Nov 292010
 

The people have spoken, so here’s our obligatory Top 10 list of the Nationals batting prospects. Next will be the Top 10 Arms, and then a revisit to the watchlist. I don’t have the chutzpah to do letter graders or stars, so this is just my opinion on the ten hitting prospects that folks are watching and talking about. I’ll even throw in my Nigel Tufnel to answer the usual question, “Who just missed the list?”

Without further ado…

  1. Bryce Harper — Biggest question: How will he handle the adjustments that will be made to him, especially if he gets the Barry Bonds treatment.
  2. Derek Norris — Complaints about his defense are overblown because he can readily shift to another position if need be, but made significant improvements despite being hurt.
  3. Danny Espinosa — Two spring-training questions: Will the parent club tolerate his strikeouts? Will he get a chance to win the SS job?
  4. Wilson Ramos — Let’s hope he’s given the chance to win the job outright from Rodriguez, but a platoon is probably more likely.
  5. Chris Marrero — Rated this high because I think he’s viable trade bait and appears to be capable of hitting at the MLB level.
  6. Steve Lombardozzi — Steady, solid and reliable. Capable of leading off, but more likely to hit second or eighth.
  7. Michael Burgess — Will probably never hit for average, but the power potential, the OF arm, and the option to platoon him is something to consider
  8. J.P. Ramirez — Concerns about his foot speed, but both our Hagerstown contributors liked his power potential and I liked his tendency to post a good month following bad month all season long.
  9. Eury Perez — It’s no secret that I like the guys that can run and play small ball, and there are doubts about him being able to hit at the upper levels, but he’s the youngest of that prototype in full-season minors.
  10. Tyler Moore — Like Sickels, I’m concerned about what AA pitchers will do to him once they find his weaknesses, but his power is undeniable.

And, the Nigel Tufnel goes to… Rick Hague. That’s who I’d rank #11.

I’m sure folks will have lots to say in the comments…

Nov 272010
 

I’ll expand on this later, but I wanted to put this up ASAP so folks can discuss in the comments. Here’s the summary:

A Bryce Harper
B+ Derek Norris
B/B+ Danny Espinosa
B Sammy Solis, A.J. Cole
B- Wilson Ramos, Robbie Ray
C+/B- Michael Burgess
C+ Eury Perez, Rich Hague, Cole Kimball, J.P. Ramirez, Chris Marrero, Steve Lombardozzi, Brad Meyers, Brad Peacock, A.J. Morris
C Tyler Moore, Tom Milone, Danny Rosenbaum

Now before anyobdy gets their panties in a bunch about the C’s, remember that Sickels is a tough grader. And then look at his caveats…

“[Moore] — I realize that other sources and most Nationals fans rank him much higher, probably due to his hot second half. But he’s older than Marrero, a level behind him, and I don’t like the reports about holes in his swing or his BB/K ratio.”

“[Milone] — Great Double-A numbers of course despite lack of stuff. I might be underestimating him.”

“[Rosenbaum] — Tom Milone Part Two?”

None of these I can argue with and I’m especially pleased about Rosenbaum because I’ve been thinking it privately but was afraid to jinx him by stating it publicly. Nine C+ prospects is something to be happy about when for years it seemed like it was 19 C’s out of the Sickels Top 20.

UPDATE:
As threatened promised, here are some thoughts. And a link to his article.

…Yunesky Maya as an honorable mention. I’m very torn about whether or not to rank Maya even though he’s technically a rookie and he’s said to be major-league ready. Those two things are key components of being a prospect. But that also has a certain arrogance to it, that his international experience is no better than collegiate baseball. And I wonder if my ambivalence is also because he looks like he might be Rolando Arrojo II (though the parent club could certainly use a slightly-above-league-average pitcher).

…Michael Burgess being rated higher than Chris Marrero. The two are three months apart in age, but Marrero has shown that he can at least hit for average and with a modicum of power. It may be splitting hairs, but Marrero is the better prospect of the two at this point.

…Steve Lombardozzi is finally getting some respect. If nothing else, getting named here should make some folks pay closer attention.

Nov 242010
 

Well, this is a little experiment to help guide me in taking the next step in our offseason: How to do the prospect rankings. I don’t think I’ve hidden my ambiguity when it comes to this (“obligatory” ought to have been a clue ;-) but I’d like to, as the headline suggests, deliver the goods that folks are after while keeping the workload manageable.

So take a look at the five options below and vote for your favorite.

Nov 232010
 

As some of you may have commented, John Sickels has posted a preliminary prospect list for the Washington Nationals, which I’ll recreate here by position:

Catchers Corner IF Middle IF Outfielders Pitchers
David Freitas Chris Marrero Danny Espinosa Michael Burgess Adrian Alaniz
Derek Norris Tyler Moore Rick Hague Bryce Harper Adam Carr
Wilson Ramos Blake Kelso Destin Hood A.J. Cole
Jeff Kobernus Randolph Oduber Paul Demny
Steve Lombardozzi Eury Perez Tyler Hanks
Adrian Sanchez J.P. Ramirez Cole Kimball
Yunesky Maya
Jack McGeary
Brad Meyers
Tom Milone
A.J. Morris
Brad Peacock
Robby Ray
Tanner Roark
Danny Rosenbaum
Josh Smoker
Sammy Solis
Josh Wilkie
Rob Wort

Bear in mind, that Sickels is looking for more names and to pare the list down to an overall Top 20. This is going to lead to some biases at the extremes: young draftees, and older guys that were named because they’ve been named before (can we call that the “Emmy effect?”).

As it so happens, I’m starting to crunch the names listed from my season reviews into two Top 20 lists: one for the hitters, one for the pitchers. Naturally, this is going to overlook guys that were hurt, guys that were suspended, and guys that signed late. I’ll admit that the DSL guys are getting placed lower because only a handful are young enough to be considered prospects and none really put up the “WOW” kind of numbers. Doesn’t mean they’re not viable, but I’m admitting my wait-and-see (them in the GCL) bias.

Thus far, these are the names that appeared on my season-review watchlists that aren’t listed above, adding in the notable suspended players, which I think we can agree were once considered prospects and are still on our radar. I’m interested in any other candidates that folks may want to make a case for, and for the sake of discussion I’m adding the other two prospects that came on deadline deals in here, too. I’m not making the case for any of these to be added to Sickels’s list, nor am I making the case that we ought to rank ‘em all (ugh) – I’m just looking for some suggestions and some oversight.

Catchers Corner IF Middle IF Outfielders Pitchers
Paul Chacin Justin Bloxom Wilmer Difo Chris Curran Ryan Demmin
Adderling Ruiz Stephen King Josh Johnson J.R. Higley Wirkin Estevez
Mills Rogers Jason Martinson Wade Moore Marcos Frias
Steven Souza “Fred” Ortega Russell Moldenhauer Matthew Grace
Jean Carlos Valdez Michael Taylor Jesus Guzman
Neil Holland
Trevor Holder
Mark Herrera
Chad Jenkins
Taylor Jordan
Christopher Manno
Anthony Marcelino
Christian Meza
Andy Santana
Nick Serino
Wander Suero
Ryan Tatusko
Joe Testa
Dean Weaver
Nov 222010
 

First, the stats…

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Lombardozzi 21 82 16 24 8 2 0 4 10 8 .293 .385 .439 2
Burgess 18 65 8 16 3 3 2 20 4 20 .246 .286 .477 1
Norris 16 54 10 15 5 2 4 19 11 18 .278 .403 .667 2
Harper 9 35 6 12 3 2 1 7 4 11 .343 .410 .629 1

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G IP H R ER BB SO WHIP HLD GF
Solis 1 0 0 3.80 6 23⅔ 22 13 10 7 12 1.225 0 0
Carr 1 0 1 2.08 10 13 6 3 3 3 8 0.692 1 4
Peacock 0 0 0 4.50 9 12 10 6 6 3 17 1.083 2 1
Kimball 0 0 1 0.82 11 12 8 1 1 2 15 0.833 0 11

Now, the thoughts…

  • Bryce Harper managed to make his mark despite only playing twice a week. Now, we will wonder for the next four and a half months where Rizzo will have him start. Hagerstown is the official word, but I can’t see him starting there unless he has a terrible spring, or unless the plan is to have Harper make a tour of the full-season minors no matter what.
  • Lombardozzi did nothing to dissuade our opinion of him, but now we’ll have to wait until the prospect guides to come out whether or not he changed anyone else’s minds. I suspect not because even in our own Natmosphere his game-winning double in the AFL title game was barely mentioned.
  • Derek Norris has shown that much of his “struggles” this season were because he was hurting, finishing the AFL with the third-highest slugging pct. and the fourth-highest OPS. His defensive deficiencies were also displayed but a full season under the tutelage of Randy Knorr in Harrisburg ought to help immensely.
  • Michael Burgess also did nothing to dissuade the growing perception that his prospect days are behind him. He’ll start as the Harrisburg RF in 2011, but how long he’ll stay is the question. The signal may just be when he starts playing LF and DH more often than RF.
  • Brad Peacock showed flashes of brilliance as a reliever, leading to some speculation that he was auditioning for a midseason ’11 callup, but by the end of the AFL season it was clear that this was done to limit his innings. Possible Opening Day starter for the Senators.
  • Sammy Solis got a baptism by fire, but nothing that one couldn’t attribute to his lack of pro experience or the long layoffs between the draft and after the end of the regular season. Some question as to whether he’ll start in Hagerstown or Potomac, but given Rizzo’s track record, I’d bet on Potomac until late June, then Harrisburg through late August.
  • Cole Kimball is probably the biggest surprise of the AFL, at least relative to the success shown in twelve appearances. I’m not entirely sold that he’s for real, but hopeful that he can continue to contribute and assist the parent club in its quest to build middle relievers from within and not overpay for FA relievers. Could make the parent club with a strong spring.
  • Adam Carr has come a long way in just a year. In November ’09, he was finishing up his first season as a starting pitcher, including an August in which he posted a 7.34ERA and walked more batters than he struck out. He returned to Senator ‘pen and found his niche as the two-inning man, then had success as a closer for Syracuse. Like Kimball, he’s a dark horse to make 25-man roster by March 31, the day before his 27th birthday.
Nov 202010
 

The Scottsdale Scorpions survived three errors to capture the 2010 Arizona Fall League Championship with a 3-2 win over the Peoria Javelinas.

Washington’s Sammy Solis got credit for the win, allowing both runs (one unearned) on three hits and a walk while striking out three over his four innings of work. Cole Kimball was the last of five relievers to follow, tossing a 1-2-3 ninth with a strikeout to earn the save.

Bryce Harper, who started and played right field, drove in the Scorpions’ second run of the ballgame in the second inning with a first-pitch, opposite-field line drive to left but struck out twice to finish 1-for-4. Harper caught three fly balls and handled both singles hit to right.

Derek Norris, who caught and batted cleanup, legged out an infield single earlier in the second and scored on a sacrifice fly one batter before Harper, and went 1-for-3 for the game. No baserunners attempted to steal against him.

Steve Lombardozzi got the nod at shortstop and drove in the gamewinner in the fourth inning with a double to right for his 1-for-4 afternoon. He handled both chances he got before being lifted for defense in the seventh.

Michael Burgess pinch-hit for the DH in the bottom of the eighth and drew walk after balling behind 1-and-2.

Quick hits…

…Solis had moments of brilliance and moments where it looked like he was about to get clobbered, leaving pitches up in the zone. It’s not hard to imagine how in the second turn through the lineup that hitters would be looking for something up and if it’s a game in which his offspeed stuff isn’t working, he’ll get hit hard as he has at times this fall. Nice, smooth delivery.

…Harper is definitely old-school a la Pete Rose in terms of his hustle and intensity. What worries me is that that will be perceived as dirty pool by some opponents, particularly on double-play balls during blowouts. He can be had with elite heat and straight changes, but I suspect very strongly that he will learn to adjust to that very quickly because this kid’s got the Motts, as it were.

…Norris and Lombardozzi turned in the effort and produced the results I’d seen all season long. The announcers prattled about Norris being “too patient” and then said nothing when he worked the count to his favor and got a leg hit. Lombardozzi got the “well, I remember his Dad in the ’87 Series” treatment that seems to be de rigeur. The fault must be mine for expecting more.

Nov 202010
 

Too much to report before Monday, so it’s a weekend offseason special. Let’s dish on the Nats News…

RULE 5 DRAFT
As expected, the Nationals protected Chris Marrero. A little less expected, both Adam Carr and Cole Kimball were added to the 40-man. A mild shock: Brad Peacock was not. While the folks at NationalsArmRace overlooked Carr and favored Jeff Mandel and Brad Meyers, their rundown (linked) is still worth a look.

AFL CHAMPIONSHIP
This afternoon at 3 p.m. is the Arizona Fall League Championship. Michael Burgess is expected to start in RF, while Bryce Harper is slated to come off the bench — I’d expect Harper to pinch-hit for Burgess after he gets two at-bats, unless there’s a rally in the middle innings where Harper could come up and deliver a killshot. Sammy Solis will be the starting pitcher. Yours truly has set the DVR and will write up what he sees.

PROPS FROM MAYO
That would be from Jonathan Mayo from MLB.com, not the clinic. Harper, Derek Norris and Solis made the cut. And to shift away from the AFL momentarily, here’s a story about Danny Espinosa in case folks may have missed it.

Nov 192010
 

Steve Lombardozzi was the lone Nat to play in yesterday’s seven-inning 1-0 loss by the Scottsdale Scorpions to the Peoria Javelinas. Lombardozzi led off, played 2B, but went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

If folks haven’t seen them in their online travels, Mark Zuckerman had a good preliminary post about the Rule 5 draft. As folks pointed out in the comments, the last CBA changed the Rule 5 rules, so that list isn’t quite correct. Here’s what Brian had on his draft tracker (I know, something I need to rebuild/update):

2004 H.S. pick
Brian Peacock (DFE)

2005 College picks
Tim Pahuta
Jack Spradlin

2006 H.S. picks
Chris Marrero
Stephen King
Brad Peacock (DFE)

2006 College picks
Cory VanAllen
Zech Zinicola
Cole Kimball
Hassan Pena
Erik Arnesen
Adam Carr
Sean Rooney
Robert Jacobsen

2007 College Picks
Brad Meyers
Adrian Alaniz
Jeff Mandel
Justin Phillabaum
Martin Beno
Shane Erb
Boomer Whiting
Dan Lyons
Bill Rhinehart

I’ve got a query out to see if/how I can determine which players are on the AA and AAA reserve lists for the minor-league phase of the draft, but I’m not terribly hopeful that I’ll have much success. Generally speaking, the minor-league phase of the draft will move around mostly pitchers and the plug holes. Last year, for example, the Nationals lost Terrence Engles and picked up Nick Moresi.

Nov 182010
 

The Scottsdale Scorpions got back on the winning track with a 6-0 shutout of the Mesa Solar Sox. Two pitchers and two position players got into the game…

  • Derek Norris was the DH and batted cleanup, going 2-for-4 with a triple and a strikeout
  • Bryce Harper played RF and batted 6th, smacking an RBI double in a 2-for-4 effort
  • Adam Carr pitched a scoreless eighth, allowing a hit, but striking out one while earning a hold
  • Cole Kimball pitched a 1-2-3 ninth and also struck out one

As reported yesterday, today’s game will be a seven-inning affair to reduce pitcher workloads entering the final week of play. Sammy Solis will indeed start on Saturday for the AFL Championship and it’s widely expected that Bryce Harper will also play.

Nov 172010
 

The Phoenix Desert Dogs edged the Scottsdale Scorpions in a seven-inning contest* by a count of 2-1. Three Nats bats saw game action…

  • Steve Lombardozzi led off and played SS, turning a double play, and going 2-for-4 with a strikeout to raise his average to .308
  • Derek Norris caught and batted cleanup but went o-for-3. There were no steal attempts against him.
  • Michael Burgess was the DH and batted 7th, but was hitless in three at-bats. He did not strike out.

The loss drops the Scorpions to 19-11 and with yesterday’s win by Peoria, the Javelinas will be Scottsdale’s opponent. I have been unable to confirm whether or not Sammy Solis will indeed get the starting nod, but will update in this space if/when I can. As mentioned yesterday, Frank Piliere was present for Solis’s start on Monday and filed this story about what he saw. My only quibble: If Solis was indeed tipping his pitches with a head tilt, that’s rather significant.

* Thursday’s games will also be seven innings in an effort to reduce workloads in the final week of the AFL