Nationals Arm Race

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

The Nats post-All Star game gauntlet of opposing Starting Pitchers


Hard to win games when you're going against guys like this for two straight weeks.  Photo via

Hard to win games when you’re going against guys like this for two straight weeks. Photo via

The Nats just finished being swept at the hands of our closest divisional rival, and the natives seem to be getting a bit restless.

I’m not worried.  You know why?  The Nats just finished one of the most brutal stretches of opposing pitchers I can ever remember.  To wit, here’s what they had to face coming out of the all star break:

  • LA: Bolsinger, Kershaw, Greinke
  • Mets: Harvey, DeGrom, Snydergaard
  • Pitt: Liriano, Locke, Burnett, Cole
  • Miami: Fernandez, Koehler, Haren
  • Mets: Harvey, DeGrom, Snydergaard

The 16 starters they’ve had to face since the All Star game include:

  • Six 2015 All-Stars (Kershaw, Greinke, DeGrom twice, Burnett and Cole)
  • The 2015 all-star game *starter* in Greinke
  • The two-time defending Cy Young winner in Kershaw
  • The guy who probably *would* have won the Cy Young in 2013 had he not gotten hurt (Harvey)
  • The last two NL Rookies of the Year (DeGrom and Fernandez)
  • Seven guys ranked in the top 20 in all of baseball for ERA, not to mention 4 of the top 10 and the two best in Greinke and DeGrom.
  • Five guys ranked in the top 15 in the game for pure fastball velocity (Snydergaard, Fernandez, Cole, deGrom and Harvey).
  • At least half of these guys being what i’d call an “Ace” in this league, and a handful more that are easily #2’s.

That’s just a brutal stretch.  By my estimates, I had the Nats with a favorable pitching match-up just three times in their first 16 games back: Zimmermann over Bolsinger (a win), Scherzer over Locke (a bad loss), and Scherzer over Haren (a 1-0 squeaker win).  Certainly I did not have us with a favorable matchup in any of the 3 games this weekend, and it was little surprise to me to see us get swept.  I thought we’d be lucky to be at .500 for these 16 games and with some bad luck they ended up this stretch 6-10.

Now here’s the good news.  We should get pretty healthy in the next week or so.  We face Arizona at home with four pitching matchups that favor Washington.  Then Colorado comes to town and are throwing a couple of guys that I’ve frankly never even heard of (Yohan Flande and Eddie Butler).  So a week from now we may be on a 6-1 or 5-2 streak and be back in happy town.

The Nats have been very streaky this year.  With apologies to “arbitrary endpoint” haters, you can divide the season into five neat streaks:

Start Date End Date Wins during Streak Losses during streak Record at end of Streak GB or GA in Division Key moments starting/ending streak
4/6/2015 4/27/2015 7 13 7-13 -8 GB Opening day instability of offense leads to sputtering start.
4/28/2015 5/27/2015 21 6 28-19 +1.5 GA Unbelievable 13-12 win in Atlanta on 4/28 ends 7-13 start to season and kicks off a 21-6 run
5/28/2015 6/19/2015 6 13 34-33 -1.5 GB Strasburg lasts just 5 batters on 5/28 and hits the D/L in Cincinnati
6/19/2015 7/12/2015 14 6 46-38 +2 GA Long road trip/tough schedule stretch ends with dominant Ross performance at home 6/20/15, kicking off easy stretch and full-strength pitching rotation
All star break
7/19/2015 8/2/2015 6 10 54-49 even Brutal stretch of opposing pitchers to start the 2nd half.

And now here we stand, on 8/3/15, even up with the Mets for the division and just a handful of games over .500.  Inarguably the Mets made great moves at the trade deadline.  But remember, they’ll face the same post-TJ decision on Harvey that the Nats did with Strasburg in 2012.  And Snydergaard’s max IP was 133 last year; He’s already at that for 2015 and its just the beginning of August.  Both these guys may be looking at regression or outright damage as they rocket past conservative workloads for 2015.  Will that work to the Nats’ favor?

I still like the Nats offensive capabilities once they’re fully healthy.  Its like getting players at the trade deadline, only you don’t have to bet the farm for them.  Will they hold up through the end of the season?  Will Strasburg return and give us the same level of pitching that Joe Ross has in his absence?  Lets hope so.


Papelbon for Pivetta: good trade, bad karma?


Hopefully, this won't be what we remember him for.  Photo via (yes its a site)

Hopefully, this won’t be what we remember him for. Photo via (yes its a site)

So, by now we’ve all heard the news.  The Nats acquired disgruntled Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon for 2013 4th rounder Nick Pivetta, newly promoted to AA.

On the plus side, the Phillies pick up all of his remaining 2015 salary (roughly $4.5M), and Papelbon pre-negotiated his 2016 option at a slightly lower figure ($11M with $3M deferred).  This is no 2-month rental; this is a strategic decision to go with him for the next two years.  So in that respect, what the Nats get versus what they gave up is pretty durn good.  Pivetta is a decent prospect who had a great first half for Potomac and just earned a promotion to AA (where he’s gotten hit around a bit in his first couple of starts).  But in terms of what the team is giving up, Pivetta is a “minor prospect” (mostly on the outside of our top 10 lists) and is perhaps no better than 13th or so on our starter depth chart (just off the top of my head, Scherzer, Strasburg, Zimmermann, Fister, Gonzalez, Ross, Roark, Cole, Jordan, Hill, Treinen, Espino, Voth and Giolito ahead of him), so the Nats trade from a surplus/depth for a position of need.

As a side-effect of the acquisition, AAA catcher Dan Butler was DFA’d to make room on the 40-man roster. Butler has been struggling in AAA and may pass through waivers, but if he doesn’t suddenly the Nats have zero catcher depth on the active roster.  So that’s a risk i’m surprised they took (if it were me, I could have named several other guys I would have risked versus Butler first).

My concern with this deal is more on the non-quantifiable side.  What message does this send to your team?  Drew Storen has been *excellent* this year, has remade his mechanics and (as noted elsewhere) has the 2nd best ERA of any reliever in the game over the last two years.  He’s been just as good a closer as Papelbon this year, and for his troubles gets demoted out of the closer spot.  Storen’s future compensation is *directly* tied to the number of saves (however arbitrary and useless that statistic may be) he earns, and now the team has told him “hey, we know you’ve been awesome but too bad you’re no longer going to have the opportunity to earn saves and therefore we’ll argue against you in arbitration to that end.”  Its no wonder Storen was immediately quoted as wanting to “explore his options” with his representation.

Lets also just say that it would not surprise this observer in the least if Storen’s performance fell off a cliff in the coming months.

You can argue that winning creates clubhouse chemistry; that’s your perogative.  You can talk about how the old Yankees “25 men, 25 cabs” had no problem winning and you can disclaim the chemistry factors that seemed to be in play with recent teams like the 2013 Red Sox or last year’s Royals.  Fair enough.  You can make the argument that these guys are all highly paid and should just accept whatever role is given to them … but lets be honest here; MLB players are human, they have egos, and (especially in the case of a reliever) they want to be the closer.  More to the point, when they do everything management asks of them and still get replaced, its hard not to blame them for being disgruntled.  This isn’t like when the Nats demoted John Lannan: Storen didn’t get beat out in spring training; he’s been absolutely stellar for the past two years.

Is this yet another reaction to Storen’s post-season record?  Lets all say it together: “short sample sizes.”  Storen has a grand total of 5 1/3 post-season innings.  Papelbon’s numbers in the post season are great (a 1.00 ERA in 27 innings), but he hasn’t pitched in October in 6 years.  Clayton Kershaw has a 5+ ERA in the post-season and nobody’s talking about replacing him.  You look for excellence in the regular season and hope it plays out in the post-season.

Two years ago, the management over-reacted to Storen’s post-season performance by over-paying (and burning a first round pick) on a closer in Rafael Soriano who, it should be noted, was himself demoted from the closer role in favor of the man he replaced by the time the deal was done.  Lets just hope that we’re not standing here in September of 2016 with Papelbon and his waning velocity ballooning to a 4+ ERA in his walks year with the ever-steady Storen right back in the same role…

I would have much preferred the team find some middle-to-later innings relievers to strengthen things in the 7th and 8th innings and not upset what Storen has established.  But it isn’t my team.  I just hope Storen can take the high road (much like Tanner Roark has been forced to do) and goes back to being a team player.

A few other excellent takes on the trade I recommend:

Post-publishing update: Joe Posnanski wrote a column 2 weeks onward, crucifying Rizzo and this trade (calling it “The Worst trade of the Season”) for its intangible impact on the team, echoing many of the same sentiments expressed here.


Summer Prep Travel team guide & Summer Showcase/tourney schedule

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Back in the day, (no this isn’t a “get off my lawn” post), once you got to high school age as a baseball player, you had just two choices for summer ball once the high school season was done; you’d either play Legion ball (if they were the elite of the town) or Babe Ruth (which was still pretty good baseball), and scouts would generally depend on scouting high school and Legion games and to hang out with high school coaches to figure out who the draftable talents were.

No longer.

These days, every kid of note hoping for a Division 1 scholarship or pro interest out of high school plays on a travel team.  These same players also go to Showcase events throughout the  year, either by invitation (for the best of the best) or on their own dime, where scouts can see players in a “combine” like setting and gauge their skills in a relatively controlled environment.  More and more, the actual performance in HS is downgraded or ignored and performances in these elite events is highlighted, since the opponent skill levels are so elevated and consistent.  This move has badly hurt Legion ball and has decimated Babe Ruth (here locally leagues have had to combine with other towns just to field enough teams to compete, and they struggle to find enough pitching to make the games competitive), but its the way of the future.

When you try to track prep kids (as I’ve begun to do more and more), you constantly hear about these teams and these events.  So I’ve finally broken down and tried to summarize them for the local area as best as I can.

This is my attempt to characterize the landscape of Travel Baseball in the DC/MD/VA area.  A ton of this is drawn from participation in the recent Perfect Game Wood Bat 17-U championships, so I likely am missing teams that did not participate.  If you come across this post and i’m missing your team, please comment as such.

Elite Talent Teams

  • Evoshield Canes: Based in Fredericksburg, VA with “outposts” up and down the east-coast.  This franchise is huge, fielding multiple teams at the latest WWBA event.  One of the leading talent teams in the land, winner of recent national travel team championships.
  • Stars Showcase Red (formerly Demarini Stars): Based in Oakton, Va.  Also large enough to field multiple teams in national events.
  • Chandler World: based out of Norristown PA but with a couple local players of note for 2015.
  • The Dirtbags All-Blacks: based just across the border in North Carolina, but draws players from southern and SW Virginia.

Mid-level Talent Teams

  • Richmond Braves National: based in Richmond.
  • Virginia Cardinals; based in Midlothian, VA.  The best of the Richmond area players.
  • Diamond Elite 17U: Ashburn; was independent, now joined with Evoshield Canes as one of their off-spring.  Comprised mostly of Ashburn/Leesburg guys from leading high schools out there like Stone Bridge.
  • Mid Atlantic Red Sox: Frederick MD

Lower-end Talent Teams

  • RISE Baseball Midlothian VA: ; not at WWBA 17u.
  • Arena STARZ 17U out of Bel Air, MD.   Lots of Battlefield players on this roster despite its geographic location.
  • Diamond Skills Dodgers (Silver Spring): mostly St. Johns Prep players
  • Maryland Monarchs: Gambrils, MD: Anne Arundel county players
  • Rawlings MD Prospects: Millersville MD
  • Rawlings Prospects of VA Sandlot Elite Sterling, VA
  • Tidewater Orioles Virginia Beach, VA
  • Virginia Baseball Network: Mostly guys from Lynchburg and Forest based  high schools. (not at WWBA 17u)
  • CBA Rays: Chesapeake based, mostly from Chesapeake-based high schools Greenbrier Christian, Great Bridge and Grassfield.  Not at WWBA 17u.
  • Hampton Road Hurricanes: not at WWBA 17u
  • Baltimore Bandits 17u: travel team run out of Calvert Hall HS in Baltimore.  Not at WWBA 17u.
  • Old Dominion Hitters: some D-I talent, not at WWBA 17u.

It should also be noted that the big programs (Evoshield, Stars, DirtBags, etc) fielded a number of “alternate” teams that were not as talented as their leading “varsity” team.  Those squads, as fielded at WWBA 2015 were:

  • Evoshield Canes American: Fredericksburg
  • Evoshield North (NC): Raleigh
  • Evoshield South (SC): Columbia
  • Evoshield Seminoles (Richmond)
  • Evoshield Canes Mid-Atlantic
  • Evoshield Canes North
  • Richmond Braves American
  • Dirtbags Select (NC)
  • Stars Black
  • Stars Blue

Showcase Guide 2015

So, what events are these kids playing?  Spurred on by this excellent summer-kick off article from Jonathan Mayo, here’s a good guide for the 2015 summer/fall events that the upper end rising HS seniors will be participating in.  Some of these have already passed and are listed here for completion purposes: is *the* website for these kinds of things.  At PG’s events, all the teams, with their full rosters of players with home towns and college commits, are online and viewable.  Very good information if you’re interested in (say) one particular team’s roster of players.

Prep tournament guide 2015



This is my first cut at this data.  I’m sure i’m missing local teams and showcases.  Please let me know if you disagree with my characterization of the talent level of these teams (mostly taken by eyeballing the college commits to gauge the strength of the roster), if you feel i’m missing any major teams, or if you think a show-case or tourney is missing.


Written by Todd Boss

July 27th, 2015 at 9:09 am

Posted in Draft,Local Baseball

Tagged with

Nats 2015 Draft Wrap-up


Wiseman may be known for his "neck homer" game, but he's raking in short-A.  Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Wiseman may be known for his “neck homer” game, but he’s raking in short-A. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The July 17th signing deadline has come and gone, and the Nats had a relatively quiet signing period.  Little drama, no significant failed signings, no arguing in the press with Scott Boras, etc.   Lets recap our 2015 draft class.

As noted by Chelsea James in this NatsJournal piece, the Nats signed 30 of their 40 picks, including all their top ten and 18 of the top 20 picks.

They saved roughly $700k of their top10-round bonus pool, only having to go over slot for one top-10 round pick (Koda Glover, who perhaps not coincidentally was the first 2015 draftee to be promoted to full season ball), and transferred that bonus savings to two big over-draft picks in later rounds (13th rounder Max Schrock and 34th rounder Tyler Watson).  This essentially meant that they were able to acquire the equivalent of an extra 3rd and an extra 4th rounder thanks to bonus savings.

Here’s a cut-n-paste from my 2015 draft tracker spreadsheet (google link here, which includes more details and twitter accounts for the draftees).  Red == did not sign.  *==lefty, #=switch hitter.

Round Name/Position Col/HS School Signed?
2 Stevenson, Andrew* OF COL jr LSU signed for $750k, $308k under slot
2 Perkins, Blake OF HS Verrado HS (AZ) signed for $800k, $93k underslot.
3 Wiseman, Rhett* OF COL jr Vanderbilt signed for $554k, exactly slot.
4 Rivera, Mariano Jr. RHP COL sr Iona (NY) signed for $410k, exactly slot.
5 Hearn, Taylor LHP COL jr Oklahoma Baptist U. signed for $275k, 37k under slot
6 Crownover, Matt LHP COL jr Clemson signed for $160k, 70k under slot.
7 Borne, Grant LHP COL jr Nicholls State (LA) signed for $150k, 27k under slot.
8 Glover, Koda RHP COL sr Oklahoma State signed for $200k, 34k over slot.
9 Kerian, David# 1B COL sr Illinois signed for $25k, 130k under slot (and, was in the Auburn opening day lineup)
10 Guilbeau, Taylor LHP COL sr Alabama signed for $25k, 124k under slot
11 Lee, Andrew RHP COL jr Tennessee Yes per his twitter
12 Peterson, Tommy RHP COL jr South Florida Yes per his twitter, GCL roster assignment
13 Schrock, Max* 2B COL jr South Carolina signed for $500k, $400k over slot
14 Lemieux, Mack LHP HS Jupiter Community HS (FL) Not likely to sign
15 Mooney, Kevin RHP COL jr Maryland yes per Baltimore sun
16 Sagdal, Ian* SS COL sr Washington State U. Yes per his twitter
17 Dulin, Dalton# 2B CC Northwest Mississippi CC yes per
18 Rodriguez, Melvin* 2B COL sr Jackson State U. (MS) Yes per Auburn assignment
19 Brandt, Clayton SS COL sr MidAmerica Nazarene U (KS) signed per GCL roster assignment
20 Reeves, John C COL sr Rice (TX) Why didn’t he sign?
21 Pirro, Matt RHP COL sr Wake Forest Yes per his twitter
22 Boghosian, Adam RHP COL 5s North Greenville U. (SC) signed per GCL roster assignment
23 Rash, Alec RHP COL jr Missouri Not likely to sign
24 Smith, Blake RHP COL sr West Virginia Why didn’t he sign?
25 Copping, Calvin RHP COL jr Cal. State Northridge signed per GCL roster assignment
26 Harmening, Russell RHP COL jr Westmont Coll (CA) signed per GCL roster assignment
27 Brinley, Ryan RHP COL jr Sam Houston State U. (TX) signed per GCL roster assignment
28 Van Vossen, Mick RHP COL sr Michigan State U. signed per GCL roster assignment
29 Diedrick, Philip* OF COL sr Western Kentucky U. signed per GCL roster assignment
30 Pantoja, Jorge RHP COL jr Alabama State U. signed per GCL roster assignment
31 Sprengel, Nick LHP HS El Dorado HS (CA) Not likely to sign
32 DiNatale, Dalton* 3B COL jr Arizona State U. signed per GCL roster assignment
33 La Bruna, Angelo SS COL 5S U. Southern California signed per GCL roster assignment
34 Watson, Tyler LHP HS Perry HS (AZ) signed per Jim Callis Tweet
35 Montes, Coco SS HS Coral Gables HS (FL) Not likely to sign
36 Bush, Taylor SS HS The Linfield School (CA) Not likely to sign
37 DiPuglia, Steven SS HS Cooper City HS (FL) Not likely to sign
38 Morales, Matt SS HS Wellington Community HS (FL) Not likely to sign
39 Jefferies, Jake# 2B COL jr Cal. State Fullerton Yes per Auburn assignment
40 Quinn, Parker 1B HS The Benjamin School (FL) Not likely to sign

Review of the 10 who did not sign:

  • 14th rounder Lemieux was a tough sign, committed to Florida Atlantic, probably couldn’t get enough money to make it worth his while to forgo college.
  • 20th rounder Reeves has college eligibility left despite being a senior; I originally had assumed he was signing.  Looks like he returns to Rice and is a 5th year senior.
  • 23rd rounder Rash barely pitched this year and from what I read has really struggled in his college career.  He made sense to go back for his senior year to build value.  Coming out of HS he was a decent talent.
  • 24th rounder Smith was listed in some places as a senior but is listed as a junior on WVU’s website.  It makes sense for him to return for his senior  year and build value.
  • 31st rounder Sprengel is committed to U. San Diego.
  • High Schoolers picked in rounds 35-38 (Montes, Bush, DiPuglia and Morales) are committed to respectively South Florida, Westmont, Western Kentucky and Stetson, all opting to go to school.
  • 40th rounder Quinn is commited to Hofstra.

The big signing surprises for me:

  • Schrock in the 13th round, though he got paid like an early 3rd rounder.  So perhaps it isn’t that big of a surprise.
  • Watson in the 34th round, though again he got paid like a mid 4th rounder, so maybe it isn’t that big of a surprise either.
  • DiNatale and Jefferies both signing despite being such low picks; both were college juniors at big programs who could have gone back to school.  Somewhat surprising picks.  Given that any bonus figure below $100,000 in the 11th round or later does not need to be reported, it is possible that both guys got $100k (which is about equivalent to a 10th round pick) and opted to sign.
  • That the team signed *any* of the guys it picked in rounds 31 and above; they got 4 of the 10.

Was this a “good” or a “bad” draft?

I was on record quite clearly that I thought our 2014 draft was a failure.  This led to my posting a huge missive doing analysis on *every* draft class and determining whether it was a failure or a success.  I’m still not sold on 2014 a year onwards; Fedde is going to have to turn into an all-star to make up for the rest of the deficiencies of the class.

So how does the 2015 draft class look?  Unfortunately, in my mind, probably not too great either.  We had no 1st rounder.  Our two second rounders both project as good field/no hit center fielders (thought to be fair, Stevenson is hitting .360 in Auburn).  I like Wiseman but he has holes in his swing.  Rivera has gotten shelled so far in Auburn.  I think the team got some good deals on Glover, Schrock, and Watson.  Some of the college arms are really looking good at Auburn (Bourne, Peterson, Gilbeau).  So we’ll see.

Good links for the draft: that i’m constantly using.


2015 Local Drafted Players; signing results


Nathan Kirby is the highest drafted player with local ties for 2015.  Photo via

Nathan Kirby is the highest drafted player with local ties for 2015. Photo via

Now that the June 2015 draft signing deadline has passed, here’s a quick review of all DC/MD/VA players who got drafted with their signing bonuses (if known), and if not signed where they’re presumably heading to school.

This post at MinorLeagueBall lists all the top 20 round draft picks who did NOT sign.  This list has a ton of 20th round+ guys who we’re depending on assignments.

Chelsea James just did a nice summary of the Nats draft class at NatsJournal.  I’ll do a separate post to that end later on.

Important Draft-related links for this post:

  • MLB’s Awesome Draft Tracker; you can slice and dice the draft 10 different ways, search by schools and home states, etc.
  • Official Draft Bonus Pool totals.  Astros have $17M (most).  Nats have 3rd least at $4.1M.
  •’s Draft Signing and Bonus tracker; note this only goes through the first 10 rounds; after that, the bonus figures are treated differently.

College Players with local ties

  • Nathan Kirby LHP from UVA: went #40 (Supp 1st round) to Milwaukee.  Signed at the deadline for below slot value ($1.2M versus slot of $1.545M).
  • Josh Sborz, RHP closer for UVA: went #74 (Supp 2nd round) to the Dodgers.  Signed at the deadline for below slot ($722k vs $827k).
  • Taylor Clarke, who hails from Ashburn (Broad Run HS) went #76, first pick of the 3rd round to Arizona.  Signed for slot value of $801k.
  • Mike Matuella, of Great Falls (Georgetown Prep) and Duke: #78, to Texas in the 3rd round.  Signed for huge overslot deal of $2M.
  • Brandon Lowe: UMD infielder: 3rd round #87 overall to Tampa Bay.  Signed for $6k overslot ($697k); why $6,000 over slot?  weird figure.
  • Alex Robinson: UMD’s ace Lefty went in the 5th round (#140 overall) to Minnesota.  Signed for $5k under-slot ($382k)
  • Joe McCarthy, OF for UVA: 5th round, #148 overall to Tampa Bay.  Signed for slot value of $358k.
  • Brandon Waddell UVA Saturday/Sunday starter: 5th round (#157) to Pittsburgh.  Signed for slightly underslot bonus of $315k.
  • Jack Wynkoop of Virginia Beach (Cape Henry Collegiate HS), LHP starter for South Carolina: went in the 6th round to Colorado.  Signed for slot value of $298k.
  • Michael Boyle: Radford Ace.  13th rounder to the Dodgers.  Signed for unknown figure, currently in Rookie/Pioneer League Ogden.
  • Kevin Mooney: UMD closer: 15th rounder by the Nats.  Signed for unknown figure, currently in short-A Auburn.
  • Kenny Towns; 3B from UVA and the 2011 All-Met player of the year from Lake Braddock, went in the 20th to the Angels.  Signed for unknown figure, currently in Rookie/Pioneer League Orem.
  • Luke Willis, OF from George Mason and Oakton HS, in the 30th round to Kansas City.  Signed for unknown figure, currently in Rookie/Appalachian League Burlington.
  • Josh Swirchak, a MIF from Division II Wilmington University via Osbourne Park HS in Manassas, Signed with St. Louis as an undrafted free agent after the 2015 draft.   Currently at short-A State College.

There were no significant college draftee non-signings from the area.

There are quite a few other college players from the many baseball-playing colleges in the area drafted past the 10th round; search the MLB draft tracker and select the state of Virginia for many more local college players.

Local Prep players of note:

  • Jimmy Barnes, Deep Creek HS in Chesapeake; 11th rounder to the Angels.   Signed for unknown figure, currently in the Arizona Rookie League.
  • Nic Enright RHP from Steward HS in Richmond: 19th rounder to the Mets.  Did Not Sign, as noted on  Will presumably honor his committment to Virginia Tech.
  • Ljay Newsome of Chopticon (south of Waldorf): 26th rounder by Seattle.  Per his summer team’s twitter page, Newsome Signed with Seattle for an undisclosed amount.  Currently in the Arizona Rookie League.
  • Nathan Trevillian, RHP from small Amherst County HS; 22nd rounder to the Pirates.  Signed for  unknown figure, currently in GCL.
  • Stevie Mangrum, 3B from Western Albemarle HS in Charlottesville, 28th round pick by Boston.  Did Not Sign, will presumably honor his commitment to Virginia Tech.
  • Cody Morris, of Reservoir got picked up in 32nd round by Baltimore.   Did Not Sign, will honor his commitment to South Carolina.
  • Hunter Parsons of Parkside HS, picked up in the 40th round by Cleveland.  Did not Sign, will presumably honor commitment to Maryland.

At the end of the signing period, here’s what some of these local schools’ recruiting classes seem to look like in terms of local guys:

  • UVA: Connor Eason, Nathan Eikhoff, Evan Sperling, Grant Donahue
  • U of Maryland: A.J. Lee, Hunter Parsons
  • Virginia Tech: Nic Enright, Stevie Mangrum, John DeFazio, Paul Hall
  • South Carolina: Cody Morris, Danny Blair
  • Wake Forest: Harvey Logan
  • Liberty: Jack DeGroat
  • VCU: Brody Cook
  • UNC-Asheville: Jordan Carr
  • Campbell: James Monaghan
  • Uncommitted thus far: Kaleb Bowman, Hunter Byrnes

This Baseball America link has a list of all the major prep players who didn’t sign, listed by college commitment.  It has a couple more big names for some of the local baseball schools. also has a way to search by college commitment, but it doesn’t verify the results since its self-reported by the players (it has literally 20 names listed for UVA’s incoming 2016 class).

Nats re-draft/previously drafted Players (i’ve noted our previous draft position for each player)

  • Andrew Suarez , (2nd round pick 2014) LHP from Miami went in the 2nd round again, #61 overall this time to San Francisco.  Signed for slot of slightly more than $1M.
  • Skye Bolt, OF from UNC, went in the 4th round (#128 overall) to Oakland.  Signed over-slot deal of $610k.
  • Cody Poteet, (27th rounder in 2012) went in the 4th round (#116 overall) to Miami.  Signed slot deal of $488k.
  • Austin Byler, (9th rounder, 2014) OF from Nevada.  Was the first pick on day 3; 11th rounder by Arizona.  Signed for unknown amount.
  • Daniel Salters (22nd rounder 2014) C from Dallas Baptist: 13th round pick to Cleveland in 2015.  Signed for unknown amount.
  • Jake Jefferies (34th rounder in 2012): 2B from Cal State-Fullerton; Nats picked him up again, this time in the 39th round.  Signed for unknown amount with the Nats and is on the Auburn roster.

Previous local Draft posts:

Remember this Weekend


Scherzer can't pitch a no-hitter every time; at some point this team needs to start hitting.  Photo via

Scherzer can’t pitch a no-hitter every time; at some point this team needs to start hitting. Photo via

If the playoffs started today, here’s what the match-ups would look like (and frankly the odds of this setup changing seem slim; maybe SF catches Chicago for the 2nd WC but otherwise this seems like it will be the line-up):

  • Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh for the wild card
  • St. Louis hosting the WC winner
  • Washington traveling to Los Angeles.

And in said short series, with the Nats traveling to Los Angeles, they’d likely face Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke again in games 1 and 2.

Here’s what the LA 1-2 punch just did to our hapless lineup, on the road no less where Kershaw has a significantly worse stats:

There’s not a pundit in the game who doesn’t think the Nats aren’t going to win the NL East.  That they’re in first place while their #1, #2, #4 and #5 hitters sit on the D/L is pretty amazing (or, perhaps more to the point, a pretty bad indictment of our division in 2015).  But the toll is being seen; between outings against Kershaw, Greinke and (just before the all-star break) Johnny Cueto, we now see the effect of such a weak offense.  MLB-wide Aces will absolutely dominate the Nats.  To the point where we could have Cy  Young himself throwing and not have a chance.  If there’s just one or two legitimate hitters in your lineup, you can pitch around them and attack guys who otherwise would be in AAA or on the bench.  As we just saw.

The question is this: can the Nats offense turn this around?  We have now seen this team make the playoffs twice, each time with the best record in the league, and then each time flail out of the playoffs while barely hitting.  In 2012 they hit .232/.290/.393 and in 2014 they hit .164/.222/.258.

Yes we plan on getting everybody back.  Most of our D/L guys are on rehab assignments as we speak actually.  Can they get their expected form back and make this team respectable on offense?  Can Jayson Werth regain his stroke despite recovering from a broken wrist?  Can Denard Span regain his batting stroke despite a chronic back issue?  I’m less worried about Zimmerman and Rendon; they just need time and luck to stay on the field despite leg/foot issues, and both those guys profile as the kind of middle-of-the-order hitter that would give the Nats lineup some potency back (not to mention some protection for Bryce Harper).

Will it be enough?  Are you worried about looming playoff match-ups?



Why do people think Montreal is a viable baseball expansion market?


Don't think we're seeing Youppi's return anytime soon. Jpg via Youppi's tumblr page (yes it exists).

Don’t think we’re seeing Youppi’s return anytime soon. Jpg via Youppi’s tumblr page (yes it exists).

Rob Manfred was caught on mike talking about expansion at this year’s all-star game.  He reminded us that Montreal drew 91,000 fans to two exhibition games prior to this season’s start.

Before we even talk about all the other roadblocks to expansion in the current MLB landscape (RSN deals, geographical ownership issues, the lack of actual viable cities, the lack of the cascading downstream need for an additional *twelve* minor league teams/twelve appropriate minor league cities to support two more MLB teams, etc), lets talk about Montreal as a baseball host city.  Because we have plenty of evidence already telling us whether that city really can host professional baseball.

Here’s a table showing Attendance and ranks within the NL for the Franchise:

Year Tm Lg W L W-L% Finish Attendance Rank in NL Capacity Attendance as % of Capacity
2015 Washington Nationals NL East 48 39 0.552 1st of 5
2014 Washington Nationals NL East 96 66 0.593 1st of 5 2,579,389 7th of 15 41,418 76.89%
2013 Washington Nationals NL East 86 76 0.531 2nd of 5 2,652,422 6th of 15 41,418 79.06%
2012 Washington Nationals NL East 98 64 0.605 1st of 5 2,370,794 9th of 16 41,418 70.67%
2011 Washington Nationals NL East 80 81 0.497 3rd of 5 1,940,478 14th of 16 41,418 58.20%
2010 Washington Nationals NL East 69 93 0.426 5th of 5 1,828,066 14th of 16 41,418 54.49%
2009 Washington Nationals NL East 59 103 0.364 5th of 5 1,817,226 13th of 16 41,418 54.17%
2008 Washington Nationals NL East 59 102 0.366 5th of 5 2,320,400 13th of 16 41,418 69.59%
2007 Washington Nationals NL East 73 89 0.451 4th of 5 1,943,812 14th of 16 45,596 52.63%
2006 Washington Nationals NL East 71 91 0.438 5th of 5 2,153,056 11th of 16 45,596 58.30%
2005 Washington Nationals NL East 81 81 0.5 5th of 5 2,731,993 8th of 16 45,596 73.97%
2004 Montreal Expos NL East 67 95 0.414 5th of 5 749,550 16th of 16 45,757/18,264 24.17%
2003 Montreal Expos NL East 83 79 0.512 4th of 5 1,025,639 16th of 16 45,757/18,264 33.07%
2002 Montreal Expos NL East 83 79 0.512 2nd of 5 812,045 16th of 16 45,757 21.91%
2001 Montreal Expos NL East 68 94 0.42 5th of 5 642,745 16th of 16 45,757 17.34%
2000 Montreal Expos NL East 67 95 0.414 4th of 5 926,272 16th of 16 45,757 24.99%
1999 Montreal Expos NL East 68 94 0.42 4th of 5 773,277 16th of 16 45,757 20.86%
1998 Montreal Expos NL East 65 97 0.401 4th of 5 914,909 16th of 16 45,757 24.69%
1997 Montreal Expos NL East 78 84 0.481 4th of 5 1,497,609 13th of 14 45,757 40.41%
1996 Montreal Expos NL East 88 74 0.543 2nd of 5 1,616,709 11th of 14 45,757 43.62%
1995 Montreal Expos NL East 66 78 0.458 5th of 5 1,309,618 10th of 14 45,757 39.75%
1994 Montreal Expos NL East 74 40 0.649 1st of 5 1,276,250 11th of 14 45,757 48.93%
1993 Montreal Expos NL East 94 68 0.58 2nd of 7 1,641,437 13th of 14 45,757 44.29%
1992 Montreal Expos NL East 87 75 0.537 2nd of 6 1,669,127 10th of 12 45,757 45.03%
1991 Montreal Expos NL East 71 90 0.441 6th of 6 934,742 12th of 12 45,757 25.38%
1990 Montreal Expos NL East 85 77 0.525 3rd of 6 1,373,087 10th of 12 45,757 37.05%
1989 Montreal Expos NL East 81 81 0.5 4th of 6 1,783,533 10th of 12 45,757 48.12%
1988 Montreal Expos NL East 81 81 0.5 3rd of 6 1,478,659 11th of 12 45,757 39.90%
1987 Montreal Expos NL East 91 71 0.562 3rd of 6 1,850,324 9th of 12 45,757 49.92%
1986 Montreal Expos NL East 78 83 0.484 4th of 6 1,128,981 11th of 12 45,757 30.65%
1985 Montreal Expos NL East 84 77 0.522 3rd of 6 1,502,494 8th of 12 45,757 40.79%
1984 Montreal Expos NL East 78 83 0.484 5th of 6 1,606,531 8th of 12 45,757 43.61%
1983 Montreal Expos NL East 82 80 0.506 3rd of 6 2,320,651 3rd of 12 45,757 62.61%
1982 Montreal Expos NL East 86 76 0.531 3rd of 6 2,318,292 3rd of 12 45,757 62.55%
1981 Montreal Expos NL East 60 48 0.556 2nd of 6 1,534,564 3rd of 12 45,757 62.11%
1980 Montreal Expos NL East 90 72 0.556 2nd of 6 2,208,175 4th of 12 45,757 59.58%
1979 Montreal Expos NL East 95 65 0.594 2nd of 6 2,102,173 4th of 12 45,757 57.43%
1978 Montreal Expos NL East 76 86 0.469 4th of 6 1,427,007 7th of 12 45,757 38.50%
1977 Montreal Expos NL East 75 87 0.463 5th of 6 1,433,757 6th of 12 45,757 38.68%
1976 Montreal Expos NL East 55 107 0.34 6th of 6 646,704 11th of 12 28,456 28.06%
1975 Montreal Expos NL East 75 87 0.463 5th of 6 908,292 9th of 12 28,456 39.41%
1974 Montreal Expos NL East 79 82 0.491 4th of 6 1,019,134 9th of 12 28,456 44.49%
1973 Montreal Expos NL East 79 83 0.488 4th of 6 1,246,863 9th of 12 28,456 54.10%
1972 Montreal Expos NL East 70 86 0.449 5th of 6 1,142,145 9th of 12 28,456 51.46%
1971 Montreal Expos NL East 71 90 0.441 5th of 6 1,290,963 8th of 12 28,456 56.36%
1970 Montreal Expos NL East 73 89 0.451 6th of 6 1,424,683 6th of 12 28,456 61.81%
1969 Montreal Expos NL East 52 110 0.321 6th of 6 1,212,608 7th of 12 28,456 52.61%


Some salient points in time for context (lots of the history stuff is from the wikipedia page for the Expos):

  • From 1969 to 1976, Montreal played in “Parc Jerry,” with a capacity of just 28,456 for baseball.   For the first few seasons, the team drew decently, averaging nearly 50% capacity.  They bottomed out in 1976, going from a 75 win team to a 55 win team.
  • In 1977, the team rebounded in both performance and attendance timed with the move to Olympic Stadium; their attendance more than doubled from 1976 to 1977.  From 1978 to 1983, the team was successful on the field and in the stands, routinely placing 3rd or 4th in the league in attendance and placing 2nd or 3rd place in the division.  This also included the Montreal franchise’s sole playoff appearance, a 3-2 NLDS loss in 1981.
  • Suddenly after 1983, fans stopped showing up and the team stayed mediocre; they went from 3rd or 4th in the league in attendance to 8th at best, 11th out of 12 at worst.
  • In 1991, the team was sold to a new ownership group, and a new wave of players made the Expos very competitive very fast (94 wins in 1993).  However, fans remained ambivalent; even after the 1993 season as the team sat in 1st place for all of 1994 (the season eventually cancelled), attendance went from 44% of capacity to 48% of capacity.  After the players strike, ownership and fan interest began to dwindle.
  • Jeffrey Loria acquired the team in 1999; he failed to get media deals done for the 2000 season, failed to negotiate a new stadium deal, and attendance and fan interest showed: in 1998 the team was dead last in attendance and never left last place of the NL.
  • Baseball attempted to contract Montreal (and Minnesota) in 2001, further adding insult to injury for the remaining Montreal fans.
  • In 2002, MLB negotiated the 3-way transaction of Boston, Florida and Montreal, leaving the Expos as a ward of MLB.  From 2002 to 2004, the franchise was plundered of its staff, its infrastructure, and its willingness to compete.  Furthermore, to “combat low attendance” the team played a quarter of its “home games” in Puerto Rico at a stadium a fraction of the capacity of Montreal’s stadium.
  • In their final seasons in Montreal, the Expos were averaging just 17-20% stadium capacity (not counting the two years traveling to San Juan).  By way of comparison, the Nats first season was at 73% and their last three have not dipped below the 70% capacity marker.

Some quick summary points:

  • The Expos absolute best cumulative attendance season was 1983; the Nats have already drawn more than that on four different occasions.
  • The Nats worst attendance season (2009), was still better than 31 of Montreal’s 36 seasons.
  • The Nats already have the 5 best attendance as a % of capacity seasons.
  • Montreal was dead last in NL attendance for their last 7 seasons in Canada.   You have to go back another 14 seasons before you even find a time when they were in the upper half of the league of attendance.

Montreal was asking for a new stadium as early as 1999-2000, and ran into roadblocks to get public funding in the amount of $150-$200M.  Now new stadiums routinely cost 4-5 times that.  Why would anyone think that Montreal would finance something now?

So, again, considering the known attendance and stadium issues, and not even addressing the RSN and currency issues, why again does anyone think that Montreal is a viable city for Baseball right now?  Yes its a large city (it’d be ranked somewhere in the 10-15th largest city range if it acquired baseball), and yes its a “wealthier” city since its Canada and it houses their seat of government.  But, they *had a team* for 30+ years and didn’t support it, refused politically to build the infrastructure to keep it, and had no local ownership interested in keeping it.

Sometimes I hear about other international expansion sites.  Puerto Rico?  Mexico City??  Do people not understand the financial needs to support a professional baseball team?  You need *wealthy* cities, not places where the median income is a fraction of what it is in the USA (by some measures, Puerto Rico’s is about 30% of the US and Mexico is just 10-15% of the US).

Portland?  San Antonio?  Charlotte?  Virginia Beach?  All nice mid-sized American cities, in some cases already hosting AA or AAA teams.  All *smaller* than some of the smallest markets already hosting MLB teams and struggling financially (places like Milwaukee, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Tampa, etc).  So I’m not entirely sure how these are great expansion alternatives.  The last two times baseball expanded, it was to major, growing cities that were mostly deserving (Denver, Miami, Phoenix and Tampa).

I dunno; every time I hear about expansion in baseball I laugh.  We still havn’t even come close to figuring out the most recent franchise relocation issues (aka, Washington-Baltimore’s RSN mess) and Oakland & San Francisco can’t agree on who “owns” a city that’s basically equidistantly far away from both stadiums (San Jose).  Now we want to shoe-horn in two more franchises onto a landscape map that’s 100% spoken for?

The reality of the situation is this: the two places it makes the most sense to put an additional team are the two largest cities in the land.  New York and Los Angeles.  Stick a team in Brooklyn and in Riverside and carve up the massive markets in those two cities.  And it’ll never, ever happen.


Written by Todd Boss

July 15th, 2015 at 12:03 pm

State of the Nats at the halfway point 2015


Per KW’s comment suggestion, here’s a “State of the Nats” at the halfway point of 2015.

Salient key phrase: “Holding On.”  Lets look at some component parts.


Here’s the full-strength outfield lineup the Nats would optimally like to deploy: Span, Rendon, Harper, Zimmerman, Werth, Desmond, Ramos, Escobar.

Here’s what they lined-up against Red’s ace Johnny Cueto a few days ago: Taylor, Espinosa, Harper, Ramos, Robinson, Uggla, Desmond, den Dekker.  Yeah, its no wonder they wimpered into the night as Cueto threw a 2-hit shutout.  If you’re Cueto, you pitch around Harper (who got a hit and a walk), you attack the rest of the lineup (strike-out prone lead-off hitter Taylor took a hat-trick), and you laugh as you blow through the rest of the lineup (11Ks on the night).

That’s five regulars out, but not just any regulars; the D/L includes your expected #1, #2 #4, and #5 hitters.  Instead they are replaced by a rookie (Taylor), a career minor-leaguer (Robinson), a cast-off veteran failure (Uggla), a career .230 hitter who the team has spent the last 3 years trying to replace (Espinosa) and a 4th/5th outfielder with just a couple hundred MLB at-bats prior to this year (den Dekker).

Frankly, its a miracle the team is in first place.  Only by the grace of Harper’s incredible season does this team manage to stay in games.  For the record, at the halfway point Harper leads the league in bWAR (6.1), OBP, Slugging, OPS and OPS+.  After having a 3-1 K/BB ratio last year, this year he basically has as many walks as strike-outs, one of the primary reasons his average is 60 points higher and his OBP is 130 points higher than it was last year.  Hold your breath that Harper doesn’t crash out and miss a month with some injury like he’s done in the previous seasons.  If he ends the season with this level of an adjusted OPS+, it’ll be one of the 10-12 best offensive seasons in the history of baseball.

Ironically, even given all these injuries the Nats aren’t even close to what some other teams are dealing with; per, we’re not even close to what the Mets, Rangers, Rays or Oakland has had to deal with.  Though I’d venture to say that perhaps the games lost by Nats players are slightly more “important” than the cumulative games lost by some of these other teams.  I don’t care who you are; if you remove four of the top five batters from any team’s lineup, they’d be lucky to be out of the cellar.

The team has gotten absolutely nothing from presumed bench players McLouth and Johnson (Do you think Rizzo will *ever* buy a 4th outfielder for 8-figures again in his life?).  Guys who should be in AAA are getting starts and (at least in the case of Robinson) holding their own.  We talked before the season about where Taylor should be (on the MLB bench or in AAA getting starts) … well he’s getting playing time, for better or worse.  Instead of worrying about whether Moore was going to get DFA’d to make room, we’re *adding* guys to the 40-man like Burriss to help out.


We know about Scherzer.  He’s been amazing, should start the NL All-Star game (of course, he’s scheduled to throw the series ender in Baltimore so we’ll see) and he leads all NL pitchers in bWAR.

What about the rest of the rotation?  Both Fister and Strasburg have missed a  handful of starts, and the Nats have tried a whole AAA-rotation worth of replacements to varying results.  With apologies to “short sample size judgements” I’ll say that Ross was good, Hill has been ok, Cole has been bad, and Jordan has been worse.  Of course, both Cole and Jordan’s delta between ERA and FIP is massive, so their poor ERAs are unlucky to a certain extent.  In the meantime, Ross has a 23/2 K/BB ratio and a FIP of 1.11 in his three starts.  Its safe to say that this person is excited to see what he can do next, and for me he’s at the head of the line for 2016 rotation candidates.

Clearly we know Strasburg has had an off season.  But so has Fister.  And Gonzalez‘ ERA is in the 4’s.   Just how bad is this rotation?  Not as bad as you think; they’re ranked 8th in the league in starter ERA but are 1st in FIP and fWAR.   Last  year they were 1st in all of these categories.  So perhaps we can expect some “progression” in the 2nd half as (hopefully) guys like Strasburg clean up their act and pitch closer to their FIPs than their ERAs.


We knew Rizzo had weakened the bullpen from 2015, which could have been fine had the injury bug not hit.  But the turnover of this bullpen has caught up to the team in some ways.

  • End of 2014: Soriano, Storen, Clippard, Stammen, Thornton, Blevins, and Detwiler.
  • As we stand now: Storen, Janssen, Treinen, Carpenter, Thornton, Rivero, and Roark.

That’s a lot of turnover.  Yes Storen has been typically excellent (as long as its not the post-season, he seems to be one of the most reliable closers in the game).  As we speak, the bullpen is 11th in ERA; last year they were 4th as a bullpen.  Janssen’s injury did not help, as it pushed guys into the 8th inning role they weren’t ready for.  And we saw Treinen and Barrett struggle (3.69 and 5.06 ERA’s respectively).  Granted their FIP shows that those ERAs are unlucky … but those are still runs on the board, blown leads, blown saves.  Roark (predictably) has regressed as he’s pitched in practically every role a pitching staff has (long-man, mop-up, spot-starter, rotation guy, middle reliever, setup guy and even a closer).  Luckily the gambler Rizzo has gotten pretty good performance out of scrap heap guys like Thornton and Carpenter, both of whom have given the team good innings.

Will this last?  It better: there’s practically nothing left in the farm system for reinforcements.  Barrett is set to return soon (probably pushing Carpenter to AAA), but the other options in the minors do not inspire confidence.  Martin got shelled (unfortunately; we were all cheering him on after his call-up and his fantastic start).  Grace and Solis were both mediocre in their auditions, and I can’t quite figure out why Erik Davis is even still on the roster.  Maybe the team will try some more waiver claims or trades (Neftali Felix just got DFA’d…) to shore up middle relief.


Lets talk about streaks.  As of the time of this posting, the Nats season can neatly be fit into these four periods, and then talk about what spurred the beginning/ending of each streak.

  • The Slow Start: 7-13 from opening day through 4/27/15.  The team came out of the game 7-13, thanks to a sputtering offense and a make-shift lineup still trying to gel.
  • The Comeback: 21-6 from 4/28/15 to 5/27/15: Uggla hits his sole homer on the season to spur a pretty incredible 13-12 comeback win in Atlanta, and the team goes on a 21-6 tear following it.
  • Rotational Worries: 6-13 from 5/28/15 to 6/19/15.  Strasburg lasts just 5 batters on his 5/28/15 start, putting 40% of the rotation on the D/L and throwing the rhythm of the pitching staff off.
  • The Kid dazzles: 12-5 from 6/20/15 to 7/9/15; A long road trip/tough schedule stretch ends with a dominant Ross performance at home 6/20/15, kicking off an easy stretch in the schedule and a mostly full-strength pitching rotation.

Definitely a streaky team so far.  At 7-13, they were 8 games back.  At the end of their 21-6 streak, they were 1.5 games up in the division.  Despite their 6-13 stretch the only lost 3 games in the standings as the Mets faltered equally, and as of 7/9/15 they’re still 3 games up despite getting dominated at home by the Reds.

The team is beating who they should be beating (9-3 against Atlanta, 8-5 against Philly).  And they’ve had some success against other teams that are “good” this year (3-1 against the Yankees, 3-0 against Pittsburgh, and a sweep of San Francisco).  But they’re inexplicably bad against Cincinnati (0-5?), Miami (2-4), and were expectedly weak against the rest of the AL East (a combined 3-7 against Boston, Tampa Bay and Toronto).  I’m guessing they’ll struggle against Baltimore this coming weekend since they sputtered against Cincinnati.

Lets just say that the All-Star break is coming at a pretty good time for this team.

Where do we go from here?

The Nats should be healthier coming out of the all-star break.  And they’ll need it; their July schedule is tough.  They host the Dodgers and the Mets to start, then travel to Pittsburgh, Miami and New York.  That’s a slew of games against good teams and their primary divisional rivals.

In August they host some bad teams (Arizona, Milwaukee, Colorado) but they also do their big West Coast trip (at Los Angeles, San Francisco and Colorado).  They also get a 3-game set at St. Louis that could be an eye-opener for where they really stand ahead of the playoffs.  September features practically all divisional games against teams that should all be completely out of it by then, so I forsee a team in cruising mode.

Playoff Outlook

The Nats remain in 1st place despite all their issues, and their closest rival is putting out a lineup that most AAA teams could beat.  Philly is already 30 games under .500.  Miami is 15 games under .500 and just lost their best player.  Atlanta sits around .500 but isn’t really trying for 2015 and won’t spend to compete.  So I think its safe to say the Nats are winning the division.  I’ll guess the Mets hang around since their pitching is so good, but in the end the Nats win the division by at least 10 games.

If the season ended today, Pittsburgh hosts the Cubs in the WC, St. Louis hosts the WC winner and Washington would be traveling to Los Angeles to open the playoffs.  And frankly its hard to see this changing much between now and October 1st.  I don’t think its a stretch to say that the Nats would be underdogs to both the Dodgers and the Cardinals in a playoff series, not unless Strasburg remembers how to pitch again or the offense gets healthy in time.  Are we looking at another first round playoff exit?



Nats All-Star review: 2015 and years past


Harper becomes just the 3rd starter in Nats history.  Photo via

Harper becomes just the 3rd starter in Nats history. Photo via

Here’s my annual Nationals All Star selection post.

(* == All-Star game starter.  The Nats now have three ASG starters in their history, dating to 2005).


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper*, Max Scherzer
  • Possible Snubs: Yunel Escobar, Drew Storen
  • Narrative: Harper not only made it in as a starter for the 2nd time, he led the NL in votes, setting a MLB record for total votes received.  This is no surprise; Harper’s easily in the MVP lead for the NL thanks to his amazing first half (his split at the half-way point of the season: .347/.474/.722 with 25 homers and an astounding 225 OPS+).  I guess he won’t be earning the “Most overrated player” award next year.  That Harper is electing to skip the Home run derby in a disappointment; his father is nursing an arm injury can cannot throw to him in the event.  In a weird year for the Nats, the only other regular worth mentioning is newly acquired Escobar, who is hitting above .300 and filling in ably at multiple positions that, prior to this year, he had never played.  Storen is having another excellent regular season … but at a time when mandatory members from each team often leads to other closers being selected (there are 5 NL closers and 7 AL relievers), the odds of him making the All-Star team were always going to be slim.  Scherzer deservedly makes the team and probably would have been the NL starter; he’s got sub 2.00 ERA and FIP and leads all NL pitchers in WAR at the mid-way point of the season.  But his turn came up in the final game of the first half, making him ineligible for the game and forcing his replacement on the roster.

As a side note, the 2015 All-Star game will go down as the “Ballot-Gate” game thanks to MLB’s short-sighted plan to allow 30+ online ballots per email address.  This led to severe “ballot stuffing” by the Kansas City Royals fans, led to MLB  having to eliminate 60 million+ fraudulent ballots, but still led to several Royals being elected starters over more deserving candidates.


Here’s past year’s information, mostly recycled information from past posts on the topic but fun to read nonetheless, especially the early years.


  • Nationals All-Star representative: Jordan Zimmermann (Update post-publishing: Zimmermann strained a bicep, and had to withdraw from the ASG.  For a bit it looked like the Nats wouldn’t even have a representative, until Tyler Clippard was named on 7/13/14).
  • Possible Snubs: Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rendon, Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen
  • Narrative: Zimmermann’s been the best SP on the best pitching staff in the majors this year, and thus earns his spot.  I find it somewhat odd that a first place team (or near to it) gets just one representative on the team (as discussed above).  Rendon tried to make the team via the “last man in” voting, but historically Nationals have not fared well in this competition (especially when better known players from large markets are in the competition, aka Anthony Rizzo from the Chicago Cubs), and indeed Rendon finished 4th in the last-man voting.  LaRoche is having a very good season, almost single handedly carrying the Nats offense while major parts were out injured, but he’s never going to beat out the slew of great NL first basemen (Joey Votto couldn’t even get into this game).  Soriano has quietly put together one of the best seasons of any closer in the game; at the time of this writing he has a 1.03 ERA and a .829 whip; those are Dennis Eckersley numbers.  But, the farce that is the all-star game selection criteria (having to select one player from each team) means that teams need a representative, and deserving guys like Soriano get squeezed.  Then, Soriano indignantly said he wouldn’t even go if named as a replacement … likely leading to Clippard’s replacement selection.  The same goes for non-closer Storen, who sports a sub 2.00 ERA on the year.  Advanced stats columnists (Keith Law) also think that Stephen Strasburg is a snub but I’m not entirely sure: he may lead the NL in K’s right now and have far better advanced numbers than “traditional,” but its hard to make an argument that a guy with a 7-6 record and a 3.50+ ERA is all-star worthy.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper*, Jordan Zimmermann
  • Snubs: Stephen Strasburg, Ian Desmond
  • Narrative: Harper comes in 3rd in the NL outfielder voting, ahead of some big-time names, to become only the second Nationals position player elected as an All-Star starter.  He was 4th in the final pre-selection vote, so a big last minute push got him the starter spot.   Harper also becomes the first National to participate in the Home Run Derby.   Zimmermann was 12-3 heading into the game and was on mid-season Cy Young short lists in July in a breakout season.  Strasburg’s advanced stats are all better than Zimmermann’s, but his W/L record (4-6 as the ASG) means he’s not an all-star.  It also probably doesn’t help that he missed a few weeks.  Desmond loses out to Troy Tulowitzki, Everth Cabrera and Jean Segura.  Tulowitzki was having a very solid year and was a deserving elected starter, while Cabrera and Segura are both having breakout seasons.  Desmond was on the “Final vote” roster, but my vote (and most others’ I’m guessing) would be for Yasiel Puig there ([Editor Update: Desmond and Puig lost out to Freddie Freeman: I still wished that Puig finds a way onto the roster but ultimately he did not and I believe the ASG was diminished because of it).   Gio GonzalezRyan Zimmerman, and Rafael Soriano are all having solid but unspectacular years and miss out behind those having great seasons.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Stephen StrasburgGio GonzalezIan Desmond, Bryce Harper
  • Possible Snubs: Adam LaRocheCraig Stammen
  • Narrative: The two SPs Strasburg and Gonzalez were the obvious candidates, and my personal prediction was that they’d be the only two candidates selected.  Gonzalez’ first half was a prelude to his 21-win, 3rd place Cy Young season.  The inclusion of Desmond is a surprise, but also a testament to how far he’s come as a player in 2012.  Harper was a last-minute injury replacement, but had earned his spot by virtue of his fast start as one of the youngest players in the league.  Of the “snubs,” LaRoche has had a fantastic come back season in 2012 but fared little shot against better, more well-known NL first basemen.  Stammen was our best bullpen arm, but like LaRoche fared little chance of getting selected during a year when the Nats had two deserving pitchers selected.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Tyler Clippard
  • Possible Snubs: Danny EspinosaMichael MorseDrew StorenJordan Zimmermann
  • Narrative: While Clippard was (arguably) the Nats best and most important reliever, I think Zimmermann was a more rightful choice.  He was 10th in the league in ERA at the time of the selections and has put in a series of dominant performances.  Meanwhile Espinosa was on pace for a 28-homer season and almost a certain Rookie-of-the-Year award (though a precipitous fall-off in the 2nd half cost him any realistic shot at the ROY), and perhaps both players are just too young to be known around the league.  Lastly Morse is certainly known and he merited a spot in the “last man in” vote sponsored by MLB (though he fared little chance against popular players in this last-man-in voting).


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Matt Capps
  • Possible Snubs: Adam DunnJosh WillinghamRyan Zimmerman, Steven Strasburg
  • Narrative: Capps was clearly deserving, having a breakout season as a closer after his off-season non-tender from the Pirates.  The 3-4-5 hitters Zimmerman-Dunn-Willingham all had dominant offensive seasons as the team improved markedly from its 103-loss season.  But perhaps the surprise non-inclusion was Strasburg, who despite only having a few starts as of the all-star break was already the talk of baseball.  I think MLB missed a great PR opportunity to name him to the team to give him the exposure that the rest of the national media expected.  But in the end, Capps was a deserving candidate and I can’t argue that our hitters did anything special enough to merit inclusion.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Ryan Zimmerman
  • Possible Snubs: Adam Dunn
  • Narrative: The addition of Dunn and Willingham to the lineup gave Zimmerman the protection he never had, and he produced with his career-best season.  His first and deserved all-star appearance en-route to a 33 homer season.  Dunn continued his monster homer totals with little all-star recognition.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Cristian Guzman
  • Possible Snubs: Jon Rauch
  • Narrative: The first of two “hitting rock-bottom” seasons for the team; no one really merited selection.  Zimmerman was coming off of hamate-bone surgery in November 2007 and the team was more or less awful across the board.  Rauch performed ably after Cordero went down with season-ending (and basically career-ending) shoulder surgery.   Guzman’s selection a great example of why one-per-team rules don’t make any sense.  Guzman ended up playing far longer than he deserved in the game itself by virtue of the 15-inning affair.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Dmitri Young
  • Possible Snubs: Ryan Zimmerman, Shawn Hill (though I wouldn’t argue for either)
  • Narrative: Young gets a deserved all-star appearance en route to comeback player of the year.  Zimmerman played a full season but didn’t dominate.  Our 2007 staff gave starts to 13 different players, most of whom were out of the league within the next year or two.  Not a good team.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Alfonso Soriano*
  • Possible Snubs: Nick JohnsonRyan Zimmerman, Chad Cordero
  • Narrative: Soriano made the team as an elected starter, the first time the Nats have had such an honor.  Our pitching staff took massive steps backwards and no starter came even close to meriting a spot.  Cordero was good but not lights out as he had been in 2005.  Soriano’s 40-40 season is a poster child for “contract year” production and he has failed to come close to such production since.  The team was poor and getting worse.  Johnson had a career year but got overshadowed by bigger, better first basemen in the league (a recurring theme for our first basemen over the years).


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Livan HernandezChad Cordero
  • Possible Snubs: Nick JohnsonJohn Patterson.
  • Narrative: The Nats went into the All Star break surprisingly in first place, having run to a 50-31 record by the halfway point.  Should a first place team have gotten more than just two representatives?  Perhaps.  But the team was filled with non-stars and played far over its head to go 50-31 (as evidenced by the reverse 31-50 record the rest of the way).

Player Killers: what college programs are known for hurting pro prospects?


Did TCU destroy Purke's arm?  Photo AP/Nati Harnik

Did TCU destroy Purke’s arm? Photo AP/Nati Harnik

Its always dangerous to make a blanket statement in baseball.  If I say that “CollegeX is known for killing pitcher arms” then there’ll immediately be people who cite players who are exceptions to such a rule.

Nonetheless, while reading a ton of prospect-driven content on the web over the years, some common themes pop up.  And the crux of it is this: there are some college baseball programs out there that are accused of hurting their players’ professional prospects and draft statuses by virtue of the misguided or (in some cases) outdated coaching and usage of players.

Grantland’s Michael Baumann wrote an excellent article summarizing some of the “danger programs” in 2013, citing work done by Rany Jazayerli and Baseball Prospectus.  Some of this also comes from Keith Law‘s freely offered opinions on the topic, and he offers up plenty of supporting evidence in his columns and chats.

Here’s some trouble-maker programs (and by “programs” often times by implication you’re blaming the head coach as the decision maker):

  • Stanford: Law calls it the “Stanford Swing.”  Per Law, Stanford coaches emphasize going away, altering hitters’ swings to de-emphasize pull hitting, to the point apparently where players are outright benched for pulling the ball.  Now, there’s quite a few Stanford grads in the Majors right now, and the  hitters listed aren’t exactly an honor roll of top-hitting guys.  Jed Lowrie might be the best active hitter.  The career Stanford grad homer leader is the recently retired Carlos Quentin, out of baseball at 32.  So maybe there’s something to it.
  • TCU: Jim Schlossnagle is not well known for its handling of pitchers.  The Nats are well aware of this, having drafted damaged goods in Matthew Purke, who was 15-0 as a freshman and basically hasn’t been the same since.
  • Rice’s Wayne Graham: Law has provided an exhaustive list of pitchers who he accuses the Rice coaches of blatantly over-working and has flat out suggested that pitchers considering attending Rice should go elsewhere.  In fact, the most blatant example of this was the 2004 draft: Rice had three starters drafted in the first 8 picks (Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann, and Wade Townsend) and ALL three of them suffered shoulder injuries soon there after.
  • UNC‘s Mike Fox so over-used a reliever a few years back that the New York Times of all papers wrote about it.  And he had Matt Harvey, don’t forget, allowing Harvey to throw an astounding 157 pitches in a 2010 outing and 5 other instances of 120+ pitches.  Is it a coincidence that Harvey blew out his UCL just a couple years later?  Or just bad luck?
  • South Carolina‘s Ray Tanner: won back to back CWS’s … on the backs of his pitching staff.
  • Texas‘ legendary coach Augie Garrido already had a reputation for overuse before the infamous Texas-Boston College regional game in June of 2009.   Texas’ Austin Wood, a reliever, came out of the bullpen to throw 13 innings and 169 pitches in the 25-inning game.  Garrido really took a lot of heat for that … but his BC counterpart might have only been slightly less culpable.  BC threw its own guy Mike Belfiore for 129 pitches and 9 2/3 innings.  In Wood’s case, it was made even worse by the fact that he had thrown two innings *the day before.*  It is no surprise to report that Wood had to undergo Shoulder Surgery the next season, nor is it a surprise that the crusty Garrido disclaimed any responsibility for the injury by Wood’s usage in that game.  Belfiore, it should be noted, has never shown any evidence of injury, was a 1st round draft pick just prior to his appearance, and looks like a 4-A pitcher who is now in the Detroit organization but who had a cup of coffee in 2013.  Perhaps its because Belfiore was a starter and basically threw a start instead of Wood, who was clearly a reliever.

Pitch count guidelines: there’s research out there that basically shows that anything above 120 pitches in an outing is an indicator of fatigue-induced regression their next time out, and 130+ pitch outings might as well be prescriptions for injury.

Times have changed: no longer are A-1 pitching prospects left in games to rack up ridiculous pitch counts.  Mark Prior had at least 6 starts the year he was drafted where he threw 120-130+ pitches.  Ben McDonald was famously started in back to back CWS games, getting clobbered in the second game … all while having *already* been drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, who must have been screaming at the television set watching what was  unfolding as legendary LSU coach Skip Bertman set about destroying the best arm in the nation.

But then again, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  NC State, in a mad dash to make the post-season in 2014, let their Ace starter Carlos Rodon throw 120+ pitches seven times.  Rodon’s usage was also discussed in Baseball America.  Did that lead to Rodon’s diminished stuff and subsequent drop in the 2013 draft?  Maybe.  I’m sure the White Sox are ok with it, since he doesn’t seem to have suffered any ill effects and is in their rotation 2 years later.  Trevor Bauer, while at UCLA, *averaged* more than 120 pitches an outing the year he was drafted … but he seems like such an outlier because of his warm-up technique (which involves extreme long toss and clearly has built up his shoulder strength over the years).  Are NC State and UCLA trouble-programs?  I havn’t heard much since so i’m leaving them off for now.

Did I miss anyone?