Nationals Arm Race

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

What is the “ceiling” of various Nats pitching prospects? (Updated for 2013)

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Can Giolito live up to his potential? Photo unk via federalbaseball.com

Can Giolito live up to his potential? Photo unk via federalbaseball.com

Two off-seasons ago, I did an analysis piece discussing the “ceilings” of the various pitchers (focusing on starters in the system) on our major and minor league rosters.   That led to some good discussions in the comments about what the definition of a pitcher’s ceiling is, about what a “#3″ starter is, etc.

Now that the 2013 season has ended, I thought it’d be a good topic to revisit and factor in recent performances and the last couple year’s worth of player movement in and out of the organization.

This post mostly focuses on the Starters we have in the organization.  There’s no real mention of guys who are already in the bullpen (either in the majors or the minors) unless we have heard rumors of them converting back to being starters at some point or another.


Some setup

What do I mean by a #1, #2, #3, #4 or #5 starter?  With some simple examples (from the 2011 post)

  • A #1 starter is a MLB-wide “Ace,” one of the best 15-20 pitchers in the league, someone who you’re genuinely surprised if he performs badly on a given day, opten mentioned in Cy Young conversations.   Guys like Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander.
  • A #2 starter is a  slight step down from your elite “Aces,” but still an excellent starter.  Can challenge for the top awards if they put everything together for a season, but remains consistently above average.   I see guys like Madison Bumgarner, Homer Bailey or James Shields in this category
  • A #3 starter is better than your league average pitcher, someone who is solid, consistent innings eater and who routinely gives you quality starts but not much more than that.   I think of guys like Mark Buehrle, Kyle Lohse, or John Lackey here.
  • A #4 starter is basically someone defined as someone who’s a slight step above the back-of-the-rotation guy, usually a veteran guy who knows how to pitch but doesn’t have the best stuff to really go much beyond or a younger guy who is establishing a foothold of a career.   Good examples from this year could include the likes of Kyle Kendrick, or Edwin Jackson or Bronson Arroyo.
  • A #5 starter is just good enough to fill out your rotation.  Starters at the back end who all you’re hoping for is 6 innings and keeping your team in the game.  Think of someone like Jason Marquis at this point in his career, or Ryan Vogelsong.

For clarity; if your team has three excellent pitchers, it does not mean that a league-wide ace is defined by these standards as a “#3″ starter.  When the Phillies big 3 of Roy HalladayCliff Lee and Cole Hamels were all healthy and firing on all cylinders a couple of years back, all three were #1 starters in my book.  Just because Hamels pitched third in the rotation didn’t mean he was a “#3 starter.”

Also before getting going, a quick discussion on “ceiling” versus “predictions” and what I’m trying to do here.  As was pointed out when I posted on this topic in 2011, a pitcher’s “ceiling” is quite literally the highest level of capability that we can expect that pitcher to accomplish given a perfect set of circumstances.   Scouts routinely talk about player “ceilings” and “number X” starters as a convenient way to speak a common language when describing a pitcher.   I like to be a bit more grounded in predicting what may happen to pitchers, so this analysis is less about the perfect-scenario “ceiling” as it is a thoughtful prediction on where a guy may eventually fit in given his talents and his performances as compared to scouting reports and industry buzz.


Updated ceiling predictions for Nats pitchers post 2013 season:

Nationals Starter Ceilings (per scouting reports, personal observations).  I’m not going to include any MLFAs here, assuming that they’re all either 4-A or minor league starters as a ceiling.  I’m also only really going down to full-season ball guys, throwing in a couple of our higher-end prospects.  Its just impossible to really project guys in rookie ball unless you’re a professional scout.

  • #1: Strasburg, Giolito
  • #2: Gonzalez, Zimmermann
  • #3: Cole, Ray
  • #4: Jordan, Roark
  • #5: Detwiler, Solis
  • MLB bullpen: Purke, Karns, Ohlendorf, Garcia, Johansen, Treinen
  • 4-A starter: Hill, Mooneyham, Schwartz, Voth, Meyers
  • Minors starter: Rosenbaum, Maya, Gilliam, Rauh, Anderson, Encarnacion, Bacus, Turnbull
  • Minors bullpen: Perry, Demny, RPena

Discussion:

#1 Starters: Stephen Strasburg is already an “Ace” starter in this league, ranking up among the 15-20 best arms out there.   However he’s no longer considered in the same class as the likes of Kershaw, thanks to injury and a curious lack of dominance this year (have a draft post on this topic that i’ll expand on later).  Lucas Giolito is widely considered the Nats top prospect and an easy future #1 pitching prospect.  Big guy, big arm, and by all accounts has come back post TJ surgery.  The BA guys think that he could be the #1 prospect in the entire minors with another dominant 2014.  How quickly can he move through the minors?  Can he stay healthy?  Right around the time Giolito arrives, the Nats “3 big names” could all be at the end of their current contracts and an interesting conundrum could face the team; keep the band together?  Or let these guys go and re-load/re-build?

#2 Starters: Just as Gio Gonzalez made the leap to a #2 starter with his Cy Young challenging 2012, Jordan Zimmermann has made that leap by virtue of his near-20 win season in 2013.  I believe these two guys can stay as #2 starters for the next few years, until they hit the regression stages of their careers.

#3 Starters:  A.J. Cole has regained his mojo after bouncing around the California league and advanced to AA this year.  He features a significant fastball and but complaints in the scouting world about his secondary stuff lead him to a #3 starter prediction.  I think he should be a #2 ceiling, and perhaps a spring training working with the Nats staff can get him back where we thought he was when we drafted him.  I’m sure picking Robbie Ray to have a higher likely ceiling than his 2013 AA counterparts would be mocked.  But look at the evidence: he’s the same age and same draft class as Cole and has consistently out-performed him when they’ve been on the same team.  He’s lefty, he averaged well over a K/inning this year, and suddenly he’s 22 and he may be “done” with AA.  Why aren’t his credentials higher with prospect-watchers?  It isn’t has if he’s a soft-tosser; he throws decent stuff from the left side.  I continue to think he’ll move along with Cole and they’ll be promoted to the majors within a couple of weeks of each other, perhaps mid 2015.

#4 Starters: If you want to say I’m crazy for thinking that Tanner Roark can maintain his September pace as a starter for this team, I can understand.  I’m not personally convinced that he’s going to be a mediocre 6th inning reliever or continue to be a Kris Medlen-in-2012 anomoly who continues to get guys out.  For now, i’m rooting for the better story.  Meanwhile I’m also not convinced that I have Taylor Jordan pegged properly; I think honestly he could be a #3 pitcher in the league.  This lack of real punch-out capabilities is what’s holding him back for now.  That being said, guys don’t just come up to the majors and post a 3.66 ERA.  For now, a #4 ceiling sounds good.

#5 StartersI’ve come to believe that Ross Detwiler‘s reached his ceiling; his 2012 season is as good as we’re going to see him.  Not because of a lack of talent; its because he just can’t stay healthy.  I’ve seen and heard reports that Detwiler’s stuff is fantastic; that’s great on paper but he just can’t seem to translate that to the big club on a consistent basis.  I would not shed a tear if he headed to the bullpen, other than to think that its a waste of his talents.   I also feel like Sammy Solis will stay as a starter and continue to climb up the ranks, and tops out as a 5th starter just by virtue of his being left handed.  There’s just something to be said about being a lefty with decent stuff being able to hang around the league (think of someone like Eric Stults).  

MLB Bullpen: Right now i’m projecting a whole handful of our good minor league starters to eventually get transitioned to the bullpen.  Which is good and bad; good for this team as they continue to develop arms and continue to have quality guys in the pen.  But bad in that it predicts a severe thinning of the starting pitching corps.  First off, I think the Christian Garcia as starter experiment is over; he needs to focus on being a reliever so that he can stay healthy and contribute.   I believe that Ross Ohlendorf‘s time as a starter is over, but he should slot in nicely as the 7th guy/long-man/spot-starter that this team will need here and there in 2014.  The more I think about Nathan Karns, the more I think he’d make an excellent setup guy.  Big arm, big fast-ball, not really that much secondary stuff.  He got hit hard as a starter; in shorter stints he could dial it up more and focus on his limited arsenal.   Unfortunately I think Matthew Purke may be headed to the pen as well, but his gun-slinger action could make him an excellent later-innings pitcher, perhaps even a closer, if he can translate that to a bit more velocity.  Lastly the reported two biggest arms in the minors (Jake Johansen and Blake Treinen) project for now as bullpen guys.  Again, I hope I’m wrong, but so far the evidence seems to point at big velocity and little else.

What is a 4-A starter?  A guy basically who looks good in AAA but who, for whatever reason, can’t translate that success to the Majors.  They may get a call-up here and there but never pitch well enough to stick.  This is how I see a handful of guys ending up: Brad Meyers has been hanging around this status for several seasons and just can’t get a break.   I’ve also tagged some guys with good numbers in the lower minors but with fringy scouting reports with this for now, thinking that a lack of a dominant fastball means they’ll stay as a starter until they reach their peak.  Taylor HillBlake Schwartz, and Austin Voth all seem to fit this bill.  Lastly the curious lack of dominance of Brett Mooneyham lends me to believe he’ll end up in this predicament as well.  I hope I’m wrong here; I’d love to see these guys take the leap, or (save that) find success in the bullpen.

Career Minors Starter: Unfortunately, I think we’ve seen the best that Danny Rosenbaum and Yunesky Maya can give; they’ve both had shots at a major league roster and couldn’t stay.  I think they’ll retire as AAA starters.  The rest of these guys listed are mediocre-to-decent starters in the system who don’t seem to be listed as true prospects.  I’m specifically disappointed thus far in Kylin Turnbull, who couldn’t make the leap to high A and seems like he needs to make some sort of adjustment in 2014.

Career Minors Bullpen guys: When Ryan Perry passed through waivers off the 40-man roster, his chances of ever making it back to the majors took a huge dent.  Paul Demny‘s precipitous drop this season also seems to spell doom for his career.  And apropos of nothing else, Ronald Pena seems like he has achieved the dreaded “organizational arm” tag.


On the bright side, the top-heavy nature of this list gives fans optimism for the power of this rotation for years to come.  In 3 year’s time (if Giolito, Ray and Cole all matriculate as expected) you’d have two Aces, two #2s and two #3s to choose from for your rotation.  That’s significant, considering that lots of teams are scraping the bottom of the barrel for their 5th starter.  If Ray and Cole turn into servicable major leaguers, you could trade/let go a guy who gets too expensive (Gonzalez or Zimmermann) with an able, cheap replacement.  Maybe I’m too high on Ray and Cole (who are both youngsters) … but then again maybe i’m too low on Jordan and Roark (both of whom have already shown the ability get major league hitters out).

Agree/Disagree/Hate what I’ve written?  I’m open to criticism.

 

41 Responses to 'What is the “ceiling” of various Nats pitching prospects? (Updated for 2013)'

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  1. Great article Todd. I’m looking forward to your expanded thoughts on Strasburg’s past year.

    Personally I’d love to just go wth our own young guys to fill out the rotation rather than a costly trade or FA pickup that would block some prospects. It was fun watching Jordan and Roark this year and much easier to root for your home grown guys. I’d rather see a handfull of them get a shot than another 8 figure salary disappointment.

    I’d rather go cheap and consider that money spent instead on dumping LaRoche. Just two atrocious years from this guy, and even his big year for us had some really long cold streaks. When he is bad it is really bad and can last for months. So one dimensional too, not even being able to slap a few through the wild shift they’d often play on him. That looks like the only spot to get another more consistent, real professional bat in the starting lineup so i’m hoping we can marginialize him. Geez.. at least I hope Matt Williams won’t start him and others 30 straight games through massive slumps like Davey did.

    On other fronts, I’m anxious to see what kind of damage Ryan Zimmerman can do with the bat when truly healthy for the first time in years.

    Marty C

    12 Nov 13 at 4:02 pm

  2. I think you have nailed it other than a couple of guys. I’m not convinced Purke is destined for the bullpen. I think he may be just a frustrating as Detwiler is but I think he will make it to the big leagues as a starter and hang around like Detwiler has. I saw a recent report from the AFL that says he is back up in the 92-93 range which is encouraging. Next year is obviously a huge year for his development.

    I also think that Austin Voth has more potential. He flat out blew away hitters at 3 levels this year posting a 9:1 K:BB rate. He demonstrated fantastic control. He also led the Pac-12 in strikeouts this season. While I’m not predicting him to be anything special I think he has a change to land in the 5th starter field or at least as a possible late inning arm with the strikeout numbers he has put up in college and his pro debut.

    I think I agree about Karns now being best suited for set up duties or maybe eventually a closer. I was reluctant but now that some more depth has built up around him I think he can be transitioned to relief without it hurting the organization.
    I also think Mooneyham is a curios case. He

    pdowdy83

    12 Nov 13 at 4:29 pm

  3. Interesting take. I agree with a lot of this, and am more optimistic about some, less optimistic about others, than you are Todd. Thanks for posting.

    In the “more optimistic” category, I’m surprised that you are sending Johansen (bullpen) and Voth (4A) off to purgatory so soon. It seems to me that Johansen is a poor man’s Alex Meyer – when the Nats drafted Meyer he was a big RH power arm with questions about his mechanics and complementary pitches. The Nats smoothed out Meyer’s mechanics and turned him into a top prospect; there is a nonzero chance, which is pretty much the definition of “ceiling” or “best case scenario,” that they do the same with Johansen. I don’t know that much about Voth, but he’s 21, throws strikes and gets out so far. Too early to really tell with him. I also think that Purke’s ceiling is #4 starter, with reports coming around on him. Heck, even noted Purke critic Keith Law admitted that Purke has improved in his eyes, although with faint praise: “Improved from zero, yes. Could not promise you he’ll stay healthy, but chance for three average-ish pitches.” Left handed with three average-ish pitches seems to me to be squarely in the John Lannan/#5 starter range at least.

    In the “less optimistic” category, I’m a Roark skeptic. His six year minor league career ERA/WHIP: 4.04/1.303. His 53.1 IP in the major leagues ERA/WHIP: 1.51/0.913. I tend to think that the six years is more predictive than the 53 innings. His yeoman work this year is enough to take him from “organization depth” to “in the mix” for me, but it’s hard for me to see him as more than a #5 long term. As you would say, I hope I’m wrong.

    John C.

    12 Nov 13 at 5:06 pm

  4. Dang – for some reason my initial response seems to have been swallowed up; apologize if this is double posted. Short form is praise for posting this, substantial agreement, a few quibbles. I’m more optimistic than you on Johansen (Alex Meyer redux?), Voth (although I’m not sold by this year, IMHO it’s too early to write him off as 4A) and Purke (even noted Purke critic Keith Law said in a chat a couple of weeks ago that Purke had improved a bit in his eyes, though “[i]mproved from zero, yes. Could not promise you he’ll stay healthy, but chance for three average-ish pitches.” Three average-ish pitches from a LHP is pretty much the definition of your John Lannan/#5 starter, and I’d still peg him as a possible #4. Not the dominating arm they hoped for, but not without value.

    Less optimistic: I admit it, I’m a Roark skeptic. He had five mediocre minor league seasons (4.04/1.303 ERA/WHIP in the minor leagues) before turning it on this year at AAA and in Nats Town. His 2013 has taken him all the way from organization depth to possible #5 starter in my book, but I have a hard time seeing him any higher. As you would say, I hope I’m wrong.

    John C.

    12 Nov 13 at 5:18 pm

  5. I still have no idea what Purke’s ceiling is, I don’t think he’s fully recovered from his college coach yet.
    Cole & Ray are fascinating here; they’re both young and already effective in AA. Can’t wait to see what they do in 2014.

    Mark L

    12 Nov 13 at 7:11 pm

  6. Great post, and I really can’t disagree with anything. I guess, to quibble, I would bump Jordan to a 3 and Roark to a 5, and Purke still needs to show me more before I even put him in a big league pen. Also, probably not as high on Ray as you, but you make good arguments.

    I am with you on Det and Karns in the pen; I may have suggested that a few posts ago. But I think both would be very effective there, and for a win now team, there are worse things then a strong pen (assuming you can solve the last rotation spot).

    Wally

    12 Nov 13 at 9:43 pm

  7. Hey Marty good to hear from you!

    Home grown versus FA: If this team had a known budget and was broaching it, then yeah I’d agree with you on going with home-grown versus splurging on FAs. I’m not sure what the team has learned from its one-year free agent experiments in Jackson and Haren … other than this: Jackson got $11M to produce 2.0 WAR (not great value but not awful either) and Haren got $13M to produce 0.2 WAR (imagine what his WAR was for the first half of the season if his great 2nd half only got him barely over positive?). Clearly these one-year deals cost them a lot of money for value that could easily be replaced internally. But then what do you do with that money? Normally you’d buy more offense … but there’s noplace to buy that offense right now on this team, unless you’re dumping someone (LaRoche, Span).

    I’m hopeful LaRoche rebounds; it is a contract year after all. Zimmerman; i think 2014 is the year where he proves he can continue to play third or he gets put to pasture at first. Key years for a lot of guys. Is Span the 1st half guy or the 2nd half guy?

    Todd Boss

    13 Nov 13 at 7:33 am

  8. Purke: havn’t seen the best scouting reports on him this year. And I wanted him to be more dominant in high-A this year than he was (4.43 ERA, just 41Ks in 61 innings). Agree on your sentiment that 2014 is important; he’ll be a 24 year old presumably starting in high-A; that’s way old. If he was a legitimate mlb prospect (and still the 1-1 valued prospect he was after his freshman year at TCU) he would have just blown away A-ball hitters. That’s why I think he may be destined for the bullpen.

    Voth: don’t disagree that he could be a 5th starter type. Hope he does; I liked how quickly he ran up the system this year. There probably isn’t a whole lot of difference between “4-A starter” and “5th starter” anyway.

    Todd Boss

    13 Nov 13 at 7:45 am

  9. John: I un-spammed your first comment. Not sure why it went in there.

    Johansen as Meyer: yeah that’s definitely a “glass is half empty” approach. His college numbers were awful. He lasted til the end of the 2nd round in a relatively thin pitching draft. He dominated short-A but struggled in low-A (short sample size sure). I’m thinking he has a big fastball and not much else. Which says “closer” to me. I’m also buying into the whole “big men have a hard time repeating mechanics” narrative that plagues Alex Meyer in the scouting circles. I’d love to see either/both guys become the next version of Randy Johnson; a dominanting massive dude who throws upper 90s AND has a release point a foot closer to the plate than a 6’0″ guy, so his ball looks even faster.

    Roark: I admit i’m vascillating between skeptic and believer. 53 innings is a LOT of innings for him to continue to be as effective as he was. This isn’t a case where we brought Brad Peacock up to get two starts in september against teams that had patently given up on the season and he shut them down, so everyone thought he was the next coming of Roger Clemens. This is a guy who had lots of appearances in varied roles and delivered, Every time. I had a chance to chat with him briefly at a golf event and got the impression that Syracuse is a pretty difficult place to succeed in (terrible weather, no crowds) … which makes me wonder if we shouldn’t take all AAA numbers of our guys with a grain of salt. For now I’m hoping its a case of a guy with talent who just never got a shot suddenly becoming a viable candidate for the rotation. There has been one change recently that lets me put more credence into his 53 innings versus 6 ML years; the increase in velocity thanks to mechanical tweaks. That can make a big difference.

    Todd Boss

    13 Nov 13 at 8:13 am

  10. Jordan: absolutely had him at a #3 when I started this … bumped him slightly down b/c he didn’t have quite as dominant numbers and he needs to stay at that level. But he is a sinker ball guy, he does depend on a lot of movement and a lot of poor contact as opposed to swing-and-miss stuff. So I can agree on a #3 starter (which’d be just awesome for this organization, total found gold).

    Todd Boss

    13 Nov 13 at 8:15 am

  11. Cole and Ray: yeah 2014 will be exciting for them. If they start in AA and continue to dominate as they did in 2012, suddenly they’re either in AAA or are facing a realistic shot of providing value at the MLB level (kind of how the team promoted both Karns and Jordan from Harrisburg this year). Maybe this all points towards NOT spending dollars on a FA to fill MLB rotation spots.

    Todd Boss

    13 Nov 13 at 8:17 am

  12. John C. – I’m with you on Roark. I really like the guy. I got to see him pitch several times in AA before a couple season ago and he didn’t strike me as anything special. I think I look at him as another Craig Stammen type. The type that blooms a little later and can be effective at the major league level. I think Roark has a better chance to stick in the rotation as a back end guy but even if he just turns into Stammen 2.0 that is a huge win for Rizzo considering he got him for the bag of bones that was Christian Guzman.

    In defense of Johansen not pitching as well at Hagerstown as he did at Auburn he did put up a scoreless 5 inning start in the playoffs in what was only his 3rd start at the level. If you add that in to his other 2 starts it really does make his low A debut look better and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be counted in with the regular season for him. The playoff start drops his ERA from 5.79 to 3.76 over 14.1 innings. His WHIP drops from 1.93 to 1.60 which is still high obviously but he improved from start to start in all 3 (some bad defense behind him in his 2nd start) which is what you want to see as a pitcher jumps a level. I’m thinking he ends up in the bullpen eventually but he is definitely more intriguing at this point than he was when we drafted him.

    pdowdy83

    13 Nov 13 at 9:03 am

  13. Johansen; absolutely a SSS critique of his starts in low-A. Lets see how he does in 2014. Lets hope he starts in low-A, destroys it like he did short-A, and forces his way up to Potomac.

    Todd Boss

    14 Nov 13 at 8:05 am

  14. OK, I’ll give it a crack:

    #1: Giolito in 2017???

    #2: Strasburg, Zimmermann, Gonzalez, Cole (2016). We’ve been told since he was in college that Stras is a #1. He’s got good peripheral stats, but he’s not there yet. An ace has to win 17+ games AND come up big in the big games. We’re still waiting to see that. He still has the potential to be the #1 that we all hope he will be, but if it doesn’t happen this year, we’re going to wonder if the window is starting to close, even at 25. As for the others, Zmann was about a 1.5 this year, as Gio was last year, but I don’t know that either has that next gear to lead a staff. Cole has the *potential* to make it to a #2, but I would bet that he ends up being a trade chip again before he gets there with the Nats.

    #3: Detwiler. It’s probably wishful thinking, but when healthy, he has some of the best stuff on the staff. In the playoffs, he had by far the strongest start. He’s a big key to the depth of the rotation right now, for 2014. But with his injury history, it’s also hard to count on him, now or for the future.

    #4: Jordan, Ray

    #5: Roark, Solis, maybe Purke (big maybe)

    #6 (spot starter, long man): Ohlendorf, Schwartz, Hill

    Potential 8th/9th inning guys in the bullpen: Garcia, Karns, Johansen, Krol

    Beyond this group it would just be throwing darts. Those seem to be the guys with the most potential upside. The trick is to have a better handle on that potential than anyone else and use the marginal guys as trade chips. The Braves did that well for many years with guys like Bruce Chen, Odalis Perez, and Jason Marquis. But they messed up royally when, in addition to Marquis, the Cards got them to include a very young flame-thrower in the J. D. Drew deal. I wonder whatever became of that Wainwright kid.

    KW

    14 Nov 13 at 9:02 pm

  15. Strasburg as a #2: by any measure he’s still one of the best 20 starters in the game despite his W/L record. In a “down” year for him in 2014 he was still 14th in FIP, 11th in Siera, 11th in xFIP, 10th in K/9 despite the whole “pitching to contact” mantra from McCatty, and was 2nd in average fastball for qualified starters. By my definition of an Ace (one of the best 15-20 guys in the game) he is still there. We’re just disappointed because he’s not in conversations right now as “the best pitcher in the game.” Maybe he’s still coming back from TJ in some respects; look what Zimmermann did in 2013 with one add’l year removed from surgery. Maybe Strasburg comes out and blows everyone away early 2014.

    Detwiler as #3: I believe he’s got #3 talent but 4-A health. How do you reconcile that? Right now in November 2013 I have zero confidence that Detwiler will even be healthy enough to make the rotation. To be a #3 starter you have to be capable of making 30 starts, throw 200 innings. I would wager money that Detwiler never reaches 200 innings in his career. That’s why i stuck him lower.

    Todd Boss

    15 Nov 13 at 7:36 am

  16. Just a total suck up comment but I wanted Todd to know that this is now one of two “must read” blogs for me and I enjoy the comments as well. I figure you might need to get feedback to continue and I don’t know if blogs can target people that just read and don’t comment. Thanks for improving my knowledge of our team and baseball in general.

    Go Nats!

    SJM 308

    15 Nov 13 at 9:39 am

  17. I don’t disagree, and I probably framed it wrong by not listing Strasburg as #1 “potential.” He was also 8th in WHIP and 6th in hits allowed per 9 innings. But as you noted, he had a “curious lack of dominance” in 2013. Or maybe it was brief lapses in dominance, those handful of things in otherwise solid starts that left him and the team in trouble. The Nats lost in 16 of his starts and went 2-7 in his June-July starts as they fell out of contention. The team did go 7-1 in his last eight starts, during which he was only credited with three wins. Plus Uncle Scott assures us that he’s doing much better now health-wise.

    All of this said, the Nats will not take the vaunted “next step” unless and until Strasburg does. Most of us don’t want to consider the “but what if he doesn’t” argument. What will make the difference? I’d be very interested to hear your take. It seems to me to be a combination of focus and then the need to turn up the gas when a bloop or an error puts him in a pickle. He seemed to do better with the latter late in the season. But then the team as a whole was hitting better and playing better defense behind him by that time. I’m sure he got frustrated with the results of the pitch-to-contact approach early in the season when the defense kept letting him down, as did the run support. You can take the hit-this-if-you-can approach with much more confidence if you don’t feel like you’re going to have to win every game 1-0 or 2-1.

    As for Detwiler, I freely concede to wishful thinking. Based on his track record, I’m not even sure whether he can be counted on to be a regular #5, much less a #3, which is why there’s so much scuttlebutt that Rizzo wants another starter. On the flip side, Det’s arm has very low mileage for a starter entering his 28-year-old season. Gio has thrown 522 more MLB innings than Det has.

    Speaking of Gio, he seemed to regress somewhat to his A’s mean last year, which is closer to a #3 than a #2, at least for a contending team. We can hope with the Biogenesis cloud no longer looming, he can get back to 2012 form.

    KW

    15 Nov 13 at 11:17 am

  18. Thanks Stephen! Like most of us this is a labor of love, an outlet to express observational opinion and occasional useful information :-) I’ll continue as long as I feel like i have things to say.

    Todd Boss

    15 Nov 13 at 11:52 am

  19. On Strasburg … are we disappointed that he’s no longer in these “would you take Kershaw or Strasburg for the next 10 years” conversations, and thus he’s now underrated? People have a tendency to love the “new shiny thing” and this year gave us a lot of new, shiny arms. Harvey to lead off, but also the likes of Wacha, Miller, Fernandez, Cole, Cingrani, Wheeler and Ryu just to name a few. If you asked people right now if they’d prefer Fernandez or Strasburg … i’d bet more people would take the new kid.

    Here’s a couple of fun facts when we talk about wons and losses: Clayton Kershaw; near unanimous NL Cy Young winner right? 1.83 ERA, just amazing season. He had 33 starts this year. Despite his favorable looking 16-9 W/L record The Dodgers went just 19-14 in his starts. How is that possible? How does a guy who gives up 1.83 runs per 9 innings end up with his team losing 14 of his 33 starts? The answer is run support: 3.85 on the season, and in almost half his starts his offense scored him 0,1, or 2 runs.

    Lets do the same for Strasburg. He had 30 starts. Amazingly the team went 14-16 in his starts. Stras’ run support: 3.39 on the season, and the team scored 0,1 or 2 runs in 16 of his 30 starts. That’s just ridiculous. I counted three losses Strasburg took when he gave up Zero earned runs. He had several NDs where he gave up zero or one run through seven innings. That’s not Strasburg’s fault; that’s his team’s season long offensive issues.

    It reminds me of the season Cliff Lee had in 2012: he went 6-9 in 30 starts despite a 3.16 ERA.

    Lesson: as Brian Kenny would advise … ignore the Wins and Losses. I know its hard to do; we’re talking about stats that have been thrown around for more than 100 years. With just a bit more run support Strasburg likely would have had a significantly better record. I went through his 30 starts and, based on his starting line (6 and 2, 7 and 1, 6 and 4 etc) opine that he “should” have had 17 wins, 6 losses and 7 no-decisions/shortened starts. If Strasburg was 17-6 with a 3.00 ERA/1.049 whip instead of 8-9 with the same stats … would we be worried about him?

    My take on Strasburg; immaturity/loss of focus evident on more than one occasion when errors made behind him. He’s got to man up on that and I think he’s learned his lesson after being embarassed in the press. I think McCatty does him a dissservice sometimes dialing him back. Maybe he won’t get “deflated” when he sees his team suddenly scoring runs for him. I dunno. Maybe he was hurting more than we though (I have a link somewhere that says he was hurting most of the season).

    Todd Boss

    15 Nov 13 at 12:22 pm

  20. Part of the argument that the #1 for each team has to be the best is that in general, he will end up matched up against the opposition’s best and can expect less run support. So a #1 has to be expected to overcome that and at least leave his team in a position to win.

    I was curious about how rotation slot correlated with run support. For the Nats in 2013, here are the team W-L record when each starter pitched, along with the run support during the starts:

    Strasburg 14-16 3.39
    Gonzalez 19-13 4.69
    Zimmermann 22-10 4.59
    Haren 11-19 3.12
    Detwiler 5-8 3.63

    Jordan 4-5 5.17
    Ohlendorf 6-1 5.16
    Roark 3-2 5.11
    Karns 2-1 6.12
    Duke 0-1 0.00

    Significantly, and somewhat surprisingly, the Nats bombed the #2 and #3 starters who, generally speaking, were matched up against Gonzalez and Zimmermann. But they struggled mightily against the #1 and the #4 (Haren), and for the first part of the season against #5 (Detwiler’s slot). They did much better against the lower end of rotations later in the season, as shown by the support for Jordan, Ohlendorf, Roark, and Karns. This isn’t surprising, as most teams are plugging in guys at #5 at that point, as the Nats were. All told, the Nats went 20-18 in the starts by the guys other than the four full-time starters, in large part thanks to the team’s 6-1 record behind Ohlendorf.

    Rotation matchups get off as the season progresses, so one shouldn’t read too much into this. But it is curious when some starters, across an entire season, get an average of more than one run a game of support more than others do. Did the hitters let up a little more in Strasburg starts, thinking he would take on more of the burden? Did they basically give up in some of the Haren starts when the Nats fell behind early?

    Most importantly, what do the Nats have to do in 2014 to flip 12 of the L’s back into Curly W’s? Obviously the #4 rotation slot is a good place to start.

    KW

    15 Nov 13 at 2:16 pm

  21. You know Ken, i’ve thought about that #1 versus #1 argument from a previous discussion last year and tracked it for all of 2013. I have an xls that tracked it start by start; at the beginning of each series I tracked where the opposing team was in their rotation. (here; i’ve just posted it online). Check this out: Here’s how many times Strasburg ended up matching up with the other team’s “Ace” (as defined by #1 spot in their rotation): 32 times. Thats it. 36 times versus the #2, 32 times versus #3, 23 times versus a #4, 26 times versus a #5 and then 13 times versus what I called a 5+, which was a guy who was a AAA callup from the original 5 member rotation for each team opening day.

    What I found out is this: teams off-days are so scattered that literally within a couple weeks after opening day its almost entirely random whether our #1 guy faces someone else’s #1 guy. Three turns in Strasburg was already facing the other team’s #2 guy, then the next turn he went against Atlanta’s #5 guy. Then, Strasburg misses a start, gets re-inserted in the #3 spot and suddenly its totally random. Because of this I also tracked, start to start, where that night’s opposing starter was ranked 1-5 amongst his own team (so you could say “hey Harvey may have been a #2 starter but he was easily the Mets best), and I made a judgement call on the opposing starter’s “league wide” rank, classifying him as a #1 league wide (Kershaw) to a #5 (Zito).

    As you surmised … because the rotations get off q uickly, its hard to get any judgement on how the team did run scoring wise per Nats starter.

    I think you’re closer to the truth with what you said about hitters letting up for various reasons. did they score fewer runs for Stras knowing that they didn’t NEED to score 5 runs to win his starts? Did they score fewer for Haren because Haren was constantly getting lit up in the early innings so the game was completely out of hand? Just as you said. I’d believe it. Roark comes in, is pitching lights out … and the team produced for him. Why did they also produce for Ohlendorf? Beats me … maybe its because Ohlendorf was basically pitching spot starts, so the team battered the opposing spot-starter (likely a 4-a call up) too.

    Here’s a cool stat I like looking at: Nats record by runs scored. When the Nats scored 5+ runs they’re basically unbeatable (62-2). Score 3 or 4 runs a .500 team (16-15) and 0,1,2 they were 8-57. Now, what’s different here is just how badly the Nats in some of these cases in 2013 versus 2012. In 2012, they were 17-6 in games where they scored 4 runs. Not 6-5 like this year. That’s a 6 or 7 game swing. In 2012 when they scored just 2 runs they were still 9-12. In 2013? 7-22. That’s 10 more losses right there, a significantly bad drop for a team that just wasn’t scoring. I just think the precipitous drop in offense put the pitchers on too much of a tightrope all year, and it showed.

    Todd Boss

    15 Nov 13 at 3:56 pm

  22. This is fun.

    I’ll play a bit.

    I think we have to credit, to some degree, the maturity of a person learning how to pitch and to use their stuff. I prefer to reflect on Tanner Roark’s ascent in the same way that I would Henry Rodriguez’ flameout. Roark eventually learned how he needed to use his stuff, and did, late in a season of 17 losses. Near the end of that 2012 season, he showed enough flashes that he got a spring training invite. And last year was notable for his consistency, which is what figuring it out brings. In a way, it’s what we have been waiting for from even a healthy Ross Detwiler.

    So, since starters do not grow on trees, I’ve come around to the idea that Roark belongs in the rotation, and has proven he deserves an inside track as much as even Detwiler. He gets folks out, he can pitch clutch, and he does not beat himself. He should be considered for a long relief/#6 role only if Jordan and a healthy Det beat him out in the spring. But that is a long discussion.

    As for the list, AJ Cole deserves special consideration as a guy who figured out his own progressions at AA. I expect him to be at AAA early in the season, if not at the beginning. He is, in my estimation, the best starting prospect in the Nats system.

    Speaking of which, Richie Mirowski’s fall puts him in this discussion. He will move up to AAA and there is no reason why he should not eventually, along with Tyler Herron, be potential ML relief arms.

    One person whom I was hopeful about, Caleb Clay, was lost by the Nats to the Giants as a minor league FA. After the Christian Garcia promise, I see this as a good sign that the farm system is so good that they cannot find enough 40 man spots. Clay had every reason to get a spring invite.

    Other important farm developments: Souza’s continued ascent, which will next see AAA. What a surprise his speed game was this fall!

    And Michael Taylor, who has inspired debate on this board. Melissa and I were ridiculed about his exposure in rule 5; he is now tearing up Puerto Rico. Just saying. He is more valuable to the organization that Tyler Robertson. But then so is Aaron Barrett and Sammy Solis, by a mile.

    forensicane

    17 Nov 13 at 11:27 am

  23. forensicane- We’re not the only ones who are high on Michael Taylor (although if I’m not mistaken, that’s the A’s Taylor in Puerto Rico). He’s received a lot of recognition recently on Nats top prospect lists and was even named #12 on the Carolina League top 20 (for reference, AJ Cole was #10) and was also named the top defensive outfielder in both the Carolina League and the Nats system. Solis and Barrett should also be protected and are obviously older and closer to the majors, but Taylor is important to the organization too. We can’t really afford to lose a top 10 organizational prospect. It’s like a repeat of the Destin Hood dilemma except that Taylor has actually had results.

    Anyway, in regard to this post, I have to agree with most of it, although I wouldn’t put Jordan and Roark on equally footing, partly due to age, but also because I think that Jordan is more likely to stick as a starter and Roark will end up as a long man in the pen. I also think that it’s too early to place labels on 2013 draftees. All in all, there were a lot of exciting developments with minor league pitchers this past season, and I can’t wait to see how they follow up in 2014.

    Have you heard anything about any GCL guys who seem likely to progress to Hagerstown next season? I’ve got to say I’m extremely interested in Jefry Rodriguez, Wander Suero, and Hector Silvestre. They all have the height (especially Rodriguez) and the velocity from what I’ve heard.

    Melissa

    17 Nov 13 at 12:38 pm

  24. Melissa, thanks for the correction (an important one). I don’t want to belabor the Taylor issue, I only recalled it because it inspired a dismissive tone that I’m not used to in such a pleasant environment. In my own mental prospect list, I don’t even have Taylor that high; I simply wished for him to be protected because his ceiling is higher than higher rated prospects like Eury Perez (whom one has to protect), and lower rated players like Solano (who does not need to be on the 40 man, in my opinion). But Taylor will be playing everyday in Harrisburg and will leave Hood on the bench just like Billy Burns did.

    A few comments on your response. I don’t equate or even compare Roark at all with Jordan, I only distinguished him on the mental side as someone who has figured it out. What I would also add is that he PROVED he could pitch and win in the ML, and did it when the games mattered. Roark’s was not some idle September callup.

    As for Jordan, I would compare him to all of the other Nats injury projects — and that includes Purke, Meyers, Giolito, as well as Zimm, Solis, and Strasburg. His first year back is better than his first time back in the year previous. But it is not a measure of what he is capable of. On the plus side, we see JZimm really taking off last year. On the minus we saw (a newly injured) Strasburg still not yet the #1 we still expect him to become.

    So the optimist in me says that Jordan will be a better pitcher in 2014, with the reigns off. If he stays healthy. But while he showed a lot of promise, he has not yet shown that he can get through a complete game in the majors, far from it. So, in my mind he has a bit to prove still before he goes into a championship rotation. Roark was amazing in long relief in AAA and likewise in DC. So he gives THIS staff real options if there is flexibility.

    With that said, I wrote a post some months ago with suggestion for an off season plan. Count me among those people who do not want to break the farm system for a #1 starter unless its expendable parts. We all have a different perception of what that means.

    To me, the Nats need a huge run producer who adds to the clubhouse. I’s love to see an option other than LaRoche. I’d also like to see what value Soriano and Span would have. With that said, a Price or a gio-type redux could be done in a three way just like Morse was dealt, and with certain parts from the farm system that are attractive to that third or fourth team.

    I think the Nats overhype certain prospects to get trade leverage. I wonder whether they were doing that with Brad Peacock and Derek Norris. I think this is what’s happening with Brian Goodwin and perhaps with Sammy Solis. Maybe Purke as well. If that is the case, I can live without this year’s version of “Tommy Milone.” And for that, I generally trust Rizzo.

    We have to keep timing in mind and the concept of walk year. LaRoche will never be resigned, no matter how god this year is. Span will not be resigned either, because by this time next year, everyone will be as enamored of Steven Souza as an outfielder who should start just as I am (which is why I have no problem with trading Goodwin in the right deal). Soriano will not be resigned. So how does one maximize value? The Morse deal was a steal for the Nats, and an important lesson.

    Going back to the thread above, apart from injury, maturation can take someone to another level as well. My vote for the top five pitching candidates to make that step in our thinking is 1) Ian Krol 2) Blake Treinen 3) Taylor Jordan 4) Nate Karns and 5) Matt Purke. Then there will be folks from the recent draft classes that get a chance to start who come from nowhere – David Fischer? Keep an eye, of course, on Dakota Bakas.

    As for the lower levels, the dispatches favor Jefry Rodriguez in the eyes of the organization, and Hector Silvestre is a lefty who was already well-thought of enough to pitch at Potomac before the GCL season. Perhaps the biggest factor is who adjust psychologically to being out of the little Dominica bubble at Viera. I’d welcome the input of those who have watched them closest.

    forensicane

    17 Nov 13 at 4:29 pm

  25. Actually, Melissa and all, apparently that’s OUR Taylor after all:

    http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?pos=&sid=t436&t=p_pbp&pid=572191

    Someone else to watch now that the AFL is done…

    forensicane

    17 Nov 13 at 7:28 pm

  26. That’s nice! When I checked at the beginning of their season, the team roster had the A’s Taylor listed, but that must have been a mistake. It’s an easy mistake to make, after all.

    Melissa

    18 Nov 13 at 6:38 am

  27. Also bummed we lost Caleb Clay. I hadn’t heard that bit of information. But the team that got him makes a ton of sense. If i’m Clay, and I’m looking at my chances of being on a MLB roster for 2014 with the Nats or the Giants … you have to pick the Giants. They only have like 2.5 starters right now.

    http://www.baseballamerica.com/statistics/players/mlfa.php?pName=&pos=All&fTeam=WAS&win=All&lvl=All&nTeam=All&signed=All&action=Filter

    But as others have said … the Nats have more than a few important guys they need to stash ahead of Rule5 draft (maybe I should publish my pre-rule5 draft analysis …), and if they made the determination that they’d rather keep the likes of Solis and Barrett versus Clay, I can understand.

    Todd Boss

    18 Nov 13 at 7:35 am

  28. Taylor; I know you guys love him … and i’m starting to come around on him a little bit. I can see the potential. I’m sure we’ll argue about him again because he’s rule 5 eligible and the team has a decision to make, whether to protect him or not.

    Jordan versus Roark: they had almost an identical number of innings for the 2013 Nats. One guy had a 104 ERA+, the other guy had a 252 ERA+ and led the league in that measure for anyone with 50+ innings .. even taking into account the uber elite relievers. For me, right now, I think Roark is the better long term guy. Maybe not by much. How much can Jordan improve? I guess that’s the question. Even if Roark regresses and is “only” a 125 ERA+ guy … well that’s still pretty good.

    Todd Boss

    18 Nov 13 at 7:42 am

  29. Melissa: Definitely too early to really judge Johansen and Voth, I agree. I threw them in there as the two highest drafted starters and the two guys who seemed to make the most impact out of the 2013 draft. The analysis is basically driven by scouting reports that all say the same thing about Johansen; big arm, bullpen guy. However i’ll freely admit that was also the diagnosis on Alex Meyer and thus far he’s doing just fine as a starter. So maybe its lazy scouting. But, I wanted to put them in there since they’re the names we know so far out of 2013.

    Todd Boss

    18 Nov 13 at 7:48 am

  30. Todd (and all),

    This is why we can expect trades off the 40 man and/or involving people not on the 40 man. There simply aren’t enough spots and the other organizations know the talent when they see it (they are not waiting to see what Jon Mayo and Keith Law say). Perhaps Taylor is being showcased, just as I alluded to Solis and Purke. Perhaps Giolito is being overhyped for trade value as well, because Rizzo wants to pull a big fish(es).

    Whatever the case, this brings to mind a few points: 1) Prospect rankings are done for us and to create gas for other teams’ lazy front offices who do not do the eye tests. The fact that this organization has picked up less heralded minor leaguers who have blossomed frequently (Walters, Roark, Krol, Cole at low value) in trades tells you all you need to know about whether the minors are being run right.

    So I watch the less heralded people more intensely, because their numbers and the quiet that surrounds them tell you all you need to know. That is why I was all over Roark when people were on Karns, why I have been all over Souza ever since his 9 RBI game kicked off his 2012, why I am a big Walters and Billy Burns and Blake Treinen fan. And why you should watch a guy like Dakota Bakas. The Nats know what they have and don’t need to hype who is coming, it will take care of itself.

    Nobody cares what I think, but at the phase of minor league free agents, I ranked three Nats at my top of those whom I really hoped would return:

    1) Caleb Clay – see above
    2) Josh Johnson – Proven multitool middle infielder with power who can hit off the bench and great team and clutch guy
    3) Michael Broadway – 98 MPH fastball and closed in AAA before late season (non-arm) injury.

    Well, I may not be that smart, and I am no scout and I know nothing about baseball. But wouldn’t you know, that 90% of the free agents have not signed, but those three folks have. The Nats got Johnson back (hurrah!), and lost Broadway to the Jays, the same organization that once tried to take Cole Kimball. But there is a lot of relief depth coming up from AA (Herron, Mirowski, more?) so Broadway, at his age, was expendable. BTW, Kimball is fourth on my list; he has been frustrated with the Nats and I expect him to go elsewhere. But he is another of those surgery survivors, so he may yet blossom.

    Bottom line: The system is rosier than you think. So the Nats will package the replaceables on their top prospect list to get a big fish, or at least will try to, even as they may package the Soriano or LaRoche types for a Morse like deal that stocks the low-middle) minors, hopefully with position players who can play defense and hit the long ball.

    forensicane

    18 Nov 13 at 11:48 am

  31. PS – Barrett is one more reason I think Soriano will (and certainly should) be traded. He keeps getting better as he rises and folks from his AA team are more sure of his major league potential than they were even about Karns and Krol. He is one of the top. He is my #5 prospect on the team.

    One more point. For all the prospect hype that we get turned on by, who made the team to stay this year? Rendon (everybody’s #1), Roark (from “nowhere,”) Jordan (from the periphery), and at the beginning of September, Erik Davis (from the periphery), Sandy Leon (from oblivion), Corey Brown (from the division of “too old”).

    Just sayin’

    forensicane

    18 Nov 13 at 11:56 am

  32. I think Solis and Purke were both in the AFL for specific reasons; coming off injuries, they just didn’t get enough work. I don’t think either guy was good enough this season to be the centerpiece of a deal. Both are “behind” thanks to their arm issues, but both are significant draft prospects (2nd rounder and a 4th rounder who got 1st round money) who the team will give every chance to succeed.

    Anytime I see someone go from Washington to Toronto I think “Dana Brown.” Brown knows our farm system and knows where the value is.

    Giolito: I don’t think there’s any hype there. If he hadn’t hurt his arm his SR year of HS, he could have gone 1-1. And there’s a reason; big guy with a big fast ball with easy arm action … think Matt Harvey capabilities. IF the Nats trade him, I want something significant coming back (David Price). I’ve read more than one pundit who looked at his performance this year and have speculated Giolito could be one of the very top prospects in the entire game. That’s pretty significant; you look at the BA #1 overall prospects over the past few years and there’s some pretty significant names. That’s nothing to take lightly.

    Barrett; he could be this year’s version of protecting a guy like Erik Davis last year. Solid AA releiver who can contribute in the majors quickly. That’s fair. But these “top 10 prospect lists” are a combination of present and future value, and the guys who put them together (like Mayo and Law) absolutely value potential over production to some extent.

    Soriano getting traded: no way. There’s no way the Nats trade the “proven closer” in a year they’re trying to make the WS. You may not agree with the signing (I didn’t like it certainly, under the guise that the save is overrated, 95% of games are won with 2-run leads in the 9th inning no matter what era or what pitcher is on the mound, etc), but I can’t see it being undone after just one year. I think Barrett could compete with the ineffective Ryan Mattheus for one of those righty-6th/7th inning spots this spring for sure.

    Todd Boss

    18 Nov 13 at 12:11 pm

  33. I am high on Michael Taylor. He has pop (57 extra base hits this year) that is still developing. He stole 51 bases AND had an 89% success rate this season which is very good. He plays plus defense in CF and has an above average arm. He struck out 27% of the time in 2012 but got that down to 23% this year. He had a 9.8% walk rate which was also up about .5% this season vs 2012. The Ks are trending down now and the walks are going up a bit. Yes he is still raw but I have seen several Adam Jones comparisons recently. People think he could develop to that level of power while playing better defense and hitting left handed.

    The 40 man roster is only at 38 right now and there are several expendable/tradeable pieces on the 40 man roster to clear room for any signings and guys like Michael Taylor and Aaron Barrett.

    Tyler Robertson – DFA
    Fernando Abad – DFA if a lefty is signed
    Ross Ohlendorf – Trade/Non-tender
    Corey Brown – DFA
    Eury Perez – Trade
    Jeff Kobernus – Trade

    I’m not saying Perez or Kobernus would bring back anything major but they are guys that teams in need of some depth might jump on. I think Ohlendorf right now has decent trade value to several teams like the Twins, Astros, Giants etc. IE; he is cheap cost wise and can relieve or start for a non contender/pitching depleted team. He is redundant for the Nationals if they plan on signing or trading for a pitcher this offseason. Maybe you trade him for a lefty reliever/bench bat etc.

    pdowdy83

    18 Nov 13 at 1:09 pm

  34. Fangraphs ran an article called ‘The best minor-league basestealers of 2013′. They use a liner weighting model, which I won’t pretend to understand or explain.

    Billy Burns was #1 (ahead of Billy Hamilton) and Taylor was 5th.

    Wally

    18 Nov 13 at 2:33 pm

  35. Damn, I had the wrong count in the 40 man. For weeks.

    Todd Boss

    18 Nov 13 at 2:38 pm

  36. Todd,

    Thank you for the response. A couple of points:

    1) Clearly, Solis and Purke were indeed chosen for the fall league to get in more work and to use instruction in live action. But look closer. Solis, never pitching above A, was being touted by Rizzo for ML lefty relief, conjuring the Cardinals and old Orioles — and he is Rule 5 eligible? That to me smells like a hawker at a bazaar. It’s one thing to put someone at the AFL, another thing to use the PR machine to build their profile.

    2) Michael Broadway only entered the Nats system in 2012, post-Brown.

    3) I think the count is 39 on the roster. Souza is not listed in most accounts.

    4) To me the only certainty for DFA is Tyler Robertson. I would also do the same with Solano, who will not be claimed now — there are too many free agent fringe catchers and he can be offered a spring invite with the Nats.

    5) As for Burns, he ignited a moribund Harrisburg team so much so that they made the playoffs with a power outage. He isn’t a base stealer, he is a game changer in the same way that people gush about Hamilton. I wonder what we will be saying about him a year from now.

    6) I’m a Corey Brown fan. Why not give him a chance at 4th OF? I appreciate Kobernus as well (if the team trades Lombo).

    7) Sell high trades of players may include Ohlendorf. He is cheap and coming off a superior year for him. He is expendable, though, and has more to offer than Mattheus to a trade partner.

    8) Eury Perez is an impressive player who is unappreciated by us because he does not walk. But he is still very young. He has some value in a multiple player deal – but Brown can do more things and just needs a shot. If Corey had a chance to play every day the next time Harper runs into a wall, he would fare better, in my opinion, than Lombo.

    9) I don;t feel strongly about it, but perhaps it is time to kick Abad to the curb. He had a chance, and he was not even Mike Gonzalez, let alone Sean (Jaunty) Burnett.

    10) Other than Solis, Taylor, and Barrett, who is rule 5 eligible that should be protected?

    forensicane

    18 Nov 13 at 5:14 pm

  37. About Giolito:

    I am not disputing the ceiling he was drafted with.

    I am, however, wondering how much substance to folks saying he could be the best pitching prospect in the minor leagues (until he dominates for a whole year and stays healthy).

    The difference between great and perennial all-star great may mean a lot in negotiations for people like Stanton (we dream) or Price or someone we haven’t yet been made aware of.

    forensicane

    18 Nov 13 at 5:18 pm

  38. Morning Forensicane. Lots of comments: my thoughts:
    1) Solis/Purke in AFL: Maybe there as a showcase. Maybe they’re there because they’re the best high-A to AA prospects we have right now and that’s who the AFL wants so we’re just following the rules. Maybe the Nats wanted to see if these guys could take the next steps against better competition; frankly given their talent and draft pedigree, both guys should be much further along (yes I know they were both injured … still, a 25yr old in high-A when many 22 and 23 yr olds are debuing in the majors right now with great success?).

    3) 40-man: You’re absolutely right; Souza isn’t on the MLB 40-man roster for the Nats. So I had it right in my notes. Grr. Well that’s interesting; is Souza actually on the 40-man roster then?? The supposed 11/1/13 addition of Souza, reported by various beat reporters, is not listed on either the MLB transactions page nor ESPN’s.

    4) Robertson is my #1 DFA candidate for space right now, followed in order by Brown, Abad, Cedeno and Mattheus. AFter that you cut deep.
    4) Solano DFA; no way. The team only has three frigging catchers on the 40man right now; they’re not going to cut one loose.

    6) I know you love Corey Brown but I just don’t see anything more than a career Bull Durham guy, a minor league masher who just can’t stick in the majors. Where do you see Brown on the real depth chart right now? Span/Harper/Werth your starters, clearly Moore is in line to be the 4th OF. Then Kobernus was up before Brown this year, as was Perez. And at this point, would you rather see Souza get a shot or Brown? So at best he’s 6th on the OF depth chart, more likely 8th out of 8 outfielders.

    7) I could see the logic for moving Ohlendorf, perhaps if Detwiler gets pushed into the Pen and fills that long-man spot … but then again, is Ohlendorf any better than the litany of ex #5 starters who are just trying to stick around and will settle for a minor league contract to go toil in AAA for no money? If we offer him arbitration he’s guaranteed $1.5M or so.

    8) Perez; i’m souring on him. Unless he’s the next coming of Willie Mays in center, I don’t see the value. If he’s such a speedster, why did Kobernus have double the SBs in AAA this year with 30 more points of OBP in the same number of games? Who would you rather have? That’s why Kobernus is ahead of Perez on the depth chart. Yes Perez is y oung. He’s also just finishing his 7th professional season. That’s a lot of minor league time.

    9) Why cut Abad?? Better numbers than Krol this year. That doesn’t make any sense. You keep a resource like Abad until he either proves he can’t do the job or he gets too expensive.

    10) I have a draft post on this topic and those are the 3 big names to consider … there’s really almost nobody else even worth talking about.

    Todd Boss

    19 Nov 13 at 7:27 am

  39. Giolito: how many independent talent evaluators do you need to hear it from before you believe it? I just don’t get your dismissing of Giolito as some PR machine creation. If we were jsut hearing about how great he was from Rizzo and Nats beat reporters that’d be one thing. But when every outlet who covers minor league prospects for a living raves about his recovery and his come back and talks about how he’s shooting up their charts … well then i’m a believer.

    Question: was he or was he not routinely named at the time, prior to his high school injury, as a candidate to go #1 overall? Yes he was. So, that means that, in the entire industry with all 30 teams doing upper-end evaluation, he was a consensus top end talent. Recovery rates from tommy john are extremely high these days. He’s reportedly regained his HS velocity. He’s only going to get stronger in year 2 and 3 after surgery, as we’ve seen from what Zimmermann has done.

    Todd Boss

    19 Nov 13 at 7:31 am

  40. Todd Boss

    19 Nov 13 at 3:09 pm

  41. I’m not diminishing him. I’m just one of those folks who wants to see a body of work and not a body. I’m forensic, not a cattleman.

    Ask me next June and then I’ll be willing to feel more enthusiasm for him than I do the pitchers who have demonstrable results.

    forensicane

    20 Nov 13 at 5:23 pm

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