Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for the ‘felipe rivero’ tag

Pitching Depth looking good, Norris waived, and other ST observations

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Norris won't get a shot at redemption here. Photo Mark Zuckerman via Nationals Insider.com

Norris won’t get a shot at redemption here. Photo Mark Zuckerman via Nationals Insider.com

Some big player news rumors hit the airwaves this morning; Derek Norris, who two months ago we thought was our opening day starter, is reportedly being put on waivers for the eventual purpose of releasing him.  The timing is no accident; his contract is not fully guaranteed for the year and the Nats can get out of paying the full freight and only be on the hook for $700k by doing this.  I think Norris obviously gets picked up by another team, but they’ll be waiting so they won’t have to pay hin north of $4M.  He’s too good defensively to not get a job, and some team may think he’s a great reclamation project given his past hitting.

(Quick links: ST 2017 hitting stats and pitching stats for the Nats)

Quick implications of the move:

  • Looking obvious that our 1-2 catching punch will be Matt Wieters and Jose Lobaton.  Hard to see Pedro Severino as anything but AAA insurance for the time being.
  • This also thins our Catcher ranks: past Severino is just Raudy Read in terms of depth.  I’m hoping Spencer Kieboom makes it through waivers …
  • This puts the Nats 40-man roster at 39/40, leaving one spot for a quick add for someone at the end of spring training.  We’ve been talking about Vance Worley being an arm that makes sense at the back of the bullpen, but he’s not impressed so far this spring; 8ip, 5 runs and just two strikeouts.

I’d like to talk about two other important arms though; Erick Fedde and Austin Voth.  Fedde now has 7 IP, has given up just 3 hits and zero runs.  Voth has fewer innings (4 2/3) but has zero runs and a 5-0 K/BB ratio.  Meanwhile their competition for “first in line for a spot start” A.J. Cole has been shredded this spring: 8 2/3 innings, 10 hits, 7 earned runs.  Yes I know you often cannot trust spring training stats … but not in the cases of minor leaguers looking to impress while they’re in the presence of major leaguers.  These guys are trying.  And right now I’m feeling a ton better about our near-to-the-majors starting pitcher coverage post Giolito-Lopez trade than I was at the beginning of spring.  Is it time to see if Cole makes more sense as a reliever?

(Tangent: in case you’re not on ten-zillion RSS feeds about baseball and don’t know how Giolito/Lopez are doing: Giolito has by all accounts cleaned up whatever damage the Nats did to his mechanics and looks solid this spring: 9IP, 2 runs, 6-2 K/BB.  Lopez has struggled; 8 2/3rds innings, 6 runs, 7-3 K/BB.

Other interesting ST stat lines to point out:

  • Both Adam Lind and Clint Robinson have struggled badly: Lind is 4-20, Robinson is 4-21.  Matt Skole is missing an opportunity here; he’s just 2-13 on the spring, with one of those two hits being a homer in the opener that had MartyC all hot and bothered.
  • Brian Goodwin is not impressing in his attempt to win the spare OF job; he’s just 2-19 on the spring while “King of Spring Training” Michael Taylor is tearing the cover off the ball (he’s 11-26 with two homers).  Looking more and more like Taylor is getting another shot at the title … and inevitably starting when old-man Jayson Werth hits the D/L at some point.
  • Jhonathan Solano, now starting for Columbia in the WBC, is 10-12 with the Nats.  That’s right; he’s hitting .833.  Good to know; my comment above about us suddenly being rather thin at catcher may not be so bad if Solano keeps it up and earns a 40-man re-call.
  • Wilmer Difo may not have a realistic shot at the opening day roster, but he’s doing the most he can, hitting .400 so far.
  • Lastly, Ryan Zimmerman.  0-13 so far this spring.  At least he’s putting the ball in play (just 3 punch outs).  Too bad all the 1B types in camp that may push him to the bench are also struggling.
  • We all know about Koda Glover and how he’s crushing it.  4IP, one hit, 7-0 K/BB.  If he keeps this up, we’ll have a closer for $550k instead of the $15M that Melancon and Jansen earned.  And that, my friends, is how you build a closer.

Lastly, since i’m clearly trolling specific people by calling out Giolito and Skole stat lines, lets look up some other lightening rod ex-Nats and their spring stats:

  • Future Hall of Famer Max Schrock: only 7 ABs for Oakland this spring training, but he did go 2-7.  He was an NRI but clearly seems set to return to the minors.  No surprise there.  The question is whether or not he can repeat his performance at the AA level in 2017.
  • Nick Pivetta, which bought us the tumultuous Jonathan Papelbon era, has a 2.25 ERA in 8 IP for Philadelphia.
  • Tony Renda is crushing it as an NRI for Cincinnati: he’s 11-25 this season.
  • Felipe Rivero‘s statline resembles Glover’s so far this spring: 4IP, 1hit, 0 runs and 5 Ks.  You have to give up talent to get talent right?

anyway; what do you guys think about some of these guys?

2016 Season Statistical review of the 2015 Draft Class

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Years from now we may be saying Tyler Watson is the class of this draft. Photo via auburnpub.com

Years from now we may be saying Tyler Watson is the class of this draft. Photo via auburnpub.com

Second in our set of Draft class Reviews.  First was the 2016 class.

Web links to use while reading:

With out further ado…


 

Round 1: forfeited by virtue of the Max Scherzer signing.  Would have been the 26th pick overall, which ended up being Taylor Ward, a C from Fresno State.  Ward stepped back a bit in 2016, losing nearly 300 points off his OPS in High-A, but is still listed as the Angel’s #3 prospect.

Round 2: Andrew Stevenson, OF (CF).  COL jr from Louisiana State.  Slashed .276/.332/.374 across 2 levels, spending three months in Potomac and then finishing the season in Harrisburg.  95/44 K/BB ratio, 3 homers and 39SBs in 529 ABs.  He was also named an All-star for Potomac this year and was the MVP of the Carolina-California League all-star game.  Two years in the system and two multi-level promotions for Stevenson.  Clearly he profiles as a “speedy leadoff-center fielder” type, so you’d like to see his overall OBP improve.  You’d like to see fewer strikeouts too.  Otherwise, its hard to quibble.  He’s also starting to get some notice on prospect rankings; last  year he was generally in the 10-14 range for our system.  Now I’m seeing him ranked in the 6-10 range.   He’s taken his talents to the Arizona Fall League, where i’m curious to see how he fares against top-end AA/AAA competition.  Maybe our long term CF solution is in-house after all.  Post-Writing update: Stevenson lit up the AFL, hitting north of .350 and being named by MLB.com as being a breakout starTrending up.

Round 2: Blake Perkins, OF (CF) from Verrado HS, Buckeye, Ariz.  Slashed .233/.318/.281 for Auburn this year before spending the last week in Hagerstown (part of the typical 9/1 cascading minor league roster shuffle), with 39/25 K/BB in 210 ABs.  1HR, 10SB.   Another player who (like Stevenson) is a “Leadoff-CF” type (for Auburn he only played CF and only lead-off).  As we learned last year, he’s learning switch hitting and its showing in his stat line; as a righty against lefties he slashed .306/.343/.355, but as a lefty against righties he slashed only .203/.308/.250.  Ugh.   I wonder if the team, which asked him to learn switch hitting even before they drafted him, will eventually just let him focus on his strengths.  His overall batting line continues to depress his prospect value; he’s generally ranked somewhere in the 16-21 range for the system right now after being in the 10-12 range after his drafting.  I’ll say Trending steady since his RH split is so good and he may just eventually go back to it full time.

Round 3: Rhett Wiseman, OF (corner), COL jr from Vanderbilt.  Slashed .255/.325/.410  in a full season in Low-A with 104/42 K/BB in 478ABs.  13  homers, 19 SBs.  Wiseman played exclusively RF and was mostly the clean-up hitter for Hagerstown and had a solid season, but not without some red-flags.  104 Ks in 478Abs isn’t like 30% awful, but its getting up there.  He did have a nice balance of homers and Stolen Bases; if you’ve ever seen Hagerstown’s stadium you’ll know it isn’t the easiest place to hit (indeed; his away split shows an OPS figure 140 points higher than at home).   He only hit .198 against lefties, exhibiting a typical failing of a lot of lefty power hitters.  I’m going with Trending steady and would like to see how he does in more of a hitter’s park.  

Round 4: Mariano Rivera Jr, RHP (reliever) COL sr from Iona.  Went 5-1 with a 4.04 ERA in Low-A with 52/22 K/BB in 69 relief innings.  1.35whip, 4.49fip, .296 babip.  He was also 8 for 14 in Save opportunities as the Hagerstown bullpen seemed to do closer by committee (12 different relievers had a Save this year for Hagerstown).   Rivera Jr. improved his numbers across the board in the jump from Short-A to Low-A and seems permanently relegated to the bullpen at this point.  But we’re not seeing the lights-out production that you’d want to see in the low minors from a future reliever.  I think he’ll keep moving up next year of course, based on his draft pedigree and name only, but where’s the dominance that his father showed?   It may also just be a case of short sample size unluckiness; he gave up 9 runs between two consecutive outings in June; those two innings cost him more than a point on his ERA for the season.  We’d be having a different conversation if he had a 2.92 ERA in 67 innings instead of a 4.04 ERA in 69 innings.  Still want to see a K/inning.  Trending steady

Round 5: Taylor Hearn, LHP (reliever) COL jr from Oklahoma Baptist.  Was 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA for Hagerstown this year when he got traded to Pittsburgh (along with Felipe Rivero) in the Mark Melancon deal.  For Pittsburgh’s low-A team he’s continued to be solid, posting a 1.99 ERA with 36Ks in 22 innings for their low-A team.  I know we had some seller’s lament about parting ways with both Rivero and Hearn, especially when a few weeks later the team had to trade a decent hitting prospect to acquire 5 weeks worth of a veteran lefty.  But you have to give up players to get players, right?   Out of the Organization.

Round 6: Matt Crownover, LHP (starter) COL jr. from Clemson.  Posted a 9-5 record with a 3.36 ERA across two levels this year  110/42 K/BB in 128 2/3 IP combined.  For Potomac specifically; 4-4, 4.28 ERA, 1.45 whip, 4.48 fip, .317 babip.  Crownover quickly showed he was too good for Low-A (1.17 ERA his first two months there) and then settled into Potomac’s rotation for the rest of the year.  He wasn’t as lights out in Potomac but was solid.  He nearly led Potomac in starts and was part of their post-season rotation (where he pitched into the seventh and gave up just one earned run but took the loss in the season finale).  I could see him starting next year in Potomac with an eye towards jumping up to AA similarly to the way he split time this year.  Trending Up.

Round 7: Grant Borne, LHP (starter/reliever) COL jr from Nicholls State.  Went 5-2 with a 3.34 ERA in a full season at Hagerstown.  46/11 K/BB in 59 1/3 innings of mostly long relief.  1.20 whip, 3.15 fip, .307 babip.  Borne didn’t make the rotation in Hagerstown but seemed to stay on somewhat of a starter’s schedule, throwing every 4th or 5th day for 2-3 innings at a clip.  All his numbers improved over what they were in Short-A last year, which is great for a guy jumping to full season ball.  A couple of bad outings in August spoiled his numbers; otherwise his month by month splits all were pretty solid.  I see no reason for him not to serve as a spot-starter in Potomac next year.  Trending Up.

Round 8: Koda Glover, RHP (reliever) COL sr from Oklahoma State.  Was 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA combined across three minor league levels, resulting with a call-up to the Majors on 7/20/16.  In DC he posted a 5.03 ERA in 19 innings and was left off the post-season roster in favor of a third lefty (due to who the Nats were playing most-likely), but that did nothing to diminish what an amazing rise he had in 2016.  To go from High-A to pitching 7th and 8th innings in high-leverage games inside of 5 months is amazing.  His outlook for 2017 is repeating as a 7th inning RHP in the MLB bullpen with a future eye perhaps on closing for this team if he can prove himself reliable enough.  Matriculated to the Majors.

Round 9: David Kerian, 1b COL sr from Illinois.  Slashed just .144/.186/.226 while repeating Short A.  31/7 K/BB with 1 homer.  Kerian failed to make the Hagerstown squad out of spring training and then struggled mightily while repeating Short-A.  I’m surprised he hasn’t been released already.  He was a long-shot to contribute after being a senior sign/low bonus guy and he seems destined for a release soon.  Trending Down.  Post publishing update: Kerian was released on 12/15/16, fulfilling my guesses on his disposition unfortunately.

Round 10: Taylor Guilbeau, LHP (starter) COL sr  from Alabama. 5-2 with a 3.61 ERA in a full season in Hagerstown.  99/27 K/BB in 107 1/3 innings split between starting and relieving.  1.43 whip, 3.15 fip, .360 babip.  Guilbeau didn’t make the Hagerstown roster out of spring training, but settled into the rotation for the beginning of the 2nd half and stayed there the rest of the way.  As a starter his ERA was 3 points better than as a reliever (2.55 versus 5.36), and he looks like a very solid lefty starter.  His performance is even more impressive considering his dim draft pedigree; like Kerian above him he was a senior sign for limited dollars.  If he turns out to be successful the Nats front office should really do something nice for the area scout.  Trending up.

Round 11: Andrew Lee, RHP (starter) COL jr from Tennessee.  Was 2-2 with a 3.71 ERA in Hagerstown.  46/18 K/BB in 51 innings.  1.24 whip, 3.15 fip, .308 BABIP.  Lee was the opening day starter for Hagerstown after having finished there in 2015, had 11 solid starts and then hit the D/L on 6/7/16, remaining there for the duration of the season.  I could not find much detail on his injury.  He was trending pretty well though; solid K ratios and a good FIP.   Trending steady thanks to the unknown injury, otherwise i’d say Trending up again.

Round 12: Tommy Peterson RHP (reliever) COL jr  from South Florida.  Went 4-2 with a 2.64ERA bouncing between Hagerstown and Potomac.  56/14 K/BB in 58 relief innings, with very solid FIP and BABIP numbers in Hagerstown but not so much in Potomac.  For Hagerstown he was an effective closer; for Potomac he was used more as a setup guy.  He struggled with the jump to High-A and seems like to try it again from the on-set next year.  Trending steady.

Round 13: Max Schrock, 2B COL jr from South Carolina.  Had an OPS north of .800 for both Hagerstown and Potomac before getting flipped to Oakland in late August for Marc Rzepczynski.  Oakland quickly put him to AA where he hit well and now is in the AFL.  He’s the most polarizing Nats prospect I can think of since perhaps Brad Peacock or Billy Burns.  Schrock was paid like a 4th rounder in terms of bonus money and never failed to hit at any level, so we shouldn’t necessarily think of him as the equivalent of a 13th rounder.  The knock on him is his size; he’s just 5’8″ in a sport that calls anyone under 6′ “short.”  Nonetheless, he was a high price to pay for 5 weeks of a veteran lefty, and we’ve had no shortage of arguments here about the trade, what led to its necessity, and the price we paid for Rzepczynski.  We’ll just have to “Trust in Rizzo” again and hope we don’t get burned on Schrock.  Out of the Organization.

Round 14: Mack Lemieux LHP (starter) from Jupiter Community HS (FL): did not sign.  At the time of his drafting we thought he was heading to Florida Atlantic University (FAU).  Instead, he headed to JuCo (Palm Beach State in Florida) and was Arizona’s 6th round pick this year.  He split time between Rookie and Short-A ball in his age-19 season and performed well.

Round 15: Kevin Mooney,  RHP (reliver) COL jr from UofMaryland.  0-2 with a 3.33 ERA while repeating Short-A.  19/11 K/BB in 24 1/3 innings.  1.19 whip, 3.69 fip, .257 babip.  Despite repeating the level, he improved markedly from last year (shaving 2 points off his ERA).  He should have earned his way to a full-season reliever job in 2017.  Trending Steady.

Round 16: Ian Sagdal, SS COL sr  from Washington State U.  Slashed .303/.362/.474 in a full season with Hagerstown with 90/36 K/BB in 409 ABs.  10 homers, 6SB.  Sagdal was listed as the “DH” but played like a corner-utility guy, jumping around and playing some 1B, some LF, some 2B (he was drafted as a SS but his 6’3″ frame clearly can’t handle the position defensively).  Its hard to argue against a .300 hitter with power though, so lets see what he can do next year against better competition.  He has definitely improved his standing since last year (when he hit just .235 in Auburn).  Trending Steady.

Round 17: Dalton Dulin, 2B from Northwest Mississippi CC.  Slashed just .186/.277/.265 while repeating Short-A.  34/13 K/BB in 113 AB playing 2B, 0 homers, 7 SB.  A huge step back for the JuCo signing, who turned 22 in May.   He split time at 2B with 2016’s Jake Noll among others, and i’d be very surprised if he isn’t released next spring when he inevitably fails to make the Hagerstown squad.  Trending Down.

Round 18: Melvin Rodriguez 2B COL sr from Jackson State U. (MS).  Released 4/2/16, presumably after not making the Hagerstown squad and likely being “behind” others at the position (others like the man just mentioned Dalton Dulin).  He got picked up by the Indy league team in Joliet and played 79 games for them this year.  I’m not sure if I noticed this last year, but he was *old* coming out of college.  This is his second pro year and he turned 25 in February.

Round 19: Clayton Brandt SS COL sr from MidAmerica Nazarene U (KS).  Slashed just .179/.271/.248 in Short-A, 33/16 K/BB in 145 ABs.  0 homers, 2 SBs.  These numbers are rather similar to his numbers last year in the GCL, but it isn’t like there was another high-powered middle infield star prospect pushing him; the other two “short stops” on Auburn’s roster this year were equally inept with the bat.  Like others above with batting averages below .200, i’m saying Trending Down but I wonder if some of these guys will hang around into 2017 simply to fill roster spots.  Post publishing update: Brandt voluntarily retired on on 12/15/16.

Round 20: John Reeves C, COL sr  from Rice (TX): did not sign.  Despite being listed as a “College Senior” he really was a 4th year junior and opted to return for his 5th year.  A quick check at Rice’s 2016 stats page shows that Reeves did not play for Rice in 2016; It does not look like he was re-drafted, nor play in any independent leagues.  A curious case; if the Nats felt like it was worthy of a 20th round pick, why have we not pursued him since he’s now freely available?  Unless this was a “favor pick” to someone … but a 20th round pick seems way early for a throwaway pick.

Round 21: Matt Pirro, RHP (reliever) COL sr  from Wake Forest. 3-2, 4.43 ERA across two levels, ending in Short-A.   17/12 k/bb in 22 1/3ip, 1.30 combined whip, 6.50 fip, .217 babip in short-A.  Pirro failed to make even the Short-A team once the 2016 class was signed; he repeated both levels he played at last year with worse numbers.  He struggled last year and he struggled again this year.  Hard to see him here for the long term.  Trending Down.  Post publishing update: Pirro was released on 12/15/16, indeed a release candidate.

Round 22: Adam Boghosian RHP (reliever) COL 5s from North Greenville U. (SC).  Released 3/26/16 when he didn’t make a full-season squad.

Round 23: Alec Rash, RHP (starter) COL jr from Missouri: did not sign. Initially it seemed that Rash was returning to school to try to rebuild his value after an injury plagued collegiate career.  Word came out though in Sept of 2015 that he was quitting the team (and the sport) for good.  A tough break for Rash, who passed up 2nd round money in 2012 and now has nothing to show for it.

Round 24: Blake Smith RHP (reliever) COL jr  West Virginia: did not sign.  Returned for his “senior” year with West Virginia and was drafted by the Angels in the 29th round of the 2016 draft.  He put up decent numbers for their Low-A affiliate this year.

Round 25: Calvin Copping RHP (reliever) COL jr from Cal. State Northridge.  Released on 3/16/16 when it became clear he wouldn’t make Hagerstown.

Round 26: Russell “Rocky” Harmening. RHP (reliever) COL jr Westmont Coll (CA).  0-1, 2.57 ERA for Auburn this year.  23/8 K/BB in 28 relief innings. 1.21 whip, 3.06 fip, .294 BABIP.  A  nice 2nd pro season for Harmening, who improved his numbers across the board jumping from GCL to Short-A.  He also apparently now goes by “Rocky.”  Should make the Hagerstown pen as a middle reliever.  Trending Steady.

Round 27: Ryan Brinley, RHP (reliever) COL jr from Sam Houston State U. (TX).  Posted a 4-3 record with a 3.55 ERA across two levels.  38/9 K/BB in 50 2/3 innings.  1.07 whip combined, 2.68 fip and .243 babip in Potomac.  Brinley was a surprise performer last year and he continued his good work this year; he made the Potomac team out of spring and dominated there for two months before getting promoted to AA.  There however, he struggled, giving up 14 runs and 17 hits in 11 innings, and was back in Potomac by August 1st.  Presumably he’s going to try AA again next spring.  Trending Up.

Round 28: Mick VanVossen RHP (reliever) COL sr from Michigan State U. 4-4, 4.25 ERA across 2 levels.  50/19 K/.BB in 59 1/3 innings, mostly with Hagerstown. 1.28 whip, 4.13fip, .285 babip while in in Low-A.  He bounced around in what seemed like a bunch of procedural moves but was essentially a middle reliever for Low-A all year.  He had relatively solid numbers in Hagerstown and should get a look at moving up a level for 2017.   Trending Steady.

Round 29: Philip Diedrick OF COL sr  Western Kentucky U.  Released 4/2/16 after struggling in 2015 in the GCL.  No surprise here.

Round 30: Jorge Pantoja RHP (reliever) COL jr Alabama State U.  9-2 with a 3.20 ERA across two levels.  46/19 K/BB in 64 2/3s innings, mostly with Hagerstown.  1.15 whip, 2.67 fip, .302 babip while in Low-A.  As we noted last summer, he just needed some time to show that his 2015 numbers were better than they appeared, and the team was rewarded.  Pantoja went 9-1 with a 2.63 ERA for Hagerstown this year, earning a bump up to Potomac on August 8th.  He struggled there, walking 9 guys in 10 innings after walking just 10 in 54 innings in Hagerstown.  Nonetheless, he’s looking up and should be a solid Potomac bullpen guy (later innings or perhaps closer) in 2017. He’s playing in the Mexican Winter League this off-season.  Trending Up.

Round 31: Nick Sprengel LHP (starter) from El Dorado HS (CA): did not sign.  Honored his commitment to the U of San Diego, where he went 3-5 with a 6.17 ERA his freshman year as a mid-week starter.

Round 32: Dalton DiNatale 3B COL jr Arizona State U.   Released 6/7/16; he hung around for a bit after not making a full-season squad and then got released once the 2016 draft occurred.

Round 33: Angelo La Bruna SS COL 5S  from U. Southern California.  Slashed .246/.320/.325 between Short-A and Low-A, with 20/12 K/BB in 114 total ABs.  1hr, 2SB playing 2B and SS.  La Bruna was assigned initially to Short-A, but came out on fire going 10-21 and quickly getting bumped to Low-A.  There he was less effective, hitting just .194 with little power (5 XBH in 33 games).   If I sense a recurring theme among these reviews so far of the 2016 and 2015 classes, its relatively zero depth in the middle infield.  So I see no reason for La Bruna not to hang around another year.  Trending Steady.

Round 34: Tyler Watson LHP (starter) from Perry HS (AZ).  2-3, 2.64 ERA split between Short-A and Low-A.  64/15 K/BB in 58IP, 1.05 whip, 2.05 whip and .261 babip in Auburn.  Watson was the opening day starter for Auburn after turning 19 in late May and had an awesome season; in 9 starts facing competition that was (on average) 2.4 years older than he was, he had a 1.88 ERA and gave up just 30 hits and 9 walks in 48 innings.  His ERA jumped when he got to Hagerstown but his peripherals did not; he still struck out a guy an inning and his Hagerstown FIP was 2.87.  He looks like he could be a stud.  He has nothing left to prove in Short-A; I’d expect him to be in the Low-A rotation in 2017 but to have his season cut short as they build up pro innings on his arm.  Trending Up.

Round 35: Coco Montes SS from Coral Gables HS (FL): did not sign.  Montes honored his commitment to South Florida.  At USF Montes was a starter as a Freshman and slashed .218/.287/.264.  

Round 36: Taylor Bush SS from The Linfield School (CA): did not sign.  Bush honored his commitment to Westmont College.  As a freshman, got into 30 games and only had 15 ABs in a late-innings defensive replacement role.

Round 37: Steven DiPuglia SS from Cooper City HS (FL): did not sign.  DiPuglia  honored his commitment to Western Kentucky.  At WKU, DiPuglia started as a freshman and slashed .253/.323/.264.

Round 38: Matt Morales SS from Wellington Community HS (FL): did not sign.  Morales honored his commitment to Stetson University.  At Stenson, Morales started as a freshman and slashed .250/.324/.286.

Round 39: Jake Jefferies 2B COL jr  from Cal. State Fullerton.  Hit .208 in 24 ABs for Auburn in Short-A before being released on 7/5/16.  He just never showed enough at the plate despite being chased by this organization for years (they drafted him in 2012 as well).

Round 40: Parker Quinn 1B from The Benjamin School (FL): did not sign.  Quinn honored his commitment to Hofstra.  Quinn had no stats for Hofstra in 2016, either he didn’t make the varsity team or he was hurt.  His Twitter account still reports him as being at Hofstra and being class of 2019, so i’m not sure what his status is.

 


Trending Summary:

  • Matriculated to Majors: (1): Glover
  • Trending Up (7): Stevenson, Crownover, Borne, Guilbeau, Brinley, Pantoja, Watson
  • Trending Steady (10): Perkins, Wisemann, Rivera Jr, Lee, Peterson, Mooney, Sagdal, Harmening, Van Vossen, La Bruna
  • Trending Down (4): Kerian, Dulin, Brandt, Pirro
  • Released/Retired (6): Rodriguez, Boghosian, Copping, Diedrick, DiNatale, Jefferies
  • Did Not Sign (10): Lemieux, Reeves, Rash, Smith, Sprengel, Montes, Bush, DiPuglia, Morales, Quinn
  • No longer with the Org (2): Hearn, Schrock

Executive Summary

The 2015 class is holding its own so far, with a number of guys with promising starts and just 6 releases after two full pro seasons.  Watson looks like a stud, Glover looks like a heck of a find, and the upper round picks are at least treading water thus far if not exceeding expectations (Stevenson).

 

Nats 2016 Minor League Players of the year; do they matter?

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Lopez 2016 Nats minor league pitcher of the year; will it matter? Photo via wp.com/Mitchell Layton getty images

Lopez 2016 Nats minor league pitcher of the year; will it matter? Photo via wp.com/Mitchell Layton getty images

The Nats recently announced their 2016 Minor League Players of the Year, and then recognized them along with GCL MVP Juan Soto over the weekend.

Rafael Bautista, Reynaldo Lopez, Jose Marmolejos-Diaz and Juan Soto, who all hail from the Dominican Republic and represent the best evidence of the Nats long awaited “rebirth” in that market, were all recognized.  And that’s great.

But how have the Nats Minor League Players of the Year fared in terms of eventual career accomplishment?  Is this achievement a good precursor for MLB success?  Lets dig deeper.

Here’s a list of the Nats declared prospects of the year (i’ve gone back beyond the Nats time in DC since prospects lag in terms of their arrival), along with some quick commentary on where they’ve gone:

  • 2016: Jose Marmelejos-Diaz, Reynaldo Lopez: Lopez had some impact at the MLB level in his first shot, may factor into the post-season bullpen, but is looking at AAA next year unless an injury or trade occurs.  Marmeloejos-Diaz is still too young to pass judgement.  Verdict: too early to tell obviously; Is Lopez going to be an effective mid-rotation starter or (as some pundits believe) is he going to end up being more effective in the bullpen?
  • 2015: Jose Marmelejos-Diaz, Austin Voth: Voth had a solid AAA season in 2016, but was (somewhat surprisingly) not called up on 9/1 despite facing Rule-5 protection this coming off-season.  Has he peaked?  Was he left off of the 40-man for strategic (i.e. trade bait) purposes?   He’s clearly behind three other AAA guys on the depth chart right now with a full MLB roster; what does his future hold?  Verdict: too early but concerns about Voth’s role going forward.
  • 2014: Steven Souza, Lucas Giolito: Souza famously netted the team both Trea Turner and Joe Ross in trade, but has been an injury prone 1-win/year player for Tampa Bay ever since (total bWAR for Tampa: 1.9 in two seasons).  Giolito’s jury is still out; despite his lofty prospect status he struggled on the big stage in 2016 amid reports of mechanical tweaks and struggles.  Verdict: early on Giolito, Souza might be who he is.
  • 2013: Billy Burns, Taylor Jordan: Burns netted the team Jerry Blevins in trade and then had one decent season with Oakland (a 2.8 bWAR season in 2015 that may have had the Nats with trader’s remorse.  However, he struggled badly in 2016, was traded, was sent to the minors, and may not be much more than a defensive outfield bench player.  Jordan had 9 promising starts in 2013, then struggled in spot starts in 2014, blew out his elbow, came back, struggled again in 2015 spot starts, blew out his elbow again this year and was summarily released.  He may struggle to find a team willing to give a 4-A pitcher on his third elbow a shot going forward.  Verdict: one may be done, one may be a 4th outfielder at best.
  • 2012: Nathan Karns, Matt Skole: Karns was a lower-round draft pick with an injury history the Nats took a chance on and he shot through the system, taking just a season and a half to rise from low-A.  The team capitalized on his promise and flipped him for three role players (Jose LobatonFelipe Rivero and Drew Vettleson).  Since, Karns got flipped to Seattle, struggled early and has missed most of 2016 with a back strain.  Skole is a polarizing figure amongst readers here; to me he is a 27yr old AAA power-only hitter who has had three consecutive NRI to spring training (so its not as if the MLB squad doesn’t know who he is).  He’s at the end of his string with the Nats and likely moves elsewhere as a MLFA for next year.  I wish he turned out better; after his fantastic 2012 season an unfortunate injury cost him all of 2013 and he really seems like he’s been playing catchup since.  Verdict: Karns may turn out to be more than he’s shown, but Skole is a 6-year MLFA.
  • 2011: Steve Lombardozzi, Brad Peacock: Lombardozzi made the majors as a 19th round pick (quite the rarity; it usually only happens 2-3 times per draft class), got traded in the Doug Fister deal, got traded again, then released, then picked up by Baltimore, then released again and found himself playing indy ball after getting cut by the Chicago White Sox this past spring.  The Nats picked him up for their AAA team but he possesses a negative bWAR career value as a backup utility player.  Peacock (not unlike Karns) had a brief debut with the Nats before getting used in trade to acquire others (in his case, going to Oakland as part of the Gio Gonzalez deal).  Oakland flipped him to Houston, where he struggled as a starter in 2014 and has been basically a 4-A taxi squad member between their AAA team and their bullpen.  Verdict: both guys ended up better AAA players than MLB players.
  • 2010: Tyler Moore, Tommy Milone: Moore matriculated to the majors and had a fantastic 2012 off the bench (123 OPS+) … and then never matched it.  The Nats traded him for Nate Freiman in a “moving the deck chairs” trade with Atlanta, and Moore spent most of 2016 off a 40-man and on the D/L.  Milone, like Karns and Peacock after him, had a brief and exciting debut with the MLB club before being used as trade fodder for others (he was also in the Gonzalez trade).  He excelled in Oakland’s big park and was then flipped for Sam Fuld to the Twins.  He’s been less successful with Minnesota, getting dumped out of the rotation in 2016 and posting a 5+ ERA this year for baseball’s worst team.  He may be a non-tender candidate and could be on the move again this winter.  Verdict: At best a 4-A slugger and a 6th starter.
  • 2009: Derek Norris, Brad Meyers: Is it interesting that three Nats Minor league players of the year were all included in the same trade?  Norris was a centerpiece of the Gonzalez deal while still relatively a young minor leaguer; he peaked as an All Star in 2014 for Oakland before getting moved to San Diego in the Jesse Hahn deal.  He’s struggled in San Diego, hitting just .186 this year.  Meyers’ career is an injury plagued shame; after a fantastic 2009 he started 2010 just as well before getting hurt.  He returned and had a solid 2011 in AA and AAA but was taken in Rule5 by the Yankees.  He missed basically all of 2012 with injury and was returned as damaged goods, an injury that cost him all of 2013.  By the time he made it back in 2014, he just had nothing left; after 6 starts in Harrisburg the team released him.  Verdict: At least a backup catcher in the majors and an asterick due to injury.
  • 2008: Leonard Davis, Jordan Zimmermann: Davis was named the hitter of the year on the back of a solid year at Potomac … when he was 24 and a year and a half older than the league.  He kept climbing the ranks, hit .250 in Syracuse in 2011 but never got a shot in the majors.  He bounced around indy ball for a copule of years but retired in 2013.   Zimmermann is what we all know him to be: a 9-figure starter and easily the most successful player on this list .. which, not to bury the lede this early, is kind of the point of this article.  Verdict: a AA washout and a #2 starter in the majors.
  • 2007: Justin Maxwell, John Lannan: Maxwell toiled for years as a 4th OF for the Nats in their dark times before getting flipped for a middle reliever in Adam Olbrychowski.  That started his itinerant career, playing for Houston, Kansas City, San Francisco and most recently Boston’s AAA team.  He has now decamped for Korea.  For his career he has a bWAR figure of 2.9, 2.4 of which came in his best season in Houston.  Lannan famously went from Nats opening day starter and Ace during the “down years” to AAA insurance policy in 2012.  After getting mercifully non-tendered in 2012, he played for two different NL East rivals in 2013-2014, and has pitched full AAA seasons in the PCL the last two years.  7.1 career bWAR, most of which was earned during his first two full seasons starting for the awful 2008 and 2009 Nats.  Verdict: two MLB players, both of which had limited impact in their careers.
  • 2006: Kory Casto, Zech Zinicola: Casto was a long-time Nats farmhand favorite, progressing slowly one level a  year and always producing.  He finally made the majors in 2007 but struggled in parts of two seasons and was outrighted off the 40-man after 2009.  He elected FA, bounced around two organizations in 2010 before retiring in July of that  year.  Zincola won the Nats minor league pitcher of the year in a  year when he threw just 32 innings as a closer, an indication of how bad our farm system was in the early years.  He played for years in the Nats system, never making the majors, but interestingly played a full season this year with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters.  Verdict: essentially two career minor leaguers.
  • 2005: Kory Casto, Mike O’Conner: O’Conner became just the second pitcher in the history of George Washington baseball to make the majors (the first being a guy from the 1920s who had exactly one career IP).  He gave the team 20 starts in 2006 and then had a grand total of 15 MLB innings thereafter, toiling for years in AAA.  Verdict: as with Casto, essentially a career minor leaguer.
  • 2004: Ryan Church: a late bloomer who won the Nats minor league player of the year the year he was acquired by destroying Edmonton before getting called up.   By 2007 he was a solid contributor for the Nats and looked like a viable RF option for a few  years.  He got flipped to the Mets in Jim Bowden‘s ill-fated trade for the “toolsy” Lastings Milledge not uncoincidentally just before his first arbitration pay day, played there halfway decently for a year and a half before getting moved to Atlanta.   He signed as a FA in Pittsburgh and struggled badly, and 2010 was his last year in the big leagues.  Total career bWAR: 9.1, most of it in the three solid years he gave the Nats.  Verdict: a MLB regular for a handful of seasons.
  • 2003: Terrmel Sledge: Sledge won the Expos minor league award after an excellent year in AAA Edmonton.   He was solid in 2004 for the big league club but then barely played in 2005 thanks to injury.  That off-season he was flipped in the Alfonso Soriano deal, traded to San Diego a few weeks later, played two non-descript seasons there and then played 5 years in Japan, retiring after the 2012 season at the age of 35.  Verdict: essentially a 4-A player.

 

Summary: 13 years of the franchise naming minor league players of the year (24 total guys) has produced:

  • One legitimate MLB star (Zimmermann)
  • 6 slightly better than replacement Major leaguers: Souza, Milone, Karns, Norris, Lannan, Church
  • 9 basically 4-A players: Burns, Jordan, Lombardozzi, Peacock, Moore, Maxwell, Casto, O’Conner, Sledge
  • 4 guys who never made the majors: Skole (as of yet), Meyers, Davis, Zinicola
  • 4 guys who its too early to tell: Marmelejos-Diaz, Lopez, Voth, Giolito

Not a great track record.  Lots of this is squarely on the shoulders of the early state of the farm system; fair enough.   Its also wise to note that none of the main home-grown stars that the team as developed over the years appears on this list; No Zimmerman, Harper, Strasburg, Rendon, Storen, Cole, Solis, Ray, Espinosa, etc.  That’s because these guys either raced through the minors or just never shined brightly enough at a particular level to earn the award.

Also interesting; look how many of these guys got flipped soon after their being named our POTY: Norris, Milone, Peacock, Karns, Burns, Souza.  Its almost as if the team is trading high on more marginal prospects thanks to their POTY status.  Look at the return in each of these deals; it seems like the Nats “won” the trade nearly every time.

Another interesting side note; while doing this I noticed that no less than four guys from the 2007 draft are on this list: Zimmermann (2nd), Souza (3rd), Norris (4th) and Meyers (5th).  That draft also included future big leagers in Detwiler (1st), Smoker (1st-supp) and Smolinksi (2nd).  and McCoy (10th).  That’s a heck of a draft; all due credit.

 

 

 

Do the Nats have a LOOGY problem?

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Can we count on this guy in October? Photo via getty images

Can we count on this guy in October? Photo via getty images

We’ve clearly seen some middle relief issues lately, despite nearly sweeping a 4-game set in Atlanta this past weekend.  And one of the issues we’ve been continually discussing is our left-handed relief options.

We traded Felipe Rivero.  Oliver Perez has a 5.61 ERA.  Sammy Solis just had an MRI on his left shoulder.  Matt Grace has nice looking AAA numbers, but got shellacked last year (2.00 whip in 26 innings) during a brief call-up.  Nick Lee was so ineffective this year that he passed completely through waivers when we DFA’d him off the 40-man.  We just paid cash for twice-TJ survivor and ex Nat Sean Burnett, whose AAA numbers look good but is now on his fourth organization of 2016.

Do we have a LOOGY problem?

Well, maybe.

I constantly have to remind myself of this sentence: “You don’t have to be left-handed in order to get lefties out.”  That and this sentence: “If your lefty splits are good … then you’re still a good LOOGY option.”

Here’s the 2016 versus lefty splits for every reliever on our 40-man, RHP or LHP.  And then lets add in some of the call-up candidates just for fun… (all numbers as of 8/21/16’s Atlanta game via baseball-reference.com):

Right Handed reliever options

  • Melancon: .202/.253/.274 for an .527 OPS; as you’d expect, an elite closer gets both lefties and righties out.
  • Treinen: .211/.357/.351 for an .708 OPS.  Not bad.
  • Kelley: .250/.294/.609 for an .903 OPS.  Not good.
  • Petit: .261/.327/.511 for an .838 OPS.  Again, not really that good, but then again that’s not what we’re asking him to do generally.
  • Belisle: .150/.203/.267 for an .470 OPS.  Wow; that’s better than any of our lefties.
  • Glover: minimal stats in MLB; for 2016 he had a .161 BAA in AAA, .250 in AA and .143 in High-A for lefty splits (which are kind of hard to come by at milb.com).   That looks promising, but he seems to be more effective against righties.

Left Handed reliever options

  • Perez: .217/.321/.377 for an .698 OPS.  Its his rightly split that’s killing him.
  • Solis: .200/.279/.273 for an .551 OPS.  Awesome … if we can get him back healthy.
  • Sean Burnett: Again, minor league splits are harder to come by, but Burnett had a .150 BAA against in 12 IP in his longest AAA stint of the year.
  • Bryan Harper: .161 BAA in AAA this year, even better .091 while in AA.  And it’d be cool to have him on a roster with his brother.  But he’s on the D/L right now.
  • Matt Grace: .207 BAA in AAA this year … but as noted above he struggled in his 2015 audition.

Rivero, by the way, has this for a lefty split in 2016: .325/.424/.429 for an .852 OPS.  A .325 BAA; no wonder they were willing to part with him.  He was a lefty who couldn’t get lefties out.

What if we thought outside the box a bit?

  • Reynaldo Lopez: .180/.250/.340 for an .590 OPS.  Interesting; we’ve already talked at length about Lopez being a fire-baller out of the pen for a post-season team and his lefty splits are good.
  • Lucas Gioilto: .269/.406/.462 for an .868 OPS; not nearly as impressive.
  • Aaron Laffey: just a .254 BAA in AAA this year in a swing-man role.
  • Nick Lee: the aforementioned struggling lefty is the only other lefty in the minors above High-A; he’s got a decent .214 BAA against lefties in AA … but his overall ERA/Whip is ugly; 4.73 and 1.77,
  • I didn’t go to High-A, where we have a couple of  lefty prospects but they’re no where near consideration for a call-up.

So, we need Solis back; he’s the closest thing we have to a matchup lefty who we can count on.  But clearly Belisle’s numbers make him a matchup option too, despite his being a rightly.  It reminds me of when we had Tyler Clippard, who always had stellar lefty splits.  Perez’s split line isn’t great; I feel like we should be pushing him almost all the way to the mop-up/Petit role right now.

Are you concerned though?  On a whole, the Nats bullpen has been one of the best in all of baseball.  Are the falterings lately just due to a too many innings thanks to a couple of bad starter outings?

 

Papelbon asks out? May be the simplest solution

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Papelbon can do this for any team. Photo via usatoday.com

Papelbon can do this for any team. Photo via usatoday.com

Rumors started getting published early saturday morning: embattled, demoted and struggling former Nats closer Jonathan Papelbon has reportedly asked for his release.

He’s appeared in precisely two games since he was replaced as closer by the newly acquired Mark Melancon.   Both appearances can be generously characterized as “mop up duty.”  He’s gone from highest leverage closer to 8th guy in an 8-man pen in less than two weeks, and it seems he’s reading the tea leaves.

The Nats need a move today to call up their starter Reynaldo Lopez; could a DFA or release of Papelbon be the solution?

We’ve talked in this space about playoff rosters a bit, about how we all are kind of thinking we could use Koda Glover on that roster.  Well, when we dump the 5th starter and expand the bullpen to 8 … not having to worry about Papelbon’s reaction could be a benefit.  I’d gladly take this bullpen construction into a short series:

  • Closer: Melancon
  • 8th inning guys: Treinen, Kelley
  • 7th inning guys: Belisle, Glover
  • Lefties: Perez, Solis
  • Long-man: Petit

That looks strong enough to me.  If Papelbon was still in the picture, you’d face a tough decision on who to drop.  Belisle has more than earned his spot, and there’s nobody else in that list who can really make way thanks to the trade of Rivero.

Thoughts?  Is this a blessing in disguise (if its true?)  Or do you think we should hang on to him and give him a Qualifying Offer?  (sarcasm).

A tale of Three Trades

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Melancon takes over for the beleagured Papelbon. Photo via bucsdugout.com

Melancon takes over for the beleagured Papelbon. Photo via bucsdugout.com

At the trade deadline, we saw three significant closer-quality arms moved.

  • Cubs acquire Aroldis Chapman for Rashad Crawford, Billy McKinney, Gleyber Torres, and Adam Warren.
  • Nationals acquire Mark Melancon for Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn.
  • Indians acquire Andrew Miller for Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen.

Chapman fetches the Cubs #1 prospect in Torres (he immediately becomes the Yankees’ #1 prospect) in addition to a more marginal (but still ranked) prospect in McKinney, a lottery ticket in Crawford AND the return of their former 8th inning guy Warren.  This in return for perhaps the premier closer in the game for a 2 month rental.

Melancon fetched a solid, young lefty reliever in Rivero (whose peripherals counter his currently poor-looking 2016 ERA) plus a 2nd tier ranked prospect in Hearn who is probably 3 years away.  This in return for 2 months of an elite but not quite as dominant closer.

Miller fetched the Indians #1, #5, #30th ranked prospects in the Cleveland organization (including two 1st round picks) plus an org-arm.  This in return for one of the best relievers in the game for this year plus two more years at a relatively reasonable price ($9M/per).

Projected WAR for these three guys (using opportunistic estimates based on historical performance);

  • Chapman: 0.8-1.0 bWAR for his 2 month rental (2.7 bWAR in 2015)
  • Melancon: 0.6-0.7 bWAR for his 2 month rental (1.9 bWAR in 2015)
  • Miller: 1.0 bWAR for his 2 month rental plus another 4.5 bWAR for 2017-2018: 5.5 bWAR total.

And then there’s the money factors and the intangibles:

  • Chapman: Domestic Violence suspension earlier this year.   $4.33M of salary due this year.
  • Melancon: Salary relief provided by Pittsburgh (not sure how much, but believed to be all of his 2016 salary)
  • Miller: no salary relief.

Which deal do you like the most?  Miller clearly got the most in terms of value, but he also was the best positioned for the long haul.  But even at best case, Miller’s only going to return 5 and a half war over the next 3 years for Cleveland; that’s about as much bWAR as Anthony Rendon provided in his first big breakout season.  Chapman cost much, much more than Melancon; is he worth that much more?

I hate to sound like a homer, but for what they sought and what they gave up, I completely prefer the Nats deal here.  We gave up none of our top tier of prospects, we didn’t take on cash, and we got precisely what we wanted (closer coverage for 2016) and nothing more.  Keith Law hated the deal of course, but he covets prospects and hates closers so it is no surprise.  I also kind of thought that Mike Rizzo would have learned his lesson after the Papelbon-Drew Storen nightmare (remember; he’s the same GM who flipped 2 months of a FA acquisition Matt Capps for years of Wilson Ramos.

Yes they got swept by the Cubs but…

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Here's something Harper didn't do a lot of this past series: swing.  Photo via fansided.com

Here’s something Harper didn’t do a lot of this past series: swing. Photo via fansided.com

So, even though the team just got swept in a 4-game set, I’m not really that concerned.  Why?

Well, first, the Cubs are fantastic, and I thought one win out of four would have been a good, expected result.  The Cubs missed Strasburg, our best guy (even if he’s not the “Ace” thanks to Scherzer‘s contract) while we stood up to the Cubs’ Ace Arrieta.  The Nats scored a bunch of runs against a good team and on other days may have gotten a win or two.  Am I right?

Game by Game:

  • Thurs: Lose 5-2: Joe Ross gives up 2 in 6 but the Nats muster just 3 hits against Kyle Hendricks.  Don’t deserve to win when you only get 3 hits.
  • Fri: Lose 8-6 in a game that really wasn’t that close: Max Scherzer gives up four homers, which is just crazy unlucky for him based on his typical FB/HR averages.  Nats make the scoreline respectable by getting into the Cubs bullpen for four runs late.  Don’t deserve to win when your starter gives up 4 dingers.
  • Sat: Lose 8-5 when Gio Gonzalez can’t get through the Cubs’ 3-4-5 hitters a third time.  Nats bullpen doesn’t do its job.  I kinda question the pitching management here honestly; is Solis the right guy to go to there?  Is it a smart move to let your #5 starter attempt to go through the heart of the other team’s order in a hitter’s park?  If you want to go lefty, why not go with your veteran Oliver Perez or your fireballer Felipe Rivero instead of a guy who was in Syracuse last week?  I guess its because Rivero got blitzed thursday night.   Instead Rivero comes in during garbage time and manages to load the bases and leak yet another run.
  • Sun: Lose 4-3 in extras after chasing the best pitcher in the game and squandering a fantastic outing from Tanner Roark.  Again, a leaky bullpen, this time in the same guy Perez that I thought was a better option than Solis the day before.  But the story of this game was the astounding batting lines of Bryce Harper (7 plate appearances, 6 walks and a HBP) and Ryan Zimmerman (a major league record 14 runners left on base).  The team in total left 21 runners on base and went 1-19 with RISP on the day. One for NINETEEN!  Zimmerman hit a couple balls well on the night, but none when it counted.

Total score of the series: Cubs 25, Nats 16.  Lot of runs on the bullpen.  Zero of our lefty relievers really stepped up.  Both our 8th inning guys couldn’t shut anyone down.  And clearly nobody respects anyone else in the lineup besides Harper.

Anyway; before I get all gloom and doom, the Nats just finished their hardest road trip of the year 5-5, when prior to the season I would have been happy with them going 3-7.  Thanks to sweeps in St. Louis and surprising series win in KC, i’ve still got them projected to win 95 games right now (easy math: team goes .500 against the rest of the league and interleague, plays .600 ball in their division).

Now … if they get swept in New York….

 

Ladson Inbox 4/25/16

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Treinen looking like a closer in the making  Photo via zimbio.com

Treinen looking like a closer in the making Photo via zimbio.com

I’m digging the frequency of Bill Ladson’s inboxes this year.  It prompts me to write something when i’m otherwise slammed and distracted with that silly thing called work.  Here’s 4/25/16’s edition.

Q: As April comes to an end, what has been the most pleasant surprise for the Nationals?

A: I’ll go with the relatively injury-free spring and April; we havn’t had someone major break or pull anything.  Only Ben Revere has gotten bit by the bug, and that’s no great loss b/c it forces more playing time for Michael TaylorLadson goes with the Bullpen, who admittedly has been great.

Q: In your recent Inbox, you said No. 3 prospect Victor Robles will be Bryce Harper‘s teammate in a couple of years. Do you think Harper will still be a member of the Nats? I watched Harper all spring, but my guess is I’ll be driving cross state to Tampa to see him with the Yankees.

A: Harper hasn’t even hit arbitration years yet.  But the timing of Harper hitting free agency and Robles likely arriving could be a “dovetailing” event. I think the assumption that Harper is automatically going to go to New  York is silly; the Yankees aren’t highest spending franchise right now, and Steinbrenner‘s sons seem like they’re more interested in avoiding luxury taxes right now than they are in winning.  The big question the Nats will have to ask themselves is whether they’re willing to put 25% of their payroll for the next decade on one player…. when the time comes anyway.  They’re already kicking $15M/year down the road for a decade longer than they have to with Scherzer‘s contract.  Ladson thinks the Nats will “find a way to pay Harper.”  Really??  Do you not know who his agent its?  Harper is GOING to go to FA, no matter what his opinion of Washington is.

Q: What is Plan B for the ninth inning if Jonathan Papelbon gets hurt or doesn’t perform? Seems like there isn’t a replacement.

A: Actually, its looking more and more like there’s TWO options: Treinen and Rivero.  I gotta admit; i like what Dusty Baker is doing with the bullpen so far.  Both these guys are looking like closers in training.  And that’s good b/c there’s not a ton of help at AAA right now.  A quick glance at the Syracuse stats isn’t entirely promising on this front: I don’t see a “closer in training” anywhere in AAA.  As far as relievers go;  Trevor Gott has ok numbers but not good K/9 rates.  40-man guys Grace and Solis are both doing great … but they’re loogies.  Rafael Martin and Sam Runion have struggled.   Two guys that could be interesting (Erik Davis and Abel de los Santos) have done well … Davis especially, finally healthy after all this time.  But again, not a closer.  So, if Papelbon went down we’d probably be looking at Treinen as the closer, Rivero as an 8th inning guy and likely bringing up Davis or de los Santos to fill in earlier.  Ladson also says Treinen and Rivero.

Q: Why doesn’t Matt den Dekker get more starting opportunities? He has speed, power and is great defensively.

A: It might just be a matter of time, if Michael Taylor continues to struggle and Ben Revere is slow to come back.  But at this point, based on limited sample sizes, even den Dekker might be “behind” Chris Heisey were the Nats to need another starting outfielder.  Just no room at the inn.  Ladson thinks Taylor and den Dekker could platoon.

Q: Why wasn’t Gio Gonzalez pitching in this first home series? He’s a veteran pitcher who seems to have been squeezed out of the starting rotation during the first two weeks.

A: Clearly Baker looked at Gio Gonzalez as his 5th starter coming out of Spring Training and that’s what it meant to have been skipped the first time through the rotation.  I don’t think its a stretch to say that the other four guys have outperformed Gonzalez lately, either in potential (Joe Ross) or in 2014 performance (Tanner Roark).  Baker basically said that Gonzalez’s starts tax the bullpen so he had to consider when to use him.  Ladson notes that Gio struggled in spring training.

Q: With Trea Turner of to a nice start, when do we expect to see him in the big leagues?

A: Man that’s a good question; every additional week he’s hitting .350 in AAA and Danny Espinosa isn’t hitting his weight is another week where it becomes tougher and tougher to keep him down.  I still think he’ll hang out down there until the Nats regain a service year.  Ladson makes a good point; the Nats are winning without him so why change anything?

 

 

Ladson’s Inbox 4/8/16

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Werth looking shaggy; i'd like to see this beard in the leadoff hole. Photo via fansided.com

Werth looking shaggy; i’d like to see this beard in the leadoff hole. Photo via fansided.com

Wow, a ton of Ladson inboxes so far this year!  This is great!  Here’s the 4/8/16 version.

Q: I noticed on Twitter that you want to see Jayson Werth as the leadoff hitter now that Ben Revere is on the disabled list. Isn’t Werth best suited for the middle of the order?

A: Wow, Ladson and I agree!  I absolutely want Jayson Werth in the lead-off spot right now.  Why?  Because more and more it seems like Werth’s power has left him in his advancing age.  I’ve said it before in this space several times, but yes I believe Werth would be a great lead-off hitter.   Short version: sees a ton of pitches (4.16 P/PA last year, which would make him top 10 if he qualified … and that’s WAY down from normal).  Great OBP (.365 for his career, and while 2015 was an aberration the three years before he was in the .380 to .390+ range), and when he was coming back from his wrist injury and batting lead-off for the team in 2012 his splits batting lead-off were fantastic (.309/.388/.450).  When you put Werth in the middle of the order, he’s going to try to hit like a middle-of-the-order bat.  What if he can’t do that anymore?  Then you end up with a guy who we may be seeing right now; flailing at the ball, trying to drive it at the age of 36-37).  If you put him at the top, and ask him to be a leadoff hitter, I think his advanced bat skills make him a great option there.  Ladson says the same things I do; working the count, seeing lots of pitches.

Q: When are you going to give Danny Espinosa some credit? He is off to a good start. You always write about Trea Turner.

A: Yeah, great start.  He’s 3 for 9.  But he was awful all spring.  Can you spell “Short Sample Sizes?”  Nobody in the league or the organization has any question that Trea Turner is the future and Danny Espinosa is just holding the spot for now.  If he continues to earn playing time, so be it.  I’ll take an extra year of control if Turner hangs out in Syracuse for 2-3 months.  The fact is though that at some point somebody’s getting hurt (Ryan ZimmermanAnthony Rendon?  Both are good bets) that will require some infield coverage/shifting around, and at that point Turner makes perfect sense to bring up and see what he can do with full time playing time.  Ladson gives Espinosa some love.

Q: With Bryce Harper saying that he doesn’t view himself as a leader on the team, who do you think is the “official” leader of the Nationals’ clubhouse?

A: I’m pretty sure this is Harper‘s way of being deferential to the veterans on the team without proclaiming himself as the leader.  But lets not kid ourselves; this franchise has had one MVP and he’s it.  Who is the leader?  I think there’s several leaders; there’s four significant veterans on this team: Werth, Zimmerman, Max Scherzer and Jonathan Papelbon.  Not all of them have been here forever like the FotF has, but they’re the ones that have been around the league, who are on the 8-figure deals, and they’re the ones who seem to dictate the pace of the clubhouse.  Ladson also mentions Murphy and Ramosarguable.  I only name Papelbon because in the span of a few weeks he went from being the last guy hired to being the unquestioned leader in terms of tenure both here and in the league.  

Q: Were you surprised Sean Burnett wasn’t put on the 25-man roster?

A: Yes and No.  On the one hand, the team had two solid lefties in Felipe Rivero and Oliver Perez already under contract, and keeping Burnett would have meant sending down Treinen basically thanks to options issues.  And that would have been a non-starter.  If Burnett had 8th inning stuff, perhaps.  No, i see the Burnett signing and tenure as a “favor to a long standing former player” trying to help him get back on his feet in this league.  Ladson mentions we already had two good lefties.

Q: What do you think of outfielder Victor Robles?

A: I think he’s young, apparently talented, on pace to perhaps be a solid 5 tool player.  I also think he’s years away from helping this team.  So its great that he’s potentially great … but that doesn’t do much to help this current team win while it still has Strasburg and Harper under contract.  Ladson has glowing words for the 18-yr old.

PS: I was heading to the game today before they cancelled it due to … the threat of snow?  I dunno; its chilly right now but clear.  We’ll have to wait to get to our first game :-)

Nats System 2016 Pitching Staff Projections

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Scherzer leads the MLB rotation for a second year. Photo via sportingnews.com

Scherzer leads the MLB rotation for a second year. Photo via sportingnews.com

(Editor note: I was out of the country for the last week; good timing in terms of missing the snow, but not so much for trying to get on a flight back to DC.  Never got one actually; had to settle for a flight to JFK last night and a train ride ride down).

Now that we’re through all the 2015 Pitching staff review series, level by level, here’s a summary projection of what the pitching staffs may look like for 2016.  These projections are based on the 7 deep dive rotation reviews but are all put in one place.  Since player movement occurs daily, I may have missed one or two MLFA signings but these should be up-to-date as of the time of publishing.

All the reviews in the 2015 series:


 

Nats System Staff projections for 2016 season

(* == lefty, ^ == MLFA or new acquisition for 2016)

MLB

  • Rotation: Scherzer, Strasburg, Ross, Gonzalez*, Roark
  • Bullpen: Papelbon, Treinen, Rivero*, Perez*^, Kelley^, Gott^, Petit^, Barrett (60-day DL)
  • out of organization: Zimmermann, Fister, Storen (traded), Thornton*, Janssen, Carpenter, Stammen (non-tendered)

Quick Discussion: This assumes no more rotation acquisitions; if one occurs, bump Roark to long-man with Treinen then getting dumped to AAA save for injury (See next section for the Arroyo discussion).  It looks like the team can’t move Papelbon for anything of value and refuses to eat $11M and instead moved Storen for something we do value (a CF).  I know they’re still connected to random starters here and there, which continues my amazement in their lack of trust of Roark as an effective 5th starter (I guess his 50 innings in 2013 and 200 awesome innings in 2014 just weren’t convincing enough).  Honestly if they don’t trust Roark, then just call up Giolito.  This is their last season with Strasburg and one of their last with Harper, so “saving” Giolito at this “win now” point seems dumb.  We’ll see.

AAA

  • Rotation: Cole, Jordan, Espino, Voth, Laffey*^, THill, Arroyo^
  • Bullpen: Martin, Solis*, Grace*, Brady^, Bacus, de los Santos, Runion, Velasquez^, Masset^, EDavis, Burnett*^
  • Release Candidates: McGregor, Walters
  • out of organization: Billings, Bleier*, Swynenberg, Fornataro, Meek, Runion, Lively, Gutierrez, Valverde, Delcarmen, RHill, Overton

Quick Discussion: Both Hill and Davis took outright assignments to AAA to stick with the team after being DFA’d in the last few weeks: this could lead to some downstream moves in spring training (specifically someone like McGregor getting squeezed in a numbers game).  We have slightly overloaded the bullpen assuming that there’s some injuries to come.  Only a few “veteran MLFA” types listed here, a good sign for the system and its ability to generate upper-level minor league talent, but seemingly every other day we hear about more such signings, probably for competition purposes and/or to fulfil what seems to be the annual ritual of giving guys a few weeks of meal money to throw innings in spring training for one last shot at a roster spot.

The very recent signing of Bronson Arroyo is an interesting one; he’ll be 40, coming off of TJ and has shown himself to be effective even despite a lack of velocity even deep into his 30s.  Is he a competitor to Roark for the 5th starter spot?  Is this a favor to Dusty Baker?  For now, i’m putting him as AAA depth but have to think he’s got an opt-out if he doesn’t make the MLB team so he’s likely to be either the 5th starter or a FA come 4/1/16.

Post-publish edit: thanks to JohnC, I totally forgot about our early off-season MLFA signing of Sean Burnett, our old favorite loogy (who also happens to throw the ball right handed while shagging flies in the OF).  If he doesn’t have an opt-out, I’ll project him as a Syracuse loogy but perhaps behind Solis and Grace thanks to his lack of 40-man status.  I hope he’s still got it after two TJs.

AA

  • Rotation: Spann*, Giolito, Simms, Alderson, Lopez, Mapes, Gorski^
  • Bullpen: Mendez, Harper*, Shackelford^, NLee*, Benincasa, Suero, Thomas*, Walsh*, Robinson^, Whiting^
  • Release Candidates: Rauh, Bates, Self, Dupra
  • out of organization: Purke*, Pivetta, Simmons, Demny, Ambriz, Gilliam

Quick Discussion: here’s where we start to see some log jamming going on; we already have 6 good candidates for the AA rotation (and that was before the recently announced Gorski signing), 10 for the bullpen (some of which already have been promoted to AAA in 2015) and another 4 guys who could still slot in somewhere who i’ve called “release candidates” because of the numbers game.  That’s 20+ guys for 12-13 slots.  Do they get pushed down and cause cascading High-A fall out (where the story is the same?) or do we see some wholesale shredding of contracts this coming spring training?  Do you move UP guys like Giolito, Harper instead and cut AAA veteran MLFAs?

High-A

  • Rotation: AWilliams, Valdez, Dickson, Bach*, Van Orden, Fedde
  • Bullpen: Johanssen, Amlung (swingman),  Napoli*, Orlan*, Glover, Brinley, Sylvestre*
  • Release Candidates: RPena, Turnbull*
  • out of organization: Schwartz, Howell, CDavis, MRodriguez, Cooper (just released)

Quick Discussion: Again, I see this as an overloaded squad; 6 starters, 10 relievers.  Perhaps some AA guys drop down, perhaps there’s guys listed here to are more likely release candidates than sure things (Napoli?  Amlung?  Johanssen even?). We may eventually get our answer; the team just released Cooper despite my thinking he was more or less a lock for the Potomac bullpen in 2016.   I’m really curious to see what a couple of the starters here do this year in particular: Austen Williams and Erick Fedde.  We talked earlier about Fedde perhaps starting the season in Hagerstown … but as we’re about to see, there’s just so many guys for a couple of slots.

Low-A

  • Rotation: LReyes, JRodriguez, ALee, Dickey, Hearn*, Crownover*
  • Bullpen: MSanchez (swingman),  Guilbeau*, Borne*, Rivera Jr., Gunter, Peterson, Baez
  • release candidate: Estevez, DWilliams, DRamos, Boghosian, Mooney, Pirro
  • out of organization: Ullmann, KPerez, Mooneyham, Johns (just released)

Quick Discussion: 6 projected starters, another 8 for the bullpen, and another 6 relievers who … well, i’m not sure where you put them.  You can’t have 20 pitchers in XST can you?  Well, maybe you can and they can catch on with the short-season squads … but look at who is already projected for Short-A below.  In the comments section of the Short-A post a few weeks back, we talked about the four lefty college starters who were drafted and in the Auburn rotation (Hearn, Crownover, Guilbeau and Borne); all had more or less the same pro numbers in Auburn; who stays in the rotation moving up?  Who goes to the pen?  There were already 4 guys who made sense to project to the Hagerstown rotation; where are 4 more college lefties going to go?  Its almost like the team needs an entire additional low-A team to staff.

Short-A

  • Rotation: Bourque, AMartinez, Valero, Watson
  • Bullpen: Morales (swingman), LTorres, Acevedo, Harmening, Serrata
  • release candidates: Feliz, Reynoso, Mills, DeRosier, VanVossen, Copping, Pantoja
  • out of organization: Overton, Plouck, Webb, McDowell, Sylvestri

Quick Discussion: I’ve already got nearly a full squad of arms for short-A as it is, and we havn’t accounted for any 2016 draftees nor potential dropdowns from Hagerstown.  I just feel like there’s going to be some whole sale releases this spring.  Either that or Rizzo is going to draft nothing but bats in 2016.

Rookie

  • Rotation: Avila, Fuentes, WPena
  • Bullpen: CPena
  • release candidate: De La Cruz
  • out of organization: Salazar, Jauss, DVasquez, Morel, EGomez, Charlis, JRamirez, Costa, Uribarri, Mancini, Yrizarri, Bermudez

Quick discussion: practically nobody in the domestic system right now projects to repeat the Rookie league, which means that a) we should expect a ton of guys to make their way from the DSL and/or b) we should expect more 2016 draftees to start here.  Perhaps I should have done a review of the DSL guys to make predictions on who earned their way off the island.

 

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Guys who really impressed me in 2015 and to watch out for in 2016.  Kind of my own version of Luke’s “watch list” but I was definitely struck by several guys while doing these posts and here’s the list.

  • MLB: Ross, Rivero
  • AAA: Espino, Martin
  • AA: Voth, Giolito, de los Santos, Harper, NLee
  • High-A: Lopez, Mapes, Walsh
  • Low-A: Valdez, ALee, Orlan, Glover, Brinley
  • Short-A: AWilliams,Fedde, Rivera Jr, Johns (why was he released??)
  • Rookie: Valero, Watson, Avila