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Minor League Pitching Staffs: July check-in

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Braymer has earned his way to AAA. Photo via Auburn tigers

Braymer has earned his way to AAA. Photo via Auburn tigers

Now that our short-season domestic staffs have now had one full “turn” through the rotation, I thought i’d be a good time to do another rotation check-in.

We’ve done two previously, which we’ll leverage throughout here:

Note: I wrote much of this prior to the 7/2/19 games, so a few roster moves and observations may be missing.  Also, feel free to add in more detailed commentary for those who have studied the players more closely in a particular level; i did not do “just last month” splits on every single player so some players who have significantly improved upon slow starts (or the reverse) may be missed.


 

AAA/Fresno 2019

  • Rotation Now: Fedde, JRoss, McGowin, Hoover, Braymer
  • Rotation Mid-May: Voth, McGowin, Copeland, Espino, MSanchez.
  • Rotation to Start: McGowin, Copeland, Voth, Espino, Alvarez

Changes in the rotation since last post: Voth has earned his promotion, and then earned more starts over Fedde at the MLB level.  It looks like the “hey lets use Joe Ross as a reliever” experiment is finally over; he’s been returned to Fresno to officially get stretched out and return to the rotation.  Espino is on the DL, replaced by Hoover (who suddenly at 31 is a starter after years of pitching in relief?).  Sanchez got demoted and replaced by Braymer, who just arrived.  Lastly Copeland has been returned to the long-man/spot starter role.  The sole holdover from 6 weeks ago is McGowin … but what this doesn’t show is his own up-and-back movement.  Lots of shuffle in the Fresno rotation.

I’d like to highlight Ben Braymer though, because his being in AAA is pretty amazing.  He was an 18th round pick in 2016, signed for just $100k out of Auburn, and now sits in the AAA rotation at the edge of the majors.  I don’t think the Nats have seen such a low-round pick make it this far since perhaps Stephen Lombardozzi, a 19th rounder in 2008.

  • Bullpen Now: Self, Bacus, Blazek,  Kontos, Bourque, Baez with Alvarez, Copeland as long-men/spot starters
  • Bullpen mid-may:  Rainey, Hoover, Self, Bacus, Nuno, JMills*, Blazek with Alvarez as long-man/spot starter.
  • Bullpen to start: AAdams, Rainey, Hoover, Nuno, Self, Cordero and Bacus  with Dragmire as a spot-starter

Changes in the bullpen since last post: Rainey promoted … and immediately became Nats bullpen savior of the week.  Hoover now in the rotation.  Nunu cut loose after posting a 7.25 ERA in 22 innings.  Mills sent back down.  Bourque was promoted to the majors from AA, then optioned back to AAA.  Baez promoted from AA.  Kontos signed.  Copeland dumped to bullpen.  Rodney signed and quickly promoted.   Lastly Cordero, who was in DFA limbo last post, was claimed by Toronto and is gone.  Phew; that’s 10 different moves for the team, just 3 guys in the same place they were 6 weeks ago, and just two stable names from day one.

Who’s hot:  Dakota Bacus continues to be the most impressive reliever in AAA, maintaining a seasonal ERA of 2.36 and a whip of 1.19.   Ross’ numbers as a starter in Fresno are respectable; 3.68 ERA in 5 starts with just 4 walks.

Who’s not?  Kontos has not been good so far, but a lot of his ERA is one bad outing in Salt Lake.  Howell has gotten shelled in basically each of his last 6-7 outings and looks toast from the stat sheets.

Who’s next guy to get the call?   I think Bacus deserves the next call-up, perhaps over Bourque even though he’s not on the 40-man.  I’d like to see Ross get the next spot start, on regular rest.

Who’s next to get the Axe?   I think the team may be reaching the end of the line with over-30 MLFA guys like Kontos and Hoover, now that they’ve got a slew of new draft picks in.

How are we doing with these mini-predictions so far?

  • April: Adams and Voth to get the call, Dragmire to get the Axe.  Results?  Adams released (?), Voth now in Majors, Dragmire now demoted.
  • May: Voth, Rainey to get the call.  Hoover, Mills, Sanchez, Dragmire to get the Axe.  Results:  Voth, Rainey now in Majors.  Mills, Sanchez, Dragmire demoted.  Hoover still hanging in there.

AA/Harrisburg 2019

  • Rotation Now: Mapes, Fuentes, MSanchez, Tetreault, Crowe with ALee just called up
  • Rotation Mid-May: Crowe, Tetreault, Sharp, Mapes, Braymer
  • Rotation to Start: Crowe, Fedde, Sharp, Mapes, Braymer*

Changes since last post: Sharp to the D/L, replaced by Fuentes.  Braymer got bumped up, replaced by MSanchez coming back down.  Lastly Lee just got promoted and may be taking someone’s spot.

  • Bullpen now: Condra-Bogan, RPena, Guilbeau*,  JMills*, ABarrett, Bonnell with Dragmire spot starts.
  • Bullpen Mid-May: Bourque, Condra-Bogan, RPena, Guilbeau*, ABarrett with Baez, Ondrusek, Fuentes as swingmen/spot starters
  • Bullpen to start: Bourque,  Brinley, Condra-Bogan, JMills*, RPena,  Guilbeau*, ABarrett with  swingman/spot starts by Baez and MSanchez

Changes since last post: Bourque up, Baez up.  Fuentes moved from swingman to rotation.  Ondrusek bounced around, he’s currently on the AAA D/L.  Mills was up and is now back.  Bonnell was signed after being dropped by Tampa and has been pretty solid.   Venters was signed, appeared briefly and was called up for bullpen reinforcement duty.  Lastly Dragmire is dumped here after posting a double digit ERA in Fresno.

Who’s hot: Steven Fuentes has continued right where he left off in High-A, and holds a 1.80 ERA in 11 appearances/7 starts in AA.  He’s only 22.  I’m guessing we’re going to start seeing more of him on Nats top10 farm lists if he keeps this up.

Who’s not? Nobody is pitching egregiously bad honestly; Mapes and Tetreault are both posting worse than you’d like to see numbers but Tetreault is just 23 and is in AA for the first time.  Mapes is a bit more concerning; he’s now 27, in his 6th pro season, was a 30th round pick probably given a 4-figure bonus, and the team has almost nothing invested in him.

Who’s next guy to get the call?   Barrett?  I wonder what else he has to prove in AA at this point.   I’d say its a bit too early to promote Fuentes, and the rest of the rotation needs more time in AA.

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Mapes may be at the end of the line, given his draft pedigree.

How are we doing with these mini-predictions so far?

  • April: Crowe, Fedde to get the call.  Sharp, Gilbeau to get the Axe.  Results?  Fedde up, the rest still hanging in there
  • May: Crowe, Bourque to get the call.  Pena to get the Axe.  Results?  Bourque up, Crowe and Pena still hanging in AA.

 


High-A/Potomac 2019

  • Rotation Now: Johnston, Raquet*, Cate*, ?, MPena (the question mark is because Lee got promoted the day we were writing this)
  • Rotation Mid-May: Johnston, Borne*, Raquet*, ALee, MPena.
  • Rotation to Start: Johnston, Borne*, Tetreault, Raquet*, MPena, LReyes

Changes since last post: Borne to the D/L, Lee promoted.  To replace them we got Cate from Low-A and a question mark the be filled (if it were me) by Teel.   Otherwise a very steady rotation here: 3 of the 5 havn’t changed since opening day.

  • Bullpen now: Bartow, German, Istler, Fletcher* with Howard*, LReyes, Pantoja, Teel*, McKinney as swingmen.
  • Bullpen Mid-May: Bogucki,  McKinney,  Bartow, JRomero, LReyes, German with Howard*,  Teel* as swingmen
  • Bullpen to start: Acevedo, Bogucki, Fuentes,   McKinney,  Bartow with swingman/spot starts by Howard*,  ALee,

Changes from last time:  Istler returns from XST/witness protection.  Fletcher promoted from low-A, along with Pantoja (and Teel, and Cate: we’ve seen 5 promotions so far).  Bogucki released.

Who’s hot:  I like what I see out of Teel and Fletcher so far, both mid-season promotions.  Fletcher has a 24/5 K/BB ratio since being promoted a few weeks back, and Teel has now made it to his 4th pro level since being drafted last June.   Amazingly, Reyes seems to have found his calling, going 10 straight outings without giving up a run.

Who’s not? Raquet has the worst WHIP of the rotation, and Pena the worst ERA.  Yet both remain mainstays in the Potomac bullpen.  Raquet is putting up almost identical numbers to last year, but as a high-bonus 3rd rounder probably gets more rope than a similarly producing 15th rounder.  Pena is just 22 but may be working towards another year in Potomac.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  Istler really should be in AA; he’s given up zero runs in 10 High-A innings, which shouldn’t be a surprise since he spent most of last year in AA posting a 2.53 ERA.  Why exactly is he in Potomac?

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Unclear; McKinney’s season numbers are poor but he’s pitched a number of clean outings since his return from the D/L.  Cate’s first two starts havn’t been stellar.  I don’t have a great case for anyone to get demoted or cut.

How are we doing with these mini-predictions so far?

  • April: Tetreault and Fuentes up.  Reyes and Bourne to get the axe..  Results?  Both Tetreault and Fuentes since promoted.  Reyes dumped from the rotation finally, Borne on the D/L.
  • May: Nobody to get the call.  Bogucki and Reyes to get the Axe.  Results?  Bogucki indeed released, Reyes demoted to the pen but succeeding in new role.

Low-A/Hagerstown 2019

  • Rotation Now: Alastre, Schaller, Irvin, Adon, Stoeckinger*
  • Rotation Mid-May: Alastre, Adon, Cate*, Irvin, FPeguero.
  • Rotation to Start: Alastre/Day, Adon, Cate*/Tapani, Irvin/Teel*, FPeguero/AGuillen, Strom/Stoeckinger*

Changes since last post: Cate Promoted, Peguero to the D/L.  To replace them we’ve seen Schaller promoted up from XST/GCL and Stoeckinger pulled from the tandem starter ranks.  Like with Potomac, 3 of the 5 starters the same since opening day.

  • Bullpen now: Brasher, Tapani, Day, Howell, RWilliamson*, AGuillen as tandem starters/swingmen, TTurner, Vann* as conventional relievers.
  • Bullpen Mid-May: Stoeckinger*, AGuillen, RWilliamson*, Tapani, Fletcher*, Day as tandem starters, Brasher, TTurner in the pen as more conventional relievers.
  • Bullpen to start:  Day, Tapani, Teel, AGullen, Stoeckinger as tandem starters, German,  Fletcher* as conventional relievers.

changes since last post: Howell returns to the fold after missing all of 2018 with injury.  Fletcher promoted.  Vann (a 2018 draftee) promoted up from XST/GCL.

Who’s hot: Stoeckinger has earned his spot in the rotation (if, indeed he stays there).  2.54 ERA, 1.19 whip in 39 IP as a tandem starter this year.

Who’s not?  Alastre continues to struggle in the rotation; hes now ballooned to a 6.11 ERA and 1.71 whip on the year while repeating the level.   He’s only 21 though, so he’s got plenty of time.  Howell has struggled since his reinstatement, and he does not have a ton of time, being a lower round pick coming off injury.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  Turner has had a nifty time in the Low-A bullpen; 28 Ks in 17 innings.  I’d also say Peguero, who has the best stats of any starter, but he’s on teh D/L currently.

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Alastre.  Howell.

How are we doing with these mini-predictions so far?

  • April: Peguero and Fletcher up.  Alastre to get the Axe.  Results?  Peguero hurt, Fletcher up, Alastre still in the rotation.
  • May: Cate, Fletcher, Peguero up.  Brasher to get the demotion.  Results?  Peguero hurt, Fletcher and Cate up.  Brasher still holding on, having gone an entire month w/o giving up a run.

Short-A/Auburn 2019

  • rotation: NGomez, PGonzalez, CRomero, RGomez, Strom, Troop*
  • tandem starters: Chu*, Galindez*/AMartinez, AHernandez*, Segura
  • bullpen: JPeguero*, Willingham, Yankowsky,  Milacki, FPerez, ELee*, McMahan, McMahon, Moore, 

Its a little early to pass judgement on the starts out of Auburn, but we’ll do it anyway.   I will note though that with recent 2019 draftee assignments, there’s now TWENTY (20) arms on the squad.  So you have to wonder if we’re about to see some shedding.

Who’s hot:  Niomar Gomez has had 3 solid starts to begin the season, picking up where he left off last year.  Troop, in his 3rd pro season, has yet to give up a run while posting a 12/0 K/BB ratio in two starts and needs to be moved up.  Strom looks solid, after struggling in Low-A, and may be stuck between levels.

Who’s not?   18yr old Pedro Gonzalez has had 3 starts; in those 3 starts he’s pitched a grand total of 4 innings, given up 13 hits 5 walks and 18 total runs.  Those are Trevor Rosenthal numbers.  He had a 9.60 ERA in the GCL last  year; why exactly is he in Short-A going against college draftees 4 years his senior?

Who’s next guy to get the call?   Troop

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Gonzalez.

 


 

Rookie/GCL 2019

  • rotation: Denaburg, Alvarado/Seijas, Yean, Pozo, Rutledge, Peterson
  • tandem starters: Hiraldo, BPena*, Beasley
  • bullpen: Jameson, WSeverino, Amoroso, Dyson, Ferrer*, Cuevas, Ribalta

We’re basically one “turn” through the GCL rotation, and now we have 1st round pick Jackson Rutledge in Florida for (presumably) a short stay.  Surprise 2019 signees Michael Cuevas and  Orlando Ribalta are also here and may themselves be in the rotation (they were just assigned yesterday or today).

The Big News here is Mason Denaburg of course.  He’s finally on a team and pitching professionally.  Through two starts, he’s given up a couple runs in 7 innings, with a few too many walks.

Who’s hot:  too early

Who’s not?   too early.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  Rutledge really shouldn’t be here long.  Neither should Tyler Dyson, 5th round 2019 pick from Florida.  And neither should Todd Peterson, 7th round pick out of LSU.  Generally speaking, SEC starters are Short-A talents at worst, and should be fast tracked to Low-A

Who’s next to get the Axe? nobody.

 


 

XST names of interest

  • Why hasn’t Nick Wells been assigned to a level yet??  He was traded for weeks ago.
  • Robbie Dickey has not pitched since 2016,  yet still remains in XST.
  • 4th rounder Matt Cronin has yet to be assigned to a team; i’m really curious to see if he can move fast.

 

How did so many of Rizzo’s off-season moves fail to pan out?

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How is Corbin basically the only "good" off-season acquisition?

I just perused some team splits for 2019.  Your Washington Nationals offense is, as of this writing, (per Fangraphs):

  • 20th in fWAR; a *combined* 3.7.
  • 20th in wRC+, a paltry 91
  • 22nd in Batting Average, hitting .243 as a team
  • 9th in K% .. sitting at exactly 25% , but…
  • sitting 21st in ISO, meaning they’re striking out a ton but not getting the added benefit of the power.

How about the defense?  The team is

  • 27th in Fangraphs’ total Defense stat
  • 29th in UZR/150
  • 28th in DRS, a combined -27 of runs “saved”  (interestingly …their run differential sits at 32 right now, almost entirely on the defense)

And then there’s the bullpen:

  • 30th in bullpen ERA
  • 30th in LOB%
  • 25th in bullpen FIP
  • 21st in K/9
  • 24th in bullpen fWAR .. somehow grading out as a group to exactly neutral 0.0 fWAR.  In other words … completely replaceable across the board as a whole.

At least we have the starters:

  • #1 in fWAR
  • 13th in ERA, but
  • 4th in FIP (Fangraph’s fWAR for pitchers is heavy on the FIP … and the Nats starters are doing this with a .306 BABIP.
  • #2 in K/9.

Anyway … point is; the hitters are bad, the bullpen is awful, and the defense is atrocious.

How exactly did we get here?  Well, Mike Rizzo was incredibly active over the winter.  But, amazingly, practically all of his moves have turned out bad.  Here’s a list of all his major transactions in the off-season:

  • Kyle Barraclough: 4.67 ERA
  • Trevor Rosenthal: complete train wreck
  • Yan Gomes; hitting .228
  • Tanner Rainey: walked 12 in 18 innings in AAA.
  • Meanwhile Tanner Roark has a 3.51 ERA and a 127 ERA+ in 10 starts for Cincy this year.
  • Matt Adams: 89 OPS+ as our big “bench bat”
  • Anibal Sanchez: 5.10 ERA in 9 starts
  • Brian Dozier: hitting .205
  • Jeremy Hellickson: 6.23 ERA in 8 starts.
  • Tony Sipp: 5.79 ERA.
  • He cut loose Trevor Gott in February but kept a slew of other minor league arms: here’s Gott’s SF line so far this year: 21 innings, 2.11 ERA, 193 ERA+
  • He cut loose Austin Adams, who had a ridiculous 24/3 K/BB ratio in 12.1 Fresno innings, who then got picked up by Seattle and has punched out 7 of the first 11 batter’s hes faced.  But was he good enough for our bullpen?  Nope.
  • He brought in Dan Jennings: 13.50 ERA in 8 appearances.  Why exactly did he get the last 3-4 outings?

Even his AAA MLFA moves to provide veteran pitcher backup have been suspect:

  • Henderson Alvarez: 8.01 ERA in Fresno
  • Scott Copeland: 6.33 ERA in Fresno
  • Vidal Nuno; also a 6.33 ERA in Fresno
  • J.J. Hoover: 5.70 ERA in Fresno
  • Brady Dragmire: 11.48 ERA in Fresno, now mercifully on the DL.
  • Logan Ondrusek: had an ERA north of 5.00 in AA (as a 34-yr old).

In fact, really only a couple of his moves  have actually worked out:

  • Kurt Suzuki: 108 OPS+ in a backup catcher role.
  • Patrick Corbin: 3.25 ERA in 10 starts … well heck for $140M i sure hope he’s working out.

Look back at the performance of his roster moves.  Its absolutely astounding how badly he’s judged the talent he’s traded away versus the performance of what he acquired.

Look, this is not hindsight is 20/20 analysis.  I was totally on-board with a ton of these moves.  I really thought that Dozier and Rosenthal were good bounce back candidates and that Sanchez was a sneaky good signing.  And i’m genuinely dumbfounded that basically every off-season veteran gamble has failed to pay off.  Some of the moves I questioned at the time and continue to question (Gott, Roark, Adams).  You have to wonder how much of an indictment of the pitching staff it is when guys like Gott (to say nothing of someone like Blake Treinen) depart here and succeed elsewhere.  Even Lucas Giolito is starting to round into form with another organization, after clearly being dumped as being “unfixable” by this org.

The question is, now what?  What can this team really do?  If suddenly every guy with a sub 100 OPS+/ERA+ turned it around and succeeded, can this team run off a 20-8 month and get back into this race?  With this manager?

Minor League Rotations: Mid-May Check-in

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Wil Crowe is the best starter in the system right now. PHoto via insidenova.com

Wil Crowe is the best starter in the system right now. PHoto via insidenova.com

Since its so depressing to talk about the train wreck that the Major League team is … lets look at the minor league pitching pipeline.

We last checked in a couple weeks into the season on 4/15/19, so we’re just about a month past that post.  Lets revisit where we are.


 

AAA/Fresno 2019

The rotation is: Voth, McGowin, Copeland, Espino, MSanchez.   Changes from last post: Alvarez got dumped to the bullpen thanks to his  8.20 ERA, Dragmire is on the D/L,  Ross got promoted to the needy MLB bullpen, and MSanchez was promoted up from AA to fill the rotation gap.

The Bullpen is: Rainey, Hoover, Self, Bacus, Nuno, JMills*, Blazek with Alvarez as long-man/spot starter.   Changes from last post: Adams was DFA’d and traded for Nick Wells, a Battlefield HS grad who now gets to play closer to home.  Cordero was also DFA’d and as of this writing sits in DFA limbo.  To replace them the team promoted JMills from AA and signed Blazek off the street a day before this writing.

Who’s hot:  McGowin has thrown 4 straight QS.  Voth remains the best AAA starter, keeping his ERA under 4.00 despite playing in the PCL.  Self and Bacus continue to perform well in their first AAA experiences.  I continue to be dumbfounded why Adams was DFA’d; here’s his AAA line this year for Fresno: 12.1 IP, 2.19 ERA, 0.89 Whip, 24/3 K/BB.  Yet the team (at the time) thought it was more important to keep Cordero on the roster.

Who’s not?  Dragmire may go straight to release waivers off the D/L (28 hits in 13 IP).  Mills does not look ready for AAA (13.50 ERA in 8 IP).  Neither does Mario Sanchez (13 hits in 7IP in 2 starts).

Who’s next guy to get the call?   Voth if they need a starter.  The only 40-man reliever left here is Rainey and he can’t find the plate (28ks and 12 walks in 16.2 innings).

Who’s next to get the Axe?   the JJ Hoover experiment may be over.  Both Mills and Sanchez probably should return to AA.  Dragmire continues to be in jeopardy of his roster spot when he gets healthy.


AA/Harrisburg 2019

Rotation: Crowe, Tetreault, Sharp, Mapes, Braymer*.  Changes from last time: Fedde got promoted to the MLB bullpen, replaced by the promoted Tetreault.

Bullpen: Bourque, Condra-Bogan, RPena, Guilbeau*, ABarrett with Baez, Ondrusek, Fuentes as swingmen/spot starters.  Changes from last time: Brinley on the D/L, JMIlls promoted, Ondrusek demoted from AAA’s D/L, Fuentes promoted up from High-A.

Who’s hot: Crowe remains the best AA starter and is probably now the best SP prospect in our system.  Bourque has a 29/5 K/BB ratio in 18 innings and its rather inexplicable that he a) remains in AA and b) has not yet gotten called into the MLB relief corps to alleviate the bullpen issues.  Tetreault has picked up right where he left off in High-A, with a 1.43 ERA through 3 AA starts and now has a 1.50 across 7 starts and two levels on the year.    Barrett continues to look solid and has MLB experience, so may be an option in the future.

Who’s not? Mapes has the worst ERA of the rotation, really the only starter  you can quibble with.  Pena and Guilbeau are struggling in the bullpen.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  Crowe, Bourque

Who’s next to get the Axe? Pena; the org has stuck by him a long, long time fora  16th round pick.  He’s 27 in AA and now in his 8th pro season here.  But an ERA in the 6s puts him on the chopping line when the next reliever needs to be promoted.


 

High-A/Potomac 2019

Rotation: Johnston, Borne*, Raquet*, ALee, MPena.  Changes from last time: Tetreault promoted, Reyes dumped to the pen after posting an ERA > 9.00.   Replaced in the rotation by Lee, who was bumped up from spot-starter/swingman.

bullpen:  Bogucki,  McKinney,  Bartow, JRomero, LReyes, German with Howard*,  Teel* as swingmen and (presumably) Nick Wells showing up soon.  Changes from last time: Acevedo released, Fuentes promoted, JRomero re-instated from XST, German and Teel promoted from Low-A.

Who’s hot:  I like what I see out of Lee in the rotation so far; he’s got the best ERA and peripherals of any High-A starter.   Teel and Bartow are the best relievers right now by stats, and Bartow has 2 of the 3 saves the staff has on the entire season (how is that possible?  In 14 victories they only have 3 saves.  that’s saying something).

Who’s not?  Raquet and Pena both have ERAs north of 7 in the rotation.  Nothing personal against Raquet, but I hated the draft pick at the time, and now he’s repeating high-A with the same crummy numbers and lack of swing and miss he exhibited there last year.  Every time I see him get shelled in a start its another indictment of that draft pick and that draft class in general.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  They’ve already promoted the two best arms (Tetreault and Fuentes).  No starters really pushing for a promotion right now.

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Bogucki is putting on > 2 runners an inning but was solid in High-A last year.  The fact that Reyes continues to have a roster spot astounds me: he is now in high-A for the 3rd year; he was also in High-A in  2016 and 2017, neither season of which merited his 2018 promotion to AA (where he got shelled).


Low-A/Hagerstown 2019

Rotation:  Alastre, Adon, Cate*, Irvin, FPeguero.  Changes from last time: Strom was demoted to XST, and the tandem starting seems to have been somewhat relaxed in that this set of 5 starters has rotated for several turns now.

Bullpen: Stoeckinger*, AGuillen, RWilliamson*, Tapani, Fletcher*, Day as swingmen/spot starters, along with Brasher, TTurner in the pen as more conventional relievers.  Changes from last time: Teel and German promoted, and RWilliamson and Tapani promoted from GCL/XST.

 

Who’s hot: Cate and Peguero, the two  starters I noted as being “hot” in the last post, remain the two best starters in Low-A.   Cate, a college Sr 2nd rounder last year, is probably too old for the level and needs to be moved up.  Fletcher, Stoeckinger and Guillen are pitching well in their “tandem” multi-inning roles.

Who’s not?  Irvin’s seasonal numbers are skewed by a 1ip/9-run outing, but he has the worst ERA in the rotation right now.  Brasher has gotten hit hard in limited action.  Alastre continues to not find the plate; he has 25 walks in 35 innings.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  Cate needs to move up stat.   Same with Peguero; he’s now 23 dominating Low-A.  Why are they still there?   Same with Fletcher; he’s now 23, was a senior sign and has 6 weeks of dominant numbers in low-A.  Why wait?

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Brasher seems most likely to be the next guy sent back to XST.


XST names of interest

  • Where is Istler?    He was solid in AA and even had some AAA time last year.  Still unassigned.
  • Where’s Jhon Romero?  He got assigned to High-A.
  • Pantoja? Still missing; may have been a “quiet” release.
  • No word yet about Seth Romero‘s rehab progress.
  • Since the last posting, the team officially assigned 5 guys to Low-A and put them directly on the DL: Barnett, WDavis, Howell, SRomero, Troop.  Barrett and WDavis were on the GCL team last year.  Howell and Troop were “missing” names from last year’s Low-A team now found, and of course Romero remains perhaps the worst 1st round pick this team has had since the Aaron Crow/Jim Bowden debacle.

 

Minor League Rotations: Good and Bad Starts

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Voth has looked pretty good so far. Photo mlb.com official

Voth has looked pretty good so far. Photo mlb.com official

We’re now a couple turns through the four full season minor league rotations and I thought i’d take a quick gander at what the “rotations” looked like, with some short sample size judgements as to who has come out of the gate hot or not from a stats perspective.  I have not seen any of these games, just looking at milb.com’s stat page.  So feel free to add in any personal opinions :-)


 

AAA/Fresno 2019

The rotation is looking like: McGowin, Copeland, Voth, Espino, Alvarez, with Dragmire as a spot-starter and Joe Ross having been yanked up to MLB bullpen duty (replaced by Alvarez).  Espino returns to the fold, having signed elsewhere as a MLFA a couple years back.

The Bullpen is looking like: AAdams, Rainey, Hoover, Nuno, Self, Cordero and Bacus (recently promoted to replace Austen Williams, himself promoted to cover for MLB injuries).

Who’s hot: Voth and McGowin have started well out of the rotation, Voth sporting a 16/1 K/BB ratio and McGowin 12/2.  I’m liking the first start from off-season signing Copeland too.   In the bullpen, Adams has 5 innings, 1 hit and 11 punch outs while Hoover has yet to give up a hit (though.. he’s walked 7 guys in 6 innings).

Who’s not?  Dragmire.  In three appearances so far, he’s pitched 9  2/3rds innings, given up 21 hits and only struck out 3 guys.   Ouch.  In the bullpen, both Rainey and Hoover have more walks than Ks so far.

Who’s next guy to get the call?   Honestly, it might be time to give Adams another shot.  His numbers merited the promotion moreso than Williams (who has the highest ERA in Fresno).  Next time there’s a spot start you have to think Voth is putting his name first in line.

Who’s getting the Axe?  Dragmire seems to be in trouble; he’s a MLFA re-signing so I can’t imagine the team has much invested in him, especially now that Alvarez and Espino are in the AAA rotation.


 

AA/Harrisburg 2019

Rotation: Crowe, Fedde, Sharp, Mapes, Braymer*, with  swingman/spot starts by Baez and MSanchez (who we get back after having flipped him for Jimmy Cordero on the AAA squad).

Bullpen: Bourque,  Brinley, Condra-Bogan, JMills*, RPena,  Guilbeau*, ABarrett (Bacus already promoted).  Great to see Barrett back here and hope he can re-contribute at the MLB level.

Who’s hot: Crowe and Fedde in the rotation: Crowe’s given up just 6 baserunners in his first two starts, Fedde just 7.  Mapes has an 11/1 K/BB ratio in his two starts.  In the bullpen, Barrett and Condra-Bogan have been solid.

Who’s not?  Sterling Sharp has a 6.30 ERA through 2 starts.  Bourque and Gilbeau have elevated whips but they’ve only thrown a handful of innings.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  I think Crowe may merit a promotion to AAA if he keeps this up for the rest of the month, perhaps to cover for injury or if one of our veteran guys exercises an opt-out.   We know Fedde is staying put to serve as the Nats 6th starter.

Who’s next to get the Axe?   Nobody really; Sharp has the highest ERA but he’s a solid prospect who is in AA at age 23.  We may have to keep an eye on Guilbeau; 2019 is his make-or-break season after two successive full seasons in high-A.


High-A/Potomac 2019

Rotation:  Johnston, Borne*, Tetreault, Raquet*, MPena, LReyes with swingman/spot starts by Howard*,  ALee,

bullpen:  Acevedo, Bogucki, Fuentes,   McKinney,  Bartow,

Who’s hot: Tetreault and perhaps Malvin Pena in the rotation, McKinney & Fuentes in the bullpen.

Who’s not?  Reyes’ first start was not good.   Bourne’s sporting a 2.31 whip so far.  And Howard has given up 12 hits in 6 IP.

Who’s next guy to get the call?  Nobody really screaming for a promotion so far; if you had to pick one of each i’d go with Tetrault and Fuentes (who is just 21 but has started great).

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Reyes struggled last year in AA; if he can’t get guys out this year in High-A he’s not long for the league.  Borne missed all of 2018 but is repeating a level and is now 25; its put up or shut up time.


Low-A/Hagerstown 2019

Rotation:  Alastre/Day, Adon, Cate*/Tapani, Irvin/Teel*, FPeguero/AGuillen, Strom/Stoeckinger*

bullpen:   German,  Fletcher*

Lots of “tandem” starting going on, though the roles seem to have settled into the “starter” going 4-5 and the tandem guy typically going 2-3.  So its likely at some point the tandem guys either move into starters or purely bullpen roles.

Who’s hot: Peguero and Cate.  Peguero has 10/1 K/BB in 10 IP while Cate has struck out 12 in 9.   Both the “relievers” in Hagerstown have been solid: German sporting 8 Ks and a 0.75 whip in 4 games, and Fletcher an even better 0.53 whip in 3 outings.

Who’s not? Alastre; the opening day starter has 11 walks and 12 hits given up in his 12 IP of work.  Adon’s first start was a struggle; he’ll get another crack at it tonight before passing too much judgement.

Who’s next guy to get the call? I’d promote Peguero and Fletcher first from each group.

Who’s next to get the Axe?  Alastre is only 20, but is repeating low-A with similar results to last  year.


 

XST names of interest

  • Where is Istler?    He was solid in AA and even had some AAA time last year
  • Where’s Jhon Romero?
  • Pantoja?  I wonder if he’s been released as a 25yr old and we just havn’t seen it updated on milb.com yet.

Spring Training 2019 NRI Discussion

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Kieboom is probably the surest NRI thing in 2019. Photo via PerfectGame

Kieboom is probably the surest NRI thing in 2019. Photo via PerfectGame

The Nationals, on the eve of spring training, announced their list of Non-Roster Invitees (NRIs) for 2019.

Here’s the list:

  • RHP — Henderson Alvarez, Aaron Barrett, Scott Copeland, Wil Crowe, J.J. Hoover, Ronald Peña
  • LHP — Vidal Nuño
  • C —Tres Barrera, Taylor Gushue
  • INF —Luis Garcia , Carter Kieboom, Jose Marmolejos, Jake Noll, Matt Reynolds, Brandon Snyder, Jacob Wilson
  • OF — Hunter Jones, Chuck Taylor

Now, before you say “who cares” here’s some stats.  In the last four seasons:

  • 5 NRIs made the 25-man roster straight out of Spring Training (and Guthrie technically made it 6 since he got called up a few days later and was always intended to be the 5th starter in 2017)
  • 18 NRIs eventually played for the MLB team at some point that same season.

So its likely that we’re going to see these NRIs at some point in the future.  Like, on average at least 4-5 of these NRIs are going to play for this team in 2019.

So lets squint and make some predictions.

  1. Do any of these guys stand a chance at making the Opening day roster?  Yeah maybe.  I think a couple of the relievers (especially Nuno) have a real shot at the bullpen if they perform in Florida.  Three of the seven guys I’m projecting to the MLB bullpen have options remaining (Barraclough, Suero and Glover), the team only really has one legit lefty in the pen (Grace) and may end up carrying 8 relievers through some roster chicanery early on.
  2. Do any of these guys project to feature at all in 2019?  Absolutely: I think Alvarez, Hoover, Nuno, Reynolds, and Snyder in particular seem likely to get call-ups to cover for injury, unless they exercise opt-outs.  Reynolds is one of the few SS capable guys in the high minors, Snyder could be Zimmerman or Adams injury coverage, and Alvarez could get the call to provide spot starts if in-house options like Fedde continue to struggle at the MLB level.
  3. Who among these guys project to eventually get on the 40-man?  The top-end prospects on this list for sure: Crowe, Garcia, Kieboom, Barrera and perhaps Gushue all seem likely to eventually make the 40-man.

 


NRI Details by year, in case you were wondering…

Summary of NRIs from ST 2018: 21 NRIs total:

  • One (1) made the 25-man roster out of spring: Miguel Montero
  • Four (4) eventually got added and called up:  Tim Collins, Moises Sierra, Jimmy Cordero, Spencer Kieboom.  Special Mention to Edwin Jackson, who opted out of Washington then excelled for Oakland later in 2018).
  • Zero (0) others have since been added to 40-man

Summary of NRIs from ST 2017: 24 NRIs total:

  • Zero (0) made the 25-man roster out of spring (though technically one kinda was; see next).
  • Five (5) eventually got added and called up (Jeremy Guthrie, Matt Albers, Grant Green, Jacob Turner and Andrew Stevenson): Guthrie was the 5th starter, stashed in XST for a few days before his ill-fated debut.
  • Five (5) have since been added to 40-man (Erick Fedde, Taylor Hill, Kyle McGowin, Wander Suero, Tim Collins)

Summary of NRIs from ST 2016: 20 NRIs total (plus perhaps a couple more that got signed late):

  • Two (2) made the 25-man roster: (Chris Heisey and as noted in the comments, thanks for the correction, Matt Belisle).
  • Two (2) eventually got added and called up (Lucas Giolito, Sean Burnett)
  • Two (2) have since been added to 40-man (Matt Skole, Austin Voth)

Summary of NRIs from ST 2015: 20 NRIs total:

  • Two (2) made the 25-man roster out of spring (Dan Uggla and Clint Robinson)
  • Two (2) others eventually got added and called up (Rafael Martin and Emmanuel Burriss)
  • Two (2) others were young catchers since added to the 40-man (Spencer Kieboom, Pedro Severino)

(I believe the above analysis is correct; feel free to comment if i’ve missed someone.  this is a bit tougher to keep track of b/c the team often signs MLFAs mid-spring then technically gives them NRIs … especially for Vets, and I may miss some from the original announcements).

 

Ask Collier 1/11/19

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Harper Harper Harper. Photo Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Harper Harper Harper. Photo Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

On deadline day for doing arbitration contracts, MLB beat reporter Jamal Collier did a mailbag.  Its been a notable week with more Bryce Harper rumors and the Nats running their payroll right up to the limits of the Luxury tax cap with the Brian Dozier signing.

Here’s the questions he took:

Q: Harper is on my mind. Spring Training is days away. Aren’t the guys worried about will happen? No way they can be just “whatever,” right? Especially if he ends up in Philly?

A: If they can’t figure out from the slew of Mike Rizzo moves what the team’s intention is with Bryce Harper by now … well maybe a sledgehammer would be more subtle.  Its mid January and Rizzo has made 8 moves that should impact the opening day 25-man roster and another 2-3 that may be impactful down the road.  He’s now got the payroll north of $190M.

So what if he goes to Philly?  I think the whole “don’t trade within the division” is nonsense.  Yeah we’ll see him a lot.  But its a closed loop; he has to go to one of the 30 teams in the league, and we are bound to see him no matter who he plays for.  There’s 30 teams, and only half of them are even frigging trying to win right now, and then halve that again for those who even have payroll room to compete for Harper (or Machado).  And Philly is one of them.

As far as “the guys” … are you talking about his team-mates?  Well one of two things would be true about his teammates:

  1. They hate his guts and are like, “good riddance.”
  2. They are his fellow union members and want him to get every dollar possible because their union so royally screwed them selves in the last couple of CBA negotiations.

Collier notes that his fellow players know this is “part of the business” that Harper may eventually leave, and that he’s been a national figure since he was 16.  

Q: If Harper re-signed with the Nationals, how would they work the outfield? Would Victor Robles start the season in Minors? Or would they trade Eaton?

A: You’d have to trade Adam Eaton.  And you’d be trading low.  You can’t move Juan Soto … he’s making MLB Min and could be an MVP candidate.  You really shouldn’t move Victor Robles; he’s supposed to be a *better* prospect than Soto, so you’re hoping for 4-5 win performance for (again) MLB min salary.  These are the kinds of players you keep when you’re trying to win.  Putting Robles in the minors would be an absolute waste, and if that was their plan then i’d advocate attempting to flip him as a centerpiece for a top 20 player in the league (like a Corey Kluber or something).

Collier agrees.

Q: If Harper returns, how does it change how the team will handle Anthony Rendon negotiations?

A: Hmm.  That’s a good question, because despite the fact that Anthony Rendon dropped in the draft over injury questions he’s actually been pretty solid as a pro.  I liken Rendon’s reputation and capabilities to Adrian Beltre; fantastic defender, sneaky good at the plate, and suddenly you look up and he’s put up a hall of fame career.

Will that translate into a $200m salary?  Probably not.  But Rendon is no dummy, and neither is his agent Scott Boras.

That being said … can the Nats do this whole “stars and scrubs” thing for ever?  If you have 5-6 guys on high 8-figure salaries (Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, Harper, Rendon) can you put a good enough team behind them?

I personally think Rendon is an incredibly important player for this team, even if he isn’t that high a profile.  And because he’s not high profile, I think you can get him for $20M/year or something like that on a longer term deal, which would be a steal value-wise.  I hope committing money to Harper doesn’t close the door on a Rendon negotiation.

Collier says …. he has no idea, nor does Rizzo.

Q: How should we look at 2019 Dozier replacing ’18 Daniel Murphy? Both are above-average offensive second baseman with liability at fielding. Is this an upgrade, downgrade or equal move?

A: Absolutely an upgrade; Daniel Murphy had negative bWAR last year while even playing through injury Brian Dozier contributed.  If Dozier is healthy and performs at his 2015-2016 level again … watch out this is one of the steal signings of the off-season.

Collier basically agrees and gives good contextual numbers.

Q: Do you think Washington will add a starter? If it does, I think Wade Miley is fine.

A: I think they will … but not a guy to replace Joe Ross in the rotation.  I think they’ll be looking for MLFAs with 5/1 or 6/1 buy-outs, like Edwin Jackson or Tommy Milone signings last year.  I can’t see them breaking the luxury tax for a 5th starter.

Collier agrees, remembering that the team has already signed Henderson Alvarez for just such reasons.

 

Post-Winter Meeting bonanza; who improved their Rotation the most? Who’s left?

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Lester joins the Cubs revolution. Photo via weei.com

Lester joins the Cubs revolution. Photo via weei.com

(Editor’s Note: sorry for the tardiness on this post: I had it completely written and a WordPress or browser glitch lost 1,000 words of analysis.  So it took a bit of time to cobble back together what I had originally written.  Then the Souza trade hit, then the Cuban thing … and this got pushed).

What a GM Meeting week!  As one of the Fangraphs guys noted, there were so many transactions, so fast, that he literally gave up trying to write individual analysis pieces and went to a running diary of sorts.  I was amazed at the number of significant deals and trades made, especially when it came to starters.  So lets take a look at who shook things up.

Many teams are making big moves (almost the entirety of the the AL it seems) to try to win in 2015.  And many teams have revamped their rotations.  First, here’s a quick run through teams that have made significant acquisitions to their starting rotations (using BP’s Depth Charts page, Fangraphs stats pages and BaseballProspectus‘ page for injury history, Cots at BP for salaries, and of course baseball-reference.com).

Teams who have Improved

  • Chicago White Sox: acquired Jeff Samardzija in Oakland’s fire sale to go with established ace Chris Sale, the highly underrated Jose Quintana.  From there the White Sox have question marks: John Danks is just an innings eater at this point and Hector Noesi was not effective in 2014.  But the White Sox have one of the brightest SP prospects in the game at AAA in Carlos Rodon (their fast-rising 2014 1st round pick) and their former #1 prospect Erik Johnson (who struggled in his debut in 2014 but has a good minor league track record).  So by the latter part of 2015 the White Sox could be a scary team for opposing offenses to face.
  • Minnesota: just signed Ervin Santana to join a rotation containing the rejuvinated Phil Hughes, the decent  Ricky Nolasco and first rounder Kyle Gibson.  If they (finally) call up former Nats 1st rounder Alex Meyer to fill out the rotation and replace the dregs that gave them #4 and #5 rotation spot starts last year, they could be significantly improved.  Of course, the problem they face is the fact that they’re already playing catchup in the AL Central and still look like a 5th place team in this division.
  • Los Angeles Angels: adroitly turned one year of Howie Kendrick into six years of Andrew Heaney, who should thrive in the big AL West parks.  If the Angels get a healthy Garrett Richards back to go along with the surprising Matt Shoemaker, they may have a surplus of decent arms being stalwards Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.
  • Miami has spent some cash this off-season, but they’ve also gone shopping and upgraded their rotation significantly.   After acquiring the decent Jarred Cosart at the trade deadline, they’ve flipped bit-players to acquire Mat Latos, added Dan Haren and a $10M check  while parting ways with the unproven youngster Andrew Heaney, and should get ace Jose Fernandez back by June 1st if all goes well with his TJ rehab.  Add to that Henderson Alvarez and the Marlins look frisky (their new-found depth enabled them to move Nathan Eovaldi to the Yankees).  Rumors are that Haren won’t pitch unless he’s in SoCal, but $10M is an awful lot of money to turn up your nose at.  This is an improved rotation no doubt, and the rest of the Marlins lineup looks good too.
  • New York Mets get Matt Harvey back.  Enough said.  Harvey-Jacob deGrom is one heck of a 1-2 punch.
  • Chicago Cubs: added an ace in Jon Lester, re-signed their own effective starter in Jason Hammel, and will add these two guys to the resurgent Jake Arrieta.  Past that you have question marks: Kyle Hendricks looked great in 2014.  And the Cubs gave nearly 60 starts last year to Travis Wood (5+ ERA) and former Nat Edwin Jackson (6+ ERA).  I could envision another SP acquisition here and the relegation of Wood & Jackson to the bullpen/AAA/scrap heap.
  • Pittsburgh was able to resign Francisco Liriano and get A.J. Burnett for an under-market deal.  This should keep them afloat if they end up losing Edinson Volquez in free agency.   Otherwise they have decent back of the rotation guys and will get back Jamison Taillon perhaps in the early part of the year.  This could help them get back to the playoffs with the anticipated step-back of NL Central rivals Cincinnati.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers said good bye to a stable of starters (Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsly, Kevin Correia, Dan Haren, Roberto Hernandez and Paul Maholm are all either FAs or have been traded away) and signed a couple of guys to go behind their big three of Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu who could quietly make a difference (Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson) if they remain healthy.  That’s a bigger “if” on Anderson than McCarthy, who excelled once leaving the circus that Arizona was last year before the management house cleaning and should continue to excel in the huge park in LA.  Were I Andrew Friedman, I’d re-sign at least a couple of these FA guys for 5th starter insurance … but then again, the Dodgers also have a whole slew of arms in AAA that could be their 5th starter.  Or they could just open up their wallets again; there’s still arms to be had.  Nonetheless, replacing 32 Haren starts with McCarthy will bring immediate benefits, and whoever they end up with as a 5th starter has to be better than the production they got last year out of that spot.

Team most improved: likely the Cubs.

What teams’ rotations have taken step backs or are question marks heading into 2015?

  • Boston: after trading away most of their veteran rotation last season, the Red Sox seem set to go into 2015 with this rotation: Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson, Joe Kelly and Wade Miley.  This rotation doesn’t look as good as it could be; Buchholz was awful in 2014, Porcello is good but not great, Masterson the same, Kelly seems like a swingman, and Miley has back to back 3.98 FIP seasons in the NL and will see some ERA inflation in the AL (though not as much as normal since Arizona is a hitter’s park).  But Boston’s entire AAA rotation are among their top 10 prospects, so there’s plenty of depth they could use in trade or as reinforcements. 
  • Detroit: Arguable if they’ve really taken a “step back,” but you have to question their direction.  In the last two off-seasons they’ve traded away Doug Fister, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly, prospect Robbie Ray and have (seemingly) lost Max Scherzer to free agency so that they can go into 2015 with this rotation: David Price, Justin Verlander, Anibel Sanchez, Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene.   Is this a winning rotation for 2015?
  • Kansas City: They have replaced departing free agent ace James Shields with newly signed Edinson Volquez, keeping newly acquired Brian Flynn and 2014 draft darling Brandon Finnegan in the bullpen for now.  KC is going to take a step back and will struggle to compete in the new super-powered AL Central in 2015, but have a slew of 1st round arms that look like they’ll hit in late 2015/early 2016.  I do like their under-the-radar signing of Kris Medlen though; he could be a very solid addition to their rotation if he comes back from his 2nd TJ.
  • Oakland will have a new look in 2015, having traded away a number of core players.  But their rotation should be OK despite having traded away Samardzija and let Jon Lester and Jason Hammel walk.  Why?  Because they stand to get back two very good rotation members who missed all of 2014 with TJ surgery in A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker.  They should re-join the 2014 rotation members Sonny Grey, Scott Kazmir, newly acquired Jesse Hahn and either Jesse Chavez/Drew Pomeranz to form another underrated rotation.  Of course, if these guys have injury setbacks, it could be a long season in Oakland.
  • Texas made a couple of acquisitions, re-signing their own Colby Lewis and trading for Nats cast-off Ross Detwiler (who should fit in immediately as their 4th starter), to go with ace Yu Darvish and recently recovered Derek Holland.  But Texas could significantly improve come mid-season when injured starter Martin Perez should return.  The big question mark for Texas is Matt Harrison, who had to have two vertebrae in his back fused and may not return, ever.   But if Harrison can come back, that gives Texas an opening day 1-5 that’s pretty improved over last  year.
  • Cleveland didn’t exactly have the world’s best rotation in 2014 but has done little to improve it going forward.  They will continue to depend on Corey Kluber, newly minted Cy Young winner to head the line, but then its question marks.  Carlos Carrasco was great in a combo role in 2014; where’d that come from?  He was awful in years prior.  Is Trevor Bauer dependable?  They better hope so; that’s your #3 starter.  They just signed Gavin Floyd after his injury shortened 9-game stint with Atlanta last year; he’s no better than a 4th/5th innings eater.   Is Gavin Salazar ready for prime time?  He wasn’t in 2014.  And there’s little else on the farm; the Indians don’t have a significant starting pitcher prospect in their entire system. 
  • Atlanta: The Braves surprisingly parted ways with Kris Medlen and not-so-surprisingly parted ways with Brandon Beachy, Gavin Floyd, Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang.  That’s a lot of starter depth to cut loose.  They look to go into 2015 with ace Julio Teheran followed by the newly acquired Shelby Miller, the inconsistent Mike Minor, the excellent but scary Alex Wood and under-rated 5th starter David Hale.  That’s not a *bad* rotation … but it isn’t very deep.  They have cut ties with guys who made nearly half their 2014 starts AND the guy who went 10-1 for them in 2012.  They (inexplicably) picked up a starter in Rule-5 draft who had TJ surgery in June; are they really going to carry him that long on the active roster?  They have no upper-end SP talent close to the majors.  If one of these 5 starters gets hurt, Atlanta could be in trouble.
  • Philadelphia: all you need to know about the state of the Philadelphia franchise can be summed up right here: A.J. Burnett declined a $12.75M player option to play for the Phillies in 2015 and, instead, signed for 1  year, $8.5M to play for Pittsburgh.  They will head into 2015 with their aging 1-2 punch of Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, the former being constantly dangled in trade rumors but going nowhere because the Phillies GM clearly over-values what a guy like Hamels and his guaranteed contract can actually bring back in return in this market.  Past Hamels/Lee there’s a bunch of non-descript names (David Buchanan, the waiver-claim Jerome Williams and the untested Cuban FA Miguel Gonzalez).   Can this team even broach 70 wins?
  • Cincinnati is moving backwards: they’ve traded away Mat Latos for  pennies on the dollar (Keith Law says there’s “make-up issues.”) and moved the effective Alfredo Simon for other bit players.  They’re putting a ton of faith that one-pitch Tony Cingrani will last a whole season and the youngster Anthony DeSclafini (obtained for Latos) will comprise a workable rotation.  They do have a couple of decent prospects at AAA (Robert Stephenson and Michael Lorenzen) but they seem to be accepting that they’re taking a step back.
  • St Louis traded away their least effective starter (Shelby Miller) and acquired the best defensive RF in the game (Jason Heyward).  Not a bad bit of work.  But they now will go into 2015 with a question mark in the rotation; prospect Carlos Martinez will get the first shot and could be good; oft-injured Jaime Garcia is still hanging around, and there’s a couple of good arms in AAA who could matriculate into the rotation via the bullpen as Martinez did in 2014.  It could end up being addition by subtraction (Martinez for Miller) but we’ll see.
  • Arizona has boldly re-made their rotation this off-season, dealing away 2014 opening day starter Wade Miley for a couple of SP prospects and dealing for 6 arms in total thus far.  New rotation may not be flashy at the top (the enigmatic Josh Collmenter is slated for the opening day start in 2015) and is followed by former Tampa pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (traded for prospects), the two pitchers acquired from Boston for Miley in Rubby de la Rosa and Allen Webster and then a cattle-call for the 5th starter competition this spring.  Arizona also ended up with former Nats farm-hand Robbie Ray, still have the highly regarded Archie Bradley waiting for his free agent clock to get pushed out a year, plus 2013’s darling Patrick Corbin coming off of TJ, not to mention Bronson Arroyo coming back from TJ later in the season.  So there’s a lot of arms out there to choose from, eventually.  But getting to Bradley-Corbin-Hellickson-de la Rosa-Webster from where they’ll start will be rough.
  • San Francisco‘s 2015 rotation could be just as effective as it needs to be (after all, they won the 2014 world series having lost Matt Cain mid-season and given the ineffective Tim Lincecum 26 starts).  They seem to set to go with Cain, WS hero Madison Bumgarner, the age-less Tim Hudson, and then with Lincecum and re-signed aging FA Jake Peavy.  This pushes Yusmeiro Petit to the bullpen for the time being and seemingly closes the door on Ryan Vogelsong‘s SF time.  Rumor had it that they were all over Jon Lester… and missed.  So a big acquisition to permanently sent Lincecum to the pen could still be in the works.  SF’s bigger issue is the loss of offense.  But the NL West is so weak they could still sneak into the playoffs again.  I list them as question marks though because Cain might not be healthy, Lincecum could still suck, and Hudson and Peavy combined are nearly 80 years of age.
  • San Diego has completely re-made their offense; do they have the pitching they need to compete?   They signed Brandon Morrow to replace 32 awful starts they gave to Eric Stults last year; that should be an improvement.  But they’ve traded away their 2nd best guy (Jesse Hahn) and are now set to have two lesser starters (Odrisamer Despaigne and Robbie Erlin) compete for the rotation.  The Padres re-signed lottery ticket Josh Johnson (coming off what seems like his millionth season-ending arm injury) and still have TJ survivor Cory Luebke in the wings, possibly ready for April 1st.  Their 1-2-3 of Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy isn’t that inspiring, but in San Diego’s home park, you don’t have to be Sandy Koufax to succeed.  Have they done enough to compete in the NL West?

Which team has taken the biggest step back?  Clearly for me its Arizona.

Who is left?

Well, clearly the two big FA names are Max Scherzer and James Shields.  Scherzer gambled heavily on himself when he turned down 6/$144M.  Would the Tigers make him a new offer?  Are the Nationals possibly involved (I hope not for the sake of the team’s chemistry; what would it say to players if the Nats jettisoned Jordan Zimmermann so they could give Scherzer $150M?).   He’d make a great fit in San Francisco … who wanted Lester but would get nearly the same great performance out of Scherzer.  Meanwhile Shields could fit in Boston or for the Dodgers to give them the depth they’ve lost.

Past the two big names, you have older guys likely to go on one year deals.  There’s no longer really room for Ryan Vogelsong in SF; he could be a decent option for someone.   Aaron Harang has earned himself a likely 2 year deal as someone’s back of the rotation guy.  Guys like Kyle Kendrick or Joe Saunders could be someone’s starter insurance policy.  And of course there’s a slew of injury guys who are like pitching lottery tickets.  Beachy, Billingsley, and Alexi Ogando all sound intriguing as reclamation cases.

But, once you get past Scherzer and Shields, anyone looking for a big upgrade will have to hit the trade market.  The problem there seems to be this: there’s just not that many teams that are already waving the white flag for 2015.   From reading the tea leaves this off-season, Atlanta is giving up, Cincinnati may be close, Philadelphia has begrudgingly admitted they’re not going to win, Arizona has already traded away its assets, Colorado is stuck in neutral, Oakland may look like they’re rebuilding but they still will be competitive in 2015, and  young teams like Houston and Tampa aren’t giving up what they currently have.  So a GM might have to get creative to improve their team at this point.

Written by Todd Boss

December 22nd, 2014 at 9:24 am

Posted in Majors Pitching

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2013 Pre-season Rotation Rankings revisited

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Scherzer's dominant Cy Young season brings the Tigers to the top.  Photo AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Scherzer’s dominant Cy Young season brings the Tigers to the top. Photo AP Photo/Paul Sancya

In January, after most of marquee FA signings had shaken out, I ranked the 2013 rotations of teams 1-30.  I was excited about the Nats rotation, speculated more than once that we had the best rotation in the league, and wanted to make a case for it by stacking up the teams 1-30.

I thought it’d be an interesting exercise to revisit my rankings now that the season is over with a hindsight view, doing some post-mortem analysis and tacking on some advanced metrics to try to quantify who really performed the best this season.  For advanced metrics I’m leaning heavily on Fangraphs team starter stats page, whose Dashboard view quickly gives the team ERA, FIP, xFIP, WAR, SIERA, K/9 and other key stats that I’ll use in this posting.

  1. (#2 pre-season) DetroitVerlander, Fister, Sanchez, Scherzer, Porcello (with Alvarez providing some cover).  Scherzer likely wins the Cy Young.  Three guys with 200+ strikeouts.  The league leader in ERA.  And we havn’t even mentioned Justin Verlander yet.  A team starting pitching fWAR of 25.3, which dwarfed the next closest competitor.  There’s no question; we knew Detroit’s rotation was going to be good, but not this good.  Here’s a scary fact; their rotation BABIP was .307, so in reality this group should have done even better than they actually did.  Detroit’s rotation was *easily* the best rotation in the league and all 6 of these guys return for 2014.
  2. (#3 Preseason): Los Angeles DodgersKershaw, Greinke, Ryu, Nolasco, and Capuano (with Fife, BeckettLilly, Billingsley and a few others helping out); The 1-2 punch of Kershaw (the NL’s clear Cy Young favorite) and Greinke (who quietly went 15-4) was augmented by the stand-out rookie performance of Ryu, the surprisingly good half-season worth of starts from Nolasco, and then the all-hands-on deck approach for the rest of the starts.  This team used 11 different starters on the year thanks to injury and ineffectiveness, but still posted the 2nd best team FIP and 5th best fWAR in the league.
  3. (#8 pre-season): St. LouisWainwright, Lynn, Miller, Wacha and Kelly (with Garcia, Westbrook, and a few others pitching in).  Team leader Chris Carpenter missed the whole season and this team still was one of the best rotations in the league.  Westbrook missed time, Garcia only gave them 9 starts.  That’s the team’s planned #1, #3 and #4 starters.  What happened?  They call up Miller and he’s fantastic.  They call up Wacha and he nearly pitches back to back no-hitters at the end of the season.  They give Kelly a starting nod out of the bullpen and he delivers with a better ERA+ than any of them from the #5 spot.  St. Louis remains the bearer-standard of pitching development (along with Tampa and Oakland to an extent) in the game.
  4. (#22 pre-season): Pittsburgh:  Liriano, Burnett, Locke, Cole, Morton (with Rodriguez and a slew of call-ups helping out).  How did this team, which I thought was so low pre-season, turn out to have the 4th best starter FIP in the game?  Francisco Liriano had a renessaince season, Burnett continued to make Yankees fans shake their heads, and their top 6 starters (by number of starts) all maintained sub 4.00 ERAs.  Gerrit Cole has turned out to be the real deal and will be a force in this league.
  5. (#1 pre-season) WashingtonStrasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Haren, Detwiler with Jordan, Roark and other starts thrown to Karns and Ohlendorf).   Despite Haren’s continued attempts to sabotage this rotation’s mojo, they still finished 3rd in xFIP and 5th in FIP.  Haren’s 11-19 team record and substandard ERA/FIP values drug this group down, but there wasn’t much further up they could have gone on this list.   If  you had replaced Haren with a full season of Jordan’s production, maybe this team jumps up a little bit, but the teams above them are tough to beat.
  6. (#11 pre-season) Atlanta: Hudson, Medlen, Minor, Teheran and Maholm, (with rookie Alex Wood contributing towards the end of the season).  Brandon Beachy only gave them 5 starts; had he replaced Maholm this rotation could have done better.  Hudson went down with an awful looking injury but was ably covered for by Wood.  They head into 2014 with a relatively formidable  and cheap potential rotation of  Medlen, Minor, Teheran, Beachy and Wood, assuming they don’t resign Hudson.  How did they over-perform?  Teheran finally figured it out, Maholm was more than servicable the first couple months, Wood was great and came out of nowhere.
  7. (#26 pre-season) ClevelandJimenez, Masterson, McAllister, Kluber, Kazmir.  Too high for this group?  7th in rotation fWAR, 8th in FIP, and 6th in xFIP.  This group, which I thought was going to be among the worst in the league, turned out to be one of the best.  Jimenez and Masterson both had rebound years with a ton of Ks, and the rest of this crew pitches well enough to remain around league average.  They were 2nd best in the league in K/9.  You can make the argument that they benefitted from the weakened AL Central, but they still made the playoffs with a relative rag-tag bunch.
  8. (#9 pre-season) CincinnatiCueto, Latos, Bailey, Arroyo, Leake (with Tony Cingrani).  Cueto was good … but he was never healthy, hitting the D/L three separate times.  Luckily Cingrani came up from setting strikeout records in AAA and kept mowing them down in the majors.  Latos was dominant,  Leake took a step forward, and Bailey/Arroyo gave what they normally do.  If anything you would have thought this group would have been better.  6th in Wins, 7th in xFIP, 9th in FIP.  Next year Arroyo leaves, Cingrani gets 32 starts, Cueto stays healthy (cross your fingers, cross your fingers, cross your fingers) and this team is dominant again despite their FA hitting losses.
  9. (#25 pre-season) New York MetsHarvey, WheelerNiese, Gee, Hefner and a bunch of effective call-ups turned the Mets into a halfway-decent rotation all in all.  7th in xFIP, 11th in FIP.  Most of this is on the backs of Matt Harvey, who pitched like the second coming of Walter Johnson for most of the season.  Wheeler was more than effective, and rotation workhorses Niese and Gee may not be sexy names, but they were hovering right around the 100 ERA+ mark all year.  One superstar plus 4 league average guys was good enough for the 9th best rotation.
  10. (#12 pre-season) TexasDarvish, Holland, Ogando, Perez, Garza at the end.  Texas’ fWAR was the 2nd best in the league … but their accompanying stats drag them down this far.  Despite having four starters with ERA+s ranging from 114 to Darvish’ 145, the 34 starts given to Tepesch and Grimm drag this rotation down.  Ogando couldn’t stay healthy and Perez only gave them 20 starts.  Garza was mostly a bust.  And presumed #2 starter Matt Harrison gave them just 2 starts.  But look out for this group in 2014; Darvish, a healthy Harrison, and Holland all locked up long term, Ogando in his first arbitration year, and Perez is just 22.  That’s a formidable group if they can stay on the field together.
  11. (pre-season #6) Tampa BayPrice, Moore, Hellickson, Cobb, Archer and Roberto Hernandez.   Jeff Niemann didn’t give them a 2013 start, but no matter, the Tampa Bay gravy train of power pitchers kept on producing.  Cobb was unhittable, Archer was effective and Moore regained his 2011 playoff mojo to finish 17-4 on the year.  An odd regression from Price, which was fixed by a quick D/L trip, and a complete collapse of Hellickson drug down this rotation from where it should have been.  They still finished 12th in FIP and xFIP for the year.
  12. (pre-season #21) SeattleHernandez, Iwakuma, Saunders, Harang, Maurer, and Ramirez.  Seattle featured two excellent, ace-leve performers and a bunch of guys who pitched worse than Dan Haren all year.  But combined together and you have about the 12th best rotation, believe it or not.
  13. (pre-season #7) PhiladelphiaHalladay, Hamels, Lee, Kendrick, Lannan (with Cloyd and Pettibone as backups).  The phillies were 13th in xFIP, 10th in FIP on the year and regressed slightly thanks to the significant demise to their #1 guy Halladay.  Lee pitched like his typical Ace but Hamels self-destructed as well.  The strength of one excellent starter makes this a mid-ranked rotation.  Had Halladay and Hamels pitched like expected, they’d have finished closer to my pre-season ranking.
  14. (pre-season #17) BostonLester, Buchholz, Dempster, Lackey, Doubront, and Peavy: Boston got a surprise bounce back season out of Lackey, a fantastic if oft-injured performance from Buchholz, a mid-season trade for the effective Peavy.  Why aren’t they higher?  Because their home stadium contributes to their high ERAs in general.  Despite being 3rd in rotation fWAR and 4th in wins, this group was 17th in FIP and 18th in xFIP.  Perhaps you could argue they belong a couple places higher, but everyone knows its Boston’s offense that is driving their success this year.
  15. (pre-season #16) New York YankeesSabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, Nova, Hughes/Phelps Hughes and Phelps pitched as predictably bad as you would have expected … but Sabathia’s downturn was unexpected.  Are  his years of being a workhorse catching up to him?  The rotation was buoyed by unexpectedly good seasons from Nova and Kuroda.  Pettitte’s swang song was pretty great, considering his age.  Enough for them to slightly beat expectations, but the signs of trouble are here for this rotation in the future.   Pettitee retired, Kuroda a FA, Hughes a FA, a lost season for prospect Michael Pineda and other Yankees prospects stalled.  Are we in for a dark period in the Bronx?
  16. (pre-season #29) Miami: FernandezNolasco, Eovaldi, Turner, Alvarez, Koehler and a few other starts given to either re-treads or MLFAs.  For Miami’s rotation of kids to rise this far up is amazing; looking at their stellar stats you would think they should have been higher ranked still.  Fernandez’s amazing 176 ERA+ should win him the Rookie of the Year.  Eovaldi improved, rookie Turner pitched pretty well for a 22 year old.  The team dumped its opening day starter Nolasco and kept on … losing frankly, because the offense was so durn bad.  Begrudgingly it looks like Jeffry Loria has found himself another slew of great arms to build on.
  17. (pre-season #5) San FranciscoCain, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Zito, Gaudin.  What the heck happened here?  Cain went from an Ace to pitching like a 5th starter, Lincecum continued to completely forget what it was like to pitch like a Cy Young winner, Vogelsong completely fell off his fairy-tale cliff, and Zito completed his $126M journey in typical 5+ ERA fashion.  I’m surprised these guys are ranked this high (14th in FIP, 16th in xFIP but just 27th in fWAR thanks to just horrible performances all year).  What the heck are they going to do in 2014?
  18. (pre-season #10) Arizona: CorbinKennedy, McCarthy, Cahill, Miley and Delgado.  Corbin was 2013’s version of Miley; a rookie that came out of nowhere to lead the staff.  Miley struggled at times but righted the ship and pitched decently enough.  The rest of the staff really struggled.  I thought this was a solid bunch but they ended up ranked 23rd in FIP and 14th in xFIP, indicating that they were a bit unlucky as a group.
  19. (pre-season #15) Chicago White SoxSale, Peavy, Danks, QuintanaSantiago and Axelrod.  Floyd went down early, Peavy was traded.  Sale pitched well but had a losing record.  The team looked good on paper (16th in ERA) but were 26th in FIP and 17th in xFIP.
  20. (pre-season #14) Oakland: ColonAnderson, Griffen, Parker, Straily, Milone, with Sonny Gray giving 10 good starts down the stretch.  This rotation is the story of one amazing 40-yr old and a bunch of kids who I thought were going to be better.   Oakland is bashing their way to success this season and this group has been just good enough to keep them going.  I thought the likes of Griffen and Parker would have been better this  year, hence their falling from #14 to #19.
  21. (pre-season #19) Chicago CubsGarza, Samardzija, JacksonWood, and FeldmanFeldman and Garza were flipped once they showed they could be good this year.  Samardzija took an uncharacteristic step backwards.  Jackson was awful.  The Cubs ended up right about where we thought they’d be.  However in 2014 they look to be much lower unless some big-armed prospects make the team.
  22. (pre-season #20) Kansas CityShields, Guthrie, Santana, Davis, Chen, Mendoza: despite trading the best prospect in the game to acquire Shields and Davis, the Royals a) did not make the playoffs and b) really didn’t have that impressive a rotation.  12th in team ERA but 20th in FIP and 25th in xFIP.   Compare that to their rankings of 25th in FIP and 26th in xFIP in 2012.   But the results on the field are inarguable; the team improved 14 games in the Win column and should be a good bet to make the playoffs next year if they can replace the possibly-departing Santana and the ineffective Davis.
  23. (pre-season #23) Milwaukee: LohseGallardo, Estrada, Peralta, and dozens of starts given to long-men and call-ups.  I ranked this squad #23 pre-season before they acquired Lohse; in reality despite his pay and the lost draft pick, Lohse’s addition ended up … having almost no impact on this team in 2013.  They finished ranked 23rd on my list, and the team was 74-88.
  24. (pre-season #13): Los Angeles AngelsWeaver, Wilson, Vargas, Hanson, Blanton, Williams: The Angels are in a predicament; their two “aces” Weaver and Wilson both pitched well enough.  But nobody in baseball was really that surprised by the god-awful performances from Hanson or Blanton (2-14, 6.04 ERA … and the Angels gave him a two year deal!).  So in some ways the team brought this on themselves.  You spend half a billion dollars on aging offensive FAs, have the best player in the game languishing in left field because your manager stubbornly thinks that someone else is better in center than one of the best defenders in the game … not fun times in Anaheim.  To make matters worse, your bigtime Ace Weaver missed a bunch of starts, looked mortal, and lost velocity.
  25. (#28 pre-season) San DiegoVolquez, Richards, Marquis, Stults, Ross, Cashner: have you ever seen an opening day starter post a 6+ ERA in a cave of a field and get relased before the season was over?  That happened to SAn Diego this year.  Another case where ERA+ values are deceiving; Stults posted a sub 4.00 ERA but his ERA+ was just 87, thanks to his home ballpark.  In fact its almost impossible to tell just how good or bad San Diego pitchers are.   I could be talked in to putting them this high or all the way down to about #28 in the rankings.
  26. (pre-season #27) Colorado: ChatwoodDe La Rosa, Chacin, Nicaso, Francis and a few starts for Garland and Oswalt for good measure.  Another staff who shows how deceptive the ERA+ value can be.  Their top guys posted 125 ERA+ figures but as a whole their staff performed badly.  26th in ERA, 19th in FIP, 26th in xFIP.  Colorado is like Minnesota; they just don’t have guys who can throw it by you (29th in K/9 just ahead of the Twins), and in their ridiculous hitter’s park, that spells trouble.
  27. (pre-season #4) TorontoDickeyMorrowJohnson, Buehrle, Happ, Rogers, and a line of other guys.  What happened here?  This was supposed to be one of the best rotations in the majors.  Instead they fell on their face, suffered a ton of injuries (only Dickey and Buehrle pitched full seasons: RomeroDrabeck were hurt.  Johnson, Happ, Redmond only 14-16 starts each.  This team even gave starts to Chien-Ming Wang and Ramon Ortiz.  Why not call up Fernando Valenzuela out of retirement?  It just goes to show; the best teams on paper sometimes don’t come together.  The Nats disappointed in 2013, but probably not as much as the Blue Jays.
  28. (pre-season #18) BaltimoreHammel, Chen, Tillman, Gonzalez, FeldmanGarcia with a few starts given to Gausman and Britton.  I’m not sure why I thought this group would be better than this; they were in the bottom four of the league in ERA, FIP, xFIP and SIERA.  It just goes to show how the ERA+ value can be misleading.  In their defense, they do pitch in a hitter’s park.  Tillman wasn’t bad, Chen took a step back.  The big concern here is the health of Dylan Bundy, who I thought could have pitched in the majors starting in June.
  29. (pre-season #30) Houston: BedardNorris, Humber, Peacock, Harrell to start, then a parade of youngsters from there.  We knew Houston was going to be bad.  But amazingly their rotation wasn’t the worst in the league, thanks to Jarred Cosart and Brett Olberholtzer coming up and pitching lights-out for 10 starts a piece later in the year.  There’s some potential talent here.
  30. (pre-season #24) MinnesotaDiamond, Pelfrey, Correia, Denudo, Worley and a whole slew of guys who were equally as bad.  Minnesota had the worst rotation in the league, and it wasn’t close.  They were dead last in rotational ERA, FIP, and xFIP, and it wasn’t close.  They were last in K/9 … by more than a strikeout per game.  They got a total fWAR of 4.6 from every pitcher who started a game for them this year.  Matt Harvey had a 6.1 fWAR in just 26 starts before he got hurt.  Someone needs to call the Twins GM and tell him that its not the year 1920, that power-pitching is the wave of the future, that you need swing-and-miss guys to win games in this league.

Biggest Surprises: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Miami and New York Mets to a certain extent.

Biggest Disappointments: Toronto, the Angels, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Baltimore to some extent.

Disagree with these rankings?  Feel free to pipe up.  I’ll use this ranking list as the spring board post-FA market for 2014’s pre-season rankings.

Written by Todd Boss

October 10th, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Majors Pitching

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