Nationals Arm Race

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Too Old for the level Revisited

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Brady House is certainly NOT too old for his level. Photo via primetimesportstalk.com

One of the key points in evaluating minor league prospects (or any amateur prospect really) is the consideration of their age in relation to their level. We constantly see added on to the evaluation of a player’s stellar performance at a certain level the caveat of, ” … but he’s old for the level.”

I did a deep dive on this back in 2011, trying to compare the rules of thumb advertised by expert minor league evaluator John Sickels versus our own observations. Now, 10 years on, with evolutions of player development, minor league consolidation, the removal of an entire Short-A level, and the compressing of the lower ranks of the minors, I thought i’d revisit it.

My working guesses before going in and looking at the data are:

  • The compression of the minors will mean that there will be an older skew of players now in Low-A.
  • Hitters will generally be younger than Pitchers, since we have such a prevalence of injuries in the sport which delays pitcher development.
  • the lost Covid year will add at least a half a season or more, especially to pitchers who got hurt at the wrong time (see Irvin, Jake below)

My methodology was to grab the entire list of players with non-trivial stats (meant to remove rehab assignments that would skew the average ages) from the four main full season levels, and grab average ages. Unfortunately fangraphs only lists the “age” and not the birthday for minor leaguers, so this is a bit of an estimate (and thus I couldn’t get meaningful quartile/median figures). I wasn’t willing to scrape dozens of rosters from milb.com to get actual birthdays … so this will have to do. I also only grabbed the leagues where Nats have affiliates; otherwise this would have been 3x the spreadsheet work. I think its a safe assumption that the average age of the players in the Eastern AA league is roughly the same as the Southern AA league.

To start, here was the old Sickels “rules of thumb” for age expectations in the four full season leagues:

  • 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

This already seems way low, especially in AAA, where we now know that teams store tons of 4-A 40-man roster guys who will press the issue. But we’ll get to that.


Here’s 2021 full season average age analysis for Hitters with > 30Abs for the year:

  • AAA Hitter Avg Age:  26.53801
  • AA Hitter Avg Age:  24.11027
  • High-A Hitter Avg Age:  22.92832
  • Low-A Hitter Avg Age:  21.40741

and here’s fy2022 so far for hitters with > 30ABs this season:

  • AAA Hitter Avg Age:  26.599
  • AA Hitter Avg Age:  24.169
  • High-A Hitter Avg Age:  22.705
  • Low-A Hitter Avg Age:  20.975

And here’s a bit of a deeper dive into the 2022 hitter data, with quartiles shown:

 MeanYoungest0.25Median0.75Oldest
Low-A Hitter Avg Age: 20.9751552795031820212225
High-A Hitter Avg Age: 22.7046979865771922232427
AA Hitter Avg Age: 24.1689189189192023242533
AAA Hitter Avg Age: 26.5985130111522225262834

So, what are we seeing in Hitters?

  • In Low-A for Hitters, we’re seeing a bit of an inflation of ages from the old rule of thumb, with the 25%-75% quartile range going from 20-22, whereas before it was 19-21.
  • There’s nobody in Low-A right now younger than 18 and you can count on one hand those who are 18. Washington’s T.J. White is one of them. Makes sense; you draft a HS kid and they’re going to generally start in the complex league, and only if they’re stellar will they make the next year’s low-A team … and White was really young for his class out of HS.
  • The average age for high-A hitters jumps more than a year and a half from the Low-A average. interesting. Does this imply that it’s going to take kids a year and a half to get out of low-A now? This would seem to support the argument that we could really use another level (you know, something like Short-A?)
  • The Average age for AA hitters jumps up another year and a half from High-A, showing that the old rules of thumb are now completely antiquated. The average age in AA for hitters is now north of 24.
  • AAA average age is pretty useless in aggregate because of its status as a “spare parts” league. If you’re a prospect rising the ranks (like Cade Cavalli) there’s some analytical value to seeing just how young someone is as compared to the average age, but otherwise the prospects generally are in AA or below.

Lets look at pitchers.

Here’s 2021 full season average age analysis for Pitchers with > 20IP for the year:

  • AAA Pitcher Avg Age:  26.90933
  • AA Pitcher Avg Age:  24.76211
  • High-A Pitcher Avg Age:  23.28326
  • Low-A pitcher Avg Age:  21.93048

and here’s fy2022 so far for Pitchers with > 10IP so far this season:

  • AAA Pitcher Avg Age:  27.33068
  • AA Pitcher Avg Age:  24.5873
  • High-A Pitcher Avg Age:  23.23485
  • Low-A pitcher Avg Age:  22.03472

And here’s a bit of a deeper dive into the 2022 Pitcher data, with quartiles shown:

 AverageYoungest0.25Median0.75Oldest
Low-A pitcher Avg Age: 22.0347222222221921222329
High-A Pitcher Avg Age: 23.2348484848482022232426
AA Pitcher Avg Age: 24.587301587302212324.52530
AAA Pitcher Avg Age: 27.3306772908372225272937

So, what are we seeing in Pitchers, as compared to Hitters?

  • Right now, the fy2022 data on just a few weeks is almost identical to the full season fy2021 data, which shows that teams have already made consistent adjustments to the loss of Short-A.
  • Low-A pitchers are on average a full year older than the hitters at the level, and the 25%-75% quartile range is also a full year older.
  • The age difference is less pronounced in High-A and AA: high-A pitchers are on average a half a year older, while AA pitchers are on average 3-4 months older than the pitchers.
  • AAA goes back to half a year older between hitters and pitchers, but again these numbers are greatly skewed (especially on the pitcher side) by the large number of veteran arms in their late 20s/early 30s giving it one more shot (our own AAA team has more than a few).

So, what’s our new “rules of thumb” for being “too old for the level?” I think it has to adjust from the old days.

  • AAA: Typical Age range is 25-28.  A prospect at the age of 26 is iffy. 27+ is considered old for the level (with all the above AAA caveats). However, if you’re 27 and in AAA, you’re already passed through rule-5 draft, you’re probably pretty close to a 6-year MLFA and you’re not a “prospect” any more anyway. So these rules of thumb really don’t apply to AAA.
  • AA: typical age range is 23-25.  A prospect at 25 is iffy. 26+ is old for the level.
  • High-A: 22-24.  24 depends.  25+ is old
  • Low-A Hitters: 20-22 range, 23 depends, 24+ is old
  • Low-A Pitchers: 21-23 range, 24 depends, 24+ is old

Now, looking at our new rules of thumb, lets do a quick run-through of our notable prospects per team, and comment as to their relative age. This is not a comprehensive list of every player on the roster; just those “top players” who have appeared on prospect ranking lists lately.

  • Frederick’s Low-A Hitter Prospects: House (19), Infante (21), De La Rosa (20), White (18), Boissiere (22): they’re all within the appropriate range right now. Nobody is “too old” here. House and especially White are really young for the league. Boissiere is the oldest prospect here, and he’s repeating the level after struggling in his draft year/age 21 season. Nothing to worry about yet. We do have a couple of “too old” for the level players in Martina and Millas, but they just promoted Millas up as I was writing this draft.
  • Frederick’s Low-A Pitcher Prospects: Lara (19), Rutledge (23), Saenz (23): Lara obviously is young, while Rutledge is pushing the range of acceptability, especially for such a high draft pick and his highly visible failings so far. Saenz is also 23, along with some newer additions like Glavine and Schoff, both senior signs in their first full year of pro ball. While we’re all concerned about the fact that Rutledge can’t find the plate, the rest of these guys are not yet in the “too old” category, but are a little concerning.
  • Wilmington’s High-A Hitter prospects: Antuna (22), Pineda (22), Barley (22), Mendoza (24). So, despite our continual angst about Antuna’s progress, he’s still within the 75% quartile range for age in the league at age 22. He won’t turn 23 until October. His bigger problem is that the team put him on the 40-man way, way too early, and now he’s burned 2 options. Mendoza is in the “depends” category and we all know why: he failed at AA, got demoted last year, and has zero homers through 25 games in 2022 despite basically being a DH at this point.
  • Wilmington’s High-A Pitcher prospects: Parker (22), Brzycky (22), Shuman (24), Irvin (25). So, Parker and NDFA Brzycky are both actually young for High-A. Shuman is in the iffy range; he was excellent for Oakland’s High-A team, then was awful for us in 2021, earning himself a return trip to Wilmington in 2022 … but he’s been pretty solid so far. My guess is that he earns a promotion soon. Meanwhile, we now know that Irvin is way too old for High-A, but we also know why: he missed two full years of throwing with Covid and TJ. He’s also been basically unhittable in High-A in five starts and likely gets promoted within a few weeks.
  • Harrisburg’s AA Hitter prospects: Cluff (25), Alu (25), Harrison (25). We don’t have a lot of hitter prospects in AA; even these three guys are challenging the definition of “prospect.” Cluff is really the only guy who gets any industry-wide speculation. All three are 25, putting them all in the “iffy” category anyway. Cluff and Harrison are really struggling this year. Alu just turned 25 last month, and is hitting well in 2022, but has little prospect buzz.
  • Harrisburg’s AA Pitcher prospects: Henry (22), Carrillo (23), Cronin (24), Cate (24), Evan Lee (25). So, Henry is quite young for AA and is lighting it up, a great sign. Cronin and Cate are still “ok” for the level at this point, even if Cate struggled so badly last year. Lee is already “iffy” even though he just got put on the 40-man, but his AA performance so far has been stellar and he should get pushed up soon. Nobody “too old” here who’s a prospect. We do have several arms in AA who are way too old to be there (Herrera, Brill, Andrew Lee)
  • Rochester AAA Hitter prospects: Casey (26), Barrera (27). We don’t have a lot of prospects in AAA right now. Casey is “iffy” as a prospect based on age, but he’s a banner child for the Covid effect; he lost 2020 after earning a promotion to AA in 2019 at age 23; then he loses his age 24 season, solves AA at age 25 but has struggled in AAA ever since. So, its possible this is his peak. Meanwhile, we know Barrera is too old for AAA, and probably too old to be a “prospect” at this point, but he’s also a catcher on the 40-man roster and is next in line if Ruiz/Adams gets hurt. So he falls into the “AAA as spare parts” league category.
  • Rochester AAA Pitcher prospects: Cavalli (23), Seth Romero (26). As with hitters … our AAA is not really a place where we bring up our prospects. Cavalli at 23 is one of the youngest pitchers in AAA right now (only 7 arms in the International League are 23 or younger, most of them major prospects whose names you already know). Romero at 26 is “iffy” as a prospect, which makes me laugh to write since he’s been “iffy” as a prospect since the moment he was kicked off his college team. I still can’t quite believe he’s in the employ of the team, and it should make you sick that he was called up to then be put on the major league 60-day DL, thus meaning he’s earning MLB salary this year.

Conclusions? the Nats are generally keeping their prospects in the appropriate level, and the “too old for the level” iffy considerations all have easy-to-see explanations.

Written by Todd Boss

May 12th, 2022 at 9:45 am

Quick thoughts on the MLB and MiLB rotations one month in

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Cade Cavalli not yet ready for the big-dance. Photo via Lookout Landing blog

Every year i’m excited to start tracking our minor league pitching, and rotations in particular … and a month in, here’s some quick, random, small sample sized, perhaps not fully backed by statistics or sabremetrics thoughts on our rotations of the four minor league full season affiliates. And just for good measure, i’ll throw in thoughts on the debacle of the MLB rotation as well.

For reference, as always here’s the Big Board, which has the rotations in their pitching order lined up on the same day as the corresponding MLB pitcher, along with the rest of the staffs and their approximate roles. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/186nm-v5F-zTCoR2Be7TFYM3e2cZ-gYi2WVqJLEkHdmc/

Note: this was written on Monday 5/2/22 during an off-day so any moves that have happened since are not accounted for.


MLB Rotation

https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/WSN/2022.shtml

  • Grey: after a scuffling start, has put in a couple of really sterling outings and is starting to look like the headlining prospect we gave up Scherzer and Turner for. FIP is a bit higher than his ERA, which is indicative of his high walk rate, but he’s mowing them down to the tune of 10.7 K/9.
  • Adon: a 7.33 ERA and equally ugly whips and fips show that, as i’ve maintained for most of the last year and a half, he’s overpromoted. One September start against Boston seems to have blinded fan-boys across the Natmosphere into where Adon really is. He’s 23, which is generally the age of our current high-A rotation, and you can count the number of starts he’s had above AA on two hands. I think he needs to be in AAA.
  • Corbin, who is making $23M this year and is under contract through the 2024 season (and its balloon gift payment of a $35M payroll figure that year) continues to dumbfound observers; how could someone be so effective two years ago and fall apart so comprehensively? He’s now posting an 8.69 ERA, a whip north of 2.0, and a 43 ERA+ this season. His only saving grace right now is his obscenely high BABIP of .443, which leads to a normal looking FIP of 3.69 … better than Grey’s amazingly. So, maybe he’s just had a very unlucky April in terms of balls finding their way into the outfield. Either way, he’s not going anywhere, not when he comprises such a large percentage of the payroll and there’s nobody really pushing from AAA for a promotion.
  • Fedde, the guy who I was convinced would get non-tendered this off season (given that he was out of options and pitched horribly in 2021), instead is tendered a contract and given $2.1M guaranteed dollars to be our 5th starter … and has been pitching like it. 6.00 ERA, 1.55 whip, mediocre FIP. He’s yet another example of a guy who, if he had been a 15th rounder and gotten $125K as a signing bonus would have LONG ago been DFA’d and buried in AAA, but because of the “investment” made in him in terms of signing bonus so many years ago, continues to throw MLB innings that virtually ensure losses.
  • Aaron Sanchez at one point was a Fantasy stud, a phenomenal starter for Toronto. Now he’s back in the majors and probably has a pretty extended shot at sticking around. His first two starts were meh, but his peripherals don’t look too bad yet. Now that he’s back in the majors though, he’s got enough service time to refuse a demotion, so he’ll either stick or get DFA’d. My guess is that if he shows any promise whatsoever, he’ll stick in the rotation at the expense of someone else, and the team will look to flip him at the deadline.
  • Josh Rogers was the guy who i thought merited a rotation spot from the get go, not some hail-mary chance at MLFA/NRI/washout Anibel Sanchez. But hey, old habits die hard right?
  • Speaking of Sanchez, he managed to hit the DL pretty much the MOMENT his $2M salary was guaranteed … and it remains to be seen when we’ll see him again. Nice move! His official DL reason was “Nerve impingment in neck.” Anyone want to bet how many starts we get out of him this year?

Hitting the 60-day DL before the season even started were our $35M albatross Stephen Strasburg, who the team still says expects to throw “20-25 starts” this year. I’ll take the under. Joe Ross is earning $2.4M this year to probably sit on the DL for several months with his elbow bone ship removal surgery just done. And of course who can forget our favorite 1st round draft pick Seth Romero, who was recalled and dumped onto the 60-day DL with what was called a “calf strain,” this after suffering a ‘stiff back’ during spring training, and this after suffering a “rib injury” that cost him half of 2021. At what point can he suffer a “DFA injury?”

Next to get demoted/released? I can’t imagine Adon will be allowed to pitch like this the rest of the way and will eventually get pushed back to AAA. Fedde may get the dump if/when one of the DL starters is ready to return … but more likely Rogers (who has options) gets moved since the team has “less invested” in him of course.

What do I think happens next? No changes until Strasburg/Sanchez/Ross is ready to come off the DL.


AAA rotation:

https://www.milb.com/rochester/stats/pitching/games-started?playerPool=ALL

  • Sanchez: promoted and with good reason: 3 starts, 3.60 ERA is best of the AAA rotation, even if his peripherals were not that great (10/5 k/bb in 15 innings, 1.47 whip).
  • Verrett: I think he’s meant more to be a reliever but has 2 starts and 7 IP.  Maybe they put Braymer back in rotation.
  • Tetreault: 1.54 whip, 5.56 ERA but his fip is going to be lower b/c his BAA is decent.
  • Cavalli: interestingly on 13 Ks in 15 innings right now, ugly era 6.23, but his whip is not bad 1.27 and he’s only got a .234 BAA.
  • Reyes: an offseason MLFA who now has a 14.18 ERA … seems like he’s getting ready to get released.
  • Jrodriguez: weird numbers: 8.31 ERA but only a .184 BAA. .. oh its b/c he has 10 walks in 13 innings.  Another guy who seems to be just holding down a rotation spot til they’re ready to promote someone from AA.
  • Sharp: put in a spot start in place of the now departed Sanchez and wasn’t half bad (5ip, 4hits 2 runs), and should probably go into the rotation.

Next to get promoted? Nobody is earning it anytime soon; maybe someone like Sharp if they need a spot starter in the majors, but the Nats already has a couple guys in the bullpen who can do that (Espino, Voth).

Next to get demoted/released? Reyes seems to be out of here soon. JRodriguez may not be far behind.

What do I think happens next? Reyes gets released, the team promotes two guys from AA, Verrett and Sharp go back to the pen and we run with Tetreault, Cavalli, JRodriguez and two guys we’re about to cover in the next section…


AA Rotation:

https://www.milb.com/harrisburg/stats/pitching?playerPool=ALL&sortState=asc

  • Fuentes: 4 competent starts so far; no surprise from someone who should be in AAA. Whip is a little high, should be doing more against AA pitchers.
  • Gausch: Decent numbers, 3.66 era, 1.27 whip, really nice BAA of .194. Pretty good for his first time facing AA hitters. Probably needs to do this for most of the season before promotion.
  • Henry: uh… 13 ip, just 3 hits given up to go with 4 walks. So that’s around 1/2 a baserunner per inning. It goes without saying his era is 0.00 and his BAA is a miniscule 0.073. But, the team is only throwing him 3-4 innings an outing. Obviously, a month in the guy is looking like a sure fire promotion but he’s gotta get his endurance up.
  • Herrera: ERA ugly, but peripherals not bad. He’s too old for the level and either needs to move up or out.
  • Lee: about what we’re expecting; lots of Ks and lots of walks (14/10 in 14 innings). ERA belies some bad peripherals and he’s likely to see that rise soon. Needs more time.

Next to get promoted? Henry and Fuentes.

Next to get demoted/released? Herrera.

What do I think happens next? We probably don’t see much change here for another month, then we see Henry and perhaps Fuentes moved up. Who takes their place? Well, not for nothing but two of our more advanced SP prospects (Cate and Carrillo) are on the AA DL right now; Cate is doing rehab starts and is back soon, Carrillo’s shoulder barked and he may be out for a bit, but it’d make sense for these two to slide in before considering a High-A promotion. They also have an excellent long reliever/spot starter in Alex Troop who is having a fine season who could slot into the rotation soon. There’s nobody really pressing in the immediate from High-A for now, so solutions may come from within. See Next section.


High-A

https://www.milb.com/wilmington/stats/pitching?playerPool=ALL&sortState=asc

  • Cuevas: solid. 2.79 ERA, 1.09 whip, .179 BAA. That’s not bad for a 23rd rounder who hasn’t turned 21 yet. We may have a find on our hands here.
  • Irvin: 4 starts after two lost seasons and things are looking promising; miniscule 0.69 ERA, similarly small whip, great k/bb 13/2 in 13 innings. Like Henry above him, Irvin is being eased back into starts, just going 3 or 4 at a time, but we’re starting to remember why we drafted him.
  • Merrill: strugging; a walk an inning. a 5.00 ERA that might be higher in FIP. Might make sense to put in the pen.
  • Parker: is continuing the great performance we saw last year in Low-A so far; 2.08 ERA, a .111 BAA. 25 Ks in 17 innings is amazing … but 14 walks in 17 innings is not.
  • Shuman: repeating the level and posting a 5.27 ERA, though his peripherals indicate that’s unlucky. He’s one-thrid of trade bounty we got from Oakland in the Gomes/Harrison deal last trade deadline, so the team doesn’t have a ton invested.

Next to get promoted? Cuevas and Irvin, but no time soon.

Next to get demoted/released? Shuman.

What do I think happens next? Irvin isn’t moving up until he’s doing 6ip a night, same as Henry, so maybe both their fates are tied to each other. Cuevas is lower profile and young, so he might not be moving up anytime soon either. Two of the long relievers here (Knowles and Pena) are having solid seasons and could move into the rotation if need be. There’s not a lot of pressure in Low-A pushing up right now, so we may see this unit intact until the July (see next).


Low-A

https://www.milb.com/fredericksburg/stats/pitching/games-started?playerPool=ALL

  • Lara: 6.75 ERA, but a nice K/BB 21/6 in 14 innings. He’s punching a ton of guys out, but letting in a ton of contact. He’s only 19, 3-4 years younger than anyone else in this rotation, so we should be patient here.
  • Saenz: a nice line of 3.74 ERA, 1.34 whip, 26/6 K/BB in 21 innings. This is a solid line and should he continue it he should be in line to move up later this season.
  • Theophile: Crushing it so far in a huge turnaround from last year in the same level: 0.86 ERA through 4 starts, and a great 30/5 K/BB in 21 innings. Love that line. I’d like to see this continue for a while though, since he got shelled for the same team last year (5.56 ERA in 22 starts)
  • Alvarez; 5.93 ERA, decent K/9 numbers, 1.46 whip. Probably needs to step it up a bit.
  • Caceres is the only guy here who didn’t end last year on this staff and it shows: ERA north of 7 but an interesting 20/3 k/bb ratio in 14 innings.
  • Collins: the 2021 17th rounder ended last year in the Low-A rotation but now is getting stretched out a bit and the early returns are good: 20/3 K/BB in 12 innings, 3.55 ERA, 1.11 whip. I like that.

Its hard to tell if Low-A is doing a 6-man rotation or is throwing a 6th spot starter in all over the place. They also have Seijas in the pen who is throwing almost starter innings in relief (though not that effectively).

Next to get promoted? Theophile

Next to get demoted/released? Caceres.

What do I think happens next? there’s a couple guys sitting in XST who might profile here (Dyson, AHernandez, Stoeckinger if he’s still with the club at this point). But more likely the team shuffles around its long relievers to fill rotation spots if they need them until we start seeing the FCL team start to play and the 2022 draft take shape. We may end up with an SEC starter in the upper rounds who could go straight to low-A mid-season once the deck chairs start to shuffle. Until then, I can’t see anyone getting promoted, even Theophile, for another month at least.

Written by Todd Boss

May 3rd, 2022 at 10:40 am

First Prospect ranking of offseason: BA top 10

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Kiebert Ruiz remains the #1 prospect in the system. Photo WP

We’re not even done with the World Series (between the cheaters of Houston and the culturally insensitives of Atlanta) but we’ve gotten our first prospect ranking. It comes to us from Baseball America, who normally has relatively reasonable rankings but for the pre-2022 season has given us some rather “interesting” rankings.

click here for the BA top 10 plus their list of best tools and what not.

BA’s top 10:

RankFirst NameLast NamePosition
1KeibertRuizC
2CadeCavalliRHP (Starter)
3BradyHouseSS
4YaselAntunaSS
5AndryLaraRHP (Starter)
6ColeHenryRHP (Starter)
7JoanAdonRHP (Starter)
8GerardoCarrilloRHP (Starter)
9JacksonRutledgeRHP (Starter)
10ArmandoCruzSS

Ok. So lets do some reactions.

  • Hard to disagree with the top 2. Ruiz was already a better prospect than Cavalli when he got here, and most of the prospect shops i’m seeing have them 1-2 in this order.
  • House had such an impressive debut, it isn’t a surprise to see him rocket to #3. This is in line with most other shops.
  • Antuna at #4. Really. What exactly did he do this year to merit such a rise? He was 22 in High-A and slashed .227/.307/.385. The last time we saw him in a full season was three years ago in Low-A and he slashed … .220/.293/.331. Wow. Pretty similar, huh? During his defense of this, the BA writer Joe Healy pointed out that, oh well Antuna started out 4-67 and then “got hot.” Ok, even if you remove his 4-67 start he STILL only hit .260 for the season. Oh, and then BA listed Antuna as having the “Best Hitter for Average” in the entire system! No I’m not kidding: a career .238 hitter in the low minors is our system’s best hitter for average, according to BA. Oh by the way, he’s such a bad SS ( he committed 36 errors in 96 games this year) that the team has pushed him to be a corner OF. Great; so now we have a corner OF with no speed (17 career SBs in 246 games) and no power (.367 career slugging). I don’t mean to shower distain on the guy, but I just can’t believe he’s ranked this high by any scouting shop at this point.
  • Lara and Henry at 5-6 are pretty reasonable. I’d have liked to see more from Lara this year, but he’s still just finishing his age 18 season. Henry remains an orchid; unhittable when healthy, but frequently hurt. Hurt this year, hurt in college, etc. Of course he’s tearing it up in the AFL; he’s healthy again. I’m already getting shades of Christian Garcia: lights out when healthy … but never healthy enough to count on.
  • Joan Adon at #7. What a weird year he had. Throws 17 starts in high-A with nearly a 5.00 ERA and good but not stellar K/BB rates (9 K/9 and a 3/1 k/bb). But he gets promoted to AA nonetheless, where he gives up 20 baserunners in 14 innings to the tune of a 6.43 ERA … but strikes out a ton of guys (24 Ks in 14 innings). On the strength of that, and thanks to an arm shortage he gets moved up to AAA, where he needs 81 pitches to get through 4 innings. But since he’s on the 40-man he gets his MLB debut and throws a pretty solid game against a playoff team in Boston the last weekend of the season, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits in 5 1/3rd innings. Every other scouting bureau has him as essentially an org-guy at this point; Baseball America has him #7. I’m not sure what to think.
  • Carillo and Cruz filling out the top 10 is fine: Carillo by all accounts can’t find the plate with his secondary offerings and might end up being a 2-pitch closer. Cruz is young, struggled this year but the promise is th ere.
  • That leaves us to Jackson Rutledge. What a fall from grace for Rutledge in 2021; he starts the year as the opening day starter in High-A (ahead of Adon and Cavalli), gets hammered, is dumped to Low-A where he doesn’t fare much better, and then hits the DL for a large stretch. Meanwhile Adon ends the season in the majors and Cavalli makes the Futures game. And to think that some pundits had Rutledge ahead of Cavalli as a prospect. So, what happens next? Is this the next Jake Johannsen? Another wasted high-round draft pick in a decade of them?

Per the post-top10 release chat, some of the names just outside the top 10 include the likes of Tim Cate, Jeremy De La Rosa, Aldo Ramirez, Matt Cronin. This seems about right, these are generally the next few names in the 11-15 range on most lists.

Written by Todd Boss

October 29th, 2021 at 9:45 am

State of the Minors, Week3

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First off, here’s the records of our teams after three 6-game series (link to all MiLB standings here)

  • AAA: 4-14 (tied for worst in league)
  • AA: 6-12 (last place in division)
  • High-A: 9-9 (2 games out of 1st)
  • Low-A: 1-17.

I asked Keith Law a question in his chat last week about Fredericksburg, who was 0-15 at the time, asking whether they would ever win and he thought I was exaggerating. He replied as much, posting their team batting and pitching stats in amazement.

Lets do a quick run-through who’s looking good and bad around our minor league affiliates. I use links that i store in a page here: https://www.nationalsarmrace.com/?page_id=16709 so you can use the same shortcuts i’ve collected over the years.

AAA observations:

  • Who’s hot: Palka, Sanchez, and Garcia not half bad at the plate.
  • McFarland in the bullpen is on a hot streak, with 9 Ks in his last 4 innings.
  • Who’s not: Kieboom; just 2-15 last week, still hitting under .200 for the season. WTF.
  • Not ONE of our AAA starters was even halfway decent last week. Braymer is really struggling in particular, concerning since he’s one of our 40-man covering starters.

Who is next to get called up? I don’t see ANYONE really making a statement at AAA demanding a call-up. Nobody. We have seven 40-man guys in AAA (plus two more who are on IL) and there’s no burning reinforcements for the big club.

Who is next to get demoted or released? Carlos Tocci is 1-19 on the season and the team has at least 7 outfielders on the roster … time seems short for this veteran MLFA.


AA Observations

  • Who’s hot at the plate: Jakson Reetz, of all people, 5/14 in the last week with some power.
  • In the rotation: Teel, Cate and Sharp had solid weeks on the mound. Teel isn’t exactly a swing-and-miss guy but he’s getting results.
  • Sanchez has 20/2 K/BB on the season right now.
  • Baldonado: 8Ks, 0BB in 4ip last week. not to shabby.
  • Unfortuantely, Reetz is the team leader in BA for the season at a paltry .237.
  • Did you know there’s not a single 40-man player in our AA team? AA is generally where the best near-MLB ready prospects get sent by most franchises as a finishing school and we don’t have a single prospect in that category.

Who is next to get promoted? I think Klobotis is making a statement: 14/1 K/BB in 8 innings, and has given up just 2 hits on the year. I think Baldonado needs to move up as well; he was in AAA 3 years ago and now is 28 overmatching kids in AA.

Who is next to get demoted or released? I mean, nobody’s hitting on this team but 21MLFA SS/2B Osvaldo Duarte is 8-51 with 21 Ks and just 4 walks in a position that is completely replaceable.


High-A observations

  • Who’s hot: the entire outfield is crushing the ball; Rhinesmith, Connell and Canning lead the team in BA and OPS over the last week, with Rhinesmith just crushing the ball in particular going 11-20 in the last week.
  • Another solid start for Cade Cavalli.
  • What is going on with Rutledge? In 4 starts, he now has an ERA north of 12, he’s given up 17 hits in 10 innings and has a 10/9 K/BB ratio. I’m sorry, but this just isn’t going to cut it. It’s starting to look like he’s out of his element in High-A. And it REALLY is starting to look bad for pundits who thought he is a better prospect than Cavalli.

Who is next to get promoted? Alex Troop; who has a 0.46 whip and 12/0 K/BB in 8 innings in middle relief.

Who is next to get demoted or released? Rutledge. I think he needs to go to Low-A and regroup unless he’s hurt.


Low-A

  • At least they got a win.
  • their BEST hitter by OPS is hitting .219 (Jake Randa)
  • Junior Martina had a nice week.
  • The team did not hit a single home run in the last series.
  • The starting pitching is SO BAD in Low-A that not one single pitcher qualifies for the ERA title.
  • That being said, a couple of starters actually had solid starts: Karlo Seijas: 7ip, 3hits, 8ks, 0 walks. More of that please.

Who is next to get promoted: Nobody. Not one single pitcher is making a case, nor are any of the hitters.

Who is next to get demoted/released? There’s a slew of hitters with really ugly lines right now: Jeremy Ydens is 4-41 on the season, Kevin Strohschein is 8-50 with 13Ks and a walk … and 1 RBI. He’s the 1B. Nothing positive in F-burg.

State of the Minors, week 2

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Cole Henry has looked great so far in 2021. Photo via ai.com

Well, if there was any better indication of just how bad the farm system is … you can go look at the records of our four minor league affiliates through two weeks.

  • AAA: 2-10
  • AA: 4-8
  • High-A: 6-6
  • Low-A: 0-12

Your Fredericksburg Nats are Oh and Twelve. 33 runs scored, 121 against. They’re giving up an average of 10 runs a game, with a current run differential of -88 runs. Wow. So far, the owner of the franchise is reeeaaaallly digging the talent level he’s got to open up his $35M stadium. (Ah who am i kidding, he didn’t spend a dime of his own money, the taxpayers did! I digress).

The only team in the system actually trying (High-A Wilmington) is “only” 6-6. But we’ll get to them.

Ok, so who is hot and who is not after two full 6-game series? We’ll go by level. Here’s who’s “Hot” by level:

AAA:

  • Raudy Read: 5-15 through first 12 games. But he’s on the IL. And listed as a 1B. I mean, is the guy actually catching anymore? Tres Barrera seems to be getting the bulk of catcher ABs, which makes sense since he’s the only guy on the 40-man.
  • Most of the back-end of the bullpen: Bacus, Bonnell, McGowin, Miller and Lobstein all have decent numbers in their few innings of work so far.

AA:

  • Cole Freeman has had a nice start to the season
  • Teel, Sanchez and Reyes in the rotation all have had two decent starts.
  • Sanchez in particular: 15Ks, 1 BB so far in 3 starts.
  • Sterling Sharp rebounded from his awful opener to be pretty stellar in his second start.
  • Gabe Klobotis: 5IP, 2 hits, 7/0 K/BB. How was this guy a 36th rounder??

High-A:

  • Henry and Cavalli: well, they’ve lived up to the hype. Henry has given up 9 base runners in 11 innings and 4 of them scored; his K/BB is actually better than Cavalli’s.
  • Zack Brzycky: where did we get this guy? $10k NDFA last season just shows up at high A slinging dots. 9IP, 4 hits, 14/4 K/BB? yes I’ll take that.
  • Alex Troop: 5ip, 10 Ks, zero BBs, 1 hit. And that one hit scored.
  • Matt Cronin: picks up where he left off in 2019; 5.1 IP, one hit, 11/2 K/BB. Move him up with Henry and Cavalli at the end of the month.

Low-A:

  • Well, Michael Cuevas has had a nice start; 4ip, 1 hit.
  • Mitchell Parker started decently but got hit hard in his 2nd start. He still has 15 Ks in 7innings … to go along with 7 walks.

OK, who is NOT Hot? Well, mostly everyone, but i’ll highlight a few in particular.

AAA:

  • Luis Garcia: hitting just .205 albeit with three homers.
  • Carter Kieboom: he’s only appeared in 7 games?!? What is going on? Hitting .222. We care about basically two bats in the whole of AAA and these two are it, and the opening to the season has been rough.
  • The entire Rotation: the best starter in AAA is Sean Nolin, who the team acquired with like a few days notice to be the AAA opening day starter. Can you feel the excitement?
  • Ryne Harper: the guy was good in 2019 for the Twins; now he’s 32 and struggling in AAA. He’s currently occupying the #1 position on the “first guy to get axed from 40-man when we need to make room for someone.

AA:

  • The entire offense: the team is hitting a collective .151/.235/.247 for the season. .151 team batting order. Some how they’ve won 4 games hitting .151 as a team.
  • Tim Cate: 3 starts and struggling. 1.85 whip, a .315 BAA.

High-A:

  • Again, the entire offense. they’re hitting a collective .208
  • Yasel Antuna: He’s 2 for 40. Two for Fourty!! This is one of our top hitting prospects, a guy who was a MLB spring training invite. What is going on?
  • Israel Pineda: slightly better at 5 for 42. 3 of those 5 hits are homers. This is perhaps the 2nd best prospect on the team.
  • Jackson Rutledge: who had him with an 11.32 ERA through three starts?
  • Evan Lee: two starts, didn’t make it out of the 2nd in either start.
  • Todd Peterson: for a guy who hung around MLB camp as long as he did … he’s not starting well.

Low-A:

  • Everyone.
  • The offense is .167/.280/.222 as a team
  • The pitching staff has a collective 8.12 ERA and a 1.95 whip. As a staff they’re putting on 2 guys an inning.
  • The rotation is so bad they don’t have a single qualified hurler.
  • They have more guys with double digit ERAs than they have guys who have sub 7.00 ERAs.
  • Leif Strom has perhaps the most unimpressive pitching line: 3 appearances/2 starts, a 19.29 ERA. He’s thrown 7 innings, given up 18 hits and 9 walks. 23 runs allowed, but only 15 earned thanks to some stellar defense behind him

It can only get better from here right? A team can’t go winless for 140 games can they? 🙂

Next to get promoted: Cavalli, Henry, Cronin

Next to get demoted/released: Strom, maybe Harper getting DFA’d.

Observations on the first time through the Minor League Rotations

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Well, we’re a week into the season and we’ve seen one turn through the minor league rotations. Lets take a quick look at what we’re looking at for rotations at the four full season levels and do a quick observation of who looked hot and cold.

These rotation orders are maintained on the Big Board, where i’ve also attempted to put the bullpen into their roles (Closer, Setup, middle relief, loogy and Long Reliever/spot starters). That effort may prove to be impossible to maintain, especially in lower levels where they’ve gone to tandem starts in years past, but we’ll see how it goes.

The rotations, despite the minors going to 6-game series, seem to be 5-man rotations, which isn’t nearly as neat as it could be, but whatever.

Rotations by level:

  • AAA: Nolin, Fuentes, Braymer, JRodriguez, Armenteros,
  • AA: Cate, MSanchez, Teel, Sharp, LReyes
  • High-A: Rutledge, Adon, Cavalli, Henry,
  • Low-A: Strom, Seijas, PGonzalez, Parker, Theopile

Who looked good:

  • Carson Teel: managed to go 5 innings, unlike the rest of the AA rotation. Gave up 4 hits and just one earned run. Not bad.
  • Cade Cavalli: 5ip, 2 hits, 7Ks, zero runs in his pro debut? More please.
  • Joan Adon: Same whip as Cavalli but still relatively unhittable despite giving up a couple of runs. I like his easy action and I think he’s a fast mover this year.
  • Pedro Gonzalez: just 3 1/3 but 1 hit and 2 walks against 5 Ks in low A at age 20. I’ll take that.
  • Mitchell Parker: 7Ks in 4innings in his pro debut. Works for me.

Who looked awful

  • Steven Fuentes: not a great start, but a quick hook compared to the next guy.
  • Jefry Rodriguez: geeze; 6 walks and didn’t make it out of the first?
  • Sterling Sharp: not a good start, at all. 8 runs in less than 3 innings in AA when he was pitching in the majors last year.
  • Tim Cate: somehow, his ERA is higher than Sharp’s.
  • Leif Strom: 2ip, 7 runs .. ugh. He was so bad it already looks like he has been replaced in the rotation, in that he pitched a couple innings in the Theopile start.
  • Karlo Seijas: the worst start of anyone: 2/3 of an inning and 7 runs.

2021 Full Season Affiliate Rosters announced

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Steven Fuentes will be an important member of the AAA rotation to start the season. Photo nats official via federalbaseball.com

This is a quick announcement with some links and to basically notify everyone that I’ve updated the Big Board for the four full season affiliate rosters just announced. I’ve also eliminated the Fredericksburg “extended spring training camp” … hopefully for the last time.

Here’s direct links to the four rosters:

Anyone not known to be released i’ve stuck in the XST roster to the far right of the big board.

As far as I can tell, here’s the likely rotations for the four clubs, based on prior usage and how I’d allocate the arms. This is of course a WAG until the first week of the season shakes out the true rotations. I’ll list a 6-man rotation since, with the move to 6-game series, it’s highly likely we’ll see 6-man rotations throughout the minors.

  • AAA: Armenteros, Baez, Braymer, Fuentes, Jefry Rodriguez and newly signed MLFA veteran lefty Sean Nolin.
  • AA: Cate, Lee, Mario Sanchez, Sharp, Teel and I guess Luis Reyes.
  • High-A: Adon, Cavalli, Dyson, Henry, Peterson and Rutledge.
  • Low-A: Pedro Gonzalez, Parker, Pena … and I have no idea; everyone else I have listed as a reliever from last year.

My thoughts on Arms that are or are not on each roster.

AAA pitching staff thoughts: somewhat surprised Sharp is not here. Not entirely surprised Romero is not. In a further indictment of the Nats development, nearly the entire AAA bullpen are MLFAs. Of the 10 bullpen arms in AAA, 7 are minor league free agents, an 8th is a trade acquisition who has already been outrighted (Bacus), a 9th is another trade acquisition in Ryne Harper, and the 10th is a twice-MLFA resigned former draft pick in Ronald Pena who is now entering his 9th minor league season with this team. That’s just crazy.

Missing older arms that should be here, guys like Aaron Barrett, Javy Guerra, Andrew Istler, etc. I wonder if they’re still hurt. Where the heck is Nick Wells? (answer; not on the milb.com page but in the press release)


AA pitching staff: we see Sharp starting in AA when he was on Miami’s MLB roster last year, likely a bitter pill for him. I sense the AA roster is still a bit light as of this writing and may see a couple more arms added. I like Cate and I can’t wait to see what Sanchez can do here. I can’t believe Romero isn’t at least here. Klobotis is on this roster; still cannot believe how successful he has been as a 36th round draft pick.


High A pitching staff; well, if you want to know what the future of the franchise is, you’re driving to Wilmington. Basically the entire top side of our top10 list will be in the Wilmington rotation. Headlined by top end draft picks from the last couple of years in Cavalli, Rutledge and Henry, but also including farm system dark-horse Adon and Peterson, who stuck around MLB camp nearly the longest of any prospect this year. In the bullpen we have our two best reliever prospects in Powell and Cronin (who closes?) There’s no room in the rotation for 2018 3rd rounder Reid Schaller, who may do tandem starts or might get moved to the pen. I expect lots of scouts in Delaware this summer.


Low A pitching staff: First thing that pops up here is the sudden presence of Tanner Driskill, who missed all of 2019 with injury (I guess), then was MIA in 2020 like everyone else. I thought he was released two years ago. Good to have him back in the fold.


Tomorrow I’ll post some thoughts on the non-pitcher rosters, noting interesting machinations from a player movement perspective.

(Note: as it turns out the MILB.com rosters may not entirely be in sync with the press releases identifying opening day rosters, so apologies if some of the above is slightly wrong.

Check-in on Traded-away Prospect Arms

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Dunning now in the Texas rotation. Photo via mlb.com

The Nats are well-known for their heavy emphasis on pitching in drafts, and then for using said pitching depth as “currency” to acquire talent to build their roster. The team has traded away more than 20 prospect pitchers in the last 5 years, ranging from recent MLB debutants to rookie-league wild-cards.

I thought I’d be interesting to check in with some of the arms we’ve moved over the past few years.

Part of me does this as a “wouldn’t it be nice if we had kept them…” motive, since not all of these trades were really ones I would have made. But nearly all of these trades contributed in one way or another to the 2019 title … so I have to temper my criticism. In the end, you’d rather have a title than a prospect. But, choices have been made over the years and some of those choices look better or worse in retrospect.

These are listed in order of MLB impact of the traded away talent, not chronologically (this list does not include all the MLB arms we traded away in the 2018 missing the playoff purge; this is mostly about trading away prospects).

  • Lucas Giolito; Traded to Chicago White Sox (along with Lopez and Dunning) for Adam Eaton in 2016. Eaton gave the team 4 injury-filled years and a combined 2.7 bWAR. Giolito is now the #1 starter for the White Sox and was an all-star in 2019, but it took him several years and multiple mechanical changes to get there.
  • Jesus Luzardo: traded to Oakland in 2017 (along with Treinen and Neuse) to acquire Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle. Luzardo rose to be one of the best prospects in the game ahead of the 2020 season, now Oakland’s #2 starter as a 23yr old. Madson and Doolittle served as valuable back-end bullpen pieces, though Madson did not make it to our title-winning season and Doolittle lost his closer job by 2019 and is pitching elsewhere. This is the kind of trade i wish we made less of; you should be able to grow relievers from your farm system, not trade away future #2 projected starters for a combined 3 seasons of varying production.
  • Dane Dunning was the 3rd of 3 ranked prospects in the 2016 Chicago/Eaton trade. He hovered in the top prospects list for several years, had TJ surgery, debuted with some success in late 2020 for the White Sox, then was flipped to Texas in 2020 for Lance Lynn, and is now featuring in the 2021 Texas rotation as their 5th starter.
  • Taylor Hearn: was the 2nd of 2 prospects in the 2016 Pittsburgh/Melancon trade. He was subsequently flipped by Pittsburgh in 2018 for Keone Kela, and debuted for Texas in late 2019. Since, he has been an 7th/8th inning reliever for Texas with some effectiveness.
  • Austin Adams, traded to Seattle in 2019 for Nick Wells after we DFA’d him. Pitched effectively for Seattle’s bullpen in 2019, then traded to San Diego in Aug 2020 for a package of players. Pitching in middle relief for San Diego in 2021. Wells has done basically nothing for this team, while Adams has at least continued to pitch in the majors and does beg the question … why couldn’t he do for us what he has managed to do for Seattle and San Diego?

Summary: well, you’d have a pretty nice start to a rotation right now with Giolito/Luzardo/Dunning. But it took years to get there for these guys: these were players who were traded 4-5 years ago. And the guys we got in return (Eaton, Doolittle) were key parts of the 2019 title team.

Minor league arms traded in last 5 years still in minors:

  • Reynaldo Lopez was the 2nd ranked of 3 prospects in the 2016 Chicago/Eaton trade; he was a full time rotation starter in 2018 and 2019 for Chicago, but got beaten out for the rotation in 2021 and is in AAA. Interesting how many thought Lopez was the “prize” of that trade … now he’s like 7th on their rotation depth chart.
  • Wil Crowe: traded to Pittsburgh (along with Eddy Yean) for Josh Bell. Crowe made the opening day 2021 roster for Pittsburgh, but was optioned after one poor outing. Likely projecting as a 4-A type starter, and future analysis of this trade will have to remember that Pittsburgh was in a salary dump mode when evaluating whatever Crowe and Yean become.
  • Jefry Rodriguez, traded (along with Johnson and Monasterio) to Cleveland for Yan Gomes in 2018. Pitched for a couple months in the Cleveland rotation in 2019, hit free agency in 2021, signed MLFA with Washington in 2021, likely in AAA. Probably safe to say the Nats are coming out on top of this move.
  • Taylor Guilbeau: traded to Seattle for Roenis Elias in 2019. Pitched for Seattle MLB middle relief in 2019 and 2020, DFA’d and outrighted in Feb 2021. Elias got lit up, got hurt and was essentially useless for us.
  • Trevor Gott; traded to San Francisco in 2019 for cash after we DFA’d him; he pitched for SF’s bullpen for two years, was DFA’d and outrighted in Feb 2021. Once again, like with Adams … how is it that Gott couldn’t break our crummy 2019 bullpen but then pitched effectively for another organization immediately upon his exit from Washington? its like Blake Treinen all over again.
  • Pedro Avila was traded to San Diego for Derek Norris in 2016; he rose in the ranks and debuted briefly for San Diego in 2019, then was subsequently DFA’d and outrighted; he remains in their minor league system and projects for AAA in 2021. Norris was originally drafted by DC, and they wanted to get him back. But he only lasted another 3 months with the team, getting released in spring training 2017 before catching on with Tampa for one more season.
  • Aaron Fletcher: traded to Seattle for Hunter Strickland in 2019. Likely in AAA in 2021. Strickland … wasn’t good for Seattle in 2019 and he wasn’t good for us either.
  • Mario Sanchez: traded to Philadelphia for Jimmy Cordero in 2016. Hit MLFA in 2018, came back to Washington, projected AA in 2021. Cordero was crummy for us, then got DFA’d, selected and was gone.
  • Yohanse Morel, traded (along with Gutierrez and Perkins) to Kansas City for Kelvin Herrera in 2018. Likely in High-A in 2021.
  • Kyle Johnston: traded to Toronto for Daniel Hudson in 2019. Likely in High-A in 2021. Hudson closed out game 7 of the 2019 World Series; enough said.
  • Tyler Watson, traded to Minnesota for Brandon Kintzler in 2017. Likley in High-A in 2021. Knitzler was (possibly) scapegoated in the infamous clubhouse blowup mid 2018 and was dumped for pennies on the dollar in 2018.
  • Ryan McMahon; traded to Minnesota for Ryne Harper in 2020; Likely in Low-A in 2021. Harper has really yet to do much, so this is a show-me trade.
  • Eddy Yean; traded to Pittsburgh (along with Crowe) in 2020; projected to pitch in GCL or Low-A in 2021.

Summary: I see several really good moves here, a couple that didn’t work out as well for the Nats, and some that are preliminary. About what you expect when you’re trading prospect arms.

Minor League Arms traded in the last 5 years who are now apparently out of baseball.

  • McKenzie Mills: traded to Philadelphia for Howie Kendrick in 2017. Struggled in AA in 2019 for Philadelphia, released in big Minor league purge in June 2020 and out of baseball. This was a prime example of the Nats selling high on a guy; Mills blew that summer, going 12-3 for the 2017 season, then never replicated that success and was out of baseball two years later. Odd that the team didn’t try to pick him back up after his 2019 release.
  • Jeffrey Rosa; traded to Tampa Bay for Enny Romero in 2017. Struggled for Tampa’s GCL team in 2018 and was released.
  • Mick VanVossen, traded to Chicago WS for Ryan Raburn. struggled in high-A in 2017, likely released that off-season (he has no stats since 2017).
  • Felipe Rivero, traded to Pittsburgh (along with Hearn) in 2016 for Mark Melancon. Changed his name to Felipe Vazquez, replaced Melancon as Pittsburgh’s closer and was dominant, a 2-time all-star in 2018 and 2019. However, he was arrested on child sex abuse charges at the end of the 2019 season and faces multiple felonies in multiple states. As much as I hated this trade at the time (we gave up two solid players for yet another veteran closer since our team for reasons inexplicable cannot home grow closers ourselves), I think we’re all happy to have dodged a bullet w/r/t what Rivero/Vazquez became.

Did I miss anyone?

Denaburg to have TJ…

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Mason Denaburg … in high school, the last time he was apparently healthy. Photo via usatodayhss.com

Tucked into this past weekend’s worth of crummy news for our team was this little gem: 2018 1st rounder Mason Denaburg is going to have Tommy John surgery, which will cost him the whole of 2021 and the early part of 2022.

Here’s a summary of Denaburg’s “career” with Washington:

  • 2018: Nats 1st round pick, selected 27th overall and given a signing bonus of $3M out of high school, more than $500k above slot.
  • Denaburg fell to #27 because he had “biceps tendinitis” in high school, which meant he missed “more than a month” of his HS season. Nonetheless he was a high projection pre-draft/pre-injury and needed to be bought out of his commitment to Florida.
  • He did not appear in 2018, presumably because his “biceps tendinitis” never abated and the team didn’t want to push him. Fair enough; sitting them after a busy senior year of pitching and showcases happens all the time with prep kids.
  • In 2019, he finally debuted professionally on June 24th, throwing 4 innings and giving up 0 runs. It remains the *highlight* of his professional pitching career.
  • He started another 6 games for the GCL Nats, throwing a combined 20.1 innings with a 7.52 ERA before he was shut down with a “sore shoulder.”
  • In the 2019 off-season, he had arthroscopic shoulder surgery to alleviate whatever started bugging him in July of 2019. I’m not sure it was ever disclosed precisely what he had done, but suffice it to say “shoulder” and “surgery” is never a good sentence with a pitcher.
  • 2020 hits, and he suffers a setback with the shoulder in Viera. He never gets a chance to take the mound after rehabbing the shoulder thanks to Covid cancelling all but “extended spring training” camp, which the Nats populated with closer-to-the-majors players who might actually help if need be.
  • Now he’ll miss all of 2021 and probably doesn’t even project to appear until May of 2022, and if he does he’ll be on a pretty severe innings limit.

So, the next time we’ll see Denaburg he’ll be in his age 22 season, his 4th full pro season for us, with a grand total of 20.1 innings and having already had injury issues with his upper arm, his shoulder and his elbow.

And I thought Seth Romero‘s “career” with us was bad….

Look, hindsight is 20/20 I get it. It is foolish to look at draft picks and play back seat driver (Albert Pujols was a 13th rounder). And, yes any pitcher can pick up an injury at any moment. I get that too. “There’s no such thing as a pitching prospect,” written by Baseball Prospectus founder Joe Sheehan in 2003, to stop people from dreaming on young arms until they matriculate. But man, Denaburg is looking like a waste of a 1st rounder. Its almost like the baseball gods have gotten the team back for being gifted three no-doubter 1st rounders in Strasburg, Harper and Rendon by giving us the likes of Denaburg, Fedde and Romero.

All we can ask as fans is … stop drafting HS kids, stop drafting players with known issues (injury or character), and just stick to the script. College players. Top programs. Solid pedigrees. No injury history.

I’m not sure what we can expect of Denaburg going forward. I can’t imagine any legitimate prospect ranking service putting him anywhere in our top prospects lists going forward. I suppose he could immediately be routed to the bullpen and, if he can regain some velocity, maybe he moves forward as a reliever? Does anyone want to bet money on whether he ever pitches in a MLB game?

Written by Todd Boss

April 8th, 2021 at 4:00 pm

Nats 40-man Options status

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Nearly every year we talk about the Options status of the 40-man, and what it means for spring training. And this year is no different; nearly every year the options availability (or lack of them) helps drive some edge-of-the-roster decisions and the team ends up keeping players at the expense of others, often times in stark contrast to fan-perceived value or merit of inclusion.

Here’s a run-through of the Options status of the current 40-man roster. I have uploaded my Options Analysis annual spreadsheet to the Big Board; it is one of the 2021 tabs. Direct link here. The online XLS has a ton more information than we show here: it has updated Service time, first added to 40-man, known years optioned and some notes.

I divide the Roster into 5 categories of players on the 40-man:
– Vets who can refuse demotion (5 or more years of service)
– Players with Options available but who are MLB Entrenched
– Players with Options Available, jeopardizing 25-man roster status
– Players with Options almost guaranteed to be used in 2021
– Players with No Options left (the main analysis of this post).

For completion, here’s a quick run-through of all the categories:

Category 1: Vets who can refuse demotion (5 or more years of service)

We have 13 such players for 2021: Scherzer, Corbin, Gomes, Strasburg, Harris, Castro, Hudson, Harrison, Schwarber, Lester, Zimmerman, Hand and Avila.

Interesting tidbits about this group:
– Castro, Zimmerman and Avila never once burned an option
– Schwarber just got his 5 years of service time last season.
– Zimmerman earned 10&5 rights in 2015, and Strasburg earned it last year.
– Of this group, only Hand actually burned three options. Then, he didn’t make the Miami team out of spring training in 2016 so they had to DFA him; San Diego claimed him and he began to flourish from there.


Category 2: Options Avail but are MLB entrenched

We have 7 such players for 2021: Turner, Soto, Robles, Suero, Rainey, Bell, and Finnegan.

You may quibble perhaps with Finnegan being called “entrenched” but for now, his 2020 season has him being a lock for the pen in my book.

Interesting tidbits about this group:
– Turner and Bell will reach 5 years of service time in 2021, which means they would be able to refuse an option.
– Neither Soto and Finnegan has ever been optioned.
– Turner’s 2015 nonsensical call-up ended up burning the team dearly; he achieved Super2 by just a few days and the Nats have been on the hook for millions more than they “needed” to spend.

Category 3: Options Available and not a lock for the 25-man roster.

I count 5 players in this category for 2021: Kieboom, Clay, Garcia, Fedde, and Harper.

Each of these players needs some discussion.

  • Kieboom, by all accounts, is being handed the 3B job. The team did not pursue a replacement, Castro wants to play 2B, and the job is his. I suppose it is still possible that the team finds a new 3B and sends him to AAA, where a lot of people think he needs to be. But for now, he’s in this category instead of the one above.
  • Clay signed a MLB contract with the team in the 2020 off-season, somewhat oddly in that he had zero MLB service time at that point and was a MLFA. I wonder if the team “beat out” another suitor by promising the 40-man slot. Either way, I do not favor Clay to make the team coming out of Spring Training.
  • Garcia could theoretically make the 25-man roster as our backup infielder … but i’d much rather see him in AAA playing full time. His slash line was not that impressive last year (but better than Kieboom’s … hence why some are wondering what the heck the team is doing). For now, i’d send him to AAA.
  • Fedde got a 4th option thanks to some timing issues … and i’ll bet the team uses it in 2021. Which means Fedde will be in AAA as a 28yr old and service time in four different MLB seasons. That’s got to be a bummer to him. And to make matters worse he may not be the first spot starter called upon, thanks to an option-less player we’re about to talk about.
  • Harper was solid in 2019, awful in 2020, and I think his options flexibility will mean he starts the year in AAA in lieu of one of the MLFA/NRIs we’ve signed this spring. But he should be back up eventually to provide injury relief cover.

Category 4: Players with options who are almost guaranteed to be optioned out of Spring Training.

I count 11 guys in this category: McGowin, Barrera, Noll, Braymer, Armenteros, Adon, Antuna, Fuentes, Hernandez, Romero and Bacus.

Lets take these guys by category:

  • Adon, Antuna and Fuentes: just added to the 40-man, not yet expected to contribute at the MLB level.
  • McGowin, Braymer, Armenteros and Romero: i’d want this to be 4/5ths or 4/6ths of my AAA rotation. I do not consider these players serious contenders to the 5th starter role, but I do think the team may be looking at the two lefties (Braymer and Romero) as relievers going forward. I’d rather see if they can cut it as starters and provide more value. Armenteros is a wildcard; he has certainly shown he can succeed as a starter in the minors and his release by Houston was somewhat surprising. I’m guessing he pitches excellently in AAA and could be a surprising call-up mid-seaons.
  • Noll: honestly i’m not sure why he’s still rostered at this point; instead of calling him up last year they started a 19yr old’s service time clock. Eventually they called him up and he got a grand total of three starts. He’s my “first guy off the 40-man if we need space” candidate right now.
  • Barrera: you have to have a backup catcher on the roster and he’s it.
  • Hernandez sits on the 40-man after a late-season call-up, but he seems to have no spot on this team. he’s 2nd behind Noll in “next guy to get DFA’d.”
  • Lastly, Bacus seems to be an afterthought reliever on the roster right now, and is not favored to beat out several MLFA NRIs for the 2021 roster.

Category 5: Players out of options.

We have 3 players out of options for 2021: Ross, Voth and Stevenson.

  • Joe Ross is the current leading 5th starter candidate.
  • Voth (along with Fedde) are the leading competitors for said 5th starter job, and the odds on circumstance to occur is this: Voth loses the 5th starter job but “looks good” in spring training, which leads the team to either carry him as the 8th reliever or to invent a soft tissue injury and stash him on the DL for a few weeks. If Voth does NOT look good in spring training, he’s a DFA candidate come 4/1/21.
  • Stevenson has proven his worth as a plus defender, 4th outfielder type and his 2020 allowed the team to move on (finally?) from Michael A. Taylor this off-season. He’s out of options, but it doesn’t matter b/c he’s the bench OF.

Post Publishing Update 3/23/21: an Arbiter has just ruled that Erick Fedde does NOT have a 4th option, meaning that he’s now out of options and would have to be exposed to waivers if he doesn’t make the 2021 opening day roster.