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Changes are a-coming for 2023

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Today, the MLB competition committee voted in three rule changes to go into effect in 2023. One is minor, but two are significant, major changes that will alter the sport.

Here’s a couple other opinion pieces on them, from the Athletic and Baseball America, but below i’ll put in my two cents.

Larger Bases, Pitch Clocks, and Shift Bans are going in. Lets talk about them one by one.

  • Bigger Bases: a non-issue, i’m not sure why anyone would really care about a slightly larger base. They avoid injuries and slightly help the running game. Studies show base-related injuries are down 13.8% since the larger bases were installed. And not surprisingly both the executives and players on the committee voted for this unanimously.
  • Pitch Clocks. I know current major league pitchers are going to whine about them. But the results speak for themselves: The average time of games in the minors where the pitch clock was implemented went from 3:04 in 2021 to 2:38 in 2022. That’s 26 minutes … ALL of it dead time watching the pitcher and batter stand there, waiting for the next pitch. This is a fantastic move that will have serious, positive watchability impacts on the game.
  • Defensive Shift bans: two players must now stay between 2nd and 3rd base (meaning, no more roving third baseman into short RF against lefties), and all players must have their feet on the dirt. The evidence supporting this change is pretty clear: as documented by Jayson Stark in this Feb 2022 piece, 4,802 hits were taken away by the shift in 2021, which is countered by 3,946 outs given away by shifts that gave away a standard ground ball. That’s nearly 1,000 extra hits gone from the game, primarily against left-handed hitters. So, this change will absolutely return some offensive parity to the game.

I like all three changes. I look forward to them in 2023.

Written by Todd Boss

September 9th, 2022 at 2:44 pm

Posted in Nats in General

Its Cavalli Time!

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Cade Cavalli gets the call Photo via Lookout Landing blog

So, the big news of the week is the call-up of top pitching prospect Cade Cavalli. The timing (and change in service time rules) means he’ll still be 2023 Rookie eligible and doesn’t burn enough time to blow a year of service time.

Is this premature? Probably not. Cavalli started out a little slow this year in AAA, basically getting shelled in five of his first seven starts. In mid May he had a 7.62 ERA. However, as of this writing through his combined 20 starts he’s gotten that seasonal ERA all the way down to 3.71. His AAA FIP is a nifty 3.23, and across the board he’s improved upon his 2021 AAA numbers in every category (K/9, BB/9, ERA, fip, whip, HR/9, etc etc).

HIs MLB debut was about what you’d expect; 7 runs in 4+ innings, 97mph on his fastball, 6 Ks almost all on his offspeed stuff (which looks amazing: his curve was knee buckling and his circle change at 88 with a ton of reverse movement was fantastic).

I can’t remember the last time we had a prospect debut with this much fanfare; Strasburg or Harper probably. His call-up was non-nats blog worthy, something we havn’t seen in a while.

As others noted, his start coincided with a big chunk of our “up the spine” future in place: Ruiz catching, Cavalli pitching, Abrams at short and Garcia at 2nd. None of them older than 24, all of them with prospect buzz.

The next generation of our franchise has started.

Written by Todd Boss

August 27th, 2022 at 7:04 am

Posted in Nats in General

Fun Observations with Current Rosters

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So, when both Luis Garcia and Yadiel Hernandez went down with injuries … the Nats active 26-man roster sports exactly ONE originally drafted/signed player (that being Victor Robles).

That’s pretty amazing.

Check out the big board, where all of our rosters are tracked in one place.

Now, in all fairness the roster does contain several players acquired as prospects in trade, which is kind of the point of a rebuild, so I thought it’d be interesting to squint at our rosters right now and do quick arithmetic of the roster construction to show where we are.

This data is as of 8/23/22 and depends on my Big Board being accurate (which it may not be b/c transactions are sneaky sometimes). Only looking at active players, not DL/restricted.


MLB Roster: 26 man.

  • Home Grown: 1 (Robles)
  • Prospects Acquired in trade; 6 (Ruiz, Voit, Abrams, Adams, Thomas, Grey)
  • MLB FAs: 5 (Hernandez, Cruz, Corbin, Finnegan, Cishek)
  • MiLB FAs; 9 (Vargas, Meneses, Franco, Sanchez, Espino, Edwards, Ramirez, Arano, Clippard)
  • Waiver claims: 5 (Call, Palacios, Abbott, Harvey, McGee)

So … 14 of our 26 active players right now were MILB signings or Waiver claims. Wow.


Lets take a look at the current AAA roster. Same analysis

  • Home Grown: 9 (Berrera, Sanchez, Alu, Stevenson, Johnson, Banks, Cavalli, Adon, Cronin)
  • Prospects Acquired in trade: 2 (Casey, Thompson)
  • MLB FAs: 0 of course.
  • MiLB FAs 14 (Johnson, JRodriguez, Nogoski, Flores, Gushue, Ponce de Leon, Kilome, Verrett, Weems, Sadzeck, Garrett, Machado, Baldonado, Avilan)
  • Waiver claims: 3 (Fox, Murphy, Perez)
  • Rule5: 2 (Brill, Taylor)

Yes, I realize that two of were originally our players (Johnson, Rodriguez). They left and came back, so they’re MLFAs. Also Gushue was initially acquired in trade, but left and came back. This is 2022 acquisition methodology.

So, 30 players in AAA, and 19 of them are basically ‘filler’ players b/c our system hasn’t generated enough depth to fill the AAA roster. At least we have 9 home grown players here, but of this group really only a couple are true prospects in jeopardy of pushing to the majors.


How about AA?

  • Home Grown: 17
  • Prospects Acquired in trade: 3 (Lara, Hassell,Harris)
  • MLB FAs: 0 of course.
  • MiLB FAs; 6 (Martin, Garcia, Herrera, Dopico, Gonzalez, Garcia)
  • Waiver claims:
  • Rule5: 1 (Young)

17 of the 27 on the Roster home grown as expected (and another 3 are trade acquisitions). But its a little suspect that we have 6 MLFAs in our AA. A couple of these MLFAs in Harrisburg are in their upper 20s and are clearly too old for the level. On the bright side, 6 of the 7 guys getting starts are home grown, which is a good sign.


High-A?

  • Home Grown: 26
  • Prospects Acquired in trade: 4 (Millas, Barley, Alston, Gausch)
  • MLB FAs: 0 of course.
  • MiLB FAs; 2 (Candelario, Merrill)
  • Waiver claims:
  • Rule5

So, 30 of 32 players on the roster home grown or acquired prospects.


Low-A:

31 players, 30 of which home grown and the one remaining is a trade acquisition in Wood.


Not much to look at below AA … this was more just a “holy cow look at the MLB roster” kind of post.

Written by Todd Boss

August 23rd, 2022 at 6:06 pm

Posted in Nats in General

What if they’d kept the Band together?

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It occurred to me, now that the Nats have sold off all their pieces and continued the dismantling of their 2019 championship team … wow, we’ve parted ways with a lot of very expensive players.

What would our team look like (in terms of payroll and lineup) had we kept all our big-time FAs over the past few years? Here’s a fun exercise, using 2022’s salaries.

  • C: Yan Gomes: $6M, flipped with Harrison for Millas/Shuman/Gausch in the 2021 purge
  • 1B: Josh Bell: $10M. Traded to SD with Soto in the 2022 purge for 6 player.
  • 2B: Josh Harrison: $5.5M. Traded away to Oakland with Gomes for Millas/Shuman/Gausch in the 2021 purge
  • SS: Trea Turner: $21M. Traded to LAD with Scherzer in 2021’s big trade to get Grey/Ruiz and assets
  • 3B: Anthony Rendon: $36M. Let walk as a FA, received a 2nd round supplementary pick that turned into Samuel Infante.
  • LF: Juan Soto, $17.1M. Traded to SD with Bell
  • CF: Victor Robles: $1.65M. He has remained our starting CF for four straight seasons now despite a carrer OPS+ figure of just 83.
  • RF: Bryce Harper: $26M. Let walk as a FA, received a 4th round supplementary pick that was lost to the Corbin signing.
  • DH: Kyle Schwarber; $19M. Traded to Boston in 2021 for Aldo Ramirez.

Rotation?

  • SP: Max Scherzer: $43M. Traded to LAD with Turner in 2021
  • SP: Patrick Corbin: $23M. Still here, posting a 7 ERA this season.
  • SP: Stephen Strasburg, $35M. Still here, might have a career-ending injury.
  • SP: Sanchez, Fedde, Ross all still here, a combined $6M or so.

The Bullpen is fungible, so we’ll just skip it from a salary and focus on the above.

Total payroll for this set of players and starters? $251M. For 14 players, no backups, no bullpen and no 40-man. Probably estimate $8M for your backups, $15M for your bullpen, $3M for the rest of your 40-man, and $16M for benefits and that’s a payroll figure of $293M. $60M more than the salary cap threshold, and still not as much as the Los Angeles Dodgers are spending this year.

Would we be a winning team with this lineup? Well, we’d certainly still have a starting pitching problem, since $58M is going to two players who are actively hurting the club (Corbin has a -3.4 WAR this season!). But the lineup would be a monster. How’s this for a lineup: Turner, Soto, Harper, Schwarber, Rendon, Bell, Harrison, Gomes and Robles. Phew. Good luck getting through that lineup 4 times a night without giving up some runs. Of course, some of these guys are hurt in 2022, so this wouldn’t actually be our lineup .. but hey, this is a fantasy post.

Just a fun thought exercise.

Written by Todd Boss

August 8th, 2022 at 4:04 pm

Posted in Nats in General

Nats Trade Deadline Summary

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We’re already talking about this in the comments … and I already had this written, assuming we’d make 4-5 trades like we did last summer. But we didn’t, so this is a whole lotta nothing of a post. But i’ll post it anyway.

I tried to predict what kind of return we’d get back for all our trade-eligible players a few weeks back. Here’s what we ended up getting back for all our trade candidates:

High Value Trade Candidates

  1. Juan Soto: Predicted Return: 3 top 10 prospects plus two pre-arb Major Leaguers. Actual Return: almost exactly this: the 3 top 10 prospects were Hassell, Abrams and Wood, the two pre-arb major leaguers were Gore and Voit.
  2. Josh Bell: Predicted return: One top10, one 10-15th ranked prospect. Actual Return: Well, we got the 10-15th ranked prospect in Susana, but I may have overvalued his individual/separate trade value.

We separately reviewed this deal so I won’t go back into it.

We’ll Take what we can get:

  • Nelson Cruz: Predicted Return: One 15-20th ranked prospect. Actual Return: was not traded.
  • Cesar Hernandez: Predicted Return: a 20+ ranked prospect. Actual Return: was not traded.
  • Steve Cishek, Predicted Return: a 20+ prospect. Actual Return: was not traded.
  • Carl Edwards Predicted Return: a non prospect. Actual Return: was not traded.
  • Erasmo Ramirez: Predicted Return: a non prospect. Actual Return: was not traded.

At the end of the day, not one of these players actually got traded. All of them are FAs at the end of 2022, and none of them got moved. Why? Well, the WP’s Jesse Dougherty has an article about exactly that. In summary: none of these guys were actually wanted by other teams. Cruz has struggled in 2022, Hernandez is hitting an empty .240, Cishek isn’t dominating enough, Edwards may not actually be a FA (Cots and Dougherty disagree on his eligibility for 2023, perhaps b/c he was a MLFA this past off-season). Ramirez is a workhorse but has a 4.75 FIP. Cruz is the really disappointing one; everyone thought that was a FA bought to flip. Now he’ll play out the string on the worst team in the league.

So … at the end of the day we got nothing for all these potential trade pieces.

Not Likely to be Traded despite being FAs to be:

  • Wil Harris, Predicted Return: wouldn’t be traded. Actual Return: was not traded.
  • Joe Ross, Predicted Return: wouldn’t be traded. Actual Return: was not traded.
  • Anibel Sanchez, Predicted Return: wouldn’t be traded. Actual Return: was not traded.
  • Ehire Adrianza, Predicted Return: I didn’t think he’d be traded. Actual Return: Trey Harris, from Atlanta, a 32nd rounder repeating AA at age 26. So, a non-prospect.
  • Sean Doolittle: Predicted Return: wouldn’t be traded. Actual Return: was not traded.
  • Maikel Franco: Predicted Return: wouldn’t be traded. Actual Return: was not traded.
  • Alcides Escobar: Predicted Return: wouldn’t be traded. Actual Return: was not traded.
  • Tyler Clippard: Predicted Return: wouldn’t be traded. Actual Return: was not traded.

Somehow, out of this list, we got something back for Adrianza. Not surprisingly, most of the rest of these guys are hurt (or have really underperformed) in their walk years and thus netted us nothing. Certainly at the beginning of the year, we looked at a bunch of these guys (especially Harris, Ross, Sanchez, Doolittle) and thought they’d be excellent walk-year trade pieces. In the end though, we got nothing.

Pre-FA players thinking outside the box

  • Kyle Finnegan Predicted Return: a 10-15th ranked system prospect. Actual Return: was not traded.

Dougherty notes that they had some conversations, but not a good enough return to off-set the fact that Finnegan is under team control for 3 more years.


So, at the end of the day, just two trades, a far cry from the 5 separate trade deals negotiated at this time last year. I’m pretty sure this is now how Rizzo thought the 2022 trade deadline would go down. So many of our trade assets have gotten hurt or underperformed this year.

Written by Todd Boss

August 5th, 2022 at 9:47 am

Posted in Nats in General

Juan (and Josh) are gone

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hate to see him go, but you can’t argue with teh return. Photo via NYpost

Well, it had to happen. This is the required “hot take” post on the trade return the Nats got in exchange for sending two months of Josh Bell plus 2 full years of Juan Soto to the San Diego Padres.

Per mlbtraderumors, which is doing a good job following everyone’s tweeting and reporting:

  • Padres get Bell, Soto
  • Nats get the following package (ranks per MLBpipeline)
  1. C.J. Abrams SS: Recently graduated from prospect status, but was San Diego’s #1 overall prospect heading into this season, and routinely considered a top 3-5 prospect in all of the majors. 1st Round pick in 2019 (6th overall), he’s in the majors at age 21 and somewhat struggling right now (.232/.285/.320). But, the potential is clearly there.
  2. McKenzie Gore LHP (Starter): Graduated from prospect status in 2021. Before graduating was San Diego’s #1 prospect and was rated as high as the #2 prospect in the entire sport. 1st rounder (3rd overall) in 2017, he’s 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA in his first year starting for San Diego.
  3. Robert Hassell, OF (CF): San Diego’s new #1 prospect with Abrams graduation, #21 overall. A 2020 first rounder (8th overall), he’s in High-A and slashing .299/.379/.467. This is a significant prospect, a true CF with power.
  4. James Wood, OF (corner): San Diego’s #3 prospect, #88 overall. 2021 2nd rounder, hails from Olney/Rockville before moving to IMG to play his senior year. He destroyed complex ball upon drafting last year and is similarly destroying Low-A ball this year (though, to be fair, its the California league, with a lot of parks at altitude). He’s got an OPS north of 1.000 this year as a 19yr old in low-A, with 10 homers in 50 games. wow.
  5. Jarlin Susana, a RHP starter: San Diego’s #14 prospect. A 2022 IFA, listed by MLB as the top ranked pitcher in the class. Signed for $1.7M. He’s 18, and instead of going to DSL he’s in the Arizona complex league and is holding his own: 8 starts, 2.45 ERA.
  6. Luke Voit, a Hosmer-replacement 1B/DH type who slots into Bell’s old position and off-sets some salary (he makes $5.4M this year). Interestingly, despite being 31 now, he’s still got two arb years left. So its not a throw-away player.

Conclusion?

I think this is a *fantastic* haul. As I put in the comments before, they got two “as good as they get prospects” in Gore, Abrams, two top 100 prospects in Hassel, Wood, and a top IFA.

Yes, there’s risk in prospects. You can go through each of these guys and hem and haw. Abrams is struggling in the majors, Gore might need TJ, Wood is a project, Hassell might flame out, Susana is years away. Yes, that’s the floor-centric viewpoint of all of these prospects.

I look more at what they were: three 1st rounders, a second rounder and their top IFA pick this year. That’s called “gutting the system.” I laugh at the hot takers who think this isn’t a big haul. This is a huge portion of San Diego’s player development system for the last 5 years. And now its ours.

Welcome to the new world. Imagine a rotation with Gore, Grey, Cavalli, Henry, and (hey we’re dreaming right) a healthy Strasburg? Imagine an infield that goes House, Abrams, Garcia, and a veteran basher 1B/DH type. Imagine an outfield of Hassell and Woods in the corners and Vaquero in Center. Or Green thrown in there.


post publishing observation … the Nats may have to do some 40-man shuffling. Bell/Soto out so 38/40 on the 40-man, but coming back are Gore and Abrams (on the 40-man) AND Voit. The rest are non 40-man players … so they’ll have to make a move.

Written by Todd Boss

August 2nd, 2022 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Nats in General

Evaluating Nats Trade Candidates

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Is he getting traded? Source NYPost

Now that we’re past the draft, the next big date on the MLB calendar is the Trade Deadline. August 2nd is only a week away, but we’ve heard almost no trade news so far thanks to teams wrapping up draft signings.

So, soon we’ll start to hear about trades. The Nats, of course, are now dead last in the majors, 3 games worse than the next worst team, projecting to a top lottery pick (now’s an excellent time to remind everyone that the lottery is open to every non-playoff team … and the top 6 picks are used, so there’s a significant chance the Nats could finish with the 30th worst record and pick 7th… anyway, not the point here).

Here’s a look at the roster, identifying who’s heading out the door and what they may fetch.

Incredibly Likely to be traded for decent value

  1. Josh Bell: FA to be, hitting the crap out of the ball this year, nearly a 3/4/5 slash line. He’s going to be popular as a rent-a-bat. Teams looking for offense are going to come calling. Likely return: Nats probably net a team’s top-10 prospect and a secondary lower level/younger prospect in the 10-15 range.
  2. Nelson Cruz: has a $3M buyout but is also a FA since he signed a 1 year deal with the express intent of being right where he is now; available as a rent-a-DH. Unfortunately he’s not really hit as well as expected, so his return will be limited. Likely Return: 15-20th ranked prospect.

We’ll Take what we can get:

  • Cesar Hernandez: FA to be, he’s really been weak at the plate but can play 2B and SS and could give some veteran utility cover. Likely Return: a 20+ ranked prospect from the low minors.
  • Steve Cishek, FA to be, has been healthy and relatively serviceable this year, with a 101 ERA+. But its not like he’s a lights-out 9th inning guy anymore; he’s a mid-level 36-yr old reliever. Likely Return: a 20+ prospect from the low minors.
  • Carl Edwards has actually been good: a 3.00 era, good K rates. Not bad for a MLFA signing. Still, he’s not going to fetch much more than Cishek would get. Likely Return: a non prospect.
  • Erasmo Ramirez: Basically the same story as Cishek and Edwards: mid30s RH reliever with decent numbers this year. I’m sure a team with some bullpen injuries or issues would give up a lower-level prospect for a guy like this. Likely Return: a non prospect.

Not Likely to be Traded despite being FAs to be:

  • Wil Harris, FA to be but currently on the 60-day DL with TOS-related scar tissue issues. No value here, and his 3yr/$24M contract works out to nearly $1M per INNING!
  • Joe Ross, FA to be and out with his second TJ.
  • Anibel Sanchez, who is back in the rotation after missing the first half, but hasn’t exactly shown that he’s of any value, getting more or less shelled in his first two starts. Can’t imagine getting anything of value for him.
  • Ehire Adrianza, who signed on as another backup utility guy, has a 43 OPS+ this year. No trade value.
  • Sean Doolittle: on 60-day DL with an elbow sprain and isn’t getting off that list anytime soon. No trade value.
  • Maikel Franco: taking a flier on the former top prospect has somewhat paid off, but he’s still only hitting .238 and never walks. Its hard to see anyone really giving up anything in return.
  • Alcides Escobar: how is it possible that we bought up so many veteran utility guys and none of them can hit? Oh yeah, because that’s why there’s so many of them on the FA market.
  • Tyler Clippard: finally got his shot, and he’s on the DL right at the trade deadline.

Pre-FA players thinking outside the box

  • Kyle Finnegan? With Rainey’s injury he’s the new closer, and if there’s one thing bad teams don’t need, its a closer. He’s one of the only viable arms in the bullpen and could be moved for prospects. Likely Return: a 10-15th ranked system prospect.

Juan Soto

And then we get to Soto. I’m not a national correspondent with industry sources out the wazoo, so I have no idea what teams are interested or who’s willing to give up what. Pundits are saying there’s 6 or 7 teams available. I’ve read “4-5 players” as an expected return. I really hope they don’t force teams to take Corbin‘s salary, b/c i’d rather have the prospects, but Bowden says that’s what the team is asking.. We’ll see what happens. Likely Return: 3 top 10 prospects plus two pre-arb Major Leaguers.


Total return if all this actually happens?

  • Two pre-arb Major leaguers
  • Four top10 prospects
  • Two 10-15th ranked prospects
  • A couple 20+ ranked prospects
  • a couple non-prospects

Thoughts? did I forget anyone?

Written by Todd Boss

July 25th, 2022 at 4:20 pm

Posted in Nats in General

What the Soto news really means

27 comments

So, on a calm before the storm Saturday afternoon the baseball world was shook by the news that the Nationals, officially, have Juan Soto on the trading block.

He rejected a 15yr/$440M deal, the third and (maybe?) last deal this ownership group plans on offering, and is now entertaining offers.

The team’s First offer to Soto of 13yrs/$330M was a joke for several reasons:

  • he’s one of the best 4-5 players in the game
  • it would have only taken him through his age 36 season
  • It was more than $100M off of the superstar contracts of the game.
  • Its AAV of 26.9 would have not even been top 20 in the game.

We don’t know what the second offer was, but the third would have guaranteed more total money than Trout (meaning it’d have been the largest contract in the history of the game), would have covered him until his age 38 season … but was still “only” $29.3M AAV, which is outside the top 20 all time. In that regard, yes believe it or not it was still “light.”

So, $440M is an awful lot of money. Maybe he’s dead set on setting both the overall and AAV value on a long term contract. 15yrs, $35M AAV to me is what I think he has to shoot for; that’s a $525M contract. Maybe he’s looking to wait (Scott Boras style) til he hits FA at age 26, and THEN sign a 15 year deal. That’s the best deal for him personally; its pays him til the end of his playable years, plus he gets this year’s $17M, next year’s likely $23M, and the last arb year of probably $28M or so. That’s more like an 18year, nearly $600M deal.

So, all that being said, it has to be about more than the money. Why would he reject this contract now? For me, it has to be just one thing: the Nationals are not going to be competitive for years. Years. And he doesn’t want to wait until he’s 30 to be in the playoffs again, which is a serious possibility if he resigns in DC right now.

This team bottomed out with 100+ losses in 2008 and 2009, then 3 years later they were a 100 win team. So, why aren’t we projecting a similar bounce here? Well, because …

  • in 2008 & 2009: we didn’t have tens of millions of dollars of deferred dollars on the books (not that they “count” towards the luxury tax, but the Lerner’s have really kicked the expenses can down the road for the next decade).
  • Thus we had the payroll flexibility back then to “buy” a Jayson Werth and an Adam LaRoche and a 4th starter in Edwin Jackson to fill in the holes. We don’t have that right now.
  • That 2012 team had four significant home-grown prospects in its top 6 WAR leaders: 2nd rounder Jordan Zimmerman, 1st rounder Bryce Harper, 1st rounder Ryan Zimmerman, and 1st rounder Stephen Strasburg
  • Two of these guys were 1st overall, transformative picks who raced through the minors to get to the big club and were major contributors that year.
  • The farm system was great in 2012: #1 in the sport in Jan 2012 per BA, which we leveraged to acquire a front-line starter in Gio Gonzalez to power the rotation.

Meanwhile, compare and contrast to where we are now.

  • In 2022, we’ve got a $161M payroll this year to go dead last. Some of this was planned expenditures to go away with players we trade ($15M for Cruz, $10M for Bell) …
  • But … as we all know, we’ve got $58M a year tied up with two starters who are currently on the 60-day DL (perhaps permanently) and posting a 5.87 ERA while leading the league in such categories as Losses, Earned Runs allowed, and Hits allowed.
  • We’re not in a position to draft generational 1-1 players … yet. We’re not picking up a Harper or Strasburg this year, maybe not next either (where the projected 1-1 guys are solid but not historic college bats).
  • Zimmermann was a 2nd round pick; when was the last time we had a competent 2nd round pick? Here’s our 2nd round picks going backwards to Zimmermann from 2021 to 2007: Lile, Infante/Henry, Lost-pick in 2019, Cate, Crowe, Neuse, Stevenson/Perkins in 2015, Suarez (didn’t sign), Johansen, Renda, Lost pick in 2011, Solis, Kobernus, Hood, and Zimmermann in 2007. LOOK AT THAT LIST. This is your 2nd highest pick, every year. This is basically 15 years of incompetence. Its patently amazing. From this entire list you have a decent current prospect in Henry, a current middle Reliver (Crowe, with Pittsburgh), a utility infielder hitting .230 (Neuse), a guy who was DFA’d and outrighted earlier this year in Stevenson, and a loogy in Solis. For 15 years of 2nd rounders.
  • Most of our prospect depth is in Low-A or below right now, especially on the hitter side.
  • We’re somewhere in the deep 20s in terms of a Farm System.

So … i think Soto is reading the writing on the wall and saying to himself … it might be 4-5 years before we compete again. And this team (as is custom in this league) will bottom out before it builds again, so a couple years from now could be really, really bleak. Why would he commit to that rebuild, when he can go to a team that can and will spend (Yankees), or go to a team where money is no object (Mets), or go to a team has more competent draft teams than ours (Dodgers).

So, here we are. I wonder what this does to a potential sale. Would a prospective buyer be “ok” with the team selling off its most marketable asset? Or, would they not want to be saddled with a $400M+ contract coming in the door? Probably the latter honestly.

This team let Harper walk after not really giving him a competitive offer. They let Rendon walk. And now they’re probably going to at least get something in return for Soto.

Written by Todd Boss

July 17th, 2022 at 7:09 am

Posted in Nats in General

Who *really* should be in the HR Derby, 2022 edition

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Soto in, who else? Photo via nj.com

This week, ahead of the 2022 Home run Derby, we’re starting to get leaks of the various participants. We got word that 2-time defending champ Pete Alonso is back to defend his Home run Derby title. We heard that the league is putting in retiring future Hall of famer Albert Pujols, and our own Juan Soto (who isn’t the all-or-nothing HR power hitter like some of these guys, but who did have a monstrous 520-foot shot last year).

That’s awesome. But … what would be the absolutely, ideal HR derby in 2022?

For reference, here’s MLB’s list of past HR derby winners. And here’s Wiki’s page which shows all the participants each year. And here’s a list of the 10 longest homers this year.

Here’s who i’d like to see in my optimal HR derby.

  1. Pete Alonso, who won it in 2019 and 2021 and will be tough to dethrone.
  2. Giancarlo Stanton: because, yeah, he hits bombs. And he won it in 2016. And his exit velocity is crazy.
  3. Aaron Judge, who goes into the all-star break leading the league with (as of today) 30 dingers. And because he hits bombs.
  4. Kyle Schwarber, runner up to Harper (controversially) in 2018, but also a HR hitting machine. Currently sits 2nd in the league in 2022. When he gets warmed up, he can hit a lot of HRs, quick.
  5. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.: would love to see his wild swing connecting in the derby.
  6. Yordan Alvarez, owner of one of the longest HRs of the season, currently sits 3rd in the league for Homers in 2022, hits bombs.
  7. C.J. Cron; he’s a beast built like a linebacker who can really get into one; two of the 10 longest HRs this year are his.
  8. Juan Soto: entered last year, hits for power, but on a down year this year.

Honorable Mentions:

  1. Bryce Harper, the 2018 winner. Unfortunately, he’s got a broken hand so he’s out.
  2. Joey Gallo: he’s only hitting .166 this year, but man he can hit some dingers.
  3. Shohei Ohtani; the best player in the game not named Trout can destroy balls, and would be awesome in the competition.
  4. Mike Trout: every year he manages to make the top 10 list of longest homers, one year hitting one nearly 500 feet. But he gets squeezed out of this list. Perhaps he shouldn’t; he’s on a sneaky good season pushing for 50.
  5. Byron Buxton doesn’t make his way onto most people’s minds for prolific home run hitter, but he’s got multiple 450′ shots this year and is top 10 in the league for HRs right now.
  6. Austin Riley can hit some balls.
  7. Rhys Hoskins isn’t a bad choice.
  8. I’ve always liked Cody Bellinger‘s sweet lefty swing; 47 homers in 2019 as a 23yr old MVP, but he’s struggled with injury since.

So, that’s my ideal list. lets see how close we get to it.

2022 post-publishing: Actual finalized list of 2022 HR derby participants with thoughts (the numbers are the seeds)

  1. Schwarber: ok, how is the 2-time defending champion NOT the #1 seed?
  2. Alonso: I guess the seeds were done by # of “real” homers in the 2022 season.
  3. Corey Seager: not mentioned before now. 21 homers this year, on pace for 40. So he’s a homer threat, but when i think “light tower power” … i’m not thinking about a SS in Texas.
  4. Soto: he did hit one 500 feet last year
  5. Jose Ramirez: perhaps the most underrated player in the sport. i’m glad he gets some attention.
  6. Julio Rodriguez; “who?” you might ask? Just Seattle’s top prospect and a guy who’s been tearing up the league from afar.
  7. Ronald Acuna … not a name even from my HMs. He’s clearly a super star player in the league … but do you think “towering power” when you hear his name?
  8. Pujols: I get it … he’s a HoFamer, but he’s taking up a spot.

Schwarber and Alonso the clear favorites, but there’s some solid players here.

Written by Todd Boss

July 12th, 2022 at 8:52 am

Posted in Nats in General

Observations from the Big club

18 comments

I looked back at my posts recently … and less and less do I even bother to write about the Nats themselves. In the bad years, i’d post much more frequently and with frustration about the big league team, the decisions made, etc. But I feel like I fell into a trap of sports-writing (if that’s what i’m doing here), where its easier/more interesting to write critical stuff than it is to write positive stuff when the team is good.

I think, for me, this culminated in the 2019 season, where I posted on May 28th a big post discussing who we should be trading. And then, of course, the team rebounded, and honestly I never felt like I could celebrate their success b/c I was almost rooting for them to fail b/c i’d given up on them so early and didn’t want to be proven wrong.

So, since I have spoken almost nothing of the Nats themselves this year, I thought i’d take stock of where we are just ahead of the All Star Break/Draft/halfway point, and put in some color about what we may expect the rest of the way, what’s coming in terms of prospects (haha), and where we may be going next year.


As I write this on Friday July 8th, the team is 30-55, a .353 winning percentage that puts them on pace for a season-ending record of 57-105. And they’re getting worse: they’re 10-20 in their last 30 and will look to move everyone not tied down at the trade deadline. They’re currently sitting with the 3rd worst record in the league and are just a couple of games “ahead” of the two worse teams (Oakland and Cincinnati) in the race for the #1 overall pick in 2023. For comparison purposes … a 57 win team is actually worse than when this franchise bottomed out in 2008-2009, when they went 59-102 and 59-103 in successive seasons. However this year, this team is managing to do this with a $160M payroll and several guys getting paid as if they’re among the best in the league.

So, we knew they’d be bad. They barely spent any money in the off season to improve the roster. But what’s happened? Lets look at the culprets:

Starting Pitching

Amazingly, the Nats have already seen an entire rotation of starters hit the DL so far, and we’re only halfway through the season.

  • Strasburg started on the DL, made one start, and might be done for the season (or career). He’s just made his 16th career trip to the DL.
  • Sanchez never made it to Washington.
  • The guy who initially replaced Sanchez (Josh Rogers) got hurt.
  • Seth Romero was called up just to be put on the 60-day DL, which mean’s he’s getting MLB pay. How does that make you feel about your job, the fact that this guy got nearly $3M in a bonus after he was basically fired from his college team, then has been “rewarded” for multiple team rule violations by being socially promoted, and now is set to earn another season’s full-salary (north of $700k) for doing nothing. Good work if you can get it.
  • Joe Ross had a spring injury that’s turned into a second TJ surgery.
  • They brought up Evan Lee, gave him a start and he got hurt.
  • They called up Tetreault to cover for the completely ineffective Adon (who’s now back, natch), and four starts later he’s got a frigging stress fracture in his shoulder.

The starters who have managed NOT to get hurt have been … underwhelming mostly:

  • Corbin: a 5.68 ERA and for a time the 2nd worst ERA among qualified starters in the league, behind only …
  • Adon, who now sits 1-12 with a 7.10 ERA. The fact that he’s back in the big leagues and being given starts is patently ridiculous at this point, but what choice do they have (see below).
  • Espino, a 35-yr old minor league lifer who is now sticking as a starter … and has the best ERA+ of the entire bunch. They should trade him just to give him a shot at a contender since he’ll be 40 by the time we’re good again.
  • Fedde, who I thought should have been non-tendered last fall, but is now our 2nd or 3rd best starter and has thrown 3 straight effective starts to lower his ERA from 4.80 to its current 4.29. Shows you what I know.
  • Grey, who I somewhat worry is having one of his control years completely wasted right now, given that he’s one of the hall mark pieces of return for the Scherzer/Turner deal. His starts are up and down, but he’s showing some solid progress. In an ideal world, he’d be an awesome #3 starter behind two studs (Cavalli and Henry anyone?) and a couple of veteran mercenaries on a playoff team.
  • (as noted in the comments … I completely forgot about the ridiculous Aaron Sanchez, who had an ERA north of 8 (eight!) in 7 starts before getting cut).

All this being said, at this point there’s basically nobody left to call up. Waiver claim Abbott has struggled in AAA so far (5.55 ERA). So has 2022 MLFA Verrett (5.07 ERA). So has long-time Nat farmhand Jefry Rodriguez (6.47 ERA). So has former rule-5 trashed-us-on-his-way-out-the-door-betcha-hes-super – happy-to-be-back Sharp (5.77 ERA). So has long-man-pushed-into-rotation Carson Teel (4.91 ERA). Henry has been spectacular … but is on the DL. Even Cavalli‘s numbers are rough (4.54 ERA despite last night’s gem (7ip, 2 hits 0 walks, 0 runs). In fact … how the heck does Rochester have a winning record?? They’re 43-38 despite a team ERA of 4.73 and almost no effective starters. Anyway.

The point is this: There’s nothing on the horizon that’s coming up to save the MLB rotation. Maybe Sanchez (who is doing rehab assignments) could come up and send Adon back to AAA where he belongs. But the next injury likely means Abbott up (he’s the only other 40-man guy), or one of the aforementioned guys with AAA ERAs in the 5s. It’d be malpractice to call up Cavalli (or Henry) but maybe they earn it with a string of better results by season’s end.

Bullpen

The Nats collective relievers have a 4.50 ERA this year, ranking them 26th out of 30 teams. The 4 worse teams are, of course, also fellow-tanking teams in 2022 (Colorado, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati). Why invest in middle relievers if you know you’re going to suck?

Fun Fact: NOT ONE current member of the Nats bullpen was home grown. Look it up on the big Board.

  • Rainey: trade acquisition in 2019 for Roark. Should be trade bait in july as a closer with 3 years of control; he could actually net a decent prospect. Last place teams don’t need closers.
  • Cishek: 2022 FA
  • Finnegan: 2020 FA, which was kind of amazing b/c he had exhausted his 3 arb seasons without getting a single appearance with his former team, but we gave him a MLB-guaranteed deal. So this was basically a minor league FA that’s really paid off well.
  • Edwards: 2022 Minor League FA
  • Garrett: 2022 Minor League FA
  • Ramirez: 2022 Minor League FA
  • Machado: 2021 Minor League FA
  • Weems: 2022 Minor League FA

Even more amazing … of these 8 names, Five of them were MLFAs!! That’s 5 guys who couldn’t even get 40-man guaranteed gigs when we signed them. That means they were considered worse than 1200 other guys who are on 40-man rosters right now.

The fact that we don’t have a single home-grown reliever on the books right now is kind of ridiculous. We did have a few (Suero was non-tendered last November, Klobotis DFA’d and claimed, Voth the same) within the last 6 months or so, but given the sheer volume of pitcher’s we’ve drafted over the past 5 years, you’d think we would have more of a pipeline of guys converted to the bullpen and matriculating up as middle relievers/failed starters.

AAA doesn’t have much in the way of reinforcements either: just one home-grown player in AAA’s bullpen (a continuation of the above indictment of our player development); Matt Cronin who was just bumped up to AAA recently. Otherwise the AAA bullpen is filled with Rule-5 acquisitions (Brill and Taylor), Waiver claims (Murphy and Perez, who has been logging frequent flier miles all season between DC and upstate NY), and MLFAs (our old friend Clippard, who I can’t quite believe has not gotten called up yet with his 2.65 ERA, along with Baldonado, Avilan, and Burdi who is currently hurt). At the next bullpen injury … one of these guys has gotta go up. Meaning another guy laid onto the 40-man roster.

Side note, coming back to Clippard … he’s gotta be wondering if he pissed off Rizzo right now. The team has now added multiple relievers to the 40-man ahead of him: Arano, Ramirez, Edwards, Weems, and Garrett all were MLFA relievers who got the call before Tyler. Really? This guy gave his heart and soul to this team for years; you should have called him up well before randoms we signed out of the trash bucket last January just on principle.

I think the future of this team has to start including more home-grown arms. We cannot rely on veteran FAs and MLFAs as much as we have been. We have dozens of starters in the system; not all of them should be there. We need to start growing more relievers.

Offense

The good: By OPS+ or wRC+ we do have some bright spots: Bell is going to earn us a decent prospect at the trade deadline with his team-leading offensive performance. Soto and Cruz‘s batting averages may be low but they’re league average in run creation thanks to slugging on OBP. Ruiz is showing a near league average OPS+ as a full time starting catcher for the first time; can’t beat that. Plus he’s right in the middle of the order; he’s not an 8-hitter. Garcia has impressed upon his return to the majors; cross your fingers here (yes i know, he can’t field, that won’t matter when we stick him at 2B and neutralize his crap footwork). Yadiel Hernandez is found gold and finally seems to have the LF spot locked up.

The bad: The injury to Kieboom is a dagger for his career honestly. Luckily for him we’re probably going to suck in 2023 as well, so he’ll get one last chance to start in the bigs. Victor Robles continues to look lost; at least he plays a solid CF. Someone’s gotta bat 9th. But we need one of our CF prospects to pan out: going down the line Stevenson in AAA isn’t the answer, Jack Dunn is the starter in AA and is a 20th rounder hitting .230, Ricardo Mendez is hitting .220 in high-A, and then a bright spot in our system Jeremey De La Rosa in low-A tearing it up at age 20. Nothing is close; our latest IFA $5M guy Cristhian Vaquero is definitely a CF, but he’s 5 levels away in the DSL. We’ll likely need a CF option closer to the majors in a couple years. Trade market target.

More bad: Cesar Hernandez seems to be entrenched as the team’s lead off hitter: he’s got a .306 OBP!! I mean … Robles has a .304 OBP. The team seems to be splitting 3B starts between Franco and Adrianza, both of whom are posting sub-replacement level offense. Why did we release Strange-Gordon? I mean, he was hitting .300 while Adrianza is hitting .196 and frigging Fox is hitting .080. I mean, i get it, Kieboom was the plan, and they had to scramble, and the rest are just backups. But man, we can’t find backup infielders who can at least somewhat hit?

Not surprisingly, the Nats are near the bottom of the league in offensive WAR and wRC+ and what not as a team. And, like with the pitching, they seem to be set to get worse when they trade the best hitters (Bell and Cruz) and bring up reinforcements. And who are those reinforcements going to be? We’ll we do have a couple 40-man guys in AAA who will get the immediate call in Casey and Palacios and Fox.

There are a couple non-40-man guys who are in the presumed mix. Nick Banks has been hitting very well in AAA this year (.916 OPS). But unless he’s DH’ing he makes no sense to call up b/c the OF is full (which keeps Stevenson in the AAA as well). Meneses has been powering the ball in AAA and likely is Bell’s replacement the moment he gets traded. Another round with Jake Noll?

The FAs to be of position players are Bell, Cruz, Hernandez, Franco, and Escobar. The last three may not fetch much, but should be moved for whatever they can get, and will lead to a huge gap in the infield. We have some random MLFA middle infielders in AAA that might get the call at that point (guys like Vargas or Flores), plus Fox and his sub .100 BA. So … look out in Aug and Sept.

Not a lot on the near-term horizon either in terms of prospects for the infield: they’re mostly in Low-A.


Conclusion? We’re on pace for our worst ever season as it is, and stand to get a lot worse, meaning 110 losses is in play. And its likely we’re going to be just as bad next year, with little on the horizon and really serious injury concerns surrounding Strasburg. And there’s little in the way of interesting prospects to look for anywhere close, which is a big personal rooting factor.

Written by Todd Boss

July 8th, 2022 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Nats in General