Nationals Arm Race

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

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2017 MLB Rotation Rankings 1-30

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Lester: the best pitcher on the best rotation heading into 2017. photo via Grantland

Lester: the best pitcher on the best rotation heading into 2017. photo via Grantland

Even though there’s still about 20 “starting pitchers” still on the FA market, none of them really project as anything more than a 5th starter competition or a MLFA signing at this point in the off-season, so I thought it was high time to break out my 2017 Rotation Rankings.  (Here’s a link to last year’s rankings)

This is not a ranking of 2017 projected performance, nor a WAR ranking from last year, nor anything statistical in nature.  This is me looking at individual players and gauging the overall “strength” of the rotation, with subjective rankings then applied.  This is also a lot of me asking, “Who would I rather have as a fan?” type questions; would your rather have Chicago’s 1-2-3 or New Yorks?   This starts with the identification of the roughly 20 or so best pitchers in the league right now, calling them “Aces,” then looking at those who are just a notch below an Ace, and going on down in order to think about the overall strength of a rotation.  There’s plenty to argue about; for example I absolutely classify Stephen Strasburg as an “Ace” in this analysis; his performance over the last 5-6 years by nearly any measure statistically easily ranks him in the top 10-15 arms in the league even if he’s never sniffed a Cy Young award thanks to his injuries.  But injuries factor in: I no longer classify Matt Harvey as an Ace thanks to his 2016 season.  Feel free to dispute/argue about individual opinions/rankings in the comments.

Here’s my master rankings table just showing the projected rotations.  In this Google Docs link i’ve got my full working file, color coded for Aces/#2s/#3s as well as 6th starter/long man depth identified plus some minor league depth.  Also identified are 2017 acquisitions to get a sense of the rotation turnover.  If you can read the Google XLS it may be easier than reading the table below.

TeamRotation Rank#1#2#3#4#5
Chicago Cubs1Jon Lester Jake Arrieta Kyle Hendricks John LackeyMike Montgomery
New York Mets2 Noah Syndergaard Jacob deGromMatt Harvey Steven MatzZach Wheeler
Boston3Chris SaleDavid Price Rick PorcelloSteven WrightDrew Pomeranz
Los Angeles Dodgers4 Clayton KershawRich HillKenta MaedaJulio UriasScott Kazmir
Washington5Max ScherzerStephen StrasburgTanner RoarkJoe RossGio Gonzalez
Cleveland6Corey Kluber Carlos Carrasco Danny Salazar Trevor BauerJosh Tomlin
Detroit7Justin VerlanderMichael FulmerJordan Zimmermann Anibal Sanchez Daniel Norris
Toronto8 Marcus StromanAaron Sanchez Marco Estrada J.A. HappFrancisco Liriano
St. Louis9Adam Wainwright Carlos Martinez Michael WachaLance LynnMike Leake
San Francisco10Madison BumgarnerJohnny Cueto Jeff SamardzijaMatt Moore Matt Cain
Pittsburgh11 Gerrit ColeJamison TaillonTyler GlasnowSteven BraultIvan Nova
Tampa Bay12 Chris Archer Jake OdorizziAlex CobbBlake SnellMatt Andriese
Arizona13 Zack Greinke Robbie RayShelby MillerTaijan WalkerPatrick Corbin
Texas14Cole HamelsYu Darvish Martin PerezAndrew CashnerA.J. Griffen
Houston15Dallas Keuchel Collin McHugh Lance McCullersCharlie MortonMike Fiers
Seattle16Felix Hernandez Hisashi Iwakuma Drew SmylyJames Paxton Yovani Gallardo
Chicago White Sox17 Jose Quintana Carlos RodonMiguel GonzalezJames ShieldsDerek Holland
New York Yankees18Masahiro Tanaka Michael Pineda CC SabathiaChad GreenLuis Severino
Baltimore19 Chris Tillman Kevin GausmanDylan Bundy Ubaldo JimenezWade Miley
Philadelphia20 Aaron Nola Jeremy HellicksonJerad EickhoffVincent VelasquezAlec Asher
Atlanta21Julio Teheran Bartolo Colon Jaime Garcia R.A. DickeyMike Foltynewicz
Kansas City22Ian Kennedy Danny Duffy Jason Vargas Nate KarnsMatt Strahm
Miami23Wei-Yin Chen Edinson VolquezDan Straily Tom KoehlerJeff Locke
Minnesota24 Ervin SantanaHector Santiago Kyle GibsonPhil Hughes Jose Berrios
Oakland25Sonny GraySean Manaea Kendall GravemanAndrew TriggsJharel Cotton
Colorado26Jon Grey Chad BettisTyler AndersonTyler ChatwoodJeff Hoffman
Los Angeles Angels27 Garrett RichardsRicky Nolasco Matt Shoemaker Tyler SkaggJesse Chavez
Cincinnati28 Homer BaileyAnthony DeSclafaniBrandon FinneganRobert StephensonScott Feldman
Milwaukee29 Matt Garza Chase AndersonZach Davies Wily PeraltaJunior Guerra
San Diego30Luis PerdomoChristian FrederichPaul ClemensJarred CosartCesar Vargas

Discussion; i’ll take the discussion in rough groups.

Top 5: I have the Chicago Cubs, NY Mets, Boston, LA Dodgers and then the Nats.  Why?

Well, if Harvey was healthier i’d still have the Mets #1 as I did last year.  I still think the Mets 1-2 punch of deGrom and Snydergaard is better than anyone elses.  If Harvey returns to form and Matz stays healthy, the Nats may be in trouble in 2017.  But those are huge what-ifs, enough to knock the Mets below Chicago for now.  The Cubs for me have two Aces who just finished 2nd and 3rd in Cy Young voting while their #3 just posted a 2.13 ERA.   And if their planned #5 doesn’t pan out, they have the prospect depth to make a move and acquire what they need.  Despite the acquisition of Sale, I do not think Boston’s rotation is better; David Price is just too shaky for me on a week in/week out basis and Porcello, despite his Cy Young in 2016 just isn’t an “Ace.”    But many have argued Boston is above both NY and Chicago; perhaps its recency bias due to the big moves of the past winter meetings.

I have the Dodgers just ahead of the Nats right now for two reasons: I think the strength of their 2-3-4 slightly trumps our 2-3-4, especially given Joe Ross‘s health question marks.  And any rotation headed by Kershaw is going to be highly ranked.  You can’t drop Washington much below #5 because no other rotation has the 1-2 Ace potential that the Nats do, and Roark is starting to (finally) get the recognition he deserves.

Ranking spots 6-11: Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, St. Louis, San Francisco and Pittsburgh.

So, a lot of people highly rate Cleveland’s rotation, higher than a couple of teams in my top 5.  And if Carrasco and Salazar are healthy I agree with them.  But they’re not, so they get dinged a bit.  I still have Verlander rated as an Ace after his comeback 2016; maybe that’s a little too high … but the rest of their rotation is all solid, being one of the only teams that I think has #3 starter quality even to the #5 starter in Daniel Norris.   Toronto and St. Louis are both in the same spot; several very good arms who just fall below “Ace” category; in Toronto’s case it may be just a matter of time before we’re calling Aaron Sanchez one of the best in the league and in St.Louis’ case the same with Carlos Martinez.  Some have San Francisco higher based on the fact that Bumgarner may be the 2nd or 3rd best pitcher in the game … but the back end of their rotation is so shaky they get dropped almost out of the top 10.  Likewise with Pittsburgh:  things get thin fast past the top 3 for the Pirates.

Ranking spots 12-16: Tampa, Arizona, Texas, Houston, Seattle.

Five teams that all could/should be higher.  Tampa just stole one of the best arms in the minors in Jose De Leon and have some very talented youth in their rotation; if these guys click Tampa shoots upwards.  I’m not entirely sure what to make of Arizona; they have Greinke (the lowest remaining Ace in terms of rotation rankings) and they have what should be a #2 in Shelby Miller, but what the heck happened in 2016?  Meanwhile former Nat-farmhand Robbie Ray has a massive delta between WAR rating systems that its hard to figure out how good he is: B-R rated his 2016 at just 0.7 bWAR while Fangraphs called it a 3.0 fWAR season.  Well which is it?   Perhaps we’ll see some regression to some sort of mean for him in 2017.  Both Texas and  Houston have Cy Young-calibre starters at the head of their rotations with question marks: Darvish b/c of injury, Hamels  because of age and Keuchel due to a bad 2016.  Seattle’s rating increased over the course of the offseason with their wheeling-and-dealing GM Mark DiPoto acquiring Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo to improve that rotation several clicks.

Ranking Spots #17-21: Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Atlanta.

The White Sox lost at least 5-6 rankings spots when they moved Chris Sale, who was by far the biggest name to move this off-season and, in fact, is the ONLY projected starter of any team ranked in my top 10.  That’s pretty amazing; teams are just doing such a better job of building pitching staffs.   The Yankees are precariously holding on to this spot; if their #1 Tanaka goes down with his partially torn UCL, they plummet into the bottom 3.  I’ve never rated Baltimore’s rotation, but they keep making the playoffs, so maybe I just have a blind spot here.  Philadelphia’s rotation could be a year or two from being in the top 6-10 range if these youngsters pan out.  Atlanta maybe should be slightly lower; I like Teheran but others do not.  Atlanta did by far and away the most acquisitions of any team in terms of pitching: 3 of their 5 projected opening day rotation guys are new on FA contracts, and almost all their depth is newly acquired MLFAs.

Ranking Spots #22-23: Kansas City and Miami

It just worked out this way, but both teams who had tragedy strike and take away their aces ended up ranked right next to each other.  The loss of Jose Fernandez cost Miami around 9 spots, and the loss of Yordano Ventura probably cost Kansas City 5-6 ranking spots.  Miami (like Atlanta) will depend on several new faces in 2017 as a result, while Kansas City may be looking at an accelerated rebuilding process.

Ranking Spots #24-26: Minnesota, Oakland, Colorado

I could see why you may think Oakland should be higher, but until their newcomers like Sean Manaea (who I always like to point out was on the board and was draftable in 2013 at the spot we gave up to sign Rafael Soriano in Mike Rizzo‘s eternal Quest for a Closer) succeed for more than a couple of months, Oakland stays ranked this low.  I wouldn’t vociferously argue the order of any of these teams: they’re mostly ranked by their aces this low.

Ranking Spots #27-30: Los Angeles Angels, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and San Diego

At least the Angels and Cincinnati have a couple of arms that you may briefly consider in fantasy; you can’t say that for Milwaukee or San Diego.  In fact, if you told me that the “next 5” for San Diego was actually their planned rotation, I’m not sure i’d rank them any worse than the first 5.  Milwaukee has instead depended on veteran players for their low ranking level, with their team ace Matt Garza making more news lately for having his Ferrari vandalized and for piping up about birth control on twitter than for his capabilities on the mound.  Always a good sign for your coming season.


So, what do you guys think of my rankings?

 

Its Arbitration day! Review of our 4 cases plus some Arb case history

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Hopefully Bryce and his new bride Kayla didn't have to go through arbitration either.  Photo via mlb.com/Harper's instagram

Hopefully Bryce and his new bride Kayla didn’t have to go through arbitration either. Photo via mlb.com/Harper’s instagram

The Nats have 4 remaining players who are arbitration eligible but whom the team has not yet signed for 2017 (they signed Jose Lobaton to a $1.575M deal, slightly below MLBTradeRumors’ estimate.

Here’s who they have left, what they made in 2016 and what MLBTradeRumors (which is usually pretty accurate) projects for 2017:

PlayerCurrent or 2016 Contract2017 status2014201520162017 my guessmlbtraderumors estimate
Harper, Bryce2yr/$7.5M (15-16)Arb3215000025000005000000100000009300000
Rendon, Anthony1 yr/$2.8M (16)Arb218000001800000280000060000006400000
Lobaton, Jose1 yr/$1.3875M (16)Arb49500001200000138750015750001600000
Roark, Tanner1 yr/$0.543M (16)Arb150610052960054340050000006100000
Norris, Derek1yr/$2.925M (16)Arb2292500040000004000000

I think the team will pay slightly more than the projection for Bryce Harper (hopefully signing a 2-year deal to take him to FA), will pay Derek Norris the projected value ($4M exactly seems like a nice number), slightly less than the projection for Anthony Rendon and slightly less for Tanner Roark under the guise that he will continue to be under-rated for what he provides.  I may be completely wrong.  Lets just hope they actually SIGN the players and don’t go to arbitration.

 


Here’s a sordid history of all Arbitration cases going back to the Nats origin in 2005.

YearTeamPlayerPlayer FigureClub FigureDeltaWinnerStill with club (as of end of that particular season)Depart club THAT year?Player Status with Arguing team as of end of that season
2016HoustonJason Castro52500005000000250000clubCurrent YrCurrent YrCurrent Yr
2016TorontoJesse Chavez40000003600000400000playerCurrent YrCurrent YrCurrent Yr
2016CincinnatiJ.J. Hoover14000001225000175000playerCurrent YrCurrent YrCurrent Yr
2016Tampa BayDrew Smyly37500003200000550000playerCurrent YrCurrent YrCurrent Yr
2015BaltimoreAlejandro De Aza56500005000000650000clubNoYesTraded mid-2015 season
2015SeattleTom Wilhelmsen22000001400000800000ClubNoNoPlayed out season, traded post 2015 season
2015AtlantaMike Minor56000005100000500000playerNoNoPlayed out season, FA post 2015 season
2015ArizonaMark Trumbo690000053000001600000playerNoYesTraded mid-2015 season
2015PittsburghPedro Alvarez57500005250000500000playerNoNoPlayed out season, non-tendered post 2015 season
2015ColoradoWilin Rosario33000002800000500000clubNoNoPlayed out season, FA post 2015 season
2015TorontoJosh Donaldson575000043000001450000clubYesNoStill active
2015MiamiDavid Phelps18750001400000475000clubYesNoStill active
2015WashingtonJerry Blevins24000002200000200000playerNoYesTraded before the season even began
2015PittsburghVance Worley24500002000000450000playerNoNowaived just after 2015 season ended
2015PittsburghNeil Walker900000080000001000000ClubNoNoTraded post 2015 season but played entire 2015 year w/ Pittsburgh
2015OaklandJarrod Parker1700000850000850000ClubYesNoStill active; long term injuries
2015TorontoDanny Valencia16750001200000475000PlayerNoYeswaived mid-season
2015MiamiMat Latos1040000094000001000000ClubNoYesTraded mid-season in salary dump
2014ClevelandJosh Tomlin975000800000175000ClubYesnore-signed 2015, avoided arbitration
2014ClevelandVinnie Pestano1450000975000475000ClubNoYesTraded mid 2014
2014San DiegoAndrew Cashner24000002275000125000PlayerYesnore-signed 2015, avoided arbitration
2012MiamiAnibal Sanchez800000069000001100000PlayerNoYesTraded to Detroit mid-2012 season
2012WashingtonJohn Lannan57000005000000700000ClubNoYesNon-tendered pre-2013 season, signed w/ Philadelphia
2012MilwaukeeJose Veras23750002000000375000ClubNoYesFA after 2012 season (unsure if non-tendered or not)
2012MiamiEmilio Bonifacio22000001950000250000PlayerNoYesTraded to Toronto post-2012 season
2012BaltimoreBrad Bergesen1200000800000400000ClubNoYesWaived mid-2012 season
2012Tampa BayJeff Niemann32000002750000450000ClubNoNoResigned for 2013, DFA'd post-2013 season (injured), refused AAA assignment, FA
2012PittsburghGarrett Jones25000002250000250000ClubNoNoResigned for 2013, FA after 2013 season
2011HoustonHunter Pence690000051500001750000PlayerNoYesTraded to Philadelphia mid 2011 season
2011PittsburghRoss Ohlendorf20250001400000625000PlayerNoYesReleased after 2011 season
2011Los Angeles AngelsJered Weaver880000073650001435000ClubYesNoSigned long term deal after 2011 season
2010MiamiCody Ross44500004200000250000PlayerNoYesWaived mid-2010 season
2010Chicago CubsRyan Theriot34000002600000800000ClubNoYesTraded mid-2010 to Los Angeles
2010WashingtonBrian Bruney18500001500000350000ClubNoYesReleased May 2010
2010HoustonWandy Rodriguez700000050000002000000ClubNoNoTraded mid 2012 to Pittsburgh
2010MilwaukeeCorey Hart48000004150000650000PlayerNoNoSigned extension to 2013, got hurt, FA after 2013
2010Tampa BayBJ Upton33000003000000300000ClubNoNoFA after 2012 season, signed elsewhere
2010Los Angeles AngelsJeff Mathis1300000700000600000PlayerNoNoTraded post-2011 season to Toronto
2010WashingtonSean Burnett925000775000150000ClubNoNoleft as FA post 2012 season
2009WashingtonShawn Hill775000500000275000PlayerNoYesReleased March 2009 before salary even kicked in
2009MiamiDan Uggla53500004400000950000PlayerNoNoTraded post-2010 season to Atlanta
2009Tampa BayDioner Navarro25000002100000400000ClubNoNonon-tendered post-2010 season
2008Los Angeles AngelsFrancisco Rodriguez12500000100000002500000ClubNoYesFA after 2008 season, signed elsewhere
2008ColoradoBrian Fuentes650000050500001450000ClubNoYesGranted FA after 2008 season, signed elsewhere
2008WashingtonFelipe Lopez52000004900000300000ClubNoYesReleased July 2008
2008HoustonMark Lorretta490000027500002150000ClubNoYesleft as FA after one year (why did he go to arbitration? Odd)
2008PhiladelphiaRyan Howard1000000070000003000000PlayerYesNoSigned 3-year deal after 2008 season, longer term after that
2008New York MetsOliver Perez650000047250001775000PlayerNoNoFA after 2008 but re-signed 3 year deal w/ NY
2008HoustonJose Valverde620000047000001500000ClubNoNosigned one more year, FA
2008New York YankeesChien-Ming Wang46000004000000600000ClubNoNoGranted FA after 2009 season (hurt)
2007MiamiMiguel Cabrera74000006700000700000PlayerNoYesTraded after 2007 season
2007San DiegoTodd Walker395000027500001200000PlayerNoYesReleased March 2007 before salary even kicked in
2007WashingtonJohn Patterson18500008500001000000ClubNoYesReleased March 2007 before salary even kicked in
2007WashingtonChad Cordero41500003650000500000PlayerNoNosigned on one more year, DFA'd refused assignment, FA
2007Los Angeles DodgersJoe Beimel1250000912500337500ClubNoNosigned for one more year, FA
2007Tampa BayJosh Paul940000625000315000ClubNoNoFA after 2007, signed ML deal with Tampa again, didn't make team
2007MiamiKevin Gregg700000575000125000ClubNoNoTraded after 2008 season
2006WashingtonAlfonso Soriano12000000100000002000000ClubNoYeswas in last year of arb anyway; left via FA
2006BaltimoreRodrigo Lopez45000003750000750000ClubNoYestraded after 2006 season to Colorado
2006MinnesotaKyle Lohse39500003400000550000PlayerNoYesTraded mid 2006 to Cincinnati
2006ColoradoSun-Woo "Sunny" Kim800000600000200000ClubNoYestraded at the end of 2006
2006Kansas CityEmil Brown17750001400000375000PlayerNoNoleft as FA after 2007 season
2006Tampa BayJosh Paul750000475000275000ClubNoNowent to arb again in 2007
2005OaklandJuan Cruz860000600000260000ClubNoYestraded after 2005 season to Arizona
2005MinnesotaKyle Lohse24000002150000250000PlayerNoNowent to arb again in 2006
2005Kansas CityJeremy Affeldt1200000950000250000ClubNoNoTraded mid 2006 to Colorado

Some interesting factoids about this history (all numbers up to last  year’s pre-2016 season cases).

  • Records: Clubs are 28/45 (62%), players are 17/45 (38%)
  • Washington leading “arguing” club with 8 of 45 cases since 2005.  Now, many of those cases were under the prior regime/Lerners are cheap mantra, but Mike Rizzo has done his fair share of petty arguing, taking Sean Burnett to arbitration over $150,000 and most recently Jerry Blevins over $200k.
  • 42% of all cases since 2005 by just 3 clubs, and Washington is the leader in this sorry category with 8 cases since 2005.
  • 12 of 30 clubs in the game havn’t had an arb argument since 2005.  In other words, 12 of the 30 teams get the fact that these things suck.
  • Smallest amount argued over: $125k by Miami in 2007 and $150K by Wash in 2010 w/ Burnett
  • Largest amount argued over: $3M by Philadelphia w/ Ryan Howard (player won)
  • Biggest player demand: Francisco Rodriguez $12,500,000 (player lost)
  • Biggest club offer ($10M twice; both club wins)
  • Just 2 of 45 players who have argued arb cases remain with their teams to 2015.  None of the 2016 arb cases remain with their teams at this point in the off-season.
  • 23 of 45 players who argued w/ their clubs were traded or released THAT same season.  This is pretty damning evidence that clubs “hold it against” players (or vice versa) for these cases.

 

Collier’s Inbox 1/4/17

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Is this the best we can do for backup infielders? photo via offtherecordsports.com

Is this the best we can do for backup infielders? photo via offtherecordsports.com

Happy New Year!

Nats Beat reporter Jamal Collier posted another inbox; here’s how I would have answered the questions he took.


 

Q: The Nationals and A’s have proven to be strong trade partners over the years, and I believe the A’s have a few players to fit the Nats’ needs. Do you think Washington could trade for Sean Doolittle and Stephen Vogt?

A: We mentioned this in passing in the comments discussion recently; it does make sense to try to acquire Oakland’s closer Sean Doolittle.  Acquiring Stephen Vogt makes less sense right now, given that the Nats have guaranteed Jose Lobaton money for 2017 and have signed Derek Norris to be the starter.  For similar reasons as to why the “Nats are still interested in Matt Weiters” arguments make no sense, acquiring Vogt wouldn’t make much sense either.  If you acquire Vogt, you tell the league that you need to trade either Lobaton (no options/5-year veteran who cannot be sent down and who has a guaranteed 2017 contract) or Norris, and it isn’t exactly the best way to go about maintaining a player’s value when the whole league knows you need to make a deal.  That’s why we got very little in return for Danny Espinosa, and that’s why signing a third catcher to a guaranteed deal wouldn’t make any sense.

The one issue that may be blocking a Doolittle deal is the farm system; as in, we’ve gutted it this off-season already.   Billy Beane knows how valuable closers are; he just watched Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen cash in and he has seen what the likes of Andrew Miller and Wade Davis fetch in trade.  I’m not saying Doolittle is in that class of pitcher … but he’s not chopped liver.  The price tag just may be too high for Mike Rizzo to consider.

Collier says Doolittle would be a good fit, but that Oakland isn’t shopping its players right now.


 

Q: Wilmer Difo is the only middle infielder on the 40-man roster, other than the starters. It seems to me the Nats need another infielder on the bench. Emmanuel Burriss seems to be the only other option. What do you think?

A: Yes, the Nats definitely need another MLB quality backup infielder.  Emmanuel Burriss is not that; he’s a 4-A guy who only played last year because Philadelphia isn’t really trying right now.  Wilmer Difo is not the guy you want to be injury option #1 either.  This is why I want Stephen Drew back, as discussed ad naseum in the comments recently.  But I also admit Drew may have priced himself out by virtue of his 2016 performance, and it may be an outlier season.  Who else is out there?  Not much at this point.  I think the Nats are kind of thin right now all the way around; if we lose any of these key players for any length of time, the alternatives are pretty poor.  Imagine giving 400 ABs right now to Difo or to Michael Taylor?   I mean, what does this team do if Anthony Rendon, not exactly known for being a rock heathwise, misses 2 months?  Who plays 3B for that time?  Matt Skole?

I think the team needs a bit more depth both in INF and OF right now, honestly.

Collier says the Nats are comfortable with Difo as a bench option, as evidenced by his presence on the NLDS roster.  But I don’t buy that; i think he was on that roster as basically a 25th man/pinch runner guy, not because he had earned it.


 

Q: The offseason trades seem to point to the Nats believing Stras is going to be healthy, why would they think that?

A: Because he’s not the first player to suffer a Strained Flexor Mass, because its not nearly as severe an injury as other arm injuries, and because the team is probably hyper-monitoring Stephen Strasburg‘s recovery.  Its basically a 1 month injury, 2 if you’re being really cautious.  Had the Nats made the World Series i bet he woudl have pitched.  I can’t imagine any reason he won’t be ready to go by 4-1.

Collier notes that both he and his agent have said multiple times there’s no issues, plus Strasburg was throwing bullpen sessions in the post-season…. he’ll be fine.


 

Q: With the trade to the White Sox, I’m concerned that the Nats have denuded their farm system of Major League-ready top prospect pitchers. In case of injury to any of the top six Major Leaguers, it seems that there will be no “next man up” to fill in.

A: Me too!  The Nats gave no less than 20 starts to pitchers outside the opening day rotation in 2016.  That same number was 28 in 2015, 13 in 2014, 25 in 2013 and just 12 in 2012.  So that’s an average of 19.6 “extra” starts per year thanks to injuries and unplanned absences.  You’re absolutely right; the first two likely candidates to take those starts in 2017 (Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez) were both flipped for Adam Eaton.  Now we’re looking at those starts going to A.J. Cole and to Austin Voth initially, and the pickings get slimmer from there.  “Slim” as in, there’s only really 7 starters on the 40-man at all, so if you really get stuck you’re looking at Oliver Perez getting stretched out, or putting someone like Blake Treinen back on a starter routine.  And past that?  We’re talking a MLFA type like Jacob Turner or our own already-outrighted-once Taylor Hill.  In reality we’d never get that far; we’d promote Erick Fedde or maybe hope that reformed knuckeballer J.D. Martin has something in the tank.   But those are not really confidence-inspiring options.  Here’s hoping for a healthy 2017 from the rotation!

Collier acknowledges the same and thinks the team may sign some starter depth before spring training starts.


Q: Perhaps the Nats could bring in some veteran starters to Spring Training, like they did last year with Bronson Arroyo, to compete for rotation spots and as insurance in case of an injury. What will it take to get Trout? Sure he would like to play for a winnèr.

A: See above, yes.  2016 Syracuse had some decent alternatives: Paolo Espino and Aaron Laffey both seemed to be good alternatives.  Espino signed with Colorado, Laffey is still a FA.  But there’s a slew of veteran FA starters out there who would probably take a non-guaranteed deal.  I could see Mat Latos coming back b/c of his Dusty Baker connection.  I could see an injury-case like Kris Medlen or Matt Harrison look at the SP depth and say to himself, “gee, I can probably beat out Cole and Voth for the 6th starter job!”  So yeah you never know.

Trout trade; that’s just internet click bait.  He’s not going anywhere.  Owner won’t trade him, and putting together a package of prospects to acquire him could never work out; it’d either be not enough for the Angels, or too much for the acquiring team.

Collier tries to speculate on a package for Trout, coming up with Turner, Robles, Ross and perhaps Fedde.  Think about that trade, what it would do to the current team, and what it does for the future of the team versus what you acquire, and ask yourself if its worth it.  

 

 

The 12 Posts of 2016; Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year!  Here’s a quick list of posts recapping the most “significant’ events month over month.

  • January: Drew Storen for Ben Revere; a trade that seems to work on both sides: In the end, not so much.  Revere lost his job and was non-tendered, Storen had a 6.21 ERA for Toronto before getting flipped to Seattle.
  • February: Spring Training 2016 NRI discussion: a review of all the Non Roster Invitees to 2016’s spring training; one eventually made the team (Chris Heisey).
  • March: Local HS draft-prospects to keep an eye in for the 2016 draft: 2016 was a banner year for local prep players, with two high-end picks from the Northern Virginia Area (Joe Rizzo and Khalil Lee), a 4th rounder out of the Richmond area (Brenan Hanifee), a 12th rounder from West Potomac who I had never heard of prior to his drafting (Jamie Sara), a 17th rounder from Maryland who I’m surprised wasn’t drafted earlier (Tyler Blohm), plus the expected slew of 30th+ round picks.  2017 isn’t looking nearly as promising.
  • April: Nats Prospects: Where to see them in 2016: I’ll do this again in 2017 … but its going to be a significantly different list of prospects after all the trades we’ve done.
  • May: Strasburg Extension Shocker! Pretty much the highest-risk thing that this management team has done.  Bigger than the Werth signing, more risky than the Scherzer signing.
  • June: “Those guys can kiss my *ss!”  Still makes me laugh.  Too bad we didn’t get to meet the Cubs in the NLCS.
  • July: Thou shalt not overreact to a blown save... .  And of course they did, flipping two lefty arms for a couple  months of Mark Melancon.
  • August: Do the Nats have a LOOGY problem?  Mike Rizzo certainly thought so, trading future Hall of Famer Max Schrock for Marc Rzepczynski for the stretch run.
  • September: Strasburg Flexor Mass; what’s plan B for the playoffs?  Plan Be turned out to be a shaky Joe Ross, but that wasn’t the reason we lost the NLDS.  At least Strasburg wasn’t badly hurt.
  • October: NLDS Game 5 via my “live texting” Made possibly by virtue of my texting back and forth late into the night with a buddy; it was a telling revisiting of the Game 5 meltdown.
  • November: Rule 5 protection analysis for 2016: the team ends up protecting 5 players, including future Hall of Famer and NAR lightening rod Matt Skole.
  • December: Huge Over-Pay for Eaton : the biggest trade of the Rizzo era goes down and its a large price to pay, but it also illustrates the modern economics of the game, where a cost controlled player is expensive to acquire.

Happy New Year!   January will have a couple of “clear the draft posts” articles about awards season, some HoF stuff probably since I just can’t resist, then I hope to get into the pitching staff reviews so that I can make 2017 staff predictions.  That’s the near-term plan!

Todd

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

Nats Winter Meetings Preview

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Winter Meetings 2016

Winter Meetings 2016 … here in DC!

As requested from Dr. Cane in the comments, lets chat about what we may see transpire at the upcoming Winter Meetings.  This year’s Winter meetings are a week from now, running from Sunday 12/4/16 to 12/8/16 at the Gaylord Hotel in the National Harbor.  I’m halfway curious to drive over there to witness the “scene” in the lobby/hotel bar, having read about/listened to multiple podcasts over the years describing how these meetings work.  On the other hand, I’m sure I wouldn’t appreciate it if some nerd was hanging around my office while I was trying to get work done, so maybe not :-)

In this space we’ve talked about a couple of items related to what we may see transpire in DC in the next week:

We still have some significant issues to address on the roster.  How many will we see resolved at these meetings?  Here’s some of the rumors (two good links: mlbtraderumors.com FA predictions and BleacherReports predictions)  I’ve been hearing about as they relate to the obvious holes we have to fill; apparently the Nats and Mike Rizzo are expected to be “aggressive” this winter.  I’ll take them position by position:

Center Field/Outfield

  • One rumor has the Nats moving Bryce Harper to center and buying one of the big corner OF bats on the market.  Jose Bautista or Brandon Moss.  Josh Reddick was an early name but he got snapped up quickly.  Carlos Gomez could be an interesting name.
  • I’ve read that the team will splash out cash for Yoenis Cespedes and really “go for it” during the Harper window.
  • Mark Zuckerman recently reported that Ben Revere basically played with a bum shoulder the whole season and the team may very well tender him and go into 2017 with him as the starter.
  • I’ve heard the Nats associated with Andrew McCutchen, who may actually not be a good CF any longer, but any trade for him may be tough to do since he struggled so badly in 2016.
  • Also heard that the team could be involved in trade for someone like J.D. Martinez if the Tigers attempt to re-tool their roster.
  • My Take: i’m on the “move Bryce to CF” and acquire a corner bat.  I’d be happy with any of these names as a way to bolster the offense.

Shortstop

  • All of these CF moves assume Trea Turner returns to Short and Danny Espinosa either becomes a trade candidate or assumes the Stephen Drew utility infielder role.
  • I fully support Turner back to SS; i just don’t understand those that want to keep him in Center when he’s a natural short stop and, frankly, its a heck of a lot easier to find a CF than a SS.
  • My Take: I’m on the “we should trade Espinosa” boat if he’s not the starter, if only for the rumors we read about him as a clubhouse presence when he’s not playing.

Closer

  • There’s three major closers on the market and more than three teams chasing them.  Nats not expected to be a massive overpay … but you never know.  One rumor has them on Aroldis Chapman, banking on him retaining his velocity.
  • Another rumor has the Nats being more sensible and rolling the dice on a former closer like Greg Holland and then buying up a middle reliever (someone like a Brad Ziegler) to supplement the loss of several arms from this year’s bullpen.
  • But there’s all sorts of middle relief arms out there.  Joe Blanton may get 8 figures.  Who knew.
  • My Take: I like the Holland + Ziegler/Blanton route to add to our existing Kelley/Treinen/Glover trio, then add in the two lefties Solis/Perez and you have your bullpen.  Kelley could be the closer if Holland can’t do it and that’d still give the team three really good 8th/9th inning arms.  Replace Glover with a long-man if you want, or consider that both Perez and Blanton are former starters who could suck up innings, or be original and forgoe the darn long-man and just depend on call ups if you get a ton of innings thrown by the bullpen over a short period of time.

Catcher

  • Matt Weiters to the Nats makes a lot of sense; Scott Boras client, no draft pick compensation this year.
  • The team has already missed out on a couple of catchers who have gone off the board early.
  • They may be looking a some trade targets.
  • Clearly they’re not going to go into 2017 with just Jose Lobaton and Severino.
  • Wilson Ramos seems more and more likely to be gone, perhaps a remnant of the insulting pre-injury offer they gave him, perhaps just a reality of the market for his services coming off a 2nd major knee injury.  We love the Buffalo, but he may be better suited for an AL team that can DH him every once in a while, and one that can survive until July when he’s ready to go.
  • My Take: I have no idea what they’ll do.  But they have to do something.

I don’t really think the team needs or seeks any upgrades elsewhere, but yet we still hear weird rumors every once in a while.

  • Chris Sale acquisition via trade; don’t really understand the need; yes that’d give the team three “Aces” at the top but at what cost if it requires them to gut the farm system?
  • Moves to replace Werth or Zimmerman just seem silly to consider, given the payroll implications of having those two clubhouse leader/10-and-5 guys suddenly be bench bats.  I don’t see this team, this manager or this executive group knee capping franchise defining players like that, especially when they’re still relatively serviceable.   Werth was a 1.1 win player last year with a WRC+ figure north of 100.  Zimmerman was worth negative fWAR of course, but he was hurt most of the season, so its kind of hard to gauge what he’ll do in 2017.  He’s only 32 after all, and is under contract for a while longer.

Its impossible to predict trades that come out of the blue, but it is worth noting that the Nats have some surpluses of talent that they can trade from:

  • I count nine starters on the 40-man roster, which means that several could be trade bait.  We’ve heard rumors about Giolito, Lopez, Voth, Cole, Fedde and Gonzalez all getting packed up to move out.  And that leaves out some lesser-renounded but still promising arms lower down in the system (Dunning of course, but also the likes of Avila, Baez, Watson, etc).
  • There’s now TEN (10) infielders on the 40-man; I see a couple of DFAs/trades (Espinosa of course, and the loser of Skole/Robinson perhaps), and its hard to see a pathway for others (where does Marmolejos play for example?), but that’s a lot of infielders for 4 starting spots and and at most six 25-man jobs.
  • We have more than a few rising quality outfielders, headed by Robles and new 40-man member Bautista, but also including the likes of Stevenson, Agustin, Wiseman, Perkins and Banks.

What do you guys see happening?

 

2016 Season Statistical review of the 2015 Draft Class

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

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

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

Web links to use while reading:

With out further ado…


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Trending Summary:

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

Executive Summary

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Reality

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

Less Likely:

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

 

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

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

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

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

 


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

(did I forget anyone?)

1000th Post at NationalsArmRace

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Happy 1000th post!

With this post, if I trust my WordPress engine to tell me the right number of published articles, we have hit 1000 posts in the history of this blog.

Here’s some useless information for you about the first 1000 posts:

Posts by year:

  • 2010: (starting in June): 2+11+30+8+6+13+12 = 82 for the year
  • 2011: 2+20+25+23+23+20+17+13+26+18+21+19 = 227 for the year
  • 2012: 13+7+10+8+5+7+4+5+15+21+20+17 = 132 for the year
  • 2013: 21+15+22+22+20+26+18+20+13+31+10+19 = 237 for the year
  • 2014: 10+10+9+14+13+14+12+4+8+16+12+8 = 130 for the year
  • 2015: 8+5+9+13+11+12+8+7+4+15+13+10=115 for the year
  • 2016: 8+8+8+9+6+11+7+4+9+7=77 for 2016, including this post.  We may hit 100 in the next 3 months with all the off-season stuff we generally do.

I really got into the blog in 2011, and the post count was way up for rotation reviews of both major and minor leagues.  A new job curtailed my time immensely in mid 2012, though by the end of the season I had geared back up.  I was pretty regular with a post about 2 of every 3 days in 2013, with a whole slew of short posts in October 2013 to preview pitching match-ups for playoff games.  2014 scaled off a bit… a trend continuing into 2015 and 2016.

Milestone Posts

Random Blog milestones

  • 17th post: 8/9/10 “2011 Rotation Competition” First post where I started the formatting theme of bolding a proper name the first time it appears in a post.  I started this to highlight those players who I was specifically talking about.
  • 55th post: 10/20/10: “Contract Value for FA Starting Pitchers: The Cliff Lee Lesson to-be” First post where I started incorporating pictures into the blog posts.  I got the idea from Mark Zuckerman‘s blog, where he always uses a single picture at the top of each blog post.  Initially I used images.google.com to find the images and then attempt to give proper photo credit.  Coincidentally, at some point in the past I did a ton of research on the use of photos on the internet and had a discussion on the subject (in the comments section of this May 2011 post).  Now I generally use pictures from wiki and/or flickr where the author has granted free use.
  • 221st post:  8/25/11, “My Answers to Boswell’s Chat Questions 8/22/11 edition.”  This was the earliest post that I regularly started using “tags” for player names.  I started doing this after turning on the “tag cloud” along the right hand side.  The tags also serve as a nice searching method for a particular player.  (I’ve since gone through some effort to “tag” the posts prior to this one but am not entirely caught up to the history of the blog).
  • 243rd post: 9/25/11, “New Theme!”  I changed the look and feel of the blog from an out-of-the-box WordPress theme to a custom theme.  I was doing this primarily to figure out a way to get the blog slogan (the Earl Weaver quote at the top) to be more visible.
  • 1/12/12: Posted a missive about “What are non-MLB associated baseball league talent equivalents?” which suddenly got picked up by a major media outlet and I started getting hits from all over the place.  I still go back and update this post to this day.
  • 6/13/12: My first post covering the College World Series: College World Series Preview/Regionals Recap.  I now cover the College season at least starting with the field of 64 and sometimes (time allowing) with previews of local college teams.
  • 3/28/13: My first post covering local prep players: Local HS players to keep an eye on this Spring.  I now try to cover any halfway decent player anywhere in DC, MD or VA in its entirety.
  • 5/23/13: My first post covering the local High school tournaments: Local Prep Baseball: Oakton & Madison win District titles; Regional tourney set.  I now cover all the local high school baseball tournaments in a series of posts throughout May and June.
  • 6/11/13: The first post really covering college draftees with local ties, to go along with the local prep players.  MLB Draft Results for Players with Local Ties.  Now in 2016, i’ve got a running history of both prep and college players and can track those prep players who went to school in 2013 who are now draft eligible, so future posts are that much easier to write.
  • Oct 2015: a series of posts reviewing the 2015 Season Statistical Review of all Nats 2015 draft picks and going back to the 2011 class.  I like this series and look forward to doing it again this year.

I guess I havn’t really done too many new features lately.

Count of posts by category: (note that these will add up to greater than 1000 since some posts get multiple categories):

  • 30 for 30: 9 posts, mostly older.  I used to try to review ESPN’s “30 for 30” shows when they aired but lost track.  I still have several in draft form but they’re several years old and not worth posting at this point.
  • Awards: 22 posts.  These are generally predictions for BBWAA awards and some in-depth analysis of fielding awards that I try to do every year.
  • Baseball in General: 218 posts; these are usually the tag that I give to non-Nats, non-other issue.
  • Chat/Mailbag Responses: 100: I really like doing this and keep forgetting that Tom Boswell does monday chats.  They’re generally arguable questions about the kinds of things we’re always talking about anyways; moves, trades, what should we do with so-and-so, etc.
  • College/CWS: 32 posts; just a few each year covering the big CWS tournament.
  • Draft: 76 posts, surprised its not more.
  • Fantasy: 12 posts, which works out to almost exactly two a  year (one when I draft the team, one where I tell you how badly I did).
  • Hall of Fame: 37 posts, which are mostly older because I have gotten quite sick of arguing about Hall of Fame voting.
  • Local Baseball: 54 posts, mostly about High School tourney coverage, local draft candidates and even some Little League and local adult area baseball thrown in.
  • Majors Pitching: 317 posts; lots of discussion about the state of the pitching.
  • Minor League Pitching: 133 posts.
  • Minor League Rotation Reviews: 29 posts; used to be more frequent, now just an annual check-in.
  • Nats in General: 356 posts, the most frequently used tag.
  • Nats rotation Reviews: 30 posts; as with the Minor League rotation reviews, these were sacrificed to the gods of time.
  • Non-Baseball; just 33 posts, and only one since Nov 2014.  I guess I’m very focused on baseball here :-)
  • Post-Season: 54 posts about, well, post-season.  Predictions, reviews of Nats games, etc.
  • Rule-5: 30 posts, since we talk about it over and over every year.  Ironically some pundits like Keith Law th ink the rule-5 draft is useless since such marginal prospects now reside at the ends of most 40-man roster teams, but I still think they’re useful precisely because those edge cases are so compelling to discuss.
  • Weekly News: 22 posts, an older feature where I used to cut and paste cool links I had read on a week to week basis.  That’s crazy to think about now; i just scan through everything these days.
  • World Baseball Classic: just 12 posts; but with another one coming up soon, we’ll revisit.  I cannot wait to see Cuba’s team this year.

Top 10 player names mentioned (since I started typing them in as Tags; this is definitely weighted more towards the the past season than earlier, as catching up hundreds of posts with updated tags is not an effort worth finishing frankly)

  1. Stephen Strasburg: 248 mentions; lost of angst about him over the years.
  2. Jordan Zimmermann: 193
  3. Mike Rizzo: 185
  4. Bryce Harper: 184
  5. Ross Detwiler: 167; really?  How is it that he’s the 5th most mentioned player in this blog??
  6. Gio Gonzalez: 163
  7. Danny Espinosa: 139
  8. Ryan Zimmerman: 138
  9. Drew Storen: 138
  10. Jayson Werth: 131

Items I wish I still had time to do:

  • The rotational reviews, especially in the minor leagues.  I maintained these for the first half of 2011, but a vacation in July of 2011 left me a couple weeks behind and I just never could catch up.  I didn’t even attempt to try these for 2012 or going forward.  Its unfortunate; the whole reason I started this blog was to study and be up on the minor league pitching, especially the starters.  I feel, and still feel, that developing quality starting pitching is the most important aspect of the farm system, and that a successful pre-arbitration pitcher is the most valuable commodity in the sport.
  • Nightly Reviews of MLB pitching performances; this requires the time to sit down each night and watch the games … I love baseball, but I just cannot commit that kind of time, especially with a young kid and a busy job.
  • Actually going to eyeball these players in the minor leagues and not just rely on stat lines.  Again, time and life priorities.
  • Honestly, I think I could do a better job “advertising” this blog.  Should I be pushing the

#1 item I wish I could incorporate: I’d love to do interviews of pitching coaches and pitchers at the various levels to talk about pitching strategy, mechanics and whatnot.  I briefly pursued getting a Nats press pass but got the impression that the team is less inclined to hand out press passes to blogs such as mine (which provide a heavy amount of opinion and commentary) versus blogs like Federal Baseball and DC Pro Sports Report (which act more like beat reporters and focus on doing pre-game and post-game reports).  Fair enough.

#1 technical issue I would like to change: I installed hit counters to try to gauge readership, but I still cannot reliably answer the question, “how many people read your blog?”  I have a plug-in installed to the WordPress engine called “Counterize” that gives me some sense of hits, but there’s so much garbage/hacker trolling going on that I cannot tell how many legitimate readers I have.


 

Post #1001 is coming soon after this one: i’m uncharacteristically going to do three posts in quick succession because I want to get the LCS preview/prediction post out before the LCS actually starts.  :-)  Lets you guys think I’m making predictions after the series starts…

Ask Ladson 9/23/16

19 comments

Turner is on everyone's mind.  photo via wp.com

Turner is on everyone’s mind. photo via wp.com

I know my “Fantasy post-mortem” post didn’t move the needle; luckily Nats MLB.com beat reporter Bill Ladson posted another inbox!  2nd one in two weeks!

Here’s how I would have answered these questions, if I was in a position to have random fans email me questions all the time :-)

Q: Is Trea Turner eligible for the National League Rookie of the Year Award? If he is, he should be the winner.

A: Absolutely Trea Turner is eligible.  Is he going to win?  Uh… better go check the season that Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager just had.  Turner probably finishes 2nd or 3rd.  If I had a vote, I’d probably go Seager, Kenta Maeda, Turner, Trevor Story and then Aledmys Diaz to round out the top 5.  Turner has been awesome no doubt, but Seager is an MVP candidate and did it all year.  If Turner had done what he has been doing for the full season?  Yeah he’d probably be at a Mike Trout level of production and we’d be having a far different conversation about him.  Ladson Agrees.

Q: You said you thought Dusty Baker sticks with slumping players too long, but you didn’t list Bryce Harper on that list.

A: I think its one thing to stick with a slumping player too long when you have a better alternative (or even a possible better alternative) on the bench.  But how do you possibly claim that Bryce Harper deserved benching?  He was the frigging MVP last year; talk about impatience.  And even with his “down” season Harper still has an OPS+ of 117.  Harper has had a really weird season: his month by month splits show him crushing in April, falling off a cliff in May after the walkathon in Chicago, rebounding for a solid June, hitting just .176 in July, rebounding again in August (.934 OPS) and then again falling off a cliff so far in September (hitting just .203 this month).  If the partern holds, he’ll get hot again just in time for the October playoff games :-)

Are the persistent rumors about his shoulder true?  Respected national reporter Tom Verducci has reported it not once but twice, each time with a more vehement denial from GM Mike Rizzo, but his drop off from last year is pretty apparent for all to see.  Certainly it would explain why he’s struggled so badly this year.  Are Rizzo et al denying so as to prevent a competitive disadvantage from being public knowledge?  Probably too late for that.

Ladson agrees; Harper is a different story.

Q: Do you think the 2016 Nationals team is stronger than the ’14 Nationals was?

A: Yes I do.  I think the 2016 rotation(at full strength) matched up better than 2014’s, the bullpen is stronger, and I think the hitting is more consistent with more production across the team.  Now, maybe a better question is, “Which team was better positioned heading into the playoffs?  There the answer is inarguably the 2014 team; the rotation we’ll field in the NLDS is two studs and then two question marks, we really don’t have a shutdown lefty in the bullpen, and two of our best hitters (Harper and Danny Murphy) are hurt.  Not a good time for all these injuries to hit.  Ladson gives the edge to 2014 for similar reasons as I gave.

Q: Being a longtime Expos fan and seeing that you covered them, how would you compare Vladimir Guerrero to Harper?

A: I’ll freely admit that I’m not nearly as qualified to answer this as Ladson.  But i’ll give it an opinion; Guerrero was a better hitter, more capable of hitting whatever was thrown his way.  They were comparable in terms of defense; both had powerful arms and great range.  I give Guerrero the edge in speed on the basepaths, and Harper the edge in power (which is tough to say given that Guerrero hit 40+ a few times and had 449 for his career).  Both players only have one MVP: Guerrero’s came at age 29 as soon as he got out of Montreal.  Harper won his last year at the tender age of 22, and you have to think he’s got more in him.  Ladson gives the edge to Guerrero for now.

Q: With the emergence of Turner in center field, do you think the Nats will bring back both Ben Revere and Michael Taylor next season?

A: Revere no, Taylor yes.  Revere is arb-eligible and is making north of $6M this year; he’s an obvious non-tender this coming off-season.  Taylor is still under complete club control and is not arb-eligible for another year.  I can see the team going one of three ways (as we’ve discussed here at length):

  1. Turner to short, Espinosa traded and we look for a CF in trade or via FA.  Taylor the 4th outfielder.
  2. Turner to short, Espinosa moved, Harper to CF and we get a FA corner outfielder (my preference but not likely to happen).  Taylor the 4th outfielder.
  3. Standing pat: Turner stays in CF, Espinosa stays at short, and Taylor is the 4th outfielder.

In all these scenarios, Taylor is the 4th outfielder.  Is he even the 4th outfielder?  Well, he’s now had 781 plate appearances in the majors; he’s hitting .224 and he’s struck out 248 of those appearances.  Not good.  I’m not sure what we do with him at this point.  Ladson agrees with me on non-tendering Revere, and thinks Taylor needs another year in the minors.