Nationals Arm Race

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

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Are the Nats going to be able to sign these guys?

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Draft signing deadline day is 7/18/14.  Photo via chicagonow.com

Draft signing deadline day is 7/18/14. Photo via chicagonow.com

I smell whiffs from 2008′s Aaron Crow debacle.

(Which, just to head off hindsight is 20/20 arguments, did result in a comp pick that turned into Drew Storen … but Storen was a huge overdraft at the 10th overall pick in 2009, a college reliever who was a quick sign.  The Nats left a lot on the table in the Crow non-signing, as discussed in this space recently).

Right now, as of the morning of the 2014 Rule 4 signing deadline day, there exists just a small handful of players from the first 10 rounds of the draft who have not signed.  According to MLB.com’s great draft bonus tracker, just NINE players out of the first 315 players drafted remain unsigned as of the moment of this posting.

Three of them are Washington Nationals draft picks.  And they include the two most important picks of the draft; i.e. our first two picks Erick Fedde and Andrew Suarez.

What is going on??   We havn’t seen these kinds of difficulties in signing guys since before the slot bonus system went into place.  What is Mike Rizzo doing?

According to reports (this Bill Ladson report quoting Jim Callis and Adam Kilgore), Fedde got a “$3M offer” from another team he he dropped to them in the 2nd round and (with notoriously difficult negotiator agent Scott Boras in charge) is holding out for more than the assigned slot bonus to his pick ($2,145,600).   The Nats can go a bit above the $2.1M figure without incurring penalties … but it depends on what happens with their other two marquee picks.  Media pundits (unnamed of course) are predicting a stalemate here.

Meanwhile, the general sense from reading the tea leaves is that Suarez will sign at or near slot (which makes you wonder what the heck is taking so long?), while unsigned 8th rounder Austin Byler seems to be unsignable at his slot figure ($145k) and will be returning to school.  Byler’s non-signing isn’t too much of a surprise; he was a 3rd round projected guy who slipped to the 8th round, and the Nats didn’t really free up that much cash in its other first-10-rounds of picks in order to get Byler the $600k it likely would have needed to sign him.

Aside: speaking of lack of signing bonus money for Byler; is overpaying its college senior signs?  They drafted four college seniors in the first 10 rounds (Carey, Gardner, Van Orden and Page) and gave them combined more than $200k.  Could that 200k have been better allocated?  Did those seniors need to be offered that much money?

It makes zero sense to me for Fedde not to sign frankly, even if he’s offered less money; by the time he rehabs his TJ surgery, it’ll be nearly the end of next year’s college season.  There’s just little chance of him going higher than he did this year, nor getting as much bonus money offered.  And if he has the slightest setback in his recovery, he’ll be lucky to be drafted in the first 5 rounds next year and will be looking at a tenth of the signing bonus offers.  And, if he doesn’t sign, he’s rehabbing under the care of his personal physician instead of an experienced professional major league team that has rehabbed probably a dozen TJ surgeries in the last few years, including some pretty significant and nationally renound names.  Why this is taking so long is just beyond me.

If the Nats fail to sign all three guys, they’ll have compensation picks in the form of the 19th overall pick in the 2015 draft for Fedde and the 58th pick for Suarez (if i’m reading the rules correctly that is; you’re supposed to get compensation for unsigned first, second and any supplemental round picks at your unsigned slot +1 in the following draft, irrespective of how many comp picks get stuffed inbetween rounds the next year).  I guess that’d make 2015′s draft pretty good.  But they’ll lose the Byler pick altogether.

Are you worried?

Written by Todd Boss

July 18th, 2014 at 7:52 am

Local Draft Prospects: Post-draft summary

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Jacob Bukauskas was among the area's highest ranked draft prospect.  Where'd he go?  John McDonnell/Washington Post via getty images

Jacob Bukauskas was among the area’s highest ranked draft prospect. Where’d he go? John McDonnell/Washington Post via getty images

We started looking at DC-local draft prospects early this spring with a comprehensive pre-season review of all local draft prospects.  Then at mid-spring season we took at look at just the best local prospects.   Now that the Rule 4 draft has occurred, lets talk about some of these big-time names from DC/MD/VA and who went where.

I’ll list these players with local ties in the order they were drafted, which it should be noted, turned out to be vastly different from their pre-draft ranking order.  Like with other posts, I’ll put in rankings for the player from four reputable ranking sources pre-draft for prospects: Keith LawBaseball AmericaMLB.com and MinorLeagueBall (though, as we’ll see by the rankings below, I’m not sure I think MinorLeagueBall’s rankings are worthy; they’re *way* off on some players who went in the upper rounds).  After the 10th round, we’ll just focus on “name players” or high schoolers who got previous mention; lets be honest, the odds of a high school star being bought out of his college commitment drastically drops after just the first few rounds.

Editor’s note: post-signing deadline I updated this with signing status and bonus for first 10 rounds of picks.  Actual bonus tracker from MLB.com here, slot values for each pick here.

The MLB Draft Tracker is the best tool out there for finding info on players and is used heavily here.

  • 1st Round/#19 overall by Cincinnati: Nick Howard, UVA rhp reliever (Law #63/BA #25/MLB #31/MinorLeagueBall #40).  Jim Callis reports that Howard’s stock was rising fast ahead of the draft, and MlbDraftInsider predicted an early 2nd round pick for Howard.  Shocking everyone, he went right after the Nats picked at #19 in the first round.  A surprise pick; he was projected to be just the third UVA player selected and perhaps a 2nd rounder.   He was a Sunday starter for UVA but moved to the bullpen in 2014 and showed a significant strike-out tool (he had a 15.88 K/9 rate on the year, albeit in just 28 innings closing games for UVA).  I wonder if Cincinnati is thinking they can move him back to a starting role, because drafting a reliever this high is (in some pundit’s minds) a waste of a first round pick.  Signed for $1.995M, $100k under slot.
  • Supp-1st Round/#37 overall by Houston: Derek Fisher, UVA OF (#15/#31/#26/#31).  Keith Law video breakdown.  Law predicted back of first round despite his ranking him as the 15th best prospect.  Scout.com predicted the same.  MlbDraftInsider predicted mid-first round.  They were all wrong; Fisher lasted until the mid supplemental 1st round, and odds are that Houston got a steal of a player here.  Fisher’s production was hampered by a broken hamate bone this season, causing him to miss time and lose power, so this pick was projecting his excellent sophomore season.  I think Houston will find a quick-to-the-majors corner outfielder who can slot nicely into a #2 or #6 slot.  Signed for $1.534M, exactly slot.
  • Supp-1st Round/#38 overall by Cleveland: Mike Papi, UVA 1B/OF (#43/#43/#45/#81.  Keith Law video breakdown.  Law predicted mid 2nd round.  MlbDraftInsider predicted early 2nd round.  But Papi’s strong finish clearly jumped him on Cleveland’s board, who nabbed him in the supplemental first round.  He profiles as a professional hitter, lots of line drives, lots of walks (I think of Nick Johnson).  Signed for $1.25M, about $250k under slot.
  • 2nd Round/#45 overall by Chicago Cubs: Jake Stinnett, SR RHP from U of Maryland (#51/#67/#72/#213??).  Stinnett clearly made himself a ton of money with his showings at the ACC tournament (8ip, 3 ER and 10ks versus UVA) and the CWS regional (8ip, 3runs against ODU).  He is the first college senior off the board, to a team (the Cubs) that is trying to rebuild itself, so one may wonder if this is a pre-negotiated/below-slot deal with a guy who won’t have a ton of leverage so that the Cubs can throw extra cash later on.  Either way, Stinnett was likely to go in the 2nd round regardless, so the Cubs don’t do much of an over-draft here.  Signed for exactly $1M, about $250k under slot.
  • 3rd round/#78 overall by Chicago Cubs: Mark Zagunas, C from Virginia Tech ((Law out of top 100/#111/#149/#106).  Zagunas profiles as a Jason Kendall like catcher; good defense, contact hitter who doesn’t strike out a ton.  But Law thinks he projects as a backup catcher and thinks this is a bit of an over-draft.  No matter; Zagunas became one of the first players to sign when he took an under-slot deal over the weekend.  Signed for 615K, about $100k underslot.
  • 3rd round/#83 overall by Toronto: Nick Wells is a LHP from Battlefield HS in Gainesville (Law out of top 100/#119/Out of MLB’s top 200/#343) who has a College of Charleston commit and who sits low-90s on the gun.  He’s popped up from being just a good HS pitcher to being a potential 3rd-4th rounder.   Slot is $661k.  Might be signable; that’s a lot of money.   Battlefield lost in the 6-A north regional quarters to McLean; i’m not sure which game Wells pitched (perhaps their first round game, a 4-0 win).  UPdate: named to Baseball America’s 2nd team All-American team for 2014.  Signed for $661k, exactly slot.
  • 4th Round/#111 overall by Seattle: Ryan Yarbrough, a senior LHP from ODU (na/#407/na/na) who I hadn’t seen on any pre-draft rankings.   I was surprised to find him at least on BA’s list.  He was a weekend starter (some Friday, some Saturday) for ODU this year but struggled to a 6-7, 4.50 ERA on the season.  In the CWS regional he pitched in relief in the first of their two-and-out losses to Maryland.  No offense to Yarbrough, but a 4th round senior draftee (slot value $471k) who likely is an org-arm more befitting of a mid-20s round pick looks like a complete money-saving move by Seattle to free up cash for other picks.  Signed for just $40k, more than $430k under slot.  Seattle went WAY over-slot with its 1st rounder and supp-2nd rounder and needed to make up for it with a ton of under-slot guys.
  • 4th Round/#116 overall by Milwaukee: Troy Stokes from Calvert Hall College in Baltimore (na/#316/na/#260).  He profiles as an undersized lead-off/CF and is committed to Maryland.  I can see him signing for slot frankly based on this draft position.  Maryland loses a recruit that could have really helped them.  Signed for $400k, about $50k underslot.
  • 4th Round/#127 overall by Tampa Bay: Blake Bivens is an RHP from George Washington HS (aka GW-Danville near the NC border) (na/#124/na/#140).  He’s committed to Liberty but has been consistently 90-93 on the gun with reports of good secondary stuff.  Projected as possible 3rd-4th rounder and indeed that’s where he went.  GW-Danville is a 4-A school that got upset in their conference semis, hence his absence from the prep radar.  His slot value is $404k; is that enough to get him out of going to Liberty?  I would think so, even given Liberty’s run to the CWS this year we’re not talking about a big-time program (though, that being said, I don’t know jack about Bivens personally, and he might be quite religious, which would explain his commitment to small-school liberty despite his talents).  Named to Baseball America’s 3rd team all-american.  Signed for $462k, about $60k above slot.
  • 7th Round/#213 overall by Kansas City: Brandon Downes, CF from UVA.  I’d accuse this of being a money-saving senior sign draft pick, but Downes is a junior.   Slot is $176k; if he gets slot he may sign.  That’s a lot of money.  Signed for $150k, about $25k under slot.  Not bad for a senior sign.
  • 7th Round/#222 overall by Oakland: Brandon Cogswell, ss/2b from UVA (na/228/na/268).  MLB’s profile projects him as either a 2nd baseman or a utility guy professionally.   I wonder if he’ll sign; slot figure is $164k and he’s a college junior.  Maybe this is a peak for him.  Signed for $200k, about $35k over slot.
  • 8th/#226 by Houston: Bobby Boyd, an undersized junior CF from West Virginia U (not ranked on any list) but who hails from Silver Spring and who went to St. Johns.   Completely unnoticed by any pre-draft ranking team; is this a punt of a draft pick?  .356 average (good) but just a .389 OBP (bad … just 10 walks all year).  Signed for $140k, about $20k under slot.
  • 8th/#250 by Detroit: Artie Lewicki, UVA’s mid-week/4th starter who got a ton of work in the ACC and regional tournaments.  A nice senior draftee for Detroit.  Signed for $60k, about $90k underslot.

 

  • 10th and 14th rounds: the only two JMU players were taken; Ty McFarland and Chris Huffman.  McFarland is a senior third baseman and son of the longtime JMU coach Spanky McFarland while Huffman is a junior RH who may opt to return in hopes of a bigger bonus next year.
  • 15th/#454 by Washington: Ryan Ripken, 1B from Indian River CC but more famous for being the son of Cal Ripken, Jr.  You can’t help but make mention of this pick, not only because it was the Nats, but because of who it is.  I can’t find much of any scouting reports on the guy.  MLB.com has a story with some more data.
  • 17th/#540 by Washington: Alec Keller, a senior CF out of Princeton but who went to Douglas Freeman in Richmond.   I had never heard of Keller, but then again I didn’t really start following prep baseball closely until recently.  Of interest; perfectgame lists him at 5’6″, 110lb but mlb.com lists him at 6’2″, 200lbs.  That’s one heck of a college growth spurt :-) .  I hope Keller gets some playing time in Viera and earns another summer of pro ball.
  • 20th/#600 by Arizona: Jacob Bukauskus, RHP from Stone Bridge HS in Ashburn.  Keith Law video breakdown.   The local area’s top ranked prospect, projected as a mid-to-late first round pick, goes 600th overall.  Bukauskas had informed all interested teams that he’s honoring his commitment to UNC.  the thought was that a team might draft him early 2nd round and offer him a huge-overslot deal (as Law thought would happen, with a potential $2M bonus).  Alas it did not, and this 20th round pick seems like a waste of a pick frankly.  In late May he was named the Gatorade State player of the year.  Baseball America 1st team All-American for 2014.  Stats for the season: 7-0, 0.00 ERA.  Word came out during the regional tournament that Bukauskas was being shut-down due to shoulder tendinitis; this likely was the reason he didn’t get drafted earlier.  It looks like he’s getting his wish and going to school.  UNC must be ecstatic.
  • 20th/#614 by Boston: Devon Fisher is a catcher from 6-A south champions and state favorite Western Branch HS (Portsmouth).   UVA commit.  Projects as a 4th rounder, not picked til the 20th.  Another likely victim of the new draft rules; in years past a saavy team like Boston would just throw $1M at him in the 20th and he’d sign.  Instead UVA likely gets a big-time player coming to school.  Update: Fisher signed with Boston instead of going to UVA.
  • 21st/#634 by Washington: Conner Bach, SR LHP from VMI.   I had no recollection of him previously, but NatsGM Ryan Sullivan reports that he played in the Cal Ripken league and left an impression.
  • 22nd/#675 by St. Louis: Derek Casey is an RHP from Hanover HS (Mechanicsville) with a UVA commit.  93-94 on the gun.  Projects as possible 3rd rounder.  Casey led Hanover to the 2013 AAA Virginia state title and Hanover is the favorite to win the 4-A title this year.  Another great sign for UVA; Casey likely is going to school.
  • 32nd/#958 by San Francisco: Hunter Williams is a two-way lefty player from Cosby HS in Chesterfield, VA who has skills both on the mound at at the plate.  He’s limited to first base in the field, which may make it tougher for him to get drafted and developed.  91 on the gun.  UNC commit, it should be interesting to see which way he focuses.   Projects as a 4th-5th rounder.
  • 35th/#1050 by Arizona: Justin Morris is a C from DeMatha HS who plays for the 2013 PerfectGame national champions EvoShield Canes traveling team (east-coast based travel team with a ton of big-time names matriculating these days).  He’s a Maryland commit but didn’t improve his draft stock much throughout the year.  He was #295 on minorleagueball’s pre-season list but doesn’t get picked until garbage time in the draft.  Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.
  • 35th/#1054 by Washington: Flint Hill’s Tommy Doyle, a UVA commit who I didn’t think was a draft prospect, but who the Nats picked up in the 35th round likely to curry favor to a local interest.
  • 40th/#1096 by Milwaukee, Taylor Lane, a shortstop from Chesapeake but attending HS in Florida at the IMG academy.  Florida commit.

Local Names of note not drafted at all:

  • Charlie Cody is a 3B from the same Great Bridge HS in Chesapeake that just graduated Connor Jones.  He’s committed to UVA.  His stock seems to have dropped this spring and he’s joining Jones at UVA; he did not get picked at all.
  • Jeff Harding is a senior RHP from the Cambridge-South Dorchester school that just made it to Maryland 1-A’s state semis (after winning the title last year).  He’s committed to South Carolina.  I thought he’d at least get a late-round courtesy pick, but I guess not.
  • Brodie Leftridge is an OF from Highland MD who played for St. Johns in DC with a Tennessee commit.
  • Zach Clinton is a RHP from Forest, VA, plays for Liberty Christian HS (the Virginia state private schools champ) and is committed to Liberty.  On 5/27/14 he was named the co-state player of the year for private schools (along with Tommy Doyle).  No love from MLB teams though; he went undrafted and looks like he’s heading to his home town college.
  • Hunter Taylor, a C from Nandua HS in Olney, VA.  Named to the Baseball America 2nd team all-American list, was not drafted.  Committed to South Carolina.
  • Pavin Smith is a big lefty 1B/OF two-way player from Florida who will attend UVA after not signing.  It seems like he could slot right into the departing Mike Papi/Derek Fisher lineup holes.
  • Bennett Sousa is a LHP from Florida who now will attend UVA.  93mph, seems like he will slot into their rotation in a year’s time.

Summary: UVA has a ton of players drafted (no less than 8, and 7 of them likely are signing).  But they have a ton of commits from major names who didn’t get drafted and/or who got drafted so late that they stand little chance of signing.  Devon Fisher, Derek Casey, Tommy Doyle and Charlie Cody are all UVA commits likely going to school.  UNC also makes out like a bandit, getting both Bukauskas and Williams to school.  And Maryland looks like it will get at least two very decent players coming to school in Morris and Harding.


Some useful draft links for you:

 

Who are the Nats targeting at #18 plus Mock Draft review of top5 picks

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Lots of pundits think the Nats are taking Fedde at #18.  Photo via chicagonow.com

Lots of pundits think the Nats are taking Fedde at #18. Photo via chicagonow.com

The annual amateur/Rule-4 draft is upon us.  Wendy Thurm posted a nice overview of the festivities, kicking off today, June 5th.   Who is going at the top, and who do we think the Nats are going to take with their first round draft pick (#18 overall?)

Lets check in with some experts and pundits.  Unlike in years past, there’s no real consensus #1 overall pick this year thanks to a host of factors.  But the top-5 is relatively consistent no matter who the pundit.  We’ll talk about predictions for the first few picks plus who they think the Nats will end up with.  (Link to the draft order for the first few rounds to show all the missing picks and supplemental additions from MLB.com).  Note that all the Keith Law and Jim Bowden links are ESPN insider.  Profiles on the frequent top-5 picks and the names being associated with the Nats potential picks are below the list of pundit’s mock drafts:

  • MLBDraftInsider’s Chris Crawford has done a host of Mock Drafts this spring (the sixth version dated 5/28/14 and the “near final” version on 6/2/14, his penultimate mock on 6/3/14, his “really final” board on 6/4/14 and his “final mock ever” on 6/5/14)  and in his last mock has come down on the Nats taking Hoffman. Predicted top 5 in final mock: Aiken, Rodon, Nola, Conforto, Gordon.  Same movements that Law is projecting at the final minute.
  • ESPN’s Keith Law put out his first mock draft on 5/16/14, his second on 5/27/14, his third on 6/4/14 and his final/last on 6/5/14 and had the Nats on Erick Fedde, calling it a “lock” in the industry.  Top 5 in the latest mock: Aiken, Rodon, Nola, Conforto, Gordon (only list on here without Kolek in top 5).
  • MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo posted a mock on 5/16/14, another on 5/30/14.  One last one 6/5/14.  In his latest he went Aiken, Jackson, Rodon, Kolek, Gordon.  He has the Nats taking Jeff Hoffman, saying that it could come down to “financials” and who is willing to go over-slot.
  • MLB.com’s Jim Callis posted his latest mock on 5/23/14 and one last one 6/5/14.   He went Aiken, Jackson, Rodon, Gordon, Kolek.  He has the Nats on Hoffman as well, but in the description basically says he says Hoffman could go top 10 and/or the Nats could take Fedde.
  • MinorLeagueBall’s Matt Garrioch posted his first mock draft early (3/10/14), his second on 5/19/14.  His top 5: Rodon, Kolek, Aiken, Jackson, Gordon.  He has the Nats on Kyle Schwarber.
  • ESPN’s Jim Bowden posted his Top-10 picks on 5/28/14, trying to think like the GM of each top-10 picking team, and went Rodon, Aiken, Kolek, Jackson and wildcard Freeman.
  • BaseballAmerica’s John Manuel has posted mock drafts on 5/9/14, 5/16/14 and v3.0 on 5/25/14 and his final the day of the draft 6/5/14.  His top 5 in his most recent mock: Aiken, Rodon, Kolek, Conforto, Gordon, with the Nats on Fedde.
  • GradingontheCurve’s Shaun Kernahan put up his mock draft 5/29/14.  He went Aiken, Rodon, Kolek, Jackson, Gordon with the Nats on Gatewood.
  • MinorLeagueBall did a community Mock Draft on 5/30/14 (so, not full of expert opinion but interesting nonetheless to see what the crowd-sourced opinion on players is).   They went Aiken, Jackson, Rodon, Kolek, Gordon with the Nats taking Conforto.  Based on where Conforto is now being projected, there’s little chance he survives to #18.
  • BaseballInstinct’s Thomas Belmont has a top-200 draft board that isn’t a mock draft but lists top 5 as Aiken, Jackson, Kolek, Rodon and Toussant.  #18 is Grant Holmes, who I would be surprised if the Nats picked despite his pedigree.  He posted his mock draft on 6/4/14 where he follows his board, but I have a problem with his rankings considering what the professional reporters above are showing for top 5 and for the Nats.
  • PerfectGame’s Patrick Ebert posted a bunch of mock drafts; in his last one on 6/4/14, he went top-5 of Aiken, Rodon, Kolek, Gordon, Nola with the Nats on Bradley Zimmer.
  • Si.com’s Dave Perkin (a former professional scout who does some writing) posted a last-minute mock 6/5/14 online.    He goes Aiken, Rodon, Kolek, Freeland, Jackson with the Nats on Beede.  I like this scenario.

How do I think the top 5 will go?  I like Aiken #1, Rodon to the Marlins (for the cuban-american/quick to the majors factors), then Kolek.  From there I have no idea; the Cubs by all accounts want a college arm but the next best one (Nola) isn’t worth the #4 spot.  Maybe they take a college bat (Conforto?), maybe they go BPA.  I’m guessing they bite the bullet and play the hand that they’ve been dealt and get Jackson or Gordon 4th, with the other going 5th.

A quick overview of the names in discussion for top 5 selection:

  • Carlos Rodon: lhp from NC State; was the heavy consensus 1-1 overall pick all winter, but a rough spring and high pitch counts have dropped him on most people’s mock boards.  Scout.com has a detailed scouting report and video.  Scouting Video from Keith Law.
  • Brady Aiken is a prep lhp from San Diego who could be just the third high school pitcher ever picked #1 overall.  Scout.com has a detailed scouting report and video.  Keith Law scouting video.
  • Alex Jackson is a prep C also from the San Diego area.  Scout.com has a detailed scouting report and video.  Scouting video from Keith Law.
  • Tyler Kokek is a prep RHP from Texas with big time stuff; 100mph velocity on his fastball.  Scouting video from Keith Law.
  • Aaron Nola is a polished RHP friday starter for LSU who may not overpower you with velocity, but is a good pitcher.  Scouting Video from Keith Law.
  • Nick Gordon is a prep SS from Florida.  Scouting Video from Keith Law.
  • Michael Conforto is a junior OF from Oregon State.
  • Kyle Freelan is a lhp junior starter from Evansville.  He has good velocity, a good slider and great control.
  • Max Pentecost is a C from Kennesaw State who may be a stretch to go top-5 but should be top-10.
  • Touki Toussaint is a prep RHP from Miami, FL who is considered the second best prep RHP arm behind Kolek; he doesn’t quite have the velocity but he has better secondary stuff.

MLB.com reports that seven of these guys will be in-studio during the draft (all high schoolers), including a couple that may drop out of the first round (could be a bit embarassing for both them and MLB).

The names associated/predicted with the Nat’s #18 overall pick:

  • Erick Fedde was UNLV’s friday starter before going down with the dreaded Tommy John injury, diagnosed on 5/10/14.  Before his injury Fedde was projected in the same general area where the Nats are picking … which makes me question this prediction.  I could understand if Jeff Hoffman falls (a projected top -5 pick) to #18 grabbing him … but here I don’t know if I’d agree with picking a guy who you won’t see for a year and a half in uniform.  Though that being said, BA had Fedde ranked #8 in their top-200 pre-injury draft rankings, so perhaps grabbing him at #18 could be appropriate.
  • Tyler Beede: RHP Vanderbilt starter, who was a projected top-10 pick thanks to his amazing sophomore season (14-1, 2.32 ERA and a Golden Spikes finalist), before a rough season (7-7, 3.49 ERA and 92/41 k/BB in 91 innings) dropped his draft status.  He turned down a big bonus out of HS as a Toronto 1st rounder and that apparently (combined with unknown/unstated “make-up” issues) has him dropping fast.  Personally, I think he could be a steal at #18.  BA’s Aaron Fitt profiled Beede on 5/29/14.  Scouting Video from Keith Law.
  • Kyle Schwarber, C/1B power hitter from Indiana.  Listed as 6’0″, 240.  .340/.450/.623 on the year with 12 homers, 27/41 K/BB ratio in 215 ABs.  Great numbers if he’s really a catcher; some listed him as C, others at 1B.  Question: Big10 baseball isn’t exactly the SEC; are his stats padded thanks to playing a bunch of weak programs all year?
  • Jeff Hoffman was ECU’s friday starter and a consensus top-5 predicted pick (perhaps as high as #3) before being felled by TJ surgery (diagnosed on 5/8/14).  I think he’s a huge long-shot to make it to #18 because Toronto picks twice in the top 11 picks and it makes complete sense for them to use their 2nd pick to take Hoffman, save some slot money and basically temper their draft risk by virtue of having a second high pick.  Scouting Video from Keith Law.
  • Jacob Gatewood is a prep SS from Fresno, California who has a ton of power for a middle-infield bat (he won the prep home run derby held during last year’s all-star game festivities), even if he has to move off Short to 3B.  Gatewood gets some mention as a potential Nats pick, but this seems very much out of Mike Rizzo‘s style.  I cannot see the Nats taking a high school player unless someone falls to them unexpectedly.  Scouting Video from Keith Law.
  • Casey Gillaspie is a 1B from Wichita State with huge power numbers in 2014: .389/.520/.682 with 15 homers and 28/58 K/BB ratio in 211 ABs.  But, like with Schwarber, do you draft a guy who is already locked into first base?  Are his numbers a mirage thanks to the weaker Missouri Valley Conference?
  • Michael Chavis is a prep OF/3B from Georgia who Crawford has the Nats taking in his mock draft … but which I cannot believe will happen.  I just don’t see Rizzo taking a HS player, practically ever, unless there’s huge upside or value.
  • Brandon Finnegan: friday LHP starter for national seed TCU.  Undersized but a big-time arm.  Not the prototypical pick for Rizzo (he likes big, tall guys).
  • Grant Holmes is a big RHP prep pitcher from South Carolina who likely goes before #18, but if he’s sitting here he could get a look.
  • Bradley Zimmer is an OF with a brother already in pro ball from San Francisco.

Who do I like for the Nats at #18?  Honestly, I think picking TJ surviver Fedde at #18 might be an overdraft.  Now, if Hoffman fell there I’d grab him … but most pundits put Hoffman at #11 (Toronto’s extra 1st rounder).  I’d love to take a crack at Tyler Beede; he was so good last  year and I don’t think he’s forgotten how to pitch.  I like Finnegan too.  Maybe they go with a college bat.  But one thing seems certain; I just cannot see one of these HS names at #18.  I think they’ll take someone whose quicker to the majors.

Local draft-prospects; mid-spring Update

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Bukauskas is rocketing up the draft boards.  Photo Bill Kamenjar/InsideNova.com

Bukauskas is rocketing up the draft boards. Photo Bill Kamenjar/InsideNova.com

This is the 2nd post in a periodic spring-long series looking at DC/MD/VA draft prospects for the 2014 season.

The pre-season review is here, going mostly on far-too-early lists of prospects from various sources.  Now that we’re a good way through high school and college seasons, its a great time to re-visit some names.  UVA remains ranked #1 in the BaseballAmerica college poll (ranking as of 5/5/14) on the backs of two guys we’ll talk about here.  But the big local baseball prospect news is all about one name in particular.

Lets talk about the three leading names that seem to be potential top-3 round picks in the coming amateur/Rule-4 draft.

  • Jacob Bukauskus, RHP from Stone Bridge HS in Ashburn has just shot up draft boards and gathered a ton of local attention.  He’s reportedly up to 98 on the gun and has given up just one RUN so far this season.   ESPN’s Keith Law drove to NoVa to see him a couple of weeks ago and filed this report (insider only), predicting he’ll be picked at the end of the first round.   The blog BaseballDraftReport wrote 1,000 words on Bukauskas here.   And the Washington Post’s Tariq Lee wrote a nice feature for WP’s AllMetSports.com and the paper a few weeks back on the prospect.  If you want to see Bukauskas, your time is running out for the regular season.  He’s throwing Stone Bridge’s mid-week games and goes tonight (5/6/14).  Stone Bridge’s schedule is here; they play at Tuscarora HS in Leesburg tonight, then are home to Broad Run on 5/13, and then play away to Freedom-South Riding on monday 5/19 before the post-season tournaments start.  Law has him ranked #29 in his early May Draft-preview, but broke a story this past week that has Bukauskas telling sources he wants to go to college (he’s committed to UNC).  I said it before; you don’t generally graduate a year early so you can turn down $1.5M and go to college; I still firmly believe someone is drafting him early and paying him well.   Likely Drafted at the end of the first round by all reports.
  • Derek Fisher‘s lofty pre-season status took a huge hit when he broke his hamate bone this season; he’s only played in 21 games this year.  But he seems to have returned from the injury and teams have a pretty good knowledge of how players react to this injury (they’re generally hampered for a year or so and their power numbers diminish badly).  Bad timing for Fisher; he could have made himself some money thanks to a thin crop of college bats this year.  Stats for the year: .325/.372/.513 with 2 homers, 12/4 K/BB in 21 games/80 at-bats.  Not a ton of walks but also not a ton of strike-outs considering his slugging.  Law has him ranked #17 in his early May draft-preview.  Likely Drafted later in the first round if teams aren’t scared off by his hand injury.
  • Mike Papi has rocketed up draft boards this spring; going from being considered the 3rd or 4th best draft prospect on his own team to being talked about as an early 2nd round pick.  His slash line: .289/.446/.493 with 8 homers, 32/40 K/BB ratio in 46 games and 152 ABs.  That’s nearly a 1.000 OPS using the BB-Core bats.  Law has him ranked #38 in his early May draft preview.  Likely Drafted in the early to middle second round.

A note on UVA: they were pre-season #1 and have maintained that high ranking using a weekend rotation of three SOPHOMORES.  They might be matriculating a bunch of hitters this spring, but they’re going to be a major force on the mound.  Add to their rotation two big-name freshman that we talked about in draft-posts last year (namely, Alec Bettinger and Connor Jones) and the Cavaliers look like they’ll have a historic pitching corps in 2015.

Other names on Keith Law’s top 100 early may draft-preview:

  • Nick Howard, RHP from UVA.  (#59)
  • Jake Stinnett, RHP from Maryland (#89)

Mock Draft links for several sites/blogs that do such things.  Most draft pundits are now off of NC State’s Carlos Rodon as 1-1 thanks to his diminished velocity and over-use this season (he’s had several outings that had him at 130+ pitches to the abject horror of some scouting personnel).  Most experts now have San Diego LHP prep pitcher Brady Aiken as the likely #1 overall pick, meaning that baseball will go another year without ever having a prep RHP selected 1-1 overall.

  • BaseballDraftReport.com’s top HS pitchers list Bukauskas as the 5th best HS pitching prospect in the land.  That’s pretty heady praise considering that the guys listed ahead of him are all top-10 draft pick talents or close to it.
  • MLBDraftInsider.com does Mock First round drafts: this 4/15/14 link has Bukauskas and Papi in the top 50.  By this 5/5/14 version, Fisher is back, Bukauskas is rising and Papi is holding steady as an early 2nd rounder.
  • MLB.com has a top 100 list of draft prospects in some rough order put together by their staff (presumably including Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo) and they’ve got nice little write-ups on the prospects.

Fyi: here’s links to the latest Nationwide High School Polls; not a lot of love for DC/MD/VA high-schools here.

  • Baseball America top 25 high schools: only Western Branch HS in Chesapeake is mentioned for local schools.  That link was dated 4/22/14; the new rankings due out 5/6/14 show Cosby replacing Western Branch in the top 25 behind their top player Hunter Williams.
  • USA Today top 50 high schools: Western Branch #23.  Rankings are as of 4/30/14; new rankings due out 5/7.
  • MaxPreps/Freeman top 25.  Interestingly Freeman has Midlothian’s Cosby HS as #3 in the land.   Max Preps has FOUR VA schools ranked in the mid-30s right now: Freeman, Cosby, Woodside and Western Branch (in that order).  Rankings as of 5/4/14.
  • PerfectGame.org top 50: only Western Branch listed, at #43 (as of 5/5/14)

So, no national love for Bukauskus’ Stone Bridge right now; I’m guessing they’ll have to make some regional noise before getting any notice.  They also play in a pretty weak baseball district (playing a bunch of newer Loudoun County schools) and don’t have to face NoVa powerhouse programs like Lake Braddock and Robinson on a regular basis.  Local All-Met rankings have Stone Bridge (13-1) at #1 and Madison #2, fitting in that Madison’s sole local loss was to Stone Bridge in the season opener.  Local baseball factories St. Johns and Riverdale Baptist are in the top 5, along with a slew of Maryland schools.  I’m hoping these two teams get a chance to meet in the regional tournament; I have no idea if Stone Bridge has a strong enough #2 to make it there.  It could make waiting to see Bukauskas risky; would you throw  him in the first district/regional game or try to save him for a tougher match up?

Can’t wait for regionals and I can’t wait for a shot to see Bukauskas live.

Mid-spring update on local draft prospects

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High Schools are heading into post-season tournaments and local prep players have had their chances to make impressions through the Spring HS season.  How are our local prep phenoms faring this year, and what players with Virginia ties may feature prominently in the upcoming MLB draft?

Note; it is difficult to find updated stats on Prep players.  I tried.  If you know where to find reliable prep hitting and pitching stats, let me know.  So there’s not much in the way of stats here unless they’re college players.  For all the players below I’ve listed if they appear in the latest top-100 draft prospect rankings from two reliable sources: Keith Law‘s top-100 draft list and BaseballAmerica’s top 100 list and top 250 list.  Instead of re-linking over and over, i’ll refer to these two lists in shorthand via the links here.

First, quick updates on the players mentioned in my March 2013 posting on 4 local players:

  • Andy McGuire: SS/3B: leading Madison HS in Vienna to a 19-1 record (with 19 consecutive wins) heading into the District tournament and a #1 local ranking by the Washington Post.  Madison is also an honorable mention in the latest USA Today national rankings.  I asked Law in his 5/16/13 chat about McGuire’s draft status (he’s regularly in the lower 50 of pundit’s top 100 draft prospects for this year, implying a mid 2nd round pick) but Law is “hearing” 4th round, which he’s surprised by and may indicate that McGuire will honor his U. Texas committment.  Draft Rankings: Law #74/BA #196.  6/6/13 update: some video of McGuire at this link; just watching him run and move and his body type I’m immediately thinking he’s going to struggle to stay at SS, echoing what scouts say.
  • Alec Grosser: RHP TC Williams: Nothing else has really popped up about Grosser after the initial flurry of articles, and he’s listed as “Signed” and committed to George Mason.  PerfectGame has his best measured fastball at 92, ranging 89-92.  That’s still pretty good and I’m guessing he’ll head to George Mason to see where his arm takes him.  His HS has not had the success one would expect with a dominant arm, sitting at around .500 heading into the post-season.  Not ranked by Law/BA #158.
  • Matt McPhearson: OF with Riverdale Baptist popped up on MinorLeagueBall’s Mid-Atlantic report recently with the note that he has “game changing” speed.  He’s still listed as a “Verbal” Commit to U. Miami.  I’ve seen him as a late 1st rounder on some mock drafts.  Here’s a good scouting report on him from BaseballHounds.com.  Lastly there’s some scouting video online of him, showing a good bat from the left-hand side and with some amazing speed stats: a verified 6.2 in the 60 yard dash and home-to-first in less than 3.8 seconds.  As the articles say; that’s Crazy fast.   He’s one of only three guys with an “80″ scouting grade in this year’s class per Jim Callis (the other two being Jonathan Gray’s fastball, and Kris Bryant’s power, and those two guys are both going in the top 3 of the 2013 draft). The only knock on him may be his size (just 5’10″) but he profiles as a prototypical leadoff/center fielder.  Law ranked #62/BA #136.
  • Thomas Rogers, LHP injured all year is still verbally committed to UNC.  Nothing new to report.  Not ranked in either Law/BA’s lists.

A couple of new names that I’ve taken note of locally, by virtue of their college commitments to major Baseball programs:

  • Errol Robinson, SS from St. Johns, signed to play at Ole Miss.  He was #92 in BaseballAmerica’s top 100 pre-season draft prospects and had a nice Q&A with them in March 2013.  His PerfectGame profile and draft write ups indicate he’s a quick-bat SS who has the capability of going in the top 5 rounds.  NatsGM’s Ryan Sullivan scouted him about a week ago and wrote it up here.   Based on this interview (where he talks about how his Mom, Dad and sister all attended or currently are at Ole Miss), I’m pretty sure he’s going to honor his college commitment despite any potential drafting.   Not ranked in either Law/BA’s lists.
  • Alec Bettinger, a RHP with Hylton HS in Woodbridge, has a verbal commitment to UVA.  PerfectGame has him with about a 90 mph fastball.  He’s “small but athletic” per this MinorLeagueBall article (6’0″ 165lbs), which may have him leaning towards a future professional bullpen role.  6’0″ is really on the low-end for what scouts like to see in a starter (think Tim Hudson is considered undersized and he’s 6’1″ 175lbs), so it seems likely he’ll take his fastball to college to see how it develops.  Not ranked in either Law/BA’s list.

Other Virginia-connected big names being talked about in the draft (thanks to this MinorLeagueBall article and comments for crowd-sourced Virginia-connected names to target)

  • Conner Jones, RHP with Great Bridge HS, the HS of Justin Upton down in Chesapeake.  Jones is leading his HS to a current 19-0 record, good enough for being ranked 18th by USAToday/22nd by BaseballAmerica in the state title game.  He’s easily the best Virginia draft prospect this year and is the only guy that MLBDraftInsider.com has going in the top 50 of their mock drafts right now.  PG has him at 93mph with a UVA committment that he has told scouts he intends to honor, but he’s getting back-of-the-1st round notice for the upcoming draft.  As scouts have noted, these “verbal commitments” are pretty meaningless unless a player specifically fails to file one specific item prior to the draft (which automatically invalidates them; i can’t recall what it is right now but believe its a drug test).  So we’ll see.  Law ranked #29/BA ranked #33.
  • Bobby Wahl: RHP from Ole Miss, a good sized Righty who is Ole Miss’ Friday night starter and who hails from Springfield, VA (West Springfield HS).  He’s 9-0 with a 1.43 ERA on the season, quite a stat line considering who he’s typically going up against (the #1 starters of other SEC teams, easily the best baseball conference in the land).  Law ranked #66/BA ranked #36.  If he last til the late 2nd round as Law suggests, he could be right around where the Washington Nationals could draft him with their first pick (#68 overall).  However, John Sickels/MinorLeagueBall’s latest mock draft has Wahl going #31, more consistent with BA’s rankings.  It doesn’t seem likely he’ll fall to the Nats.
  • Austin Nicely, LHP from Spotswood HS in Grottoes, Virginia (way down I-81 by my alma Mater James Madison University).   PG has him as a lefty who throws 90 and is committed to UVA.  Law #78/Not in BA’s top 250, a huge disparity.
  • Chad Pinder, 3B Virginia Tech.  Described as a plus-defender, decent bat.  His season batting stats aren’t that impressive as compared to his teammates, so he must be some defender.  If he can really move to SS like the scouting reports say and still hit for average and some power, he’s a good 2nd-3rd round prospect.  Law ranked #86/BA ranked #53.
  • Jack Roberts, RHP from James River HS in Richmond, committed to UVA and per PG gets up to 92mph.   Big guy (6’4″ 200lbs) who I’d bet can add more velocity if he goes to college.   If he threw a couple ticks higher he’d probably be a big time prospect.  Not ranked in either Law/BA’s list.
  • Zach Rice, LHP from Suffolk (outside of Norfolk), tall lanky kid who slings it 89 from the left hand side.  Committed to UNC.  Worth mentioning since he’ s been recruited by the best team in the country.  Not ranked in either Law/BA’s list.
  • Kyle Crockett, LHP from UVA.  He’s UVA’s closer (and a HS teammate of fellow draft prospect Chad Pinder).  He throws 90-92 from the left side but has impeccable control; he has just one unintentional walk in 43 innings this year while getting more than a K/inning.  Despite being used as a reliever, I can see someone moving him back to the rotation to see if his stuff can play for 6-7 innings at a time.  Not ranked by Law/BA #103.

Conclusion: Looking at this list, UVA stands to lose an awful lot of pitching recruits if these guys don’t honor their commitments.  Bettinger, Jones, Nicely and Roberts are all UVA commits.  But imagine that staff in a couple years if they all go to college.  Phew.

http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft/2013-state-draft-report-virginia/

Washington/MLB Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2012

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The Nats staff was led start to finish by 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez, even if Strasburg was the lead story all year. Photo Joy Absalon/US Presswire via usatoday.com

This is the final post in a series of posts reviewing the Nats pitching staffs at various levels, and has been about 5 weeks in the making.  Since the minor league seasons end September 1st, all the minor league versions have already been posted.  Here’s links for the farm system: AAA is hereAA is hereHigh-A is hereLow-A is hereShort-A is hereGCL is here. Tomorrow I’ll post the organization-wide far-too-early predictions for who will be at what level (and in what role) in 2013, summarizing all of the “Outlook for Next year” points for every pitcher in the system.

Washington starters.  The rotation started the season with Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Jackson and Detwiler.  These 5 starters ended up making 150 of our 162 starts, a number that could have risen to somewhere in the 159-160 range had Strasburg not been shut-down and had the team resisted the Wang experiment.  This starter consistency is a huge part of why Washington was so successful this year.  Lets review each pitcher’s season:

  • Stephen Strasburg:  Somewhat lost in the season-long soap opera of “Shutdown-Gate” was the excellent return that Strasburg had.  Final season stats:  15-6, 3.16 ERA and 1.155 whip in 159 1/3 innings, good for a 125 ERA+.   His FIP and xFIP were 2.82/2.81 respectively, meaning his ERA was slightly unflattering on the season.  He dialed back his fastball a little bit as compared to the past two seasons, but can still throw a 95mph 2-seamer and an 88.7mph change-up with 8 inches of horizontal break, leading him to an 11.1 K/9 rate (which would have led the NL by nearly 2 K’s per 9 had he qualified).  Just a few stats for you in case you forgot just how awesome Strasburg can be.   He tired towards the end of the season (4.50 ERA in his last 5 starts combined, including a couple of downright ugly outings) and the shut-down probably came at just the right time.  Yes its too bad we don’t have him for the playoffs; we just have to hope this was the right decision and hope the team continues to make the playoffs. Outlook for next season: Washington’s 2013 opening day starter.
  • Gio Gonzalez came over in the much maligned trade in the off-season and promptly dropped his bb/9, increased his K/9 rates, dropped his ERA and finished the year leading the league in wins.  Final 2012 line: 21-9, 2.89 ERA, 1.129 whip.  He led the league (among qualifiers) in K/9.  He led the league in terms of fewest home-runs allowed.  He should get some consideration for the Cy Young (I’m predicting he comes in 3rd).  Just an all around fantastic debut for Gonzalez in Washington.  His goal in 2013 should be to improve on his post-season performances.  Outlook for next season: same as this year: Robin to Strasburg’s Batman.  Washington #2 starter.
  • Jordan Zimmermann toiled in the background of Washington’s two more well known aces and put up a season that had him being mentioned in Cy Young talks mid season.  Final numbers: 12-8, 2.94 ERA, 1.17 whip.  Some of his ancillary numbers were slightly worse in 2012 than in 2011 (his BB/9, his fip and xfip and his BABIP all trended the wrong way) and he seemed to drift on the mound in the latter part of the season.  It is perhaps explained by his increased workload two years removed from Tommy John surgery, or perhaps just the randomness that baseball is known for.  Either way, Zimmermann is tied to the club for at least 3 more seasons and forms the core of one of the best rotations in baseball.  Outlook for next season: same as 2012: #3 starter and underrated Matt Cain-esque performances for years to some.
  • Edwin Jackson was the man that Mike Rizzo wanted, and he got him, surprisingly signing a one-year deal for 2012 in the face of other multiple year offers and sliding into the Nats #4 starter role (despite being its highest paid pitcher).  Jackson’s military background and frequent moves seem to have led to his itinerant baseball career: he’s now pitched for 7 teams in 10 seasons.  The Nats got pretty much what was expected out of Jackson in 2012: hard-throwing MLB average production with flashes of brilliance (a 2-hit shutout against Cincinnati in April) and flashes of awfullness (8 earned runs given up in just 1 1/3 innings in St. Louis in September), and a .500 record inbetween.  Final year stats: 10-11, 4.03 ERA and a 1.218 whip.  Jackson switched agents this season, possibly indicating a disagreement over the way that Scott Boras has been handling his affairs, and seems set to finally cash in on his stability and fastball in a very weak starter market this off-season.  Which is what makes the team’s decision to NOT give him a Qualifying Offer this past week slightly curious; perhaps the team was worried that Jackson, having lived on year-to-year deals and seemingly comfortable gambling his long-term financial future by accepting these one-year deals, would have just taken them up on the $13.3M offer (it representing a nice raise from 2012′s $11M) and suddenly the Nats would be “stuck” with a guy they didn’t want.  That’s the only way I read the tea-leaves here.  Other than that, perhaps it just wouldn’t play well in the locker room to have the team’s highest paid pitcher as its 5th starter (though, that didn’t hurt the San Francisco Giants much as they won two of the last three World Series in the same boat).  Outlook for next season: pitching somewhere else.
  • Ross Detwiler surprisingly won the #5 starter job out of spring training, struggled in May, leading to his being replaced in the rotation by eternal experiment Chien-Ming Wang, then playing the good soldier and waiting out Wang’s inevitable injury relapse to regain his starting spot and keep it the rest of the way.  He pitched relatively effectively most of the season, resulting in a 10-8 record with a 3.40 ERA and 1.223 whip in 164 1/3 total innings.  Detwiler, after years of ineffectiveness and injury-prone disappointment, seemed to finally put things together for the team in 2012.  Unfortunately, a ridiculous 2007 call-up from Jim Bowden pre-maturely is forcing the Nats hand on Detwiler in terms of options status (he’s out of them) and arbitration pay (he’s a first time arbitration eligible player perhaps a couple seasons before he needed to be).  Nonetheless, even his escalating pay for next year will make him a bargain if he produces at this level again.  And we havn’t even mentioned the fact that he was the SOLE nats starter who redeemed himself in the post-season, a point that won’t be forgotten in subsequent years.  Outlook for next season: firmly entrenched as the #4 starter, pending any major subsequent FA or trade acquisitions.

Other guys who got spot starts here and there (non-rehab):

  • Chien-Ming Wang suffered a fortuitiously timed “injury” at the end of spring training and spent the first 6 weeks pitching in the minors on “rehab.”  He was recalled, replaced Detwiler in the rotation and gave the team four increasingly awful starts before the team realized that Detwiler was the solution all-along.  Wang hung around long enough to prove he was incapable of pitching out of the bullpen, had another injury, and spent the next two months touring Washington’s minor league affiliates (Wang ended up making no less than 15 minor league starts this year, more starts than he had major league appearances) before getting recalled for a few late-season outings.  I think it is safe to say that the Wang experiment, after 3 years, $7M in pay and probably nearly that much in airfare taking Wang to-and-from his various rehab assignments, is officially over in Washington.  Outlook for next season: Minor League Free Agent with another organization.
  • John Lannan was Washington’s starter insurance policy this year, surprisingly getting beat out for the #5 starter job in spring training (this, two years removed from being the Nats opening Day starter) and then spending most of the year pitching ineffectively in Syracuse.  Lannan made two double-header starts during the season and then four “replacing Strasburg” starts in September, finishing up with a 4-1 record, a 4.13 ERA and a 97 ERA+ for the year, numbers slightly lower than his career averages but pretty typical for Lannan.  Lannan is who he is; a softer-tossing lefty with a clean medical record (the only time I believe he’s ever missed was in 2010 when his elbow was sore; he never went on the DL and only missed one start).  Lannan just doesn’t seem to be Rizzo’s kind of starter, and the rotation will undoubtedly be weaker just replacing Jackson one-for-one with Lannan.  Plus, Lannan’s arbitration cost will certainly be north of his 2012 $5M pay, which virtually guarantees that Lannan will be non-tendered on or before November 30th of 2012.  Lannan stated publically he wanted to be traded when he was demoted in April, and his non-tender opens a clean path for him to sell his wares to another organization that would guarantee him a rotation spot.  Outlook for next season: I believe Lannan’s time in Washington is done; look for him to sign a 1yr, $3M offer to be a back-of-the-rotation starter on a rebuilding team (Houston, Kansas City, Chicago perhaps).
  • Tom Gorzelanny got a spot start the last week of the season to save Gio Gonzalez’s arm once the Nats clinched the NL East.  We’ll talk about Gorzelanny in the reliever section.

Washington Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps at the end of the season.  We’ll review from the back of the rotation “forward,” starting with the closers and ending with the mop-up guys.

  • Drew Storen missed the first 3 1/2 months of the season from surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow (which may or may not be related to his inverted-W mechanics, a tease on a future blog post on the topic…).  Upon his return, he patiently waited for his chance while roommate Clippard struggled in the closer role and entered the post-season as the established closer.  We all know what happened in Game 5 of the NLDS unfortunately, but a 4-run blow-up looks like an aberration for Storen’s season in general: a 2.37 ERA and sub 1.00 whip in 30 1/3 mostly high-leverage innings.  His achieving super-2 status is worrisome for the team in perhaps 2015 when his salary has escalated, but for 2013, he will remain a relative bargain in the estimated $1.7-2M range.  Outlook for Next Season: unlike in previous seasons, I think Storen’s injury makes him less likely to be traded; teams would want to see a full injury free season.  He remains with the team as the established closer heading into 2013.
  • Tyler Clippard grabbed the reigns of the closer job after others failed to do so and stuck with it most of the season, collecting 32 saves in 37 save opportunities.  However, two losses and a bad blown save in September ballooned his ERA a full point in just 3 weeks and resulted with Clippard reverting to his 2011 role as 8th inning specialist.  He gave up a critical solo home run in the fateful game 5 NLDS loss but otherwise looked decent in the post-season.  The big decision the team now faces with Clippard is a large potential arbitration award; he will argue that he should be paid like a closer and will point at 32 saves as evidence that he’s a closer-quality player.  MLBtraderumors estimates Clippard’s salary rising from 1.625M to $4.6M on the strength of his season.  I suspect the team will return a far lower value and there could be an ugly arbitration hearing as a result.  Clippard’s decline in form from 2011 also cost him some trade value, though the Nats could still make the argument that he’s a closer-quality guy and look to move him to a team needing a closer.  Of course, that being said he’s an incredibly valuable member of this bullpen, a big reason the team won 98 games, and there’s no urgency to move him unless offered something great. Outlook for next season: Back in the 8th inning role, barring a surprise trade.
  • Ryan Mattheus‘s first full season with the club resulted in an excellent find for the bullpen, providing great RHP middle-relief in the 6th and 7th innings.  Final results: a 2.85 ERA, 1.146 whip and a 139 ERA+ in 66 1/3 innings.   I think Davey Johnson will be rueing the decision not to use Mattheus in the NLDS game 5 middle-relief situation for the entirey of the off-season.  Outlook for next season: firmly entrenched in the MLB bullpen.
  • Craig Stammen‘s conversion from 4-A starter to excellent middle reliever is complete; his 169 ERA+ showing in 88 1/3 2012 innings was fantastic.  As with a number of the Nats prominent bullpen arms, Stammen’s arbitration eligiblity may force the team’s hand at some point, but he seems set for a reasonable pay increase in 2013.  Outlook for next season: also firmly entrenched in the MLB bullpen.
  • Sean Burnett rebounded dramatically in 2012, returning to his excellent 2010 numbers and was an effective middle-to-late innings lefty reliever for the team.  2012 numbers: 2.38 ERA, 1.235 whip and a 167 ERA+ figure in 56 2/3 innings.  Burnett pitched out his contract year as best as could be expected, and subsequently declined his side of a mutual option for 2013.  This was an expected move; Burnett is arguably the best or 2nd best lefty reliever on the FA market (along with Jeremy Affeldt) and should look to cash in.  Will the Nats match his price on the open market or will they look elsewhere for solutions?  The team really doesn’t have much in the way of quality lefty relievers in either AAA or AA and face losing both Burnett and Michael Gonzalez this off-season.  Outlook for next season: Washington re-signs Burnett to a 3 year deal, possibly overpaying him but ensuring he remains with the team.
  • Mike Gonzalez was on the street in May, signed a minor league FA deal and ended up giving the Nats nearly a full season of high-quality lefty relief.  What a great signing.  Final 2012 numbers: in 35 2/3 innings he had a 3.03 ERA, greater than a K/inning, and a .179 BAA versus lefties.  I think it is safe to say Gonzalez made himself some money this season; apparently 10 teams have already inquired about his services.  Outlook for next season: Washington backs out of a FA bidding war for the 34-yr old and he signs a 2  year deal elsewhere.
  • Tom Gorzelanny served as the long-man/mop up guy for the year and continued his trend of excellent relief appearances (as compared to his numbers as a starter) in 2012.  He gave the team 72 innings, posted a 2.88 ERA and was constantly available for spot starts if needed.  The problem with Gorzelanny is the same problem the team probably will have with Lannan; he’s going to command more in arbitration than the team wants to pay.  Gorzelanny made $3M in 2012 and clearly will earn a raise after his 138 ERA+ season.  However, you just cannot pay mop-up guys that kind of money.  Look for the team to non-tender Gorzelanny on or before November 30th.  From there, once he hits the open market anything could happen, but teams know he’s no longer a starter.  Outlook for next season: Washington brings him back on a contract of similar value to the one he played under this year.
  • Henry Rodriguez continued his Jeckyl-and-Hyde career with this team, mostly on the “Hyde” side in 2012, pitching 29 1/3 mostly awful innings before hitting the DL to remove bone spurs from his elbow in August.  His injury report for 2012 is all over the road; he slammed his fingers in a bathroom door, then subsequently hit the 15-day DL for a strain in that same hand, then hurt his back (which is why he was on the 15- and then 60-day DL), then finally had the elbow procedure at the end of August.  Was his performance all related to his various maladies this year?  Possibly.  But it is safe to say that my patience has run out with H-Rod, and possibly management’s has as well.  He’s out of options and faces the competition of a slew of high-performing right-handers with great stuff and better control for the likely 5 bullpen spots in 2013.  Outlook for next season: Rodriguez fails to make the MLB bullpen out of spring training, gets stashed on the DL again, and eventually gets DFA’d as he shows a Steve Dalkowski inability to find the plate.

Other Relievers who appeared for the Nats in 2012

  • Brad Lidge signed a 1yr $1M deal in the off-season which I thought was a steal.  However, the 35-yr old wasn’t able to hold onto either the closer job or a bullpen job in general after posting a 9.64 ERA in his first 11 appearances.  Lidge was released in late June and (as far as I can tell) did not get picked up by another team.  Outlook for next season: Likely out of baseball and facing retirement.
  • Christian Garcia blew through the minors, earned a 9/1 call up after years of injury issues and pitched well enough to earn the 8th bullpen spot on the post-season roster.  That’s quite a rise from where Garcia was in July 2011, when the Nationals signed him as a minor league free agent after the Yankees gave up on the once electrifying prospect.   He threw well enough in his short MLB stint that the team has made noise about converting him back to a starter.  While I’d love to see Garcia’s stuff in a starting role, the odds of him converting back successfully are slim; he has twice had elbow surgery (2009 and 2010) and had an additional knee issue before that.   I think the team will take the safer route and keep him as a middle-relief candidate who throws his nasty stuff.  Outlook for next season: MLB middle reliever.
  • Ryan Perry was ineffective in 7 appearances in relief and was subsequently dumped to AA and converted back to a starter.  His AA season was reviewed here: he was good in AA, but how does that translate to his 2013?  His lack of options and probable lack of a 25-man roster spot may  conspire against him unless he gets an extra option.  A commenter here claims that Perry will get a 4th option because he got to the majors so quickly.  A quick google of the rule indicates this may be the case; the rule is explained here by BaseballAmerica’s Jim Callis, and Perry, by virtue of being drafted in 2008 and then making the majors by 2009 may indeed qualify.  Lets hope so.  Outlook for next season: (assuming he gets an extra option): AAA rotation.
  • Zach Duke was awareded a 9/1 call-up after an excellent season toiling in AAA for the club.  He was a minor league FA signee and seems to have done enough to earn another shot at a major league starting job.  Just not for Washington.  Outlook for next season: MLFA with another club.

Summary

The Nats pitching staff led the league in ERA while being its 3rd youngest squad.  The 5 core starters made 150 of 162 starts and we used just 8 starters all year, a fantastic turn around from the likes of 2010 (14 different starters) or 2009 (12 different starters).  Consistency in the rotation is a huge key to success for major league teams, and the Nats experienced just that in 2012.

Tweaks are needed for 2013.  We’re potentially losing all three of the lefties in the pen.  We have two closer-quality arms but only need one.  And we’re likely looking for a 5th starter.  Our AAA and AA teams aren’t quite ready to deliver replacements, so one-year deals may be in order.  Not much else to complain about after a 98 win season.

Are you concerned about the state of the Nats farm system?

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Will Giolito become the Nats #1 prospect? Photo Eric Dearborn via Win For Teddy blog

I know it seems silly to criticize the team with the best record in the NL, but I thought the question was worth asking, given a couple things I read this week prospects related.  Given the drain of prospects in the last 6 months (through the Gio Gonzalez trade and through graduation to the majors for several of the team’s better prospects), its safe to say that our cupboard is relatively thin right now.  This point was highlighted to me by two recent online articles;

1. ESPN’s Keith Law posted a mid-season review of farm systems on the Rise or Fall (sorry, insider only), and stated the obvious about our system.  His summary: Yes we got Lucas Giolito but it was essentially at the expense of any other high-end talent in the 2012 draft.  And, a lot of our high-end guys are taking significant tumbles on boards due to lack of performance or injury (see later on for a look at our top 10 prospect performances).

2. Baseball America’s Jim Callis posted an updated Midseason top 50 prospects post 2012 draft and included where he’d put the top-end talents drafted (including international signees) in his weekly Ask BA feature on July 16th.   Of note to me was the fact that Washington, even with the signing of the high-end Giolito, does not have a SINGLE player in his mid-season 50.   Luckily for us, our NL East competition didn’t fare too much better, with a grand total of 5 players between our divisional rivals.  This compared to teams like Seattle (5), Kansas City (4), and the rich-keep-getting-richer Rangers with 3 guys likely to become impact players within a year or two.

Why is this a concern if the team is in first place?  Two primary reasons:

1. If you’re not going to matriculate your prospects and depend on them for production, then you need to utilize them in trade to acquire needed talent.  There’s plenty of trade rumors right now mentioning the Nats desires for a starter to cover for Stephen Strasburg‘s innings limit.  But who are we going to trade to acquire said pitcher?   I’d go as far as saying that there’s not one guy on our 2012 top 10 prospect list (not including Harper and Lombardozzi of course) who, at this point in 2012, could be the centerpiece of a marquee acquisition.  Who is trading for our #1 prospect Anthony Rendon right now? 

2. This team has a LOT of money committed to players over the coming years, and won’t be able to depend on hefty production from salary controlled guys forever.  They will need a stream of up-and-coming players to offer cheap alternatives to free agents and players who have become too expensive.  For example; in the year 2016 the team has $47M committed to just THREE players right now, before considering at least that much in arbitration for just Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Jordan Zimmermann.  $47M is nearly the team’s payroll just a few years ago!  Yes we will naturally grow payroll and revenues with success and the renegotiation of the MASN contract, but constructing a 25 man roster is about making choices.  The last thing we want is to see this team become the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies; a bloated, old team with a ton of injuries and the 2nd highest payroll in the league at $175M, but mired in last place.

For context of this discussion, here’s a list of Baseball America’s top 10 prospects for this team for 2011 and 2012 (compiled after the Gonzalez trade), and a status of where they are as of now:

Year Nats Rank Name, pos Status
2011 1 Bryce Harper, of In majors
2011 2 Derek Norris, c Traded
2011 3 Danny Espinosa, ss/2b In majors
2011 4 A.J. Cole, rhp Traded
2011 5 Wilson Ramos, c Out for Season (two knee surgeries)
2011 6 Sammy Solis, lhp Out for Season (Tommy John)
2011 7 Cole Kimball, rhp 60-day DL (shoulder surgery)
2011 8 Eury Perez, of .299/.325/.342 in AA Harrisburg in his 6th pro season
2011 9 Chris Marrero, 1b 60-day DL (torn hamstring)
2011 10 Brad Peacock, rhp Traded

That’s 2 guys who are starters in the Majors, 3 traded for Gonzalez, 4 guys on long term DL stints and Eury Perez with his meager .667 OPS in AA, in his 6th pro season.  How about 2012′s list?

Year Nats Rank Name, pos Status
2012 1 Bryce Harper, OF In majors
2012 2 Anthony Rendon, 3B Out for Season (broken ankle, his 3rd major leg injury in 4 years)
2012 3 Brian Goodwin, OF .324/.438/.542 in low-A.  Stellar season so far
2012 4 Alex Meyer, RHP 7-4, 3.10 Era, 1.13 whip and 107/34 k/bb in 90IP in low-A Hagerstown.  Just promoted
2012 5 Matt Purke, LHP Long term DL (Shoulder concerns); hasn’t thrown in 5 weeks.
2012 6 Sammy Solis, LHP Out for Season (Tommy John)
2012 7 Steve Lombardozzi, INF In Majors
2012 8 Destin Hood, OF .223/.296/.313 in AA Harrisburg, in his 5th pro season
2012 9 Chris Marrero, 1B 60-day DL (torn hamstring)
2012 10 Michael Taylor, OF .225/.314/.333 in High-A Potomac in his 3rd pro season

2012′s list includes 4 major injury concerns, two guys under-performing (Hood and Taylor), and two guys matriculated to the majors.  The two players putting up good statistical seasons may come with astericks though; Alex Meyer was compiling his stats in low-A, going against guys 2-3 years younger than himself.  His promotion to High-A was overdue and should be telling, to determine if his future lays as a dominant 12-6 starter or a high-leverage reliever.  Brian Goodwin’s excellent season is a great sign of things to come … but again, in Low-A.  I know he was a Juco signee, but he’s 21 now, turning 22 in November and is the same age as college juniors getting drafted now.  If he continues to produce upon promotion to better competition, I’ll feel better.

Now, I know there’s guys in our system who are coming back from injuries (i.e. Nathan Karns), or who are putting up good numbers despite being lower draft picks (i.e. Matt Skole, Cameron Selik, Danny Rosenbaum), and we have some guys who we acquired through trades and who are having surprisingly good seasons in the minors (i.e., Zach Walters, Ryan Perry and Corey Brown) but are these kinds of players going to step up and either be a) next year’s top prospects or b) eventual productive major leaguers?  I know we all love Rosenbaum for example, but most scouts think he’s a marginal prospect at best (and his lack of inclusion on our top 10 lists reinforces that notion).

This sudden lack of depth was one of the reasons I wasn’t the biggest fan of drafting Giolito.  With the new draft rules and specific limits on bonuses, combined with the significant injury issues we’ve had with high end draftees Rendon and Purke in 2011′s draft, I thought the team should have gone the safer route.  Yes I’m sure Mike Rizzo did a ton of due diligence and was confident in Giolito’s long term health.  But missing on three first rounders (or in Purke’s case, a first round talent given a significant bonus and a 40-man deal) could lead to a significant hole in player development for this team right at a time a couple of years from now when they desperately need a MLB-minimum impact guy.

Nats Off-season News Items Wrap-up 1/22/12 edition

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Gonzalez signs a long term deal; we're committed now. Photo Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images via nydailynews.com

This is your semi-weekly/periodic wrap-up of Nats and other baseball news that caught my eye.  Apologies for the delay in posting; new rules on laptop usage at work have thwarted my typical read-sports-news-at-lunch habits.  I’ll have to get creative.

Nationals In General

  • Nats extend Gio Gonzalez for 5 years.  Terms: 5yrs, $42M with two more club options.  A little more than $8m AAV, or in other words what we were paying Jason Marquis.  I’m sure its backloaded somewhat, but I like the deal for two main reasons.  First, we buy out all the arbitration years ahead of time and avoid the arbitration process altogether (which does nothing but serve to bruise the fragile egos of professional athletes over a few hundred thousand dollars of salary).  Secondly, it locks up the player for the longer term and gives the team some stability for the next few years.
  • Jim Callis at BaseballAmerica answered a question about what an updated Nats top 10 prospect list would look like post trade: he’d promote up Destin Hood, Chris Marrero, and Michael Taylor.  Considering what Marrero’s prospect status is now, considering how long it has taken Hood to get the hang of playing baseball, and how far away Taylor is from the majors, I think its safe to say our farm system is officially “thin.”
  • Nice little piece on Bryce Harper from Buster Olney, who relays the well known opinion that Davey Johnson really likes young superstars and predicts that Harper may break camp with the team.  Why doesn’t anyone relay all the facts in this case?  Like the fact that there wasn’t a concept of “Super-2″ when Johnson promoted Gooden and Strawberry and there wasn’t a punitive financial issue lurking by doing so.
  • Great news to see so many of our arbitration eligible guys settled well ahead of going in front of the arbitrator.  These cases don’t help anyone in the long run and end up arguing semantics over a few hundred thousand dollars that the team can clearly pay.
  • Though I havn’t seen any confirmation of this elsewhere, Bill Ladson reports that the Nats are engaged in extension talks with Ryan Zimmerman.  If so, this comes at a relatively good time for the team to be doing the negotiating; Zimmerman’s value is as low now as it has been since before his rookie season, on account of multiple injuries and a lack of overall production.   Which is exactly why I don’t think any long term deal is going to be struck this off-season frankly; Zimmerman would expect a Troy Tulowitzki like deal and I don’t think he’s done enough to earn it.


Free Agents/Player Transaction News

  • The arbitration case to watch this coming off-season will be Tim Lincecum; he is asking for $21.5M for 2012, with the Giants offering $17M.  Wow.  There’s really no case like his out there to use as a precedent; if you think he should earn roughly 80% of his FA value, then $21.5M equates with an annual salary of $26.875/year AAV.  That’s more than Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia or Johan Santana (the three highest paid pitchers at current).  So I guess you have to ask yourself; is Lincecum the best pitcher in the league?  Because he’s about to be paid in line with that title.


Hall of Fame items

  • Not HoF specific, but inspired by it.  David Shoenfield compiles a list of the best players by running 5-year WAR figures to show some enlightening information.  WAR has some limitations over longer terms but I like what it shows for season-to-season value for players.  His point was that some relatively unsupported hall of fame claims appear on these lists.  For me the last couple periods showing guys like Chase Utley and Matt Holliday were kind of eye opening.


General Baseball News

  • Phillies sign Joel Pineiro to a minor league deal.   I know he struggled in LA last season, but at one point this guy was pretty decent.  If he can regain his health and his St. Louis form, suddenly the Phillies might have themselves a pretty good 5th starter option to take mediocre innings away from Joe Blanton.  I’m surprised they were able to get him on a minor league contract.
  • I’ve read bits and pieces about the fall of Puerto Rican baseball before; but this is the first article i’ve seen that really delves into it deeply.  Rob Neyer lists the cause and effect; baseball subjected Puerto Rican’s to the normal draft and almost immediately killed baseball in the country.  This is the lesson/concern about going to an international draft; individual teams won’t cultivate and build off-site academies if they serve to build players who can be drafted by other teams.  This is what happened in Puerto Rico and its probably what would happen in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and other developing countries.  Its a scary thought.
  • Related to the above Puerto Rican story is this: Cleveland pitcher Fausto Carmona arrested in the Dominican Republic for falsifying his name and age ahead of his big signing.  For all the lamenting of the above Puerto Rican situation … this is yet another example (see Gonzalez, Smiley for Nats fans) of the flip side of the lack of an international draft.  Draft experts and scouting mavens lament the loss of Puerto Rican development and think that the exact same thing would happen in the D.R. if they were included in the draft, and yes its hard to argue differently.  But the down side of having such a “lottery” for 15-16 yr old players in the impoverished D.R. is the continued fraud among players growing up there related to age falsification.
  • Sabre-nerds may decry the lack of statistical science behind it, but Tom Verducci‘s annual “Year After” effect (which has come to be known as the Verducci-effect by others) has had an 84% success factor in predicting either injury or distinct decline in performance for his named pitchers.  The most interesting names on the list are newly traded Michael Pineda, Jeremy Hellickson, and both Texas mid-rotation starters Matt Harrison and Derek Holland.  Holland in particular threw a whopping 77 more innings this year over last.

General News; other

  • Not that any of us needed to read any more about the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State Scandal, but reading Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins‘ front page story with Joe Paterno‘s first interview post-scandal was an interesting read.  Frankly, I don’t buy some of the way the story reads (intimating that Paterno had “little to do” with Sandusky by the time the 2002 allegations came around, for example).  It doesn’t seem like Paterno was really challenged in the interview.  Gene Wojciechowski echos some of these sentiments in this analysis piece here, criticizing Paterno’s convenient stance on the scandal and on the multitude of other stories that have come out about his manipulation of the system and real influence at the university. The real problem is just the nature of dealing with a legend; he worked for Penn State for 61 years and made the university what it is; how do you possibly deal with such a figure, who clearly was larger than the university?  Update: just prior to publishing this, Paterno lost his battle with lung cancer, a quick and unfortunate end to his legendary career.  Its amazing to consider that just 3 months ago, Paterno was still the larger than life legend and nothing bad had ever happened on the campus.
  • I’m sure the real story is somewhere in-between the original story and the “Update” at the end, but there seems to be enough truth in the former to not necessarily believe the latter.  A new Utah high school’s board decided that the student-voted mascot name “Cougars” can’t be used because the name is derogatory towards middle-aged women who hook up with younger men.  Seriously.


Nats Off-season News Items Wrap-up 12/25/11 edition

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Welcome to Washington Mr. Gonzalez. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images via cbssports.com

This is your semi-weekly/periodic wrap-up of Nats and other baseball news that caught my eye.  No better time than today to publish, since there’s not much else going on Christmas day.

Nationals In General

  • Bus Leagues Baseball profiles Matthew Purke, with a nice scouting report and recap of his journey to the Nats franchise.
  • Nice little bench move here: Nats claimed infielder Carlos Rivera from Philadelphia’s waivers and stuck him on the 40-man.   He theoretically can play both SS and 3b, though reports are that his SS defense is suspect.  I’m not going to nit pick moves like this and the Mike Cameron signing; our farm system kind of has a gap in terms of player development from the last Bowden draft years, so we are missing these roster-augmentation players that otherwise would be filled from within.  Soon though with the college-heavy drafts of the past couple years we should have all the spare parts we need sitting in AAA so that we’re not signing mid 30′s utility players and claiming mediocre players.
  • Welcome to 2012′s version of Jerry Hairston; Mark DeRosa to sign with the Nats and be our super utility guy.  Can’t argue with the move; he fills a need, is willing to be a bench player, and can play a bunch of positions.
  • Congrats to ex Nat Jason Marquis, who looks to sign a deal with Minnesota.  I’m glad he’s landed on his feet after a freak fractured tibia just after we traded him last year.
  • Obviously the big news this cycle is the Gio Gonzalez move.  Frequent readers here saw a very healthy discussion in the past week in this space.  I’ll post some reaction links here not posted elsewhere: Buster Olney‘s blog (the take away for me is how badly Oakland’s fans seem to be reacting), Jim Bowden‘s video reaction and his description how the deal went down (the interesting takeaway being how the 2nd player thrown into the deal from Oakland’s side turning the tide).  Keith Law values our prospects highly and says we overpaid.  Another prospect-heavy analyst John Sickels analyzes our outgoing prospects (surprisingly Sickels says the A’s got “fair value” instead of calling it a loss for the Nats as Law did).  Here’s Tim Brown‘s reaction, plus Ken Rosenthal‘s original report.  Lastly, fangraph’s David Fung graphically analyzes projected WARs and determines that we gave up nearly twice the value in future production, which involves quite a leap of trust that all four of these guys pan out to their potential.  Lastly, here’s Baseball Prospectus’ take on both sides; not nearly as glowing for the 4 prospects gained as I thought they would be.

Free Agents/Player Transaction News

  • Roy Oswalt is considering one-year deals, immediately bringing nearly every MLB team into the discussions.  I’d love to have him on the Nats but suspect that he may end up in a situation that makes it easier for him to get one more relatively lucrative FA contract.  I.e., an easier division that’s closer to home.  Imagine him in San Diego against weaker NL west teams.  With the Gonzalez signing though, my guess is that we’re out of the FA pitcher race.
  • Interesting take on the Yu Darvish bidding results and the Toronto loss from Buster Olney (insider only), intimating that all the talk about the Toronto interest was overblown.
  • Great points by David Schoenfeld on espn, pointing out another similar article on Grantland, talking about the “Prospect Mania” that has become the norm in baseball over the past 10 years.  Ironically, this same issue was seen in our Gonzalez deal; are our prospects really that good, or are we over-valuing them and their potential?

General Baseball News

  • College Baseball Newspaper announces its pre-season Collegiate All American team.  From first glance, Florida looks really strong (4 guys on the first team, another four on the 2nd team, wow).  South Carolina returns two all-american starters, virtually guaranteeing weekend series wins all year.  Finally Texas has 2 first team, 3 second teamers just in its rotation.  Too early to predict Florida versus Texas in the Omaha final in June 2012?
  • George Washington, a lesser Div-1 baseball program that has given the Nats some later-round org players in recent years, is renovating Barcroft park in South Arlington, where they play their home games.  They’re putting in artificial turf, nicer facilities and a nicer snack bar.  Nice.  It was already a nice place to see good collegiate baseball; now it should be this much better.
  • Documentation/Actual testimony from a player who won an appeal of his PED positive test.  Latest rumor I read about Ryan Braun is that he was taking something for an STD.  I can’t find a link so perhaps its just that; a ridiculous rumor.
  • Good, non-hysterical analysis of the new CBA’s winners and losers from Basball America’s J.J. Cooper and Jim Callis. Callis continues with this analysis of the impact on big and small market teams.
  • Man, I can’t wait to see this soap opera in Spring Training; former Marlins manager says that Hanley Ramirez won’t go to third easily.
  • Nice shirt, Mike Napoli.  (NSFW, in other words, “Not Safe for Work.”)  Not really; you can barely see the “R-rated” part.
  • I wonder why they left the field?  A current picture of Detroit’s old stadium.  We were in Detroit 3yrs ago and drove by this stadium as it was only in partial de-construction.
  • LA Dodger’s plans to sell dealt a blow by a bankrupcy judge.  Or were they?  I’m not entirely clear how this ruling affects anything frankly.  As long as Frank McCourt is removed from the picture, I think everyone will be happy.

General News; other

  • Categorize this in the “people who don’t have a sense of humor, ever” department: Pat Robertson found the hilarious Tim Tebow skit on SNL last weekend “disgusting.”  Hey Pat; I find your opinions on race, discrimination, acceptance, tolerance, and your stated stances on the reasons that Hurricane Katrina, the Haitian earthquake and 9-11 happened to be “disgusting” as well.
  • This link was ironic for me, in that my family just had the same discussion about what is the best Xmas movie of all time.  Jim Caple presents a 64-team bracket for Xmas movies.  I think the selection committee screwed over “Scrooged,” giving it only a 9 seed.  In another bracket, its a regional winner :-) .


Nats Off-season News Items Wrap-up 12/2/11 edition

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Tough break this week (well, two weeks ago) for Chris Marrero. Photo unknown via curlyw.mlblogs.com

Weekly wrap-up of Nats and other baseball news that caught my eye.

Nationals In General

  • In a minor move, the team re-signed its own AAA minor league free agent Carlos Maldonado, per tweet from Bill Ladson.  This sets up our catcher depth for most of the system (Flores/Ramos, Solano/Maldonado, Norris/Leon, and Nieto/Fritas) and gives the team some flexibility with the inevitable injuries.  Frankly Norris’ poor 2011 season jeopardizes his progression; he’ll obviously be repeating AA in 2012 and needs to show some improvement to keep his oft-repeated “close to the majors” prospect status.
  • Chris Marrero tore his hamstring and had surgery, two weeks ago.  Two weeks ago!?  How did this little nugget stay hidden for so long?  Most of the beat reporters had the story on 11/29 and had the same opinion as I; this probably frees up a bench spot for someone like Tyler Moore or perhaps another veteran 1-year FA.
  • Nats are apparently interested in Mark DeRosa.  No big surprise; we have basically zero competent utility infielders under contract right now.  DeRosa can be 2012′s version of Jerry Hairston.
  • Sorry to hear that Masn beat reporter Ben Goessling is leaving to join the St. Paul Pioneer Press.  No word on his replacement.
  • Per the soon-to-be-departing Goessling as well: Toronto continues to collect ex-Nats players and signs Garrett Mock to a minor league deal.  I’m starting to sense a Jim Bowden-esque obsession on the part of Dana Brown with our farm players.  So be it; if they were that good when he was here, we wouldn’t have been ranked in the bottom 5 farm systems of the league.
  • Espinosa, Ramos and Strasburg on Keith Law‘s best 50 under 25 list.  Harper still too young to consider.

Free Agents/Player Transaction News

  • There remains to be questions whether or not Yu Darvish will actually post this off-season.  Rumors of a divorce complicating his posting persist, and its now been a week since the end of the NPB season with no word of his posting status.  (Jon Paul Morosi reports).
  • Here’s some non-news: Mark Buehrle won’t come “cheap or short.”
  • Here’s David Schoenfield‘s 3-fix suggestion for each team in the NL east.  His suggestions for us?  CJ Wilson, putting Werth in CF and signing a corner outfielder, and decide whether Davey Johnson is the long term answer.  I’m not sure the 3rd issue matters in the least: Johnson is only 69; there’s plenty of recent evidence showing guys who are older and less accomplished can be successful in the majors.  His argument for Wilson makes sense; he’ll cost half of Pujols/Fielder, wouldn’t be stressed as our “Ace” with Strasburg and Zimmermann around, and will only improve as he goes from the AL to the NL.  I like his Werth answer honestly; I think Werth could hold his own in Center for at least one season, perhaps two.
  • Baseball America’s Rule5 Preview, part 1 (may be subscriber only).  I definitely see some players the Nats could experiment with, given that they are looking for a 7th bullpen arm and a utility infielder.  He mentions our own Brad Meyers as a possible draftee, but not one of the marquee names out there.
  • Ken Rosenthal says the team is really on both Prince Fielder and the cuban-FA Yoenis Cespedes.  I’m not “against” the interest but am surprised by it.  Does the team really want to just give up on Adam LaRoche that quickly?  Do they really think Cespedes could play in the majors in 2012?
  • Well, there goes one of my Nats-trade candidates; the Angels acquired catcher Chris Iannetta from the Rockies for prospect Tyler Chatwood.  My working theory was that the Angels, who have too many outfielders and especially two many guys who can play center field, would be open to trading one of them (specifically Peter Bourjos) to the Nats for a catcher prospect.  Maybe it still can happen.  Of course, Rizzo actually has to be in the country in order to make deals (when this trade went down, Rizzo reportedly was in the D.R. scouting Cespedes).
  • Its just a MLBtraderumors chat, but Tim Dierkes is well respected, at least in my opinion.  He has the Nats as potential FA suiters for most every major name.   Edwin Jackson, Mark Buehrle, Cespedes, Fielder and Pujols, even Jimmy Rollins.  Geeze.

New Labor Deal Items

  • The new CBA seems almost custom-written to drive out the Tampa Bay Rays.  This scout.com article summarizes it nicely.  I wonder what the Tampa ownership group said about these negotiations as they were going on.  Clearly their methods of gaining advantages through player development and stockpiling draft picks are now obsolete.
  • Jim Callis reports via twitter but captured here some more restrictive items about the draft we’re finding out.
  • Teams in the 13 smallest markets now enter a Competitive Lottery for picks.  A quick analysis of the 13 teams selected (from Ben Goessling’s article: the Diamondbacks, Orioles, Indians, Royals, Athletics, Pirates, Padres, Rays, Reds, Rockies, Marlins, Brewers) almost identically mirrors the 13 smallest teams by MSA (in smallest to largest order; Milwaukee, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Baltimore, St. Louis, San Diego, Minneapolis, Seattle, Phoenix).  The only deviations are the Athletics and Marlins, who would easily be amongst the smallest markets in baseball once you isolate Oakland from San Francisco’s MSA, and Miami from Ft.Lauderdale.  Tangotiger posted an interesting discussion on the same topic (where in the comments I posted this same analysis) on his blog here.

General News; Baseball and other.

  • It looks like the NBA has finally gotten its act together, announcing a tentative deal to salvage the season on Nov 26th.
  • An interesting take on the Bill James “game score” statistic.  (click here for a list of the 20-best scores in the last 70 years).  Highest ever recorded: an 18-inning shutout pitched by Carl Hubbel scoring a 127 game scoreKerry Wood‘s 20-k 1-hitter is the highest score in the last 25 years, scoring 105.  This was also the highest-scoring 9-inning game in baseball history.  My initial guess on the best ever game pitched would be Harvey Haddix‘s 12-inning perfect game, lost in the 13th inning.  Here’s the box: it scored a 107.   The highest ever recorded Nationals game score?  John Patterson in 2005 pitched a 4-hit shutout with 13 K’s, worth a score of 92Strasburg‘s 14-K debut was worth a 75, though interestingly his final 2011 start (6 innings of 1-hit ball over the Marlins with 10K’s) earned a 78There’s about 10 games out there in the 80s range, including an 88 that I can’t possibly think who could have thrown.  Is anyone a baseball-reference subscriber?  I use the site multiple times per day; I should probably register and pay for my time.
  • From the great blogger TangoTiger, an Expos Tribute video.
  • From another great blogger Rob Neyer, a news item about the future of baseball in the Portland, OR area.  Portland does not have a single pro baseball team in the area, not even a short-season or Indy league team, despite being roughly the same size population wise as the MLB cities of Cleveland and Cincinnati, and being larger than Kansas City and Milwaukee.