Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for the ‘manny rodriguez’ tag

What “proof” is there that David Ortiz used PEDs?

6 comments

Ortiz is the 2013 WS MVP and drinks from very large bottles.  Photo AP via usatoday.com

Ortiz is the 2013 WS MVP and drinks from very large bottles. Photo AP via usatoday.com

So, as we wind down the 2013 World Series, one in which Boston star David Ortiz performed at levels rarely seen and earned the WS MVP as a result, a familiar narrative is sprouting up.  Stop me if you’ve heard it;

“David Ortiz is a known PED user.”

And thus his accomplishments (and eventual Hall of Fame case) are forever tarnished.

Here’s the thing: what “proof” exactly is there that David Ortiz used PEDs?

(You know, David Ortiz, who just came in 3rd in the Boston mayoral race).

As far as I can tell, the source for the allegations against David Ortiz is this NY Times article, dated July 30 2009 by writer Michael Schmidt.   Go ahead and read that article and tell me where exactly there is definitive proof of any positive test?  Here’s a couple of salient quotes from the article which encompass the “proof” that compelled this writer to forever trash the reputations of these players:

  • …according to lawyers with knowledge of the results.”   
  • The lawyers spoke anonymously because the testing information was under seal by a court order. “
  • The lawyers did not identify which drugs were detected.”

Hmm.  This sounds awfully thin to me.  Anonymous lawyers who claimed to have “knowledge of the results” of the 2003 surveys, who did not go on record and didn’t identify the supposed substance.  AND, to make matters even worse, these lawyers were knowingly breaking federal laws by disclosing information that was a) supposed to be confidential and b) at the time under seal.

Why would anyone believe this?

In the same story, Ortiz “confirmed the report” but if you read exactly what he said, he didn’t admit to testing positive.  He “confirmed that the union told him that the report was true.”  That’s not an admission of usage of a PED.  That’s just acknowledging that he was told his name was apparently on some list.  And as noted later on (and referenced in the link at the bottom of this blog), MLB and the Union have since stated that some players on “the list” never tested positive; they were just on the list as having being tested.  Or even worse (as is noted in the above link), “… in 2003, legally available nutritional supplements could trigger an initial ‘positive’ test under our program.”  Think about that.  Ortiz could have been drinking some supplement that was legal then, is legal now, but which triggered a positive test.  Ortiz has vehemently denied initially or ever using anything illegal whenever it has been brought up since.  Of course, those denials run shallow considering that every PED-suspected user denies in the same way.

Ortiz does not appear in The Mitchell Report; go ahead and search its 409 exhausing pages and there’s no mention of him.  Nor does Manny Ramirez (ed; corrected after the fact; i had written Manny Rodriguez), who was also outed in the 2009 NY Times article.  Ramirez’ reputation has since been sullied through his own stupidity and multiple subsequent positive tests … but I can’t help but wonder if Ortiz wasn’t being unfairly targeted by some faceless “lawyer with knowledge” who could very well have been a die-hard New York Yankees fan (this is the New York Times after all, and these proceedings were all conducted in New York City) with an axe to grind.

You may think this is a cynical approach.  You may have blind faith that the journalist in question took his “sources” to his editors, who should have vetted the information and made the decision to publish based on such anonymous quotes.  And to that I say, you’re a fool if you think that all journalists are prim and proper and squeaky clean in terms of their morals.   You don’t know these people, you don’t know who their sources are, and you don’t know the motiviations behind the breaking of federal laws in order to … do what exactly?  Purposely tarnish the career of a player who didn’t do anything to anybody, and who apparently may not have even used the damn PEDs in the first place.

I find it troubling, that a man’s career, legacy and reputation are basically shot because of some unconfirmed report.   If this was in a court of law, the “evidence” against Ortiz would be considered so thin that any right-minded judge would dismiss the case outright before it even began.

Ortiz commented on this topic in an SI piece recently and I can’t help but agree with his take on the situation.  He felt helpless, he (claims) not to have ever  heard anything about a positive test until his name appears in the New York Times.  He claims that he’s asked repeatedly for additional proof, for the name of the drug he supposedly tested positive for … and has never been told!  Think about that.  The people who hold the evidence that has destroyed his legacy are refusing to give him details about his own test and his own career.

I’m not the only one with this view: Ken Rosenthal discusses many of the same facts in this May 2013 article.

Anyway.  I feel Ortiz may have been unfairly thrown under the bus in the post Steroid-era mania of discovery, and judging a man based on “proof” this weak continues to trouble me.  Feel free to comment if you have better information than I do about his supposed “positive test.”

Written by Todd Boss

October 31st, 2013 at 7:35 am

HoF Post mortem/Is the Hall in trouble?

13 comments

Biggio has to wait for enshrinement to the HoF. Photo Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle

Obligatory HoF Reaction post.

I wasn’t going to write one.  But email/text conversations later I thought it may just be easier to write a thousand words on the topic.

As the front page of the BBWAA site says, “No players elected for the first time since 1996.” Also for only the 8th time in the history of balloting, no player was elected this cycle by the electorate.

We all knew this day was coming.  You can google articles from nearly 5 years ago when the whole slew of these first time players were first known to all be eligible on this ballot and know this day was coming.  And now here we are.

My interpretation of the results for the major players kind of goes like the following:

  • Craig Biggio was “penalized” by some voters for not being a “First Ballot Hall of Famer” calibre player.  Therefore lots of voters who have annointed themselves the keepers of this title skipped voting for him this year.  Much like what happened to Roberto Alomar (who went from 73% to 90% from 1st ballot to 2nd) we probably see Biggio get > 90% next year.  He’s clearly a hall of famer, but clearly not a first balloter in some eyes.
  • Jack Morris is screwed.  He only rose from 66% to 67%, indicating to me that enough people have bought into the anti-Morris narrative that has been so fully expoused by sabre-tinged writers to outlast the old-school guard of baseball writers who covered Morris and remember him as I do.
  • Piazza and Bagwell both are side effects of the PED argument, but clearly get more credit for possibly being clean than the next two names.  But enough people are believing that “back acne” proves PED usage for Piazza, and “muscles” proves PED usage for Bagwell, so both will likely struggle to get to 75% for a few years.
  • Clemens and Bonds: both getting almost identical vote totals in the 36-37% range despite both being amongst the best who ever played indicates a clear statement being made by the older voters, who clearly are penalizing these guys for their alleged/accused/leaked grand testimony involving PEDs.  I’ll bet though that both players will get significantly more votes in subsequent years and probably eventually make it.
  • Sosa and McGwire: probably both never get in, since both are in the 12-16% range.  Writers clearly believe both guys were 100% the product of andro and steroids, and thus artificially gained their accomplishments.
  • Bernie Williams and Kenny Lofton both amazingly will fall off the ballot.  I don’t think either are HoFamers but I also thought they deserved to hang around on the ballot for a while (kind of like a Dale Murphy or a Don Mattingly) to discuss.
  • Tim Raines and Lee Smith are probably never getting in; their vote totals don’t seem to be changing much, and a slew of more deserving names are coming in the next 5 years.
  • Edgar Martinez, TrammellMcGriff, Walker, Mattingly: they’re all marginal candidates for different reasons, and they all seem likely to die on the ballot in the 30-40% range.  I like Martinez for the Hall; in a sentence if you elect the best relief pitchers, how can you not elect the best designated hitters?
  • Palmeiro sealed his fate the moment he tested positive.  It doesn’t matter if he broached magical barriers of 500 (homers) and 3000 (career hits).  He’ll never get in.
  • Lastly, the interesting case of Curt Schilling.  38.8% on the first ballot.  What does this mean?  He’s definitely never been accused of PEDs, had a great peak, was absolutely one of the best pitchers in the game for at least a short amount of time, has 3000 Ks but not 300 wins (or close to it), had an iconic moment in the bloody sock game, and was on two different WS winning teams.  A 127 career ERA+ puts him career 48th, even or ahead of plenty of hall of famers.  Why so few votes?  What statement is being made here?  I’m not sure entirely.  Maybe this is a combination of the “not a first ballot hall of famer” denials AND some sense of outrage against the outspoken Schilling from older media members who covered him and still vote primarily with their egos.

Back to the question of the article; is the HoF in trouble?  Well, yes and no.

No because I think Biggio will be elected next year, along with two more big names who have never had a schred of PED accusations (Maddux and Glavine).  And you can see guys in each of the subsequent years easily being elected (Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez in 2015, Ken Griffey Jr in 2016, Pudge and Manny in 2017 unless there’s still PED outrage at that point.  And that ensures there’s ceremonies with who should be absolute no-brainer electees each year for the next few years.

But, Yes because Cooperstown and the Hall itself are not always profit making endeavors, and having an election year without any recently retired players is going to mean a massive drop in income for the town and the hall.  Reportedly the museum has lost money in 8 of the last 10 years.  That coupled with the continued recession, and we could see some serious financial hardship in upstate New York in 2013.  Will it be enough that the BBWAA agrees to one of the litany of election system changes being proposed on the internet?  Maybe, maybe not.  But if this continues into 2013, yeah we may see something change.  Perhaps a panel of judges versus the BBWAA electorate (similar to what the NFL does) makes sense in the long run.  The point is that the HoF NEEDS to have a compelling election class in order to stay profitable, and may change its entry mechanisms to guarantee attendance (and thus revenues) each year.

One thing I do agree with; I think writers who purposely send in a blank ballot should be removed from the voting system.  You just can not look at this list of players and tell me there’s not at least ONE deserving candidate.  A blank ballot does nothing but hurt the chances of legitimate players to be honored and should be interpreted as a writer who does not take the process seriously.

Murkier are my thoughts on entrance requirements to the BBWAA in general.  Should we allow in all these internet baseball writers?  I think that a lot of the moral outrage and indignance expressed by frequent baseball bloggers over the BBWAA and the “old school” writers is simply mis-placed jealousy that they (the internet blogger) are not eligible to vote.    There is a section of the BBWAA constitution that talks about internet writer acceptance and the requirements don’t seem that unfair.  The intent of the organization is to find people who “cover the game” but also people who actually “attend the games,” interview players and coaches, and are generally members of the traditional media.  People who have access and who understand more than the average baseball blogger, who interprets box scores and statistics websites to pass judgement.  I’m ok with the limitations set out as thus.

Two other quick thoughts:

  • Yeah, we should probably increase the 10-player limit.
  • Yeah, we should probably force writers to reveal their ballots (much as the major awards now do).

Until next year.  One thing is certain; much like relief over the end of the election news, I’m relieved that no more HoF articles will be appearing.

Nats 2012 Minor League Rotations: Guesses and Results

5 comments

Yunesky Maya led the Nats minor league starters for the 2nd straight summer. Photo Jim McGregor/Syracuse Chiefs via milb.com

I stumbled across this post, titled “Updated Minor League Rotation Predictions for 2012,” posted March 1st 2012, while looking for something else last week.  And I thought to myself, hey now that I’ve finished the reviews of the minor league teams, lets see how I did predicting the rotations at the beginning of the season!   I’ve also culled through the post-2011 season review posts for some preliminary guesses at the time.

(Note: I linked to NationalsProspects.com Luke Erickson‘s guesses in the above link for another perspective in the 2012 spring training).

Players are bolded the first time they’re mentioned, but not afterwards.

AAA:

  • Sept 11 Guess: Maya, Milone, Stammen, Meyers, Peacock, Martis
  • Mar 12 Guess: Stammen, Maya, Arneson, Ballard, Buschmann
  • Opening Day Rotation: Atkins, Roark, Maya, Lannan and Duke
  • 5 guys with the most starts in 2012: Maya, Roark, Duke, Lannan, Atkins

What happened?  My prediction was way, way off; only Maya was the constant, but we knew that the second he proved he couldn’t get out MLB hitters last fall.  The team traded two of its probable AAA starters (Peacock and Milone), lost a third to the Rule-5 draft (Meyers, who honestly we probably will get back once the Yankees are done screwing around with him) and a 4th to Minor League Free Agency (Martis).  Meanwhile, who knew that Lannan wasn’t going to make the MLB opening day roster?  Then, the team released Buschmann before he appeared in a game (he played 2012 in the Tampa Bay organization).  Ballard was a starter, just not in AAA.  Stammen, in a surprise to me, made the conversion from AAA starter in 2011 to MLB bullpen guy and had a great  year.  Lastly, instead of using more internal options like Roark the team signed two MLFAs in Duke and Atkins.  I suppose I could have guessed that the team would go with Roark before Arneson as a starter (given Arneson’s rubber-armed handling in 2011).  It just goes to show how much the creation of AAA teams has changed over the years.

AA:

  • Sept 11 Guess: Rosenbaum, BronsonDemny, Olbrychowski,  Solis
  • Mar 12 Guess:  Rosenbaum, Bronson, Demny, Olbrychowski, Gilliam
  • Opening Day Rotation: Gilliam, Demny, Mandel, Rosenbaum and Ballard
  • 5 guys with the most starts in 2012: Rosenbaum, Demny, Gilliam, Perry, Ballard/Pucetas

We were a bit closer here, getting 3 of the 5 guesses right.  Sammy Solis would absolutely have been in this rotation if not for his Tommy John surgery; we’ll cross our fingers for him to return in 2013.  When Solis went out, org-arm Mandel filled in.  Evan Bronson is still with the organization on Milb.com but never threw an inning in 2012 and isn’t on the Big Board.  I can’t find a single bit of google information indicating if he’s still with the team or not.  Weird.  Meanwhile I had just guessed too high for Olbrychowski; he spent most of 2012 as a starter in Potomac.  Nobody could have guessed that we’d have traded Balester for Perry, that Perry would have stunk as a reliever, and then would show up in AA remaking himself as a starter.  Ballard and Pucetas were MLFA pickups designed to fill holes in the system, though based on his prior experience I had Ballard pegged in the AAA rotation.

High-A:

  • Sept 11 Guess: Selik, Grace, Purke, Meyer, Hill, Karns
  • Mar 12 Guess:  Selik, Grace, Purke, Meyer, Hill
  • Opening Day Rotation: Winters, Hansen, Olbrychowski, Grace and Swynenberg
  • 5 guys with the most starts in 2012: Grace, Ray, Swynenberg, Olbrychowski, Karns

I was far off here as well; Purke got hurt, Meyer, Hill and Karns started lower than I would have guessed  and Selik was converted to a reliever.  I was right only on Grace (thought technically I thought Olbrychowski would be a starter, just not back in Potomac).  Winters was a MLFA (the fifth such MLFA who has appeared as a primary starter in our top three levels; is this a statement of some sort?).  As we’ll see in a moment, I was right about Hansen, just wrong about the level.  Lastly Swynenberg came out of nowhere; he was effective in middle-relief in low-A; who knew he’d win a spot in the high-A rotation?  I thought Ray would have done a few turns in low-A; instead he debuted in Potomac and struggled to make the jump.  I lost faith in Karns between September 2011 and March 2012; as it turned out he was one of the 5 top starters (in terms of appearances) for the year while putting in a career season.

Low-A:

  • Sept 11 Guess: Hansen, Jordan, Cole, Ray, Estevez, McGeary
  • Mar 12 Guess:  Turnbull, Hansen, Ray, McGeary, Karns
  • Opening Day Rotation: Estevez, Dupra/Karns, Meyer, Turnbull/Hill, McKenzie
  • 5 guys with the most starts in 2012: Hill, Meyer, Turnbull, Estevez, Hansen

What happened?  The team traded Cole.  Jordan was injured more than we were led to believe in late 2011 (he had Tommy John surgery after the season was over).   I predicted Hansen, Ray, Hill, Estevez, Meyers and Dupra would be starters, just got the levels wrong.   My Mar 12 guesses were somewhat accurate in that we got Turnbull and Karns right.  McGeary struggled through yet another injury filled season and may be nearing the end of his baseball career.  I thought Estevez was getting squeezed out with all these high-profile starters rising up.  I figured McKenzie had lost his starting shot; clearly his performance in 2012 should end his chances at getting another 2013 starting shot.  I guess the lesson here is that it can be awful difficult to determine the difference between a High-, Low- and Short-A guy.

Short-A:

  • Sept 11 Guess: Manny Rodriguez, Dupra, Baez and two draft picks.
  • Mar 12 Guess:  Manny Rodriguez, Dupra, Baez and two draft picks
  • Opening Day Rotation:  Jordan/Medina, Baez, Monar, Encarnation, and Smith
  • 5 guys with the most starts in 2012: Encarnation, Monar, Lee, Mooneyham, Fischer/Pineyro

My guess of 3 returners and 2 draft picks wasn’t entirely accurate; there wasn’t a single 2012 draft pick in the 2012 opening day rotation.  We got Baez pegged correctly but the rest of the predictions were off.  Manny Rodriguez, a converted infielder, spent the whole year on the 60-day DL.  Dupra was in high-A.  Meanwhile, a couple of guys dropping down from Low-A (Jordan, Encarnation) comprised the rotation at the beginning of the season.  Monar was a repeater from 2011 who didn’t get a ton of innings last  year.  Eventually some 2012 draftees (Mooneyham, Fischer and others) got starts as expected, and helped drive Auburn to the playoffs.

GCL:

  • Sept 11 Guess: Mieses, King, Encarnation, Medina, Marcelino
  • Mar 12 Guess:  Mieses repeating plus 4 guys from DSL and the 2012 draft.
  • Opening Day Rotation:  Mieses, Barrientos, Pineyro, Vasquez, and Schwarz
  • 5 guys with the most starts in 2012: Vasquez, Mieses, Hudgins, Selsor, Pineyro/Schwartz

Finally we got one right (well, right from Mar 12 guess anyway).  The GCL rotation was Mieses, 3 DSL graduates and one 2012 draftee.  Eventually more 2012 draftees (Hudgins, Selsor and others) consumed most of the rest of the starts.  King disappeared from the rosters; he’s still in the organization but was never assigned this season.  Injured?  Disciplinary issues?   There seems to be so much inconsistency in the DSL graduates that it almost isn’t worth tracking them until they appear in a higher level.  Honestly, this is why I don’t really follow the Dominican Summer League teams either.

Phew; that’s a lot of Nats minor league starters.  As it showed, its really, really difficult to predict this stuff from a computer in Northern Virginia, scouting the stat lines.  But its really fun, so we’ll continue to do it :-).

Updated Minor League Rotation Predictions for 2012

11 comments

Solis’ TJ surgery news thins our already-too-thin starting pitching minor league depth. Photo via Natsinsider blog/Mark Zuckerman

With Spring Training in full swing, most of the focus is on the Nationals 25-man roster and who may or may not make it.  Even with the additions to the major league roster, our minor league starter development is still incredibly important to this team for the long run.  Despite having Strasburg, Zimmermann and Gonzalez each locked up for many years (roughly, 2016, 2016 and 2018 respectively with options exercised), the rest of the rotation is not exactly set in stone for the long run.  Wang and Jackson are on one-year FA contracts and Lannan doesn’t seem a lock to be tendered this coming off season (where he’ll face arbitration for the third time and, if he stays here and puts in 30 starts, could be in line for something close to $8M in 2013).  That is, if Lannan is still even with the team in a year’s time (he seems surplus to requirements right now and may be a trade candidate).

Even more importantly, three key starters in our farm system went the other way for Gonzalez.  Our 2012 AAA starter safety net of Milone and Peacock is now set to be the 4th and 5th starter in Oakland, and our most electric younger arm (Cole) is now one of Billy Beane‘s best prospects.

That being said, lets talk about what the 2012 minor league rotations may look like, and where interest may lie with up and coming arms.  Experienced readers will note that, by and large, I only focus on minor league starters.  That is because, for the very large part, that pitchers rise up in the minors as starters and only get converted to be relievers upon failing as starters.  If you look at our current bullpen; Clippard, Rodriguez, Burnett, Gorzelanny, Detwiler and Lidge are all former starters, converted to being relievers either because of poor performance or for physical reasons.  Only Storen has grown up entirely as a reliever.  Therefore, the odds of a guy who is already pitching in relief in the lower minors rising up to be a part of the MLB bullpen is relatively slim.  Loogies?  Another matter, but still a difficult path (just ask someone like Josh Smoker).  Therefore, I tend to focus on Starters with occasional lip service given to closers per level and other relievers who are pitching their way into promotions.

Luke Erickson has posted some predictions (for AAA, AA, high-A and low-A), I put in an updated guess on Syracuse’s rotation post Gonzalez trade, and I had a series of posts at the end of last season wrapping up each level with predictions for 2012.  From all those posts, here’s my preliminary guesses on the rotations for the minor league rotations:

  • AAA: Stammen, Maya, Arneson, Ballard, Buschmann

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Erickson’s guesses of Atkins and Hernandez though replacing the last two; I’m guessing there’s going to be a wide-open competition for this rotation in this year’s spring training.  And, I specifically did not include John Lannan here; I just cannot believe the team is going to stick him in Syracuse by virtue of his option after signing on to pay him $5M.

First man promoted: I’d guess Stammen, who did have some successes in last year’s call-up, but it’ll take a swine-flu epidemic in the Nationals clubhouse for him to get called up to make some starts.  The MLB staff looks to have two former starters in their bullpen who will get the ball before Stammen gets a shot in 2012, and that doesn’t include the Wang/Lannan 5th starter conundrum.

First man demoted to the bullpen: Arneson; he’s bounced our system around like a pinball lately, and the team seems to use him as a multi-level handy-man instead of a starter prospect.

  • AA: Rosenbaum, Bronson, Demny, Gilliam, Olbrychowski

This list did have Sammy Solis until his TJ surgery was announced, and I put in Olbrychowski, who was halfway decent in a bunch of 2nd half starts in 2011.  I do think Roark is done being a starter in this system but I could be wrong.  Gilliam was the little-known make-weight player in the Gonzalez trade and I think he makes it to the Harrisburg roster.

First man promoted: Danny Rosenbaum, who aced Potomac last year and has the same make up as Lannan.  But, unfortunately there’s no top-10 stars on this list that could make an immediate impact.

First man demoted to the bullpen: Obrychowski, who started 2011 in the pen and may be on a short leash if someone in Potomac lights it up.

  • High-A: Purke, Meyer, Selik, Grace, Hill

I think Purke is advanced enough to start here, as is Meyer.  Of course, I also think Purke’s injury history could work against him and he ends up in extended spring for a bit.  Either way, I think both would be poorly served by sticking them in Low-A.  They’re both first round talents and need to be going against older, more advanced hitters right now.  This rotation is the future for the Nats; if they can’t find a 2014 starter out of this group, then we’ll be spending a ton in the FA pitching market for years to come.  This rotation is hurt by the loss of Taylor Jordan, who will be out the entirety of 2012 with TJ surgery after pitching very effectively for the first half of 2011 for Hagerstown.  Hill is the name i’m least confident in, only putting him here by virtue of his being a senior draftee in 2011, thus he’d be at least 3 years too old for low-A this year.

First man promoted: Cameron Selik; the phenom from 2011’s Hagerstown staff already has a ton of Potomac experience and could move up soon.  Despite their promise, I think both Purke and Meyers will be in Potomac for at least a half a season to get their professional legs.

First man demoted to the bullpen: Grace: he wasn’t entirely convincing as a starter in low-A, but his numbers were skewed by one or two really bad outings.

  • Low-A: Turnbull, Hansen, Ray, McGeary, Karns?

Maybe the 5th would be Karns, who if healthy could be a quick riser after so many injuries have derailed what was a promising young arm.  I think Ray starts here again with the idea of quickly promoting him, despite his success here last year.  He’s still young.  Of course, I could also see Ray and Hill switching places between low- and high-A.

First man promoted:  Robbie Ray: he out pitched AJ Cole last year without any of the Baseball America top 100 love.  I think he’s the next in a long line of lower velocity but higher result lefty starters that the system has been developing (see Lannan, Detwiler to a certain extent, Solis, Rosenbaum and McGeary for comps).

First man demoted to the bullpen: Karns, if he’s here.  I’m guessing Karns has this season to show that he continues to be a starter prospect, with a back-of-the-bullpen job waiting if he can’t show he’s durable enough to go 6 innings every 5 days.

  • Short-A: MRodriguez, Dupra, Baez and 2 draft picks.
  • GCL: Mieses repeating plus 4 guys from DSL and the 2012 draft.

There’s almost no point of trying to predict the short season rotations, but I do believe that the names listed here aren’t going to make the Low-A roster but are still worth keeping as starters in extended spring.  We had almost no starter talent in the GCL last season, with only Mieses making enough of an impression to keep him in that role.

Lastly, Taylor Jordan and Sammy Solis start the year on the DL, unfortunately, both with Tommy John surgery.  They would have both been prominent members of their rotations after great seasons last year, and their injuries further thin our starting pitching depth post Gonzalez trade.

Auburn/Short-A Pitching Staff year in Review; 2011

6 comments

Nathan Karns looks to resurrect a promising career. Photo via perfectgame.org

Because of life changes and lack of spare time, I stopped doing the daily reviews of the minor league pitching rotations in early august.  This was too bad, because I didn’t adequately track which 2011 draftees were placed with which team.  We’ll do some quick catch-up here.

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

  • Rotation: Estevez 19, MRodriguez 22, Meza (L) 21, Dupra 22, Karns 23, Hill 22
  • Bullpen: Kreis 22, Henke 22, Mirowski 22, Barrett 23, MRivera 24, Grisz 21, Hawkins (L) 21, Hanks 21, Bates 23
  • spot starts: Jenkins(L) 22, KLopez 21
  • promotions: Holland, Bronson (down and back), Holt, Demmin, CGarcia
  • up-and-back: Hanks, Bates
  • demotions: McKenzie (sort of), Encarnation, Monar

Auburn starters.  The rotation started the season with Demmin, Estevez, Encarnation, KLopez and Bates.

  • Ryan Demmin‘s short-A career was “short,” lasting 5 mostly good starts before being promoted up to high-A.  He eventually settled in Low-A and was reviewed thereOutlook for next season: (from high-A post): Potomac middle reliever.
  • Wirkin Estevez was the workhorse of the short-A squad, making 14 appearances (13 starts) and posting a respectable 4.01 era as one of the younger pitchers in the league as a 19yr old.  He was up and down in his starts; some good to great, some bad to awful.  He’ll need to be more consistent going forward to stay in the rotation.  Outlook for next season: The 2010 Dominican Summer League (DSL) grad should graduate to low-A, though I’m not sure there’s room for him in the rotation.  I’m guessing he’s a bullpen arm there.
  • Pedro Encarnation had three mostly bad starts before getting demoted to GCL.  We’ll review him there.
  • Kelvin Lopez, despite being one of the first starters through the rotation, was really just putting in a spot start and pitched mostly out of the bullpen.  He was relatively effective in the short season, posting a 3.65 era in 10 games and 24 2/3 innings.  Outlook for next season: Entering his 4th pro season he should feature in the Hagerstown bullpen, but the competition there will be crowded.  He had better numbers than most of his 2011 Hagerstown competition and should stick.
  • Colin Bates started hot in the rotation, got promoted after 7 starts, then floundered in Hagerstown before getting dumped back to Auburn in late august, where he worked out of the bullpen.  His ERA was good in short-A (2.25) and was an improvement over 2010, but he’s already old for the level and needs to improve for next year.  Outlook for next season: Potomac middle relief on a short leash.
  • Manny Rodriguez was one of the first 2011 draftees to appear in our system, signing quickly as a 10th round pick and pitching 50 innings over 14 appearances and 12 starts in Auburn.  Results?  2-3 with a 4.65 era in his first pro season.  Like a lot of guys coming off full college seasons, he seemed to tire in his late August starts.  Outlook for next season: Repeats Short-A as a starter.
  • Christian Meza started the season in the GCL, then was promoted after two appearances to join the Auburn rotation.  He had 10 starts and posted a 5.68 era in them.  Outlook for next season: with all the starter prospects we drafted in 2011, I think Meza drops to the bullpen and repeats Short-A in 2012.
  • Brian Dupra was another 2011 draftee (a Senior out of Notre Dame) who featured as predominantly a starter in Auburn.  He had better results than some of his draft day compatriots, posting a 4-4 record with a 3.46 era in 54 2/3 innings.  Outlook for next season: he starts the season in the Short-A rotation after staying behind in extended spring training.
  • Nathan Karns has been an enigma so far in his Nats career.  A 2009 draftee, he never appeared professionally after signing, then missed all of 2010 with an injury.  The team started him slow in 2011, giving him 5 starts in the GCL (where he didn’t allow a run over 18 innings while giving up just 2 hits), and then giving him another 8 good starts in Auburn, where he was a respectable 3-2 with a 3.44 era.  He was rather wild on the season, with nearly as many walks as strikeouts, but the promising arm drafted 2 years ago seems to be back.  Outlook for next season: He’ll compete for a rotation spot in Potomac but may settle for a bullpen role.
  • Taylor Hill was another 2011 draftee who featured in the Auburn staff, getting five late season starts after pitching out of the bullpen after signing.  His control was impeccable; 27Ks against just 3 walks in 31 innings, and his 5 starts were stellar; a 2.38 ERA in those appearances.  Outlook for next season: He was a college senior draftee and will play next year as a 23 yr old.  I think he’ll win a spot in the Potomac rotation out of spring.

Auburn Relievers:

  • A slew of 2010 and 2011 draftees pitched out of the Auburn bullpen and struggled.  Kreis, Henke, and Barrett each posted eras in the 4-5 range for the 2011 squad.  None of these guys were high round draft picks and were always meant to be primarily organizational guys unless proven otherwise.  Barrett was mostly used as the closer and had 32 ks in 26 innings, but also had a ton of walks and a 4.05 era.  Outlook for next season: All 3 back in Short-A bullpen.
  • Chad Jenkins survived his third pro season and put up good short-A numbers in a combo role of loogy and long relief.   Unfortunately he had more walks than strikeouts, and time may be running out for the 2009 17th rounder.  Outlook for next season: another shot at the Hagerstown bullpen, with the firing line if he can’t cut it in his 4th pro season.
  • Manuel Rivera is a long serving DSL grad finishing his 5th pro season in our system.  He put up good short-A numbers in a relief mode (3-0, 2.81 era in 20 appearances) and may be a Dominican Republic find.  Outlook for next season: he moves up to the Hagerstown bullpen to give full-season baseball a shot.
  • Mirowski, Grisz, Hawkins and Holt all pitched really well in the Auburn bullpen after being 2011 draftees (or in Grisz’ case a non-drafted FA find).   Holt was promoted up to Hagerstown and finished the season there.  Outlook for next season: all four could be in the mix for a full-season bullpen job, or could find themselves back in Short-A if they don’t make the team out of extended spring.
  • Tyler Hanks bounced around the low minors this year, pitching lights out in the GCL before struggling in low-A and ending the season in the short-A bullpen.  Outlook for next season: he should get another shot at the Hagerstown bullpen.
  • Others who appeared briefly: Christian Garcia was a waiver claim mid-season from the Yankees; he threw a bunch of good innings in Auburn before moving back where he belonged; AAA.  Blake Monar threw a few innings then decamped back for the GCL.  Lastly Silvio Medina did the same as Monar, pitching mostly out of the GCL.

Its hard to predict where a lot of these guys will end up; the team drafted SO many arms in 2011, mostly older college guys, that we may very well see a ton of churn in the bullpens of Hagerstown, Potomac and Auburn for next year.  Plus we’ll have a new wave of rizing DSL stars and 2012 signees to consider once these teams are put together.  So predictions are tough.

Good Lord we’ve drafted a lot of Arms …

11 comments

Alex Meyer leads a very very large pack of college arms in the Nats draft class. Photo via Lex18.com

I wrote this post in three parts, after each of the draft’s three days.  Hence the groupings.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the top 10 rounds.

- Anthony Rendon 2b/3b 1/6 Rice Jr.  Boras client, slipped b/c of shoulder injury #1 BA ranked
- Alex Meyer rhp 1/23 UKentucky Jr. big starter, 97mph
- Brian Goodwin of S1/34 Miami Dade Juco (was unc).  lefty leadoff/cf type.
- Matt Purke lhp 3/96 TCU Soph. Fantastic pick, was a top10 talent, shoulder bursitis issue.
- Kylin Turnbull lhp 4/127 Santa Barbara Juco.  6-4, 93mph
- Matt Skole 3b 5/157 Georgia Tech Jr.  Big bat.  47homers in 3yr college career.  wow.
- David Hill rhp 6/187 Vanderbuilt Sr.
- Brian Dupra rhp 7/217 Notre Dame Sr.
- Gregory Holt rhp 8/247 UNC Sr.
- Dixon Anderson rhp 9/277 California Sr.
- Manny Rodriguez rhp 10/307 Barry University Sr.

First day observations: Wow, that’s a lot of pitching.  8 of our first 11 picks are college arms.  Not ONE high school guy.

Looking at the next 20 rounds (where there’s less of a chance the guy pans out):

- Caleb Ramsey OF   11 Houston Sr.
- Blake Monar LHP  12 Indiana Jr.
- Blake Kalenkosky 1B   13 Texas State Jr.
- Cody Stubbs OF   14 Walters State JuCo J2
- Zach Houchins SS   15 Louisburg JuCo J1
- Deion Williams SS   16 Redan (Ga.) HS (Committed to Georgia State)
- Esteban Guzman RHP  17 San Jose State Jr.
- Nicholas Lee LHP  18 Weatherford College JuCo J2
- Hawtin Buchannan RHP  19 Biloxi (Miss.) HS (Committed to Ole Mis/Mississippi)
- Josh Laxer RHP  20 Madison (Miss.) Central HS (Committed to Ole Mis/Mississippi)
- Todd Simko LHP  21 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Jr.
- Travis Henke RHP  22 Arkansas-Little Rock Sr.
- Khayyan Norfork 2B   23 Tennessee Sr.
- Kyle Ottoson LHP  24 Arizona State Jr.
- Erick Fernandez C    25 Georgetown Sr.
- Shawn Pleffner OF   26 Univ. of Tampa Jr.
- Bobby Lucas LHP  27 George Washington Sr.
- Kenneth Ferrer RHP  28 Elon University Sr.
- Sean Cotton C    29 Tusculum College Sr.
- Bryan Harper LHP  30 South Carolina Jr.

In rounds 11-30, here’s some highlights:

  • A grand total of 3 high schoolers.  And I’d be shocked if any of them sign based on college commitments and their relatively low draft rankings.  I could be wrong though, especially with Williams.  We’d pretty much destroy Ole Miss’ recruiting class if we took both guys who committed there.
  • 11 more pitchers, making 19 out of the first 31 players we’ve drafted in 2011 arms.

Day 3: here’s rounds 31-50

Josh Tobias SS 31 Southeast Guilford HS (NC) (Florida committment)
Billy Burns OF 32 Mercer Univ. (GA) Jr.
Trey Karlen 2B 33 Univ. of Tennessee-Martin Sr.
Calvin Drummond RHP 34 Univ. of San Diego (CA) Jr.
Alex Kreis RHP 35 Jamestown College (ND) Sr.
Ben Hawkins LHP 36 Univ. of West Florida Jr.
Derrick Bleeker RHP 37 Howard College (TX) Juco J2
Brett Mooneyham LHP 38 Stanford Univ. (CA) Jr.
Peter Verdin OF 39 Univ. of Georgia Jr.
Stephen Collum OF 40 Cartersville HS (GA) (? commit)
Bryce Ortega 3B 41 Univ. of Arizona Sr.
David Kerian SS 42 Bishop Heelan HS (IA) (? commit)
Mitchell Morales SS 43 Wellington Community HS (? commit)
Matt Snyder 1B 44 Univ. of Mississippi Jr.
Richie Mirowski RHP 45 Oklahoma Baptist Univ. Sr.
Tyler Thompson OF 46 Univ. of Florida Jr.
Timothy Montgomery LHP 47 Rockmart HS (GA) (? commit)
Michael Bisenius OF 48 Wayne State College (NE) Jr.
Hunter Cole OF 49 Dorman HS (SC) (? commit)
Anthony Nix OF 50 Univ. of California-Riverside Sr.

Round 31-50 stats:

  • 6 high schoolers, most with very little chance of signing (why sign in the mid 30s for a pittance when you can go to college, get an education and improve your draft status and bonus money?)
  • 13 of the last 20 picks non-pitchers
  • A number of these 30-50th round guys are college juniors, meaning they’re likely to go back to school.
  • 7 more pitchers, bringing the total in the draft to 27 pitchers overall.  Only ONE high school arm.

Coincidentally, “Sue Dinem” has already updated the Draft Tracker xls (one of my favorite Nats resources online: thanks Sue!).

In terms of the first few drat picks: i’m presuming that all Scott Boras clients will NOT sign til 10 minutes before the August 15th deadline, so that means Rendon, Meyer and Goodwin we’ll see you in Viera next spring.  Purke; he’s going to be an interesting negotiation, since he turned down top10 money 2 years ago and presumably can threaten to go back to school.  His negotiations probably go down to the wire as well.  Most likely he pitches in the Cape Cod league, and if he shows he’s got any sort of velocity coming back, we’ll offer him first round money.  Otherwise he’ll return for his third year and the Nats will get a 3rd round compensation pick in 2012.  Not the best solution for us but workable if he’s completely damaged goods.

From Turnbull on down to about the 20th round, i’m guessing everyone signs, and signs fast.   We’ve got a ton of college seniors with no place else to go, and little room for bonus money negotiation.  These guys are going to sign quickly and go directly to Auburn.

I’m a bit surprised at the pitcher focus frankly.  I perceive that we’re rather thin on positional players in our low-minors right now.   Looking at Baseball America’s top 30 for the organization at the end of 2010, the breakdown was as follows:

  • Outfielders (5): Harper, Perez, Hood, Burgess, Ramirez
  • Catchers (2): Norris, Ramos
  • Infielders (8): Espinosa, Marrero, Lombardozzi, Hague, Sanchez, Kobernus, Martinson, Moore
  • Right Handed Starters (7): Cole, Peacock, Maya, Morris, Tatusko, Meyers, Holder
  • Right Handed Relievers (4): Kimball, Ramirez, Carr, Pena
  • Left Handed Starters(4): Solis, Ray, Milone, Rosenbaum
  • Left Handed Relievers (0)

Of these 30 players, 2 have since been traded away (Morris, Burgess) while several more are now on the 25-man roster (Ramos, Espinosa, Maya for the time being and Kimball).  That leaves a breakdown of 12 positional players and 12 pitchers in the minors at the top level of BA’s analysis.  But its hard to look at most of positional players left in the minors and really say “those guys are a sure thing.”

Now we have 26 more arms to fit in, and not a bunch more hitters frankly.  The short-A and GCL are going to be stocked with arms and probably making due with what’s left in extended spring.  There’s approximately 24-26 pitcher slots to fill in short-A and GCL … but we still have a number of arms in extended spring that will be competing.  I wonder how many guys are about to get pink slips.

Get ready for an interesting summer.

Josh Tobias SS 31 Southeast Guilford HS (NC) (Florida committment)
Billy Burns OF 32 Mercer Univ. (GA) Jr.
Trey Karlen 2B 33 Univ. of Tennessee-Martin Sr.
Calvin Drummond RHP 34 Univ. of San Diego (CA) Jr.
Alex Kreis RHP 35 Jamestown College (ND) Sr.
Ben Hawkins LHP 36 Univ. of West Florida Jr.
Derrick Bleeker RHP 37 Howard College (TX) Juco J2
Brett Mooneyham LHP 38 Stanford Univ. (CA) Jr.
Peter Verdin OF 39 Univ. of Georgia Jr.
Stephen Collum OF 40 Cartersville HS (GA) (? commit)
Bryce Ortega 3B 41 Univ. of Arizona Sr.
David Kerian SS 42 Bishop Heelan HS (IA) (? commit)
Mitchell Morales SS 43 Wellington Community HS (? commit)
Matt Snyder 1B 44 Univ. of Mississippi Jr.
Ritchie Mirowski RHP 45 Oklahoma Baptist Univ. Sr.
Tyler Thompson OF 46 Univ. of Florida Jr.
Timothy Montgomery LHP 47 Rockmart HS (GA) (? commit)
Michael Bisenius OF 48 Wayne State College (NE) Jr.
Hunter Cole OF 49 Dorman HS (SC) (? commit)
Anthony Nix OF 50 Univ. of California-Riverside Sr.

Does lineup protection exist?

leave a comment

I was reading Zuckerman’s blog posting today and the subject of “batter protection” came up in the comments.  Specifically, a reader rather forcefully said that “lineup protection is a proven myth.”  I know there are some reports out there (Bill James) that claim it is a myth (here’s a link to an article with 3 myth-proving reports).  But I counter instead that “baseball protection is so difficult to really measure that hard core statisticians end up discounting it.”  Here’s a “protection exists” link for comparison purposes.

My thoughts are these: You can’t just look at pure baseball outcomes, compare them to the quality of the following hitter, and make a blanket judgement like this.  You can’t measure a pitcher being “careful” and you can’t measure a hitter purposely trying to make something happen knowing that he’s being pitched around.  Will Carroll at BP did a study of Matt Kemp‘s at bats before /after Manny Rodriguez providing protection and found that the number of fastballs and strike zone pitches were the same … but then concluded somehow that the significant change in the number of curveballs faced was somehow NOT a result of the hitter but instead was just the vagarities of the pitchers being faced.  Really?  You don’t think somehow that the same hitter suddenly getting a ton more curveballs (which are more difficult to adjust to and drive for most hitters) is meaningful?

You also can’t tell me, as baseball fans, that a #8 hitter hitting with two outs and with the pitcher to follow is going to get ANYTHING decent to hit.  The opposing pitcher is always going to be willing to pitch carefully to the batter, force the batter to hit the pitcher’s pitch, expand his own strike zone knowing that you have a 50% chance of a punchout (and usually about an 85-90% chance of an easy out in general) sitting in the ondeck circle.

I have two supporting pieces of evidence right here on the nats.

1. Ryan Zimmerman hit for an OPS+ of 107 and 102 the two years prior to Adam Dunn‘s arrival.  Once Dunn is hitting in the 4 spot, Zimmerman’s last two year’s OPS+ are 133 and 150.  In 2008 Zimmerman’s cleanup hitter/protection was usually Austin Kearns or Lastings Milledge, not the 40-homer hitting Dunn.

2. Look at Ian Desmond‘s splits hitting in the #2 hole versus #8.  .Hitting #2 he’s *significantly* better than hitting #8.  Why?  You think maybe its because he’s got boppers behind him at #2 but a pitcher or a cold pinch hitter behind him at #8?