Nationals Arm Race

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

What is the benchmark for a “good” or “bad” draft?


Will Fedde make the 2014 draft a "success?" Photo via

Will Fedde make the 2014 draft a “success?” Photo via

The title of my previous post was pretty simple: “Nats 2014 Draft == failure.”  And it resulted in a rather spirited debate in the comments about the 2014 draft, the 2008 draft in hindsight, etc.

In that debate, I postulated my benchmarks for judging whether or not a team’s draft was “good” or not.  Here were the six guidelines I stated for judgement, going round by round/section by section in the draft:

  • a. 1st rounder: future MLB above average regular to all-star
  • b. 2nd rounder: future MLB regular
  • c. 3rd-5th: expect at least one future MLB player in at least a backup/bullpen role
  • d. 6th-10th: hope for at least one player to reach the MLB level.
  • e. 11th-20th: hope for at least three players who matriculate to AA or higher
  • f. 20th and above: hope for one-two players to matriculate to AA or higher

Lets go back through all 10 Nats drafts and see whether these guidelines hold up.  For each of the 6 requirements, we’ll give a quick “yes/no the condition was met” for each year.  Critical to this analysis is the Nats DraftTracker XLS, and for searching for old players.  Also useful is the Baseball America executive database, which populated the staff in charge of each draft.

Editors Note post-posting: I’ve added in the total known bonus amounts, per suggestion in the comments.  Data taken from the Draft Tracker.  Actual figures are likely higher because most bonus figures past the 10th round are unknown (but likely minimal).  Also per good suggestion, I’m adding in the draft position for context, since its far easier to get a future all-star if picking in the top 5 versus later on.

2005: Owner: MLB.  President: n/a.  GM: Jim Bowden.  Scouting Director: Dana Brown.  Drafting 4th overall.  Total Bonus $ spent: $3,990,500

  • a. Yes: 1st rounder Ryan Zimmerman: MLB above average regular (former all-star)
  • b. n/a: we had no 2nd rounder; forfeited for Vinny Castilla
  • c. Yes:  4th rounder Justin Maxwell turned into a 4th outfielder.  No 3rd rounder.
  • d. Yes: 6th rounder Marco Estrada has turned into a decent starter (albeit for someone else after we released him)
  • e. Yes: 11th rounder John Lannan and 12th rounder Craig Stammen turned into MLBers, far above expectations here.  18th rounder  Tim Pahuta had long ML career for us, playing 3 years at AA.
  • f. Yes: 33rd rounder Ryan Butcher was a 6yr MLFA who left the org but now has MLB experience with Atlanta.  No other 20th+ round draftees made it out of A-ball, but Butcher’s MLB matriculation makes up for it.

2005: Success, inarguably.  6 guys matriculating to the majors is a winning draft, especially considering the lack of a 2nd or 3rd round pick, the ownership confusion, and the budget restrictions put on the team.

2006: Owner: MLB.  President: n/a.  GM: Bowden.  Scouting Director: Brown.  Drafting 15th overall.  Total Bonus $ spent: $5,222,000

  • a. No: 1st rounder Chris Marrero looks like a 4-a guy at best and 1st rounder Colten Willems never made it above A-ball.
  • b. No: the team failed to sign 2nd rounder Sean Black and 2nd rounder Stephen Englund never made it out of low-A.
  • c. No: none of their 3rd-5th picks made the majors.  The highest one of these guys got was 5th rounder Corey VanAllen, who did pitch in AAA after passing through the rule-5 draft and finished out his 6-years with the org.  VanAllen is in Indy ball in 2014.
  • d. No: they didn’t even sign their 7th, 9th or 10th round picks.  The closest they got to a MLBer here was 6th rounder Zech Zinicola, who played at AAA for quite a while, was rule-5 picked and returned, and now sits in Baltimore’s AA team.
  • e. Yes: 12th rounder Cole Kimball made it the majors briefly, while 17th rounder Erik Arnesen, 18th rounder Adam Carr and 13th rounder Hassan Pena all toiled in AAA for several years. 
  • f. Yes, sort of.  We’re all well aware of the success of 41st rounder Brad Peacock, but he was picked under the “draft-and-follow” system that no longer exists.  So while yes it was a 41st round pick, in our current system Peacock wouldn’t have been picked at all and/or wouldn’t have signed but would have been picked the subsequent year based on his great first-college juco season.   Of the rest of the 20th+ round picks, one guy had a couple months in AA (26th rounder Brett Logan) to serve as a backup catcher; he hit .102/.170/.122 in 20 games in 2007 and was released.

2006: Failure: 3 guys who have MLB appearances but near zero impact for this team.  Peacock enabled the Nats to get Gio Gonzalez but I think we see now that Peacock wasn’t the driving prospect in that deal (now that Derek Norris has made an all-star team).

For as much as went right for the team in the 2005 draft, it went wrong in 2006.  Was the lack of signing their 7th, 9th and 10th round picks evident of “fiscal restraint” demanded by the other 29 owners?  Clearly to me, the focus on HS drafted personnel in this draft has Bowden’s hands all over it, and almost none of them panned out in the slightest.


2007: Owner: Ted Lerner group.  President: Stan Kasten.  GM: Bowden.  Scouting Director: Brown.  Assistant GM/VP, Baseball Operations: Mike Rizzo.  Drafting 6th overall.  Total Bonus $ spent: $7,619,300

  • a. No: The team went one-for-three on its first rounders: Michael Burgess got to AA in his fourth pro season but never further, was flipped for Tom Gorzelanny.  Josh Smoker‘s failure has been well documented here.  But Ross Detwiler, for all the complaining about his usage and role in this space, did make the majors and looked like a good 4th starter (in 2012).  I still believe he could start in this league and is better than a long-man.   However, the condition is that a first round pick turns into a successful regular, and this crop failed in all regards.
  • b. Yes.  2nd rounder Jordan Zimmermann is now a 2-time all-star and is probably the best 2nd round pick the organization has ever had.  His successes make up for their other 2nd rounder Jake Smolinksi who has made his MLB debut but not until he became a 6-yr MLFA.
  • c. Yes.  4th rounder Derek Norris made the 2014 all-star team for Oakland.  3rd rounder Stephen Souza has debuted in the majors and looks quite promising (albeit blocked) for our AAA team.  5th rounder Brad Meyers toiled for us in AAA for years before being released this spring after a long injury recovery.
  • d. Yes: 10th round pick Patrick McCoy made it to AAA for us, signed with Detroit as a MLFA and debuted this year.  We should note for the record though that 6th rounder Jack McGeary was paid as if he was a low-1st rounder and failed pretty spectacularly here.
  • e. Yes: 20th rounder Jeff Mandel was a long-serving org arm at AA and AAA.   11th rounder Bill Rhinehart was looking like a find, appearning on Nats system prospect lists for a while and getting to AAA before getting flipped for Jonny Gomes.
  • f. Yes: 28th rounder Boomer Whiting made it to Syracuse before getting released in 2011.   48th rounder (!) Kyle Gunderson was flipped for Logan Kensing in 2009 and made it to Miami/Florida’s AAA squad before getting released.  

2007: Success: despite the 1st round failures and the McGeary disaster, the breadth of success in the other categories and the production of the remaining guys weighs out.

2008: Owner: Lerner.  President: Kasten.  GM: Bowden.  Scouting Director: Brown.  Assistant GM/VP, Baseball Operations: Rizzo.  Drafting 9th overall.  Total Bonus $ spent: $4,766,500

  • a. No: as is well documented, the Nats failed to sign 1st round pick Aaron Crow.
  • b. No/Inc: 2nd round pick Destin Hood has already passed through Rule-5 waivers once, but has found himself in 2014 and is hitting great for Syracuse (2014’s AAA line: .308/.353/.502).  It does make one wonder if he’s worth adding to the 40-man once the season is over to keep him; he’s finishing his 7th pro year and is in line for minor league free agency.
  • c. Yes: 3rd rounder Danny Espinosa has his critics, but he’s at least a MLB backup or possibly more.  5th rounder Adrian Nieto has stuck with the White Sox after getting plucked in the Rule-5 draft last year and hasn’t been half bad.
  • d. Yes: 10th rounder Tommy Milone has shown his capabilities as a MLB starter.  d. 6th-10th: hope for at least one player to reach the MLB level.  6th rounder Paul Demny remains in the system (on the D/L in Harrisburg) but doesn’t seem like he’ll go much higher at this point.
  • e. Yes: 16th rounder Tyler Moore has put in meaningful at-bats for the Nats for a few years now.  And 19th rounder Steve Lombardozzi looks to be a solid utility/backup infielder in this league for years.  Lastly I wonder if the team gave up on 15th rounder J.P. Ramirez too soon; he was paid like a 2nd round pick but was released prior to his MLFA period.  He may have only made it to high-A, but his last season was somewhat decent.
  • f. No: as far as I can tell, nobody of note came in rounds 20 or above from this draft.

2008: Failure: How would you judge this draft?   We failed to sign the first rounder, which for me is a huge negative.  The second rounder may or may not ever debut in the majors, which is also for me a huge negative because of the huge prevalence of 1st and 2nd rounders on MLB rosters.  But we got four (5 counting Nieto) other MLBers out of the rest of the draft, including some very deep-dive picks that you rarely find (Moore and Lombardozzi, aside from Peacock, are the two lowest round picks to ever make it to the majors for this team).

2009:  Owner: Lerner.  President: Kasten. GM: Rizzo.  Scouting Director: Brown.  Drafting 1st overall.  Total Bonus $ spent: $18,806,000

  • a. Yes: no arguing about either first round pick here: both Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen have pitched at all-star levels in their careers.
  • b. No: 2nd Rounder Jeff Kobernus may have made his MLB debut, but he’s nowhere close to being a “regular” in the majors right now and doens’t seem to be trending that way either.
  • c. No: 3rd round pick Trevor Holder was a gross over-draft (albeit with known reasons; the team committed an *awful* lot of money to the first two guys on this list) and was released in 2013.  4th rounder A.J. Morris looked quite promising for us, was flipped in the Gorzelanny deal, and this year is pitching effectively for Pittsburgh’s AAA squad after being taken in the minor league Rule-5 portion last off-season.  And the Nats failed to sign their 5th rounder.  So even if Morris pans out as a MLB-capable player, he’s doing it for someone else.
  • d. Yes: 9th round pick Taylor Jordan was effective for the team last year and may yet figure in the team’s plans despite his mysterious D/L trip right now.  And 6th round pick Michael Taylor has rocketed up the prospect lists for this team, is crushing AA pitching right now, is on the team’s 40-man roster and may very well get a look as 2015’s starting center fielder.
  • e. Yes: 12th rounder Nathan Karns made the org look quite intelligent when he gave spot starts in 2013 after rocketing up the farm system after finally recovering from arm issues.  I wonder if the success they had with Karns was the first impetus for Rizzo to take more gambles on high-end-but-injured arms.  13th rounder Patrick Lehman has bounced around as an org arm for years.  11th rounder Juston Bloxom played a couple years in AA before getting released this year.  16th rounder Sean Nicol is splitting time between AA and AAA this year.   Finally, I wanted to note something I never knew before studying this: the Nats drafted Marcus Strohman in the 18th round out of HS; this is the same Strohman who went in the first round three years later to Toronto and who is currently holding down a rotation spot for the playoff-pushing Blue Jays.  Wow.  He’s listed as a SS on the draft-tracker but clearly is a MLB-calibre starter.
  • f. Yes: 22nd rounder Danny Rosenbaum has been Syracuse’s “ace” for three seasons now.  And a slew of guys drafted in the 20s stuck around for years as middle relievers (Mitchell Clegg, Matt Swynenberg, Evan Bronson, Rob Wort, and Shane McCatty).  You just can’t ask for more out of your picks in rounds 20-30.

2009: Success: I’ll take a couple of misses in the 2nd and 3rd rounds given the amount of talent they picked up in the middle and late rounds.  Great draft.  6 guys who have debuted in the majors with at least another one likely coming soon.

Note: from 2010 onwards, most of the judgement calls are still “in progress.”  We’ll use projections and “small sample sizes” to pass judgement.  It is what it is.  Feel free to criticize in the comments about using projections and national pundit scouting reports to make judgements.

2010:  Owner: Lerner.  President: Kasten.  GM: Rizzo.  Scouting Director: Kris Kline.  Drafting 1st overall.  Total Bonus $ spent: $11,413,200

  • a. Yes: 1st rounder Bryce Harper has turned into everything the hype suggested.  Fun fact; when he went on an rehab assignment in Potomac, he was the 2nd youngest guy on the roster.  Remember that when you criticize the guy for not being better than he already is: if he was “playing by the rules,” he’d be jsut finishing his junior year of college.
  • b. No/Inc: 2nd rounder Sammy Solis has been one injury issue after another.  He missed all of 2012 with Tommy John, came back slowly in 2013, but now sits on the AA D/L with another “elbow” issue.  He was protected on the 40-man roster last fall, but you have to wonder what’s to come of him.  He’s finishing his 5th pro season and he’s got exactly one start above A-Ball.
  • c. Yes/Inc: 4th rounder A.J. Cole was paid like a late first rounder, and after some struggles he’s really come onto the scene this year.  He was already really young for AA and “solved” it, and is now in AAA holding his own.  The other guys in this category are less impressive: both Rick Hague and Jason Martinson are repeating AA and not really hitting well enough to push for promotions.  This could be a side-effect of the huge amount of money committed to Harper and Cole.
  • d. Yes: 9th round pick Aaron Barrett went from unknown/unrecognized prospect to the Nats 40-man roster last fall to being lights-out middle reliever in the major league pen this year.  As a 9th round college senior pick.  8th rounder Matthew Grace may be next; after toiling as a mediocre starter, he became a reliever in 2013 and has been lights out in AA and AAA this year.  And he’s not just a LOOGY: 56 IP in 33 appearances and he’s given up just 6 ER in that time.
  • e. Yes: 15th round pick David Freitas, after getting traded to Oakland for Kurt Suzuki, got traded again to Baltimore and now is in AAA.   12th round pick Robbie Ray has made his MLB debut for Detroit after going over in the Doug Fister deal.  11th rounder Neil Holland toils in the Harrisburg pen admirably.
  • f. Yes: 23rd rounder Colin Bates and 26th rounder Christopher Manno both are in the Harrisburg pen.  22nd rounder Cameron Selik made it to AA before hitting his ceiling and being released earlier this year.   And 32nd rounder Randolph Oduber is a starting OF in Potomac with decent splits and a shot of moving up.

2010: Success: It may have been a no-brainer to take Harper, and it may have been an example of the “checkbook” winning in their picks of Cole and Ray, but you have to hand it to this team; they bought two high-end prep guys out of their college and they’re both looking like huge successes.   And they got a MLB servicable reliever out of a college senior sign who they paid just $35,000 in bonus money.  Great work.

2011: Owner: Lerner.  President/GM: Rizzo.  Scouting Director Kline.  Drafting 6th overall.  Total Bonus $ spent: $11,325,000

  • a.  Yes: 1st rounder Anthony Rendon was on everyone’s “all star snub” lists this year, while their other 1st rounder Alex Meyer remains one of the top pitching prospects in the game and seems likely to debut later this year.   Their supp-1st rounder Brian Goodwin remains on every pundit’s prospect lists even if he seemingly has been passed on the organizational “future starting Center-fielder” depth chart.   There’s no chance the team leaves him exposed in the upcoming rule-5 draft, so he’ll have at least three more years to prove he belongs.
  • b. n/a: forfeited for Adam LaRoche signing.
  • c. No/Inc: Right now our 3rd through 5th picks are looking iffy; 4th rounder Matthew Purke was paid like an upper first rounder and has been a massive disappointment.  Right now he’s recovering from Tommy John and faces an uncertain future.  4th rounder Kylin Turnbull has gotten lit up in high-A this year, his second crack at the league.  5th rounder Matt Skole may be the most promising of the bunch; he crushed 27 homers in his first season of full-season ball only to miss all of 2013 because of a freak injury.  Can Skole continue developing and make the majors on a full-time basis?  Can Purke at this point?
  • d. Yes: With the call-up of 6th rounder Taylor Hill earlier this year, this category is met.  Which is good because the rest of the 6th-10th rounders from this year are struggling.  Two are already released/retired, one is MIA and the lone remaining active player (Brian Dupra) is struggling as a starter/swing-man in AA.  But Hill is a huge win; a college senior draftee on minimal bonus rocketing through the minors and forcing his way onto the 25-man roster.
  • e. Yes/Inc:  It is far too early to fully judge this category, but it is looking promising despite the fact that the team failed to sign SIX of its ten picks beween the 11th and 20th round.  11th rounder Caleb Ramsey is already in AA.  16th rounder Deion Williams is on the mound (not a SS as in the Draft Tracker) and is struggling in short-A.   18th rounder Nick Lee is struggling in Potomac this year but has shown a huge arm and seems like he’ll eventually convert to loogy (especially considering his undersized stature); I can see Lee making it far as a matchup lefty reliever with swing-and-miss stuff.  The lone failure at this point is 12th rounder Blake Monar, sort of inexplicably released after a decent 2012 season in Short-A.   
  • f. Yes: 30th round pick Bryan Harper earned his way to Harrisburg.   45th round college senior pick Richie Mirowski also made it to AA, where he wasn’t half bad last year, though at the moment he’s back in Potomac.   And there’s three other players drafted in the 20th or higher who are active on Potomac’s roster this year and who may get moved up.   Decent production out of the bottom of this draft so far.

2011: Projected Success: As discussed before, I believe the selection of Rendon was a “no-brainer” based on a unique set of circumstances that occured on draft day, but credit the management team for having the stones to pick him when other GMs didn’t.   I’m sure the Mariners (especially) would like a re-do on that draft (they picked 2nd overall, got soft-tossing local product Danny Hultzen, who was sidelined last year with all sorts of shoulder issues and is no sure bet to ever make it back.   They rolled the dice with Purke and so far seem to be losing, but Purke was himself a 1-1 talent at one point (remember, he had his $4M+ deal with Texas pulled thanks to MLB-stewardship at the time) and was probably worth the risk.   I’d like to see Skole reach the majors in some capacity before declaring this draft a full success.


Note: from here onwards, everything is a projection and is based on scouting the stat lines.  I’m going to sound negative where others sound positive and vice versa.  Hey, its better than writing nothing.

2012: Owner: Lerner.  President/GM: Rizzo.  Scouting Director Kline.   Drafting 16th overall.  Total Bonus $ spent: $4,503,500

  • a. Yes/inc: 1st rounder Lucas Giolito (so far) has shown himself to be at full speed post TJ surgery and is mostly in the top 10-15 of every professional scouting pundit’s list for best prospect in the entirety of the minors.  He’s got a #1 starter ceiling, a huge frame and three plus pitches.  He’s projecting to be everything you’d hope for from an upper first rounder.
  • b. No/inc: It is hard to squint at 2nd rounder Tony Renda at this point and project him as a future “MLB regular.”  Sure he’s hitting .297 in Potomac, and sure his numbers at the plate have not varied much in his three pro seasons.  Unfortunately he’s vastly undersized and he has no power in a time where pro middle infielders are expected to provide serious pop.   Maybe he can forge a career like Jamey Carroll or like a Jose Altuve, but the odds are against him.  I don’t mean to discount the guy because he’s 5’8″ but we all know there’s a significant bias in the industry towards undersized guys.  Heck, a pitcher is considered “short” if he isn’t 6’2″ these days.
  • c. No/inc: So far the guys picked 3rd-5th are also struggling.  3rd rounder Brett Mooneyham‘s struggles are well documented here.  4th rounder Brandon Miller continues to show great power but has missed much of this season with a hamstring injury (he’s on rehab in the GCL as we speak).  Lastly 5th rounder Spencer Keiboom suffered a blown UCL that basically cost him the whole 2013 season.  He’s got great numbers in low-A this year but is two years too old for the league.  Keiboom’s talents more centered on his defense than his bat, so he may still push forward as a future backup catcher.  But until he does, this category falls in the “no” side.
  • d. Maybe/inc: The leading hope for some MLB success out of our 6th-10th round picks right now resides in one of two middle relievers: 7th round pick Robert Benincasa or 9th round pick Derek Self.   You never know; one of these guys could turn into the next Aaron Barrett.  8th round SS Stephen Perez made the all-star team this year in Potomac and could feature as a future utility infielder.  The team has already released its 6th round pick Hayden Jennings, and their 10th rounder (local Rockville product Craig Manual) was a college senior catcher who is backing up other catchers in the system for the time being).  He may continue to hang around but unless he gets a starting gig he’s going to get replaced by someone newer.
  • e. Yes/inc: 17th rounder Blake Schwartz has already made it to AA, where he struggled and he now sits back in Potomac (where he was great last year, go figure).  11th rounder Brian Rauh got a spot-start in AA last year but has bounced in and out of the Potomac rotation this year.  16th rounder Ronald Pena is working his way off injury but faces a long road to move up thanks to a lack of swing-and-miss stuff.   The team has already released four of its 11th-20th round picks; the remaining out-field players (12th rounder Carlos Lopez and 19th rounder Bryan Lippincott) both seem to face long odds as college senior draftees still residing in the low minors to even make it up to AA at this point.  To be fair, Lopez missed most of 2013 with an unknown injury, so we’ll give him a slight pass.   Lippincott sits in XST right now.
  • f. No/inc: 33rd rounder Mike McQuillan has hung around and currently serves as a utility guy/bench player for Potomac.   A couple of relievers remain on squads: 29th rounder Leonard Hollins is hurt but is on a full-season squad, and 30th rounder Robert Orlan was with Hagerstown to start the season but is back in Auburn.   The rest of the 20th round and up guys features carnage; eight college senior draftees already released to go along with 10 unsigned (mostly high schoolers) picks in the later rounds.  One unsigned pick looks interesting; all-american freshman UNC player Skye Bolt may be a big-time 2015 draft pick.   But otherwise, I’m predicting that we dont’ get even a AA player out of the last  20 rounds of this draft at this point.

2012: Projected Failure: Frankly, this is looking like it may be a one player draft.  At this point, I don’t think you can look at *any* other player in this draft and project even a bench/fringe 25-man roster guy besides Giolito.  Now ask yourself: if Giolito fulfills expectations and becomes an “ace,” a top 15-20 arm in the majors while the rest of this draft basically becomes high-A and AA filler, does that change your opinion of the draft success/failure?

2013: Owner: Lerner.  President/GM: Rizzo.  Scouting Director Kline.  Drafting 30th overall.  Total Bonus $ spent: $2,678,100

  • a. n/a: No 2013 first rounder thanks to the supurfluous signing of Rafael Soriano.  As noted at the time, the Nats missed out on players like Sean ManaeaRyan Stanek or Ian Clarkin, all of whom were available at the time of their lost 1st rounder.  Manaea in particular has flourished, rising up prospect list charts and sporting a healthy K/9 rate in high-A this year.  I’d like to call this in and among itself a failure (given my reservations about paying for saves in general), but have to admit that Soriano has been pretty durn good this year.
  • b. No/inc: 2nd rounder Jake Johansen thus far has not lived up to advance billing in his first year in full-season ball.  He’s averaging just 4.5 innings per outing and sports a 5.00 ERA and less than a K/inning.   I can understand the difficult adjustment to pro ball, but I don’t get how his vaunted velocity and size combination aren’t resulting in more swing-and-miss.    He’s given no indication that he can avoid what scouts have been saying all along (that he’s destined for the bullpen), he’s way too wild and way too hittable.
  • c. Yes/inc: the Nats collection of 3rd rounder Drew Ward, 4th rounder Nick Pivetta and now especially 5th rounder Austin Voth are making this management team look very smart.  All Voth has done since forcing his promotion to High-A is give up 10 hits and ONE earned run in 33 innings over five starts.  That’s just ridiculous.  And he’s doing it while maintaining a 36/5 K/BB ratio.  There’s zero reason for him to still be in Potomac at this point.  I don’t know what Voth’s ceiling is, but its getting pushed.
  • d. No/inc: Thanks to the new CBA’s rules, most 6th-10th rounders are throw-away/college senior picks these days.  So it’ll be awfully hard to depend on one of them turning into a 25-man roster guy.  The best bet out of this draft will be having either 6th rounder Cody Gunter or 7th rounder James Yezzo eventually matriculating to the majors.  The other guys in this category were 15k bonus college seniors, one of whom (9th rounder Jake Joyce has *already* been released).  Do we think either Gunter or Yezzo projects as a major leaguer?  Not right now: Gunter’s struggling in short-A for the 2nd year in a row and Yezzo is an undersized 1B showing little power.
  • e. Maybe/inc: Right now the pickings for the guys taken 11th-20th look pretty slim too.  Three were senior signs who have already been released and we failed to sign our 16th round pick Willie Allen (though can’t fault the Nats for that: doing research on him for last year’s draft review showed all sorts of inconsistencies with him, including whether he’s even still playing baseball in college).  But 11th rounder John Simms is looking like a great find; he’s already in the AA rotation and holding his own (though you could argue it was out of need, not performance).  Among those left, 10th rounder Brandon Middleton and 15th rounder Isaac Ballou are starting and playing well in Hagerstown, 12th rounder Andrew Cooper is strugging in low-A, 13th rounder John Costa has yet to debut for the team thanks to TJ surgery, and 17th rounder Geoffrey Perrott was a senior catcher who got a grand total of 13 at-bats in 2013 and has remained in XST so far thisyear, perhaps to serve as a bullpen catcher for others remaining in Viera and perhaps because he was hurt most of last year and may still be recovering.  If Simms continues to rise and we get a couple more longer-lasting prospects out of this crew, we’ll convert this to a success.
  • f. Maybe/Inc: The Nats picked seven college seniors in the 21st round or above and so far they’re all with Hagerstown.  Middle infielders Cody Dent (22nd rounder) and Willie Medina (31st rounder) both hit in the .220s last year, are hitting in the .220s (or worse) this year, and seem like they may not last the season.  However the pitchers in this bunch are looking better and better.  28th rounder Joey Webb has a 2.53 ERA, 30th rounder Ryan Ullmann has as 3.10 ERA and got a high-A up-and-back call-up, and 34th rounder Jake Walsh dominated Low-A and earned a call-up to Potomac.  Only 29th rounder Michael Sylvestri seems to be in trouble among these senior signs; after struggling in Short-A last year, he gave up a ton of runs in 6 mid-relief outings and is currently in re-assignment purgatory.  What of the non senior-signs?  24th round pick Matthew Derosier is struggling in short-A and 23rd round outfielder Garrett Gordon seems like he’s a bench player in Auburn.  But a revelation may be 25th round prep draft pick Travis Ott.  He holds a 2.10 ERA through 6 starts in Auburn despite being quite young for the league.  So, the trend seems good that we’ll get value out of the bottom part of this draft.

2013: Projected Failure: Sorry to say; no first rounder, a middle reliever out of your 2nd rounder, perhaps a 5th starter out of the 3-5 rounds, and some org filler from the bottom of the draft?  How many players from this draft do you realistically project to make the majors?

2014: Owner: Lerner.  President/GM: Rizzo.  Scouting Director Kline.   Drafting 18th overall.  Total Bonus $ spent: $4,149,900

  • a. Maybe/inc: 1st rounder Erick Fedde may project as a MLB rotation guy, but he’s not projecting as an ace level arm.  So if he comes back from surgery 100%, if he keeps moving up the chain, if he makes the majors and if he has an impact we’ll give this a yes.  Lots of ifs.
  • b. n/a:  we failed to sign our 2nd rounder Andrew Suarez.
  • c. Maybe/inc: The hopes here fall on 3rd rounder Jakson Reetz and 4th rounder Robbie Dickey, since our 5th rounder was a senior lefty out of non-baseball powerhouse Duke.   How do we dream on Reetz and Dickey?  Maybe Reetz turns into our next Derek Norris while Dickey turns into the next Austin Voth.  Lets hope so, because both so far have had rather inauspicious starts in the GCL (Reetz batting .220 and Dickey posting an ERA in the 12s).   To be fair Reetz is a kid and Dickey isn’t much older, so we have a long way to go before passing true judgement.
  • d. No/inc: We failed to sign the 8th round pick Austin Byler (and from reading the tea leaves, it didn’t seem like we were ever even close).  Our 7th, 8th and 10th round picks were low-bonus college seniors with little hope of advancing.  So this category falls squarely on the shoulders of 6th rounder Austin Williams, who looks ok so far in Short-A.
  • e. Far too Early: most of these guys who did sign are 15 games into short seasons.
  • f. Far too Early: most of these guys who did sign are 15 games into short seasons.

2014: Not promising: An injured first rounder, no 2nd rounder, really just a handful of non senior-signs elsewhere in the draft.  As I opined in the previous post discussion, I just don’t like the looks of this class.

So.  5200 words later, I think I actually like my guidelines.  I think though that the new CBA forces teams into making a bunch of “throw-away” picks in the 6th-10th rounds, so my criteria needs to be adjusted downward for that category in the last few years.  Otherwise I think it holds.

What say you?

Editor’s Post-posting thoughts.  Based on the analysis above, the franchise has 5 successes and 5 failures (or projected failures) in ten drafts.  After up and down drafts the first four years, we had three straight successes in 2009-2011, but now I feel like we’ve had three successive failures from 2012 onwards.  Here’s a sobering thought about those successes and failures: lets talk about bonus money spent.

  • In the 5 drafts I call successes, the team spent (chronologically): $3,990,500, $7,619,300,  $18,806,000, $11,413,200 and $11,325,000 in bonus money.
  • In the 5 drafts i’m calling failures/projected failures: $5,222,000, $4,766,500, $4,503,500, $2,678,100, $4,149,900

See a pattern?  With the exception of the unbelievable 2005 draft, the Nats have had successes when spending big money and failures when they don’t.  Maybe its just that simple.

I think, to be fair, it is also worth nothing the three distinct “eras” of Nats draft philosophy:

  • Era 1: 2005-2008: MLB hamstrung budgets and Lerner penny pinching era.  2 successes, 2 failures.
  • Era 2: 2009-2011: Lerner’s realize the Tampa Bay way: spending through the draft is the best way to acquire talent.  3 successes
  • Era 3: 2012-present: the new CBA spells out draconian draft bonus policies.  3 failures.

Era 1 may be just the way it used to go; sometimes you’d get wins in the draft, other times you’d strike out.  Era 2 was the glory years of Nats drafting, though the cynic may point out that picking three consensus 1-1 talents and spending 8 figures in bonus money wasn’t that hard.  Era 3 is more troubling: why has this management team not done better in the CBA/limited bonus era?


Written by Todd Boss

July 23rd, 2014 at 10:52 am

Posted in Draft

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

39 Responses to 'What is the benchmark for a “good” or “bad” draft?'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'What is the benchmark for a “good” or “bad” draft?'.

  1. Thanks for the breakdown; it’s an interesting way to evaluate drafts. I’m not sure how well your proposed criteria for judging drafts hold across the industry, though; this analysis just checks to see whether the Nats hit the marks, not whether the marks that they did or didn’t hit are a fair way of measuring a team’s draft.

    John C.

    23 Jul 14 at 11:10 am

  2. Whew–that was a lot to digest. Think I’ll leave two comments on two seperate subjects. First of all, a few notes about a few of the players listed.

    Hood – certainly looks better this year, but we’re going to have a lot of tough 40-man roster calls this offseason, and I don’t think he’s going to make it.

    Demny – is back off the DL and still has that power arm. This is his first year being used as a reliever and he may just be able to make an MLB bullpen at some point, either here or elsewhere.

    Taylor – with the Nats “window” on their current crew closing after next year, I find it hard to believe that they will hand over a starting job to a rookie, especially one who’s offensive game still has a huge hole in it (dude could K 200 in a full MLB season). I hate to say this, but I see them picking up Span’s relatively cheap option next year.

    Oduber – has already failed a couple of times in brief stints at Harrisburg and is already 25. He may not be around much longer despite playing well at Potomac as he has the past three seasons.

    Voth – dude looks like he is going to be the key to the 2013 draft’s success or failure. What if he blossoms into another Jordan Zimmermann? If the that is the case, and Johansen’s arm allows him to become a big time reliver and Ward becomes a decent power hitting corner infielder, I’d go thumbs up on that draft. Of course, if Soriano also gets the save in the climatic game of the 2014 World Series…


    23 Jul 14 at 11:52 am

  3. On ranking the drafts themselves, success hereafter should be ultimately be compared to 2005 (given that the MLB-inflicted financial restraints on the team that year are similar to the league wide restrictions now), while failure’s benchmark is obviously that 2006 debacle. By those measures, I believe if Fedde turns into Purke Jr., 2014 could ultimately challenge 2006 as the worst draft in team history. It seems like the new drafting rules have got Nats’ management all tied up in knots.

    Of course, the soulution would be to use those big bucks they used to shell out to draftees Strasburg, Harper, Purke, Goodwin, Meyer, Cole and Ray and compete for Cuban, Japanese and Korean pro players like other successful teams do. Otherwise, they’ll be back in the second division before decade’s end.


    23 Jul 14 at 12:03 pm

  4. Good stuff, Todd. As John C. said, it would be interesting to see this type of analysis across MLB to see how the Nats stack up, but unless you turn into Keith Law and this becomes your day job, that’s probably not going to happen.

    Another data point that would be interesting to have would be how much the Nats spent on draft signings each year, and how that number compared with the rest of the league. In general, and not counting the Crow debacle, there appears to be an arc that started up when Kasten and Rizzo got together and went into decline after Kasten left. It’s probably safe to credit Kasten with loosing up Uncle Ted’s checkbook, which had a good bit to do with the successful period. I never thought of Kasten as being a big player personnel guy, but he does seem to have had some influence. With the departure of Roy Clark and the changes in the spending rules, things slipped off the rails this year.

    Rizzo’s draft MO seems to be to over-slot (much more difficult now) and to take injury risks. Those with Rendon and Giolitto seem to be paying off, but Purke and Solis look far less promising. Rizzo has also been willing to dance with the devil (Boras) more so than most, which burned him this year when Boras backed him into a corner and left him with neither the money nor the time to make other key signings.

    I’m also intrigued by a couple of much larger questions for another day: why do MLB teams in general continue to miss so consistently on draft picks? And why does MLB, alone among pro sports, still have a draft that goes for far too many rounds? Just do 10-12 rounds and sign the rest as free agents.


    23 Jul 14 at 12:56 pm

  5. I think this post confirmed to me that my 6-criteria method is at least a good starting point for how to judge the success or failure of a draft. I like that. Clearly other orgs more-and less-value the draft (for example; the Angels have given very little emphasis on the draft in lieu of signing big-ticket guys, to the detriment of their farm system). So perhaps it isn’t a perfect mechanism to judge every team’s draft.

    But, that being said, clearly any org would view their draft as a failure if it resulted in zero MLB players. So there’s got to be a line inbetween zero players and X players that matriculate/develop out of a draft. I mean, lets be clear, the goal of a draft is to find future MLB players and/or future assets that can be turned into MLB players.

    Todd Boss

    23 Jul 14 at 1:23 pm

  6. Bdrube: fair points on Hood, Demny, Taylor. I have not peeked at what roster decisions may ahve to be made this coming off-season. I too like Voth’s potential so far. Totally fair point if all the 2013 guys pan out; maybe after 5000+ words the success of a draft comes down more to just a simple count of MLBers versus the 6-tiered analysis I just did.

    Todd Boss

    23 Jul 14 at 1:30 pm

  7. The amounts spent per draft is incredibly important, absolutely. And should have figured in to this analysis. I should have put in a line that totaled the draft bonses dished out as part of this analysis. When they spent between $11m and $17M on drafts, the bar should be higher than just “success” or “failure” versus what they’re spending now ($3.2M?)

    MLB draft misses constantly. But to be fair, are the other leagues much better? How many #1 overall NBA picks (in a significantly smaller talent pool) failed to regulars? I mean, if your #1 overall pick in a given year doesn’t turn into an all-star that’s a failure in that draft. NFL continueally baffles me; how does a guy like Kurt Warner go from being an un-drafted grocery store clerk to 2-time MVP? That’s crazy to me that talents like that can slip through the cracks. I’m sure there’s similar examples in baseball but they seem more like one-offs (Albert Pujols maybe?)

    Todd Boss

    23 Jul 14 at 1:34 pm

  8. Speaking of Voth, Jim Bowden proposes the following trade he thinks the Nats should make to bolster their loogy situation: Right-handed pitching prospect Austin Voth to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for lefty reliever James Russell. Voth would give the Cubs a middle-of-the-rotation type starter for the future, while the Nationals significantly improve the left-handed side of their bullpen. The Nationals win the deal in the short term; the Cubs win it in the long term.

    Yeah, I think i’d slap someone if that trade happened.

    Todd Boss

    23 Jul 14 at 1:57 pm

  9. Holy crap! Thank goodness old Leztherpants isn’t still running the show. Trading a guy whose ceiling as a starter is NOT YET APPARENT for a lefty reliever? You have to be kidding me. Even more so given that their last trade for a supposedly solid bullpen lefty hasn’t worked out so well.

    Reminds me of the commentator (I forget who it was) who seriously suggested shortly after Strasburg’s debut that the Nats should trade him to the Astros for Roy Oswalt because Oswalt was a “known commodity” and Strasburg was still a craphoot. Wish I could get paid the big bucks to spew such stupid opinions on baseball.


    23 Jul 14 at 2:18 pm

  10. Todd, Thanks for undulging our unrequited enthusiasm with these last two points. Your labors really do stimulate and bring us back.

    One lesson we learn and relearn is that prospects season at different paces. Absolutely we cannot know conclusively how, qualitatively, the 2014 draft signings will turn out for awhile, and for a number of reasons:

    1) The players have already turned in a season, and are playing more baseball than they ever have.

    2) Players are adjusting to pro life which is a tremendous difference from a college campus and from being at home in high school.

    3) Younger players, like the high schoolers, are physically still developing

    4) College players are adjusting to wooden bats.

    For those who have shown immediate success, as David Napoli did last year (as an all-star on a bad team), that is more to their credit and maturity.

    But just as reasonable is a John Simms story, of someone who was unremarkable but a junior sign, but now in a first year of pro ball, really shifted into a higher gear. I have been just as enthusiastic about Voth as the next guy, especially with all of the frothing over JakeJo because of his velocity. But it is Simms who is playing at the highest level this year, is performing better at AA than he did at A+, and I think the only person in the organization who has played at three levels this year. Never mind that he was pushed up because of injuries; he is not going back.

    Drew Ward’s early success is that much more impressive for his young age. We cannot assume Jakson Reetz is going to immediately look like Bryce Harper. And he is arguably more valuable to the organization over slot than would have been Suarez (injury history and really, not as much bargaining leverage).

    As I posted in the earlier thread, the draft is a failure in a the simplest sense – you can’t sign only eight of your first ten picks, and teams ought to be expected to sign their first two picks. If the compensatory pick next year proves to be a stud, this may be moot. But from a leadership standpoint, that just reflects that someone or some folks did not think it all the way through and operational neglect (with apologies for my political analogy)at the highest level.

    I am not going to nitpick the assessments above, other than to offer a few opinions:

    1) The lower round haul in 2013 has shown some valuable pitching. Willie Allen needed to have surgery and that is likely why he has vanished (for now).

    2) I have never understood the enthusiasm for Demny because of his poor results, but he appears to be healthy and to have taken his game up a notch since coming back.

    3) Matt Skole will be back in the discussion by the end of this year. I am of the “show me” variety when folks are coming off injury, and he has shown me.

    4) The team has actually been quite active in Latin America, just not with high priced prospects. Their scouting and development eyes are paying off and will result in progressively greater investment. The “other” Nats minor league consists of players who are now at A- and A+ that MAY, by this time next year, step forward enough to truly be the “next wave.” But hype is just that. Jefry Rodriguez got…demoted to the GCL. Nobody knew Rey Lopez last year, and now he is the ace of Auburn.

    5) The light goes on for different people at different stages. We have all discussed Souza, and now perhaps there is greater consensus that he is a future major leaguer. But Aaron Barret, likewise, started his career with miserable numbers and would never have been envisioned for where he is now in 2012. We have to allow, for some, the combination of emotional maturity and good teaching. So while I am ready to throw in the towel on Kylin Turnbull, for example, I can;t say that I ever saw Stephen Perez being where he is.

    6) For that reason, and perhaps to alleviate the despair that threads like this naturally mobilize, I find myself following folks who have fallen off the radar but show signs of rebirth. And they are many. All suggestions welcome.

    1) Jason Martinson
    2) Drew Vettleson
    3) Rafael Martin
    4) Chris Manno
    5) Josh Johnson
    6) Eury Perez
    7) Cole Leonida
    8) Pedro Severino
    9) Randy Encarnacion

    …and a place for Brandon Laird. Why not bring him up while Zimmerman is injured, I thought, and let Walters refine his defense?



    23 Jul 14 at 2:24 pm

  11. One more overriding point:

    The system entered 2014 with a surplus of talent. Consider that players of the skill level of Shawn Pleffner could not even find a roster until weeks into the season – he ended up an All-Star within a couple of months.

    But pitching (physical) injuries have been overwhelming. Ohlendorf, Jordan, Rosenbaum, Purke, Rivero, Solis, Encarnacion, Lee, all showed signs of being able to pitch above their level. All forcing the organization to tap into its reserve and then, to liquidate it and turn to replacement players. So this season is illusory in that regard.


    23 Jul 14 at 2:32 pm

  12. Todd – good post, although I am still not sure where I come out. I find myself still asking questions about the methodology, to be honest. OK, so this is me just thinking out loud, if that is ok.

    Why do you care if the above average regular comes in the 1st round, or just that one comes out of each draft (same point for each of your guidelines)? Aren’t you penalizing a GM for not following a specific pattern in his drafting? Maybe he wants to take a chance on an all or nothing guy, and feels like he has to do it in the 1st round or lose him, then goes after safer picks.

    Your system rewards multiple productive guys, which I can kind of understand, but does it properly credit a team for a huge hit if the rest of the draft misses? If a team drafted Mike Trout, me, my 7 yr old, his grandma, my aunt Gladys and all of her friends from her senior spinning class, I think that while they might want a higher hit rate, they would still feel ok, no? So why not just base the evaluation off WAR produced by each draft?

    To ask a question several others have asked, but a little differently, what kind of record makes a good drafter? 50% success rate? 80%? Nats are 5-4 according to your system. Is that good or bad? Sounds bad or maybe just about average, but they have had a lot of homegrown WAR, like we talked about in the last post. Not sure what would be considered a successful track record.

    Not trying to attack the post, just posing some alternative questions. As for evaluating drafts based on projections, I don’t think that you can do it confidently. Just look at how much the known prospects vary year to year (Cole, Goodwin, Taylor) and then new guys literally come out of nowhere (Roark, Jordan, Treinin, Barrett). I think that until they start reaching the majors and we see what they really are, we just don’t know.

    Lastly, I hear what you are saying about other sports drafts. But while there are no guarantees in any of them, I think that baseball is much more variable. I haven’t seen any studies about it, and I don’t know if it is because there are more players drafted in baseball so it just feels that way, but I’d put my money there.


    23 Jul 14 at 3:09 pm

  13. @foresicane – why not Brandon Laird? Easy. He isn’t on the 40-man roster, and someone else would have to be taken off (at the risk of losing him) in order to recall Laird. Besides, Walters is already 24, and his defense is likely not going to be refined that much further. He is what he is, a stone glove whose bat MIGHT be valuable if he can make enough contact to allow his power to be a plus asset.

    At best, Walters could be a young Dan Uggla (who came out of nowhere at age 26 after being selected by the Marlins in the Rule 5 draft), a power hitting second baseman who is a lousy fielder and strikes out a lot. But you know what? I’d take that over current edition of Espinosa any day.


    23 Jul 14 at 3:36 pm

  14. Wally; great point, which I think I postulated in one of the year summaries (the Giolito one). If Lucas Giolito turns into a Cy Young winner but NONE of the rest of that draft ever reaches AA, is that a successful draft? I dunno if I would say that. So you hit on the one pick where you had the best shot of getting a winner and punted on the rest … that’s not a success for me.

    I wanted to avoid something simplistic like cumulative WAR per draft because of the realistic expectations of the bottom half of the draft. A guy could play 6 years of minor league ball for you as a 25th rounder, never reach the majors, have NIL war but be a very successful pick.

    For me, I value 1st and 2nd and 3rd round picks because by and large that’s where the talent comes from. I recall looking at the draft/acquisition methods of the top 20 starters in the league or so and with the exception of like 2-3 guys they were all 1st or supp-1st rounders (excluding IFAs of course).

    Nats are 5-4 per my judgement. How many of those “wins” were because they wrote $20M worth of checks?

    Other sports: i don’t think there’s an argument that Baseball is the biggest crap shoot of a draft. But then again, in baseball they’re furthest away from glory. NBA players step ont the court and they’re playing meaningful minutes. NFL rookies can start in the NFL and regularly do, even at the QB position. I don’t know jack about hockey. Some of the best soccer players are 20-22 yr olds and you routinely see teenagers in european pro leagues. So i dunno.

    Todd Boss

    23 Jul 14 at 3:56 pm

  15. Good stuff forensicane. I’m glad you re bullish on the bottom half of 2013. I am right now as well.

    Todd Boss

    23 Jul 14 at 3:57 pm

  16. bdrube- oops, I thought he was on the 40 Man. OK.

    Buut that said, Mattheus, Purke, Rivero and Solis are all on that roster and none of them will pitch again this year. Why not put any of them on the DL and bring him up.

    Laird is a mature player, on fire at Syracuse, his defense is better than Walters and he plays multiple positions. Isn;t that why they picked him up (and that kind of outcome is good for the organization in recruiting ML free agents).

    I am in agreement with you that he is not Espinosa.

    I am as enamored of Walters as the next guy, but if they are not going to put him in every day right now because of his defense, Syracuse has plenty of talent to give a chance to.

    I’m just saying this in order to broaden our minds a bit. I did this last year with Tanner Roark when we were all discussing Karns. Sometimes it helps to consider what is sitting right in front of us that we overlook.


    23 Jul 14 at 4:23 pm

  17. @forensicane – yeah, I’m not sure why they would be reluctant to move one of those four injured pitchers to the 60-day DL, other than it complicates the decision making when they have to be reinstalled on the 40-man at the end of the year. As for Laird, you might be right about him, but unfortunately for him he’s a career corner infielder, and the Nats no doubt want Rendon over at 3B as much as possible given that he’ll be the starter on the hot corner permanently after this year.


    23 Jul 14 at 6:58 pm

  18. @TB – compared to football and basketball, baseball is the sport in which athleticism/natural ability is the least reliable predictor of success. We’re seeing that right now on own team as Strasburg continues his slow but seemingly relentless slide towards mediocrity despite obviously having the best “stuff” of any of our starters.


    23 Jul 14 at 7:14 pm

  19. Forensicane: I’ve thought the same about these guys you mention; i’m guessing its all about paying major league salaries and/or accruing service time. They could call up Purke then 60-day him … but then he’s getting both.

    Maybe that’s what you do though, in order to get some roster flexibility. I dunno.

    Todd Boss

    23 Jul 14 at 9:29 pm

  20. Strasburg’s struggles are inexplicable to me. Teams are hitting over .300 against his fastball. What gives? .347 BABIP: not all of that is luck. I think his FB has flattened out or something. His fip and especially xFip looks great … but those are just theoretical stats that aren’t stopping him from giving up runs. He’s throwing a ton more change-ups this year … otherwise his pitch selection looks consistent with years prior. Velocity down .8 MPH from last year … i dunno. Something’s amiss.

    Todd Boss

    23 Jul 14 at 9:32 pm

  21. HOpe you guys are still reading this thread. I went back to the original post and put in the bonus figures for each draft, and then added analysis at the bottom which i’ll cut-n-paste here.

    Editor’s Post-posting thoughts. Based on the analysis above, the franchise has 5 successes and 5 failures (or projected failures) in ten drafts. After up and down drafts the first four years, we had three straight successes in 2009-2011, but now I feel like we’ve had three successive failures from 2012 onwards. Here’s a sobering thought about those successes and failures: lets talk about bonus money spent.

    In the 5 drafts I call successes, the team spent (chronologically): $3,990,500, $7,619,300, $18,806,000, $11,413,200 and $11,325,000 in bonus money.
    In the 5 drafts i’m calling failures/projected failures: $5,222,000, $4,766,500, $4,503,500, $2,678,100, $4,149,900

    See a pattern? With the exception of the unbelievable 2005 draft, the Nats have had successes when spending big money and failures when they don’t. Maybe its just that simple.

    I think, to be fair, it is also worth nothing the three distinct “eras” of Nats draft philosophy:

    Era 1: 2005-2008: MLB hamstrung budgets and Lerner penny pinching era. 2 successes, 2 failures.
    Era 2: 2009-2011: Lerner’s realize the Tampa Bay way: spending through the draft is the best way to acquire talent. 3 successes
    Era 3: 2012-present: the new CBA spells out draconian draft bonus policies. 3 failures.

    Era 1 may be just the way it used to go; sometimes you’d get wins in the draft, other times you’d strike out. Era 2 was the glory years of Nats drafting, though the cynic may point out that picking three consensus 1-1 talents and/or spending 8 figures in the draft wasn’t that hard. Era 3 is more troubling: why has this management team not done better in the CBA/limited bonus era?

    Todd Boss

    24 Jul 14 at 9:46 am

  22. Todd, nice piece.

    One thing I think you’re overlooking is the importance of draft order. I think Fangraphs a few years ago looked at expected value (based on historic performances) by draft spot through the first two rounds. Their conclusion: the first 10 spots or so typically produce very high value (your MLB regular to star level guy) and after that, value tailed off pretty fast. That’s not to say that people never draft stars later, but the expectated value of slots in the 20s was way lower.

    Based on that, a trend I see is based on the Nats draft order. Not perfect, but look at the results: 2005: #5, “success”. 2006: #15, “failure”. 2007: #6, “failure”. 2008: #9, “failure”. 2009: #1, “success”. 2010: #1, “success”. 2011: #6, “success”. 2012: #15, “failure”, 2013: #30, “failure”


    24 Jul 14 at 10:27 am

  23. Just to get this back to my earlier point, there is a lot of enthusiasm for the Dominican talent, and some of it is showing up to warrant sustainable enthusiasm.

    Raudy Read is catching at Auburn and has 4HR in his last eight games, batting cleanup, with 21 RBI in only 31 games and only 20 years old. The 21 year old who is in Potomac and has struggled, Pedro Severino, is too talented to give up on and is still young. But when you consider the masher season the defense-first Kieboom is having at Hagerstown (never mind that he is 23 – it’s his first full season post-college and he is coming off a major injury), and Reetz has really come on in the GCL, the team has a real pipeline at the catching position.

    The DSL team includes Davinson Pimentel, not the Baseball America luminary and high priced talent, but clearly at the top of his league. The Nats have quietly been truning the latin American program into their high school feeder talent and we will definitely see the windfall. They have enough confidence in their scouting, which I am sure includes Rizzo, to recognize that they can make good long term investments on unheralded talent that they see potential in. Don;t forget, the same thinking brought the Expos Vladimir Guererro once.

    As for some of the other recent draft stories, Travis Ott is also looking like the truth at Auburn. Only 18 and any time a lefty starter shows up in this organization, it’s going to matter.

    I still think that if you take the injuries away from the minor leagues this year, at least by fifty percent, the state of the organization would look much better. Some of those guys will genuinely come back. We never gave up on Giolito; why give up on Solis?

    One final VERY important point. This is the best AAA talent that the Nats have had available to them in many years. That absolutely should influence personnel and trading decisions. I am hopeful, even excited, about the idea of giving Walters a chance to play every day. If not at 2B, then at 3B with Rendon at 2B and a double play combination intact. I’m done with Espinosa masquerading as a starter.

    I’m also done with this bench and pinch hitting. The hair on the hairy chests has gone white, taking with it bat speed. 0 for 23 until a bunt single? Even Eury Perez would add more value than that, at least he could pinch run in the ninth inning and score on a hit.


    24 Jul 14 at 11:43 am

  24. Don’t sleep on Brandon Laird. That’s all I wanted to say. Or the Onion. Let him come off the bench to pinch hit in September. Or Burruss as a late inning replacement.

    The team has a LOT of interesting personnel decisions this off season. If Cole tears it up in AAA this month (shutout yesterday), and Treinen seasons well, you have them and Jordan and even Taylor Hill.

    Do you sell high on Zimm? Or, as implied here, sell even higher on Strasburg? I am in the sign Fister and Desmond club, BTW.


    24 Jul 14 at 11:50 am

  25. Matt; also a very fair point. I’ll edit the piece (for historical purposes) to denote where the Nats were picking.

    Todd Boss

    24 Jul 14 at 1:21 pm

  26. Brandon Laird; good AAA numbers, awful MLB numbers. The definition of 4-A. But there’s a roster jam. Who do you drop/60-day DL to make room for Laird right now? We know there’s several guys out for the year in the minors (Purke, Solis) but calling htem up starts their service clocks. Baaaaad.

    Or you could drop someone. But of the 15 guys in the minors but on our 40-man roster, there’s not really an evident person to drop.

    Do you dump one of the backups? Hairston, McLouth or Frandsen? All three have been awful. Can’t cut loose McLouth; he’s owed $5M next year (great signing!) Frandsen is cheaper than Hairston but they’re both sunk costs. Does it make any sense to release Hairston to add Laird? I dunno if I would make that argument.

    Sign Desmond: I’m pretty sure they’ve tried, really hard. You know what I think? I think Desmond has his eye on two things. 1) Elvis Andrus’ contract. 2) The Yankees SS job.

    Todd Boss

    24 Jul 14 at 3:03 pm

  27. I am glad that there is a correlation between draft spending and results. It means that the scouts essentially know what they are doing, and it isn’t completely random. Also adds to the puzzlement about why teams would willingly handicap their ability to acquire talent this way, and be forced to do it much more expensively (FA).

    As for who to keep/let go, I think that you have to assume that each of the guys coming up on FA gets at least a 5 year deal, maybe more. I’d agree that Fister profiles as a guy that should age well, being very athletic and not reliant on velocity for his success, so I’d probably be ok with him getting 5 years so long as it is less than $100m. Stras is a puzzler, and while many would consider it heresy, I’d have to agree that this offseason is decision time for him. With two years left of control, either they extend (and I am not sure he deserves what he would demand) or consider trading while value is highest. You’d think LAD would pay a pretty penny for him. JZimm is a tweener for me. I can’t say for sure that I would do it, it would depend on where his numbers fell out. If he started getting up towards Greinke money, which isn’t unrealistic for him, I’d have to let him walk.

    As for Desi, I feel similarly to JZimm. I love the guy. But he ends next year at 30, and his value is pretty much power and plus D, which may fade quickly in a MI. I don’t know that I’d go 5 years at premium prices for him.


    24 Jul 14 at 5:21 pm

  28. Matt, good point about draft order … but:

    2012: #15, “failure”

    Really? Lucas Giolito (who was #16, btw) is a failure? A consensus top 5 pitching prospect who just turned 20?

    Let my team be composed of failures such as this!

    John C.

    24 Jul 14 at 11:29 pm

  29. JohnC; I am projecting that draft as a failure right now because it looks like Giolito may be the only MLBer to come from it.

    I postulated the question: if you draft for 40 rounds and produce one major leaguer, is that draft a failure? If not, how “good” does that player have to be in order to consider that draft a success? So, discuss this concept. Here’s some scenarios:
    – Giolito right now is a highly ranked prospect. Does that make the draft a success right now? I think no; yes he’s a prospect but he’s not in the majors yet and has a long way to go.
    – If Giolito turns out to be a #3 starter and is the only guy out of the class who gets past AA … does that make this draft a success? Keep in mind, Zach Wheeler was just as highly regarded as Giolito was, and so far he’s a career 98 ERA+ guy (aka, #3 to #4 starter).
    – If Giolito turns into a Cy Young winner/#1 starter, but nobody else out of the class ever makes the majors …. is that a draft class success?

    So; tell me your opinion. How good does Giolito have to be to, by himself, turn an entire draft year into a success?

    Todd Boss

    25 Jul 14 at 6:59 am

  30. Coincidentally the post does have our draft position (#16) correct for 2012. I’m not sure where we put that Giolito was 15th.

    Todd Boss

    25 Jul 14 at 7:00 am

  31. Todd I was responding to Matt’s comment at 10:27am yesterday. Which may have been using shorthand for your post. Because confusing each other is what we do best!

    John C.

    26 Jul 14 at 9:10 am

  32. Laird never has really been given a chance to play every day at 3B. And his performance at AAA this year is a real notch above what he has done in the past. He was a first round pick of the Yankees. That’s a worthwhile pedigree.

    While it is academic, I am still among those who hope Walters gets into the lineup regularly at 2B.

    A couple of other points: I’ve rethought my top 50 prospects now that the short season leagues have had a chance to get traction and rosters and roles have stabilized. With that said, while the best performances for the 2014 draft are pitchers chosen late, there is emerging Dominican pitching talent for Auburn that was not even on the radar for the GCL Nats last year. They (Sanchez, Torres, and Lopez) are younger than the draftees and yet are performing quite ably, despite skipping the rookie league.

    My greater point is that organizational health and stability is infused by two parallel streams, not only the MLB draft. International impact is alive and promising.

    Draft success is an ineffable construct. I find it easy enough to say that if the organization signs its draftees, that is an essential. And of course, if one looks several years later and the draftees are all selling insurance or coaching or laboring in AA for the fourth year, it’s more obvious.

    But beyond that, if a star emerges from round six, three, or one, it just doesn’t matter? And if a draftee fetches Gio Gonzalez, great. If the Nats win the World Series this year, the Span we all have ambivalence for will still be remembered as a product of the draft of Alex Meyer.


    27 Jul 14 at 5:28 pm


    MLB/Jim Callis’s crew has put out updated top 20 ranks for orgs accounting for 2014 draft picks.

    I think he’s dreaming on Fedde at #4, but has recognized Souza while also pushing down Goodwin based on 2014 results. Recognition also of Voth’s up and Johansen’s down seasons.

    Todd Boss

    28 Jul 14 at 8:56 am

  34. Meh on Callis. This proves the point argued here for months. Suddenly Souza goes from being too old and completely off the radar to #5? What happened to the “his swing is too long,” “he will struggle against better pitching,” “he was a PED user,” etc.

    And really, now, how can a guy who has never thrown a pitch in the system and coming off an injury be ranked that high?

    As for the other rankings, there are assorted familiar names who have not demonstrated, in performance to date, to belong anywhere near their ranking.

    Right now, the system has six premium chips. Then there is a drop off, then a much bigger drop off. But people mature and flame out. Christian Garcia was part of the rarefied air for awhile. Perhaps that is why I am so enamored of what Rafael Martin is doing in AAA. Not merely with not giving up runs, but not walking anyone (like Gilberto Mendez – extraordinary control and at age 21 in high A).

    Here is my hot list. The exact numbers are less consequential than the notion of who belongs and who has earned it. We all have our formulas, and mine is a combination of demonstrated success as a player climbs levels, plate discipline for hitters, power, low walks for pitchers and the ability to miss bats, age, speed and other skills and likelihood that such skills will help at the ML level, mastery of increasing levels of competition, mental intangibles of the player as their managers have reported.

    *-has earned promotion
    +-new entry

    Steven Souza AAA*
    Michael Taylor AA*
    Luke Giolito A-*
    A.J. Cole AAA
    Zach Walters M

    Blake Treinen AAA
    Taylor Jordan AAA
    Austin Voth AA
    Wilmer Difo A-*
    Taylor Hill AAA

    Drew Ward A-
    Matt Skole AA
    Gilberto Mendez A+*
    Matt Grace AAA
    Rafael Martin AAA+

    Destin Hood AAA
    Raudy Read SS
    Spencer Kieboom A-*
    Brian Goodwin AAA
    Rafael Bautista A-

    Travis Ott SS
    Nick Pivetta A-
    Sandy Leon AAA
    John Simms AA
    Derek Self AA

    Jake Walsh A+*
    David Napoli SS*
    Kevin Keyes AA
    Drew Vettelson AA
    Eury Perez AAA

    Tony Renda A+*
    Johnathan Solano AAA
    Brandon Laird AAA+
    Cutter Dykstra AA
    Stephen Perez A+

    Jefry Rodriguez R
    Sammy Solis AA
    John Wooten A-*
    Hector Silvestre A+
    Jakson Reetz R+

    Robert Benincasa AA
    Rey Lopez A-+
    Mario Sanchez SS+
    Shawn Pleffner A+
    Isaac Ballou A+

    Pedro Severino A+
    Estarlin Martinez A+
    Luis Torres SS+
    Randy Encarnacion R
    Jose Marmelos-Diaz SS+

    Anyway, this should at least facilitate the attention some folks get here who otherwise get no love but are getting it done.


    28 Jul 14 at 10:19 am

  35. Forensicane; hey at least he’s finally recognizing Souza!

    Great list. You need your own blog! 🙂

    Todd Boss

    28 Jul 14 at 12:08 pm

  36. Ha! No way!….I am only here, and only occasionally inspired by you to throw a log or two on the fire to instigate and perhaps draw a few more into the mix.

    I don’t know how you do it, Todd. But I am glad you do, really. Your posts are the most informative in the blogosphere.


    28 Jul 14 at 1:14 pm

  37. John/Todd — sorry I’ve been slow replying, but yes, my designation of “failure”/”success” was just my attempt to summarize Todd’s post, and link his findings to the draft order. And yeah, you’re right, we drafted Giolito at #16 — sorry about the slip-up.

    My broader point was that the definitions of success and failure should take into account the draft order that the team had — you expect more from a draft where you’re going #1 overall (and getting the first pick in each successive round) than one where you get the last pick in every round.


    29 Jul 14 at 2:18 pm

  38. Todd,

    Can you start a new thread on the Nats most recent moves and more recent happenings in the farm system? Perhaps you can title it, “Looking ahead to September?”

    I’ve been cooling my heels not to threadjack but there is so much going on that we have not been discussing on this blog….


    8 Aug 14 at 9:42 am

  39. Forensicane; new posted for you!

    Todd Boss

    12 Aug 14 at 11:47 am

Leave a Reply