Nationals Arm Race

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

Quick thoughts on Garcia and Hill Moves Today


Garcia just couldn't ever make it back. Photo unknown credit.

Garcia just couldn’t ever make it back. Photo unknown credit.

Quick thoughts on the two major pitching-related transactions this week.

  • Nats finally cut the cord on Christian Garcia, after attempting to nurse him back to health for most of the past few years.  They got moments of brilliance (the 2012 playoffs basically), but mostly they got frustrated promises of future utility.  There were more than a few arguments in this space even as late as this spring from people who thought Garcia was going to break camp with the team thanks to his grand total of 12 2/3 MLB innings, merely on the promise of what he could become.  I hope someone picks him back up and gives him another shot (maybe the Yankees, his original drafting team?).  One small nit: I can see perhaps DFAing the guy to make room on the 40-man; why bother outright releasing him at this point?  What harm would there be in keeping him in Syracuse to see if he gets it back?
  • Taylor Hill, who I thought would be lucky to start in AA this year, let alone dominate AAA has he has (9-2, 1.92 ERA), gets added to the 40-man and called up.  I say bravo to him and bravo to the Nats for rewarding a guy who didn’t appear on *any* prospect list for the Nationals, anywhere.  This guy was a *senior* sign, a 6th round cost-savings draft pick in 2011, a guy who probably signed for a few thousand dollars and whose ceiling of expectations was perhaps two good years in A-ball eating innings before getting released for the next crop of draftees.  Hill may only be up with the team for a couple of days to give some bullpen innings, but now he’s on the 40-man, where he’ll likely sit for quite a while.  Maybe he even pushes for a 5th starter spot sometime in the future.

Lets hope Hill gets some time tonight or in the next series so we can do a “first look” post.

Written by Todd Boss

June 25th, 2014 at 3:58 pm

16 Responses to 'Quick thoughts on Garcia and Hill Moves Today'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Quick thoughts on Garcia and Hill Moves Today'.

  1. Todd, I think we have to give some props to Paul ‘Magic Man’ Menhart here. The best, or at least one of the best, pitching coaches in all of baseball. I was critical of the fact that the Nats moved him up to AAA this year because I thought he should be at the lower levels teaching the kids.
    It’s amazing through the years of what has happened to pitchers after they’ve spent time with him, Taylor Hill just being the most recent example.
    His signature accomplishment last year was repairing A.J. Cole after his disaster of a stint with the A’s organization. Cole will likely be the Nats #1 pitcher in a few years.

    Keep up the good work, Menhart. He surely must be the most underpaid member of the Nats organization.

    Mark L

    25 Jun 14 at 7:39 pm

  2. 1. Agree completely on C. Garcia. It seems like there must be a back story that pushed them to believe it was time for him to move on (either his desire, or the team’s).
    2. Congrats indeed to Taylor Hill. It would have been easy to just bring up a reliever for this stint, so they must have real confidence in Taylor going forward to go ahead and use the 40-man slot now.


    26 Jun 14 at 9:26 am

  3. Garcia – He is not to be confused with Henry Rodriguez, as a person who is waiting for his mind to come around to his arm, but occupying a 40 man spot in the process.

    No, Garcia was a demonstrated talent who rocketed through the system and had overpowering stuff in test and in deed. He was a demonstrated talent even after recovering from last year’s injury. On another Nats staff, he might have made the 25 man roster out of spring training. And most important, his rebound from two surgeries, as well as last year, showed that he has a level of determination on par with Tebow. That is a guy you bet on.

    We do not know the nature of his injury, and it is classy of the organization to keep that quiet. But there is simply too much talent in the organization to hide him (or folks like Purke) any more, without a trade. Perhaps, if he clears waivers, there is a future for him in the minor league system off the 40-man. But he is no fair haired boy that we overrated, any more than the enthusiasm for Taylor Jordan being unwarranted.

    As for Hill, his ascent illustrates that while we drink from the Sickels-Law Kool-Aid, the developmental trajectory of other prospects has a way of rewriting the script — with results. Case in point: Aaron Barrett.

    And there are others. Suddenly Matt Grace is relevant. So is Gilberto Mendez. Perhaps Nick Pivetta.

    Incidentally, with the anticipated promotion domino of Cole to AAA and Simms to AA, the Hagerstown DH tonight provides interesting dramatic storyline: Realistically, both Suns starters could be making their last A- start before promotion, to replace Simms. Giolito and Pivetta ought to be ready at this stage for that test.

    I may be delusional, but I’m watching the remaining draft unsigned saga with interest. The Nats have a boatload of bonus money available for #1 and #2, both pitchers with injury history. They also have a bevy of unsigned HS picks in the later rounds who were highly rated in their regions. Is there a hedge plan if Fedde and Suarez don’t play ball?


    26 Jun 14 at 12:23 pm

  4. Forensicane: on Garcia, notice DFA him; they outright released him. They cut all ties without consideration of keeping him. At least with Dobbs they DFA’d him to see if he’d clear waivers likely with the thought of stashing him in AAA. My guess is that he’ll pass through waivers and stay.

    To be fair to Sickels and Law, they’re trying to project kids based mostly on impact talent. I think, after reading their stuff for quite a while, it is safe to say that their rankings do not project who may rise up the ranks to be a 4-A starter (Hill?) or a middle reliever (Barrett) or a utility player (Kobernus), to use three examples of players in our system who do not generally earn rankings placements but who made 40-man rosters and/or got promoted to the majors. I used to think the same way; “why is Lombardozzi not on theses lists but he’s getting starts in the majors?” And I think it comes down to this; htey’re trying to project who in an organization is trending to be a starter, a star, an impact guy, not who’s going to hang around the fringes of the 25-man roster. To that end, that’s why someone like Purke keeps getting mentioned while Barrett does not. Barrett’s are a dime a dozen on rosters; fungible right handed arms who can do well one year and break your heart the next (Mattheus, anyone?)

    Todd Boss

    27 Jun 14 at 9:05 am

  5. On Garcia, noted and notable. It brings to mind the stated organizational philosophy that they will take chances on elbows (TJ) but not shoulders. They gave Brad Meyers a long leash but eventually cut bait. And Garcia’s injury, per MLB Trade Rumors, was the shoulder. Purke’s shoulder was but the first of his problems, and that has not panned out.

    I wonder how this plays into the negotiations with Andy Suarez. What would be allocated to his bonus no doubt affects whether Byler, the slugging 1B, is in play. Byler told an interviewer yesterday that he is “waiting.” Suarez had a great year, but with shoulder issues, does the pie they have to work with affect the level of commitment they are willing to make, without closer exam?

    As for the other point, the jury is out on whether Barrett is closer material. I appreciate your allowance about Sickels and Law, and I appreciate that they have an opinion. I just don’t agree, though. They simply do not do enough investigative homework to smell folks who have the it factor that eventually makes them ignite.

    When Doug Harris, from inside the system can tell us before spring training even starts, to look out for Wilmer Difo and Destin Hood, that tells you who the horse’s mouth is.

    And as you know, I have long felt that Souza is the best hitting prospect in the Nats system since Rendon was promoted last year. He clearly turned the corner in 2012, and it was obvious from the day he had 9 RBI in one game early that year. He will be a starting ML outfielder, for this team or another. Notice that while we are all on Taylor (and even Goodwin) , Souza is getting 1/3 of his starts in CF.

    And I am a layperson, as are we all. Just as Luke Erickson can call our attention to Michael Taylor being the best CF to ever come through Potomac because he watches the games, and you yourself see people you just see something in and teach the rest of us. My point is only that these folks are not so probing to take things far enough, though Sickels is covering an entire game and that is unbelievable. One should be read with curiosity but people should VOLUNTEER their own thoughts and conclusions, and think for themselves, which makes this great blog better and more informative.

    I recall that my impressions about Taylor even changed when I read from Melissa that he had 19(!) assists from CF last year. That is an example of a little something that tells you that yes, I know WHY that guy has that much more. Perhaps the reason why Simms got promoted to AA. His numbers are not good, and his velocity is unimpressive. But his dominance at times shows a maturity for pitching that he gets the call even though others like Bacas have better numbers and have been at A+ longer. All of us are capable of looking out for these intangibles and I think all of us should inject them into the discussions, which forces us to think and scout for ourselves.

    This blog is the best, absolutely for such original thinking.


    27 Jun 14 at 11:37 am

  6. Elbows versus Shoulders. Cole Kimball another name that just never could come back from his shoulder issues. It is what it is I think; shoulders are tough to come back from while TJ surgery has an 85-90% success rate and a pretty decent “returning to the same or better form rate” of about 66%.

    I meant to ask Keith Law a question this past week about this same issue;what is a better “prospect” in your eyes? A guy who features as a fringe of the 25-man roster or a deep minors prospect with fantastic stuff but who is unproven? Why wouldn’t a team value a close-to-the-majors guy like Aaron Barrett more highly over someone like Austin Voth (who looks very promising but who is only in A-Ball?) Because otherwise, yeah, it doesn’t make sense. Why does Barrett appear no nobody’s lists but then is protected ahead of the rule5 and now is posting a 220 ERA+ as a middle reliever pitching *real* innings in the majors?

    Sickels had Barrett #14 or so on his pre-season org list, Treinen #17 or so while Goodwin remains at #3. Its actual versus potential. Goodwin was such a good prospect coming out of HS that he remains elevated. If you could re-do that list right now .. clearly you re-order. In fact every pundit I track has the same exact top 3: Giolito, Cole, Goodwin.

    Guys like Sickels and Law are also bounded by simple logistics; they just can’t see every guy on every team every year, enough to form an opinion. Fans in potomac who go to games regularly (like Luke) see players day in and day out. As do area scouts. You have to get multiple eyes on a player to ensure you’re not seeing him on an especially good or especially bad day, or a day where he’s a bit hung over, or a day where he’s especially hot. Law goes to great pains to remind people that he depends a lot on the opinoins of others, that he talks to scouts and bounces ideas off of them. But still, his priority is posting content to a website, not truly evaluating players for an organziation. Clearly, as we now see. Washington knows what it has, knows who to protect and who to call up. And its great to see.

    Souza. dunno what to tell you now. The Nats may not have ANY free OF spots in 2015 and beyond … Zimmerman may stay in left, Harper may move permanently to center, Werth is stuck in right. Maybe Zimmerman goes back to first to free up a spot. Then you say, who better “fits” the profile of who Rizzo likes to see in center? Taylor or Souza? Seems to me its Taylor. Maybe Souza is bound for first? Maybe they’re packaged together to buy the Nats next trade target.

    Todd Boss

    27 Jun 14 at 2:54 pm

  7. Todd, on the prospects. I think these guys get stuck on the prospects that are high draft picks and show tools and flashes. The problem, to me, is not that they value their potential, which is still real — it’s that they are too slow to react to the players who take it up a quantum leap and overtake them.

    The Barrett and Treinen examples are worth looking at more closely. Menhart made it clear last year that he felt Barrett was a major league closer — last year. That was a big leap forward from where he had been in organizational plans only one year prior to that. Yet that was only enough to get him to #14 at year’s end.

    As for Treinen, he was 17 based on potential alone and a decent leap from A+ to AA. He had stuff but lacked consistent command. But the intangible that we should consider at our end is, how long has the player been playing? How well has he really grown into his talent. That is why a player like Treinen you can see having a higher ceiling when he finally pulls it together. And he showed that this spring and has carried that into the regular season, to be sure – he is performing way better at AAA and in the ML than he did last year at AA.

    So the bottom line is that we here are likely the first to sense that a player is going to be overtaken on the prospect depth chart.

    I have been wrong about Nats trades before, so I won’t start with that now. It’s clear that Espinosa is a utility player who remains at low value unless a team is overly enamored, has lots of blocked farm talent and in need and will do a Capps for Ramos kind of deal. It’s clear that Span is blocking Souza (who has nothing more to prove to get a realistic shot), and possibly Taylor.

    It’s clear that Taylor’s CF abilities peg him for that spot if he continues his ascent.

    It’s clear that Walters has major thunder in his bat and merely needs to fix his strike zone judgment and defense and then he will be ML ready.

    It’s clear that Zimmerman is not giving the team good value right now and is seriously compromised unless he can play third. If someone were to be moved to 1B to accommodate talent, the team is better off with Werth going there, unless Moore or Walters end up there. The team has outgrown Zimm’s drama.

    Skole has righted the ship. He may not be ready for 2015, but the way he has been hitting in late innings is unbelievable. I am watching his progress particularly closely.

    There has to be the right chemistry at the ML level, and so I cannot see trades happening before the deadline, which is July 31, correct?

    But with that said, the team has enough time to play with everyone off the DL and in the starting lineup to make long term decisions about how to find a place for young, controllable star talent that the system. I cannot see them letting affordable Souza or Taylor get away without shoring up starting spots in the Nats lineup, long term. That would essentially give the Nats an OF long term of Harper, Souza, and Werth, graduating into Harper, Souza, and Taylor by 2016.

    Surely they will bring up Taylor in September, to audition him before making a decision on Span.

    As for Werth, he is a heart and soul player and the team is well served by moving him to 1B if they are looking to replace LaRoche next year by sliding someone over. And where does that leave the quieter Zimm if he cannot play 3B? Out in the cold.

    So many decisions relate to the speed of prospects’ development and decisions to make long term investments. I think we have seen Span’s ceiling, and defensively it is high. But not high enough to overtake the risks of Taylor. And not high enough, perhaps to outweigh the defensive ceiling of Harper in CF with Souza on one of the corners.

    Even in a trade, the organizational needs are less. Power lefty starting arms are in high demand by the organization because of the extremely disappointing and uncertain futures of Purke, Solis, Rivero, Nick Lee, and Hector Silvestre. There is no replacement plan for Desmond if there needs to be, unless Walters takes that big defensive leap.

    But otherwise, the team has chips that are ripening, risking becoming overripe, and are in the thick of a pennant race with players who have no long term future with the club but are integral to its chemistry (LaRoche and Span) and others who may be on the unsustainable decline (Zimm).


    30 Jun 14 at 11:44 am

  8. Understood on overvaluing blue chip prospects and hanging on to them too long. But there’s also something to be said about scout-trackers not really paying attention to right handed middle relievers, 4-A starters, and utility infielders. Where’s the value in those players? More often than not, they’re near-zero WAR players, completely replaceable with the next wave of fringe players on the roster. I’m not saying that this defines Barrett necessarily (who’s put up nearly 1 full win in just a half a season), but it may very well define the likes of Jordan, Hill, Kobernus, Perez, etc.

    I’d be shocked if the team re-ups with Span or LaRoche frankly. They need LaRoche’s spot for Zimmerman and Span just isn’t producing where he needs to be. Harper says he can play center and I believe him. But if not, they can give Taylor or Souza a shot for next season. That’d leave the team needing a second baseman (assuming Zimmerman to first, Rendon back to third). Maybe Walters and Espinosa compete for the starting 2nd baseman job.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 14 at 8:32 am

  9. You are right about how overlooked the challenge is to distinguish a 4A starter r even a 5A starter like Justin Maxwell and someone like a Chris Davis who just blossoms when given the right chance. Tough job they have…I was one of those pulling for Corey Brown and he is on the downswing. And Billy Burns has not replicated his AA success of last year (neither has Blevins).

    The lesson from Desi has to be that defense can be developed and refined. If the organization can hire outfield and infield defense instructors that are the equivalent of Menhart, people like Walters can turn into not just ML starters, but high impact starters. Certainly we know what someone like Walters needs to be working on in the off season.

    It’s hard for me to envision a Rizzo/Williams team gambling on putting an untested Souza or Taylor into a starting lineup for a team that is expected to compete for a championship. Of course, Williams has used Barrett in high leverage situations, and went with Taylor Jordan over Detwiler. September callups will be more interesting this year than last. I still think Souza gets the next shot because there are a lot of intangibles to his game that reflect his maturity. But Taylor’s season has been unbelievable and poses an interesting reassessment of his ceiling. No one expected him to be the organizational leader in HR at this point, and from the leadoff spot? Wow.

    The easy point is that both have a higher ceiling than Span. If the team saves lots of money on LaRoche and Span, they can make needed steps to keep folks like Fister and possibly JZimm (unless he brings an incredible haul). We’ve also learned that flashes like Taylor Jordan can quickly turn into flashes.

    I know Zimm to 1st is a serious discussion, but I just don’t see it happening for the good of the team — which will grow old unless he is putting up fantastic hitting numbers. We just have to hope he turns it all the way around at 3B.


    1 Jul 14 at 1:42 pm

  10. If they say good-bye to LaRoche, Span and Soriano, that’s nearly $33M they’ll have to play with. $33M can buy what they’re missing rather easily. Soriano is replacable, LaRoche is a great hitter but the team needs his position, and Span’s days as a starting lead off hitter are over.

    Say you keep Zimmerman in left long term; that frees up 1B for a masher/slugger, if you stick Harper in center. Could bring Morse back, or try Adam Lind (best FA first basemen on the market this coming off-season, or you give Moore the spot. Or you try Souza there and rotate him around the field. Then your only trouble spot is 2nd base; have Espinosa duke it out with Walters and whoever sticks, sticks.

    I’d rather keep Werth in the OF frankly, which for me means Harper in left, Zimmerman at first and open tryout for Taylor/Souza in center. YOu have McLouth as a backup just in case.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 14 at 2:47 pm

  11. Some good news. Byler will reportedly sign and has been a power beast in the Cape Cod league.


    2 Jul 14 at 11:10 am

  12. Sweet. The Nats have been *really* slow to sign their leading guys.

    Check it out: a handful of teams still havn’t signed their 1st rounders like us, but we’re one of only two 2nd rounders unsigned. ON the other hand, the draftracker looks like its a bit behind; reporting signings of a couple other top 10 guys.

    Todd Boss

    2 Jul 14 at 1:40 pm

  13. We should not sleep on the late high school draft picks, either. They are all very highly regarded, and as late as last week, one of them was saying he was undecided about the pros vs. college.


    2 Jul 14 at 5:38 pm

  14. Everyone is now in the fold except 1,2, Salters, the several HS guys in the 30s and the last pick. I have to think that the discussions with the higher picks could have impact on the lower picks.


    2 Jul 14 at 5:41 pm

  15. I’d be *shocked* if any of the HS guys we picked in the 30s (or any HS guy picked that low for that matter) sign. The team can’t offer much more than $100-200k for them; that’s not going to be enough to buy a projected 1st/2nd/3rd rounder out of his college committment. Who would take that amount of money instead of trying their hand in college to see if they can’t improve their stock? Now, if you get offered life changing money, you take it. But where’s the savings for the Nats in their bonus pool right now?

    Todd Boss

    3 Jul 14 at 10:09 am

  16. You can pay for a college education as part of negotiation without it counting against bonus.

    Also, the team signed the #11 and #18 pick, both HS.

    The lesson from college football is that some athletes simply care to go on to a professional career and let college sort itself out when they are older.

    The scouts have felt out the players, I am sure. Some of the commitments are irreversible. But others may not be.

    If Suarez did not sign, for example, what would that free up? How would it be allocated. If he or Fedde went under slot, they would not have to be under slot by much to add serious coin to a player who expected to go higher.

    The team has already saved. Only Reetz went above slot, and his spread was largely paid for by the #5 under slot deal. The #7, #8, and #10 deals were under slot, Byler well over. And then there is #11 and #18.


    3 Jul 14 at 12:21 pm

Leave a Reply