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Rule 5 Addition analysis/predictions for 2018

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Did Jordan Mills' AFL performance earn him a 40-man spot? Photo via milb.com

Did Jordan Mills’ AFL performance earn him a 40-man spot? Photo via milb.com

Its an annual tradition.  This is my 9th annual analysis of the roster moves the Nats will do to protect players from the Rule 5 draft.  See the bottom for links/summary of the first eight such posts with a quick guess as to how well i’ve done making predictions.

Lets take a look at who is eligible, who might get protected and make some predictions.  I’ve got the Nats 40-man roster at 35 now, so there’s plenty of room to add names and do their off-season work.  But, this team also needs to sign a bunch of FAs, so perhaps the Rule5 activity will be limited.  That being said, there’s some dead-weight at the end of the 40-man roster that includes some fringe players out of options for 2019 anyway, who we may try to slip through waivers as we go.  Nonetheless, its something to think about.

Another recurring theme while doing this research: a good number of the prospects we received back in late-season trades ended up being Rule-5 Eligible this coming off-season.  I suppose it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that we got players back in this category, but it does mean our trade bounty for some of our veterans might end up never playing a game for the Nats franchise.

As always, using the indispensable Nationals resource sites Draft tracker and the Big Board, and then looking up candidate acquisitions made via trade, here’s some thoughts on who might merit protection.   Also incredibly useful is Roster Resource’s Nats Roster, which keeps track of options, rule-5 status and the like.

The quick Rule-5 rules for 2017; any college-aged draftee from 2015 or before who isn’t already on the 40-man roster is Rule-5 eligible this coming off season, and any high-school aged draftee/International Free Agent from 2014 or before is newly eligible this year, assuming they were at least 18 as of June 5th of that year.  There’s always a couple of guys who have specific birthdays that move them up or down one way or the other; i’ll depend on the Roster Resource rules.

One last thing: here was our 2018 AFL Roster: Ben Braymer, Taylor Guilbeau, Jordan Mills, Luis Reyes, Tres Barrera, Carter Kieboom, Jake Noll, Daniel Johnson.  Half these guys (Guilbeau, Mills, and Reyes) are rule-5 eligible; the others (Braymer, Barrera, Kieboom, Noll and Johnson) were all 2016 draftees and thus are not part of this discussion… for this year anyway.


Newly Eligible 2015 draft College Players this year worth consideration for protection:

  • Rhett Wiseman, 3rd round left-handed hitting OF out of Vanderbilt.  Repeated High-A in 2018 and drastically improved his OPS, but it seems to be on the back of perhaps going for more of an all or nothing approach: he increased his homer output, but also struck out 122 times in 407 PAs.  The team invested a big bonus in him, and it hasn’t panned out.  I really liked this pick at the time, but then watched him hit in the CWS that year and thought he’d have a hard time adjusting to pro pitching.  So far, my amateur observation seems to be holding true.
  • Taylor Guilbeau, LHP 10th rounder who repeated High-A this year but switched to the bullpen and halved his ERA.  The team named him to the AFL roster and he excelled,  giving up 2 runs in 10+ innings.  Given the team’s lack of lefty arms, I’d consider Guilbeau … but then again, he’s never pitched above High-A so he seems like a safe bet not to get picked.  But then again, he just manned up in the AFL in front of every scout in the game.
  • Andrew Istler, our trade bounty from the Dodgers for Ryan Madsen.  He had very solid numbers in AA in a middle relief role, even earning a stellar AAA call-up.  He’s an undersized Duke grad, 23rd round pick who has done well.  I wonder if his pedigree makes him less likely to get picked.

Eligible but not mentioned here: Ian Sagdal, who (like Wisemann) is still in High-A and is a power-less 1B.   Angelo La Bruna is a part-time SS who was a senior sign, did not appear in 2018 but is still listed as active.  Matt Crownover may be lefty, but he also repeated High-A for the 3rd year in 2018.  Grant BorneTommy Peterson and Ryan Brinley missed all of 2018 with injury.   Andrew Lee basically missed all of 2017 with injury and still hasn’t even gotten out of Low-A.  Jorge Pantoja has bounced around the A-levels for four years now, ending last year with a 4.68 ERA in High-A.

The key college-eligible players out of this draft have long since been called into 40-man service, released or traded.  Andrew Stevenson and Koda Glover are the biggest remaining names from this draft for the team.

 


Newly Eligible 2014 High School-age drafted players under consideration for protection

  • Jakson Reetz, 3rd round C from 2014.  Reetz was paid a big bonus out of HS, and has basically never hit at any level.  He played all of 2018 as the backup C in Potomac and slugged just .323 for the year.  His career BA is .233 across 5 pro seasons and nearly a thousand plate appearances.  Suffice it to say, had he not been paid $800k out of HS, he’d have been released long ago.  He’s certainly not going to get picked in Rule-5.
  • Weston Davis, RHP 11th rounder.  He missed all of 2015… and then all of 2018.  Through 5 full pro seasons he has just 124.2 innings pitched.  He’s still hanging around, and will look to make it out of XST next year.

The Nats generally don’t pick HS players, so the picking here is always slim.


Newly Eligible 2014 signed IFAs under consideration for protection:

  • Joan Baez went 9-9 with a 3.79 ERA as a full time starter for Potomac this year.  We’ve heard about Baez’s arm for a while.  He repeated Potomac again after walking as many as he struck out in 2017, and indeed he’s improved on that ratio.  I think he’s a decent bet for someone to look at, but his lack of upper-level experience probably keeps him from getting picked.
  • Telmito Augustin, a LF who hit pretty well for High-A this year (OPS of .822).  But he’s never even gotten to AA, and like many of the “holdovers” he’s a corner OF type who is competing with a ton of MLB veterans for roster spots.  I don’t think he’s a threat to get drafted.
  • Steven Fuentes, who forced a mid-season promotion to High-A where he posted a 3.00 ERA in 45 middle-relief type innings.
  • Andruw Monasario, the 2B prospect the Nats received from the Cubs in the Daniel Murphy trade.  He was an IFA2014 signee and is newly Rule-5 eligible.   He repeated High-A in 2018, has no power (6 career homers), little speed (48 SBs in 349 career minor league games), and is only mentioned here b/c he was trade bounty for Murphy.
  • Gilbert Lara, the 3B prospect the Nats received from Milwaukee in the Gio Gonzalez trade.   He played all of 2018 in Low-A, had decent numbers and is very unlikely to be taken.  He’s only mentioned here for similar reasons to Monsario.

Others in this category: Tomas Alastre , who posted a 5.23 ERA in 23 starts in Low-A.  Malvin Pena basically missed two full seasons and only just made it to Low-A.

Our biggest 2014 IFA signing is now safely ensconced on the 40-man roster; Victor Robles.


Rule-5 Eligible hold-overs of note: 2014 or prior college draftees still hanging out in the system, or 2013 and prior HS/IFAs.

  • Taylor Gushue, a 2014 Draftee out of Florida who has now made his way all the way to AAA. Even though he didn’t really hit that well in AA (.212), he still made his way to the top level of the minors.  The Nats only have 3 catchers on the 40-man and one of them (Severino) has no options left, so they’re going to need some depth.  I think Gushue may be a consideration to add.
  • Drew Ward, who drew a promotion to AAA in July but struggled and was sent back to AA.  I thought he was a candidate to get protected last year but he missed the draft.  Now?  I’d guess he slips through again, despite being a lefty corner player that the team needs to back up Ryan Zimmerman simply because there’s a glut of such veteran players on the market every year now, and they can be had for just a couple million bucks.  A 40-man spot is much more valuable.  I think Ward plays out his term in 2019 and makes his way to MLFA.
  • Austin Davidson is a corner OF and 13th rounder in 2014 who is beginning to show some promise.  He had a solid OPS of .846 in 94 AA games this year.  But, like Ward (who is about a half a step ahead of him), he faces competition from above.  Not a real threat to get drafted.
  • Alec Keller: a 2017 17th rounder in the same boat as Ward and Davidson above him; corner OF, decent numbers, no chance of getting Rule-5’d.
  • Tyler Mapes, a great story who continues to make waves.  He was a 30th rounder in 2014, missed all of 2017 with injury but came back with a vengeance in 2018, dominating Potomac and holding his own with a 3.95 ERA in AA.  I like his chances of pushing towards AAA in 2019, but don’t quite think he’s a scare to get plucked.
  • Luis Reyes: finally made it to AA this year, and got shelled (12 starts, 5.18 ERA).  Nonetheless the team included him in their AFL roster, where he got even more shelled (4 starts, 12 innings, 22 runs allowed).  I think whatever jeopardy he had of getting picked is long gone.
  • Jordan Mills: a 2017 MLFA signing who really came on this year as a lefty reliever in AA.  He was also sent to AFL in perhaps a final audition for the bigger club; there he did pretty well, holding his WHIP under 1.00.  I think he’s one to protect.
  • James Bourque was (finally?) moved to the bullpen in 2018 and immediately turned into a monster: he struck out 52 in 33 high-A innings, got moved to AA and posted a 0.92 ERA in 19 2/3rds innings.  I think he shows a ton of promise; enough to protect?

Others in this category: Aldrem Corredor, a 1B who has hung around since 2012 in the system.  David Masters completed his *fourth straight* season in Potomac in 2018.  Dakota Bacus has been on this list for 3 years running, is now a 27-yr old RHP middle reliever just completing his 4th season in AA.  Jose Marmolejos i suppose theoretically is still eligible; he was on the 40-man, got outrighted in July and subsequently had a sub .700 OPS in AAA (low for a 1B).

Austen Williams got added late in the year; he would have been in this category.


So, who would I protect?

So, remember, if someone gets drafted they have to stick on someone else’s ACTIVE, 25-man MLB roster the entirety of 2019.  So it has to be someone who could theoretically stick on a MLB roster.  Given that statement, and looking at what the Nats are light on, I think they add three arms:

  • Bourque
  • Mills
  • Istler

Who would I additionally consider?

  • Baez
  • Gushue
  • Mapes

Here’s some other opinions in the Natmosphere on the same topic:

  • District On Deck thinks Bourque is a lock, Augustin and Ward under consideration.
  • MLB.com listed every organization’s top ranked prospects who are Rule5 Eligible: Augustin, Bourque, Alastre, Marmolejos and Ward are top-30 prospects being exposed.
  • TalkNats has a bunch of the players listed but doesn’t make a prediction; seems to imply they think Bourque, Istler, and Agustin might get protected.
  • WP’s Chelsea Jane seems to suggest Marmolejos, Augustin, Bourque, plus perhaps others.

For a fun trip down memory lane, here’s the same Rule 5 Protection analysis post for 2017201620152014201320122011, and 2010.

By year, here’s who I predicted we’d add and who we did add.

  • 2018: Predicted: Bourque, Mills,Istler.  Actual: just Bourque.
  • 2017: Predicted: Gutierrez, Gushue, Ward, Baez.  Actual: Gutierrez and Jefry Rodriguez.
  • 2016: Predicted Voth, Bautista.  Actual: Voth, Bautista, Marmolejos, Read and Skole.
  • 2015: Predicted Kieboom, Bostick, Marmolejos-Diaz.  Actual: Kieboom, Bostick, Lee
  • 2014: Predicted Cole, Skole, Goodwin.  Hedged on Grace, Martin and Difo.  Actual: Cole, Goodwin, Difo, Grace.
  • 2013: Predicted Solis as the only lock (Souza already added).  Possibles mentioned in order Barrett, Taylor, Grace, Holland.  Actual: Solis, Barrett, Taylor.
  • 2012: Predicted Karns and McCoy, with Hood and Rosenbaum as maybes.  Actual: Karns and Davis.  I think we were all surprised by Davis’ inclusion, despite his good AA numbers that year.
  • 2011: Predicted Norris as a lock, guessed strongly on Moore, Meyers and Komatsu.  Actual: Norris, Moore, Solano, Perez.    This was poor analysis on my part; I did not consider the IFAs newly eligible.
  • 2010: Predicted Marrero, Meyers and Mandel.  Actual: Marrero, Carr and Kimball.
  • 2009: pre-dates my blog and thus no predictions, but Actual was Jaime, Thompson and Severino.
  • 2008: I might be wrong, but I don’t see any evidence of the team protecting *anyone* prior to the Rule-5 draft.  A bit of an indictment of the farm system at the time, I’d say :-)

Minor League Staffs – one month check-in

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Voth has completely remade his career in less than a month. Photo mlb.com official

Voth has completely remade his career in less than a month. Photo mlb.com official

I havn’t been doing regular check-ins with the minor league staffs for a few years, but I have always maintained little “cheat sheet” notes on the staffs of the levels day in/day out (thanks in no small part to the daily work of Luke Erickson over at Nationals Prospects of course).

It occurred to me, doing updates this week, that the four full season rotations have been about as stable as I can ever remember them this year.  So I thought i’d do a quick swing through the four staffs, with quick notes on who has looked good or bad and what we may see in terms of movement going forward.

Syracuse (stats link here: http://web.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=t_ibp&cid=552&stn=true&sid=t552)

  • Opening day rotation: Voth, Milone*, Fedde, EJackson, Vargas
  • Current rotation: Milone*, Voth, Fedde, EJackson, Vargas
  • spot starts/swingman: Simms, Goforth
  • bullpen: Collins*, Cordero, CSmith, Miller, Adams, Valdez
  • promotions: Torres, Gott, Suero
  • up-and-back: Adams, Voth
  • demotions: Long,
  • dl/restricted/TIL: Barrett, Satterwhite

Rotation thoughts: A month in and the only change we’ve seen to the AAA rotation was the flipping of Milone and Voth thanks to Voth’s brief call-up earlier this week.  Voth has absolutely re-made his career so far this year, going from possible “first man to be DFA’d” off the 40-man to a guy who is forcing his way into the conversation the next time the Nats need a starter.  For May he’s posted a 0.76 ERA, a 0.68 WHIP, has a 30/3 K/BB ratio in 23 innings and has given up just 13 hits.  Man, is he found gold for a team who has traded away an awful lot of pitching prospects over the past couple of seasons?

The veteran insurance policies Jackson and Milone are both pitching about as I’d expect them to be: Milone slightly better, with better base-runner control, Jackson with more wildness and worse stats.   Erick Fedde has not been either good or bad, giving up a hit an inning and maintaining a 4-1 K-BB ratio but not showing any real dominance.  My guess is that he’ll be sticking in AAA for a while.

The last guy in the rotation may be the most interesting: Cesar Vargas was a low-key spring MLFA signing after bouncing around San Diego’s system last year.  He’s come out in 2018 looking serviceable and might be putting himself ahead of the veterans in the pecking order.

Bullpen thoughtsJohn Simms has looked great in a long-man role.  He’s quietly been serviceable at every level in his journey upwards and you have to wonder if he’ll eventually push for a 9/1 call up.  Most of the rest of the bullpen is too SSS to make real judgements, though we have seen three relievers get pushed to the majors right now (Torres, Gott, Suero) and fourth who was up and is now in AAA (Adams).  Cordero still shows the same issues that have plagued him for a while; he’s got 16/8 K/BB in 11 innings.  Barrett remains  with the system and we hope he can get back to his former self; he’d certainly help out at the MLB level.

Who is making a push for promotion?  Voth

Who is in jeopardy of a demotion (or worse): Smith, Cordero


 

Harrisburg (stats = http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=t_ibp&did=milb&cid=547)

  • Opening day rotation: Dragmire, JRodriguez, Darnell*,  LReyes, Estevez
  • Current Rotation: Dragmire, JRodriguez, Long, LReyes, Estevez
  • spot starts/swingman: AWilliams, Darnell*
  • bullpen: Fleck, Guillon*, BHarper*, RMendez, Self,  Ames
  • promotions: Valdez
  • dl/restricted: Brinley, Bacus
  • Missing from 2017: NLee*

Rotation thoughts: The only substantive change in the rotation from the first pass through was to replace Darnell with Long.  Dragmire and Jefry Rodriguez  have both excelled thus far, though Rodriguez’s stats look more like a guy who might be pressing for promotion (more Ks, fewer hits).  Dragmire is showing more of what he displayed last year at AA and he may need the additional challenge of AAA soon.  Estevez and Reyes are not faring as well thus far, with elevated ERAs and WHIPs.  And Long, upon his demotion from AAA, has been poor in his three AA starts, with just 6 punch-outs and a 1.85 WHIP in 13 innings.  Rodriguez seems like the first starter in line for promotion.

Bullpen thoughts:  Austen Williams has looked great since getting moved out of the rotation.  Kaleb Fleck has some interesting stats: he’s got an 18/1 K/BB ratio in 10 innings but has an ugly 5.91 ERA (I’m sure his FIP is like 3 points lower).  Fleck is too good for AA; he spent all last  year in AAA and isn’t proving anything here.  Bryan Harper‘s return from injury is going ok .. he’s got nearly a 2.00 WHIP though.  Long serving Nats farmhand Dakota Bacus got shelled in four appearances and currently sits on the D/L; he had excellent numbers in 2017 but is getting a bit long in the tooth for AA and I wonder if he’s running out of time.  One big name still sits in XST: Nick Lee, who looked promising before injuries derailed his progress.

Who is making a push for promotion?   Fleck, JRodriguez, AWilliams

Who is in jeopardy of a demotion (or worse): Bacus



Potomac

(stats link: http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=t_ibp&did=milb&cid=436)

  • opening day rotation: Crownover*, Sharp, Baez, Mapes, Crowe
  • starters: Crownover*, Sharp, Baez, ?, Crowe
  • spot starts/swingmen: Pantoja, Howard*, Guilbeau*, McGowin
  • bullpen: JMills*, Bourque, Klobosits, RPena, Peterson, Rivera
  • demotions: Fuentes
  • dl/restricted: Borne*, Mapes
  • Missing: Romero*

Rotation thoughts: The only change to the opening day rotation literally happened yesterday, with Mapes dropping to the D/L and (likely)  McGowin (freshly taken off the AA D/L and demoted to Potomac) likely to take his place.  Mapes has the best starter ERA … but the worst WHIP.  Crownover may have the nicest looking stat line, with a nifty 28/4 K/BB ratio and solid peripherals.  Perhaps the most important high-A arm may be Wil Crowe and so far he’s more than handling high-A; the 2017 2nd rounder  has a great whip, good ratios and is looking like an excellent draft pick.   Baez and Sharp fill out the rest of the rotation; both showing mid 4 ERAs and not really being good enough or bad enough to comment on thus far.  The one big notable missing name here is Seth Romero, who should be featuring in this rotation as we speak but instead apparently still sits not at XST but at home in Houston.  Its hard to prove the “i told you so” guys wrong when it literally took less than a season for his well-publicized maturity issues to come to the forefront.

Bullpen thoughts:  Some good and some bad in the bullpen; Rivera and Howard have gotten dinged so far, while Bourque, Mills and Pantoja look solid.  Bourque in particular now boasts a 22/4 K/BB ratio in 12 relief innings; like that ratio.  36th rounder Klobosits still looking solid; how exactly was he still around that late in the draft if he’s already succeeding in high-A?

Who is making a push for promotion?  Bourque

Who is in jeopardy of a demotion (or worse): Rivera perhaps


 

Hagerstown (stats = http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=t_ibp&did=milb&cid=563

  • Opening day rotation: BHill/Braymer*, Raquet*/Acevedo, Tetreault/Bogucki, Alastre/Troop*, Stoeckinger*/Johnston
  • Current rotation: Troop*, Raquet*, Acevedo, Tetreault, Alastre, Stoeckinger*
  • spot starts/swingman: Johnston, Bogucki, Held, Braymer*
  • bullpen: McKinney, Brasher, Fuentes
  • promotions: Guilbeau*
  • dl/restricted: Howell, BHill
  • Cut/Released/FA from 2017: Engelbrekt (retired)
  • missing from 2017/XST: YRamirez*, DeRosier, CPena, Simonds, Barnett*, Morse, Dickey, WDavis,

Rotation thoughts: It was clear to this observer that the first few turns through the rotation were in the “tandem starter” configuration, with each of the names in the “opening rotation” throwing roughly 3-4 innings each.  That has now settled into the current 6-man rotation, all of which now seem to be getting the lion’s share of the innings each time through.   Of the “starters,” only really Raquet has acquitted himself well, though i’m concerned about the lack of swing and miss in his game (19/8 K/BB ratio in 27 innings supporting a 2.28 ERA and a 1.05 whip).  The rest of the starters are struggling: Stoeckinger hasn’t walked a soul yet in 24 innings … .but has given up 37  hits for an ugly 7.50 ERA.  Tetreault, Alastre and Acevedo  each have ERAs north of 7.00.   Troop and Hill (both 2017 top-10 round draftees) have been less bad but have room for improvement.

The “tandem” starters have been a different story though.  Bogucki and Braymer each have been solid, with Braymer sporting a 23/2 K/BB ratio and a 0.81 WHIP and Bogucki sporting a 20/3 K/BB ratio.  I wonder how long it’ll be before these guys become the “starters” instead of the “finishers.”

Bullpen thoughts: There’s really only a couple of real “relievers” in Low-A, but one of them has been quite solid.  McKinney has a 14/1 K/BB ratio in just 8 2/3 innings and has yet to give up an earned run.

There’s still a slew of guys technically in “XST” or assigned to the Short-A roster who could fill in here, most of whom have prior Low-A experience and could contribute.

Who is making a push for promotion?   Braymer, Bogucki, McKinney

Who is in jeopardy of a demotion (or worse): Acevedo, Alastre


 

That’s a quick run through the systems.  Did anyone want to point out someone in particular who they think needs to be talked about?

2017 Rule-5 Addition analysis/predictions

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Will Gushue get the call this weekend? Photo via mlb.com

Will Gushue get the call this weekend? Photo via mlb.com

We do this every year.  We argue about it every year.  This is now the 8th version of this post (see the bottom for links/summary of the first seven).  Thanks to long-since implemented service time changes the Rule-5 draft remains mitigated in importance.  Yet here we are talking about it again, because we’re some of the few people out there who obsess about the edges of the 40-man roster, and who have meticulously studied our prospects for years and who don’t necessarily want to see the promising ones head out the door for a pittance.   So here we are.

Next Monday at 8pm is the deadline to set 40-man rosters ahead of the Winter Meetings, which include the Rule-5 draft.  With so many teams purposely tanking there’s going to be lots of usage of the draft this year.  Lets take a look at who is eligible, who might get protected and make some predictions.  I’ve got the Nats 40-man roster at 35 now, so there’s plenty of room to add names and do their off-season work.

As always, using the indispensable Nationals resource sites Draft tracker and the Big Board, and then looking up candidate acquisitions made via trade, here’s some thoughts on who might merit protection.   Also incredibly useful is Roster Resource’s Nats Roster, which keeps track of options, rule-5 status and the like.

The quick Rule-5 rules for 2017; any college-aged draftee from 2014 or before who isn’t already on the 40-man roster is Rule-5 eligible this coming off season, and any high-school aged draftee/International Free Agent from 2013 or before is newly eligible this year, assuming they were at least 18 as of June 5th of that year.


 

Newly Eligible 2014 draft College Players this year worth consideration for protection:

  • Austen Williams: he has featured at High-A 3 years running, got moved to AA for the 2nd year running this year and still continues to struggle with that leap.  I don’t think he’s a candidate to protect but is worth mentioning since he’s a long-serving starter in the organization.  The team sent him to the AFL perhaps as an audition for consideration.
  • Tyler Mapes: the 30th round pick continues to be found gold for this team … but he missed the entire 2017 with an injury.  Because of that he’s clearly not a rule-5 danger, but he could fit into the teams plans as a rotation member in AA or AAA this year.  He has a career 2.68 ERA in the minors, vastly outperforming most of the rest of his draft class.
  • Taylor Gushue: the 2017 trade acquisition had a solid year in High-A, is a catcher in a system that needs them, and seems like a lock to add.  He wasn’t set to the AFL for nothing.

Not mentioned: several other draftees from this class that are marginal prospects right now: Dale Carey, Matthew Page, Austin Davidson, Alec Keller, Robbie Dickey, Weston Davis, James Bourque.  All these guys are still in the lower minors.  Dickey represents the biggest investment ($400k signing bonus) and is one of the biggest disappointments from this draft.

Erick Fedde would have been the big name here to protect had he not already been added.  Trea Turner was also a 2014 college draftee.


 

Newly Eligible 2013 High School-age drafted players under consideration for protection

  • Drew Ward: he is literally the only 2013 HS draftee remaining in the system and is an interesting protection case.  He had a great 2016 (making the All Star team and shining in High-A) but has not translated that success to AA.  But, he’s only 22, and a 22-yr old struggling in AA isn’t that surprising.  Question is; do you protect him?  He’s blocked at the major league level by Anthony Rendon but that means little in a game where his value might be in trade versus production for the big league squad.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he got protected.

 

Newly Eligible 2013 signed IFAs under consideration for protection:

  • Edwin Lora: SS who has progressed neatly one level at a time for 5 years.  But he’s a career .238 hitter.  We need a backup utility fielder and he fits the bill, but he doesn’t seem to be ready.  I also don’t see him as a threat to get drafted.
  • Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B recently of the AFL who has shown some promise.  He’s a lock to get protected based on his production and his presence in Arizona.
  • Luis Reyes, RHP who started 26 games for Potomac this year.  He’s a bit wild, but he’s also a solid starter who projects to AA in 2018.  Is that enough to be a draft threat?   Maybe.
  • Anderson Franco, 3B: highly touted on prospect boards, but hit just .201 for low-A this year.  Not a draft candidate but someone to watch/hope for a rebound 2018.

Not mentioned: many 2013 IFA signings throughout the lower levels of the system.  This includes Aldrem Corridor, Joshual Ramirez, Luis Vilorio, Oliver Ortiz, Francys Peguero.  Honestly, I had not even heard of most of these guys and wouldn’t be surprised if I had their eligibility wrong.  They’re mostly in the very low minors.


 

Rule-5 Eligible hold-overs of note: 2013 or prior college draftees still hanging out in the system, or 2012 and prior HS/IFAs.

  • Wander Suero: the 2010 IFA exploded onto the scene this year as the closer in AA and then AAA, posting a 1.79 ERA for the year and heading to the AFL.  He was already added to the roster two weeks ago.
  • John Simms: I’ve always liked this guy; he’s now worked his way to AAA and made 8 starts there last  year.  He isn’t a big K/9 guy, perhaps is seen as an org arm, but he’s got a good pedigree (Rice) and has made it to the cusp of the majors.  Is that enough to protect him?  Probably not.
  • Spencer Kieboom: he struggled enough in 2016 to get DFA’d in early 2017 … but then he hit pretty well in AAA this year.  Is that enough to get him back into the mix?
  • Dakota Bacus: he pitched pretty darn well in relief across High-A and AA this year, and was sent to AFL to get more innings.  Is he an option to add?  He didn’t have the numbers that Suero did, but perhaps the team thinks he could be an option out of the pen.
  • Kyle McGowin: an interesting case since he was sent to the AFL: he struggled badly in 2017, getting demoted to AA at one point and posting a 5.95 ERA for the year.  I don’t think we’d shed a tear if he was drafted, but I don’t think he’s meriting a 40-man spot right now.
  • Joan Baez; power arms don’t grow on trees, and even though he was “only” in high-A this year he’s well known enough to perhaps merit protection.

2013 or before College Draftees that are Rule-5 holdovers include David Masters, Isaac Ballou, Justin Thomas, Matthew DeRosier, Robert Benincasa, Derek Self, Brian Rauh, Ronald Pena, Robert Orlan, Steven Perez, Bryan Mejia, Osvaldo Abreu, Wirkin Estevez, Hector Silvestre, Jefry Rodriguez.  Perhaps at some points in their careers some of these guys seemed like locks, but for now they all toil in the lower minors (for the most part) hoping to put themselves into contention.

MLFAs who are technically Rule-5 eligible:  Yadiel Hernandez,  Irving Falou, Greg Ross, Jaron Long, Jordan Mills.  Long in particular has worked in AAA for three years now, but may be considered an org arm at this point.  Ross looked promising for a while, but struggled badly in 2017.


 

So, who would I protect?

  • Wander Suero (already added)
  • Kelvin Gutierrez
  • Taylor Gushue
  • Drew Ward
  • Joan Baez

Who would I consider: Kieboom, Bacus.  Maybe.

If they added these four additional guys they’d be at 39/40 on the roster, still leaving them immediate room for a FA signing or trade.   But there’s more than a few names on our 40-man currently that could be cut (starting with Voth, Gott, Bautista).  So we could see some manouvering this off-season.

Did I miss anyone?  this is kind of tough analysis without a massive white board with every name in the organization listed … something none of us have time to do for free.

Nats official protection announcement: Gutierrez and Jefry Rodriguez in kind of a shocker.


For a fun trip down memory lane, here’s the same Rule 5 Protection analysis post for 201620152014201320122011, and 2010.

By year, here’s who I predicted we’d add and who we did add.

  • 2017: Predicted: Gutierrez, Gushue, Ward, Baez.  Actual: Gutierrez and Jefry Rodriguez.
  • 2016: Predicted Voth, Bautista.  Actual: Voth, Bautista, Marmolejos, Read and Skole.
  • 2015: Predicted Kieboom, Bostick, Marmolejos-Diaz.  Actual: Kieboom, Bostick, Lee
  • 2014: Predicted Cole, Skole, Goodwin.  Hedged on Grace, Martin and Difo.  Actual: Cole, Goodwin, Difo, Grace.
  • 2013: Predicted Solis as the only lock (Souza already added).  Possibles mentioned in order Barrett, Taylor, Grace, Holland.  Actual: Solis, Barrett, Taylor.
  • 2012: Predicted Karns and McCoy, with Hood and Rosenbaum as maybes.  Actual: Karns and Davis.  I think we were all surprised by Davis’ inclusion, despite his good AA numbers that year.
  • 2011: Predicted Norris as a lock, guessed strongly on Moore, Meyers and Komatsu.  Actual: Norris, Moore, Solano, Perez.    This was poor analysis on my part; I did not consider the IFAs newly eligible.
  • 2010: Predicted Marrero, Meyers and Mandel.  Actual: Marrero, Carr and Kimball.
  • 2009: pre-dates my blog and thus no predictions, but Actual was Jaime, Thompson and Severino.
  • 2008: I might be wrong, but I don’t see any evidence of the team protecting *anyone* prior to the Rule-5 draft.  A bit of an indictment of the farm system at the time, I’d say :-)

MLBpipeline.com mid-season Nats top 30 shows our Farm turnover

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Robles is a beatt. Photo via milb.com

Robles is a beatt. Photo via milb.com

Now is about the time when you start to see a few of the more enterprising pundits out there releasing Mid-season top X lists.  Most guys just do minors-wide updates:

MLBPipeline.com though has a fully updated Nats system top 30, including the 2017 draft prospects, and the list is kind of telling.  Lets dive into it, looking at some of the new guys, the guys who are off the list, the movers and the fallers.

(Note: for reference, here’s my master list of Nats prospect rankings, updated to this MLBpipeline list and updated for player movement even up to the most recent trades).

  • The Top 4 hasn’t changedVictor Robles, Juan Soto, Erick Fedde and Carter Kieboom remain our top 4 prospects, as they have been ever since we parted ways with Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez (more on them later).  Now, whether this will still be the case in a week’s time, when the trade deadline has passed, remains to be seen.  Robles remains the #1 guy, the guy who I think the team is looking at to have a “passing of the torch” moment once Bryce Harper departs town, and remains an incredible bargain in terms of bonus-dollars-versus-prospect status ($225k bonus in 2014).  Soto has streaked up the ranks: prior to the beginning of the 2016 season he wasn’t even in the top 30 lists; now he’s pushing Robles at the top.
  • Six of our Top 30 are 2017 draftees: This was the point that surprised me, looking at the list.  MLB’s #5, 6, 16, 19, 22 and 24th ranked players have played for about a month now in our low minors.  #5 and #6 (the ones that are somewhat meaningful) are of course our top two drafted arms Seth Romero and Wil Crowe.  The reason there’s so much room for adding new draftees though is…
  • We’ve lost a TON of prospects in the last 12 months: Just looking at my master list, here’s the departures from prospect lists lately:
    • Graduated: Grace, Glover, Cole, Goodwin this year, Turner last year
    • Traded:  Neuse, Luzardo this year, Giolito, Lopez, Dunning, Hearn, Schrock, Avila last year or last off-season.  Dunning in particular was in our system so shortly that he never made it to a ranking list.

That’s 13 guys, some of whom were pretty prominently ranked and all of whom were mentioned here or there on various lists.

Now, how about the guys that are left?  Here’s some guys who are really shooting up, rankings wise (and yes, some of their rise is due to the surgical removal of so many guys above them … nonetheless, these guys have all played well):

  • Juan Soto: as mentioned above; MLB has him #2 now.  A year ago he was in the 15-17 range, and prior to 2016 season he was a nobody, outside the top 30.
  • Yasel Antuna: our big-money 2016 IFA signing is not disappointing; he had no playing time this time last year and was ranked in the 19-25 range just based on his bonus.  Now?  He’s hitting .300 as a 17-yr old in the GCL with nearly a .40o OBP (as of this writing).
  • Daniel Johnson: recently promoted and it was well earned: Johnson hit 17 homers in the first half in Hagerstown (not an easy place to hit for power), made the all-star team, and got promoted.  MLB.com has him 10th right now; they had him #29th in April.
  • Blake Perkins: It looks like he’s finally getting the hang of switch hitting, and his OPS in Low-A is 200 points higher than it was last year.  He has generally been in the 16-20 range of prospects; now he’s at #11.
  • McKenzie Mills: the lefty Low-A starter has exploded this year; he sits at 12-2 with more than a K/inning for Hagerstown, made the All-Star team and seems ready for a promotion.  MLB has him at #18 in our system; he’s never even been an honorable mention before.
  • Raudy Read: he’s stepped it up a bit, hitting for some power and holding his slash line to respectable levels as a 23-yr old in AA (and on the 40-man roster).
  • Taylor Gushue: also a 23-yr old catcher, with an OPS above .820 one level below Read in High-A.  Never before ranked (at least for us), MLB.com has him 25th now.  I could see these two catchers pushing each other and pushing the likes of Severino and Lobaton off the 40-man.

And here’s some guys whose prospect value has taken a nosedive this year:

  • Pedro Severino: speaking of catcher depth; Severino has seen his stats take a nose dive as he repeats AAA; his 1.048 OPS figure for the Nats last September seems like a mirage.   He’s still on the 40-man, and his reputation is more about his defense than his offense, but that’s still just a backup catcher ceiling.
  • Drew Ward: Year after year, Ward’s prospect value drops.  He used to be top 10; now he’s fallen to the 20-range.  He’s repeating AA and hitting just .224; he’ll be rule-5 eligible this coming off-season but I can’t see saving him with a roster spot right now.  If he doesn’t turn it around, he’ll end up in org-guy territory soon.
  • Austin Voth: perhaps the most curious of our falling prospects.  He was in the 6-7 range just a year and a half ago, then finished a full strong season in AAA.  2017?  He’s struggled, gotten demoted, and struggled further.
  • Jakson Reetz: he’s now pushed down to 26th, after routinely hanging out in the 10-15 range after being such a high draft pick.  He’s basically been socially promoted by virtue of his bonus figure, having never hit above .230 outside of complex ball.  He’s now backing up a guy in Gushue who’s 2 years older, but also has an OPS that’s 200 points better.
  • Anderson Franco: what happened here?  He was solid in rookie ball … and barely at the mendoza line in full season ball.  Another guy routinely given top 10 rankings early on; he’s now just hanging on ranked #27 by MLB.
  • Osvaldo Abreu: he’s moved up a level a year, now playing in AA, but his numbers have had corresponding declines with each promotion.  He wasn’t ever considered a major prospect, but now he’s barely considered a minor one.
  • Telmito Agustin: he couldn’t hack it in High-A and was demoted back to Low-A this year.  He’s only 20, so he has time, but he’s basically out of the prospect discussions for now.
  • Nick Banks & Rhett Wisemann: both big-time college program upper-end draft picks, both scuffling professionally.  Neither now ranked by MLB whereas both had cracks at the top 10 of our prospect lists at some point.
  • Joan Baez: you can’t teach velocity right?  Well for Potomac this year Baez had more walks than Ks … and more walks than innings pitched.  He’s now a 22-yr old in GCL beating up on a bunch of kids, hoping to get his mojo back.
  • Matt Skole: he’s still a “prospect” remember?  He’s 27, hitting .235 in AAA, and has yet to be called up even though the team is so short on hitters that they called up Severino this past week.  I put Skole in here just to see if MartyC is still reading.

And now for some predictions related to our prospects:

  • Fedde is getting called up and soon, and will exhaust his rookie eligibility before the season is over.  The team can’t let Edwin Jackson post 5+ ERAs like he’s been doing for the last few seasons.
  • Robles, Soto, Kieboom stay put to keep our top 4 in tact at the trade deadline.
  • I can see the team cashing in some lesser prospects in trade though, perhaps guys ranked in the 8-15 range.  Selling high on Daniel Johnson perhaps, or flipping some C depth from Severino, Read, Gushue, Kieboom.
  • #1 prospect next year: still Robles; he’s not debuting until at least the super-2 deadline next year.
  • # prospect once Robles graduates: It’ll be Soto.  For reasons explained in the next bullet point…
  • How quickly will Romero get to the Majors?  Pretty quickly.  I could see him ending next year in AA, then pushing for a spot in the 2019 staff.  He won’t be in the minors long enough to get ranked above Soto.  That is unless he turns out to continue his knuckle-headedness… at which point we’ll all write many comments about how we “told you so” for drafting him.

Did I miss anyone?

PS: fun trivia; there have only been eleven (11) different players to hold the title as “#1 Washington Nationals prospect” since Nov 2004.   I’ll bet you can’t name them all.

 

Minor League Full Season Staff Review 2017 – Potomac

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Baez is the highest profile hurler in Potomac to start the year. photo via milb.com

Baez is the highest profile hurler in Potomac to start the year. photo via milb.com

We’re looking at the four full-season staffs, guessing the roles, and talk about the changes of the staffs from the end of last year til now.  Next up: Potomac.

See here for Syracuse 2017 review, here for Harrisburg 2017 review.

(Note: I know that there’s the most likely chance I have something wrong for Potomac since many readers here attend their games regularly; remember, i’m just a guy sitting at his desk scouting the score line so feel free to tell me where i’m wrong…)

Quick links for rosters for each full season affiliate:

And don’t forget the invaluable work of SpringfieldFan maintaining the Nats Big Board, now in its 12th season!

Note: in the below list, “missing” means that the player was on a 2016 roster, is still listed as active but is not found anywhere on a 2017 full-season roster as expected.  Most are still sitting in Extended Spring Training (abbreviated XST throughout) with the intent of getting assigned as injuries or releases occur, but some may be release candidates.   Other abbreviations I use often: MLFA == Minor League Free Agent, OOO = Out of the Organization.

((h/t as always to Mr. Erickson for the link to insidenova.com with the planned rotation, which I’ll use to correct my predictions below).


High-A/Potomac 2017

  • my predicted starters: Baez, Crownover*, Guilbeau*, Sylvestre*, LReyes, JRodriguez
  • purported rotation per insidenova.com: LReyes, Sylvestre*, JRodriguez, Baez, Estevez
  • spot starts/swingman: Guilbeau*, Bacus, Borne*, Crownover*,
  • bullpen: Orlan*, RPena, Rivera, Schepel
  • dl/restricted: Peterson, Turnbull*
  • cut/released/FAs from 2016: Whiting (FA), MSanchez (traded), Holland (FA)
  • missing from 2016: Mayberry, Thomas*, Mendez

Discussion

Rotation discussion: In Potomac we start to see the log-jam of starters from recent drafts.  I count 6 guys who could be starting and another 3 guys who have mostly started in the past.  As it turns out, a couple of the long-time lefty starters from the 2015 draft have been pushed into bullpen roles, perhaps for the longer term.  The burgeoning investment the team is making in the D.R. is evident here; all 5 rotation members are from the island, along with a huge chunk of the roster.

Of the starters listed above, i’d say that Luis Reyes and Jefry Rodriguez are probably on the thinnest of ice to stay in that role, given last year’s results.  Reyes had a 5.60 ERA in half a season in Potomac last year and Rodriguez had a 4.96 ERA in a full season starting in Low-A.   Wirkin Estevez feels like he’s been around forever; this is his 7th pro season in the system yet is only in High-A; he had a couple spot starts last year and I’m kind of surprised he made the rotation over especially Matthew Crownover and Taylor Guilbeau.   I could also see Grant Borne move into the rotation if one of the stated starters fail; Borne had a nifty 3.34 season in long relief in Low-A, pitching an average of 3 innings a stint, so perhaps he’s in line for getting stretched out.  I guess the old adage “you can never have too much pitching” holds true for Potomac; its nice to have 9 different guys who you know could give you a start.

The preponderance of guys used to going longer stints leaves just a handful of known “relievers” in the pen.  R.C. Orlan was Potomac’s effective closer last year and returns to that role, while Hagerstown’s closer Mariano Rivera Jr. rises up to form a nice 8th-9th inning lefty-righty combo.  Amazingly Ronald Pena returns for this 6th pro season, and returns to Potomac where he started half a season in 2014.  No offense to Pena, but I remain surprised that he’s lasted this long with the org.  The last non D/L name is a 2017 MLFA by the name of Kyle Schepel who I had completely forgotten about until I looked him up.  Kylin Turnbull, who has not thrown a pitch in anger since 2014, remains on the D/L in Potomac along with Tommy Peterson, who had an excellent 2016 season in relief and could be a good reliever if he is healthy.

The guys who are listed as “missing” include three guys who all finished the 2016 season in High-A and seem like they’re intended to start there again.

Who am I focusing on: I want to see what Joan Baez has; we know he can bring the heat but can he be an effective starter?  I’ve always liked the trio of lefty veteran college starters we picked in the 2015 draft early rounds; Hearn (since traded), Crownover, Borne and Guilbeau (picked in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 10th rounds respectively), so I look forward to them all moving up a level in 2017.  I want to see what the two closer-quality relievers (Orlan and Rivera) can do.

 

Your 2017 Bullpen

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Old School photo of Blanton from his time at P hilly. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Old School photo of Blanton from his time at P hilly. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

With the Joe Blanton signing, one has to think the team is done augmenting its bullpen until the trade deadline.

Instant Tangent: Blanton is actually an excellent example of why i’m pretty much A-OK with the Nats not overpaying for a closer.  Here’s Blanton’s career splits as a starter and reliever:

  • Starter: 1553 innings, 4.47 ERA, 1.354 whip, 6.2 K/9 and a 2.65 K/BB ratio.
  • Reliever: 169.2 innings, 3.24 ERA, 1.138 whip, 8.9 K/9 and 3.57 K/BB ratio.

Last year specifically as a middle relief workhorse for Los Angeles: 80 innings across 75 appearances, 2.48 ERA, exactly a 9.0 K/9 rate.

So basically Blanton was a sub-mediocre starter; his starting career was with Oakland (pitcher’s park), Philly (National league) and then stints starting for both Los Angeles clubs (again, both pitcher’s parks and/or NL teams facing pitchers and weaker lineups).  But suddenly he’s a stud when moved into relief.

This is nothing new.  Go look at Mariano Rivera‘s stats starting; in one brief season for the Yankees he got 10 starts and threw to a 5.51 ERA.  The next year he’s moved into the bullpen and he posts a 2.09 ERA and comes in 3rd in Cy Young.  After that, eleven seasons where his ERA for the year was sub 2.00.  Not to be too blunt about it, but Rivera was a failed MLB starter who turned into a Hall of Fame reliever.

There’s no reason the Nats can’t find their own Mariano Rivera.

I’m not saying Shawn Kelley is the answer.  For a while i’ve thought that Blake Treinen was the answer.  Maybe now Koda Glover will be the answer.  Or perhaps Joan Baez will rocket up the system and throw 100 mph bee-bees by September.

In any case … I’m happy with the bullpen now, moreso than I was yesterday, and I still think it’d be a mistake to trade valuable assets for a mediocre closer like David Robertson.

So, to the question at hand.  How’s our Bullpen looking?

Here’s the relievers on our 40-man roster now, in rough order of depth:  Kelley, Blanton, Treinen, Glover, Solis*, Perez*, Romero*, Adams, Gott, Martin, Cordero, Grace*

So what do I think is going to happen?

  • Closer: Kelley.  Good stuff in short bursts, veteran guy to meet the “pressure” requirement of a closer.
  • 8th inning guys: Treinen and Blanton: no arguments here; they’ll both throw in 70-80 games this year, switching off and perhaps spelling Kelley in the 9th.
  • 7th Inning guys: Glover and Solis: I like Glover’s stuff, I think his downturn in performance last year was entirely related to the unreported hip issue, and I think he could be the closer in waiting.  Solis is lefty but offers more than just a matchup; he’s not that far removed from starting and he’s not unlike Andrew Miller in that he depends on a good pitch (his two seamer) slung from a lower arm-angle to get guys out.
  • Lefty specialist: Mr. Swashbuckler Oliver Perez.  He can also pick up the slop in a pinch and give the team twisty-turny rubber armed high sock slinging mud as needed.  (Yes, I like Perez).

Ok that’s 6 guys who are practically guaranteed their slots.  Maybe Glover isn’t a guarantee to you but he is to me if he’s healthy.

So who is 7th reliever?  Maybe its easier to talk about who I do NOT think it will be:

  • Grace: I think he’s not long for the org, clearly now 4th in line for lefty relievers for a team that only needs two.  DFA candidate if it comes to it.
  • Martin: He doesn’t seem to have the same magic he had when he first got called up; he’s also fallen down on the depth chart, now behind the above named guys plus recent acqusitions.
  • Adams, Gott, Cordero: all are new(er), all have things to prove, make perfect sense to start in AAA
  • Romero: option-less, could be on the opening day roster just to avoid a waiver wire exposure … but we paid little for him so there’s little lost cutting him.  Maybe he starts on the roster in lieu of a 5th starter for the first few days (we don’t need a fifth starter until like the 6th or 7th game of the season, assuming everyone is healthy and making the roster).

So who is 7th guy?  Someone who’s not even on the 40-man; Vance Worley.  He sots into 7th man, long guy, spot starter, insurance guy.

That’s what i’m going with for now.  But good or bad spring performances could scuttle this by the time we hit April 1.

Top 10 Arms; Starters and Relievers separately ranked

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Fedde probably #1 arm in the system ... and its tough after that. Photo via minorleagueball.com

Fedde probably #1 arm in the system … and its tough after that. Photo via minorleagueball.com

Every year, Luke Erickson over at NationalsProspects.com does a crowd-sourced ranking of the Top 10 “bats” and “arms” in the Nats farm system (link to the “Arms” post)

This year, I had such a hard time deciding upon my top 10 arms for Luke’s survey that I thought it would be worth doing my own post on the subject, temporarily stealing Luke’s idea.  I think its an interesting time for our farm system arm development; we’ve spent the off-season trading away a significant amount of arm depth, and what we have left made it kind of tough for me to even find 10 “arms” that were worth ranking.  Furthermore, how do you really compare starters and relievers?  Isn’t a mediocre starter prospect who has reached AAA better than a high-end reliever prospect in the lower minors?   Is our best reliever prospect (Koda Glover) a “better” or “worse” prospect than a really good-looking starter who is in A-Ball (like a Tyler Watson?)  How do you compare a good starter prospect in A ball with what looks like an org-arm in AAA?  Its potential versus reality, ceiling versus floor.  In the end, you have to make kind of a rolling judgement call to put PlayerA above PlayerB … leading to excellent arguments in the comments section.

So, taking these thoughts into account, here’s my top 10 ranked Arms, splitting guys into starters and relievers.  My rules: a “starter” is someone who was “predominantly” a starter this year.  A reliever is someone who, well, was a reliever and wasn’t getting starts unless there was some weird situation going on.  And since the lowest levels generally were doing tandem starting, if you were clearly a “pitch every 5th day” guy even if you weren’t starting, then i’m calling you a starter for these purposes.  This only comes into play with a couple of guys who were in and out of rotations this year; i’ve put them into the Relievers section.

My Nats top 10 Starters:

1. Erick Fedde: He’s clearly come back from TJ, dominated for most of 2016, and probably debuts in the later half of 2017.
(1a. A.J. Cole, if you still think he’s got prospect status.  He exhausted his rookie status by service time in 2016 … but has yet to reach 50 IP in the majors, so Baseball America qualifies him as a prospect still.  I don’t view him as a prospect anymore; to me he’s a 6th starter/long-man candidate for 2017).
2. Austin Voth: he’s more than earned it, has nothing to prove in AAA, and frankly should have gotten a 40-man addition last September and gotten innings instead of Mat Latos.
3. Tyler Watson: had a great season competing against guys well older than him; could be looking at a jump to high-A in 2017 and he’s yet to turn 20.  I like his potential.
4. Weston Davis: I’m going with Davis over the more highly regarded (on prospect lists) Baez because of a slightly cleaner stat line.  Davis had a nice 2.67 ERA in Short-A as a 20-yr old.
5. Joan Baez: Full year starting in Low-A as a 21-yr old, good K/9 numbers, some wildness.  A step-up to High-A will clear the waters on him.
6. Matthew Crownover: great in Low-A, struggled in High-A.   Should be in the Potomac rotation for 2017, may turn into a useful lefty reliever if he can’t maintain stats as a starter.
7. Jesus Luzardo: entirely based on pre-draft reputation; hopefully he comes back strong, but he’s several years away from even doing what Watson is doing.
8. Tyler Mapes: the fact that a 30th round draft pick is on this list is, well, the obvious evidence of the current thin-ness of our pitching depth.  I love what Mapes has done, don’t get me wrong, but does anyone really expect him to  become an impact player in the majors?
9. McKenzie Mills: I could see Mills a bit higher here, but honestly anyone in the 6-10 rank here could be argued to be higher or lower.
10. Andrew Lee: solid for Hagerstown before hitting the D/L.  His spot here is assuming he didn’t blow out his rotator cuff or something that affects him longer term.

Honorable Mentions: Kyle McGowin, Yonathan Ramirez, Carlos AcevedoJaron LongAusten Williams, Jefry Rodriguez.  I could probably see arguments for Ramirez above perhaps Lee or Mills, but barely.  I don’t really bother looking at GCL or DSL guys, so if you want to argue that someone who got 40 innings of complex ball is better than someone who put up stats in an A-ball league … well i’m going to argue with you :-).

So, clearly there’s a huge gap between the AAA-calibre guys at the top and Watson, both in terms of service time and in career minor league achievement.  Our trades have resulted in this gap.  There also seems to be a pretty significant potential gap right after Baez; you go from prospect to lottery tickets and org-guys pretty quickly it seems.  Prior to these trades, I would likely have had Giolito 1, Lopez 2, Dunning right after Voth and perhaps Avila in discussions for being at the #10 spot.  Still, that’s half of your best starter prospects gone in a couple of weeks.

Nats top 10 Relievers; these are going to be more heavily aligned towards guys who are near the top of the system, for obvious reasons.  If you’re in A-ball and already a reliever … you’re in trouble unless you’re striking guys out at 12 K/9 clip … and we seem to have a habit of trading those guys (Hearn, Sanchez).
1. Koda Glover: for obvious reasons.  Despite how much we’ve talked about him this year, he’s only got 19 MLB innings and still has rookie status by service time.  We were mostly mystified by his drop-off of talent, until learning that he tore his hip labrum.  I, like many others, like him for a future closer.  Grow ’em, don’t buy ’em.
2. Austin Adams: our return bounty for Danny Espinosa: he had 61 Ks in 41 AA innings in 2016.  That’s 13.3 K/9.  That’s crazy.
3. Bryan Harper: he was clearly moving himself ahead of other lefty options in AAA before getting hurt; lets hope he recovers from TJ and puts himself back on the map.
4. Jimmy Cordero: pretty solid AA numbers for two seasons running; i’d like to see him in AAA to see if he’s a bullpen option in the mold of an Aaron Barrett/Craig Stammen role.
5. Matt Grace: may be on the downslope of his Nats career, given that he wasn’t depended upon in 2016 and the Nats felt the need to flip a future Hall of Fame prospect to acquire a 5-week loogy rental.  But he’s still an effective AAA reliever, which the rest of the guys below him cannot say.
6. Trevor Gott: our return bounty for Yunel Escobar was relatively effective for AAA this year, had good MLB numbers, but is anyone counting on him competing for the 2017 MLB bullpen?  He and Grace are my “first two guys to go” off the 40-man if we need room right now.
7. Andrew Robinson: this MLFA signing put up great AA numbers and seems to be sticking around; I think he competes for the AAA bullpen.
8. Wander Suero: Another guy who put up nice AA numbers for the team this year as a RH middle reliever.  He’s a bit old (25) and has been around the system forever (IFA signing in 2010), but should feature in AA or AAA this year.
9. Ryan Brinley: others have him higher based on his High-A dominance; he’s another Tyler Mapes-esque draft success story, a 2015 27th rounder who has rocketed up the system.   I’d like to see what he can do in AA in 2017.
10. John Simms: another one of the Nats great 11th round picks, he really may be a starter, but for now he’s here.  If he was being counted as a starter he’d probably be around the same ranking in the above list.
Honorable Mentions: Nick Lee, Mariano Rivera Jr., Grant Borne, Taylor Guilbeau, Steven Fuentes, Tommy Peterson, Jorge Pantoja: all guys who put up decent numbers for A or AA teams.
What do you guys think?  Did I miss anyone egregiously?

Nats Winter Meetings Preview

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Winter Meetings 2016

Winter Meetings 2016 … here in DC!

As requested from Dr. Cane in the comments, lets chat about what we may see transpire at the upcoming Winter Meetings.  This year’s Winter meetings are a week from now, running from Sunday 12/4/16 to 12/8/16 at the Gaylord Hotel in the National Harbor.  I’m halfway curious to drive over there to witness the “scene” in the lobby/hotel bar, having read about/listened to multiple podcasts over the years describing how these meetings work.  On the other hand, I’m sure I wouldn’t appreciate it if some nerd was hanging around my office while I was trying to get work done, so maybe not :-)

In this space we’ve talked about a couple of items related to what we may see transpire in DC in the next week:

We still have some significant issues to address on the roster.  How many will we see resolved at these meetings?  Here’s some of the rumors (two good links: mlbtraderumors.com FA predictions and BleacherReports predictions)  I’ve been hearing about as they relate to the obvious holes we have to fill; apparently the Nats and Mike Rizzo are expected to be “aggressive” this winter.  I’ll take them position by position:

Center Field/Outfield

  • One rumor has the Nats moving Bryce Harper to center and buying one of the big corner OF bats on the market.  Jose Bautista or Brandon Moss.  Josh Reddick was an early name but he got snapped up quickly.  Carlos Gomez could be an interesting name.
  • I’ve read that the team will splash out cash for Yoenis Cespedes and really “go for it” during the Harper window.
  • Mark Zuckerman recently reported that Ben Revere basically played with a bum shoulder the whole season and the team may very well tender him and go into 2017 with him as the starter.
  • I’ve heard the Nats associated with Andrew McCutchen, who may actually not be a good CF any longer, but any trade for him may be tough to do since he struggled so badly in 2016.
  • Also heard that the team could be involved in trade for someone like J.D. Martinez if the Tigers attempt to re-tool their roster.
  • My Take: i’m on the “move Bryce to CF” and acquire a corner bat.  I’d be happy with any of these names as a way to bolster the offense.

Shortstop

  • All of these CF moves assume Trea Turner returns to Short and Danny Espinosa either becomes a trade candidate or assumes the Stephen Drew utility infielder role.
  • I fully support Turner back to SS; i just don’t understand those that want to keep him in Center when he’s a natural short stop and, frankly, its a heck of a lot easier to find a CF than a SS.
  • My Take: I’m on the “we should trade Espinosa” boat if he’s not the starter, if only for the rumors we read about him as a clubhouse presence when he’s not playing.

Closer

  • There’s three major closers on the market and more than three teams chasing them.  Nats not expected to be a massive overpay … but you never know.  One rumor has them on Aroldis Chapman, banking on him retaining his velocity.
  • Another rumor has the Nats being more sensible and rolling the dice on a former closer like Greg Holland and then buying up a middle reliever (someone like a Brad Ziegler) to supplement the loss of several arms from this year’s bullpen.
  • But there’s all sorts of middle relief arms out there.  Joe Blanton may get 8 figures.  Who knew.
  • My Take: I like the Holland + Ziegler/Blanton route to add to our existing Kelley/Treinen/Glover trio, then add in the two lefties Solis/Perez and you have your bullpen.  Kelley could be the closer if Holland can’t do it and that’d still give the team three really good 8th/9th inning arms.  Replace Glover with a long-man if you want, or consider that both Perez and Blanton are former starters who could suck up innings, or be original and forgoe the darn long-man and just depend on call ups if you get a ton of innings thrown by the bullpen over a short period of time.

Catcher

  • Matt Weiters to the Nats makes a lot of sense; Scott Boras client, no draft pick compensation this year.
  • The team has already missed out on a couple of catchers who have gone off the board early.
  • They may be looking a some trade targets.
  • Clearly they’re not going to go into 2017 with just Jose Lobaton and Severino.
  • Wilson Ramos seems more and more likely to be gone, perhaps a remnant of the insulting pre-injury offer they gave him, perhaps just a reality of the market for his services coming off a 2nd major knee injury.  We love the Buffalo, but he may be better suited for an AL team that can DH him every once in a while, and one that can survive until July when he’s ready to go.
  • My Take: I have no idea what they’ll do.  But they have to do something.

I don’t really think the team needs or seeks any upgrades elsewhere, but yet we still hear weird rumors every once in a while.

  • Chris Sale acquisition via trade; don’t really understand the need; yes that’d give the team three “Aces” at the top but at what cost if it requires them to gut the farm system?
  • Moves to replace Werth or Zimmerman just seem silly to consider, given the payroll implications of having those two clubhouse leader/10-and-5 guys suddenly be bench bats.  I don’t see this team, this manager or this executive group knee capping franchise defining players like that, especially when they’re still relatively serviceable.   Werth was a 1.1 win player last year with a WRC+ figure north of 100.  Zimmerman was worth negative fWAR of course, but he was hurt most of the season, so its kind of hard to gauge what he’ll do in 2017.  He’s only 32 after all, and is under contract for a while longer.

Its impossible to predict trades that come out of the blue, but it is worth noting that the Nats have some surpluses of talent that they can trade from:

  • I count nine starters on the 40-man roster, which means that several could be trade bait.  We’ve heard rumors about Giolito, Lopez, Voth, Cole, Fedde and Gonzalez all getting packed up to move out.  And that leaves out some lesser-renounded but still promising arms lower down in the system (Dunning of course, but also the likes of Avila, Baez, Watson, etc).
  • There’s now TEN (10) infielders on the 40-man; I see a couple of DFAs/trades (Espinosa of course, and the loser of Skole/Robinson perhaps), and its hard to see a pathway for others (where does Marmolejos play for example?), but that’s a lot of infielders for 4 starting spots and and at most six 25-man jobs.
  • We have more than a few rising quality outfielders, headed by Robles and new 40-man member Bautista, but also including the likes of Stevenson, Agustin, Wiseman, Perkins and Banks.

What do you guys see happening?

 

GCL/Rookie Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2015

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Watson was a big over-slot draftee in 2015 and did not disappoint in his brief GCL debut. Photo bia mychandlerschools.org (his HS)

Watson was a big over-slot draftee in 2015 and did not disappoint in his brief GCL debut. Photo bia mychandlerschools.org (his HS)

This is the 7th and last in the 2015 Pitching staff review series, here’s a review of GCL/Rookie league pitching staff for 2015.  I generally don’t follow the Dominican Summer League teams, simply because there seems to be so little correlation of success there to success domestically.  Other parts of the 2015 series:

For some historical perspective, here’s 2013’s version (featuring Lucas Giolito again),  2012’s version (Lucas Giolito was the feature pitcher) and 2011’s version (Jack McGeary the feature pitcher) of this post specifically for the GCL/Rookie league.  Had I done this post for 2014, I would have struggled to find a worthy player to feature but would have settled on Anderson Martinez.

All stats are courtesy of either milb.com’s GCL’s 2015 Stats page or via Fangraph’s GCL 2015 page.  Also useful here are the Big Board and the Nats Draft Tracker since so many of these lower-minors guys are recent draftees.

A caveat before starting this post: this is short-season ball, so nobody’s got more than a few dozen innings.  The staff leader had 42 innings.  So yes this is absolutely going to be some “Small Sample Size” analysis.  Which in some cases is unfair to the player (to the good or to the bad).  It is what it is.  The Nats GCL team basically gets two kinds of players; over-aged college draftees (since we basically only draft college arms) and DSL graduates who may or may not be ready for prime time.  So each type of guy may have his own caveats when looking at numbers.

GCL Pitching Staff movement throughout the year (* == lefty)

  • Opening Day Rotation: Acevedo, Fuentes, Bermudez, Valerio, WPena
  • End-of-Season Rotation: Fuentes/Baez, DeRosier, Watson/Mills*,  Avila, Reynoso*, WPena
  • End-of-Season spot starts/swingman:  Serrata, Harmening, Acevedo
  • End-of-Season bullpen:  De La Cruz, Cespedes, Pantoja,  Copping,   CPena, Gunter
  • Mid-Season promotions: Peterson, Boghosian, Hearn*, Guilbeau*,Pirro,  Brinley, Howell, Valerio, Van Vossen
  • Post-season end promotions: Baez, DeRosier (Feliz, Dickey?)
  • up-and-back: Feliz
  • down-and-back:
  • demotions:  Bermudez (to DSL)
  • dl: WDavis, Simmons
  • cut/released/FAs: Mancini, Yrizarri
  • GCL/Lower cuts pre-season: Salazar, Jauss, DVasquez, Morel, EGomez, Charlis, JRamirez, Costa, Uribarri

GCL startersHere’s an overview of the starters used in 2015, starting with the original starters, going all the way to the rehab spot starts.

  • Carlos Acevedo got the opening day start and was used as a long-man the rest of the way, getting 29.2 IP across 10 appearances.  3.64 ERA, 1.11 whip, 3.61 fip, 20/9 K/BB.  Acevedo is an older DR signee, already 21 but only in his 2nd pro season.  These were decent enough numbers though and I can see him getting bumped up to Short-A; can’t quite see him making the Low-A bullpen though.  Outlook for Next Season: short-A bullpen.
  • Steven Fuentes went 3-4 with a 5.22 ERA in 39.2 IP in his first season domestically after excelling as a 17yr old in the DSL last  year.  33/15 K/BB ratio but his peripherals were iffy: 1.54 whip, 4.14 fip.   His K/9 rate seems promising and he’s young enough that there’s no reason to push him along: I think he repeats the GCL in 2016.  Outlook for Next Season: GCL rotation.
  • Juan Bermudez struggled with the GCL squad, posting a 6.91 ERA in 14.1 IP and got demoted back to the DSL.  There he also struggled and the squad released him in August.  Outlook for Next Season: out of the organization.
  • Maximo Valero excelled in the GCL, going 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA across 36.2 IP.  32/7 K/BB and a sub 1.00 whip.  He earned a promotion to Short-A by mid August and finished the season there, posting a 2.63 ERA in Short-A with a 15/3 K/BB ratio.  He has not yet turned 21 and looks like he could be an excellent IFA signing.  I think he makes sense at this point to compete for the Low-A rotation; problem is that there’s just way too many arms already competing for that rotation.  I think he could end up as a long-man in Hagerstown and then get pushed to the Short-A rotation in mid June.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A rotation.
  • Wilber Pena had an ok first domestic season, going 1-6 with a 3.92 ERA, 1.51 whip and 36/12 K/BB in 39 IP.  Not great, but not horrible.  He won’t turn 21 until after next season, so I can see  him repeating the GCL to work on his WHIP.  Outlook for Next Season: GCL rotation.
  • Joan Baez was tried out in Low-A and Short-A briefly before settling back into the GCL for the majority of the season; there he exceled, posting a 2.13 ERA in 9starts/42IP.  42/19 K/BB.  This was his 2nd go-around in the GCL and he improved across the board.  He’s a bit of an older IFA signing (he just turned 21 in December, so 2016 will still be his age 21 season), so he makes sense to try out again in Hagerstown in 2016.  I’m not sure he’s going to make that rotation though; he may be destined for the bullpen.  That being said, the team clearly wants him to stick as a starter.   Outlook for Next Season: Low-A long-man/spot starter.
  • Yorlin Reynoso got one quick start in Auburn before getting demoted back to the GCL to repeat the level; he ended up going 1-3 with a 5.66 ERA, 1.51 whip, 26/14 K/BB ratio in 35 GCL innings as a 19yr old.  These are improvements over 2014’s GCL stint, and he’s still young, so I can see the team sticking with him.  But he can’t play in Viera forever.  2016 needs to see some improvement; he needs to stick in the Short-A rotation.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A rotation competition/release candidate.
  • McKenzie Mills went 0-5, 7.27 ERA  with 24/28 K/BB in 34.2 ip across two levels.  He posted a 4.46 fip, .405 babip  while in Short-A then got dropped back to the Rookie league, where he threw 23 IP at a 7.04 ERA clip.   Rough season for Mills, who couldn’t make the jump to short-A, then struggled when back in rookie ball.  Just way too many walks to be effective, but likely hangs around a bit longer since he can just hang out in XST and try to pick back up on next year’s short season squads again.  2016 may be a make-it or break-it year though.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A rotation competition/release candidate.
  • Matt DeRosier went 0-2, 3.58 ERA with 30/7 K/BB in 27IP (7 starts) mostly in the GCL, having gotten dumped out of Auburn after a couple of poor starts.   2.02 fip, .435 babip in Auburn, so perhaps it was a short-sample-size that was unflattering.  He needs to put together a nice string of healthy starts somewhere outside of complex ball though.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A rotation competition/release candidate.
  • Tyler Watson went 1-1, 0.00 ERA  and 16/4 k/bb in 13ip, 1.81 fip, .226 babip in the GCL.  The Nats 2015 34th round over-slot signee did not disappoint.  He’s young but he looked dominant in his first pro innings.  I’ll bet he stays in XST and debuts next year on the short-A squad.  He’s young though; so don’t be surprised if he repeats the GCL entirely to build up innings.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A rotation.
  • Mick VanVossen went 0-2, 4.83 ERA  across 2 levels.  23/13 K/BB in 31.2 ip, 4.09 fip, .260 babip in GCL (where he spent most of the year).  Nothing too special here; struggled when he got to Auburn but only had 6ip there.  Needs to show a better K/BB ratio to compete next  year.   And a college senior in the GCL isn’t going to cut it; he needs to make next year’s short-A bullpen and succeed or he’ll be axed.   Outlook for Next Season: Short-A bullpen competition/release candidate.
  • Rehab Guys:
    • Ian Dickson had two rehab starts for the GCL: see High-A write-up for more.
    • Brian Rauh had one rehab start and a couple other appearances for the GCL: see AA write-up for more.
  • Short Timer Guys waiting to get assigned to the proper level:
    • Taylor Guilbeau featured briefly (2 appearances, 1 start) in GCL before rightfully joining the Short-A rotation where he belonged.  See Short-A write-up for more.
    • Taylor Hearn also featured briefly (2 appearances, 1 start) in GCL before rightfully joining the Short-A rotation where he belonged.  See Short-A write-up for more.

GCL Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps.  We’ll organize relievers by going by IP from most to least.  Anyone with than 10 IP or who was solely doing rehab will get cursory analysis at the end.

  • Russell Harmening went 1-0, 2.86 ERA in the GCL with 16/4 K/BB in 22ip, 3.26 fip, .303 babip.  He was a college junior draftee but a young one; he didn’t turn 21 until after the season was over.  I’d say he makes sense to slot into the short-A bullpen in 2016.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A bullpen.
  • Brayan Serrata fared well in his first professional innings after a significant layoff since signing in 2012.  He had no innings in 2012, 2013 or 2014 (at last as far as milb.com knows).  This year in his turning-21 age season he posted a 1.80 ERA in 20 GCL innings (14/8 K/BB).  I’m guessing he’s been hurt for a while; now he’s healthy and needs to move up.  I’m guessing he does another season in XST and slots into the short-A bullpen.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A bullpen.
  • Calvin Copping was 1-2, 4.76 ERA in the GCL 14/5 K/BB in 17ip, 4.01 fip, .305 babip.  So-So numbers for a college guy in the rookie league.  As with his fellow middle-of-the-road senior sign pitchers, he needs to show more dominance if he wants a job out of spring 2016.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A bullpen competition/release candidate.
  • Angher Cespedes posted a 5.14 ERA in 14IP in his first domestic season after being a relatively old DR signing.  He’ll turn 22 next year and doesn’t seem likely to do much outside of complex ball; i’ll say he repeats the GCL if the team retains him.  Outlook for Next Season: GCL bullpen/release candidate.
  • Jorge Pantoja was 1-1, 5.84 ERA in the GCL, 11/3 K/BB in 12ip, 2.74fip, .395 babip.  Looks like some potential there with a K/inning and a FIP that flatters  his ERA.  Probably needs more time.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A bullpen competition/release candidate.
  • Carlos Pena signed as an NDFA and posted a 9.82 ERA in 7 GCL innings.  He got hit hard but he did strike out a guy an inning, so perhaps he hangs around the complex for antoher shot.  Outlook for Next Season: GCL bullpen
  • Pedro Avila is a youngster who was an 2014 IFA signing and who *destroyed* the DSL in 2015; 87/17 K/BB in 59.2 innings and was summoned to Viera in Mid August.  He threw just one 4-inning outing before the season ended but he looks quite promising.  He’s profiling as a starter and seems like a good bet to be the GCL’s opening day starter in 2016.  Outlook for Next Season: GCL rotation.
  • Kida De La Cruz had three short outings in June and then didn’t appear afterwards, presumably getting hurt but not going on the D/L.  A lost season for the 2014 IFA signee, who will turn 22 next year and seems to be far too old for the GCL.  Outlook for Next Season: GCL bullpen/release candidate.
  • Deibi Yrizarri had just one 2015 GCL appearance, did not retire a batter, and was released.  He posted a 9.08 ERA last year in the GCL and I guess the team had seen enough.  Seems like a quick hook though for a guy who they kept hanging around the complex for months.  Outlook for Next Season: out of baseball.
  • The following guys threw a handful of rehab innings and are mentioned only to complete the analysis of everyone who appeared in the GCL this year:
    • Johansen, RPena, DRamos
  • The following guys threw a handful of innings before getting quickly promoted to the proper level and are mentioned only to complete the analysis of everyone who appeared in the GCL this year:
    • Feliz, Howell, Pirro, Brinley, Boghosian, ALee, Peterson

Summary

Not too many pure relievers in the GCL; mostly they’re tandem starters each pitching 3-4 innings per rotation turn.  And the Nats treatment of the GCL these days seems to basically be finishing school for their DSL stars since they rarely sign anyone from high school.  Nonetheless, I project a ton of guys getting bounced from the Short-A bullpen competition so perhaps that’s who will reside in the GCL next  year.

Auburn/Short-A Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2015

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Fedde was probably the "pitcher of the year" for Auburn in 2015. Photo via chicagonow.com

Fedde was probably the “pitcher of the year” for Auburn in 2015. Photo via chicagonow.com

This is the 6th in the 2015 Pitching staff review series, here’s a review of Auburn/Short-A’s pitching staff for 2015.  Other parts of the 2015 series:

For some historical perspective, here’s 2013’s version (featuring Jake Johanssen),  2012’s version (Brett Mooneyham was the feature pitcher) and 2011’s version (Nathan Karns the feature pitcher) of this post specifically for Auburn/Short-A.  Had we done this series in 2014, we likely would have featured Reynaldo Lopez, who had a 0.75 ERA in 7 starts and 36 innings.

All stats are courtesy of either milb.com’s Auburn’s 2015 Stats page or via Fangraph’s Auburn 2015 page.  Also useful here are the Big Board and the Nats Draft Tracker since so many of these lower-minors guys are recent draftees.

A caveat before starting this post (and we’ll say this same thing in the GCL post): this is short-season ball, so nobody’s got more than a few dozen innings.  So yes this is absolutely going to be some “Small Sample Size” analysis.  Which in some cases is unfair to the player (to the good or to the bad).  It is what it is.

Auburn Pitching Staff movement throughout the year (* == lefty)

  • Opening Day Rotation: Dickey/LTorres, JRodriguez, Fedde, Crownover*, Baez, Mills
  • End-of-Season Rotation: Gilbeau*, Borne*, Baez, DeRosier, Hearn*, Crownover*
  • End-of-Season spot starts/swingman: Valerio
  • End-of-Season bullpen: Mooney, Pirro, Overton, Boghosian,  MRivera, Johns, LTorres, Van Vossen
  • Mid-Season promotions: LReyes,  Bach*, KPerez, DWilliams, Glover, JMorales, Lee, Brinley,Fedde, Peterson, JRodriguez
  • up-and-back: Johns, LTorres
  • down-and-back: Feliz, Dickey
  • demotions: Reynoso*, Mills*, Baez, Gunter
  • dl/restricted: Bourque, AMartinez, McDowell, Sylvestri
  • cut/released/FAs: Ullman, Webb*, Plouck*

Auburn starters.  The rotation started the season with several “tandem” starter pairs, not quite going to a full A/B starter set but getting relatively close.  Here’s an overview of the 12 starters used in 2015, starting with the original starters, going all the way to the rehab spot starts.

  • Robbie Dickey had two bad starts in Hagerstown before getting dumped back to Auburn in time to get the ball on opening day.  From there the jury is kind of out: for the entire year: 6.65 ERA, 16/17 k/bb in 23ip (6 starts).  He was incredibly wild and then didn’t pitch after 7/25/15, accumulating just 23 IP on the year.  Was he hurt?  There was no record of a D/L trip, just an assignment back to XST after a while.  All in all, a pretty disappointing season for our 2014 4th round pick.  Where does he go from here?  Is the team just being too impatient with him, yanking him from Hagerstown after just a few innings?  Outlook for Next Season: attempting the Low-A rotation again.
  • Jefry Rodriguez bounced between Short-A and Low-A again this season, starting in Hagerstown but pitching most of the year in Auburn.  At the end of the season, he led Auburn in both IP and starts.  All told; 4-10 with a 5.42 ERA between the two levels.  While he maintained a 2-1 K/BB ratio in Short-A, he was nearly 1/1 in Low-A (27/25 K/BB in 42.2 low-A innings).  The team likes him as a starter … but this is the 2nd year in a row he’s posted a 6+ ERA in low-A.  He’s still young though (he turned 22 mid-season) so I can see him repeating his 2015 season; in the Low-A rotation.  If he struggles again though, I think it may be time to move him to the bullpen and look at converting him to a late-innings reliever.  He can definitely strike guys out (67 Ks in 68 Short-A innings against college competition), so perhaps there’s a new stage in his career if he can’t figure out starting.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation.
  • Erick Fedde threw 8 effective starts in Auburn, going 4-1, 2.57 ERA in Short-A Auburn with 36/8 in 35ip (8 starts), 2.60 fip, .346 babip.  He then got bumped up to Hagerstown where he finished out the season.  See Low-A write-up for more.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation to start.
  • Matt Crownover went 1-4, 3.81 ERA in Short-A with 34/9 K/BB in 49.2 ip (13 app, 10 starts), 3.40 fip, .301 babip.  His whip was decent on the year (1.17), mostly due to his great K/BB ratio (4/1).  Nothing bad but nothing mind blowing out of Crownover’s numbers in Short-A.  Not a bad return for an under-slot ACC lefty starter.  I see him competing for the Low-A rotation; there’s no reason not to keep him moving up as a college draftee from the ACC.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation competition, likely in the pen.
  • Joan Baez bounced around the system a bit in 2015, getting 5 starts in Auburn to the tune of a 7.13 ERA.  See GCL write-up for more.
  • McKenzie Mills got hit hard in 4 appearances in Auburn before spending the rest of the season int the GCL.  See GCL write-up for more.
  • Taylor Guilbeau went 3-3, 3.54 mostly in Short-A after starting briefly in the GCL with 31/9 K/BB in 51 ip (11/10 starts) .2.89 fip, .356 babip.  His FIP looks solid based on his competition but he may get bumped to the bullpen to focus on being a lefty reliever thanks to the large number of arms in the system.  I put him behind his fellow 2015 draftees Crownover and  Hearn in this regard thanks to his senior sign status and low club investment (fairly or otherwise; it is what it is).  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation competition, likely in the pen.
  • Taylor Hearn went 1-5, 3.56 in Short-A with a 38/13 K/BB in 43ip (10/10 starts), 3.40 fip, .346 babip.  Hearn joined his fellow lefty first 10 round starters in the Auburn rotation a couple of weeks into the short season and was completely effective, averaging nearly a K/inning with decent control.  He’s done nothing to jeopardize his advancement for 2016 and should compete for a low-A rotation gig.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation competition.
  • Grant Borne went 1-4, 3.59 in Short-A with 32/7 K/BB in 47.2 ip (15 apps, 5 starts), 2.99 fip, .321 babip.  Its amazing how similar Hearn, Crownover, Guilbeau and Borne’s numbers were, each profiling as a command/control lefty starter in Short-A.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation competition with the rest of his fellow lefty 2015 draftees.
  • Mariano Rivera Jr. got 3 starts before it was clear he needed to be pushed to relief; see the reliever’s section.
  • Matthew DeRosier had two bad starts in Auburn before getting dumped back to the GCL; see the Rookie league write-up for more.
  • Maximo Valero had 4 appearances and one start in Auburn after a late season promotion: see the GCL write-up for more.

Auburn Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps.  We’ll organize relievers by going by IP from most to least.  Anyone with less than 10 IP will get cursory analysis at the end.

  • Luis Torres was Dickey’s “tandem” starter for a while, getting zero “starts” but pitching mostly longer stints usually on the same schedule as Dickey.  We saw this with several others and will treat them as “relievers” for the purposes of this post.  Season stats: 5-1, 5.66 ERA, 4.54 fip, 1.37 whip, 22/17 K/BB in 35 innings.  Torres got bumped up at season’s end to provide a bit of cover in Low-A but didn’t merit the promotion based on his production.  In his age 21 season he showed he still has some work to do and regressed badly from his 2014 production in Short-A.  Where does he go from here?  I think he’s destined to miss out on the Hagerstown bullpen, spend more time in XST and try Short-A again in 2016.  Outlook for Next Season: short-A bullpen.
  • Mariano Rivera Jr, went 1-2, 5.45 ERA in Short-A with 26/3 K/BB in 33IP (19 app, 3 starts).  2.70 FIP, .388 babip.  Rivera was tried as a starter and quickly failed, getting moved to the pen, where he was much better.  Starter ERA: 13.00.  Reliever ERA: 2.63.  His seasonal ERA isn’t nearly as bad as it looks thanks to some bad luck; his FIP is good and his K/BB rate looks good as well.  He profiles like his father; slight, live arm, good stuff as a reliever.  I can see him moving up the ladder as a back-of-the-bullpen reliever.   Perhaps a disappointment that a 4th round pick was relegated to the bullpen after just three starts … but could be a quick moving arm on a team that clearly needs them.  Outlook for Next Season: low-A bullpen/closer.
  • Adam Boghosian went 3-0, 4.28 era across 2 levels with 16/18 k/bb in 27ip, 5.59 fip, .162 babip in short-A.  Anytime you have more walks than strike-outs, its a bad thing.  And he posted a mediocre ERA despite an unbelievably low babip; his numbers are likely even worse with a longer sample size.  Another senior sign that may get the axe once full-season rosters get set next spring.  Outlook for Next Season: low-A bullpen/release candidate.
  • Cody Gunter went 1-0 4.15 ERA, 23/8 K/BB in 21.2 IP for Short-A Auburn, 3.84 fip, .259 babip.  Gunter was drafted as a 3B and after two non-descript seasons in Auburn converted to the mound.  So far, results look promising; he maintained a K/inning ratio with good control and could be better based on the ERA-FIP delta.   I see him getting pushed to the Low-A bullpen in 2016.  Outlook for Next Season: low-A bullpen.
  • Kevin Mooney, was 1-0, 5.40 ERA in Short-A with a 15/13 K/bb in 21.2 innings, 4.95 fip, .333 babip.  Not a great debut for the local kid Mooney, who was last seen blowing both super-regional games that enabled UVA to surprisingly make its way to the CWS (where even more surprisingly they ended up winning).  Far, far too many walks given how many punch-outs he had, his FIP was still way up there even given a BABIP not really that out of line.  Needs to step it up if he wants a full-season job.  Outlook for Next Season: low-A bullpen competition/release candidate.
  • Tommy Peterson was 0-0, 2.66 in Auburn with 13/4 K/BB in 20 relief innings, 2.83 fip, .318 babip as part time closer.   Not too many innings to judge on here; looks like a good option for the Hagerstown 2016 bullpen.  He was one of the few Auburn hurlers from the 2015 class to get the bump up to low-A in 2015.  Outlook for Next Season: low-A bullpen competition.
  • Connor Overton went 1-1 with a 3.72 ERA (13/5 K/BB in 19.1 IP) after getting cut loose from Miami’s short-A squad and quickly getting snapped up last July.  He’s an oddity; a 22-yr old MLFA already making the rounds of the lower minors.  He briefly got called up to AAA at season’s end but is currently un-attached.  With Washington’s glut of arms, i’m not sure he did enough to make the team think he was worth keeping on for a full-season spot and I think the Richmond product goes elsewhere (Atlee HS in Mechanicsburg and then ODU in Norfolk).  Outlook for Next Season: in another organization.
  • Sam Johns blitzed short-A (1.42 ERA in 19 innings) after struggling in Hagerstown.  See Low-A write-up for more.
  • Matt Pirro was 0-0 3.71 ERA  across two levels, ending in Short-A.  14/11 k/bb in 17ip, 4.52 fip, .372 babip in short-A.  Not great numbers; too many walks, but his ERA/FIP likely the result of a bit of unlucky babip.  In a battle to stay employed though going into next year by virtue of his senior sign status.   Outlook for Next Season: low-A bullpen/release candidate.
  • John Feliz didn’t get a ton of innings in 2015: throwing just 17.1 across both short-season squads.  In Auburn he had a 4.38 ERA in 12 innings and didn’t pitch after July 28th (but didn’t go on the D/L).  He may have been hurt and just not officially gone on a D/L.  More or less a lost season for Feliz, who just turned 22, was an old IFA and has yet to perform outside of complex ball.  He may not get too many more chances; I see him getting one more shot at Short-A before getting cut loose.  Outlook for Next Season: short-A bullpen/release candidate.
  • Ryan Brinley was unhittable in 10 innings in the NY Penn league and was bumped up; see the Low-A write-up for more.
  • Other Relievers who had less than 10 IP in 2015
    • Jose Morales got blasted in two Low-A starts after three quick relief appearances (8ip total) in Auburn, then spent the rest of the year on the D/L.  See Low-A write-up for more.
    • Andrew Lee struck out 12 guys in 8 innings in the NY Penn and was bumped up.  See Low-A write-up for more.
    • Koda Glover struck out 11 guys in 6 innings in the NY Penn and was bumped up.  See Low-A write-up for more.
    • Mick VanVossen spent most of the season in the GCL; see rookie league write-up for more.
    • Cole Plouck got sent to Auburn, had two appearances in 10 days, gave up just 2 hits and one run in 5 innings … and then was released.  He had decent 2014 numbers in the GCL; this one is curious to me.  I guess the team saw all they needed to see in XST.  Outlook for Next Season: out of baseball.
    • Joey Webb was released 6/25/15, losing out in the numbers game when the 2015 short-season college draftees started flowing in.  He, like Plouck, clearly were not impressive enough during XST to merit any further consideration after run-of-the-mill 2014 seasons.  Outlook for Next Season: out of baseball.
    • Yorlin Reynoso pitched one game in the first week of the season, walked 6 guys and got demoted to the GCL.  See Rookie write-up for more.
    • Ryan Ullmann got stuck in XST to start the season, hooked up with Hagerstown 5 weeks into the season, got hit hard, was dumped to Auburn, had one appearance and then was summarily released.  Quite a quick downturn of events for Ullmann, who was always going to be a long shot (30th rounder out of a small school).  Outlook for Next season: out of baseball.
    • David Ramos threw 2.1 innings of rehab ball for Auburn before returning to Hagerstown: see low-A write-up for more.
    • Two guys (James Bourque, Anderson Martinez) both spent the whole season on the D/L; both are starters who should compete for spots in 2016 after the lost season.  Outlook for Next Season: Short-A rotation competition.
    • Another two guys (Chase McDowell, Michael Sylvestri) were put on the “restricted list” at some point in 2015, usually indicating voluntary retirement.  Outlook for Next season: out of baseball.

Summary

Auburn was not a good team this year; they were 35-58.  And a lot of that was due to the “brain drain” of the pitching staff; inside of a short season 11 guys got bumped up and beyond.  Some of them quickly dominated Short-A and earned their promotion, others trickled up as the season moved on.  In the end, the staff was anchored by a quartet of college lefty 2015 draftees with strikingly similar numbers, and it should be interesting to see how this group performs moving forward.