Nationals Arm Race

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Updated Nats Prospect and Organizational Rankings for 2017

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Victor Robles is the new unanimous #1 Nats prospect. Photo via milb.com

Victor Robles is the new unanimous #1 Nats prospect. Photo via milb.com

We’re essentially through the “Prospect Ranking Season” at this point.  We’ve  heard from all the major shops who rank systems and individual prospects (MLBpipeline.com/Jim Callis/Jonathan Mayo, ESPN/Keith Law, Baseball America/J.J. Cooper, John Manuel, Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs/Eric Longenhagen , Minorleagueball/John Sickels/Nick Melotte, Prospects Digest/Joseph Werner and TopProspectAlert.com/JP Schwartz).  If you know of a reputable site that also does rankings not listed here, i’m all ears.

Click here for the updated Master List of Nationals Prospect Rankings for all the pre-2017 rankings.  This worksheet is one of my longest running projects, with every Nats prospect ranking I could find dating from Nov 2004 to the present.

With the trade of Lucas Giolito we have a new #1 prospect on all the major lists: Victor Robles.   Every minor-league wide ranking that I’ve found has Robles between #8 and #13 among all minor league players right now.  Nearly every shop generally mentions either Erick Fedde or Juan Soto (or both) in the 50-70 range.  Nobody has any mention of anyone else in the system right now, consistent with most opinions that the Nats system right now is a big top three, then a gap, then everyone else.

What is fascinating to me right now is the huge gap of opinion on some of our prospects.  Its been a while since we’ve seen such a dichotomy of opinion on our players, and it may very well highlight the methodology differences between the talent evaluators out there.  Lets discuss some of the more interesting cases:

  • Luis Garcia: ranked as high as #4 in the system (Fangraphs) to outside the top 20 (Sickels and Law).   The 2016 IFA signing cost a ton ($1.3M) and has yet to appear in any pro league, which may be why some evaluators don’t even list him.  Meanwhile Longenhagen is clearly bullish on the player and had him 4th, just after the system’s big three.  That seems aggressive to me; I’d at least like to see him in organized ball before putting such a ceiling on him.
  • Sheldon Neuse: mostly in the #6-#7 range … except for Baseball America, who has him all the way down at #17.  Clearly they thought his debut season was a disappointment.  I’m not ready to give up on Neuse after the collegiate career he had, but for him to slash just .230/.305/.341 in Auburn was definitely shocking.
  • Jesus Luzardo; again Fangraphs was way higher on him (#9) than anyone else.  In fact, Sickels didn’t even have him in the top 20.  Clearly the fangraphs methodology is more about potential and less about realization.
  • Drew Ward: Sickels had him #10, Fangraphs outside the top 20.  We may have a bit of prospect fatigue on Ward since we drafted him as a high schooler.  But its worth noting that he posted a .868 OPS figure this year at high A as a 21-yr old (he didn’t turn 22 til after the season) and earned a promotion to AA.  He also earned a NRI this spring, where he went 3-15 but did blast two homers.  I think his power is coming around (11 homers in 64 Carolina league games, not exactly a hitter’s paradise league) and he could be a sneaky prospect going forward.
  • Kelvin Gutierrez: as with several others, we find Longenhagen far more bullish on Gutierrez (#11) versus others (16th at best, outside of Law’s top 20).  Perhaps its trying to spit hairs once you get to a certain point in the system, this act of attempting to rank players who likely never get above AA.  But it does show that Longenhagen’s methodology definitely rates a certain type of player higher than other pundits.
  • Yasiel Antuna: the Nats’ “other” big July 2 signing from last year, Antuna got a massive, franchise record $3.9M bonus despite being lower ranked than Garcia on most international prospect boards.  Nonetheless, most of the pundits had Antuan in the 19-25 range … except for Werner at topprospectdigest… he put Antuna #5 in the system.  Werner’s logic went like this: $3.9M is about what the 3rd overall pick in the Rule-4 draft went for, so therefore Antuna must be ranked on a par with an upper-end first round talent.  I’m not sure I agree with that logic, and would rather put Antuna down in the mid-20s like others have him ranked until we see what he can do in organized ball.
  • Tyler Watson: again Baseball America hates this player as opposed to others.  BA has him #27 while Law and Sickels had him in the 14-15 range.  I like Watson a ton; he utterly dominated Short-A as a 19yr old, meaning he more than held his own against newly drafted higher-end incoming college juniors.  Its weird; why rank two completely untested 16yr old Dominican prospects higher than a domestic lefty arm who is 6’5″, already throws 90 and clearly has projection in his frame?
  • Joan Baez: Another with some wild variation in rankings.  Law has him #10 but BA has him #29.  MLB gives him a 70 fastball and a 60 curve-ball, which means they think he could be an effective 2-pitch reliever in the majors, right now.  Its weird; what’s the essential difference between Baez and Koda Glover right now?
  • Rhett Wisemann: completely disappeared from all rankings … with the exception of Sickels, who snuck him in at #20.
  • Telmito Agustin: another Werner one-off; he had Agustin ranked 9th in the system, where as both MLB and BA had him #28 and everyone else had him outside their top 20.  Agustin’s season was decent for a 19-yr old in Low-A, but his best tool is his run tool and he nearly had as many CS (9) as he had SB (14) in his half-season at Hagerstown.  And he played mostly LF in Hagerstown, though that may have been due to the presence of Robles there.  I don’t see much more in Agustin than a Matt den Dekker type; is that the 9th best prospect in the system?
  • Nick Banks: his crummy junior year became a relatively weak Short-A debut; he slugged just .320 there.  Still, Law ranked him 17th and still thinks the Nats got good value in Banks given his post-sophomore season buzz.  Most others have abandoned him; MLB and BA put him at the back end of their top 30s and others ignored him.

And then there’s this list; these are players who formerly got at least some brief prospect mention in the past who are now off everyone’s top 20-30 list:

  • Andrew Lee: Was ranked in the 20th range last year on some lists.  missed most of 2016 with an injury after a promising 2015 debut for the 11th rounder.  I think he can bounce back and put his name back in the mix.
  • Austen Williams: Got some love in the 15-20th rage last year, none this year after his ERA ballooned to north of 5.00 and getting demoted mid-season.  He’ll presumably be a 24-yr old repeating High-A a third time in 2017, so time is running out.
  • Jefry Rodriguez: peaked as high as #6 on some lists in the 2014 range, his stock has fallen precipitously.  He had a 4.96 ERA in a full season of starting in Low-A in his age 23 season.  Perhaps its time to move him to the pen to see if he can focus on his best pitches in shorter stints.
  • Spencer Kieboom: never was a major prospect but did get some rankings in the 15-20 range over the years.  He’s still 4th on the C depth chart for the Nationals, but his DFA and passing through waivers to get off the 40-man roster is an indictment of where he really is right now.
  • Nick Lee; got some back-of the top-30 list recognition last year after getting put on the 40-man; now he’s off the 40-man and will miss significant time due to an elbow fracture in 2017.  He’s now 26 and staring in the face of being a permanent “org guy” type arm.

Here also is a list of the 30 Minor League Organizations as ranked by various pundits.  As you might expect, the system has been shredded with the graduation of Trea Turner (and in some cases Wilmer Difo) along with the trading of Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning.

Observations:

  • Amazingly, 4 of the 5 pundits tracked all ranked the Nats farm system exactly the same: #19.  Only Law varied and only slightly, dropping the Nats to #22.
  • Everyone is unanimous in ranking Atlanta #1.  Most everyone believes the Yankees now have the #2 ranking (Werner’s rankings are a bit suspect when compared to others).
  • The White Sox jumped from generally being in the mid 20s to being ranked in the 3-5 range by most pundits.  Makes sense.  Law has them all the way down at #10, which seems like an outlier.
  • BA is the outlier on Houston’s farm system, ranking them #3 while everyone else had them at 10-12.
  • Law loves the Mets; he ranked them 7th while everyone else had them at middle of the pack #15.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, there’s little disagreement among the pundits about who is at the bottom (either Arizona or Miami), nor with the last 4-5 teams in general.  Nearly all the pundits panned Arizona, Miami, Baltimore, Kansas City and the Angels’ farm systems, with none of these teams being ranked higher than #22 on any list.

Its rather scary to see two of the wealthiest teams (the Dodgers and the Yankees) also possessing strong farm systems; it does not bode well for competitive balance in the near future.  It is also scary to see a divisional rival like Atlanta so fully loaded; the Nats will struggle to compete if the Braves prospects matriculate properly, since it will likely coincide with our natural decline after the 2018 FA purge occurs.

 

Written by Todd Boss

February 13th, 2017 at 10:56 am

Updated Master Prospect List in Google XLS

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The official Logo of the St. Louis Prospects. Apropos to this post.

The official Logo of the St. Louis Prospects. Apropos to this post.

Since we’ve been talking a lot about prospects, i thought i’d note that I’ve been catching up the Master Prospect rankings list (here’s the direct Google xls link) that I maintain.  Major edits lately:

  • I’ve noted those who have lost Rookie status in 2016: Trea Turner and Wilmer Difo, even if Baseball America and MinorLeagueBall insist on ranking him.  I’m not sure what to do with A.J Cole in this regard, nor Pedro Severino.  Koda Glover still seems to be a “prospect” by everyone’ standards so he’s still ranked.
  • I’ve noted those traded in 2016: Taylor Hearn, Max “future hall of famer” Schrock, Chris Bostick
  • I’ve noted those former “prospects” who were DFA/Waived/released in 2016: Abel de los Santos, Matthew Spann, Cutter Dykstra
  • I’ve noted those post-2016 MLFAs who at some point were ranked: Erik Davis, Paolo Espino, Kevin Keyes, Jason Martinson, Drew Vettleson, Neil Holland, Michael Brady.  If they re-sign, i’ll un-do the “out of the system” categorization.
  • Lastly, we’ve noted those prospects traded in the Winter Meetings: Dane Dunning, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez
  • I’ve now put in a couple of the early rankings from major pundits that have come out post-2016: BA top 10, minor league ball top 30, MLBpipeline’s top 30 as of the end of the 2016 season, and JP Schwartz’ post-2016 list.  We expect a ton more to hit in the Jan/Feb time-frame.

The Spreadsheet now has more than 100 “lists” from various sources dating to the beginning of the Nats franchise (Nov 2004 BA list, ahead of 2005 system).

Each off-season I generally expect to get 7-8 rankings lists from what I call the “major pundits” who follow prospects:

  • Baseball America/BA Prospect Handbook (J.J. Cooper, John Manuel, formerly Aaron Fitt)
  • Baseball Prospectus (Chris Mellon/Jason Parks/Ezra Wise):
  • MLB/MLBpipeline.com (Jim Callis/Jonathan Mayo/Mike Rosenbaum)
  • MinorLeagueBall.com (John Sickels/Nick Melotte)
  • Fangraphs (Dan Farnsworth, formerly Marc Hulet/Kiley McDaniel)
  • ESPN (Keith Law)
  • Prospect Digest ( Joseph Werner)
  • TopProspectAlert.com (J.P. Schwartz)

I’ve seen other pundits rankings in the past but not consistently year over year like the above seven lists.  If you know of any pundits who i’m missing, please let me know.

This year we’ll start to see a new #1 prospect in Victor Robles, after seeing 47 straight lists with Giolito ranked #1.  Robles becomes the 11th distinct player to be ranked #1 in our farm system at any point.

Enjoy!

 

 

Completed Nats prospect rankings and Org Rankings for 2015

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Now that we’re into the 2015 season, we are officially through the “prospect ranking” season.  I have updated two important prospect tracking spreadsheets that I maintain with a host of links and updated information.

First; the Organizational Rankings Spreadsheet.  I’ve got 59 different rankings now collected of the 30 teams’ organizational rankings over the years.  The big “holes” I have in this spreadsheet are the Baseball America handbooks sent out each January … though it seems to be safe to say that the official released Baseball America rankings in March or April of each year effectively mimics the rankings in the publication.  The rankings go back to 2001, with a link to even earlier Baseball America rankings.  Only BA goes back that far; other experts go back to 2007 (Baseball Prospectus), 2009 (Keith Law/ESPN) and 2012 (MinorLeagueBall.com).

Secondly, a republishing of the Nats Prospect Ranks going back in time.  I’ve greatly updated this spreadsheet from the earlier publishing of it this off-season, now having 79 separate rankings of Nats prospects going back all the way to January 2005.   178 different Nationals Prospects appear on the list, spanning from current #1 Lucas Giolito to the first #1 listed (believe it or not, Mike Hinckley in BA’s January 2005 list).

There’s a separate tab in the XLS tracking the major pundits: Baseball America (J.J. Cooper, Aaron Fitt, John Manuel now, formerly Jim Callis), Baseball Prospectus (Chris Mellon, Jason Parks now and Kevin Goldstein for years), MLB (Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo), MinorLeagueBall.com (primarily Jon Sickels), Fangraphs (Marc Hulet, Kiley McDaniel), ESPN (Keith Law) and Prospect Digest (Joseph Werner).

As always, if you can think of pundits who i’m missing, i’m always up for more information.  Or if i’m missing links, let me know.  Both these links are also available directly from the “Links” section on the right hand side of this blog in the “Nats Arm Race Creations” section.

Rule 5 fallout: placeholder for arguing

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Welcome to the 40-man roster. Photo AP

Welcome to the 40-man roster. Photo AP

The 11/20/14 deadline for adding players to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule-5 draft has come and gone.  Jonathan Mayo at mlb.com posted an excellent overview of each team’s top 20 prospects under consideration for protection, which could also be a nice shopping list for some team looking to roll the dice.

Our Nats went and protected many more players than I thought hey would.  So maybe there’s not much room for us to argue about who should and shouldn’t have been protected.

Here’s who we protected: A.J. Cole, Brian Goodwin, Wilmer Difo, Matt Grace

And here’s notables who we did not protect: Matt Skole and maybe Drew Vettleson.

My reaction?  Slightly surprised they went with four players.  No arguments about the value of Difo, just wondering if he realistically could have stuck on a 25-man roster spot all year.  No arguments about the players they dumped to make room (Pedro Florimon and Ryan Mattheus); most of us questioned why they were even still on the roster given the lack of options and slim chances of making the Nats 25-man roster next spring.  Slightly surprised they decided to risk losing Skole, if only because of his proven capabilities.  Otherwise, for prospect hounds, this was a good day.

Post-posting update: MLB’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo each posted their thoughts on the best players left unavailable.  And Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper posted his list of top rule-5 eligible players.  Cooper mentions Skole in passing but not as a top 10 player.

Written by Todd Boss

November 21st, 2014 at 8:25 am

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 :-).