Nationals Arm Race

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

Looking ahead to September



Souza was smiling even harder last week upon his MLB debut.  Photo Nats official/Tommy Gilligan

Souza was smiling even harder last week upon his MLB debut. Photo Nats official/Tommy Gilligan

So, this post is for forensicane, who wants to talk about the recent promotions of deserving Nats prospects, talk about September call-ups and some other happenings down on the farm. :-)

Despite my own best intentions, I have fallen off the wagon a bit in terms of the monthly check-ins that I like to do for the rotations/pitching staffs (both major and minor leagues).  A tough work schedule and a pending job change have conspired against that (and, frankly, the new job probably will further restrict posting).  But I’ll definitely summarize the minor league seasons (which, believe it or not, end in like three weeks!) and do the full-blown reviews that I’ve done in years past.

In the past week we’ve seen two very deserving farmhands get their MLB debuts: Steven Souza and Michael Taylor.  Souza unfortunately got just twelve ABs before slamming into the outfield fence, damaging his shoulder and heading to the D/L.  Which paved the way for Taylor to now join the team, but likely does not help out the major league club much.  Souza had destroyed AAA pitching while Taylor has just 4 games above AA; i’d bet he sees rather limited action until either Souza or Nate McLouth returns from the injured list.  Nonetheless, both promotions were deserved.

Looking ahead to September call-ups, Chase Hughes on NatsInsider took a look at some players who likely get 9/1 call-ups and came up with the expected list of guys who have shuttled back-and-forth between AAA and the Majors this year (Blake TreinenTaylor Hill, Aaron Barrett, Ryan Mattheus, Xavier Cedeno, Tyler Moore and Jhonatan Solano).  He also predicted one 40-man addition/call-up in Matthew Grace, which would be a great reward for his break-out season (and maybe spell the end of the 5.02 ERA Jerry Blevins experiment)?

Of the rest of the 40-man roster not already mentioned, Sammy Solis is on the AA disabled list, Felipe Rivero is also on the D/L (but is putting in re-hab assignments) but doesn’t merit a call-up, Sandy Leon has struggled badly this year and seems to be closer to a DFA than a call-up, Jeff Kobernus may also get a call-up to provide full-field utility needs and Eury Perez probably doesn’t quite need a call-up unless the Nats lose yet another outfielder.

The 40-man roster is full, but the team could easily re-call and 60-day D/L Solis (much like they did with Matthew Purke) to make room.  Solis hasn’t appeared since May 26th and at this point seems done for the year.

I havn’t done significant analysis of the roster moves that will have to happen in the off-season (re-adding 60-day D/L guys, cutting loose free agents, non-tenders and rule-5 additions), but I can see a bit of a glut coming.

  • We have four 60-day D/L guys now and a full 40-man roster.
  • We have four potential FAs … but three of them have options that are possibly attainable/possibly executable (Rafael Soriano‘s “games finished” option, Adam LaRoche‘s $15M mutual option for 2015 and Denard Span‘s decently affordable $9M 2015 option).  It doesn’t help that all three guys are having career years (Span now hitting above .300, LaRoche has the best OPS+ on the team and Soriano’s 1.79 ERA is nearly a career-low), making all these decisions rather difficult.
  • We have a TON of arbitration-eligible guys (at least 12-13 if Cots is correct).
  • We have more than a few guys in the minors who WILL need to be added ahead of Rule-5.  A.J. Cole is the biggest name, but there’s more than a few other names out there probably worth protecting too (scan the Nats draft-tracker for 2014 Rule 5 Eligibles).

A post for another day.

Anyway; have at it.

68 Responses to 'Looking ahead to September'

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  1. Who is the smartest GM in baseball? Most would say Billy Beane, the guy who routinely trades his stars before they reach FA or get too expensive. He’s also the guy who dumped $10MM/yr Jim Johnson – if a guy stinks, can’t keep him around.

    With my GM hat on, I would definitely shop J-Zimm and Span this offseason. Both are reasonable rentals and could fetch some talent to displace Espy, Cabrera, and McLouth and also fill up the farm system. Cole, Treinan or Jordan can take the 5 spot and prepare for 2016 when Giolito can take Fister or Stras’ spot. It’s irrelevant how rich the Lerners are – you have to assume they aren’t looking to lose much, if any, money.

    IF the MASN deal gets sorted out, I wouldn’t necessarily change the above, but I would push hard to sign Harp, Rendon, Ramos and Desmond long-term to huge/massive. As we discussed on an earlier thread, signing pitchers long-term is way too risky and good hitters are a much better bet. Blow those guys away with huge deals and lock them up. It will cost us another $40-50MM/yr for those guys, eating up a chunk of the MASN increase. If MASN doesn’t get sorted out, we’re potentially at risk of losing 1 or 2 of those guys in a few years.

    Andrew R

    13 Aug 14 at 6:06 pm

  2. Trading for a quality second baseman; who though? I mean, who out there is a quality 2B that would be an upgrade over internal options and who is available in trade/FA?

    Perusing the MLB depth charts for 2B, lets zoom around the majors and look at the starting 2B for all 30 clubs:
    – Franchise players/bigtime prospects/Not likely to be moved: Pedroia (Bos), Kinsler (Det), Altuve (Hou), Cano (Sea), Zobrist (TB), Profar (Tex), Odor (Tex), Hill (Ari), Baez (CHC), Phillips (Cin) , Gennett (Mil), Utley (Phi), Walker (Pit), Wong (stl)

    – Uninspiring/not any better than what we have: Schoop (Bal), Beckham (CWS), Infante (KC), Kendrick (LAA), Drew (NYY), Callaspo or whoever in Oakland, Tolleson/Kawasaki (Tor), La Stella or whoever in Atl, LeMahieu (Col), Gordon (LAD), whoever they’re playing at 2nd in Mia, Flores/Tejada (NYM), Scutaro (SF),

    FAs to be of any interest: Zobrist (but he has an option), Weeks (but he’s been awful), Uggla (ditto), Stephen Drew (meh), Brian Roberts (who just got cut), Bonifacio (double meh).

    So that leaves by my count a few possibilities: Dozier (Min), Kipnis (Cle), Gyorko (SD).

    Maybe one of the untouchables above is obtainable. But I don’t think so. The Nats don’t have a whole heck of a lot in the pipeline at middle infield; Kobernus played 2B in college and is on the 40-man but clearly is thought to be an outfielder now. Rhymes and Burriss in AAA are both MLFA/journeymen (coincidentally both with local ties). Dykstra/Martinson in AA are old/struggling. Renda/Perez in Potomac are both 2012 high draft picks who have had decent seasons but are each at least 2+ seasons away. There’s no point looking any further down since we have a “now” problem.


    Todd Boss

    14 Aug 14 at 8:08 am

  3. As it so happens, just last night I went down to Potomac and saw the P-Nats for the second time this season. If we’re hoping for Perez and/or Renda to be our future second baseman, were in trouble. Renda looks like someone’s little kid brother was allowed on to the field. In the first game I saw him play, Austin Voth had a no hitter going in the fifth inning when an opposing batter hit a liner right at Renda, who jumped as high as he could but didn’t even get a glove on it. Espinosa probably catches that ball while barely leaving his feet (he also made a terrible error on a routine grounder last night, but that could happen to anybody once in awhile).

    Perez meanwhile, by my admittedly untrained eye, has lousy range. He totally whiffed on a hard hit grounder to his right last night he should have had easily, in part because he made the cardinal mistake of not getting his body behind the ball. It should also be emphasized that there two guys have almost no power (literally zero in Renda’s case, as that’s how many home runs he’s hit this year). Also, they are both already 23, which was the exact age Desmond was when he was first called up.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to see Difo play yet. but statistically he looks terrific this year. Of course, as a one year wonde, he’ll have to prove next year that he wasn’t a fluke. In any event, I seriously doubt that even if he is the real deal that he would be ready to replace Desmond by 2016.

    Bottom line for me is Uncle Teddy has to open up the checkbook and pay Ian what he wants, or the Nats are destined to suffer from sub-optimal SS production for awhile starting in 2016.


    14 Aug 14 at 8:34 am

  4. Oops–I kind of swung that last post to the SS end of things, but it applies to 2B as well. Asdrubal may have been traded to the right place. If he fits in well with the rest of the team, produces down the stretch and keeps his speed on the beltway below 105 MPH (rimshot), he might just get a decent FA deal here despite having his production fall off since his All Star days.


    14 Aug 14 at 8:41 am

  5. Rendon could be the 2b.

    But, Matt Carpenter is another guy. Kipnis will be available if Walters keeps hitting Walkoffs… We match up nicely with the cubs for Castro or Baez and I could see the rangers trading Profar as they are stacked in the IF.

    3b includes Sandoval (fa), Donaldson, Alvarez, Arenado, and… A-Rod.

    Andrew R

    14 Aug 14 at 9:16 am

  6. Rendon as long term 2b solution: don’t see it. I see Zimmerman being put out to pasture, so to speak, either in LF or 1B. I think even he realizes his days of playing competent 3B are gone. I was incredibly happy to see he could play a competent LF (gives him more positional flexibility). But Rendon has shown himself to be a plus defender at 3B. I think the move is going to be to say good bye to LaRoche, install Zim at first, Rendon at 3b and find a 2b solution.

    Despite Zim’s ability in LF, there’s just no outfield room. If Zim is in LF, where is Harper? If Harper moves to RF, where is Werth? If Harper is in center, than we’re saying the team is dumping Span and sacrificing defense in center AND delaying Michael Taylor. And Souza. And then who bats leadoff? Tooooo many ifs in that sentence.

    Cubs would want pitching for Castro/Baez. Do we want to give up Cole or Giolito? That’s at least what a guy like Baez would cost. Generally speaking you’re just not going to see prospect for prospect trades.

    Todd Boss

    14 Aug 14 at 9:38 am

  7. What’s the difference between finding a 2b or 3b wrt to the rest of the team. Only affects where rendon plays, right?

    I think any trade to the Cubs starts with Cole and Treinan. If we aren’t going to trade J-Zimm, we have no place for them anyway.

    Andrew R

    14 Aug 14 at 9:52 am

  8. @Andrew R – Rendon will be the Nats’ third baseman for at least the next five years. His dWAR was -1.0 last year in not even a full season at 2B, whereas it is +1.1 playing mostly 3B this year. He’s made some spectacular plays at third, and it makes no sense to move him from his natural position.

    BTW – I’d add Kipinis and Gyorko to the list of “not any better than what we have” in Asdrubal. They’ve both been brutal at the plate this year.

    One guy Todd left off the list was Daniel Murphy, who has one more year left until free agency and whom the Nats apparently had an interest in prior to the trade deadline. Would NY (which is realistically two years out from competing for the playoffs again) be willing to trade him to a divison rival? If so, what would it take it propspects to pry him away from the Mets? Getting Murphy for one year makes sense if you believe that 2015 is the last year that the window is open for the current squad before rebuilding begins, with the bonus being that our pitchers won’t have to face him any more. :)


    14 Aug 14 at 10:51 am

  9. I am repeating an earlier point, but I highly doubt that Rizzo is approaching things as 2015 is the last year of their window. I bet he will try to selectively replace some parts to reload on the fly and will look to have the realistic window stretch to 2019-2020. With Harper and Rendon locked up for that time frame, as well as Gio and Roark, I assume he feels that is a pretty good nucleus. I think he is right but it does require them to consider flipping a guy or two that is only locked up for 2015.

    Not sure why peopl assume it will be easy to resign Cabrera. A guy two months from FA that is traded to a club with which he has no ties is almost certainly going to test FA, I think. Now, maybe the Nats will see enough that makes them willing to outbid others for him, but I don’t think he gives us a deal without testing the market.

    MASN deal coming to a head. I think a whole bunch of docs got released in court. I haven’t had a chance to track them down but it will be interesting and have an impact on a lot of what is being discussed here.


    14 Aug 14 at 11:45 am

  10. @Wally – I’m not saying Rizzo will do a complete rebuilding, but with Z-nn, Fister, Desmond, Span, Strasburg, Ramos, Clippard and Storen all potentially free agents before 2017, there’s going to be a lot of churn, and the face of this team is going to be quite different come that season.

    As for Asdrubal, the Nats absolutely SHOULDN’T jump in with an immediate offer (like they did with Haren), but take their time and let the market shake out like they did with LaRoche. Is Asdrubal more valuable than LaRoche was after 2012? LaRoche’s WAR was 4.1 that year, while Asdrubal looks like he may end up around slightly over half that this year.

    If some other team offers him a crazy deal, fine. Nothing much lost by letting him go. But if the market settles and he can be had for something like 3 years/$36 million? Not a bad price to pay for a guy whose been relatively durable in his career to plug what will otherwise be a gaping hole in the lineup.


    14 Aug 14 at 12:59 pm

  11. Well, the difference in market is that ALR had a qualifying offer placed on him; one reason for the lack of a market developing was that teams were (understandably) reluctant to part with a draft pick to sign a solid journeyman entering his mid-30’s. The Nats cannot extend a QO to Cabrera (and wouldn’t even if they could) because he switched teams during the season.

    Cabrera may also want to get a SS gig someplace else (although he may be considered the heir apparent if Desmond walks after next year).

    John C.

    14 Aug 14 at 1:32 pm

  12. @John C. – forgot about the QO. But your other point is also valid. The Nats may need to fill both middle infield slaots in the next two years and have nothing ready in house. At any rate, they have at least two months (and hopefully three!) to evaluate Asdrubal up close.


    14 Aug 14 at 2:22 pm

  13. I can’t see signing Cabrera long term. Johnny peralta got 4/$53 and I would expect Cabrera to ask for something similar. I wouldn’t pay half of that. I see Rizzo pushing hard for Castro or Profar or someone similar instead.

    Andrew R

    14 Aug 14 at 2:39 pm

  14. 2B or not 2B, that is the question . . .

    There’s no way Cabrera is getting Peralta-like money, from anyone. He looks overpaid at $10M this year. Still, particularly considering the lack of other good options out there, I’d rather slightly overpay him than think about trading a key piece of the future like Cole. If the Nats can get Cabrera for three or four years in the range of $8-10M per, they should do it. He would solidify 2B and give them an option at SS should negotiations with Desmond not work out.

    MASN deal – don’t hold your breath, folks. I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t end up in court. The Nats will be lucky if that gets done in time for the offseason following 2015, when they really need the cash.

    Lerners and fiscal responsibility – unlimited budgets don’t mean unlimited success. I don’t mind some constraints if they force smart baseball and team-building decisions. Teams shouldn’t re-sign every aging guy they have (hello Phillies!). The types of cost-benefit conversations we have here about what Desi, Zmnn, and Fister will be worth well into their 30s have to take place if you’re going to keep your team viable. Look at the Braves of the 1990s-early 2000s. They turned over every position several times except the pitching core (Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz – and eventually let all of them leave as well) and one hitter, Chipper. Yes, I know they only won one championship, but the point is that they stayed in the championship conversation for a decade and a half with a mid-level budget. They did it by not thinking any player was irreplaceable and by trying to be ahead of the curve in filling holes. Billy Beane is just as ruthless in turning over his lineup.


    15 Aug 14 at 8:28 am

  15. Taking all of this together, I have a few thoughts:

    1) Contracts – The Nats are learning what every other team has learned. Long term contracts carry very high risk, beyond financial. They also tie up a player development pipeline.

    Coupled with free agency encouraging overpayment for lesser players, there is every incentive for turning over the roster unless someone is an elite championship piece and figures to be for years to come. The Nats have to regret the contract they’ve given Ryan Zimmerman. The Nats do not regret the contract they gave Werth, but that was a different time, with a different team, and a different organization. The Nats must be happy that Cecil Fielder signed elsewhere. And while Gio’s contract is considered team friendly, he is not performing at the level he was in his first year.

    So I think that, outside the few “irreplaceable” team cogs like Desmond (the team’s equivalent of Derek Jeter), Bryce Harper, and possibly Fister or Strasburg, there ought not be any more long term contracts. Which brings me to Ryan Zimmerman.

    2) Ryan Zimmerman – I don’t think the team will bet against him, nor do I think they should. He is young, under team control, and he will have the rest of the winter to work on his shoulder. He is still a dynamic fist baseman, and the team wins with him in the lineup. He may be destined for first base, but the lineup is better with him and Werth in it, assuming LaRoche’s departure.

    This sets up the chess pieces as Zimmerman/Werth/Span/Harper/Souza/Taylor/Moore for outfield and 1B.

    Zimmerman is a great athlete and a player. I think he can make the transition to 1B, and he has the bat to carry the position.

    With that said, the team is better served with him staying at 3B in 2015 IF it can happen. He was recently injured in his hamstring and his shoulder did not interfere with his 3B play upon his return. It’s worth every effort to try to make it work. In a way, it’s THE first step in the flow chart of decision-making.

    3) With that said, Werth’s contract is very much alive next year and he is still an enormous presence in the lineup. I don’t see the logic in putting out to pasture a guy who was just named player of the month, is a team leader in so many ways, a fan favorite, and who carries the team on his back. So the first step of what happens if Zimm cannot play 3B any longer is that Zimm goes to 1B. I don’t see Zimmerman in the 2015 OF, not because of his limitations, but because the team is going to feature four fleet outfielders candidates who can cover ground and three of whom have strong arms. Now, if they trade Span, that may affect Zimmerman’s having a spot for him in the OF.

    4) Cabrera – No way they resign him, no matter what. If he disappoints, he will not be back. If he does not disappoint, and even excels, he will command a far more irrational contract than the Nats need or want to give, especially given the other organizational marquee names they have. This was a rental player and is going to be.

    The Nats are a different organization than most others. They do not need to overpay anymore, long term. Even when the pieces are not ready, they are close. This is why Rizzo signed pitchers on one year deals, and why Span was brought in with contractural control than covered only enough time for the younger outfielder cream to rise to the top. The discussion we have now is only occurring because the rise of Souza (who transcended rather than succeeded) and Taylor (who transcended and became the organizations best prospect, including Giolito), exceeded expectations. I do not expect the organization’s philosphy to be any different about taking on long term risk, especially given the greater talent pool at the higher levels.

    5) Injuries and depth – This is what drives the discussion for this entire thread. The system was tested, injury-wise, and passed in ways that well exceeded anyone’s expectations. There are AA-AAA replacements for OF injuries, and for 1B, but not for infielders. This had significant enough implications for a team with championship aspirations that they traded Walters for a mere rental.

    The lesson from this is that there is not necessarily a reason to replace Desmond. However, EVEN IF HE SIGNS, if Desmond goes down, neither Espinosa or Cabrera is the answer, and the system decided Walters was not, either. So the search for a player who is starring at AA, or even dominating A+ and has an obviously high ceiling, makes sense. It may come down to a prospect trade; if the team signs JZimmerman, then Blake Treinen may be at a sell high stage. But the need to create versatile infield depth, of players who can hit, defend, and hit for power, at the higher levels is clear. What if Rendon went down, for example?

    6) Souza – He has nothing more to prove in AAA. He will either be a controllable starting OF in DC or elsewhere. His demonstrated readiness, if he passes that test, is going to inform the decision about whether the organization can move Span if he can bring a high enough yield, again, selling high.

    The situation with his shoulder is a very curious one, with the organization taking a very cautious roster approach with him, even as Werth is missing game after game. I’m anxious to see him get a real run of action. But if he were to be sold high, and this organization does that, he is higher now than he has ever been.

    Taylor can go back to AAA without stunting his development. The hitting coach there will do him good. The team can hold onto Span if Zimmerman can play 3B, if Souza (and/or Tyler Moore) is not in their plans, and Taylor can season. But then they lose Span for nothing.

    7) Upper Minors pitching depth – we may be at the stage where the organization was when Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock were expendable. That does not mean we will be trading four minor leaguers. It does mean that bundling Span with a minor league arm of some note, or Zimm plus another arm, or more, can bring one hell of a player or package in return. The team is better situated to strengthen the organization and the parent team for the long haul than ever before.

    8) A little fun illustration to show what a difference a year makes. If you were to consider Luke Giolito in Spring training this year, and were told he would be healthy all year and to have been added to the futures game roster this year, what would be the expected answer to the below questions:

    Name the Hagerstown pitcher who:

    Ended the season in AA
    Led the team in wins
    Had the longest scoreless streak for a Suns starter

    ..and of course, the answer to each is a pitcher other than Giolito.

    So part of the challenge is sensing the trajectory one year or more ahead. Again, this is why I think we see, as Andrew and Wally infer, measured roster turnover as not just a prudent move for small market teams, but a prudent move for an organization that is at an elite level, in this era of the CBA.


    15 Aug 14 at 12:25 pm

  16. Just to clarify, before I get something snarky in reply… :)

    A) Prince Fielder, yes
    B) Yes, I was referring to Zimmerman’s return from a thumb injury, not implying his earlier injury was hamstring

    One last point about 9) trajectory and minor league depth – the difficulty with projecting stardom among minor league players is that the player is usually upon us by the time one realizes what we have. That is what distinguishes the first round picks more than anything — not that they become stars, but that they are the easiest to predict that they will become stars.

    So for every AJ Cole, there is Blake Treinen, Tanner Roark, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond, and Tyler Clippard who suddenly became.

    That, to me, is the strongest argument, for developing prospects by the bushel, creating depth, and then selling high for needed pieces, when the needs arise. A deep farm system with replacements that abound render making gaudy investments in free agents unnecessary and bad business.

    I think this underlies the organization philosophy in the Caribbean. Obviously there are some exciting prospects headed up the ladder, some of whom will be in AA this time next year. The organization is recruiting for quantity in a talent rich basin, turning the Nationals into essentially a college-replacement for players majoring in baseball. They believe in their development staff and are preaching that.

    The ultimate windfall will be an organization that is built for the long haul, with significant depth, and with increasingly younger prospects, such as we witness in this year’s GCL team.

    I think we will really see the fruits of that philosophy in two years. We will know it when the team no longer has to sign replacement players for its AA-AAA teams (although injuries have their influence on things).


    15 Aug 14 at 2:01 pm

  17. A weekend wild hair on an old thread: Souza was drafted essentially as a 3B and spent the first half of his long minor league career at third. I have no idea whether he was any good there defensively. Presumably the Nats moved him to the OF after signing Zim forever. Anyway, the wild hair–for next year–would be Souza at 3B, Rendon to 2B, and Zim either in LF or at 1B. It would be a bit of a gamble for a contending team, but it wouldn’t cost them anything to give it a look. Heck, if the Nats get well ahead in Sept., stick Souza at third now and see what we’ve got.


    16 Aug 14 at 5:45 pm

  18. I don’t see Souza to 3B happening.

    Since we are throwing out wild hairs, I will throw out a few:

    1) Brandon Laird vs. Matt Skole – Laird came to this organization with the pedigree that he was someone Rizzo liked for a long time. And he has elevated his game to another level. He plays the field better than Skole. And he may, by year’s end, have led the IL in RBI. Skole showed some very encouraging progress earlier this year, but has plateaued. Perhaps the long season? In any case, maybe both should be in the conversation. Laird is older, of course, but has completed the climb. Skole has not yet even dominated AA.

    2) The scoreless pitchers – Rey Lopez is on an incredible run at Hagerstown of scoreless innings. He is younger than the league average and this is his first season stateside. He tore up at Auburn and now is doing the same at Hagerstown. Any prospect list has to have him in the top 20 right now.

    Count me among those banging the drum for Beer League Martin. The incredible scoreless run he has had is long enough and in high leverage enough situations that he should be here in September and I hope he comes. And what a story if he does.

    3) Journeyman pitching and players – The organization has had to sign so many players to fill unforeeseen injury gaps and those players who’ve flamed out. I don’t remember anything like it. But at the same time, many of those players have since been released – even when performing well. That bodes well for where this organization may be with its health and quality, for next year. We will see our winter signings of Ohlendorf-Young types, but unless there is a substantial trade of depth and Taylor Jordan (mysteriously shut down) fails to come back, I can’t see any room at the upper levels for staring or relief pitching. Bad as the Harrisburg team has been, awful as their starting staff has been, their bullpen has been strong, as has the lower minors.

    As for position players, AAA benefitted from astute signings of Burrus, Johnson, and Laird. Walters is gone. Nobody in the AA infield deserves a promotion. This should be no surprise, given the earlier noises we have heard about acquiring a SS and the organization looking in general to add middle infield help internationally. So there could be a lot of flux there.

    As for the OF and catcher, the organization has enough depth that reinforcements will not be likely needed. Again, the above impacts trade discussions regardless of the decision to resign Desmond, simply because there is no safety net should he go down (although before Desmond broke out, the organization was trying Rendon, yes Rendon, at SS).

    4) This organization has a serious lack of power prospects. True, Kevin Keyes took a step forward. But Tyler Moore took a step back. As has Skole (I still think Skole is worth protecting on the 40 man, because he is such an amazing clutch hitter and has clutch power, and walks a lot. So he is one of those that I would expect to take a leap forward next year). But overall, the system is seriously lacking power prospects and with Walters, traded one of their remaining power bats. I would have to think that prospect power bats in the infield are a trade priority this fall.

    5) 2014 has brought a number of new starting pitcher names into the conversation. The organization continues to develop them very well, and these are trade chips that will help to shore up other needs. In addition to Lopez, who has a future here, Robbie Dickey is already looking like a good draft pick at Auburn, as is Nick Pivetta this year at Hagerstown and John Simms at Harrisburg. Taylor Hill is far more marketable as a Doug Fister type. We dismiss lover velocity and pitch to contact, but Chris Young has had otherworldly ground ball success in Seattle. So I am not so sure that Taylor Hill has no prospect to help this organization in some way.

    6) Going back to the 2013 draft, it’s hard not to overlook the success and coming rise of Jake Walsh and David Napoli. Both are lefty relievers who have been incredibly successful since being drafted and are being used in high leverage situations. The Potomac and Hagerstown disappointments in last years’ playoffs will be revisited with their skills contributing at playoff time. Both are on their way up the ladder as lefty talents and a next wave.

    7) I see a lot of pitching in the pipeline, and it will be the position from which the organization can trade from strength. That the Nationals absorbed a deluge of injuries and key flameouts this year, with Hagerstown still dominating and Potomac a winning team says a lot about the development skills of the organization. To that end, Simms and Spann are examples of folks who started in the bullpen and stretched into starters. That may not be their destiny, but we are seeing some folks who are occupying bulpen spots who may be headed for rotations next year, and making their arrivals at full season levels felt for the first time. It’s cause for great optimism, over and above the team gelling so well even in the absence of Ryan Zimmerman – the “Face of the Franchise.” The face has changed and shown the dynamism to change quite nimbly. Rizzo deserves a lot of credit for that.


    17 Aug 14 at 12:46 pm

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