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Local draft-prospects to keep an eye in for the 2015 draft

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Duke RHP and Great Falls resident Mike Matuella has rocketed up the draft boards for 2015.  Photo via dukechronicle.com

Duke RHP and Great Falls resident Mike Matuella has rocketed up the draft boards for 2015. Photo via dukechronicle.com

For the third year running (here’s 2013’s wrap-up and here’s 2014’s wrap-up of drafted local players) we’re going to keep an eye on “local” draft prospects leading up to the 2015 amateur draft.  By “local” I essentially mean anyone who hails from the DC/MD/VA areas plus anyone who is playing their college ball here.

To compile this list, I looked at rising college juniors and rising prep seniors who made impacts in 2014 or who  have made a name for themselves with summer league performances in 2014.  Here’s a link to the WP’s 2014 all-Met team, which had more than a few juniors, all of whom are mentioned here.  Here’s the roster for Perfect Game’s big summer 2014 showcase, which is the first place a lot of rising prep seniors get scouted.  Here’s a link to Louisville’s 2014 All-American selections, looking for junior all-american nominees.  Here’s a link to the EvoShield Canes 17U Roster, the leading travel team in the area and where a number of these upper-end prospects played this past summer.  Here’s the BaseballDraftReport blog that has been doing some tracking of prep players ahead of the 2015 draft.  Here’s Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel “way too early” draft rankings from Oct 2014.  Here’s BaseballAmerica’s first 2015 draft ranking from Mid Oct 2014.  Here’s minorleagueball.com’s “early 2015 draft” prospect list.  Here’s USAToday’s pre-season HS all-american list (though there are no local first teamers).

Local Prep Names to keep an eye on for 2015’s draft:

  • Cody Morris, RHP for 2014 3-A state champion Reservoir HS (Fulton, just south of Columbia).  2014 All-Met, 2014 Louisville All-American, Maryland Gatorade player of the year.  He’s committed to South Carolina but a repeat of his 2014 season could have him rising up draft boards.  Played for EvoShield this summer and was at the PG National showcase event.
  • A.J. Lee, a SS/RHP for 2014 WCAC/DCSAA champion and Washington Post final 2014 #1 team St. Johns (DC) who hails from Millersville.  He was also named to the 2014 all-Met team and was a 2nd team Louisville All-American.  Lastly he was the DC Gatorade player of the year in 2014.  He’s committed to Maryland.
  • Connor Eason, LHP for 2014 Virginia 5-A state champs Hickory (Chesapeake).   Also played for for EvoShield this summer and is a UVA commit.
  • John DeFazio, OF/RHP for Madison HS (Vienna).  2014 All-Met, committed to Virginia Tech.
  • Brody Cook, INF for Riverdale Baptist.  2014 All-Met, committed to VCU.  Played for Demarini Stars this summer.  On BaseballDraftReport’s pre-2015 season watch list.
  • Nathan Eikhoff, who plays for Patriot and was a 2014 All-Met after hitting an astounding .541 in the spring season.  UVA commit.  Played for Demarini Stars this past summer.
  • Harvey Logan, C for 5-A state runner up Douglas Freeman (Richmond).  He was at the PG showcase, played for EvoShield and is an early commit to Wake Forest.
  • Jordan Carr, P for Archbishop Spalding (Severn, between Annapolis and Baltimore).  2nd team all-met in 2014.
  • Ljay Newsome, P for Chopticon (south of Waldorf), 2nd team all-Met in 2014.
  • Stevie Mangrum, 3B for Western Albermarle HS (Charlottesville), was at the PG Showcase.  Committed to Va Tech and played for EvoShield this summer.
  • Kaleb Bowman, RHP for Woodgrove (Purcelville), honorable mention All Met for 2014, played for EvoShield this summer and verbally committed to South Carolina.
  • Danny Blair, CF for Gilman (Baltimore), committed to South Carolina, played for EvoShield and was at the PG National showcase.
  • Evan Sperling, RHP for Grafton (Yorktown/Newport News), committed to UVA and played for EvoShield.
  • Nathan Trevillian, RHP for Amherst County HS (near Lynchburg), committed to Liberty and was at the PG National showcase.
  • Grant Donahue, RHP for Decatur HS in Berlin (outside Ocean City).  At the PG National showcase, played for EvoShield, committed to UVA.
  • Hunter Parsons, RHP for Parkside HS in Salisbury, committed to Maryland, at the PG National showcase and played for EvoShield.   Up to 93 on the gun at showcases.  Could show up on draft boards with a couple more ticks on the gun.
  • Paul Hall, LHP for Maury HS in Norfolk.  Committed to Virginia Tech, up to 90 on the gun, played for EvoShield.
  • James Monaghan, 1B for LaPlata HS.  Committed to Campbell, played for Evoshield’s regional 17U team.
  • Hunter Byrnes, 2B for GW-Danville.  Same HS as last year’s 4th round pick Blake Bivens.  Good athlete (also a star QB) who may not get drafted but could be a good Div-1 player for someone.

I give a lot of weight to playing on the Evoshield Canes, as you can see.  If a guy is on that team, odds are he’s playing Div 1 somewhere.

Local College draft-eligible players to keep an eye on for 2015:  (2014 pre-season Baseball America all-american team link here, 2014 Baseball America post-season All American team here, 2014 Golden Spikes semifinalist announcement here, 2014 Rawlings/ABCA All-American list link here.  2014 All-ACC College Baseball team.  2014 All-CAA College Baseball team.  2014 All Atlantic-10 College Baseball team. All Big South, All Conference USA teams.

  • Mike Matuella, RHP from Duke (via Georgetown Prep HS and Great Falls, VA).  Burst onto the scene in 2014 and is in the mix for 1-1 overall already.  Huge guy (6’6″) with a huge arm (sits mid-90s).  Upper 1st round projection ahead of 2015 season.  Baseball America had this feature on him ahead of the season in mid January.  Here’s a scout.com report from 2/19/15.  He missed a start with a minor injury early on (thanks to persistent 30-degree weather in the area), but has come back and as of the time of this posting has a 0.44 ERA through 20 innings/5 starts for Duke.
  • Nathan Kirby, LHP from UVA (via James River HS in Midlothian) who was a first team all-ACC, 2014 Golden Spikes semi-finalist, a BA All-American, ABCA All-American.  Projected top 10 first round pick pre-2015 season.  So far into the college season, Kirby has lived up to his billing, holding a 3-1 record with a 1.16 ERA as UVA’s friday starter.
  • Joe McCarthy, OF from UVA who hit in the middle of UVA’s order in 2014 and was named All-ACC.  Projected mid 2nd round pick by BA ahead of 2015 season.  McCarthy suffered a back injury prior to the season’s beginning and will miss the first 12 weeks of the season; he’ll have precious few looks to get his draft stock up prior to the Rule 4 draft.
  • Brandon Waddell, LHP from  UVA.  UVA’s #2/Saturday starter was 9-3 with a 2.57 ERA on the year in 2014.  2nd-team All-ACC.  So far in 2015 he’s gotten hit though, holding just a 3.48 ERA through 6 starts.
  • Taylor Clarke, College of Charleston’s Friday starter and breakout 2014 player, hailing from Ashburn and featured previously in the Washington Post.   So far in 2015, he’s only improving his stock, holding a 55/8 K/BB ratio through his first 39 2/3 innings.
  • Josh Sborz, RHP from UVA (by way of McLean HS).  UVA’s #3/Sunday starter in 2014 but has been re-assigned as UVA’s closer in 2015 in favor of former Virginia prep standout Connor Jones entering the rotation.  Thus far at the time of this posting, Sborz has 5 saves but just a 3.00 ERA through 18 innings across 11 appearances.
  • John La Prise, inf from UVA who hit .358 in 2014, but who has only played in 4 games thus far in 2015.  He is on Minorleagueball’s preliminary 2015 draft list, but he was fighting injuries prior to the season and may still be doing so.
  • 3 sophomore All-CAA players from William & Mary: Catcher Ryan Hissey, DH Charlie Gould and RHP Joseph Gaouette.  Thus far in 2015, Hissey and Gould have picked up right where they left off, but Gaouette has yet to appear for the Tribe.
  • Some draft eligible players from U-Maryland: Alex Robinson, LHP, Jake Drossner LHP, Lamonte Wade LHP/OF.  With Maryland’s rising national ranking (#11 in the 3/23/15 d1baseball.com rankings), these guys will continue to see their stock rise.
  • Smaller college guys like Kyri Washington, OF at Longwood and Dylan Nelson, RHP from Radford.

Did I miss anyone?  I’m all ears.

Ask Boswell 3/23/15 Edition

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Scherzer is your 2015 opening day starter.  Photo via Scherzer's twitter account.

Scherzer is your 2015 opening day starter. Photo via Scherzer’s twitter account.

So, I’ve been quiet on the blog front lately.  Not much to write about right now, other than the injury bug that seems to be going around camp.  Max Scherzer named the opening day starter; I guess that’s news for a Monday.

Lets peek at today’s Tom Boswell 3/23/15 chat to see what kind of questions he fielded.  Despite it being post-March Madness, there’s still some baseball talk going on.  As always, I answer here before reading Boswell’s answer and edit questions for clarity.

Q: Say the Nats are under .500 after a couple of weeks. Will a full-scale panic start, or are team and fans’ nerves stronger than that?

A: Maybe the media’s panic will set in, but probably not the fans.  If the team is sub .500 after two months … you’d have to start asking some questions.  Same kind of questions we asked basically all of 2013.  Of course, that being said, the Nats’ early-season calendar isn’t exactly challenging:  10 of their first 11 series of the year are against teams that were sub .500 last year.  Now, we are expecting some of these teams (especially Boston, San Diego, Miami) to be much improved from last year … but the point remains.  The team has no excuse to not come out of the gates firing.  Boswell notes that if all the current injured Nats remain hurt on 4/1 … that fans will expect a long April.  He then goes on a long tangent about how screwed up the Dodgers are right now.

Q: Notwithstanding Taylor’s excellent weekend; I don’t understand why Williams would bat him lead-off (regardless of Taylor’s leadoff “skills”) but wouldn’t bat Harper higher than sixth.  Does Williams have a double standard for prospects not named Harper?

A: A good question.  Certainly some people have questioned Matt Williams‘ ongoing public criticisms of Bryce Harper.  Why call him out, in the media, for his supposed transgression of baiting the runner into trying for second?  Dude; its the 2nd week of March; it isn’t a big deal.  Except by calling him out in public, it *becomes* a big deal since Harper is such a lightening rod in the National media (deserved or not).  My two cents: there’s no lack of evidence coming out of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization over the last few  years about the institutional bull-headedness concerning “the right way to play” and other old-school baseball idioms, and it seems to me that Williams has continued his dogged old-school ways as the on-field leader of the Nats.  Is this a good thing?  Probably not.  Harper is talented enough to back up his actions (see last year’s NLCS when Harper was one of only two Nats hitters to bother making the trip to SF).  But will this conflict become a distraction?  Will it drive Harper from this team eventually?

Sorry for that tangent.  To answer the question at hand; with Denard Span out, *someone* has to bat lead off, and if you’re an “old school” guy who do you pick?  Do you pick the skinny, fast center fielder?  Or do you take a smarter look at your hitter capabilities?  I guess we’ll see.  Boswell says that Taylor batted leadoff in the minors, so he’s ok there.  Uh; the bush leagues playing infront of a few hundred people isn’t quite the majors.  Oh, and Boswell conveniently “explains” why Harper was batting 6th too.  Williams, the old-school manager for the old-school baseball writer Boswell.

Q: Why is Pete Rose back in the news with regard to reinstatement?

A: Because new commissioner Rob Manfred was dumb enough to engage Pete Rose‘s request?   The Dowd report was a pretty galling chronicle of Rose’s activities.  I think Rose appears as a sympathetic figure because of the ardor to which former commissioner Bart Giamatti pursued his penalty.  I too was sympathetic to Rose, feeling like baseball went far out of its way to rid themselves of him at the time.

But, now with time and retrospection, Rose’s sins were pretty bad.

I think the best way for baseball to deal with the likes of Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and perhaps others will to eventually create a special election with large caveats to their enshrinement.  Yes these players were among the best in the game … but broke cardinal sins against the game.  Imagine a veteran’s committee designed to create a permanent special exhibit in Cooperstown dedicated to great players who have clouds surrounding their names.  I dunno.  The cynical part of me says that the museum based in upstate New York has no incentive to *ever* stop the rhetoric surrounding these guys.  It gets tiresome to argue about the *same things* over and over … but we do it anyway, year after year.

Boswell coincidentally advocates for Rose for the HoF but not an active role in the game. 

Q: With the Nats celebrating ten years in the District, do you have any random memories that stand out since they’ve been in town?

A: I put out a post periodically that talks about “Best games” in Nats history.  This question kind of feels like the games captured in this post and in the comments.   No need to re-answer.

Q: Who deserves the opening day start?

A: You can make a pretty cogent argument for any of the three of Strasburg, Scherzer or Zimmermann.  Strasburg since he’s gotten three straight such starts and normally you don’t replace the home-grown “Ace” of a team.  That’d be my choice and my argument, coincidentally.  Zimmermann b/c of his no-hitter last year and generally accepted stance as the “actual” best hurler on the team.  But its now known that Scherzer is getting the nod (not a real big surprise once you saw how the rotation was laid out starting from early spring).  For me (as noted in the prior thread’s comments), Scherzer is the only guy with a Cy Young to his name, so it isn’t surprising that players’ manager Williams goes with the veteran with the most career accomplishment in that ceremonial spot.  Works for me; we just bought our opening day tickets (we’re in section 131 I think) so I look forward to seeing him pitch.  Boswell says that Strasburg’s sore ankle cost him the spot.  BS. 

Q: With the likelihood of multiple starters starting the season on the DL, how do you see that effecting the bench players on the roster.

A: We’ve talked about this before, but clearly it means that at least one, perhaps two NRIs are getting opening day jobs.  And it means that some options-limited guys are getting shots too.  If Span is out a month, Werth can’t make opening day, if Rendon is down and out, if Escobar can’t get enough reps … that’s a lot of spots to fill.  For me, just guessing, i’d say the team heads north with Tyler Moore, Tony Gwynn Jr, Michael Taylor and maybe Ian Stewart to start the season.  Dan Uggla?  Numbers are good; lots of walks.  But he can’t play 3B (not well, presumably) and its 3B where the team might need some cover.  Boswell is more bullish on Uggla, thinking he’d be a huge steal.  I dunno; can’t play SS, doesn’t bat lefty. 

Q: Are there going to be any longer-term impacts to demoting Tanner Roark to the bullpen?

A: Maybe.  Is it a coincidence that Roark has the worst starter stats of any pitcher this spring?  Probably not; spring training NRIs have a tendency to be uber aggressive, and minor league defenders aren’t always adept at catching the ball when playing out of position.  Maybe not; Roark’s attitude has sounded great, and he’s hopefully being told that he’s first in line and likely will get a big number of starts filling in for the inevitable injuries.  He’ll have his rotation spot back next year for sure.   Boswell doesn’t think so.

Q: If the Nats don’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs this year (assuming they will make it), do you think the fans develop the same anxiety that Caps fans have over the years?

A: Yes.  Two playoff appearances, two “best record in the majors” and two impotent first round exits to wild cards.  If the Nats fail in 2015, then  yeah we may begin to wonder what’s going on.  Boswell points out that the Caps have one of the worst track records in professional sports.

Q: What is your opening day lineup (including who leads off) given the injury spate?

A: If it were me?  If we assume that everyone who is  hurt is *not* making it to opening day, I’ll go with something like this:

Escobar-Desmond-Harper-Zimmerman-Ramos-Moore-Frandsen-Taylor pitcher.  Escobar at 2B, Moore in LF, Frandsen at 3B and Taylor in CF.  Not a great lineup.

A better assumption is that Rendon and Werth will make opening day, which makes the lineup a lot easier.  Escobar-Rendon-Harper-Zimmerman-Werth-Desmond-Ramos-Taylor-pitcher.  When Span returns, put Escobar at #8 and that’s that.

Boswell doesn’t give a leadoff-suggestion, but using induction by reduction, he’s likely pushing for Escobar at lead-off too.

Q: Is it time to cut the cord on Espinosa?

A: Not until you find someone else who can play short stop in a pinch who isn’t already slated to start.  Boswell gives a non-answer too.  I don’t feel bad.

 

High School Baseball starting up…

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logo via vhsl.org, the Virginia High School League.

logo via vhsl.org, the Virginia High School League.

There may have been nearly a foot of snow on the ground a week ago, and it may be scheduled to snow yet again tomorrow (Friday 3/20/15), but prep baseball kicks off this week in the DC metro area.

Baseball America posted their pre-season top 50 High School rankings in mid February, since the southern/warm states can start playing a ton earlier than us northern states (there are schools in Texas who have already played 10-12 games).  The only DC-area school noted is my alma mater James Madison HS in Vienna, ranked 27th to start by BA.  Which I can’t quite believe, even as a homer fan, based on who they have returning and who they have being recruited for Div 1 schools right now (they do have the returning all-Met John DeFazio, one of just a handful of returning Junior all-Mets from last year).  But hey, that’s why they play the games, right?

(post publishing note: the WP’s first top 10 on 3/26/15 has Madison #1 with the expected local powerhouses populating the top 10).

Other National HS team ranking sites for reference:

  • Baseball America: 2/24/15 pre-season rankings and their 3/10/15 rankings early into the National seasons.
  • USA today; too early yet for rankings but home page at http://usatodayhss.com/
  • Maxpreps.com: at this link, constantly updating.  Per their pre-season top-100 list, local teams getting recognition early include both 5-A finalists from last year Freeman and Hickory, 6-A Richmond power Cosby, Madison at #51, and defending Maryland 3-A champ Reservoir at #77.
  • PerfectGame.org: top 50 ranks: unclear if they have updated this for the new season yet, but this is the permalink.  They mention only Hickory and Battlefield.
  • (if you are aware of other ranking sites, please let me know).

Madison’s season (and a lot of other local HS teams) kicks off on Friday March 20th against defending 5-A north champion Stone Bridge.  A juicy match-up; basically the two best regular season teams from the area last year face off to start the new season.  Too bad its likely to get snowed out and maybe not even rescheduled.  Battlefield looks like it could be quite good this year as chronicled in this InsideNova.com article.  Otherwise it is hard to predict how the 2015 season may run.

Madison finished 21-3 last year and surprisingly lost in the regional semi finals, while Stone Bridge finished the year 22-2 and made it to the state semi finals despite losing ace Jacob (J.B.) Bukauskas prior to the playoffs (Bukauskas passed up on being a possible 1st round pick and is now in UNC’s rotation as a freshman, already seemingly moving from being their Sunday to their Saturday starter).  Lets hope if they don’t play tomorrow that they at least get to re-schedule the game.

Can’t wait for another season of prep baseball to track.  Local draft/marquee player post coming soon.


Local Baseball Resources that I use constantly: this is my typical list of resources that I’ll tag onto all HS posts

National High School Baseball Ranking Lists: once they start publishing, i’ll include direct links here.  See above links for what’s available this early in the season.

Local Prep Resources:

 

Written by Todd Boss

March 19th, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Local Baseball

Tagged with ,

Kobernus release; odd timing?

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Kobernus cut loose by the team yesterday.  Photo from 2012 via pennlive.com

Kobernus cut loose by the team yesterday. Photo from 2012 via pennlive.com

Word came out tonight that Jeff Kobernus, long time farm hand and former 2nd round pick out of UC Berkeley, who had hung on the fringes of the 25-man roster for a few years, was released.

He had already been reassigned to minor league camp/optioned to AAA, where he was always expected to start the 2015 season.  But now he’s been flat out released halfway through spring training.  From a team that can’t seem to keep its out-field players healthy.  Odd timing?

The Nats fielders are a set of walking wounded.  Werth‘s off-season surgery, Span‘s muscle injury that likely keeps him out til May.  Escobar‘s issue.  And now word comes out that Anthony Rendon‘s sore knee hasn’t improved and there’s “no timetable” for his return.  That’s two outfielders, a second baseman and a third baseman; all positions that Kobernus can and has played.  Why cut him now?

Perhaps it isn’t that odd, considering that the team views him as an OF, and he had fallen far down the pecking order of OFers in the organization.  Even given the injury crunch the team was facing, most reading the tea leaves are looking at Tony Gwynn Jr. making the 25-man roster to provide depth instead of existing 40-man OF options like Kobernus or Brian Goodwin (who hasn’t gotten a single spring training AB in a major league game, indication that he’s still hurt?).  Gwynn is hitting the cover off the ball so far in spring (for whatever that’s worth), and he hits from the left-hand side (unlike Kobernus).  So the Nats are going to need 40-man space … and at this point perhaps the options-constrained guys like Tyler Moore or even Xavier Cedeno may very well make the opening roster.  So Kobernus gets cut.

I think there’s room for Kobernus in another org; in fact he seems like the kind of player that Billy Beane and Kobernus’ home town Oakland A’s would take a shot at.  Hope he can continue his career somewhere.

 

 

Written by Todd Boss

March 18th, 2015 at 9:29 am

Posted in Nats in General

Nats Outfield … what happens next?

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Span's injury is going to really affect this team. Photo: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Span’s injury is going to really affect this team. Photo: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve held off posting about this, since most other pundits are putting in their two cents as well.  But Denard Span‘s “core muscle” surgery has suddenly got this team potentially in a pickle in terms of outfield depth and I thought it was worth discussing.

Unlike the Jayson Werth surgery announcement, which seemed to be well enough timed to cause only a brief disruption to the Nats starting outfield plans, the Span injury could have a longer lasting issue.  And, even though Span’s not nearly the hitter that Werth is, he’s much more difficult to replace thanks to his position (center instead of corner) and his lineup skills (lead-off).

What do I think happens now?  In no particular order:

  • I’m guessing that Span misses the entire month of April.  His surgery has a “4-6 week” recovery time frame and there’s plenty of recent players who struggled for entire seasons after dealing with similar injuries.  Not a great sign for the team or for Span, heading into a walk year.
  • I’m guessing Werth also starts the season on the 15-day DL with the idea of coming off of it on the first possible day and only missing 2 weeks.
  • That means your opening day lineup projects right now to having Bryce Harper in right, Michael Taylor in center and probably Tyler Moore in left.  I’m assuming also that Nate McLouth is starting on the 15-day DL as well, given that he’s apparently not even throwing the ball yet after his Aug 2014 labrum surgery, and that the team would rather have Moore in LF than Kevin Frandsen.  Well, let me rephrase;  *I* would rather have Moore playing than Frandsen …
  • I also think the Span/McLouth DL combination creates an opening for a backup OF on the opening day roster.  And I think one Tony Gwynn Jr. is going to win it.  He may not be with the big club very long, but he could serve as the prototypical “4th OF who can play center field really well who does a lot of late-inning defensive replacement duty” guy until the roster is back.  There’s not really another guy in camp who has CF quals and the MLB experience that Gwynn Jr. has, even if he’s a career .238 hitter.
  • Gwynn could easily be added to the 40-man by opening day because at the same time he’s to be added, the team will likely be DFAing both Xavier Cedeno and Sandy Leon, both of whom are out of options and not likely to make the 25-man roster.
  • When both Span and Werth come back, it could spell the end of the line for Moore thanks to his options crunch.  That being said, he’s hitting the cover off the ball so far in spring training (insert standard March debate about spring training stats and their meaning), and the team won’t dump him if he’s hitting .350 in April, so he controls his own destiny.  Where the roster moves do come into play is the assumption that one of these lefty-hitting NRI guys is making this team too.  We likely cannot keep both Moore and someone like a Mike Carp once everyone is back.  Luckily three injuries to presumed 25-man holders makes for a stay of execution for many guys.

Now the big question; who the heck hits lead off if Span is out??  A good question.

Presuming your opening day fielders are: Harper, Taylor, Moore, Zimmerman, Escobar, Desmond, Rendon and Ramos.

Who in that group makes sense to bat lead-off?  Basically just three candidates: Taylor, Escobar and Rendon.  And none of them are really “good” candidates frankly.

  • Yunel Escobar (who is nursing his own injury and could very well also be joining the others on the DL, but we’re assuming for the purposes of this post that isn’t happening and we’re not looking at an April 1 roster that has Dan Uggla on it) isn’t exactly a prototypical leadoff hitter at this point in his career, though he generally has batted either 1st or 2nd. throughout his career.
  • Taylor projects more as a middle of the order hitter frankly, thanks to his massive K numbers (144 in 110 minor league games last year).
  • Anthony Rendon *could* bat lead-off … but he’s likely the team’s best hitter and makes the most sense batting in the #2 slot.

If I were Matt Williams, I’d probably go with this lineup: Escobar, Rendon, Harper, Zimmerman, Desmond, Ramos, Moore, Taylor.  Man that’s a lot of right handers.  The only lefty in that lineup is Harper.  But what choice does the team have?

I’m kind of excited to see Taylor get some opportunity at the MLB level frankly.  What if he lights it up?  What if he proves he’s a legitimate power-hitting center fielder who can man the #8 position for the next 5  years in Washington?  We’ll never know until he gets a shot.

Oh, btw, to all those second guessers who now feel the need to question the Stephen Souza trade, asking smarty-pants questions like “gee do you think the Nats regret trading him now??” stuff in national forums, I say this: the trade made sense at the time, the return was great, and you cannot manage your baseball team on the fear of two unexpected injuries in a 3 month time span.  Souza is very promising, so is Michael Taylor, and the team is assuming that Taylor has more positional flexibility than Souza.  You only need one or two backup outfielders on a 25-man roster, and the Nats had more than plenty heading in to 2015.  Yes hindsight is 20/20, but if the team was presented with the same trade today, knowing they were getting a future back-of-the-rotation starter in Joe Ross plus their shortstop of the future in Trea Turner, i’m not so sure they still wouldn’t make that deal and just work their way through April of 2015.

Oh, pps, has anyone noticed that the setting up of the spring rotation seems to imply that the Nats 1-5 rotation is shaking things up from years past?  It seems like we’re going to go Scherzer, Zimmermann, Strasburg, Fister and Gonzalez.  That’s last  year’s #1 pitching third, and last year’s #2 pitching last.  Can’t say I disagree based on the career accomplishments of Scherzer and Zimmermann, just kind of surprised to see Strasburg being “deposed” as the Nats #1 starter.

And, another PS: with the injury announcements to Yu Darvish and now Marcus Stroman, I wonder if teams are calling the Nats to work a trade for one of our surplus starters.  Maybe there’s still a deal out there for Zimmermann or Fister, reinstating 5-win starter Tanner Roark to the rotation and padding the farm system coffers a bit more.

 

Pros and Cons of pushing back the College Baseball Season

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Baseball fields aren't supposed to be covered in snow.  Photo via twitter

Baseball fields aren’t supposed to be covered in snow. Photo via twitter

So far, 2015 has been one massive cold spell for much of the nation.  Boston got 7 feet of snow.  Places deep into the south felt freezing temperatures.  DC just experienced its second coldest February since 1950, with an average temperature for the month below freezing.

And the College Baseball season kicked off in the middle of all this!   Division 1 college baseball programs kicked off the 2/13/15 weekend with many cold-weather teams traveling and many traditionally warmer-weather schools being forced to move home dates to warmer locations.  For example, UVA had to move a bunch of lucrative home dates to South Carolina and played one game on a HS field in Charleston.  The #1 team in the country (Vanderbilt) had to move a home series to Florida.  UNC had to move a marquee early-season match up against fellow top-10 team UCLA all the way to Orlando.

Long time collegiate baseball coach (currently at West Virginia) Randy Mazey has been pushing a recommendation to radically alter the college baseball schedule for years and has latched onto this year’s uncommonly cold winter to spread the word and gain support.  The Washington Post picked up his story in mid-February and he’s made some appearances on baseball-themed broadcasts to spread the word, and details on the email that Mazey has been sending to fellow college coaches is on d1baseball.com’s site.  I listened to a long-form interview with Mazey on d1baseball.com’s podcast (hosted by d1baseball authors Kendall Rodgers and Aaron Fitt) and gleaned the following details:

Mazey’s proposal goes like this:

  • Pitchers & Catchers would not start working out until mid-late February, similarly to the way that MLB spring training works.
  • College Baseball seasons would start April 1 (currently starts mid February, or 2/13/15 this year).  This leads to basically a 6-week cascading slip for all College Baseball events.
  • Continue to play 56-game schedule
  • Finish regular season over July 4th weekend with a “rivalry” week (current schedules end mid-May)
  • Put in a week’s delay before starting conference tournaments, to be scheduled 2nd week of July.  Current conference tourneys generally run through the 3rd week and weekends of May.
  • This puts the Regionals in the 3rd week of July, the super-regionals in the 4th week of July.  Currently Regionals are held the last weekend of May, and the super-regionals are held the first weekend of June.
  • The CWS would start the first week of August and would be coordinated with ESPN so as to fall “after” the Little League World Series.  Currently the CWS runs from mid June through the end of June.

Arguments for this proposal:

  • Levels the playing field between “northern” and “southern” baseball programs.
  • Pushes back the start of the season, avoiding obvious weather issues with more northern schools.
  • Lowers travel burdens for northern programs, who often play the first 15 games of their season on the road thanks to cold temperatures in their home towns.
  • Safer travel for teams that depend on bus travel on icy/snow-covered roads in February.
  • Attempts to increase fan interest in college baseball by avoiding conflicts with basketball season/March Madness.
  • Improves the post-season scheduling to avoid the conference-tournament crunch that occurs on college pitching staffs.
  • Reduces harm to players (pitchers especially) having to compete in very low temperatures (a stance supported by Dr. James Andrews).  More than a few marquee/1st round projected picks  have already been pulled from starts this year due to warming up for games to be played in 30-35 degree temperatures (Mike Matuella and Andrew Suarez both have already missed starts this year).
  • I suppose its a “pro” to force kids to be in school all summer so they can do summer school classes to augment their (presumably) smaller class-loads while playing during the spring session.
  • Pushing schedules into summer lessens the burden on students missing a ton of class during spring semesters (Mazey’s players missed 31 days of class one recent spring semester).  This theoretically will help kids actually graduate college, a rarity among baseball players, who generally leave school after their junior year and rarely return (tangent: Scott Boras did a study a few years back, finding that of the 824 players in the majors that year just *six* (6) had 4-year college degrees; that doesn’t say much about the job that college baseball is doing graduating kids).

Arguments against this proposal:

  • With this proposal, you’d essentially be telling college baseball players that they’re “on the clock” from mid February all the way to Mid-August, an incredibly long season.  They’d lose their entire summer vacation, have limited to no summer league baseball opportunities, no jobs to make money.  They’d essentially have 2 weeks “off” at the end of their baseball seasons (if they made the CWS) before the fall semester picked back up (at best; see further with the LLWS analysis).  This sounds like one heck of a burden for college student-athletes.  Its tough enough with spring semesters generally ending the first week of May and kids are forced to continue playing deep into June.
  • If CWS needs to work around the LLWS … well I’m not sure how you do that.  In 2014, the LLWS schedule in Williamsport, PA ran from August 14th through the championship game on August 24th (a sunday).  If CWS waits to play its final until after the LLWS does … well when exactly does it play its final 3-game set?  You presumably want to play those games on a weekend to get fan interest and attendance, but waiting until the weekend after the LLWS puts you into Labor Day weekend, which is a football kickoff.  Not to mention, the beginning of the fall semester for most students.  So now you’re telling CWS college baseball players that they potentially get NO summer break.  You can’t jam the entire CWS into one week before the LLWS happens.  So I’m not sure how CWS fits in with LLWS with the current broadcast partner ESPN.
  • The current Rule-4/amateur draft is set for early June; when would you draft players if they’re playing deep into August?  MLB is already talking about pushing back the draft slightly to avoid the current draft date-CWS completion conflict … but a couple weeks is different from a couple months.  Mazey doesn’t think the draft would need to change, making the argument that kids playing in the CWS have been drafted and are still playing.  Well, there’s a difference with a limited number of players playing a few playoff games and playing half a season.  If i’m a pro team and I draft a college pitcher in the first round, I don’t want to watch some back-woods college coach abuse my pitcher for weeks and weeks trying to get a slightly higher seed in his conference tournament when I’m committing potentially seven figures to him.  I think what would really happen is this: MLB would draft a kid and basically tell him to quit college right then and there.  Imagine what that would do to the college season if all the drafted kids are suddenly removed from the competition prior to even the conference tournaments?
  • Similarly; the short-season pro leagues are set to start just after the draft in mid June specifically so that newly drafted kids can start playing.  Who would stock these teams if most of the college draftees weren’t going to join up for months?  What would these teams do if their draftees are still competing in college seasons?   Mazey didn’t have an answer other than to say that it would take “creative scheduling.”  There are some places where the short-season team shares the same facility as a college team (Penn State and Oregon being two examples); clearly you couldn’t have both of these teams playing schedules concurrently.
  • This proposal would effectively kill summer leagues as we know them.  And there are a *lot* of summer leagues out there, and they serve a very vital role in the player scouting process for pro teams.  The major leagues out there (Cape Cod, Northwoods, Valley, Coastal Plains) would be put out of business if most Div 1 players couldn’t join them until regionals were ending near the end of July.  Mazey tries to make the argument that summer league teams would rely on JuCo, Div2 and Div3 players not affected by Div-1’s schedule … but if Division 1 is changing its schedule to account for weather, wouldn’t Division 2 and 3 teams be thinking the same?  Mazey also thinks that prep players who have signed with Div-1 programs could be targets for teams in the Cape, thinking that fans just want to root for a player affiliated with a big-name program.  I think he’s incredibly wrong here; the Cape and the Northwoods teams draw because they’re watching the *best* college players in the country, guys who are going to be first round draftees the subsequent year.  And, how many parents are going to finance their 17yr old to go play in the Cape Cod league before he’s even stepped foot in college?
  • Would college baseball game attendance be adversely affected if the crunch-time games played by the schools were held in the dead of summer, when student populations at these schools is at is lowest?  Mazey for some reason thinks this switch will help college teams draw like minor league teams do, but to me his logic doesn’t add up.  To me, the issue of god-awful college baseball attendance is a whole separate issue unrelated to anything mentioned here related to scheduling.
  • Keeping kids on campus extends the scholarship costs to schools; more classes, more room & board and potentially more travel.  Mazey’s argument is that assumed rising attendance figures would somehow finance these additional costs.
  • If its too cold in the north in February … well wouldn’t it be too hot in the south in July/August?  Yes it would.  The average temperature during the day in July in Arizona is between 105-107.   Yes there’s a MLB team in Arizona and guess what; they have a frigging dome for this reason.  Same thing with the Houston team and the Miami team; all three play in domed stadiums because its really, really hot down there in the summer.  Would there be issues with marquee teams in Arizona and Texas (of which there are many) playing home dates in 105 degree temperatures?

What do I think College Baseball should do?

Well, if you couldn’t tell from reading my point-by-point argument against logic, I think this is a dumb proposal that would be done in the best interests of a small population (the coaches and players of northern baseball schools) at the expense of many others (coaches and players from all other schools, pro teams, summer league teams).  I think the baseball coaches behind this need to admit to themselves that baseball is inherently a warm weather sport and thus warm weather schools are going to have advantages.  Prior to Oregon State winning the CWS a few years back, a “cold weather” state hadn’t won the CWS since Ohio State in the mid 60s (and Oregon is “barely” a cold-weather state for this discussion; Corvallis averages just 3.1″ of snow a year .. about as much on average as Atlanta, Georgia). Consider the reverse: are cold-weather sports being forced to change their schedules to accommodate warm-weather schools who want to participate?  I don’t think so; and that is why you don’t have (say) ice hockey programs at schools in Texas and Arizona clamoring for changes to the NCAA hockey tournament.

However, there a couple of things that Mazey is right about.  Why are colleges playing baseball in mid February?  Why do colleges play fifty six (!) games a season?  The logical thing to consider is to force back the start of the season a month, and lower the playing burden.  Or, if you wanted to keep 56-game schedules, then play some mid-week series during spring break and in May once semesters are over.  Or just accept the fact that some colleges can play in February and others cannot; same thing happens with high schools all over the country.

Take a look at UVA’s schedule.  The first 13 games on their schedule are non-conference.  Then, starting on 3/6/15, they play a 3-game weekend series every weekend for 10 straight weekends (save one weekend in early May presumably blocked off for finals).  In between each of those 10 weekends they play at least one mid-week game against an in-state rival for another 13 games.  13+30+13=56.  Ask yourself; do they need the first 13 games at all?   Do they need to play ten in-conference series?  The ACC is split into two 7-team divisions; play all your division rivals and then lower the cross-division games and you can cut weeks out of the schedule.

Anyway; food for thought.  Personally, I don’t think there’s anything “broken” with college baseball as it stands; its CWS event is great, it dovetails nicely into a vast industry of summer leagues and pro short seasons, and it doesn’t drag all summer.

 

Written by Todd Boss

March 4th, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Ladson’s inbox 3/1/15

35 comments

Roark; the lost starter.  Photo Alex Brandon/AP via wp.com

Roark; the lost starter. Photo Alex Brandon/AP via wp.com

I havn’t posted something in weeks.  I was facing writers block.  What is there to really write about in the early weeks of Spring Training?  Thankfully, MLB.com beat reporter Bill Ladson piped up with an inbox!

As always, these are (presumably) real questions from (presumably) real Nats fans who took time out of their busy day to email Ladson personally.  And as always, i write my response here before reading his so as not to color my own opinion.


Q: Would the Nationals consider a six-man rotation so Tanner Roark isn’t left out?

A: Uh, no.   You don’t commit $210M to Max Scherzer and then immediately tell him and all the other veterans in the rotation that their entire work preparation process is going to be adjusted, for the first time ever by any MLB team, to account for a guy with a year and a half of service in Tanner Roark.

By going to a 6-man rotation for an entire 162-game season,  you’d be lowering the number of starts for each guy by at least 6.  What would you rather have, 6 less starts by the likes of Scherzer and Strasburg, or 20-some starts for Roark?  I like Roark too, and trust me I wouldn’t mind a bit for a trade to enable him to be the 5th starter again, but this team has made its bed with this contract.

Ladson says that Roark will be in the bullpen as the long man when the season starts.  Cutting-edge analysis!

Q: If the Nationals and Jordan Zimmermann cannot come to an agreement and he signs somewhere else, what kind of effect will this have on the Nationals in general?

A: Not as much as you might think.  Yes, losing a near-Ace is never good, but this team has a 5-win starter pushed to the bullpen right now, and has significant depth in AAA.  I’m of the belief that a lot of the Scherzer signing was about providing rotation stability through the next few years as the team (likely) parts ways with a significant portion of its current rotation through free agency.  Two years from now you’re probably looking at a rotation that goes Scherzer, Gonzalez, Roark, Cole and Giolito.  And the Nats will have likely acquired a whole slew of upper-level prospects either by trade or by virtue of supplemental draft picks.  Ladson confidently says “there will be no effect at all” because Matt Williams “won’t allow it.”  Beat reporter bravado?  Of *course* there will be an effect; we’re talking about what will probably be a difficult and nasty separation when all is said and done.

Q: Why is Gio Gonzalez starting over Roark? Roark is clearly better. Gio won’t throw strikes.

A: Simple answer: because Gonzalez is lefty.  Secondary issue; Gonzalez is getting paid more than 20 *times* what Roark is in 2015.  I’m not entirely in disagreement here; I’ve been a Roark believer ever since he got called up.  But he’s going to be the odd man out in this competition no matter how good he looks this spring.  Ladson says Gio was his good ole self after getting past his shoulder injury.

Q: I like Drew Storen and his numbers are, overall, excellent. I have to admit, though, I worry about him in close games in the postseason. Am I overly concerned about the fact that 2012 and ’14 playoffs saw him blow saves in key games?

A: Three words for you: Short.  Sample.  Size.  Like it or not (and I too fall victim to this), you just can’t look at a couple of outings in the post-season and judge a guy.  Exhibit 1a: Clayton Kershaw‘s career post-season era is 5.12.    I killed Storen‘s 2014 NLDS performance too, but in reality he was rather unlucky to blow Zimmermann’s gem (Posey kind of fisted the ball into center and then Sandoval hit a down-and-away pitch for a very well-placed double to tie the game).  Storen’s regular season record speaks for itself right now: he had a frigging 1.12 ERA last year!

I say, lets worry about *making* the post-season first, then lets see how the games go.  At some point you have to think the Nats will, you know, hit the ball in a post-season series to the point where it won’t matter whether our closer will pitch a 1-2-3 ninth.  Lets you forget: the team slash line in the 2014 NLDS was .164/.222/.258 and in the 2012 NLDS was .232/.290/.393.  That’s not very good.

Ladson basically says the same thing.

Q: Do you expect a significant contribution from any of the players signed to Minor League contracts?

A: We already talked about the NRIs in depth.  Short answer is this: *maybe* one of the veteran right handers might have an impact but not immediately.  And we might very well see one of the lefty-hitting vets pushing Tyler Moore for the last spot on the roster.  Ladson thinks Mike Carp in particular is going to contribute off the bench … which means he’s predicting Carp to make the 25-man roster?

Q: Which Minor Leaguers could get called up during the season?

A: I think we’ll see at least three of the AAA starters at some point during the  year (guessing Treinen, Cole and Jordan).   I could see Matt Grace getting some MLB time.  I’m sure we’ll see a backup catcher in Dan Butler at some point.  If Michael Taylor doesn’t start out on the 25-man roster to replace Jayson Werth, then i’m sure we’ll see him at some point.

Perhaps a better question would be this: what non-40man roster guys could you see getting call-ups mid-season?  Rafael Martin comes to mind, as well as someone like Emmanuel Burriss or Matt Skole if the team gets stuck on the injury front.

Ladson mentions Cole and Grace … and then says that he could see Giolito getting a September call-up.  That’s the dumbest thing i’ve read in a while.  Why in god’s name would we want to start Giolito’s clock early like that??  If he’s MLB ready by the end of 2015 …. then you sit on him in AAA for two weeks in 2016 and call him up mid-April.  That’s it.  Every day he spends pitching useless innings in Sept 2015 would be another day the team has to wait for him in 2016. 

Q: Do you see Danny Espinosa on this team in 2016? It seems like he has gotten a lot more slack than anyone on the team. Additionally, what are the team’s long-term plans for second base?

A: I see no reason for Espinosa not to be on this team in 2016, if he continues to serve as an adequate backup.  There’s no reason to cut him, and there’s not really anyone better who is that close to the majors.   I’m not sure if i’d characterize the way the Nationals have handled him as “slack;” in fact the Nats have now gone out of their way to replace him as the starter both with the Cabrera trade mid-2014 and with the Escobar trade this past off-season.  Long term you have to think the team is waiting for Wilmer Difo as the long-term 2B solution .. if he can step it up and advance two levels in 2015 he may be ready by mid 2016.   I’m not as convinced that Tony Renda (who is “ahead” of Difo on the org 2b chart) is a real MLB prospect at this point.  There’s practically nobody of interest at either AAA or AA right now who rates as a prospect.  There’s also a possiblity that newly-acquired-but-not-yet-with-us Trea Turner could be a solution … but the team is hoping he can stick at short.  Ladson basically agrees.

 

 

Spring Training 2015 NRI discussion

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Matt Skole joins a motley crue of NRIs for Spring Training.  Photo via dynastysportsempire.com

Matt Skole joins a motley crue of NRIs for Spring Training. Photo via dynastysportsempire.com

As suggested by Dr. Forensicane in a previous thread, lets talk about the Non-Roster Invitees (NRIs) for the Nats this coming spring, and for each lets talk about their chances for making the team, staying with the franchise, and depending on their roster status, their future plans with the team in general.

(post-posting update: if you havn’t seen it, check out this overview of the NRIs published on curlyw.natsblog.com.  It is very comprehensive and organized its list similarly to mine).

Most Nats beat-writers published the same list of 20 NRIs on Friday 2/13/15.   Here’s the list by category.  I’ll talk about the least-likely to make the team to the most-likely by positional category:

    • Catchers: Spencer Kieboom, Steven Lerud, Pedro Severino

Discussion: Lerud was a MLFA signing from Atlanta and seems likely to join recently acquired Dan Butler as the primary minor league catching depth for this team.  Thanks to an options crunch, Jhonatan Solano has already been released (and signed naturally with Miami to join his brother) and Sandy Leon likely gets DFA’d at the end of spring training, meaning that the Nats AAA depth needs to be rebuilt.  Meanwhile Keiboom and Severino represent some of the rising catcher talent in the system that may be in a position to really contribute once our two presumed MLB catchers (Ramos and Lobaton) have reached free agency.  The fact is that teams need tons of catchers in spring training camp and it is not surprising to see non 40-man guys get the call to help out with bullpen sessions and then get cut loose once the active camp has been thinned.

Odds of any of these NRIs making the 25-man roster: none for any of these players, even with an injury.  Lerud likely sticks around as AAA depth, and Keiboom/Severino have yet to reach rule-5 eligibility.

Future plans: Lerud to AAA and probably out of the org after this season, and the two prospects moving on up the chain (Severino likely in AA and Kieboom in high-A).

    • Left Handed Relievers: Matthew Purke

Discussion:I am no longer considering Purke a starter; I think his best shot at making it is if he converts to relief. I’d be ecstatic if he regained his mojo as a starter but i’ve lost confidence as such. That being said; we’re all well enough familiar with Mr. Purke by now: for a couple of days in November I thought we had cut him loose completely, ending a rather expensive Nationals experience.  But he re-signed as a MLFA with the team (likely in a pre-arranged deal) and then took the invite to spring training.  I’m guessing the senior team officials want to get a look at him, see how he fares as a match up reliever, see if his stuff holds up in short stints, etc.  By having Purke in spring training, the senior decision makers can watch multiple bullpen sessions, get a sense of his makeup and drive, and make a decision on his future (see next).

(tangent: fun fact here; did you know that Purke was born in the same town (Nacogdoches, TX) as USMNT striker Clint Dempsey?)

Odds of making the 25-man roster: none.  The team didn’t go to all this trouble to get Purke *off* the 40-man roster just to put him back on; there’s other lefty alternatives that will get the first crack at the majors if our standing lefties (Thornton and Blevins) falter.  Namely Xavier Cedeno and Matt Grace.  Even after the season begins, I could see the team experimenting with Sammy Solis or Felipe Rivero as a reliever in the majors before looking at Purke.  Which leads us to Purke’s future plans…

Future plans: Getting Purke back on a non-40-man deal gives Purke a stay of execution.  I think the team sees how he does this year and then considers whether to add him back to the 40-man as a protectionary move prior to next off-season.  But he can’t be putting up 8+ ERAs in AA.  He needs to get guys out or he’s done.

    • Right Handed Starters: Bruce Billings, Mitch Lively, Scott McGregor

Discussion: Both Lively and McGregor were signed midway through 2014 after getting dropped by their respective AAA clubs (affiliates of San Francisco and St. Louis respectively), and then each served as essentially an innings eating starter for Syracuse or Harrisburg the rest of the way through.  Thanks to a slew of last minute moves, both guys got AAA playoff starts in 2014 as well, neither pitching especially effectively as Syracuse was swept out of the playoffs.  Both chose to re-sign in Washington and both will get spring training invites.  Billings was signed from Los Angeles in November and was a starter for their AAA affiliate in 2014.

Odds of making the 25-man roster: none.  Assuming there are no trades or injuries, the 6th-10th guys in line to get MLB starts likely goes Tanner Roark, Blake Treinen, Taylor Jordan, Taylor Hill and newly-added 40-man member (and long time Nats prospect) A.J. Cole.   The Nats used just 8 starters in 2014, so the chances of all 10 of these guys even getting looks seems rather slim right now.

Future plans: You also have to think that the last 4 of these 5 guys will form the bulk of the Syracuse rotation to start 2015, leaving just one slot available.  And if it were up to me, I’d have Felipe Rivero in that 5th slot.  So its kind of hard to even see where these three guys fit in for 2015, unless they’re heading for long-man duty or are dropping down to AA.   I havn’t done enough analysis to even guess what AA’s rotation may look like to see if that’s an option.  So perhaps all three guys are playing for other teams’ scouts and for AAA rotations that give them more MLB opportunity.


Now to where some of these NRIs may actually have some chances to make this team…

    • Right Handed Relievers: Heath Bell, Manny Delcarmen, Eric Fornataro, Rafael Martin, Evan Meek

Discussion: The team shed an awful lot of innings from last year’s core bullpen, none as important as the combined 132 1/3 innings from late-innings relievers Rafael Soriano and Tyler Clippard.  The team made a pretty shrewd signing of former Toronto closer Casey Janssen (and not for a ton of money either …), who will slide into one of those departed slots.  But the truth is that this team has a potential opening for a veteran 7th inning guy.  Right now Aaron Barrett is set to step into that later-innings role; is he ready?  Is he good enough?

The team has three former MLB relievers who signed on with the team with an eye towards reclamation; Bell, Meek and (to a lesser extent perhaps) Delcarmen.  All three guys have had good success in MLB bullpens … and all three have fallen on hard times.  Fornataro just got outrighted to AAA; he’s not immediately coming back on even if he fares well in spring; I’m guessing he’s on a season-long audition.

Which brings us to Mr. Martin.  Forensicane’s best friend.   His 2014 numbers speak for themselves.   He has such an odd and unique career trajectory that perhaps the ST invite is solely so the MLB staff can see what the heck he’s got.  I hope we can get a glimpse of him during televised ST games to see what he’s got.

Odds of making the 25-man roster: Long.  Despite the weakened bullpen, the Nats still have a strong group making cases to head north come March 31st.  And we know that Blake Treinen can be effective out of the pen, meaning that if we get an injury to any of the presumed 7 leaders in the clubhouse for our bullpen (for my money: Storen, Janssen, Barrett, Stammen, Blevins, Thornton and Roark), Treinen probably is the first to get called into duty.

Where these guys have a shot is this: there’s almost no reliever depth on this team.  Outside of the 7 guys likely making the bullpen right now you have just three other relievers on the 40-man: Xavier Cedeno (out of options and likely DFA’d on 3/31/15 unless an injury befells Blevins and/or Thornton), Erik Davis (coming off a lost year to surgery … is he even ready to start throwing again?) and newly-added Matt Grace.  I suppose if Davis proves he’s past his TJ surgery he’d be in line for a call-up if needed, but i’d put my money on either Bell or Martin getting a shot in case of injury.

Future plans: I’d guess that the likes of Bell and Meek have opt-outs if they don’t make the team.  Delcarmen stayed put after his opt-out expired last year and signed on again for 2015; he’s likely AAA depth all year.  Fornataro (as discussed above) is in the AAA pen looking to re-gain value, and Martin is certainly guaranteed a chance to repeat his AAA 2014 performance (not that he has much left to prove…).

    • Middle Infielders: Emmanuel Burriss, Cutter Dykstra, Dan Uggla

Discussion: The team traded away a significant asset to bolster its middle infield presence, but an injury to one of the Nats three presumed 25-man roster middle infielders (Desmond, Escobar or Espinosa) could mean an opening for one of these guys.  Burriss holds an interesting local tie; he went to Wilson HS in the district, not exactly known for generating significant baseball talent.  He has never really hit at the major league level and toiled all last season for Syracuse.  Dykstra is seemingly more well known for who his father is (Lenny) and/or who his fiancee is (Meadow), but he has quietly hit his way up our system.  You can argue that he’s been too old for every level he’s played at for us, but he’s hit .275 or better three successive years. 

Which brings us to Mr. Uggla.  He hit 30+ homers for 5 successive seasons, then got hit in the head by a pitch and suffered what we now know to be “oculomoter dysfunction.”  I certainly remember his presence in the Marlin’s lineup for years; can he regain his stroke and have an impact?  Problem is that he’s 35 and hasn’t hit at a productive level for nearly 5 years.  And his skill set doesn’t exactly age well.  I’m guessing this might be just one last shot in the sun for him.

Odds of making the 25-man roster: very little.  Every team needs a backup short stop, and the team clearly already has one.  Uggla isn’t going to supplant Escobar.

Future plans: I’m guessing Uggla has an opt-out.  Burriss likely is AAA depth and is fine with it.  Dykstra should be matriculating to Syracuse himself, where he can prove he’s worth a look later on.

    • Corner Infielders/Outfielders: Kila Ka’aihue (L),  Clint Robinson (L), Matt Skole (L), Ian Stewart (L), Mike Carp (L)

Discussion: We know what we have in Skole; our 2012 minor league hitter of the year who earns his third straight NRI.  He’s got a sweet swing but a lost season to injury and a less-than-impressive bounce back have him off the prospect radar.  But he’s not really the interesting player out of this group.

I’ve put the player’s bat in parenthesis above for good reason; this team has a need for a bench bat.  And there’s not much tying the team to the presumed 25th guy on the roster right now.  And we *really* have a need for lefty power off the bench, especially now that Espinosa is only batting right handed.  So a lefty with power has a pretty good chance at making this team.  And I don’t think its a coincidence that *every* one of these guys is a lefty hitter.  Ka’aihue just came back from Japan and has a ton of power in the minors that hasn’t translated to the majors.  He’s limited to 1B.  Robinson seems like almost the exact same player as Ka’aihue except with less MLB time.  Stewart at least has some positional flexibility and has a 25 homer season in the majors (albeit in Colorado), but has struggled with injury the past few seasons, derailing his career.  Lastly there’s Carp, another guy like Ka’aihue with a ton of minor league power demonstration that for the most part hasn’t shown up in the majors.  Carp can play 1B or a corner outfield position, giving him a slight leg up on some of his competition here.

Odds of one of these guys making the 25-man roster: decent.  You have to think our bench right now is Lobaton, Espinosa, Nate McLouth, Kevin Frandsen and … somebody.  McLouth can play center … barely.  And he used to have power, but showed the team almost nothing for its $10M investment last year.  But the chances of the team cutting him before June 1st is zero, even if he goes o-for-the spring.   Perhaps the first name to consider for the 25th man is Tyler Moore, but he’s a right handed hitter.  And he’s out of options, and he’s had plenty of chances to earn his spot and has left the team wanting.  I think we’d all rather have Michael Taylor playing every day instead of getting three ABs a week for the big league club.  So I think there’s an opportunity here for one of these lefty power-hitting veterans to grab a spot previously held by the likes of Chad Tracy or Matt Stairs.  In order I think the chances are best for Stewart, Carp, Ka’aihue and then Robinson..

Future plans: Like with the other vets, it wouldn’t surprise me to see all these veterans with opt-outs.  As for Skole, I’d like to see him regain his batting eye; his BA and his OBP both took 40+ point nose dives in 2014.  Of course, it is also worth noting that Skole is 110% blocked on this team right now; he can basically only play 1st or 3rd.  Skole’s value to this team may be in his trade value, which means a good season in Syracuse could mean his ticket out of town for opportunity.


Conclusion: I think we could see one or two of these NRIs make the team, even without an injury.  Remains to be seen.

Qualifying Offers: Are they working? (2015 edition)

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The QO didn't affect Scherzer's next contrct very much.  Photo AP Photo/Paul Sancya

The QO didn’t affect Scherzer’s next contrct very much. Photo AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Last year we did a quick analysis of all the Qualifying Offer-receiving free agents to see if the system was “working.”  (note; from here out I’ll use the abbreviation of QO for Qualifying Offer).

Now that James Shields has signed, there remain no more free agents on the market who received a QO from their former team.  Lets take a look at how the qualifying offers affected the markets for those players who got them this off-season.

Here’s a table of the 12 players who received QOs ahead of free-agency (I hope this table is readable once it publishes…)

Year Player Old Team New Team Draft Pick Forfeited Signing Date Subsequent contract (w/o options) Money up/down per AAV Q.O. Screw the player?
2014 Melky Cabrera TOR CWS 3-81 12/15/2014 3yr/$42M -1.3 Not Really
2014 Nelson Cruz BAL SEA 1-21 12/1/2014 4yr/$58M -0.8 No
2014 Michael Cuddyer COL NYM 1-15 11/11/2014 2yr/$21M -4.8 Sort of
2014 Francisco Liriano PIT PIT none 12/9/2014 3yr/$39M -2.3 Sort of
2014 Russell Martin PIT TOR 1-18 11/18/2014 5yr/$82M 1.1 No
2014 Victor Martinez DET DET none 11/14/2014 4yr/$68M 1.7 No
2014 Hanley Ramirez LAD BOS 2sup-69 11/25/2014 4yr/$88M 6.7 No
2014 David Robertson NYY CWS 2-45 12/9/2014 4yr/$46M -3.8 Sort of
2014 Pablo Sandoval SFG BOS 2-44 11/25/2014 5yr/$95M 3.7 No
2014 Ervin Santana ATL MIN 2-43 12/11/2014 4yr/$55M -1.55 Not Really
2014 Max Scherzer DET WAS 1-29 1/21/2015 7yr/$210M 14.7 no
2014 James Shields KC SD 1-13 2/9/2015 4yr/$75M 3.45 no

It should be noted that for the third consecutive year, not one player who received a QO accepted it despite its ever increasing value ($15.3M for 2015).  Is this “reverse collusion” on the part of the players, not to play the QO game?  For the third year, there were players about whom pundits scratched their heads as to why they chose not to take the offer.  While not as obvious as in 2013 (when both Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales vastly over-stated the market for their services and were severely penalized as a result), the fact that especially Michael Cuddyer and David Robertson didn’t take the QO remained puzzling.

So, among the 12 players, who was hurt?  In the end, nobody really.

  • Half the players got new contracts with AAVs above the QO figure, in some cases significantly above.  So they’re not being “hurt” by the system.  This list includes Russell Martin, Victor Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, James Shields and of course our own Max Scherzer.
  • Another 3 players (Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and Ervin Santana) signed longer term deals for slightly less than the AAV of $15.3M.  I say these guys were “not really” hurt since they guaranteed themselves 3-4 years and in each case nearly or more than $50M of earnings.   Each player rightly gambled and guaranteed themselves $50M instead of $15M.

The remaining three players each kind of have extenuating circumstances.

  • Michael Cuddyer (inexplicably) signed a 2yr/$21M deal with New York instead of taking a 1yr/$15.3M deal to stay in Colorado.  There has to be more to this story; why wouldn’t his agent have advised him of taking the QO and then hoping to get a 1yr/$6M deal the following off-season??  Wouldn’t that have been the better play?  Did he want to leave a losing team in Colorado?  (If so, why the heck did he go to the Mets??)  The Mets even more inexplicably gave up the 15th overall pick to get an 35-yr old corner outfielder who played just 49 games last year due to injuries and who has a combined 3 bWAR in the last two seasons.   One can see the nature of the kind of player you can generally get in the mid-first round here.  So while Cuddyer’s AAV is way below $15.3M, because he voluntarily signed the Mets contract he only screwed himself :-)
  • Francisco Liriano declined the QO and then re-signed with the same team (Pittsburgh).  He got a 3yr deal for $39M.  Most pundits would agree that nobody would have given Liriano a $15M/yr longer term deal thanks to his age and injury history, so his taking lesser money AAV but for longer is a smart move for him.  Perhaps the QO limited his market, forcing him to go back to Pittsburgh … or perhaps not.
  • David Robertson declined the QO but got a 4yr guaranteed deal for $46M … as a reliever.  Which is fantastic, considering the volatility of the reliever position in general.  So even though his AAV is far less than $15.3M, he made out big time with the amount of guaranteed money.

San Diego gives up the best draft pick (13th overall) to get Shields’ services for four years, but five teams altogether give up first round picks to sign players.  Boston gives up its two second round picks to play Ramirez and Sandoval on the right side of their infield for the next four years.  A number of very wealthy teams pick up supplemental first round picks (Dodgers, Yankees and Detroit), which (like all FA compensation) kind of seems to defeat the purpose of helping “poorer” teams off-set the loss of marquee players.

Lastly, the order (and pools) for the 2015 draft is now set.   A better look is here, showing all the picks gained and lost.  Houston has the 2nd, 5th and 37th overall picks, 12 picks in the top 10 rounds and has an astounding $17M of bonus money to acquire players.  Washington has just $4.1M to sign its first 10 picks, meaning we’re likely looking at another set of college seniors drafted in rounds 6-10.  More on the draft later on.

So, to answer the question of the day; are QOs working?  This year they seemed to have worked; you can’t really argue that any player was negatively affected and teams that lost players got compensation picks.  You can argue whether the right teams got these picks.

Fyi; the spreadsheet with all this analysis is here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1UEiZzwWarVP3PfCtZeYTVBqC49dmBut21O7UhB17htQ/edit?usp=sharing

Nationals Prospect Ranks historically

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Giolito is currently ranked #1 Nats prospect.  Photo Eric Dearborn via win for teddy blog

Giolito is currently ranked #1 Nats prospect. Photo Eric Dearborn via win for teddy blog

For years I’ve collected links and lists of Nationals top 10 prospect lists into a text file, just growing it chronologically year after year.  I noticed somewhat recently that in the Nats Big Board there are a few tabs with titles like “2013 Prospect Rankings”  that had some but not all the rankings data that I’ve collected.  Plus there’s no 2014 or 2015 tabs of this information.

So, I kind of became obsessed with translating all the information I had in text format to a spreadsheet.  Today I’ve uploaded this spreadsheet for your viewing pleasure.  I’ve created a “Link” along the right-hand side of this blog and also offer the below Google XLS:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ufpQabmX1XLTN9ShcgBDOLeOnfoIQLfXlk01qelJZbA/edit?usp=sharing

Some quick notes on the spreadsheet:

  • I’ve only included what I deem to be “professional pundits” rankings.  That is to say, I have not included my own, or the rankings of other Nats bloggers.    I’ve also excluded auto-generated rankings (like at Scouting Book), rankings driven by projection systems (Zips, Pecota, etc), and rankings driven by or for Fantasy purposes.
  • The default XLS in Google is sorted by the Fangraphs recent ranking, then alphabetically by last name after that.
  • The color schemes on the spreadsheet: Orange means that the player hadn’t been acquired and/or drafted yet. Red means that player has either left the organization (by release, trade, etc) or has “graduated” and is no longer a candidate for these lists.  Therefore a “white” or non-colored tab for recent lists should mean the player is still in our system, ranked or not.  Corrections welcome.
  • In the 2nd “pundits” tab you can see pundit by pundit whose lists i’ve used and (in yellow highlighting) see some of the lists I wouldn’t mind finding and including.  In particular, if anyone has the BA handbooks from previous years, I’d love a scan of the Nats top 30 pages.
  • One of the really interesting things I see in this data is the discrepant rankings from pundit to pundit by player; having all this data side by side lets you see (for example) that Keith Law really likes Joe Ross and John Sickels doesn’t rate Reynaldo Lopez nearly as highly as some of his counterparts.
  • The data is pretty solid to 2010; if anyone has older links i’ll take them and include them.  I also can carve off future time to do the google research but for now I’ve devoted enough time to this little project :-)

There are some weird discrepancies in the data as far as I can tell:

  • I have not done the “not yet signed” logic for all the IFA candidates, mostly because there’s some discrepancies in some of the IFA signing dates.  To wit; Anderson Franco is listed on the big board as a 2014 IFA signing, but he appeared in BA Handbook’s 2014 rankings for the team.  That BA Handbook is written mostly in December; how could Franco be ranked if he wasn’t even signed yet?   Do all IFAs sign on the same July time-frame?  Can a D.R. prospect sign the moment he turns 16, even if its outside the signing window?
  • Players like Aaron Barrett and Taylor Jordan ended up on pundit ranking lists after exhausting their eligibility; that’s what numbers in red blocks means.
  • mlb.com lists in particular are not published and set in stone; their system constantly adjusts the lists to account for player movement, so some of the older MLB list links may not match what’s in the xls.

The canonical history of Nats prospects ranked #1 on any list:  Lucas Giolito, Brian Goodwin, Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper (who never was NOT ranked #1 by any pundit), Stephen Strasburg (also never not ranked #1 in his brief stay on these lists in 2010), Jordan Zimmermann and lastly Chris Marrero, ranked #1 in the BA Nov 2007 ranking I somehow found.

Enjoy!