Nationals Arm Race

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

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Nats 2017 Draft Class; whole lotta College Arms

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So, is 2017 a one-player draft again? Photo via UHcougars.com

So, is 2017 a one-player draft again? Photo via UHcougars.com

We already did a quick reaction to the first day/first two picks and then the top 10 rounds.  Here’s a more holistic look at our 2017 draft class.  The team announced yesterday that it had already signed an amazing 25 guys, and I think that number is likely to rise to at least 33 players (assuming all top 10 round players and all College seniors sign).  That’s quite a few more than I initially projected.

I did want to make a statement though, following up on a back-and-forth in the comments on previous posts about 3rd rounder Nick Raquet (who, unsurprisingly to me, has already signed though no word on his bonus amount).  Some asked why I was so critical of the pick.  We’ll, here’s why: its about opportunity cost.  Raquet was indeed ranked on some boards (#145 in BA’s pre-draft list) but was absent from practically every other credible draft service (MLBpipeline.com for example ranked 200 players and didn’t rank him at all).   ESPN/Keith Law, MinorLeagueBall, 20/80 and Fangraphs all had him totally off their lists.  Baseball Draft Report had him in the 300s.

The Nats drafted him #103 overall, at the end of the 3rd round.

I have nothing against Raquet personally, nor his school in general (which I denigrated during the comments due to its lack of baseball pedigree).  What I have a problem with is taking a player in the third round who:

a) was a far inferior player versus where he was drafted,

b) if the team really, really wanted him would have been available probably 3 or 4 rounds later, and

c) the team chose to take in lieu of many, many better ranked players at the time of the pick.

You could make the same arguments, by the way, about our 4th rounder: a senior in Cole Freeman who again by BA’s rank was drafted at least two rounds too early and by anyone else’s rankings was drafted 5 rounds too early.

The drafting of these two players in the 3rd and 4th cost the team the opportunity to draft two far, far better players in those slots.  I don’t have a problem punting draft picks in the 6-10th round range if you’ve drafted quality players in 1-5 … but to purposely punt on 3rd and 4th round implies that their round 1 and 2 picks (Seth Romero and Wil Crowe) were both going to be over slot guys.  And that astounds me; Romero was kicked off his college team; how is he in a position to command more dollars than his slot?  Where’s he gonna player if he doesn’t sign?  Indy ball?  And Crowe is a 4th year player with a TJ on his resume who I suppose could go back for a 5th collegiate season, but really that’d be flushing a crucial year of development down the tubes, plus burning a year on his surgically repaired arm … with little chance he could improve his bonus amount or draft ranking over where he got drafted this year.  How are either guy demanding over-slot money?

I liken the situation to playing Fantasy sports.  When your buddy in your league drafts a kicker in the 8th round you mock him mercilessly.  Why?  Because that same kicker was going to be there 4 rounds later and because wasting an 8th round pick on a kicker is a sign of poor team management and a lack of understanding of how fantasy works.  Its the same thing wasting a 3rd rounder in the fashion the team just did.

So, frustration over punting two high draft picks so as to pay two other high draft picks more money than I think they’re worth leads me to the end of this diatribe.  We’ll have our answer soon enough; if Raquet signs for a piddling amount of money (his slot value is $522,300), and if Freeman similarly signs for under-slot (he’s at $390,000) then you’ll have confirmation of the punting on these picks.  I suppose both guys could sign for at or near slot, which would imply that they were worth the draft pick; if that happens i’ll be shocked.


 

Anyway, back to the draft class review overall.  Here’s a quick table 1-40 before doing some breakdowns:

 

RoundOverallNamePositionCol/HSCollege or CmtmStateSlot Value
125Seth RomeroLHPCol JrHoustonTX2530400
265Wil CroweRHPCol SrSouth CarolinaSC946500
3103Nick RaquetLHPCol JrWilliam & MaryVA522300
4133Cole Freeman2BCol SrLSULA390000
5163Brigham HillRHPCol JrTAMUTX291200
6193Kyle JohnstonRHPCol JrTexasTX226100
7223Jackson TetreaultRHPJ2State Col Florida ManateeFL178100
8253Jared BrashnerRHPCol SrSamford Fl149600
9283Alex TroopLHPCol JrMichigan StateMI138000
10313Trey TurnerRHPCol JrMissouri StateMO131300
11343Justin ConnellOFHSAmerican Heritage SchoolFL
12373Jackson StoeckingerLHPJ2Col of Central FloridaFL
13403Eric SeniorOFJ2Midland ColTX
14433Anthony PeroniCJ2Mercer County CCNJ
15463Bryce Montes de OcaRHPCol JrMissouriMO
16493Jake Scudder1BCol SrKansas St UKS
17523Jared JohnsonLHPJ1Palm Beach State ColFL
18553Nick ChorubyOFCol SrTexas A&M UTX
19583Jonathan PryorOFCol SrWake Forest UNC
20613Jake CousinsRHPCol SrPennsylvaniaPA
21643Leif StromRHPJ2Pierce CollegeWA
22673Nelson GalindezLHPHSHaines City HSFL
23703Jamori Blash1BJ2Cochise ColGA
24733Tim RichardsSSCol SrCal State FullertonCA
25763David SmithRHPCol SrCal St Long BeachCA
26793Kameron EsthayOFCol SrBaylor UTX
27823Darren BakerSSHSJesuit HSCA
28853Nic PerkinsCCol JrDrury UniversityMO
29883Alex DunlapCCol SrStanfordCA
30913Austin GuiborOFCol JrFresno St UCA
31943Jeremy McKinneyRHPCol SrIndiana St UIN
32973Phil Caulfield2BCol SrLoyola Marymount UCA
331003Adalberto CarrilloCCol JrU Southern CaliforniaCA
341033Bennett SousaLHPCol JrVirginiaVA
351063Jackson Cramer1BCol SrWest VirginiaWV
361093Gabe KlobositsRHPCol SrAuburnAL
371123Kody Gratkowski3BHSFairhope HSAL
381153Jake BooneSSHSTorrey Pines HSCA
391183Kai NelsonOFHSFieldston HSNY
401213Max EngelbrektLHPCol Sr5Oregon St UOR

Here’s some breakdowns (note I wrote this prior to the team signing a bunch of these Juco guys plus a couple of HS guys):

  • 11 College Juniors, 16 College Seniors/5th year Seniors, 7 JuCo guys, 6 High Schoolers
  • 20 Pitchers, 20 hitters.  The pitchers broke down 12 RHP, 8 LHP.
  • 9 of the top 10 rounds are pitchers though: these are the guys nearly guaranteed to sign.
  • I count about 29 that i think are locks to sign; every guy in the first 20 rounds, plus all the 9 college seniors drafted in rounds 21-40.
    • Of these 29 guys: 17 are arms, 12 are bats.
  • I’m only guessing that one Prep guy signs: 11th rounder Justin Connell.
  • I count at least 4 under-slot guys: Nick RaquetCole Freeman ,8th rounder Jared Brashner and 10th rounder Trey Turner.  So that’s where the cost savings will come from to pay Romero, Crowe and perhaps Connell.

So, even though the draft splits even 20/20 bats and arms its heavily tilted at the top and in the signability department towards arms.  This should make for some serious carnage in the lower ends of our minor league ranks.  The Auburn roster is half stocked with late-round college seniors drafted in 2016 and rising IFAs from the DSL last year; I could see some moving of those guys down to GCL as needed and a shedding of 20th-some round 2016 signees to make room for all the guys they’ve picked up this year.  But the more I look at this draft, the more it looks like a one or two-player draft at the top.  Is that ok?  Sure; it is basically what the team did in the Lucas Giolito draft, and the industry was on record saying that the strength this year was college arms.  It should be interesting to see how quickly Romero moves up the ranks.

 

2017 CWS Super-Regionals recap, CWS field and predictions

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CWS-2017_calendar-narrow

Here’s a recap of our CWS coverage so far for 2017:


Lost in Draft 2017 mania was the finishing of the Super Regionals on Monday evening.  This post is a couple days old but just in time for the CWS to start.

Super Regional Recaps:  I’ve got these ordered by they way they’ll be playing into the CWS field (i.e. by bracket).  And this is the order they’re listed on d1baseball’s Tourney Central, the quickest way to find results.  Rain throughout southeast cancelled half the friday slate of games.

  • #1 Oregon State vs Vanderbilt: Oregon State’s #1 starter Luke Heinrich left the team after some past indiscretions were uncovered by the local paper (you can google the details yourself; the timing of the unveiling couldn’t have come at a worse time for him, his team or his future just days ahead of the draft,  however reprehensible his transgressions were).  Behind #2 starter Jake Thompson they rolled over Vanderbilt nonetheless 8-4 in game one.   They continued the onslaught, destroying one of the best SEC teams 9-2 to go two and out; Oregon State advances to the CWS even without its ace.
  • Cal State Fullerton vs #9 Long Beach State: LBSU blanked CS-F in the first game 3-0, taking the 6th game out of the 7 times they’ve now played this season.  Fullterton came roaring back and destroyed the Dirtbags 12-0 to force the decider.  In a shocker to me, Cal-State Fullerton got a dominant pitching performance from a mid-week starter and won the clincher 2-1 to advance.
  • Sam Houston State v #12 Florida State: FSU rallied to beat Sam Houston in the first game 7-6.  Sam Houston was in control before FSU scored 3 in the 6th to tie it, eventually getting the walk-off in the bottom of the 9th.  In game 2, Florida State scored in each of the first six innings to turn it into a laugher 19-0 and advance to their 22nd CWS.
  • #4 LSU vs Mississippi State: LSU scored 4 in the 8th to rally past Mississippi State in the first.  LSU’s ace Alex Lange was a bit wild; he got relieved by Virginia product Zach Hess, who got the Win.  In Game 2, LSU turned a close game into a laugher as Mississippi State seemed to run out of arms, eventually winning 14-4 to advanced to the CWS.

 

  • Davidson vs TAMU: Texas A&M beat the cinderella story Davidson 7-6 in the first game … in 15 innings (!).  One worry you always have seeing these collegiate long extra inning games is pitcher abuse; TAMU did seem to select a periodic starter to eat up the extra innings, so that’s good to see.  In Game 2, Davidson was ahead into the 8th … and then their lack of pitching depth finally got exposed.  TAMU exploded for 10 runs in the 8th and 9th to blow them away 12-6 and be the second team to punch their ticket to the CWS.
  • #7 Louisville v #10 Kentucky; Lousiville took game one behind their #2 starter, with super star  Brendan McKay going 0-3 at the plate.  McKay got the win in game two to punch Louisville’s ticket to the CWS, the first team to do so.  (Louisville had clinched the super regional before the LSU regional had played an inning thanks to weather).
  • #6 TCU v Missouri State: TCU won a close one 3-2 behind ace Jared Janczak; they scored 2 in the 8th to go ahead.  TCU cruised in game 2 8-1 to advance to their 4th straight CWS.
  • #3 Florida  vs #14 Wake Forest: Florida won game 1 in 11 innings; they threw ace Alex Faedo but he was on 72 pitches through 4 and got pulled.  Wake’s ace Parker Dunshee threw a fantastic game; 8ip, 3hits but Florida won on a walk-off.  Game two was suspended sunday night due to rain; the last regional to finish.  Wake Forest took the suspended game to force the decider, which unfortunately was being played just as the MLB draft started monday night.  There, Florida held serve and advanced 3-0 to finish out the field.

 

My CWS Predictions: Oregon State, TAMU, Florida, LSU, Florida State, TCU, Louisville, Long Beach State.

Actuals: Oregon State, TAMU, Florida, LSU, Florida State, TCU, Louisville, Cal-State Fullerton

I got 7 of 8 right, missing on the Fullerton pick (figuring that Long Beach State would continue to dominate them).


 

CWS Field and Profiles

Top Bracket:

  • #1 Oregon State: 54-4 overall record (27-3 in conference).  1st place Pac12,   Regular season conference champ (no post-season Pac12 tourney)
  • Cal State Fullerton: 39-22 (15-9).  3rd place Big West regular season (no Big West tourney)
  • #12 Florida State 45-21 (14-14): 5th place, Atlantic division ACC regular season.  1st place ACC tournament.
  • #4 LSU: 48-17 (21-9): 1st place, SEC West conference.  SEC tourney champs.

Bottom Bracket

  • Texas A&M: 41-21 (16-14): 5th place SEC West.
  • #7 Louisville: 52-10 (23-6): 1st Place Atlantic division ACC regular season.
  • #6 TCU: 47-16 (16-8): 1st place Big 12.  Lost in Big12 tourney title game.
  • #3 Florida: 46-19 (21-9): 1st Place SEC East regular season.

CWS field review by the numbers

  • Pac12: 1 team
  • Big West: 1 team
  • ACC: 2 teams
  • Big12: 1 team
  • SEC: 3 teams

 


CWS Field thoughts

What a great CWS field.  Several legendary programs (Cal-State Fullerton, Florida State and Florida) with dozens of appearances between them.  The undisputed #1 team in the land (Oregon State).  The undisputed #1 pre-season team in TCU.  Arguably the hottest team in the land in LSU.  The team with the likely #1 overall pick (Louisville).  Great spread amongst the power conference; you have 1st place teams from both SEC divisions, the ACC, the Pac12 and the Big12.  Every team in Omaha this year has been there already this decade, making it a very experienced field.  Should make for great baseball.

Quick predictions: LSU from the top; I’ve always been slightly biased against Pac12 teams and when the #1 team from the west meets the #1 team from the powerhouse SEC conference, something tells me the Tigers will prevail.   TCU from the bottom, though its tough to pick against Louisville.  I think TCU gets a break not having to face Brendan McKay in game one and that might be the difference.

Final: TCU takes the title over LSU and fulfils their #1 pre-season ranking.

Player Star power in this CWS: By team, here’s the guys to look for either for Nats interest or for overall talent/draft position:

  • Oregon State: two dominant starters in Luke Heimlich (possibly not playing) and Jake Thompson.  Also Drew Rasmussen, drafted ahead of either guy.  Max Engelbrekt has the best ERA on the team and was the Nats 40th round pick as a 5th-year senior.
  • TAMU; RHP Corbin Martin
  • Florida: Alex Faedo.
  • LSU Alex Lange their #1 starter plus their clean-up hitter Greg Deichmann, both first day draft picks.  Nats 2017 4th rounder Cole Freeman is their engine.
  • Florida State; none really, despite FSU’s ranking.  They’re a solid and younger team this year with no major 2017 draft prospects.
  • TCU’s Evan Skoug might get drafted relatively highly.
  • Louisville:  led by #4 overall pick Brendan McKay.
  • Cal State Fullerton; no 1st round notables; same as FSU: team depth, not superstars this year.

Nats 2017 Draftees in the CWS: thanks to the Nats strategy of drafting only College players, they drafted a ton of guys who are playing in Omaha.  By team:

  • Oregon State: Max Engelbrekt has the best ERA on the team and was the Nats 40th round pick as a 5th-year senior.  Not sure why he lasted til the 40th round…
  • TAMU: 5th rounder Jr RHP Brigham Hill, 18th rounder OF Nick Choruby.
  • Florida: none
  • LSU  Nats 2017 4th rounder 2B Cole Freeman is their engine.
  • Florida State: none
  • TCU: none this year, last year’s pick Evan Skoug got picked.
  • Louisville: none
  • Cal State Fullerton: 24th rounder sr. SS Tim Richards

 

College CWS tournament references:

First Look: Quick overview of Nats top 10 Draft picks for 2017

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Will Crowe was our 2nd rounder. PHoto via SportsTalk

Will Crowe was our 2nd rounder. PHoto via SportsTalk

Here’s a first look at our top 10 draft picks, or where we stand after day 2.

At the top of round 1, a last minute switch led to a surprise first name being selected: Royce Lewis went 1-1 instead of one of the two big college arms being rumored there all week; twitter reportedly had Brendan McKay rejecting an underslot deal at 1-1 and thus falling to 4th … where he’ll still get paid.  Nonetheless, the top 5 ended up being the same top-5 on nearly every mock draft … just in a different order.

How about the Nats picks?  Lets just say there was some back and forth among the pundits about these top 10 picks.

RoundOverallNamePositionCol/HSCollege or CmtmStateSlot Value
125Seth RomeroLHPCol JrHoustonTX2530400
265Wil CroweRHPCol SRSouth CarolinaSC946500
3103Nick RaquetLHPCol JrWilliam & MaryVA522300
4133Cole Freeman2BCol SRLSULA390000
5163Brigham HillRHPCol JrTAMUTX291200
6193Kyle JohnstonRHPColl JrTexasTX226100
7223Jackson TetreaultRHPJ2State Col Florida ManateeFL178100
8253Jared BrashnerRHPCol SrSamford Fl149600
9283Alex TroopLHPCol Jr.Michigan StateMI138000
10313Trey TurnerRHPCol Jr.Missouri StateMO131300

Pick by Pick: if they’re ranked on the main prospect ranking sites I like (see links at bottom):

  • 1st Round/#25 overall: Seth Romero, LHP UHouston. (Espn #59, MLBPipeline #25, BA #27, Minorleague #29, BDR #49, 2080 #30).  Well, the worrisome situation came to pass; the Nats couldn’t help themselves and drafted perhaps the draft’s biggest knucklehead.  His list of transgressions at Houston were large and dumb; fights with teammates, weight/conditioning issues, drug issues.  Prior to the spring, he was easily a top-10 talent, with early projections having him going as high as 6th overall.  He’s a power-lefty; works 92-95, touches 97 and per MLB already has two 60-grade pitches.  He kind of reminds you body-wise of Chad Cordero, with mechanics kind of like Drew Storen.  He’s got a very quick arm, is a big-body kid who might still need some conditioning work, but whose mechanics may give him some issues later on.  I don’t like the pick for the character issues; the Nats left one big college arm who I would have preferred in Alex Lange, but the guy I really liked here (Tanner Houck) went the pick before, so perhaps that sewed up the Nats choices.
  • 2nd/#65: Wil Crowe, RHP from South Carolina.  (Espn #43, MLBpipeline #44, BA #47, MinorLeague #30, BDR #185, 2080 #51):   A guy who I saw in some mock drafts going to the Nats at #25 overall falls somehow to #65 overall, despite nearly every ranking system having him 20 picks higher.  Crowe is a TJ survivor (aren’t they all these days?), with a 65 fastball and a couple of 55s on his other tools who was solid if unspectacular for USC this year.  Big guy, big arm, physical comparison to Joe Blanton.  I like this as a safe pick.
  • 3rd/#103: Nick Raquet, LHP from William & Mary.  BA #145, BDR #348.  A lefty weekend starter from a bad baseball school in a small baseball conference.  Raquet had good K/9 numbers, but also horrible BB/9 numbers, had an ERA in the 4s and was a non-entity on the rankings.  Where is this pick coming from?  He wasn’t anywhere even listed on the Virginia-only prospects lists on the various sites.  A cost-savings pick?  There’s still significant talent on the board, not the least of which is Tristan Beck from Stanford; is his injury worse than people thought?
  • 4th/#133: Cole Freeman, 2B senior from LSU.  BDR #429.  BA #166.  A senior sign, twitter reports that he’s 5’9″, has a short compact swing, can hit, has blazing speed, is high-energy and is plus-plus make-up.  Sounds great; this is a fourth round pick?  Sounds like an 8th rounder.  Still not sure what the Nats are doing.
  • 5th/#163: Brigham Hill, Jr RHP from TAMU.  BA #346.  MLB #159.  BDR #171.  Texas A&M’s #1/friday starter, went 8-3 with a 3.16 era in the tough SEC.  Smaller guy, throws low 90s.  50s on most of his pitches, plus change up.  I like a guy like this; he reminds me of Austin Voth in terms of draft pedigree and collegiate accomplishment.
  • 6th/#193: Kyle Johnston JR RHP from Texas.  BA #250, MLB #136, BDR #492.  Weekend starter who bounced around roles for Texas this year but had some very solid outings against good Big12 competition.  Not a ton of K/9, but two grade 60 pitches (fastball and cutter).  Profiles as a reliever, both by pitch capability and by stature (6’0″ right hander).  Not a bad pick here.
  • 7th/#223: Jackson Tetreault, J2 RHP from State College of Florida Manatee – Sarasota.  BA #286.  I’m not a BA subscriber so I can’t read the scouting report, but his peripherals at his Juco (where a few others are getting drafted) are solid.  Worked as a starter, big K/9 numbers.
  • 8th/#253: Jared Brashner.  Coll Sr RHP from Samford.  BA #430.  We’re clearly in the senior sign territory; Brashner’s a reliever from Samford with nearly a walk an inning to go along with 46 Ks in 30 relief innings.
  • 9th/#283: Alex Troop, Coll Jr LHP from Michigan State.  BA #179 BDR #184.  Solid lefty with good numbers this year.  Not a bad 9th round pick, one who still rates on BA’s list.
  • 10th/#313: Trey Turner, Coll Jr LHP from Missouri State.  Unranked anywhere, limited time this year ; just 13 IP but 22 Ks in those 13 innings and a stellar BAA.  Didn’t pitch after March because … he tore his UCL.  So there’s your annual Nat draftee with TJ surgery.

First 10 rounds worth of picks breakdown:

  • 9 arms, 1 position player.
  • 10 college (1 juco), zero prep.
  • A few picks that seem like clear money savers: Raquet, Brashner, perhaps also Freeman.
  • Heavy influence in the South East: 6 of the 10 picks come from Texas, Louisiana or Florida).

Conclusion: We’ve talked about the risk of Romero.  I liked the Crowe pick.  I question the Raquet and Freeman picks.  I liked the two SEC starter picks in rounds 5 and 6, and I liked the 9th and 10th rounders too as good risks.  Clearly this draft is about arms for the Nats after picking mostly positional players in 2016.  No screwing around with prep players; they drafted a bunch of college guys to try to get them to the majors more quickly, likely to fill voids coming up in the next couple of years.

What do you guys think of it?


Draft Links of Use

  1. Mlbpipeline’s Draft Tracker for 2017
  2. All 10 rounds of slot bonus figures for 2017
  3. BA’s draft database, including link to get BPA
  4. Perfect Game to get profiles on more obscure draftees.

Draft Rankings referred to within here: