Nationals Arm Race

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

2023 Non Tender Candidate Analysis

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Robles gets to hang out one more year. Photo via nbcsports

Hot on the tail of the Rule-5 analysis we have the tender deadline for arb-eligible players. Well, technically the entirety of the arb-eligible plus pre-arb players are up for non-tendering, but the priority this week is usually just dealing with the players who have arbitration cases coming up (we can simply assign salaries to the pre-arb guys if we want them, and we can DFA them any time otherwise).

Note: I wrote the below BEFORE the Rule-5 deadline and subsequent deals, so I’ll cross-off what is no longer relevant and put in updated notes, since most of our decisions were basically made for us presumably.

So, looking at our 40-man roster and the arbitration-eligible guys (thanks to Cots and to MLBTraderumors for candidate lists), here’s a quick rundown on our Arb guys (salary estimates come from another MLBTraderumors post, and even though i sometimes quibble with their estimates they’re usually pretty spot on)

  • Kyle Finnegan (A2): $2.3M this year, $5.1M estimate for 2024. I’ll take $5M for a closer. Tender him, and trade him for prospects next year.
  • Victor Robles (A3): $2.3M 2023, $2.7M for 2024. Had a club option declined to make him arb-eligible for one last time. An interesting decision; he actually looked decent for a month and a half before hitting the DL. $2.7M for a guy who, if he’s healthy and hitting .299/.385/.364 at the trade deadline will absolutely net prospects. Alex Call didn’t exactly earn the starting CF nod with his Mendoza-line batting. Young may need more AAA time. I say you tender him, he starts in CF until Young or (ahem) Crews is ready to take over CF on the big league club then flip him. Update: signed for 2024 for undisclosed money, but they turned down a club option for $3.3M so it’s likely somewhere in the $2.7-$2.8 range.
  • Lane Thomas: $2.2M this year, $7M next. No brainer. Tender him. The bigger question with Thomas is … how long do you hold on to him? Is he a long-term piece on this team or does he make way once the litany of OF prospects arrive? All our top prospects are outfielders. Woods, Crews, Green, Lile, Hassell, and Vaquero. Do you hold onto Thomas until you have all three prospects up and producing? Probably. This is a larger bit of analysis but i’ve distilled what the front office is probably thinking.
  • Dominic Smith: $2M this year, $4.3M next. .366 slugging and 12 homers for your 1B free agent guy who you were counting on flipping at the deadline? That’s not going to cut it. Non-tender him, cut him loose and try again in the FA market this coming off-season. Probably should have done this non-tender before the rule-5 deadline to open up cap space. Update: DFA’d ahead of Rule-5 additions to make room, just as I said they would.
  • Tanner Rainey: $1.5M this year, $1.5M next year. Hurt all year, but closer-quality guy for a song. Tender him. Update: club signed him for exactly $1.5M next year. Fair gamble.
  • Ildimaro Vargas: $975K this year, no official estimate for salary next year (probably $1.1M) He may not have gotten an estimate because he was a MLFA. A decent hitting middle infielder backup. if Carter Kieboom is healthy, he may not have a spot, but no reason not to tender him. The team DFA’d Chavis, maybe so they could keep Vargas. Remember; even a contract tender only puts the team on the hook for a fraction of it if they whack a guy in spring training next year. Correction: as pointed out in the comments, Vargas resigned at the end of the season already. so this analysis is moot.
  • Hunter Harvey: $870k this year, $2.2M next. Easily our best reliever this year. Tender him. Another guy who you’d think could net prospects at the trade deadline.
  • Carter Kieboom: $733k this year, maybe $1M next. MLBtraderumors doesn’t have him as being arb eligible in its analysis, but Cots does. He’s got 2+ years of service, finally got healthy and onto the field. Still isn’t hitting like he did as a prospect, but the opportunity cost of playing him one more season isn’t very high. He either sticks, or you wait out House. It is still baffling to me why he didn’t make the leap to the MLB; its hard to remember just how good a prospect he was in AAA; he was top 20 for all of the minors on major lists in 2020. I’d love to really know what happened to him.
  • Luis Garcia: $738K this year, $2.2M next. This estimate seems high, especially since the team had to send him down mid-season, but they won’t cut him yet. Tender him. Can he be our long term 2B? Maybe. There’s a couple of middle infield types who are making a case in the near future: Darren Baker has moved all the way to AAA as a 2B primary fielder, Kevin Made is a SS who could move to 2B, Jordy Barley just resigned, and Trey Lipscomb was one of our minor league POTYs this year and featured in the AFL. So, the pressure is on.

The team had already dfa’d a couple of the more obvious non-tender candidates (Chavis, Banda, and Arano) well ahead of this week. So that plus the Smith DFA made this analysis pretty trivial.

Written by Todd Boss

November 15th, 2023 at 11:34 pm

Posted in Non-Tender

2023 Rule-5 Discussion

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DJ Herz is seemingly a lock to get protected. Photo via Wash Post

We do it every year. Its our annual deep dive into our older prospects to see who the team may be thinking about protecting. Here’s links to past years posts on this topic: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010. And here’s a summary of all these posts and my predictions versus who we actually protected.

November 14th is the Deadline to add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft

As a reminder, Rule 5 eligibility is as follows for any player not on a 40-man roster:

  • Signed at 18-years-old or younger, has been in the organization for five seasons
  • Signed at 19-years-old or older, has been in the organization for four seasons

So, generally speaking this translates to:

  • IFAs or High Schoolers drafted/signed in 2019 or before
  • College players drafted/signed in 2020 or before

2020 of course was the Covid draft, so there were only 5 rounds of players picked, making this a thinner analysis than it often is. Also of note; this isn’t a hard and fast rule; a prep player could have turned 19 by the time they got drafted and be Rule-5 eligible on year earlier. Also (as was the case for Bryce Harper way back when) a college player could be 18 or younger and hang onto an extra year. Same with IFAs; sometimes an IFA is actually 19 or older so they’re due a year earlier. If i forgot someone in here, its likely due to one of these factors.

Now, in 2023, heading into this effort, the 40-man roster is full. So full in fact that just to return all our 60-day DL guys to the active roster a few days ago we had to DFA a prospect in Matt Cronin (who, if he clears waivers and is outrighted is a 19D and would be subject to this draft).

Important resources useful to this analysis:

  • Nats Draft Tracker
  • Nats IFA Tracker; this is a newer resource you may not have seen that i’ve created in the spirit of the Draft tracker, but for IFA “classes.” I could only go back to 2015.
  • Nats Big Board; which helps add in the Rule5 candidates we’ve acquired via trade.
  • Roster Resource: Fangraphs-based resource that tracks R5 and options status for “key” Minor leaguers.
  • 2023 MLFA List: which took out some of the older names at the end of this analysis.

Here’s the analysis, group by group.

Group 1: Newly Eligible 2020 draft College Players this year worth consideration for protection:

The draft class was so small, we can go through them one by one:

  • Cade Cavalli: already on the 40-man
  • Cole Henry: man, what a dilemma. If he’s healthy, he’s a #2 starter ceiling in the majors. But after a risky shoulder surgery in 2022, Henry only threw 33 innings in 2023, to a 6.23 ERA. Is he even healthy? I’ve seen him ranked anywhere between 5th and 20th in prospect rankings, but everyone out there can see his performance.
  • Holden Powell, the closer in college who has missed a ton of time, but pitched most of this year in High-A. He walked nearly a batter an inning. Even for a team looking for middle relief, I can’t imagine someone taking Powell. That didn’t stop the Nats from sending him to the AFL, to showcase/test him. In Arizona as of this writing: 0-2,12.00 ERA. He’s pitched 9 innings and given up 12 ER on 12 hits and 8 walks. Not Good. That probably seals it; no Rule5 for Powell.
  • Brady Lindsly: I thought this was a throw-away pick in 2020: $20k senior sign from Oklahoma. But damn if he hasn’t stuck around. He split time between AA and AAA this year, didn’t hit half bad. He’s a minor league backup catcher though; very little chance he gets picked.
  • Mitchell Parker: opening day starter for AA, durable lefty, better than his numbers, made it to AAA by season’s end. I think he’s someone the team has to protect.

Group 1 Protection candidates: Parker, maybe Henry.


Group 1-A: 2020 NDFAs

A new category b/c the 2020 draft was just 5 rounds and we signed a slew of NDFAs that year:

  • Paul Witt: CA/OF who’s at AAA. not great numbers but hanging around.
  • Zach Brzycky: RHP who is routinely on prospect lists for this team and who has been a back of the bullpen guy his whole career. He was an NRI in spring training this year after lighting up the minors in 2022 to the tune of a 1.76 ERA across 61 innings. But … he got hurt. And missed the entire 2023 season. So he’s not a candidate to get drafted this year, but could be in the future. This is just the kind of guy (minor league closer) who gets plucked all the time to be the 6th guy in a MLB bullpen.

Group 1A protection candidates: none.


Group 2: Newly Eligible 2019 High School-age drafted players under consideration for protection

Thanks to the rarity in which we draft HS players, there’s exactly one player from 2019 who remains in the organization who was a HS draftee.

  • Michael Cuevas. RH starter. Pitched the entire year in AA, 5.53 ERA in his age 22 season. Now, that’s impressive to me as a 22yr old in AA, but is this someone we think would get plucked? He’s never appeared on a single prospect ranking list, ever. So he has almost no prospect fame. I don’t think he’s a likely candidate to get picked, but I do like the possibility of him turning into a decent starter as a 23yr old next year.

Group 2 Protection Candidates: Cuevas, Maybe.


Group 3: Newly Eligible 2019 signed IFAs under consideration for protection:

I count 12 IFAs signed in 2019 who remain active in the system as per the IFA tracker. Some have yet to make it off the Island, let alone get out of rookie ball. So, here’s those who have made it any further:

  • Roismar Quintana: he’s now morphed into a corner OF/1B guy with no power and no speed. He’s generally ranked in the 20s on these prospect rankings. Certainly he’s not a notable prospect. Not a candidate to get drafted.
  • Kevin Made: Might be the highest ranked prospect to be evaluated (depending on where Henry is ranked on your list du jour). Made was part of the bounty for Candelario from Chicago (along with DJ Herz, who’s mentioned in the next section), and you’d have to think one of the reasons Chicago suggested him was because of his Rule-5 eligibility this off-season. He’s a 21-yr old high-A SS who didn’t exactly light the world on fire upon getting here (.137/.232/.192). He’s not getting drafted.
  • Andry Lara: The Nats aggressively pushed Lara to High-A this year, where he pitched an entire year in the rotation as a 20yr old. Numbers were decent: 4.58 ERA, 23 starts, 1.26 whip. Easy arm action, lots of velocity. He’s definitely a valuable prospect, but is he someone you have to protect? Its the same argument the team used last year to protect Jeremy De La Rosa coming out of A ball, and I’ll bet the Nats protect Lara under similar thought process.
  • Juan Abreu: reliever in Low-A. 23yr old with a 5+ ERA in Low-A; more likely to get cut than drafted.
  • Franklin Marquez, long reliever in Low-A. 37 walks in 35 innings. Not a rule-5 draft candidate.
  • Pablo Aldonis: hurt in May, went on season-ending 60-day DL. I like his future prospects but for now he doesn’t seem like he’ll get picked.

Group 3 Protection Candidates: Lara


Group 4: Rule-5 Eligible Drafted/Domestic hold-overs of note

So, anyone drafted in 2019 or before falls into this category. Everyone on this list has already passed through Rule-5 at least once, and is mentioned here b/c they’re now improved enough to be notable. If someone’s not above High-A, they’re not mentioned.

  • Jackson Cluff: .206 as a SS in AA. Not a candidate.
  • Jack Dunn: corner OF who made his way to AAA. he’s now 27, having been an old senior sign in 2019. Org guy.
  • JT Arruda: backup 2B in AA. Not a candidate
  • DJ Herz: trade bounty along with Kevin Made for Candelario. Sent to the AFL just to make sure everyone in baseball knew who he was and that he was rule-5 eligible. He sparkled in 2023 for two teams, 3.43 ERA in 22 starts as a lefty, striking out 133 in 94IP. 100% guarantee he’s protected.
  • Lucas Knowles: rubber armed lefty who ended up in AAA this year as kind of a long-man/multi inning guy. Never been on a prospect list, but just keeps moving up. Not notable enough to get plucked, but someone who may contribute to this team in the future.
  • Orlando Ribalta, who the team sent to the AFL after he pitched well enough in AA for most of the year. He’s got decent career stats, but is now a 25yr old Juco signing who’s still hanging around and has never once been named to a prospect list.
  • Garvin Alston, who we got in trade from the White Sox in April of 2022 for … cash? Nonetheless he’s a 19D who had 44 appearances this year for AA.
  • Seth Shuman: 19D who we got in trade and finished year on 60-day DL.
  • Cody Wilson: an 18D who keeps hanging around, bouncing between AA and AAA this year.
  • Onyx Vega, also an 18D who’s facing his 3rd Rule-5. Backup catcher in AAA.
  • Trey Harris, who we got in trade last year from Atlanta for Ehire Adrianza, is still hanging around but has been layered in AA by all our prospects. Now 27; not a prospect really.
  • Reid Schaller, 3rd rounder in 18D who pitched in the back end of the AA bullpen this year. Decent numbers repeating AA, but very little prospect mention in his career.
  • Tim Cate, still trying to make it, now converting to relief and had decent AA numbers. We would have expected more from a 2nd rounder, but he’s still not in the rule-5 conversation.
  • Mason Denaburg. Our 1st rounder in 2018 is still out there, still throwing the rock in low-A.
  • (Possible): Matt Cronin, who is in DFA limbo as we write this and could be outrighted. If so, he’s technically rule-5 eligible, which would be silly for someone to draft since they could have just claimed the guy a week prior. Not getting drafted.

Group 4 protection Candidates: Herz a lock. Ribalta? Maybe?


Group 5: IFAs: 2018 and older

We’re only listing IFAs from 2018 or previously who have gotten out of Rookie ball, since there’s just so many of them on that roster.

  • Yoander Rivero, 18IFA backup SS in Low-A. Hit. 186 this year. Not a candidate.
  • Rodney Theophile. 18IFA who put up pretty decent numbers in High-A this year. But, he was an older IFA (he’s 24 this year) and didn’t pitch after July 7th. Another one of these “injured but never hit the DL types,” so who knows what actually happened to him. Not a candidate.
  • Aldo Ramirez. 18IFA trade bounty for Kyle Schwarber two summers ago. Still not healthy, despite being a solid SP prospect. Has not pitched now in two full seasons. Obviously not a candidate to get drafted; just hoping he actually pitches for us at some point.
  • Richard Guasch; an 18IFA that we got in trade from Oakland in the 2021 trade deadline. Missed two chunks of time on the DL this season, is now 25, and would never stick on a MLB roster. not a candidate.
  • Leandro Emiliani: 17IFA who hit .212 in low-A. Nope.
  • Gerardi Diaz: 17IFA 3rd catcher in Low-A. Nope.
  • Viandel Pena: 17IFA backup 2B in Wilmington who hit .212. nope.
  • Bryan Caceres, 17IFA starter in Wilmington with an ERA in the 6s. nope.
  • Carlos Romero, 17IFA reliever in Wilimington with an ERA in the 6s. nope.
  • Jordy Barley, 16IFA who still maintains eligibility despite now being in the minors for 8 years. He’s famous for his speed, made it to AAA this year, where he hit .283 despite hitting .228 in Hihg-A for most of the year. The scouting report is seemingly out on the guy, and I don’t think he’s a prospect anymore.
  • A slew of 18IFAs amongst the 30+ arms on the Low-A Roster: Diaz, Rodriguez, Otanez, Atencio, Sanchez, and Hiraldo. None of them are even likely to get a chance at being a rotation member, and are probably closer to a release than a Rule-5 drafting. None are candidates.

Group 5 Candidates: none.


Group 6: Former 40-man guys who have been previously outrighted

  • Evan Lee: went from 104 Ks in 71 High-A innings in 2021 to a 40-man spot, then was outrighted in November 2022 and spent 2023 in AA posting a 6.45 ERA before missing the last three months with injury. Not a candidate.
  • Rico Garcia, who signed as MLFA in July, then was added to the active roster like 8 days later, released on 9/1, re-signed a day later. .. is he Rule5 eligible if he signed a MLFA deal? Unclear.

Group 6 candidates: none.


So, where does that leave us? Summarizing the Groups:

  • Group 1 Protection candidates: Parker, maybe Henry.
  • Group 1A protection candidates: none.
  • Group 2 Protection Candidates: Cuevas maybe.
  • Group 3 Protection Candidates: Lara
  • Group 4 protection Candidates: Herz a lock. Ribalta maybe.
  • Group 5 Candidates: none.
  • Group 6 candidates: none.

I predict the team protects three starters: Parker, Lara, and Herz. They roll the dice on Henry, Cuevas, and Ribalta. In order to make room, they DFA Abbott, Rico Garcia, and Downs.

11/15/23 Rule-5 results (post publishing): Nats protect four: Parker, Herz, Henry, and Brzycky. To make room, they DFA Smith (a non-tender candidate), Abbott, and Machado (who has a Japan opportunity).

So, we were right about Parker and Herz. We hedged on Henry, and the team added him. This is a good sign for me; it means the team is confident enough in his ability to rebound (either that or they know other teams are looking at a former top 10 prospect arm/2nd rounder and want to prevent some other team from getting essentially a “free” arm to try out in spring training). The surprise was Brzycky; not because he isn’t worthy, but because he’s not coming back from TJ until mid-season.

Written by Todd Boss

November 13th, 2023 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Rule-5

2023 MLFAs Announced

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Tetreault declared a MLFA along with several other notable former prospects. Photo via federalbaseball.com

As was posted yesterday (early this morning?) by Luke over at NationalsProspects.com, BA released its list of known 2023 Minor League Free Agents by team this week. The Nats had no fewer than 30 (!) players listed on BA’s list, to go along with a couple of guys who elected FA a bit earlier this off season plus one guy in Sean Doolittle who was technically declared a MLFA but who announced his retirement in September.

Nats Big Board is now updated; go to the “2024 Releases” tab to see the 30-some odd names just declared FAs.

This massive number of names to me is indicative of one main fact w/r/t our player development lately: we have been signing an inordinate number of MLFAs to one year deals to cover the upper levels of the system. By my count, 19 of these names were signed as MLFAs ahead of the 2023 season. Some of them got MLB playing time as experienced vets (Derek Hill, Anthony Banda) and some of them are still on the 40-man (Meneses, Vargas, and Weems were all MLFAs). But we’ve depended on so many of these guys lately, especially to fill the AAA rosters.

Eight of these newly declared MLFAs were home-grown, which means they’ve been in our system for a long, long time. Many were once well-regarded prospects and we’ve discussed them in this space for years. For all these players, the Draft Tracker and IFA trackers are now updated to indicate their departure. These releases officially cut ties with most of the 2016 IFA class and 2017 Draft class.

  • Jake Noll: 16D 7th rounder. Earned a 40-man spot, couldn’t hold on to it.
  • Wilmer Perez: 16IFA Catcher who has bounced around levels for years as a backup catcher.
  • Yasel Antuna: 16IFA with a massive bonus who never paid off and clogged our 40-man roster for years. A perfect example of teams ignoring simple Economic theory w/r/t Sunk Costs and continuing to treat signing bonuses as “investments” instead of the transactional cash payments they really are.
  • Jose Sanchez: another 16IFA backup SS who filled in at High-A and AA this year.
  • Alex Troop, 17D 9th rounder who became the classic lefty Long Reliever/Spot Starter rubber-armed guy who soaked up innings for both AAA and AA for this team for years. I could see him re-upping if given the opportunity; he ended up being in the AA rotation for a big chunk of 2023.
  • Pedro Gonzalez, 17IFA middle RHP multi-inning reliever who just kind of soaked up innings for Low-A this year.
  • Jackson Tetreault: 17D 7th rounder who always seemed to fly under the radar, but got a bunch of starts in AAA in 2022 and looked like he could be a find, getting promoted to the big club. But, he got hurt, missed most of 2023, and now he’s in career limbo. Like Troop, I wonder if he’ll re-up with the team.
  • Malvin Pena, a 14IFA (wow) who’s been pitching in this organization for nearly a decade. Had decent numbers as a AA middle reliever.

Other notable names declared MLFAs:

  • Gerardo Carillo: the 3rd guy out of 4 prospects in the LA Dodgers Turner/Scherzer deal. Just never seemed like he could find the plate.
  • Donovan Casey, the 4th guy out of 4 prospects in the LA Dodgers Turner/Scherzer deal. Was on the 40-man, couldn’t make it.
  • Alameo Hernandez: I liked this guy this year, solving AA as a starter at age 24 and moving up to AAA. I really hope they re-sign him.
  • Matt Adams, who stuck with AAA for the entire season despite being 37 and having made millions as a major leaguer. I wonder if he was auditioning for a coaching role.

There’s still some guys who were 16IFA classes or older who remain on the roster despite them seemingly being at the end of their 6-7 years of minor league service. The oldest such name is a 13IFA Luis Reyes, who still is listed as active. Jordy Barley was a 16IFA and remains, as does guys Niomar Gomez and Gerardi Diaz. Either they’ve been declared MLFAs and MILB.com’s site isn’t updated (which happens all.the.time.) or they’ve signed multi-year deals to remain.

Fun fact: The oldest remaining originally drafted player for the team remains Stephen Strasburg, 2009 draftee. After that, the next oldest is Carter Kieboom, 1st rounder in 2016. Zero players now remain with the system for the entire 2017 draft with the MLFA declaration of guys like Troop and Tetreault (this was the Seth Romero draft).

Written by Todd Boss

November 9th, 2023 at 10:06 am

Posted in Prospects

Prospect Season kicks off with BA top 10

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Nobody improved their prospect value more than Rutledge in 2023 photo via 3rdmanin.com

We havn’t even returned the 60-day DL players back to the active roster, and Baseball America goes and drops its first pre-2024 analysis. They released their pre-2024 top 10, plus their list of “best tools” and their stab at a 2027 roster for the team.

Here’s the top 10 and some quick thoughts.

BA pre-2024 top 10Last NameFirst NamePosition
1CrewsDylanOF (CF)
2WoodJamesOF (Corner)
3HouseBradySS/3B
4CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)
5MoralesYohandy3B
6RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)
7Hassell IIIRobertOF (CF)
8VaqueroCristianOF (CF)
9GreenElijahOF (CF)
10SusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)
  • No surprise on top 3. Wouldn’t surprise me to see all three start in AA in 2024, all three move up together, and all three debut in the majors by mid-season.
  • Cavalli at #4 isn’t terribly surprising … if he shows that he’s got pre-TJ stuff upon his return, he could/should be back up to #2.
  • Morales really had a solid debut, bumping him above some more familiar names. Its about time we had a 2nd round pick work out for us.
  • Rutledge’s 2023 season, which shocked this observer, has him now just outside the top echelon of our prospect royalty. Talk about a turnaround from his 2022 season.
  • Hassell’s season just seemed to drag him down, post hamate-bone surgery. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that he was the #2 prospect in the system. I’d really like to see him regain that luster.
  • Vaquero remains more hype than production, but at least he’s stateside now.
  • Green’s K numbers have officially taken the shine of his star. He’s dropped to #9 here, and that’s low enough that he’s no longer a sure thing.
  • Susana somehow comes in at #10, despite ending the season injured and repeating a level.

Players outside the top 10 looking in. Only one real nit:

  • I’d put Lile above Susana at this point.
  • I guess Bennett is going to be in the mid teens for the next year and a half with TJ recovery.
  • Sykora? Where do you put him?
  • DJ Herz? Who would you rather have right now? Herz or Susana? Just saying.

FYI, the Big Board now has a 2024 tab, and i’ve caught it up to today’s moves, which were to return the 60-day DL guys to the 40-man roster, which required the DFA of Matt Cronin. More moves to follow, since we’re definitely looking at some rule-5 protections in a week or so.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/186nm-v5F-zTCoR2Be7TFYM3e2cZ-gYi2WVqJLEkHdmc/

Written by Todd Boss

November 6th, 2023 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Prospects

2023 Wrap Up of Rotations with 2024 Predictions

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Andrew Alvarez was the Nats Minor League POTY, and he’s probably not even one of our 20 best pitching prospects. Photo via milb.com

2023 was the first time in a decade I kept up with monthly rotation reviews for the whole season. So, we might as well finish it off with a look at the starting and ending rotations for the various major and minor league teams, and a prediction as to what the rotations might look like next year.

Here’s the recaps for the year: End of April check-in, End of May check-in, End of June , End of July, and End of August. There was no September summary since the various leagues staggered the amount of time they played in Sept, leading to this post.

Critical to this analysis are the following links:

Lets start at the top. I’m drawing from all my posts throughout the year to show the evolution of each staff’s rotation. Then for 2024, I’m generally predicting 6-7 names per rotation to account for the inevitable injuries.


MLB

  • Opening Day: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Kuhl
  • End of April: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Kuhl
  • End of May:  Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Irvin
  • End of June: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Irvin
  • End of July: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Irvin
  • End of August: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Irvin, Adon
  • End of Season: Corbin, Grey, Williams, Irvin, Adon, Rutledge (Gore on dl with blister)

2023 Discussion: Despite being a last place team, the rotation was amazingly consistent. Corbin, Grey, and Williams made 32, 30, and 30 starts respectively. Gore made 27 before going on the DL at the end of the season with blisters. Irvin came up for the ineffective Kuhl and did 24 starts of 93 ERA+ performance. Obviously the team went to a 6-man rotation in August, calling up Adon, who continues to not be good. Then, for the last few weeks Rutledge got the call up and posted about the same numbers as Adon (as in, he’s not ready).

2024 outlook: The 2024 rotation probably looks pretty similar to the 2023 one, because every one of these names is signed (or under team control) in 2024. Assuming that Strasburg indeed retires or cannot pitch, there’s really only one big name to throw into this mix: Cavalli. Perhaps the team converts Ward back to a starter after burying him on in the bullpen all year to get through rule-5 time. I think we’ll see Cavalli replace Williams in the rotation, who drops to the pen while all the others go back to AAA. If they get slammed with injuries there’s not a ton i’d trust coming up from AAA right now, so I wonder if they’ll go shopping in the FA market for more “trade at the deadline for a couple of prospects” kind of talents. But I highly doubt we’ll be seeing another FA starter, in that none of these guys has anything left to prove in AAA.

2024 rotation prediction: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Cavalli, Irvin, (with Williams and Ward as LR in bullpen). Maybe an off-season low-cost signing to flip at the deadline.


AAA Syracuse

  • Opening Day: Adon, Irvin, Espino, Abbott, Peralta
  • End of April: Adon, Irvin, Espino, Abbott, Peralta (with TRomero and Kilome spot Starts)
  • End of May: : Adon, Espino, Abbott, Peralta, Urena
  • End of June: Adon, Peralta, Urena, Rutledge, Banda.
  • End of July: Adon, Peralta, Urena, Rutledge, Banda (plus Espino before getting called up and released)
  • End of August: Peralta, Abbott, Rutledge, RMunoz, AHernandez plus Troop and TRomero spot starts.
  • End of Season: Parker, AHernandez, RMunoz, TRomero, Mengeden (Banda, Peralta shut down, Adon & Rutledge promoted up)

2023 Discussion: The AAA rotation for the bulk of the year included two guys (Peralta and Urena) who were 30-year old MLFAs who were absolutely awful but yet got starts for most of the year, a testament to the thinness of the Nats starting pitching depth at its highest levels. Adon did the majority of the year in AAA to try to prove that his 2022 was a fluke (spoiler alert; he did not: 4.62 ERA, 1.51 whip in 17 AAA starts). Espino was solid before getting called up, shelled, and released. Rutledge did about half a season of competence and was joined in the end by a couple of guys who seem likely to feature in AAA next year.

2024 outlook: I think the late season call-ups (Adon and Rutledge) are coming right back to start AAA next year; they did not impress in their short MLB stints and will be on the books as 4-A/rotation coverage to start the year. I think they’ll be joined by the two guys who got bumped up to AAA at season’s end (Parker and AHernandez), plus hopefully a couple guys coming back from injury (Tetreault), We probably see a couple of MLFA veteran MLB starters thrown in the mix (which is basically what Peralta and Urena were this year), and perhaps a AA guy (Herz) moving up.

2024 rotation prediction: Adon, Rutledge, Parker, AHernandez, Tetreault, Herz, and a Veteran MLFA in the mix (with Munoz, TRomero in the bullpen unless they leave as MLFAs)


AA Harrisburg

  • Opening Day: Rutledge, Parker, Herrera, Troop, Cuevas
  • End of April:  Rutledge, Parker, Herrera, Troop, Cuevas
  • End of May:  Rutledge, Parker, Troop, Cuevas, AHernandez
  • End of June: Parker, Troop, Cuevas, AHernandez, Saenz, plus Henry
  • End of July: Parker, Troop, Hernandez, Saenz, Henry (plus Knowles, Cuevas, Herz)
  • End of August: Parker, Cuevas, Saenz, Alvarez, Herz
  • End of Season: Cuevas, Saenz, Alvarez, Herz, Luckham (Troop in LR, Henry in limbo)

2023 Discussion: The AA roster definitely produced some player development wins this year: Rutledge ended up in the majors, Parker pitched a solid full season and should feature in AAA next year, and Alemedo Hernandez had a 2-level jump. Herz was a mid-season acquisition and pitched probably better than any of them, but only turns 23 in January so he’s in no real rush to get to AAA. Finally Alvarez ended up in AA after dominating in High-A and looks like a heck of a find as a 12th rounder, taking the system’s Minor league pitcher of the year award. Herrera’s injury and age may spell the end of his career here, Troop seems to have settled into AA as his peak level and is already 27, and Cuevas spent the entire year getting shelled. The big question mark here is Cole Henry, who was in AAA in 2022 before his injury, now can’t get guys out in AA, and I really worry his shoulder injury may be career ending.

2024 outlook: Three of the guys who ended in the AA rotation (Saenz, Alvarez, and Luckham) were the kind of mid-season promotions that the Nats like to do, and thus I see them staying in AA to start 2024 with an eye on another mid-season promotion next June/July based on merit. They seem to like Knowles as a swing man so I think he stays in that role, possibly replacing a released Troop. Cuevas should repeat; he’s still young and his numbers were poor this year. So we’ve seen most of what Harrisburg may see next year already. We’ll probably see some names rising up that we’ll talk about in the next section. But we’re hurting for names here, and its hard to squint at the High-A guys and predict any of them making the push to rise up really, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Herz still here, if we saw Tetreault pushed back a level after missing a year, or even a MLFA or two.

2024 rotation prediction: Henry, Cuevas, Saenz, Alvarez, Luckham, maybe Tetreault, maybe Theophile


High-A Wilmington

  • Opening Day: Lara, Saenz, Huff, Theophile, Alvarez
  • End of April:  Lara, Saenz, Huff, Theophile, Alvarez with Luckham
  • End of May:  Lara, Saenz, Huff, Alvarez, Luckham, with Theophile getting spot starts
  • End of June: Lara, Alvarez, Luckham, Theophile, Caceres, Bennett
  • End of July: Lara, Alvarez, Luckham, Caceres, Lord, (with Theophile, Bennett)
  • End of August: Lara, Luckham, Caceres, Lord, Bennett,
  • End of Season: Lara, Luckham, Caceres, Lord, Bennett (with Diaz doing late season spot start, Theophile shut down)

2023 Discussion: Wilmington’s rotation had a couple of success stories for sure: Saenz and Alvarez both earned mid-season promotions; it probably took Alvarez a month more than it should to have been moved up. Theophile seemed to be on the same path but completely disappeared on July 7th, never hitting the DL and with a decent 3.48 ERA/1.28 whip going). The rest of the rotation was middling at best. They were hurt by the loss of Seth Shuman, who had a 3.23 ERA in high-A in 2022 but who missed the whole season.

2024 outlook: Bennett is a big name for this team but struggled upon reaching High-A. There was never an official report of an injury, but Roster Resource lists him as being “injured” which usually means something serious, but we’ll have to wait and see. Hf healthy, he’ll be back, as will most of the guys there at the end of the season. Theophile was 24 this year and seemed to get High-A, so if he’s healthy i could see him starting in AA. Otherwise, the rotation in August seems to be what they’ll go with starting next year.

2024 rotation prediction: Lara, Luckham, Caceres, Lord, Bennett, Shuman plus a couple of guys moving up based on social promotion (Young, Cornelio, Tolman if he’s not hurt)


Low-A Fredericksburg

  • Opening Day: Bennett, Susana, Atencio, Cornelio, Denaburg
  • End of April:  Bennett, Susana, Atencio, Cornelio, Denaburg (plus Aldonis)
  • End of May:  Bennett, Susana, Cornelio, Sanchez, Caceres,
  • End of June:  Susana, Cornelio, Lord, Young, Tolman (with Atencio making spot starts)
  • End of July: Susana, Cornelio, Young, Tolman, Atencio (with Denaburg spot start)
  • End of August: : Cornelio, Young, Sullivan, Tepper, Stethe (Amaral getting 3 bullpen game starts)
  • End of Season: Cornelio, Young, Sullivan, Tepper, Stethe (with Polanco, Leon, Agostini late-season callups, not listing all the DL guys)

2023 Discussion: The Fredericksburg rotation this year basically had one decent success story (Bennett) and a slew of question marks. Bennett showed that its dumb to put a 2nd round polished college Junior in Low-A, cruising through 9 starts before getting bumped up. Caceres also got promoted, but not really on merit (his low-A numbers: 4.80 ERA, 1.52 whip in 15 games/7 starts). The rest of this crew left something to be desired. Susana is the only real “prospect” pitcher in Low-A, and he struggled: 5.14 ERA, 1.52 whip, 62/40 K/BB in 63 innings. Now, Susana was the 5th prospect in a 5-prospect deal, the proverbial “lets throw a lottery ticket 18yr old prospect into the deal as the final sweetener.” He’s only 19. So patience. As for the rest of this crew, by season’s end several of the rotation guys were 2023 draftees … but remember, we only signed on significant starter in this year’s draft, and he was a HS kid (Sykora). All the rest of the starters we drafted were either 5th year senior/nominal fees or $150k teen-round guys with little expectations. So with all due respect to Sullivan and Tepper and Stethe and Amaral … if we get one prospect out of this crew who gets out of Low-A we’ll be happy.

2024 outlook: For as “thin” as our internal options looked at AA, there’s an abundance of names in the mix right now for Low-A. This is the consequence of getting rid of Short-A; all these college arms get backed up, quickly. Right now here’s the list of “Starters” on the low-A roster, including everyone on the DL or Restricted list at the end of the season (listed by acquisition date):

  • 2023 draftees: Sullivan, Tepper, Amaral, Stethe
  • 2022 draftees: Young, Cornelio
  • 2021 draftees: Tolman
  • 2022 IFAs: Susana
  • 2021 IFAs: Agostini, Polanco, Leom
  • 2018-2019 IFAs: Aldonis, Atencio, Aldo Ramirez
  • Long Relievers: Polanco, Rodriguez, Otanez, Sanchez, Denaburg, Romero, Hiraldo, Marquez

That’s FOURTEEN guys who are listed as starters right now, and the Fredericksburg has 33 arms listed right now (!!). Something seems like it has to give. The team just has way too many arms here. Look for whole-sale shedding of these failed starters/long relievers at some point, perhaps next spring, perhaps when we start drafting players next year and need the roster spots. I think the team will put its highest rated prospects (Sykora, Susana and Aldo Ramirez) back in the rotation, join them with 2023 draftees and the best of the IFAs, and everyone else becomes a reliever.

2024 rotation prediction: Sykora, Susana, Aldo Ramirez, Aldonis, Amaral, plus a couple from Sullivan/Tepper/Stethe.


FCL Rookie

  • Opening Day: CSanchez, Zapata, Agostini, Leon, Polanco
  • End of June: CSanchez, Zapata, Agostini, Leon, Polanco (plus Ogando)
  • End of July: CSachez, Zapata, Agostini, Leon, Polanco (Otanez one spot start)
  • End of Season: CSanchez, Zapata, Agostini, Leon, Polanco

2023 Discussion: Basically, the FCL rotation was the same practically all season. Ogando got two spot starts and got shelled. Otanez was even worst than that. So, we only have 5 names to discuss:

  • Sanchez: 22IFA, 20yrs old, 7.92 ERA, 22 walks and 22 Ks in 30IP.
  • Zapata: 21IFA, 19yrs old, 4.81 ERA but only 25Ks in 39ip.
  • Agostini: 21IFA, 19yrs old, 4.53 ERA
  • Leon: 21IFA, 21yrs old, 5.58 ERA, 35/9 K/BB so that’s good but BAA was .287
  • Polanco: 21IFA, 22yrs old, 5.63 ERA

2024 outlook: Agostini, Leon, and Polanco got pushed up to Low-A, which is curious because none of them was the best starter in the FCL. The only one of these guys i’d have promoted is Zapata. I’d have the rest of them out of the rotation. Spoiler alert to the DSL analysis: there’s not a ton coming up the pike worth saving spots for; its a stretch even to assume that the two DSL Graduates mentioned will stick. I don’t think there’s any of these guys that will push for Low-A, given the slew of pitchers up there.

2024 rotation prediction: Agostini, Zapata, Leon, and a couple of 2024 draft picks Roman & Cuevas from the DSL could push for rotation spots but likely are LR at best domestically.


DSL Rookie

  • Opening Day: Farias, Portorreal, Moreno, Oliveros, DPerez
  • End of June: Farias, Portorreal, Moreno, Oliveros, DPerez
  • End of July: Farias, Portorreal, Moreno, R.Ramirez, with D.Perez doing spot starts.
  • End of Season: Farias, Portorreal, Moreno, A.Roman, E.Rivero (Cuevas one spot start)

2023 Discussion: Like with the FCL, the DSL nats managed to get through their season with mostly the same rotation. So lets run through them and their performance this year:

  • Farias: 19IFA, aged 21, 7.07 ERA this year. Aged 21! going against mostly 17yr olds.
  • Portorreal: 21IFA, aged 18, 4.79 ERA, 1.39 whip, 29/10 K/BB in 32ip.
  • Moreno: 23IFA, aged 18, 4.70 era but 28 walks to 25Ks in 30IP.
  • Oliveros: 22IFA, aged 20, 8.14 ERA and a .350 BAA; that’s hard to do
  • Perez: 21IFA aged 19, 4.45 ERA in mostly long-relief, 40/18 k/BB in 32ip
  • Ramirez: 22IFA, aged 19, 3.26 ERA, 1.53 whip
  • Roman: 21IFA, aged 20, 3.20 ERA, 1.04whip, 32/7 k/BB in 39 ip
  • Rivero: 23IFA, aged 18, 7.30 ERA, 1.95whip
  • Cuevas: 22IFA, aged 20, 3.44 era, 1.24whip

2024 outlook: Of all these guys, you can only squint and make an argument for a couple of them to get off the island and try for the FCL rotation next year. I’m guessing the team releases the three guys with ERAs in the 7s and 8s (Farias, Oliveros, Rivero) returns a few of them who were young but showed some decent promise (ERAs in the 4s, guys like Portorreal, Moreno, Perez), and then perhaps tries sending a couple specifically to the FCL. I like Roman’s performance here: decent control, aged 20 but only in his second year, so he’d make a lot of sense to move up as a FCL long reliever. Same with Cuevas: similar numbers, similar age and signing, and he excelled in that multi-inning model

2024 rotation prediction: Portorreal, Moreno, DPerez, Ramirez, plus a couple of 2024IFAs


One last thing. By most accounts, this is a rough order of our Starting Pitcher prospects now in the system, along with a brief statement of their performance in 2023 and outlook for 2024:

  • Cavalli: TJ; missed all of 2023, should be in 2024 MLB rotation, projecting as #2 starter
  • Bennett: crushed Low-A, struggled in High-A, disappeared for a bit, probably High-A in 2024
  • Sykora: 2023 draft pick out of HS, did not pitch, hopefully starts 2024 in Low-A rotation
  • Susana: struggled low-A, may need to move to bullpen, but still young. Low-A again 2024
  • Rutledge: shot up the ranks, ended in MLB, looks like he could improve. AAA/4-A in 2024
  • Ward: stashed in the MLB bullpen as a rule-5 guy, exhausted rookie status, could be a starter in 2024, but likely continues in bullpen.
  • Herz: trade acquisition pitched great in AA at age 22, could push for AAA in 2024
  • Henry; really struggled post TOS in 2023, worried for career, will be in AA again in 2024 trying to regain form.
  • Lara: over promoted, struggled in High-A all season, should repeat High-A in 2024.
  • Irvin: graduated to MLB, pitched in rotation most of year, hoping for closer to 100 ERA+ in 2024
  • Parker: solid in AA all year, should feature in AAA 2024.
  • Aldo Ramirez: hurt, missed all of 2023, hoping to see him pitch in Low-A 2024.
  • Saenz: under-the-radar performance earned promotion in 2023, starts in AA 2024
  • Shuman: missed all of 2023, hoping to bounce back in High-A in 2024.
  • Alvarez: solved High-A, had solid peripherals in AA, should return there in 2024.

I don’t think I need to say it; this is not a lot of depth. We really need to get guys like Bennett, Sykora, and Henry to return to form and earn their draft pedigree. I’d really like to see IFAs like Lara and Ramirez show up and deliver. But look for 2024 to be a pitcher-heavy draft.

Written by Todd Boss

October 8th, 2023 at 10:17 pm

End of August Rotation Check-Ins

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Joan Adon is back in the bigs after earning it at AAA.  Photo via Federal Baseball
Joan Adon is back in the majors after a long season in AAA. Photo via Federal Baseball

Wow, it looks like i’m going to finish a season-long series. We did an end of April check-in on the rotations, End of May check-in, and an End of June Check-in, and End of July.

Here’s August’s look after another month. We finished off the two short-season leagues, and will do one last check-in with the 5 full season rosters at the end of this month.

Important links for this analysis:


We’ll start with the Majors.

Rotation: Corbin, Grey, Gore, Williams, Irvin, Adon

Changes in the last month: Added Adon as a spot starter, then decided to pivot to a 6-man rotation for the rest of the way.

Observations: The 6-man rotation will be useful since the rotation has 3 arms (Grey, Gore, Irvin) they want to limit innings on. As of this writing, these three guys are starting to really add on innings: Grey at 137ip, Gore at 132, Irvin at 102 major league innings plus another 22 in AAA. So Adon will get 4 or 5 starts and spell everyone a little bit.

Corbin had his best month of the year in August; 5 starts, 4.13ERA. So did Gore, posting a 3.76 ERA and a 1.10 whip in 5 starts. So did Irvin: a 2.35 ERA on the month. Meanwhile, Grey did not; in 5 starts he had nearly a 9.00 ERA, ballooning his season numbers back above 4.00. Williams continued to be 5th starter material, with an ERA in the mid 5.00s. Lastly there’s Adon, who had a 6.00 ERA for the month, but that’s an improvement over last year.

The team has gone 18-12 in its last 30, 12-8 in its last 20, pulling them out of last in the division amazingly, and its a great positive way to finish the year.

Next starter to get cut/demoted: none. We may see some promotions just to save innings on the younger arms, but nothing merit worthy.


AAA Rochester:

Rotation: Peralta, Abbott, Rutledge, Munoz, A. Hernandez plus Troop and Romero spot starts.

Changes in the last month: Lots of churn in the AAA Rotation from July.

  • Espino was released right at the beginning of the month after years of service here.
  • Urena was mercifully released after an entire season of poor performance.
  • Banda was briefly in the rotation but pitched horribly and got demoted to the pen.
  • Adon got promoted

Observations: So, in these guys’ place we have these replacements:

  • Abbott (demoted down from MLB and back in the rotation to get stretched out, likely to get a 9/1 callup to eat innings)
  • AHernandez: promoted up after excelling in AA
  • Munoz; claimed in mid July and put into the rotation
  • Troop and Romero with a couple of spot starts

Results? Ugh. Troop gave up 14 runs in 4 innings for the month before getting demoted. Munoz had a 10.91 ERA in 5 August starts and it seems safe to say he’s on thin ice as a waiver claim, even if he’s super young (23). Peralta: another month, another ERA in the 6s or 7s. Abbott pitched well, but then again we already knew he’s better as a starter than a reliever. The actual prospects? Rutledge had a 4.38 ERA but was a bit wild (13 walks in 24innings), while Alemeo Hernandez struggled a bit upon his promotion to AAA. but he’s only 23 and now in AAA, so we’ll be a bit patient.

Next Starter to get Promoted: I mean, it has to be Rutledge right? When the big league team shuts down one of Grey/Gore/Irvin, it probably means Rutledge’s debut.

Next starter to get cut/demoted: Munoz.


AA Harrisburg:

Rotation: Alvarez, Parker, Cuevas, Herz, Saenz

Changes in the last month: Hernandez got promoted, so in his place they promoted up Alvarez. Troop went up, then came back at the end of the month. Henry has been shut down since July 25th, which is really not a good sign. Knowles is there for long relief but got no spot starts on the month (which mostly went to rehabbers).

Observations: Great months for Parker, Saenz, and Herz, each of whom had 5-6 starts, an ERA below 3.00, and an excellent Whip. New acquisition Herz was probably the best of them: 1-2, 2.57 ERA. 0,86 whip. Can’t ask for much better than that. Alvarez’ promotion has gone smoothly; the 12th rounder from 2021’s draft is looking solid: 3.60 ERA in his first few starts. Only Cuevas really struggled on the month, putting up a 7.60 ERA to inflate his seasonal ERA to 5.36. One last observation; LR Knowles gave up just one ER in the month and as a crafty 25-yr old lefty might be ready to move up, even if he’s not a primary starter. Herz is only 22, but has looked solid all summer. Parker is coming into his own and may be due a promotion soon too.

Next Starter to get Promoted: Knowles

Next starter to get cut/demoted: Cuevas


High-A Wilmington

Rotation: Bennett, Caceres, Lara, Lord, Luckham

Changes in the last month: Very little. Alvarez got promoted up mid-month, and he was replaced by Bennett, who took basically the entire month of July off either for an undisclosed injury or innings management. (Note: MLB’er Ward got two rehab starts as well). Theophile did not appear.

Observations: I don’t know what Bennett’s break was for, but it did him no favors. In his 3 August starts he only went 7 total innings, gave up 11 runs and only had 3 strike outs. What the heck is going on here? This was a guy who was really tearing it up earlier in the year … and now I don’t know what to make of him. Lord and Lara looked solid; that may be the first time i’ve EVER been complementary of Lara’s performance. Luckham’s peripherals were bad (5.13 ERA but a decent whip), while Caceres continues to be really bad. He now has a 8.80 ERA in 11 starts in High-A, he didn’t deserve a promotion to begin with, and i’m not sure he continues to pitch.

Then in the “what is going on here” category; Theophile. Had solid numbers first few months, then he last appeared on 7/7. No injury trip, no disclosure … just eating up a roster spot for two months. I don’t understand; the teams have a DL for a reason, so you can back fill an injured guy.

Next Starter to get Promoted: Lord

Next starter to get cut/demoted: Caceres


Low-A Fredericksburg

Rotation: Cornelio, Sullivan, Tepper, Young, Stethe (with Amaral getting 3 “bullpen” game starts)

Changes in the last month: a ton. Tolman went down with what seems like a really bad injury. Susana made one start and now sits on the Restricted list. Atencio hit the DL as well. In their place we have three 2023 draftees Sullivan, Tepper (from Liberty University in Virginia!), and Stethe.

Lastly, former 1st round pick Denaburg, who has been pushed out of even getting spot starts, had this August line: 5 appearances, 6.2 innings, 15 runs allowed on 14 hits for a nifty 17.55 ERA. Still on the payroll.

Observations: A rough month all around for the starters. Young was most decent; a respectable 3.75 ERA and 1.25 whip. More importantly, he struck out 35 in just 24 innings. Cornelio is the elder statesman of the bunch but continues to struggle to really stand out; he had a 4.65 ERA on the month. Our three new draftees each had rough introductions to pro ball: Stethe and Sullivan each got 4 starts but really failed to pitch deep into any of them. Sullivan had an interesting K/BB ratio: 19/10 in 12 innings. So, some good and some bad. Tepper is brand new to the rotation and only has 4IP so far, so too early to tell.

Next Starter to get Promoted: Young

Next starter to get cut/demoted: Denaburg.


Rookie Florida Complex League

Final Rotation: CSanchez, Zapata, Agostini, Leon, Polanco

Changes in the last month: none. And in fact, the FCL rotation was almost entirely unchanged from even opening day; Sanchez, Agostini, and Polanco were there the entire season. the only 2 changes even from opening day were Tolman getting promoted and Ogando getting pulled out of service after just two games and not appearing since June 13th.

Observations: Leon had the best month, but can’t strike anyone out (6 Ks in 13 IP). The rest were various stages of awful: Polanco had an 8.00 ERA, Sanchez in the 12s and walked 10 guys in 7 innings. Zapata pitched 8 2/3rds innings, gave up 12 runs and only struck out 3 guys. Only Agostini looked solid, pitching mostly behind the “starter” of the week who was really someone on rehab. 9IP, 2 hits, 2 runs. Wow. I’m surprised he hasn’t been promoted for the stretch run in F’burg.

Otherwise, this entire crew (which are mostly 2021IFAs seems like they’re going to struggle to stick around after this season, especially with the number of arms we have floating through the system. I think their saving grace may be the fact that our 2023IFA class was more hitters than pitchers.

Next Starter to get Promoted: Agostini

Next starter to get cut/demoted: Camilio Sanchez had the worst year.


Dominican Summer League

Rotation: Portorreal, Farias, A.Roman, E.Rivero, H.Moreno

Changes in the last month: Ramirez and D.Perez out, Roman and Rivero in.

Observations: R.Ramirez was kind of inexplicably taken out of the rotation and only pitched a couple times in the stretch run. He was replaced in the rotation by Roman, who was a decent reliever the entire season and who got two starts in the run-in. The MILB site is broken for August splits for the DSL, so we’re kind of guessing based on full-season stats. Clearly the 3 main guys in the rotation all year were Farias, Portorreal, and H.Moreno. Farias should have been more impressive; he’s 21 pitching against a ton of 16-17yr olds in the DSL and still had a seasonal ERA of 7.07. Most of the rest of th ese guys are 2023IFAs who are 18 or 19 and who they can be patient with. Roman probably had the best seasonal line of the “starters” with a 1-1, 3.20ERA, 1.04whip, 32/7 K/BB in 39ip. He did that as a 19yr old 2021IFA out of Venezuela, and it seems to me he’s well in line to move up next season to domestic ball.

Otherwise, there are a couple of decent looking pitchers out of the god-awful DSL team; Angel Pena had a 19/5 K/BB in 14 relief innings. Jose Britto had a .186 BAA despite a 5.00 ERA; not sure what to make of that. Ramon Cuevas had some decent numbers. Otherwise a lot of guys in the DSL who got rocked.

Next Starter to get Promoted: A.Roman

Next starter to get cut/demoted: Farias


Conclusions:

I’m super disappointed to see both Henry and Bennett either shutdown or essentially shutdown. I look forward to seeing what Rutledge can do in the majors. Herz looks like he could be a find.

Written by Todd Boss

September 3rd, 2023 at 9:53 am

Last night in Richmond…

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Wood's blast was the highlight of the night for Harrisburg.  Photo via milb

(freely stealing this idea from Luke Erickson and nationalsprospects.com, when Luke attends a game in person as he frequently does).

So, for those of you who don’t know, I’ve relocated to Richmond, home of the SF Giant’s AA affiliate known as the “Flying Squirrels.” I suppose its because Virginia’s capital city has a ton of squirrels flying around (no actually, it was a fan-based naming competition back in 2009). And our own Harrisburg Senators were in town this week for a 6-game series. So I got a chance to see our prospects in action last night.

Here’s my recap.

In rough lineup order from last night (here’s the box-score), a game our team lost 7-6 in a walk-off, which was great for the home town fans but pretty galling for a fan of the National’s team, as they blew multiple leads throughout the night to give away the game.

Hitters first:

  • It only took about 3 minutes for our team to grab the lead 3-0. As the adage goes in Minor League baseball … get there early because you don’t want to miss any action. We missed it of course because, well, when you’re attending a baseball game with kids, the odds of getting there for opening pitch are usually nil. After a Jacob Young leadoff single and a Robert Hassell walk, Trey Lipscomb blasted a ball to left for a quick 3-run lead while we were parking the car.
  • Lipscomb played 2B, has already earned a promotion this year to AA, and has continued to stay hot. He went 3-5 on the night, was a double short of the cycle, is batting 3rd for the AA team, and honestly looks like he could really be a find. We’ve watched Luis Garcia scuffle playing 2B (and looking like he eats big macs every night); Lipscomb is an athletic beast who can play anywhere on the dirt.
  • Young: played CF instead of Hassell, went 2-4 with a walk on the night, was a real spark plug at the top, and made a really nice ranging catch at the wall early on. I like this guy too, and talked about how he may possibly fit into the OF log jam of prospects we have.
  • James Wood has been struggling since getting to AA, but he hit an absolute blast to right field that was awe-inspiring from our 1st-baseline bleacher seats. Phew. Someone’s going home with a dented roof, because he cleared both fences in right and nailed a car in the parking lot. He was only 1-5 on the night, but he did hit the ball hard 3 times.
  • Hassell looked absolutely awful. 0-4 with a walk and three strikeouts. Honestly, not once did he take what i’d call a confident swing. This is consistent with basically his entire Nats career so far. I know he had hamate bone issues, which takes a year to recover from. I know he’s a top prospect and hit while in SD’s system. What the heck is going on here? I mean, was all his production in San Diego’s system due to hitter’s parks?
  • Brady House batted 5th and was “just” 1-4, but it was probably a bit unlucky 1-4. He had a sharp line out to 2B for one out and he blasted a ball to CF that was caught on the warning track for another out. He also looked very, very solid at 3B, making a ton of plays, including a couple of in-between hops that looked tough on the way off the bat.
  • Frankie Tostado played 1B and batted 6th: nothing striking either way.
  • Israel Pineda was free swinging at the plate, waved at a bunch of pitches, had two punchouts. I know his value is behind the plate, but the dude is only hitting .175 for AA right now.
  • Lucious Fox…. looked awful at the plate. 0-4, three strikeouts, and his body language basically screamed “I don’t want to be here.” He’s 26, batting 8th in AA, and I wonder why he’s still on the team. At least he’s DFA’d off the 40man at this point. If we had a more pressing SS prospect, i’d guess that he’d be gone. Lipscomb looks more like a 2B/3B guy, Cluff is an org guy, and high-A doesn’t really have anyone banging on the door.
  • Jackson Cluff could be starting at SS instead of Fox; tonight he DH’d and batted 9th. Ask yourself: if you are batting your DH ninth … is it safe to say you have roster issues? Normally Cluff is at SS, Trey Harris is at DH, and the team shows a bit more pop. That being said, Cluff, did an admirable job table setting, going 2-3 with a walk and easily stealing bases all night.

Pitchers

  • Mitchell Parker got the start on the mound. If you’ve never seen him … his mechanics scream one guy: Clayton Kershaw. He has the same arm stretch straight up to the sky to start, he has similar arm action, a funky delivery, he’s lefty, and he gets a ton of Ks. He had 8 punch-outs in 5IP on the night.
  • Parker gave up a run in the 3rd on this sequence: 10-bounce grounder, balk, Wild Pitch, and then sac fly. So, not exactly helping himself, but also not really getting pounded early.
  • But he then went this sequence in the 5th: bunt single to open (House was literally playing on the grass at 3B and by the time he got to the bunt the guy was rounding first), then another seeing-eye-single up the middle to have 2 on with nobody out, then Richmond’s best hitter blasted a homer to score three and tie the game.
  • Honestly, Parker looked pretty solid on the night. I only saw two really hard hit balls, both by the same guy Shane Matheny who seemed to have a read on him all night. But, as has been a pattern for Parker, he was profligate with his pitches, needing 92 to get through five innings. I still like him as a prospect, even though his ERA in AA is in the upper 4.s
  • After Parker came out, 2021 NDFA Tyler Schoff came in and pitched a neatly effective 6th. A NDFA advancing to AA is a pretty solid outcome; he didn’t have super awesome stuff, but he was effective. He’s looking like that classic middle reliever RHP guy who gets by on movement and who suddenly is pitching in the 6th for the big league club.
  • Malvin Pena pitched the 7th and 8th; he looked like a slightly trimmer version of Lee Smith on the mound. Pena pitched a clean 7th but then went homer-double-RBI single in the 8th to cough up a 6-4 lead and send the home crowd into a frenzy. The single went to Wood, who made a valiant attempt to throw the guy out at the plate and nearly got him. Solid defensive play.
  • So, now its tied 6-6 in the 9th and we bring in Patrick Ruotolo, a MLFA we signed out of the Mexican League in early July and who pitched for this same Richmond team in 2021 for nearly a full season. Now he’s a 28yr old reliever in AA … and he pitched like it. Walk to open the 9th (already a 50% chance of that guy scoring), then a sharply hit single for two-on, none out. Ruotolo did induce what looked like it could be a DP grounder, but it ate up Lipscomb at 2nd and an arguable force-call didn’t go his way. Bases loaded, none out, and the same guy who blasted a homer earlier in the game lofted a deep flyball to CF that easily scored the walk-off run. Not an impressive outing from Ruotolo.

So, that’s the observations from the game. Senators blow leads of 3-0 and 6-4 to lose 7-6. The post-game fireworks were cool though.

Written by Todd Boss

August 20th, 2023 at 9:59 am

MLBPipeline updated Nats top 30

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Keep hitting like this and Lile will be back at Nats stadium. Photo via Lile’s twitter.

First Fangraphs, then BA, now MLBPipeline.

All three shops have taken the opportunity of draft and trade deadline acquisitions to do some tweaking of their lists, even from just a few weeks ago, to come up with new top 30s. Here’s some reaction to MLBpipeline’s list.

First, here’s the 30 now (the data is open to the public via the above link)

MLB Pipeline 8/10/23Last NameFirst NamePosition
1CrewsDylanOF (CF)
2WoodJamesOF (Corner)
3HouseBradySS/3B
4CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)
5GreenElijahOF (CF)
6LileDaylenOF (CF)
7MoralesYohandy3B
8Hassell IIIRobertOF (CF)
9VaqueroCristianOF (CF)
10BennettJakeLHP (Starter)
11SykoraTravisRHP (Starter)
12SusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)
13RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)
14LipscombTrey3B
15MadeKevinSS
16HerzDJLHP (Starter)
17AluJake3B
18De La RosaJeremyOF (Corner)
19HenryColeRHP (Starter)
20PinckneyAndrewOF (Corner)
21QuintanaRoismarOF (CF)
22PinedaIsraelC
23MillasDrewC
24LaraAndryRHP (Starter)
25BakerDarren2B
26ParkerMitchellLHP (Starter)
27CruzArmandoSS
28WhiteT.J.OF (Corner)
29BrzykcyZachRHP (Reliever)
30FerrerJoseLHP (Reliever)

Now, here’s some reactions.

  • Our big 3 2023 draftees slot in at #1 (Crews), #7 (Morales), and #11 (Sykora). Almost identical to their rankings on BA’s updated list. However, there’s a surprise 2023 draftee further down.
  • Daylen Lile gets bumped up tremendously, from 15th just a week ago to #6 now. That’s a statement. That’s above Hassell. Especially for someone who’s hitting .188 in high-A right now as a 20yr old. Might be a bit bullish on Lile, who really will have to work to get ahead of the big-time OF prospects in our system to ever make an impact.
  • Hassell takes a dive in the rankings. I get it; he hasn’t hit since we traded for him. He was also 20 in AA last fall and has nursed injuries. Hamate bone breakage is like the TJ for pitchers; its a year before you can really start to pass judgement again. He broke it in last year’s AFL (Oct 13th), so I promise not to complain about him again until 2024.
  • Susana gets dropped several spots, and rightfully so. He’s someone who just is not progressing right now.
  • Like on BA’s list Lipscomb gets a big bump up. He’s showing solid BA and HR numbers this year and the ability to play anywhere on the dirt. Can’t ask for much more.
  • Nice and neat, our two newly acquired prospects in trade (Mead and Herz) slot in at #15 and #16. That’s much higher for Herz than BA’s ranking, and significantly higher for Mead (who BA didn’t even have in top 30-35). Good; I’d like to think we got some value for Candelario.
  • Finally some prospect love for Alu, bumped up 10 spots before accounting for the 5 players who layered over top of him (meaning really he increased 15 spots). Just in time for him to probably lose his rookie eligibility, as he seems to be getting a some PT for the big club.
  • Jeremy De La Rosa dropped significantly, from 8th to 18th. And rightfully so; he’s ridiculously struggling in High-A as a 21 yr old. Here’s a crazy stat: he has 126Ks in 88 games played. Putting him on the 40-man was such a ridiculous decision, and its looking even more ridiculous each day. Even if he turns it around, by the time he’s ready to make an impact he’ll be totally out of options, forcing the hand of the big club. I said this last fall, and I’ll say it again: NOBODY was going to claim this guy and carry him on their MLB roster for an entire season. Nobody. There was zero reason to add him last fall, and honestly they could have probably snuck him through Rule5 again this coming winter. Grrr.
  • Henry dropped from 12 to 19 (so only a couple spots with 5 new people above him), but still indicative of what we all feared; he just doesn’t look like the same guy post surgery. If he can’t recover as a top-end prospect, that really puts a damper on the Nats future rotation plans.
  • 2023 4th rounder Andrew Pinckney comes in 20th in his first ranking post draft. Wow. You don’t generally see under-slot draftees from the 4th-10th rounds popping up on prospect ranks.
  • Pineda actually bumped up a bunch of slots when accounting for all the new players above him, going from 23 to 22 (so really, rising at least 5 spots). I don’t really understand why; he’s barely played this year. Maybe its just because of how far others have fallen (see next).
  • Millas fast rising, from 28 to 23, so really rising 10 spots. As discussed in the comments from before, I think Millas is much more deserving catcher prospect right now than Pineda. I mean, he’s got better offensive numbers, he’s the starter in AAA. Is it just the age difference (25 vs 23 for Pineda?)
  • Lara: from 14 to 24 as he continues to dumbfound this observer as to why he’s in High-A.
  • Baker goes from 29 to 25, so really up like 9 spots. Makes sense. Still don’t get why you’d have Baker in the low 20s, which usually implies someone who probably doesn’t ever get to the majors, for a player who’s in AAA, has hit at every level, and who probably could make his debut this fall if we get bedeviled with injuries. Is it just a blind spot prospect watchers have for undersized guys who don’t hit 30 homers? Or (as commenters suggested last post) is it an empty slash line? Probably both.
  • Armando Cruz gets shredded, from 14th to 27th. I mean, yeah he’s young (19 in low-A) but he was a $3.9M signing. Its a massive indictment of the scouting department down there if he washes out.
  • TJ White goes from 10th to 28th. Ouch. I think he’s now riding the bench in High-A, where he might be overpromoted as a 20yr old. I’m not sure what you do with him. He was drafted as an OF, but has been playing primarily 1B/DH and hitting .175.
  • Two relievers in Brzycky and Ferrer round out the top 30.

So, who’s dropped out from their last ranking?

  • Roddery Munoz was 21st, now is outside top 30. Probably a little harsh; i mean, he’s a 23rd old starter in AAA, would you put him above a reliever who’s out for the year? I would.
  • Matt Cronin was 22nd, now outside top 30. Out for the season as we now know with a back issue. Hey, I have a “back issue” too, and I could barely walk for a year … i couldn’t imagine trying to work out every day and pitch.
  • Jared McKenzie was 25th, now is outside top 30. MLBpipeline is the only shop that rated him, and he’s struggled in High-A.
  • Brenner Cox, Gerardo Carrillo, and Aldo Ramirez rounded out previous MLBpipeline rankings for the system, but are now pushed well into the 30s with our new acquisitions. None of these guys has done anything to improve their stock in 2023.

Other players worth noting:

  • Jacob Young: 24th on BA, nowhere to be found here. Probably should be slightly higher.
  • Dustin Saenz: probably org guy now.
  • Andy Acevedo and Edwin Solano were our two big money signings this past January, but have not really impressed so far in the DSL. Acevedo is slashing .168/.295/.237. Solano .125/.283/.143. I mean come on.
  • Amos Willingham: so, I guess a reliever who actually makes the majors isn’t prospect worthy at all, but other relievers who are out for the year are. ??

Lastly, I’d like to make a comment about former prospect Mason Denaburg. On 8/10/23, he pitched in relief for Low-A and put up this stat line: 1/3rd of an inning, 11 batters faced, he gave up 8 hits and walked another 2 of them. First of all, why would the team leave him in for 11 batters at this point? Second of all, why is this guy even in the organization anymore? He’s 24, he has a 2.50 whip in low-A, and he’s gotten no fewer than 26 appearances this season so far. He has given up 51 runs in 34 innings this season. I hate that his career got derailed so badly, but what’s left to prove at this point? He was thrown back in a couple days later and acquitted himself … but I just have to wonder when the plug gets pulled. Maybe the system depth is just so deep that you can

Written by Todd Boss

August 14th, 2023 at 9:40 am

Posted in Prospects

Baseball America Updated Nats top 30 Reaction

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How about a Grand slam in your 4th professional game? Photo screen grab from milb.com

The major shops are starting to read in the 2023 draftees (and 2023 trade deadline acquisitions) to each team’s farm system rankings. As we did ahead of the season, when a major pundit drops an updated ranking i’ll list it here. Technically Fangraphs’ “Big Board” database was the first to publish, since its essentially a running database of every player, amateur or prospect, but their rankings are wonky (as we discussed yesterday), so we just did a brief review. MLBpipeline dropped overnight, so we’ll talk about it next. Baseball America published a couple days ago behind a paywall, so lets review.

Here’s BA’s updated top 30, which includes some re-ranking, new draftees, and new trade acquisitions.

BA Rank 8/9/23Last NameFirst NamePosition
1CrewsDylanOF (CF)
2WoodJamesOF (Corner)
3HouseBradySS/3B
4Hassell IIIRobertOF (CF)
5GreenElijahOF (CF)
6CavalliCadeRHP (Starter)
7RutledgeJacksonRHP (Starter)
8MoralesYohandy3B
9VaqueroCristianOF (CF)
10BennettJakeLHP (Starter)
11SykoraTravisRHP (Starter)
12SusanaJarlinRHP (Starter)
13De La RosaJeremyOF (Corner)
14LileDaylenOF (CF)
15LipscombTrey3B
16WhiteT.J.OF (Corner)
17HenryColeRHP (Starter)
18CruzArmandoSS
19LaraAndryRHP (Starter)
20FerrerJoseLHP (Reliever)
21PinedaIsraelC
22BrzykcyZachRHP (Reliever)
23AluJake3B
24YoungJacobOF (CF)
25HerzDJLHP (Starter)
26BakerDarren2B
27QuintanaRoismarOF (CF)
28MillasDrewC
29CroninMattLHP (Reliever)
30ParkerMitchellLHP (Starter)

So, Here’s some thoughts on the new names and changes from the pre-draft BA rankings.

  • Dylan Crews comes in as our new system #1, which was hard to do because at the time of his drafting we already had a top-5 prospect in James Wood.
  • The last time the Nats had two prospects even in the top 10 of the minors was at the very edge of Bryce Harper‘s eligibility, when Anthony Rendon was also ranked highly. The best we ever did while Stephen Strasburg was still eligible seemed to be Drew Storen ranked in the 50-range. So, having a 1-2 punch of Crews and Wood both top 5 is amazing.
  • Brady House and Robert Hassell switched spots, probably because House is clearly outperforming Hassell right now. In fact, Hassell basically has stopped hitting after we acquired him; he went from a .290 hitter to a .220 hitter in our organization. I’m not sure what special sauce San Diego gave him, but we need to figure it out.
  • Yohandy Morales slots in at #8, between Rutledge and Vaquero. Crews is getting all the attention so far with his hot start in Low-A, but Morales has been there for a week and a half and has a .925 OPS.
  • Travis Sykora comes in at #11, right between Bennett and Susana. Hopefully, he’s more like Bennett (well, in as much as he gets to AA quickly, not the “where the heck has Bennett been for two months part) and less like Susana (who has a 5.14 ERA in low-A this year in his age 19 season).
  • Trey Lipscomb has been bumped up a couple of slots in the last month thanks to his promotion to AA in his age 23 season and his solid offensive line. However, he’s now bumped from his regular 3B slot by House, who is also in AA, and has been bouncing around to find playing time. He’s got starts at 1B, 2B and SS now, replacing lesser prospects in Harrisburg each time. I sense his eventual spot may end being 2B, replacing the .215 hitting JT Arruda in the lineup. Cluff is also hitting about .215 but plays a true SS, which i’m not sure Lipscomb can do long-term. The situation may work itself out if House keeps mashing his way up the system.
  • Jacob Young has been bumped up a few slots. He’s in danger of falling down the depth chart of outfielders given who we have coming up, but for now he’s holding his own and earning promotions.
  • Trade acquisition DJ Herz slots in at #25. Lets see how he fares. He got smacked around in his debut, but he’s 22 in AA as a starter, so that doesn’t suck.
  • Roismar Quintana dropped from 22 to 27. He’s only slugging .358 this year as a 1B/DH type; that’s not going to cut it.
  • Mitchell Parker‘s AA performance has dropped him several slots to just barely holding on to the top 30. I wonder when he’ll convert to relief … and then how quickly he’ll be in the majors after that as a lefty reliever who can get guys out.
  • Darren Baker up a couple slots; the guy’s nearly hitting .300 in AAA as a 24yr old, not sure what else you want from him. Most of the 2021 draft class is still in High-A, if they’re even still here.
  • Dustin Saenz, Andy Acevedo, and Edwin Solano: were ranked 28th-30th before and now have gotten bumped with the new additions.
  • Jake Irvin was ranked 16th; he now has 17 starts under his belt in the majors and has lost his rookie eligibility.

Written by Todd Boss

August 11th, 2023 at 9:48 am

Posted in Prospects

Fangraphs Updated Nats Prospect Rankings with new Draftees

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Fangraphs has become the first shop to publish updated system rankings that include our new draftees. Lets do a quick review of where Kiley McDaniel and team have put the new guys.

Reminder, our review of their pre-season Nats top 30-or-so is here: Fangraphs’ methodology leaves a little to be desired and their FV-based ranking does leave us with some weird rankings. That being said, here’s where they’ve slotted in our 3 big 2023 draftees:

  • Dylan Crews: New Nats System #2, and #5 overall in the entirety of the minors. Not a bad debut.
  • Yohandy Morales: new Nats system #5, outside the top 100.
  • Travis Sykora: new Nats system #8, outside the top 100.

I’m sure we’ll start to see other major shops update their rankings and we’ll react as they do.

Written by Todd Boss

August 9th, 2023 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Prospects