Oct 062010
 

You’ll forgive me for all the Bryce Harper news but when it comes to the Nats in the offseason it’s all Bryce Harper all the time. (Pay plenty of attention to that advertisement to your right ;-)

Now that I’m done keyword stuffing, here’s a few links of interest before Chip Caray says something stupid on TBS this afternoon…

…As promised, a Bryce Harper update from Adam Kilgore, who has the time, salary, and budget that I don’t.

…Your newest member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association, Washington, DC chapter (that and $2 gets me a cup of coffee, much like my two Journalism degrees) voted for Espinosa, Lombardozzi, and Milone for the Minor League Player of the Year in the 2010 Player Achievement Awards, taking quite seriously the part about most destined for big-league success.

…This is a blog dedicated to the minors, but because it affects the 2011 draft, here’s a look at how Adam Dunn might be a Type B free agent.

…Finally, with the new ownership in place at Hagerstown, they’re making some requests about Municipal Stadium.

Oct 052010
 

Considering the turmoil from the spring of 2009, the seven-game improvement of the DSL Nationals to a winning season of 36-35 has to be considered progress. But perhaps more promising is that this was done with a crew that was younger than the year before (yes, even with “Smiley”) — the average batter was 18.9 years old, the average pitcher was 19.3 years old; a year ago, those figures were 19.3 and 19.7. Still more than the league averages (18.4, 18.8) but better than two years ago (19.3, 21.2).

As I ease into metaphorically big shoes of Mr. Oliver, let me also disclose fully that I’m modeling this review (and future reviews) after the ones he did back in ’07, which were the first ones I found while rummaging through his online morgue. Without further ado…

HITTING

TEAM AB R H HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA* SB
D-Nats 2246 312 534 14 274 459 .238 .338 .305 .228 110
Lg. Avg. 2184 301 512 15 275 481 .235 .334 .311 .228 99

* GPA = Gross Production Average. This is a stat that Aaron Gleeman invented several years ago that corrects the two problems with OPS: (1) it corrects the imbalance between OBP and SLG (simply put, OBP is about 80% more valuable) and (2) it puts it on a scale that everyone is familiar with (same as batting average). I like it because it’s relatively easily to calculate — (1.8*OBP plus SLG)/4 — compared to similar sabermetric exercises (wOBA, EqA) and achieves the purpose of an all-encompassing offensive stat nearly as well.

PITCHING

TEAM IP ERA R/G WHIP HR BB SO H/9IP BB/9IP K/9IP K/BB
D-Nats 606.1 3.55 4.58 1.351 16 272 541 8.1 4.0 8.0 1.99
Lg. Avg. 590.1 3.39 4.27 1.333 15 275 481 7.8 4.2 7.3 1.75

As you might expect from a .507 team, the D-Nats were slightly above average on offense and slightly below average on pitching with the notable exception of strikeouts and walks, categories in which the Nationals were in the top third of the league.

Given the nature of the league, playing time is much more spread out but for the purposes of displaying who’s who, I’m using defensive games to determine “starters” and the 100AB mark as the cutoff for the bench. The full statistics for the team can be found here.

Position Name Age G/GP Fld% Err PA GPA
Catcher Adderling Ruiz 19 46/49 .978 8 153 .197
First Base Jean Carlos Valdez 17 25/60 .978 8 237 .228
Second Base Nelalexfred Ortega 17 63/63 .964 10 272 .204
Third Base Bienvenido Valdez 19 38/62 .893 12 245 .275
Shortstop Wilmer Difo 20 44/45 .911 20 169 .201
Left Field Jose Arismendy 17 39/51 .980 3 156 .183
Center Field Edgar Gonzalez ?? 53/59 .976 2 223 .256
Right Field Narciso Mesa ?? 45/58 .966 2 213 .193
Utility (1B, 2B, SS) “Smiley” Alvarez 24 14, 4, 24 .966 9 234 .320
Bench (1B, LF) Victor Chavez 21 3, 19 .850 3 167 .293
Bench (C, 1B) Paul Chacin 19 21, 13 .983 4 167 .244

I’m just as troubled as you might be to see those two “??” in the age column. Defensively, you can see that 1B, 3B, and C were a little bit of a merry-go-round in terms of playing time (fielding percentages are for the primary position only for the starters, the bench players are cumulative. Second base was the only stalwart, so it may be safe to say that “Fred” Ortega may be stateside by 2012 at the latest.

On to the pitchers, listing the top 12 in terms of innings pitched…

PLAYER AGE G/GS W-L, SV ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HBP WP
Antonio Guzman 22 14/13 4-5, 1 3.36 83 74 27 81 1.217 13 15
Wirkin Estevez 18 15/14 6-7, 0 2.61 82⅔ 74 12 95 1.040 5 8
Silvio Medina 20 13/11 5-4, 0 3.06 67⅔ 68 19 46 1.286 9 7
Adalberto Mieses 20 13/12 3-3, 1 2.98 63⅓ 57 33 40 1.421 5 7
Anthony Marcelino 17 14/7 0-2, 0 3.20 45 34 20 24 1.200 5 13
Inocencio Heredia ?? 26/0 3-3, 10 1.69 37⅓ 24 11 34 0.938 6 4
Wander Suero 18 15/4 2-3, 0 4.72 34⅓ 35 23 39 1.689 1 7
Jorge Hernandez 20 13/0 2-1, 4 2.05 30⅔ 21 9 38 0.978 1 1
Andy Santana 19 13/1 5-0, 0 1.27 28⅓ 19 14 24 1.165 0 1
Juan “Slim” Diaz 19 7/6 2-4, 0 5.74 26⅔ 25 10 28 1.312 4 5
Jesus Guzman 19 18/6 1-1, 0 3.43 21 18 18 23 1.714 3 3
Saskuel Herrera 20 18/6 1-0, 1 4.32 16⅔ 19 11 13 1.800 0 11

The too-old criticism may be valid here as it appears that only Wirkin Estevez and Anthony Marcelino will be Viera-bound in ’11, though the obvious caveat that perhaps one or two of the 19-year-olds may have that intangible that we can’t see from a box score (which is the caveat that applies to all of this review). Inocencio Heredia was a constant in our daily reports but the lack of a DOB has to raise a red flag.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
Having seen these players as much as Rush Limbaugh has seen his name on college diploma, I present the five batters and pitchers to watch in ’11 with the full knowledge that I’m doing exactly what I hate: basing my judgment solely on stats and boxscores.

Top 5 Batters
1. Jean Carlos Valdez
2. “Fred” Ortega
3. Wilmer Difo
4. Adderling Ruiz
5. Paul Chacin

Top 5 Pitchers
1. Wirkin Estevez
2. Anthony Marcelino
3. Andy Santana
4. Wander Suero
5. Jesus Guzman

Oct 042010
 

The shutout from Baseball America’s Top 20 lists is over with the naming of three P-Nats to the Carolina League Top 20 Prospects — catcher Derek Norris (#11), outfielder Mike Burgess (#14), and first-baseman Tyler Moore (#18).

This, quite frankly, is a bit of a surprise. With no disrespect to Mike Burgess, but off the top of my head I can think of two outfielders the same age that had better years and showed equal, if not more, promise: Brandon Short and Ronnie Welty. Likewise, the omission of Steve Lombardozzi is baffling to me — particularly when Kinston’s Jason Kipnis spent just 54 games in the league yet somehow made this list.

Here’s the highlights from each scouting report…

NORRIS

Norris has plus power and can drive the ball out of the park to all fields, projecting as a .260-.270 hitter with 20 or more homers annually in the big leagues. Though he does a good job of working counts and drawing walks, he needs to make adjustments against offspeed pitches and make more consistent contact. He has a solid arm and threw out 51 percent of CL basestealers who tested him, but he lacks soft hands and his receiving skills are substandard.

BURGESS

Burgess continues to chase pitches outside the zone, but he has toned down his aggressiveness and is using the opposite field more. He has well above-average raw strength, and he’s searching for a happy medium between power and patience. Though he’s a below-average runner, he plays a quality right field and opponents know not to challenge his arm.

MOORE

Moore’s game is all about strength and power. He has some holes in his swing and isn’t very selective, so he probably won’t ever hit for a high average. Offspeed stuff can still give him fits, though he improved significantly this year. Though he lacks speed and quickness, he’s a solid defender at first base, and Cathcart said Moore has enough arm strength to play the outfield.

The last quote there is a little telling, seemingly cobbled from interviews with league managers versus a true scouting report like we got on Norris and Burgess. In fact, the subscriber-only version of this list has a quote from manager for nearly every prospect, which has a certain amount of use, but not what I really want to see because managers are loathe to criticize players.

The Eastern League is scheduled for Friday, and I’ll pass along any highlights from this afternoon’s chat.

Oct 042010
 

With web traffic being what it is, I’m republishing TBRfan’s comments on the games she saw in Florida so more folks can see this first-person, eyes-on-the-ground account…

FRIDAY
Hello all— got to watch the instructs game vs. Detroit today…

Oduber had an interesting fielding day in center, seemingly misjudging balls. But in his defense, the sun was wicked bad and two of the hits were tailing away. He really reminds me of Justin Maxwell.

Bryce Harper looks to me like the real deal. Didn’t have many balls hit to him, but his arm is strong and accurate. Played good backup defense to Oduber. He had a monstrous home run hit over the right field wall that probably carried 400+ feet. The right fielder just turned and watched.

J.P. Ramirez had a steady fielding game. Souza had his typical error-prone game. I just don’t know what the Nats see in him. Adrian Sanchez made some super plays at second. Catching was a platoon of Norris and… Can’t remember the name. Both catchers threw the ball well and tossed out runners at second and third.

As for batting… The team was shut down by the Detroit first round pitching prospect [Jacob Turner]. But my Lord: He was throwing smoke. None of the Nats came close to hitting that guy. He’ll be in the bigs for sure. Amazing pop of his pitches in the glove and incredible command.

The Nats “lost” 3-2 I am pretty sure. No scoreboard at all. Just the way I like it.

SATURDAY
A few comments about yesterdays game: The score was actually tied 3-3 and it was a no hitter until the 7th for the Nats. After talking to a fan at today’s game that was at Lakeland last night, he had heard that Harper’s home run was one of the longest they had seen there in years and most agreed it was 430+ feet. The pitcher for Detroit was named Jacob Turner. Be looking for him in the majors. Now for today’s game, against the Astros…

Today didn’t treat the Nats that well and they lost by 8-3 or something close to that. Catching was a platoon of Flores and Leon. Flores looks really svelte… he’s been working out a lot. Both catchers had a good game behind the plate. Lombardozzi was at second and had a super game. At third was King. The not-so-funniest play of the game came in the top of the first. Grace was pitching and getting mildly rocked. A routine fly ball was hit to center and Eury Perez. And don’t you know? He dropped it, half-assing the catch with one hand. He was immediately pulled from the game and sent to a side field where he shagged fly balls from the machine for the remainder of the game. The coaches did not allow him back on the bench. The entire game all you could hear was Eury yelling “I got it” three times before he’d catch the ball. After that, I was impressed with the Nats coaching staff for making him an example.

Bryce Harper had a so-so game. Nothing real spectacular of note. Was steady in the field.

Pitching was Grace, Estevez, Navarro, Jenkins, Smoker, Morris. Grace was hit relatively easily by the Astros kids. Navarro wasn’t much better. Jenkins was pulled after only ⅔ inning and don’t know why. I was sitting next to three Nats pitchers and they didn’t really express any concern when he came out. Smoker was good except for a mammoth home run to left center. Now, A.J. Morris had it working…. good pitching and good command. The man behind me agreed that his stuff is good enough to get to the Nats next year.

Oct 012010
 

After three league Top 20s — GCL, NY-Penn, South Atlantic — by Baseball America for the 2010 campaign, the Nationals have yet to have a player recognized. Given its slavish devotion to youth, this is hardly a surprise. But perhaps more telling is the answer that was given in the Top 20 chat regarding J.P. Ramirez:

Bill (Raleigh): JP Ramirez, suspect or prospect?

Bill Ballew (BA): Ramirez is an interesting guy. While his defense improved this year, he continued to display solid bat speed and power at the plate. He expands the strike zone at times, but his strikeouts were relatively low for a guy who looks to put the ball in play. He received a decent bonus as a mid-round pick and simply needs to play the game at this point in order to reach his potential, whatever that might be. In my opinion, he may have been the top prospect at Hagerstown, even though he remains somewhat raw.

Perhaps this is the nature of the beast — a “live” chat — but nothing in that answer suggests that he’s actually seen Ramirez play himself and some of it has been contradicted by our eyes on the field. Something to keep in mind before getting to wrapped up in the lack of mentions.