Nationals Arm Race

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

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Nats Prospects: Where to see them in 2016

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Giolito may be "the man" but Voth could be a serious rotation candidate himself.  Photo via mlbdirt

Giolito may be “the man” but Voth could be a serious rotation candidate himself. Photo via mlbdirt

(2015’s version of this post)

Now that we’re basically through Prospect Ranking season (though I havn’t seen Fangraphs rankings of the Nats system for 2016 yet … if I missed it feel free to give me a link), and now that the four full season rosters have been announced, here’s a fun little look at where our top 30 Prospects (as ranked by mlbpipeline.com) are starting out 2016.  (Note: Bill Ladson previously posted something similar; i’ve just expanded it to the whole big list of prospects).  And here’s a link to every Nats prospect ranking list I know of dating more than 10+ years.

Last NameFirst NamePosition2016 Starting Level2015 Starting LevelDraft/IFA signing YearHow Acquired?mlb.com/mlbpipeline.com Nats top 30 Feb 2016
GiolitoLucasRHPAAHigh A2012 1stDraft1
TurnerTreaSSAAAAA2014 1stTrade2
RoblesVictorOF (CF)Low ARookie2014 IFAIFA3
FeddeErickRHPHigh ALow A2014 1stDraft4
LopezReynaldoRHPAAHigh A2012 IFAIFA5
DifoWilmer2BAAAA2010 IFAIFA6
ColeA.J.RHPAAAAAA2010 4thDraft/Trade7
StevensonAndrewOF (CF)High AShort A2015 2ndDraft8
VothAustinRHPAAAAA2013 5thDraft9
SeverinoPedroCAAAAA2011 IFAIFA10
PerkinsBlakeOF (CF)XSTRookie2015 2ndDraft11
AbreuOsvaldoSSHigh ALow A2012 IFAIFA12
FrancoAnderson3BXSTRookie2013 IFAIFA13
WardDrew3BHigh AHigh A2013 3rdDraft14
SotoJuanOF (corner)XSTDSL2015 IFAIFA15
BautistaRafaelOF (CF)AAHigh A2012 IFAIFA16
ReetzJaksonCLow AShort A2014 3rdDraft17
BaezJoanRHPLow ALow A2014 IFAIFA18
GloverKodaRHP (reliever)High AShort A2015 8thDraft19
WilliamsAustenRHPAAHigh A2014 6thDraft20
KeiboomSpencerCAAHigh A2012 5thDraft21
de los SantosAbelRHP (reliever)AAAAA2010 IFATrade22
WisemanRhettOF (corner)Low AShort A2015 3rdDraft23
LoraEdwinSSLow AShort A2013 IFAIFA24
HearnTaylorLHPLow AShort A2015 5thDraft25
GutierrezKelvin3BLow AShort A2013 IFAIFA26
ReadRaudyCHigh ALow A2011 IFAIFA27
LeeNickLHPAAAA2011 18thDraft28
SkoleMatt1B/3BAAAAA2011 5thDraft29
BostickChris2BAAAA2011 44thTrade30

And, for good measure, here’s every other Nats prospect still active in our system who hasn’t exhausted their rookie eligibility and who has ever appeared on a Nats Prospect list, and where they’re starting (organized by level highest to lowest).

Last NameFirst NamePosition2016 Starting Level2015 Starting LevelDraft/IFA signing YearHow Acquired? 
DavisErikRHP (reliever)AAAAA2008 13thTrade
SolisSammyLHPAAAAA2010 2ndDraft
GoodwinBrianOF (CF)AAAAA2011 1st-SuppDraft
JordanTaylorRHPAAAAAA2009 9thDraft
MartinsonJasonSSAAAAAA2010 5thDraft
GraceMattLHP (reliever)AAAAAA2010 8thDraft
RamseyCalebOF (Corner)AAAAAA2011 11thDraft
HillTaylorRHPAAAAAA2011 6thDraft
BradyMichaelRHP (reliever)AAAOO - AA2009 24thTrade
SanchezAdrian2BAAAA2007 IFAIFA
VettlesonDrewOF (Corner)AAAA2010 1stTrade
SueroWanderRHPAAAA2010 IFAIFA
PleffnerShawn1BAAAA2011 26thDraft
MendezGilbertoLHP (reliever)AAAA2011 IFAIFA
BacusDakodaRHP (reliever)AAAA2012 9thTrade
BallouIsaacOF (Corner)AAAA2013 15thDraft
DykstraCutter2B/SSAAAAA2008 2ndTrade
KeyesKevinOF (Corner)AAAAA2010 7thDraft
PerezStephenSSAAHigh A2012 8thDraft
SimmsJohnRHPAAHigh A2013 11thDraft
HollandNeilRHP (reliever)AAXST2010 11thDraft
TurnbullKylinLHPHigh AHigh A2011 4thDraft
SilvestreHectorRHPHigh AHigh A2011 IFAIFA
SelfDerekRHP (reliever)High AHigh A2012 9thDraft
JohansenJakeRHP (reliever)High AHigh A2013 2ndDraft
ValdezPhillipsRHPHigh ALow A2009 IFAMLFA
EstevezWirkinRHPHigh ALow A2010 IFAIFA
Marmolejos-DiazJose1BHigh ALow A2011 IFAIFA
ReyesLuisRHPHigh ALow A2013 IFAIFA
RodriguezJefryRHPLow ALow A2012 IFAIFA
AgustinTelmitoOFLow AShort A2014 IFAIFA
LeeAndrewLHPLow AShort A2015 11thDraft
SchrockMax2B/SSLow AShort A2015 13thDraft
Rivera Jr.MarianoRHP (reliever)Low AShort A2015 4thDraft
BenincasaRobertRHP (reliever)XSTAA2012 7thDraft
MotaIsraelOFXSTDSL2013 IFAIFA
PimentelDavinsonCXSTDSL2014 IFAIFA
WatsonTylerLHPXSTGCL2015 34thDraft
SpannMatthewLHPXSTHigh A2010 25thTrade
WootenJohnUtilXSTHigh A2012 37thTrade
DavidsonAustinInfXSTLow A2014 13thDraft
DickeyRobbieRHPXSTLow A2014 4thDraft
GunterCody3B (now a RPH)XSTRookie2013 6thDraft
FuentesStevenRHPXSTRookie2014 IFAIFA
EncarnacionRandyOF (Corner)XSTShort A2011 IFAIFA

 

 

 

Written by Todd Boss

April 14th, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Nats Major & Minor League Pitching Staffs vs last fall’s Predictions 2016 Version

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Giolito's in AA to start ... does he ever even see AAA? Photo Eric Dearborn via win-for-teddy blog

Giolito’s in AA to start … does he ever even see AAA? Photo Eric Dearborn via win-for-teddy blog

After reviewing all the 2015 pitching staffs, I projected where I thought everyone would start in 2016.

Now that the four full-season affiliates have been announced, lets see how my predictions turned out.  As always, the Big Board (maintained by SpringfieldFan) is a great resource to track everyone.

Notations here: * = lefty, ^ == new off-season acquisition.  Also, “Missing” usually means “Stuck in Extended Spring Trianing/XST” or in organizational limbo.


 

MLB Predicted

  • Rotation: Scherzer, Strasburg, Ross, Gonzalez*, Roark
  • Bullpen: Papelbon, Treinen, Rivero*, Perez*^, Kelley^, Gott^, Petit^
  • D/L: Barrett (60-day DL)
  • out of organization: Zimmermann, Fister, Storen (traded), Thornton*, Janssen, Carpenter, Stammen (non-tendered)

MLB Actual Opening day

  • Rotation: Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez*, Ross, Roark
  • Bullpen: Papelbon, Treinen, Rivero*, Perez*, Kelley, Belisle, Petit
  • D/L: Barrett (60-day DL)

Discussion: only one surprise from the pre-Spring Training prediction for this team: Matt Belisle makes the team ahead of Trevor Gott.  Otherwise everyone is in the roles they were acquired to hold.  There was some question about whether Blake Treinen would get optioned early in the spring, but not now.  The order of the starters wasn’t right: Ross is being treated like the 4th starter and Roark the 3rd, I guess.

It probably wasn’t too hard to predict 12 out of the 13 spots in the MLB roster, so we won’t pat ourselves on the back too much.  Lets talk minors.


AAA Predicted

  • Rotation: Cole, Jordan, Espino, Voth, Laffey*^, THill, Arroyo^
  • Bullpen: Martin, Solis*, Grace*, Brady^, Bacus, de los Santos, Runion, Velasquez^, Masset^, EDavis, Burnett*^
  • Release Candidates: McGregor, Walters
  • out of organization: Billings, Bleier*, Swynenberg, Fornataro, Meek, Runion, Lively, Gutierrez, Valverde, Delcarmen, RHill, Overton

AAA Actual

  • starters: Cole, Jordan, Espino, THill, Voth
  • spot starts/swingman: Laffey*
  • bullpen: Martin, Solis*, Grace*, Runion, Massett, EDavis, Gott
  • dl/restricted: Arroyo, Brady
  • in AA: Bacus, de los Santos
  • missing: no one
  • cut/released/FAs: McGregor, Velasquez, Walters, Burnett (opted-out)

Discussion: No surprises in the Rotation: we predicted 7 guys in the AAA rotation competition and ended up with the 5 we predicted, a 6th as the swing-man/spot starter and the 7th (Arroyo) on the D/L for the time being.

The bullpen has some surprises: Gott as previously mentioned was projected in the majors; the other 6 bullpen members were in the 10 projected guys competing for the AAA spots.  Two guys got pushed to AA.  Brady starts on the D/L.  Both my release candidates did in fact get released, along with off-season MLFA Velasquez.  The real surprise making the AAA team was Masset.

Burnett opted out when he didn’t make the MLB team, but it wasn’t a stretch to predict that happening.

No real projection surprises though, all in all.  Nobody who we projected to start in AA got moved up; only a couple guys who got moved down (Bacus and de los Santos).  I’m slightly surprised de los Santos is in AA and it makes me question even more his 40-man add and usage last year (3 days of service time and now two options blown).


AA Projected

  • Rotation: Spann*, Giolito, Simms, Alderson, RLopez, Mapes, Gorski^
  • Bullpen: Mendez, Harper*, Shackelford^, NLee*, Benincasa, Suero, Thomas*, Walsh*, Robinson^, Whiting^
  • Release Candidates: Rauh, Bates, Self, Dupra
  • out of organization: Purke*, Pivetta, Simmons, Demny, Ambriz, Gilliam

AA Announced

  • starters: Giolito, Simms, RLopez, AWilliams, Mapes
  • spot starts/swingman:
  • bullpen: Mendez, Harper*, NLee*,  Suero, Fish*, Bacus,  Gutierrez, de los Santos
  • In High-A: Thomas*, Robinson, Whiting, Rauh, Self
  • dl/restricted: none
  • missing: Spann*, Alderson, Shackelford, Benincasa, Bates
  • cut/released/FAs: Gorski, Walsh*, Dupra

Discussion:

The big surprise here is that Austen Williams made the AA team; I had him at High-A.  Perhaps it isn’t THAT big of a surprise given how well he pitched last year, but it does seem to go away from the Nats’ proclivities to start guys at their prior season’s level and have them “earn” early to mid-season promotions.  He joins a pretty high powered duo of Giolito and LopezGorski was an off-season MLFA brought in for competition and he didn’t win.  Only one of my four release candidates was in fact released (Dupra): the other three got dumped to XLS or High-A, which is good for them but not good for the massive log-jam of recently drafted college arms who need spots in A-ball.

In the bullpen, we’ve talked before about the surprising release of Jake Walsh.  There’s 5 guys stuck in XST limbo for now, a couple of which are release candidates.  One name that popped out of the blue is Robert Fish, who signed an under-the radar MLFA deal in mid February and who apparently hasn’t pitched professionally in two full seasons.  He must have had a pretty good spring.


High-A Projected

  • Rotation: AWilliams, Fedde, Valdez, Dickson, Bach*, Van Orden,
  • Bullpen: Johanssen, Amlung (swingman),  Napoli*, Orlan*, Glover, Brinley, Sylvestre*
  • Release Candidates: RPena, Turnbull*
  • out of organization: Schwartz, Howell, CDavis, MRodriguez, Cooper (just released)

High-A Announced

  • starters: Fedde, Valdez, Estevez, LReyes,  Whiting
  • spot starts/swingman: Sanchez,
  • bullpen: Brinley, Glover, Johansen, Orlan*, Robinson, Self, Thomas*
  • dl/restricted: Rauh, Sylvestre*,  Turnbull*
  • missing: Bach*
  • cut/released/FAs: Walsh, Dupra, Dickson, Van Orden, Amlung, Napoli*

Discussion: My High-A predictions show just how out of whack my “reading the stat lines” predictions can be, especially for starters.

In the Rotation, AWilliams earned a jump to AA.  I thought Dickson and Van Orden were solid rotation candidates; instead they got released.  Lastly, I thought both Estevez and Reyes were repeating Hagerstown; Estevez missed the whole season and Reyes posted a 4.82 ERA there last year.  Instead they’re opening day starters for Potomac.  Not even close here.

In the Bullpen, we got Johanssen, Orlan, Glover, Brinley, Sylvestre and Turnbull right (not too bad prediction wise), though the last couple guys are on the D/L and still may be release candidates.  Who did we miss on?  Robinson was an off-season MLFA (who signs MLFAs for high-A?), and Sanchez I had projected to repeat after posting a 4.86 in Hagerstown last year.

 


Low-A Projected

  • Rotation: LReyes, JRodriguez, ALee, Dickey, Hearn*, Crownover*
  • Bullpen: MSanchez (swingman),  Guilbeau*, Borne*, Rivera Jr., Gunter, Peterson, Baez
  • release candidate: Estevez, DWilliams, DRamos, Boghosian, Mooney, Pirro
  • out of organization: Ullmann, KPerez, Mooneyham, Johns (just released)

Low-A Actual

  • starters: JRodriguez, ALee, Hearn*, Crownover*, Guilbeau*, Bach,
  • spot starts/swingman:
  • bullpen: Rivera Jr, Peterson, Baez, VanVossen, LTorres, RPena, DeRosier,
  • dl/restricted: JMorales
  • missing: Dickey, Borne*, Gunter, DRamos, Mooney, Pirro
  • cut/released/FAs: Amlung, Van Orden, Napoli*, DWilliams, Boghosian

Discussion

From a starter standpoint, we did a pretty good job projecting who would be in Hagerstown’s rotation.  Four of the Six projected candidates “seem” like they’re in the rotation (full disclosure, we’re kind of guessing who these teams are using as starters until we see the first turn through the rotation).  The misses?  LReyes, who surprisingly is in High-A, and Guilbeau, who I thought would be on the team but in a relief role.

In the bullpen; we missed on Sanchez (who made High-A), Borne and Gunter (both of whom are in XST for now).  In their place are a slew of guys who I was projecting to be elsewhere.  I thought both VanVossen and DeRosier were release candidates after poor 2015 seasons in Short-A; instead they’re in the opening day bullpen.  I had LTorres in the Short-A bullpen after mostly failing as a short-A starter.

Lastly there’s Bach and RPena; I had both projected in Potomac.  I thought Bach had a perfectly good Low-A season last year and has nothing yet to prove in the Sally League.  Pena returns to Hagerstown for the third time; he pitched in Low-A in 2013 and 2014.  You have to think this is a planned short stint before he returns to at least High-A.

No real surprises in the “Missing/XST” crew: Dickey is the biggest profile name here but it seems to me he was injured last  year so its hard to pass judgement on his stats anywhere.  Borne‘s numbers were basically identical to the likes of Hearn and Guilbeau’s; he missed out in the 2016 competition.  Gunter might make sense as a mid-season promotion to cover for injury.  Ramos was hurt most of the year last  year.

In the “release candidate” section, I was clearly wrong about Estevez.  DWilliams and Boghosian have already indeed been released.  And both Mooney/Pirro missed out on the full-season roster and are in XST limbo.


 

Let the games begin!  Are there surprises for you guys in these rosters?

Ladson Inbox 3/22/16

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Michael Taylor has been lighting it up this spring. Photo via wp

Michael Taylor has been lighting it up this spring. Photo via wp

Bill Ladson‘s inboxes seem to now just be sporadic Spring Training devices.  I should do more post-Boswell chat reaction posts to drum up conversation.  Nonetheless, here’s Ladson’s latest mailbag and how i’d have answered the questions he took.

Q: Former Nationals general manager Jim Bowden believes Michael Taylor should be the starting left fielder over Jayson Werth. What is your take on it?

A: My take is, “thats why Jim Bowden isn’t a GM anymore.”  Or even a manager.  Yes Michael Taylor has had a great spring.  He also struck out, a lot, in 2015, (158 Ks in 511 PAs for a nifty 31% clip) and (per his splits) didn’t really improve much as the season progressed.   Meanwhile Jayson Werth put up very, very good numbers in 2013 and 2014, the two most recent seasons when he wasn’t hurt.  In both of those seasons he put up oWAR of 4.7 (his total bWAR figures being drug down by his idiot manager continuing to play him in RF instead of left).

Of course, Werth isn’t getting any younger.  There’s not guarantee that he hasn’t fallen off a cliff of performance.

So what’s the answer?  You let Werth play his way to the bench.  The odds are that someone’s getting hurt in our OF and Taylor is going to get 400-500 ABs anyway.  So he’s gonna get playing time.  But there’s just no way that Dusty Baker the “veteran’s manager” is going to sit a long-time vet and team leader by virtue of a few weeks of Florida ABs.  It may take half a season of under-performance, but eventually these things sort themselves out.  This is basically what Ladson said too.

Q: What do you think is Baker’s toughest decision before heading north?

A: What socks to wear on opening day?  Honestly, there’s really very little to decide upon with this team.  They’ve had a very injury-free spring.  The rotation was basically settled upon months ago.  The trades that Mike Rizzo made to solidify the roster also had the effect of basically locking up the roster going north.  Maybe there will be a surprise in the bullpen but that seems unlikely too; the team acquired all these guys for a reason and it wasn’t to compete for a bullpen slot.

The obvious answer prior to spring training was “who starts at Shortstop” but I’ve never thought there was any question that Danny Espinosa will be the starter.  That’s not to say I don’t recognize the potential of Trea Turner (he’s not a top 10-15 prospect on most pundits’ sheets for nothing), but returning to a theme, I just had a hard time thinking that a manager like Baker was going to go with a guy with 5 weeks of service time over a guy with nearly 5 years.  As with Taylor/Werth though, this situation likely sorts itself out.  If Espinosa hits .200 for April, then he’ll switch places with Stephen Drew and the team will start thinking hard about bringing back up Turner (especially if he’s hitting .320 in AAA).

I think there’s still some question at the edge of the bench; do you go with who I think they’ll go with (Tyler Moore and Clint Robinson) or do we get a surprise DFA so they can stick with someone like Matt den DekkerLadson also says its the last bench spot, where Moore is the incumbent but a number of guys could stick based on spring performance, specifically Scott Sizemore, who might be a bit more positionally flexible than Moore.

Q: What is your biggest concern about the Nationals?

A: Bullpen.  We’ve talked about how the Nats, despite all their injuries on offense last year, really struggled in terms of run prevention as the core reason they went from 96 to 83 wins.  Now they’re rolling out nearly a 100% changed bullpen from opening day last year.  How will it perform?  Will it be able to hold down the fort?

We also likely are taking a step back in the rotation, unless Strasburg remembers his September form and brings that from day one.  But, we hopefully counter this with a step forward in offense, with healthy seasons from Anthony Rendon and the veterans.  Ladson also says Bullpen.

Q: Who do you see having a breakout year in the Nationals’ farm system?

A: Well, do you count Giolito at this point?  Probably not.  I’m going to go with the prospects who are getting publicity but who are still in the lower minors.  Guys like Victor Robles, Anderson Franco.  I’d like to see what Max Schrock can do.  I’m excited to see what Taylor Hearn can bring to the table with a full season.  The two Lees: Andrew Lee and Nick LeeLadson mentions Severino; meh; i think we know what we have with Severino by now; great catcher, no hit, #8 hitter in the majors.  I think you see this team let both Ramos and Lobaton go this coming off-season and find a new starter with Severino as the backup.  But that’s a year away so lots could change.

Q: Should the Nationals consider trading Stephen Strasburg before the non-waiver Trade Deadline since it seems he has no interest in returning to Washington next year?

A: Nope.  You try to WIN when you have guys like Strasburg, not flip them away like you’re some small market team stashing away prospects for the future.  This isn’t Tampa Bay; this is the #5 market in the nation.  Besides, who said Strasburg has “no interest” in returning to Washington??  I’ve never read that.  His agent is Scott Boras, who always advises going to free agency, and next year’s FA class is weak, meaning Strasburg will probably get into a bidding war for his services.  Its the modern game; he’ll be overpaid, he’ll get too many years, and he’ll likely get priced out of the comfort level of Ted Lerner and company.  But that’s not the same as implying that Strasburg doesn’t want to be playing in Washington.  Would you give Strasburg 8yrs/$200M?  Because that’s the going rate for an Ace-quality guy like him on the market.  Ladson agrees.

Q: What do you think of Blake Treinen? Is he a starter or reliever?

A: I think  he’s a starter at heart but a reliever in reality.  That is unless he can actually develop a 50-55 grade third pitch that he can reliably get lefties out with.  If that’s the case, then he could become a very effective starter.  And it does seem like the Nationals are thinking the same thing.  He’s definitely pitching this spring like he’s a starter; perhaps the team is thinking about Treinen as the longer guy instead of PetitLadson says he’s showing progress and his spring stats are good; is he the 6th starter over A.J. Cole or Austin Voth at this point?  If someone goes down with injury, are you trying out Trienen or are you calling up the kid Giolito?

 

How about something positive? Are you optimistic for the new season?

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How much of an effect will Murphy have on this team? Photo via bleacherreport.com

How much of an effect will Murphy have on this team? Photo via bleacherreport.com

So, I happened to look at the Spring Training standings the other day.  I normally don’t ever bother looking at spring training stats since, well, they’re useless.  But day after day, reading the summaries of our beat reporters, it just seems like the team wins every day.   As of this writing the team is 12-4-2 this spring, and more telling it seems like they’re also routinely winning the “first three innings” when both teams are at their best lineups.

The other day the team bombed the Mets, hanging 8 runs on Bartolo Colon.  Earlier this week they battered Wei-Yin Chen en route to a victory over Miami.  They put 3 runs on the Astros’ Collin McHugh, and then tee’d off on a few of the Braves younger starters.  Today Harper bombed two homers off of Justin Verlander, who I guarantee was trying to get him out on purpose.  The second one *cleared the batter’s eye* in center, 420 feet away and 30 feet up.  Wow; that’s a man’s homer.

Quietly, this team seems to be flourishing under new manager Dusty Baker.  Everyone’s healthy (well, except for Ryan Zimmerman‘s foot, but I guess you can’t get everything you want).   Baker has been showing his hand and putting out very professional looking lineups.  We’re not hearing about a slew of guys who aren’t going to be ready for opening day like we did last  year.  We’re reading gushing reports about Lucas Giolito, including more than one baseball analyst being quoted as saying Giolito has the best stuff they’ve seen this spring … out of anyone in the game.  They’re saying he’s this year’s Noah Snydergaard, a difference making ace who should be in the rotation by June.

Looking at the beginning of the season’s schedule, this team could jump out to a pretty fast start.   Their first 22 games are entirely against teams that are all threatening to lose 95 games this year: Atlanta, Miami, back against Atlanta, at Philly, at Miami, home to Minnesota and then three more against Philly.  That’s 22 straight games that, honestly, they should be looking to win.  At the end of April heading into May they have a heck of a road trip; at St. Louis, then at the defending WS champion Royals, then at potentially 100-game winning Chicago Cubs.  Oof; if they take 3 games out of 9 on that road trip i’ll be happy.

But heck; could this team start something crazy like 16-6?  Could this team really take it to the Mets?  I don’t have any stats or anything other than a gut feeling, but it really seems to me that NOT being the presumptive favorite and having a veteran players manager has really taken off the pressure.

Are you feeling the same thing?

 

Written by Todd Boss

March 21st, 2016 at 7:41 am

Ladson Inbox 2/26/16

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Future $400M Dodger? Photo GQ magazine Mar 2012

Future $400M Dodger? Photo GQ magazine Mar 2012

I guess Bill Ladson only gets questions during spring training.  After not doing an inbox for practically all of last season, its 3 in 3 weeks!  Since these are such good conversation starters, lets see how I would have answered his questions.

Q: Most believe the Nats have no chance of keeping Bryce Harper once he becomes a free agent. Your thoughts? 

A: Unfortunately, I’m also in that camp.  I believe Bryce Harper and his aggressive agent Scott Boras will take him to free agency with the idea of getting the largest contract in history.  And, when push comes to shove, I just can’t see how Washington is going to have the stomach to compete with the big-money teams (namely, the Dodgers and Yankees) and commit the kind of dollars that he’s going to command.  Certainly not with the MASN hamstringing.  I mean, lets be honest with ourselves; its taken years just to get the two parties to agree on whether the Nats are going to get $34M (what the O’s want to pay), $53M (what the first arbitration panel apparently agreed upon) or $109M (what the Nats requested) on the first reset of the agreement.  Meanwhile the Dodgers are getting somewhere between $240M-$280M a year in their RSN deal … potentially FIVE TIMES what the Nats are getting paid.  I’m sorry; but the team that can afford to just throw money at players is the team that is going to be able to promise $40M/season.  There’s just no way even a “rich” team like Washington is going to compete.  Enjoy him while you can and hope the team does the smart thing and really, really tries to win a World Series while they still have him.  Ladson thinks the team is going to wait and will “try to extend him” before he hits free agency.  Yeah, right.  How many players Boras has represented have taken extensions versus going to free agency? 

Q: What are the chances that Ian Desmond returns to the Nationals this year?

A: Well, I think the chances seem like they’re nil.  The Nats made their offers (a multiyear extension AND a qualifier) and Desmond turned them both down.  I’m shocked that he’s the last man standing in the Qualifying Offer class (I would have bet money it would have been Ian Kennedy), and i’m shocked that he hasn’t found a job yet.

Now, that being said, a better question might be “Should the Nats think about bringing him back??”  You’ve just hired a player’s manager who likes veterans in Dusty Baker.  They’ve constructed their roster with a clear intention of sending future SS-in-waiting Trea Turner back to the minors for seasoning, meaning that Danny Espinosa seems like the starting shortstop (career BA: .230).  At this point, given the steal of an offer you might be able to get Desmond for (Fowler was given a gift of a contract from Chicago, guaranteeing $13M when he probably wasn’t going to get that in terms of AAV on the open market), maybe he’s worth considering.  Yes we’d be giving up the supp-1st rounder we stand to gain.  But you can just give him another QO next season if he rebounds and puts himself in line for another big pay day.  Or maybe you assume the next CBA (which will be signed sometime this year since the current deal expires 12/1/16) gets rid of the Q.O. entirely, since it is killing players and FA market values for certain types of players.  Actually this latter argument perhaps supports the Nats wanting to keep the pick, since it may very well go away (or perhaps the system is modified to just give all teams giving away significant FAs supplemental first rounders, not that I have any idea how you’d figure out who was deserving of a pick).  I think the team has made the decision that he’s on the decline, that they’ve dodged a huge bullet by him turning down 7yrs/$105 or whatever it was, and they’re ready to move on.

Ladson has sources in the Org that say its a “long long long shot.”  Baker says Espinosa looks like he’s in “mid-season form” at the plate (wow; does that mean he’s only striking out every OTHER time up and still hitting .230?)

Q: What do you think Baker will bring to the Nationals this year?

A: I think Dusty Baker brings harmony and respect to the clubhouse in ways it was clearly not present under Matt Williams.  No more arbitrary scheduling, lack of communication, lack of awareness of what’s going on with his players.  I’m a big advocate of hiring contrasting styles in managers when one guy clearly grinds his way to a failure, and Baker is a great example of it.  I was completely pro-Bud Black because of his pitching experience, but the team has more than made up for it with the hiring of Mike Maddox and we’re going to be a much better team for it.

Ladson mentions a very important word: Charisma.  Baker brings a ton of experience, charisma and humor to the clubhouse; again going towards one of the big, embarrassing issues from last year (clubhouse chemistry).

Q: Can you predict the Nationals’ rotation on Opening Day?

A: Barring injury, it has to be (in order) Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez, Ross and Roark.  I’m not going to predict Arroyo beating out Roark at this point unless Arroyo looks completely healthy, he’s actually pitching well and Roark falls apart in Spring Training.  If there’s an injury, I look at Arroyo as the first man up, then Cole in terms of rotation coverage.  If we have to dig any deeper than that … watch out.  I like Voth but i’m not sure he’s ready for prime time.  I don’t trust Taylor Jordan any longer.  Lucas Giolito may start his career a ton earlier than anyone thought if injuries take out too many of our starters.

Ladson says its a no-brainer right now with the assumed 5 above.

Q: Why did the Nationals let Yunel Escobar get away? He was a consistent hitter.

A: Escobar was a consistent hitter last year yes (.314 BA, which was 50 points higher than the two previous seasons and 30 points higher than his career average), but hit an “empty” .314 (just 9 homers and a .415 slugging, also a huge improvement over previous seasons and his career high).  Unsaid is Escobar’s significant defensive issues (awful defensive stats, though to be fair genius skipper Williams had him playing out of position the entire season).  I think the Nats “sold high” on Escobar, traded from depth to a certain extent and got a player (Trevor Gott) in trade that they really needed to help bolster the bullpen.  Ladson doesn’t mention the “selling high” part of his offense; only mentions his defensive issues.

Q: What was it that made the front office sour on Drew Storen? The kid is one of the premier closers in the game, yet the team always seemed to be looking for someone better.

A: An excellent question.  I’m not sure it was the “front office” as much as it was the “impulsive owner” who soured on Storen.  He had two well publicized post-season failures, which led the normally sane and intelligent GM Rizzo to twice acquire and over-pay an aging “proven closer” to replace Storen.  The first time, Rafael Soriano eventually was supplanted by his own failures and Storen’s consistency, the second time the team inexplicably replaced him with Papelbon in the middle of perhaps Storen’s finest season.  Is Storen one of the “premier closers” in the game?  No.  I’d say he’s middle of the road and could likely tick off at least 15 guys who will be more highly valued in fantasy than Storen were he to win the Toronto closing job.

The crummy part of the deal was the fact that Storen was the one who needed to be traded by virtue of Papelbon making himself essentially untradeable.  I tell you what; Papelbon better be a frigging all-star this year to make up for what’s happened.  Ladson mentions the two blown post-season games and says he needed a change of scenery.  Both true.

 

 

Spring Training 2016 NRI discussion

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Arroyo could be a surprise NRI making the 25-man roster.  Photo via google images

Arroyo could be a surprise NRI making the 25-man roster. Photo via google images

We discussed Non Roster Invites (NRI) last year (link to 2015’s post) at the behest of reader forensicane, and it was such a good topic that, upon seeing yesterday’s announcement from the various Nats beat writers (here’s James Wagner from the WP’s post), I thought I’d put up a post where we could discuss.

Reminder from last year; there were 20 NRIs; two made the 25-man roster out of spring (Dan Uggla and Clint Robinson), two others eventually got added and called up (Rafael Martin and Emmanuel Burriss) and two others were young catchers since added to the 40-man (Spencer Kieboom, Pedro Severino), so these are not throw-away players.  The odds of several of these names playing a part in this team’s future is high, even past the obvious candidates (i.e. those listed at or near the top of prospect lists).

Like last year, we’ll go by position and discuss their chances for making the team, staying with the franchise, and (depending on their roster status) their future plans with the team in general (the below format is cut-n-pasted from Wagner’s post).

Catchers (1)

  • RHH Jhonatan Solano

Discussion: Solano, the long time Nats-farm hand, returns to the fold after being released ahead of an options crunch in Nov 2014 and spending 2015 toiling for Miami’s AAA team alongside his brother.  He did get 20 MLB at bats in 2015 … and went 1-for-20.  He’s back, though his odds of breaking ahead of any of the four catchers we have on the roster seems very slim right now, even given the known offensive limitations of both MLB-projected catchers.  Now, were one of Ramos  or Lobaton go down with injury … that might open things up.  Would you rather depend on one of the two rookies on the 40-man as your backup or at least go with someone like Solano, who has at least a few MLB at bats over the past few years under his belt?  Neither A or B are good options, and you might think that the “Jonathan Lucroy to Washington” future plan may pick up speed at that point.

Odds of any of these NRIs making the 25-man roster: Negligible unless there’s an injury.

Future plans: Solano back to AAA once again as depth if there’s an injury; he may be flat out released if not since both Severino and Kieboom seem destined to head to AAA to split catching duties.


Infielders (4)

  • RHH Jason Martinson
  • RHH Brendan Ryan
  • RHH Scott Sizemore
  • LHH Matt Skole

Discussion: The team is quite familiar with both Martinson and Skole; both being draft picks and both being relatively close to the end of their tenure here.  Martinson has quietly climbed the ranks but hit just .218 in AAA last year; what he has though is power.  21 homers and corner infield capabilities (he was a SS coming out of college but quickly moved to 3B).  I view him as “Tyler Moore” insurance and the team likely has him at camp to see if he’s at all a possible option in case something bad happens.  Skole has long been a personal favorite, a former Nats minor league player of the year whose promising career was derailed by a season-long injury in 2013.  He took a big step back in 2015, not making the AAA team out of spring but eventually getting there mid-season.  He also has power (20 combined homers last year) but from the left hand side while also playing corner infield.  I view him as “Clint Robinson” insurance.

Meanwhile, both Ryan and Sizemore seemingly are competing for the second “backup utility infielder” role on this team, one that without any other moves would go to someone like Wilmer Difo or perhaps Danny Espinosa were the team to decide to go with Trea Turner from day one.  I don’t see that happening; I think Difo showed he needs more seasoning, I think the team wants a veteran at short and either Sizemore or (more likely) Ryan makes this team as the 2nd utility guy.

Odds of any of these NRIs making the 25-man roster: High: I think Ryan breaks camp with the team.

Future plans: Martinson and Skole back in AAA, Sizemore may have an opt-out but may not since he was in AAA most of last year.


Outfielders (4)

  • LHH Tony Campana
  • RHH Chris Heisey
  • RHH Reed Johnson
  • LHH Logan Schafer

Discussion: Schafer was brought in presumably to compete with Matt den Dekker as a speedy CF-capable 5th outfielder type.  Problem is that Schafer can’t hit: career .212 hitter with a meager career .319 slugging.   Campana?  Same story; the 5’8″ backup outfielder didn’t even appear in the majors last year and has just one homer in 477 career MLB appearances.  den Dekker showed some promise at the end of last season and seems like he’s the first guy to get called up if/when there’s an injury in the outfield.

So lets talk about the two guys who do have some consideration.  The team knows exactly what it has with Johnson: an aging scrappy veteran who can play a corner OF and be a good clubhouse presence.  Sounds like Jayson Werth minus 6 inches of height and $120M of contract.  I think they invited him just as saying “thanks and sorry about last year.”   Meanwhile, some are talking about Heisey having a shot at this roster: I think maybe.  If the team is looking to upgrade the Tyler Moore “right-handed pinch hitter off the bench” role, then Heisey is his competition.  He’s somewhat accomplished; he has never really started in his career but hit 18 homers as a part-timer in Cincinnati a few years back.  But his bat has been just as meager as Moore’s lately: he hit just .223 combined across several AAA levels last year.  Of course, all of those figures are better than what Moore has done lately, and Heisey likely is cheaper than Moore for 2016 (Moore signed a pre-arb deal of $900k but of course could be released mid-spring training without the Nats having to pay a ton of his guaranteed salary).

The question becomes; is Heisey’s positional flexibility (he’s an OF who can play CF in a pinch while Moore can basically only play 1B) going to win out over Moore’s long tenure with the team?  Maybe.

Odds of any of these NRIs making the 25-man roster:  Pretty good: Heisey seems like he could beat out Moore for the RH bench bat.

Future plans: we don’t have a ton of depth at the OF position in AAA; i’m sure one or both of Schafer/Campana could stick around.  Johnson could elect to retire if he doesn’t make the team at his advanced age.  Heisey could stick around or could have an opt-out if he doesn’t make the squad.


Starting Pitchers (6)

  • RHP Bronson Arroyo
  • RHP Paolo Espino
  • RHP Lucas Giolito
  • RHP Taylor Hill
  • LHP Aaron Laffey
  • RHP Austin Voth

Discussion: Thanks to FA departures and starter conversions, the Nats now have just seven starters on their 40-man roster.  Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez*, Ross, Roark, Cole, Jordan.   Where as last year the team could afford to send a 5-win starter to the mop-up role, this year they’re one injury from really having to answer some very serious questions.  Which is probably why they have signed Bronson Arroyo honestly; despite throwing up low-to-mid 80s heat, he has remained relatively effective deep into his 30s.

In reality though, the Nats real SP depth is seen directly in the NRIs; in order Giolito, Voth and Espino.  These three guys are who this team likely turns to if the injury bug really bites the projected rotation.  I’m on record saying that Giolito is going to be up in 2016; might as well get him used to seeing MLB hitters (or close to it, depending on when they give him innings).  In reality, nobody on this list projects to have a shot at cracking the 2016 rotation save for injury.  The big question really comes down to Arroyo versus Roark for the 5th spot.  Is it likely that Roark gets dumped back to the bullpen again, causing a cascading series of bullpen moves (Petit to middle relief, Treinen likely to AAA)?  Not that likely but you never know, and Dusty Baker certainly goes way back with Arroyo.  I think its a certainty that the NRI prospects don’t break camp with the squad … but Arroyo could have a shot.

Can’t wait for Spring Training games though to get a glimpse of Giolito on the mound…

Odds of any of these NRIs making the 25-man roster: Decent for Arroyo.

Future plans: Four of these six NRIs will form the bulk of the Syracuse rotation (Espino, Hill, Laffey, Voth), to be joined with Cole and Jordan for the core rotation in upstate NY.  I’ve projected Giolito to start back in AA and prove he can dominate that level before moving up and bumping someone like Laffey or Hill from the AAA rotation.  That leaves Arroyo; if he doesn’t make the team, I’m guessing he’s opting out instead of lowering himself to riding buses in AAA.


Relief Pitchers (5)

  • RHP Michael Brady
  • LHP Sean Burnett
  • RHP Erik Davis
  • RHP Nick Masset
  • RHP Wander Suero

Discussion: While the 40-man roster of starters is thin (7), the Nats now have no less than thirteen (!) relievers on their 40-man roster.  That’s a lot of arms.  Only 7 of them are making the MLB bullpen, and for the most part you can ink in the opening day rotation by looking at the acquisitions the team has done since July of last year.  So not a lot of room in the inn for NRI relievers.  Davis gets the invite despite getting dumped off of the 40-man roster probably as one last ditch effort to show the MLB staff he can still pitch.  Long time Nat Burnett returns to the fold coming off of a second TJ, probably given the NRI for sentimental reasons more than anything.  Brady and Masset are new acquisitions (one by trade, one by MLFA) who both project to be Syracuse middle relief (where my pre-season analysis also showed a massive glut of arms), while Suero’s callup seems like an audition to be added to the 40-man roster ahead of next off season’s rule 5 draft, since Suero just finished his 6th pro season and will be exposed next December.

Odds of any of these NRIs making the 25-man roster: Nil: the Nats have way too many relievers already and none of these guys projects to be better than what we already have on the 40-man.

Future plans: Brady, Davis, Masset to AAA, Suero to AA, Burnett opts-out looking for a MLB loogy job after proving he’s healthy again on the Nats spring training meal money dime.


Summary

I think there’s a good chance of at least one and perhaps two NRIs to make the 25-man roster.

 

 

Ladson’s Inbox 2/12/15

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What will Treinen give this team in 2016? Photo via zimbio.com

What will Treinen give this team in 2016? Photo via zimbio.com

Happy Valentines Day 2016!  And what better way to celebrate it than an Inbox from MLB.com’s Nats beat reporter Bill Ladson.  Here’s how I would have answered his questions had someone bothered to ask me.  As always, I write my answer before reading his, and edit questions for clarity.

Q: What is the biggest change the Nationals must make to be competitive in the NL East?

A: Well first, lets be honest.  There’s really only 2 teams even *trying* in the NL East 2016, so calling it “competitive” is sort of like claiming that the Washington Generals were “competitive” with the Harlem Globetrotters all those years.

For me the biggest thing the Nats need to do is just stay frigging healthy.  If Harper plays another full year maybe he doesn’t do another 10-win season, but you have to think he’ll be quite good.  Rendon was one of the NL’s top players two years ago; no reason not to think he could return to form.  Strasburg needs to be the guy all year in 2016 that he was in August and September of last year.  Werth and Zimmerman are both seemingly on the down side of their careers but there’s no reason they can’t be valuable contributors if they can stay on the field.  If all of that happens, then this team suddenly is the 95-98 win juggernaut that everyone thought they’d be in 2015.

Ladson mentions the Bullpen and team defense.  I guess he’s bought into the Royal’s plan as the way of winning going forward.

Q: What will Blake Treinen‘s impact be on the team be this year? It seems like he has the talent to make an impact on the team.

A: Well, right now Treinen is probably the “last guy in” to the bullpen; if the Nats were to acquire another RH middle reliever, Treinin likely gets bumped to AAA.  That’s because lefties hit him for an astounding .934 OPS last year.   His K/9 jumped dramatically his 2nd year in the pen .. but so did his BB/9.  Its pretty astounding to me that a guy with his kind of stuff (upper 90s sinking fastball with so much  movement that commentators think he’s throwing circle changes) struggles the way he does.  So my answer to the question is “minimal unless he can get lefties out with more regularity.”  Ladson basically says the same thing with the same observations.

Q: Do you expect Lucas Giolito with the big league club in 2016 or will he get a full season in Syracuse?

A: Something tells me that we may see Giolito in the majors this year, yes.  He didn’t light AA on fire last year … so I see him starting the season there (and not AAA).  I also see him quickly earning a promotion to AAA or perhaps straight to the majors, just like the team did with Joe Ross last year.  Or, consider what the team did with Jordan Zimmermann, who jumped straight from AA to the majors (albeit after spending most of the 2008 season in AA).

Why do I think Giolito is going to appear in the majors this year?  Because this is our last year with Strasburg before he signs a $200M contract somewhere.  And this is  one of our last couple years with Harper before he signs a $500M contract.  And when you have two of the marquee players in the game … you try to win at all costs.  This is the criticism of the Angels right now with Mike Trout and if the Nats go cheap or don’t use everything in their disposal to try to win a championship while they still have Harper, then it’ll be the same situation with the Nats.  So if one of our starters goes down and A.J Cole or Austin Voth can’t cut the mustard, then I expect Giolito to be on the MLB team without too much delay.

Ladson says it depends on how he looks in Spring Training.  I dunno about that; when scouts talk about how he has two grade 70 pitches already … what else is there to see?  I’m sure he’ll look awesome against AAA players and other re-treads in the later innings of ST games, will go to AA with the missive of “working on something” in particular, and will be up soon.  Ladson also says he “has no limits” in terms of innings; that too I think is BS.  He’ll be limited to no more than a 20% increase year over year.  He threw 117 innings last year; don’t expect him to throw much more than 140-150 innings.

Q: What kind of season do you expect from Gio Gonzalez?

A: I think we’ll see a slight improvement for Gonzalez over 2015’s campaign for reasons as frequently pointed out by JohnC: his peripherals were crummy, lots of bad luck on balls in play, and the defense behind him was rather subpar.  I’m thinking something like 13-9, 3.45 ERA, 1.30 whip.  Not bad for a 3rd or 4th starter.  Ladson implies that this could be Gio’s “last year” because he’s entering his option years.  Uh Bill, are you seeing what mediocre starting pitchers are going for on the FA market?  Gonzalez’s options are each at $12M for the next two years.  Jon Lackey is older and lesser, and just signed a 2yr/$32M deal.  Who would you rather have?

Q: Do you expect a significant contribution from any of the players signed to Minor League contracts?

A: A couple of the MLFA signings come to mind as possible contributors, absolutely.  Reed Johnson, Brendan Ryan, and Bronson Arroyo could all be surprising players come spring training, and an injury or two could open the way for their place on the opening day roster absolutely.  Just look at what happened to this team last spring, with a slew of guys on the opening day D/L and both MLFAs and non-tender candidates not only making the team but contributing the entire season (see Robinson, Clint and Moore, Tyler).  Ladson mentions one other guy Chris Heisey who could also factor in.

Q: I’m asking for a prediction: Who do you think will be the starting shortstop between Danny Espinosa, Trea Turner and Stephen Drew?

A: I’m going with Danny Espinosa honestly; the way the roster has been constructed its clear to me Turner is starting the season in AAA and Drew will be the utility infielder.  If Espinosa hits .200 in April though, all bets are off.  I know many will say that it should be Turner … bit if its Turner, then that leaves a veteran like Moore or Drew on the outside looking in.  Ladson says Turner; well see!

 

 

 

 

 

 

GCL/Rookie Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

Hagerstown/Low-A Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2015

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Austen Williams went 8-1 for the Suns in the first half. Photo milb.com

Austen Williams went 8-1 for the Suns in the first half. Photo milb.com

This is the 5th in the 2015 Pitching staff review series, here’s a review of Hagerstown/Low-A’s pitching staff for 2015.  Other parts of the 2015 series:

For some historical perspective, here’s 2013’s version (featuring Pedro Encarnaction),  2012’s version (Aaron Barrett was the feature pitcher) and 2011’s version (Taylor Jordan the feature pitcher) of this post specifically for Hagerstown/Low-A.  Had I done this post in 2014 I would have “featured” Lucas Giolito, who dominated in 2014 for the suns (10-2, 2.20 ERA).

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

Note; while its relatively easy to do reviews for the upper levels of the system, once we get lower we’re usually talking about a lot of short sample sizes.  I’ll depend on text from my “draft class” write-ups where appropriate.

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

  • Opening Day Starters: AWilliams, Bach*, LReyes, Van Orden, Valdez
  • End of Season starters:  Amlung, Bach*, Lee, Fedde, JRodriguez, LReyes
  • End of Season spot starts/swingman:  MSanchez
  • End of Season bullpen:  Napoli*, Cooper, DWilliams,  Glover, Brinley, KPerez, Peterson
  • Mid-Season promotions: Mapes, Valdez,  Thomas*, Purke*, AWilliams, Orlan*, Walsh*, Rauh, Howell
  • up-and-back: Amlung, AWilliams, Amlung
  • down-and-back: Van Orden, LReyes, Bach*
  • Mid-Season demotions:  Webb*, Ullman, JRodriguez, Dickey, Baez, Johns, LTorres, DeRosier
  • End of Season DL: Estevez, DRamos, JMorales, Van Orden
  • Mid-Season cut/released/FAs: Mooneyham*

Hagerstown starters.  The rotation started the season with AWilliams, Bach*, LReyes, Van Orden, Valdez.  18 guys got starts in 2015.  Here’s an overview of the starters used, starting with the original five starters, going all the way to the rehab spot starts.

  • Austen Williams blitzed the Sally league (8-1 with a 2.10 ERA) and forced a promotion to Potomac mid-season, where he continued pitching well.  See High-A write-up for more.  Outlook for Next season: High-A rotation to start with an eye on quick promotion.
  • Connor Bach: Posted a 6-4, 3.85 ERA with 106/69 K/BB in 110 ip (20 starts) in Low A as a member of the rotation for much of the season.  4.08 fip, .311 babip.  Not too shabby for a 21st round senior sign from a relatively unknown baseball school (VMI).  Perhaps too many walks, but nearly a K/inning in full-season ball portends well for his future.  At the very least he could move up as a lefty specialist.   Outlook for Next season: High-A rotation.
  • Luis Reyes went 6-7 with a 4.82 ERA in 24 starts and 117.2 IP, both leading the Hagerstown squad.  1.42 whip, 4.87 fip.  Reyes signed relatively late for a Dominican player (at age 18) but has steadily progressed out of the DSL and through the short-season leagues.  This was his first stint in full-season ball and at age 20 could be excused for getting hit somewhat hard.  A 72/50 K/BB ratio isn’t promising; he maintained much better K/9 rates in the lower levels.  I figure he’ll repeat Low-A looking to improve his numbers and see if he can regain some of his swing and miss stuff.  Outlook for Next season: repeating Low-A rotation.
  • Drew Van Orden went 5-5, 3.61 ERA for Hagerstown with 47/34 K/BB in 92ip (15 starts), 4.33 fip, .254 babip.  Not a bad season for the under-slot 2014 5th round senior sign, who’s clearly sticking around.  He was mostly a spot starter for Hagerstown this year, getting a bunch of starts during the turmoil of the rotation.  He ended the season on the DL after giving the team 92 decent innings.  His FIP is a bit weak thanks to overall lucky BABIP contact but he has given no reason not to put himself into the discussion for that same role in Potomac next year.  Outlook for Next season: High-A rotation competition.
  • Philips Valdez dominated the Sally league, going 5-2 with a 1.47 ERA and quickly earned a promotion to Potomac.   See High-A write-up for more.   Outlook for Next season: High-A rotation
  • Jefry Rodriguez bounced between Short-A and Low-A again this season, starting in Hagerstown, pitching most of the year in Auburn and ending in Hagerstown.  See the Short-A write-up for more.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation.
  • Mario Sanchez was Hagerstown’s long-man/spot starter all year, getting 8 starts in 29 appearances and posting a 4.86 ERA along the way.  70/18 K/BB ratio in 90.2 innings, 1.28 whip, 4.18 whip, .301 babip.  Sanchez is even  younger than the other DSL grads on this team (he didn’t turn 21 until after the season was over, so 2016 will be his age-21 season).  Good control (nearly 4 strikeouts per walk) but was a bit homer prone (11 homers in 90 innings).  He’s undersized (6’1″) and I wonder if he’s not destined to continue to be this rubber-armed innings eater for the organization.  Its the same way he’s been used all along; few starts but lots of IP per appearance.  I also think he needs to improve his numbers before moving up, and he’s  young enough to repeat a level without really stalling his progress.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A swingman again.
  • Justin Amlung is a bit of an oddity; he’s was a 24-yr old MLFA after getting cut from the Cubs’ high-A affiliate in May of 2015.  The Nats signed him and had him repeating Low-A for his third straight year.  He (like Sanchez) served as a swing-man, getting 19 appearances and 8 starts for Hagerstown, posting a 4.22 ERA along the way.  He had a great 42/7 K/BB ratio in 64 low-A innings, 1.14 whip, 3.70 fip.  He was promoted towards the end of the season and had a nice stretch for Potomac before the seasons’ end.  He was immediately declared a MLFA but has re-signed for 2016.  Outlook for Next season: high-A bullpen/swingman.
  • Matt Purke had 8 starts and 32 IP for Hagerstown during his tour of the Nats farm system in 2015: see AA write-up for more.
  • Erick Fedde evenly split his season between Short-A and Hagerstown.  He was 4-1, 2.57 ERA in Short-A Auburn with 36/8 in 35ip (8 starts), 2.60 fip, .346 babip.  He then got bumped up to Hagerstown where he threw another 29 innings across 6 starts with lesser stats (1-2, 4.34 ERA).  A good  post-Tommy  John debut season for  our 2014 1st rounder Fedde, despite the rather restrictive innings limits put on him; he was limited to just 5ip per start for a total of 64ip on the season between two levels.  Given his mediocre stats in Hagerstown and the Nats historical promotion schedule, he could start 2016 in the Hagerstown rotation with a quick move up to the Potomac rotation.  I could be wrong though; looking at the state of my projected High-A rotation I could also easily see him starting the year in Potomac.  There’s just so many arms competing for the Low-A rotation he may be forced up.  Outlook for Next season: High-A rotation.
  • Andrew Lee posted a 5-1, 1.63 ERA across 3 levels, ending up in Hagerstown where he spent most of his first pro season.  47/10 K/BB in 38.2 innings (16/5 starts), 2.19 fip, .250 babip specifically in lowA where he spent most of his time.  An intriguing arm for sure and more than held his own in 5 Low-A starts.  He’s the fastest riser so far of the 2015 draft class and he’s easily in the mix for the Hagerstown 2016 rotation.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A rotation to start; could be a fast riser.
  • Jose Morales got blasted in two Low-A starts after three quick relief appearances in Auburn, then spent the rest of the year on the D/L.  Not much to glean from his year; is he a starter or a reliever?  He only threw 30-some odd relief innings in 2014; I think he’s being used as a long-man/spot starter arm for now.  I would guess he’ll start 2016 in XST with an eye of hooking on with Short-A again.  Outlook for Next season: Short-A bullpen.
  • Ryan Ullmann got stuck in XST to start the season, hooked up with Hagerstown 5 weeks into the season, got hit hard, was dumped to Auburn, had one appearance and then was summarily released.  Quite a quick downturn of events for Ullmann, who was always going to be a long shot (30th rounder out of a small school).  Outlook for Next season: out of baseball.
  • Other Guys who got starts for Hagerstown:
    • Joan Baez got 3 starts for Hagerstown in June, got hammered, and spent the rest of the year in short-season ball.  See GCL write-up for more.
    • Jeff Howell had two starts for Hagerstown before getting a few more in Potomac as he converted to the mound.  See High-A write-up for more.
    • Brian Rauh had two “rehab” starts for Hagerstown and spent most of the year in Harrisburg.  See AA write-up for more.
    • Robbie Dickey had two starts in Hagerstown before getting dumped back to Auburn.  See Short-A write-up for more.
    • Robert Orlan had one spot-start for Hagerstown; see the reliever section.
    • Wirkin Estevez spent the entire season on the D/L: he’ll compete for a Low-A rotation spot in 2016.

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

  • Andrew Cooper: 2-2, 3.53 ERA with 35/16 K/BB in 63.2 relief IP for Low-A Hagerstown, 3.63 fip, .283 babip.  Improved his numbers across the board while repeating Low-A.  Still isn’t getting the K/9 we’d like to see though.  He’ll be 24 in High-A next year in what probably is a make or break season.  Outlook for Next season: High-A bullpen.
  • David Napoli went 7-5, 4.01 ERA with 62/36 K/BB in 60 relief IP mostly for LowA Hagerstown.  3.57 fip, .289 babip.  He started with Potomac but spent most of the year in Hagerstown, despite turning 25 during the season.  If anything,  his numbers took a step back from his 2014 Hagerstown campaign, and given his age and the glut of arms in the system, time may be running out.  Or maybe not: i mean, he signed for $15k and basically cost the team nothing and eats innings; that kind of guy is useful to have around.  Outlook for Next season: High-A bullpen.
  • Robert Orlan went 3-1, 3.00 ERA with 85/28 K/BB ratio in 72 relief IP between LowA and HighA.  Orlan bounced between Potomac and Hagerstown all season, ending up in HighA with pretty good numbers in a “more than a loogy” role.  Especially impressive is 85 Ks in just 72 ip.  He’s older for these levels, inarguably, but could put himself in a good position by continuing to succeed in 2016.  I see him in the Potomac bullpen again with an eye towards a June promotion to AA when the short-season promotions come due.   Outlook for Next season: High-A bullpen.
  • Samuel Johns went 3-4, 4.31 ERA between LowA and ShortA with 39/17 k/bb in 62.2 relief innings, 4.63 fip, .290 babip in lowA.  He struggled in LowA, but then dropped back to ShortA and was dominant.  Not great, but certainly not bad for a 31st round 5th year senior as compared to what has happened to other 5th year senior signs on this list.  Maybe not the best stuff, but has been effective.  My guess is that he either makes the Hagerstown team next spring or is cut loose, but the fact that he hung around this long gives him some more room to work with.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A bullpen.
  • Kevin Perez threw 36 relatively effective innings for Hagerstown after throwing 18 relatively ineffective innings for Potomac to start the year.  The team signed him as a MLFA early in 2015 after he was dumped out of the Low-A Royals affiliate but I doubt he showed the team enough to stick with him given the number of arms rising out of the short-season rosters.  Outlook for Next season: out of the organization.
  • Deion Williams, went 1-2, 5.46 ERA with 22/18 K/BB in 29.2 relief innings with Hagerstown.  Williams was drafted as a SS but converted to the mound after a year or so.  Since then, he’s struggled, somehow making it onto the full-season Hagerstown roster in June after sitting in XST for two months.  There, he continued not to impress; his career ERA is now 6.12 across 103IP and the three lower levels of the minors.  I could see 2016 being a “make it or break it” year for him; he either makes the full season bullpen or he’s cut.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A bullpen competition.
  • Koda Glover went 1-1, 1.80 ERA across 2 levels, getting promoted to Low-A after just 6 IP in Short-A.  Of course, in those 6ip he gave up just one hit and struck out 11, so it was pretty clear he was over-qualified for the league.  For the season: 38/2 K/BB in 30 ip (19app), 2.44 fip, .288 babips in LowA where he spent most of the year.  38 to 2 (!!)  K/BB ratio in 30 innings.  No wonder he was an over-slot deal; the 2015 draftee is one of the highest rising guys in the class so far.  Glover profiled very well and should be in the mix for a High-A bullpen slot in 2016 already.  Outlook for Next season: High-A bullpen.
  • Brett Mooneyham was 0-2 with a 6.41 ERA in 19 ineffective innings for Low-A Hagerstown before the Nats finally cut the cord and released him on 6/3/15.  Mooneyham was in Low-A for the third successive season, having failed to make the cut in Potomac in each of 2013 and 2014.  You’d have to say that he’s one of the more higher-profile drafting failures of the Mike Rizzo era.  Or maybe not; the team had to go over-slot to sign Giolito and may have skimped for the rest of the draft.  Outlook for Next season: out of the organization.
  • Ryan Brinley went 1-4 1.44 ERA  across 3 levels this year with a 16/1 K/BB in 31.1 ip, 3.85 fip, .292 babip in low-A (where he ended up).  Great 27th round find so far in Brinley, who may not have a ton of swing and miss but certainly seems to have some command (1 BB in 31 innings??).  Could be a nice little middle relief option going forward, someone who can keep his team in games.  I could see him in the High-A bullpen next year based on his command of Low-A.   Outlook for Next season: High-A bullpen.
  • Jake Walsh threw 17 scoreless innings in Hagerstown before getting bumped up to High-A.  See High-A write-up for more.
  • David Ramos threw 13 innings of middle relief for Hagerstown before getting hurt; he spent most of the summer going “rehab” assignments all throughout short-season ball before being “activated” once the full-season was done.  Not much to glean from his season; his ERAs were not pretty anywhere he went.  He’s now 24, in his fourth pro season outside of the DSL and has yet to post an ERA below 6.46 in any of his multiple stops.  Honestly, I’m surprised he made the full-season bullpen in 2015.  I’d guess he’ll take another shot at Hagerstown’s bullpen in 2016 and if he doesn’t make it, he could be facing an April 1 release.  Outlook for Next season: Low-A bullpen competition.
  • Other Relievers who got less than 10 IP for Hagerstown this year:
    • Tommy Peterson: threw 6ip in the last week of the season: see Short-A write-up.
    • Tyler Mapes threw 6 shutout IP before getting bumped to Potomac: see High-A write-up.
    • Joey Webb threw 5 innings early in the season before ending up in Auburn.  See Short-A write-up.
    • Luis Torres threw 3 innings to cover in mid July: See Short-A write-up.
    • Diomedes Eusebio is normally a 1B and threw one inning at some point.

Summary

It was a successful season for Hagerstown hurlers; I count 6-7 guys who earned promotions by pitching well in Hagerstown.  A good number of them should feature in 2016 for either Potomac or Harrisburg.  This didn’t help the Suns much, as they finished both halves right around .500, not quite good enough for a playoff spot.  2016’s staff will have some familiarity to it; I think a good portion of the 2016 opening day rotation will look just like the 2015 end-of-season rotation, mirroring the Nats recent habit of having players repeat levels in overlapping seasons and doing mid-season promotions.

 

Potomac/High-A Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2015

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Tyler Mapes is a great draft story and my pitcher of the year out of Potomac. Photo via nola.com

Tyler Mapes is a great draft story and my pitcher of the year out of Potomac. Photo via nola.com

This is the 4th in the 2015 Pitching staff review series, here’s a review of Potomac/High-A’s pitching staff for 2015.  Other parts of the 2015 series:

For some historical perspective, here’s 2013’s version (featuring Taylor Jordan), here’s 2012’s version (Nathan Karns the feature pitcher) and 2011’s version (Danny Rosenbaum the feature pitcher) of this post specifically for Potomac/High-A.  Had we done this in 2014, we would likely have “featured” Gilberto Mendez for his good work closing.

Note; while its relatively easy to do reviews for the upper levels of the system, once we get lower we’re usually talking about a lot of short sample sizes.  And i’m sure there’s people reading this who saw every pitcher on this post throw in 2015; by all means feel free to comment if you believe i’ve mis-characterized someone here.  Of all the write-ups I expect readers here to have better opinions of Potomac players by virtue of actually seeing them week in/week out, so definitely pipe up.

All stats are courtesy of either milb.com’s Potomac 2015 Stats page or via Fangraph’s Potomac 2015 page.   Also useful here are the Big Board and the Nats Draft Tracker since so many of these lower-minors guys are recent draftees.  And here’s the Baseball America Minor League Free Agent (MLFA) tracker.  And here’s a list of the official MLB MLFA declarations for 2015, though these are more useful for the AAA and AA squads frankly.

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

  • Opening Day rotation: Pivetta, Rauh, Schwartz, Suero, Spann*
  • End of Season Rotation: Mapes, Dickson, AWilliams, Spann*, Howell
  • End of Season spot starts/swingman: Dupra, Thomas*,  Valdez
  • End of Season bullpen:  Self,   Walsh*, Johansen, Orlan*, MRodriguez
  • Mid-Season promotions: Dupra, Bacus, Suero, Pivetta, Mapes, Giolito, Purke*, Simms, Rauh, Roark
  • up-and-back: Mapes, Spann*, Dupra
  • down-and-back: Thomas*, Rauh
  • demotions: KPerez, Napoli*, Amlung, Orlan*
  • D/L: RPena, Turnbull*, Sylvestre*,  Lopez
  • cut/released/FAs: Mirowski, Henke, Encarnacion, Schwartz (retired), CDavis

Potomac starters.  The rotation started the season with Pivetta, Rauh, Schwartz, Suero, Spann*.  19 guys got starts in 2015.  Here’s an overview of the starters used, starting with the original five starters, going all the way to the rehab spot starts.

  • Nick Pivetta was your opening day starter, and by the end of the season he had gotten promoted and traded.  He earned his promotion, going 7-4 with a 2.29 ERA in 15 starts for Potomac.  He was not as successful upon his promotion to AA, but that was still enough to catch the eye of Philadelphia and be the bounty for them ridding themselves of Jonathan Papelbon‘s ego and contract.  If he was still with the team, he would have been the ‘featured” player above and not Mapes for his dominant season in High-A.  Outlook for Next Season: Philadelphia’s AA team in Reading, where he gets to go against Harrisburg and all his old teammates a few times a year.
  • Brian Rauh threw 7 excellent High-A starts before getting promoted to AA, where he spent most of the year.  See AA write-up for more.  Outlook for Next season: AA rotation or bust.
  • Blake Schwartz had three High-A starts, struggled, and retired.  After a fantastic 2013 season in Potomac, he just never could make the jump to AA and (not that I’ve ever talked to him or anything) perhaps got discouraged after not really progressing further up the chain.  Outlook for Next season: retired, out of baseball
  • Wander Suero pitched pretty effectively for Potomac in the first half in a swingman role, getting 16 appearances and 5 starts and posting a 2.41 ERA, 1.20 whip, and a 3.27 FIP.  Not much in the way of swing and miss though; 39/18 K/BB in 56 innings.  After moving up, he struggled in AA but inched up his K/9 rate while focusing more on middle relief.  No reason to think he can’t compete in AA in 2016, and is still relatively young (he turned 24 just after the season ended so he’ll still be 24 all next year).  Outlook for Next season: AA bullpen, perhaps High-A bullpen again if he gets squeezed in a numbers game.
  • Matthew Spann bounced between High-A and AA all year, posting mid 4 ERAs in both places.  See AA write-up for more.  Outlook for Next season: AA rotation.
  • Reynaldo Lopez led the team in IP and starts for 2015, going 6-7 with a 4.09 ERA in 99 IP across 19 starts.  His stats: 4.09 ERA, 1.22 whip, 2.95 FIP and 94/28 K/BB in those 99 innings, all as a 21-yr old.  It isn’t hard to see why Lopez is highly ranked on “top 10” lists for Nats prospects; he more than held his own in High-A as one of the younger hurlers in the league.  The team held him back in XST for a few weeks to keep innings off his arm.  While most scouting reports think he’ll eventually end up in the bullpen (no third pitch, iffy mechanics, big arm), he’s obviously worth giving more chances to stick as a high-velocity starter (in the same vein as Yordano Ventura for example).  Outlook for Next season: AA rotation.
  • John Simms threw an excellent half season for Potomac before getting bumped up mid-season; see AA writeup for more.  Outlook for Next season: AA rotation.
  • Lucas Giolito threw an dominant half season for Potomac (86 ks in 69 innings) after being kept in XST for the first 5 weeks of the season (so much for those pre-2015 interviews where he proclaimed that he had no innings limits, eh?) before also getting bumped up mid-season; see AA writeup for more.  Outlook for Next season: AA rotation.
  • Austen Williams blitzed the Sally league and forced a promotion to Potomac mid-season, where he continued pitching well.  In High-A he was 4-6 with a 2.59 ERA, 1.09 whip, 3.22 fip and 41/17 K/BB over 63 high-A innings.  The 2014 draftee is looking like a nice little find.  There does seem to be a bit of fortuitousness in his numbers (.253 BABIP and a delta between his ERA and FIP), so I could see the log-jam in the AA projected rotation keeping Williams back in Potomac for the first half of the 2016 season.  Outlook for Next season: High-A rotation to start with an eye on quick promotion.
  • Philips Valdez dominated the Sally league and earned a promotion after two months.  In Potomac he bounced in and out of the rotation, getting 10 starts across 22 appearances and posting a 3.77 ERA in High-A.  Other numbers: 1.44 whip, 3.26 fip, 48/25 K/BB in 59 High-A innings.  Valdez has been around for a while; this was his *seventh* season in the Nats organization.  He just turned 24.  But he has relatively few innings on his arm; just 260 IP across those seven seasons (he missed the entirety of 2012).  He’s looking like he could be a low-profile decent starter going forward, though he may run out of time in the system before the team is faced with a tougher decision on how to keep him.  For now, I think he repeats High-A to start, is tried out as a full time starter, and we’ll see if he can push forward to AA in 2016.  Outlook for Next season: High-A rotation
  • Tyler Mapes so far is a pretty good 2014 draft success story; he was a 30th round *senior sign* out of Tulane who was basically unhittable in Short-A last year, threw 6 clean innings in Low-A and was bumped up to High-A (the first 2014 draftee to get promoted that high) after just a couple of weeks.  Once in Potomac, he continued to pitch well in a swing-man role; 30 appearances, 8 starts, a 2.38 ERA across 90 innings, 1.22 whip, 2.78 FIP and 75/17 K/BB over 96 innings in High-A.  Not too shabby.  If it were me, I’d push him right to AA and stick him in the rotation, but as noted before I’m projecting an awful lot of starters to be in that Harrisburg rotation right now.  I’m curious to see how things shake out for someone like Mapes; he didn’t last to the 30th round as a favor to the Nats; is there something limiting in his capabilities that will cause him to suddenly top out like a lot of late-round senior signs?  We’ll see.  Outlook for Next season: AA rotation.
  • Ian Dickson was hurt the first half of the season and finished 2015 the exact same place he finished 2014: in the Potomac rotation with decent to effective numbers.  2015 totals for Dickson: 3-3, 3.60 ERA in 12 appearances/8 starts.  We see a problem though: 31 ks and 39 (?!) walks in 40 innings in Potomac this year.  Wow; that’s a walk an inning.  He never saw this kind of walk rate before, so hopefully its just a remnant of whatever injury kept him out the first half of the year.  Nonetheless, he seems like he’ll be back in Potomac a third year until he can solve his walk rate issues.  Outlook for Next season: High-A rotation.
  • Dakota Bacus began the season in Potomac, had 5 starts and 8 appearances and got bumped quickly to Harrisburg, where he played most of the season.  See AA write-up for more.
  • Jeff Howell is a pretty interesting player.  He’s a career minor league backup catcher, having toiled in the lower minor leagues since 2005.  He signed on with Washington in 2012 and hung around as a backup between the levels for a couple of years.  Then suddenly, at the age of 32, he decided to try his hand on the mound.  Perhaps he was inspired by other Catchers-turned-Hurlers like Jason Motte.  He (presumably) hung out in XST for most of the season learning how to pitch, then threw a couple of games in the Rookie league, then for Hagerstown, then finally for Potomac at season’s end.  He struggled once he got to Potomac, giving up 9 runs in 13 innings but more importantly walking 17 guys while he was there.  He’s now a MLFA and one may think that he’d re-up with Washington since we’re the ones who gave him a shot.  We’ll see how the off-season goes.  He may choose to pitch elsewhere where he can be guaranteed a rotation spot (a tough one in our system, since we’re completely overloaded with arms from pitching-heavy drafts over the past few years).   Outlook for Next season: continuing his conversion to pitcher in another organization.
  • Others who got starts in Potomac for 2015:
    • Matt Purke got three brief starts in Potomac before settling in Harrisburg for the year; see AA write-up for more.
    • Rehab starts for Potomac in 2015: Barrett, Roark, Janssen and Carpenter (though technically Roark’s were not rehab but “stretching out” starts).

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

  • Justin Thomas was the bullpen leader in IP for Potomac in 2015, throwing 57 innings across 28 games, posting a 3.43 ERA, 1.21 whip, a 2.84 FIP and getting 50/18 K/BB in those 57 innings.  He’s a lefty but was used more as a long-man, not being limited to just short stints.  He’s looking great considering his limited draft pedigree (senior sign out of a small college in the 21st round) and I see no reason not to keep bumping him up the chain.  Outlook for Next season: AA rotation.
  • Jake Johanssen was 1-7 with a 5.44 ERA, 1.81 whip, 4.69 fip with 48/27 K/BB in 48 relief innings for Potomac.  Johanssen was our top draft pick in 2013, has already been “demoted” from a starter to the pen, and now seemingly can’t perform in a relief role either.  Where do you go from here with him?  You and I know that his large bonus is a “sunk cost” and shouldn’t dictate his usage, but teams don’t seem to see it that way.  Just look at how long the Nats kept Brett Mooneyham around after it became clear he wasn’t capable of performing, even at lower levels of the minors?  I see Johanssen repeating High-A and trying to get his career back on track.  Outlook for Next season: High-A bullpen.
  • Derek Self seems to be taking a step back in his career; after posting a 1.69 ERA through half a season in Potomac last year, he more than earned a promotion up to AA where he more than held his own.  However after just 14 innings in AA this year, he got dumped back to Potomac, thus repeating High-A for the third straight year.  He was solid again; a 4/1 K/BB ratio in middle relief, but where is his Nats career going at this point?  Obviously he needs to be in the AA bullpen next year, but you could have also said that last year and it didn’t work out.  There’s going to be a lot of AA bullpen competition; if he gets squeezed out does he get cut in 2016?  we’ll see.  Outlook for Next season: AA bullpen competition/Release Candidate.
  • Brian Dupra is in a similar boat as Derek Self; he’s now 27 and spent most of his third successive year in Potomac.  He was promoted mid-season to AA but didn’t last long after getting hit hard.  Final Potomac stats for 2015: 2.79 ERA in 42 mostly later bullpen innings.  I think he’s going to be in a similar situation as Self this coming spring; if he cannot cut it at AA (and there’s plenty of competition for that bullpen), he may get cut loose entirely.  Not that it should matter, but it should be noted that Dupra was a senior sign for limited bonus money out of Notre Dame in 2011, so it could be a “make the team or get cut” situation.  Outlook for Next season: AA bullpen competition/Release candidate.
  • Cody Davis was struggling early in the season, with a decent ERA but ugly peripherals (4.55 fip, 10/15 K/BB in 21 ip) and was released towards the end of June as upwards player movement started to need bullpen spots.  The undrafted MLFA signing from 2011 played parts of 5 seasons for the system but seemed to fall apart this year as he repeated High-A.   It does not look like he picked up anywhere and may be done.  Outlook for Next season: out of baseball.
  • Manny Rodriguez only threw 21 innings between two different D/L stints this year, and then was released soon after the end of the season.  It seems that the team believed he never recovered from the injury that cost him two full seasons early in his minor league career.  Outlook for Next season: out of baseball.
  • Jake Walsh threw 17 scoreless innings as a late-inning/closer in Low-A before getting bumped up to High-A in July.  From there out he posted a 3.66 ERA in 19.2 innings across 9 appearances with a 19/10 K/BB ratio.   There’s something odd going on with Walsh; why was he even in Low-A to start 2015?  He posted a sub-2.00 ERA across low- and high-A LAST YEAR, yet didn’t start in Potomac nor get considered for the AA rotation despite being a senior sign in 2013.  He now holds a CAREER 1.65 ERA and seems to me to more than have earned a shot at a look at a higher level.  Outlook for Next season: AA bullpen.
  • Kevin Perez spent the 2nd half of the year in  Hagerstown after struggling early on in Potomac: see Low-A write-up for more.
  • Robert Orlan spent most of the season in Hagerstown but posted a 2.20 ERA in Potomac in 16.1 August innings:  see Low-A write-up for more.
  • Justin Amlung, similarly to Orlan above, spent most of the season in Hagerstown but posted an excellent 1.84 ERA in Potomac in 14.2 July and August innings:  see Low-A write-up for more.
  • Other Relievers of note who had less than 10 IP for Potomac this year:
    • David Napoli had 8 IP for Potomac before getting demoted to Hagerstown:  see Low-A write-up for more.
    • Matt Purke threw 7 IP for Potomac during his tour of the Nats farm system in 2015: see AA write-up for more.
    • Erik Davis threw 3 re-hab IP in 2015; see AA write-up for more.
    • Tanner Roark threw one 4Ip start during his “stretch out” minor league stint; see MLB write-up for more.
    • Brenden Webb, normally an Outfielder, threw a 3Ip mop-up game (really?  they couldn’t find ONE reliever out of the 32 guys who threw innings for Potomac this year?)
    • MLBers Aaron Barrett, Casey Janssen and David Carpenter each had some re-hab innings; see MLB write-up for more.
    • A few guys spent the entire year on the D/L: Ronald Pena, Kylin Turnbull, Hector Sylvestre: all are looking at repeating Potomac next year if/when healthy.

Summary

Potomac certainly saw a lot of churn in its pitching staff; 32 total pitchers used (19 different starters including rehab starts by relievers).  Their leading IP was Lopez, who didn’t even hit 100 IP on the year.  There were at least 6-7 arms who earned their promotions to AA mid-season, a great sign for the rising tide of pitching talent in the system.  Lots of guys with ERAs that start with a “2” in the season-ending stats.  It didn’t help Potomac in the standings; they finished both halves several games under .500 and out of the playoffs.  This will create quite a competition for the AA staff next year: my projections at this point show at least 6-7 rotation candidates, 8-9 bullpen candidates and another 3-4 guys who are right at that age where they may be summarily cut if they don’t make the AA team in 2016.  Harsh, but good for the Nats, who could use all the bullpen help they can get.