Nationals Arm Race

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

2021 CWS Winner Crowned: Mississippi State wins!


2021 CWS coverage:

Here’s how the finals played out.

  • Game 1 6/28/21: Vanderbilt jumps all over Miss State starter Christian MacLeod, who gave up 6 runs in the first on 2 walks, 2 HBPs and 2 hits. Vandy co-ace Jack Leiter had all the run support he’d need, going 6 comfortable innings and handing off the lead to one of Vandy’s solid closers for the easy win.
  • Game 2 6/29/21: In a battle of #3 starters, Mississippi State jumped on Vandy’s starter while their staff controlled the Commodores to force a ddcider.
  • Game 3 6/30/21: In his final collegiate start, Kumar Rocker left a sour taste in scout’s collective mouths by dripping runs throughout his start, leaving in the 5th. But the story was Vandy’s Will Bednar, who pitched 6 no-hit innings on three days rest to make a heck of a statement in a decider.

Your 2021 College World Series Champion: Mississippi State, their first ever baseball title after 12 trips to Omaha … and the first NCAA championship EVER for the school in a team sport (a pretty amazing fact).

Commentary: well, I thought getting two starts from Rocker/Leiter would guarantee the title … but I discounted the offensive woes of Vandy, which most pundits pounced on in their predictions. Congrats to a long-suffering team.

This concludes the College Baseball season and our coverage of it for 2021.  I’ll post one more post that covers draftees and signing status for all local-connected players (prep and college) once the draft happens in mid July.

Written by Todd Boss

July 1st, 2021 at 9:09 am

36 Responses to '2021 CWS Winner Crowned: Mississippi State wins!'

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  1. Everyone loves an underdog story. Congrats to Miss State.

    I’d love to see Rocker slide after that outing, but I know better. He’s probably going to be a Royal or an Angel.


    1 Jul 21 at 11:44 am

  2. Left unsaid was that all 3 games were lousy to watch, no tension at all.

    Mark L

    1 Jul 21 at 11:44 am

  3. Agree with you markL: not a compelling CWS final 3game set. A number of the earlier games were great though.

    Rocker sliding; yeah prob not going to happen unless it comes out that he’s hurt.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 21 at 1:41 pm

  4. And joining the Nats’ parade of injuries, not only is Luis García on the IL with an oblique injury, Carter Kieboom is apparently dealing with a knee injury. Trea Turner has a busted finger (*Forrest Gump pause* again) and Jordy Mercer apparently hurt his leg late in yesterday’s game.

    So, uh, how much for Asdrúbal Cabrera?


    1 Jul 21 at 10:54 pm

  5. The big club could really use Garcia right now but oblique is a bad word. All hands on deck somehow.

    Mark L

    2 Jul 21 at 9:10 am

  6. Not much on the farm that could help in the immediate. May go for a veteran FA.

    Todd Boss

    2 Jul 21 at 11:20 am

  7. I think the Nats need to make an outside addition if Turner is out for any meaningful length of time. In the interim, expect them to bring up Humberto Arteaga to make a few outs at the plate and make a few putouts in the field. Natural shortstop with some MLB experience, didn’t play in the second game of yesterday’s Rochester/Syracuse doubleheader (including a pinch-hit spot late with a runner on second that instead went to starting pitcher Sean Nolin), quite possibly in D.C. already.

    If the Nats are without Turner, here’s a name that would suddenly make a lot of sense: Trevor Story.


    2 Jul 21 at 11:29 am

  8. Todd, you’ll like this: CBS Sports ranks Sam Bachman at #10 among draft prospects and Ty Madden at #13. Other notable placements include Gunnar Hoglund at #17 (with a suggestion the Nats may be interested), Gavin Williams at #21, Andrew Painter at #22, Ryan Cusick at #27, and Will Bednar at #31.

    “Bachman has tremendous stuff. His turbo sinker can clear triple digits (though it’s not a huge bat-misser within the zone) and his slider is a legit outpitch. Analysts like his seldom-used changeup, too, suggesting he should have three above-average offerings at his peak. He’s not higher on the list because he has an unusual delivery (his arm goes up early and stays up) and a concerning injury history.”

    And on Madden: “His fastball should give him another plus offering, yet it didn’t miss bats the way a top prospect’s four-seamer ought to at the college level. Some analysts are higher on a changeup that scouts perceive as not even fringe-average; the two sides can agree that his command has a tendency to waver. It stands to reason that Madden will need to make gains with his changeup and/or his command to avoid the bullpen.”

    And on Hoglund: “The operation seems certain to wipe out most of his 2022 season, putting him on track to make his professional debut around August of next year, give or take a few weeks. Hoglund should prove to be worth the wait. He possesses good command over a deep arsenal that’s rich with spin, including a slider that has cutter-like qualities. The upside here is a mid-rotation starter, possibly a tick more in the hands of the right player development system. His window likely opens around the 11th pick.”


    2 Jul 21 at 11:57 am

  9. Any chance the CWS finale drops Rocker to the Nats? He’s an impressive athlete and I think has a very high ceiling . . . in the right hands. But college also has put a lot of mileage on his arm.


    2 Jul 21 at 1:41 pm

  10. Or draft McLain and send him straight to the majors since our other options suck so much, as noted above. (But don’t forget that Castro has plenty of MLB time at SS.)


    2 Jul 21 at 1:44 pm

  11. The latest ProspectsLive mock has the Mets swooping in and nabbing Rocker at #10 (grr) and the Nats instead pivoting to Madden, passing over Bachman, Bednar, and Hoglund.

    More interesting than the pick is that this is the second mock released since the CWS that cites strong buzz around the Nats and Bednar at #11. That would be an underslot deal, almost certainly, which could leave some cap space for the Nats to snap up someone who has fallen due to injuries — like, say, Jaden Hill — in the second round.


    2 Jul 21 at 3:37 pm

  12. Rocker dropping to Nats: every credible pundit has Kansas City as Rocker’s floor. I would be shocked to see one game in the CWS drop him any further.

    Bednar to Nats on underslot; i just have a hard time believing the Nats would do that. Why? Because mostly 2nd round over slot deals are to buy HS pitchers out of strong college committments by offering them 1st round money in the 2nd and making them think. It isn’t to get Hill or Hogeland . Those guys (if they’ve got anything close to competent advisors) need to take the money they’re offered and run.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jul 21 at 10:27 am

  13. This Prospectlive mock was much more credible than some of theirs before; their top 5 exactly matched (for example) Mayo’s most recent one.

    Rocker, Jobe, House, Madden/Bachman; seems like the prevailing order of arms going off the board.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jul 21 at 1:26 pm

  14. Could just be noise/recency bias, but I’m definitely seeing Bachman significantly lower in more recent mocks, with Bednar and Madden the popular names for the Nats at #11. Also seeing more speculation Rocker could fall to the Angels or Mets but probably not past them.


    5 Jul 21 at 4:52 pm

  15. Regarding Hill, he’s a draft-eligible sophomore who tore his UCL and will almost certainly drop into the second round or later after originally being tabbed as a possible top-10 pick. The same thing happened to another draft-eligible sophomore we spent some time talking about last year, J.T. Ginn. The Mets gave him a big overslot bonus in the second round and ended up walking away from that 2020 draft with two first-round talents.


    5 Jul 21 at 6:00 pm

  16. Actually, forgive me, I got conflicting information. Looks like Hill is a junior. (That being said, Ginn is now 22, the same age Hill will be on Draft Day 2022, so the comparison still works.)


    5 Jul 21 at 6:03 pm

  17. Fangraphs (Longenhagen/Goldstein) Mock draft v2.0 7/6/21: top 5: Mayer, Leiter, House, Davis, Cowser (deal-cutting move). Nats take Bachman over Madden/Bednar, also noting this is Rocker’s floor.

    Todd Boss

    6 Jul 21 at 11:19 am

  18. For what little it’s worth, there were several posts in the college preseason time linking Hill to the Nats (at #11).

    Hill is a high-ceiling athlete . . . with a long injury history and almost no collegiate body of work. He would be 22 before he pitches professionally, in a limited way, and he’s still pretty raw. There’s also no guarantee at all that he would fall all the way to #47, if the Nats take an underslot guy in the first round to try to pull off something like this.


    6 Jul 21 at 1:07 pm

  19. Jaden Hill screams to me late 1st round/supp 1st pick kinda guy. Zero chance he goes #11 to nats. And the rankings generally support that: MLB has him #36, Keith Law ##27, BA #24, Fangraphs #37, ESPN #39, CBS #42, and d1baseball (which only ranks college players) #29.

    Todd Boss

    6 Jul 21 at 2:51 pm

  20. I know that no one — NO ONE — in the media thinks the Nats are going to draft a hitter, and with good reason. However, one would be remiss to ignore just how gosh-awful ALL the field prospects are that the Nats have right now. All means ALL. And there are three hitters universally ranked right about where the Nats would be picking. Just sayin’.

    Antuna (.144 and at a level lower than projected), Mendoza (.160 when demoted), Pineda (.176), De La Rosa (.179), Infante (.143 [SSS] and at a level lower than projected), Cluff (.100 and then injured). Those are the Nats’ top hitting prospects on every list, not counting Cruz, who wasn’t deemed worthy of the FCL rookie league, and Quintana, who has two hits and two walks in three FCL games. I mean, there’s NOTHING here. Any who might still develop are years away. Cowser, McLain, or Frelick would immediately become the Nats’ top field prospect, by a wide margin.

    But I know, I’m dreaming . . .


    6 Jul 21 at 3:39 pm

  21. For those interested in baseball history, this is an interesting article:

    Not sure that it was the “greatest game ever pitched,” as there were 17 hits allowed, and Spahn only struck out two. One would think that there were some Koufax-Gibson match-ups (and others) where a ball hardly got put into play. But it’s crazy in this day and age to think of the starters combining for more than 400 pitches.


    6 Jul 21 at 3:51 pm

  22. KW, that’s a must have book. I’ve had it for years and it’s a lot of fun.

    Mark L

    6 Jul 21 at 4:30 pm

  23. I’m not in love with the pitchers likely to be available at #11. Some of them I like, but I don’t love any of them. Doesn’t seem realistic to hope Rocker or Jobe slips, as we’ve discussed ad nauseum.

    I’d be pretty surprised if Mike Rizzo goes with a bat, but gosh, someone like Matt McLain would immediately — as KW notes — become our top positional prospect at least until Cristian Vaquero’s signing is official (likely in January).


    6 Jul 21 at 9:22 pm

  24. A Seth Romero sighting, a Seth Romero sighting, a Seth Romero sighting . . . getting smoked by something called the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers. Said Ballers subsequently couldn’t touch Mitchell Parker. Good grief, the windmills with which the Nats have tilted with their insistence of drafting pitchers in the first round. Collective innings now pitched this year by Romero, Denaburg, and Rutledge: 12. Earned runs allowed: 18.


    7 Jul 21 at 11:51 am

  25. Seems pretty clear there’s a flaw with Mike Rizzo’s drafting strategy, now, doesn’t it?

    Anyway, more and more mocks linking the Nats to Ty Madden. Hopefully his changeup is better than Baseball America thinks it is.


    7 Jul 21 at 11:53 am

  26. I guess Madden is probably the safest college pitching pick with whom the Nats have been linked (unless Rocker drops). His college numbers are better than Cavalli’s, in the same conference. He doesn’t really have an injury history that I’ve seen, although he’s had some real fluctuations in velocity that do make one concerned about overuse.

    That said, the Nats have a ton of strapping right-handers. That includes their three last first-round picks. The organization has no hitter on par with Cowser, McLain, or Frelick. None. They’re ranked almost exactly comparable to Madden on most boards, and ahead of Bachman. I’m not sure that any of them has superstar potential, but I’d take even an Eaton type (who was once a 6 WAR player who commanded a king’s ransom in trade).

    Not holding my breath. But continuing to draft the same type of player you’ve drafted, over and over again, just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense and has left the Nats with a terribly unbalanced system.


    8 Jul 21 at 4:38 pm

  27. Why is Rizzo’s strategy a flaw?

    If I can draft nothing but pitchers, then flip them for fully-formed MLB position players, then isn’t that actually LESS risky than trying to draft and develop them myself?

    Todd Boss

    8 Jul 21 at 4:49 pm

  28. So, it seems like the Nats are taking a pitcher. The projected pitchers in this draft are likely going to be, in order: Leiter, Jobe, Rocker, Madden, Bachman, Bednar.

    It seems highly likely that Leiter, Jobe and Rocker are gone by the time we pick, so they’ll likely be choosing from Madden, Bachman or Bednar (if you believe the helium, which I don’t).

    Here’s d1baseball scouting reports on Madden and Bachman:

    No. 5 Ty Madden, RHP, Texas– Standing at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Madden sits in the mid-90s with solid life and improving command. He has a high release point that can cause him to miss up in the zone. His primary off speed pitch is a slider that sits in the mid-80s and is above average-to-plus at times. His low-80s changeup is also above average with some late sink. With an on-line, lower-effort delivery and loose arm action, he profiles as a starter, but will need to continue to improve the command of his stuff to reach his ceiling.

    No. 9 Will Bednar, RHP, Mississippi State– A draft-eligible sophomore and the Most Outstanding Player of the 2021 College World Series, Bednar is a fierce competitor with major league bloodlines. Pitching from a high-3/4 slot, he has a high-spin fastball that ranges from 92-97 and gets swings and misses up in the zone. He pitches with conviction to all quadrants with the fastball and his mid-80s breaking ball has sweeping shape with tight spin that tunnels off the fastball to his glove side when thrown at its best. It’s a swing-and-miss offering that plays up thanks to his elite fastball. His third pitch is an improving changeup. Bednar has the potential to become a middle-of-the-rotation starter with two plus pitches, a strong frame, workable delivery and strike-throwing ability.

    No. 14 Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (OH)– Bachman stands a strong and durable 6-foot-1, 230 pounds and possesses two explosive pitches in his fastball and slider, as well as a changeup that grades as plus. The fastball is elite, as he can maintain the high-90s throughout an appearance and touch triple digits, and it has spin rates in the 2500s. The slider is at least above average with a chance to be plus-plus, sitting at 88-90. His changeup has similar velo, getting good fade and is especially effective against left-handed hitters.

    Interestingly, they have Bachman well below Madden, even below Gunnar Hogeland, Fabian, Williams from ECU and Jordan Wicks. So d1baseball’s evaluations are well out of whack compared to most of hte other services. Also interestingly, the “scouting report” on Bachman literally just lists velocities with little to no evaluation or opinion.

    Todd Boss

    8 Jul 21 at 4:59 pm

  29. I don’t think it’s completely impossible that Jobe or Rocker slide to the Nats, but it would really require two or three of the top-ten teams to swing underslot deals, so it still seems very unlikely. Madden looks like the favorite if he’s available, although Bachman wouldn’t be shocking. Bednar would be more surprising even after his CWS showing. Hoglund does seem like a dark horse pick, as does Painter. No one serious seems to think the Nats will draft a hitter at #11.


    8 Jul 21 at 6:06 pm

  30. PAINFUL loss by the big club on Thursday night, all the more since they were up 8-0 with Max looking good. The turn of fortune dropped them from 2d place to 4th place in the super-close division.


    9 Jul 21 at 9:06 am

  31. Since drafting Rendon in 2011, the last college hitter they have taken in the 1st round, the Nats have had eight 1st-round picks, seven of which they have used on pitchers (plus a high-school hitter who still hasn’t “made it”). Of the seven, six have had significant arm issues, with I think five TJs (Fedde’s was before he was drafted, and we don’t know what is going on with Rutledge). Of that group, only Giolito has had sustained MLB success, and that only after seven years after being drafted. Fedde is now seven years from being drafted and is still up and down.

    Yes, Giolito and Dunning (and Lopez) did acquire a guy who became a cog in a championship, albeit not as big a cog as hoped since Eaton never came close to repeating his 6-WAR year. That was a steep, steep price to pay, even if that flag does fly forever.

    That price became so steep because Giolito already had been significantly devalued before the Nats traded him. There was a time, before he looked so bad in the majors, where they probably could have gotten Eaton for him straight up. He fell so far that they had to include two of probably the three best other arms in the system (Fedde being the other).

    We’ve subsequently seen the devaluation game with so many of the others. Fedde has had virtually no value for the last two offseasons. Romero and Denaburg have no trade value now. The Pirates took a 2d-round guy who had looked bad in the majors (Crowe) over them in the Bell deal. Rutledge’s value has slid significantly this year with his early-season struggles and then injury.

    So all in all, I fail to see how the always-take-the-pitcher-in-the-1st-round approach is “working.” All it has netted them so far has been one good season from Eaton and an MLB career ERA of 4.97 from Fedde. As of now, the only useful trade chip from the group (including Kieboom) would be Cavalli.

    In the meantime, NONE of these guys have solidified the rotation or the bullpen. They have spent more than half a BILLION on starting pitching since the 2012 draft, including the Max and Corbin signings and Stras extension. But they’ve also had to continue bringing in truckload after truckload of back-end starters: Sanchez, Lester, Hellickson, E-Jax (redux), Haren, the big trade for Fister, and on and on and on, including failed experiments like Guthrie and Latos. They’ve also gotten nothing from these high draftees in the bullpen, either, necessitating tons of trades and annual signings to restock.

    In sum, I don’t see how the Nats’ 1st-round focus on starting pitchers is “working.” Looks more like a decade of near-futility to me. Yes, they’ve managed to keep winning, but that’s been despite this strategy, not because of it. There’s no doubt that Rizzo is a savvy trader and has a good eye for undervalued veteran talent. Those are the things that have sustained this run, despite all the questionable picks used on sore-armed starters.


    9 Jul 21 at 9:36 am

  32. KW no argument here on the bad run of form for 1st rounders. And trust me, I HATED the Giolito trade (my reaction at the time: titled “Huge overpay for Eaton”).

    It isn’t so much about the 1st rounders in particular as it is on the depth overall of drafting almost nothing but arms. Luzardo was flipped for key bullpen pieces Madsen and Doolittle. Giolito/Lopez/Dunning for what was a 5-win player in Eaton. We traded McKenzie Mills for Howie Kendrick. We got Daniel Hudson for Kyle Johnston. We got Yan Gomes for Jefry Rodriguez, Daniel Johnson.

    That’s a huge part of the 2019 WS winning team.

    Todd Boss

    9 Jul 21 at 10:05 am

  33. Keith law Mock 3.0;

    Throws kind of a curveball; he has Rocker going #2, then Jobe falling to the Nats at #11, who they take over Madden (who goes 2 picks later). Interestingly … Law does not have Bachman in his entire 1st round!

    Todd Boss

    9 Jul 21 at 10:17 am

  34. Law is either going to look like a genius or a lunatic on Sunday. Points for boldness!

    Bachman keeps slip-slidin’ down the mock draft boards. It’s tough to justify using a first-round pick on a relief pitcher. If someone is really confident they can find a way to make him a major league starter, with his stuff, it’s a no-brainer. But everyone seems to be confident he ends up in a relief role, and so it’s hard to find a fit for him.

    But these mocks aren’t dispositive, so while we get a good sense of the Nats’ *preferences* we have no way of knowing how it’ll all play out.

    Boy, after last night, I hope the Nats pack it in. That was a gut check and they failed miserably. It wasn’t even so much that Scherzer imploded — these things happen — as that they went quietly after that. Sure, the Pads defense made a few plays, but getting one-hit after an eight-run outburst was really poor. Let’s trade Hand, Hudson, Bell, Gomes, etc., get a little value back, and try to draft well in 2022. This team keeps sliding, and a game like that tells me it just can’t take a punch.


    9 Jul 21 at 11:35 am

  35. and another mock from Axisa at CBS

    Mayer, Lawlar, House, Leiter, Davis. Nats take Jobe.

    And, in a weird twist, this mock has Bachman going 2 picks after … and then NO Madden (or Bednar) in the 1st round.

    Todd Boss

    9 Jul 21 at 1:07 pm

  36. So that’s two new mocks today with Jobe falling to the Nats? How bizarre, how bizarre.


    9 Jul 21 at 1:20 pm

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