Nationals Arm Race

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

State of the Nats at the halfway point


Harper's run production in the middle of the order should spark this team now that he's back.  Photo via

Harper’s run production in the middle of the order should spark this team now that he’s back. Photo via

When Bryce Harper was reinstated from the D/L on 6/30/14, an interesting situation occurred:  The Nationals were at full strength for the first time, all year.

That’s right.  With Doug Fister starting the season on the D/L, even those who think that the team was at “full strength” for the first 7 innings of the first game (that’s how long it took before a Nationals offensive starter got hurt) aren’t quite right.  This team has been hampered and has been covering for injuries to its best available squad since the first day of the season.  Here’s a review of the tale of the injury tape for the ideal 25-man roster of this team so far in 2014:

  • Doug Fister; strained shoulder 3/23/14, missed 34 games
  • Wilson Ramos: broken hand on 4/1/14, missed 32 games
  • Scott Hairston; oblique strain on 4/6/14, missed 26 games
  • Denard Span, concussion on 4/12/14, missed 7 games
  • Ryan Zimmerman, broken thumb on 4/13/14, missed 44 games
  • Bryce Harper: torn thumb tendon on 4/27/14, missed 56 games
  • Adam LaRoche: strained quad on 5/11/14, missed 14 games
  • Gio Gonzalez, shoulder strain on 5/18/14, missed 27 games
  • Ramos again, this time a hamstring strain on 6/11/14, missed 14 games

2/5ths of the rotation and 5/8ths of the starting offense have at one time or another been on the shelf so far this year.  More than 250 games lost.  Ironically the oldest player on the team (Jayson Werth) has been one if its healthiest (he’s only missed 4 games this year).  And (knock on wood) there hasn’t been a single bullpen injury, likely one of the main reasons the Nats bullpen is among the best in the game this year.

The Nats (at the time of this writing) sit 1/2 a game out of first behind nemesis Atlanta, but have several reasons to be optimistic about catching them:

  • The Nats have a +39 run differential right now, while the Braves have a zero run differential.  That means that the Nats should be 9 games above .500 (according to pythagorean records) while the Braves should be a .500 team.  The Nats have been unlucky while the Braves have been quite lucky.  You could expect these situations to reverse themselves over the rest of the season.
  • The Nats are just 2-7 in extra inning games and 9-13 in one-run games.  You’d normally expect both of these W/L records to be near .500 and is likely the real reason behind the above run differential issue.
  • Despite the heart of their batting order missing dozens and dozens of games, the offense is not doing half bad: the Nats as a team are 8th out of 15 in the NL in WRC+, 8th in runs scored, 8th in wOBA, 10th in batting average, and are 10th in homers despite Zimmerman having just THREE on the year.
  • While the Offense treads water, the Pitching has been fantastic.  Our starters are 5th in the NL in ERA, 1st in FIP, 2nd in xFIP, 2nd in SIERA.  The bullpen has been equally as good (a huge improvement over last year):  2nd in NL ERA, 1st in FIP, 6th in SIERA.
  • The starters lead the NL in FIP despite Stephen Strasburg‘s “struggles;” ironically despite his having a .500 record an a 3.70 ERA he has the best FIP of any Nats starter.   He’s just been victim of circumstance while he pitches.   Blake Treinen has been fantastic covering in the rotation, and the team has found an excellent 5th starter in Tanner Roark.  Games that were “thrown away” time and again last year by Dan Haren and a litany of poor-performing minor league call-ups have been handled with aplumb this year.

Where do we go from here?

The Nats schedule from here on out eases significantly; as of the time of this writing the last three months look like this:

  • July: 10 of 25 games against teams with winning records right now
  • August: 12 of 28 games against teams with winning records right now … and that includes teams that very well may have losing records by the time we get to them.
  • September: Just 9 of 27 games against teams with winning records right now, including the final 11 against Marlins and Mets teams likely to be playing out the string with 40-man call-ups from AAA and key young arms sitting due to inning limits.

For this Nats fan, its hard to see the same struggles we saw last year; I see a team finally getting their squad back together, having a solid July and perhaps a dominant closing to the season to fulfil its promise.  I like where this team stands right now (even with the tepid split in Chicago last weekend) and look forward to the next few months.

37 Responses to 'State of the Nats at the halfway point'

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  1. Great; just what this team doesn’t need. A “schism” between its star and its manager.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 14 at 11:27 am

  2. Buster Olney caught ahold of Tom Boswell’s column and expanded on it. Boswell has gone out of his way to seemingly foster and over emphasize conflict between Harper and old-school/team guys and has done it again here. Great.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 14 at 11:55 am

  3. Great post. I’m optimistic, too (health permitting).

    A few things we’ve been able to see, and to learn:

    Storen, Clippard, and Soriano are all in top form. Barrett is the team’s rookie of the year. Stammen has not regressed. Detwiler may yet come around and emerge in the second half. One has to wonder whether his adjustment was complicated by the tail end of his rehabilitation. Competition will inspire most players to hide injuries when they can.

    Having Fister in for the rest of the season will be exciting, and even as well as the starters reflect, one has to be more optimistic about Gonzalez and Strasburg and what they can produce.

    With the exception of LaRoche, every single Nats starter, yes including Rendon, is capable of producing substantially better. And now they are at full strength to get that chance.

    Werth takes care of himself better than most; he is neither Prince Fielder now nor will he be in two years.

    And then there are the comebacks. The team has heart. Now it has its characters.

    The sportswriters are bored gasbags. Williams will “put him in a locker” if it needs to be done, and nothing more.


    1 Jul 14 at 2:33 pm

  4. Cripes, Boswell is a self important old gasbag. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I saw a Nats team that looked more fired up last night that it has in awhile. I hope Bryce keeps saying what he really thinks. It is much more entertaining than hearing the same old Bull Durham cliche-isms.

    And frankly, I’m not impressed with how Williams has managed this team. Calling our Harper publicly earlier this was exactly what any leadership school will tell you not to do. Span and his crappy .310 OBP continuing to plague the leadoff spot is a disgrace. And batting Harper 6th in the order is just plain dumb. If the Nats blow it this year, they will have their “old school” (read: meathead) manager to blame.


    1 Jul 14 at 3:59 pm

  5. bdrube: Couldn’t agree more, on all counts.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Boswell is indeed the “dinosaur” that national columnists like Shoenfield and Law have accused him of being, and today’s column served zero purpose other than to put another lash onto the “arrogant youngster” Harper. And in his dinosaur/old school ways, he’s in love with Willimas, who comes straight out of the Kirk Gibson Grit/toughness/old school prepatory academy. Lot of good its doing them in Arizona; they’ve traded away nearly all their stars for 40 cents on the dollar to acquire players who fit their style and are safely in last place in the NL West.

    Why have the team’s veteran players (Span, Werth, Zimmerman and LaRoche) almost NEVER deviated from their “preferred” lineup spots (1st, 3rd, 5th and 4th respectively) while Harper and Rendon have each been juked all over the lineup (in Rendon’s case, batted every where from 1st to 8th). Shouldn’t you adjust your lineup to your best hitters, not the other way around?

    Maybe you can quibble that the team’s “best” lineup right now does indeed exclude Espinosa in favor of Span. I would make that argument as well. Span may not be a world beater, but he’s better than Danny. BUT, as you point out, the time to move Span from lead-off to 8th is looong over due. Werth isn’t hitting for any power anymore; frankly i think he should be hitting leadoff. Certainly he’s got the pitches-per-atbat and OBP figures to be an excellent leadoff hitter much as he was during his wrist recovery two years ago.

    Werth-Rendon-Harper-Zimmerman-LaRoche-Desmond-Ramos-Span-pitcher. Book it dan-o.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 14 at 4:34 pm

  6. Is Boz a dinosaur? Almost certainly, and I agree that he has some attitude towards Harper of the ‘you haven’t earned it yet’ variety. But I don’t think he is in love with Williams, and I think he was probably right about Harper this time. I don’t think it should have been said, not publicly. What point did it serve? Does he not have credibility internally to make those points privately and be taken seriously? I doubt it. Rizzo has always had his back, and that’s why the Arizona nonsense won’t happen here. Rizzo isn’t going to give away talent for grit. He might take grit when he views the talent as equal, but he is going to go for the talent first, is my view.

    Your lineup is probably the one that I’d go with, too.


    1 Jul 14 at 10:11 pm

  7. I feel like Boswell’s article was an attention grab, that he asked loaded questions of a kid until he got answers that he could spin into a big headline.

    Rizzo may not give away talent for Grit, but he’s absolutely shown that he’ll give away talent to get “the piece” that he overtly seeks. Look no further than his years-long coveting of Denard Span. You think this team is better served with Span versus having an Alex Meyer waiting to be called up? Rizzo was obsessed with getting “speedy leadoff/centerfielder” however he could for quite a while … and despite Span’s OBP being like 6th or 7th of all the starters he continues to be a suck at the top of the order. Who is that on? Williams? Rizzo? Or both?

    Todd Boss

    2 Jul 14 at 10:27 am

  8. Amen Todd. I could personally manage this team with a pitching staff of Fister, J-Zimm, Stras, Gio, and Roark to this record. This is possibly one of the greatest staffs in the history of baseball and should have far more wins than it does.

    MW’s stubbornness about keeping the vets comfortable at the expense of young guys is maddening. Having Greg freaking Dobbs taking ABs away from Moore was just plain moronic and Espy starting all but 2 games over Walters in 40+ days had no basis in logic. Span should definitely be batting 8th, or better yet, he should be the 4th OF playing fairly regularly with Walters batting 8th and playing 2B the other days (Zimm in LF, Bryce in CF). I understand Span isn’t the biggest problem, but to maximize this season, we should be testing out other players like Walters, Souza, etc and see if there is anything worthy there rather than trotting out the mediocre guys (Span, Espy, McL, etc) day after day.

    Andrew R

    2 Jul 14 at 12:16 pm

  9. Sorry – Espy/Frandsen starting all but 2 games over Walters in 40+ days…

    Andrew R

    2 Jul 14 at 12:18 pm

  10. There are several different points here. (1) sure, Boz was probably attention seeking, to a degree, but Harper has to know when to reel it in. We all know players hate to be embarrassed in the media, so there was no reason for Harper to leave Span hanging out there. A few days earlier he was asked virtually the exact same thing and said almost the same answer, but ended it with ‘CF is my favorite position and I’d love to play there all the time, but we have the best CF in the game already there …’ Great answer, should have done it again, that is all I am saying.

    (2) Meyer for Span. Clearly the trade, whether you love it or hate it, is on Rizzo. I don’t think it was a grit thing, but he saw something in Span that he valued. And despite the criticism of Span, much of which is legit, let’s at least acknowledge that he had the 8th best WAR of CFs last year, FWIW, and is only a little behind that pace this year. That being said, Meyer has progressed as well as could have been reasonably forecast, and I do wish we could have a do over on it, but it hasn’t been a horrible trade. Batting him lead off? Clearly on MW.
    (3). MW? I don’t love him. I do think he has improved since the beginning of the year, though. ( I am primarily down to questions of ‘why has Blevins pitched more innings than Storen?’ I don’t care about LvL match ups that much.). I kind of fault Rizzo for hiring such a rookie this year (not just a rookie MLB guy, but almost no managerial experience). And I do think that you guys have a point about MW having some of that Arizona stuff in him. But he is growing a bit in the job, and I think he’ll be in it for a while too, so I am going to stay open minded.


    2 Jul 14 at 12:51 pm

  11. Andrew R: Sticking with Espinosa has been odd. Giving TONS of at-bats to waiver wire finds like Frandsen and Dobbs is kind of indefensible. In 33 at-bats Walters has more homers than Frandsend, McLouth AND Dobbs put together on the year. If that doesn’t tell you how Williams feels about “veterasn” versus “rookies” then nothing will.

    Todd Boss

    2 Jul 14 at 1:42 pm

  12. Yeah, the “waiver wire” brigade getting all these ABs is pretty maddening when Moore, Walters and Souza are rotting away at AAA. And what does Souza have to do to get called up? Dude has an OPS of over 1.000, is on pace for a 20-20 season and is only 25-years old. It makes no sense.


    2 Jul 14 at 1:52 pm

  13. I understand that McL was the big free agent sign, but he’s a sunk cost and Souza should get that role for now. Even if Souza stinks, he’s min wage and they can always go out and get another min wage guy like DeJesus or Hairston last year. Drop Hairston (or McL), move Souza to the 4th OF role and McL/Hairston to the 5th spot.

    Andrew R

    2 Jul 14 at 2:11 pm

  14. The true punching bag of this team is Matt Williams. But that’s true of most MLB teams – the manager is the designated punching bag. It’s part of the job description.

    While punching Williams, remember that methods of modern baseball statistical analysis are tools – useful tools, but they don’t capture every element that goes into the game. Heck, they don’t even perfectly capture what they’re trying to measure. They are a part of the picture, not the picture itself.

    I don’t get some aspects of Williams’s lineups – the perennial favorite, Span at leadoff, being #1. But I can see an argument for others. Harper hitting 6th? Well, context matters – he’s just coming off the DL, he hasn’t had chances against LHP in his rehab assignment, he tends to get wound up so put him where there is less pressure on him, etc. It’s not pure idiocy. Williams essentially said on the radio this morning that Harper isn’t staying at the #6 spot for long.

    Moreover, Williams is trying to manage a group of disparate personalities into an effective team for the long haul, and decisions made to maintain overall team cohesion, morale and readiness may reasonably override a different decision that might give an incremental statistical advantage. We can’t quantify those factors effectively, or even know what those factors are (we’re not in the clubhouse, the dugout, part of those conversations, etc) but that doesn’t mean they have no impact.

    Overall I have Williams at about a C/C+ as a manager so far. Although I don’t like the lineups, I give him some credit for the fact that the team has stayed afloat through injuries, for the improvement in the baserunning (occasional TOOTBLANs aside, the Nats as a team are pretty good baserunners) and he has finally convinced Nats’ pitchers to take opposing baserunners seriously. They’ve gone from being one of the worst teams at holding down the running game to one of the best. People yow about his bullpen moves all the time, but the bullpen has been brilliant, so there’s that.

    But mostly in my book Williams’s grade is incomplete. He’s demonstrated some ability to learn from mistakes, let’s hope that continues.

    John C.

    2 Jul 14 at 2:25 pm

  15. While I haven’t talked to Mike Rizzo about it lately, one reason that Souza and Walters are in AAA while waiver wire pickups were in DC was so they could play every day. Walters especially has a lot of work to do on plate discipline and defense – and that wasn’t going to happen with him being a bench player in DC and getting a handful of at bats a week. Similarly, Souza is getting his first taste of AAA this year. Clearly he likes it so far! But the team is better served seeing whether Souza can stay healthy a whole season and “master the level” (whatever that means) instead of having him sit on the bench behind Harper, Werth, Span and now Zimmerman.

    I believe that, barring injury to one of the four guys ahead of him, Souza’s time in DC will be next year. Hairston will be gone, and Span may well also be gone – setting up a competition for one or two spots between Souza, Taylor, Hood and Goodwin – with Zimmerman, Moore and Walters as possible fallback candidates to go with Harper and Werth.

    John C.

    2 Jul 14 at 2:33 pm

  16. @John C. –I believe as a six year player Hood will be a minor league FA this offseason unless the Nats place him on the 40-man roster, which I don’t see them doing. They won’t have the room, and even with his improved numbers Hood still isn’t showing much power and his stolen base numbers have cratered as well.

    Goodwin, though he almost certainly will be placed on the 40-man to protect him from the rule 5 draft, hasn’t shown enough at AAA to warrant serious consideration to make the big club next year, and I’m leery of Taylor’s high K rates. Hopefully, he can turn into the CF version of Desmond (great fielder, good power and speed and just a high enough average to offset all the Ks), but he seems destined to start next year at Syracuse.

    Also, Tyler Moore will be out of options next year. He either will have to make the opening day 25-man roster or he’ll have to be DFA’ed and will almost certainly be scooped up by another club.


    2 Jul 14 at 2:50 pm

  17. Wow, you guys made me look up my options worksheet. Theres more than a few interesting names that are out of options and face interesting roster decisions next spring:. Moore as mentioned, but also Mattheus, Cedeno, Solano and Leon (both our backup catchers), Perez and lastly Mr. Matthew Purke (though he’s going to get a 4th option). Lots of guys with difficult roster decisions there.

    Hood was a HS draftee; doesn’t he get an extra year under team control?

    Todd Boss

    2 Jul 14 at 3:26 pm

  18. Taylor is a player for a quantum leap forward of the Nats mold. The team really needs better SB potential and the disruptiveness it provides, and Span just hasn’t had it. That, plus the amazing range, will help, especially if the team goes it without Espi at 2B.

    Now that Peterson is out of AAA, leaving 1B open for Moore (instead of LF), one wonders whether a promotion to further test Taylor is coming soon, to see how he fares against better caliber pitching?

    The AAA batting coach is not attracting discussion, But when you see how Souza’s strikeouts are down, how Moore’s AB are improving, and the patience of Goodwin as a hitter — even though his average is low, he surely has a thing or two to give Taylor in his refinement.


    2 Jul 14 at 5:49 pm

  19. Way too early to think about who gets protected. None of us saw Garcia getting cut just two weeks ago, even those of us who were pessimistic about his chances.

    Lots of injuries on the 40 man, and waiver wire fodder. It may be easier to make room as needed this year, especially if three spots are liberated by the loss of LaRoche, Span, and Soriano.

    I’m sure they’ll be thinking ahead on this at the trading deadline, though.


    2 Jul 14 at 5:53 pm

  20. @TB – I think the extra year for high schoolers concerns them having four years instead of three before having to be “protected” on the 40-man roster rather than the six year free agency rule. Marrero, for example, was drafted out of HS one year earlier than Hood and hit free agency this past offseason.


    2 Jul 14 at 11:12 pm

  21. The national media paid no attention the the Nats for two months, then went ballistic on Harper’s FIRST DAY back. But let’s face it, he’s the straw that stirs the drink. The excitement level is clearly up several notches, for the team and the fans. Harper isn’t all of it, but a firecracker isn’t much good without the fire.

    Those of you who read this site over the winter know I’m a huge Souza fan. The kid (who isn’t a kid anymore) is ready. The only question is whether his future is with the Nats, or elsewhere. (Also, bravo to Hood for his career resurrection. There’s probably not a more athletic OF anywhere in baseball than Hood, Souza, and Goodwin.)

    Would the Nats consider messing with success and trading Span before the deadline, both to get something for him and to clear a spot for Souza (or Zimmerman)? I doubt it, but it seems more plausible than them trading LaRoche.

    Why has Williams stuck so long with Espinoza? Look at Williams’ stats. He hit .188, .205, and .202 in his first three big-league years. The guess would be that he sees something of his own struggles in Danny. That, plus he didn’t have a lot of other options. (Don’t get me started on Frantzen, McLouth, and Dobbs after I spent all winter complaining about the sorry bench!)

    Williams as manager: meh. Haven’t seen much original, but he hasn’t screwed things up, either. He was partially at fault for not talking to Harper about his position and lineup spot (although Bryce also should have kept his mouth shut). As for his insistence in keeping Span at leadoff, he’s either an old-school dunderhead, or Rizzo has told him in no uncertain terms that he got Span to be the “leadoff hitter,” gosh darnit, and he’s going to bat leadoff.

    We’ll see. Everyone is healthy (unless you count Zim’s perpetual shoulder problem), Werth has found his long-lost stroke, and the schedule offers fair winds. It’s time to start taking names and putting the Bravos in the rearview mirror.


    3 Jul 14 at 3:58 pm

  22. Agreed on media coverage of Harper. If you read Boswell’s chat, he takes it on more than a few occasions for being, basically, a Troll. Shocked me frankly that he’d even post those questions criticizing his work.

    It just seems like opportunistic reporting. Ask a player 20 questions slightly differently, wait to get something “meaty” that you can run with even if it was taken out of context or whatever, and suddenly its player versus player and a “controversy.” Go to Span, take the outof context quote, ask for a reaction and he’s caught completely off guard too. Is this what we’ve devolved to in sports media?

    As good as Souza has been … can’t see a team in 1st place trading away assets. You’re in first place BECAUSE you have these players playing right?

    Todd Boss

    3 Jul 14 at 4:55 pm

  23. They are in first place in a very weak division because of their arms, not their bats… And because it’s a weak division.

    If I were in charge, I would definitely trade Span, Espy and a prospect or two for a 2b or 3b and then make Souza the 4th OF. I’d also strongly look at trading LaRoche but I can’t imagine a trade scenario where we’d get something useful back for him bc his contract is ending and a contender would want to trade a prospect.

    Andrew R

    3 Jul 14 at 5:38 pm

  24. If you trade Spann & Espi (+ prospects!), hopefully you have a 2b in mind. Utley has said he won’t accept any trade. Not sure who is out there, bit I guess you’re OK with Walters or Burris as your backup SS. I’m not, especially long term (Desmond only being committed through 2015).

    John C.

    3 Jul 14 at 11:48 pm

  25. Beltre and Zobrist are two. Prado and Phillips would cost less. Walters would be an acceptable backup shortstop esp considering how many days off des gets. Espy is not acceptable IMO.

    Andrew R

    4 Jul 14 at 12:07 am

  26. The team clearly seems like it wants to give Espinosa all the chances in the world, doesn’t it?

    I’m going to do a “trade market analysis” piece once the all-star break is over (since that’s generally when the trade market heats up, the Samardzija deal not-withstanding).

    Todd Boss

    7 Jul 14 at 8:26 am

  27. In the interest of all things “State of the Nats,” and in starting a thread on a related topic, here is my top-20 prospects on Nats as this point in 2014….

    note how different it is from the beginning of this year, and how different it is likely to be at year’s end…

    Yes, and I already know you think I am delusional because I have Giolito third.

    Steven Souza * AAA
    Michael Taylor * AA
    Luke Giolito * A-
    A.J. Cole AAA
    Blake Treinen AAA

    Zach Walters AAA
    Taylor Hill * AAA
    Taylor Jordan AAA
    Austin Voth A+
    Wilmer Difo * A-

    Matt Skole AA
    Drew Ward A-
    Tony Renda * A+
    Spencer Kieboom * A-
    Sandy Leon * AAA

    Matt Grace *(40) AAA
    Brian Goodwin AAA
    Rafael Bautista * A-
    Gilberto Mendez * A+
    Nick Pivetta A-

    Asterisk means there is nothing more for the player to achieve at his level and he warrants a promotion. (40) means a spot on the 40 man would have to be in the offing, so September is the most likely timing.

    Todd, if this tweaks you to get a prospect post started, can you please simply copy this over as a comment so we can all jump into the pool….

    As noted elsewhere, Souza is demonstrating that he can sustain his success day in, day out. The team had better find a place for him and not trade him. If that means to bring him up to get regular time starting and to split time with others and take more away from Span, I am all for it. Bryce wants to play CF anyway.

    If Rizzo is quietly looking for a destination for Span, also great. But even as the team is fighting for first place, they are a better lineup with Souza in there, and if Taylor can get the tutelage at AAA from Dillon to elevate his hitting, so much the better. I’m excited with the prospect of a Harper-Souza-Taylor OF with Werth at 1B in 2015.

    Gonzalez was jettisoned and Matt Grace is the Ian Krol redux of 2014.

    Treinen will be on the roster to stay one day, and benefits from more time in AAA to see if he can turn into the complete game pitcher that Taylor Hill is becoming.


    11 Jul 14 at 11:59 am

  28. Also, I am not so sure that Lobaton needs to be holding Sandy Leon back. We may have a very different situation a year from now, hoping that Leon’s offense advances again.


    11 Jul 14 at 12:01 pm

  29. Good post forensicane.

    I agree on Souza and Taylor at the top. They are amazing this yr.

    You left johansson and Jefry Rodriguez off (fedde too new I guess).

    I agree that we should be using the minors now to fix the hitting issues. Gotta give Souza a shot with the way he is dominating AAA


    11 Jul 14 at 12:09 pm

  30. Johanssen has been a disappointment this year. He just has to take it up a major notch to get closer to the top 20. At some point, you gotta produce.

    As for Jeffrey Rodriguez, I have him at #24. I cannot rank him higher until he starts to perform on the field well enough to warrant promotion. Velocity is great, but he has to develop in order to succeed at Hagerstown even, and he was dropped back to Auburn.


    Johnathan Solano AAA
    Destin Hood AAA
    John Simms AA
    Jefry Rodriguez SS
    Travis Ott SS

    Jeff Kobernus AAA
    Eury Perez AAA
    Cutter Dykstra AA
    Stephen Perez A+
    Drew Vettelson AA

    Derek Self AA
    Jake Walsh A+
    David Napoli A-
    Kevin Keyes AA
    Raudy Read SS

    Sammy Solis AA
    Hector Silvestre A-
    Caleb Ramsey AA
    Shawn Pleffner A+
    Neil Holland AAA

    Estarlin Martinez A+
    Isaac Ballou A-
    John Wooten A-
    Jose Marmelos-Diaz SS
    Jake Johansen A-

    Bryan Mejia SS
    Randy Encarnacion R
    Tyler Herron AA
    Pedro Severino A+
    Wander Suero A+


    13 Jul 14 at 12:15 am

  31. There are names on the aforementioned list that are most uninspiring. I get it. But many in the system have underperformed (Schwartz, Mirowski) or were injured (Solis, Rivero, Rosenbaum, Purke, Lee, P. Encarnacion) and have fallen off the radar.

    I cannot rank people who have not played yet, like Fedde and even Reetz. Let’s see whether they register by years end. It will be fun to compare this list to that of early September, after we get to know the new arrivals a bit better and see who returns from injury, and how well..


    13 Jul 14 at 12:19 am

  32. Excellent stuff Forensicane. I was away all weekend and couldn’t comment.

    Its hard to really know what Souza is, or what he could be, at this point. I know his numbers in AAA are amazing. But he’s in his 7th pro season, by which time most nearly every other impact MLB player had already figured out the minors and made their way to a major league team. I’m not saying this to say that he can’t contribute at the MLB level; i’m saying it because that works against him in the eyes of GMs and talent evaluators.

    And, he has no position on the Nats in the short term. Werth; long term deal in RF. Harper; long term committment in LF (for now) but did rehab at CF and says he wants to play CF. Zimmerman: was actually pretty good in left field and I’m beginning to think he’s more valuable there than at first base (where the team can “hide” a poor defender who mashes). Oh, and Zimmerman is on a long term deal. And none of this talks about Taylor, who actually IS a natural CF and who is breaking out himself in AA this year.

    What do you do? There’s just not enough room for everyone. Not unless someone of that group figures out 2B. Or maybe Souza goes to 1B. I dunno. In any rate, I’m afraid Souza’s path to the majors may lie in an off-season trade.

    Todd Boss

    14 Jul 14 at 9:16 am

  33. Coincidentally, Giolito keeps on marching up the lists. Fangraphs Marc Hulet now has him 10th overall in his mid-season list. Heady praise.

    Todd Boss

    14 Jul 14 at 12:49 pm

  34. Another prospect note: From Keith Law’s post-futures game post:

    • Michael Taylor — who led off for the USA team, and I’m guessing it’s not because he’s finally posting an OBP over .340 this year — showed great bat speed in BP, but his timing was off in the game, as he swung right under multiple fastballs up in/above the zone. He keeps his hands inside the ball really well, and his extension through contact is outstanding, but his recognition of pitches and location once it’s live pitching and not the batting practice guy was still weak. It’s still a quantum improvement over where he was last year, and a testament to his athleticism and the Nats’ player development efforts that he has become even good enough to be considered for the Futures Game, and his defense in center field has long been major league-caliber. But I can see why he’s still getting punched out in almost 30 percent of his plate appearances at Double-A.

    Todd Boss

    15 Jul 14 at 10:13 am

  35. Amidst all of the Giolito gas that we are treated to (“ooh, he’s so big,” “he’s mature,” “he has three out pitches”, “He throws 100”), perhaps the most impressive is the news that he has not been allowed to throw a two seam fastball this year, to minimize the strain on his arm. That risk-minimization means that we are not even yet seeing Gio unleashed.

    I am reminded of the first time I became aware that the Nats were taking Taylor Jordan far more seriously than his “ranking.” It was Spring 2013 and he was picked to start a split squad game against a (Cardinals?) team that no doubt had more talent than seen at the futures game. He got rocked, but there was more that lay ahead for him and we sure all knew that by June. And so Gio 2014 is not the person we will be discussing in spring training, on the cusp of AA placement.

    Keith Law, per above, has seen Michael Taylor strike out twice in four at bats and has advised us that he has discovered the ocean.


    15 Jul 14 at 10:07 pm

  36. Giolito and 2-seam fastballs: no offense to the Nats management here … but what exactly is the difference on the arm in throwing a 4-seam fastball versus a 2-seam fastball?? Literally, you grip the ball “across” the seams in one case and “with” the seams with the other, and let the velocity on the ball do the trick. That makes zero sense to me. Now, if you want to tell me that pitchers somehow do something different with their arm on a 2-seamer in order to impart “sink” on the ball that’s different … and that’s something they could be doing regardless of the grip.

    Keith Law’s observations were spot on to me. Yes he mentioned the obvious (high strikeouts) but he also talked about his patience and bat speed, both in BP and in games, to explain potential versus what he has to work on in game situations. I had no problem with his analysis. Non Nats fans reading that column would have no idea who Taylor is … let alone what is strengths and weaknesses are.

    Skole; Havn’t heard a single thing about him in any forum all year. I wonder if his basically skipping high-A is affecting him. I know he was set to start in AA last year but after destroying low-A he only got 70ABs in high-A. May have to be patient.

    Todd Boss

    16 Jul 14 at 7:26 am

  37. The system has a number of folks who are not attracting discussion but should:

    Skole – He has clearly demonstrated that he is a middle of the order bat. I was skeptical until he could show he was recovered. He’s recovered. His ability to hit in the clutch has me thinking he will be in Syracuse for the playoff run. Imagine the Nats with a guy who could hit like he does in extra innings. Now there is a hairy chested bench bat.

    Hood – Given up for dead last year, earned a surprise promotion earlier this year, has held his own, and now his power is emerging.

    Keyes – Made the jump from A+ to AA after a year in which he looked to be fading, and is actually now gathering steam in AA.

    Grace – It’s hard to overlook what he has done, consistently, since being switched to the bullpen last year. Now in AAA, he has not yet given up a run.

    Kieboom – Trapped for the moment in A-, he was a glove first higher draft pick, then injured, but still has the gun for the runners and has shown a heavy bat with power.

    Burrus – Leading off and sparking one of the dominant teams in the minors, and an IF.

    Aaron Laffey – Is THIS trade bait?

    Tony Renda – Can’t fathom his not yet going up a level.

    Cole Leonida – Wasn’t supposed to be anything more than a brief promotion, he is getting playing time and getting it done.

    Gil Mendez – The unknown Dominican, but every level he goes, he walks very very few and strikes out very very many. Looking forward to his getting a AA chance.

    Nick Pivetta – His first full year, a guy on the upward trajectory.


    16 Jul 14 at 9:53 pm

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