Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for the ‘koda glover’ tag

Ask Collier Inbox; just ahead of the start of the season

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Glover is on everyone's mind. Photo via mlb.com

Glover is on everyone’s mind. Photo via mlb.com

A last gasp mailbox from MLB.com beat reporter Jamal Collier, starting off with the question on everyone’s mind….

Q: Dusty says the Nats have basically chosen their closer, but they have not told the guy.  Who do you think it is?

A: I still think its the veteran Shawn Kelley to start.  Koda Glover waits in the wings though.  I don’t like Blake Treinen‘s historic splits against lefties (career .834 OPS) enough to trust him as the closer yet.  I say this less thinking about Kelley’s twice-cut elbow, or as any indictment of Glover’s stuff.  I say this primarily because Dusty Baker seems like the kind of manager to stick with the “established veteran” until proven otherwise.

Collier thinks its Glover from day one.  He mentions the organization’s repeated discussion of Kelley’s durability and Treinen’s ground ball rate.  We’ll see!

Q: I know innings totals are big deal for rookie starters. Not an issue for relievers? I believe Koda has never pitched more than 45 innings. Would a 60-inning season (w/ playoffs) be a concern for a reliever?

A: IP workload for relievers?  No way; nearly 100% of these guys were starters in HS and College, only converting to relief in the minors due to lack of a complete repertoire or injury.  The bigger concern for reliever arms in my view is the ability to go multiple days in a row.  Two on, one off, another two to three on, then one to two off.  That’s a different kind of wear and tear on arms … but (not to be cynical) that’s why you ride reliever arms like a work-horse; they’re replaceable.

Collier says not a concern for now .. but perhaps a concern for Glover later this year since he will be throwing a career high as a professional.

Q: Is Trea Turner playing good shortstop this spring? He looks good to me. —

A: Well, based on my extensive time watching Nats spring training games (which’d be practically zero), I’m going to recuse myself like a politician who secretly met with the Russians recently.

Collier says Turner looks inexperienced and needs patience.  Not to call the man out, but that sounds like cliche’d sportswriter BS to me.  Turner’s likely been playing shortstop since he was 6 or 7.  Yeah everything is faster in the majors, blah blah, but the scouting report on him coming out of college hasn’t changed.  He’s got a good but not great arm, good range, good fielding and 70 speed.

Q: What impact if any will Fedde have this year and for years to come?

A: I think Fedde’s presence at MLB camp easily jumped him to the top of “best SP prospects in the system” line (if he wasn’t already there thanks to the Eaton trade).  But it also may have jumped him to the top of the “who do we call up to cover for 6-weeks of injury” list.  In reality: I think he gets a couple months in AA, and then either goes to AAA or gets called-up if there’s a rotation spot opening.  If someone goes down with injury early then its probably still A.J. Cole, but at this point, I think we may know what we know about Cole.  Where this leaves Austin Voth i’m not sure; perhaps Voth is the guy who will cover a spot start in May.  Either way, Fedde gets called up at some point in 2017.

Collier says he was impressed by Fedde this spring … and that he may have trade value this summer?!?  If the Nats trade Fedde, their last remaining “anywhere close to the majors halfway decent” starting pitching prospect, after shedding their other three best starting pitching prospects, I’ll be rather irritated.

Final Week of Spring training; placeholder for chatting

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Robinson is out. Photo via minorleagueball.com

Robinson is out. Photo via minorleagueball.com

We’re getting down to the wire; still no idea who the last bullpen spots will be, who the last outfielder will be, nor who the closer will be, but we did get an expected if unfortunate piece of news today: fan favorite Clint Robinson given his outright waivers today.

Who do I think will get the call for these last roster questions?

  1. I still like Vance Worley for the 7th spot … though Enny Romero might be tough to cut.  We may see a “soft” D/L injury, or perhaps carrying 8 relievers for a bit.
  2. I am not entirely buying the buzz out there that Koda Glover will be “the closer.”  Dusty Baker is too much of a player’s manager to give that spot to a rookie (for all intents and purposes) over either of the other two candidates, both of whom have a ton more experience.  I still think its Shawn Kelley until otherwise proven inadequate.
  3. Final OF spot still goes to Michael Taylor even if Wilmer Difo is playing the OF this spring.

Otherwise, lets use this as a running commentary on the final moves as they happen prior to the 25-man roster announcement.

ps: Robinson’s waiving now leaves not one but two open spots on the 40-man roster … perhaps room for a NRI to slip in?

Written by Todd Boss

March 28th, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Pitching Depth looking good, Norris waived, and other ST observations

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Norris won't get a shot at redemption here. Photo Mark Zuckerman via Nationals Insider.com

Norris won’t get a shot at redemption here. Photo Mark Zuckerman via Nationals Insider.com

Some big player news rumors hit the airwaves this morning; Derek Norris, who two months ago we thought was our opening day starter, is reportedly being put on waivers for the eventual purpose of releasing him.  The timing is no accident; his contract is not fully guaranteed for the year and the Nats can get out of paying the full freight and only be on the hook for $700k by doing this.  I think Norris obviously gets picked up by another team, but they’ll be waiting so they won’t have to pay hin north of $4M.  He’s too good defensively to not get a job, and some team may think he’s a great reclamation project given his past hitting.

(Quick links: ST 2017 hitting stats and pitching stats for the Nats)

Quick implications of the move:

  • Looking obvious that our 1-2 catching punch will be Matt Wieters and Jose Lobaton.  Hard to see Pedro Severino as anything but AAA insurance for the time being.
  • This also thins our Catcher ranks: past Severino is just Raudy Read in terms of depth.  I’m hoping Spencer Kieboom makes it through waivers …
  • This puts the Nats 40-man roster at 39/40, leaving one spot for a quick add for someone at the end of spring training.  We’ve been talking about Vance Worley being an arm that makes sense at the back of the bullpen, but he’s not impressed so far this spring; 8ip, 5 runs and just two strikeouts.

I’d like to talk about two other important arms though; Erick Fedde and Austin Voth.  Fedde now has 7 IP, has given up just 3 hits and zero runs.  Voth has fewer innings (4 2/3) but has zero runs and a 5-0 K/BB ratio.  Meanwhile their competition for “first in line for a spot start” A.J. Cole has been shredded this spring: 8 2/3 innings, 10 hits, 7 earned runs.  Yes I know you often cannot trust spring training stats … but not in the cases of minor leaguers looking to impress while they’re in the presence of major leaguers.  These guys are trying.  And right now I’m feeling a ton better about our near-to-the-majors starting pitcher coverage post Giolito-Lopez trade than I was at the beginning of spring.  Is it time to see if Cole makes more sense as a reliever?

(Tangent: in case you’re not on ten-zillion RSS feeds about baseball and don’t know how Giolito/Lopez are doing: Giolito has by all accounts cleaned up whatever damage the Nats did to his mechanics and looks solid this spring: 9IP, 2 runs, 6-2 K/BB.  Lopez has struggled; 8 2/3rds innings, 6 runs, 7-3 K/BB.

Other interesting ST stat lines to point out:

  • Both Adam Lind and Clint Robinson have struggled badly: Lind is 4-20, Robinson is 4-21.  Matt Skole is missing an opportunity here; he’s just 2-13 on the spring, with one of those two hits being a homer in the opener that had MartyC all hot and bothered.
  • Brian Goodwin is not impressing in his attempt to win the spare OF job; he’s just 2-19 on the spring while “King of Spring Training” Michael Taylor is tearing the cover off the ball (he’s 11-26 with two homers).  Looking more and more like Taylor is getting another shot at the title … and inevitably starting when old-man Jayson Werth hits the D/L at some point.
  • Jhonathan Solano, now starting for Columbia in the WBC, is 10-12 with the Nats.  That’s right; he’s hitting .833.  Good to know; my comment above about us suddenly being rather thin at catcher may not be so bad if Solano keeps it up and earns a 40-man re-call.
  • Wilmer Difo may not have a realistic shot at the opening day roster, but he’s doing the most he can, hitting .400 so far.
  • Lastly, Ryan Zimmerman.  0-13 so far this spring.  At least he’s putting the ball in play (just 3 punch outs).  Too bad all the 1B types in camp that may push him to the bench are also struggling.
  • We all know about Koda Glover and how he’s crushing it.  4IP, one hit, 7-0 K/BB.  If he keeps this up, we’ll have a closer for $550k instead of the $15M that Melancon and Jansen earned.  And that, my friends, is how you build a closer.

Lastly, since i’m clearly trolling specific people by calling out Giolito and Skole stat lines, lets look up some other lightening rod ex-Nats and their spring stats:

  • Future Hall of Famer Max Schrock: only 7 ABs for Oakland this spring training, but he did go 2-7.  He was an NRI but clearly seems set to return to the minors.  No surprise there.  The question is whether or not he can repeat his performance at the AA level in 2017.
  • Nick Pivetta, which bought us the tumultuous Jonathan Papelbon era, has a 2.25 ERA in 8 IP for Philadelphia.
  • Tony Renda is crushing it as an NRI for Cincinnati: he’s 11-25 this season.
  • Felipe Rivero‘s statline resembles Glover’s so far this spring: 4IP, 1hit, 0 runs and 5 Ks.  You have to give up talent to get talent right?

anyway; what do you guys think about some of these guys?

Your 2017 Bullpen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what do I think is going to happen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ladson’s, er I mean Collier’s Inbox 12/22/16

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Kelley may be first in line for in-house closer options. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley may be first in line for in-house closer options. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

I was excited to see an “Inbox” in my MLB.com RSS feed for the Nats today, and assumed it was venerable long time Nats beat reporter Bill Ladson poking his head up post winter-meetings to do some work.

But no!  Its a new guy: Jamal Collier, listed as “Nationals Beat Reporter.”  I don’t think Ladson has been replaced; maybe the Nats are big time now and need more beat reporters!

Nonetheless, Collier did an inbox.  Here’s how I would have answered his questions.  I love these inboxes because they’re great debate points for the comments, with people asking questions (some good, some dumb) that we all ask ourselves from time to time.  Here we go.  As always, I write my answer to the question before reading his and edit questions for clarity if needed.


Q: Last year, general manager Mike Rizzo had a Plan A and Plan B, but he seemingly settled for Plan C more than once. What are Plans B and C this year?

A: If Mike Rizzo had to fall back to plan “C” last year (presumably Daniel Murphy in lieu of the litany of bats that he missed on), then that’s a heck of a plan C.  This year he didn’t miss on a big acquisition; the Adam Eaton trade is by far the “biggest” he’s ever made in his Nats career, eclipsing the big Gio Gonzalez trade in terms of significant prospects dealt and impact players brought back.  Yeah he missed on Sale .. but he didn’t *need* Sale, and he made it clear he was only shooting for him because of the rarity of a true Ace getting dealt.

Rizzo really had a short “to-do” list this off-season: resolve CF or SS one way or another, get a Catcher, and get some bullpen help, up-to and including a closer.  He’s done two out of three, “missing” out on vastly overpaying for a 50-IP “proven closer” to the big-spending clubs.  Is that the worst thing in the world?  I don’t think so.  I’m guessing his “plan B and C” for closer now is to buy a couple of former closers off the FA market and see how they look side by side with in-house options like Koda Glover and Shawn Kelley.  I’m ok with that; as I’ve mentioned time and again, the Nats organizational chasing of over priced closers has cost us more than a few good prospects in the last few  years, and yet we’re still sitting here thinking we have a closer problem.  I also wouldn’t be shocked if Rizzo calls up one of his favorite trading partners and moves another prospect or two for a mid-range closer.

We havn’t traded with Billy Beane in a few weeks; maybe we make a move for his closer.  Does Oakland even have one?

Collier basically says what I said, then throws out the names we keep hearing about in terms of closer trades (David Robertson, Alex Colome) and FA options (Greg Holland).


 

Q: With Jayson Werth‘s contract ending soon, who do you see as emerging leaders in the clubhouse? Max Scherzer? Anthony Rendon? Bryce Harper? Others?

A: To be a leader you kind of have to be guaranteed to be around for a while.  Certainly that’s not Harper, who (lets be honest) is likely gone in 2 years.  Rendon isn’t far behind.  The three guys on the longest deals are Ryan ZimmermanMax Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.  Zimmerman is the guy who would make the most sense but he seems like a background guy.  Its hard for a starting pitcher to be a “leader” since he’s only doing it every 5 days, but Scherzer is the best possible candidate based on his gregariousness.  Strasburg has always been reserved; he’s not a good candidate.

Truth be told … this clubhouse is going to do a serious turnover in the 2018-2019 time-frame, and a whole new slew of guys will be defining the makeup; only the two SPs are really going to be there for it.  I’d say Scherzer is going to define the soul of this team for the next generation.

Collier makes a great point; new acquisition Adam Eaton is a big presence in the clubhouse, will be around longer than practically any other bat in the clubhouse, and is in a position to take the reigns.


 

Q: Will the Nats get free-agent catcher Matt Wieters and then use their extra catchers to get Robertson from the White Sox as closer?

A: This theory doesn’t make a ton of sense to me; if the Nats buy Wieters, aren’t they killing Derek Norris‘ trade value?  They not only tendered but signed a deal with Jose Lobaton for 2017 … he’s now got 5 years (and was out of options), so he can’t get sent down … so do they plan on just lighting that money on fire?

Plus, the assumption that they can just flip their spare parts for a quality reliever is foolish.  What did we trade to acquire Norris?   Pedro Avila, a guy who pitched in low-A last year.  Now, I know the White Sox don’t exactly have awesome options at catcher, but in today’s reliever market why would anyone think we could get a bonafide closer for a couple of backup catchers?

Collier expresses the same doubts I do about the acquisition and the trade.

 


Good thoughtful answers from Collier.  I say this of course because he agreed with me :-)

By the way, this is probably the last post before Xmas, so If I don’t see you Happy Holidays.

Top 10 Arms; Starters and Relievers separately ranked

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

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

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

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

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

My Nats top 10 Starters:

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

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

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

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

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 2015 Draft Class

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Years from now we may be saying Tyler Watson is the class of this draft. Photo via auburnpub.com

Years from now we may be saying Tyler Watson is the class of this draft. Photo via auburnpub.com

Second in our set of Draft class Reviews.  First was the 2016 class.

Web links to use while reading:

With out further ado…


 

Round 1: forfeited by virtue of the Max Scherzer signing.  Would have been the 26th pick overall, which ended up being Taylor Ward, a C from Fresno State.  Ward stepped back a bit in 2016, losing nearly 300 points off his OPS in High-A, but is still listed as the Angel’s #3 prospect.

Round 2: Andrew Stevenson, OF (CF).  COL jr from Louisiana State.  Slashed .276/.332/.374 across 2 levels, spending three months in Potomac and then finishing the season in Harrisburg.  95/44 K/BB ratio, 3 homers and 39SBs in 529 ABs.  He was also named an All-star for Potomac this year and was the MVP of the Carolina-California League all-star game.  Two years in the system and two multi-level promotions for Stevenson.  Clearly he profiles as a “speedy leadoff-center fielder” type, so you’d like to see his overall OBP improve.  You’d like to see fewer strikeouts too.  Otherwise, its hard to quibble.  He’s also starting to get some notice on prospect rankings; last  year he was generally in the 10-14 range for our system.  Now I’m seeing him ranked in the 6-10 range.   He’s taken his talents to the Arizona Fall League, where i’m curious to see how he fares against top-end AA/AAA competition.  Maybe our long term CF solution is in-house after all.  Post-Writing update: Stevenson lit up the AFL, hitting north of .350 and being named by MLB.com as being a breakout starTrending up.

Round 2: Blake Perkins, OF (CF) from Verrado HS, Buckeye, Ariz.  Slashed .233/.318/.281 for Auburn this year before spending the last week in Hagerstown (part of the typical 9/1 cascading minor league roster shuffle), with 39/25 K/BB in 210 ABs.  1HR, 10SB.   Another player who (like Stevenson) is a “Leadoff-CF” type (for Auburn he only played CF and only lead-off).  As we learned last year, he’s learning switch hitting and its showing in his stat line; as a righty against lefties he slashed .306/.343/.355, but as a lefty against righties he slashed only .203/.308/.250.  Ugh.   I wonder if the team, which asked him to learn switch hitting even before they drafted him, will eventually just let him focus on his strengths.  His overall batting line continues to depress his prospect value; he’s generally ranked somewhere in the 16-21 range for the system right now after being in the 10-12 range after his drafting.  I’ll say Trending steady since his RH split is so good and he may just eventually go back to it full time.

Round 3: Rhett Wiseman, OF (corner), COL jr from Vanderbilt.  Slashed .255/.325/.410  in a full season in Low-A with 104/42 K/BB in 478ABs.  13  homers, 19 SBs.  Wiseman played exclusively RF and was mostly the clean-up hitter for Hagerstown and had a solid season, but not without some red-flags.  104 Ks in 478Abs isn’t like 30% awful, but its getting up there.  He did have a nice balance of homers and Stolen Bases; if you’ve ever seen Hagerstown’s stadium you’ll know it isn’t the easiest place to hit (indeed; his away split shows an OPS figure 140 points higher than at home).   He only hit .198 against lefties, exhibiting a typical failing of a lot of lefty power hitters.  I’m going with Trending steady and would like to see how he does in more of a hitter’s park.  

Round 4: Mariano Rivera Jr, RHP (reliever) COL sr from Iona.  Went 5-1 with a 4.04 ERA in Low-A with 52/22 K/BB in 69 relief innings.  1.35whip, 4.49fip, .296 babip.  He was also 8 for 14 in Save opportunities as the Hagerstown bullpen seemed to do closer by committee (12 different relievers had a Save this year for Hagerstown).   Rivera Jr. improved his numbers across the board in the jump from Short-A to Low-A and seems permanently relegated to the bullpen at this point.  But we’re not seeing the lights-out production that you’d want to see in the low minors from a future reliever.  I think he’ll keep moving up next year of course, based on his draft pedigree and name only, but where’s the dominance that his father showed?   It may also just be a case of short sample size unluckiness; he gave up 9 runs between two consecutive outings in June; those two innings cost him more than a point on his ERA for the season.  We’d be having a different conversation if he had a 2.92 ERA in 67 innings instead of a 4.04 ERA in 69 innings.  Still want to see a K/inning.  Trending steady

Round 5: Taylor Hearn, LHP (reliever) COL jr from Oklahoma Baptist.  Was 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA for Hagerstown this year when he got traded to Pittsburgh (along with Felipe Rivero) in the Mark Melancon deal.  For Pittsburgh’s low-A team he’s continued to be solid, posting a 1.99 ERA with 36Ks in 22 innings for their low-A team.  I know we had some seller’s lament about parting ways with both Rivero and Hearn, especially when a few weeks later the team had to trade a decent hitting prospect to acquire 5 weeks worth of a veteran lefty.  But you have to give up players to get players, right?   Out of the Organization.

Round 6: Matt Crownover, LHP (starter) COL jr. from Clemson.  Posted a 9-5 record with a 3.36 ERA across two levels this year  110/42 K/BB in 128 2/3 IP combined.  For Potomac specifically; 4-4, 4.28 ERA, 1.45 whip, 4.48 fip, .317 babip.  Crownover quickly showed he was too good for Low-A (1.17 ERA his first two months there) and then settled into Potomac’s rotation for the rest of the year.  He wasn’t as lights out in Potomac but was solid.  He nearly led Potomac in starts and was part of their post-season rotation (where he pitched into the seventh and gave up just one earned run but took the loss in the season finale).  I could see him starting next year in Potomac with an eye towards jumping up to AA similarly to the way he split time this year.  Trending Up.

Round 7: Grant Borne, LHP (starter/reliever) COL jr from Nicholls State.  Went 5-2 with a 3.34 ERA in a full season at Hagerstown.  46/11 K/BB in 59 1/3 innings of mostly long relief.  1.20 whip, 3.15 fip, .307 babip.  Borne didn’t make the rotation in Hagerstown but seemed to stay on somewhat of a starter’s schedule, throwing every 4th or 5th day for 2-3 innings at a clip.  All his numbers improved over what they were in Short-A last year, which is great for a guy jumping to full season ball.  A couple of bad outings in August spoiled his numbers; otherwise his month by month splits all were pretty solid.  I see no reason for him not to serve as a spot-starter in Potomac next year.  Trending Up.

Round 8: Koda Glover, RHP (reliever) COL sr from Oklahoma State.  Was 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA combined across three minor league levels, resulting with a call-up to the Majors on 7/20/16.  In DC he posted a 5.03 ERA in 19 innings and was left off the post-season roster in favor of a third lefty (due to who the Nats were playing most-likely), but that did nothing to diminish what an amazing rise he had in 2016.  To go from High-A to pitching 7th and 8th innings in high-leverage games inside of 5 months is amazing.  His outlook for 2017 is repeating as a 7th inning RHP in the MLB bullpen with a future eye perhaps on closing for this team if he can prove himself reliable enough.  Matriculated to the Majors.

Round 9: David Kerian, 1b COL sr from Illinois.  Slashed just .144/.186/.226 while repeating Short A.  31/7 K/BB with 1 homer.  Kerian failed to make the Hagerstown squad out of spring training and then struggled mightily while repeating Short-A.  I’m surprised he hasn’t been released already.  He was a long-shot to contribute after being a senior sign/low bonus guy and he seems destined for a release soon.  Trending Down.  Post publishing update: Kerian was released on 12/15/16, fulfilling my guesses on his disposition unfortunately.

Round 10: Taylor Guilbeau, LHP (starter) COL sr  from Alabama. 5-2 with a 3.61 ERA in a full season in Hagerstown.  99/27 K/BB in 107 1/3 innings split between starting and relieving.  1.43 whip, 3.15 fip, .360 babip.  Guilbeau didn’t make the Hagerstown roster out of spring training, but settled into the rotation for the beginning of the 2nd half and stayed there the rest of the way.  As a starter his ERA was 3 points better than as a reliever (2.55 versus 5.36), and he looks like a very solid lefty starter.  His performance is even more impressive considering his dim draft pedigree; like Kerian above him he was a senior sign for limited dollars.  If he turns out to be successful the Nats front office should really do something nice for the area scout.  Trending up.

Round 11: Andrew Lee, RHP (starter) COL jr from Tennessee.  Was 2-2 with a 3.71 ERA in Hagerstown.  46/18 K/BB in 51 innings.  1.24 whip, 3.15 fip, .308 BABIP.  Lee was the opening day starter for Hagerstown after having finished there in 2015, had 11 solid starts and then hit the D/L on 6/7/16, remaining there for the duration of the season.  I could not find much detail on his injury.  He was trending pretty well though; solid K ratios and a good FIP.   Trending steady thanks to the unknown injury, otherwise i’d say Trending up again.

Round 12: Tommy Peterson RHP (reliever) COL jr  from South Florida.  Went 4-2 with a 2.64ERA bouncing between Hagerstown and Potomac.  56/14 K/BB in 58 relief innings, with very solid FIP and BABIP numbers in Hagerstown but not so much in Potomac.  For Hagerstown he was an effective closer; for Potomac he was used more as a setup guy.  He struggled with the jump to High-A and seems like to try it again from the on-set next year.  Trending steady.

Round 13: Max Schrock, 2B COL jr from South Carolina.  Had an OPS north of .800 for both Hagerstown and Potomac before getting flipped to Oakland in late August for Marc Rzepczynski.  Oakland quickly put him to AA where he hit well and now is in the AFL.  He’s the most polarizing Nats prospect I can think of since perhaps Brad Peacock or Billy Burns.  Schrock was paid like a 4th rounder in terms of bonus money and never failed to hit at any level, so we shouldn’t necessarily think of him as the equivalent of a 13th rounder.  The knock on him is his size; he’s just 5’8″ in a sport that calls anyone under 6′ “short.”  Nonetheless, he was a high price to pay for 5 weeks of a veteran lefty, and we’ve had no shortage of arguments here about the trade, what led to its necessity, and the price we paid for Rzepczynski.  We’ll just have to “Trust in Rizzo” again and hope we don’t get burned on Schrock.  Out of the Organization.

Round 14: Mack Lemieux LHP (starter) from Jupiter Community HS (FL): did not sign.  At the time of his drafting we thought he was heading to Florida Atlantic University (FAU).  Instead, he headed to JuCo (Palm Beach State in Florida) and was Arizona’s 6th round pick this year.  He split time between Rookie and Short-A ball in his age-19 season and performed well.

Round 15: Kevin Mooney,  RHP (reliver) COL jr from UofMaryland.  0-2 with a 3.33 ERA while repeating Short-A.  19/11 K/BB in 24 1/3 innings.  1.19 whip, 3.69 fip, .257 babip.  Despite repeating the level, he improved markedly from last year (shaving 2 points off his ERA).  He should have earned his way to a full-season reliever job in 2017.  Trending Steady.

Round 16: Ian Sagdal, SS COL sr  from Washington State U.  Slashed .303/.362/.474 in a full season with Hagerstown with 90/36 K/BB in 409 ABs.  10 homers, 6SB.  Sagdal was listed as the “DH” but played like a corner-utility guy, jumping around and playing some 1B, some LF, some 2B (he was drafted as a SS but his 6’3″ frame clearly can’t handle the position defensively).  Its hard to argue against a .300 hitter with power though, so lets see what he can do next year against better competition.  He has definitely improved his standing since last year (when he hit just .235 in Auburn).  Trending Steady.

Round 17: Dalton Dulin, 2B from Northwest Mississippi CC.  Slashed just .186/.277/.265 while repeating Short-A.  34/13 K/BB in 113 AB playing 2B, 0 homers, 7 SB.  A huge step back for the JuCo signing, who turned 22 in May.   He split time at 2B with 2016’s Jake Noll among others, and i’d be very surprised if he isn’t released next spring when he inevitably fails to make the Hagerstown squad.  Trending Down.

Round 18: Melvin Rodriguez 2B COL sr from Jackson State U. (MS).  Released 4/2/16, presumably after not making the Hagerstown squad and likely being “behind” others at the position (others like the man just mentioned Dalton Dulin).  He got picked up by the Indy league team in Joliet and played 79 games for them this year.  I’m not sure if I noticed this last year, but he was *old* coming out of college.  This is his second pro year and he turned 25 in February.

Round 19: Clayton Brandt SS COL sr from MidAmerica Nazarene U (KS).  Slashed just .179/.271/.248 in Short-A, 33/16 K/BB in 145 ABs.  0 homers, 2 SBs.  These numbers are rather similar to his numbers last year in the GCL, but it isn’t like there was another high-powered middle infield star prospect pushing him; the other two “short stops” on Auburn’s roster this year were equally inept with the bat.  Like others above with batting averages below .200, i’m saying Trending Down but I wonder if some of these guys will hang around into 2017 simply to fill roster spots.  Post publishing update: Brandt voluntarily retired on on 12/15/16.

Round 20: John Reeves C, COL sr  from Rice (TX): did not sign.  Despite being listed as a “College Senior” he really was a 4th year junior and opted to return for his 5th year.  A quick check at Rice’s 2016 stats page shows that Reeves did not play for Rice in 2016; It does not look like he was re-drafted, nor play in any independent leagues.  A curious case; if the Nats felt like it was worthy of a 20th round pick, why have we not pursued him since he’s now freely available?  Unless this was a “favor pick” to someone … but a 20th round pick seems way early for a throwaway pick.

Round 21: Matt Pirro, RHP (reliever) COL sr  from Wake Forest. 3-2, 4.43 ERA across two levels, ending in Short-A.   17/12 k/bb in 22 1/3ip, 1.30 combined whip, 6.50 fip, .217 babip in short-A.  Pirro failed to make even the Short-A team once the 2016 class was signed; he repeated both levels he played at last year with worse numbers.  He struggled last year and he struggled again this year.  Hard to see him here for the long term.  Trending Down.  Post publishing update: Pirro was released on 12/15/16, indeed a release candidate.

Round 22: Adam Boghosian RHP (reliever) COL 5s from North Greenville U. (SC).  Released 3/26/16 when he didn’t make a full-season squad.

Round 23: Alec Rash, RHP (starter) COL jr from Missouri: did not sign. Initially it seemed that Rash was returning to school to try to rebuild his value after an injury plagued collegiate career.  Word came out though in Sept of 2015 that he was quitting the team (and the sport) for good.  A tough break for Rash, who passed up 2nd round money in 2012 and now has nothing to show for it.

Round 24: Blake Smith RHP (reliever) COL jr  West Virginia: did not sign.  Returned for his “senior” year with West Virginia and was drafted by the Angels in the 29th round of the 2016 draft.  He put up decent numbers for their Low-A affiliate this year.

Round 25: Calvin Copping RHP (reliever) COL jr from Cal. State Northridge.  Released on 3/16/16 when it became clear he wouldn’t make Hagerstown.

Round 26: Russell “Rocky” Harmening. RHP (reliever) COL jr Westmont Coll (CA).  0-1, 2.57 ERA for Auburn this year.  23/8 K/BB in 28 relief innings. 1.21 whip, 3.06 fip, .294 BABIP.  A  nice 2nd pro season for Harmening, who improved his numbers across the board jumping from GCL to Short-A.  He also apparently now goes by “Rocky.”  Should make the Hagerstown pen as a middle reliever.  Trending Steady.

Round 27: Ryan Brinley, RHP (reliever) COL jr from Sam Houston State U. (TX).  Posted a 4-3 record with a 3.55 ERA across two levels.  38/9 K/BB in 50 2/3 innings.  1.07 whip combined, 2.68 fip and .243 babip in Potomac.  Brinley was a surprise performer last year and he continued his good work this year; he made the Potomac team out of spring and dominated there for two months before getting promoted to AA.  There however, he struggled, giving up 14 runs and 17 hits in 11 innings, and was back in Potomac by August 1st.  Presumably he’s going to try AA again next spring.  Trending Up.

Round 28: Mick VanVossen RHP (reliever) COL sr from Michigan State U. 4-4, 4.25 ERA across 2 levels.  50/19 K/.BB in 59 1/3 innings, mostly with Hagerstown. 1.28 whip, 4.13fip, .285 babip while in in Low-A.  He bounced around in what seemed like a bunch of procedural moves but was essentially a middle reliever for Low-A all year.  He had relatively solid numbers in Hagerstown and should get a look at moving up a level for 2017.   Trending Steady.

Round 29: Philip Diedrick OF COL sr  Western Kentucky U.  Released 4/2/16 after struggling in 2015 in the GCL.  No surprise here.

Round 30: Jorge Pantoja RHP (reliever) COL jr Alabama State U.  9-2 with a 3.20 ERA across two levels.  46/19 K/BB in 64 2/3s innings, mostly with Hagerstown.  1.15 whip, 2.67 fip, .302 babip while in Low-A.  As we noted last summer, he just needed some time to show that his 2015 numbers were better than they appeared, and the team was rewarded.  Pantoja went 9-1 with a 2.63 ERA for Hagerstown this year, earning a bump up to Potomac on August 8th.  He struggled there, walking 9 guys in 10 innings after walking just 10 in 54 innings in Hagerstown.  Nonetheless, he’s looking up and should be a solid Potomac bullpen guy (later innings or perhaps closer) in 2017. He’s playing in the Mexican Winter League this off-season.  Trending Up.

Round 31: Nick Sprengel LHP (starter) from El Dorado HS (CA): did not sign.  Honored his commitment to the U of San Diego, where he went 3-5 with a 6.17 ERA his freshman year as a mid-week starter.

Round 32: Dalton DiNatale 3B COL jr Arizona State U.   Released 6/7/16; he hung around for a bit after not making a full-season squad and then got released once the 2016 draft occurred.

Round 33: Angelo La Bruna SS COL 5S  from U. Southern California.  Slashed .246/.320/.325 between Short-A and Low-A, with 20/12 K/BB in 114 total ABs.  1hr, 2SB playing 2B and SS.  La Bruna was assigned initially to Short-A, but came out on fire going 10-21 and quickly getting bumped to Low-A.  There he was less effective, hitting just .194 with little power (5 XBH in 33 games).   If I sense a recurring theme among these reviews so far of the 2016 and 2015 classes, its relatively zero depth in the middle infield.  So I see no reason for La Bruna not to hang around another year.  Trending Steady.

Round 34: Tyler Watson LHP (starter) from Perry HS (AZ).  2-3, 2.64 ERA split between Short-A and Low-A.  64/15 K/BB in 58IP, 1.05 whip, 2.05 whip and .261 babip in Auburn.  Watson was the opening day starter for Auburn after turning 19 in late May and had an awesome season; in 9 starts facing competition that was (on average) 2.4 years older than he was, he had a 1.88 ERA and gave up just 30 hits and 9 walks in 48 innings.  His ERA jumped when he got to Hagerstown but his peripherals did not; he still struck out a guy an inning and his Hagerstown FIP was 2.87.  He looks like he could be a stud.  He has nothing left to prove in Short-A; I’d expect him to be in the Low-A rotation in 2017 but to have his season cut short as they build up pro innings on his arm.  Trending Up.

Round 35: Coco Montes SS from Coral Gables HS (FL): did not sign.  Montes honored his commitment to South Florida.  At USF Montes was a starter as a Freshman and slashed .218/.287/.264.  

Round 36: Taylor Bush SS from The Linfield School (CA): did not sign.  Bush honored his commitment to Westmont College.  As a freshman, got into 30 games and only had 15 ABs in a late-innings defensive replacement role.

Round 37: Steven DiPuglia SS from Cooper City HS (FL): did not sign.  DiPuglia  honored his commitment to Western Kentucky.  At WKU, DiPuglia started as a freshman and slashed .253/.323/.264.

Round 38: Matt Morales SS from Wellington Community HS (FL): did not sign.  Morales honored his commitment to Stetson University.  At Stenson, Morales started as a freshman and slashed .250/.324/.286.

Round 39: Jake Jefferies 2B COL jr  from Cal. State Fullerton.  Hit .208 in 24 ABs for Auburn in Short-A before being released on 7/5/16.  He just never showed enough at the plate despite being chased by this organization for years (they drafted him in 2012 as well).

Round 40: Parker Quinn 1B from The Benjamin School (FL): did not sign.  Quinn honored his commitment to Hofstra.  Quinn had no stats for Hofstra in 2016, either he didn’t make the varsity team or he was hurt.  His Twitter account still reports him as being at Hofstra and being class of 2019, so i’m not sure what his status is.

 


Trending Summary:

  • Matriculated to Majors: (1): Glover
  • Trending Up (7): Stevenson, Crownover, Borne, Guilbeau, Brinley, Pantoja, Watson
  • Trending Steady (10): Perkins, Wisemann, Rivera Jr, Lee, Peterson, Mooney, Sagdal, Harmening, Van Vossen, La Bruna
  • Trending Down (4): Kerian, Dulin, Brandt, Pirro
  • Released/Retired (6): Rodriguez, Boghosian, Copping, Diedrick, DiNatale, Jefferies
  • Did Not Sign (10): Lemieux, Reeves, Rash, Smith, Sprengel, Montes, Bush, DiPuglia, Morales, Quinn
  • No longer with the Org (2): Hearn, Schrock

Executive Summary

The 2015 class is holding its own so far, with a number of guys with promising starts and just 6 releases after two full pro seasons.  Watson looks like a stud, Glover looks like a heck of a find, and the upper round picks are at least treading water thus far if not exceeding expectations (Stevenson).

 

Nats Payroll Outlook for 2017 and what it could mean for FA market

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Do you trade Gonzalez to get payroll flexibility? Photo unknown via WP.com

Do you trade Gonzalez to get payroll flexibility? Photo unknown via WP.com

The end of the World Series starts the clock on a whole slew of off-season moves, and we’ve already seen the Nats do a few procedural moves that were predictable:

  • Aaron Barrett, who I thought was a non-tender candidate since he’s Arb-eligible, was waived.
  • Yusmeiro Petit had his $3M option declined, and becomes a FA.
  • All 8 of our other eligible FAs declared FA: Mark Melancon, Wilson Ramos, Stephen Drew, Chris Heisey, Matt Belisle, Mark Rzepczynski, Sean Burnett and Mat Latos.

So the 40-man roster now sits at 31 players:

  • SP: Scherzer, Strasburg, Roark, Ross, Gonzalez*, Lopez, Giolito, Cole
  • RP: Kelley, Treinen, Glover, Solis*, Perez*, Gott, Martin, Grace*
  • C: Lobaton, Severino, Kieboom
  • INF: Zimmerman, Murphy, Turner, Rendon, Espinosa, Robinson, Difo
  • OF: Harper, Werth, Revere, Taylor, Goodwin

Lets break down these current 31 guys and see what their payroll looks like projected for 2017 to see what kind of financial flexibility the team may have.  Using the ever-awesome Cots MLB player salary site as a source here we go:


Players Already Under Contract for 2017 – 8

  • Werth, Jayson:  $21,571,429
  • Scherzer, Max:  $15,000,000
  • Strasburg, Stephen:  $15,000,000
  • Zimmerman, Ryan:  $14,000,000
  • Gonzalez, Gio:  $12,100,000 (Option for 2017 picked up 11/3/16)
  • Murphy, Daniel:  $12,000,000
  • Perez, Oliver:  $4,000,000
  • Kelley, Shawn:  $5,500,000

Subtotal: $99,171,429 <– Sum of Established Contracts for 2017

Note that I’ve not prorated any deferred money for Scherzer, Strasburg.  Also, I’m not entirely sure what Werth did last year; was it to lower his 2016 salary by $10M and pay that later?  I think so, so I don’t believe his 2017 salary was affected.  I do not agree with the prorating that Cot’s does with the deferred dollars on Scherzer/Strasburg; I think the Lerners are treating it like payments later on so as to add financial flexibility now, so I count just the dollars owed in 2017 here.  With these caveats, we come to the $99.1M figure due for these 8 players.  Feel free to comment and correct me if I have this wrong.


Arbitration Eligible Players for 2017 – 6 

I’m using MLB Trade rumors’ estimates instead of doing my own guesses since they’ve proven to be hyper accurate in years’ past, but will offer commentary on each figure.

  • Harper, Bryce: $9,300,000 estimate
  • Rendon, Anthony: $6,400,000 estimate
  • Espinosa, Danny: $5,300,000 estimate
  • Lobaton, Jose: $1,600,000 estimate
  • Revere, Ben: $6,300,000 estimate
  • Roark, Tanner: $6,100,000 estimate

Subtotal: $35,000,000 <– MLBtraderumors Guess of total arb award amounts

Now, I’m on record saying that I think the team non-tenders Revere; I cannot imagine paying $6.3M for the production we got out of him last year.  If the team thinks 2016 was an aberration and he can return to his 2015 form, then $6.3M might be a bargain (reminder: he hit .319 and had a 101 OPS+ figure in Toronto in 2015).  However, for the time being i’m going with Revere getting non-tendered.  I also think Harper’s going to sign a 2-year deal to buy out the rest of his Arb years, so I could see something like a 2yr/$25M deal at 10 and 15.  I think the Rendon figure seems high (yes he had a solid year but $6.4 more than doubles his 2016 pay).  I also have a hard time believing that Roark is going to net $6.1M in his first arb season, no matter how good he was last year.

So my working guess on this number is $35M less Revere’s $6.3 and less a bit more off of the Rendon & Roark numbers: call it $27,200,000.


Pre Arbitration MLB players – 17

  • Robinson, Clint $540,000
  • Treinen, Blake $536,000
  • Taylor, Michael $530,000
  • Ross, Joe $520,000
  • Gott, Trevor $518,000
  • Turner, Trea $507,500
  • Solis, Sammy $507,500
  • Glover, Koda $507,500
  • Severino, Pedro $507,500
  • Difo, Wilmer $507,500
  • Cole, A.J. $507,500
  • Goodwin, Brian $507,500
  • Grace, Matt
  • Martin, Rafael
  • Kieboom, Spencer
  • Giolito, Lucas
  • Lopez, Reynaldo

Subtotal: $6,196,500

The rest of the 40-man roster are pre-arbitration/team-assigned salaries.  The current league minimum salary is $507,500; that might change, that might go up with the new CBA.  For the time being, those players above who are ABOVE that figure are those who have played at the MLB level and have earned a nominal raise.  These are guesses on these nominal salary increases, and then the rest of the guys are listed assuming they all make next year’s 25-man roster.   Assuming no acquisitions, 12 of these pre-arb guys will be on the 25-man roster so that’s roughly $6M.


Payments for former players in 2017

Petit, Yusmeiro: $500,000 buyout of 2017 contract.


Summary:  $99,171,429 +  $27,200,000 +  $6,196,500 +  $500,000 =  $133,067,929 current payroll Estimate for your 2017 Nationals.

That figure represents about a $12M delta from last year’s working payroll figure of  $145,178,886 (cot’s figure), but is about $5.7M higher than my “present day dollar only” figure for last year’s squad.

So, I’m not sure if the team has $12M to “spare” or will be looking to cut costs.  Either way they’re nearly $30M below the 2015 payroll figure of $162M (Cots).

So here’s what i’d like to see happen:

  • Non-tender Revere ($6.3M), Trade Gio ($12M) and Espinosa ($5.3M).  Net $17.3M (we already counted on Revere’s 6.3)
  • I figure we’ll receive back at least $10M of MLB salary for players received from Gio and Espinosa.  So that leaves about $7M additional savings
  • Add that to the $12M figure and that’s about $20M to work with.
  • Spread that $20M around as follows:
    • Josh Reddick: $10M a year for 3 years; lefty, RF capable, relatively cheap when compared to the marquee OF on the market.
    • Greg Holland: $7M/year guess; former closer, formerly had ridiculous stuff, may have it back, could be 8th or 9th inning guy with existing options
    • Resign Stephen Drew, Matt Belisle and Chris Heisey to a combined $10M.

That makes your 25-man projected roster look like this:

  • SP: Scherzer, Strasburg, Roark, Ross, Lopez
  • RP: Kelley, Holland, Treinen, Belisle, Solis*, Perez*, Cole (longman)
  • C: Lobaton, Severino
  • INF: Zimmerman, Murphy, Turner, Rendon, Robinson, Drew,
  • OF: Harper, Werth, Reddick, Taylor, Heisey

With the following in AAA

  • SP: Giolito
  • RP: Glover, Gott, Martin, Grace*
  • C: Kieboom
  • INF: Difo
  • OF: Goodwin

That’s not too bad.  It also doesn’t account for any players received from trading Gonzalez and Espinosa; we could get back a starting catcher, pushing Severino to AAA, or we could get a utility infielder, obviating the need for Drew  or Heisey.

what do you guys think?

Nats post-2016 “GM for a Day” Off-Season Priorities for filling Roster Holes

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Ramos may be the toughest off-season decision the team makes. Photo via wp.com

Ramos may be the toughest off-season decision the team makes. Photo via wp.com

Another year, another playoff failure.  Beat it to death already.  Time to move on.

Lets talk about the post-season “To Do” list is for the Nats.  We’ll have eventual posts to talk about other stuff, like Tender decisions, 40-man decisions ahead of the Rule5 draft, etc.

In this post, we’ll squint at the overall roster, look at blatant holes that will need filling, and discuss how they might get filled.  Call it the cliche’s “General Manager for a day” post for the Nats this coming off-season.


Pending Free Agents we are waving good-bye to and the holes they thus leave (as per the invaluable Cots site at BaseballProspectus):

  • Mark Melancon: though i’d love to re-sign him … see later in the post.
  • Wilson Ramos: his injury is a shame for both player and team; he likely lost $50M in guaranteed FA money and the team lost a clear QO-compensation pick.  He may not even be able to catch again, which dumps him to the AL, where his market is significantly cut thanks to the lessening of demand for bat-only DH types.  Ramos is in serious career jeopardy right now; would he decamp back to the Nats on some sort of minimally guaranteed deal with performance incentives?
  • Stephen Drew: also one I hope re-signs; see later in the post.
  • Chris Heisey: one who I think is replaceable; look for another cattle call for RH bat options this coming spring training.
  • Matt Belisle: despite not making the NLDS roster, he was great for Washington this year and is worth another contract.
  • Mark Rzepczynski: He’s been very effective for us, and overall had a good 2016.  His 2015 was awful, but he was good before that.  Such is the life of specialist relievers.
  • Sean Burnett and Mat Latos: both given Sept 2016 tryouts; neither seem likely to be retained.
  • Jonathan Papelbon: worth mentioning if only for the payroll flexibility.

Total payroll “savings” from these FAs: roughly $22M.  Papelbon’s $11M, Ramos’ $5.3M and the rest total about $6M.

Guys who I think are clear Non-Tenders (probably a topic worth its own post).

  • Yusmeiro Petit: $3M option with $500k buyout for 2017; pitched poorly in 2016, didn’t make the post-season roster and should be replaceable on the roster by any number of our AAA starters.
  • Ben Revere: $6.25M salary this year, due an arbitration raise for 2017; struggled badly in 2016, lost his job to a guy who had about 2 week of CF experience and didn’t make the post-season roster.
  • Aaron Barrett: as heartless as it would be; he’s arb-eligible, still hurt, not likely to be ready by opening day and is completely replaceable as a RH middle reliever).

Total savings from these non-tenders: roughly $10M

Guys who I think its Time to Trade and the holes they thus leave.  This also may be worthy of its own whole post.

  • Gio Gonzalez: I think the Nats can take advantage of a historically weak FA market for starters and Gio’s very friendly contract (two $12M options for 2017 and 2018) and move him.  Yes he struggled this year, but if you look at what middle rotation innings eaters like him are getting these days, $12M is a bargain and he should fetch something we value.  Moving him lets some of the guys who are clearly biting on the heels of a deserved rotation spot earn it for 2017 and thus the Nats “save” $11.5M in salary for the 2017 roster.
  • Danny Espinosa: As much as I have argued against this, his 2017 playoff performance has solidified in my mind the need to move him.  He has his pros (a plus defender range wise, perhaps the best SS arm in the game, and serious power for a SS) and his cons (he hit just .209 this year, he strikes out at about a 30% clip, and his switch hitting capabilities are really in question).  Nonetheless, there has to be some demand for a 25-home run capable plus defender SS in a lineup that can afford one crummy batting average at the bottom of the order.  Perhaps an AL team that doesn’t have to also bat a sub .200 BA pitcher.

Total savings from these guys getting moved (not counting payroll received in return of course): $15-$16M.

So, adding up all three lines, assuming a steady payroll ceiling similar to this year’s and not counting arbitration raises (or Strasburg‘s new contract), you’d have roughly $47M with which to work.  Not bad.  Strasburg’s new contract will take $5M away from that flexibility (he made $10M last year, will make $15M next) and arbitration raises for Harper, Rendon and Roark will cost some cash, but that’s a post for another day.  Lets call it $30M in available FA dollars when all is said and done.


So, assuming you’re even reading this far and havn’t already started commenting and arguing about that list of players, here’s the presumed holes that losing these 10 players leaves (in order of mention above):

  • Closer
  • Starting Catcher
  • Backup Utility Infielder
  • Backup RH bench bat/corner outfielder
  • 6th/7th inning RH reliever
  • Loogy
  • Long Man/Spot starter/7th guy out of the pen
  • Backup Outfielder (CF capable)
  • Another 6th/7th inning RH reliever
  • #5 Starter
  • Starting Shortstop
  • (and not really counting the “loss” of Burnett and Latos for this discussion)

If we just filled these holes internally, what would it look like?

  • Closer: Make Shawn Kelley the closer and move up Treinen and Glover to be 8th inning guys.  This leaves a hole later on in the pen for the middle RH relievers (see below)
  • Starting Catcher: promote Lobaton to starter and install Severino as the backup.  Or switch them; honestly I like Severino’s at-bats; he looks confident.  I don’t think Kieboom is ready for the show, so it makes sense to tender Lobaton for one more year.
  • Backup Utility InfielderDifo becomes the first go-to guy to backup Turner/Murphy, but we’ll still need another utility guy.
  • Backup RH bench bat/corner outfielder: not much internally to go to; both the 2016 AAA and AA rosters are basically bereft of decent hitting prospects who might be candidates.  We’ll be trolling the FA market here for sure.  See the next section.
  • Two 6th/7th inning RH relievers: We have Gott and Martin on the 40-man; they could step up to replace these two guys like for like.  Right now we have five RH relievers under contract for 2017 (Kelley, Treinen, Glover, Gott and Martin) to go along with two lefties (Solis and Perez); that’s not too bad of a bullpen to start out with, but could be improved.  And this lineup doesn’t “really” have a long man, so you’d have to think one of Gott or Martin is in AAA to make room for a long-man (likely Martin at this point).
  • Loogy: its arguable whether we need another lefty with both Solis and Perez under contract, but they went most of the year this year with three.  Matt Grace is still on the 40-man and would be an internal option.
  • Long Man/Spot starter/7th guy out of the pen: loser of #5 starter competition (see below)
  • Backup Outfielder (CF capable)Michael Taylor, in what likely is his ceiling from here forward.
  • #5 Starter: have Sprint Training 2017 tryouts for the #5 starter between Lopez, Giolito, Cole and even Voth (who I’m assuming by that time will be on the 40-man, protected ahead of this coming off-season’s Rule-5 draft).  The winner is #5 starter, and one of the losers could be the long-man (well, if the loser is someone like Cole or Voth, who aren’t nearly as “big” of a prospect as Giolito).  There’s also the distinct possibility that Lopez’s arm is turned into a closer at some point if he can’t turn over lineups.  Check out Lopez’s 2016 splits, specifically SP versus RP and specifically the “Times Facing an Opponent” during the game; as a starter he struggles with the first time through the order, but not as a reliever.
  • Starting Shortstop: move Trea Turner to his natural position, leaving a hole in Center.

So, with my “all internal” fill-ins, your 25 man roster for 2017 looks something like this:

  • Starters: Scherzer, Strasburg, Roark, Ross, Lopez
  • Relievers: Kelley, Treinen, Glover, Gott, Solis*, Perez*, Cole
  • Catchers: Lobaton, Severino
  • INF Starters: Rendon, Turner, Murphy, Zimmerman
  • INF backups: Difo, Robinson
  • OF Starters: Werth, Harper
  • OF Backups: Taylor, Goodwin

And we’re missing one-two spots that don’t really have natural in-house replacements: another backup infielder and a starting Center fielder.

So, looking at that 25-man roster, where do we see areas of need?  This feeds directly into the Off-season Priorities in the next section.


Quick diversion: Notice I didn’t say what position Bryce Harper is playing.  Honestly, if Turner is vacating CF and we’re waving good-bye to Espinosa, then I think you have to put Harper in center.  Here’s my main arguments for putting him in center (most of which are “anti-arguments” for those who for some reason think he cannot play center):

  1. He’s young.   He just turned 24 for crying out loud; there’s no reason he doesn’t have the youth or athleticism to handle center.  Mantle did it while hitting for power.  So did Mays.  So did Griffey Jr and Aaron for the early part of his career.  Trout plays center.
  2. He’s got the arm (he has the 2nd best statistically rated arm in the majors in 2016), he’s got the speed (21 Stolen bases this year).  And now he has years of OF experience on which to depend.
  3. He’s played there before and played well.  Here’s his career fielding stats from fangraphs.com: He had more than 700 innings in CF in 2012 and played it to a fantastic UZR/150 figure of 19.1 and 13 DRS.  He was also great there in more limited sample sizes in 2013 and 2015.  I leave out 2014 since that was his injury season and its clearly skewed as compared to his other seasons.
  4. By putting Harper in Center, you vastly open open up the roster possibilities on the FA market.  Look at the pending FA last at mlbtraderumors.com and compare/contrast the available options at CF versus LF/RF.

Top FA/Trade Priorities in 2016-2017 Off-season

Fantasy: I view these as not really possible but are listed as “fantasy” wish lists.  Both fixate on moving unmovable contracts, so they’ll probably remain fantasies.

  • Upgrade 1B: dump Zimmerman and upgrade offensively at that position.
  • Upgrade LF: dump Werth and the last year of his deal and find a LF-capable bopper.
  • Acquire a leading CF: back up the farm system and dump it out for a leading center fielder.  Charlie Blackmon or Andrew McCutchen are names often mentioned thanks to the precarious position their teams face.  Mike Trout is the funny name you also hear since he’s so good he’s virtually untrade-able.  Unlike Tom Boswell, and as discussed in comments here before, re-signing Ian Desmond to man CF poorly would not be my first choice either.  I’d rather go with my “Bryce to Center” plan as laid out above.

Reality

  • Corner Outfielder.   See above Harper->CF logic.  If you want to splurge (and hurt your #1 divisional rival) sign Yoenis Cespedes.   Or you could make a big splash and sign Jose Bautista to a 3-yr deal that ends the same time Harper hits FA.  Werth remains serviceable in left, where he is mitigated defensively while Bautista still has value in RF.  This is where I could see a big chunk of the $30M of FA dollars going.  Lord knows we could use another clutch hitter in the middle of the order.
  • Closer: Above I said i’d love to re-sign Melancon, but more and more it seems like he’s going to be the 4th prize in a 4-closer musical chairs race.  And he’s gonna get paid.  And I’m not sure that the Nats are going to pay him.  Per the same previously mentioned FA list there’s 5 “active” closers hitting FA: Melancon, Wade Davis, Aroldis Chapman,  Kenley Jansen and Sergio Romo There’s a whole slew of guys who are FA who are former closers though, names like Andrew BaileyJoaquin Benoit, Santiago Casilla, Neftali Feliz, Jason Grilli, Greg Holland, J.J. Hoover, Jonathan Papelbon (haha, just making sure you’re still reading), Joe Smith, Fernando Salas, and Brad Ziegler.  There’s probably even more frankly; these were just the ones who stood out as I read the list.  Now, i’m not saying most of these guys are legitimate options, but some of these guys were perfectly good as closers and got “layered” by better closers.  Take Ziegler for example: he was just fine for Arizona for a while, then got moved to Boston where he got demoted to 8th inning duties.   I’d take him as a late-innings bullpen option.  
  • Bullpen arm: middle reliever: Now, all that being said about Closers, I think maybe what the team does is install one of their existing options as “the closer” and then maybe  hire one of these former closers to be an 8th inning/emergency closer kind of guy.  That’s essentially what they got last year with Shawn Kelley and that’s worked out ok.  I’d go after some of the ex-closer guys listed above, try to get them on an affordable deal (like halfway to closer money maybe) and that’d help off-set the losses of Melancon and Belisle.
  • Veteran utility infielder: as noted above, there’s not much in the farm system here.  If you keep Espinosa and put him in this role, then this is moot .. but we’ve read over and again about his disposition when he’s not playing.  This is kind of why I think we need to move him.  He’s more valuable in trade than he is in this bench role.  I hope the team re-ups with Stephen Drew honestly; he was solid, can cover all infield positions as needed, and can probably be had for a similar deal as last year.  I’d be happy with Difo and Drew and wouldn’t be opposed to perhaps another veteran utility guy to pair with Drew and compete with Difo if we don’t think Difo is up to the task.

Less Likely:

  • Backup LF/IB bench bats: While I like Robinson and I think Heisey did a good job this year, one struggled and the other is a FA with no guarantee of returning.  I absolutely expect to see another spring training cattle call of veteran bats of the LF/1B type to compete for roster spots.  I’m appreciative of Goodwin‘s completely unexpected line at the plate upon his call up; do we think he’s a better lefty bat option off the bench than Robinson?  I’m not sure.  I also sense (based on anecdotal evidence read over the years) that Robinson is a clubhouse and teammate favorite, which might make it tougher to cut him when the time comes.  Especially with a player’s manager type like Dusty Baker.  I know this is where MartyC will cry about Matt Skole (likely to depart in MLFA this coming off-season) and I understand; its all about potential versus production and Skole never produced enough during these annual spring training “tryouts” to win his spot.
  • Catcher: Here’s where the most arguing may occur.  I’m of the belief, after watching Severino down the stretch, that he could slide right into the starting spot right now.  I thought he looked good at the plate, took confident at-bats, never looked over matched, and (here’s the kicker) *puts the ball in play!*   This lineup has too many strikeouts; Severino struck out just 3 times in his 34 PAs down the stretch.   That correlates to about 50 punch-outs over a 600-plate appearance season; that’s awesome.  He was known for years for his defense, not his bat, so if he can provide even competent ABs he could be a starter.  So i’m up for saving money on the FA market (where the catcher ranks are thin and the prices will get bid up badly as a result).  Now, I could absolutely see us re-signing Wilson Ramos to an incentive-laden deal to keep him in house and hopefully get a good second half out of  him.  Why not?  If he signs for $5-6M (basically his salary this year) and then has games played incentives that could take him up to $7 or $8M why wouldn’t he do that here instead of elsewhere?   We go into the season with Severino and Lobaton with Kieboom in AAA and when Ramos shows up we (finally?) cut bait on Lobaton and have the two remaining guys platoon.  I’d be onboard with that plan.
  • Loogy: Why spend money here?  Solis and Perez ably fill the need.  Do we need a third lefty in the pen at the expense of one of the aforementioned righties?  I liked Rzepczynski this year; would he re-sign for reasonable dollars?  Would you want him back?  There’s several interesting names on the FA list; maybe one of them can be had for cheap.

 

What can we get in Trade versus buying on the FA market?   Payroll implications?

  • I suspect that Gonzalez can fetch some seriously valuable resources.  He’s an innings eating 4th starter who probably thrives in a pitcher’s park and is significantly less expensive at $12M/year than what something comparable costs on the FA market this year.  So can he fetch maybe one MLB-ready player that fits a need above plus maybe one decent prospect?  Is that too much?
  • Espinosa probably fetches less, unless you can get a GM to fall in love with his power/defense combo and somehow miss his BA and his K rate.  By way of comparison, Yunel Escobar (a lesser defender with less power but more contact) fetched us two upper-level pitching prospects in Trevor Gott and Michael Brady (by upper-level I mean AA/AAA level, not top 100 prospects).  I’d guess that Espinosa could fetch a bit more since he plays a premium position.  So that could end up being more of the needs above plus maybe an additional prospect.

But who knows what we can and cannot get.  In Mike Rizzo we trust when it comes to trades; no matter how much we bitch about prospects heading out the door, you’re really hard pressed to find a trade where Rizzo got the short end of the bargain or “lost” the deal.  So lets see what he can do.

Payroll implications.  I think we could get a $20M/yr corner OF slugger, a former closer at like $6M/year, resign Ramos at $5M, find a utility infielder in the Drew $3M/year range, and then sign a couple of guys to $1.25M conditional deals like what Belisle and Heisey got and fit right into the $145M payroll budget, even after arbitration raises.

 


Well; that’s a lot to argue about.  Maybe I should have split this up.  But let the discussions begin!

(did I forget anyone?)