Nationals Arm Race

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2014 Rotation Rankings 1-30

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The ace on the best rotation in the game.  Photo: talksportsphilly.com

The ace on the best rotation in the game. Photo: talksportsphilly.com

Last year, with my excitement over Washington’s Dan Haren signing and my supposition that Washington had the best rotation in the game, I ranked all 30 team’s rotations ahead of the 2013 season.  Then, after the season was done, I revisited these pre-season rankings with a post-mortem to see how close (or, more appropriately, how far off) my rankings turned out to be.

Here’s the 2014 version of this same post: Pre-season rankings of the MLB’s rotations; 1 through 30.  Warning; this is another huge post.  I guess I’m just verbose.  At this point midway through Spring Training there’s just a couple of possible FAs left that could have altered these rankings (Ervin Santana being the important name unsigned right now), so I thought it was time to publish.

The top teams are easy to guess; once you get into the 20s, it becomes pretty difficult to distinguish between these teams.  Nonetheless, here we go (I heavily depended on baseball-reference.com and mlbdepthcharts.com for this post, along with ESPN’s transaction list per team and Baseball Prospectus’ injury reports for individual players).

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Written by Todd Boss

March 10th, 2014 at 9:50 am

Posted in Majors Pitching

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My 2013 End-of-Season award Predictions

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Clayton Kershaw may be the sole unanimous major award winner in 2013.  Photo via wiki.

Clayton Kershaw may be the sole unanimous major award winner in 2013. Photo via wiki.

This post is months in the making.  In WordPress I looked up the first revision and it was dated May 4th.  Its on at least its 50th revision.  Its crazy.  But its a fun piece to do, to kind of keep track of these awards throughout the season.  But with yesterday’s release of the top-3 candidates for each BBWAA award, I thought it was finally time to publish.  The top-3 announcement didn’t have too many surprises in it, but was eye opening for some of the also-rans in each category.

I like seeing how well I can predict these awards by reading the tea leaves of the various opinions that flow into my RSS feed (here’s 2012′s version of the same post with links to prior years).  The goal is to go 8-for-8 predicting the major awards, with an even loftier goal of going 12-for-12 adding in the unofficial Sporting News awards.  I succeeded in 8-for-8 in 2010 and 2011, but missed out last year by over-thinking the Manager of the Year award in the AL.   This year is going to be tougher; the NL Rookie award and the AL Manager of the Year award are going to be coin-flips.

Here’s links for the MLB Players of the Month, to include Player, Pitcher and Rookies of the month, though frankly these monthly awards don’t amount to much.  But they’re fun to go see who was hot and how they ended up (think Evan Gattis).

Here’s links to some mid-season award prediction columns from Tom Verducci, Matthew Pouliot and Jayson Stark.  Here’s an 8/27/13 post from Keith Law, a 9/5/13 post from Cliff Corcoran, and a 9/25/13 prediction piece from USA Today’s Frank Nightengale that may be very telling about the Cabrera/Trout debate.   Lastly a few end of season pieces from Stark, Passan, Pouliot NL and AL, Gammons, Keri, Olney, Heyman.

Lastly here’s a great Joe Posnanski piece complaining about the faults the typical BBWAA voter has in their methodology.  He touches on some themes I mention below.  Remember this is a prediction piece, not who I necessarily think should actually win.

Without further ado, here’s my predictions and thoughts on the awards (predicted winners in Blue).

  • AL MVP:  Miguel Cabrera (May’s AL player of the month) and was leading the league in nearly every offensive category through a big chunk of the season before injuries cost him a lot of September.  There’s talk of another Cabrera-Mike Trout competition for the MVP in 2013, but I think the same results will hold as in 2012.  It comes down to the simple question; how can you be the “MVP” of a last place team?  That vastly over-simplifies the debate of course, but it is what it is.  I continue to be impatient with holier-than-thou writers who ignore the BBWAA definition of the award and who think this MVP should just be a ranking of the seasonal WAR table.  This award is not (yet) the “Best Player” award, and if it was then Trout would be the easy winner.  Of the also-rans:  Chris Davis tied the AL-record for pre-All Star break homers and finished with 53, but he’s likely #3 in this race.   Rounding out my top 5 would be Josh Donaldson and  Manny Machado.  Names briefly under consideration here earlier in the season (and possible top 10 candidates) include Joe Mauer and Evan Longoria.
  • AL Cy Young: Max Scherzer started the season 13-0 and finished 21-3.  This will propel him to the award despite not being as quite as good overall as his top competition.  Yu Darvish was on pace for nearly 300 strikeouts for a while before finishing with 277 and is likely finishing #2.   Despite a losing record pitching for one of the worst teams in the league, Chris Sale pitched to a 140 ERA+ for the second season in a row and should be rewarded with a top-5 finish.  Hisashi Iwakuma has fantastic numbers in the anonymity and depression of Seattle and will also get top-5 votes.  Rounding out the top 5 could be one of many:  Clay Buchholz was unhittable in April and weathered  accusations of doctoring the baseball from the Toronto broadcast team (Jack Morris and Dirk Hayhurst specifically), but then got hurt and may fall out of the voting.   Felix Hernandez put up his typical good numbers early despite a ton of kvetching about his velocity loss early in the season, but tailed off badly in August to drop him from the race.  Anibal Sanchez‘s 17-strikeout game has him some buzz, and he led the league in both ERA and ERA+.    Matt Moore became the first young lefty to start 8-0 since Babe Ruth and somewhat quietly finished 17-4 for the game-163 winning Rays.  Lots of contenders here.  Predicted finish: Scherzer, Darvish, Iwakuma, Sale, Sanchez.
  • AL Rookie of the Year: Wil Myers may be the winner by default.  Nobody else really stands out, and the biggest off-season narrative involved Myers and the big trade, meaning that nearly every baseball fan and writer knows of Myers’ pre-MLB exploits.  Jose Iglesias put up good numbers in the Boston infield before being flipped to Detroit, and is a great candidate but most of his value resides in his defense, meaning old-school writers won’t vote for him over Myers.   Past that, the candidates are slim.  Justin Grimm‘s fill-in starts for Texas were more than adequate.  Nick Tepesch is also holding his own in Texas’ rotation.  Coner Gillaspie and Yan Gomes are in the mix.  Texas’ Martin Perez put himself in the race with a solid year and got some last-minute exposure pitching in the game-163 tie-breaker.  Leonys Martin is another Texas rookie that has quietly put up good numbers.  Myers’ Tampa Bay teammate Chris Archer could get some votes.  Predicted finish: Myers, Iglesias, Perez, Archer and Martin.
  • AL MgrJohn Ferrell in Boston for going worst to first may be the best managerial job, but Terry Franconia in Cleveland deserves a ton of credit for what he’s done with significantly less resources in Cleveland and should win the award.  Its hard to underestimate what Joe Girardi has done in New York with injuries and the media circus this year, but this award usually goes to a playoff bound team.  I’ll go Franconia, Ferrell, Girardi.
  • (Unofficial “award”): AL GM: Initially I was thinking Ben Cherington, Boston.  He traded away all those bad contracts, brought in several guys under the radar, leading to a 30 game swing in its W/L record.  Though, I agree with David Schoenfield; with Oakland’s 2nd straight AL West title it’s hard not to give this to Billy Beane.
  • (Unofficial “award”): AL Comeback Player of the Year: Nate McLouth has come back from the absolute dead for Baltimore, though technically he was decent last year too.  Josh Donaldson has come out of nowhere for Oakland, but really had nowhere to come “back” from.  John Lackey and Scott Kazmir both rebounded excellently from injury plagued seasons.  I think the winner has to be Kazmir by virtue of his slightly better record over Lackey.  Editor’s update: this award was already given and I got it wrong: Mariano Rivera won for his great 2013 comeback; I completely forgot about him.  We’ll cover the results versus my predictions in a future post.
  • (Unofficial “award”): AL Fireman of the YearGreg Holland, despite some sympathetic desire to give it to Mariano Rivera on his way out.  Joe Nathan is also in the AL discussion.  Jim Johnson is not; despite leading the league in saves for the 2nd year in a row he blew another 9 opportunities.  I hope the voters see past that.

Now for the National League:

  • NL MVP:  Andrew McCutchen is the shoe-in to win, both as a sentimental favorite for the Pirates first winning/playoff season in a generation and as the best player on a playoff team.  Clayton Kershaw‘s unbelievable season won’t net him a double, but I’m guessing he comes in 2nd in the MVP voting.  Paul Goldschmidt has become a legitimate stud this year and likely finishes 3rd behind McCutchen and Kershaw.  Rounding out the top 5 probably are two from Yadier Molina, Freddie Freeman and possibly Joey Votto as leaders from their respective playoff teams.  Also-rans who looked great for short bursts this season include the following:  Jayson Werth (who is having a career-year and making some people re-think his albatros contract),  Carlos Gomez (who leads the NL in bWAR, won the Gold glove and led the NL in DRS for centerfielders but isn’t being mentioned at all for the NL MVP: isn’t that odd considering the overwhelming Mike Trout debate??  I’ve made this case in this space to little fanfare in the past; if you are pro-Trout and are not pro-Gomez, then you’re falling victim to the same “MVP Narrative” that you are already arguing against), and maybe even Matt Carpenter (St. Louis’ real offensive leader these days).
  • NL Cy Young:  Clayton Kershaw put together his typical dominant season and won’t lose out to any of his darling competitors.  He may be the only unanimous vote of the major awards.  Marlins rookie phenom Jose Fernandez probably finishes #2 behind Kershaw before squeaking out the RoY award.   Matt Harvey was the All-Star game starter and looked like he could have unseated Kershaw, but a later season swoon and a torn UCL in late August ended his season and his chances early.  He still likely finishes #3.   Others who will get votes here and there: Jordan Zimmermann (who nearly got to 20 wins),  Adam Wainwright (who is back to Ace-form after his surgery and is put together a great season), St. Louis teammate Shelby Miller,  Patrick Corbin (Pitcher of the Month in May), Cliff Lee (who has been great for the mediocre Phillies), and perhaps even Zack Greinke (who finished 15-4; did you know he was 15-4?).  Predicted finish: Kershaw, Fernandez, Harvey, Wainwright, Corbin.
  • NL Rookie of the Year: Seems like its coming down to one of 5 candidates: Fernandez, Puig, Miller, Ryu and Teheran.  I’d probably vote them in that order.  Shelby Miller has stayed the course filling in St. Louis’ rotation and may also get Cy Young votes and seemed like the leading candidate by mid June.  Evan Gattis, the great feel-good story from the Atlanta Braves, started out white-hot but settled down in to relative mediocracy.  Tony Cingrani continued his amazing K/9 pace from the minors at the MLB level, filling in quite ably for Red’s ace Johnny Cueto but was demoted once Cueto returned and struggled with injuries down the stretch.   Didi Gregorious, more famous for being the “other” guy in the Trevor Bauer trade, has performed well.  Meanwhile don’t forget about Hyun-Jin Ryu, the South Korean sensation that has given Los Angeles a relatively fearsome frontline set of starters.  Yasiel Puig took the league by storm and hit 4 homers his first week on the job.  Jose Fernandez has made the jump from A-Ball to the Marlins rotation and has been excellent.  Julio Teheran has finally figured it out after two call-ups in the last two years and has a full season of excellent work in Atlanta’s rotation.  The question is; will narrative (Puig) win out over real performance (Fernandez)?  Tough call.
  • NL MgrClint Hurdle, Pittsburgh.  No real competition here.  Some may say Don Mattingly for going from near firing in May to a 90 win season … but can you really be manager of the year with a 250M payroll?
  • (Unofficial award) NL GMNeal Huntington, Pittsburgh.  It really has to be Huntington for pulling off the low-profile moves that have paid off with Pittsburgh’s first winning season in 20 years.  Ned Colletti‘s moves may have resulted in the best team in the league, but he has the benefit of a ridiculously large checkbook and I hope he doesn’t win as a result.
  • (Unofficial “award”): NL Comeback Player of the Year: I’d love to give this to Evan Gattis for his back story but that’s not the point of this award.  I’m thinking Carlos Gomez with Milwaukee for his massive out-of-nowhere season.  But honestly the award has to go to Francisco Liriano.  Editor’s update: this award was already given and I got it right: Liriano indeed won.
  • (Unofficial “award”): NL Fireman of the YearCraig Kimbrel, who looks to finish the year with a sub 1.00 ERA for the second year running.   Edward Mujica and Aroldis Chapman in the discussion but not really close.

 

Minor League Pitching Age Appropriateness for 2013

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Yunesky Maya is “Really Old” for AAA; but does it matter? Photo unknown

A recurring statement that you often hear when talking about prospects in the minors is “Age Appropriateness” for the level in which the player is playing.  And for good reason; a seasoned minor league player who is playing against younger, weaker competition should have dominant numbers, and when analyzing that player’s performance this should be taken into account.  On the flip side, if a guy advances quickly up the minors and is a “youngster” at a high level and performs poorly, he shouldn’t immediately be written off, since he’s likely overmatched and needs time to “grow” into the level.

This topic comes up here often when talking about pitchers and their performances, and I frequently talk about a guy “being old” or “being young” for his level as a way to either discount good performances or explain away poor ones.  But what is “Too old for a level?”

I have always used a rule-of-thumb measurement advocated by John Sickels at minorleagueball.com for looking at player ages (I cannot find the original Sickels posting but have seen it attributed to him in several forums).  That rule-of-thumb is as follows:

  • AAA: Typical Age range is 23-24.  Age 25 depends.  26+ is old
  • AA: 22-23.  24 depends.  25+ is old
  • High-A: 20-22.  23 depends.  24+ is old
  • Low-A: 19-21.  22 depends.  23+ is old
  • Short-A: 19-20.  21/22 for draft year guys only.  22+ is old
  • GCL: 17-19.  20 for draft year guys only.  21+ is old

Now, the caveats to the above are as follows:

1. This is specifically worried about prospect development; clearly we know that a former major leaguer on a minor league free agent contract in AAA is going to look like he’s really “old” for the level when we need understand his presence there differently.  A rising prospect who is in AAA at the age of 26 or 27 who hasn’t made it to the majors yet is absolutely “old” and is probably closer to minor league free agency or a release than he is to making the big team.

2. Injuries matter.  If a college grad loses a year to TJ surgery and then is sitting in high-A as a 24 year old in his second pro season (think Nathan Karns) you can’t really hold that against him.  But if he’s dominant, you can sort of explain why and say that he needs to be moved up.

Luke Erickson (with Brian Oliver‘s help) came up with similar looking ranges for the various levels and have made it a link off the main page of NationalsProspects.com.  And I talked about this topic a couple of years ago in this space in advance of this same analysis, which I last performed in 2011.


Without further ado, here’s a look at the actual age ranges of the Nationals four full season minor league teams as they stood on 2013′s Opening Day (yes, i’ve had this data in the can for a month and a half and am just getting around to publishing it).  I last did this analysis two years ago and it is interesting to see how the age ranges have changed slightly over the years.  Here’s 2011′s and 2013′s ranges (click here for a Google spreadsheet of all the detail to check my work and do your own sorting; this link is also in the Links to the right):

2011 AAA AA High-A Low-A
Really Young 25.54 or younger 24.44 or  younger 22.65 or younger 21.88 or younger
Young 25.54 – 26.93 24.44 – 25.37 22.65 – 23.83 21.88 – 22.84
Old 26.93 – 28.79 25.37 – 26.65 23.83 – 24.77 22.84 – 23.65
Really Old 28.79 or older 26.65 or older 24.77 or older 23.65 or older
2013 AAA AA High-A Low-A
Really Young 25.91 or younger 24.02 or younger 23.08 or younger 21.69 or younger
Young 25.92 – 27.75 24.02 – 25.17 23.08 – 24.00 21.69 – 22.66
Old 27.75 – 30.35 25.17 – 26.84 24.00 – 24.91 22.66 – 23.39
Really Old 30.35 or older 26.84 or older 24.91 or older 23.39 or older

Data Taxonomy: I’ve taken every pitcher on every team’s roster in each of the four leagues that the Nats have farm teams in (AAA = International, AA = Eastern, High-A = Carolina, Low-A = South Atlantic), put them into a spreadsheet, calculated their ages at the end of this season (9/1/13) and then calculated the four quartile figures in terms of age.  I only used pitchers in our leagues as opposed to the entire level across all of baseball thinking that different leagues may have different needs (I’m thinking how the California League and the Pacific Coast League has so many hitters parks and thus the pitchers may linger there longer, skewing the numbers).  I also standardized the numbers to be at the end of the season as opposed to the beginning, so that people can talk about a player’s “Age 25 season” for example.

So (using 2013′s AAA as an example): the 25th percentile age is 25.91, the 50th percentile or median age is 27.75, the 75th percentile age is 30.35.   For ease of labeling, anyone in the lowest quartile is “Really Young” for that level, 25th-50th is “Young,” 50th-75th is “Old” and anyone in the 75th percentile or higher is labeled “Really Old.”  I know some don’t like these labels; if someone just moves past the 50th percentile they go from being “Young” to “Old” in a hurry.  But I have to draw the lines somewhere.  The fractions are represented as fractions of an entire year of days, so .91 is 91/100ths of 365 days old.  This say, as opposed to the way that MLB service time is represented in Years.Days and you see numbers like “1.113.”

Looking at 2011 to 2013′s changes: notice how AAA is getting much older.  I think that is due to so many teams giving non-guaranteed MLFA deals to former starters and relievers and stashing them in AAA.  Look at our own team: we’ve got guys like Chris Young, Fernando Abad, and JC Romero all in their 30s, skewing the numbers northward.  Meanwhile both AA has gotten slightly  younger; its median age has dropped slightly.


Here’s a look at the Nationals’ four full season minor league pitching staffs, with the ages listed and the “age appropriate” label given. Note that I did this right at the beginning of the season so I havn’t captured all the moves made in the last month.

AAA Syracuse

Team Name DOB Age as of 9/1/13 Age Status
Syracuse (Washington) Bill Bray 6/5/1983 30.24 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Cole Kimball 8/1/1985 28.08 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Brad Meyers 9/13/1985 27.97 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Matt Torra 6/29/1984 29.17 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Sean West 6/15/1986 27.21 Young
Syracuse (Washington) Jeremy Accardo 12/8/1981 31.73 Really Old
Syracuse (Washington) Jeff Mandel 4/30/1985 28.34 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Patrick McCoy 8/3/1988 25.08 Really Young
Syracuse (Washington) J.C. Romero 6/4/1976 37.24 Really Old
Syracuse (Washington) Michael Crotta 9/25/1984 28.93 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Bobby Bramhall 7/13/1985 28.14 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Tanner Roark 10/5/1986 26.91 Young
Syracuse (Washington) Ryan Tatusko 3/27/1985 28.43 Old
Syracuse (Washington) Daniel Rosenbaum 10/10/1987 25.89 Really Young
Syracuse (Washington) Ross Ohlendorf 8/8/1982 31.07 Really Old
Syracuse (Washington) Fernando Abad 12/17/1985 27.71 Young
Syracuse (Washington) Erik Davis 10/8/1986 26.90 Young
Syracuse (Washington) Yunesky Maya 8/28/1981 32.01 Really Old
Syracuse (Washington) Ryan Perry 2/13/1987 26.55 Young
Syracuse (Washington) Chris Young 5/25/1979 34.27 Really Old

Discussion: Our “really old” guys are no surprise; they’re all basically guys on MLFA contracts.  Well, and Yunesky Maya, who is just playing out the string at this point.  I’m more interested in the “prospects” who are in AAA and their age status, and they mostly look good.   Pat McCoy and Danny Rosenbaum both rate as really young for the level.  Erik Davis and Ryan Perry both rate as young, even despite Perry’s MLB experience.  Otherwise are there even other “prospects” worth analyzing on the Syracuse roster at this point?  It seems that most everyone else on this team is a backup starter or a backup loogy.

Oldest Guy in the Int’l League: Miguel Batista with Toronto’s AAA affilliate.  Yes our own Mr. Batista from two years ago, still hanging around.  He’s yet to get called back up in 2013.  Ironically the 2nd oldest guy in AAA is also on Buffalo and is also an ex-Nat: Ramon Ortiz, who has gotten called up to help cover for Toronto’s injury-devistated staff and has a couple of apperances already.

Youngest Guy in the Intl’ League: Giovanni Soto with Cleveland’s AAA affilliate in Columbus.  He’s not considered a high-end prospect; he’s just a guy drafted out of HS who has made his way level-by-level and is now 22 in AAA.  The 2nd youngest guy in AAA is a more familiar name (Trevor Bauer, also with Cleveland’s team) and the ten youngest pitchers in the league reads like a top-50 Pitching prospects list MLB-wide.

Percentage of Int’l League pitchers on MLB 40-man rosters: 65/210 or 30.9%.   This shows just how much AAA is turning into a spare-parts holding league.


AA Harrisburg

Team Name DOB Age as of 9/1/13 Age Status
Harrisburg (Washington) Adam Olbrychowski 9/7/1986 26.98 Really Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Sammy Solis 8/10/1988 25.06 Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Rafael Martin 5/16/1984 29.30 Really Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Cameron Selik 8/25/1987 26.02 Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Paul Demny 8/3/1989 24.08 Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Marcos Frias 12/19/1988 24.70 Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Brian Broderick 9/1/1986 27.00 Really Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Trevor Holder 1/8/1987 26.65 Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Aaron Barrett 1/2/1988 25.66 Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Caleb Clay 2/15/1988 25.54 Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Neil Holland 8/14/1988 25.05 Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Rob Wort 2/7/1989 24.56 Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Pat Lehman 10/18/1986 26.87 Really Old
Harrisburg (Washington) Matt Swynenberg 2/16/1989 24.54 Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Ian Krol 5/9/1991 22.32 Really Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Blake Treinen 6/30/1988 25.17 Young
Harrisburg (Washington) Nathan Karns 11/25/1987 25.77 Old

Borrowing from my Monthly check-in on the Minor League staffs, who are we really interested in on this roster?  The rotation is Broderick, Treinen, Demny, Clay and Karns.  Broderick is really old for the level, but we already knew that (considering he was in the majors as our Rule-5 draftee two years ago).  Karns and Clay are “old” for the level but not overly so; the median age is 25.17 and they’re 25.77 and 25.54 respectively.  So just a few months older than the median.  Not bad considering Karns basically lost two years of development time due to injuries.   When the team gets Solis back, he’ll still be young.  And most interestingly is Ian Krol who is the 4th youngest guy in the Eastern League but has dominant numbers thus far in 2013.  Most of the “really old” guys are relievers who most would agree are “Org guys” and will naturally fall of the roster when their 6-year FA period arrives.

Oldest Guy in the Eastern League: Willie Collazo on Toronto’s AA team in New Hampshire, who had four years in the PCL and likely is only on a AA roster as a procedural location since he started the season on the DL.  In fact, most of that team’s roster is among the 20 oldest guys in the league.  And as with the AAA team there are ex-Nats all over their rosters.   I think we’re seeing the effects of former Nats front-office member Dana Brown now in Toronto helping to shape their minor league roster with guys he’s familiar with.

Youngest Guy in the Eastern League: One Dylan Bundy, Baltimore farm-hand who already has MLB innings and who some thought could have broken camp with the Orioles.  Unfortunatley for Bundy, he’s been sidelined with shoulder issues all year.  But he’s clearly an up-and-coming talent.  The 2nd youngest guy in the Eastern league is also a big-time prospect: Jamison Taillon in Pittsburgh’s org.  In fact, when Taillon and his fellow uber-prospect Gerrit Cole matriculate to the majors, Pittsburgh is going to suddenly find themselves with one of the league’s elite pitching staffs.

Percentage of Eastern League pitchers on MLB 40-man rosters: 15/182 or 8.24%.  Just a handful (Nathan Karns is one, Bundy is one).


High-A Potomac

Team Name DOB Age as of 9/1/13 Age Status
Potomac (Washington) Paul Applebee 5/17/1988 25.29 Really Old
Potomac (Washington) Robert Gilliam 11/29/1987 25.76 Really Old
Potomac (Washington) Josh Smoker 11/26/1988 24.76 Old
Potomac (Washington) Matthew Grace 12/14/1988 24.71 Old
Potomac (Washington) Robbie Ray 10/1/1991 21.92 Really Young
Potomac (Washington) Colin Bates 3/10/1988 25.48 Really Old
Potomac (Washington) A.J. Cole 1/5/1992 21.66 Really Young
Potomac (Washington) Ben Hawkins 11/4/1989 23.82 Young
Potomac (Washington) Tyler Herron 8/5/1986 27.07 Really Old
Potomac (Washington) Gregory Holt 6/19/1989 24.20 Old
Potomac (Washington) Taylor Jordan 1/17/1989 24.62 Old
Potomac (Washington) Christian Meza 8/3/1990 23.08 Really Young
Potomac (Washington) Richie Mirowski 4/30/1989 24.34 Old
Potomac (Washington) Derek Self 1/14/1990 23.63 Young
Potomac (Washington) Taylor Hill 3/12/1989 24.47 Old
Potomac (Washington) Kylin Turnbull 9/12/1989 23.97 Young

Discussion: Our starters at the time of this writing in Potomac are Ray, Jordan, Schwartz, Cole and Hill.   Schwartz wasn’t on this roster when I did the cut-n-paste jobs but he’s almost the same identical age as the man he replaced Turnbull.   Ray and Cole still rate as “Really Young” (they’re the 7th and 10th youngest guys in the Carolina league) despite both guys repeating this level, a testament to just how young these guys were LAST year.  Jordan rates as “old” but with the injury caveat.  Hill is four months older than the median age so frankly he’s right on schedule.   By and large though this is an older staff, which to me is indicative of the college-heavy pitcher drafts Mike Rizzo has done the last few years.  All of our staffs are going to trend old.

Oldest/Youngest Guys in Carolina League: Baltimore’s Frederick affiliate oddly has the two youngest guys (Eduardo Rodriguez, Zachary Davies) and the two oldest guys (Eunchul Choi and Rob Delaney) in the league.  I’ve never heard anything about any of these four, so I can’t really add much commentary here :-)

Percentage of Carolina pitchers on MLB 40-man rosters: Just 2/115 for 1.74%


Low-A Hagerstown

Team Name DOB Age as of 9/1/13 Age Status
Hagerstown (Washington) Blake Schwartz 10/9/1989 23.90 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Brett Mooneyham 1/24/1990 23.60 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Brian Dupra 12/15/1988 24.71 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Brian Rauh 7/23/1991 22.11 Young
Hagerstown (Washington) Bryan Harper 12/29/1989 23.67 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) David Fischer 4/10/1990 23.39 Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Dean Weaver 5/17/1988 25.29 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Dixon Anderson 7/2/1989 24.17 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Ivan Pineyro 9/29/1991 21.92 Young
Hagerstown (Washington) Matt Purke 7/17/1990 23.13 Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Pedro Encarnacion 6/26/1991 22.18 Young
Hagerstown (Washington) Robert Benincasa 9/5/1990 22.99 Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Ronald Pena 9/19/1991 21.95 Young
Hagerstown (Washington) Todd Simko 12/5/1988 24.74 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Travis Henke 7/9/1988 25.15 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Will Hudgins 2/12/1990 23.55 Really Old
Hagerstown (Washington) Wirkin Estevez 3/15/1992 21.46 Really Young

Discussion: as with Potomac, 9 of the 17 guys on this staff are in the “Really Old” category, again a testament to the college-heavy arm drafting of late.  Even Brett Mooneyham is now on the old side of the league median age, and he’s just got one full pro season under his belt.  The one guy listed as “Really Young” is DSL grad Wirkin Estevez

Oldest Guy in the Sally League: Miami’s low-A affiliate in Greensboro has a guy who is already 28 named Miguel Fermin.  He’s in low-A because he’s converting to be a Pitcher after 6 years as a middle infielder.

Youngest Guy in the Sally League: Atlanta’s Lucas Sims, their 1st round draft pick from 2012, who hasn’t even turned 19 as of today (but will have by the end of the season).  The 2nd youngest is a lefty prep draftee in Baltimore’s system named Josh Hader who has an interesting story thus far; he was a HS draftee in the 19th round who put up great numbers in short-season last year, broke with the low-A team and has a 1.74 ERA through four starts as of the time of this writing.  Sounds like a heck of a draft find for Baltimore so far.

Percentage of Sally League pitchers on MLB 40-man rosters: 1 of 196 pitchers.  That one?  our very own Matt Purke, who at this point, I’m not afraid to say, looks like he could be a draft bust.  Not a major one though mind you; the Nats bribed him out of his college commitment with a 3rd round pick but mid first round money in 2011.   But that could end up being a lost 3rd round pick unless Purke can show us something this year.  In some ways it was a great gamble to get a guy who was 15-0 as a freshman … and “its just money” right?  If this kind of draft money allocation were to have happened in the new system, and the team blew its entire wad of money on one injury-prone guy, we’d be much more concerned.

Ask Boswell 5/13/13 edition

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Zimmerman keeps making news for the wrong reasons. Photo AP via tbd.com

I was out all last week, hence the radio silence here.  I couldn’t help posting yesterday though about the Nats blowing another excellent start.  So lets get back into the swing of things with another episode of Tom Boswell‘s weekly chats, this one for 5/13/13.  As always I write my response here before reading his, and sometimes edit questions for clarity.

Q: With the technology we have today, do we really need umpires anymore?

A: You know, the answer is probably “Yes, we could replace Umps with robots” and have a better product on the field … but the implementation details seem so difficult that I doubt it ever really fully happens.  You have to have real people on the field to deal with all the randomness that occurs in baseball games.  I think the best eventual solution will be to have challenge systems put in place like we have with Football, only hopefully done much much faster.  Sort of like the NHL’s New York-office based replay officials.  The strike zone issues we’re seeing lately though are troubling; can you automate a strike zone call with players who move and bend over in mid-swing?  How do you establish a strike zone for these guys?  Inside and outside are no problem, but up/down is tough.  Boswell supports robot strike zones.

Q: If Harper had been just a normal everyday player, coming up through the system, would that swing of his — namely the left foot coming up and the seemingly wild attack at the ball — have been beaten out of him by now by the coaches?

A: Not necessarily.  But if Bryce Harper had been a “normal” prospect instead of an uber-prospect then I think he would have had adjustments pushed onto him.  There have been successful players with that trailing foot off the ground; Frank Thomas and Roberto Clemente come to mind.  I always have a pet peeve personally when I see a  hitter who lifts his back leg; I have the same issue in my own swing and was told by a high school coach that it was a flaw.  Well, I don’t think guys like Clemente and Thomas were flawed hitters.  I think it is what it is; if you feel comfortable hitting off your front foot and are successful, then so be it.  Boswell notes Clemente and a few others who have this trait, and agrees with me that it’s an overstated issue.

Q: Is this the breakout season for Jordan Zimmermann? Is it the changeup? I’ve never seen him look so in control out there.

A: Can it be as simple as Jordan Zimmermann has finally fully recovered from Tommy John surgery?  Fangraphs shows pretty consistent frequencies and speeds of his pitches from last year to this year.   One thing that jumps out for me right now is his very low BABIP (.209 so far this year).  That smells like some regression.  So while he can’t sustain his ridiculous numbers (1.59 ERA through 7 starts), he does seem to be on track for a very good season.  Cy Young capable?  With his current W/L streak and peripherals, he may pitch his way into the conversation.  Boswell notes that Zimmermann would have been in top 10 of league ERA last year with a few more IP, and that poor run support has cost him wins for years … so this all likely is Zimmermann finally getting the full package.

Q: How concerned are the Nats about Zimmerman’s shoulder?

A: Can’t speak for the team, but is anyone happy with Ryan Zimmerman‘s throwing issues right now?  Nothing has changed from what I wrote in Mid-April about the situation.  And I don’t know what the team is going to do with him.  Jon Heyman quoted an anonymous competing Front Office executive after Zimmerman signed his big deal that the Nationals “now have two $100M contracts but no $100M players.”  It pissed me off at the time … but is really hard to argue against now.  Will these contracts hamper this team’s development and/or ability to sign all its players in a few years time?  We’ll see.   Boswell mirrors what i’ve written before; the team has no place to put Zimmerman and they have to just ride it out.

Q: Drew Storen looks like a different pitcher this year. ERA is up to 4.73, and for the first year since his debut I’m nervous when he takes the mound. What gives?

A: A great question.  Others here have predicted that Drew Storen may be demoted this season due to performance.  His blowing of the Gonzalez gem was just one more nail in his coffin.  But a look at the stats shows that he’s basically been unlucky so far this year.  Most of his peripherals are improved in 2013 over last year; his K/9 is up, BB/9 is down.  His BABIP is incredibly high right now (.370).  Despite an ugly ERA his fip/xfip numbers are normal and low.   His velocity is a tick lower this year but not appreciably so.  I think he’s just been unlucky and will improve with more innings as he regresses downwards to the expected mean.  The one thing stats can’t measure though is his mentality; is he “depressed” because he’s not the closer?  Any way you spin it, the acquisition of Rafael Soriano represented a “demotion” for Storen, and it comes on the back of a pretty demoralizing NLCS game 5 meltdown last year where Storen single handedly lost the series for a team that most thought was the best in the game.  Boswell says his stuff is still “plenty good” but that he’s screwing around with too many pitches in his outings, relying on his sinker too much.  He needs to just go after hitters.  I agree; young guys have a tendency to nibble and work backwards if they’re too clever (see Bauer, Trevor) and need to listen to their pitching coaches.

Q: When errors occur or a bad call is made, Strasburg appears to have a difficult time making the necessary pitches to get out of an inning. Is this just an example of him being 24 and still learning or is there a bigger long term issue?

A: Great question again (lots of good ones here).  We’ve all played behind pitchers who lost their composure when a simple error occurs behind them (in adult leagues, this pretty much happens on every other ground ball, so you have to learn to go with it).  Stephen Strasburg‘s mental breakdown after Zimmerman’s latest throwing error, leading to 4 unearned runs and a loss in a game where I thought perhaps he had no-hitter stuff, was really disappointing.  Is it him being young and immature?  Could be, though I have never gotten the impression that Strasburg ran on the immature side.  How can you, when you have so much career hype?  But the evidence speaks for itself; when your manager and your catcher call you out in the press for losing your composure, you have some work to do.  Boswell posted a fantastic stat; 15% of Strasburg’s career runs allowed were unearned, twice what Justin Verlander has allowed in his career.  That’s incredibly telling.  Strasburg needs to work on his mental approach after bad things happen behind him.

Q: So Bryce has cooled off some, but what concerns me more is that even when he was scalding hot, he was hitting LHP. Should we be concerned? His OPS against LHP is .502.

A: I’m not concerned about Harper’s Lefty split, since nearly every left-handed batter in the game has a bad lefty split.  He looked downright awful against lefties in 2012 (highlighted by his 5-K game against Andy Pettitte and the Yankees), but has made adjustments.  Now it seems that the league has re-adjusted, so Harper needs to re-adjust.  So far in his young career, Harper has shown how well he adjusts (he’s years above his age in this regard), so I have confidence he’ll be ok.  Boswell prints some great numbers so far for Harper and says he’ll be ok.

Q: I recently read two articles that said that sabermetics considers a strikout to be no better or worse than any other out. This fact does not seem to make sense because missing the ball completely with two strikes eliminates any chance for productive outs, for foul balls leading to another chance, or reaching base due to normal batting average on balls in play. Also, psychologically, a strikeout has to be more deflating to the individual and team than another out.  Thoughts?

A: There’s a weird dichotomy in sabremetrics in this regard: batter K’s are “not that bad” but Pitcher K’s are what everyone strives for.  Doesn’t this seem at odds with itself?  The only reason I can think that a K is “ok” if you’re going to make an out is if it somehow prevents a double play.  But this is a research-worthy topic.  I also heard a great stat on a podcast; 3 players struck out 40 or more times in April of this year (if memory serves it was Jay Bruce, Chris Carter, and Mike Napoli).  Joe DiMaggio didn’t strike out 40 times in a season his whole career.  The league is just different now.  Boswell doesn’t really say much on the question other than the DP angle.

Q: Yesterday’s game was as strong an argument as I could make for the National League to use the Designated Hitter. Gio should have been allowed to finish the game with his low pitch count and excellent throwing, but he was pulled for a batter (who did nothing). Forget tradition! If we had the DH, we could have kept Michael Morse! And we probably would have won yesterday.

A: A good ancillary point to my rant on Gio Gonzalez‘ replacement the other night.  I support a DH across both leagues and posted many good reasons in this space in March 2013.  No reason to repeat them here, but this question goes to points #2 and #4 in my March post (fan experience and NL pitcher’s getting limited).  Boswell talks about the Gio decision and not really about the DH.

Q: Is Zim still among to the top 5 or top 10 3rd baseman in the majors in your opinion?

A: Interesting question.  A quick glance at the Third Basemen on depth charts around the league leads to this list of players who I would take right now over Zimmerman: Miguel Cabrera, Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre, David Wright, and maybe even Chase Headley or David Frese. Now counting contract status/potential at this point given Zimmerman’s money owed and his declining performance on both sides of the ball, I’d think hard about Manny Machado, Bret Lawrie, Todd Frazier, Nolan Arenado, Pedro Alvarez and Pablo Sandoval.   Of course, potential is potential and Zimmerman already has a long list of accomplishments in this game, so on the whole of his career i’d put him just behind Wright in the above list.  So yeah I think its safe to say he’s a top 5 third baseman right now.  Ironically in my Yahoo Fantasy list, he’s also #5 and listed exactly behind the four guys in that upper grouping, in that exact order.  Boswell says no, not defensively.  But i’m not sure that’s entirely how you judge players these days.  Cabrera isn’t exactly a gold glover at third but would anyone say he’s not the “Best Third Baseman” in the game?

Q: No doubt that Jayson Werth is a phenomenal locker room presence and his home run in the playoffs last year was one of the highlights of the year, but he missed half the season last year and is on the DL now. He turns 34 next Monday and the Nats have him on contract for 4 more years. What do you think they can legitimately expect from him?

A: I think you expect Jayson Werth to contribute in the same ways he did in 2012; around a 125 OPS+ with some power and a lot of OBP.  Eventually he moves to left field, where he should be a excellent defender in the latter years of his contract.  It is what it is: the Nats paid him for his four years of unbelievable offense in Philadelphia, and he’ll be lucky to get back to that level in his mid 30s.  Boswell agrees.

Q: Is Denard Span the best centerfielder we’ve had since Clyde Milan? I don’t recall seeing a smoother Washington centerfielder.

A: Easily the best “all around” player to play center since the team moved here.  I’d probably argue that Rick Ankiel was better defensively and clearly had a better arm, but Denard Span‘s consistency at the plate gives him the easy nod overall.  Can’t speak to years prior to 2005.  Boswell agrees and signs off.

Trevor Bauer video of pitch grips

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Pitching phenom Trevor Bauer demonstrates his pitching grips. Photo Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images via bleacherreport.com

Fascinating stuff here (link on youtube but referenced via the HardBallTalk blog).

I know I criticized Trevor Bauer in the wake of Arizona trading him away for what seemed to be personality issues.  But in hindsight, with the knowledge now that the team also traded Chris Young and now Justin Upton for apparently all the same reasons (manager Kirk Gibson didn’t like them, or didn’t like the way they played), at some point you have to start looking at the manager who can’t get along with star players versus the reverse.

But stuff like this video really makes me like the kid.  He posted this video showing how he grips and throws all his pitches in response to questions he got from regular fans.  He also freely gives out his facebook and twitter contact information and promises to try to get back to fans who ask questions.  I love social media sometimes.

Bauer’s pitch grips and thoughts:

  • Four Seam Fastball: conventional grip, nothing special.  He doesn’t mention throwing a 2-seam fastball other than mentioning the pitch in passing later on, but with his velocity and his throwing motion (straight over the top) you’d have to think a 2-seamer would be effective.
  • Regular Changeup: not a palm-ball, but a de-acceleration technique by throwing the ball off his middle fingers.
  • “Cut” Changeup; moves his index finger up and provides a bit of pressure; this apparently causes the ball to “cut” 2-3 inches.
  • Cutter; he calls it his “regular slider,” but its an odd grip for a slider; it looks more like a 2-seam fastball grip.  He admits it moves more like a cutter, so that’s what I’ve called it.  He seems to fix his wrist slightly askew, then go through a fastball motion and the ball cuts.
  • Slider: This is a much more conventional slider grip and throwing motion.  He calls it a “dot” slider (likely because the seams form a dot on the spinning baseball) and says that its rather “slurvy,” probably because (unlike his curve) it moves across his body.
  • Reverse Slider: He uses the same cutter grip but fixes his wrist in and then comes through the ball with a screw-ball motion.  He says he gets 4-6 inches of reverse movement.  Man that’s a lot of movement if its true.  Mariano Rivera only gets about 7-8″ of movement on what is generally the best cutter in the game.
  • Curve: he throws 2 variations depending on whether he’s looking to control it for strikes or to really break it off as an out pitch.  He varies the pressure of his middle finger; less on the tip for lesser movement/more control and then more on the tip for more movement/sharper break.  He doesn’t seem to snap his wrist in the same way that a 3/4 pitcher would (basically where the wrist snaps towards the opposite side of the body); he snaps his wrist straight down towards the ground.   This should result in close to a 12-to-6 curve that is relatively rare in the majors.  I would have thought this meant less spin, but I’d also guess that with enough wrist strength and repeitition,  you’d get the spin you need.
  • Split Fingered fastball: he definitely throws this like Roger Clemens or Mike Scott, where the ball isn’t jammed back into the hand like a forkball, but instead is more like a fastball brip with spread fingers.   He doesn’t throw this much, but it makes sense for an over-the-top guy to throw this.  (I often said that Brad Peacock needed to learn this same pitch).

He also talks a lot about the way he fixes his wrist on pitches (changeups and sliders) and brings his arm through.  I wonder; is that conventional?  I’ve never given thought to the position of my own wrist when I have pitched in the past.

So, that’s 8 specific pitches, perhaps 9 if you count a 2 seam fastball in there.  And there’s no circle change or knuckle curve.   How do you call a game with this guy?

His pitch f/x data is limited from 2012; they only have 169 pitches classified.  They have him throwing 4 differerent pitches (FB, CU, CH, SL) at speeds that generally are lower than his scouting reports have him throwing (FB average velocity 92.2 with a 95.1 max).  I’m hoping he gets a shot in 2013 to really show his repetoire.  I’d like to see what he can do in the majors.

Written by Todd Boss

January 31st, 2013 at 9:50 am

Trevor Bauer Trade; what happened?

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Bauer is traded before the ink is dry on his contract. Why? Photo Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images via bleacherreport.com

It isn’t every day that you see a guy like Trevor Bauer traded.  Why?

  • He was traded less than a year after being drafted in the upper 1st round (3rd overall).
  • He was traded despite signing a Major League deal and getting a $3.4M bonus.  The bonus money isn’t exactly a sunk cost here; we’re not talking about a guy who is 5 years into his minor league career.
  • He was traded despite being the first player from his draft class to matriculate to the majors, appearing at the end of 2012′s season, getting 4 starts in September.
  • He was traded after a minor league season in which (among AA and AAA) he compiled a 12-2 record with a 2.42 ERA with 157 K’s in 130 1/3 innings, including time spent in the hitter-bonanza PCL.  As a 21-year old.
  • He was traded after being named Arizona’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
  • He was traded despite in-arguably being considered an “Ace” pitching prospect.

So, why was Arizona so quick to give up on this guy?   It isn’t like they moved Bauer to get a game-changing set of prospects or impact major league players; the return seems to be a lighter-hitting shortstop (Didi Gregorius), an inconsistent reliever (Tony Sipp) and a first base prospect who is immediately blocked on the Arizona roster by other, better players (Lars Anderson).

The answer seems to be a combination of several factors, none of them flattering to Bauer and his make-up/personality:

  1. Bauer’s refusal to alter his unique warm-up methods.  We saw this coming; he issued a “warning” to drafting teams that he did not want his extreme long-toss warmup method changed or questioned.
  2. Bauer’s refusal to allow his catcher to call the game.  In his four September games, he repeatedly shook off catcher Miguel Montero, a seven year veteran catcher.  And that didn’t seem to go over well with either catcher or coach when asked about it at the time.
  3. Bauer’s approach during his MLB time; he reportedly pitches “backwards,” setting up hitters with off-speed stuff before using his fastball as his  outpitch.  But this approach is counter to most recommended approaches for attacking hitters, especially bottom-of-the-order hitters.  He reportedly nibbled too much, didn’t go after hitters, walked a number of 7-8-9 guys, and then (in a common refrain) refused to alter his approach.
  4. Bauer’s tantrum when removed from the PCL championship game, showing up AAA manager Billy Butler (an accomplished MLB veteran) in the process.
  5. Bauer’s maturity level being questioned in the media by the team’s owner.
  6. Bauer’s clubhouse demeaner reportedly being, shall we say, “less than optimal” for getting along well with others.  I can’t find links off-hand, but I read opinions that describe Bauer variously as being “an Ass,” being cocky, being “prickly,”  being a know-it-all, and already dividing the MLB clubhouse despite his relative short time there.

Ok, that’s a long list of issues, some of them very serious when it comes to a professional ball-player.

Its easy to say, “well the kid is only 21″ and excusing any/all these issues.  But there is something to be said about a 21 year old kid arriving in a Major League ball club, with a manager of the pedigree and career accomplishments of Kirk Gibson and an on-the-field staff of old-school pros (including Don BaylorMatt Williams and pitching coach Charles Nagy), and telling them that he knows better than they do.  Perhaps its that simple; perhaps the management had already essentially given up on Bauer’s ability to be coached, to receive instruction, to even receive recommondations, and GM Josh Towers pulled the plug.

But he’d have to be just incredibly hard headed for the team to have already arrived at the point of no return.  We’re not talking about some random 15th rounder.  We’re talking about a game-changing, significant investment they made in this kid.

Bauer, for his part, clearly has confidence in his approach, studied and crafted his motion based on biomechanical information he had at hand (his major at UCLA?  Biomedical Engineering), and believes that his preparation and his motion are what has enabled him to garner a high 1st round pick, what allowed him to zoom through the minors, and are what will enable him to be a successful professional.  I can understand his viewpoint; why should I change what has gotten me where I am now?   In some ways this reminds me of the whole “old-school/new-school” arguments that we have related to evaluating baseball players; new-school sabrematricians clearly have a dim view of their old-school/veteran sports writer counter parts and often have no issue writing that such-and-such a veteran sportswriter is flat out “an idiot.”  Well; is Bauer the “new school” approach to crafting pitching mechanics and his Arizona coaches are the “old school” approach to teaching pitching?

In some ways, we as fans forget that a clubhouse is rather similar to an office environment; you have “good” and “bad” workers, you have super stars and people just playing out the string.  Imagine if you had a 21-yr old hot-shot rookie just out of school who came in and told you (a seasoned veteran of some accomplish) that he knew how to do his job better than you?  I would imagine that the kid would seem pretty grating in the process.  Is this what happened in Arizona?

Should we be putting any blame on the Organization?  This isn’t the first time we’ve heard “issues” revolving around Arizona, their staff and management, and a player.  In addition to the Bauer situation, the continual Justin Upton trade rumors, persisting on now for a second off-season.  If the guy (Upton) is so good, why has the team been trying to move him for 2 years?  They benched him in 2012 and he got into a public spat with the owner this past season.  Is this a player issue or is there something in the organization that keeps rearing its head?  The situation reminds me somewhat of the Aaron Crow draft situation, where Jim Bowden drafted a kid who apparently had made it known he wanted no part of the organization.  If Arizona knew going in that Bauer was going to be difficult, why draft him at all?

Nats at #6 take … Alex Meyer? Or Trever Bauer?

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Is Alex Meyers set to be our next 1st round draft pick? Photo: lex18.com

The consensus view on the draft and the Nationals Mike Rizzo‘s draft proclivities seems to fall along two lines of thought:

  • The 2011 draft is heavy on good college arms.  And…
  • Rizzo likes college arms.

So, the odds are he’s taking a college arm at #6.  Lets look at the top college arms available.  These are in rough order of their probable draft position.  All these pitchers are either college juniors or draft-eligible sophomores.

1. Gerrit Cole, Ucla.  Some concerns about his performance this year are knocking him from a consensus 1-1 position to possibly sliding to 5th (if you believe Keith Law‘s mock draft; see below).  If he got to the Nats, it’d be a steal.  But it comes with some concerns.  As in, how does a guy hitting 100mph only have a 9 k/9 rate?  Strasburg had comparable stuff and was striking guys out at nearly twice that rate.

2. Danny Hultzen, Uva.  Most have him going #3 overall to Arizona, some think Pittsburgh is getting scared off both Cole and Anthony Renden and will take him as a value pick, fast to the majors.  Despite his being a local guy, I’m not sure I want him if I’m the Nats.  Lefty, solid pitcher, fast to the majors sure.  But there’s some stories about his training methods and inflexibility to take coaching that are red flags in my opinion (see Trevor Bauer).  There’s also stories about a meddlesome father out and about, though I’d have a hard time that would translate to the pro game.

3. Trevor Bauer, Ucla.  Ucla’s “other” starter is actually going before Cole on some draft boards.  This, I don’t get.  He’s good, and he has a strong arm, but his ridiculous preparation methods and mid-inning throwing is so unorthodox that it may spell doom to whatever organization has to deal with him.  If he’s already telling people “don’t draft me if you want to change my preparation” then how will he ever take constructive criticism or coaching?  To say nothing of the 150-160pitch outings he’s frequently had this season.  He does have a ridiculous 189 Ks in 127 innings this year.  Here’s one scouting report on Bauer for your perusal.

4. Alex Meyer, Kentucky.  Fangraphs.com scouted and did an extensive report on Meyer, his stuff, and his outlook just this week, reviewing his Florida start.  Rizzo likes big body, power arms out of college and Meyer absolutely fits that bill.  Here’s a profile at mlbdraftinsider.com.  Here’s another at mlb.com by Jonathan Mayo.  The major thing that scares me about Meyer is his sudden reversal of fortunes over his first two college seasons.  How does a guy have a 7+ era as a sophomore then suddenly start throwing lights out (2.94 era, 110ks in 101 innings) as a junior?  Who is the real Meyer?

5. Sonny Gray, Vanderbilt. Good stuff, good results, bad body.  Just as with pro quarterbacks, no GM likes to take a sub-6-foot right hander.  Most think he’s headed for the bullpen … if so how could you possibly draft him this high?  A top5 overall pitcher better have future Ace starter potential.

Anyone below this point isn’t going to get past the Nats, since Anthony Rendon probably goes 1st or 2nd and one of the big-time high school prospects (among them possibly Bundy, Starling or Archie Bradley) may go top 5 as well.  Of the arms below; if any of them fall to #23 we may snap them up despite really needing bats in the farm system.

  • Jed Bradley, Georgia Tech.  Good lefty, good league.  Some think he’s top3, others think he’s lasting til the teens.
  • Matt Barnes, UConn.  I’m sure he’s a great pitcher but playing in the Big East isn’t exactly like playing in the SEC.
  • Taylor Jungmann, UTexas.  Stock is falling.
  • John Stilson, Tamu.  lots of K/9 in a good league.  Unfortunately he just destroyed his shoulder and probably won’t even be drafted.  He’ll be lucky to recover from a SLAP tear.
  • Matthew Purke, TCU.  Has had injury concerns all year but has a top-5 talent arm.  I’d wonder if the Nats would roll the dice at #23 or possibly in the supplemental round on him.  Keith Law posted today (insider only) that his price tag won’t be worth what he has shown this year, and I’m guessing he returns to school for his junior year.  More likely he’ll play in the Cape, try to re-gain his mojo and earn his (likely) $6M demand.

Lots of draft pundits are putting the Nats onto Kentucky right-hander Alex Meyer at the #6 spot.  According to some reports, the Nationals were initially targeting him at #23, but a strong 2011 season has him shooting up the draft boards.  If not Meyer, a lot of other mock drafts have us on Trevor Bauer, which scares me for reasons mentioned above.

Here’s some good mock drafts to refer to:

Final thoughts

I think Meyer may end up being an overdraft, but its hard not to fall in love with a big body and a big arm.  You can’t teach MPH.  Bauer (as Passan says) may be Lincecum 2.0 and certainly has amazing k/9 rates this year, but i’d be afraid of his unconventionalism.  Videos of his mechanics aren’t that crazy, and he definitely has a great arm.  We’ll see if the Nats go this way or surprise everyone.