Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for the ‘keith law’ tag

Updated Master Prospect List in Google XLS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

 

 

2016 Season Statistical review of the 2013 Draft Class

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Austin Voth remains the "class" of the 2013 draft class. Photo mlb.com official

Austin Voth remains the “class” of the 2013 draft class. Photo mlb.com official

(Coming back to this series post Winter Meetings hoopla).  Fourth in our set of Draft class Reviews for the 2016 season.  First was the 2016 class, then the 2015 class then the 2014 class.

Web links to use while reading:

This review is especially important to follow because the college-age draftees in this 2013 class are Rule-5 eligible this coming off-season.  I think its a big reason why several of these guys are in the AFL right now, and their performance may or may not influence the team’s decision to protect or leave exposed.  We’ll put a pin in this post when we eventually do Rule-5 Analysis later this month.

With out further ado…


Round 1: forfeited w/ Rafael Soriano signing, which as I noted in this June 2013 post cost the Nats a shot at one of several highly regarded pitchers drafted just behind our vacated spot (the Cardinals actually took Kaminsky, but I doubt the Nats would have; i think they would have taken Manaea).  Here’s a quick summary of 2016’s season for the guys I liked at the time in that spot (Rob Kaminsky, Sean Manaea, Ryne Stanek, Ian Clarkin):

  • Kaminsky:  11-7 with a 3.28 ERA in a full season starting for AA in his age 22 year.  Was flipped in 2015 to Cleveland from St. Louis (his drafting team) in the Brandon Moss deal.
  • Manaea: 7-9 with a 3.86 ERA in 24 starts for Oakland this year.  Was flipped in 2015 to Oakland from Kansas City (his drafting team) in the Ben Zobrist deal.
  • Stanek: split time between AA and AAA, was removed from the rotation and struggled in relief.
  • Clarkin: went 6-9 with a 3.31 ERA in High-A as a 21-yr old after losing all of 2015 to injury.

I’ve more than said my peace on how much I disagreed with the Soriano signing and its opportunity cost.  Lets move on.

Round 2Jake Johansen, Coll Sr. RHP (Starter, now a Reliever) Dallas Baptist U. 4-1 3.19 ERA across 3 levels in 2016.  29/22 K/BB in 36 2/3 mostly middle relief innings.  1.64 whip.  Johansen started the year in Potomac, walked 11 guys in 6 appearances and was dumped back to XST.  Once the GCL started he threw a few innings in Florida before joining Hagerstown for the rest of the year.   He had 11 appearances and 19 IP in Low-A with good numbers … but at this point in his career (he’ll turn 26 in a couple of months) and given where he was drafted, the fact that he can’t seem to cut it anywhere above Low-A ball seems like a pretty succinct judgement of the pick.  I’m guessing he hangs around until he hits 6-years in the system, but any hopes of him turning into even a marginal middle reliever seem shot.  If he was anything other than a big-bonus 2nd rounder he would have likely been released already.  He’s toiling in the AFL and (as of this writing) had only given up one run in 9 innings, but had a measly 3 punch-outs against the elite hitters of the minors.  With any luck, this confidence boost will carry over into 2017.   Trending Down.

Round 3Drew Ward, HS 3B.  Slashed .252/.348/.412 across 2 levels, ending the year in Harrisburg.  121/56 K/BB in 408 ABs, 14 homers.   Ward’s age 21 season went pretty well; he started the year in Potomac but posted an .868 OPS there in 53 games to force his promotion to AA.  He hit just .219 once he got there though, which means we’re likely seeing him back there in 2017.  His strikeout rate remains a problem: 121 Ks in 408 Abs is a 30% clip.  But the team clearly rates him; he’s in the AFL for the 2nd straight off-season and is hitting .327 against the best the minors has to offer.  And he was a 21 yr old in AA; lots of 21 yr olds are still in Short-A.  He’s also starting to get some prospect notice; generally getting ranked in the 12-15 range in the system.  I’m going to say Trending Up … lets hope he can put up .800 OPS figures in AA in 2017.

Round 4Nick Pivetta, Juco RHP (starter) New Mexico Juco.  Traded 7/28/15 to Philadelphia for Jonathan Papelbon.  He had a solid year starting between AA and AAA and could feature for the Phillies as a 9/1 callup next year.  For all of us that can’t stand these moves for closers (see above lost 1st rounder), this may have the jeopardy of haunting us for years if Pivetta becomes a regular rotation member of an NL East rival.  Maybe they’ll leave him off their 40-man roster this coming off-season and we can Rule5 draft him :-)

Round 5Austin Voth, Coll Jr RHP (starter) UWashington: 7-9, 3.15 ERA in 25 starts for AAA Syracuse.  133/57 K/BB in 157 IP, 1.24 whip, 3.53 FIP, .279 BABIP.  Another year, another solid season for Voth.  I’m not sure what else there is for him to accomplish in the Minors at this point; he seems to be the pitcher that he is.  His BABIP was in-line with his career numbers, he’s slightly regressed in a K/9 rate since arriving at AAA, and his ERA seems to be in line with his career numbers.  As discussed in this space earlier this year, I’m not quite sure why the team didn’t add him at the 9/1 roster expansion date; clearly they’re going to add him ahead of Rule-5 (which they did) but instead chose to leave him on the sidelines while they had September tryouts for Mat Latos.  Clearly he’s behind several of his AAA rotation mates on the depth chart, but I feel like he could still be a valuable rotation member for the Nats or someone else.  Given our starter depth, one has to think he’s trade bait at this point (he’s behind Lopez, Giolito and Cole clearly).  He seems like the kind of guy a team like Oakland would love.  Trending Up.  Post writing update: with the firesale of Nats SP candidates, Voth suddenly is like 2nd in line for getting MLB starts, so we look forward to seeing him in a Nats uniform at some point in 2017 and seeing if he’s the 2nd coming of Tanner Roark … or if he’s more like Taylor Jordan.

Round 6Cody Gunter, Juco 3B/RHP (reliever) from Greyson College: 0-0 in 2/3rds of an IP for GCL before getting shutdown for the season.  He looked halfway decent for Auburn in 2015 while converting from his drafted position (3B) to the mound, but 2016 is a big step-back.  I don’t know what to expect in 2017; perhaps a shot at the Hagerstown pen or an outright release.  Trending Down.

Round 7Jimmy Yezzo, Coll Jr 1B from UDelaware.  Released on 7/22/15.  Played a full season with the Washington PA team in the Indy Frontier League, hitting .220.

Round 8David Napoli, Coll Sr LHP (relief) from Tulane.  Released 3/16/16 after four seasons where he never got above A ball.

Round 9Jake Joyce, Coll Sr RHP (reliever) from Va Tech.  Released in 7/7/14.

Round 10Brennan Middleton, Coll Sr SS/2B from Tulane. Released on 6/30/15.

Round 11John Simms, Coll jr RHP (starter) from Rice. 8-5, 3.30 ERA in 29 games (11 starts) for AA.  79/28 K/BB ratio in 92 2/3rds innings, 1.08 whip, 3.84 fip, .254 babip.  Simms was the opening day starter for Harrisburg in 2016, but never seemed destined for the rotation; he was mostly a long reliever/spot starter, never throwing even 90 pitches in an outing.  He did not go to the AFL this year after going last year; what is his planned usage going forward?  His numbers look good; is he destined to move up to AAA and be a 6th starter again?   He seems to be able to compete, so we’ll see how he does against more veteran/mature competition in 2017.  Trending Steady.

Round 12Andrew Cooper, Juco RH relief pitcher from Sierra College.  Released on 1/12/16, not even getting a chance to compete for a spot in the High-A bullpen.  Seems like the team let him try to earn his way up on the field and it never happened.

Round 13John Costa, Juco RH relief pitcher from Palm Beach CC.  Released 4/1/15.

Round 14David Masters, Juco SS/3B from Central Arizona College: Slashed just .174/.259/.280 with 56/23 K/BB in 236 ABs in High-A.  6HR, 1SB.  Masters seemed to play every other day in a utility role for Potomac, posting anemic batting stats but staying with the team the whole year.  I thought he was in trouble after hitting just .226 LAST year but he stuck around the whole season.   I said this last season, but it seems like Masters isn’t long for the organization.  Trending down.

Round 15Isaac Ballou, Coll Sr OF/CF from Marshall (via Germantown, MD). Slashed .255/.332/.386 mostly for AA Harrisburg.  77/42 K/BB in 373 AA at-bats, 6hr, 7SB.  Ballou split time between the corner OF spots and had a couple of stints covering for Syracuse.   Ballou didn’t stick as a starter in AAA, instead repeating AA for the most part.  Depending on how the MLB roster numbers shake out, he may have the same issue in 2017.  Trending Steady.

Round 16Willie Allen, Juco Corner OF from Oklahoma/Newtown, MA.  Did not sign; transferred to Lewis-Clark State (ID), where he played for a  year in 2015, then has apparently disappeared.  He was not on their 2016 roster, and he does not appear to still be playing.

Round 17Geoff Perrott, Coll Sr C from Rice.  Retired 1/5/2015

Round 18Cory Bafidis, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher from Texas Wesleylan.  Released 7/7/2014.

Round 19Niko Spezial, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher from Wake Forest.  Released 5/28/14.

Round 20Brenton Allen, Coll Jr Corner OF from UCLA.  Released 6/21/14.

Round 21Justin Thomas, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher from Southern Arkansas. 3-2, 4.75 ERA while repeating High-A.  36/21 K/BB in 47 1/3 relief innings, 1.37 whip, 4.50 fip, .281 babip.  Last year I liked Thomas and thought he’d easily move up to AA.  Didn’t happen; he repeated Potomac and his numbers went down.  His lefty-lefty splits aren’t especially good, which precludes his value as a lefty specialist, so I wonder what his role is going forward at this point.  I’d guess he’ll compete for AA spot but may be a release candidate.  Trending down.

Round 22Cody Dent, Coll Sr SS from UFlorida. Released 7/15/16 after getting demoted out of High-A and hitting just .195 as a 24-yr old in low-A.  Even his pedigree (he is the son of legendary Bucky Dent) couldn’t save him.

Round 23Garrett Gordon, Juco Corner OF.  Released in 3/26/15.

Round 24Matthew DeRosier, Juco RHP (starter/reliever) from Southwestern College (CA).  3-3, 4.54 ERA in 14 low-A starts before hitting the D/L on 6/30/16 for the rest of the season.  59/18 K/BB in 67 1/3 innings, 1.32 whip, 3.25 fip, .325 babip.  DeRosier was in the opening day rotation for Hagerstown and lasted there for 3 months before getting hurt.  DeRosier was a young JuCo signee; he just finished his 4th pro season but he turned 22 in July, so we’re not too worried that he’s still in Low-A.  But he needs to start making some progress before he ages out of the system.  His FIP is better than his ERA, but we have no idea what the injury was.  I’d guess he’ll compete for the Potomac rotation in 2017.  Trending Steady.

Round 25Travis Ott, HS LH starting pitcher.  Traded 12/17/14 along with Steven Souza in the Trea Turner/Joe Ross deal.  Repeated Short-A for the *third* year and was phenomenal in 2016.  Why keep him there?  I know Tampa is “conservative” when it comes to promoting pitching prospects, but keeping a talented HS pitcher in the same classification for three years running seems dumb.

Round 26Garrett Hampson, HS SS from Reno, NV.  Did not sign; honored commitment to Long Beach State.  Had a monster collegiate career and was drafted in the 3rd round by Colorado.  Signed a $750k bonus and had an .845 OPS in Short-A Boise.   Could be one that got away.

Round 27Bryce Harman, HS LH starting pitcher from Richmond, VA (Byrd HS).  Did not sign; honored commitment to East Carolina University.  Hit .242 his Junior year starting and was not drafted.

Round 28Joey Webb, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher.  Released 6/25/15.

Round 29Mike Sylvestri, Coll Sr RH relief pitcher.   Retired on 6/13/14.

Round 30Ryan Ullmann, Coll Sr RH Starting pitcher.  Released 6/25/15.

Round 31Willie Medina, Coll Sr SS.  Released in Jan 2015.

Round 32Pat Boling, Coll Jr LHP: Did not sign, chose to return to U. of Georgia for his senior season.  He posted a 4.94 ERA his senior year, was not re-drafted, and does not appear he played any independent ball.

Round 33Andrew Dunlap, HS C/RHP from Houston.  Did not sign.  Honoring a commitment to Rice University.  He has struggled to find the field for Rice, not playing in 2014 or 2015 and hitting .197 in limited PT his junior year in 2016.

Round 34Jake Walsh, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher. Released 3/16/16, before the season started.  This one I still do not get to this day.   Look at his minor league numbers: he has a career 1.65 ERA!!   All his peripherals look good.  I just don’t get this at all.  I thought he’d be at least in the AA rotation in 2016; instead he’s out of the game.

Round 35Lukas Schiraldi, Juco RHP from Texas.  Did not sign; instead transferred to U Texas.  Drafted in 2014 in the 15th round by Seattle; in 2016 he struggled with the jump to High-A (with the caveat that he’s in the California league).

Round 36Reid Humphreys, HS SS from Missouri.  Did not sign.  Honoring commitment to Mississippi State.  Drafted in the 7th round in 2016 by Colorado, signed for $227k, and threw a few games in the rookie league.  Btw, he converted to the mound in college and is now a RHP reliever.

Round 37Karsten Whitson, RH starting pitcher from Florida.  Did not sign, returned to U Florida for his senior/4th year.  Was drafted by Boston in 2014 as an 11th rounder (likely bonus; max of $100k), released on 3/9/16.  An ignominious ending to a career that started with him declining 1st round money.  As Keith Law says: “Always take the money.”

Round 38Caleb Hamilton, HS SS from Washington State.  Did not sign; honoring commitment to U of Washington.  He was drafted in the 23rd round this year by Minnesota and signed.  He  hit .207 for their rookie league team.

Round 39Robbie Tenerowicz, HS 2B/SS from California.  Did not sign; honoring commitment to UC Berkeley.  He was drafted in the 27th round this year by Tampa Bay and signed.   He hit .291 with some pop for their rookie league team.

Round 40Shaun Anderson, HS RH starting pitcher from Florida.  Did not sign; honoring commitment to U of Florida.  At Florida he was a significant part of their pre-season #1 team, serving as the closer.  He was drafted in the 3rd round by Boston, signed for $700k, and then gave up 12 hits and 9 runs in his Short-A debut.  He’ll try it again fresh in 2017.


Trending Summary:

  • Trending Up (2): Voth, Ward
  • Trending Steady (3): Simms, Ballou, DeRosier
  • Trending Down (4): Johansen, Gunter, Masters, Thomas
  • Did Not Sign in 2013 (11): Allen, Hampson, Harman, Boling, Dunlap, Schiraldi, Humphries, Whitson, Hamilton, Tenerowicz, Anderson
  • Released/Retired (17): Yezzo, Napoli, Joyce, Middleton, Cooper, Costa, Perrott, Bafidis, Spezial, Allen, Dent, Gordon, Webb, Sylvestri, Ullmann, Medina, Walsh
  • Traded (2): Pivetta, Ott

Executive Summary

Wow; this class is really looking poor.  Just two players who I still think are trending up in Voth and Ward.  And even though I rate Voth, I sense he’s perhaps he’s limited to being a 4-A/5th starter.  As noted before, no 1st rounder and a blatant fail on Johansen the 2nd rounder have made this class look pretty weak.  It’d look a bit better if Ward (3rd rounder) turned out, but the cashing in of the 4th rounder (Pivetta) for a short-term head case rental looks equally wasteful in hindsight.

On the bright side … it makes Rule 5 decisions pretty easy.  We’ll circle back to this post when we do the Rule5 analysis, but right now the only candidate here worth protecting is Voth.  (Update post-writing: we were right; the only one added was Voth and nobody here got drafted).

 

 

Thoughts on the new CBA and what it reportedly contains

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ESPN’s Jayson Stark posted some of what he’s hearing in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), struck late on 11/30/16 so as to beat the 12/1 deadline.  And so far, I like what the two sides have agreed upon.  Post-publishing updateCraig Calcaterra also posted a reaction and listed other new items in the CBA that Stark didn’t have; i’ll tack them on as we find them out to this post.

Going over the main issues and changes that we’ll see, here’s some thoughts issue-by-issue:

  • Luxury Tax increases: this is as close as the league has to a “salary cap” and it has served more or less as one, as we’ve seen the historically profligate Yankees curb their spending recently so as to get under the tax.  That hasn’t stopped the Dodgers from spending $250M-$300M, but even that will come under fire due to a newly discovered “debt ratio” issue.  Nonetheless, an increase of the tax is favorable to the players.
  • Elimination Modificatino of the Qualifying Offer: thank goodness!  Finally no more ridiculous QO system, which has done nothing to help small market teams and had the effect basically of destroying the markets of a few key players over the years (Ian DesmondKendrys Morales, etc).  Instead, only teams above the luxury tax will lose picks (good) and teams losing players will still get draft pick compensation (good).  Details still coming out but the picks that are in jeopardy seem to be non 1st round picks, which means teams won’t be as beholden to them, helping out the players and preventing some of the QO-attached nightmare situations we’ve seen.
  • No more Home field advantage determined by the All Star Game: finally.  The elimination of perhaps the dumbest thing Baseball has done in the last 30 years.
  • Banning of Smokeless tobacco: Really, why is this an issue?  I don’t get it; are they banning cigarettes too?  This seems like a petty restriction on what adults do to their bodies that has no bearing on the game.  I guess its all about optics.
  • Slight lengthening of the regular season: gives a few extra days off here and there.  We’re already playing the world Series into November, what’s a few more days?
  • More day games on getaway days: Like this; I wish there were more day games.  Why are nearly all of Washington’s Saturday games night games?  Families with small children are basically shut out of 6/7ths of the team’s games because of this.
  • Minimum Salary Increases: probably only fair, as we learn more and more about how little some guys get paid versus what they accomplish on the field in the modern day economics.
  • Revenue Sharing issues: details yet to emerge, but we do know that Oakland was specifically mentioned as losing their revenue sharing.  This seems odd to me; why single out Oakland and not other teams that seem to be abusing the system as well (ahem, Miami)?  I wonder if this leads to a change of ownership in Oakland, a change of direction, a more forceful attempt to relocate, etc.
  • Increased Drug Testing to include HGHthis was probably inevitable, as both sides support cleaning up the game for separate reasons.  Who is against drug testing?  
  • Domestic Violence Policy: this was bound to be included too, given the spate of DV issues we’ve seen in the last year among prominent athletes.  Only comment here is … why just DV?  Why not have a blanket policy for all sorts of infractions?  DUIs, assults, etc?
  • Minimum Disabled List Stay Reduced From 15 to 10 Days: I like this rule in that it seems that many injuries are either hidden or just buried thanks to the 15-day limit.  A shorter limit should help get players back faster.

There’s apparently significant changes that have not been disclosed yet that may be of real interest, especially to this writer and the readers here:

  • Changes to the Rule 4 Draft: changes coming, maybe more slotting dollars, perhaps even trading of draft picks.  This would be great.
  • Regular Season Games outside US: like in London.  Why not?
  • Service-time rules: Probably in response to the Kris Bryant-like burying of players for 2 weeks in April, or related to the Super-2.  But the problem with any hard deadline is this: no matter when you put the deadline, there’s always a way to delay to get around it.  I like Keith Law‘s proposals that basically give teams an extra year of “restricted free agency” instead of dealing with service time manipulations.
  • MLB expansion: we havn’t talked about expansion here in a while.  I posted in July 2015 asking why people thought Montreal was still a viable expansion market, but the last time I really analyzed expansion was in July of 2011, when I postulated that it may be easier logistically to expand from 30->32 instead of realigning the leagues to have 15 & 15 and have interleague every day.  At the time I postulated that Portland and San Antonio would make sense as expansion markets, and it was super-fun doing realignment scenarios with 8 divisions and 2 new teams, but the issues facing expansion detailed in that July 2011 post are significant and remain (basically TV contracts and market viability).  I remain pessimistic that there’s any shot of expanding baseball unless you eliminate anti-trust exemption and get rid of the RSN TV market lockdowns that exist currently.
  • Replay: hopefully they can make it faster, smarter.  The current system is just dumb; close play on the field, manager sends someone to the clubhouse to decide if they’re challenging … it all takes too much time.
  • Pace of game: hopefully this includes a two-batter minimum for relievers.  We’ll see.  
  • Ways to discourage tankingnot sure how you fix this.  The discrepancy between free agent salaries and pre-arb prices is so amazingly large that it makes more sense to just bottom out and start over rather than attempt to re-tool.  

Major things that were NOT apparently addressed in the CBA but which would be nice to see (this is also from my personal “Commissioner for a day” type post)

  • No International Draft: I think this is a win for the game, but the fact that the owners pushed for it is a concern for the next CBA.  I still don’t understand why owners can’t see the forest for the trees; if they implement an international draft so as to save a few million dollars of bonus money, they risk losing entire countries of development for players.  Its so shortsighted.  I hope the players continue to fight against it.
  • Roster Expansion: lots of talk of a 26th player, but that would have flied in the face of the Pace of Game changes that we hope to see; we want to see fewer relievers, not more.
  • Limitations on 9/1 Roster Expansion: I’d like to see some sort of game-day limit of active players instead of having unbalanced rosters; why would the Nats on Sept 15th have 5 more players at their disposal than their opponent who chose not to call up extra guys?  Makes no sense.
  • Elimination of the DH and/or Universal DH: i’m on record being pro Universal DH despite being in an NL town.  But its a religious argument at this point so i’m more just for standardizing rules.
  • Revamp All-Star Game to be full of actual Stars: as in, eliminate the “one player per team” requirement and just put the best players on the team for this exhibition.
  • Forcibly fix the MASN issue: The current situation is ridiculous, with a team that already got a sweetheart deal reneging on the terms of an agreement and fighting rulings more on technicality grounds and less on their merits.  Enough is enough.  I read somewhere a very interesting opinion that stated that MLB is just waiting out Peter Angelos, that when he dies they’ll make it a part of the transfer of the ball club to give up their MASN share.  Makes sense and is the kind of dirty long-play thing that Bud Selig would have been in favor of. 
  • Eliminate TV markets/Anti Trust exemption: I think the time has come for teams to have the flexibility to move where they can be financially viable.  This goes for Tampa and Oakland immediately, but possibly to other teams down the road.

I may updated this post as more official details come out to offer more opinions, but so far I like all the changes that i’ve heard.  What do you guys think?

Written by Todd Boss

December 1st, 2016 at 10:18 am

Ladson’s Inbox 9/15/16

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Turner is the biggest surprise of the year for me.  photo via wp.com

Turner is the biggest surprise of the year for me. photo via wp.com

Wow, what a treat!  I’ve been kind of slacking in the content department and suddenly our favorite beat writer Bill Ladson pops out an unexpected mid-September mailbag.  So here’s something to argue about this weekend.

As always, here’s how I would have answered his questions.

Q: Who do you think is the most pleasant surprise on the Nationals this year

A: Trea Turner without a doubt.  We knew he was going to be good, but I don’t think anyone knew he was going to be *this* good.  Keith Law in his chat yesterday  pointed out a fun little fact about Trea Turner: he’s got a (now) 3.0 bWAR this year, which would rank him (unadjusted for position) as the 6th best ever for either the Rays or the Padres, the two teams that passed along Turner (and Joe Ross) in that trade two years ago.  What a steal.  And despite his only playing 57 games this year you have to think he’s in the mix for NL Rookie of the Year.  Corey Seager probably has it wrapped up, but a 2nd or 3rd place for Turner seems warranted.

Ladson said Stephen Drew, which I guess you could argue for … except that he’s a bench player who has missed a ton of time and isn’t a lock to make the post-season roster given his illness.

—-

Q: How far do you think the Nationals could go in the postseason?

A: Could?  They could go all the way!  :-)  In reality, I think the Stephen Strasburg injury really, really hurts them in their likely NLDS match up with Los Angeles.  If the Nats rolled out Scherzer-Strasburg-Roark-Gonzalez versus the Dodgers’ Kershaw-Hill-Maeda-random 4th starter i’d feel pretty good about our chances in that series.  Right now we’re basically auditioning pitchers for that 4th spot and Gonzalez has been shaky, and Los Angeles’ arms are daunting for a team that routinely gets shut down by starters from teams like Philadelphia and Atlanta.  Right now, I think we lose a close NLDS series to Los Angeles.

Even if Strasburg was healthy, I think we’d really be hard-pressed to beat Chicago in a 7 game series either.  We took 2 of 3 here, lost 4 out of 4 there this year (though as we’ve discussed here, that sweep wasn’t nearly as dominant as the press made it seem), but we still lost to them, and they’ve stayed at full strength basically the whole season.  I don’t see how anyone beats the Cubs this year.

Ladson hedges his answer, saying he wants to see how the bullpen and offense go the rest of the way.  Why is he worried about the bullpen?  Isn’t it one of the best in the game?  The Nats bullpen is #1 in baseball in ERA, #2 in Fip.   What more do you want?

Q: Do you think Stephen Strasburg will be ready to pitch in the postseason?

A: Nope.  Strained Flexor Mass is usually a 30 day injury; he got hurt on 9/7/16.  So at best t hat’s 10/7/16 … or basically at the end of the divisional series.  But … where’s he going to rehab?  There’s no more minor league games; i guess he could throw simulated or instructional league games.  But more importantly, this is a notably conservative team medically, especially with Strasburg over the years and especially since they just committed $175M to him.  No way do they rush him back from a serious injury just on the opportunity to make one post-season start.  Ladson agrees.

Q: Why do you call Jayson Werth “The King” on Twitter?

A: (me shaking my head): who knows.  Maybe because he’s the king of getting caught doing triple digits on the beltway?  I’ve lived here all my life and can’t tell you how many times i’ve hit 100 on the interstates around here without getting caught.  Ladson says he calls Werth the king because he turned “clubhouse from unprofessional to first class.”  Well, except for all of last year under Matt Williams … I guess even the King couldn’t salvage that dumpster fire.

Q: What do you think of the job Danny Espinosa has done this year?

A: Good power, good defense, bad hit tool.  About what we expected; his plus defense and power this year have outweighed his strikeouts and his low batting average.   He’s got a 1.8 bWAR and a 1.9 fWAR on the year, so its not like he’s totally useless out there.  Its one of the reasons i’ve supported him and havn’t been completely ready to get rid of him; he’s ranked 15th among qualified Shortstops in fWAR this year.  So that’s right in the middle; league average.   I mean, if he had negative WAR, didn’t have power, or wasn’t a plus defender, I could see the huge rush to replace him.  But moving him this coming off-season (as many want to of my readership) opens up another hole in Center that’s probably harder to fill right now than Short.  Its why I suspect the team may just stand pat, keep Turner in center another year, and roll out basically the same lineup in 2017.  Ladson gives him a “6.5 out of 7” and says he deserves the NL Gold Glove.  I dunno about that; there’s 5 or 6 NL shortstops that probably rate better defensively than him.

Q: Was Murphy what you expected this season?

A: No way; Murphy a ton better than I expected.  I was hoping for a solid 6th hitter, not a frigging MVP candidate.  He earned his entire $37.5M contract this year.  Ladson Agrees.

Q: What do you think of Dusty Baker as a manager? I know you often said Davey Johnson is the best manager you ever covered. Where does Baker rank as far as Nationals manager go?

A: I think Baker has done a fantastic job of calming this group, bringing some order, and not showing any of the faults that he was accused of in the past.  He’s shifted, he’s managed the bullpen decently, he’s stuck to his guns and rested players, he’s communicated well, he hasn’t burned out starters.  I think he’s ridden his primary catcher too hard … but then again, Ramos is having a career year and Lobaton is a huge step back offensively.  Is he better than Davey?  Not yet for me: lets see what happens when Baker has to deal with some injury issues or a better divisional rival.  Ladson has them 1-2 with Davey still on top.

 

A tale of Three Trades

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Melancon takes over for the beleagured Papelbon. Photo via bucsdugout.com

Melancon takes over for the beleagured Papelbon. Photo via bucsdugout.com

At the trade deadline, we saw three significant closer-quality arms moved.

  • Cubs acquire Aroldis Chapman for Rashad Crawford, Billy McKinney, Gleyber Torres, and Adam Warren.
  • Nationals acquire Mark Melancon for Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn.
  • Indians acquire Andrew Miller for Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen.

Chapman fetches the Cubs #1 prospect in Torres (he immediately becomes the Yankees’ #1 prospect) in addition to a more marginal (but still ranked) prospect in McKinney, a lottery ticket in Crawford AND the return of their former 8th inning guy Warren.  This in return for perhaps the premier closer in the game for a 2 month rental.

Melancon fetched a solid, young lefty reliever in Rivero (whose peripherals counter his currently poor-looking 2016 ERA) plus a 2nd tier ranked prospect in Hearn who is probably 3 years away.  This in return for 2 months of an elite but not quite as dominant closer.

Miller fetched the Indians #1, #5, #30th ranked prospects in the Cleveland organization (including two 1st round picks) plus an org-arm.  This in return for one of the best relievers in the game for this year plus two more years at a relatively reasonable price ($9M/per).

Projected WAR for these three guys (using opportunistic estimates based on historical performance);

  • Chapman: 0.8-1.0 bWAR for his 2 month rental (2.7 bWAR in 2015)
  • Melancon: 0.6-0.7 bWAR for his 2 month rental (1.9 bWAR in 2015)
  • Miller: 1.0 bWAR for his 2 month rental plus another 4.5 bWAR for 2017-2018: 5.5 bWAR total.

And then there’s the money factors and the intangibles:

  • Chapman: Domestic Violence suspension earlier this year.   $4.33M of salary due this year.
  • Melancon: Salary relief provided by Pittsburgh (not sure how much, but believed to be all of his 2016 salary)
  • Miller: no salary relief.

Which deal do you like the most?  Miller clearly got the most in terms of value, but he also was the best positioned for the long haul.  But even at best case, Miller’s only going to return 5 and a half war over the next 3 years for Cleveland; that’s about as much bWAR as Anthony Rendon provided in his first big breakout season.  Chapman cost much, much more than Melancon; is he worth that much more?

I hate to sound like a homer, but for what they sought and what they gave up, I completely prefer the Nats deal here.  We gave up none of our top tier of prospects, we didn’t take on cash, and we got precisely what we wanted (closer coverage for 2016) and nothing more.  Keith Law hated the deal of course, but he covets prospects and hates closers so it is no surprise.  I also kind of thought that Mike Rizzo would have learned his lesson after the Papelbon-Drew Storen nightmare (remember; he’s the same GM who flipped 2 months of a FA acquisition Matt Capps for years of Wilson Ramos.

Nats All-Star review: 2016 and years past

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This photo is an oldie but a goodie, and one we'll probably see year over year for the next decade at least. Photo unk

This photo is an oldie but a goodie, and one we’ll probably see year over year for the next decade at least. Photo unk

Here’s my annual Nationals All Star selection post.

(* == All-Star game starter.  The Nats now have four ASG starters in their history, dating to 2005.  Soriano once, Harper thrice).

2016

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper*, Stephen Strasburg, Daniel Murphy, Wilson Ramos, Max Scherzer (named as replacement for Strasburg on 7/8/16),
  • Possible Snubs: Danny EspinosaTanner Roark
  • Narrative: The four obvious candidates from the Nats this year were all initially correctly selected, though voting shenanigans out of Chicago elected Ben Zobrist over Daniel Murphy by a scant 500 votes.   I thought perhaps Strasburg would have a chance to start the game, given his 12-0 record, but it seems the team pre-empted any such thought when Scherzer’s naming occurred).  For the first time writing this post, I can’t really name any “snubs” and the team has (finally?) earned the proper respect it deserves in terms of naming its players properly.  Espinosa had a week for the ages just prior to the end of voting but really stood little chance of selection in the grand scheme of things.  He’s not really a “snub” but is worthy of mention based on his resurgent year.  At the break, Espinosa ranked 3rd in NL fWAR but 7th or 8th in bWAR thanks to differing defensive value metrics, so maybe/maybe not on him being a “snub.”  As pointed out in the comments, even I missed the sneaky good season Roark is having; he’s 12th in the NL in bWAR at the break and 9th in fWAR but was left off in favor of any number of starters that stand below him in value rankings.  Unfortunately for fans (and for Harper’s “Make Baseball Fun again” campaign, he opted to skip the Home Run Derby again.  I guess its kind of like the NBA superstars skipping the dunk contest; the Union should really do a better job of helping out in this regard.  The new format is fantastic and makes the event watchable again; is it ego keeping him from getting beat by someone like Giancarlo Stanton?

Here’s past year’s information, mostly recycled information from past posts on the topic but fun to read nonetheless, especially the early years.

2015

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper*, Max Scherzer
  • Possible Snubs: Yunel Escobar, Drew Storen
  • Narrative: Harper not only made it in as a starter for the 2nd time, he led the NL in votes, setting a MLB record for total votes received.  This is no surprise; Harper’s easily in the MVP lead for the NL thanks to his amazing first half (his split at the half-way point of the season: .347/.474/.722 with 25 homers and an astounding 225 OPS+).  I guess he won’t be earning the “Most overrated player” award next year.  That Harper is electing to skip the Home run derby in a disappointment; his father is nursing an arm injury can cannot throw to him in the event.  In a weird year for the Nats, the only other regular worth mentioning is newly acquired Escobar, who is hitting above .300 and filling in ably at multiple positions that, prior to this year, he had never played.  Storen is having another excellent regular season … but at a time when mandatory members from each team often leads to other closers being selected (there are 5 NL closers and 7 AL relievers), the odds of him making the All-Star team were always going to be slim.  Scherzer deservedly makes the team and probably would have been the NL starter; he’s got sub 2.00 ERA and FIP and leads all NL pitchers in WAR at the mid-way point of the season.  But his turn came up in the final game of the first half, making him ineligible for the game and forcing his replacement on the roster.

As a side note, the 2015 All-Star game will go down as the “Ballot-Gate” game thanks to MLB’s short-sighted plan to allow 30+ online ballots per email address.  This led to severe “ballot stuffing” by the Kansas City Royals fans, led to MLB  having to eliminate 60 million+ fraudulent ballots, but still led to several Royals being elected starters over more deserving candidates.

2014

  • Nationals All-Star representative: Jordan Zimmermann (Update post-publishing: Zimmermann strained a bicep, and had to withdraw from the ASG.  For a bit it looked like the Nats wouldn’t even have a representative, until Tyler Clippard was named on 7/13/14).
  • Possible Snubs: Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rendon, Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen
  • Narrative: Zimmermann’s been the best SP on the best pitching staff in the majors this year, and thus earns his spot.  I find it somewhat odd that a first place team (or near to it) gets just one representative on the team (as discussed above).  Rendon tried to make the team via the “last man in” voting, but historically Nationals have not fared well in this competition (especially when better known players from large markets are in the competition, aka Anthony Rizzo from the Chicago Cubs), and indeed Rendon finished 4th in the last-man voting.  LaRoche is having a very good season, almost single handedly carrying the Nats offense while major parts were out injured, but he’s never going to beat out the slew of great NL first basemen (Joey Votto couldn’t even get into this game).  Soriano has quietly put together one of the best seasons of any closer in the game; at the time of this writing he has a 1.03 ERA and a .829 whip; those are Dennis Eckersley numbers.  But, the farce that is the all-star game selection criteria (having to select one player from each team) means that teams need a representative, and deserving guys like Soriano get squeezed.  Then, Soriano indignantly said he wouldn’t even go if named as a replacement … likely leading to Clippard’s replacement selection.  The same goes for non-closer Storen, who sports a sub 2.00 ERA on the year.  Advanced stats columnists (Keith Law) also think that Stephen Strasburg is a snub but I’m not entirely sure: he may lead the NL in K’s right now and have far better advanced numbers than “traditional,” but its hard to make an argument that a guy with a 7-6 record and a 3.50+ ERA is all-star worthy.

2013

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper*, Jordan Zimmermann
  • Snubs: Stephen Strasburg, Ian Desmond
  • Narrative: Harper comes in 3rd in the NL outfielder voting, ahead of some big-time names, to become only the second Nationals position player elected as an All-Star starter.  He was 4th in the final pre-selection vote, so a big last minute push got him the starter spot.   Harper also becomes the first National to participate in the Home Run Derby.   Zimmermann was 12-3 heading into the game and was on mid-season Cy Young short lists in July in a breakout season.  Strasburg’s advanced stats are all better than Zimmermann’s, but his W/L record (4-6 as the ASG) means he’s not an all-star.  It also probably doesn’t help that he missed a few weeks.  Desmond loses out to Troy Tulowitzki, Everth Cabrera and Jean Segura.  Tulowitzki was having a very solid year and was a deserving elected starter, while Cabrera and Segura are both having breakout seasons.  Desmond was on the “Final vote” roster, but my vote (and most others’ I’m guessing) would be for Yasiel Puig there ([Editor Update: Desmond and Puig lost out to Freddie Freeman: I still wished that Puig finds a way onto the roster but ultimately he did not and I believe the ASG was diminished because of it).   Gio GonzalezRyan Zimmerman, and Rafael Soriano are all having solid but unspectacular years and miss out behind those having great seasons.

2012

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Stephen StrasburgGio GonzalezIan Desmond, Bryce Harper
  • Possible Snubs: Adam LaRocheCraig Stammen
  • Narrative: The two SPs Strasburg and Gonzalez were the obvious candidates, and my personal prediction was that they’d be the only two candidates selected.  Gonzalez’ first half was a prelude to his 21-win, 3rd place Cy Young season.  The inclusion of Desmond is a surprise, but also a testament to how far he’s come as a player in 2012.  Harper was a last-minute injury replacement, but had earned his spot by virtue of his fast start as one of the youngest players in the league.  Of the “snubs,” LaRoche has had a fantastic come back season in 2012 but fared little shot against better, more well-known NL first basemen.  Stammen was our best bullpen arm, but like LaRoche fared little chance of getting selected during a year when the Nats had two deserving pitchers selected.

2011

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Tyler Clippard
  • Possible Snubs: Danny EspinosaMichael MorseDrew StorenJordan Zimmermann
  • Narrative: While Clippard was (arguably) the Nats best and most important reliever, I think Zimmermann was a more rightful choice.  He was 10th in the league in ERA at the time of the selections and has put in a series of dominant performances.  Meanwhile Espinosa was on pace for a 28-homer season and almost a certain Rookie-of-the-Year award (though a precipitous fall-off in the 2nd half cost him any realistic shot at the ROY), and perhaps both players are just too young to be known around the league.  Lastly Morse is certainly known and he merited a spot in the “last man in” vote sponsored by MLB (though he fared little chance against popular players in this last-man-in voting).

2010

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Matt Capps
  • Possible Snubs: Adam DunnJosh WillinghamRyan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg
  • Narrative: Capps was clearly deserving, having a breakout season as a closer after his off-season non-tender from the Pirates.  The 3-4-5 hitters Zimmerman-Dunn-Willingham all had dominant offensive seasons as the team improved markedly from its 103-loss season.  But perhaps the surprise non-inclusion was Strasburg, who despite only having a few starts as of the all-star break was already the talk of baseball.  I think MLB missed a great PR opportunity to name him to the team to give him the exposure that the rest of the national media expected.  But in the end, Capps was a deserving candidate and I can’t argue that our hitters did anything special enough to merit inclusion.

2009

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Ryan Zimmerman
  • Possible Snubs: Adam Dunn
  • Narrative: The addition of Dunn and Willingham to the lineup gave Zimmerman the protection he never had, and he produced with his career-best season.  His first and deserved all-star appearance en-route to a 33 homer season.  Dunn continued his monster homer totals with little all-star recognition.

2008

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Cristian Guzman
  • Possible Snubs: Jon Rauch
  • Narrative: The first of two “hitting rock-bottom” seasons for the team; no one really merited selection.  Zimmerman was coming off of hamate-bone surgery in November 2007 and the team was more or less awful across the board.  Rauch performed ably after Cordero went down with season-ending (and basically career-ending) shoulder surgery.   Guzman’s selection a great example of why one-per-team rules don’t make any sense.  Guzman ended up playing far longer than he deserved in the game itself by virtue of the 15-inning affair.

2007

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Dmitri Young
  • Possible Snubs: Ryan Zimmerman, Shawn Hill (though I wouldn’t argue for either)
  • Narrative: Young gets a deserved all-star appearance en route to comeback player of the year.  Zimmerman played a full season but didn’t dominate.  Our 2007 staff gave starts to 13 different players, most of whom were out of the league within the next year or two.  Not a good team.

2006

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Alfonso Soriano*
  • Possible Snubs: Nick JohnsonRyan Zimmerman, Chad Cordero
  • Narrative: Soriano made the team as an elected starter, the first time the Nats have had such an honor.  Our pitching staff took massive steps backwards and no starter came even close to meriting a spot.  Cordero was good but not lights out as he had been in 2005.  Soriano’s 40-40 season is a poster child for “contract year” production and he has failed to come close to such production since.  The team was poor and getting worse.  Johnson had a career year but got overshadowed by bigger, better first basemen in the league (a recurring theme for our first basemen over the years).

2005

  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Livan HernandezChad Cordero
  • Possible Snubs: Nick JohnsonJohn Patterson.
  • Narrative: The Nats went into the All Star break surprisingly in first place, having run to a 50-31 record by the halfway point.  Should a first place team have gotten more than just two representatives?  Perhaps.  But the team was filled with non-stars and played far over its head to go 50-31 (as evidenced by the reverse 31-50 record the rest of the way).

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

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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

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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.

 

Nats 40-man Option status for 2016

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After Robinson's breakout 2015, does he have to worry about options? Photo via minorleagueball.com

After Robinson’s breakout 2015, does he have to worry about options? Photo via minorleagueball.com

One bit of analysis that we end up doing every year on the franchise, when thinking about potential moves and roster construction, is Options analysis.  I’m posting this now b/c a couple of the guys w/o options are tender candidates, so this may play into the team’s decision on whether to keep them for 2016.

On the odd chance that you don’t know what i’m talking about with Options, here’s some quickie links that help explain the rules: Wikipedia’s baseball transactions, but more importantly an old Keith Law article on the baseballanalysts.com website explains the nuances of optional assignments well.  Basically it goes like this: once you’re put onto the 40-man roster, if you’re not also on the 25-man (or “active”) roster then you are playing in the minors somewhere .. and you are called being on “optional assignment” down there.  In order to protect the hoarding of players, teams can only send 40-man players down to the minors three years before being forced to allow other teams to lay claim to them and put them on their own active rosters.  Each year you are sent down to play in the minors is called an “Option” or an “option year.”

I’ve done this analysis before: here was 2015’s analysis  (where 4 of the 6 out of options guys were gone before opening day) and here was 2014’s analysis noting that Corey Brown and especially Ross Detwiler were going to be problematic; Brown was DFA’d and traded shortly there after while Detwiler stuck around for a whole season prior to getting moved to Texas.

Here’s the current Nats 40-man roster with updated Service times for 2015 as well as a review of Option Status for the 2016 year.  There are a couple guys who seem to have some options limitations going into 2016 that we’ll have to keep an eye on.

First up; Vets who can refuse demotion thanks to having 5 or more years of service time.  The Nats have ten (10) such players on the current 40-man roster:

Player Service Time post 2015 First Added to 40-man Notes
Werth, Jayson 12.102 Nov 2002 achieved 10&5 rights in 2015, not that he needed it
Papelbon, Jonathan 10.064 July 2005 never optioned as far as I can tell
Zimmerman, Ryan 10.032 Sep 2005 never used an option; achieved 10&5 rights in 2015
Escobar, Yunel 8.121 June 2007 Doesn’t look like he was ever optioned after 6/2007 callup
Scherzer, Max 7.079 May 2007
Gonzalez, Gio 6.162 Aug 2008
Stammen, Craig 5.160 May 2009 Less than 20 days in minors in 2010, so no option used
Storen, Drew 5.140 May 2010 2013 option cancelled when recalled before 20 days were up.
Strasburg, Stephen 5.118 Aug 2009 Probably eligible for a 4th based on lack of service time.
Ramos, Wilson 5.047 Nov 2008

Four players achieved the all-important 5th service year in 2015: Stammen, Storen, Strasburg and Ramos.  It wasn’t exactly likely that any of these four were in jeopardy of getting optioned (all four still had options available), but now they definitely cannot be sent down (as Storen was briefly in 2013).

Two guys achieved  the “Ten and Five” rights in 2015: Werth and Zimmerman.  10&5 gives automatic trade protection to the player … but both Werth and Zimmerman have full no-trade clauses anyway, so the 10&5 doesn’t mean much.

Next group: Options Available but are MLB entrenched.  Six (6) guys are in this category in my opinion:

Player Service Time post 2015 First Added to 40-man Option Years Used Options left? Notes
Espinosa, Danny 4.113 Sep 2010 2013 2
Harper, Bryce 3.159 Aug 2010 2011, 2012 1 Did 2010 count as an option year?
Rendon, Anthony 2.130 Aug 2011 2012, 2013 1 Probably eligible for a 4th option eventually if needed
Roark, Tanner 2.055 Aug 2013 3 Optioned on 8/25/15 but then called up 9/4 cancelling the option
Barrett, Aaron 1.144 Nov 2013 2014 2
Ross, Joe 0.094 June 2015 2015 2

In my mind, none of these guys are really candidates to get optioned in 2016 despite having options available to them.  Roark was optioned in late 2015 (August 25th) but then got called right back up on Sept 4th, so (if i’m reading the rules correctly) that option was “cancelled” for being too short.

I have an open question about Harper‘s 2010 option status; does it count as an option year if you sign a major league contract and then get assigned to a minor league team in the same year?  Not that it really matters for Harper (it isn’t like the reigning NL MVP is in danger of getting optioned), and it can no longer happen (MLB contracts were banned in the latest CBA), but its an intellectual issue.  If you have an opinion or insight, please feel free to chime in.  I’m guessing the rules at the time stated that you cannot burn an option the same year you signed, so i’ve not included it as an option year for Harper here.

Next group: Options Available and thus jeopardizing 25-man roster status for 2016: Five (5) players in this category:

Player Service Time post 2015 First Added to 40-man Option Years Used Options left? Notes
den Dekker, Matt 1.033 Aug 2013 2014, 2015 1
Taylor, Michael 1.037 Nov 2013 2014 2
Treinen, Blake 1.065 Apr 2014 2014 2
Solis, Sammy 0.097 Nov 2013 2014, 2015 1
Turner, Trea 0.045 Aug 2015 3 still pissed he was called up so early.

If the season started tomorrow, I’d likely project all five of these guys to be on the 25-man roster, three of them in pretty prominent roles.  den Dekker definitely seems like a guy who may get squeezed to the minors, especially if the team acquires a veteran OF this off-season.

If you want to read more of my rants on Turner‘s call-up, you can certainly find them in the comments sections over the past few months.  In fact, here’s my complaint the day they called him up in this space.  45 days of service time blown so he could collect MLB meal money for a month’s worth of pinch hitting and pinch running appearances while the team flushed away its season.  He started the last 6 games of the season, having only gotten two spot starts in the previous 5 weeks, in an idiotic use of his time for a team that didn’t need or use him down the stretch.  By my calculations, in order to “save” another year of his time, he’d have to start in Syracuse and stay down there for *8 weeks*; 6 weeks to make up for the 45 days of service time and then another two weeks to make sure that the team saves the difference between a full service time year (172 days) and the number of actual days in a MLB season (roughly 183 days).  See that happening?  I don’t either.  So its a moot point and we have lost any shot of extending his stay here an extra year.

Next, the large group of guys for whom Options almost guaranteed to be used in 2016.  Thirteen (13)  in total:

Player Service Time post 2015 First Added to 40-man Option Years Used Options left? Notes
Davis, Erik 1.045 Nov 2012 2013, 2015 1 60-day DL 2014; no option burned but earned 1 full year of service time
Hill, Taylor 0.030 June 2014 2014, 2015 1
Jordan, Taylor 1.047 June 2013 2014, 2015 1
Cole, AJ 0.047 Nov 2014 2015 2
Grace, Matt 0.074 Nov 2014 2015 2
Goodwin, Brian 0.000 Nov 2014 2015 2
Difo, Wilmer 0.051 Nov 2014 2015 2
de los Santos, Abel 0.006 July 2015 2015 2 Kind of a waste of an option year; 6 days service time in 2015
Martin, Rafael 0.048 Apr 2015 2015 2
Severino, Pedro 0.034 Sept 2015 3
Lee, Nicholas 0.000 Nov 2015 3
Kieboom, Spencer 0.000 Nov 2015 3
Bostick, Chris 0.000 Nov 2015 3

The Nats did themselves no favors by letting Davis hang on the active roster all year in 2014, accruing a full year of service time instead of burning an option.  Perhaps in the end it won’t matter; despite all the other RH relievers used last year, Davis never got called up and seems closer to an outright than worrying about where to rent in DC for the summer.  Speaking of RH relievers, the team called up Abel de los Santos in July, let him play for exactly 6 days, then optioned him back.  Davis (if he’s still around) and the two 4-A starters Jordan and Hill probably each burn their final option in 2016 and then force the team’s hand next off-season.  But that’s what we’ll talk about in next year’s version of this post.

In the meantime, here’s the meat of this year’s post: The four players on the Nats 40-man roster who have no Options left and thus have to either be on next year’s 25-man roster or be subjected to waivers prior to the season starting.

Player Service Time post 2014 First Added to 40-man Option Years Used Options left?
Lobaton, Jose 4.138 Nov 2008 2010,2011, unk 3rd 0 no options per mlbtraderumors; can’t tell if optioned in 2009 or 2012.
Moore, Tyler 3.018 Nov 2011 2012,2013,2014 0 86 days on mlb roster in 2014; how does this add to 1.106?
Robinson, Clint 1.028 Nov 2010 2011,2012,2013 0
Rivero, Felipe 0.162 Nov 2012 2013,2014,2015 0 I’m pretty sure 2015 counted as an option year

Now, both Lobaton and Moore are returnees from last year’s version of this post.  Lobaton was always set to be Ramos’ backup and dutifully performed in that role, slashing just .199/.279/.294 in that role.  I’m not entirely sure that either of the catchers on the 40-man roster can supplant Lobaton as Ramos’ backup, but I’m also not entirely sure that Lobaton will even be here in 2016 thanks to his performance.  So his lack of options may not matter; if the team buys another catcher on the FA market or in trade, Lobaton is likely DFA’d soon thereafter.  Moore (as noted in prior posts) has a bigger issue this coming off-season; he’s Arbitration eligible in a season where he was lucky (thanks to a constant barrage of injured players) to have lasted the whole season on the roster.  As mentioned in the previous post; both of these guys are also serious non-tender candidates, which would close the book on them with this team regardless.

Lets talk about the more interesting cases.  Robinson, from what I can gather from his convoluted Cots contract history page, had three straight options burned after getting added in Nov 2010 by his original signing club Kansas City.  After two option years and a scant four PAs in 2012, he was DFA’d and acquired by Pittsburgh, who then DFA’d him themselves at the end of Spring Training 2013.  Toronto claimed him, optioned him, then DFA’d and outrighted him a couple months later without ever appearing for their big club.  He signed as a MLFA with Los Angeles in 2014, got called up, got 9 ABs and then was DFA’d again (because of course by this time he was out of options…).  He played out the string for the Dodgers’ AAA club and then signed with Washington as a MLFA again in 2015.  So, all of that leading to his nice 2015 season for us and for 2016 he’s either going to be with us or against us: no options means he either makes the team or possibly moves on.

The other guy of note is Rivero.  His first two option years are easy.  But his up/down in 2015 may or may not have counted as an optional assignment.  Here was his movement this past season:

  • 3/16/15: Optioned officially to AAA though the minor league season doesn’t start until 4/9/15.
  • 4/16/15.  So that’s roughly 10 days in the minors since the Nats season starts on 4/6/15.
  • Two days later he got sick and eventually went on the D/L (remember the story?  he was throwing up black blood thanks to taking too much Advil)
  • 5/21/15: reinstated from the D/L and optioned back to Syracuse
  • 6/1/15: recalled again; so he was in Syracuse a grand total of 10 additional days.

So, by my count that’s 20 days in the minors right on the nose.  But the rules say that if you spend at least 20 days in the minors, that you’ve burned an option for that year.  So this is pretty close; did Rivero use an option for 2015 or not?  I think he did.  Now, it may not really matter since he really showed some serious cheese for the Nats this year and seems like a lock to be in the 2016 pen, but from an organizational flexibility perspective its nice to have.


So there’s the Options analysis for the team (well, at least the state of the team and its 40-man roster just after the Rule-5 protection additions and prior to any wheeling-and-dealing this coming off-season).  No big decisions to be had, but some concern areas for this year and next.

Feel free to comment if you think i’ve gotten anything wrong in the analysis.

 

Papelbon for Pivetta: good trade, bad karma?

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Hopefully, this won't be what we remember him for.  Photo via majorleagueaholes.com (yes its a site)

Hopefully, this won’t be what we remember him for. Photo via majorleagueaholes.com (yes its a site)

So, by now we’ve all heard the news.  The Nats acquired disgruntled Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon for 2013 4th rounder Nick Pivetta, newly promoted to AA.

On the plus side, the Phillies pick up all of his remaining 2015 salary (roughly $4.5M), and Papelbon pre-negotiated his 2016 option at a slightly lower figure ($11M with $3M deferred).  This is no 2-month rental; this is a strategic decision to go with him for the next two years.  So in that respect, what the Nats get versus what they gave up is pretty durn good.  Pivetta is a decent prospect who had a great first half for Potomac and just earned a promotion to AA (where he’s gotten hit around a bit in his first couple of starts).  But in terms of what the team is giving up, Pivetta is a “minor prospect” (mostly on the outside of our top 10 lists) and is perhaps no better than 13th or so on our starter depth chart (just off the top of my head, Scherzer, Strasburg, Zimmermann, Fister, Gonzalez, Ross, Roark, Cole, Jordan, Hill, Treinen, Espino, Voth and Giolito ahead of him), so the Nats trade from a surplus/depth for a position of need.

As a side-effect of the acquisition, AAA catcher Dan Butler was DFA’d to make room on the 40-man roster. Butler has been struggling in AAA and may pass through waivers, but if he doesn’t suddenly the Nats have zero catcher depth on the active roster.  So that’s a risk i’m surprised they took (if it were me, I could have named several other guys I would have risked versus Butler first).

My concern with this deal is more on the non-quantifiable side.  What message does this send to your team?  Drew Storen has been *excellent* this year, has remade his mechanics and (as noted elsewhere) has the 2nd best ERA of any reliever in the game over the last two years.  He’s been just as good a closer as Papelbon this year, and for his troubles gets demoted out of the closer spot.  Storen’s future compensation is *directly* tied to the number of saves (however arbitrary and useless that statistic may be) he earns, and now the team has told him “hey, we know you’ve been awesome but too bad you’re no longer going to have the opportunity to earn saves and therefore we’ll argue against you in arbitration to that end.”  Its no wonder Storen was immediately quoted as wanting to “explore his options” with his representation.

Lets also just say that it would not surprise this observer in the least if Storen’s performance fell off a cliff in the coming months.

You can argue that winning creates clubhouse chemistry; that’s your perogative.  You can talk about how the old Yankees “25 men, 25 cabs” had no problem winning and you can disclaim the chemistry factors that seemed to be in play with recent teams like the 2013 Red Sox or last year’s Royals.  Fair enough.  You can make the argument that these guys are all highly paid and should just accept whatever role is given to them … but lets be honest here; MLB players are human, they have egos, and (especially in the case of a reliever) they want to be the closer.  More to the point, when they do everything management asks of them and still get replaced, its hard not to blame them for being disgruntled.  This isn’t like when the Nats demoted John Lannan: Storen didn’t get beat out in spring training; he’s been absolutely stellar for the past two years.

Is this yet another reaction to Storen’s post-season record?  Lets all say it together: “short sample sizes.”  Storen has a grand total of 5 1/3 post-season innings.  Papelbon’s numbers in the post season are great (a 1.00 ERA in 27 innings), but he hasn’t pitched in October in 6 years.  Clayton Kershaw has a 5+ ERA in the post-season and nobody’s talking about replacing him.  You look for excellence in the regular season and hope it plays out in the post-season.

Two years ago, the management over-reacted to Storen’s post-season performance by over-paying (and burning a first round pick) on a closer in Rafael Soriano who, it should be noted, was himself demoted from the closer role in favor of the man he replaced by the time the deal was done.  Lets just hope that we’re not standing here in September of 2016 with Papelbon and his waning velocity ballooning to a 4+ ERA in his walks year with the ever-steady Storen right back in the same role…

I would have much preferred the team find some middle-to-later innings relievers to strengthen things in the 7th and 8th innings and not upset what Storen has established.  But it isn’t my team.  I just hope Storen can take the high road (much like Tanner Roark has been forced to do) and goes back to being a team player.

A few other excellent takes on the trade I recommend:

Post-publishing update: Joe Posnanski wrote a column 2 weeks onward, crucifying Rizzo and this trade (calling it “The Worst trade of the Season”) for its intangible impact on the team, echoing many of the same sentiments expressed here.