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2014 Projected Pitching Staffs and Rotations; entire Nats system

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Mr. Detwiler's 2014 assignment will have cascading effects for MLB and AAA.  Photo Haraz Ghanbari/AP via federalbaseball.com

Mr. Detwiler’s 2014 role will have serious cascading effects for MLB and AAA. Photo Haraz Ghanbari/AP via federalbaseball.com

OK here we are.  We did seven comprehensive pitching staff reviews (the GCL review is here, which has links to the other 6 reviews) in order to arrive at this post.

So, without further ado, here’s what I’m predicting for all seven systems right now, absent any more deals (like say for a MLB lefty or another starter or trading a closer to Chicago):

 MLB Level

  • MLB Rotation: Strasburg, Gonzalez (L), Zimmermann, Fister, Detwiler (L)
  • MLB Bullpen: Soriano, Storen, Clippard, Stammen, Blevens (L), Ohlendorf, Roark
    MLB out of Org: Haren, Duke (L), Abad (L), Krol (L), HRodriguez

Discussion: the 5th starter competition could shake out so many different ways, that it almost is not worth predicting.  I can see any of the following scenarios playing out:

  • Detwiler gets one last shot at the 5th starter as the incumbent, pushing Jordan to AAA and Ohlendorf/Roark to the bullpen (my current prediction).
  • Jordan wins the 5th starter, pushing Detwiler to the bullpen as a power lefty by virtue of his lack of options.  This would push (likely) Roark to AAA.
  • Roark wins the 5th starter, continuing his blistering sub 2.00 ERA pace from September, pushing Detwiler to the bullpen and Jordan to AAA.
  • Less likely, Karns wins the 5th spot, which pushes Detwiler to the bullpen and Roark & Jordan to AAA.
  • Even more less likely, Ohlendorf wins the spot, which pushes Detwiler to the bullpen but lets Roark stay as the long man/spot-starter.
  • Mike Rizzo shocks us again with another starter acquisition; Detwiler goes to the bullpen, Ohlendorf stays as long man, and Roark & Jordan are in AAA.

Why am I predicting Detwiler will win the rotation spot?  Partly because of options, but partly because I’ve sort of come back around on him after looking more closely at his 2013 season.  He had a decent to good 2012; he posted a 118 ERA+ and even if his advanced FIP/SIERA didn’t indicate he was quite that good, he was still more than a servicable 5th starter.  Then in his first seven 2013 starts he was also very good (he had a 2.53 ERA in his first 7 starts and 42 2/3 innings … he got hurt in his 8th start).  The rest of his season was a mess, with him fighting injury and ballooning his seasonal ERA from 2.53 to more than 4.00 in five more starts.   If he comes back healthy to start 2014, why wouldn’t we expect more of the same performance that he had at the start of 2013?  For these two reasons, I think Detwiler breaks camp as the 5th starter.  Now …. I have zero confidence that he’ll remain healthy enough to keep his spot in the rotation, but that’s a problem for another day.  And a problem for which this team has plenty of coverage.

Another scenario that could affect this predition: Rizzo acquires yet another lefty reliever (latest rumors were about Scott Downs before he signed elsewhere, but I’m sure a trade could be arranged), which complicates any of these predictions because it means one less spot for either Ohlendorf or Roark.  For a team that seems so obsessed with left-handed relievers, we sure have let a bunch of them go in recent years (Duke, Abad, Krol this year, Gorzelanny, Lannan, Burnett and Gonzalez last year).  Maybe we should just hang on to one or two of these guys?  I will say this: I do NOT believe that the Nats will choose Xavier Cedeno and his 6 2013 MLB innings for the Nats over Roark just because he’s left handed at this point.

Personally, I think Roark and Ohlendorf pitched like big leagers last year and deserve to stay in the majors until they prove otherwise.  Ohlendorf’s recent $1.25M deal seems to indicate he’s more likely to stick than Roark, but perhaps the long-man/spot starter competition is open as well.  This pushes previous stalwards in the bullpen (specifically Ryan Mattheus ) to AAA.   I will say this though: if you expect to win, you have to go north with your 25 best guys no matter how much they make or their option status.  And at the end of last year, that undoubtedly included Tanner Roark.  So thats why I’m going with Roark in the pen to start the season.

One other wrinkle; does Rizzo trade one of Storen or Clippard to Chicago, who desperately needs a closer?  This seems less likely, especially for a team that has World Series aspirations, but the truth is this team is paying a LOT of money into its bullpen ($25M and counting), has three closer-quality guys, and potentially a log jam of righties (see the AAA bullpen prediction for more).  I see this as less likely unless Chicago sends back pieces that we really need, but rumors get started because GMs are talking, so maybe this still happens.  But if a guy like that is traded, then that re-opens a slot for the deposed Mattheus or possibly the newly healthy an electric Garcia.   I think these are lesser possibilities and both those guys are pushed to AAA to begin the season.

I’m sure this section garners plenty of discussion; have at it in the comments :-)

AAA Level

  • AAA Rotation: Jordan, Karns, Rosenbaum (L), Young, MLFA or two?
  • AAA Bullpen: Barrett, Mattheus, Garcia, Davis,  Cedeno (L), Robertson (L), Herron (AA?), Alfaro, Stange, Delcarmen
  • AAA Release candidates: Meyers, Lehman
  • AAA out of Org: Maya, Tatusko, Clay, Mandel, Torra, Broadway, Crotta, Lowe, Kimball, Accardo, Bramhall, Romero (L)

Discussion

So, the projected AAA rotation has one hold over in Rosenbaum, two “promotions” in Jordan and Karns, and then a whole bunch of question marks.  Is Chris Young healthy enough to pitch this year?  Is Brad Meyers?  Right now i’ve got Meyers as a release candidate, figuring that he hasn’t been healthy in two years and may be finished.  I have to think that the team will give a couple of lower-level free agents minor league contracts to try to pitch their way back into the league, much as they have done with the likes of Zach Duke, Ross Ohlendorf and Young in the last couple of off-seasons.  There’s plenty of guys out there who may make sense; a quick glance at the current list of free agents offers intriguing names (think of someone like a Joe Saunders or a Barry Zito or an Aaron Harang; do you think these guys are getting guaranteed contracts for 2014?).  I’m predicting that at least one or two of these types of guys get MLFA deals and end up in the AAA rotation, though I suppose at least one guy i’m projecting from the AA rotation could start in AAA.

The AAA bullpen has a couple of MLB-quality arms in Ryan Mattheus and Christian Garcia who we know can contribute at the MLB level but who end up here because of a numbers game at the big club.  The AAA closer likely is Aaron Barrett, newly added to the 40-man and looking to make his mark.  Erik Davis is here, who I kind of soured on last season but his numbers in small MLB samples were good and I think he can contribute in a Craig Stammen sort of way going forward.  We have a couple of hold-over loogies in Xavier Cedeno and Tyler Robertson, the latter of which successfully passed through waivers and was outrighted to Syracuse last month.   We already have three off-season MLFA signings (Gabriel Alfaro, Daniel Stange, Manny Delcarmen) who all project as righty middle relievers, making it seemingly less likely that the team will retain some of its own MLFAs (the likes of Ryan Tatusko and Jeff Mandel being longer serving Nats minor leaguers who pitched decently in 2013).

But as you can see there’s more candidates here than there is room on the Syracuse roster (10 for 7 spots, and that’s assuming that Pat Lehman doesn’t make the cut either).  There will be injuries and D/L stints among these guys, but there may also be some releases next March.

Still, a AAA rotation led by Jordan and Karns (and possibly Ohlendorf and/or Roark if another move is made at the MLB level) leaves Syracuse with a pretty good staff to start the season.  And I like the fact that we have one reasonably accomplished MLB starter (Jordan) waiting in the wings to go along with a guy who might get there soon (Karns), to go with potentially a couple other former major league guys who are working their way back.

AA Level

  • AA Rotation: Cole, Hill, Solis (L), Schwartz, Treinen (AAA?)
  • AA Bullpen: Benincasa, Mirowski, Holland,  Swynenberg, Grace (L), Bates, KPerez, Gilliam (swingman), Spann (L)
  • AA release candidates: Perry, Selik, Demny, RMartin
  • AA out of Org: Broderick, Ray, McCoy, Frias, Holder, Bray

Discussion

We’ll see this trend again and again; despite the fact that the likes of A.J. Cole and Taylor Hill reached AA last year, the organization seems to like seeing these guys “beat the level” a second season in a row before moving guys up.  And so I see these guys in AA again.  Sammy Solis here is no surprise; he’s nearly 26 and has been mentioned as a MLB bullpen candidate already.  Meanwhile for the time being i’ve got Blake Treinen here, repeating the level, but can also see him moving up to AAA.  His numbers were good but not *that* good last year, and I left him in AA assuming that the team will try out some re-treads in the AAA rotation.  Lastly Blake Schwartz gets a deserved promotion after leading Potomac in IP, wins and starts last year.

In the bullpen I think Robert Benincasa is your closer to start, with Richie Mirowski and Neil Holland continuing to put up dominating late-innings relief.  All three guys should be pushing for promotions to AAA.  We’re a little light on lefties here admittedly.  A couple of injury-prone guys in Ryan Perry and Cameron Selik are listed as release candidates in the face of a number of guys meriting placement here.  Paul Demny and Rafael Martin have been around forever and may also be release candidates at this point, but they also could (at least in Demny’s case) convert to relief and try to rekindle their careers.  Lastly, there’s newly acquired Matthew Spann, the bounty for the Nats gambit on David Dejesus near the end of last season.   He’s a lefty who looks like he could start but i’ve got him in the bullpen for now.

High-A Level

  • High-A rotation: Purke (L), Anderson, Mooneyham (L), Encarnacion, Bacus, Turnbull (bullpen?) (L)
  • High-A bullpen: Wort (AA?), Holt (AA?), Fischer, Henke, Mendez, Harper (L), Davis, Thomas (L), RPena (swingman), Dickson (swingman)
  • High-A release candidates: Dupra, Rauh (starter?), Meza (L)
  • High-A out of org: Pineyro, Hawkins

Discussion

I don’t think there’s too many surprises in this rotation: Matthew Purke leads the line and should push for a promotion mid-season.  If he doesn’t dominate High-A at this point it may be time to think about moving him to the pen.   The same can be said about Brett Mooneyham and especially Kylin Turnbull, two guys who (by now) should have accomplished this level.   Otherwise the rest of this projected rotation are three guys who succeeded in Low-A in 2013: Dixon AndersonPedro Encarnacion and Dakoda Bacus.

In the bullpen, at this point i’m not sure who the closer candidates are to start the season.  Perhaps Greg Holt starts in the role.  Perhaps low-A phenom Gilberto Mendez gets a shot at closing.  Both Holt and Rob Wort may belong in AA at this point; Wort began 2013 there but there’s a lot of relievers in that AA section who would have to get hurt/be released to make room for these two guys right now.  There’s a couple of decent swingmen candidates here in Ronald Pena and Ian Dickson both started for long stretches in Hagerstown and could be useful guys in Potomac.    There’s a lot of names in the mix here for this bullpen; from here on down there could be plenty of releases come the end of spring.

 

Low-A Level

  • Low-A rotation: Giolito, Johansen, Voth, Lee (high-A?) (L), Orlan (L)
  • Low-A bullpen: Self (high-A?), Selsor (swingman), Ullmann, Pivetta, Simms, Hollins, Napoli (L), Bafidis (L), Suero (swingman), Valdez, Walsh (L), Aries
  • Low-A release candidates: Joyce, Waterman, Boyden
  • Low-A out of org: McKenzie, Smith

Discussion

I like this rotation, a lot.  Two of our best prospects, a third guy in Austin Voth who impressed last year, a guy in Nick Lee who probably deserves a high-A rotation spot and then Auburn’s staff leader in Robert Orlan.  Jake Johansen may find himself needing a promotion quickly, if he’s all that he’s cracked up to be.

The bullpen is going to be tough; basically every college aged short-season guy who pitched well in 2013 is named in this bullpen competition.  There’s a couple of interesting DSL graduates in Wander Suero and Phillips Valdez, some big arms in Ryan Ullmann and Nick Pivetta, and some polished college-aged lefties in David Napoli, Cory Bafidis and Jake Walsh.   I have 15 names here for 7-8 spots; Viera’s extended spring training could be busy this year.

 

Short-A Level

  • Short-A rotation: Barrientos, JRodriguez, Silvestre (high-A?) (L), and then 2013 draftees and/or drop-downs from Low-A
  • Short-A bullpen: DWilliams, Cooper, KRodriguez, Derosier, Webb (L), Spezial (L), 2013 draftees and drop-downs from Low-A
  • Short-A release candidates: Sylvestri, Grisz
  • Short-A out of org: Hudgins, Simko, Dicharry

GCL Level

  • Rookie Rotation: Ott (L), 2013 draftees and DSL graduates
  • Rookie bullpen: RLopez, 2013 draftees and DSL graduates
  • Rookie release candidates: DRamos, MRodriguez

Discussion

Its frankly impossible to predict the short-season squads, since (especially Auburn) they exist to park newly signed draftees.  However, I do see a ton of guys who competed and succeeded in the GCL this year who won’t necessarily make the Hagerstown squad, and I see them forming a good chunk of the Auburn squad.   The rest of the Auburn squad will be populated with upper-end 2014 draftees and losers from the Hagerstown pitching staff competition.  More of the same with the 2014 GCL squad, which was heavily tilted with DSL graduates this year.  The Nats tend to focus on college arms and thus only small college guys are generally put in the GCL in their draft year.

Hagerstown/Low-A Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2013

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Pedro Encarnacion was the staff leader for Hagerstown in 2013.  Photo via flickr.

Pedro Encarnacion was the staff leader for Hagerstown in 2013. Photo via flickr.

This is the 5th in the 2013 Pitching staff review series, here’s a review of Hagerstown/Low-A’s pitching staff for 2013.  Other parts of the 2013 series:

For some historical perspective, here’s 2012′s version (Aaron Barrett was the feature pitcher) and 2011′s version (Taylor Jordan the feature pitcher) of this post specifically for Hagerstown/Low-A.

All stats are courtesy of either milb.com’s Hagerstown 2013 Stats page or via Fangraph’s Hagerstown 2013 page.   Also useful here are the Big Board and the Nats Draft Tracker since so many of these lower-minors guys are recent draftees.

Hagerstown starters.  The rotation started the season with Anderson, Mooneyham, Pineyro, Pena and Encarnacion.  It ended with Turnbull, Encarnacion, Bacus, Voth, and Johansen (with Dickson in the rotation most of the last half of the season as well).  There were quite a few changes along the way; I counted 8 pitcher promotions throughout the year, including 6 starters.  Lets take a look at the High-A starters for 2013, starting with the original five and then counting down by the number of starts.

  • Dixon Anderson got the ball opening day and threw 15 decent starts for the Suns, even making the all-star team.  He started to struggle in June, hit the D/L at the end of that month and never re-appeared.  As you might imagine, its hard to find out injury news for guys in the low minors, so the extent of his injury is unknown to me at this time.  Which makes it kind of hard to predict where he’ll be next year.  He had good component ratios and was a college draftee from a good baseball school, so you’d think he’s ready to move up.  Outlook for next season: High-A rotation if he’s healthy.
  • Brett Mooneyham absolutely dominated low-A ball, posting a 1.94 ERA and going 10-3 in 93 innings before mercifully being pushed to Potomac.  And this comes as no surprise; a 3rd round pick from a Pac-12 baseball power should dominate a bunch of kids 2 years his junior.  I’m not sure what was left to prove in Hagerstown, especially when it became clear he was overpowering the league.  To be fair, he did have a 6 week D/L stint that factored in; but once he came back and dominated towards the end of June he should have been pushed up.  Outlook for next season: High-A rotation.
  • Ivan Pineyro threw 13 good starts for Hagerstown, was promoted, then got 3 starts in High-A before he was flipped for Scott Hairston.   Outlook for next season: in the Chicago Cubs organization.
  • Ronald Pena started in the rotation for Hagerstown, then was pushed to the bullpen to become the long-man by June.  He ended the season with decent enough numbers: 4-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 28 appearances (10 starts).  His component ratios weren’t that great: 55/34 K/BB in 88 innings, but he did give the Suns a great playoff stint in long relief.  Where does a guy like this go from here?  Outlook for next season: high-A bullpen in a similar long-relief/spot starter role.
  • Pedro Encarnacion was the staff leader for Hagerstown this year, leading the team in starts, wins (technically tied with Mooneyham), innings pitched and K’s.   The DSL graduate posted a 10-9 W/L record with 113/37 K/BB in 128 innings.   He had a 1.19 whip on the year, and his FIP (3.50) flattered his ERA (3.58).   Encarnacion right now represents the most accomplished DSL graduate in the entire system (when speaking of pitchers anyway), perhaps the best DSL pitching prospect we’ve had the entire time the team has been in Washington (who is more accomplished?  Atahualpa Severino?), and I see no reason for him not to keep climbing the ranks next year.    Outlook for next season: High-A rotation.
  • Nick Lee joined up with Hagerstown in mid May and gave the team 17 decent starts before hitting the D/L to make way for new acquisition Dakota Bacus in August (more on him later).   He had impressive K rates (102 strikeouts in 91 innings) and a FIP (3.54) that flattered his ERA (3.95).   He had a number of sparkling outings interspersed with a couple of failures, but for the most part was consistent this year.  Outlook for next season: High-A rotation competition, possibly dropping back to Low-A if the numbers game doesn’t work out (he’s young; he’s still 22).
  • Kylin Turnbull lasted just three high-A starts, giving up 10 runs in 17 innings and was demoted to low-A.  Repeating Hagerstown, he was again poor, putting in just 5 mediocre-to-bad starts before being sent to XST, where he toiled for a few weeks before joining up with Auburn to start the short-season.  He pitched to a 1.96 ERA in four short-A starts and earned a promotion back to Hagerstown, where he finally settled down and finished out the year.  Unfortunately he laid an egg in the playoffs, but a lot of our guys did.  On the whole in Hagerstown for the year, he performed ably; a 3.58 ERA in 16 starts.    Outlook for next season: Attempting High-A’s rotation again, but i’m wondering if he’s cut out to start.  Despite his draft pedigree (4th rounder in 2011) he may be eventually bound for the bullpen as a lefty specialist.
  • Ian Dickson was acquired in early June from the Cubs when the Nats finally DFA’d Henry Rodriguez.  I define this transaction as “getting something for nothing.”  Dickson joined the Suns bullpen, showed his big arm, then was mostly a starter for the rest of the season.  All in all for the Suns he had 16 appearances (10 starts) and posted a 4.39 ERA with more than a K/inning.  Meanwhile his K/BB ratio was fantastic for such a strikeout guy (71/17 in 65 2/3 innings for the Suns this year).  Is he a starter?  Outlook for next season: High-A swingman/spot-starter.
  • Matt Purke over-matched low-A in 6 starts (posting 41 K’s in 29 innings) and was pushed to Potomac in early July.  See the high-A writeup for more. Outlook for next season: High-A rotation.
  • Others who got just 1-2 starts for Hagerstown:
    • Austin Voth is an exciting 2013 draftee who blew through both short season teams to end up in the low-A rotation and get the opening playoff start.  See the short-A writeup for more.
    • Jake Johansen is, as we all know, the Nats top draft pick from 2013.  He (like Voth) pushed his way to low-A this season.   See the short-A writeup for more.
    • Dakota Bacus came to the team in late August in trade for Kurt Suzuki; he spent most of the year in Oakland’s low-A team and performed ably.  He posted a 3.65 ERA in 121 innings but showed a bit of a wild streak.   Outlook for next season: High-A rotation competition.
    • Blake Schwartz blitzed through 4 starts in low-A and was quickly promoted to Potomac.  See the high-A write-up for more.  Outlook for next season: AA rotation.
    • Brian Dupra earned two promotions on the season to end up in Potomac’s bullpen.  See the high-A write-up for more. Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen competition, possible release.
    • Reynaldo Lopez gave Hagerstown a spot start, getting called up from Auburn.  See Short-A write-up for more.
    • Ryan Mattheus got a rehab “start.”  See MLB write-up for more.

Hagerstown relievers.  We’ll start with the closers and work backwards by IP from there.  I will say this; when considering the future of middle relievers in low-A ball, everything is a crap shoot.  Most of these guys are already “org guys” before they’ve even really started their careers and its really difficult to project where they may go.   Unfortunately, lots of these guys may end up being post spring-training releases to make way for the newer crop of draftees.

  • Robert Benincasa led the Suns in saves despite being promoted mid-season.  See the high-A write-up for more.   Outlook for next season: AA/High-A bullpen.
  • Gilberto Mendez dominated low-A this season, arriving in June, posting a 0.91 ERA and striking out 33 in 29 2/3 innings while earning 7 saves.   No reason to think the 2011 DR signing isn’t moving on up.  I like this guy; so far he’s pitched pretty well at every level he’s hit.   Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen, possibly the closer if Benincasa is in AA.
  • Derek Self couldn’t make the leap to High-A, and spent most of the season in Hagerstown.  He posted decent numbers in low-A:  a 3.41 ERA in 31 2/3 innings pitching mostly towards the back of the bullpen.   Outlook for next season: trying the high-A bullpen again, possibly falling back to the low-A bullpen.
  • Travis Henke toiled most of the season in Hagerstown and got a late-season promotion.  In Low-A he posted a 2.72 ERA in nearly 60 innings of mostly longer relief.  He’s yet another decent find out of a small college (Arkansas – Little Rock) for the Nats scouting department. Outlook for next season: high-A bullpen.
  • Bryan Harper earned his keep in low-A this year, posting a 3.97 ERA in 45 innings.  He’s got to work on his control though; 32 walks in those 45 innings completely counter balance his nice K/9 ratio.  Outlook for next season: high-A bullpen competition as the matchup-lefty.
  • Cody Davis continued to pitch extremely well for an undrafted free agent signing, succeeding in his third straight season and third straight promotion.  For Hagerstown in 2013; a 2.76 ERA in 42 innings, more than a K/inning, nearly a 4/1 K/BB ratio and an even better FIP (2.33) than his ERA.  He’s clearly earned a shot at the next level.   Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen.
  • Brian Rauh started the year in Hagerstown’s bullpen as an 8th inning guy, didn’t really pitch that well but was pushed up to Potomac anyway.  See the high-A write-up for more.  Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen, perhaps a starter.  Perhaps a release candidate.
  • Christian Meza lasted about 5 weeks in Potomac, putting up a 6.62 ERA and greater than a 2.00 whip before getting demoted back to Hagerstown.  For Hagerstown he was better but still not great; a 4.00 ERA over 31 innings.  To be fair, his K rate was excellent and his FIP in such a short sample size was decent, but giving up 2 base runners an inning as a reliever is a no-no.  He’s entering his 5th pro season and has thus far been unable to succeed above low-A ball; he may face a do-or-die spring training in 2014.   He is a lefty though, and the lower parts of the system seem to lack lefty matchup guys, so this could be a saving grace.  Outlook for next season: trying the high-A bullpen again, possible release candidate.
  • David Fischer started the year in Hagerstown but was quickly bumped up to Potomac, where he served as a long-man out of the pen.  See the high-A write-up for more.  Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen.
  • Will Hudgins started the year in Hagerstown’s bullpen, was demoted to Auburn, and abruptly retired in July.   Odd in my opinion; his stats didn’t look that bad.  Outlook for next season: out of baseball.
  • Other relievers who didn’t get enough innings to really pass much judgement:
    • Justin Thomas bounced around the system in his first pro year, pitching at 4 different levels.  He only threw a grand total of 22 innings on the year so its hard to pass too much judgement.  He was a college senior draftee so you’d have to think he’s better suited for full-season ball in 2014.  Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen competition.
    • Chris McKenzie threw 12 innings of 5.25 ERA ball and was released, ending a 4 year tenure in the organization.  
    • Jason Smith got lit up in 7+ innings and was released.
    • Corey Bafidis stopped in to Hagerstown for two appearances before heading to Auburn.  See the short-A write-up.
    • Leonard Hollins had one appearance in low-A, got sent back to XST and spent the season in Auburn.    See the short-A write-up.
    • Jake Walsh had 1 IP during a brief callup in August, then joined the Suns for the playoffs.  See the GCL write-up for more.

Summary

The Suns were the first half champs on the backs of good (if over-aged) starting pitching.  It is what it is; the Nationals are drafting older players, focusing on college guys, and its just natural that our low-A team is going to trend older.   Based on what I see here, there’s going to be quite a competition for the High-A spots in 2014.  There’s going to be more guys than spots, both in the rotation and in the bullpen.

A lot of the names who featured for the Suns in the playoffs may very well be back to start 2014, giving the team an excellent chance of repeating as first half champs in 2014.

2013 Projected Pitching Staffs and Rotations; entire Nats system

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After finishing the evaluation of all 6 minor league pitching staffs, plus finally finishing (and posting yesterday) the MLB season review,  here’s an entirely too-early projection of what the staffs and rotations may look like in 2013.  This post assumes for the time being that all major and minor league FAs will opt out and we’ll be looking to fill spots.  In these cases I’ll mark FAs to be as needed, though we very well may acquire these players in trade.

Note: some of these projections are slightly different from the original reviews posted in the per-level links, to account for moves, performances and roster moves that have already happened or seem set to happen this off-season.  I’ve also made some slight adjustments in order to make the rotations and bullpens work at each level.

(notations: FA = free agent, MLFA == Minor League Free Agent)

Staff Review links: MLB is here, AAA is here, AA is here, High-A is here, Low-A is here, Short-A is here, GCL is here.

  • MLB Rotation: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Detwiler, FA or other acquisition
  • MLB Bullpen: Clippard, Storen, Mattheus, Stammen, Garcia, a FA left-hander (possibly Burnett), a FA long-man (possibly Gorzelanny).
  • MLB notables Out of Organization: Jackson, Burnett, Gonzalez, Lannan, Wang

MLB Narrative: 4/5ths of the rotation are no-brainers.  The 5th starter is the question mark for 2013.  Do we re-sign Jackson and pay him more as a 5th starter than our big 3 guys?  It doesn’t seem so after the team declined to give him a Qualifying Offer.  Do we trade from depth (RH relief, middle infield) and find a 5th starter that way?  Do we find a 5th starter from within?  Meanwhile the bullpen is now full of hard throwing righties, but we could lose all 3 of our lefties.  We may need to work the phones to retain these guys, or else we’re on the FA market.  I think (despite my discussion about converting Garcia to a 5th starter) that he’ll remain in the bullpen and may bump Henry Rodriguez out of a job.  One of our two closer-quality guys (Clippard and Storen) could be moved, cashing in on their value, which could open up a spot for a FA acquisition or a promotion from AAA.

Lots to be decided this off-season for Mike Rizzo, and this hasn’t even mentioned the dominos that will fall if/when the team makes a contract decision on Adam LaRoche.

  • AAA Rotation: Roark, Maya, Broderick, Meyers, Perry
  • AAA Bullpen: Tatusko (swingman), Arneson (swingman), Severino (loogy), Davis, Lehman, Nelo (closer), Martin,  Mandel

AAA Narrative: We have a lot of long-serving minor leaguers here; as it stands now only a few of them are even 40-man roster guys (Maya, Perry, Garcia).  The modern AAA roster construction is one of “spare parts” and prospects; do we have enough prospects to cover for injuries at the MLB level?  Which one of these AAA starters would Nats fans feel comfortable filling in were one of our starters to go down with injury?  Perhaps the Nats need to work on some starter depth via trade.  Brad Meyers was just returned from the Yankees after a season-long DL stint after being Rule-5 drafted, and seems likely to slot right back into the AAA rotation when he’s healthy.  Perry seems set to get a 4th option and should slot in here, looking to convert back to being a starter.  Broderick is a former Rule-5 pick and was claimed from St. Louis, who dumped him late last season.  I don’t think he’s anything more than a 4-A starter, but the organization seems to like him.

  • AA Rotation: Rosenbaum, Holder, Gilliam, Karns, Grace, Demny (swingman?) or MLFA?  Solis if he’s healthy?
  • AA Bullpen: Frias, McCoy, Selik (maybe high-A again), Holland (setup), Wort (closer), VanAllen (loogy), Demmin (maybe high-A again), an org arm or two to fill in.

AA narrative: We have a couple of interesting candidates in the AA rotation to start, but what may be more interesting is to see whether the likes of Gilliam and Demny hold onto their spots with the talent ready to rise up out of high-A.  Meanwhile, the bullpen has some interesting arms to keep an eye on.  I forgot to mention Solis in the AA write-up but remembered him here.  Two big questions for me in this AA rotation for 2013: 1) is Rosenbaum for real or is he going to sputter out before reaching MLB potential?   And, 2) Is Nathan Karns ready to make the leap?  I think Karns can quickly put his name in the mix to get promoted to AAA based on his performance in 2012.

  • High-A Rotation: Swynenberg, Ray, Meyer (maybe AA?), Schwartz (maybe low-A), Rauh (maybe low-A)
  • High-A Bullpen Competition: Barrett (maybe AA) , Testa, Smoker (loogy), Hill, Meza (perhaps a starter?), Holt, Hawkins, Bates, Mirowski
  • High-A bullpen Release candidates: Olbrychowski, McCatty, Applebee

High-A narrative: there’s too many arms for too few slots right now in all three of the A-levels.   There’s a ton of release candidates, and some guys who could be higher or lower.   I’d love to be a fly on the wall at the organizational meetings where all this evaluation is done.  Meyer dominated High-A last year; could he start in AA?   Barrett (by virtue of his AFL appearance) may also be AA material.

The same goes for the Low-A team below: I’ve got 5 logical rotation candidates, another 4 guys who make sense to be in the low-A rotation, and a slew of guys who seem to have earned their way to the low-A bullpen.  But there’s only 7 slots to go around.

  • Low-A Rotation: Turnbull, Jordan, Purke (if healthy), Monar, Mooneyham
  • Low-A Rotation Competitors: Hansen, Lee (loogy if not), Encarnation, McGeary (if finally healthy)
  • Low-A Bullpen Competition: Anderson, Estevez, Dupra, McKenzie, Henke, Davis, Boyden, Benincasa, Hudgins, Dicherry, Mudron

We acknowledge the folly of trying to predict short-season staffs which will mostly be populated with 2013 draftees, especially under the new CBA that shortens negotiation times, making it more likely college seniors are drafted (who sign quickly with zero leverage) and get playing.  That being said, there will definitely be guys who stay in extended spring training for a couple months and then get placed on these rosters along with new draftees.  Here’s some guesses based on 2012 performances; all blank spots filled by 2013 draftees or by some of the guys who drop down from low-A.

  • Short-A Rotation: Baez, Pineyro
  • Short-A Bullpen: Smith (if not released), Fischer, Medina, Pena, Mendez

GCL blank spots filled by younger 2013 draftees (HS, Juco and college juniors/seniors from smaller schools) and by rising DSL grads.

  • GCL Rotation: Mieses (if not released), Barrientos, Vasquez
  • GCL Bullpen: Heredes

GCL/Rookie Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2012

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The biggest story in the GCL was also its worst; Giolito injury. Photo Eric Dearborn via win-for-teddy blog

Click here for the 2011 version of this post, for a look at how things were last year.

Here’s the GCL version of the 2012 season pitching staff review.  I’m going down the line from top to bottom; AAA is here, AA is here, High-A is here, Low-A is here and Short-A is here.  As with the other reviews, we’ll look at the main rotation, the substitute and spot starters, then focus on key relievers.  Rehab appearances are generally not mentioned.  The lower you get in the minors, the harder it is to really pass judgement on a player’s real capabilities or career outlook, so take some of these evaluations with a grain of salt.  They say not to depend on small sample sizes and I agree; we’re doing after-the-fact analysis on a small sample size of a half a pro season in most cases.  This is especially true with Short-A and the GCL, where most of the roster are 2012 draftees.   So “outlook for next season” is almost entirely a guess for these players.  A ton of them will be left in extended spring to compete for next year’s short-season team, while a ton more will be released without much fanfare.

The rotations in the lower minor leagues are also not nearly as clean as in the upper-levels.  Lots of times the “starter” is slated to go as many innings as the “reliever,” a way to get two starter candidates longer stretches of innings.  We’ll try to take that into consideration as we move forward.

GCL starters.  The rotation started the season with Mieses, Barrientos, Pineyro, Vasquez, and Schwartz.   Lets see how the original rotation and other primary starters fared.

  • Adalberto Mieses put in his second poor rookie league season, posting a 5.05 ERA in 41 innings over 13 appearances and 6 starts.  He hasn’t appreciably improved over last year, which saw him put up similar numbers in the same league.  Outlook for next Season: GCL rotation competition or released.
  • Joel Barrientos pitched 45 innings as a swing-man/spot starter and posted respectable numbers (4-1 with a 3.00 era).  Especially considering that he turned 19 about a month ago.  The fact that he’s a tall lefty (though he must look emaciated; 6’2″ 145lbs?) is a bonus.  Outlook for next Season: Perhaps the low-A bullpen but more likely repeating GCL as a starter.
  • Ivan Pineyro dominated the GCL for 5 starts and got bumped up to short-A.  Outlook for next season: (from the Short-A post): Repeating short-A in the rotation.
  • Daury Vasquez was the GCL work horse, leading the staff in starts and IP.  The DSL grad actually improved on his 2011 DSL numbers (a hard feat), putting in work-man like stats of 4-6, 4.10 ERA in 52 2/3 inningsOutlook for next Season: He has  yet to turn 20, so I’d guess he repeats GCL as a starter.
  • Blake Schwartz didn’t seem to merit a two-level promotion, but he out-performed his 5 GCL starts in Hagerstown.  Outlook for next season: (from low-A post): high-A rotation, based on his status as a college senior grad.
  • Casey Selsor was drafted as an OF but threw 41 1/3 GCL innings in 2012 to a 6.10 ERA.   He was a college senior draftee who couldn’t get guys out in GCL; not a good sign for his future.  Outlook for next Season: low-A bullpen competition or released.
  • Wil Hudgins pitched mostly in the GCL after getting picked in the 22nd round this year and was pretty effective in 10 appearances and 6 starts.  4-3, 2.21 era and a great k/bb ratio of 25/3 in 36 2/3 innings.  Unfortunately, Hudgins is a college senior draftee throwing in the rookie league, so anything other than dominance is viewed as failure.  Outlook for next season: low-A bullpen competition.
  • Dixon Anderson threw a bunch of “rehab” innings in the GCL before finishing out the year in low-A.  Outlook for next season: (from Low-A post): competing for low-A rotation, dropping to bullpen.
  • Lucas Giolito, 2012′s #1 draft pick, threw 2 innings after rehabbing a partially torn UCL all summer and fully blew it out.  Tommy John surgery, see you in 2014.

 

  • Other guys who got spot starts here and there (non-rehab):
    • Anthony Marcelino appeared in one game, the 2nd GCL game of the season, pitched 4 innings and was subsequently released.  (?!).  I have no idea why.  Very odd; he worked through an injury all of 2011 and seemed ready to compete in 2012.
    • Kylin Turnbull, 2011′s 4th round pick who signed late and didn’t play in 2011, threw a few starts in the GCL to work out some kinks before returning to Hagerstown.
    • Wirkin Estevez threw three 3-inning rehab starts mid-season before returning to Hagerstown.
    • Ronald Pena made three “starts” of 2 innings each despite really being a reliever and then finished the season in short-A.
    • Andy Santana was relatively awful in 13 appearances and 2 starts; a 6.46 era in 23 2/3 innings.  It is hard to see a future for him after basically failing the rookie league two years in a row.
    • Gilberto Mendez looked pretty good in 33 1/3 GCL innings: 34/4 k/bb ratio and a 3.24 era.  He wasn’t nearly as effective upon reaching short-A.

GCL Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps at the end of the season.  These are done in order by IP for any reliever who didn’t get at least one start.  I’m basically ignoring any reliever who threw 9 or fewer innings in the GCL or who didn’t get a spot-start and is already mentioned above.

  • Inocencio Heredes threw 31 innings of good relief in the GCL this year, improving on his 2011 showing.   Outlook for next Season: maybe competing for a full-season bullpen spot but likely repeating GCL.
  • Kevin Dicherry was a college senior draftee who served as the closer in the GCL.  Good numbers, as you would expect.  He needs to be challenged.  Outlook for next Season: low-A bullpen competition.
  • Mike Mudron threw 24 relief innings in the GCL after he was drafted in the 32nd round as a college senior.  Outlook for next Season: low-A bullpen competition.

Summary

We all know by now that GCL is essentially used for two things: an entry point for graduating Dominican Summer League guys plus a first stop for the younger guys each draft class (High schoolers, juco guys and college guys from smaller programs).  Lots of guys never make it past the GCL, so there’s a lot of churn.  Records are nearly meaningless since so many rehab guys pass through working on a pitch or working out kinks.

Auburn/Short-A Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2012

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Brett Mooneyham was probably the biggest name in Auburn this year. Photo unknown via mlbdraftcountdown.wordpress.com

Click here for the 2011 version of this post, for a look at how things were last year.

Here’s the Short-A version of the 2012 season pitching staff review.  I’m going down the line from top to bottom; AAA is here, AA is here, High-A is here, and Low-A is here. As with the other reviews, we’ll look at the main rotation, the substitute and spot starters, then focus on key relievers.  Rehab appearances are generally not mentioned.  The lower you get in the minors, the harder it is to really pass judgement on a player’s real capabilities or career outlook, so take some of these evaluations with a grain of salt.  They say not to depend on small sample sizes and I agree; we’re doing after-the-fact analysis on a small sample size of a half a pro season in most cases.  This is especially true with Short-A and the GCL, where most of the roster are 2012 draftees.   So “outlook for next season” is almost entirely a guess for these players.  A ton of them will be left in extended spring to compete for next year’s Auburn team, while a ton more will be released without much fanfare.

The rotations in the lower minor leagues are also not nearly as clean as in the upper-levels.  Lots of times the “starter” is slated to go as many innings as the “reliever,” a way to get two starter candidates longer stretches of innings.  We’ll try to take that into consideration as we move forward.

Auburn starters.  The rotation started the season with Jordan/Medina, Baez, Monar, Encarnation, and Smith.   Lets see how the original rotation and other primary starters fared.

  • Taylor Jordan got 6 rehab-ish starts for Auburn before finishing the season in Low-A post Tommy John surgery. Outlook for next season: (from low-A post) Low-A rotation again.
  • Gregory Baez made 3 starts and was clearly hurt in his last one (giving up 5 runs and 5 hits in a 1/3 of an inning) before hitting the DL, where he’s stayed the rest of the season.  No word on the actual injury.  Outlook for next season: get healthy, try out the Short-A rotation again.
  • Blake Monar was one of two guys who stayed in the rotation from start to finish, ending the season with a 2-3 record and a 3.29 ERA.  He averaged a K/inning, but gave up too many walks (30 in 54 2/3 innings) which drove up his WHIP.  That being said, he kept the ball in the park (only one HR in those 54+ innings) and worked around his base runners effectively (his FIP was lower than his ERA).  I think Monar is a good lefty starter prospect for 2013 and beyond.  Outlook for next season: low-A rotation with a look towards promotion to Potomac.
  • Pedro Encarnation gave low-A a shot but couldn’t cut it, so he dropped to Short-A.  He improved on 2011′s short-A outing by starting the whole season and putting up a 4.20 ERA that was better than it seemed (his FIP was 3.59).  Outlook for next season: a repeat of 2012; he’s getting another shot at the low-A rotation, probably dropping to bullpen.
  • Nicholas Lee made the jump from wild bullpen lefty in 2011 to effective starter in 2012.  He was 3-1 with a 3.77 ERA in 62 mostly starting innings.  He cut down on his walk rate, he kept his stellar K/inning rate, and kept the ball on the ground (2 homers in 62 innings and a 1.48 go/ao ratio).  Per Nationalsprospects, he’s “not a hard thrower and scouts love his change-up.”  His FIP was nearly a point below his ERA, indicating that he was even more effective than we thought.  I like this guy; his only issue is being an undersized lefty, and thus having a tendency to be type-cast as a Loogy.  Outlook for next season: Low-A bullpen; I can’t see him sticking as a starter.
  • Brett Mooneyham was the 2nd biggest name out of our 2012 draft, going 3rd round out of Stanford (and after having gotten picked by the Nats twice before).  He’s a big, projectionable lefty who was effective in his first 10 pro appearances (2-2 with a 2.55 ERA).  But where’s the dominance?  Only 29 Ks in 42 innings.  I tend to agree with John Sickels‘ analysis, as stated here.  I’ll quote: “Just like in college: looks like a pitcher, good arm, but doesn’t dominate the way you think he should.”  Outlook for next season: Low-A rotation.
  • David Fischer was an 18th round 2012 draft pick who started the year in the bullpen and ended it in the rotation (probably to make up for promotions).  Numbers were soso; 4.96 ERA in total, slightly better in 8 starts.  I’m not sure he’s done enough to win a rotation spot in any 2013 team.  Outlook for next season: Repeating short-A in the bullpen.
  • Ivan Pineyro dominated the GCL, moved up to short-A and was not as effective, getting shelled his last two outings to balloon his ERA to 5.50 in 34 1/3 short-A innings.  It took him a year to solve GCL, perhaps it’ll take him 2013 to solve short-A.  Outlook for next season: Repeating short-A in the rotation.
  • Brian Rauh earned a quick promotion out of Short-A and finished the year in Hagerstown. Outlook for next season: (from the low-A post): low-A rotation.

 

  • Other guys who got spot starts here and there (non-rehab):
    • Silvio Medina got four spot starts amongst 16 short-A appearances and was something of a “wild thing;” 9 hit batsmen and 5 wild pitches to go with 20 walks in 47 innings.  His 4.98 ERA was well-earned.  He did average a K/inning.  The DSL graduate turned 22 and finished his 3rd pro season.  Outlook for next season: I could see him trying the low-A bullpen despite his numbers; he can always drop back down if he can’t cut it there or loses out amongst stiff competition.
    • Jason Smith had one spot start and 11 other appearances; he was basically awful in all of them, to the tune of a 7.94 ERA in 22 2/3 innings before getting shut down in early August.  This 2011 undrafted free agent was good in 2011 in the rookie-league but couldn’t make the jump in 2012.  Outlook for next season: short-A bullpen, if not released.
    • Wil Hudgins pitched mostly in the GCL after getting picked in the 22nd round this year.  Outlook for next season: see GCL post.

Auburn Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps at the end of the season.  These are done in order by IP for any reliever who didn’t get at least one start.

  • Travis Henke pitched most of the year in long-ish relief for Auburn and was pretty effective: 7-1, 2.78 ERA and good ancillary numbers.  Outlook for next season: low-A bullpen competition.
  • Cody Davis is a fighter; non-drafted 2011 FA who is just 5’9″ and 170 (hell, that’s my size.  Well, not the weight part anyway) but puts up good numbers from the hill.  2012: 50 Ks in 42 innings and a 3.64 ERA.  He faces an uphill battle though because of his size.  He’s got nothing left to prove though in either short-season league.  Outlook for next season: low-A bullpen competition.
  • Derek Self was the Auburn closer and had effective numbers, but not the dominant K/9 rates you’d expect.  Stats: 3.27 ERA in 33 innings and 16 saves.  He’s got the same issue Mooneyham does; big arm (92-95mph), projectionable frame (6’3″ 205lbs), but missing dominance.  Maybe he needs another pitch, or 20lbs of muscle on his body.   Nonetheless, there’s no reason to think he won’t move up next season.  Outlook for next season: low-A bullpen competition, though I doubt he sticks as a closer.
  • The Nats took a flyer on local product Michael Boyden and it may be paying off; he had a 1.07 ERA in 33 2/3 innings between the two short season teams.    That ERA was slightly lucky; he had 17 walks in 25 short-A inningsOutlook for next season: low-A middle-reliever.
  • Robert Benincasa showed power stuff with impeccable control in his limited time in Short-A.  23 1/3 innings, 32 Ks and just 3 walks.  Great season.  Can’t wait to see what this 7th rounder in 2012 out of Florida State can do at the next level.  Outlook for next season: low-A bullpen.
  • Jack McGeary threw a total of 9 1/3 pro innings in 2012, only coming off the DL in early August.  Outlook for next season: low-A rotation competition for what may be his final season in the organization.
  • Richie Mirowski threw 7 innings in short-A before finishing the season in low-A.  See Low-A post.
  • Ronald Pena and Gilberto Mendez each started the year in the GCL and got a cup-of-coffee in Auburn.  Both seem to feature as short-A bullpen candidates in 2013.
  • Other Relievers who appeared in Short-A (not including Rehabbing MLBers).  Some of these guys threw fewer than 10 innings on the year, not nearly enough to write-up.  Outlook for next season for all of these guys seems the same: another season in the low minors, struggling to make an impact.
    • Elliott Waterman 22 walks in 25 innings.  Needs to improve.
    • Bryan Harper had big K/9 rates but not much else.  He’ll need more than a famous younger brother.
    • Andrew Wall was mediocre in a handful of relief innings after signing as a non-drafted FA this year.
    • John Peters threw a handful of innings for Auburn but ended the year in GCL.

Summary

Auburn made the playoffs behind the strength of its pitching.  All up and down the staff you see dominant performances.  This bodes well as these guys matriculate to Hagerstown and beyond in 2013.