Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for the ‘jonathan mayo’ tag

2017 Draft coverage; Mock Draft mania plus my projected top-5 and Nats picks

21 comments

Scout-MLB-draft-central-2017-640

Mock Drafts

Every year I say i’ll stay away from the Mock Draft links … and every year I come back.  Here’s a running collection; i’ve listed their top-5 and then who they project the Nats to take at #25 (if they project out that far).  Honestly, projecting even the top 5 has been folly in year’s past; last minute changes occur all the time and drastically change the top of every draft.  Look no further than the 2011 draft that netted the Nats presumed top pick Anthony Rendon.  

I’ll continue to add in mocks as they get published post-posting up until the draft.

However this year you’ll notice that the same general collection of names are listed in nearly every top 5 collection.  Here’s a quick summary of those top-5 guys.

Collegiate top-5 names:

  • Brendan McCay: 1b/lhp Louisville.  All-American as a Soph.  2016 Collegiate National team.  Good two-way player likely being drafted as a pitcher.
  • Kyle Wright rhp Vanderbilt.  2016 Collegiate National team.  Solid #1 starter for Vanderbilt, a machine for developing top-end pitching draft picks (see Jordan Sheffield, Walker Buehler, Carson Fuller, Tyler Beede, Sonny Grey, Mike Minor and David Price, all of whom were 1st round starting pitcher picks from Vanderbilt over the last 10 years)
  • Alex Faedo: rhp Florida. 2016 Collegiate National team; #1 starter from Florida, less known for developing pitchers but who did have two 1st round arms drafted just last year (A.J. Puk, Dane Dunning).
  • Jeren Kendall OF Vanderbilt.  2016 Collegiate National team; was presumptive 1-1 before really struggling at the plate in 2017, opening the door for one of the above college arms likely going 1-1.
  • J.B. Bukauskas rhp UNC via Ashburn, VA.  2016 Collegiate National team, fantastic numbers leading UNC to its first national seed in a while.  Considered undersized (he’s 6’0″) but has a big arm; widely projected at #6 to Oakland but does get some top-5 press.
  • Tristan Beck rhp Stanford who did not play in 2017 due to injury but was a pre-season all-american; some thought he may get picked as an injury stash like we’re seeing more and more.
  • Adam Haseley, 1B/rhp from UVA who has massively improved his draft stock this year.  He went from being just a good player to being mentioned in the top 5 in some mocks.  I don’t think he goes top-5, but he’s gone before the top-10 is done.

Prep top-5 names:

  • Hunter Greene: ss/rhp Notre Dame High, CA (UCLA commit). 2015 18U team as a Jr., Standout at PG Nationals 2016. Two-way talent, 95-97 on the mound but also a fantastic hitter. 18U National team trials. Area code star.  Likely getting drafted as an arm, might be the first prep RH starter to go 1-1.  Stopped pitching mid-way through the spring though, presumably to save his arm for his first pro season.
  • Royce Lewis ss/2b San Juan Capistrano, CA (UC Irvine). flashed power at Under Armour Game.  Helium guy, likely a top-5 pick.
  • MacKenzie Gore lhp Whiteville (North Carolina) High School (ECU commit).  Also a helium guy, has has his stock rise highly this spring.
  • Jordon Adell of/rhp Ballard High, KY (Louisville).  18U National team trials.  Area Code star; falling status early 17 badly but still gets some top-5 love.
  • Shane Baz, rhp from Concordia HS, TX (TCU): fast mover, mid-90s big righty in the same prep construction from the Houston area as the likes of Josh BeckettJamison Taillon and Tyler Kolek.  I don’t think he’s a top-5 pick but should be top-10.

 


Here’s the Mock draft collection that i’ve saved over the past months.  If you know of one I’m missing, let me know and I’ll add it in.

  • MLBPipeline (Jim Callis2017 Mock Draft v1.0 12/14/16: Faedo, Kendall, Greene, Wright, Lewis (only projected top 10 picks)
  • MLBPipeline (Jim Callis2017 Mock Draft v2.0 5/12/17: McKay, Greene, Gore, Lewis, Wright.  Nats taking Alex Lange, a polished, quick moving RH starter from LSU who I’d love to get.
  • MLBPipeline (Jim Callis2017 Mock Draft v3.0 5/26/17: Wright, Greene, Gore, McKay, Haseley.  Nats still on Lange.
  • MLBPipeline (Jim Callis2017 Mock Draft v4.0 6/9/17: Wright, Greene, Gore, McKay, Lewis.  Nats on Clarke Schmidt, a good RH starter from South Carolina who had to have TJ surgery (sound familiar?).  However, in his mock this leaves Houck, Pearson and Carlson on the board, and I think the Nats would take any of those three ahead of TJ guy.
  • MLBPipeline (Jim Callis2017 Mock Draft v5.0 6/12/17: McKay, Greene, Gore, Lewis, Hiura.  Wow.  Nats taking Seth Romero, a LH starter who was just kicked off of UHouston’s team, his 3rd “strike” with the team.  Sounds like a winner to me and I hope the Nats are not foolish enough to take a 3-time suspended college player.  Problem is, he’s a Scott Boras client, and people are worried that Boras is talking to the ownership again…
  • MLBPipeline (Jonathan Mayo2017 Mock Draft v1.0 12/14/16: Greene, Kendall, Faedo, Lewis, Wright (only projected top 10 picks).
  • MLBPipeline (Jonathan Mayo2017 Mock Draft v2.0 5/31/17: Wright, Greene, Lewis, McKay, Gore.  Nats getting Lange (the MLB.com guys seem confident on Lange dropping to #25).
  • MLBPipeline (Jonathan Mayo2017 Mock Draft v3.0 6/12/17: McKay, Greene, Gore, Lewis, Hiura.  Nats on Lange.
  • ESPN (Keith Law2017 Mock Draft v1.0 dated 5/11/17: McKay, Greene, Lewis, Wright, Gore.  Nats taking Tanner Houck, a polished, quick moving Missouri RH starter.
  • ESPN (Keith Law) 2017 Mock Draft v2.0 dated 5/30/17: Wright, Greene, Gore, McKay, Lewis.  Nats on Romero.
  • ESPN (Keith Law) 2017 Mock Draft v3.0 dated 6/11/17: McKay, Greene, Gore, Lewis, Wright.  Nats taking Romero, again.  Great.
  • Fangraphs (Eric Longenhagen) 2017 Mock Draft v1.0 dated 6/5/17: Wright, Greene, Gore, McKay, Lewis.  Nats taking Tristan Beckthe injured Stanford RHP.  Considering that Beck was once rumored to be possible top-5, if he falls to 25 I think the Nats would jump.
  • D1Baseball (Frankie Piliere) 2017 Mock Draft v1.0 dated 5/18/17: Wright, McKay, Greene, Lewis, Gore.  Nats taking Tanner Houck.
  • D1Baseball (Frankie Piliere) 2017 Mock Draft v2.0 dated 6/9/17: Wright, Greene, Lewis, McKay, Gore.  Nats taking Romero.  Problem with this mock: the next 3 after Romero are Carlson, Peterson and Lange, and I’d have to think the Nats would take any of those three over Romero.
  • Baseball America (John Manuel) 2017 Mock Draft v1.0 dated 3/16/17: Greene, McKay, Lewis, Bukauskas, Beck (only projecting 1st 10 picks: no Nats pick).
  • Baseball America (John Manuel) 2017 Mock Draft v2.0 dated 4/20/17: McKay, Greene, Lewis, Wright, Beck.  Nats taking Brady McConnell, a prep SS from Florida who i’ve never heard of and have a hard time believing we’d actually take.
  • Baseball America (John Manuel) 2017 Mock Draft v3.0 dated 5/18/17: Wright, McKay, Greene, Lewis, Baz.  Nats taking Romero.
  • Baseball America (John Manuel) 2017 Mock Draft v3.5 dated 5/30/17: Wright, McKay, Greene, Lewis, Gore.  Nats on Schmidt.
  • HeroSports.com (Chris Crawford) 2017 Mock Draft v4.0 dated 5/12/17: McKay, Greene, Wright, Bukauskas, Beck.  Nats taking Jordon Adell, a prep OF from Kentucky who entered the year projected near the top of the draft but whose stock has fallen precipitously.  I could see the Nats having him ranked high and (much like what happened with Lucas Giolito) them taking the chance if Adell is still available after being a top-5 rumored guy entering the 2017 season.
  • MinorleagueBall.com (John Sickels) 2017 Mock Draft v1.0 dated 5/18/17: McKay, Wright, Greene, Gore, Beck.  Nats taking Keston Hiura, an OF from UC-Irvine that i’ve never heard of.
  • PerfectGame.org (Brian Sakowski) 2017 Mock Draft v1.0 dated 5/10/17: Greene, Wright, Lewis, McKay, Beck.  Nats taking Hans Crouse, a prep RH starter from California.  Crouse is good, but I can’t see the team taking a prep 1st rounder if the likes of Houck and Lange are on the board.
  • PerfectGame.org (Brian Sakowski) 2017 Mock Draft v2.0 dated 6/2/17: McKay, Greene, Lewis, Wright, Gore.  Nats taking Houck.
  • PerfectGame.org (Brian Sakowski) 2017 Mock Draft v3.0 dated 6/12/17: McKay, Greene, Gore, Lewis, Wright.  Nats taking Romero.  But leave the likes of Carlson, Schmidt, Houck, Lange, Canning and Little on the board??  No way.
  • SI.com (Jay Jaffe) Mock Draft v1.0 dated 5/16/17: McKay, Greene, Lewis, Wright, Gore.  (Only projected top 10 picks).
  • SI.com (Jay Jaffe) Mock Draft v2.0 dated 6/12/17: Wright, Greene, Gore, McKay, Lewis.  Nats again on Romero.  This mock leaves Pearson, Houck, and Carlson on the board, which I have a hard time believing would happen (that the Nats would take head case Romero over any of those three).
  • Seedlings to the Stars/Calltothepen.com (Benjamin Chase) Mock Draft v1.1 dated 5/3/17: Greene, McKay, Lewis, Wright, Gore.  Nats on Wil Crowe, a RH starter from South Carolina.
  • Seedlings to the Stars/Calltothepen.com (Benjamin Chase) Mock Draft v2.1 dated 5/10/17: McKay, Adell, Greene, Wright, Gore.  Nats on Matt Sauer, a prep RH starter from California.
  • Seedlings to the Stars/Calltothepen.com (Benjamin Chase) Mock Draft v3.1 dated 5/18/17: Wright, McKay, Greene,  Beck, Adell.  Nats taking Brendon Little, a JuCo LH starter by way of UNC who has impressed mightily this year.
  • Seedlings to the Stars/Calltothepen.com (Benjamin Chase) Mock Draft v4.1 dated 5/25/17: Greene, McKay, Gore, Wright, Lewis.  Nats taking Schmidt the TJ guy.
  • Seedlings to the Stars/Calltothepen.com (Benjamin Chase) Mock Draft v5.2 dated 6/1/17: Wright, Greene, Gore, Beck, Pratto.  Nats taking Houck.
  • Seedlings to the Stars/Calltothepen.com (Benjamin Chase) Mock Draft v6.1 dated 6/7/17: Wright, McKay, Greene, Lewis, Gore.  Nats on David Peterson, Oregon State’s #2 starter, a big body LHP who could be a faster mover and fill the void of SP prospects in our system.
  • Seedlings to the Stars/Calltothepen.com (Benjamin Chase) Mock Draft Final dated 6/12/17: Greene, Wright, Gore, Lewis, Adell.  Nats on Griffith Canning, UCLA’s friday starter who projects as a slight framed #3 starter.  I saw him in the CWS regionals and wasn’t terribly impressed.  Chase’s final mock is kind of out there; he’s the only guy who has Greene 1-1 and he has a ton of guys normally being projected to the Nats very early.
  • TheBigLead.com (Ryan Phillips) Mock Draft v1.0 6/7/17: Wright, McKay, Greene, Lewis, Gore.  Nats taking Sam Carlson, a prep RHP from Minnesota who is highly ranked on every board that I see, but has some risk being a skinny RHP from a cold-weather state whose entire profile is based on his showcase results.  I’d guess the Nats would prefer a college arm.
  • TheBigLead.com (Ryan Phillips) Mock Draft v2.0 6/12/17: McKay, Greene, Gore, Lewis, Wright.  Nats on Houck (leaving Carlson, Pearson and Schmidt on the board).
  • CBSsports (Mike Axisa) Mock Draft v1.0 6/8/17: Wright, Greene, Lewis, McKay, Gore.  Nats taking Romero but with curious logic.

 


Todd Boss’ Mock draft top-5 prediction?

I think the risk-averse Twins will go with a solid college arm at #1, picking Wright.  This lets the rebuilding Reds at #2 take the guy who is probably the best player in the draft in Greene, who might just be the next Dwight Gooden.  At #3 San Diego can afford to take a prep kid since they too are rebuilding, taking Lewis.  At #4, Tampa takes the solid, fast moving McKay and internally debates whether to put him on the mound or in the field.  At #5, Atlanta can’t help themselves (they love taking local guys) and takes the North Carolina prep product Gore, who might be the 2nd best player in this draft.  Oakland passes on Bukauskas thanks to his two late season iffy outings and goes with the next best collegiate arm on their board.

My top 5: Wright, Greene, Lewis, McKay, Gore.

ACTUAL DRAFT Results (added after the draft): Lewis, Greene, Gore, McKay, Wright.  Reportedly McKay wouldn’t take an under-slot deal at 1-1, so Minnesota popped Lewis instead, allowing McKay to go 4th to Tampa where he still probably sets a bonus record.  Lewis going 1-1 shakes up the order of the top 5, but not the top 5 themselves.

Who are the Nats going to take at #25

I like the projections for a solid college arm, so if Houck or Lange is there, look for that as the pick.  I could be talked into Schmidt as another TJ reclamation project.  If a highly regarded prep falls (Adell, Hall, Crouse, and especially Carlson) look for that as a longer-term play pick.  Notice not one projector puts them on a bat, so the talk of MSU’s Brent Rooker seems unlikely here.  I think they’re set on a polished college arm to quickly move up and start to fill holes that will soon be left when the likes of Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez hit free agency.

Actual Nats #25 Pick (added after the draft): Seth Romero, LHP from Houston.  Most of the pundits above called it correctly; the Nats take Romero.

 

Updated Nats Prospect and Organizational Rankings for 2017

leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Observations:

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

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

 

Written by Todd Boss

February 13th, 2017 at 10:56 am

Updated Master Prospect List in Google XLS

23 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

 

 

First Look: Quick overview of Nats top 10 Draft picks for 2016

31 comments

Carter Kieboom is the first pick of the Nats in 2016's draft. Photo via PerfectGame

Carter Kieboom is the first pick of the Nats in 2016’s draft. Photo via PerfectGame

It was a strange first two days of the draft, with no consensus 1-1 overall, some very last minute moves, and some pretty surprising picks.  For me, the best player in this draft (NJ prep LHP Jason Groome) fell all the way to 12th and the Phillies picked a kid 1-1 overall in Mickey Moniak who seems to have the ceiling of a weaker Steve Finley.  We saw a consensus top-5 pick test positive for PEDs (Delvin Perez), and a sub-par CWS appearance cost A.J. Puk millions of dollars as he falls from everyone’s 1-1 prediction to #6 overall.

The Nats seemed to really depart from the draft strategy we’ve seen the Mike Rizzo-led front office follow in the past, where they normally focused on college arms with an occasional high-ceiling prep bat.  Here’s a quick look at the top 10 draft picks with some thoughts.

RoundOverallName/PositionPositionCol/HSSchoolSlot Value
1-S28Carter KieboomSSHSClemson2065900
1-S29Dane DunningRHPCol Jr.Florida2034600
258Sheldon Neuse3BCol Jr.Oklahoma1107000
394Jesus NuzardoLHPHSMiami635800
4124Nick BanksOF (rf)Col Jr.TAMU473300
5154Daniel JohnsonOF (CF)Col Jr.New Mexico State354300
6184Tres BarreraCCol Jr.Texas265400
7214Jacob Noll2BCol Sr.FGCU198900
8244A.J. BoguckiRHPCol Jr.UNC177700
9274Joey HarrisCCol Sr.Gonzaga166000
10304Paul PanaccioneSSCol Sr.Grand Canyon156600

Pick by Pick: if they’re ranked on the four main rankings sites I like (Keith Law, MLBpipeline, BaseballAmerica, and BaseballDraftReport) I’ll note them as such.  Links to these three master rankings are at the bottom of the post.

  • 1s/28: Carter Kieboom, SS/3B from Georgia HS.  Law #27, MLB #45, BA #44, BDR #14:  Brother of our budding C prospect Spencer Kieboom, Carter is thought to be the best of three baseball playing brothers.  Described consistently as a great hitter, one of the best prep hitters in the class, he currently plays SS but is projected to move to 3B.  He’s an overdraft according to MLB and BA but right in line with Law’s rankings (Law tends to favor toolsy prep players over lower floor/lower ceiling college guys).  My thoughts: very surprising first pick here; as we soon find out, the team is clearly focusing on bats this year and has no qualms about picking a guy who won’t feature for the MLB team for years.  Update: he’s *already* signed!
  • 1s/29: Dane Dunning, RHP starter/reliever from Florida.  Law #25, MLB #59, BA #60, BDR unranked. Once again, Law has this player significantly higher than MLB or BA.  For me its notable that when projected 1-1 pick A.J. Puk got hit around in the CWS regional, it was Dunning who came in and pitchd 3 2/3rds of 1-hit ball to win the game for Florida.  It wouldn’t be the first time that a college coach mis-used a quality arm (see Illinois using Tyler Jay inexplicably as a closer most of last year).  Dunning goes before even his team’s friday starter Logan Shore and surprised the heck out of me.  Especially when you consider who was still on the board in terms of college arms (notably Anthony Kay and Dakota Hudsonboth of whom went in the picks just after Dunning.  I’m talking myself into Dunning though; he was on my very early list for upper 1st round talents anyway, and seems like he was a better pro prospect than guys pitching ahead of him in the Florida rotation.  Florida is known as a great program for developing arms, and he comes to the Nats without a ton of use.
  • 2nd/58: Sheldon Neuse, SS/3B Oklahoma.  Law #60, MLB #50, BA #129, BDR #40.  Interesting discrepancy of opinion on Neuse; MLB likes him a ton and thinks the Nats got good value.  He’s a 3-time all-Big12 pick who likely moves to third in pro ball and also throws out of the Oklahoma bullpen (so there’s a reliever fall back; he’s clocked at 94).  At the plate, he’s got a ton of power, profiles as a 3-true outcomes guy and drastically improved his walk rate this year.  The scouting reports also think his big arm could profile in RF, and his size could look promising behind the plate.  He sounds like a polished college hitter with some pop, not unlike last year’s 3rd rounder Rhett Wiseman.
  • 3rd/94: Jesus Nuzardo, LHP from Florida HS.  Law #42, MLB #77, BA #50, BDR #58.  The Nats special; a Tommy John reclamation project.  Nuzardo was projecting as a mid 1st rounder early this spring before blowing out the elbow; if he comes back to form, then the Nats just stole a 1st round talent in the 3rd round.  You’d have to think that Nuzardo’s advisor will tell him that it makes more sense to join the Nats and their experienced TJ-rehab team than to head to Miami, but we’ll see what happens.
  • 4th/124: Nick Banks, OF from Texas A&M.  Law Unranked, MLB #101, BA #88, BDR #148.  I love this pick; Banks led the US Collegiate national team in hitting just last summer, but his stats backed up after he had a minor surgical procedure.  Skills don’t erode overnight, and Banks was thought to be a mid 1st round pick who slid precipitously.  I think the Nats got an absolute steal here and Banks will be a stud for this team for years to come.
  • 5th/154: Daniel Johnson, OF from New Mexico State.  BA #222.  Johnson was the WAC player of the year, hit for power and average.  Barely rated and seems like he’ll sign for slot or less.  Sounds like a nice little value pick.
  • 6th/184: Tres Barrera, C from Texas.  Law unranked, MLB #194, BA #284, BDR unraked.  A Catcher who had the defensive flexibility to move around as the Texas team needed him.  This is more than just a filler pick at this point; i’m guessing he signs for a bit less than slot and could feature later on.
  • 7th/214: Jacob Noll, 2B from Florida Gulf Coast.  BA #240, BDR #193: Nice slash line for a senior, even if it was in a weaker conference.  367/.427/.620 .  Classic senior sign; 6th-10th round, middle infielder, likely a nominal bonus to save cash for later.  Can’t argue with the pick.
  • 8th/244: A.J. Bogucki: RHP reliever from UNC.  BA #263, BDR #388.  Nice stats for a guy at this point: 9.48 K/9 – 4.47 BB/9 – 50.1 IP – 2.86 ERA.  Good MPH on his fastball, looks a little wild though.  I wonder if he signs.  Still has a year of eligibility and he’s in that area where they’re looking for bonus savings.
  • 9th/274: Joey Harris, C from Gonzaga; unranked anywhere.  Classic college senior sign who likely backs up Barrera at Auburn.
  • 10th/304: Paul Panaccione, Sr. SS from Grand Canyon U.  See 9th round pick; likely a one-and-done middle infielder for Auburn in 2016.

First 10 rounds worth of picks breakdown:

  • 8 Position players, just 3 arms.
  • 9 College, 2 prep (typical)
  • 3 clear senior sign/save on bonus money that I could tell (Noll, Harris, Panaccione)
  • 2 more in Johnson and Barrera who could be targeted for under-slot deals
  • Regional breakdown: 5 from SouthEast (Georgia, Florida, North Carolina), 5 from the South West (Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona), and one from the upper NW (Washington).

Conclusion: I like the first four picks, a lot.  Keith Law liked the Nats first couple of days too.    I like the focus on hitters after years of focus on arms.  I like the underrated pick up of Dunning over other “big name” guys who may be overrated.   I love the Banks pick; think its a steal not  unlike the situation where Rendon fell to the Nats because of a short-term injury concern.  I know practically nothing of anyone after Banks.

What do you guys think of it?

 


 

Draft Links of Use

Draft Rankings referred to within here:

 

 

 

 

Pre-2016 Draft coverage; mocks and local players

75 comments

Kansas prep star Riley Pint may not go #1 overall, but he'll be close. Photo via thatballsouttahere.com

Kansas prep star (and subject of Jeff Passan’s latest book “The Arm”) Riley Pint may not go #1 overall, but he’ll be close. Photo via thatballsouttahere.com

The MLB rule-4 (Amateur) draft starts tonight, 6/9/16 at 7pm.  The MLB Network will have full coverage of the first round of picks. This post is my dumping ground of draft coverage for 2016.

This post uses last year’s format, with links to use to see draft prospect rankings, links to help cover the draft (which I personally come back to time and time again), some blurbs on local players of interest, and then links to a bunch of mock drafts.

Draft Coverage so far at NAR for 2016:

  • Here’s the big post on all marquee DC/MD/VA prep players ahead of the 2016 season (only guys who are “significant” draft prospects are mentioned here).
  • Here’s the same for DC/MD/VA tied College players
  • After the draft happens, I’ll review both of the above posts and list who actually got picked and who’s going to school.

Draft Links of importance

Here’s a slew of Draft Prospect rankings : these are NOT the same as mock drafts; see further down for those.  You’re going to see the same locally tied names on nearly all of these lists; they’re all individually profiled further below.


 

Now, some news about College Players with local ties who are serious draft candidates (meaning first couple of rounds projected or present on top 100 draft ranking lists).  Note that I’ve got a far, far larger list of local players that I’ll follow-up on after the draft; these are just the significant/top 10 round types.

  • Connor Jones, UVA RHP via Great Bridge; at this point perhaps the 2nd or 3rd best college pitching prospect thanks to fall-offs from a number of other candidates.  Probably a mid-1st rounder, though some pundits (Keith Law) have him rated far lower.
  • Buddy Reed, OF from Florida via Finksburg, MD (NW of Baltimore).  Probably a late first rounder or sandwich pick, perhaps lower.
  • Matt Thaiss, UVA C who has shot up the rankings; now projected as early 2nd rounder.  Keith Law likes him as a late 1st rounder.
  • Mike Shawaryn: RHP for Maryland; stock has really fallen this season; now perhaps just a 4th rounder.  A late season push improved his draft status somewhat.
  • Andrew Knizner, C from NC State by way of Glen Allen, VA: gritty ballplayer who has played his way into perhaps 5th round discussions.
  • Errol Robinson, SS from Ole Miss by way of Maryland; struggled badly this season, dropping his stock from early 2nd round projections; no idea where he’s project to go now.

Local Prep players of note who are serious draft candidates:

  • Joe Rizzo, INF for Oakton HS.  Remains the highest ranked local draft prospect, projecting as anywhere between a mid-1st rounder and an early 2nd rounder.  South Carolina commit.  MLBpipeline.com’s write-up profiles his draft prospects the best.
  • Khalil Lee LHP/OF for Flint Hill.  Some have him 2nd-3rd round, others have him projected 4th-5th.  Part of the confusion is where to play him; he was an undersized speedy CF candidate… then suddenly flashed low 90s off the mound as a lefty starter this year.  Liberty commit.
  • Zack Hess, 1B/OF from Liberty Christian Academy (Lynchburg).  3rd round projection.  LSU commit.
  • Noah Murdock, a RHP from Colonial Heights (Richmond).  4th round projection by rank, UVA commit.
  • Garrett Stallings, RHP from Grassfield HS.  Not generally listed but may be rising, Tennessee commit.

Re-draft players of interest to Nats fans:  these are re-drafts that have come back up.  See the Draft Tracker for underclassmen draftees from last year and/or Prep draftees from 2013 who are now draft eligible again.

  • Garrett Hampson, SS from Long Beach State.  Nats 2013 26th round pick, now projecting as a 5th or 6th rounder.
  • Reid Humphreys, RHP/OF two-way player from Mississippi State.  Nats 2013 36th rounder, now projecting as a 4th/5th rounder.
  • Shaun Anderson, RHP from Florida.  Nats 2013 40th rounder, now projecting as a late 3rd rounder.
  • John Reeves, C from Rice.  Nats 2015 20th rounder who started 56 games for the CWS-bound Rice team and hit above .300; looks like a good choice to return to school.
  • Alec Rash, RHP from Missouri: Nats 23rd round pick in 2015.  Quit baseball altogether last fall to pursue collegiate basketball.
  • Blake Smith, RHP from WVA: Nats 24th round pick in 2015: posted a 2.20 ERA as West Virginia’s closer for the season with 8 saves and 25 appearances.
  • Mack Lemieux, LHP from Jupiter HS and then Palm Beach State CC.  Nats 14th round pick in 2015.

 

Mock Drafts

Every year I say i’ll stay away from the Mock Draft links … and every year I come back.  Here’s a running collection.  DCProSports.com has a master list of Mock drafts at this link that has many more than I’ve got listed below.

  • Fangraphs/Scott Moore‘s Mock #1: Groome, Senzel, Lewis, Puk, Pint.
  • BaseballAmerica/Hudson Belinsky‘s Mock #1: Groome, Senzel, Pint, Puk, Perez.
  • BaseballAmerica/Hudson Belinsky‘s Mock #2: Puk, Lewis, Pint, Moniak, Ray.
  • BaseballAmerica/John Manuel Mock #1: Puk, Lewis, Pint, Moniak, Groome.
  • BaseballAmerica/John Manual BA Mock #4: Moniak, Puk, Ray, Lewis, Pint
  • Manual Mock #5: Moniak, Puk, Lewis, Pint, Ray
  • ESPN/Keith Law Mock #1 (Insider only): Puk, Lewis, Groome, Pint, Ray.
  • ESPN/Keith Law Mock #2 (Insider only): Puk, Lewis, Groome, Moniak, Perez.
  • ESPN/Keith Law Mock #3: Puk, Lewis, Groome, Pint, Ray
  • ESPN/Keith Law Final Mock: Moniak, Puk, Lewis, Pint, Ray
  • D1baseball.com/Frankie Piliere Mock #1: Puk, Lewis, Groome, Pint, Ray.
  • D1baseball.com/Frankie Piliere Mock #2: Puk, Lewis, Ray, Groome, Perez
  • MLBPipeline.com/Jim Callis Mock #1: Puk, Senzel, Lewis, Moniak, Ray.
  • MLBPipeline.com/Jim Callis  Mock #2: Puk, Senzel, Lewis, Moniak, Perez.
  • MLBPipeline.com/Jim Callis Final Mock: Moniak, Senzel, Ray, Puk, Collins
  • MLBPipeline.com/Jonathan Mayo Mock #1: Puk, Senzel, Lewis, Groome, Perez.
  • MLBPipeline.com/Jonathan Mayo Final Mock: Moniak, Senzel, Ray, Puk, Rutherford
  • MinorLeagueBall Mock #1 Part one and Part two: Lewis, Puk, Groome, Rutherford, Moniak
  • Scout.com/Taylor Ward Mock #1: Groome, Senzel, Rutherford, Lewis, Ray
  • Scout.com/Taylor Ward Mock #2: Puk, Ray, Lewis, Groome, Rutherford.
  • Scout.com/Jeff EllisMock #1: Groome, Hansen, Puk, Moniak, Pint
  • Scout.com/Jeff EllisMock #2: Senzel, Perez, Ray, Groome, Rutherford
  • Scout.com/Jeff EllisMock #3: Garrett, Groome, Rutherford, Senzel, Perez
  • Scout.com/Jeff EllisMock #4: Puk, Perez, Ray, Moniak, Rutherford
  • Scout.com/Jeff EllisMock #5: Puk, Lewis, Pint, Moniak, Rutherford
  • Scout.com/Jeff Ellis final Mock: Moniak, Puk, Lewis, Pint, Ray
  • NatsGM.com/Ryan Sullivan‘s Mock #1: Puck, Senzel, Lewis, Groome, Perez
  • Si.com/Chris Crawford‘s Last minute Mock Draft: Puk. Lewis, Groome, Pint, Ray
  • Baseball Prospectus; have not seen any mock drafts from BP this year.
  • PerfectGame.org Mock Drafts are Insider/Premium only; this link is to their 2016 Draft Coverage home page.

 

Todd Boss’ Mock draft?  Based on my vast level of expertise (sarcasm) and the thousands of man hours i’ve put in scouting players in person and cultivating industry sources (also sarcasm), and instead reading the tea leaves of the gazillion other mock drafts, I’ll take this as my initial guess for the top 5: Puk, Lewis, Groome, Pint, Moniak

The only thing that gives me pause is this: Puk *stunk* in the regional.  4 and a third, 5 hits and 5 runs given up to UConn.  Sorry; if you’re going to go 1-1 you need to do an outing like 7ip, 4hits, 10ks, 0 walks in your swan song.  I wonder if that was enough to have Philly move to a different pick.  And Perez just got popped for failing a drug test, instantly removing him from top-5 consideration.  So, given Puk’s stinker most of the last minute mocks have Philly off of Puk and doing Moniak as an under-slot deal.  And I can’t disagree.  So my final mock will be: Moniak, Puk, Lewis, Pint, Ray

And this top 5 means that Groome and Pint (who I think are the two best talents in this draft) fall to teams outside the top 5 and they’re going to be absolutely ecstatic.

ACTUAL DRAFT Results: Moniak, Senzel, Anderson (??), Pint and Ray.  Just like everyone predicted.

Who are the Nats going to take at #28 and #29?

No frigging idea.  Lots of these Mock drafts attempt to guess, to put some names with the Nats down that far.  But consider the 2011 draft.  Everyone had Anthony Rendon going 1-1.  Suddenly he slips and the Nats grab him at #6 in a total gift.  The point is this: we have no idea how even the top 5 picks will go, so predicting what’s going to happen at pick #6 is folly, let alone #28.  Nats will take BPA, probably will mix up a safer pick (aka college arm) with a riskier pick (aka a high school bat) and go back to back $2M bonus slots.  I also like the running theory that the nats will get the Scott Boras special and “package” two Boras clients together at 28/29 and basically split the bonus pools.  Names often mentioned here include Kyle Funkhauser and the prep pitcher/basketball player Matt Manning.  One would be an over draft, one would be a steal if he gets here.  We’ll see.

 

Completed Nats prospect rankings and Org Rankings for 2015

7 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACTUAL DRAFT RESULTS: Aiken, Kolek, Rodon, Schwarber and Gordon.  Who was closest?   hard to tell; Schwarber came out of nowhere, and nearly everyone had Rodon before Kolek.

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACTUAL DRAFT RESULTS: In what may have been the worst kept secret of the draft, Nats take Fedde.

 

Local 2014 draft-prospects; mid-spring Update

one comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts on Keith Law’s organization and prospect rankings

28 comments

Giolito is rising the ranks of prospects baseball-wide.  Photo unk via federalbaseball.com

Giolito is rising the ranks of prospects baseball-wide. Photo unk via federalbaseball.com

I’ll admit it; I’m a sucker for prospect lists.

Every time I see an organizational ranking published (whether it be from BA/John Callis, BP/Jason Parks, ESPN/Keith Law, MLB/Jonathan Mayo, John Sickels or whoever, I put the rankings into a big spreadsheet and do comparison analysis (I’d publish on Google Docs it except that Law’s stuff is ESPN insider only and I wouldn’t want to get into trouble).   Every time any of these guys puts out organizational top 10s, I capture that too into one big file too.

So, this week is an exciting time because one of the leading prospect voices out there has published his annual rankings lists.  Keith Law published his System rankings 1-30 on 1/28/14 and published his Top 100 prospects list on 1/29/14.  The links themselves are ESPN-insider, which I believe is well worth the pittance of a cost per year just to get access to Law and Buster Olney‘s stuff (among others).

Law has our system ranked 18th this time around, a slight increase from last year’s ranking of 21.   In the five years that I’ve been capturing Law’s organizational rankings, this is as high as he’s had the system ranked believe it or not; his 2012 rankings (where Baseball America famously had us ranked #1) came out after the big Gio Gonzalez trade and thus we didn’t get the high ranking we would have expected (Law said he dropped the system from a top 5 ranking b/c of that trade).

So, how do we explain how the system went from #21 to #18 given all that has happened in the last year?   Borrowing from the comment I made at NationalsProspects.com when Luke Erickson noted the same Law publishing, lets analyze where we were in January 2013 versus now as a system:

In Law’s 2013 writeup for the team, he noted that he liked Washington’s top 5 prospects but that there was a significant gap afterwards.  Going back and looking at my notes, Law’s top 5 guys went:

  1. Anthony Rendon
  2. Brian Goodwin
  3. Lucas Giolito
  4. A.J. Cole
  5. Nathan Karns

Then the gap, then Law ranks 6-10 as went Matt Skole, Christian Garcia, Carlos Rivero, Matthew Purke and Michael Taylor. So, no mention of Taylor Jordan or Ian Krol, both of whom graduated and performed more than ably in the majors in 2013.  There was no mention of Robbie Ray, who Law never liked and never gave much credit to even when in 2011 he was out performing Cole in the low minors despite being the same age and same draft class, but who was regarded enough in Detroit to basically fetch a 4-win established MLB pitcher in Doug Fister.  There was no mention of Jeff Kobernus, who did get some MLB innings but isn’t considered a real prospect.  No mention of Nats minor league batter of the year Billy Burns (again, not really a prospect in lots of evaluator’s eyes).  No mention of Eury Perez as a top 10 candidate, and obviously no mention of Tanner Roark (who in January 2013 pretty much everyone saw as an organizational arm playing out the string to minor league free agency).  Law did say at the time that if Sammy Solis got healthy again he’d be back in the running for his top 100.  Amazingly Rivero, a waiver claim who ended the year demoted to AA, was his 8th best prospect for the system, quite an indictment.  Well, either that or a blind spot for Law, who is more impressed by tools in lower-minors kids than capabilities in prospects in the upper minors.

So, given that our top 10 last year in Law’s minds (in order):

  1. Rendon graduated to a starting job in the majors
  2. Goodwin struggled in a 2-level jump
  3. Giolito ably recovered from injury
  4. Cole impressed at AA after a promotion
  5. Karns made the leap to the majors but struggled
  6. Skole missed the entire season due to a freak injury
  7. Garcia missed basically the entire season with yet another injury
  8. Rivero was demoted to AA and is now a MLFA
  9. Purke pitched mostly a full season but did not dominate as expected
  10. Taylor impressed in high-A and was added to the 40-man

… and considering the litany of graduations/trades/exoduses out of the system (Rendon, Jordan, Krol, Ray, Rivero, Burns and Roark all ineligible for a 2014 analysis), how do you explain the fact that he thinks the system is basically treading water?

You have to think Law’s top 5 for the system now starts Giolito/Cole/Goodwin but then who knows where it goes from there.  I know from chat responses that Law is down on Purke now and that he didn’t ever really rate Jake Johansen or Drew Ward as 2013 draft picks.  Does Karns still qualify as a prospect?  Yes I believe so.   Solis came back and performed post injury but was he that impressive in 2013?

Perhaps Law’s thinking goes like this: he likes our top 3 prospects (clearly; Giolito, Cole and Goodwin all made Law’s minor league-wide top 100 list with Giolito at #21).  Law rates these top 3 guys as strong enough to make up for the graduations from last year.  Then there likely is a gap, then perhaps a small grouping of Karns and Solis, both of whom Law likes and both of whom he probably believes would make either #5 starters or good bullpen guys.  Then after that a grab bag to include Skole, Taylor, Perez and perhaps a couple guys from our 2013 draft class (Austin Voth?).  The problem with the back side of this theoretical top 10 list is that it includes a slew of players who were hurt or who treaded water in 2013.

What do you think?  And if your answer is some variation of, “Todd you spend too much time over-analyzing prospect lists and you just proved your own point by showing that a guy like Taylor Jordan can go from high-A to a MLB-average ERA+ and never appear on anyone’s prospect lists therefore prospect lists are useless” …. well I’m not going to argue against you that vociferously :-)  I’d probably respond by saying something to the effect of, “Its frigging january, what else are we going to talk about?”

Nats Off-season News Items Wrap-up 1/31/12 edition

6 comments

Will the team extend Zimmerman, now that Fielder is off the table? Photo AP via tbd.com

This is your semi-weekly/periodic wrap-up of Nats and other baseball news that caught my eye.  I try to publish this about weekly or if it gets up to about 1500 words, so that it’s not to voluminous.

Nationals In General

  • Nats continue to talk about a contract extension with Ryan Zimmerman, according to this and other sources.  I’m not arguing against re-signing him; in fact he’ll be at a discount by virtue of missing so much time last season and being relatively injury-ridden as of late.  The question is whether Zimmerman’s camp would accept anything less than what Troy Tulowitzki got (10/$157M) or Ryan Braun (13/$150M between current and extension contracts) signed.  Here’s a case against re-signing him (though to be fair, the same blog posted a “case-for” earlier).  Lastly on the topic; this fangraphs.com article looking for a good comparable for Zimmerman based on his production and value (the answer?  Matt Kemp‘s 8yr/$160M deal).
  • Nats miss out on Prince Fielder, as he signs a 9yr, $214M deal with Detroit.  Quick hit thoughts: Thank god there’s no more rumors about Fielder to the Nats.  I wanted him and his bat, but not at that price and for that length.  The team dodges an albatross of a contract in a few years time.  Lastly; how in the world is Detroit going to manage that payroll?  Its not as if that city is an up-and-coming, wealthy place.  Makes you wonder just how well-off these baseball owners really are.
  • I guess FA rumors are just meant to be with this team; suddenly we’re in the Roy Oswalt mix.  Now, I’ve said in the past that I like this guy and think he’d be a great fit for the team … but that was before we traded the farm for Gio Gonzalez and offered arbitration to John Lannan.  I’ll ask a simple question; if we sign Oswalt, who makes way?  Last time i checked this team has 5 starters, each signed for 2012 and each with a multi-million dollar commitment.  So this rumor doesn’t make any sense any longer.  Oswalt makes a ton more sense for a team like Texas or Boston, as is noted in the many columns on the subject posted recently.
  • LOVE the Brad Lidge acquisition.  The team needed a middle relief replacement for Todd Coffey and just got one, and for almost no money ($1M base with incentives).  He’s struggled with his health, but when he has been healthy he’s been lights out for the last two seasons (not to mention the rest of his career).  He can close in a pinch, he can help offload high-leverage innings off of Tyler Clippard.  And he can mentor the bullpen guys.  Fantastic signing by Mike Rizzo.
  • Nats will play Georgetown U in an exhibition for the 2nd year running.  Knowing how weak Georgetown’s program is, I wonder just how badly the scoreline will look (last year’s score was 15-0).
  • MLB daily dish is attempting to replicate the Big Board and throw in contract details at this site here.  We’ll see how uptodate this site is kept during the turbulent season of player movement in the minors.

Free Agents/Player Transaction News

  • Jamie Moyer signs a minor league deal with Colorado.   He sits at 267 wins for his career, so the chances of him getting to 300 are relatively slim, but his chances of making Colorado’s rotation aren’t too bad.  Roto World lists their depth chart right now at Chacin, Hammel, Pomeranz, White and Moscoso.  Lots of youth there; White and Pomeranz are both 22-23 and were both relatively awful last  year.  De La Rosa is coming off injury but may not be ready for opening day.  He very well could feature for this team in 2012.

 

General Baseball News

  • Yes I know these “top 5 lists” are mostly national columnists fulfilling writing requirements during the slow January baseball news period, but if the Nats are listed, i’ll post it.  David Schoenfield lists his “Top 5 rotations” in the game and he goes Philly, Angels, Texas, New York and Arizona.  I gotta say; i think he’s vastly overrating the Yankees rotation and I think he’s overrating the Arizona crew as well.  Arizona’s pitchers were more or less awful in last year’s NLDS; not sure I’d count on them in a pinch.  I’d easily put Tampa Bay and San Francisco’s rotations above these two teams, not to mention the possibility of Atlanta’s group gelling and helping that team win 95 games.
  • Marlins apparently ready to sign up for Showtime’s the Franchise, which featured San Francisco last year and was Showtime’s answer to HBO’s Hard Knocks football weekly documentary.  The show was great in 2011, showing the human side of many of the Giants players and was a must-watch in my house.  Of course, showing Miami could be an interesting endeavor; most of the baseball industry speaks badly about Miami’s ownership and senior management group and these documentary shows usually go to great lengths to humanize and gain empathy for all the participants.
  • Jose Bautista claims to have been “random drug tested” 16 times in the past two years, despite any single player’s chances of being randomly tested only being about 3 times in two years (according to the number of tests MLB is authorized to run versus the number of pro players).  As is noted in the link, it looks to me like MLB is taking no more chances with its big home-run hitters.

 

Collegiate/Prospect News

  • First College top 25 posted by Baseball America (more discussion on each team here), and there’s no surprise who’s #1: Florida by virtue of its absolutely stacked lineup (two first team and two 2nd team pre-season all americans by this publication).  No surprise Stanford is #2 behind their presumptive 2012 #1 overall pick Mark Appel, but surprised that Texas and Texas A&M are so low.  I think by the time the CWS rolls around we’ll be seeing these teams, plus South Carolina back in the mix behind their returning friday and saturday starters.
  • The great Kevin Goldstein unveils his top 20 Nationals prospects on Baseball Prospectus.  We all know who went the other way in the Gio Gonzalez trade; what’s more interesting is who now resides in places 16-20.  Clearly he has to struggle to find “prospects” worthy of ranking there, based on his inclusion of Jason Martinson, Matt Skole, Sandy Leon, and David Freitas.  Otherwise the top 12 or so reads as expected.
  • MLB’s Jonathan Mayo announces their top 100 for the whole game.  Bryce Harper #2 behind Matt Moore; no argument there.  Surprised Mike Trout didn’t get more credit.  Most scouting pundits consider the big 4 (to include Atlanta’s Julio Teheran) as almost interchangeable.   The rest of the top 10 are well known; I’d never heard of #7 Jurickson Profar, a shortstop in Texas’ organization who is really young but really promising.  Other thoughts: surprised to see Danny Hultzen so high; I know he was dominant in college but is he slated to be that dominant in the pros?  Other Nats/ex-Nats on the list: Anthony Rendon at #27, Brad Peacock at #75, Alex Meyer at #83, Sammy Solis at #86, AJ Cole at #88.  No mention of Matthew Purke, but no surprise; he needs to have a healthy, strong season to regain his former 1-1 status.
  • My alma-mater JMU is #1 pre-season CAA baseball.

General News; other

  • Those of you who know me may know that i’m also a pretty passionate Soccer fan.  So here’s a fantastic look at the history of soccer through an “All-time fantasy soccer player draft.”   The first round was rather surprising; I know Lionel Messi is a great player now, but he’s got a bit of work before he supplants Pele, Maradona, Ronaldo or even Zidane in my book.  Of course, he’s already a 3-time world player of the year at the tender age of 24, so by the time he retires he may very well have 3 more awards.  Still, the selections (especially from the non-US based journalists who have a better sense of soccer’s history) are a great read.
  • Speaking of soccer, here’s a Grantland article on the conventional wisdom among most American fans that Soccer is boring.  I’ve tired of trying to argue this point with people who have never actually SEEN a live soccer game.  I have a good friend, born and bred in Pittsburgh and who is a die hard Steeler’s fan (in other words, the complete anti-thesis of a typical soccer fan) who I drug to a US Men’s national team game at RFK about 15 years ago.  He fell in love and now follows the european game with similar gusto as I.  I think American sports fans are too impatient, and have been even before the rise of cell-phones, the red-zone channel and highlight shows, to appreciate the beauty of Soccer.  They devolve the game, without really having any personal experience watching a big match or seeing one in person, into the common phrase, “how exciting can a 1-0 game be?”  I’d say to that; imagine a professional football game where there was no field goals allowed, the end zone was only 24 feet wide and there was a player positioned at that end zone at all times whose sole job it was to stop break away runs and passes.  Its simply that much tougher to score.  So most soccer fans know that the excitement of the game is the tactics, the breakdown of individual skill of the attacker versus the individual skill of the goalkeeper, and the near miss.