals neither expect to carry a light hitting CF or 3B. Belanger was expected to be light hitting. The same point can be made about Bell. The Nationals don’t expect Bell to hit .223. They don’t expect Schwarber to hit .198.

    The Dodgers will never offload Seager to save money. He is a very popular and rising asset who is worth the luxury penalty. You cannot praise them for being sensible in lathering cash in ways that not other franchise does and then presuppose their stupidity.

    This organization has shouldered large contracts and high payroll and has withstood collapse from overly leveraged commitments. If you think that’s easy, ask Giants and Red Sox fans. Yet they have won multiple championships and made heavy bets.

    All of this endless winging reminds me of 2019 when at the trading deadline the Braves got Greene, Martin, and Melancon and all we got was this lousy tee shirt. OK, so Strickland and Elias sucked, but Hudson was everything they wanted and they gave up far less to get him.

    You complainers forget that for the last decade, Nationals management has not abided mediocrity, especially since Jayson Werth left. A better way to loom at it is that the Nationals won it all in 2019 with Brian Dozier at 2B for much of the year. He was worse than they needed, but they adjusted. They are building to adjust.


    14 Feb 21 at 11:08 am

  26. Dozier is a great example of how your eyes can lie to you. Would you believe he actually put up a .771 OPS? By way of comparison, Castro’s OPS was .752 and García’s was .668. Kieboom’s was .556. Neither Castro nor Kieboom could hit right-handed pitching at all in 2020, while García struggled with lefties.


    14 Feb 21 at 11:20 am

  27. Statistics can lie, too. Castro was never acquired for his slugging, but for his RBI potential. And he got off to a hot start when the team had nothing clicking. And he got hurt early enough that one can hardly view what he was doing as representative of his capabilities.

    Dozier was a player they bet on rebounding who just continued his decline. He did a lot worse in 2020 than Castro, my eyes can tell me that.

    And Castro did a lot better as a 3B in 2019 than did Dozier at 2B. I wonder if he did better than Dozier altogether.


    14 Feb 21 at 12:05 pm

  28. Paxton to Mariners for $8.5-10M one-year deal. I would have done that deal in a heartbeat for the Nats, instead of Lester, or even in addition to him. And Paxton is a Boras client, so presumably the Nats got a call.

    It’s not “complaining” at all to say that there have been better choices out there than the Nats have made, and different things they have done. The Bell deal was great, both with what he’s due and what little the Nats gave up to get him. But there’s also risk with a guy who hit .226 with a .305 OBP. With Schwarber, there were choices in the same price range, with Pederson and Rosario in particular. Rosario would have been a safer bet not to crater offensively, plus much better defensively and cheaper. Schwarber does have a high potential ceiling . . . but also a very low floor. (.188 is pretty darn low.)

    Here’s the bottom line for me: the Nats are spending around $200M and have a team that pretty much is going to need for everything to go right just to make the playoffs, particularly in a division with five competitive teams. The margin is VERY narrow. They’ve probably got a team capable/likely of winning somewhere between 75 and 85 games. One of those numbers is on the cusp of the playoffs; the other is a losing record that would put the manager at risk of losing his job. That’s just a 10-game difference over the course of 162.

    The Nats have their big-three starters, but even if those guys stay completely healthy, 70-75 starts will be made by guys who project to have an ERA close to 5.00. The offense should be improved, but improved enough to score 6+ runs when Lester/Ross/Voth/Fedde start? Also, 70-75 starts will be made by a backup catcher who likely will struggle to hit .200. Josh Harrison might help fill some of the gaps with Kieboom/Castro/Garcia, but he hasn’t topped 100 games in four years. And they’ve got little safety net behind Robles, except maybe Stevenson.

    The addition of a top-flight bat at 3B would help, but there are still quite a number of question marks.


    14 Feb 21 at 11:22 pm

  29. Sao — I see that the NatsTalk folks didn’t invite you to join the forum on Kieboom. LOL. I think that eventually, Kieboom will be a pretty decent MLB player. But right now, that’s just an educated guess, as he hasn’t actually done anything at the MLB level. Where he with SLG enough to stay at a corner INF spot, we just don’t know right now. He did have SLG% approaching .500 at several stops in the minors, so he does have some track record in that regard. And apparently he was more injured in 2020 than anyone knew. But his power drought began during the second half of 2019 (at AAA).

    The big disconnect here is not that the Nats still have hopes that Kieboom can be a solid everyday player in the future. It’s that they’re acting like he can be the starting 3B right now. That approach seems foolhardy, not just for the fortunes of the 2021 team, but for the psyche and development of the younger player as well. He looks like a classic case of a guy who needs more time in AAA. Of course Robles does, too . . .


    15 Feb 21 at 2:10 pm

  30. FanGraphs 2021 draft board updated for the preseason:,1&type=0

    Just a reminder that things can change radically during a season. At the start of their junior years, Dyson and Mendoza were top 10 overall in the rankings (ended up in 5th and 3d rounds), and Banks was in the top 15-20 overall on some boards (went in 4th round).


    15 Feb 21 at 2:21 pm

  31. At this point, anyone who doesn’t know how I feel about coronating Carter Kieboom as our starting third baseman in 2021 clearly isn’t the type of person who knows or cares who is the Nats’ starting third baseman in 2021. So it’s just as well.

    I’ll have another contributed piece for the site coming this week, at any rate.


    15 Feb 21 at 9:25 pm

  32. The bench OF RH hitter I wanted was either Pillar or Duvall. Both have now gone to other teams in the division. Are the Nats really banking on Yasmany Tomas? Harrison can probably play LF as well as Schwarber (low bar!), but who knows whether he’ll end up playing a lot of infield.


    15 Feb 21 at 9:27 pm

  33. Just a weird, unfinished-seeming offseason. I’ve lost count of how many roster moves the Mets, Braves, and Phillies alone have made since Mike Rizzo put down his pencil last month.


    15 Feb 21 at 9:40 pm

  34. I know. We were getting hints that they weren’t going to do much more after Lester, then Hand came out of the blue . . . but then crickets. Even if they don’t make a big move at 3B, there are still cheap insurance moves available like Brad Miller, Gyroko, or Franco. To me, Miller would add a LH dimension to Zim/Castro/Harrison. Travis Shaw would fit the same role, and may have to take a minor-league contract. Pillar and Duvall were the cheap RH OF insurance moves that they didn’t make. (I particularly liked Pillar in case Robles continues to struggle.) Now, the only RH OF of any consequence left is Puig (gulp). None of the LH OFs make any sense with Stevenson looking like an effective reserve.

    There are still some decent or better starting pitchers on the board, particularly Odorizzi and Taijuan Walker. Gio might take a minor-league contract and be able to beat out the Lester/Ross/Fedde/Voth field. Or maybe Gio transitions to swingman and becomes the next Ollie Perez (who is also still on the board and had a 2.00 ERA in ’20). In the bullpen, Rosenthal was absolutely lights out last year, better than anyone the Nats have right now.

    But do SOMETHING. There are still small moves that could be made that would improve this squad. Other teams in the division are making them.


    15 Feb 21 at 10:35 pm

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