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?

 

2018 CWS Super-Regionals recap, CWS field and predictions

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CWS-2018_calendar-narrow

(Just realized I forgot to post this earlier this week!  CWS started yesterday; this is a recap of the super regionals with predictions and key names to watch in the CWS).

Here’s a recap of our CWS coverage so far for 2018:


CWS Super Regionals were played this past weekend.

Super Regional Recaps:  I’ve got these ordered by they way they’ll be playing into the CWS field (i.e. by bracket, with former Natioanl seeds 1,8,5,4 in the top and 6,3,7,2 in the bottom).  And this is the order they’re listed on d1baseball’s Tourney Central, the quickest way to find results.

  • #1 Florida vs Auburn: Brady Singer overcame a leg injury in the first to throw a quality start while his offense spoiled Casey Mize‘s likely final collegiate start to get Game 1.  In game 2, Auburn could do nothing with Jackson Kowar, but got two runs late including a walk-off in the 9th to force a decided against Florida’s closer.   The two teams played a classic 3rd game, with Florida eventually advancing on a walk-off homer in the 11th to advance to Omaha for the fourth year in a row.
  • Duke vs #9 Texas Tech:  Texas Tech got the first game 6-4.   Duke pounded them 11-2 to force the decider.  There, Texas Tech won 6-2 to advance.
  • #5 Arkansas vs South Carolina: Arkansas showed why they’re a tough out, with their offense lighting up in a game one win 9-3.  Nats 10th rounder Carson Shaddy was a huge factor here, hitting a bases-clearing double in the 7th to break open the game.  In game 2, South Carolina got a solid start from Reservoir HS grad Cody Morris to force the deciding 3rd game (Note: Shaddy again had a solid game for Arkansas, and our 15th rounder Evan Lee got into the game as a match-up lefty for one batter).  In the decider, Arkansas jumped on South Carolina early and cruised 14-4 to earn a trip to Omaha.  Shaddy had another huge game with 3 RBIs.
  • Tennessee Tech vs #13 Texas: Tennessee Tech upset Texas 5-4 in the opener.  Texas won game two 4-2 to force a deciding third game.  There, Texas took the series against pesky Tennessee Tech to advance.
  • #3 Oregon State vs #14 Minnesota: OSU continued their dominant post-season by beating Minnesota 8-1 in the first game behind nearly a CG from OSU ace and lightening rod Luke Heimlich.  They had to work a bit harder in game 2, but Oregon State still advanced to their 2nd straight CWS 6-3.
  • #6 UNC vs #11 Stetson: UNC got to Stetson 1st rounder Logan Gilbert, putting 4 runs on him in 5 innings and holding on for the game 1 victory.  UNC made quick work of Stetson in Game 2 to advance to the CWS.
  • Mississippi State vs Vanderbilt: In a game dominated by poor pitching and errors, Mississippi State’s junior undrafted outfielder Elijah Macnamee hit a walk-off 2-run homer to take game one.  Vanderbilt scored 3 runs late, including a walk-off homer in the 9th, to take game 2; our two Vandy picks Reid Schaller and Chandler Day got the hold and the win by pitching the 8th and 9th in this gameMississippi State took game 3, getting a couple runs off of Day’s long-relief effort but exploding for four runs in the 11th to advance.
  • Cal State Fullerton vs Washington: UWash got to CSF starter Colton Eastman in the 7th, and put enough runs on the board to make the lead stick in game 1.  Fullerton got revenge in game two 5-2 and forced the decider.  There though, Washington won in extra innings to advance to their first ever CWS.

My CWS Predictions: Florida, Texas Tech, Arkansas, Texas on one side, Oregon State, Stetson, Vanderbilt, Cal-State Fullerton on the other.

Actuals: Florida, Texas Tech, Arkansas, Texas on the top, Oregon State, UNC, Mississippi State, Washington on the bottom.

I got the whole upper bracket right, whiffed on most of the lower bracket.

 


CWS Field and Profiles

Top Bracket:

  • #1 Florida: 47-19 overall, 20-10 in the SEC.  1st place SEC-East regular season.
  • #9 Texas Tech: 44-18 overall, 15-9 in Big-12.  3rd place Big-12 regular season.
  • #5 Arkansas; 43-19 overall, 18-12 in the SEC.  2nd place SEC-West regular season.
  • #13 Texas: 42-21 overall, 17-7 in Big-12.  1st place Big-12 regular season.

Bottom Bracket

  • #3 Oregon State: 49-10-1, 20-9-1 in the Pac-12.   2nd place, Pac-12 regular season.
  • #6 UNC: 43-18 overall, 22-8 in the ACC.  1st Place ACC-Coastal division regular season.
  • Mississippi State; 37-27 overall, 15-15 in the SEC.  5th Place, SEC-West division regular season.
  • Washington: 35-24 overall, 20-10 in the Pac-12

CWS field review by the numbers

  • SEC: 3 teams
  • Pac12: 2 team
  • ACC: 1 teams
  • Big12: 2 teams
  • National top 8 Seeds: 3
  • Regional Hosts (i.e. top 16 seeds): 6
  • First time programs: 1 (Washington)

CWS Field thoughts

An interesting field.   The entire bottom half of the tourney was decided before any of the upper half, as six of the eight super-regionals went the full 3 games.  At first glance, its easy to predict the two best teams here (Florida and Oregon State).  But its hard to not see what Mississippi State has done lately.  They finished 15-15 in SEC play … but that included them sweeping both Arkansas and Florida late just to get their league record up to .500.  They’re incredibly hot, just flipped the script on Vanderbilt, and is not a team i’d want to mess with right now.  The upper bracket has more seeds, but the lower bracket might be a tougher road for the favorite Oregon State.

Florida beat Arkansas 2 of 3 in their season series, but it was in Florida.  On a neutral field its hard to say who might win.  In the bottom , Oregon State will open with conference rival Washington, who they took 2 of 3 against (again at home).   Its hard to see a Texas-Texas Tech rematch but if they do meet, Texas took 2/3 on Texas Tech’s field and should be slightly favored on a neutral field.

Quick predictions:

Final: Oregon State over Florida.

Player Star power in this CWS: By team, here’s the top-end draft talents

  • Florida features top picks Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Jonathan India
  • Texas Tech’s top pick was a Supplemental 2nd rounder Grant Little.
  • Arkansas had three upper round picks: 3rd rounder Blaine Knight, 4th rounder Eric Cole and 5th round C Grant Koch.
  • Texas’ highest draft pick is the son of Roger ClemensKody Clemens, drafted in the 3rd round.  Also features role player Andy McGuire, from Madison HS in Vienna, drafted in the 28th round.
  • Oregon State features Nick Madrigal (#4 overall), plus 1st-day picks Trevor Larnach and Cayden Grenier, as well as the controversial 1st round talent Luke Heimlich.
  • UNC had just one top 10 round pick, RHP 6th rounder Rodney Hutchinson.
  • Mississippi State’s ace Konner Plikington slipped to the 3rd round.
  • Washington had and 8th rounder A.J. Graffiano and a 9th rounder Willie MacIver.

Nats 2018 Draftees in the CWS: thanks to the Nats strategy of drafting only College players, they drafted a ton of guys who are playing in Omaha.  By team:

  • #5 Arkansas features 10th rounder Carson Shaddy, the Arkansas starting 2B as well as our 15th rounder Evan Lee, a role-player on the team this year.  Shaddy had a massive super-Regional at the plate and will look to continue in the CWS.

College CWS tournament references:

First Look: Quick overview of Nats top 10 Draft picks for 2018

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Mason Denaburg is our 2018 first rounder. Photo via usatodayhss.com

Mason Denaburg is our 2018 first rounder. Photo via usatodayhss.com

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

At the top of round 1, the first four picks went pretty much as expected by the major pundits: Mize, Bart, Bohm, Madrigal.  From there we saw surprises, big names drop and some real value for teams later on day one.

How about the Nats picks?

RoundOverallNamePositionCol/HSCollege or CmtmState
127Denaburg, MasonRHPHSFloridaFL
265Cate, TimLHPColl JrUconnCT
3101Schaller, ReidRHPColl SoVanderbiltTN
4131Irvin, JakeRHPColl JrOklahomaOK
5161Canning, GageOFColl JrArizona StateAZ
6191Karp, AndrewRHPColl SrFlorida StateFL
7221Day, ChandlerRHPColl JrVanderbiltTN
8251Cropley, TylerCColl SrIowaIA
9281Driskill, TannerRHPColl SrLamarTX
10311Shaddy, Carson2BColl SrU Arkansas FayettevilleAR

Pick by Pick:  I’ve included draft board rankings if they’re ranked on the main prospect ranking sites I like (see links at bottom for the sources);

  • 1st Round/#27 overall: Mason Denaburg, prep RHP from FL high school with Florida commit. (#29 ESPN/Law, #24 MLBpipeline, #16 Fangraphs, #69 BDR, #13 20/80).  Draft Announcement link.  Mid-1st round pick before a bicep tendinitis issue dropped him to the point where most every major draft pundit was predicting the Nats would grab him.   Under-18 Team USA member.   This pick is consistent with the behavior we saw when the team selected Lucas Giolito; high-value guy getting picked about 15 spots lower than he should have.  Look for an over-slot bonus here to buy him out of his Florida committment/make up for his falling on the boards.  I like this pick; his fastball is mid-90s and lively, his mechanics are clean and easy, and his curve breaks very hard.   A nice profile with some good video is at Minorleagueball.com here.  A couple of the draft ranking boards really rated Denaburg, while others had him ranked about where he went.
  • 2nd Round/#65 overall: Tim Cate, LHP coll Jr from UConn. (#65 ESPN/Law, #62 MLBpipeline, #80 Fangraphs, #57 BDR, #79 20/80 ).  Draft announcement link.  pick I like: Cate missed time this year with an injury, which again cost him slots.  So the Nats get a guy perhaps a round early, tough to do in the second round.  I think this is a solid pick; he was on Team USA last summer at the same time Denaburg was on the under-18 squad.  The various rankings are all projecting him 2nd to 3rd round, the Nats picked him at #65 so that’s right in-line with projections.
  • 3rd Round/#101: Reid Schaller RHP Coll Soph from Vanderbilt (#71 ESPN/Law, #157 MLBPipeline); Vanderbilt reliever red-shirt freshman/sophomore who missed two whole years with TJ surgery … but sits mid 90s, hits 99 and pitched out of Vanderbilt’s bullpen this year.  36Ks in 26 innings, big arm but got hit this year.  Law is bullish on him and I wonder if he’s destined for the rotation or the pen.  As a red-shirt freshman I wonder if he’s signable: doe he want more time at school?  Of course, in today’s world, teams call ahead and basically ask a kid, “will you sign for $X?”  and if they say yes, they get picked.  This definitely isn’t a throw-away pick, but may be destined quickly for the bullpen.
  • 4th Round/#131: Jake Irvin, RHP Coll Jr. from Oklahoma (#76 ESPN/Law, #152 MLBPipeline): Oklahoma’s friday starter is huge (6’6″), sits in low 90s and had an excellent junior year.  No injury history, just a solid college guy with a high floor but low ceiling.
  • 5th Round/#161: Gage Canning OF (CF) Coll JR. from Arizona State (#106 MLBPipeline).  3-year starter with solid numbers at Arizona State, moved to CF this year from the corner.  Slashed .369/.426/.648 in the Pac-12 (a good but not SEC-level baseball conference).   Lots of Ks though; nearly one a game in college, which would be fine if it was accompanied by more homers.
  • 6th Round/#191: Andrew Karp, RHP Coll Sr From Florida State (NR).  Weekend starter for #7 CWS seeded Florida State with decent numbers on the year.  A College senior but I don’t think this is a dumped draft pick; perhaps he goes under-slot somewhat but he looks like a solid pick here.  Not ranked/rated anywhere but you’re not a weekend starter for a top-10 team unless you’re good.
  •  7th Round: #221: Chandler Day, RHP Coll Jr from Vanderbilt (NR).  Used kind of as a swing man by Vandy this year (he had 3 starts and 18 appearances), again with decent numbers.   Little else known; not ranked/discussed by the regular scouting circuits.
  • 8th Round/#251: Tyler Cropley, C Coll Sr from Iowa.  This one screams senior sign/bonus savings/make sure you get a catcher for your Short-A team.
  • 9th Round/#281: Tanner Driskill, RHP  Coll Sr from Lamar University in Texas.  Another low-leverage senior, but he was Lamar’s friday starter for most of the second half of this year.  I’ll take an Ace senior sign/9th rounder any day.
  • 10 Round/#311: Carson Shaddy, 2B Coll Sr from U Arkansas-Fayetteville.  Similar to Cropley, a senior sign middle infielder type for your Auburn 2018 squad.

First 10 rounds worth of picks breakdown:

  • 7 arms, 3 position player.perhaps
  • 9 college (0 juco), 1 high schooler.
  • At least 3 money-saving senior sign picks: their 8th, 9th and 10th rounders.
  • Heavy influence from major college programs: Florida, two from Vanderbilt, Oklahoma, Arizona State, Florida State.

Conclusion: I liked the first two picks.  There were some more “famous” names available/on the board at #27 that some may have preferred, but the Nats clearly rated Denaburg as a value pick and got good value on him.  I like the Tate pick; a team-USA guy in the second round who has good stuff.  I like the 3rd rounder for value; big arm, not a ton of mileage, and I like getting a big-time team’s friday starter in the 4th round; it reminds me of their A.J. Morris pick a few years back in the same position.  They also picked up a weekend starter for a top-10 ACC team and the friday-ace for a smaller Texas team.

What do you guys think of it?


Draft Links of Use

  1. Mlbpipeline’s Draft Tracker for 2018 for the Nats picks.
  2. All 10 rounds of slot bonus figures for 2018
  3. BA’s draft database with search options by team, state, etc.
  4. Perfect Game to get profiles on more obscure draftees.

Draft Rankings referred to within here: