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From Nats to Oblivion; Updated for 2013 season

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Is Maya going to be the latest Nats to Oblivion poster child? Photo Al Bello/Getty Images

Is Maya going to be the latest Nats to Oblivion poster child? Photo Al Bello/Getty Images

Several years ago (November 2010) Mark Zuckerman posted a fascinating analysis he titled “From Nats to Oblivion.”  It chronicled the astoundingly high number of players that the early incarnations of the Nats were using who, once the Nats released them, never again appeared on a MLB roster.  I thought the analysis was so interesting that I kept up the same data and have been keeping it up-to-date with the whereabouts of Nats-to-Oblivion candidates ever since.  So with apologies to Zuckerman for stealing his idea, here’s an interesting visit to the Nats darker past.

A large part of this post is borrowed from previous versions; click here for 2012’s version of this post.   A few players from our near past have re-surfaced in the majors as of late and have been removed from this list where noted; if you see any others listed here in error please let me know.  But this entire list is updated post 2013 season, with the minor league/foreign league/independent league movements of oblivion candidates chronicled.

It is nearly impossible for a team to field an entire year’s worth of players who will not fall into this “Oblivion” category.  Every MLB team has guys playing out the string or near retirement, and every MLB team calls up guys through out the season from the minors who eventually show themselves as unable to compete on the MLB level and who never make it back.  So a 0% oblivion measure isn’t a goal.

For your reminiscing pleasure, here is the summary data updated to the 2013 team:

  • 2012: 24 position, 19 pitchers, 43 total.  5/43 = 11.6% candidate ratio
  • 2011: 20 position, 24 pitchers, 44 total.  6/44 = 13.6% candidate ratio
  • 2010: 20 position, 26 pitchers, 46 total.  12/46 = 26.0% never appeared again
  • 2009: 25 position, 30 pitchers, 55 total.  9/55 = 16.3% never appeared again
  • 2008: 25 position, 25 pitchers, 50 total.  8/50 = 16% never appeared again
  • 2007: 21 position, 26 pitchers, 47 total.  12/47 = 25.5% never appeared again
  • 2006: 28 position, 29 pitchers, 57 total.  20/57 = 35% never appeared again
  • 2005: 30 position, 25 pitchers, 55 total.  16/55 = 29% never appeared again

Look at the 2006 season; 35% of the players who played for the team that year never played another Major League game.  That’s still astounding to me.  Read on for a detailed look back at some of the very bad players that have put in significant time for this team.


2013 (13 Candidates):

Total Players used: 23 position, 21 pitchers, 44 total. 13/44 = 29.5% candidate ratio right now.  Real candidates list is just the top 5, so 5/44 = 11.36%.

Candidates

  • Yunesky Maya; ML deal with Atlanta for 2014
  • Chris Marrrero: ML deal with Baltimore for 2014
  • Chad Tracy: still a FA; highly unlikely to get a major league deal after his awful 2013.
  • Corey Brown: DFA’d, traded to Oakland
  • Fernando Abad; DFA’d, traded to Oakland

Less likely “candidates” from the 2013 team:

  • Danny Espinosa
  • Jhonatan Solano
  • Jeff Kobernus
  • Zach Walters
  • Eury Perez
  • Sandy Leon
  • Nathan Karns
  • Erik Davis

The top 5 players are really the “candidates” out of the 2013 team.  Every one of the guys in the lower section is on our 40-man roster, meaning they all likely see time this coming season.  In fact, right now the odds are that at least a couple of these guys will make the opening day roster.  So really the oblivion candidates here are just the top 5 guys, but we’ll track all 13 until they’re cleared off this list.  Both the guys we traded to Oakland sit on their 40-man roster, but both seem in serious jeopardy of being DFA’d again at some point in the spring (especially Corey Brown, who is out of options).

Favorite Nats-to-Oblivion story: Yunesky Maya, who was Mike Rizzo‘s first foray into the Cuban exile market.  Signed to a 4yr/$8M deal, he was given several shots at the majors and never could capitalize.  He arrived in the US with a wide arsenal of pitches but not a lot of swing-and-miss talent, and he ended up basically being a AAA starter.   He spent the last three seasons as Syracuse’s lead starter (getting 22, 28 and 24 starts there inbetween infrequent call-ups) and ended up with just one career MLB win for his $8M salary (making his one of the worst dollars-per-win contracts ever … even if it was “just” $8M).  This whole paragraph is assuming that Maya never makes it back to the majors … but based on what he’s shown thus far combined with his advancing age, that seems like a likely end-result for the Cuban starter.


2012 (5 candidates)

Total Players used: 24 position, 19 pitchers, 43 total.  5/43 = 11.6% candidate ratio right now

Candidates

  • Brad Lidge: Retired post 2012
  • Jesus Flores; signed ML deal with Los Angeles Dodgers for 2013, no MLB appearances

  • Brett Carroll: signed ML deal w/ Pittsburgh for 2013, no MLB appearances
  • Ryan Perry: Wash AAA and AA 2013

  • Carlos Maldonado: Wash AAA 2013

In the past 12 months, we’ve removed 3 players from this list (Izturas, Wang and Brown) who re-appeared on MLB rosters either here or elsewhere.  I still think its possible that Flores could re-appear on an MLB roster at some point; catchers have a way of getting hurt and causing organizations to scramble.  The rest face pretty long odds.

Favorite Nats-to-Oblivion story: Brad Lidge, who gave it one last shot and failed spectacularly.  When you lose your stuff, its gone and gone fast.  I’ll readily admit I thought the signing was a great one when it occurred but it just didn’t work out.  I really hoped that Lidge would be a serviceable 7th inning guy and mentor to Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, being one of the great closers of his day.  It didn’t work out that way.


2011 (6 candidates)

Total Players used: 20 position, 24 pitchers, 44 total.  6/44 = 13.6% candidate ratio right now…

Candidates

  • Ivan Rodriguez – retired after 2011
  • Matt Stairs — retired after 2011
  • Alex Cora — retired after 2011, now the General Manager of a Puerto Rican Winter League team.
  • Cole Kimball — Nats 60-day DL in 2012, XST in 2013, DFA’d off 40-man roster.
  • Brian Broderick — Stl AAA, waived now Nats AAA in 2012, AA in 2013
  • Atahualpa Severino — Nats AAA, DFA’d off 40-man in 2012, KC AAA for 2013, signed ML deal with Atlanta for 2014 (thanks John C).

Changes in the last 12 months: none.

As with the 2012 candidates, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this list get lowered by one eventually; Severino seems like he could work his way back into a loogy situation for a club.  Kimball’s DFA and Broderick’s pending MLFA status both make it seem like their chances of returning to the majors are slim.

Favorite Nats-to-Oblivion story: Matt Stairs: He made the 2011 roster despite having almost no defensive capabilities and, as it soon became evident, almost no remaining abilities at the plate.  He somehow hung onto his roster spot until August 1st despite having just one extra base hit in 74 at-bats on the year.  I remember one game in particular; we were at the stadium going against the hated Phillies and they left Roy Halladay in to attempt to finish a shutout with a 3-0 lead (Game was on 4/13/11).  Nats rally, score 2 runs to make it 3-2.  Stairs comes up pinch hitting for Jerry Hairston with guys on 1st and 2nd with one out; he promptly watches three straight fastballs go right down the middle of the plate without moving his bat.  I’ve never been so p*ssed at a player at the ball-park.  Ivan Rodriguez then promptly struck out on 3 pitches as well, looking strike 3 into the mitt and then arguing vehimently with the ump over the game-ending call which gave Halladay the complete game victory.


2010 (12 players)

Total Players used: 20 position, 26 pitchers, 46 total.  12/46 = 26.0% never appeared again

Players:

  • Willy Taveras; played AAA for Col in 2011, retired prior to 2012, back with KC AAA 2013
  • Kevin Mench; retired after 2010
  • Jamie Burke; retired after 2010
  • Luis Atilano: in CIN org, AAA in 2012, never signed for 2013
  • Scott Olsen; in CWS org, AAA 2012, never signed for 2013
  • JD Martin; in MIA org AAA 2012, in TB AAA 2013
  • Tyler Walker; indy league 2011, never signed for 2012
  • Jesse English; indy league 2011, 2012.  Mexican League 2013
  • Matt Chico; indy league 2012, never signed for 2013
  • Joe Bisenius; in Mexico 2011-12, Atlanta AA/AAA for 2013
  • Garrett Mock: Houston AAA 2012, AZ AAA for 2013
  • Jason Bergmann: indy 2011, Col AAA 2012, Indy again in 2013, KC AA team.

Changes in last 12 months: none.

There’s more than a few guys here who are still hanging on to AAA jobs but not many of them are looking promising to break onto 40-man rosters and earn call-ups.

Favorite Nats-to-Oblivion story: Jamie Burke: The 2009 Nats were so thin at Catcher by the end of the season that we literally bought a spare catcher in Burke from Seattle so we could have some coverage at the end of the season.  Burke re-signed on for 2010 and appeared in exactly one MLB game.  He was released after the season and retired.


2009 (9 players)

Total Players used: 25 position, 30 pitchers, 55 total.  9/55 = 16.3% never appeared again

Players:

  • Elijah Dukes: released and never picked up for 2010.  Arrested in 2011, 2012, out of baseball.
  • Alex Cintron; playing in Mexico 2012, nothing in 2013

  • Jorge Padilla; in SD org, AAA in 2012, nothing in 2013
  • Ron Villone, AAA all of 2010, 2011 playing indy ball, retired prior to 2012.  He will appear on the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot and is currently the pitching coach of the High-A Chicago affilliate.

  • Julian Tavarez; retired after getting DFA’d in July 2009
  • Zack Segovia; in Det org AA in 2012, Mexican league/Indy ball 2013

  • Mike Hinckley: Tor org in 2011, retired prior to 2012
  • Steven Shell; KC org in 2011, retired prior to 2012

  • Victor Garate; MIL org and Indy ball in 2012, Mexican league 2013

Changes in last 12 months: removed Kensing and Martis after they both resurfaced on MLB teams, meaning that they both went three full seasons inbetween MLB appearances.  That’s why we track these guys for so long.

Favorite Nats-to-Oblivion story: Ron Villone, who proved that a crafty lefty with a halfway decent fastball can have a long career in this game.  He had 63 appearances at age 39 for the 2009 Nats and got re-signed for 2010.  He didn’t make the team though, labored in Syracuse the whole season and was released.  Despite being 41 years old, he headed to Indy ball for one last shot but washed out after just a few outings in 2011.

It wouldn’t be a retrospective on poor Nats players if we didn’t briefly talk about Elijah Dukes though.  I think its safe to assume that he’s the only guy on this list that has served more time in jail than has played in the minor leagues, attempting to get back to the show.


2008 (8 players)

Total Players used: 25 position, 25 pitchers, 50 total.  8/50 = 16% never appeared again

Players:

  • Kory Casto; 2009 AAA, 2010 in Ariz AA, retired.
  • Dmitri Young: some rehab in low minors 2009, retired.
  • Rob Mackowiak: 2009: some indy, bounced around AAA, that’s it.
  • Johnny Estrada; flat out quit after 2008
  • Odalis Perez; refused his 2009 contract, never resigned
  • Levale Speigner; 2009 in Florida’s AA/AAA, then 2010 in Seattle AAA.  done.
  • Ray King; retired after 2008
  • Chris Schroder; 2009, 2010 bounced around AAA with Oakland, Fla.

Changes in last 12 months: none

Favorite Nats-to-Oblivion story: Odalis Perez, though I’m tempted to say either Mackowiak or Estrada, possibly the two worst FA signings of the whole Jim Bowden era (and that’s saying something).  But nothing beats the Perez story.  He was the Nats Opening Day Starter in 2008; hell he was the first guy to get a start in the Nationals Stadium.  He pitched well; in 30 starts he was 7-12 with a 4.34 ERA and a 99 ERA+ for a god-awful team.  But apparently he got really pissed when the team only offered him a non-guaranteed Minor League deal for 2009.  So he held out, the Nats said “fine with us” and released him, and nobody else picked him up.  And he never played another game.  I’m not sure if that was a sign that he was just that bad (not one team wanted to even give an opening day starter a look the subsequent year?), or if there was some sort of MLB general manager omerta that conspired against him.  Either way, Perez played again, not even in Winter Leagues as far as I could find.  Sometimes a player has to swallow his pride, and Perez apparently could not.


2007 (12 players)

Total Players used: 21 position, 26 pitchers, 47 total.  12/47 = 25.5% never appeared again

Players:

  • Nook Logan; indy league 2008, 2010.
  • Robert Fick: Cut from the Padres in ST 2008, full year indy league 2009, retired.
  • D’Angelo Jimenez: AAA all of 2008, 2009.  Mexican league and Indy league 2010-2012
  • Tony Batista: Wash AAA 2008, then released
  • Michael Restovich: 2008 in Japan, AAA 2009-2011, retired
  • Brandon Watson: AAA 2008-9, indy league 2011, retired.
  • Mike Bacsik: 2008 AAA, 2011 indy league, now a broadcaster.
  • Jason Simontacchi; 2008 indy league, 2010 again.
  • John Patterson; cut in ST 2008, immediately signed w/ Texas but never played again.
  • Ryan Wagner: AAA 2008-9, released and presumably retired.
  • Arnie Munoz; went to mexican league, retired > 2010
  • Chris Booker: AAA in 2008, then retired/released.

Changes in last 12 months: none

Favorite Nats-to-Oblivion story: Mike Bacsik, who was destined to be a career 4-A guy before Washington picked him up and gave him 20 starts in 2007.  Bacsik was on his 6th minor league organization when he arrived in Syracuse and pitched his way up to the major leagues.  He was overmatched badly; he had a 5.11 ERA and just a 3.4 K/9 rate.  But he did get his moment in the headlines by giving up Barry Bonds‘ 756th career homer one night in San Francisco in August.  Contrary to accusations on the topic, I do not believe Bacsik “served up” the homer.  If you check the play index, Bonds hit the 7th pitch of the at-bat in a 3-2 count for that homer.  Bacsik didn’t purposely give up a homer on the 7th pitch of an at-bat; he just ran out of pitches to show Bonds that weren’t going to get pulverized.

A quick comment though on John Patterson: I remember being absolutely shocked at his release in 2008’s spring training.  He was cut on 3/20/08, right in the middle of Spring Training with no warning and having just thrown his Grapefruit innings.   He was healthy, recovered from surgery, ready to be the ace of that staff and start showing off the potential that he showed in 2005 (you know, when he 4-hit the Dodgers with 13 punch outs and posted the best Game-Score performance in Nats history).  He signed a ML deal with Texas after his release by the Nats, but he couldn’t answer the call and never appeared again, getting released in mid May.  I guess his third arm surgery in 7 years just left him unable to compete at any level and he hung ‘em up.


2006 (20 players)

Total Players used: 28 position, 29 pitchers, 57 total.  20/57 = 35% never appeared again

  • Damian Jackson; dnp 2007, indy league 2008-9
  • Bernie Castro: AAA all of 2007, 8 then retired.
  • Alex Escobar: Wash minors 2007-8, then retired.
  • Brandon Harper: Wash AAA all of 2007, then released/retired.
  • Wiki Gonzalez: CWS AAA all of 2007, indy league 2008, retired.
  • Henry Mateo: AAA or Indy league 2007-2009, mexican league from 2010-current 2013
  • George Lombard: AAA 2007-9, some indy league, retired.
  • Mike Vento: 2007 Wash AAA, indy league 2008, back with Syracuse 2009, retired.
  • Melvin Dorta; various minor leagues 2007-2010, indy league 2011, retired.
  • Luis Matos: AAA 2007, Mexican League 2008-2012.  ? 2013
  • Pedro Astacio; retired after 2006
  • Felix Rodriguez: dnp 2007, indy league 2008-9, retired.
  • Zach Day: AAA 2007, briefly A+ 2008, retired.
  • Beltran Perez; wash minors AA/AAA 2007-8, released and never played again.
  • Joey Eischen; released off of Washington and retired.
  • Travis Hughes; AAA in 2007, played in Japan 2008, indy leagues 2009, 2011.
  • Ryan Drese: various minor leagues 2007-8, indy league 2009-2010, Baltimore AAA 2011, released/retired.
  • Kevin Gryboski: AAA 2007-2008, retired/released.
  • Brett Campbell: Wash AA 2007, released/retired.
  • Santiago Ramirez: Japan in 2007, Mexican league 2008, indy 2009, retired.

Changes in last 12 months: none

Favorite Nats-to-Oblivion story: Joey Eischen, who bounced around the league in his 20s before settling in Montreal and moving south with the team.  He was known to be a “character” in the clubhouse and to give good quotes to reporters (google “Joey eischen quotes” and you’ll find some of his classics).   By 2006 though the years had taken their toll on his shoulder; he had 19 walks in 14 2/3 innings through the end of May had blown his rotator cuff.  The team put him on the 60 day D/L and called up one Bill Bray.   Eischen never got off that D/L; he was released in the off-season and never played again.  For 2013, he’s listed as the pitching coach of Colorado’s high-A Affiliate in Asheville.


2005 (16 players)

Total Players used: 30 position, 25 pitchers, 55 total.  16/55 = 29% never appeared again

Players:

  • Carlos Baerga; retired after 2005
  • Junior Spivey: bounced around AAA 2006-7, indy ball in 2009, retired.
  • Tony Blanco; Nats minor leagues 2006-7, Colorado AA in 2008, in Japan from 2009-present.
  • Wil Cordero; released mid 2005, signed on with the NY Mets but never made it out of AAA.  Retired after 2005.
  • Deivi Cruz; released after 2005, cut from St. Louis 2006 ST, played indy ball, retired.
  • Jeffrey Hammonds; retired in June 2005 mid-season.
  • J.J. Davis: Traded to Colorado as part of the Preston Wilson deal, sent to Colorado’s AAA, then released after the season and never played again.
  • Rick Short; Granted FA after the 2005 season to play in Japan, played there til 2009.
  • Kenny Kelly; AAA in 2006 and 2007, released and retired.
  • Keith Osik; a backup catcher, got 4 ABs in 2005, released and retired.
  • Tyrell Godwin; after just THREE MLB at-bats in 2005, spent all of 2006 and 2007 in AAA, released and retired.
  • T.J. Tucker; released after 2005, tried one year of indy ball in 2008, retired.
  • Joe Horgan; released after 2005, played one year of AAA with Florida, released, retired.
  • Matt White; AAA in 2006-7, Japan 2007-8, tried indy ball in 2010, hung ‘em up.
  • C.J. Nitkowski; AAA in 2006, then went to Japan 2007-8, Korea 2009-10, back with the Mets AAA team in July 2012.  Not signed for 2013
  • Antonio Osuna: dnp in 2006, Mexican league 2007-9.

Changes in last 12 months: none

Favorite Nats-to-Oblivion story: Rick Short, who got his MLB debut at the age of 32, after 11 very long seasons in the minors with many different teams.  He got a couple of call-ups in June and July to provide cover, and then played out the string after a Sept 1 roster expansion call-up.  In that off-season, he returned to Japan (where he’d played one full season prior), and played four more years in the Japanese League and retired in 2009.

Though it merits talking about a couple other guys here. Tony Blanco; he was a rule-5 draftee who the Nats carried the whole of 2005 so they could keep his rights.  He was awful; he had a .177 batting average as the 25th guy off the bench.  In 2006 he couldn’t even cut it in AA and played most of the year in High-A.  After 2007 the Nats summarily released him from their minor league organization altogether.   He found his calling though; he signed on in Japan in 2009 at age 27 and continues to play there today.  You have to wonder if he may very well earn another MLB shot.

Jeffrey Hammonds was well known to Washington baseball fans by virtue of his pedigree with our northern neighbors in Baltimore; he was a 1st round draft pick in 1992 out of Stanford, broke in with the MLB team the following year and was a role player on the powerhouse Baltimore teams of the mid 1990s.   He bounced around the league afterwards though, signing on with the newly relocated Washington franchise for the 2005 debut season but he hung ‘em up after a slow start here.  He was only 34 when he retired.

Written by Todd Boss

January 16th, 2014 at 9:01 am

Posted in Nats in General

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Who is going to start for Syracuse in 2012?

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Craig Stammen looks set to lead a potentially weak 2012 AAA rotation. Photo unknown via sabermetrics.com

We all know who went the other way in the Gio Gonzalez trade; A significant portion of our starter depth, especially at or near the majors.  Both Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock got a few starts in September last year, and both fared relatively well (albeit against somewhat weakened or dis-interested opponents).

Prior to the Gonzalez signing, one would have thought that the MLB 2012 rotation was mostly set, with Ross Detwiler taking the 5th spot over Milone and Peacock by virtue of his (lack of) options status.  That would have left both these younger starters in AAA waiting for their opportunity.  With them now in Oakland’s organization … who is going to start for Syracuse in 2012?  Who represents our starter depth in case someone gets hurt?

At the end of the 2011 season, if one had to guess Syracuse’s 2012 rotation you would have probably guessed it to be Milone, Peacock, Brad Meyers, Craig Stammen and Yuniesky Maya.  This would essentially be the same rotation Syracuse ended their regular season with (replacing spot starter JD Martin with Milone, who by that point had departed for the majors).  Now consider this same group:

  • Milone: traded to Oakland
  • Peacock: traded to Oakland
  • Meyers: picked up by New York in the rule 5 draft
  • Martin: signed a minor league FA deal with Miami

Only Stammen and Maya now remain, and frankly I’m not sure who else the team is going to get to start in Syracuse in 2012.  Here’s a list of every one who made starts in 2011 at Syracuse: Red means they’re no longer with the organization, Blue means they were making re-hab starts or were starts by guys who are out of options for 2012 and aren’t appearing in Syracuse:

Name W L ERA whip G GS
Tom Milone 12 6 3.22 1.03 24 24
Craig Stammen 10 7 4.75 1.43 25 24
Yuniesky Maya 4 9 5 1.24 22 22
Brad Meyers 6 5 3.48 1.31 17 16
Ross Detwiler 6 6 4.53 1.49 16 16
J.D. Martin 3 7 3.93 1.13 30 14
Brad Peacock 5 1 3.19 1.25 9 9
Garrett Mock 0 3 6.28 1.67 16 4
Erik Arnesen 0 2 3.57 1.42 3 3
Ryan Tatusko 3 4 4.54 1.79 23 2
Chad Gaudin 0 2 4.38 1.62 6 2
Chien-Ming Wang 0 1 6.75 1.59 2 2
Stephen Strasburg 0 0 1.8 0.4 1 1
Tom Gorzelanny 0 1 9 1.5 1 1

So, by category of starts:

  • 69 were made by players no longer with Washington (including Rule-5 draftee Meyers, who may very well be returned but for now is a New York Yankee)
  • 20 were made by Detwiler and other MLBers on re-hab assignments.
  • the remaining 51 games made by guys who may or may not feature in 2012.

That’s 63% of your AAA starts made by guys who won’t be making any 2012 AAA starts for this organization.

Well, you may say, perhaps we should just be expecting all those AA pitchers from 2011 to be rising up.  Except that our AA rotation was filled with reclamation projects and minor league free agents in 2011.  Here’s a comparable look at those who made AA starts for the franchise in 2011 (again, with red and blue indicating the same as above):

Name W L ERA whip G GS
Shairon Martis 8 6 3.05 1.22 23 23
Tanner Roark 9 9 4.69 1.4 21 21
Erik Davis 5 7 4.79 1.61 19 18
Erik Arnesen 8 4 2.43 1.1 26 16
Oliver Perez 3 5 3.09 1.39 16 15
Brad Peacock 10 2 2.01 0.86 16 14
Ryan Tatusko 2 4 5.94 1.83 12 9
Daniel Rosenbaum 3 1 2.29 0.97 6 6
Brad Meyers 3 2 2.48 0.96 6 6
Jimmy Barthmaier 5 3 5.05 1.55 39 2
Carlos Martinez 3 4 5.34 1.42 32 2
Chien-Ming Wang 2 0 0 0.73 2 2
Garrett Mock 0 1 13.5 2.05 2 2
Luis Atilano 0 1 13.5 2.5 2 2
Stephen Strasburg 1 0 0 0.17 1 1
Evan Bronson 0 0 2.25 1.75 1 1
Henry Rodriguez 0 0 0 0.75 3 1
Doug Slaten 0 0 0 1 1 1

AA Start Summary:

  • 67 were made by players no longer with Washington (including all minor league Free Agents for the time being, even though some may re-sign eventually)
  • 4 were re-hab assignments by current MLBers.
  • the remaining 71 games made by guys who may or may not feature in 2012.  This includes a few starts by Arneson

That’s 50% of your AA starts made by guys no longer with the organization or re-hab starts.  Arneson pitched well enough, but he’s no prospect; he’s 28 and starting his 6th minor league year.  Roark and Tatusko both struggled in 2011 and seem destined for the bullpen.  Davis was demoted, Bronson only called up for a spot AA start, and Rosenbaum pitched well in 6 late season starts but needs more AA seasoning.  So not a lot of help coming up from Harrisburg.

Luckily, the Nats have been adding minor league free agent signings left and right, guys who probably will feature.  By my notes, here’s the arms we’ve added so far this off season:

  • Matthew Buschmann, rhp: taken in the rule5 draft (AA phase) from San Diego, he was reasonably successful in 2011 in the AA Texas league before getting pounded in 20 appearances (15 starts) in AAA.  By virtue of his rule-5 drafting, he’s pretty much guaranteed to be on the AAA roster in some capacity.  He is a starter; will be be one of Syracuse’s starters?
  • Joaquin Waldis, rhp, signed to a 1yr ML FA (former club: San Francisco) with an invite to Spring Training.  He was a reliever all of 2011 and was most likely signed to provide some depth in the middle relief phase.  Not a starter option.
  • Jeff Fulchino, rhp, signed to a 1yr ML FA (Houston), invite to ST (split contract).  Was relatively mediocre for Houston and San Diego last year, again signed for some reliever depth/spring training competition.
  • Robert Gilliam, a rhp thrown into the Gonzalez trade, is a starter but only was at Oakland’s Class-A entry in the California League last year.  He seems set to be in the AA rotation in 2012.
  • Mike Ballard, a lhp starter given a 1yr ML FA (Baltimore), invite to ST.  He was relatively effective for Baltimore’s AA affiliate in Bowie, but less so at AAA Norfolk, where he started the season.  He is a full-time starter and seems a likely candidate for our AAA rotation.

Ok, It seems like we may have our answer.  It looks like your AAA rotation will be Stammen, Maya, Arneson, Buschmann and Ballard.  Here’s a quick rundown on these 5 guy’s AAA numbers for 2011:

Name Age as of 4/1/12 W L ERA whip G GS CG SHO SV ip H R ER HR hb bb so
Craig Stammen 28 10 7 4.75 1.43 25 24 1 1 0 142 163 80 75 18 1 40 127
Yunesky Maya 30 4 9 5 1.24 22 22 1 0 0 129.2 133 73 72 14 5 28 98
Erik Arnesen 28 0 2 3.57 1.42 3 3 0 0 0 17.2 22 7 7 2 0 3 15
Mike Ballard 28 2 4 4.91 1.624 10 9 1 1 0 51.1 66 31 28 7 17 38
Matthew Buschmann 28 6 5 7.31 1.837 20 15 1 0 0 88.2 129 75 72 11 33 60

Without sounding too judgmental … that’s not a lot of AAA depth in case something happens.  Only 2 of these 5 are even on the 40-man, and those who are have either proven to be ineffective at the major league level (Maya) or seem destined to be used as middle relief/organization filler (Stammen).  If Meyers gets returned, look for him to replace Arneson one for one (since Arnesen seems destined to be the minor league utility guy, as he was used last year).

I’d have to say; if someone goes down with injury, we’ll most likely look from within the MLB bullpen (in the form of Gorzelanny or Detwiler) for starts.

Looking at our Minor League Free Agent Pitchers..

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Is this the end of the road for JD Martin in a Nats uniform? Photo via Nats news Network

I’m a bit late to this topic; Work has amped up lately and it squeezes what little free time I have in the evenings to do stuff like this.  So sorry if it feels dated.

MLB declared hundreds of minor league free agents on 11/4/11, 5 days after the end of the World Series.  The Baseball America link here has a more complete description of how a player arrives at minor league free agency, but generally speaking it happens one of two ways: either a team has kept one of its own drafted players for 6+ years but he isn’t on the 40-man, or the team signed a minor league free agent last off season and has chosen (as of yet) not to renew his contract or to add him to the 40-man.  From the BA article, here’s our FA pitchers:

RHP: Luis Atilano (AA), Jimmy Barthmaier (AA), Sam Brown (Lo A), J.D. Martin (AAA), Carlos Martinez (AA), Shairon Martis (AA), Garrett Mock (AAA)
LHP: Oliver Perez (AA)

Sean Hogan did a nice statistical review/write up on this same topic earlier, posting his ranks of these FAs.  Below is mostly cut-n-pasted from the season summary articles I did for each level, addressing each FA.  Most of these write-ups did not factor in eligibility for ML free agency at the time and assumed (from a prediction stand point) that the team would be considering their future for 2012.  I’ll add in a FA prediction as well.

  • JD Martin: Outrighted before the season and then signed a minor-league deal, Martin was AAA’s long man/spot starter.  He ended up with 14 starts and pedestrian numbers on the season: 3-7, 3.93 era in 30 appearances.  His fate was sealed in January when he was outrighted and nobody else sniffed; he’s a soft-throwing righty who is a good AAA pitcher until his spot is needed.   Outlook for next season: he could be back in the same role he was in this year, unless a numbers game forces his release.  But the franchise seems to like Martin and he pitched well all year.  ML Free Agency Prediction: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Martin sign with another team, given our current depth of pitching at the MLB level.  He’s clearly not going to get another shot at the major leagues with our team.
  • Garrett Mock: started strong in AAA, then had two incredibly bad outings and went on the DL.  His rehab travels around the low minors became some what of a joke, but when he returned he failed to impress, and was DFA’d in early September to make way for 9/1 call-ups to the majors.  Final AAA line: 0-3, 6.28 era, 1.67 whip, 32/24 k/bb in 28 innings.  His stats at all levels are worse.  Outlook for next season: There are plenty of people (including me, loudly) who openly questioned why Mock occupied a 40-man spot for so long.  His long awaited removal should indicate the end of his future with the Nats franchise.  ML Free Agency Prediction:  I’m guessing he picks up with another team and tries to start fresh with a new organization for 2012.
  • Luis Atilano only got 2 starts in AA and was hammered before hitting the DL, where he remained the rest of the season.  He’s 26 this year and was DFA’d, cleared waivers and accepted his assignment, indicating that he’s probably not in the future plans of the team.  Outlook for next season: I’m guessing he’s given his release and will be a minor league free agent.  ML Free Agency Prediction: he’ll play elsewhere in 2012.
  • Shairon Martis is an interesting case; he was in the Nats starting rotation in 2009, and by the spring of 2011 he had successfully passed through waivers and was on our AA squad despite only being 24.  Not surprisingly, he did well, posting a 8-6 record, a 3.05 era, a 1.22 whip, had 146/39 k/bb in 133 ip and threw a 7-inning no-hitter.  And this all proved, what exactly?  As I said over and again during the season’s rotation reviews, Martis getting out AA hitters with ease shows us nothing that we didn’t already know.  We need to see him at least at the AAA level to see if he’s ever going to be the pitcher that showed so much promise when he was promoted to the majors in 2008 as a 21-yr old.  There was word/rumors during spring training that the team wasn’t pleased with his conditioning or his work efforts, perhaps contributing to his being essentially in the franchise “doghouse.” Outlook for next season: He should be in at least a AAA rotation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was stuck in extended spring training by virtue of a numbers issue if he stayed.  We have a lot of starters at the upper levels of our system and he would be, at best, the #5 starter in AAA.  ML Free Agency Prediction: He’d be crazy to resign with this team; his lack of a promotion even to AAA signaled the end of his future here.
  • Oliver Perez was picked up in a relatively high-profile signing after he was unceremoniously released (with $12M still owed on his 2011 contract) by the Mets, who had tired of his poor performances on the mound.  The Nats, surprisingly in my opinion, installed him as a starter in AA and left him there the entire season.   Outside of a quick DL stint he mostly pitched decently, posting a 3-5 record in 15 starts, with a 3.09 Era and a 1.39 whip.  But, as with Martis above, what exactly did we learn from this?  An experienced MLB veteran *should* be getting AA guys out with regularity.  With the troubles the team had with their loogy (see Slaten, Doug‘s inherited runners and WHIP rate on the season), I’m surprised they didn’t try to feature Perez as a lefty out of the bullpen.  Now, with the season over I suppose the team has learned that Perez is now just a mediocre AA starter.  Outlook for next season: In my opinion Perez needs to realize he’s no longer a starter and embrace the Loogy role to continue his career.  Will he do it?  Ego is a difficult thing for a former successful starter.  ML Free Agency Prediction: Perez probably goes elsewhere to continue his career on a minor league deal, looking to regain a starting job somewhere in the MLB.
  • Jimmy Barthmaier got a couple spot starts but worked mostly out of the bullpen, sporting a high ERA but good k/9 rates.  Same for journeyman Carlos Martinez, albeit without the good K/9 rates.  Outlook for next season: Barthmaier and Martinez are org guys and may or may not return.  ML Free Agency Prediction: looking for work elsewhere, as we have a slew of reliever-arms percolating up from the A-ball ranks.
  • Sean Brown sported an ERA at the 5.00 level in Low-A.  That’s about as much as you need to know.  Outlook for next season: A 6-year ML FA unsuccessful in Low-A is looking at either retirement or indy ball.  ML Free Agency Prediction: looking at the independent leagues to continue his career.

Summary: I’d be surprised if ANY of these guys re-signed with the team.  Perhaps Martin and Martis are the most “desirable” arms to pursue (if the Nats pursue any of them), but both players have to see that they’re not in the team’s plans any longer.

Written by Todd Boss

November 10th, 2011 at 10:11 am

Harrisburg/AA Pitching Staff year in Review; 2011

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Brad Peacock was your AA pitcher of the year, and earned two subsequent promotions in 2011. Photo via bleacherreport.com

(2nd in a series.  See yesterday’s post for Syracuse).

The Harrisburg rotation started the year with two starlets, a couple question marks and a few guys who had MLB experience (either in the rotation or on the DL, waiting to get their shot).  It was interesting to see a rotation in AA that was (on average) younger and had more MLB time than the team’s AAA roster, but that’s how this season played out.  No less than twenty guys got “starts” for the AA team this year, including a number of rehab starts and even more “passing through” starts for guys on their way out of the organization.

Here’s the status of the Harrisburg pitching staff at the end of the season (ages are as of 9/30/11)

  • Starters: Roark 24, Arneson 27, Martis 24, OPerez(L) 30, Rosenbaum (L) 23
  • Bullpen: Lehman 24, VanAllen (L) 27,  Barthmaier 27, McCoy (L) 23, RMartin 27, HPena 26
  • Spot starts: CMartinez 27
  • Promotions: Mandel, Meyers, Mattheus, Tatusko, Zinicola,  Peacock, Mock (post rehab)
  • up-and-back: Arneson, Pena, CMartinez
  • demotions: RMartin (from last year), EDavis
  • DL: Atilano 26
  • Cut/released post Spring or mid-season: Leatherman, Novoa, Spradlin, Dials, CJames, Alaniz, Chico
  • Missing: JJones 29

Harrisburg starters.  The rotation started the season with Meyers, Tatusko, Atilano, Peacock and Erik Davis.  Here’s how these guys and the rest of the starters fared in 2011.

  • Brad Meyers got the season opening start and it was clear after 6 starts he was ready to be promoted, going 3-2 with a 2.48 era and a sub 1.00 whip.  Outlook for next season: (from AAA post): Begins 2012 in AAA, competes for MLB #5 starter in spring.
  • Ryan Tatusko was mediocre at best in a AA starting role, putting up a 5.94 era in 12 appearances (9 starts) before being dumped to the bullpen when Oliver Perez was ready to go.  His last couple of appearances were decent though, and he got promoted to fill an opening in AAA’s bullpen, where he played most of the season.  Outlook for next season: (from AAA post): Org guy, in AAA’s bullpen or in another organization.
  • Luis Atilano only got 2 starts in and was hammered before hitting the DL, where he remained the rest of the season.  He’s 26 this year and was DFA’d, cleared waivers and accepted his assignment, indicating that he’s probably not in the future plans of the team.  Outlook for next season: I’m guessing he’s given his release and will be a minor league free agent.
  • Brad Peacock tore up AA, putting up a 10-2 record with 129 Ks in just 98 IP.  Most questioned why he was left to languish in AA for so long, clearly having earned a promotion.  But he’s young (only 23 this year) and there was not really a hole in the AAA rotation for him until Detwiler’s promotion opened one up.  Outlook for next season: (from AAA post): Loses out on #5 starter competition, starts in AAA, possibly in MLB bullpen b/c of his arm.
  • Erik Davis was obtained in trade for disgruntled utility infielder Alberto Gonzalez, had a bunch of starts, a DL stint, and then a string of awful starts that got him demoted to Potomac (where he didn’t fare much better).  Final AA line: 5-7, 4.79 era, 1.61 whip and 93/41 k/bb in 94 ip.  He’s got great K/9 but not much else.   Outlook for next season: there’s not much use for a 25yr old right-hander who can’t cut it in High-A, though his precipitous drop in stats from 2010 to 2011 is cause for hope that this was an aberration year.  I’ll guess he features in the AA bullpen in 2012.
  • Erik Arneson started the year with 3 pretty decent AAA starts, then suddenly was in the AA bullpen.  This was his third year repeating the AA level with this franchise, clearly indicating that the team views him as an organizational guy.  Despite his all-star game appearance and stellar 2011 numbers in AA (8-4, 2.43 era, 1.10 whip in 16 starts and 26 appearances), he’s 27 this year and clearly isn’t going anywhere.  Outlook for next season: Org Guy; either a minor league FA or perhaps floating between our AAA and AA levels as he did this year.
  • Shairon Martis is an interesting case; he was in the Nats starting rotation in 2009, and by the spring of 2011 he had successfully passed through waivers and was on our AA squad despite only being 24.  Not surprisingly, he did well, posting a 8-6 record, a 3.05 era, a 1.22 whip, had 146/39 k/bb in 133 ip and threw a 7-inning no-hitter.  And this all proved, what exactly?  As I said over and again during the season’s rotation reviews, Martis getting out AA hitters with ease shows us nothing that we didn’t already know.  We need to see him at least at the AAA level to see if he’s ever going to be the pitcher that showed so much promise when he was promoted to the majors in 2008 as a 21-yr old.  There was word/rumors during spring training that the team wasn’t pleased with his conditioning or his work efforts, perhaps contributing to his being essentially in the franchise “doghouse.” Outlook for next season: He should be in the AAA rotation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was stuck in extended spring training by virtue of a numbers issue.
  • Tanner Roark got nearly a full season of starts in the AA rotation and didn’t have the greatest season,  In 21 starts he posted a 9-9 record, 4.69 era, 1.40 whip and pedestrian K/9 rates.  He’s younger than his trade mate (Tatusko, both received for Cristian Guzman in mid-2010) so the team will have a bit more patience.  Outlook for next season: I think his starting days are done; i’d think he’ll be converted to a reliever and start in the AA bullpen.
  • Oliver Perez was picked up in a relatively high-profile signing after he was unceremoniously released (with $12M still owed on his 2011 contract) by the Mets, who had tired of his poor performances on the mound.  The Nats, surprisingly in my opinion, installed him as a starter in AA and left him there the entire season.   Outside of a quick DL stint he mostly pitched decently, posting a 3-5 record in 15 starts, with a 3.09 Era and a 1.39 whip.  But, as with Martis above, what exactly did we learn from this?  An experienced MLB veteran *should* be getting AA guys out with regularity.  With the troubles the team had with their loogy (see Slaten, Doug‘s inherited runners and WHIP rate on the season), I’m surprised they didn’t try to feature Perez as a lefty out of the bullpen.  Now, with the season over I suppose the team has learned that Perez is now just a mediocre AA starter.  Outlook for next season: Perez will be a FA and probably goes elsewhere to continue his career on a minor league deal, looking to regain a starting job somewhere in the MLB.
  • Denny Rosenbaum got a late season call-up after pitching well in high-A all season and continued his excellent season in AA.  His stats for Harrisburg: 3-1, 2.29 era and a sub 1.00 whip in 6 starts.  These numbers were slightly better than what he posted in 20 Potomac games, and he seems to be featuring as a Tom Milone-esque crafty left-hander who is riding under the radar.  Outlook for next season: at 23 he’s still pretty young and will be in the AA rotation with a mind to get promoted after a few starts in the same way Meyers or Peacock earned their way up this year.
  • Other guys who got spot starts here and there (non-rehab): Jimmy Barthmaier got a couple spot starts but worked mostly out of the bullpen, sporting a high ERA but good k/9 rates.  Same for journeyman Carlos Martinez, albeit without the good K/9 rates.  Evan Bronson put in a spot start during a brief call up to provide cover for the team during one of their many rain-out induced double headers.  Outlook for next season: Barthmaier and Martinez are org guys and may or may not return.  We’ll cover Bronson in the high-A post, where he spent most of the season.

Harrisburg Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps at the end of the season.

  • Rafael Martin and Hassan Pena split the closing duties and both put up great numbers.  Pena was a AAA demotion while Martin seems to be a bit old for the level.  Despite this, Martin is representing the franchise in the Arizona Fall League, so perhaps he’ll feature prominently next year.  Outlook for next season: both guys seem set to be part of the AAA bullpen.
  • Pat Lehman and Corey VanAllen both pitched pretty well; Lehman earned a mid-season promotion and put up a 3.71 era in AA, earning a trip to the AFL as well.  VanAllen is older, lefty and had a great K/9 ratio.  Outlook for next season: Lehman stays in the AA pen to start, while VanAllen moves up to AAA as a possible loogy.
  • Pat McCoy struggled in AA, putting up a 4.78 era in 52 innings of work, but he’s also very young and had a 9.0 K/9 rate.  Outlook for next season: he’ll start again in AA bullpen, looking to gain on his experiences in 2011.
  • The Rest not already mentioned; Barthmaier, Martinez already covered above. 

Other pitchers who appeared in AA of note (not including Rehabbing MLBers): Ryan Mattheus started the season in AA and earned two promotions, ending up with good MLB numbers.  He’ll make the 2012 bullpen as long as he stays healthy. Matt Chico was awful in 10 appearances before being demoted/DL’d and eventually released.  Zech Zinicola and Jeff Mandel started in AA before both being promoted to AAA, where they worked the bulk of the season.  Garrett Mock put in two awful rehab starts en route to his own release.

http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?pos=P&sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=572095

Who comes off the 40-man?

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JD Martin's days could be numbered with the team. Photo courtesy of natsnewsnetwork.blogspot.com

1/19/11 Update: with the signing of reliever Todd Coffey, the team now appears to be three men over the limit.  Oh, and about 2 hours later the signing of infielder Jerry Hairston now requiring four guys to be dropped or traded.  One player has been cleared off the 40-man; the predicted JD Martin given his outright release unfortunately later in the afternoon.

Unless I’ve forgotten how to count, and unless I really do not understand the 40-man roster rules, the Nationals have been over the limit for nearly two weeks now.  They signed Adam LaRoche on 1/4/11, then made the announcement official on 1/7/11Answer: per Zuckerman’s posting today, “corresponding [40-man roster] moves don’t have to be made until the contract for the new player is formally processed at MLB headquarters in New York.”  LaRoche’s contract didn’t hit NY til today, so the Martin release is the corresponding move.  Still 3 to go.

Yet, here we are on 1/19/11 and no corresponding move has occurred yet.  The Nationals’ 40-man roster has been above 40 ever since.  I believe teams have to make immediate moves but do not have to make them public; a player could have been designated for assignment on 1/7/11, at which point the team has 10 days to actually decide what to do with him.  So perhaps tomorrow 1/19/11 (since we had a holiday mixed in there?) we’ll have an answer.

Likewise, Tom Gorzelanny will also require a corresponding move, since none of the 3 players traded for him were on the 40-man to start with.  With his addition (yes the trade has been announced but it will not be official until all physicals are passed) we’ll be at 42 (43 with the Coffey signing).

So, who on the current 40-man roster is next to go?  If we need to clear four spots without a major trade, then my initial guesses are:

1. Justin Maxwell: I know that Maxwell is a local and is a fan favorite, but the fact remains that we now have at least 5 outfielders with major league time last year (Werth, Ankiel, Morgan, Bernadina, and Morse) that seem to be ahead of Maxwell on the depth chart, plus a 6th outfielder prospect who will get a look prior to Maxwell at this point (CBrown).  He’s never produced at the MLB level and is now far too old to be considered a prospect.

2. J.D. Martin: Martin is probably the right-handed starter version of Maxwell.  He’s fallen down the depth chart, his name isn’t being mentioned as even competing for a rotation spot out of spring, and the argument can be made that he’s not in the top 5 players to make the AAA rotation.  He’s always had ok numbers when he’s pitched in the majors but in a power-arm league, spots for soft-tossing slight-of-frame right handers are limited.

3. The third and fourth spots are tougher.  I think #3 may end up being someone like Luis Atilano.  Mediocre MLB numbers in 2010, coming off of injury, he probably can sneak through waivers as Chico did and get assigned to AAA to try to get back.  He’ll be 26, slightly older than you want in a prospect, and he’s clearly not in the MLB rotation battle for 2011.

4. Atahualpa Severino: he has no mlb experience and is behind Slaten in the loogy battle right now.  However, other teams may see that we just added him to the 40-man last year and might take a look.  He’s a bit old for a prospect with no MLB time and he could slip through waivers.

This 4th spot is a stretch though, and I think honestly a better way to clear space may be a set of prospects trade for a veteran.  I don’t see at this point how Morse or Detwiler makes the 25-man roster, so perhaps we should look instead to package these guys for a player.

Other candidates (and their reasons for keeping them over Atilano and Martin right now) could be Mock (lively fastball, good stuff and a favorite of the organization), Martis (still young and still could prosper),  and Marrero (still too early to give up on him; needs one more season to prove he belongs but he’s clearly blocked for 2 years by LaRoche; could be a trade candidate).

Gorzelanny trade thoughts…

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The Nats' newest #5 starter, Tom Gorzelanny. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Love the Trade to get Tom Gorzelanny.  The three guys we gave up were all marginal prospects in the grand scheme of things.  Burgess was a Bowden toolsy draft pick who has moved slowly through the farm system and now is completely blocked for the next 7 years or so by Werth and Harper.  I really liked AJ Morris when we drafted him (he was a 4th rounder but was fantastic in college, giving Mike Leake his only loss of the 2009 season) but he’s already lost his starter status and seems like a middle relief guy at best.  Lastly Graham Hicks was probably the 2nd or 3rd best pitcher in Hagerstown this year and has some promise.

Gorzelanny’s numbers are not fantastic, but you wouldn’t expect them to be for a 5th starter from a team that lost 90 games last  year.  He had a 106 era+ for the season pitching out of a hitters park in Chicago.  He probably has the inside track on the 5th starter spot here in DC by virtue of his acquisition.  If the season started tomorrow you have to think the rotation would be going Livan, Lannan, Zimmermann, Marquis and GorzelannyMaya and Detwiler are starting in AAA save an injury, and Wang has a bit more time to rehab.

Meanwhile, AAA is looking jammed.  We already had Atilano, Martin, Mock and Martis as returning rotation starters in AAA.  Chico is down there as well, having passed through waivers to be reassigned.  Maya and Detwiler are going to need places to pitch.  Plus we have some older prospects from last year’s AA team (Roark and Tatusko) who really need to be pitching in AAA to see if they’re MLB candidates.

All in all, a competent pitcher to compete for a spot in the rotation and who may help out the rotation in the short term.  And not for a lot of money (probably something close to Lannan’s $2.75M deal for 2011).

Nats Lineup when all Trade/FA rumors go through.

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Is this the Nat's 2011 Opening Day Starter? (Photo deadspin.com)

By now we’ve all seen predictions of free agents in the off season.  Here’s some from Tim Dierkes, here’s the rest of the MLB trade rumors writers, here’s some by Jon Heyman, and here’s a bunch by the HardBall Times guys.   By various accounts the Nats are going to:

  • Let Adam Dunn walk.
  • Sign Carlos Pena to take his place
  • Roll the dice on Brandon Webb
  • Chase after but not obtain Cliff Lee
  • Eventually sign Javier Vazquez (I really hope not)
  • Maybe get Jorge de la Rosa (I hope not)
  • Possibly get JJ Putz as a closer placeholder/trade bait version of Matt Capps

Note: I’ve also seen comments here and there that we’d be interested in Hisanori Takahashi, a 35yr old utility guy in the Mets bullpen or taking Kosuke Fukudome off the Cub’s hands.  The former isn’t a FA and is arbitration eligible but the Mets reportedly are non-tendering him.  The latter could be mildly intriguing; he’s a decent hitter, a decent fielder who has played center in the past.  But it doesn’t necessarily improve over a Morse/Bernadina combo.  Of course, i’m also hearing about possible trades for Zack Greinke (as covered in this blog posting) or Matt Garza.  I’d love to have either guy of course, but don’t want to give up the farm for either guy.  And now that Dan Uggla has indicated that he wants out of Florida (and honestly, given the cheap-skate way the franchise is run and the way the players are run out of town as soon as they get too expensive, who wouldn’t?), there’s all sorts of rumors about his possible destination … and the Nats are in the thick of it.

(Side note: do you start to think that the Nats are acting a little out of character this off season?  They’re attached to marquee free agents, they’re listed as “interested parties” on half the free agents out there, and they’re putting their name in the hat for all the big names on the trading block.  Is this all for real or is this severe over-compensation for the Lerner’s spending the past 5 years of acting like MLB paupers?)

So, our 2011 rotation could look like this:

  1. Livan Hernandez
  2. Brandon Webb
  3. John Lannan
  4. Javier Vazquez
  5. Jordan Zimmermann

Leaving the likes of Maya, Detwiler, injury disappointment Wang and $15M bust Jason Marquis on the sidelines (to say nothing of the next tier of guys like Stammen, Atilano, Martis, Mock and Chico looking at bullpen spots or AAA).  I can’t see Sammy Solis making a Mike Leake-esque debut at the MLB level having never pitched a day in the minors, especially after his less-than-dominant AFL numbers.

The POTENTIAL of this rotation is great.  Webb’s a former Cy Young winner, Vazquez an innings eater who garnered Cy Young votes in 2009 in Atlanta.  Lannan (outside of the first half of last year) is a difficult lefty who gets a ton of ground balls and pitches at a 110 era+ level, Livan is a revalation and Zimmermann is a Matt Cain replica who could be just as dominant with mid 90s possible shutdown stuff.  The reality could be just as bad: Livan is a soft tossing righty who depends on guile and is regularly shelled, Webb hasn’t pitched in 2 years, Vazquez has lost his fastball, Zimmermann is promising but has never produced, and Lannan (our Ace) is a #4 pitcher on a good staff.  Nothing like glass is half empty/glass is half full analysis.

Our non-pitching/out-field lineup looks pretty set already for the 2011 season.

  1. (L) Nyjer Morgan – CF
  2. (R) Ian Desmond – 2b (yes I think he and Espinosa need to switch)
  3. (R) Ryan Zimmerman – 3b
  4. (L) Carlos Pena – 1b (he has to bat cleanup to go R-L-R in the heart of the order)
  5. (R) Josh Willingham – LF
  6. (L) Roger Bernadina/(R) Michael Morse platoon in RF
  7. (R) Ivan Rodriguez – C
  8. (S) Danny Espinosa – SS
  9. Pitcher

I can live with that.  Frankly i’d like to see another outfielder acquisition.  I liked Bernadina and Morse’s production this year but they’re not game changers.  You really need to use your power positions on the field (first and third base, right field, left field) to hold your big boppers, and we need more production out of the RF spot.  Jayson Werth would really fit in nicely there wouldn’t he?  I guess we wait til 2012 and the introduction of Bryce Harper to fill that spot.

I also think we need to do something in center/leadoff.  Morgan’s troubles towards the end of last season are well documented, but his production wasn’t earning him playing time.  If the Red Sox acquire Carl Crawford, that might make Jacoby Ellsbury available.  His 2010 was a wash but he’d be the perfect center fielder/leadoff guy.  2009 stats: 70sbs, .301 BA and a .355 obp.

Willingham has mentioned that he would be willing to play First, and I think that’d be a great alternative if we can’t get any of the free agent 1st basement to come here.  We could go with an outfield of Bernadina, Morgan and Morse with Willingham at 1st base, giving us a decently good lineup both offensively and defensively.

It looks to be a really interesting offseason for the Nats.

GM for a day Part 3: the rest of the Roster and DFA candidates

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The last time anyone was happy with Jason Marquis. AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez

This is the 3rd of a quick series of reviews on the Nat’s 2010 season ending roster with analysis of what we should do.  Part I was a discussion of our Arbitration candidates while Part II was a discussion about Free Agents (ours and rumored acquisitions).  Part III is a quick rundown on the players either already under contract for 2011 or under club control (not yet reached arbitration status).  Bold means I am guessing that they’re on the 25 man roster on opening day.

Marquis, Jason #4 starter in 2011; lets hope he can regain some form.
Zimmerman, Ryan Franchise player
Strasburg, Stephen 60-day DL to start season; hopefully see some rehab starts in September
Rodriguez, Ivan Likely to cede playing time gradually to Ramos through 2011.
Hernandez, Livan Great 1-year re-signing.  Opening Day #1 Starter 2011.
Maya, Yunesky Hopefully shows his value with a full Spring Training.  Probable #5 starter barring FA signings or injury
Morgan, Nyjer Still under club control; but definitely a roster question mark
Mock, Garrett Destined for AAAA starter status.  Syracuse Rotation
Stammen, Craig Despite good advanced stats, probably behind in rotation race.  2011 long man in BP
Clippard, Tyler BP Anchor; splits time between setup and closer role.
Zimmermann, Jordan #3 starter 2011.  Hopefully stays healthy.
Atilano, Luis AAA rotation
Balester, Collin MLB bullpen/longman
Bernadina, Roger Possible starting 2011 RF
Desmond, Ian Starting SS
Detwiler, Ross Probably loses out on rotation battle and starts in AAA
English, Jesse Coming off injury, probably AAA bullpen.  Possible DFA.
Jaime, Juan Injured all of 2010: Possible DFA?
Martin, J.D. Coming off injury, probably AAA rotation or DFA.
Martis, Shairon AAA rotation
Mattheus, Ryan Injured most of 2010: Possible DFA
Maxwell, Justin 4th outfielder.
Severino, Atahualpa AAA bullpen
Thompson, Aaron AA Rotation.  Possible DFA after awful 2010.
Bisenus, Joe DFA Candidate after middling end of 2010.
Storen, Drew MLB bullpen; sharing closing duties w/ Clippard
Ramos, Wilson MLB backup catcher
Espinosa, Danny MLB starting 2nd baseman
Harper, Bryce Likely starting in Potomac and fast rising.

We had more than 40 guys that needed to be made active  (given that we ended the year with several on the 60-day DL) and some had to be designated for assignment (DFA) to make room when the date arrives to make the rosters right post 2010.   That date was 11/10/10, and between our 5 free agents we also cut loose four other players.  None was really a surprise. 

  • Scott Olsen endured another injury and earned the ire of the manager when his move to the bullpen was met with some petulance.
  • Tyler Walker was injured all year and is the most common of commodities in baseball (the right handed middle reliever).
  • Jesse English suffered a similar fate to Walker, and is surplus to requirements after Slaten did such a good job as the LOOGY.
  • The mild surprise DFA so far has been Joe Bisenius.  He didn’t have the greatest numbers out of our bullpen at the end of last season (walking more than he K’d) but he’s a power arm in a league that is quickly becoming a power-arm league.  Perhaps he’ll be invited to spring training to try to earn another shot.

As of right now, we sit at exactly 37/40 on the 40 man.  This gives us some nice flexibility to acquire players via trade or sign free agents without having to make any more moves.  We also have a pending deadline to add Rule5 eligible players, and we have several guys we probably want to protect (a blog posting on this is upcoming…), so I do feel we could make a few more moves:

  • Juan Jaime: he’s buried in the minors and its unlikely someone would risk him after being injured all year
  • Ryan Mattheus (see Jaime)
  • Aaron Thompson: who had just a horrible 2010 and could probably pass through waivers.
  • We could also cut JD Martin loose: he’s 27 coming off a season-ending injury, is clearly not going to be in the future plans of the team, and a soft-tossing right handed starter isn’t likely to be in great demand on the waiver wire.

Let the offseason mania begin!

A dose of reality for the Nats off-season upcoming

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Strasburg's Elbow Injury. Photo LarryBrownSports.com

In the past few weeks, we are hearing news reports linking the Nats to such luminary names as Cliff Lee, Matt Kemp, and Zack Greinke as off season targets.  We are willing to go $125M/5years for Lee, we’d be “interested” in Kemp and we think we can put together a package of prospects for Greinke.

Now, I don’t mean to come off as a grumpy old Nats fan.  Because I’m not; I follow this team intently, I have a rather unhealthy obsession with the minor league pitching rotations (hence the name of the blog), and I truly want the team to do better.  But each of these rumors seems more ridiculous than the last and we (along with my fellow Nats bloggers) probably should have a bit of restraint when talking about the possibilities of actually acquiring these guys.

Zach Greinke is under contract to KC through 2012, has a limited no-trade clause and will probably cost (by various accounts) at least two young MLBers plus one or more additional prospects.  I use the Roy Halladay-to the Phillies deal as a comparison.  Halladay still had an entire year on the contract and Philly had to give up two high end prospects plus a third good young player in Kyle Drabek.   If Greinke was in the last year of his contract (ala Cliff Lee this year) the price would be far less (indeed, the Rangers gave up their #1 prospect Justin Smoak but the other players were lesser ranked prospects).

Matt Kemp apparently is irritated with his club’s management, leading to spurrious trade rumors.  But Kemp is even further away from free agency than Greinke, currently on a 2 year deal and then facing one more arbitration year before being cut loose by 2013.

Here’s the rub; the Nationals really don’t HAVE the kind of prospect depth that is required to make a deal for either player.  Baseball America’s Jim Callis ranked his top 10 Nats prospects in a recent chat  and he listed them in this order:

BA’s Jim Callis’ top 10 Nats prospects (the comments are his’)
1. Bryce Harper, of: Has monster power, though he won’t match Strasburg’s immediate impact.
2. Wilson Ramos, c: Matt Capps trade freed Ramos from being blocked by Joe Mauer with Twins.
3. Derek Norris, c: Still needs to polish bat and defense, but he has power and on-base ability.
4. A.J. Cole, rhp: First-round stuff earned him $2 million as a fourth-rounder.
5. Sammy Solis, lhp: Don’t be surprised if the $1 million second-rounder outperforms Cole.
6. Danny Espinosa, ss: Solid defender has cannon arm and surprising pop (40 HR in 2009-10).
7. Chris Marrero, 1b: Best proven all-around bat in system, though little defensive value.
8. Brad Peacock, rhp: Runs his fastball up to 95, flashes solid knuckle-curve and changeup.
9. Michael Burgess, of: Power potential remains impressive, but will he make enough contact?
10. Yunesky Maya, rhp: Former Cuban national team ace got $8 million big league contract.

Note he doesn’t mention our Minor leaguer of the year Tyler Moore, or our 12th round steal Robbie Ray.

Of this list, who is really trade-able?  Probably not a single one of the top 6 right now, nor Maya or Ray.  Perhaps Norris, if we find out that Jesus Flores is indeed healthy and we decide we can cash in one of the three of our young catchers.  That leaves Marrero (who can barely play 1B and doesn’t hit nearly well enough to be a DH prospect), Peacock (22 and probably the best experienced minor league arm we have), Burgess (who now has 3 full pro seasons and still can’t hit a curveball), and Tyler Moore (great season but he did it as a 23-yr old in high-A).  Our cache of early to mid 20s arms is good (Chico, Martis, Atilano, Stammen, Balester, Detwiler, Martin, Mock to start) but not one of them has proven they can produce at a sustained level without an ERA ballooning into the 5.00 era.  Who wants to trade for a middle-relief right handed pitcher?

Lastly, there’s the Cliff Lee question.  I just finished a blog posting showing how $125/5yrs is almost guaranteed to be an albatross of a contract.  But ask yourself; why would Lee come here even if offered more money than Texas or New York will throw at him?  Why did Mark Teixeira not come to Washington despite being (allegedly) offered more money than the Yankees?  Simple reason: we’re not good enough yet.  The team needs build its farm system and thus build its product on the field, while improving in the records and begin to attract better and better free agents.  Yes, some players will just take whoever offers the most money, but most players want to get paid AND have a chance to win championships, pad their legacy, etc.  If Ryan Zimmerman played for a winning team, he’d not only have more All Star appearances by now but he’d also probably have some MVP votes.

Now, if Strasburg was healthy next year, AND we had a legitimate #2 guy (could be Zimmermann, could be someone else), AND we knew that Marquis and Livan Hernandez would serve as good back-of-the-rotation innings eaters, and we resigned Dunn to preserve a pretty fearsome 3-4-5 lineup … well that sounds a lot more promising to a marquee Free Agent, right?

Now, think about how we’d possibly look 2 years from now at the beginning of 2012.  Harper has torn through a year in the minors, Solis has made  his mlb debut and looks like the 2nd coming of Madison Bumgarner.  Strasburg looks great in rehab starts in Florida and in Potomac.  Espinosa and Desmond are settled in to their roles, Zimmermann has bounced fully back from TJ surgery and looks great, and we’ve added an outfield bat to augment what we had in 2009.  That’s an enticing story, a good young up and coming team that should be able to attract a serious FA starter to augment what is already here.

Livan re-signed; great move to shore up 2011

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Over the weekend, the Nationals took the first post-Strasburg step towards shoring up the 2011 rotation by extending FA-to-be Livan Hernandez through 2011.  No published financial figures but various tweets and rumors put it at $1M base plus a ton of incentives.  If this is indeed the case then his deal is an absolute steal considering his performances this year.  He’s pitching at a 2.7 WAR, which is valued at $10.8M per season per fangraphs.

(Small tangent; click on the fangraphs.com link to see who our 3rd most valuable starter by WAR is; yes indeed its Craig Stammen, demoted to the bullpen despite having the 3rd best advanced stats of any of our starters.  Unfair to the poor guy.  Perhaps he’ll get his chance again in 2011).

Livan has been an integral reason why the Nats are not clamoring towards another 59-loss season, having come out of nowhere (i.e., a minor league contract in spring training) to lead the staff.  He’s given us 18 quality starts in 27 outings, pitched into the 7th inning 12 times, and is averaging6.5 innings a start.  the team is 14-13 in his starts (42-62 in everyone else’s starts).

Here’s how 2011 is now shaping up, with no FA pickups (and not considering any of our AA prospects)

  • Locks: Zimmermann, Marquis, LHernandez
  • Considered (in order): Maya, Lannan, Olsen, Detwiler, Wang
  • DL for 2011: Strasburg
  • Minors/relievers/Left out: Atilano, Martin, Chico, Mock, Martis, Thompson, Stammen