Nationals Arm Race

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Romero: I’m not the kinda guy to say I told you so …

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Hopefully you recognize the title of this post as a quote from one of the most entertaining movies of all time, "Midnight Run."

Hopefully you recognize the title of this post as a quote from one of the most entertaining movies of all time, “Midnight Run.”

News that should surprise practically nobody who follows Nats prospects dropped over the Labor Day weekend: 2017 lightning rod 1st rounder Seth Romero will likely miss the *entirety* of the 2019 season as he undergoes Tommy John surgery.

Just to recap Romero’s stellar tenure with the Nats thus far:

  • He gets kicked off his college team, multiple times for multiple different knuckle head moves (drugs, curfew, fighting with teammates, etc)
  • The Nats telegraph their 2017 first round pick to basically every draft-predicting pundit and select Romero with the 25th overall pick in the 1st round.
  • They pay him an *over slot* bonus for some fool reason, despite the fact that he (like a college senior) has no college team to return to.
  • He throws just 22 professional innings in 2017, including six short-A starts with a (short sample size ugly ERA of 5.40).
  • He’s sent home from spring training for “multiple team rule violations,” and misses fully two months of the 2018 minor league season.
  • He finally debuts in 2018 in Low-A (a 1st rounder of his stature should be in at least High-A in his first full pro season), throws 6 starts of 3.91 ERA.
  • He hits the D/L in early July, misses another 6 weeks
  • Comes back mid-August, throws 2 innings, is removed from the game … and then three weeks later we find out about his TJ.

Grand total pro starts to this point: 14 (two of which were of the 2-inning “pseudo start” varieties).  Age he’ll be in spring training 2020 when he’s ready to go again?  23, turning 24 as soon as the 2020 season starts.

Extent to which this entire situation has blown up in the Nats’ faces: very high.

I’m really beginning to question this group’s ability to execute on first rounders in the new CBA.  I focus on the 1st rounders because, really, that’s where you spend the most money and that’s really the one pick you cannot afford to screw up.  Here’s the Nats first picks since the new CBA went into effect:

  • 2012: Giolito, Renda, Mooneyham
  • 2013: No 1st rounder, Johansen, Ward
  • 2014: Fedde, Suarez (who didn’t sign), Reetz
  • 2015: No 1st rounder, Stevenson, Perkins, Wisemann
  • 2016: Kieboom, Dunning, Neuse, Luzardo
  • 2017: Romero, Crowe, Raquet
  • 2018: Denaburg, Cate, Schaller

I’m sorry, but tell me which of these sets of players is a “success?”  2012?  Nope; Giolito may pan out, maybe not, but he’s been at best the definition of inconsistent in 2018 … and for another team.  2013?  Absolutely not.  2014?  Fedde looks like maybe a 5th starter right now and Suarez didn’t sign; how do you not sign a 2nd rounder under the modern draft rules?  2015?  A 5th outfielder, a guy who may have peaked in low-A and a corner org-guy.  That’s not a win.

2016 looks pretty damn good … except that three of these four players were traded to other teams to make up for other team deficiencies!  Dunning is projecting like a mid-rotation guy perhaps, Neuse looks solid, but Luzardo is now being called perhaps the best lefty prospect in the minors.  All gone.  At least they managed to retain Kieboom.  But its ironic that perhaps their best draft in the last 7 years essentially ends up benefiting primarily other teams.  Ok, yes that’s unfair given that we traded these guys to get assets to help us now, but its worth noting that the two guys we flipped Neuse and Luzardo for are now traded and injured, and the guy we acquired for Dunning (and others) missed essentially the entirety of 2017.  Yeah you can’t predict injuries, blah, blah, but given how 2018 has turned out don’t you wish you had these moves back at this point?  Do you think this team would have done any differently in 2017 and 2018 without those moves?  Just a thought.

2017?  Crowe looks like a great pick.  Nothing personal against Raquet, but I hated the pick when it happened, and he’s done little to impress since.  In High-A this year he struck out just 36 guys in 55 innings, had a .319 Batting average against (giving up an astounding 72 hits in 55 innings) and finished the season with a 4.91 ERA (greatly helped by his managing to throw a 1-hit shut out his last start).  I mean, where do you go from here with him?  He’s not a starter; do you dump him to the bullpen and have him repeat High-A?

2018?  Obviously too soon to pass judgement, but where the hell is Denaburg?  He got assigned to the GCL team in mid July and never appeared.  Cate ended the year in the low-A rotation, which would normally indicate a nice season, but he posted ugly ERAs in both Short-A and Low-A with mediocre peripherals.  Schaller was drafted as a reliever but stretched out as a starter professionally and struggled; a 5.90 ERA and just 16 Ks in 29 short-A innings.  Not good.


Conclusion: I’m not sure this front office can draft anymore.  And after watching them him and haw at the trade deadline and then eventually get little to no return for departing vets, i’m not sure they are effectively managing things either.  And lastly, having the GM come in and trade away two veteran players in order to save his rookie manager’s face smacks of having your big older brother come in and slug the neighborhood bullies because you’re too weak to handle your own problems.

All in all, not a very good 2018.  I’ve been a defender of Mike Rizzo in the past, but a lot of these moves are reminders that  he has some weaknesses as an overall GM.  He’s now on his 6th manager in 10 years in charge (Acta, Riggleman, Johnson, Williams, Baker and now Martinez, not counting a few interim games post-Riggleman resignation).  He’s clearly struggling to handle the draft correctly.  Scott Boras routinely goes over his head to management to make bad moves (its no surprise that Romero was a Boras client), and as a result of poor roster construction they’ve gutted the farm system over the past few years only to completely lose the plot in 2018, the year they were supposed to win it all.

At what point do you really question the direction of this team under Rizzo?

 

Minor League Staffs – one month check-in

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Voth has completely remade his career in less than a month. Photo mlb.com official

Voth has completely remade his career in less than a month. Photo mlb.com official

I havn’t been doing regular check-ins with the minor league staffs for a few years, but I have always maintained little “cheat sheet” notes on the staffs of the levels day in/day out (thanks in no small part to the daily work of Luke Erickson over at Nationals Prospects of course).

It occurred to me, doing updates this week, that the four full season rotations have been about as stable as I can ever remember them this year.  So I thought i’d do a quick swing through the four staffs, with quick notes on who has looked good or bad and what we may see in terms of movement going forward.

Syracuse (stats link here: http://web.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=t_ibp&cid=552&stn=true&sid=t552)

  • Opening day rotation: Voth, Milone*, Fedde, EJackson, Vargas
  • Current rotation: Milone*, Voth, Fedde, EJackson, Vargas
  • spot starts/swingman: Simms, Goforth
  • bullpen: Collins*, Cordero, CSmith, Miller, Adams, Valdez
  • promotions: Torres, Gott, Suero
  • up-and-back: Adams, Voth
  • demotions: Long,
  • dl/restricted/TIL: Barrett, Satterwhite

Rotation thoughts: A month in and the only change we’ve seen to the AAA rotation was the flipping of Milone and Voth thanks to Voth’s brief call-up earlier this week.  Voth has absolutely re-made his career so far this year, going from possible “first man to be DFA’d” off the 40-man to a guy who is forcing his way into the conversation the next time the Nats need a starter.  For May he’s posted a 0.76 ERA, a 0.68 WHIP, has a 30/3 K/BB ratio in 23 innings and has given up just 13 hits.  Man, is he found gold for a team who has traded away an awful lot of pitching prospects over the past couple of seasons?

The veteran insurance policies Jackson and Milone are both pitching about as I’d expect them to be: Milone slightly better, with better base-runner control, Jackson with more wildness and worse stats.   Erick Fedde has not been either good or bad, giving up a hit an inning and maintaining a 4-1 K-BB ratio but not showing any real dominance.  My guess is that he’ll be sticking in AAA for a while.

The last guy in the rotation may be the most interesting: Cesar Vargas was a low-key spring MLFA signing after bouncing around San Diego’s system last year.  He’s come out in 2018 looking serviceable and might be putting himself ahead of the veterans in the pecking order.

Bullpen thoughtsJohn Simms has looked great in a long-man role.  He’s quietly been serviceable at every level in his journey upwards and you have to wonder if he’ll eventually push for a 9/1 call up.  Most of the rest of the bullpen is too SSS to make real judgements, though we have seen three relievers get pushed to the majors right now (Torres, Gott, Suero) and fourth who was up and is now in AAA (Adams).  Cordero still shows the same issues that have plagued him for a while; he’s got 16/8 K/BB in 11 innings.  Barrett remains  with the system and we hope he can get back to his former self; he’d certainly help out at the MLB level.

Who is making a push for promotion?  Voth

Who is in jeopardy of a demotion (or worse): Smith, Cordero


 

Harrisburg (stats = http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=t_ibp&did=milb&cid=547)

  • Opening day rotation: Dragmire, JRodriguez, Darnell*,  LReyes, Estevez
  • Current Rotation: Dragmire, JRodriguez, Long, LReyes, Estevez
  • spot starts/swingman: AWilliams, Darnell*
  • bullpen: Fleck, Guillon*, BHarper*, RMendez, Self,  Ames
  • promotions: Valdez
  • dl/restricted: Brinley, Bacus
  • Missing from 2017: NLee*

Rotation thoughts: The only substantive change in the rotation from the first pass through was to replace Darnell with Long.  Dragmire and Jefry Rodriguez  have both excelled thus far, though Rodriguez’s stats look more like a guy who might be pressing for promotion (more Ks, fewer hits).  Dragmire is showing more of what he displayed last year at AA and he may need the additional challenge of AAA soon.  Estevez and Reyes are not faring as well thus far, with elevated ERAs and WHIPs.  And Long, upon his demotion from AAA, has been poor in his three AA starts, with just 6 punch-outs and a 1.85 WHIP in 13 innings.  Rodriguez seems like the first starter in line for promotion.

Bullpen thoughts:  Austen Williams has looked great since getting moved out of the rotation.  Kaleb Fleck has some interesting stats: he’s got an 18/1 K/BB ratio in 10 innings but has an ugly 5.91 ERA (I’m sure his FIP is like 3 points lower).  Fleck is too good for AA; he spent all last  year in AAA and isn’t proving anything here.  Bryan Harper‘s return from injury is going ok .. he’s got nearly a 2.00 WHIP though.  Long serving Nats farmhand Dakota Bacus got shelled in four appearances and currently sits on the D/L; he had excellent numbers in 2017 but is getting a bit long in the tooth for AA and I wonder if he’s running out of time.  One big name still sits in XST: Nick Lee, who looked promising before injuries derailed his progress.

Who is making a push for promotion?   Fleck, JRodriguez, AWilliams

Who is in jeopardy of a demotion (or worse): Bacus



Potomac

(stats link: http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=t_ibp&did=milb&cid=436)

  • opening day rotation: Crownover*, Sharp, Baez, Mapes, Crowe
  • starters: Crownover*, Sharp, Baez, ?, Crowe
  • spot starts/swingmen: Pantoja, Howard*, Guilbeau*, McGowin
  • bullpen: JMills*, Bourque, Klobosits, RPena, Peterson, Rivera
  • demotions: Fuentes
  • dl/restricted: Borne*, Mapes
  • Missing: Romero*

Rotation thoughts: The only change to the opening day rotation literally happened yesterday, with Mapes dropping to the D/L and (likely)  McGowin (freshly taken off the AA D/L and demoted to Potomac) likely to take his place.  Mapes has the best starter ERA … but the worst WHIP.  Crownover may have the nicest looking stat line, with a nifty 28/4 K/BB ratio and solid peripherals.  Perhaps the most important high-A arm may be Wil Crowe and so far he’s more than handling high-A; the 2017 2nd rounder  has a great whip, good ratios and is looking like an excellent draft pick.   Baez and Sharp fill out the rest of the rotation; both showing mid 4 ERAs and not really being good enough or bad enough to comment on thus far.  The one big notable missing name here is Seth Romero, who should be featuring in this rotation as we speak but instead apparently still sits not at XST but at home in Houston.  Its hard to prove the “i told you so” guys wrong when it literally took less than a season for his well-publicized maturity issues to come to the forefront.

Bullpen thoughts:  Some good and some bad in the bullpen; Rivera and Howard have gotten dinged so far, while Bourque, Mills and Pantoja look solid.  Bourque in particular now boasts a 22/4 K/BB ratio in 12 relief innings; like that ratio.  36th rounder Klobosits still looking solid; how exactly was he still around that late in the draft if he’s already succeeding in high-A?

Who is making a push for promotion?  Bourque

Who is in jeopardy of a demotion (or worse): Rivera perhaps


 

Hagerstown (stats = http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=t_ibp&did=milb&cid=563

  • Opening day rotation: BHill/Braymer*, Raquet*/Acevedo, Tetreault/Bogucki, Alastre/Troop*, Stoeckinger*/Johnston
  • Current rotation: Troop*, Raquet*, Acevedo, Tetreault, Alastre, Stoeckinger*
  • spot starts/swingman: Johnston, Bogucki, Held, Braymer*
  • bullpen: McKinney, Brasher, Fuentes
  • promotions: Guilbeau*
  • dl/restricted: Howell, BHill
  • Cut/Released/FA from 2017: Engelbrekt (retired)
  • missing from 2017/XST: YRamirez*, DeRosier, CPena, Simonds, Barnett*, Morse, Dickey, WDavis,

Rotation thoughts: It was clear to this observer that the first few turns through the rotation were in the “tandem starter” configuration, with each of the names in the “opening rotation” throwing roughly 3-4 innings each.  That has now settled into the current 6-man rotation, all of which now seem to be getting the lion’s share of the innings each time through.   Of the “starters,” only really Raquet has acquitted himself well, though i’m concerned about the lack of swing and miss in his game (19/8 K/BB ratio in 27 innings supporting a 2.28 ERA and a 1.05 whip).  The rest of the starters are struggling: Stoeckinger hasn’t walked a soul yet in 24 innings … .but has given up 37  hits for an ugly 7.50 ERA.  Tetreault, Alastre and Acevedo  each have ERAs north of 7.00.   Troop and Hill (both 2017 top-10 round draftees) have been less bad but have room for improvement.

The “tandem” starters have been a different story though.  Bogucki and Braymer each have been solid, with Braymer sporting a 23/2 K/BB ratio and a 0.81 WHIP and Bogucki sporting a 20/3 K/BB ratio.  I wonder how long it’ll be before these guys become the “starters” instead of the “finishers.”

Bullpen thoughts: There’s really only a couple of real “relievers” in Low-A, but one of them has been quite solid.  McKinney has a 14/1 K/BB ratio in just 8 2/3 innings and has yet to give up an earned run.

There’s still a slew of guys technically in “XST” or assigned to the Short-A roster who could fill in here, most of whom have prior Low-A experience and could contribute.

Who is making a push for promotion?   Braymer, Bogucki, McKinney

Who is in jeopardy of a demotion (or worse): Acevedo, Alastre


 

That’s a quick run through the systems.  Did anyone want to point out someone in particular who they think needs to be talked about?

Nats 2017 Draft Class Wrap-Up

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Crowe signed for exactly slot. PHoto via d1baseball.com

Crowe signed for exactly slot. Photo via d1baseball.com

A quick summary of the Nats 2017 draft, now that the signing deadline has passed.

Here’s a link to my tracking XLS to show my work.  It has round, overall, slot figures, known bonuses, twitter accounts and some links for pertinent stories.

By my counts, here’s how the financials worked for this year’s draft:

  • $5,503,500: Nats bonus pool for the top 10 rounds and all overages in rounds 11-40.
  • $5,778,675: Bonus pool with 5% cushion (above 5% cushion they lose draft picks, below they just pay tax on the overage)
  • $5,673,800: total bonus figures paid to the top 10 rounds of players plus the over-slot deal given to 12th rounder Jackson Stoeckinger
  • $220,300: thus the amount they went over the official bonus pool
  • $54,875: the amount they left “on the table” under the 5% cushion figure (clearly not enough to get Montes de Oca).
  • $6,836,300: the total amount of (known) bonus dollars paid to all their signed players.  mlbpipeline.com did a good job this year getting bonuses for practically everyone who signed, unlike prior  years where anyone outside the top 10 remained mostly a mystery unless they were huge over-slot guys.

Over Slot deals:

  • 1st rounder: Seth Romero: $269,600 over slot.  We’ve discussed this ad-naseum; really have no idea how he was able to command an over-slot deal.
  • 7th rounder Jackson Tetreault: $121,900 over slot, a Juco guy with a commitment to USF that they had to buy him out of.
  • 9th rounder Alex Troop:  $47,000 over slot: a solid college junior with leverage to go back to school
  • 12th rounder Jackson Stoeckinger: $50,000 over slot to buy the Juco pitcher out of a commit to Kentucky.

Under slot deals:

  • 3rd rounder Nick Raquet, $47,300 under slot, though not nearly as much as I thought he’d be under.
  • 4th rounder Cole Freeman, $50,000 under slot, again a surprisingly high bonus figure paid out to a senior with no leverage.
  • 8th rounder Jared Brashner, $139,600 under slot, the classic senior sign to save cash for other acquisitions.
  • 10th rounder Trey Turner, $31,300 under slot to the TJ rehab pitcher who probably was happy to get what he got.

Some quick research on the seven guys who didn’t sign turned up a couple of useful links:

  • 24th rounder Tim Richards, a senior SS from Cal State Fullerton, has apparently elected to retire rather than take whatever miniscule bonus figure the Nats offered and show up to play in Florida.  That’s amazing to me.  He just finished a great CWS showing, clearly has talent, and i’m shocked he’s just hanging them up.  Why not give it at least one summer in pro ball?  You got drafted for crying out loud; you have the rest of your life to be an adult.
  • 34th rounder Bennett Sousa announced via Instagram the unshocking news that he’d return for his senior year.
  • No real surprises on the HSers who didn’t sign.  Only surprise really was how how high they took Dusty Baker‘s kid as a legacy draft.  I wonder if the Nats weren’t trying to make sure they got him rather than some of the other teams Baker has been associated with, so as not to be shown up with their manager, and that explains why he went so high.
  • No real surprise that Bryce Montes de Oca didn’t sign either, once it became clear that the nats 3rd and 4th rounders didn’t really result in that much savings.

GCL Nats Roster Announced … First look at the Pitchers

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2017 3rd rounder Nick Raquet starts in the GCL as one of its most intriguing arms. Photo via State College Pa

2017 3rd rounder Nick Raquet starts in the GCL as one of its most intriguing arms. Photo via State College Pa

They didn’t exactly “announce” the roster, but by virtue of the fact that the first GCL Nats game is today (6/27/17), we can take a look at the roster and see where things are shaking out.

Like we did last week with the Auburn/Short-A roster, lets take a look at who is starting on the named roster in the GCL.

  • Jared Brashner, 22, RHP 2017 8th round pick from Samford.  Senior sign so immediately too old for GCL, hopefully a quick stint before moving up to Short-A.  Also though a very underslot deal, so not a lot of expectations here.
  • Jake Cousins, 22, RHP 2017 20th round pick from Penn.  Also a senior sign, from a non-baseball Ivy league school and with a famous DC-area cousin.
  • Jose De Los Santos, 20, RHP, a 2015 IFA signing (Dominican Republic).  Was a middle reliever for the DSL Nats last year with middling results (4.01 ERA, 23/14 K/BB in 33 innings).
  • Nelson Galindez, 18, LHP 2017 22nd round pick out of a Florida HS.  Signed away from a JuCo commitment for the max allowable non top-10 round bonus ($125,000).  Its rate to see a high schooler picked in the 20th rounds to sign, but Galindez did.  Should be interesting to see what he has.
  • Darly Infante, 20, LHP 2016 IFA signing (Dominican Republic).  Started 12 games for DSL Nats last year with good numbers (2.94 ERA, 52/19 K/BB in 49IP).
  • Jose Jimenez, 20, LHP 2013 IFA signing (Dominican Republic).  Three year veteran of the DSL, working mostly later inning relief but not with the dominant K/9 numbers you’d like to see.
  • Jared  Johnson, 21, LHP 2017 17th rounder out of a Florida Juco.  Old for a Juco guy (he turns 22 in September) , hoping to see him pitch his way out of GCL soon.
  • Kyle Johnston, 20, RHP 2017 6th rounder out of Texas.  Texas’ Sunday starter put up decent numbers his junior year, finished strong (his final college game was a 7ip 3run performance in the regionals) and signed for slot as a 6th rounder.  Like others, probably shouldn’t be in the GCL as a starter from a big12 college.
  • Gabe Klobosits, 22, RHP 2017 36th rounder from Auburn.  Mostly a reliever for Auburn (a handful of mid-week starts), a 36th round senior sign who probably doesn’t have much in the way of expectations.
  • Jesus Luzardo, 19, LHP 2016 3rd rounder.  This is the big name on the roster that everyone is waiting to see.  Luzardo was a HUGE overslot guy in 2016, getting a $1.4M bonus commensurate with the top of the 2nd round and signing him away from a Miami commitment.  He has recovered from his Tommy John surgery and this will be his first test.
  • Jeremy McKinney, 22 RHP 2017 31st rounder from Indiana State.  As with several other senior signs, McKinney likely has the next couple of months to keep his spot.
  • Francys Peguero, 21, RHP 2013 IFA signing (Dominican Republic).  Split time last year between GCL and Short-A, starts the year on the D/L.
  • Nector Ramirez, 20, RHP 2013 IFA signing (Dominican Republic).  Missed all of 2016 with a rotator cuff tear after two so-so seasons in the DSL.  Should be interesting to see if he’s come back from a tough injury.
  • Nick Raquet, 21, LHP 2017 3rd round pick from William & Mary.  Signed slightly underslot deal; i’ve been critical of this pick and am quite curious to see how he does.  The fact that a 3rd round collegiate junior pick is starting in the GCL is already a bad sign for me.
  • David Smith, 22, RHP 2017 25th rounder from Long Beach State.  Good baseball school, good pedigree, but Smith is a 25th round senior sign so expectations are limited.
  • Leif Strom, 20 RHP 2017 21st round out of a Washington JuCo.  Sizeable bonus for the 20th round, should be interesting to see what he has.   Unfortunately his first move is to go onto the D/L, where he starts his pro career.
  • Jackson Tetreault, 21, RHP 2017 7th rounder out of a Florida JuCo.  Took an over-slot deal closer to 5th round money to buy him out of a USF commit.   I’m going to struggle to spell his name correctly in this blog for a while.
  • Alex Troop, 20, LHP 2017 9th round pick out of Michigan State.  Troop was Michigan’s friday starter and signed an overslot deal to come to the Nats.  I look forward to seeing what he has.
  • Trey Turner, 21, RHP 2017 10th rounder out of Missouri State.  Turner was looking like a solid member of Missouri State’s bullpen before heading to TJ surgery; he starts on the D/L and we won’t see him til this time in 2018.
  • Ryan Williamson, 22 LHP 2015 15th rounder from NC State.

 

Not listed here is Weston Davis, who is on the GCL roster officially doing a rehab assignment.

They don’t really do starters and relievers in the GCL; instead you see a lot of 3 inning stints from multiple arms.  So we won’t try to name a “rotation” here.  But squinting here i’d go with Infante, Johnston, Luzardo, Tetreault, Troop as my rotation.  (note: i’m writing this prior to seeing who pitches in the first game, so apologies if this is already wrong).

Breakdown of Arms:

  • 21 arms; 3 on the D/L, 1 on rehab assignment.
  • Average Age: 20 years, 8 months.  So that’s kind of old, but what are you going to do when you draft a gazillion college arms right?
  • Of the 20 non-rehab/rostered players: 8 lefties, 12 righties
  • Acquisition method breakdown:
    • 13 of the 20 arms are 2017 draftees
    • 2 others are from prior drafts (Luzardo and Williamson)
    • 5 are IFAs; 4 of them are DSL grads from last year, one (Peguero) who has been in-country for a bit but is hurt.

Who is still missing?  Not too many:

  • Jeremy McDonald was at one point on the GCL roster but has been put back into XST as far as I can tell.
  • Some trickling in 2017 signees: Brigham Hill (who was at the CWS) and Jackson Stoeckinger.
  • A few guys that seemed likely to matriculate to the GCL but who seem to be repeating DSL: Amoroso, CFlores, AMartinez.

Who am I really interested in seeing?  Luzardo first and foremost, Raquet, Johnston, Infante, Tetreault and Troop.  Basically all the guys who I think project as starters, plus the controversial 2017 pick Raquet.

 

Nats 2017 Draft Class; whole lotta College Arms

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So, is 2017 a one-player draft again? Photo via UHcougars.com

So, is 2017 a one-player draft again? Photo via UHcougars.com

We already did a quick reaction to the first day/first two picks and then the top 10 rounds.  Here’s a more holistic look at our 2017 draft class.  The team announced yesterday that it had already signed an amazing 25 guys, and I think that number is likely to rise to at least 33 players (assuming all top 10 round players and all College seniors sign).  That’s quite a few more than I initially projected.

I did want to make a statement though, following up on a back-and-forth in the comments on previous posts about 3rd rounder Nick Raquet (who, unsurprisingly to me, has already signed though no word on his bonus amount).  Some asked why I was so critical of the pick.  We’ll, here’s why: its about opportunity cost.  Raquet was indeed ranked on some boards (#145 in BA’s pre-draft list) but was absent from practically every other credible draft service (MLBpipeline.com for example ranked 200 players and didn’t rank him at all).   ESPN/Keith Law, MinorLeagueBall, 20/80 and Fangraphs all had him totally off their lists.  Baseball Draft Report had him in the 300s.

The Nats drafted him #103 overall, at the end of the 3rd round.

I have nothing against Raquet personally, nor his school in general (which I denigrated during the comments due to its lack of baseball pedigree).  What I have a problem with is taking a player in the third round who:

a) was a far inferior player versus where he was drafted,

b) if the team really, really wanted him would have been available probably 3 or 4 rounds later, and

c) the team chose to take in lieu of many, many better ranked players at the time of the pick.

You could make the same arguments, by the way, about our 4th rounder: a senior in Cole Freeman who again by BA’s rank was drafted at least two rounds too early and by anyone else’s rankings was drafted 5 rounds too early.

The drafting of these two players in the 3rd and 4th cost the team the opportunity to draft two far, far better players in those slots.  I don’t have a problem punting draft picks in the 6-10th round range if you’ve drafted quality players in 1-5 … but to purposely punt on 3rd and 4th round implies that their round 1 and 2 picks (Seth Romero and Wil Crowe) were both going to be over slot guys.  And that astounds me; Romero was kicked off his college team; how is he in a position to command more dollars than his slot?  Where’s he gonna player if he doesn’t sign?  Indy ball?  And Crowe is a 4th year player with a TJ on his resume who I suppose could go back for a 5th collegiate season, but really that’d be flushing a crucial year of development down the tubes, plus burning a year on his surgically repaired arm … with little chance he could improve his bonus amount or draft ranking over where he got drafted this year.  How are either guy demanding over-slot money?

I liken the situation to playing Fantasy sports.  When your buddy in your league drafts a kicker in the 8th round you mock him mercilessly.  Why?  Because that same kicker was going to be there 4 rounds later and because wasting an 8th round pick on a kicker is a sign of poor team management and a lack of understanding of how fantasy works.  Its the same thing wasting a 3rd rounder in the fashion the team just did.

So, frustration over punting two high draft picks so as to pay two other high draft picks more money than I think they’re worth leads me to the end of this diatribe.  We’ll have our answer soon enough; if Raquet signs for a piddling amount of money (his slot value is $522,300), and if Freeman similarly signs for under-slot (he’s at $390,000) then you’ll have confirmation of the punting on these picks.  I suppose both guys could sign for at or near slot, which would imply that they were worth the draft pick; if that happens i’ll be shocked.


 

Anyway, back to the draft class review overall.  Here’s a quick table 1-40 before doing some breakdowns:

 

RoundOverallNamePositionCol/HSCollege or CmtmStateSlot Value
125Seth RomeroLHPCol JrHoustonTX2530400
265Wil CroweRHPCol SrSouth CarolinaSC946500
3103Nick RaquetLHPCol JrWilliam & MaryVA522300
4133Cole Freeman2BCol SrLSULA390000
5163Brigham HillRHPCol JrTAMUTX291200
6193Kyle JohnstonRHPCol JrTexasTX226100
7223Jackson TetreaultRHPJ2State Col Florida ManateeFL178100
8253Jared BrashnerRHPCol SrSamford Fl149600
9283Alex TroopLHPCol JrMichigan StateMI138000
10313Trey TurnerRHPCol JrMissouri StateMO131300
11343Justin ConnellOFHSAmerican Heritage SchoolFL
12373Jackson StoeckingerLHPJ2Col of Central FloridaFL
13403Eric SeniorOFJ2Midland ColTX
14433Anthony PeroniCJ2Mercer County CCNJ
15463Bryce Montes de OcaRHPCol JrMissouriMO
16493Jake Scudder1BCol SrKansas St UKS
17523Jared JohnsonLHPJ1Palm Beach State ColFL
18553Nick ChorubyOFCol SrTexas A&M UTX
19583Jonathan PryorOFCol SrWake Forest UNC
20613Jake CousinsRHPCol SrPennsylvaniaPA
21643Leif StromRHPJ2Pierce CollegeWA
22673Nelson GalindezLHPHSHaines City HSFL
23703Jamori Blash1BJ2Cochise ColGA
24733Tim RichardsSSCol SrCal State FullertonCA
25763David SmithRHPCol SrCal St Long BeachCA
26793Kameron EsthayOFCol SrBaylor UTX
27823Darren BakerSSHSJesuit HSCA
28853Nic PerkinsCCol JrDrury UniversityMO
29883Alex DunlapCCol SrStanfordCA
30913Austin GuiborOFCol JrFresno St UCA
31943Jeremy McKinneyRHPCol SrIndiana St UIN
32973Phil Caulfield2BCol SrLoyola Marymount UCA
331003Adalberto CarrilloCCol JrU Southern CaliforniaCA
341033Bennett SousaLHPCol JrVirginiaVA
351063Jackson Cramer1BCol SrWest VirginiaWV
361093Gabe KlobositsRHPCol SrAuburnAL
371123Kody Gratkowski3BHSFairhope HSAL
381153Jake BooneSSHSTorrey Pines HSCA
391183Kai NelsonOFHSFieldston HSNY
401213Max EngelbrektLHPCol Sr5Oregon St UOR

Here’s some breakdowns (note I wrote this prior to the team signing a bunch of these Juco guys plus a couple of HS guys):

  • 11 College Juniors, 16 College Seniors/5th year Seniors, 7 JuCo guys, 6 High Schoolers
  • 20 Pitchers, 20 hitters.  The pitchers broke down 12 RHP, 8 LHP.
  • 9 of the top 10 rounds are pitchers though: these are the guys nearly guaranteed to sign.
  • I count about 29 that i think are locks to sign; every guy in the first 20 rounds, plus all the 9 college seniors drafted in rounds 21-40.
    • Of these 29 guys: 17 are arms, 12 are bats.
  • I’m only guessing that one Prep guy signs: 11th rounder Justin Connell.
  • I count at least 4 under-slot guys: Nick RaquetCole Freeman ,8th rounder Jared Brashner and 10th rounder Trey Turner.  So that’s where the cost savings will come from to pay Romero, Crowe and perhaps Connell.

So, even though the draft splits even 20/20 bats and arms its heavily tilted at the top and in the signability department towards arms.  This should make for some serious carnage in the lower ends of our minor league ranks.  The Auburn roster is half stocked with late-round college seniors drafted in 2016 and rising IFAs from the DSL last year; I could see some moving of those guys down to GCL as needed and a shedding of 20th-some round 2016 signees to make room for all the guys they’ve picked up this year.  But the more I look at this draft, the more it looks like a one or two-player draft at the top.  Is that ok?  Sure; it is basically what the team did in the Lucas Giolito draft, and the industry was on record saying that the strength this year was college arms.  It should be interesting to see how quickly Romero moves up the ranks.

 

First Look: Quick overview of Nats top 10 Draft picks for 2017

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Will Crowe was our 2nd rounder. PHoto via SportsTalk

Will Crowe was our 2nd rounder. Photo via SportsTalk

Here’s a first look at our top 10 draft picks, or where we stand after day 2.

At the top of round 1, a last minute switch led to a surprise first name being selected: Royce Lewis went 1-1 instead of one of the two big college arms being rumored there all week; twitter reportedly had Brendan McKay rejecting an underslot deal at 1-1 and thus falling to 4th … where he’ll still get paid.  Nonetheless, the top 5 ended up being the same top-5 on nearly every mock draft … just in a different order.

How about the Nats picks?  Lets just say there was some back and forth among the pundits about these top 10 picks.

RoundOverallNamePositionCol/HSCollege or CmtmStateSlot Value
125Seth RomeroLHPCol JrHoustonTX2530400
265Wil CroweRHPCol SRSouth CarolinaSC946500
3103Nick RaquetLHPCol JrWilliam & MaryVA522300
4133Cole Freeman2BCol SRLSULA390000
5163Brigham HillRHPCol JrTAMUTX291200
6193Kyle JohnstonRHPColl JrTexasTX226100
7223Jackson TetreaultRHPJ2State Col Florida ManateeFL178100
8253Jared BrashnerRHPCol SrSamford Fl149600
9283Alex TroopLHPCol Jr.Michigan StateMI138000
10313Trey TurnerRHPCol Jr.Missouri StateMO131300

Pick by Pick: if they’re ranked on the main prospect ranking sites I like (see links at bottom):

  • 1st Round/#25 overall: Seth Romero, LHP UHouston. (Espn #59, MLBPipeline #25, BA #27, Minorleague #29, BDR #49, 2080 #30).  Well, the worrisome situation came to pass; the Nats couldn’t help themselves and drafted perhaps the draft’s biggest knucklehead.  His list of transgressions at Houston were large and dumb; fights with teammates, weight/conditioning issues, drug issues.  Prior to the spring, he was easily a top-10 talent, with early projections having him going as high as 6th overall.  He’s a power-lefty; works 92-95, touches 97 and per MLB already has two 60-grade pitches.  He kind of reminds you body-wise of Chad Cordero, with mechanics kind of like Drew Storen.  He’s got a very quick arm, is a big-body kid who might still need some conditioning work, but whose mechanics may give him some issues later on.  I don’t like the pick for the character issues; the Nats left one big college arm who I would have preferred in Alex Lange, but the guy I really liked here (Tanner Houck) went the pick before, so perhaps that sewed up the Nats choices.
  • 2nd/#65: Wil Crowe, RHP from South Carolina.  (Espn #43, MLBpipeline #44, BA #47, MinorLeague #30, BDR #185, 2080 #51):   A guy who I saw in some mock drafts going to the Nats at #25 overall falls somehow to #65 overall, despite nearly every ranking system having him 20 picks higher.  Crowe is a TJ survivor (aren’t they all these days?), with a 65 fastball and a couple of 55s on his other tools who was solid if unspectacular for USC this year.  Big guy, big arm, physical comparison to Joe Blanton.  I like this as a safe pick.
  • 3rd/#103: Nick Raquet, LHP from William & Mary.  BA #145, BDR #348.  A lefty weekend starter from a bad baseball school in a small baseball conference.  Raquet had good K/9 numbers, but also horrible BB/9 numbers, had an ERA in the 4s and was a non-entity on the rankings.  Where is this pick coming from?  He wasn’t anywhere even listed on the Virginia-only prospects lists on the various sites.  A cost-savings pick?  There’s still significant talent on the board, not the least of which is Tristan Beck from Stanford; is his injury worse than people thought?
  • 4th/#133: Cole Freeman, 2B senior from LSU.  BDR #429.  BA #166.  A senior sign, twitter reports that he’s 5’9″, has a short compact swing, can hit, has blazing speed, is high-energy and is plus-plus make-up.  Sounds great; this is a fourth round pick?  Sounds like an 8th rounder.  Still not sure what the Nats are doing.
  • 5th/#163: Brigham Hill, Jr RHP from TAMU.  BA #346.  MLB #159.  BDR #171.  Texas A&M’s #1/friday starter, went 8-3 with a 3.16 era in the tough SEC.  Smaller guy, throws low 90s.  50s on most of his pitches, plus change up.  I like a guy like this; he reminds me of Austin Voth in terms of draft pedigree and collegiate accomplishment.
  • 6th/#193: Kyle Johnston JR RHP from Texas.  BA #250, MLB #136, BDR #492.  Weekend starter who bounced around roles for Texas this year but had some very solid outings against good Big12 competition.  Not a ton of K/9, but two grade 60 pitches (fastball and cutter).  Profiles as a reliever, both by pitch capability and by stature (6’0″ right hander).  Not a bad pick here.
  • 7th/#223: Jackson Tetreault, J2 RHP from State College of Florida Manatee – Sarasota.  BA #286.  I’m not a BA subscriber so I can’t read the scouting report, but his peripherals at his Juco (where a few others are getting drafted) are solid.  Worked as a starter, big K/9 numbers.
  • 8th/#253: Jared Brashner.  Coll Sr RHP from Samford.  BA #430.  We’re clearly in the senior sign territory; Brashner’s a reliever from Samford with nearly a walk an inning to go along with 46 Ks in 30 relief innings.
  • 9th/#283: Alex Troop, Coll Jr LHP from Michigan State.  BA #179 BDR #184.  Solid lefty with good numbers this year.  Not a bad 9th round pick, one who still rates on BA’s list.
  • 10th/#313: Trey Turner, Coll Jr LHP from Missouri State.  Unranked anywhere, limited time this year ; just 13 IP but 22 Ks in those 13 innings and a stellar BAA.  Didn’t pitch after March because … he tore his UCL.  So there’s your annual Nat draftee with TJ surgery.

First 10 rounds worth of picks breakdown:

  • 9 arms, 1 position player.
  • 10 college (1 juco), zero prep.
  • A few picks that seem like clear money savers: Raquet, Brashner, perhaps also Freeman.
  • Heavy influence in the South East: 6 of the 10 picks come from Texas, Louisiana or Florida).

Conclusion: We’ve talked about the risk of Romero.  I liked the Crowe pick.  I question the Raquet and Freeman picks.  I liked the two SEC starter picks in rounds 5 and 6, and I liked the 9th and 10th rounders too as good risks.  Clearly this draft is about arms for the Nats after picking mostly positional players in 2016.  No screwing around with prep players; they drafted a bunch of college guys to try to get them to the majors more quickly, likely to fill voids coming up in the next couple of years.

What do you guys think of it?


Draft Links of Use

  1. Mlbpipeline’s Draft Tracker for 2017
  2. All 10 rounds of slot bonus figures for 2017
  3. BA’s draft database, including link to get BPA
  4. Perfect Game to get profiles on more obscure draftees.

Draft Rankings referred to within here: