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Syracuse/AAA Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2015

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Espino probably had your best overall season out of the AAA staff. Photo via milb.com

Espino probably had your best overall season out of the AAA staff. Photo via milb.com

After skipping the minor league pitching staff reviews in 2014 (that silly thing called work interfered), I’m back for 2015.  I’ll be reviewing the six minor league levels and the major league levels going from high to low.  In this series, we have already published the MLB version for 2015.

For some historical perspective, here’s 2013’s version (featuring Tanner Roark), here’s 2012’s version (featuring John Lannan) and 2011’s version (featuring Tommy Milone) of this post for AAA Syracuse.  In the missing 2014 post I likely would have “featured” either Taylor Hill or Rafael Martin.

All stats are courtesy of either milb.com’s Syracuse Stats page or via Fangraph’s Syracuse Stats page.   Also useful here are the Big Board and the Nats Draft Tracker.  And here’s the Baseball America Minor League Free Agent (MLFA) tracker.  And here’s a list of the official MLB MLFA declarations for 2015.

Syracuse Pitching Staff movement throughout the year (* == lefty)

  • Opening Day Rotation: Cole, Jordan, THill, McGregor, Billings
  • Closing Day Rotation:  Espino, Bleier*, McGregor , THill, Jordan (Cole 9/1 callup)
  • End of Season Swingmen: Walters, Billings
  • End of Season bullpen:   Runion,  Gutierrez, Harper*
  • 9/1 promotions: Solis*, Martin, Grace*, Cole
  • Mid-Season Promotions: Rivero*,  Ross, Treinen
  • Up-and-back: Martin, Grace*, Cole, Jordan, THill, Solis* (not counting 9/1 call-ups)
  • Down-and-back: Bleier*, Runion
  • Demotions: Spann* (was up for spot start), AWilliams (up for spot start),  EDavis, Demny,
  • DL/restricted: Swynenberg
  • Cut/released: Delcarmen, Lively (Japan), RHill*, Simmons, Meek (Korea), Valverde (opt-out), Fornataro

Syracuse starters.  The rotation started the season with Cole, Jordan, Hill, McGregor, and Billings.  It finished the year with Espino, Bleier, McGregor , THill, Jordan and Cole.  Here’s an overview of the starters Syracuse used, starting with the original five starters.

  • A.J. Cole was Syracuse’s opening day starter in 2015.  On the year, he was 5-6, 3.15 ERA, 1.18 whip, 3.90 FIP and 76/34 K/BB in 105.2 innings.  Cole got yanked up and down a couple times on the year, with one ill-fated spot-start for the major league team where he looked completely out of his depth against Atlanta (not exactly the ’27 Yankees).  His K/9 is down, BB/9 is up from his stint in AAA in 2014, though his BAA improved significantly.  I’m struggling not to write him off; after all he’s only 23, he’s still listed in or near the top 100 prospects in all of the minors, and he still could have value.  I just don’t think its going to happen with the Nats.  He’s been pushed down on the starter depth chart and (save an injury) has no chance of making the 25-man roster in 2016.  So is there value in having him pitch another year in upstate New York?  I could see Cole getting flipped to a team that could use a cheap 5th starter candidate.  Outlook for next season: Syracuse’s opening day starter again, unless moved.
  • Taylor Jordan was 5-6, 2.95 ERA, 1.15 whip, 3.41 FIP and 61/27 K/BB in 103 IP.   He’s slipping further and further away from a rotation job that seemed rather likely after his 2013 sterling debut.  His AAA numbers were pretty good this year but he got lit up in his one 2015 spot start (to be fair, it was against Toronto and the best offense in the majors).  His margin for error is just so much lower because he doesn’t get the K/9 that other guys do.  Unlike Cole though, Jordan doesn’t necessarily wow the scouts and may be tougher to move.  I think he plays out his options string as a AAA starter with occasional big league cover and then gives it a go in another organization.  Outlook for next season: Syracuse rotation again.
  • Taylor Hill was 3-10 with a 5.23 ERA, 1.62 whip, 3.85 fip and 70/29 K/BB in 118 IP.  Not a good year for Hill, who got a handful of mop-up bullpen gigs in late May/early June and wasn’t entirely impressive while doing it.  See all that we’ve said for Cole and Jordan, but lower expectations a bit more.  I have Hill near the top of my “guys to get DFA’d to make room on the 40-man roster” at this point and he needs to figure out what changed between 2014 (2.81 ERA) and this year (5.23 ERA, both at Syracuse).  We won’t really know if he’s getting pushed out of the rotation until deeper dives into the AA rotation.  Outlook for next season: Syracuse rotation/release candidate.  1/6/16 update: Hill was DFA’d on the 40-man to make room for Stephen Drew: we’ll update in this space when his roster status is finalized.
  • Scott McGregor (boy I have a hard time typing that w/o remembering the old Baltimore Orioles hurler from the mid 1970s) was 6-6 with a 4.04 ERA, 1.43 whip, 4.67 fip and 63/35 K/BB in 107 IP split between starting and relieving.  He started in the rotation, having signed as a MLFA in June of 2014 originally then re-upped with the Nats over last off-season to continue his role as AAA 5th starter/long-man.  But his performance slipped considerably this year.  I don’t see him listed on the MLFA tracker so its possible he’s signed through 2016 with the team, so we’ll assume he’s reprising his role again in 2016.  Outlook for next season: Syracuse long-man/spot starter
  • Bruce Billings was 8-5 with a  3.63 ERA, 1.26 whip, 3.23 fip and 90/28 K/BB in 121 IP.  The MLFA produced well in a season spent in a similar role to McGregor; 4th/5th starter who made way for prospects as they got moved up but who eventually spent most of the year in the rotation.   His numbers are about what you’d expect for a veteran minor leaguer/classic AAA org guy; he’s declared again and will look to build on his decent 2015 with an organization where he has a better shot at getting called up.  Outlook for next season: in AAA for another organization.
  • Paolo Espino had a nice season, getting promoted up from AA and giving Syracuse 20 starts of 3.21 ERA, 1.15 whip, 3.68 fip pitching (88/19 K/BB in 117 AAA innings).  The 2014 MLFA signing (as with McGregor) stuck with the team for 2015 and could be an interesting piece going forward.  Question is; is he a MLFA for this upcoming season?  My records and research disagree with each other: he’s *not* listed in the BA MLFA tracker nor is he on the official MLB declared MLFA list (links at the top), but the drat tracker says he’s a MLFA.  I’ll assume our private files are not better than MLBs and assume he’s still under team control.  Outlook for next season: Syracuse Rotation.
  • Richard Bleier was 14-5 with a 2.57 ERA between AA and AAA this year.  65/16 K/BB in 171 IP.  Bleier had a nice season, working his way out of AA and finishing the year in the AAA rotation.  His K/9 is shockingly low given his stat line, perhaps why he’s not likely to draw much attention from the team’s executives on 1/2 street.  He’s a declared MLFA already for 2015 and likely plies his trade elsewhere next year.  Outlook for next season: in AAA for another organization.
  • P.J. Walters was acquired mid-season from the Dodgers for cash: for the Chiefs he threw 60 innings of 5.35 ERA and got 5 spot starts towards the end of the year.  52/23 K/BB in his 60 innings for Syracuse on the year.  Walters has significant MLB experience, with 152 IP across several organizations dating to 2008.  He’s yet to really have a decent MLB stretch thought, and his AAA numbers are starting to look just as bad.  Given the team’s dearth of RH bullpen depth options though, I think its safe to say they’ll keep him around to see if he’s an option to consider.  Outlook for next season: Syracuse bullpen.
  • Other guys who got spot starts here and there:
    • Joe Ross had 5 starts before getting called up to the majors.  See MLB write-up for more.  Outlook for next season: Nats #4 starter.
    • Matt Swynenberg had exactly one AAA start of 3 innings this year before spending the rest of the year on the restricted list, which usually indicates retirement.  We’ll see if he gets an official release this coming off-season.  Outlook for next season: retired/out of the organization.
    • Mitch Lively had 2 spot starts but was mostly a reliever; see the reliever section.
    • Sam Runion and Eric Fornataro each had a spot start but were primarily relievers; see the reliever section.
    • Matthew Spann, James Simmons and Austen Williams each got called up to AAA from lower levels to provide exactly one spot start.  See High-A for for Spann and Williams, AA for Simmons writeups.
    • Strasburg and Fister had one-two rehab starts for Syracuse in 2015.

Syracuse Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps.  We’ll organize relievers by going by IP from most to least.  Anyone with less than 10 IP will get cursory analysis at the end.

  • Rafael Martin was Syracuse’s closer for a good portion of the season, getting 12 saves in 50 IP across 46 games.  We discussed Martin at length in the MLB writeup but will repeat our prediction here.  Outlook for next season: Syracuse bullpen/MLB reliever depth.
  • Eric Fornataro was a waiver claim last off-season, then DFA’d off the 40-man roster before the season started.  He then failed to impress, posting a 5.54 ERA in 50 innings before getting released in July.  Outlook for next season: in another organization/out of baseball.
  • Matt Grace had a 2.40 ERA in 48 IP and spent a decent amount of time on the MLB roster (17 ip across 26 appearances).  See MLB writeup for more.  Outlook for next season: Syracuse bullpen/lefty reliever coverage.
  • Evan Meek posted a 2.15 ERA across 37.2 innings in the early part of the year, effective if a bit wild (33/19 K/BB in those 37 ip) and, after not getting consideration for a call-up, asked for his release to sign with a Korean team.  Outlook for next season: still in Korea or with another Organization.
  • Sam Runion posted a 2.91 ERA in 65 IP across AA and AAA after getting picked up in June of 2014 as a MLFA.  1.43 whip, decent K/9 rates, just not enough to get a sniff at a MLB call-up.  Just a classic org guy who is a MLFA this year and likely plies his trade elsewhere next year.  Outlook for next season: MLFA, re-signed per BA ML transactions so AAA bullpen again (updated 12/29/15)
  • Mitch Lively was in basically the same boat as Meek; put up good numbers (2.31 ERA, 0.97 whip, but wasn’t called up and decided to go overseas.  He was released on 6/17/15 so as to sign with a Japanese team.  He posted a 6.75 ERA in 16 games in Japan; not sure what the future holds for him.  Outlook for next season: still in Japan or with another Organization.
  • Juan Gutierrez was signed off the AAA waiver wire in August 2015 and threw 34 mediocre innings (3.47 ERA)for Syracuse down the stretch in a classic “we need someone to pitch innings for us to finish the season” move.  He’s a MLFA and likely keeps on moving for 2016.  Outlook for next season: in another organization.
  • Jose Valverde signed a month into the 2015 season with a typical veteran MLFA contract that guaranteed an opt out after a couple of months if the big club didn’t use him.  Valverde closed effectively for Syracuse until July, when he opted out.  He did not sign elsewhere for 2015.  He’s playing in the DWL but I wonder if he’s done; his last two MLB stints were both ugly.  Outlook for next season: in another organization/out of baseball.
  • Manny Delcarmen had an 8.14 ERA in 21 IP across 18 appearances before getting released in early June.  He played out the rest of the season in Mexico.  Outlook for next season: in another organization/out of baseball.
  • Rich Hill signed as a MLFA late in the 2015 spring from the  Yankees, pitched decently as a middle reliever in Syracuse and likely had an “out clause” forcing the team’s hand, who released him in late June.  He picked up with Boston, pitched well for their AAA squad, got promoted back to the majors, pitched lights out in 4 starts in the end of the season … and signed a $6M contract to pitch for Oakland in 2016. Go figure.  Did the Nats miss the boat here?  This isn’t the first time they’ve had a guy in their AAA rosters who went on to have significant success for another club (Colby Lewis, Marco Estrada, Chris Young).  Maybe they should have given Hill a 40-man job while they were trying out everyone else in late May/early June.  Maybe you could say the same thing about a whole bunch of the MLFA MLB-experienced veterans who passed through Syracuse’s roster in 2015.  Outlook for next season: Pitching for Billy Beane out in Oakland on a $6M deal.
  • Other Relievers who appeared in AAA of note (not including Rehabbing MLBers): Outlook for next season for all of these guys seems the same: either continued “org guy” middle reliever or minor league free agent in another organization.
    • Solis, Treinen and Rivero each had a nominal amount of AAA innings: see MLB writeup for them.
    • Demny and Davis spent more time in AA than AAA: see Harrisburg write-up.
    • Everyone else not mentioned had 5 or less IP in AAA and were mostly in other levels.

Summary

34 different hurlers passed through the Syracuse locker room this year.  Phew.  And it seems like a huge percentage of them have already churned out of the organization, looking for their next stop.  I guess this is the way AAA teams go these days.  We may see more MLFA veteran arms coming into the system for 2016 given the number of guys they’re losing.

Its hard to say whether we really learned much from the AAA staff this year; the team kind of already knew what it had with its highest-end prospects in AAA (the likes of Cole, Jordan and Hill).  Almost the entire bullpen was veteran MLFAs who likely won’t be back, most of whom never got a chance to contribute to the major league team in its time of need in 2015.

2015 Season Statistical review of the 2013 draft class

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Loving what Austin Voth is doing for the Nats. Photo via mlbdirt

Loving what Austin Voth is doing for the Nats. Photo via mlbdirt

The next in a series: previously we reviewed the 2015 season stats for the 2015 draft class and the 2014 draft class.  Unlike these other two posts, this one was a bit easier to write.  Why?  Because I had done this analysis for the 2013 class previously … back in 2013.  All I had to do was cut-n-paste that post and all 40 draftees were already listed with key details.  Ahhh.  I may continue this with previous classes since it was easier to compile.  Hopefully I didn’t miss any obvious promotions for key guys like I did previously.

Web links to use while reading:

Without further ado:


Round 1: forfeited w/ Rafael Soriano signing, which as I noted in this June 2013 post cost the Nats a shot at one of several highly regarded pitchers drafted just behind our vacated spot.  In retrospect, here’s a quick summary of the careers so far of the guys I liked at the time in that spot (Rob Kaminsky, Sean Manaea, Ryne Stanek, Ian Clarkin):

  • Kaminsky: so far, looks pretty good.  Career 2.22 ERA across multiple levels, finishing this year in High-A.  Flipped this  year to Cleveland from St. Louis (his drafting team) in the Brandon Moss deal.
  • Manaea: looks awesome after some injury issues in 2013.  Finished 2015 going 6-0 with a 1.93 ERA for Midland in AA and was a key prospect going to Oakland in the Ben Zobrist deal.  I really liked him in 2013 and thought his hip injury bumped him down the line from being the top 10 talent he was initially projected to be, and nothing he’s done professionally has countered that.
  • Stanek: dominated high-A for Tampa Bay this year, finished the year in AA.
  • Clarkin: drafted by the Yankees, pitched his first full season of pro ball in low-A (impressive), giving Charleston 16 decent starts.  Hurt his elbow in 2015 spring training and didn’t pitch all year, but is apparently recovered and is now pitching in the AFL.

I dunno.  I hate to sound like a repeating record on the Soriano signing, but it looks even worse know knowing who we could have had.  Knowing how Mike Rizzo loves college arms, you have to think he was likely looking at either Manaea or Stanek, and both those guys are looking like mid-rotation starters perhaps by mid 2016.  All for an overpriced malcontent closer we didn’t need and who was eventually supplanted from the role by the same in-house option (Drew Storen) who the team AGAIN tried to supplant with another unnecessary over-priced malcontent (this time Jonathan Papelbon) in 2015 to disastrous results.  Do you think Rizzo and Lerner have learned their lesson by now?

Back to the analysis.

Round 2Jake Johansen, Coll Sr. RH Starting Pitcher Dallas Baptist U..  1-7, 5.44 ERA  with 48/27 K/BB in 48 relief IP, 4.69 fip, .358 babip for Potomac this year.  He was pushed to the bullpen full time for 2015 yet was, frankly, awful in relief.  This is on top of his 5.19 ERA in 2014 in Hagerstown.  This pick is looking more and more like a disaster.  I don’t see any silver linings here, other than his K/inning rate (which is thrown off by his 4.5 walks/9 inning rate for his career).  Trending Down.

Round 3Drew Ward, HS 3B. Slashed .249/.327/.358 with 110/39 K/BB in 377 Abs, 6hr for High-A Potomac.  Missed a month with an injury, but otherwise took incremental steps back on his performance from his 2014 campaign in Low-A.  Where’s the power?  Slugging .358 isn’t great, especially for a corner infielder.  But there doesn’t seem to be anyone else really preventing him from suiting up for Harrisburg as the starting 3B in 2016.  Also worth remembering; he’s a HS draftee so he was a 20-yr old in High-A; quite young.  That tempers any criticism.   He’s in the Arizona Fall League, a good sign for the team’s opinion of him, so even my opinion may be slightly conservative. Trending Steady.

Round 4Nick Pivetta, Juco RH Starting Pitcher.  7-4, 2.29 ERA for Potomac in 2015 before getting traded to Philadelphia for Jonathan Papelbon.  Was working on a nice improvement over his 2014 campaign for Hagerstown (13-8, 4.22 ERA).  Was bumped up to Philly’s AA affiliate in Reading PA and struggled to finish out 2015.

Round 5Austin Voth, Coll Jr RH Starting Pitcher: 6-7, 2.92 ERA and 148/40 k/bb across 157 ip (28 starts) for AA Harrisburg.  3.07 fip, .284 babip.  Another excellent campaign after his three-level jump in 2014.  He’s now regularly mentioned in the back-end of Nats top 10 prospect lists and seems like he could be one of the first options considered in 2016 if a MLB starting pitcher gets injured.  Looks like a steal of this draft and could be the best player to come out of it by the time all is said and done.  Trending Up.

Round 6Cody Gunter, Juco 3B: 1-0 4.15 ERA, 23/8 K/BB in 21.2 IP for Short-A Auburn, 3.84 fip, .259 babip.  Gunter was drafted as a 3B and after two non-descript seasons in Auburn converted to the mound.  so far, results look promising; he maintained a K/inning ratio with good control and could be better based on the ERA-FIP delta.   I see him getting pushed to the Low-A bullpen in 2016.  Trending Steady.

Round 7Jimmy Yezzo, Coll Jr 1B.  Slashed .192/.250/.256 with 36/13 K/BB in 49 games at Potomac, with just one homer, before the team pulled the plug and released him on 7/22/15.  Yezzo showed some power in Low-A in 2014 (13 homers in 123 games) but clearly not enough to justify keeping him around as a 1B-only player.  This was always going to be the jeopardy with drafting him; he was positionally limited from the start and, despite a great college campaign, couldn’t make the transition in pro ball.  Immediately after his release he picked up with a Frontier League team, finishing out the season, so hopefully he gets another shot.

Round 8David Napoli, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher.  Went 7-5, 4.01 ERA with 62/36 K/BB in 60 relief IP mostly for LowA Hagerstown.  3.57 fip, .289 babip.  He started with Potomac but spent most of the year in Hagerstown, despite turning 25 during the season.  If anything,  his numbers took a step back from his 2014 Hagerstown campaign, and given his age and the glut of arms in the system, time may be running out.  Or maybe not: i mean, he signed for $15k and basically cost the team nothing and eats innings; that kind of guy is useful to have around.  See McGregor, Scott for AAA the last couple of years.  Trending Down.

Round 9Jake Joyce, Coll Sr RH relief pitcher.  Released in July 2014 as the 2014 signees started reporting to Vermont after just one season in Auburn where he posted a 5+ ERA.  A cheap, senior sign who had to do more to impress and stick around as Napoli has done.

Round 10Brennan Middleton, Coll Sr SS/2B. Slashed .198/.252/.264 for half a season while repeating LowA despite his age and was summarily released in July 2015.  Senior sign, low bonus figure, poor performance all contributed.

Round 11John Simms, Coll jr RH relief pitcher.  6-6, 2.74 ERA with 48/25 K/BB in 88.2 (15 starts) for Potomac.  4.15 fip, .236 babip.  Earned a mid-season promotion and ended the season with 6 starts in Harrisburg’s rotation.  Excellent season-over-season improvement for Simms, who will look to do the same thing in AA’s rotation for 2016.  The team clearly sees the same potential and sent him to the Arizona Fall League this year.  Trending up.

Round 12Andrew Cooper, Juco RH relief pitcher.  2-2, 3.53 ERA with 35/16 K/BB in 63.2 relief IP for LowA Hagerstown, 3.63 fip, .283 babip.  Improved his numbers across the board while repeating LowA.  Still isn’t getting the K/9 we’d like to see though.  He’ll be 24 in High-A next year in what probably is a make or break season.  Trending Steady.

Round 13John Costa, Juco RH relief pitcher.  Released 4/1/15 after being injured most of 2014.  Without knowing the details, I’d guess that whatever injury he suffered was a career ender, that he couldn’t show enough improvement in spring training 2015 to merit keeping around.  Tough break.

Round 14David Masters, Juco SS.  Slashed .226/.311/.285 with 69/40 K/BB in 354 Abs, 2hr, 3SB mostly in LowA, missed most of May and June.  Did earn a promotion to HighA in August to finish out the season.  With so many MIF in the system and the likes of Chris Bostick blasting homers in the AFL, Masters may not be long for the organization.  Trending down.

Round 15Isaac Ballou, Coll Sr OF/CF.  Slashed .271/.344/.397  with 82/47 K/BB in 431 Abs, 8homers 21steals CF/LF as  he jumped two levels (from HighA to AAA) in 2015.  A nice season from the local product (hails from Germantown, MD, went to Marshall U).  An .876 OPS in AA greased the skids for him to move up the line.  He has some speed (56 career SBs in 322 games) and can hit and can play all three OF positions; can he push the likes of Matt den Dekker for a  utility OF spot on the big club?  Maybe not for 2016, but a strong AAA campaign would help.  Trending up.

Round 16Willie Allen, Juco Corner OF from Oklahoma/Newtown, MA.  Did not sign; transferred to Lewis-Clark State (ID).  Allen was an odd case at the time; it was literally impossible to find information on him.  But he’s definitely playing college ball at Lewis-Clark now.  Now known as “William Allen” if you’re trying to find him in various databases, fyi.

Round 17Geoff Perrott, Coll Sr C.  released/retired (2015): never played in 2014 and no record of his official release in milb.com, but clearly he’s done playing.

Round 18Cory Bafidis, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher.  Released July 2014 once the 2014 draftees started showing up in Auburn.  This release has troubled me; he had decent numbers in 2013, then got axed after just 6 innings in 2014.  Seemed too fast to me.

Round 19Niko Spezial, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher.  Released in May of 2014, even before the draft.  Only threw 19 innings in 2013 and none in 2014, not getting a full-team assignment and likely just losing out on the anticipated numbers game.

Round 20Brenton Allen, Coll Jr Corner OF.  As with Bafidis, Released in June 2014 once the 2014 draftees started showing up in Auburn.  He only hit .197 in Auburn in 2013 and was clearly replaceable with new 2014 OF draftees.

Round 21Justin Thomas, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher.  1-6, 3.43 ERA with 50/18 K/BB in 57.2 relief ip for Potomac. 2.84 fip, .300 babip in HighA.  Oddly, he’s a lefty but he has much better L-R splits than loogy splits.  But, he also wasn’t really used as a loogy, accumulating 57 innings in 28 games.  He was more of a swing-man/innings sponge for the team despite never getting an official start.  Good peripherals, good K/9 rates, I see him moving up to the AA bullpen easily.  Nice find in the 21st round.  Trending up.

Round 22Cody Dent, Coll Sr SS.  Slashed .193/.257/.224  with 42/12 K/BB in 161 abs, 1hr, 2sb, mostly in LowA.  Played 3B, got moved up to HighA and then went 0-24 in Potomac.  He didn’t play after 7/31 but did not appear on any injury report; he was on the TIL for basically the rest of the season.  The son of Bucky Dent seems to be getting similar treatment as Ryan Ripkeand Cutter Dykstra (also sons of former MLBers); he’s hanging around despite poor numbers.  How long can it last with all the MIF options moving up the line?  Trending down.

Round 23Garrett Gordon, Juco Corner OF.  Released in March of 2015; hit just .230 in Auburn in 2014 as a corner OF and, as with Allen above, was deemed replaceable with the 2015 crop of players rising up.

Round 24Matt DeRosier, Juco RH relief pitcher.  0-2, 3.58 ERA with 30/7 K/BB in 27IP (7 starts) mostly in the GCL, having gotten dumped out of Auburn after a couple of poor starts.   2.02 fip, .435 babip in Auburn, so perhaps it was a short-sample-size that was unflattering.  He needs to put together a nice string of healthy starts somewhere outside of complex ball though.  Trending down.

Round 25Travis Ott, HS LH starting pitcher.  Traded 12/17/14 along with Steven Souza in the Trea Turner/Joe Ross deal.  Despite his sterling short-A 2014 season, Tampa had him repeat the NY Penn league, where he was 6-3 with a 3.90 ERA in 13 starts.  Odd.

Round 26Garrett Hampson, HS SS from Reno, NV.  Did not sign; honored commitment to Long Beach State.

Round 27Bryce Harmon, HS LH starting pitcher from Richmond, VA.  Did not sign; honored commitment to East Carolina University.

Round 28Joey Webb, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher.  Released 6/25/15, losing out in the numbers game when the 2015 short-season college draftees started flowing in.

Round 29Mike Sylvestri, Coll Sr RH relief pitcher.   Retired on 6/13/14 after struggling in low-A.

Round 30Ryan Ullmann, Coll Sr RH Starting pitcher.  Released 6/25/15, in a similar fashion to Webb above.

Round 31Willie Medina, Coll Sr SS.  Released in Jan 2015 after a mediocre season between LowA and ShortA in 2014.

Round 32Pat Boling, Coll Jr LHP: Did not sign, chose to return to U. of Georgia for his senior season.  It does not look like Boling was re-drafted, nor does it appear he played any independent ball.

Round 33Andrew Dunlap, HS C/RHP from Houston.  Did not sign.  Honoring a commitment to Rice University.

Round 34Jake Walsh, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher.  2-1, 1.96 ERA, 32/14 K/BB across 36ip as he was promoted from LowA->HighA.  3.51 fip, .273 babip in Potomac.  After starting the 2015 season with 17 scoreless innings for Hagerstown, he got bumped up and spent the rest of the season there.  Despite his lowly draft status, Walsh has now impressed at every stop and owns a career 1.65 ERA across the various Rookie/A-ball levels.  Maybe its time to give this guy a shot at AA?  At the very least he looks like a left-handed specialist in training.  Trending up.

Round 35Lukas Schiraldi, Juco RHP from Texas.  Did not sign; instead transferred to U Texas.  Drafted in 2014 in the 15th round by Seattle, but he has since struggled as a low-A starter, with two straight seasons of 5+ ERA.

Round 36Reid Humphreys, HS SS from Missouri.  Did not sign.  Honoring commitment to Mississippi State.

Round 37Karsten Whitson, RH starting pitcher from Florida.  Did not sign, returning to U Florida for his senior/4th year.  There’s plenty of cautionary stories about Whitson, who turned down 1st round money and eventually was drafted by Boston in 2014 as an 11th rounder (likely bonus; max of $100k).  His pro season looks like its a struggle right now; he had just 7IP in 2014, and was listed as “inactive” for all of 2015.  Hate to see such a promising arm apparently fizzle out.

Round 38Caleb Hamilton, HS SS from Washington State.  Did not sign; honoring commitment to U of Washington.

Round 39Robbie Tenerowicz, HS 2B/SS from California.  Did not sign; honoring commitment to UC Berkeley.  Washington sure loves 2nd basement from Cal-Berkeley, doesn’t it?  See Tony Renda in 2012 or Jeff Kobernus in 2009.  I’m sure we’ll revisit Tenerowicz when the time is right.

Round 40Shaun Anderson, HS RH starting pitcher from Florida.  Did not sign; honoring commitment to U of Florida.

 


Trending Summary:

  • Trending Up (5): Voth, Simms, Ballou, Thomas, Walsh
  • Trending Steady (3): Ward, Gunter, Cooper
  • Trending Down (5): Johanssen, Napoli, Masters, Dent, Derosier
  • Did Not Sign in 2013 (11): Allen, Hampson, Harmon, Boling, Dunlap, Schiraldi, Humphries, Whitson, Hamilton, Tenerowicz, Anderson
  • Released/Retired (13): Yezzo, Joyce, Middleton, Costa, Perrott, Bafidis, Spezial, Allen, Gordon, Webb, Sylvestri, Ullmann, Medina
  • Traded (2): Pivetta, Ott

Executive Summary

The 2013 class is being whittled down quickly; of the 39 initial names, 11 never signed and another 13 have already been cut loose.  That only leaves 15 guys to draw conclusions from.  I think its safe to say the loss of the 1st rounder and the failures of our 2nd rounder severely dampen this draft, but Voth and Simms give us some promise.  I also like what we’re seeing out of long-shots Thomas and Walsh, with some lingering hope that the  youngster Ward could make the leap.  Meanwhile, two important names out of this draft (Pivetta and Ott) were used to acquire important players; especially Ott’s role in acquiring two every day players of the planned 2016 25-man roster.


cut-n-paste of Working XLS of data:

Round Player/Pos Level 2015 Level 2015 Basic Stats
2 Johansen, Jake RHP COL sr Potomac 1-7, 5.44 ERA
3 Ward, Drew 3B HS (3) Potomac .249/.327/.358
4 Pivetta, Nicholas RHP ** JUCO Traded (2015)
5 Voth, Austin RHP COL jr Harrisburg 6-7, 2.92 ERA
6 Gunter, Cody 3B JUCO Short-A 1-0 4.15 ERA
7 Yezzo, James 1B COL jr released (2015)
8 Napoli, David LHP COL sr LowA 7-5, 4.01 ERA
9 Joyce, Jake RHP COL sr released (2014)
10 Middleton, Brennan SS COL sr released (2015)
11 Simms, John RHP COL jr Potomac 6-6, 2.74 ERA
12 Cooper, Andrew RHP JUCO LowA 2-2, 3.53 ERA
13 Costa, John RHP CC released (2015)
14 Masters, David SS JUCO High-A->LowA .226/.311/.285
15 Ballou, William (Isaac) CF COL sr HighA->AA->AAA .271/.344/.397
16 Allen, Willie CF JUCO did not sign: Lewis-Clark State (ID)
17 Perrott, Geoffrey C COL sr released/retired (2015)
18 Bafidis, Cory LHP COL sr released (2014)
19 Spezial, Niko LHP COL sr released (2014)
20 Allen, Brenton LF COL jr released (2014)
21 Thomas, Justin LHP COL sr Potomac 1-6, 3.43 ERA
22 Dent, Cody SS COL sr LowA mostly .193/.257/.224
23 Gordon, Garrett RF JUCO released (2015)
24 Derosier, Matthew RHP JUCO GCL->ShortA 0-2, 3.58 ERA
25 Ott, Travis LHP* HS traded (2015)
26 Hampson, Garrett SS HS did not sign: Long Beach St.
27 Harman, Bryce RF HS did not sign: East Carolina
28 Webb, Joey LHP COL sr released (2015)
29 Sylvestri, Michael RHP COL sr retired (2014)
30 Ullmann, Ryan RHP COL sr released (2015)
31 Medina, Willie SS COL sr released (2015)
32 Boling, Pat LHP COL jr did not sign: Georgia
33 Dunlap, Andrew RHP NA did not sign: Rice
34 Walsh, Jake LHP COL sr LowA->HighA 2-1, 1.96 ERA
35 Schiraldi, Lukas RHP JUCO did not sign: Texas
36 Humphreys, Reid SS HS did not sign: Mississippi State
37 Whitson, Karsten RHP COL jr did not sign: Florida .248/.307/.376
38 Hamilton, Caleb SS HS did not sign: U of Washington
39 Tenerowicz, Robbie 2B HS did not sign: UC Berkeley
40 Anderson, Shaun RHP HS did not sign: Florida 1-2, 5.45

 

Cole up … why not Roark?

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A.J. Cole getting his MLB debut. Photo AP

A.J. Cole getting his MLB debut. Photo AP

PSA: your 7-13 Nats are now on a pace to finish 57-105.  Or about 50 games in the Wins column away from where some pundits were talking.

And now instead of our $210M stopper Max Scherzer, we’ll be giving the ball to an untested rookie A.J. Cole to stop an ugly 6-game losing streak.  This is the same Cole who we saw this spring look rather hittable while giving up 9 hits and 4 walks in 10+ MLB spring innings.  Of course, his track record speaks for itself at Syracuse: he’s yet to take a loss in 14 AAA starts dating to mid-last season.  And he’s been on literally every single Nats prospect top 10 list since the moment he was drafted in 2010, so certainly we’re all experiencing some “prospect fatigue” with him despite the fact that he just turned 23.

Don’t get me wrong; i’m happy he’s getting a shot and look forward to seeing if his apparent lack of deception (in my eyes) can be overcome against a team of professional hitters (even if its just the Braves).

Now, that being said … why the heck are we not using Tanner Roark?

Wasn’t the WHOLE POINT of putting 5-win Roark in the long man role so that we could, you know, use him as the first alternative starter in case of injury??  That was the argument we all made, right?  Instead of sticking Roark in AAA to maintain a starter’s schedule, he was (in theory) going to be available out of the pen as needed.

Except now we hear that, thanks to his basically being used now as a right-handed middle reliever (you know, the type that you can find on the waiver wire every day, or on the FA market as we speak), he’s not stretched out enough to actually make the start.  Matt Williams was quoted by Chelsea James in NJ as saying that Roark could “only go 50-60” pitches before needing relief.   Well … if that was the case, then give Roark the start, let him go 5 innings and THEN use Cole.  Or call-up one of the “long men” in AAA who are actually suited for this role.  Guys like Lively, McGregor, or Meek.  No room on the 40-man you say?  Well then put one or both of the guys who are on season-long/season-ending injuries (Erik Davis and Craig Stammen) to the 60-day and make the call.

I just don’t get it.  Who is the better pitcher, Roark or Cole?  Who has demonstrated over parts of two MLB seasons that he’s a highly effective pitcher when given the chance?

I hate to sound negative, especially with a 7-13 team that clearly has offensive issues.  But don’t be surprised if Cole is shelled early, knocked out and Roark gets the d*mn ball anyways in the 3rd inning and pitches for another 4 in mop-up duty.  Yeah; every team uses a 5-win starter as a mop-up guy.  That’s effective use of your resources.  Hey, i’ve got an idea; if you’re going to waste Roark in the pen in low-leverage middle relief appearances and then not bother to use him when you actually need him, why not just frigging trade him?  Lets trade him for someone who can catch the ball when its hit to them, or can hit better than .135 (Uggla) or even .215 (Espinosa).

Generally speaking, we’re seeing a pretty “worst-case” collection of issues.  The already-thinned bullpen suffered two very bad losses.  Our Cy-Young quality starters have struggled.  Our best hitter can’t bend his knee without pain.  We may have just lost Escobar (one of the guys actually hitting) to a hand injury thanks to a patently dirty slide.  And we’re depending on starters who shouldn’t even be on MLB teams.  Where’s the leadership?  Where’s the veterans rallying the clubhouse?  Where’s the manager leading the troops?  Where’s the frigging defense (22 errors in 20 games, leading the league)?  Have you ever seen so many non-error defensive blunders in such a short amount of time?  How do you fix this?

Rant off.

Nats Full Season Pitching Staffs

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A.J. Cole leads the minor league starter depth.  Photo AP

A.J. Cole leads the minor league starter depth. Photo AP

All our full-season squads have been announced, and its time to start looking at the pitching staffs.

I never got to doing my massive reviews of the rotations of the various farm system teams this past off-season (job change, less free time at home, they being a ton of work, etc).  Which also led to my not doing any predictions on where our pitchers would start the 2015 season.  Which is a bummer, because it is always fun to see if my predictions were decent and to see how player movement has affected the squads.  Lets go team by team and (focusing on the rotations) look at how things have changed since the end of last season.


MLB (25-man roster announcement here)

  • 2015 Rotation: Scherzer, Zimmermann, Strasburg, Gonzalez, Fister
  • 2014 Opening Day Rotation: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Roark, Jordan
  • 2014 Closing Day rotation: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Fister, Roark

Discussion: We’ve certainly talked this through.  Quickly;  Fister‘s 2014 spring training injury opened the door for both Roark and Jordan to duke it out for the 2014 5th starter job, eventually won by Roark, who gave the team a 5-win season as the 5th starter.  That wasn’t enough for the Nats though; committing $210M on Scherzer for the next decade or so, pushing Roark to mop-up guy/insurance starter for opening of 2015.

Manager Matt Williams also shook up the 2015 rotation order, installing the starters by accomplishment, not by reputation.  Thus 3-year running opening day starter Strasburg is dropped to the #3 hole, and last year’s #2 Gonzalez is now basically the #5 starter.

Enough about the MLB discussion though; lets get to the minor league rotations.

 


All four full season minor league squads are announced here by Nats Journal.   In some cases we know who the rotation will be, in other cases the below is a huge guess.  Especially at Hagerstown (as we’ll see).

AAA (Syracuse roster announcement link)

  • 2015 Rotation: Cole, Jordan, Hill, McGregor, Billings (with Lively, Rivero (L) as swingmen)
  • 2014 Opening Day Rotation: Rosenbaum (L), Hill, Tatusko, Treinen, Poveda
  • 2014 Closing Day rotation: Laffey (L), Hill,  Treinen, Lively, Cole (Espino 9/1 call-up)

Discussion

A late spring training injury to Casey Janssen has called presumed AAA starter Blake Treinen into action in the Nats bullpen, perhaps for the long run.  Which has opened up a couple of spots in the Syracuse rotation … and they’ve been surprisingly filled.  Instead of installing who I presumed to be the 5th AAA starter (trade acquisition Felipe Rivero), the team has announced that 2014 MLFA signing/rubber-armed swingman Scott McGregor and 2015 MLFA Bruce Billings will fill out the rotation.

Changes from 2014?  Rosenbaum traded for catcher depth, Tatusko to Korea, Poveda remains an unsigned MLFA, and Laffey signed a new MLFA deal with Colorado.

One has to think that McGregor/Billings are temporary holds in the rotation until Treinen returns.  The conversion of Rivero to the bullpen is more interesting; the team is rather short on lefty starters in the system right now (thanks to a slew of upper-end draft pick lefty starters failing in the past few years … ahem Solis, Purke, Mooneyham, Turnbull).  As we’ll see later on, there’s nobody really that makes sense to supplant any of these guys as a starter from AA or XST.


AA (Harrisburg roster announcement here)

  • 2015 Rotation: Voth, Ross, Espino, Alderson, Swynenberg (with Bleier (L) perhaps as a swingman?)
  • 2014 Opening Day Rotation: Schwartz, Rivero (L), Gilliam, Purke (L), Cole
  • 2014 Closing Day rotation: Dupra (sort of), Voth, Rivero (L), Poveda, (Espino 9/1 promotion), Kroenke

Discussion

Harrisburg went through an awful lot of starters last year.  19 guys got starts, 15 of which were not just one-offs.  From last year’s opening day, Schwartz got demoted after putting up a 7+ ERA and then hurt, Gilliam got hurt, and Purke had Tommy John surgery.  By the end of the season, only Rivero remained in the rotation, though he spent a good spell on the D/L as well.  Dupra got 12 starts and 24 appearances and was medicore (5.60 ERA), Poveda had great ratios (39Ks in 32innings) but an ugly era (5.34), and MLFA Kroenke was abhorrent (6.72 ERA).

Returning for 2015 are Austin Voth, the 2013 draft pick who shot up two levels last year, and last year’s MLFA Paolo Espino, who has re-upped with the team for 2015.  They are joined by newly acquired Joe Ross, MLFA Tim Alderson and the surprising Matt Swynenberg (who was closer to retirement than a rotation gig this time last year).   I have 2015 MLFA Richard Bleier as a swingman/spot starter for now.  This rotation may be augmented by some of the Missing/XST arms (see later discussion).


High-A

  • 2015 Rotation: Bacus, Pivetta, Spann (L), Suero, Rauh (with Schwartz as swingman?)
  • 2014 Opening Day Rotation: Rauh, Rpena, Mooneyham (L), Encarnacion, Lee (L)
  • 2014 Closing Day rotation: Bacus, Spann (L), Dickson, Sylvestre,  Rauh,

Discussion

Lots of turnover in the Potomac rotation as well; 14 guys got starts from last year.   Dakota Bacus, Brian Rauh, and Matthew Spann are reprising their roles as starters from the end of last season, while two others (Dickson and Sylvestre) remain in XST limbo for now.  What happened to the rest of these guys?  Brett Mooneyham and Nick Lee posted ERAs of 7.36 and 10.05 respectively and were both demoted.  Encarnacion was nearly as bad and was outright released by the organization earlier this past off-season.

Luckily, we kind of already know that the opening day rotation is going to change: we know where two of the organization’s brightest arms are heading.  Giolito and Lopez should supplant Bacus and Rauh, making for a rather formidable Potomac rotation.


Low-A

  • 2015 Rotation: AWilliams, LReyes, Van Orden … and then who knows.  Orlan?  Ullman?
  • 2014 Opening Day Rotation: Pivetta Voth, Giolito, Silvestre (L)/Anderson, Johansen,
  • 2014 Closing Day rotation: Pivetta, RLopez, Ott, Dickey, Suero,

Discussion

Well; Hagerstown’s rotation should be … interesting.  When you look at the assigned arms, there’s only three clear-cut starters from last year.  So clearly either the Hagerstown team will be getting reinforcements from the XST list or there’s guys being converted from 2014 relievers to 2015 starters.

Pivetta and Giolito were the mainstays from last year; both will be in high-A at some point soon.  Ott was flipped as a throw-in with the Steven Souza deal.   Its hard to pass judgement on this rotation until we talk about those in XST.


Missing/XST

There’s a TON of arms who are currently unassigned.

Starters: JRodriguez, Dickey, Dickson, Estevez, Lopez, Giolito, Simms, Silvestre, Bourque, Amartinez, Gilliam
Relievers: Purke, Bates, Holland, Lehman, Mooneyham, Pena, Simmons, Solis, Turnbull, Feliz, McDowell, Torres, DWilliams

Where might these guys end up?   Well, based on their performance from last year, here’s some guesses for the starters:

  • AAA: nobody who isn’t already there
  • AA: Simms, Silvestre, Gilliam
  • High-A: Dickey, Dickson, Lopez, Giolito, Dupra (already on the Potomac D/L)
  • Low-A: JRodriguez, Estevez, Bourque, AMartinez

And the relievers?

  • AAA: Purke (already on the AAA D/L), Holland, Lehman (release candidate), Simmons (release candidate)
  • AA: Bates (release candidate), Pena, Solis
  • High-A: Mooneyham, Turnbull
  • Low-A: Feliz, McDowell, Torres, DWilliams

We’ll see how things go; I guess we could start seeing some minor league releases soon enough.

 

 

Spring Training 2015 NRI discussion

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Matt Skole joins a motley crue of NRIs for Spring Training. Photo via dynastysportsempire.com

Matt Skole joins a motley crue of NRIs for Spring Training. Photo via dynastysportsempire.com

As suggested by Dr. Forensicane in a previous thread, lets talk about the Non-Roster Invitees (NRIs) for the Nats this coming spring, and for each lets talk about their chances for making the team, staying with the franchise, and depending on their roster status, their future plans with the team in general.

(post-posting update: if you havn’t seen it, check out this overview of the NRIs published on curlyw.natsblog.com.  It is very comprehensive and organized its list similarly to mine).

Most Nats beat-writers published the same list of 20 NRIs on Friday 2/13/15.   Here’s the list by category.  I’ll talk about the least-likely to make the team to the most-likely by positional category:

    • Catchers: Spencer Kieboom, Steven Lerud, Pedro Severino

Discussion: Lerud was a MLFA signing from Atlanta and seems likely to join recently acquired Dan Butler as the primary minor league catching depth for this team.  Thanks to an options crunch, Jhonatan Solano has already been released (and signed naturally with Miami to join his brother) and Sandy Leon likely gets DFA’d at the end of spring training, meaning that the Nats AAA depth needs to be rebuilt.  Meanwhile Keiboom and Severino represent some of the rising catcher talent in the system that may be in a position to really contribute once our two presumed MLB catchers (Ramos and Lobaton) have reached free agency.  The fact is that teams need tons of catchers in spring training camp and it is not surprising to see non 40-man guys get the call to help out with bullpen sessions and then get cut loose once the active camp has been thinned.

Odds of any of these NRIs making the 25-man roster: none for any of these players, even with an injury.  Lerud likely sticks around as AAA depth, and Keiboom/Severino have yet to reach rule-5 eligibility.

Future plans: Lerud to AAA and probably out of the org after this season, and the two prospects moving on up the chain (Severino likely in AA and Kieboom in high-A).

    • Left Handed Relievers: Matthew Purke

Discussion:I am no longer considering Purke a starter; I think his best shot at making it is if he converts to relief. I’d be ecstatic if he regained his mojo as a starter but i’ve lost confidence as such. That being said; we’re all well enough familiar with Mr. Purke by now: for a couple of days in November I thought we had cut him loose completely, ending a rather expensive Nationals experience.  But he re-signed as a MLFA with the team (likely in a pre-arranged deal) and then took the invite to spring training.  I’m guessing the senior team officials want to get a look at him, see how he fares as a match up reliever, see if his stuff holds up in short stints, etc.  By having Purke in spring training, the senior decision makers can watch multiple bullpen sessions, get a sense of his makeup and drive, and make a decision on his future (see next).

(tangent: fun fact here; did you know that Purke was born in the same town (Nacogdoches, TX) as USMNT striker Clint Dempsey?)

Odds of making the 25-man roster: none.  The team didn’t go to all this trouble to get Purke *off* the 40-man roster just to put him back on; there’s other lefty alternatives that will get the first crack at the majors if our standing lefties (Thornton and Blevins) falter.  Namely Xavier Cedeno and Matt Grace.  Even after the season begins, I could see the team experimenting with Sammy Solis or Felipe Rivero as a reliever in the majors before looking at Purke.  Which leads us to Purke’s future plans…

Future plans: Getting Purke back on a non-40-man deal gives Purke a stay of execution.  I think the team sees how he does this year and then considers whether to add him back to the 40-man as a protectionary move prior to next off-season.  But he can’t be putting up 8+ ERAs in AA.  He needs to get guys out or he’s done.

    • Right Handed Starters: Bruce Billings, Mitch Lively, Scott McGregor

Discussion: Both Lively and McGregor were signed midway through 2014 after getting dropped by their respective AAA clubs (affiliates of San Francisco and St. Louis respectively), and then each served as essentially an innings eating starter for Syracuse or Harrisburg the rest of the way through.  Thanks to a slew of last minute moves, both guys got AAA playoff starts in 2014 as well, neither pitching especially effectively as Syracuse was swept out of the playoffs.  Both chose to re-sign in Washington and both will get spring training invites.  Billings was signed from Los Angeles in November and was a starter for their AAA affiliate in 2014.

Odds of making the 25-man roster: none.  Assuming there are no trades or injuries, the 6th-10th guys in line to get MLB starts likely goes Tanner Roark, Blake Treinen, Taylor Jordan, Taylor Hill and newly-added 40-man member (and long time Nats prospect) A.J. Cole.   The Nats used just 8 starters in 2014, so the chances of all 10 of these guys even getting looks seems rather slim right now.

Future plans: You also have to think that the last 4 of these 5 guys will form the bulk of the Syracuse rotation to start 2015, leaving just one slot available.  And if it were up to me, I’d have Felipe Rivero in that 5th slot.  So its kind of hard to even see where these three guys fit in for 2015, unless they’re heading for long-man duty or are dropping down to AA.   I havn’t done enough analysis to even guess what AA’s rotation may look like to see if that’s an option.  So perhaps all three guys are playing for other teams’ scouts and for AAA rotations that give them more MLB opportunity.


Now to where some of these NRIs may actually have some chances to make this team…

    • Right Handed Relievers: Heath Bell, Manny Delcarmen, Eric Fornataro, Rafael Martin, Evan Meek

Discussion: The team shed an awful lot of innings from last year’s core bullpen, none as important as the combined 132 1/3 innings from late-innings relievers Rafael Soriano and Tyler Clippard.  The team made a pretty shrewd signing of former Toronto closer Casey Janssen (and not for a ton of money either …), who will slide into one of those departed slots.  But the truth is that this team has a potential opening for a veteran 7th inning guy.  Right now Aaron Barrett is set to step into that later-innings role; is he ready?  Is he good enough?

The team has three former MLB relievers who signed on with the team with an eye towards reclamation; Bell, Meek and (to a lesser extent perhaps) Delcarmen.  All three guys have had good success in MLB bullpens … and all three have fallen on hard times.  Fornataro just got outrighted to AAA; he’s not immediately coming back on even if he fares well in spring; I’m guessing he’s on a season-long audition.

Which brings us to Mr. Martin.  Forensicane’s best friend.   His 2014 numbers speak for themselves.   He has such an odd and unique career trajectory that perhaps the ST invite is solely so the MLB staff can see what the heck he’s got.  I hope we can get a glimpse of him during televised ST games to see what he’s got.

Odds of making the 25-man roster: Long.  Despite the weakened bullpen, the Nats still have a strong group making cases to head north come March 31st.  And we know that Blake Treinen can be effective out of the pen, meaning that if we get an injury to any of the presumed 7 leaders in the clubhouse for our bullpen (for my money: Storen, Janssen, Barrett, Stammen, Blevins, Thornton and Roark), Treinen probably is the first to get called into duty.

Where these guys have a shot is this: there’s almost no reliever depth on this team.  Outside of the 7 guys likely making the bullpen right now you have just three other relievers on the 40-man: Xavier Cedeno (out of options and likely DFA’d on 3/31/15 unless an injury befells Blevins and/or Thornton), Erik Davis (coming off a lost year to surgery … is he even ready to start throwing again?) and newly-added Matt Grace.  I suppose if Davis proves he’s past his TJ surgery he’d be in line for a call-up if needed, but i’d put my money on either Bell or Martin getting a shot in case of injury.

Future plans: I’d guess that the likes of Bell and Meek have opt-outs if they don’t make the team.  Delcarmen stayed put after his opt-out expired last year and signed on again for 2015; he’s likely AAA depth all year.  Fornataro (as discussed above) is in the AAA pen looking to re-gain value, and Martin is certainly guaranteed a chance to repeat his AAA 2014 performance (not that he has much left to prove…).

    • Middle Infielders: Emmanuel Burriss, Cutter Dykstra, Dan Uggla

Discussion: The team traded away a significant asset to bolster its middle infield presence, but an injury to one of the Nats three presumed 25-man roster middle infielders (Desmond, Escobar or Espinosa) could mean an opening for one of these guys.  Burriss holds an interesting local tie; he went to Wilson HS in the district, not exactly known for generating significant baseball talent.  He has never really hit at the major league level and toiled all last season for Syracuse.  Dykstra is seemingly more well known for who his father is (Lenny) and/or who his fiancee is (Meadow), but he has quietly hit his way up our system.  You can argue that he’s been too old for every level he’s played at for us, but he’s hit .275 or better three successive years. 

Which brings us to Mr. Uggla.  He hit 30+ homers for 5 successive seasons, then got hit in the head by a pitch and suffered what we now know to be “oculomoter dysfunction.”  I certainly remember his presence in the Marlin’s lineup for years; can he regain his stroke and have an impact?  Problem is that he’s 35 and hasn’t hit at a productive level for nearly 5 years.  And his skill set doesn’t exactly age well.  I’m guessing this might be just one last shot in the sun for him.

Odds of making the 25-man roster: very little.  Every team needs a backup short stop, and the team clearly already has one.  Uggla isn’t going to supplant Escobar.

Future plans: I’m guessing Uggla has an opt-out.  Burriss likely is AAA depth and is fine with it.  Dykstra should be matriculating to Syracuse himself, where he can prove he’s worth a look later on.

    • Corner Infielders/Outfielders: Kila Ka’aihue (L),  Clint Robinson (L), Matt Skole (L), Ian Stewart (L), Mike Carp (L)

Discussion: We know what we have in Skole; our 2012 minor league hitter of the year who earns his third straight NRI.  He’s got a sweet swing but a lost season to injury and a less-than-impressive bounce back have him off the prospect radar.  But he’s not really the interesting player out of this group.

I’ve put the player’s bat in parenthesis above for good reason; this team has a need for a bench bat.  And there’s not much tying the team to the presumed 25th guy on the roster right now.  And we *really* have a need for lefty power off the bench, especially now that Espinosa is only batting right handed.  So a lefty with power has a pretty good chance at making this team.  And I don’t think its a coincidence that *every* one of these guys is a lefty hitter.  Ka’aihue just came back from Japan and has a ton of power in the minors that hasn’t translated to the majors.  He’s limited to 1B.  Robinson seems like almost the exact same player as Ka’aihue except with less MLB time.  Stewart at least has some positional flexibility and has a 25 homer season in the majors (albeit in Colorado), but has struggled with injury the past few seasons, derailing his career.  Lastly there’s Carp, another guy like Ka’aihue with a ton of minor league power demonstration that for the most part hasn’t shown up in the majors.  Carp can play 1B or a corner outfield position, giving him a slight leg up on some of his competition here.

Odds of one of these guys making the 25-man roster: decent.  You have to think our bench right now is Lobaton, Espinosa, Nate McLouth, Kevin Frandsen and … somebody.  McLouth can play center … barely.  And he used to have power, but showed the team almost nothing for its $10M investment last year.  But the chances of the team cutting him before June 1st is zero, even if he goes o-for-the spring.   Perhaps the first name to consider for the 25th man is Tyler Moore, but he’s a right handed hitter.  And he’s out of options, and he’s had plenty of chances to earn his spot and has left the team wanting.  I think we’d all rather have Michael Taylor playing every day instead of getting three ABs a week for the big league club.  So I think there’s an opportunity here for one of these lefty power-hitting veterans to grab a spot previously held by the likes of Chad Tracy or Matt Stairs.  In order I think the chances are best for Stewart, Carp, Ka’aihue and then Robinson..

Future plans: Like with the other vets, it wouldn’t surprise me to see all these veterans with opt-outs.  As for Skole, I’d like to see him regain his batting eye; his BA and his OBP both took 40+ point nose dives in 2014.  Of course, it is also worth noting that Skole is 110% blocked on this team right now; he can basically only play 1st or 3rd.  Skole’s value to this team may be in his trade value, which means a good season in Syracuse could mean his ticket out of town for opportunity.


Conclusion: I think we could see one or two of these NRIs make the team, even without an injury.  Remains to be seen.

Rule 5 Protection Analysis for 2014

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A.J. Cole seems like a lock to be added to the 40-man ahead of the Rule-5 draft. Photo AP

A.J. Cole seems like a lock to be added to the 40-man ahead of the Rule-5 draft. Photo AP

After talking about 2015 payroll projections and then 2015 options analysis, and coming to the conclusion that:

  1. We’re payroll heavy and might see some shedding this off-season, and
  2. Our 40-man is full and we have a ton of guys without options.

Thus, the next logical step is to talk about who might get shed off the 40-man roster in order to protect incoming players ahead of the Rule 5 draft.

This post is a bit earlier than we normally do it; Teams have until 11/19/14 to add players ahead of the rule-5 draft (which occurs the last day of the winter meetings (this year, 12/11/14 in San Diego).  All these dates and more are on the off-season Baseball Calendar for 2014-15.  But, because we’re talking about it, lets get into the analysis.

As always, using the indispensable Nationals resource sites Draft tracker and the Big Board, and then giving some thought to prospect acquisitions made via trade, here’s some thoughts.  The quick Rule-5 rules; any college-aged draftee from 2011 or before who isn’t already on the 40-man roster is Rule-5 eligible this coming off season, and any high-school aged draftee from 2010 or before is newly eligible this year.

Newly Eligible 2011 draft College Players this year worth consideration for protection:

  • Brian Goodwin: Supp-1st round pick from 2011, paid like an upper 1st rounder, who has been a continual presence on top-100 prospect lists but who hit just .219 in AAA this year, didn’t play after July 1st, and has been clearly passed on the organizational OF depth chart by both Steven Souza and Michael Taylor.  Do the Nats protect their $3M bonus investment and find room for Goodwin on the 40-man?  I think they do.
  • Matt Skole, 5th rounder who blasted his way into the Nats minor league hitter of the year in 2012, then suffered a freak injury in the 2nd game of the year in 2013, costing him a whole season.  His OPS dropped more than 200 points from 2012 in 2014.  He’s almost a 3-true outcomes kind of hitter (good power, a TON of strikeouts but a lot of walks).  I’m in agreement with others; because of his lefty power and a distinct lack of lefty power elsewhere, I feel like he’s a potential future contributor.  I’ve always liked Skole and hope we don’t lose him in a rule-5 gambit.

There’s a whole slew of guys who were college draftees in 2011 who are still in the system.  No one else has even matriculated to AAA yet, and some are still in high-A.  The one name that sticks out as someone who “should” be in this conversation is 2011 4th rounder Kylin Turnbull. But no one else on this list merits any discussion for protection at this point.

Newly Eligible 2010 High School-age drafted players under consideration for protection:

  • Just one: A.J. Cole.  Who, it goes without saying, is a lock to get added.  In fact, there was only one other HS draftee in that entire 2010 class who signed; Robbie Ray.

Newly Eligible IFAs under consideration for protection (signed in 2010)

  • Wilmer Difo: just named MVP of the South Atlantic league, occupies a position of weakness in the system.  But would someone grab a guy from Low-A and expect to keep them on the 25-man roster all year?

A couple of other 2010 IFAs who sometimes pop up here: Wander Suero, Wirkin Estevez.

Minor League Free Agents of Note (it isn’t live yet, but this list will be at this link on BaseballAmerica eventually).  These are original draftees of the Nats who have now played in our org for 6 years.  They are basically guys who were drafted in 2008 and who have not yet been released or added to the 40-man.  Or they’re MLFA signings from last year.

  • Rafael Martin: frequently discussed here.  Great numbers in AAA this year.  Already 30.  Not a rule-5 issue necessarily, but a jeopardy to sign elsewhere.
  • Destin Hood: 2nd round pick in 2008.  So much promise, finally posted decent numbers in 2014.  Strategically, if you were Hood would you re-sign here though?  He’s at least 7th on the OF depth chart by now.
  • The whole Syracuse rotation: McGregor, Espino, Laffey and Lively.  Along with Delcarmen, Stange and Runion.  My initial impression is that the team’s going to have more than enough pitching to fill Syracuse’s rotation from those that aren’t going to make the MLB rotation (Cole, Jordan, Hill and Treinen to start, then throw in Rivero and maybe even Solis).  So the starters likely are gone; maybe we could use some more MLFA relievers though.

The only other 2008 draftees still hanging around are Jose Lozada and Paul Demny.  I’m guessing neither signs with us for 2015.

Rule-5 Eligible hold-overs of note:

  • Matthew Grace: had an excellent year in AAA, as discussed many times here.  Worth protecting?
  • Neil Holland: a decent year between AA and AAA; he does not seem a jeopardy to get picked so the team can hold onto him for one more year before he hits MLFA.

Did I miss anyone?  I hope not.


So, who would I protect?  I would protect Cole and Skole for sure.  I would highly recommend protecting Goodwin.

Past that, I’d roll the dice.  I like Grace and Martin, enough that I’d like to see how they look in the spring, but perhaps not enough to drop someone else.  I like Hood; maybe they try to re-sign him.  I think Difo is important, but they’ll risk not adding him since he’s only played at low-A.

They’re already looking at dumping 2-3 people to cover the above names; any more and you’re really digging deep, even withstanding the whole “7 guys are out of options” discussion we just had.

Thoughts?


For a fun trip down memory lane, here’s the same Rule 5 Protection analysis for 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

By year, here’s who I predicted we’d add and who we did add.  My “predictions” are kind of iffy, because in some cases I clearly hedged in the post and said something like “if it were me I’d add X,Y and Z but I think they’ll only add X and Y.”