Nationals Arm Race

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

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Verducci Effect for 2017

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Lopez is the #1 Verducci effect risk factor arm for 2017. Photo via wp.com/Mitchell Layton getty images

Lopez is the #1 Verducci effect risk factor arm for 2017. Photo via wp.com/Mitchell Layton getty images

This year’s installment of si.com’s Tom Verducci‘s “Year After Effect” (which he’s using as the title instead of the eponymous “Verducci Effect”) was published earlier this month.  This is a quick review of the past few years of his work and documentation of his macabre “success rate” in predicting trouble for young arms working on large innings load increases.

Here’s my reviews of his lists on this same topic from year’s past: 2013 year after effect and 2014 year after effect, and 2016’s year after effect (I forgot to do it in 2015).   In the 2013 post, there’s some counter-arguments to whether or not his “effect” actually exists, with research on all pitchers who qualified for the thresholds he laid out at the time.  I won’t go into the same arguments made there; what I will do is point out the actual results of his predictions:

  • 2013: 11 candidates mentioned, 5/11 regressed or got injured the following year (but, it should be noted, that another 3 of the candidates he mentioned have completely fallen off a cliff in subsequent years).  8/11 candidates showed regression: 72% prediction rate.
  • 2014: 10 candidates mentioned; 8/10 regressed and more shockingly 6/10 had arm injuries.  80% prediction rate.
  • 2015: 14 candidates mentioned (only 5 “main” ones were on his true watch list): 11 of those 14 regressed or got hurt.  One of the 14, Marcus Stroman missed the whole season with a knee injury but counts as a non-regression candidate, so frankly its 11 of 13 guys who actually pitched all year.  84% prediction rate.
  • 2016: 5 candidates mentioned: 2 regressed badly, one regressed nominally, one missed most of the season with arm injuries.  80% prediction rate.

So in the last four years, he’s identified a total of 40 arms at risk and 31 of them regressed or got hurt.  That’s a 77.5% overall “success” rate at predicting regression or injury over multiple years.  You can quibble with those who claim this “effect” doesn’t exist but you’can’t argue against Verducci’s research year over year.  For me, his analysis is less about running pure numbers to find candidates and more about giving context to the pitchers he selects.  Mostly they’re starters (not relievers), mostly they’re young and mostly they’re guys who had to pitch high leverage innings on top of vastly increased workloads.  But if you want counter arguments to his observations, see the 2013 post above for links.

So who’s listed this  year?  A slew of pitchers this year, including a name at the top that we’re quite familiar with.  Most of his pitchers this year are very young and nearly all of them only pitched part-time in the majors.  In a departure this year, 9 of the 12 guys he lists pitched mostly in the minors in 2016 and mostly struggled in the majors, which is going to make my judgement next year as to whether the player “regressed” more difficult.  But here’s the list of 12 guys:

2017 Candidate Name/TeamAge as of Jan 20172016 IP2016 IP delta increase2016 ERA2016 FIP2016 xFIP2016 SIERA
Reynaldo Lopez, White Sox22155.356.34.913.924.524.55
Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays23203.670.333.553.754.01
Rob Whalen, Mariners22144.6486.575.054.774.47
Brock Stewart, Dodgers24149485.795.95.034.62
Joe Musgrove, Astros23147.346.64.064.184.043.98
Julio Urias, Dodgers19127.6403.393.173.693.88
Jeff Hoffman, Rockies23150464.886.274.965.22
Michael Fulmer, Tigers23174.349.63.063.763.954.03
Sean Manaea, A's24166.344.63.864.083.964.04
German Marquez, Rockies21187.348.35.234.263.893.97
Jake Thompson, Phillies22183.643.65.76.165.645.68
Daniel Mengden, A's23170.339.66.54.344.574.5

Click here for my full Verducci effect worksheet with detailed stats pre- and post-season.

The guys i’m most intrigued by include:

  • Reynaldo Lopez, who I suspect will start in AAA for the White Sox while they try to figure out if he’s a starter long-term or perhaps a future 100-mph closer.
  • Aaron Sanchez and Michael Fulmer were two awesome rookies last year (Fulmer won the AL Rookie of the Year and Sanchez was the best pitcher on a good Toronto team).
  • Sean Manaea is an interesting younger arm who I’ve often mentioned here because he would have been an option with the 1st round pick we gave up in the 2013 draft so that we could sign Rafael Soriano.
  • Julio Urias projects to be the Dodger’s 3rd or 4th starter and is incredibly accomplished for his age; he seems like he is a lower-risk guy here despite his workload thanks to effortless mechanics.
  • Jeff Hoffman is a rather “famous” name in that he was in talks to go 1-1 in 2014 before blowing out his elbow during his junior year; Toronto drafted him 9th overall despite the injury and then he was a key member of the prospect haul that went to Colorado in the Troy Tulowitzki deal.

Hey, at least there’s no Nats this year :-)

 

NLDS Game 5 via my “live texting”

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Rendon's struggles on the night led to an ending that was tough to swallow.  Photo Nats Official via espn.com

Rendon’s struggles on the night led to an ending that was tough to swallow. Photo Nats Official via espn.com

As I watched the NLDS game 5 unfold, I was texting with a couple of fellow baseball fans.  Here’s the content of my texts as the game unfolded for a “fun” look at my instant reactions to what was happening.  I’ve only edited the texts to correct my spelling errors as I furiously typed them after two stiff drinks from my basement … everything I wrote is in blue italics.

We pick up the thread at around 10:15 pm at the bottom of the 5th.

  • That pickoff  was a f*cking balk.  Yup, it was.  You’ll note that Bryce Harper was not even looking to steal and his eyes, once Julio Urias‘ leg crossed the plane, diverted to home assuming the pitch was going home.  I thought Harold Reynolds was awful announcing, but I agreed with him whole heartedly here when he said something to the effect of, “If they’re going to let him do that, he’ll pick everyone off.”  What surprised me was the lack of real complaining done by either Harper or Dusty Baker there, as if they knew arguing about it was futile.  In the end, it didn’t really affect the outcome of the game.
  • Scherzer looks better than I ever thought he’d do.  I assumed he’d give up 2 or 3 runs.  After his Game 1 performance, yeah six scoreless innings was well above the expected result.  
  • He will run the table in the 7th then Solis for the top of the order in the 8th and then Melancon.  Game is over.  Ha Ha.  Yeah, didn’t quite happen that way.  But after he made it through the meat of the order in the top of the 6th, that was a reasonable prediction.
  • Dumb play there on Werth at home; yeah, he was out by 30 feet.  Post-game analysis seemed to question what Bob Henley was looking at; at the point where the relay throw was in, he was still looking out in the outfield.  Is it possible that he thought the left fielder was still trying to retrieve the ball?  In a meager defense of the coach, they did have Danny Espinosa coming to bat, so its not like they had a high probability of a 2-out hit based on his series batting average.
  • [in response to a comment that it’s going to come down to the Nats bullpen] Except this year they’re stellar.  Nats Bullpen #1 or #2 in the league in FIP and ERA and they’ve been solid this post season; just two runs in 17 innings.  All true.  It didn’t matter.
  • Oh man homer.  Finally Max makes a mistake.  Except he really didn’t; look at the Pitch F/X plot of the ball Joc Pederson hit out: it was on the black and low; Pederson made a hell of a swing.  It isn’t like Max grooved a belt-high gopher ball there.
  • Why take him out now?  Don’t like that move.  Still don’t like the move yanking Scherzer; he’s on 99 pitches, he’s got 6-7-8 coming up; yes I could understand not wanting the top of the Dodger’s order to see him a fourth time, but if he already made it through all the sluggers, why not let him finish the inning?
  • First batter four pitch walk; Great.  I think the wrong guy is in the game.  Here of course i’m talking about Mark Rzepczynski‘s not-even-close four pitch walk upon relieving Scherzer, and of course i’m saying that Dusty has brought in the wrong lefty (I wanted Sammy Solis).
  • Geeze; well I guess I was wrong on the bullpen.  This was after the Carlos Ruiz hit gave the Dodgers the lead.
  • Every time Seager swings I think its going out he has such a powerful stroke.  Its funny, but Corey Seager didn’t really have that great of a series; 3-23 but his three hits were two homers and a RBI double.
  • Well that’s what happens when you don’t have a real CF.  And where the f*ck was Werth backing him up?  This was my reaction to Justin Turner‘s triple over Trea Turner‘s head.  Initially I thought he took a bad route, but in retrospect I think that ball was just crushed.  I did have a legitimate complaint about no backup though; Ruiz was running from first; could a backed up play and relay have gotten him at the plate?  Maybe, maybe not.  
  • I think Kelley just blew out his elbow again.  It did not look good when he did it … we now know he just threw so hard that he lost feeling in his hand.  I’ve done that too (never on the mound, but definitely making a 100% max effort throw as an infielder, usually on a relay home).  I’m glad he’s not seriously hurt.
  • 6 pitchers in the inning.  Crazy.  Just an observation.  I don’t know how long that inning took in “clock” time but it had to be over an hour.
  • The guy pitching Dayton?  He lived in my parent’s basement for a summer and I played with him several games back in like 2008.  He didn’t throw 93 back then though.  We’ve reviewed the Boss family’s personal connection to Dayton before… nothing new here.
  • Lifeline!! Holy sh*t!  This was of course the Chris Heisey homer.  Man; Heisey’s stat-line numbers may have sucked this year, but he definitely has come up big with pinch hit homers.
  • Love the move to the closer in the 7th.  [on Kenley Jansen entering the game way early]: I did, and a lot of the observers of the game did too.   Buck Showalter committed serious managerial malpractice for not getting Zach Britton into that do-or-die game, and now we’re seeing nearly every other manager left really thinking outside the box on closer usage.  Andrew Miller‘s numbers this off-season are just off-the charts; I know he’s not the “closer” but he’s absolutely the best reliever out there, and so is Jansen for the Dodgers.
  • Yeah!  Great PR [pinch runner] move too by Dusty.  That was putting in Joe Ross to run for Clint Robinson.  I will complain about Wilmer Difo later on, but I think its worth noting that the Nats bench came up relatively big in Game 5.  Heisey 2-run homer, Stephen Drew “drew” a walk (pun intended), Robinson got a  hit.  On the flip side, Pedro Severino flew out and both Michael Taylor and Difo struck out.
  • Can’t believe Werth struck out there.  Two straight un-clutch ABs.  Those two “un clutch” ABs were of course Werth and then Anthony Rendon both striking out with a runner on third.  Werth especially; all you have to do is hit a f*cking fly ball there and the game is tied.  That’s it!  Rendon’s strikeout clearly closed the book on him in Baker’s eyes.
  • Good night to be an Uber driver.  I think metro closed at 11:20: this was past midnight, observing that the stadium was still pretty frigging full.  Steve Case had departed though; he was in the center-field camera angle all night with his front row seats.
  • Huge Walk; 80% chance of a run now.  How about a f*cking Espinosa bomb.  This was in reference to Drew’s lead-off walk; RE of a man on first with no outs is above .8.  What does Espinosa do?  a bunt pop up??  From there two scrubs out quickly to end the 8th.
  • Well, at least the Nats have the top of the order in the 9th.  Yup; that was the silver lining; the top of the order, the best hitters on the Nats were getting a 5th shot at the title to eke out a run.  If anyone could do it, it would be Turner-Harper-Werth-Murphy.
  • I can NOT believe Kershaw is warming up.  Enough has been written on the topic by now.  But this was definitely shades of Orel Hershiser warming up in the 88 series, or Madison Bumgarner coming in for a relief outing on 2 days rest in the 2014 series.
  • We’ll know soon enough he’s definitely facing Harper.  I got this wrong; totally thought Kershaw would relief Jansen as soon as Turner AB was done.
  • Harold Reynolds is captain obvious.  I wish I could remember what he said, but it was pretty dumb.  Probably something like, “If the Nats don’t score here, they’ll lose.”
  • Nice inning lets see how big their b*lls are.  To channel the criticism of the 2014 team as levied by San Francisco pitcher (and long time Nats tormenter) Tim Hudson.
  • Katie Nolan is hot; this was my humorous comment about the Katie Nolan commercial during the pitching change in the 9th.   She is hot, and she knows a ton about sports, and her podcast is pretty good.
  • Why is there some idiot in a marlins jacket directly behind home plate?  Again, another “killing time” text.  On the TV broadcast some fool in a bright orange gaudy as hell Marlins jacket had positioned himself in pole position for the CF camera.
  • Why isn’t Kershaw in?  As Jansen walked Harper on four pitches.  I was starting to see the narrative; “Dave Roberts holds on to his closer one batter too long” as one of the Nats middle-of-the-order guys hits a walk-off homer.
  • Saving Kershaw for Murphy.  Yup, it became pretty clear that was the strategy.
  • Look at Kenley; he’s done.  He’ll walk Werth. Yup.  This was after watching a painful AB against Werth; clearly Werth was either going to drive a ball or he was going to get walked.  I think Roberts let him go at least one batter too long; he threw nearly half a game of pitches.  I saw a snarky post at HardBallTalk this morning “checking in with Dusty Baker,” who was quoted as saying that Jansen’s outing may affect him in the next series.   Well, its a reasonable concern; he threw a TON of pitches that night.  And he was gassed, perhaps before the 9th even started.  Imagine the narrative if the Nats had won with Kershaw warming up and with Jansen throwing his 50th pitch?
  • One day rest.  Poor form booing him he’s one of the best guys in the game.  Yeah, didn’t like the booing of Kershaw as he walked in.
  • This is an epic match-up all things considered.  Double could win it.   Murphy-Kershaw.  Murphy got him for 2 homers last post-season; could he at least drive in a run?
  • Ugh.  Worst case.  Now its up to a f*cking rookie.  That was it.  Murphy popped up.  Not a fly ball to even advance the runners.  Just worst case result given the situation.
  • This is 3 strikes fast.  My prediction of how long it’d take for Difo to whiff.
  • I bet they wish they had up Rendon right now.  This, and the early  hook for Scherzer, might be the two biggest second guesses I have of Baker’s moves in the game.  Rendon is your #5 hitter; yes I know he struggled all series and he had badly choked earlier in the game … but why are we ending our season with a kid who struggled in AA most of the year instead of one of your most important hitters?
  • Man.  That sucks.  Game over.

Welcome to the off-season.  When I get some time, i’m going to dig into the “draft class”posts.

 

 

LCS Predictions

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I think Lester has at least two more Game 1 starts in him... photo via Grantland

I think Lester has at least two more Game 1 starts in him… photo via Grantland (RIP)

LDS quick thoughts:

  • ALDS #1: Not surprised at all that Toronto manhandled Texas; look no further than the run differentials for the teams on the year (Texas was only +8, Toronto was +93).  Anyone who thought that was a surprise isn’t following the games closely.  The only surprise for me in that series was the fact that Odor and Bautista didn’t get into another fight.
  • ALDS #2: On the flip side, color me shocked that Cleveland swept Boston.   Cleveland is basically without its two best starters, yet still swept the AL East champ.  What it tells me is that Boston’s starters aren’t nearly as good as they are reported to be, and it showed as both Porcello and Price got bombed.
  • NLDS #1: I never expected a Chicago sweep of SF, not with Bumgarner lurking, and SF did indeed win the Bumgarner start (but without that much help from him in the end; he was in a position to take the loss in Game 3 when he departed).  But nonetheless, Chicago won in four games and get three full days off before the first game of the NLCS with which to reset their rotation.  A luxury that the Nats/Dodgers winner will not get.
  • NLDS #2: Nats/Dodgers came down to game 5, and despite their chances the Nats lose another heartbreaker.

Quick good links: MLB Post-season Schedule. and MLB.com’s Probable Pitchers.


Here’s a preview of the NLDS.  Thanks to wrapping up the NLDS early, Chicago can re-set their rotation but likely goes with the same set of arms.

  • Game 1: 10/15 in Chicago: Kenta Maeda versus Jon Lester
  • Game 2: 10/16 in Chicago: Clayton Kershaw versus Kyle Hendricks … i guess.  Kershaw is in uncharted waters here; a win on 10/11 on 3-days rest then an inning in relief on 10/13 … I guess he’ll be ready to go for a full start on 10/16.
  • Game 3: 10/18 in LA: Jake Arrieta versus Rich Hill
  • Game 4: 10/19 in LA: John Lackey versus Julio Urias

Its definitely saying something about your SP depth when last year’s Cy Young winner is relegated to being your #3 starter in a post-season series, but such is the strength of the Chicago pitching this year.  The Cubs will face a distinctly weakened LA pitching staff, shredded by the stress of the NLDS win over Washington, putting them at a severe dis-advantage.  LA will be incredibly lucky to get a split in Chicago; Lester (a lefty) should dominate the Dodgers in Game 1 and then the Cubs should have their hacks against Kershaw in game 2 (Cubs 7th in the league against lefties in terms of BA).   Then LA has no choice but to throw two more lefty starters in game 3 and 4, again playing more into Chicago’s strengths.  This isn’t like last year when NY’s strong RHP-centric starting pitchers blew away Chicago (who don’t hit Righties as well); this is a tough matchup for LA in general.

Prediction: Chicago in 5 or 6; i’m not sure it even gets back to Chicago for a game 6.


Here’s some thoughts on the ALCS.  Two teams that (rather easily) swept their divisional opponents.  Here’s how the pitching match-ups project (assuming these teams keep the same rotation from the LDS):

  • Game 1: 10/14 in Cleveland: Marco Estrada versus Corey Kluber
  • Game 2: 10/15 in Cleveland: J.A. Happ versus Josh Tomlin
  • Game 3: 10/17 in Toronto:  Trevor Bauer versus Aaron Sanchez
  • Game 4: 10/18 in Toronto: Mike Clevinger versus Marcus Stroman

A couple of interesting Nats connections here: Estrada was our 6th round pick in 2005 out of Long Beach State; he toiled in our system for years before being released and establishing himself as a superb starter elsewhere (first Milwaukee, now Toronto).  Stroman was our 18th round pick in 2009 out of a NY high school; he projected as a shortstop then; he went to Duke, remade himself as a starter, and was Toronto’s 1st rounder 3 years later.

The Cleveland slate of starters keeps changing;  Kluber is a Cy Young candidate; he will lead off for Cleveland instead of Bauer (and, as of this 10/14/16 note, Bauer is getting pushed further due to a “Drone” injury to his finger).  Meanwhile, Sanchez is probably Toronto’s best starter and Stroman was their opening day starter; I’d think both guys would get the ball before Happ.  I may have to re-write this section before all is said and done.  My gut feeling is that Cleveland’s superior record was attained thanks to a weaker division and the strong work of two starters (Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco) who are no longer there, and the step-down to Tomlin/Clevinger will cost them in the end.   Meanwhile Toronto emerged from an AL East with four near-playoff quality teams and is battle tested.  They had no problems going on the road to Texas and won’t either in the hitters park that is Cleveland.  Toronto gets a split in Cleveland and then batters Cleveland’s #5 starters in Toronto.  From there, its about what Kluber can do; can he get the series back to Cleveland?  It could be a quick one.

Prediction: Toronto in 5.


Lastly, i’m stealing this thunder from Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk/NBCsports.com, but this final four will award a winner who has been waiting an awful long time to win a world Series.

Here’s the final four teams:

  • Chicago Cubs: Last WS appearance was way back in 1945, and of course their last WS win was 1908.
  • Dodgers: Last WS appearance and win in 1988 … in case you forgot, that series featured the epic Kirk Gibson walk-off homer in game 1.
  • Toronto: Last WS appearance and win was the awesome Joe Carter walk-off in 1993, the year before divisional play took over.
  • Cleveland: Last WS appearance was in 1997 (but really their big missed opportunity was losing in 1995 as a 100-44 win team), last WS win was of course in 1948.

Lots of history at stake here; imagine a Cleveland-Chicago series.  For the historians that’d be the best.  I think the best series quality wise would be Chicago-Toronto.

Game 5 Post-Mortem …yet again

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Scherzer did his part ... the bullpen didn't. Photo via washtimes.com

Scherzer did his part … the bullpen didn’t. Photo via washtimes.com

Another Division title, another gut-wrenching loss.  4-3 at the hands of LA to drop another game 5 at home and get a new candidate for “worst loss ever” for this franchise.

After 4 hours and 32 minutes, the Nats go home.  At a macro level, perhaps this is always where we were going to end up given the losses of two key players and lingering injuries that the team dealt with late in the season.  But this was clearly a missed opportunity.  Max Scherzer did his part, starting the game by facing the minimum first 11 guys and pitching six scoreless.  Hat off to Joc Pederson: that opposite field homer was a good swing on a bad but not awful pitch.  From there the bullpen that had been so good in the first four games cratered badly, and in his haste to bring in the next guy to try to put out the fire, Dusty Baker double-switched his way into replacing guys who he really could have used at the end.

In the aftermath, you always tend to look for moments of 2nd guessing.  For me, I was texting back and forth with a couple of friends and so I have a nice little history of question marks.

  • I think Baker took out Scherzer too soon; he was only on 99 pitches; yes he had that epic 13-pitch at-bat against series MVP Justin Turner … but he was only on 99 pitches!  He was on normal rest, is a work-horse, and clearly could have continued.  He had 7-8-9 coming up; not exactly murder’s row.  Did Baker really think Grandal (series BA: .125) or Toles (series BA: .222) was going to beat Scherzer there?  Or a cold pinch hitter?
  • Would a proper center-fielder had a better shot at the Justin Turner triple??   Did Trea Turner take a bad route there?  And, should he have held up and tried to play the carom instead of just running into the wall?  Where the f*ck was Jayson Werth backing up the play?  Would it have made a difference if that had been a double instead of a triple?  Maybe; the not exactly fleet-of-foot Carlos Ruiz scored from first easily on that play; maybe he’s held at third or there’s a play at the plate for that 4th Dodger run.  Because the next batter grounded out weakly.
  • Every Nats bench guy got an at-bat in the 7th, 8th or 9th.  Robinson, Taylor, Drew, Heisey, Severino and Difo.  Honestly; they’re bench guys for a reason; I understand the logic of trying to push back the pitcher’s spot with all the double-switches … but when Wilmer f*cking Difo is at the plate instead of one of your most solid hitters all year (Anthony Rendon) to end the game, I think you’ve made too many moves.  Yes, Chris Heisey‘s homer was amazing and had me screaming late in the night, but you should go down with the guys who got you there, not a guy who was in AA most of the year.
  • Speaking of Rendon; It is fair to say he was probably the “goat” of the Nats offense.  He went just 3-20 in the series and left an astounding 22 runners on base in five games (*seven* just yesterday).  For as good as he was in the 2012 NLDS and as solid as he was this season, he came up short, badly, in this series.  TWENTY TWO runners left on base from your #5 hitter; that’s really why this team lost.   He had a homer and four RBIs in five games and, to be fair, his homer in game 3 was huge.  But in the elimination games?  Not one clutch hit from one of their most important hitters; would Wilson Ramos (who batted 5th the most frequently of any lineup position this year) have made the difference here?  Who knows.
  • Should Baker have gone to Melancon early (as his counterpart did with his closer) instead of his cavalcade of relievers?  Hard to criticize him there; the guys who gave up hits had all been rock solid in the first four games.  Was this just the workload catching up to them?   Four straight relievers failed, giving up a walk, a single, an RBI-single and a crushed triple.  Just bad timing for all of them to fail in a row.

(Reading the comments, i forgot about the frigging Julio Urias balk move!  That was total BS.  The Nats have a real beef there and that has to be cleaned up next year.  Again, not sure what that would have meant in the larger game outcome since it was man-on-1st with two outs but was a very poor call.  I am less critical of the decision to send Werth home … who is up next?  Espinosa and Lobaton?  That was your best shot to get another run and you’re testing the whole relay system; two good throws had to be made under pressure and you often see those throws up the line or short-hopping the catcher; all credit to Corey Seager there for taking his time and making the play).

All that being said … in the bottom of the 9th,  you couldn’t ask for much of a better opportunity to tie it up.  Two guys on with one out and your team MVP at the plate.   The run expectancy of guys on 1st and 2nd with one out is .884 and the “chance” in percentage terms that a run scores at all is 40.6% … across all of baseball over the last 5 years irrespective of who was pitching.  Not when you’ve gotten those runs against one of the best closers in the game (even if Kenley Jansen was totally gassed), nor when the best pitcher in the game  Clayton Kershaw is riding in on his white horse on one day’s rest to get the save.  That being said, I thought Daniel Murphy would have gotten a better bat on the ball.

I dunno.  I don’t think there was some egregious managing error (despite my hindsight-is-20/20 points above).   All these moves were defensible in the moment, and at the death they had two guys on with their best hitter at the plate.  Murphy popped up weakly and that was it.  Better luck next year.

 

2015 Season Statistical Review of the 2012 draft class

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Lucas Giolito still leads the line of the Nats 2012 draft class. Photo unk via federalbaseball.com

Lucas Giolito still leads the line of the Nats 2012 draft class. Photo unk via federalbaseball.com

(Useless blog information: this is my 900th post!  And we’ve had nearly 7,500 comments on those posts; that’s fantastic.  )

The next in a series: previously we reviewed the 2015 season stats for the 2015 draft class, 2014 draft class, and the 2013 draft class.  Like with the 2013 post, this one was easier to do thanks to having done the 2012 guys back in 2013 time-frame.  Is it worth going back one or two more draft classes at this point?  Maybe not; the 2012 draft class has mostly already been Rule-5 exposed, a good benchmark for prospects to make it or break it in terms of advancement or resignation as “org guy.”  I have gone back one more class to 2011 and that’s it, so one more in this series after this.

Web links to use while reading:

  • Stats are pulled from milb.com and/or fangraphs.com; put the player name into the search bar to get his seasonal stats
  • The MLB Draft Tracker (which I believe is the best draft tracker out there) is the best place to get draft class information.
  • The Big Board and the Draft Tracker are the goto resources for prospects for any Nats fan.
  • Baseball-reference.com’s draft database for Nats 2011 class.
  • My working XLS in Google for all this data (cut-n-pasted at the bottom).
  • TheBaseballCube.com for really obscure stats for players, like college stats for these  upper round 30s guys.

Without further ado:


Round 1: (#16 overall) Lucas Giolito HS RH Starting pitcher: 7-7, 3.15 ERA across two levels, starting at HighA and moved up to AA.  131/37 K/BB in 117 IP (21 “starts”) with 1.96/3.18 fip, and .352/.341 babip splits between HighA/AA.  A fantastic season for the newly-turned 21-yr old, who dominated HighA before moving up and holding his own in AA for the last two months of the season.  All the pre-season talk about how he was going to have “no innings limits” was bunk; he was kept in XST until the first week of May and routinely skipped starts so as to extend him through the whole season while keeping his innings year-over-year increase just below the magical 20% mark (98 IP in 2014, 117 in 2015).  He’s now routinely named as either the best or the 2nd best (behind LA’s Julio Urias) pitching prospect in all of baseball.  Not much else to say.  I’m guessing he starts 2016 in AA, moves to AAA and may even get tapped once he surpasses the Super-2 deadline as an injury fill-in starter in the majors.  Look for him to get about 140 innings in 2016 all told (that’s 20% bump from his 2015 117 total).  Trending Up.

Round 2(80) Tony Renda, Coll Jr 2B: .267/.333/.340 in Harrisburg with 15/19 K/BB ratio and 13 SBs in a little less than a half a season in AA before he was traded to the Yankees on 6/11/15 for David Carpenter.   Renda had progressed nicely in the system as a defense and speed-first second baseman, but in the immediate seems like he was blocked by Wilmer Difo, perhaps the rising of Chris Bostick and the presence in the majors of three or four different guys who can play an adequate second base.  So the team flipped him for something they needed; reliever depth.

Round 3(111) Brett Mooneyham, Coll Jr LH starting pitcher: was 0-2 with a 6.41 ERA in 19 ineffective innings for LowA Hagerstown before the Nats finally cut the cord and released him on 6/3/15.  Mooneyham was in Low-A for the third successive season, having failed to make the cut in Potomac in each of 2013 and 2014.  You’d have to say that he’s one of the more higher-profile drafting failures of the Mike Rizzo era.  Or maybe not; the team had to go over-slot to sign Giolito and may have skimped for the rest of the draft.

Round 4: (144) Brandon Miller Coll Sr Corner OF: .226/.301/.421 in 59 games with Potomac before voluntarily retiring on 7/10/15.  Despite showing some power (he hit 20 homers in the 2013 season), he never really solved HighA and made way in the Potomac outfield for some rising DSL grads.

Round 5: (174) Spencer Kieboom, Coll Jr C: Slashed .248/.344/.346 with 30/36 K/BB in 246 ABs with Potomac, which were incremental steps back from his great low-A numbers in 2014.  He missed a good portion of the season with injury (concussion) and is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League to make up for it.  He was starting to get some notice in the organization, appearing in the tail end of top-30 prospect lists.  Despite his step back in offense, Kieboom has taken a huge step forward in terms of his defense, his play-calling and pitch-framing.  Scouting reports on him are glowing in this regard, with most projecting him at worst as a backup catcher in the bigs because of his defensive capability.  I think he starts 2016 in AA with an eye towards getting his bat back on track, and if he keeps producing he could soon be a viable alternative to the current catching tandem in the majors.  Trending up.

Round 6: (204) Hayden Jennings, HS OF/CF: Released in May 2014 after two years in the GCL with big K numbers.

Round 7(234) Robert Benincasa, Coll Jr. RH relief pitcher: Just 4 IP for Harrisburg this year until suffering a season-ending injury.  He made the AA bullpen out of spring (which is where he ended the 2014 season) and seemed to be in a decent spot but got almost no playing time.  Minor league relievers generally don’t get a lot of love from prospect hounds, but in a system where an able-bodied RHP who could throw strikes would have been nice to have in August and September, there’s still opportunity for Benincasa going forward.  Trending Steady if he’s healthy, looking at a ST2016 release if not.

Round 8: (264) Stephen Perez, Coll Jr. SS: slashed just .209/.302/.280 with 87/59 K/BB in 435 ABs between Potomac and Harrisburg.  2 homers, 16 steals.  Perez broke camp with Harrisburg but couldn’t cut it, hitting just .130 in April before getting dumped back to repeat High-A.  In 1300+ career minor league ABs he’s now hitting just .233 and doesn’t seem like he’s long for the organization.  As mentioned in this space before, the Nats drafted a ton of college middle infielders in 2015 and Perez may struggle to keep his slot given what’s expected to rise up.  Trending down.

Round 9: (294) Derek Self, Coll Sr. RH relief pitcher: 4-5, 3.56 ERA with 45/15 K/BB in 60ip.  3.71 fip, .291 BABIP in Potomac.  Broke camp as a member of the AA bullpen but got hit and was dumped back to high-A, where he spent most of the season.  This is the third straight  year he’s been in Potomac as a college senior draftee; odds are there won’t be a 4th.  He may break camp with a full season squad in 2016 but may fall victim to a numbers game once the short-season guys start pushing for promotions.  Trending down.

Round 10(324) Craig Manuel, Coll Sr C: slashed just .206/.276/.242 between three levels but mostly with Potomac.  He had just 165 ABs on the year as he served as the backup catcher in High-A.  Its his third straight season of essentially being an “old for the level” backup catcher who has struggled to hit the Mendoza Line since leaving Low-A.  Its hard to read the tea-leaves on catchers since they’re so scarce, so I won’t summarily pass judgement that Manuel’s time is about to come to an end.  He could very well be the backup catcher again in Potomac next year.  He is a local guy (born in Rockville, MD though he went to HS in Florida and college in Texas), so perhaps he enjoys playing in the DC area.  Otherwise, just based on his offensive numbers I have to say he’s Trending Down.

Round 11(354) Brian Rauh, Coll Jr RH starter/reliever: 4-7, 3.39 ERA with 84/24 K/BB ratio in 101 innings (18 starts) across *four* different levels.  2.61/4.95 fip in Potomac/Harrisburg where he spent the most time this year.  Rauh had a nice tour of the system this year, starting in High-A (he was the #2 opening day starter), getting hurt, doing some rehab in the GCL, then working his way back up the chain from Low-A to High-A to AA.  He ended the year in Harrisburg’s rotation, for what its worth.  He didn’t entirely impress at AA but had an incrementally better season in High-A.  My guess is that he starts the 2016 season in the AA rotation, but he has to show he’s worthy in AA.  Trending Steady.

Round 12(384) Carlos Lopez, Coll Sr 1B: Slashed just .138/.265/.241 in 10 games in Hagerstown before being released on 6/30/15.  This was the third straight season that Lopez featured in Hagerstown, having spent the first two months of the season in XST after getting beat out for the 1B job in the spring.  Eventually there just was no more room for Lopez, with uber prospect Jose Marmolejos-Diaz soon taking over at 1B in Hagerstown and slugging 11 homers in a half-season.

Round 13: (414) Elliott Waterman, Coll Jr LH reliever: Struggled in two Short-A stints and was released on 3/15/14 prior to the beginning of the 2014 season when he couldn’t break into a full-season bullpen.

Round 14: (444) Jordan Poole, Juco-2 corner OF: Similarly to Waterman above, Poole struggled to hit in two seasons shuttling between  Short-A and GCL, and the Nats released him on 3/14/14 when he wasn’t set to make a full season roster.

Round 15: (474) Brandon Smith, OF: Didn’t sign.  Attending Division II Grand Canyon University, where he remains today.  He hit a robust .348/.402/.478 for them this season but was not drafted as a draft-eligible junior.  Maybe the Nats take a flier on him in a late round since they love doing re-drafts on late-round HS picks.

Round 16: (504) Ronald Pena, Juco-2 RH starter/reliever: threw just four rehab innings in 2015, spending the entire season on the Potomac Disabled List.  He was coming off a season where he had a 5.96 ERA in High-A and needed 2015 to show he could make the jump.  My guess is that he’ll get another shot at being the Potomac swing-man in 2016 but he may struggle to make the squad, given the huge number of college arms pushing into the system year after year.  Trending Down.

Round 17: (534) Blake Schwartz, Coll Sr RH Starting pitcher: 0-2, 5.87 ERA in 3 Potomac starts and then he called it quits, officially retiring on 4/24/15.  Schwartz was *so good* in 2013 for Potomac (11-4, 2.65 ERA) then struggled in AA before getting hurt in 2014 and missing half the season.  I thought the retirement was surprising; maybe his 2014 injury just killed his arm and with it his career.  Too bad; he was looking like a fantastic low-round find.

Round 18: (564) David Fischer, Coll Sr RH reliever: Released on 7/3/14 after bouncing around the system for a couple of years.

Round 19: (594) Bryan Lippincott, Coll Sr 1B: Retired ahead of the 2014 season after one decent season in Short-A.

Round 20: (624) James Brooks, Coll SR SS/3B: Released May 2013; he was a senior sign who played last season mostly in the GCL, save for a 2 week stretch where he went 1-32 in Short-A.

Round 21: (654) Austin Chubb, Coll Sr C: Released ahead of the 2015 season after struggling to a .221/.299/.324 line in Hagerstown in 2014.  Signed as a MLFA with Los Angeles and bounced around their farm system this year, missing huge chunks of the season with injury.  Backup Catchers can live forever. 

Round 22: (684) Will Hudgins, Coll Sr RH reliever: Suddenly retired 7/12/13 per his Twitter account.

Round 23: (714) Casey Selsor, Coll Sr LH Starter/Reliever: Posted a 4.29 ERA in ShortA in 2014, then released on 3/20/14.

Round 24: (744) Kevin Dicharry, Coll SR RH pitcher: released 7/1/13

Round 25: (774) Freddy Avis, RHP: didn’t sign.  Attending Stanford, where in 2013 he appeared in exactly one game and pitched 2 innings before suffering a season-ending injury.  That injury never got better and he retired from baseball altogether in March of 2015.  Shame.

Round 26: (804) Skye Bolt, RHP: didn’t sign.  Attended UNC, had an excellent college career and was a 4th round pick in 2015 by the Oakland A’s.  He kind of reminds me of our 2015 pick Andrew Stevenson frankly; kind of an odd swing, defense-first speedy outfielder with limited power.

Round 27: (834) Cody Poteet, RHP: didn’t sign.  Attended UCLA and got drafted (like Bolt) in the 4th round of the 2015 draft by the Marlins.

Round 28: (864) Hunter Bailey, Coll Sr SS/2B: released May 2013.

Round 29: (894) Leonard “LJ” Hollins, Juco RH reliever: released 7/2/14 after struggling for half a season in Hagerstown.

Round 30: (924) Robert Orlan Coll Jr LH Starter: 3-1, 3.00 ERA with 85/28 K/BB ratio in 72 relief IP between LowA and HighA.  Orlan bounced between Potomac and Hagerstown all season, ending up in HighA with pretty good numbers in a “more than a loogy” role.  Especially impressive is 85 Ks in just 72 ip.  He’s older for these levels, inarguably, but could put himself in a good position by continuing to succeed in 2016.  I see him in the Potomac bullpen again with an eye towards a June promotion to AA when the short-season promotions come due.  Trending Steady.

Round 31: (954) Michael Boyden Coll Sr RH reliever: Released Jan 2014 after struggling for two years in Rookie ball as a college senior sign.

Round 32: (984) Michael Mudron, Coll Sr LH reliever: Released Jan 2014 after posting a 6.82 ERA in Short-A in 2013.

Round 33: (1014) Mike McQuillan, Coll Sr 2B/3B: Released 3/26/15 after hitting just .207 in Potomac last  year, likely losing out on a numbers game.

Round 34: Jake Jefferies, 2B: didn’t sign.  Attended Cal State Fullerton and subsequently drafted again by the Nats in the 39th round in 2015.

Round 35: Corey Bafidis, LHP: didn’t sign but Washington picked him in 2013. 

Round 36: Max Ungar, Cdidn’t sign.  Attending Division III Denison, where he did not seem to even be playing.

Round 37: Tyler Watson, LHPdidn’t sign.  Attended Kansas U for a year, then bounced to McLennan Community College in Waco, TX and and got drafted by the Angels in the 38th round of the 2014 draft.  This is *not* the same Tyler Watson, by the way, that the Nats drafted in the 2015 draft.

Round 38: Jarred Messer, RHPdidn’t sign.  Pitched the last two years with the Kansas City T-Bones in the independent American Association

Round 39: Mitchell Williams, Cdidn’t sign.  Attended the Marion Military Institute in Alabama, for which I cannot find any current stats.

Round 40: Ricky Gutierrez, CFdidn’t sign.  Presumably playing football for U-Conn, as per the Draft Tracker.

 


Trending Summary:

  • Trending Up (2): Giolito, Kieboom
  • Trending Steady (3): Benincasa, Rauh, Orlan
  • Trending Down (4): Perez, Self, Manuel, Pena
  • Did Not Sign in 2012 (11): Smith, Avis, Bolt, Poteet, Jefferies, Bafidis, Ungar, Watson, Messer, Williams, Gutierrez
  • Released/Retired (19): Mooneyham, Miller, Jennings, Lopez, Waterman, Poole, Schwartz, Fischer, Lippincott, Brooks, Chubb, Hudgins, Selsor, Dicharry, Bailey, Hollins, Boyden, Mudron, McQuillan
  • Traded (1): Renda

Executive Summary

Three years onward, there’s just 10 of the 40 names left active somewhere in the minors.  11 never signed and another 19 have been released or retired.  We cashed in Renda on a middle reliever who subsequently got hurt, and this class has one of the best 2 or 3 prospects in the game.  Otherwise … there’s just not much there.  It seems likely that the Nats 2012 class is going to end up producing just two MLB players; a near Ace and possibly a backup Catcher.  Maybe one of the trending steady middle relievers can make a run ala Aaron Barrett.  Otherwise, is this class a disappointment?