Nationals Arm Race

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

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Yan Gomes deal: I like it

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Gomes joins the Nats. Photo via nytimes.com

Gomes joins the Nats. Photo via nytimes.com

The Nats seemingly solved their catching issues for the next few years with the shrewd acquisition of Cleveland 2018 all-star catcher Yan Gomes.  And they didn’t have to break the bank to do it.

They part ways with Jefry Rodriguez, who was probably sat #6 on the current Nats roster of starting pitchers, soon to be pushed further downwards with whatever acquisitions may yet to come, and who had proven over the course of the last two seasons he couldn’t be trusted with the ball for a playoff team.  They also part ways with 2017 minor league POTY Daniel Johnson, cashing in on a guy who is still low minors but could flourish for a team like Cleveland.  There’s also a PTBNL thrown in, usually indicative of a lower level prospect that Cleveland gets to pick from later on after scouting the Nats low-A team or something.

Johnson becomes the 4th player flipped from the 2016 draft, which is more and more looking like the best Nats draft in a decade.  He joins Jesus LuzardoDane Dunning, and Sheldon Neuse heading out the door from that draft, and all three of these previously traded players have more or less flourished with their new organizations.   Luzardo is now considered one of the best left-handed prospects in the game, Dunning regularly is called an “under the radar” type pitching prospect who the White Sox seem to be depending on as a solid mid-rotation piece in the future, and Neuse played all of 2018 in AAA as a 23-yr old after a 3-level rise in 2017.

(Yes, I’d like to have all of them back, especially Luzardo, who the team spent so much to acquire, nursed back to health and really could help with the current rotation crunch).

Nonetheless, for me this acquisition kicks off a series of new consequences for the 2019 team:

  • No more pursuit of additional catchers, which should be a sigh of relief for Victor Robles fans, who had repeatedly been dangled to the Marlins for J.T. Realmuto.  No longer.
  • I like this Gomes acquistion, and I like the semi-platoon they now have setup with Kurt Suzuki.  If one goes down with injury, the other can cover while they bring back up Kieboom for protection.  This is such a better situation than we had the past two seasons, where had a crummy hitting, poor defending catcher in Matt Wieters with the likes of Kieboom or Severino as the guy getting regular day-after-night game starts.
  • Pedro Severino‘s days are numbered; no options, no roster spot for 2019.  He’ll hang around all spring to guard against injury, but faces a looming DFA next April 1st.  Will he get picked up by another team?  Perhaps.  He was just so bad at the plate in 2018 that its hard to project any team giving him even a backup role, no matter how good his defense is.
  • If Severino stays in the system though, he’ll likely push downwards in a cascading manner our current catching “depth,” since he’ll join Spencer Kieboom in AAA,   That pushes Taylor Gushue back to AA, likely with Raudy Read who seems lost in the shuffle here.  That then leaves Jakson Reetz and Tres Barrera basically repeating High-A for the time being.  I don’t think any of these guys are really pushing for promotion necessarily based on offensive performance: Gushue hit .212 in AA in 2018, Read hit much better in AA but showed almost no power in a half-season in AAA, Reetz has never hit even .240 in any stop since the rookie league, and Barrera hit good but not amazing in Potomac.  Probably the best case would be to just part ways with Severino, and have this be your C depth in 2019:
    • AAA: Read and Kieboom splitting time evenly
    • AA: Gushue and Barrera, who probably needs a promotion
    • High-A: Reetz and perhaps one of the low-A 2018 catches like Alejandro Flores or Alex Dunlop

Suffice it to say … we have very little reliable catching depth in our minors right now.  Thankfully Gomes has options through 2021 for reasonable money.

  • We already knew we had no SP depth, and now we just traded our primary backup hurler.  Not that i’m enamored of Jefry Rodriguez and think he’s our savior … but I do slightly question the choice of player to ship out.  I understand “trading from strength” and I also understand that you have to give up something to get something … but this team has traded away SO MUCH starting pitching over the past few years that I wonder if they need to, you know, save some of it?  As has been noted elsewhere, the last time the Nats developed and kept a for-real MLB starter was Stephen Strasburg, which, lets be honest, even the most incompetent organization could have done.  Here’s a list of the starters we’ve traded away in the last 2 years: Jefry Rodriguez, McKenzie Mills, Tyler Watson, Jesus Luzardo, Taylor Hearn, Pedro Avila, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Dane Dunning.  That’s a ton of starters.  And now we’re looking at acquiring even more via trade or FA.  At some point we have to stop spending money on FA starters and grow them from within.
  • This was actually a fantastic Salary Cap move: Gomes counts just $3.8M towards the 2019 luxury tax cap.  With all the tenders and salary estimates, I still have the team $43M under the cap, so that’s plenty of room to buy the upgrades they need.

In the end…. one major position of need down (C), two more to go (SP and 2B).

 

 

Rule 5 Addition analysis/predictions for 2018

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Did Jordan Mills' AFL performance earn him a 40-man spot? Photo via milb.com

Did Jordan Mills’ AFL performance earn him a 40-man spot? Photo via milb.com

Its an annual tradition.  This is my 9th annual analysis of the roster moves the Nats will do to protect players from the Rule 5 draft.  See the bottom for links/summary of the first eight such posts with a quick guess as to how well i’ve done making predictions.

Lets take a look at who is eligible, who might get protected and make some predictions.  I’ve got the Nats 40-man roster at 35 now, so there’s plenty of room to add names and do their off-season work.  But, this team also needs to sign a bunch of FAs, so perhaps the Rule5 activity will be limited.  That being said, there’s some dead-weight at the end of the 40-man roster that includes some fringe players out of options for 2019 anyway, who we may try to slip through waivers as we go.  Nonetheless, its something to think about.

Another recurring theme while doing this research: a good number of the prospects we received back in late-season trades ended up being Rule-5 Eligible this coming off-season.  I suppose it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that we got players back in this category, but it does mean our trade bounty for some of our veterans might end up never playing a game for the Nats franchise.

As always, using the indispensable Nationals resource sites Draft tracker and the Big Board, and then looking up candidate acquisitions made via trade, here’s some thoughts on who might merit protection.   Also incredibly useful is Roster Resource’s Nats Roster, which keeps track of options, rule-5 status and the like.

The quick Rule-5 rules for 2017; any college-aged draftee from 2015 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/International Free Agent from 2014 or before is newly eligible this year, assuming they were at least 18 as of June 5th of that year.  There’s always a couple of guys who have specific birthdays that move them up or down one way or the other; i’ll depend on the Roster Resource rules.

One last thing: here was our 2018 AFL Roster: Ben Braymer, Taylor Guilbeau, Jordan Mills, Luis Reyes, Tres Barrera, Carter Kieboom, Jake Noll, Daniel Johnson.  Half these guys (Guilbeau, Mills, and Reyes) are rule-5 eligible; the others (Braymer, Barrera, Kieboom, Noll and Johnson) were all 2016 draftees and thus are not part of this discussion… for this year anyway.


Newly Eligible 2015 draft College Players this year worth consideration for protection:

  • Rhett Wiseman, 3rd round left-handed hitting OF out of Vanderbilt.  Repeated High-A in 2018 and drastically improved his OPS, but it seems to be on the back of perhaps going for more of an all or nothing approach: he increased his homer output, but also struck out 122 times in 407 PAs.  The team invested a big bonus in him, and it hasn’t panned out.  I really liked this pick at the time, but then watched him hit in the CWS that year and thought he’d have a hard time adjusting to pro pitching.  So far, my amateur observation seems to be holding true.
  • Taylor Guilbeau, LHP 10th rounder who repeated High-A this year but switched to the bullpen and halved his ERA.  The team named him to the AFL roster and he excelled,  giving up 2 runs in 10+ innings.  Given the team’s lack of lefty arms, I’d consider Guilbeau … but then again, he’s never pitched above High-A so he seems like a safe bet not to get picked.  But then again, he just manned up in the AFL in front of every scout in the game.
  • Andrew Istler, our trade bounty from the Dodgers for Ryan Madsen.  He had very solid numbers in AA in a middle relief role, even earning a stellar AAA call-up.  He’s an undersized Duke grad, 23rd round pick who has done well.  I wonder if his pedigree makes him less likely to get picked.

Eligible but not mentioned here: Ian Sagdal, who (like Wisemann) is still in High-A and is a power-less 1B.   Angelo La Bruna is a part-time SS who was a senior sign, did not appear in 2018 but is still listed as active.  Matt Crownover may be lefty, but he also repeated High-A for the 3rd year in 2018.  Grant BorneTommy Peterson and Ryan Brinley missed all of 2018 with injury.   Andrew Lee basically missed all of 2017 with injury and still hasn’t even gotten out of Low-A.  Jorge Pantoja has bounced around the A-levels for four years now, ending last year with a 4.68 ERA in High-A.

The key college-eligible players out of this draft have long since been called into 40-man service, released or traded.  Andrew Stevenson and Koda Glover are the biggest remaining names from this draft for the team.

 


Newly Eligible 2014 High School-age drafted players under consideration for protection

  • Jakson Reetz, 3rd round C from 2014.  Reetz was paid a big bonus out of HS, and has basically never hit at any level.  He played all of 2018 as the backup C in Potomac and slugged just .323 for the year.  His career BA is .233 across 5 pro seasons and nearly a thousand plate appearances.  Suffice it to say, had he not been paid $800k out of HS, he’d have been released long ago.  He’s certainly not going to get picked in Rule-5.
  • Weston Davis, RHP 11th rounder.  He missed all of 2015… and then all of 2018.  Through 5 full pro seasons he has just 124.2 innings pitched.  He’s still hanging around, and will look to make it out of XST next year.

The Nats generally don’t pick HS players, so the picking here is always slim.


Newly Eligible 2014 signed IFAs under consideration for protection:

  • Joan Baez went 9-9 with a 3.79 ERA as a full time starter for Potomac this year.  We’ve heard about Baez’s arm for a while.  He repeated Potomac again after walking as many as he struck out in 2017, and indeed he’s improved on that ratio.  I think he’s a decent bet for someone to look at, but his lack of upper-level experience probably keeps him from getting picked.
  • Telmito Augustin, a LF who hit pretty well for High-A this year (OPS of .822).  But he’s never even gotten to AA, and like many of the “holdovers” he’s a corner OF type who is competing with a ton of MLB veterans for roster spots.  I don’t think he’s a threat to get drafted.
  • Steven Fuentes, who forced a mid-season promotion to High-A where he posted a 3.00 ERA in 45 middle-relief type innings.
  • Andruw Monasario, the 2B prospect the Nats received from the Cubs in the Daniel Murphy trade.  He was an IFA2014 signee and is newly Rule-5 eligible.   He repeated High-A in 2018, has no power (6 career homers), little speed (48 SBs in 349 career minor league games), and is only mentioned here b/c he was trade bounty for Murphy.
  • Gilbert Lara, the 3B prospect the Nats received from Milwaukee in the Gio Gonzalez trade.   He played all of 2018 in Low-A, had decent numbers and is very unlikely to be taken.  He’s only mentioned here for similar reasons to Monsario.

Others in this category: Tomas Alastre , who posted a 5.23 ERA in 23 starts in Low-A.  Malvin Pena basically missed two full seasons and only just made it to Low-A.

Our biggest 2014 IFA signing is now safely ensconced on the 40-man roster; Victor Robles.


Rule-5 Eligible hold-overs of note: 2014 or prior college draftees still hanging out in the system, or 2013 and prior HS/IFAs.

  • Taylor Gushue, a 2014 Draftee out of Florida who has now made his way all the way to AAA. Even though he didn’t really hit that well in AA (.212), he still made his way to the top level of the minors.  The Nats only have 3 catchers on the 40-man and one of them (Severino) has no options left, so they’re going to need some depth.  I think Gushue may be a consideration to add.
  • Drew Ward, who drew a promotion to AAA in July but struggled and was sent back to AA.  I thought he was a candidate to get protected last year but he missed the draft.  Now?  I’d guess he slips through again, despite being a lefty corner player that the team needs to back up Ryan Zimmerman simply because there’s a glut of such veteran players on the market every year now, and they can be had for just a couple million bucks.  A 40-man spot is much more valuable.  I think Ward plays out his term in 2019 and makes his way to MLFA.
  • Austin Davidson is a corner OF and 13th rounder in 2014 who is beginning to show some promise.  He had a solid OPS of .846 in 94 AA games this year.  But, like Ward (who is about a half a step ahead of him), he faces competition from above.  Not a real threat to get drafted.
  • Alec Keller: a 2017 17th rounder in the same boat as Ward and Davidson above him; corner OF, decent numbers, no chance of getting Rule-5’d.
  • Tyler Mapes, a great story who continues to make waves.  He was a 30th rounder in 2014, missed all of 2017 with injury but came back with a vengeance in 2018, dominating Potomac and holding his own with a 3.95 ERA in AA.  I like his chances of pushing towards AAA in 2019, but don’t quite think he’s a scare to get plucked.
  • Luis Reyes: finally made it to AA this year, and got shelled (12 starts, 5.18 ERA).  Nonetheless the team included him in their AFL roster, where he got even more shelled (4 starts, 12 innings, 22 runs allowed).  I think whatever jeopardy he had of getting picked is long gone.
  • Jordan Mills: a 2017 MLFA signing who really came on this year as a lefty reliever in AA.  He was also sent to AFL in perhaps a final audition for the bigger club; there he did pretty well, holding his WHIP under 1.00.  I think he’s one to protect.
  • James Bourque was (finally?) moved to the bullpen in 2018 and immediately turned into a monster: he struck out 52 in 33 high-A innings, got moved to AA and posted a 0.92 ERA in 19 2/3rds innings.  I think he shows a ton of promise; enough to protect?

Others in this category: Aldrem Corredor, a 1B who has hung around since 2012 in the system.  David Masters completed his *fourth straight* season in Potomac in 2018.  Dakota Bacus has been on this list for 3 years running, is now a 27-yr old RHP middle reliever just completing his 4th season in AA.  Jose Marmolejos i suppose theoretically is still eligible; he was on the 40-man, got outrighted in July and subsequently had a sub .700 OPS in AAA (low for a 1B).

Austen Williams got added late in the year; he would have been in this category.


So, who would I protect?

So, remember, if someone gets drafted they have to stick on someone else’s ACTIVE, 25-man MLB roster the entirety of 2019.  So it has to be someone who could theoretically stick on a MLB roster.  Given that statement, and looking at what the Nats are light on, I think they add three arms:

  • Bourque
  • Mills
  • Istler

Who would I additionally consider?

  • Baez
  • Gushue
  • Mapes

Here’s some other opinions in the Natmosphere on the same topic:

  • District On Deck thinks Bourque is a lock, Augustin and Ward under consideration.
  • MLB.com listed every organization’s top ranked prospects who are Rule5 Eligible: Augustin, Bourque, Alastre, Marmolejos and Ward are top-30 prospects being exposed.
  • TalkNats has a bunch of the players listed but doesn’t make a prediction; seems to imply they think Bourque, Istler, and Agustin might get protected.
  • WP’s Chelsea Jane seems to suggest Marmolejos, Augustin, Bourque, plus perhaps others.

For a fun trip down memory lane, here’s the same Rule 5 Protection analysis post for 2017201620152014201320122011, and 2010.

By year, here’s who I predicted we’d add and who we did add.

  • 2018: Predicted: Bourque, Mills,Istler.  Actual: just Bourque.
  • 2017: Predicted: Gutierrez, Gushue, Ward, Baez.  Actual: Gutierrez and Jefry Rodriguez.
  • 2016: Predicted Voth, Bautista.  Actual: Voth, Bautista, Marmolejos, Read and Skole.
  • 2015: Predicted Kieboom, Bostick, Marmolejos-Diaz.  Actual: Kieboom, Bostick, Lee
  • 2014: Predicted Cole, Skole, Goodwin.  Hedged on Grace, Martin and Difo.  Actual: Cole, Goodwin, Difo, Grace.
  • 2013: Predicted Solis as the only lock (Souza already added).  Possibles mentioned in order Barrett, Taylor, Grace, Holland.  Actual: Solis, Barrett, Taylor.
  • 2012: Predicted Karns and McCoy, with Hood and Rosenbaum as maybes.  Actual: Karns and Davis.  I think we were all surprised by Davis’ inclusion, despite his good AA numbers that year.
  • 2011: Predicted Norris as a lock, guessed strongly on Moore, Meyers and Komatsu.  Actual: Norris, Moore, Solano, Perez.    This was poor analysis on my part; I did not consider the IFAs newly eligible.
  • 2010: Predicted Marrero, Meyers and Mandel.  Actual: Marrero, Carr and Kimball.
  • 2009: pre-dates my blog and thus no predictions, but Actual was Jaime, Thompson and Severino.
  • 2008: I might be wrong, but I don’t see any evidence of the team protecting *anyone* prior to the Rule-5 draft.  A bit of an indictment of the farm system at the time, I’d say :-)

Pressing issues for the Nats this off-season

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Will Dusty get another contract here? Photo via UPI

Will Dusty get another contract here? Photo via UPI

Since our season is over (but the hot-stove has not yet kicked in), i’ll piggy back on the recent posts to this same topic done by Mark Zuckerman at MASN and by Chelsea Janes at WP.

Their posts both touched on some of the same issues; i’ll take those issues and add in a few of my own.

Major issues for the Nats to address this coming off-season, how I would address them and what I think the team will do:

  1. Resolve Dusty Baker situation.  Many reports have noted that the team wants him back and that he wants to return.  I see little that he could have done differently in the 5-game NLDS loss to use as evidence that he’s not the right guy (you can’t lose when your pitchers throw 6 no-hit innings in playoff starts), and he’s so clearly a better man-manager than his predecessor Matt Williams that I see no reason not to extend him.   I know that the Lerner’s don’t like to do long term contracts, and lets just hope they offer Baker the raise he deserves for two straight division titles (and, in my opinion, the NL Manager of the Year in 2017 award that he should get for working around so many injuries this year).
  2. Should we bring back Jayson Werth?   Yes he’s the “club house leader,” yes he’s been here for seven years and has settled in the DC area.  But he struggled this year with both injuries and performance, is entering his age 39  year, posted a negative bWAR in 2017, and the team has a surplus of outfielders who are probably MLB “starters” heading into 2018, more than we can even field.  I think the team says to Werth something along the lines of the following: Go see if you can find a DH/part time OF job in the AL for a couple years until you’re done playing and then we’ll hire you back as a special assistant/hitting instructor/bench coach or something.  I’m not entirely convinced that Werth is a DC lifer though; he’s been kind of a nomad in his career.  Drafted by Baltimore, traded to Toronto (with whom he debuted), traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, signed as a FA with Philly for four years, then with us for seven.  Yes he’s been with us the longest, but this isn’t a situation like Ryan Zimmerman where we’re the only org he’s known.  I think he heads off to the AL for a couple years then comes back to the fold with a front office job.
  3. What do we do at Catcher?  I’ll quickly repeat what we’ve been discussing in the comments of previous posts; yes I know Matt Wieters struggled badly at the plate this year, yes I know he botched the 5th inning of that fateful game 5.  But he’s not going to decline a $10M offer after this season, nor is the team going to swallow that amount of money.  Prepare yourselves for another season of Wieters, who we can only hope bounces back in his “contract year” and gets a bump in performance.  Meanwhile, as much as we love the Jose Lobaton cheerleader routine, we do need more production from the backup.  Even though Lobaton got just 158 ABs this year, he still managed to put up a -1.0 bWAR figure.  That’s hard to do.  If only we could just have him only play for us in the playoffs … (big hit in game 5 in 2017, the clutch 3-run homer in 2016).  I suspect the team will go with Wieters and Pedro Severino as his backup, getting Severino at least two starts a week to get him up to speed on MLB pitching, then making a 2019 decision based on whether Severino looks like he could hit enough to be a full time starter or if he remains the backup to some FA acquisition.  We have others in the pipeline who may prove themselves worthy soon (Raudy Read in AAA, Taylor Gushue in AA, Jakson Reetz in High-A, Tres Barrera in Low-A, plus long-serving minor leaguers Spencer Kieboom and Jhonatan Solano in the AAA fold who may or may not come back for 2018).
  4. Will they pursue FA extensions with key players?  Namely, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy.  Lets take them one by one:
    1. Harper: lets face it, there’s NO WAY he’s not hitting free agency.  Scott Boras client with a chance to set the all time contract record?  Both guys have the ego required to pursue that avenue.  And yes, while some Boras clients (Stephen Strasburg) have taken pre-FA deals, very few do.  You hire Boras generally to get the biggest value deal and to leverage his relationships with owners so as to negotiate directly with them and that’s what Harper will do.
    2. Rendon: he’s still got two arb years: what I think the team will do is do a 2-year deal to buy out the Arb years and get cost containment.  MLBtraderumors projected Rendon’s arb salary for 2018 at $11.5M and they’re usually pretty accurate; I could see the nats offering Rendon a 2yr/$26M deal for $10M in 2018 then $16M in 2019 or something like that … maybe a little higher in his final year given his MVP-calibre season.  That’d be good for the team because Rendon might be a $20M/year player, and good for Rendon b/c he’s injury prone.  Past this though … Rendon is also a Boras client but he projects to me kind of like Strasburg in that he’s low-key and may want to commit to DC longer term.  Of course, Rendon is also a Houston lifer (born, high school and college there) so he could also want a return trip home to play for his home town team.  Probably an issue for the 2020 hot-stove season.
    3. Murphy: the Nats have gotten such a huge bargain with the Murphy signing.  He’ll only be 34 at the beginning of his next deal, and he plays a position (2B) that isn’t nearly as taxing as an OF or other infield position.  I would feel completely comfortable offering him another 3 year deal, increasing the dollars to maybe $16M/year (3yrs/$48M).
  5. Do they need to pursue a Starting Pitcher?  Absolutely, 100% yes.   Joe Ross is out for basically the whole of 2018, they traded away all their AAA depth last off-season, and the guys remaining in AAA (A.J. Cole and Erick Fedde) did not grab the 5th starter job like they had the chance to in 2017.  Edwin Jackson probably earned himself a shot elsewhere but was too inconsistent for my tastes.  I think the team splurges here, trying to get the best additional veteran starter they can find either on the free market or in trade.  The market for starters is intriguing: Yu DarvishJake Arrieta are Cy-Young quality arms available.  There’s some decent SPs like Masahiro Tanaka and Johnny Cueto who can opt out but who also may just stay put.  There’s #4 starter types like Lance Lynn and Jeremy Hellickson who are available and could be good 5th starters for us.  There’s guys who have put up good seasons but have struggled lately (Jaime GarciaFrancisco LirianoClay Buchholz) who could be intriguing.  So it’ll be interesting to see who they get.
  6. What is the Nats 2018 outfield?  Do they stick with Internal options or do they hit the FA/trade Markets?   I like a potential 2018 outfield of Taylor/Eaton/Harper.  I like Taylor in CF providing better defense than Eaton right now, given that ACL injuries really are 2-year recoveries.  Given Taylor’s big 2017 and his “Michael A Tater” NLDS, he’s more than earned a starting spot in 2018.  That leaves some surplus in the OF for 2018 … something we’ll talk about next.  There are some intriguing names out there on the FA market (J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Lorenzo Cain) who could slot into either LF or CF as needed and give a hopeful boost to the offense … but are any of those guys and their 8-figure salaries guarantees to be better than the cost-contained Taylor?  I don’t think so, and that’s why I think we stick with him.
  7. Do the Nats leverage their sudden depth of position players in trade this off-season?  In particular, i’m talking about Wilmer Difo and Brian Goodwin, both of whom played extremely well when given the opportunity and who both proved that they’re MLB starting quality.   If we stick with Taylor as a starter, then you have both Goodwin and Andrew Stevenson as able backups and that’s one too many.  If we (going back to the previous point) buy another outfielder, then that’s even more surplus.  I’m of the opinion that the team needs to sell high on both Difo and Goodwin and acquire needed assets (5th starter, bullpen help, near-to-the-majors pitching prospects).
  8. What do we do with the benchDrew, Lobaton, Kendrick, de Aza, Raburn all FAs, Lind has a player option but may want to try to parlay his excellent PH season into a FTE job.  So that leaves … not much.
    1. We have already talked about a backup catcher above
    2. We need a RH bench bat who can play corners (1B/LF): that was Chris Heisey to start the year .. but he’s long gone.  Kendrick ably filled this role … but he won’t sign back on as a utility guy given his excellent 2017.
    3. If Lind doesn’t exercise his $5M player option, we’ll need a big bopper lefty on the bench again.  We do have a guy like this on the farm and on our 40-man (Jose Marmolejos) but is he MLB ready?  He had a nice AA season, but AA to the majors is a jump.
    4. If we flip Difo, we’ll need a backup middle infielder.  Do we keep him assuming that Turner/Murphy will get hit with injuries (as they both are apt to do?)  Turner missed months, Murphy missed nearly 20 games in each of the past two years; is that enough to keep someone around versus flipping them?
    5. We do seem OK with backup outfielders right now, assuming that Andrew Stevenson is sufficient as a 4th OF/CF-capable defensive replacement/pinch runner type.

So, that’s potentially a brand new bench.  Luckily its not too hard to find veteran big-hitting RH or LH bats; we seem to do this every year and have some luck.  Middle infielders?  Would you sign up for another year of Drew?  I don’t think I would at this point; he just seems to brittle to count on.   I suspect the team will be quite active in this area.

9. What do we do with the bullpen Right now, given the departing FA relievers (Perez, Kintzler, Blanton, Albers), our “standing pat” bullpen for 2018 looks something like this:

  1. Closer: Doolittle
  2. 7th/8th inning guys: Madsen, Kelley, Glover
  3. Lefties: Solis, Romero
  4. Long Man: Grace/Cole
  5. Minors options: Adams, Gott

So, that’s a pretty solid looking bullpen if two guys in particular are healthy: Kelley and Glover.  Our entire strategy in the off-season seems to hinge on the health of these two.  I have no guesses; so lets assume one of them is good and one of them has a significant all of 2018 injury.  That means we probably pursue another Matt Albers type in the off-season.  Meanwhile, there’s a difference of opinion on the value of both our current lefties: Romero’s ancillary numbers were barely adequate and lefties hit him for nearly a .300 BAA, so he’s not exactly an effective lefty.  Solis blew up this season, posting a seasonal ERA of nearly 6.00 (his FIP was much better) and getting demoted at one point.  But he gets lefties out, Baker trusts him, and I can’t see him not being a part of the solution.  If the team thought they could improve upon Romero, perhaps they also pursue a lefty reliever (or resign the swashbuckler Perez).  I’m ok with Grace as a long man (though his K/9 rates leave something to be desired) but I’d also like to see the team convert Cole to relief at this point.  There’s some options issues to consider; Solis, Romero, Cole, and Grace are all out of options for next year, so they all either make the team or get cut loose.

 


So Summary:

  1. Bring back Baker
  2. Say good bye to Werth
  3. Stand pat on catcher with internal options
  4. Buy out Rendon’s arb years this year, talk about Murphy next year
  5. Get a decent 5th starter
  6. Go with Taylor/Eaton/Harper with Stevenson as your backup in the OF
  7. Yes, trade Goodwin and Difo for stuff
  8. Get one middle RH reliever, one middle LF reliever, convert Cole to relief
  9. Cattle call for bench bats next spring.

Am I missing anything?  Lots of talking points here.

 

 

2016 Season Statistical review of the 2016 Draft Class

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Dane Dunning was a 1st round pick and was arguably the best producer in 2016 of his draft class. Photo via gatorcountry.com

Dane Dunning was a 1st round pick and was arguably the best producer in 2016 of his draft class. Photo via gatorcountry.com

Editor note: from this post forward i’m going to start tweeting out via the new Nationals Arm Race twitter account.  @natsarmrace is the account.  I’m going to try to do a better job promoting the blog and its posts since, hey, why not.  Feel free to follow me there and retweet if you’re into that to get more people involved in the discussion.

In years past, I’ve adapted a topic stolen from minorleagueball.com’s John Sickels and reviewed all our draft classes statistically.  Last years set of posts (2015 draft class, 2014 draft class, 2013 draft class2012 draft class and 2011 draft class) turned into a great way to see how everyone was doing, and helped me write rotation reviews later on.  So let’s do it again!  Using last year’s posts to help make this year’s writing go better, we’re going to do another series of posts on each draft class.

First up; 2016’s class.  Here’s a fast review of the 2016 draft class, looking at their 2016 numbers and making some snap judgments.

Web links to use while reading:

  • Stats are pulled from milb.com and/or fangraphs.com; put the player name into the search bar to get his seasonal stats
  • The MLB.com Draft Tracker (which I believe is the best draft tracker out there) is the best place to get draft class information.
  • The Big Board and the Draft Tracker are the goto resources for prospects for any Nats fan.
  • More obscure stats on players are sometimes found at places like thebaseballcube.com, perfectgame.org, their college websites, twitter accounts for the players, and good old fashioned deep-dive googling.

At the end of each player write-up i’ll put in a color coded trending line for the player: Green for Trending UpBlue for Trending steady, Red for Trending Down.   This is just my knee-jerk opinion of the prospect status of the player system-wide.  And yes I realize this is their first pro ball season, short-sample sizes, scouting the stat line, etc etc.  So apologies in advance if you think i’m being too harsh passing judgement on a 15 inning sample size.  Of course I am; what else are we going to argue about this off-season?  :-).  I solicit any and all feedback from those who actually saw the games, who think differently or who have inside information that i’ve missed here (like last year when we found out that Perkins was converting to switch hitting).

Without further ado:

Round 1: Carter Kieboom, SS, Walton HS (Georgia).  Slashed .244/.323/.452 in 135 at-bats in the GCL, signing four days after being drafted and thus getting as full of a season in as could be expected.  43/12 K/BB in 135 ABs, 4 homers, 1 SB in 36 games.  He played SS exclusively and made 9 errors in 31 games in the field.   When he did hit the ball, he hit for a decent amount of power (.452 slugging).  At age 18 he’s still a year and a half younger than the average age of the GCL, so this is a positive start.   Still, I think he’d be hard pressed to make a full season squad in 2017, so I’d expect him to repeat GCL in 2017.  Trending Steady.

Round 1: Dane Dunning, RHP (starter) Coll Jr from UFlorida.   3-2, 2.14 ERA in Short-A (ignoring 2 innings at the GCL) with 29/7 K/BB in 33 2/3IP (7 app, 7 starts, 1 CG).  0.98 whip, 2.57 FIP, .263 babip.   He gave up 26 hits and one homer in those 33 innings, which is more or less in-line with the numbers he posted for the University of Florida his junior  year in a swing-man role.  I like Dunning and I like his approach; he comes right at you, doesn’t shy away from contact, and makes you hit his pitch.  He had a sub 1.00 whip, which is great from a starter at any level.  He doesn’t have eye-popping stuff, but he seems to consistently getting guys out.  You can’t ask for a better apprenticeship than Florida and SEC baseball, so he seems like a good candidate to jump from Low-A to High-A next season.   Trending Up.

Round 2: Sheldon Neuse, 3B Coll Jr. from Oklahoma.  Slashed .230/.305/.341 in 36 games in Short-A.  26/13 K/BB in 126 ABs, 1HR, 2SB.  Played mostly 3B (filled in 6 games at Short) and made 5 errors in 222 innings while playing third.  Neuse struggled a bit in his first pro season, not hitting anywhere close to the .369/.465/.646 slash line he put up in his stellar junior year.   And he ended up missing nearly half the season in two separate stints of inactivity.  I’d definitely say this is a disappointing debut season, but luckily for Neuse he’s a big bonus kid so he’ll get plenty of time to work things out.  I fully expect to see him starting at 3B for Hagerstown next year; he’s not going to be kept in XST to start the year.  Though I will say it was interesting to see that a 17th rounder from this same draft “jumped” Neuse and finished the year starting at 3B for Low-A (more on that later).  Trending Steady, barely.

Round 3: Jesus Luzardo, LHP (starter) from S. Douglas HS (FL).  No Stats in 2016; he had Tommy John surgery on 3/22/16 and spent the season on the GCL D/L.  We’ll see him in the GCL next year.  Trending Steady.

Round 4: Nick Banks, OF (Corner) Coll Jr. from Texas A&M: Slashed .277/.310/.320 in 60 games in Short-A.  37/11 K/BB in 231 ABs, Zero homers, 7 SBs.   Not a ton of power from Banks in his first pro season; he slugged just 10 points higher than his OBP.  Banks is a tough one; I loved this pick back in June, so I’m not going to kill him yet, but clearly we need to see a bit more from a guy who is already relegated to a corner OF position.  I suppose its possible he’s still affected by the back surgery he had in late 2015 (that was the excuse for his college junior stats falling off), but that’s nearly a year in the rear-view mirror by now.   He’s presumably pushing Rhett Wiseman up a level since they’re both upper round-drafted corner-only outfielders.  Trending Down.

Round 5: Daniel Johnson, OF (CF) Coll Jr. from New Mexico State.  Slashed .265/.312/.347 in 62 games in Short A.   42/7 K/BB in 245 ABs, 1HR, 13SBs split between playing CF and RF.   Wow; just 7 walks in 245 ABs; that’s not good.  As with Neuse and Banks, the slash line isn’t that impressive though Johnson managed better power numbers by showing a bit of gap power (9 doubles, 4 triples).   He should move up with his draft class to low-A next year, but (again, as with Neuse and Banks) we need to see some improvement and some patience at the plate.   Trending Steady.

Round 6: Tres Barrera, C Coll Jr. from Texas.  Slashed .244/.337/.366 in 48 starts behind the dish for Short-A.  22/15 K/BB in 164 ABs, 3HR, 0SB.  A solid season for the catcher, who led Auburn’s qualifying players in OPS on the year.  An interesting decision may eventually await the team; is Barrera good enough for the team to decide to cut bait on Jakson Reetz?   Reetz improved his numbers greatly this year (which we’ll discuss in the 2015 draft class review post), and there’s a straightforward promotion path for Reetz, Raudy Read and for Barrera this year … but it is going to get crowded at the top and soon.   Trending Up.

Round 7: Jacob “Jake” Noll, 2B Coll Sr. from FGCU.  Hit .318 in 18 games in Auburn and earned a promotion on 8/1/16 to Hagerstown.  Slashed .275/.332/.401 across 3 levels in 2016.   26/15 K/BB, 5homers, 3SB in 207 ABs.   A good season for a senior sign, who should start at 2B again for Hagerstown in 2017 and look to continue his excellent start to his career.  Trending Up.

Round 8: A.J. Bogucki, RHP (starter) Coll Jr. from UNC.  0-6, 8.20 ERA in 10 games (6 starts) for Auburn.  17/14 K/BB in 26 1/3 IP.  1.97whip, 4.53 FIP, .378 BABIP.   So clearly a 4-point delta between his ERA and FIP highlights a bit of unluckiness in Bogucki’s numbers this year.  Still, nearly 2 baserunners an inning is an awful place to reside.  He had two especially bad outings that helped inflate his numbers, but overall its hard to see Bogucki having a guaranteed full-season spot next year.  I presume he’s in XST and then re-trying short-A in 2017.   Trending Down.

Round 9: Joey Harris, C Coll Sr. From Gonzaga.  Slashed .301/.414/.329 in 26 games catching roughly every third day in the GCL.   15/9 K/BB, zero HR, 1SB in 73ABs.  He had a nice average .. but non-existent power even despite being a 22yr old in a rookie league.  Harris was a cut-rate bonus senior sign and the odds of him making it past next season’s draft seem slim.   Trending Down.

Round 10: Paul Panaccione, SS/Util Coll Sr. from Grand Canyon U.  Slashed just .205/.254/.250 in 50 games serving as a utility backup for Auburn.   20/9 K/BB, zero homers, 1 SB in 176ABs.   There doesn’t seem to be any cinderella stories with the senior signs this year; like Harris above, Panaccione seems like he’s a quick release once the 2017 class starts signing.  Trending Down.

Round 11: Armond Upshaw, OF (CF) J2 from Pensacola State CC.  Slashed .325/.391/.400 in 13 games (40 ABs) for the GCL.  He missed a couple of weeks in July then did not play after August 1st.  He had a promising start for sure and, assuming there’s not a serious, long-term injury he should make sense to perhaps compete for a spot at Low-A Hagerstown in 2017.  It’s too small sample size to really pass too much judgement, so we’ll go with Trending Steady.

Round 12: Hayden Howard, LHP (reliever) Coll Jr. from Texas Tech.  0-2 with a 5.06 ERA in 11 games for Short-A.  12/9 K/BB in 21 1/3 innings, 1.73 whip, 4.03FIP, .365 babip.   Not the best start from Howard, who was one of the last drafted players to sign and start his career.  He mostly pitched 2-3 inning relief stints but didn’t show much in the way of swing-and-miss stuff.  His BABIP shows he was a bit unlucky, and at the risk of over-reacting to 21 innings, I’d say he’s already on a short leash.  He’ll be competing for a bullpen spot in Hagerstown next year.   Trending Down.

Round 13: Conner Simonetti, 1B Coll Jr. from Kent State.  Slashed .280/.333/.446 for the GCL Nats.  54/13 K/BB ratio, 6  homers, 0 ABs playing 1B for the rookie league squad.  A college junior should have at least made the Short-A team; i’m guessing Simonetti was pushed to the GCL thanks to a numbers game.  54 strikeouts in 42 games played against guys who were 1-2 years younger is the biggest concern i’d have here; I would like to have seen more contact.  Just based on where he played in 2017, i’m going to say Trending Down.

Round 14: Kyle Simonds, RHP (reliever) Coll Sr. from Texas A&M: 0-3 with a 2.51 ERA in 13 games (3 starts) for Auburn.  27/8 K/BB in 32 1/3 innings.  1.08 whip, 3.43 fip, .272 BABIP.  A nice little season for the senior sign Simonds, who got a few “starts” (which I put in quotes because clearly they were doing tandem starts) but mostly was a 2-3inning middle reliever.  Good K/BB ratio, good overall numbers, kept baserunners to a minimum.  I think he’s a shoe-in for middle relief in Hagerstown next year.   Trending Up.

Round 15: Ryan Williamson, LHP (starter) Coll Jr. from NC State: No Stats in 2016; he had Tommy John surgery on 6/22/16 with Dr. Andrews and spent the season on the GCL D/L.  We’ll see him in XST next year to start and then likely with Auburn in 2017.  If he recovers, this could be another nice pick for the Nats; he had promising numbers as a weekend starter for NC State this year (7-2, 2.69 ERA in 13 starts)   Trending Steady.

Round 16: Phil Morse, RHP (reliever) Coll Sr. from Shenandoah U (by way of McLean HS): 1-0, 7.79 ERA in 19 games as a late-innings reliever for Auburn.  23/13 K/BB ratio in 21 innings, 2.24 whip, 3.37 fip, .508 babip.  So, at first glance his ERA and WHIP look awful.  But look at his BABIP: above .500!  That’s 200 points or more above where it should be, and his FIP indicates it.  So, hopefully the Nats officials also see this vast discrepancy and give him another shot.  It looks like he was used as an 8th/9th inning guy because of stuff, so in short outings one string of hits can really inflate your stats.  I think he gets another look in the Hagerstown bullpen next year.  Trending Steady.

Round 17:  Tyler Beckwith, MIF Coll Sr. from URichmond; slashed .253/.330/.331 across 45 games across two levels.  44/16 K/BB ratio, 1HR, 5SB in 166 ABs.  Beckwith spent most of the season in the GCL despite being a college senior sign, then interestingly was promoted to Hagerstown to finish out the season.  He split time evenly between 2B, SS (his drafted position) and 3B.  In the GCL, his OBP was higher than his slugging, indicating very little power potential here.  He will compete for a full season job but already seems behind higher-drafted players from 2016 (Neuse, Noll) plus some aging IFAs from the D.R., plus some hangers on from prior drafts.  He could be a release candidate soon after the 2017 class is drafted.   Trending Down.

Round 18: Ben Braymer, LHP (Starter) Coll Jr. from Auburn: 0-2 with a 4.12 ERA in 8 games (2 starts).   24/13 K/BB in 19 2/3rds innings, 1.32whip, 3.02 fip, .289 babip.  Braymer was used as a notional “starter” despite not getting the official starts; he was kept on a starter’s regime for the GCL but was shut down in early August (unsure if injury or just innings limits).  He was a Junior out of Auburn, where he was a highly regarded Juco transfer and was used as a swingman.  I’d like to see how he’d fare against like-aged players; more than a K/inning but against rookie league guys.  I’m hoping he competes for at least the Hagerstown rotation next year.   Trending Steady.

Round 19: Jarrett Gonzales, C from Madison HS in San Antonio; did not sign, apparently honored his college commitment.  At the time of the draft, I had him committed to Grayson Junior College in Denison, North Texas.   However, perfectgame.org now has him committed to Dallas Baptist University.  He is cousins w/ Garrett (our 32nd round pick, see below) and nephew of Nats scout Jimmy Gonzalez.  Initially I thought this might have been a “favor pick,” but you don’t generally blow 19th round picks (35th round?  yes).  The fact that he’s going to a powerhouse baseball program lends a bit more credence to his drafting in this spot.

Round 20:  Jake Barnett, LHP (starter) Coll Jr from Lewis-Clark State (Idaho).  0-0, 1.80 ERA in 2 games and just 5IP for the GCL.  Barnett signed on 6/20, reported to Florida on 6/24, pitched on 6/25 and then again on 7/1 … and then didn’t pitch again.  There’s no D/L assignment.  I guess we have to say he’s  Trending Steady until we find out his fate next spring.

Round 21: Jacob Howell RHP (reliever) Coll Jr. from Delta State (Miss.).  Posted a 2-1 record with a 3.49 ERA across 28.1 innings and three levels.   Looking just at his time in Hagerstown; 4.57 ERA, 15/7 K/BB in 21 2/3 innings.  1.25 WHIP, 3.59 FIP, .279 Babip.  Howell quickly moved from the GCL through Auburn to live in Hagerstown for most of the year, becoming the first 2016 draftee to matriculate to full-season ball.  Not bad for a 21st rounder from a small school.  His FIP indicates that his numbers are better, and his season was cut short a month with injury.  I’d suspect he’ll start again in Hagerstown in 2017 (unless his injury was serious) and move on up from there.  Good first pro season.  Trending Up.

Round 22: Sterling Sharp, RHP (starter)  Coll Jr. Drury (Mo.).  Posted a 3-0 record with a 3.24 ERA in 11 games (7 “starts”) in the GCL before getting an end-of-season promotion to Auburn.  35/6 K/BB in 41 2/3 innings in GCL.  1.27whip, 2.85 fip, .354 babip.  Nice looking numbers, much better than his college numbers this year, but done against younger competition even given the fact that he went to a smaller school.  His one Auburn start was solid and efficient; 5 innings, 2 runs on 69 pitches.  I like what I see, but will repeat the typical age-related caveat for all college kids in the GCL.  We’ll know more when he hits a Short-A or Full-season league.  Trending Up.

Round 23: Michael Rishwain,  RHP (reliever) Col Sr. Westmont (Calif.); was 1-0 with a 3.63 ERA in 13 relief appearances in the GCL.  14/5 K/BB in 17 1/3 innings.  1.90 whip, 2.58fip, .400 babip.  His usage was odd; he only pitched about every 5th day despite not being a “starter” in the GCL, and had several “gaps” of more than a week between appearances.    He also gave up a gazillion hits; 28 in his 17 innings to go along with a few walks, hence the inflated WHIP.  If they were holding him back to manage his innings that is one thing; if he was only getting brief looks because every time he got on the mound 2 guys got on base, then he may not be long for the season.  I see him as a long-shot to make a full-season bullpen and he may be a mid-season 2017 release.   Trending Down.

Round 24:  Joseph Baltrip RHP (reliever) J2 from Wharton County (Texas) JC; went 2-1 with a 1.38 ERA in 16 relief appearances in the GCL.  17/23 K/BB in 26IP.  1.46whip, 5.40 fip, .194 BABIP.  Well, I loved the ERA until I saw the K/BB ratio; he walked 23 guys in 26 innings.  Look at the delta between his ERA and FIP.  Despite being a J2 guy, he was 21 at the point of drafting so he’s the same age as a typical College Junior.  Clearly he’s got some control issues to work on.  As with previous college RHP relievers who were in the GCL all year, results need to be shown in like-age leagues and soon.   Trending Down.

Round 25:  Branden Boggetto, SS Col Sr. Southeast Missouri State.  Slashed .280/.328/.411 in 32 games in the GCL.  13/6 K/BB ratio, 3 homers, 2 SBs in 107 ABs.  Drafted as a SS, he played mostly 2B in the GCL this season.   Solid enough numbers for Boggetto, but (and I feel like a broken record) he’s 22.  I’m guessing he has a shot at a utility position for a team next season, but the roster’s crowded.  Trending Down.

Round 26:  Jack Sundberg OF (corner) Col Sr. Connecticut.  Slashed .256/.346/.340 while earning two promotions and ending the season in Hagerstown.  33/22 K/BB ratio, 1 homer, 12SB in his three stops.  You cannot complain about a 26th rounder who earned two promotions, even if the jump from Short-A to Low-A seemed odd based on his stat line in Auburn.  He played mostly LF, where you hope for a bit more power.   He did feature at CF a bit, so perhaps it was a positional thing.  A great first pro season.  Trending Up.

Round 27:  Jeremy McDonald, LHP (starter/reliever) Col Sr. California Baptist.  Went 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA in 11 appearances in the GCL.   27/5 K/BB ratio, 1.22 whip, 1.85 fip, .338 BABIP.  Yes he’s old for the level (he turned 23 just after the season ended), but clearly he’s got some command.  Nearly a 6-1 K-BB ratio is great.  I’m slightly surprised he didn’t get bumped up to one of the A-ball levels, but (like a few before him) he seemed to be on a starters schedule all season.  He generally went every 5th or 6th day even though he was only throwing 2-3 innings at a time.  I can see him competing for rotations in Low- or Short-A next year.   Trending Up.

Round 28:  Jonathan “Jonny” Reid, LHP (starter/reliever) Col Jr. Azusa Pacific (Calif.).  Went 3-1 with a 2.50 ERA across two levels, ending the year in Auburn.  24/7 K/BB, 0.94 whip, 4.41 fip (in Auburn), .281 babip (in Auburn).  Reid quickly proved to be unhittable in the GCL (8 hits in 15 2/3 innings) and got jumped to Auburn after a month.  There he pitched on a starter’s rotation, going every 5th day or so for 2-3 inning stints and finished with a 3.10 ERA in 7 outings.  He should compete nicely for a full-season rotation job or at least have a look at being a longer-man out of the pen.  Trending Up.

Round 29:  Sam Held RHP (starter/reliever) Col Sr. Nevada.  Went 1-2 with a 1.86 ERA across three levels, ending the year in Hagerstown.  22/8 K/BB ratio, 1.14whip combined for the year.  Like a couple guys before him. Held quickly showed he was too good for the GCL and got jumped to Auburn after three weeks.  There, he held his own for  a month of tandem starter appearances before finishing the last few weeks in Hagerstown.  He more than held his own once he got to full-season ball and should at least start there in 2017.  Trending Up.

Round 30:  Tristan Clarke, OF J2 Eastern Oklahoma State JC.  Did not sign, honored his commitment out of JuCo to attend the University of New Orleans.

Round 31:  C.J. Picerni, C Col Sr. New York.  Had just 8 ABs for the GCL, and it took 5 weeks for him to even get an appearance.   No idea what to think here; was he hurt?  Given his draft round and his lack of playing time, you can only assume he’s a short-timer until we get more information.  Trending Down.

Round 32:  Garrett Gonzales, 3B HS San Antonio HS in Texas.   Did not sign, honored his college commitment to Incarnate Word.  As noted above, he is cousins w/ Jarrett (our 19th round pick).  This seems like a “favor pick” for sure; he’s reportedly the son of a Nats area scout.

Round 33:  Ryan Wetzel SS Heritage Christian Academy in Overland Park, Kansas.   Did not sign, honored his college commitment to Pitt State.   The son of a special assistant to the GM for the Nationals, so definitely another “favor pick.”

Round 34:  Morgan Cooper, RHP (starter) Col Jr. Texas.  Did not sign, decided to return for his senior year (technically his redshirt junior year) at Texas.  He had Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss the whole 2015 season.  In 2016 he was a mid-week starter for Texas, so likely he wanted to return to Texas to improve his draft standing for 2017.  Makes sense.  If he can produce as a weekend starter in the Big12 two  years removed from surgery he’ll be looking at a decent bonus next year.

Round 35:  Tristan Bayless LHP (starter) Hutto (Texas) HS.  Did not sign, honoring his commitment to McLennan Community College.  Bayless had a nice season on the mound for his prep team but was not a heavily scouted or recruited player apparently.  PerfectGame had very little on him and only some deep googling returned his Juco commitment.

Round 36:  Jordan McFarland OF  Waterloo (Ill.) HS.  Did not sign, honoring his commitment to Arkansas.  McFarland was a big-time player; a 2nd-team PerfectGame All American and this may have been the Nats planting a seed for a pick three years from now.

Round 37;  Cory Voss C J2 McLennan (Texas) CC.  Did not sign, honoring his planned transfer to U of Arizona for 2017.  Voss played his freshman year at New Mexico, went JuCo sophomore year and then was playing in the Cape this past summer.  He joins a very good recruiting class for Arizona and will be back in next year’s draft.

Round 38:  Noah Murdock RHP (starter) Colonial Heights (Va.) HS.  Did not sign, will honor his commitment to UVA.  Murdock was one of the players I was tracking all spring and once he passed out of the top 10 rounds it was clear he’d go to school.  He will help augment a UVA rotation that lost its ace and may be struggling for starters in 2017.

Round 39:  Matt Mervis 1B  Georgetown Prep HS, North Bethesda, Md.  Did not sign, will honor his commitment to Duke.   Another local kid drafted; Mervis was no favor pick.  He was highly ranked (the #1 prep player in Maryland according to one source Prep Baseball) but clearly going to Duke is a better alternative than a minimum bonus at this spot.

Round 40:  Sean Cook RHP (starter) Whitman HS, Bethesda, Md.  Did not sign, will attend Maryland and “attempt to walk-on.”  Definitely seems like a “favor” draft pick to someone, in that Cook was not on anyone’s radar, does not have a perfectgame profile and is not even a guarantee to make Maryland’s team.   Perhaps further evidence that the MLB draft is still 8-10 rounds too long.

 


Trending Summary:

  • Trending Up (10): Dunning, Barrera, Noll, Simonds, Howell, Sharp, Sundberg, McDonald, Reid, Held
  • Trending steady (7): Kieboom, Neuse,  Johnson, Upshaw, Morse, Braymer, Barnett
  • Trending steady b/c they’re injured all year (2): Luzardo, Williamson 
  • Trending Down (11): Banks, Bogucki, Harris, Panaccione, Howard, Simonetti, Beckwith, Rishwain, Baltrip, Boggetto, Picerni
  • Did Not Sign (11): Gonzales, Clarke, Gonzales, Wetzel, Cooper, Bayless, McFarland, Voss, Murdock, Mervis, Cook

Executive Summary

So far, the key names out of this draft have done decently.  I’m worried about Banks and (to a lesser extent) Neuse.  Its great to see 20th+ round guys like Reid and (especially) Held produce and earn promotions; that’s a feather in the cap of the scouting department for those finds.  Its just a half a season of course, but plenty of guys are on course or impressing out of this class.

 

First Look: Quick overview of Nats top 10 Draft picks for 2016

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Carter Kieboom is the first pick of the Nats in 2016's draft. Photo via PerfectGame

Carter Kieboom is the first pick of the Nats in 2016’s draft. Photo via PerfectGame

It was a strange first two days of the draft, with no consensus 1-1 overall, some very last minute moves, and some pretty surprising picks.  For me, the best player in this draft (NJ prep LHP Jason Groome) fell all the way to 12th and the Phillies picked a kid 1-1 overall in Mickey Moniak who seems to have the ceiling of a weaker Steve Finley.  We saw a consensus top-5 pick test positive for PEDs (Delvin Perez), and a sub-par CWS appearance cost A.J. Puk millions of dollars as he falls from everyone’s 1-1 prediction to #6 overall.

The Nats seemed to really depart from the draft strategy we’ve seen the Mike Rizzo-led front office follow in the past, where they normally focused on college arms with an occasional high-ceiling prep bat.  Here’s a quick look at the top 10 draft picks with some thoughts.

RoundOverallName/PositionPositionCol/HSSchoolSlot Value
1-S28Carter KieboomSSHSClemson2065900
1-S29Dane DunningRHPCol Jr.Florida2034600
258Sheldon Neuse3BCol Jr.Oklahoma1107000
394Jesus NuzardoLHPHSMiami635800
4124Nick BanksOF (rf)Col Jr.TAMU473300
5154Daniel JohnsonOF (CF)Col Jr.New Mexico State354300
6184Tres BarreraCCol Jr.Texas265400
7214Jacob Noll2BCol Sr.FGCU198900
8244A.J. BoguckiRHPCol Jr.UNC177700
9274Joey HarrisCCol Sr.Gonzaga166000
10304Paul PanaccioneSSCol Sr.Grand Canyon156600

Pick by Pick: if they’re ranked on the four main rankings sites I like (Keith Law, MLBpipeline, BaseballAmerica, and BaseballDraftReport) I’ll note them as such.  Links to these three master rankings are at the bottom of the post.

  • 1s/28: Carter Kieboom, SS/3B from Georgia HS.  Law #27, MLB #45, BA #44, BDR #14:  Brother of our budding C prospect Spencer Kieboom, Carter is thought to be the best of three baseball playing brothers.  Described consistently as a great hitter, one of the best prep hitters in the class, he currently plays SS but is projected to move to 3B.  He’s an overdraft according to MLB and BA but right in line with Law’s rankings (Law tends to favor toolsy prep players over lower floor/lower ceiling college guys).  My thoughts: very surprising first pick here; as we soon find out, the team is clearly focusing on bats this year and has no qualms about picking a guy who won’t feature for the MLB team for years.  Update: he’s *already* signed!
  • 1s/29: Dane Dunning, RHP starter/reliever from Florida.  Law #25, MLB #59, BA #60, BDR unranked. Once again, Law has this player significantly higher than MLB or BA.  For me its notable that when projected 1-1 pick A.J. Puk got hit around in the CWS regional, it was Dunning who came in and pitchd 3 2/3rds of 1-hit ball to win the game for Florida.  It wouldn’t be the first time that a college coach mis-used a quality arm (see Illinois using Tyler Jay inexplicably as a closer most of last year).  Dunning goes before even his team’s friday starter Logan Shore and surprised the heck out of me.  Especially when you consider who was still on the board in terms of college arms (notably Anthony Kay and Dakota Hudsonboth of whom went in the picks just after Dunning.  I’m talking myself into Dunning though; he was on my very early list for upper 1st round talents anyway, and seems like he was a better pro prospect than guys pitching ahead of him in the Florida rotation.  Florida is known as a great program for developing arms, and he comes to the Nats without a ton of use.
  • 2nd/58: Sheldon Neuse, SS/3B Oklahoma.  Law #60, MLB #50, BA #129, BDR #40.  Interesting discrepancy of opinion on Neuse; MLB likes him a ton and thinks the Nats got good value.  He’s a 3-time all-Big12 pick who likely moves to third in pro ball and also throws out of the Oklahoma bullpen (so there’s a reliever fall back; he’s clocked at 94).  At the plate, he’s got a ton of power, profiles as a 3-true outcomes guy and drastically improved his walk rate this year.  The scouting reports also think his big arm could profile in RF, and his size could look promising behind the plate.  He sounds like a polished college hitter with some pop, not unlike last year’s 3rd rounder Rhett Wiseman.
  • 3rd/94: Jesus Nuzardo, LHP from Florida HS.  Law #42, MLB #77, BA #50, BDR #58.  The Nats special; a Tommy John reclamation project.  Nuzardo was projecting as a mid 1st rounder early this spring before blowing out the elbow; if he comes back to form, then the Nats just stole a 1st round talent in the 3rd round.  You’d have to think that Nuzardo’s advisor will tell him that it makes more sense to join the Nats and their experienced TJ-rehab team than to head to Miami, but we’ll see what happens.
  • 4th/124: Nick Banks, OF from Texas A&M.  Law Unranked, MLB #101, BA #88, BDR #148.  I love this pick; Banks led the US Collegiate national team in hitting just last summer, but his stats backed up after he had a minor surgical procedure.  Skills don’t erode overnight, and Banks was thought to be a mid 1st round pick who slid precipitously.  I think the Nats got an absolute steal here and Banks will be a stud for this team for years to come.
  • 5th/154: Daniel Johnson, OF from New Mexico State.  BA #222.  Johnson was the WAC player of the year, hit for power and average.  Barely rated and seems like he’ll sign for slot or less.  Sounds like a nice little value pick.
  • 6th/184: Tres Barrera, C from Texas.  Law unranked, MLB #194, BA #284, BDR unraked.  A Catcher who had the defensive flexibility to move around as the Texas team needed him.  This is more than just a filler pick at this point; i’m guessing he signs for a bit less than slot and could feature later on.
  • 7th/214: Jacob Noll, 2B from Florida Gulf Coast.  BA #240, BDR #193: Nice slash line for a senior, even if it was in a weaker conference.  367/.427/.620 .  Classic senior sign; 6th-10th round, middle infielder, likely a nominal bonus to save cash for later.  Can’t argue with the pick.
  • 8th/244: A.J. Bogucki: RHP reliever from UNC.  BA #263, BDR #388.  Nice stats for a guy at this point: 9.48 K/9 – 4.47 BB/9 – 50.1 IP – 2.86 ERA.  Good MPH on his fastball, looks a little wild though.  I wonder if he signs.  Still has a year of eligibility and he’s in that area where they’re looking for bonus savings.
  • 9th/274: Joey Harris, C from Gonzaga; unranked anywhere.  Classic college senior sign who likely backs up Barrera at Auburn.
  • 10th/304: Paul Panaccione, Sr. SS from Grand Canyon U.  See 9th round pick; likely a one-and-done middle infielder for Auburn in 2016.

First 10 rounds worth of picks breakdown:

  • 8 Position players, just 3 arms.
  • 9 College, 2 prep (typical)
  • 3 clear senior sign/save on bonus money that I could tell (Noll, Harris, Panaccione)
  • 2 more in Johnson and Barrera who could be targeted for under-slot deals
  • Regional breakdown: 5 from SouthEast (Georgia, Florida, North Carolina), 5 from the South West (Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona), and one from the upper NW (Washington).

Conclusion: I like the first four picks, a lot.  Keith Law liked the Nats first couple of days too.    I like the focus on hitters after years of focus on arms.  I like the underrated pick up of Dunning over other “big name” guys who may be overrated.   I love the Banks pick; think its a steal not  unlike the situation where Rendon fell to the Nats because of a short-term injury concern.  I know practically nothing of anyone after Banks.

What do you guys think of it?

 


 

Draft Links of Use

Draft Rankings referred to within here: