Nationals Arm Race

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

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Fangraphs Nats Prospect top 22 released

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Robles remains our #1 prospect for one mor eoff-season. Photo via milb.com

Robles remains our #1 prospect for one mor eoff-season. Photo via milb.com

The two prospect experts at Fangraphs (Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen) have released their prospect list for the Nats farm system for the 2018-19 off-season, ranking 22 guys using FAngraphs somewhat unique ranking system.

The link is here: https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/top-22-prospects-washington-nationals/

This is the first publicly available ranking of the off-season of our prospects (Baseball America released their top 10 last week, but its entirely behind a pay-wall that I havn’t brought myself to pay for yet).  But its also a very interesting look into the evolution of the Nats system.

Our top 5 really isn’t surprising: Victor RoblesCarter Kieboom, Luis Garcia, Mason Denanburg and Wil Crowe.  Most of us could have probably made that list from memory, knowing what we know about our depth.  Also not surprising; the dropping of Seth Romero and Raudy Read (who was not even mentioned in the top 22).  Romero likely doesn’t pitch again until Spring of 2020, and Read’s suspension and subsequent stacking of Catchers on top of his head by the big club essentially buries him in the minors for another season save a massive spate of injuries.

Other interesting omissions: Jake Irwin, who was #10 on BA’s list but doesn’t make Fangraph’s list.   Jackson Tetreault‘s stock has plummeted; he was once on the breach of being a top 10 prospect for the system and now isn’t even being mentioned.

Nick Raquet, our 2017 3rd rounder, also does not appear anywhere in this list despite his slot-value bonus that year.  He joins a less-than-illustrious history of 3rd rounders by this organization (year by year starting with 2018 Reid Schaller, Raquet, Jesus LuzardoRhett WisemanJakson Reetz , Drew Ward, Brett Mooneyham. Matthew Purke, Rick Hague,  and Trevor Holder in 2009.  For the record, that’s 10 years and one legitimate prospect or guy who worked out (that being Luzardo .. who will succeed for someone else).  That’s pretty ridiculous.  (2008 was Danny Espinosa, so i don’t want to be accused of arbitrary end-points).

The system still seems kind of top-heavy; 3-4 sure things, then a bunch of question marks.  i”d guess we’re ranked in the 16-20 range among the 30 teams as a system.

Lets be more positive; there’s a slew of names on this 2019 Fangraphs list who have literally never been mentioned on any other list that i’ve tracked.  So lets focus on them:

  • #9 Israel Pineda, an 18yr old Catcher who just held his own in Short-A against a bunch of guys 3 years his senior.  Maybe we’re finally developing a catcher that can make it?
  • #11 Tanner Rainey: our trade bounty in the Tanner Roark salary dump.  He’s not much of a “prospect” in that he’s 26 and is a AAA/4-A guy already.  But he does have a big arm and seems like he could be a 6th/7th inning solution soon.
  • #12 Malvin Pena, a 2014 IFA signing who signed for so little that he’s not even mentioned in the press releases from the time (meaning, he probably signed for like $5k).  Fangraphs complains about his mechanics, but he walked just 7 guys in 50 innings this year while making it to Low-A as a 21 yr old who has lost two full seasons to injury).   I think he starts in the Low-A rotation again in 2019 as they build his innings back up and see if he can improve on his already decent 2018 performance.
  • #17 Taylor Guilbeau: we just talked about him with Rule-5; he was eligible but didn’t get picked, despite switching to the bullpen and halving his ERA.  I think he appears on this list mostly due to his AFL performance.  I’m hoping he quickly becomes a LOOGY option for the big-league club in perhaps a year and a half or so.
  • #18 Jeremy De La Rosa, a $300k IFA signing this past June, and already on the list.  The thing that I noted: 6’1″ and he hasn’t turned 17 yet.
  • #19 Jordan Mills, another guy I thought took great strides forward in 2018 and was a Rule5 threat to get drafted.  He’s a step ahead of Guilbeau in terms of being an option for the big club; not bad for a MLFA signing a year ago.
  • #20 Joan Adon, part of the massive 2016 IFA class, but probably paid a pittance compared to the 6- and 7-figure deals there.  Now 20, he fared pretty well in the GCL then struggled in Short-A.  He’ll be in his age 20 season in 2019 so he’s a bit ahead of the curve as compared to (say) a college-age draftee who is his same age.  No matter; he’s the 20th ranked prospect on a list where usually only guys in the top 4-5 ever make the majors.
  • #21 Ben Braymer, one of my favorite Nats prospects right now.  18th rounder in 2016, he solved two successive lower levels in two successive years, then went to the AFL this past October.  He’s still a year away from Rule-5 but signed for relatively nothing ($100k bonus in the 18th out of Auburn).

 

fyi, here’s an updated link to my now massive Nats prospects Rankings xls: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1rTcspPOLJH685G9PUlmTlHU1g9AtlX4-Z9pOWP92Ne8/edit?usp=sharing

It now has more than 125 system rankings dating to the beginnings of the franchise in Washington.

 

 

Nats 2016 Draft Status: Where do we stand now that Dunning has signed?

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Dane Dunning headlines the 2016 draft class.

Dane Dunning headlines the 2016 draft class.

On Thursday 6/30/16, the big domino in our 2016 draft class Dane Dunning finally signed, which brought the Nats draft dollar shell game into more acute focus.

For those unfamiliar, here’s how the MLB draft now works with the new CBA-driven draft slotting and bonus system:  Every pick in the first 10 rounds is assigned a slot figure (here’s the 2016 slot figures directly pick by pick).  But you don’t have to spend all those dollars on each of those individual picks; if you “save” $100 by signing your (say) 4th rounder for $100 less than the slot value, that gives you $100 “extra” dollars to spend on someone else.  Any pick made above the 10th round can be paid up to $100,000 without having to count against the total bonus figure, which is important because if you give a 11th rounder $500k, that’s $400k that has to be counted against your top 10 budget.

So, the more important figure to keep in mind is this: $7,635,500.  That’s the sum of all the slot values of the 11 picks in the first 10 rounds that the Nats had this year.  An even more important figure is this: $8,017,275: that is precisely 5% above the $7.6M number, which is the “buffer” that MLB gives teams so as to go above their total slot values (along with a dollar-for-dollar tax penalty) without being penalized with lost future draft picks.

So, that being said, upon the Dunning signing, the Nats (by my calculations) had spent exactly $8,095,000 in bonus money, or $22,275 less than their upper end figure before getting penalized.

Here’s a list of those signees with dollar figures:

RoundOverallName/PositionBonus AmtSlot ValueSavings off of Slot?
1-S28Carter Kieboom2000000206590065900
1-S29Dane Dunning2000000203460034600
258Sheldon Neuse9000001107000207000
394Jesus Nuzardo1400000635800-764200
4124Nick Banks500000473300-26700
5154Daniel Johnson32500035430029300
6184Tres Barrera21000026540055400
7214Jacob Noll1900001989008900
8244A.J. Bogucki15000017770027700
9274Joey Harris10000166000156000
10304Paul Panaccione10000156600146600
11334Armand Upshaw400000100000-300000

The team went way over slot to sign third rounder Jesus Nuzardo, paying him the equivalent of mid 2nd round money to buy him out of his Miami commitment and get him into the fold.  That seems like good value; he was projecting as a 1st rounder out of HS earlier in the year before hurting his arm.   The team went slightly over budget to get Nick Banks, a nominal amount in the end for a US collegiate National team guy who also projected as a first rounder at the beginning of the year.  Lastly they dropped $400k ($300k over slot) on their 11th rounder Armand Upshaw, a move that has been somewhat questioned based on his Juco Stats (he did have a 4-year commitment to Missouri that had to be bought out).  These two big over-slot deals means club basically ended up with an extra 2nd rounder and an extra 5th rounder.  That’s pretty good value.

The team went under slot (as has now become the custom) with a number of its round 6-10 guys to save the money needed for these overslot deals: they got their 9th and 10th rounders for just $10k each (Joey Harris and Paul Panaccione); with all due respect to these two guys, don’t expect much out of them beyond this year.  Surprisingly to me, they got 2nd rounder Sheldon Neuse to sign for more than $200k underslot; this was a guy who was named the Big 12 player of the year this year, was Louisville Slugger 2nd team all-american, was a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes award and was just give the 2016 “Brooks Wallace” award for best college shortstop.  Basically, he had a great year this year and I like this pick.

The side effect of their spending thus far is this: there probably are no more deals to be made.  Here’s a list of the rest of the draft class ( from round 12 to 40) with a quick yes/no flag as to whether they’re signed yet:

RoundOverallName/PositionPositionCol/HSCollege or CmtmSigned?
12364Hayden HowardLHPCol Sr.Texas TechYes
13394Conner Simonetti1BCol Jr.Kent StateYes
14424Kyle SimondsRHPCol Sr.Texas A&MYes
15454Ryan WilliamsonLHPCol Jr.North Carolina StateYes
16484Phil MorseRHPCol Sr.Shenandoah (Va.)Yes
17514Tyler BeckwithSSCol Sr.RichmondYes
18544Ben BraymerLHPCol Jr.AuburnYes
19574Jarrett GonzalesCHSGrayson Junior College
20604Jake BarnettLHPCol Jr.Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)Yes
21634Jacob HowellRHPCol Jr.Delta State (Miss.)Yes
22664Sterling SharpRHPCol Jr.Drury (Mo.)Yes
23694Michael RishwainRHPCol Sr.Westmont (Calif.)Yes
24724Joseph BaltripRHPJ2Wharton County (Texas) JCYes
25754Branden BoggettoSSCol Sr.Southeast Missouri StateYes
26784Jack SundbergOFCol Sr.ConnecticutYes
27814Jeremy McDonaldLHPCol Sr.California BaptistYes
28844Jonny ReidLHPCol Jr.Azusa Pacific (Calif.)Yes
29874Sam HeldRHPCol Sr.NevadaYes
30904Tristan ClarkeOFJ2Eastern Oklahoma State JC
31934C.J. PicerniCCol Sr.New YorkYes
32964Garrett Gonzales3BHSIncarnate Word
33994Ryan WetzelSSHSPitt State
341024Morgan CooperRHPCol Jr.Texas
351054Tristan BaylessLHPHS??
361084Jordan McFarlandOFHSArkansas
371114Cory VossCJ2McLennan (Texas) CC
381144Noah MurdockRHPHSUVA
391174Matt Mervis1BHSDuke
401204Sean CookRHPHSMaryland walk-on?

So who is left unsigned at this point?  It is a fair assumption that any HS player drafted in the 12-40 range is not going to sign at this point; there’s just no additional dollars to incentivize them and they’ve all got college commitments.  So lets talk about the college players left on a case by case basis:

(Note; in-between the original writing of this post and the publication, both 12th rounder Hayden Howard  and 15th rounder Ryan Williamson signed; the signing of Howard came as somewhat of a surprise to me because he still had some eligibility.  Apologies if I forgot to update a spreadsheet or table somewhere).

  • 30th rounder Tristan Clarke: twitter handle is https://twitter.com/TClarke_9 but its protected, so no  hints as to his intentions.  He’s at a Juco now, but has committed to attend “UNO” which I can only assume is the University of Nebraska-Omaha and not the University of New Orleans.  It does not seem like he’s going to sign.
  • 34th rounder Morgan Cooper: twitter handle is https://twitter.com/mojaycoop: he missed all of 2015 with TJ, was Texas’ mid-week starter in 2016 and put up mediocre numbers.  He could end up with two more years of eligibility if I read his history correctly, so he makes sense to return to Texas, get into the weekend rotation and improve his draft stock.
  • 37th rounder Cory Voss: no idea what his twitter handle is, nor if he’s signed with a 4-year program out of his current Juco.  Tough one to find information on.

Of the HS draft picks:

  • 19th rounder Jarrett Gonzales: I cannot find his twitter, nor much information; he’s apparently committed to Grayson Junior College, which would make him draft eligible again next year, so why not roll the dice and play a year of Juco to increase value?
  • 32nd rounder Garrett Gonzales, the cousin of Jarrett and they’re both related to a Nats scout in the area.  Committed to Incarnate Ward.  Twitter handle https://twitter.com/gmoneyGarrett7 : this seems like a “favor draft pick” to an area scout who may not have gotten another guy drafted.
  • 33rd rounder Ryan Wetzel, committed to Pitt State, twitter https://twitter.com/ryanwetzel21.  Does not seem likely to sign.
  • 35th rounder  Tristan Bayless, LHP out of a Texas HS.  Can’t find twitter, can’t find his commitment, not in PerfectGame.org.  An enigma.
  • 36th rounder  Jordan McFarland, an OF out of an Illinois HS committed to Arkansas.  No Twitter, little hope of signing.
  • 38-40th rounders: the Nats take three local kids Noah Murdock, Matt Mervis and Sean Cook.  Murdock was the Virginia 3-A East Regional player of the year from Colonial Heights HS south of Richmond and is a UVA commit and has already announced he’s going to school.  Mervis is from Georgetown Prep, was 2nd team all-Met in 2015 and in 2016 and is committed to Duke; he was one of the marquee Maryland Prep players in this class.  So both of these were “good” picks.  Sean Cook was a 2nd-team All-Met ins 2016 but doesn’t have a rich pedigree in the scouting circles (he has no Perfect Game profile), and has been quoted as wanting to “walk on” at Maryland.  No offense to the kid, but this sounds like a “favor” draft pick as well to someone connected with the team.   We’ll have more detail on these local-connected drafted kids after the 7/15/16 signing deadline, summarizing everyone with local connections who was drafted.

Summary: I’ll be shocked if any of the remaining un-signed guys signs, so it looks like the class is complete.

Draft Class Stats (SpringfieldFan’s Draft Tracker has all of this data plus its own summarized data too)

  • 41 players drafted
  • 30 signed, 11 unsigned
  • Breakdown of draftees: 10 high schoolers, 4 Juco players, 12 college seniors and 15 college juniors (counting Howard as a “college junior”)
  • Breakdown by position: 21 non-pitchers, 20 pitchers.  Of the pitchers, 12 right handers, 8 lefties
  • Breakdown by State: 9 of the 41 drafted kids are from Texas.  Another 3 from Oklahoma; this continues a trend we’ve seen where the Nats really, really focus on this SW area of the country.  Other states with multiple players picked: Florida (4), California (3), and Virginia (3).

Of those 30 who signed:

  • 2 high schoolers, 2 jucos, 14 college juniors and 12 college seniors
  • 14 position players, 16 pitchers.  Of the pitchers, 9 righties, 7 lefties.

If you have any information on guys that I don’t please chime in with a comment.


 

One additional comment; as we’ve now seen, the Nats have been  highly active in the 7/2 international market, blowing well past their allotted IFA bonus money to sign.  According to Baseball America’s rankings, the Nats signed the #3 prospect in the IFA market this year in Dominican SS Luis Garcia, the #14 player in Dominican SS Yasel Antuna, the #30 player in Venezuelan OF Ricardo Mendez, and another Venezuelan C named Israel Pineda (you know, since they’ve had such great luck so far with Catchers from Venezuela).  I don’t know anything about these players and neither does anyone else besides a handful of hard-core scouting pundits who actually travel to these countries to eyeball these players.  Still, they’re mostly 16 yr olds; HS sophomores.  It could be money down a rat hole, or they could strike gold.  We won’t know for several years in any case.  Its one of the reasons I stopped tracking the Dominican Summer League (and one of the reasons Luke Erickson stopped hyper-tracking the daily machinations of both the DSL and the GCL); call me when they get to the states in a couple of years and we’ll see  how they’re doing.