Dec 152010
 

As mentioned in the comments section, things have slowed down here while we wait for winter to pass. And I know it’s not technically even winter yet.

There aren’t much in the way of transactions, but I’ll report the few of note in the past couple of weeks…

  • Resigned RHP Jimmy Barthmaier
  • Signed OF-1B Jonathan Tucker (spent 2010 with AAA Norfolk)
  • Outrighted RHP Ryan Mattheus to Syracuse

I’m sure more news will trickle in, once folks get over the shock of the Matt Stairs signing.

My buddy Shawn in Hagerstown posted a story about winter in Hagerstown, updating us on the changes to the field and stadium that have been going on since the team was sold. It’s a little amusing to me that the Suns are selling the Bryce Harper angle less than one year after another highly touted prospect didn’t quite start where everybody thought he would. But then again, with 24 home games before Memorial Day to sell, you can’t really blame them that much.

As the picture suggests, this is the time of year when teams start selling their hot-stove banquets. Potomac has not yet announced its keynote speaker, but Syracuse (yes, they’re using a Facebook page) will have GM Mike Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman. Harrisburg, meanwhile, is leveraging its new facility with a Holiday Sale to benefit local charities. Auburn has not yet made an announcement.

That’s all for now, folks. Feel free to use the comments for discussion.

Dec 102010
 

With the winter meetings complete, the Nationals announced today their lineup for the 2011 managers and coaches for their affiliates:

SYRACUSE

Manager – Randy Knorr (promoted from Harrisburg)

Pitching Coach – Greg Booker (returning)

Hitting Coach – Jerry Browne (returning)

HARRISBURG

Manager – Tony Beasley (Pittsburgh Pirates 3rd base coach in ’10)

Pitching Coach – Randy Tomlin (returning)

Hitting Coach – Troy Gingrich (returning)

POTOMAC

Manager – Matt LeCroy (Promoted from Hagerstown)

Pitching Coach – Paul Menhart (returning)

Hitting Coach – Mark Harris (new hire)

HAGERSTOWN

Manager – Brian Daubach (Managed Pittsfield/Nashua of Can-Am League 2009-2010)

Pitching Coach – Chris Michalak (returning)

Hitting Coach – Marlon Anderson (new hire)

AUBURN

Manager – Gary Cathcart (Managed Potomac in ’10)

Pitching Coach – Franklin Bravo (returning)

Hitting Coach – Luis Ordaz (new hire)

GCL NATIONALS

Manager – Bobby Williams (returning)

Pitching Coach – Michael Tejera

Hitting Coach – Sergio Mendez (Never gonna let you go, I’m gonna hold you in my… oh, wait different guy – returning)

Coach – John Poppert (returning)

DSL Nationals

Manager – Sandy Martinez

Pitching Coach – Pablo Frias

Hitting Coach – Amaury Garcia

Coach – Eddy de los Antos

For those interested in the coordinators, MASN has them listed here.

The only surprise to me was that there was no mention of Trent Jewett, who had said three weeks ago that he was staying with the organization. His name has not yet turned up in any Google News searches, which would be my first guess: That he’d been hired by another organization to manage elsewhere. I know that he rubs some folks the wrong way, but his no-nonsense, old-school approach does get results.

Otherwise, most of this was not terribly new news. The hirings of Daubauch and promotions of LeCroy and Knorr were discussed last month, leaving the new Harrisburg manager as the only real unknown. It appears that the DSL staff is completely new, but last year’s announcement did not mention it, which may explain why Brian did not report on it at NFA.

Dec 092010
 

Our commenters passed along the news first, but to summarize…

In the major-league phase, the Nationals selected RHPs Elvin Ramirez (Mets) and Brian Broderick (Cardinals) and RHP Michael Allen (Twins) in the AAA phase. The Phillies selected IF-OF Michael Martinez to the Phillies, which isn’t a terrible move because the odds are he’ll see less than 200PA, he can play multiple positions, and he can run. For $50K if he doesn’t stick and the MLB minimum salary if he does, that’s not a bad gamble.

As the pic suggests, here’s what I could find out about the new guys…

  • Elvin Ramirez — Converted to relief in 2010 and has been clocked at 98-99mph in the Dominican Winter League. Also throws curve, changeup and slider but has been prone to walks. He’s 22 years old and is listed at 6’3″ and 208 lbs, with a strong lower body.
  • Brian Broderick — Rather than summarize, let me link you to this detailed scouting report.
  • Michael Allen — Not much to find on him, probably because his numbers are awful (7.84ERA at AA, 5.24 career at A+) but this 23-year-old is clearly a project. The one report I could find described him as big, strong with a 92-94mph fastball, an average breaking pitch as a complement but with potential to be a workhorse

I’ll update later if/when more info becomes available.

Dec 082010
 

As we last discussed, the Rule 5 draft has become a far less significant exercise than in years past. As noted in the comments, Jesus Flores was picked up in the 2006 Rule 5 draft and should he manage to stay healthy at any point, that will still be a good deal. Unfortunately, that was under the previous CBA and the rules have since been changed. Suffice it to say, the odds are that it will be quite some time before the next Joakim Soria comes along.

Baseball America has named some of the targets it feels have the best chance to get picked up, which did not include any Nationals (is that good news or bad?). Most are young pitchers that were drafted or signed at a young age. There are also some position players in the mix, but almost have a sizable “yeah, but” in their description. Let’s take a look (not ranked, grouped by type)…

Luis Avilan, LHP (Atlanta) —21-year-old that’s just cracked Hi-A, with mediocre results. Scouts like his live arm and as a reliever, he can buried in the ‘pen.

Scott Diamond, LHP (Atlanta) — 24-year-old starter that features a plus curve but an average fastball. Like Wilkie, doesn’t give up the gopher ball (6HR in 159IP)

Edgar Ibarra, LHP (Minnesota) — Has three things in his favor: young (21), lefthanded, throws hard (88-92). As you might expect, lacks polish and consistency.

“Colt” Hynes, LHP (San Diego) —25-year-old that throws sinking fastball, but short and stocky (5’11” 200 lb) and had poor showing in AFL (12R in 12 app.)

Garrett Johnson, LHP (Chicago) — Built like a preying mantis (6’10”, 205) and throws sidearm, this 23-year-old represents a serious project.

Kasey Kiker, LHP (Texas) — Has averaged nearly a strikeout per inning for his entire career, but saw his walk rate jump from 2.7 in ’08 to 4.1 in ’09 to 10.4 in ’10 but turned 23 just before Thanksgiivng

Robert Fish, LHP (L.A. Angels) — Stuggled mightily when making the jump from A+ to AA, but this 22-year-old slings it at 95mph and gets the K (10.2/9IP at AA)

Ismael Guillon, LHP (Cincinnati) — An  IFA that had his contract voided but resigned with same team, which apparently requires him to be placed on the 40-man or exposed. The Reds are gambling that despite a 93mph heater and plus change, they’ll pass on eating a roster spot for raw-but-promising 18-year-old.

Danny Gutierrez, RHP (Texas) — PED suspension (took Adderall, had a prescription, but never applied for waiver), assault charges in ’09, diminished fastball, but was still ranked the 10th best Ranger prospect. Turns 24 in March.

Adam Miller, RHP (Cleveland) — Four finger-tendon surgeries have shelved this hard-thrower for the past two years, but reports say the fastball was still in the 90s in the instrux.

Wynn Pelzer, RHP (Baltimore) — Power arm that his former organization (San Diego) projected as a starter, but Baltimore used in the ‘pen and BA’s sources agree the 24-year-old’s low-90s stuff fits better there.

Aneury Rodriguez, RHP (Tampa Bay) — Turns 23 next week, but started 17 games for the Durham Bulls, the Rays’ AAA affiliate and was often the #2 starter behind Jeremy Hellickson but scouts feel like he’s maxed out in terms of development and will likely be just a #4/#5 SP and BA believes he’s the most likely to get selected.

Daniel Turpen, RHP (Boston) — Acquired as part of the Ramon Ramirez trade, this 24-year-old AA reliever put up pedestrian numbers down the stretch for Portland and struggled against lefties despite 92-94mph heat.

Kyle Waldrop, RHP (Minnesota) — Turned 25 in late October, Waldrop logged 87⅔ IP in 59 appearances and features a sinkerball that produced a 3.73-to-1 groundball/flyball ratio and just 5HR. At 6’4″ and 205 lbs, appears to have the big frame that Rizzo favors, even if scouts feel his secondary pitches are below-average.

Heitor Correa, RHP (Philadelphia) — Turned 21 in August, but appears to have hit the wall at Hi-A with a 6.62ERA in 25 starts and fading fastball.

Casey Mulligan, RHP (St. Louis) — Drafted as a C-IF, but converted to P in ’08, the 23-year-old split time between A+ and AA with spectacular numbers at the former and poor results in the latter.

Ryan Adams, 2B (Baltimore) — Turns 25 in late March, but a better bat than glove and scouts have been less than impressed with his approach. Tied for the Eastern League lead for doubles with 43.

Brad Emaus, 2B/3B (Toronto) — A hitter in search of a position, this 24-year-old put up a .290/.397/.476 line between AA and AAA but has below-average running skills.

Marquez Smith, 3B (Chicago Cubs) — AAA slugger with some thump (.958OPS at Iowa) that BA projects might be worth a look for a reserve IF. Turns 26 in March.

Ramon Morla, 3B (Seattle) — Just turned 21 but hasn’t risen above advanced rookie, but .323 with 17HR (.610 SLG) in 62 Appy League games this past summer (checked my book; didn’t see him on my trip to Tennessee in late August)

Brandon Waring, 1B/3B (Baltimore) — Led the EL in strikeouts (179), but the turning-25-in-January also hit 22HRs and 32 doubles while batting .242 but a semi-decent .338 OBP.

Paulo Orlando, OF (Kansas City) — Posted a .305/.366/.480 as a 24-year-old at AA but scouts feel the Brazilian is more athletic than skilled.

Lars Davis, C (Colorado) — Hit .289 but the just-turned-25-year-old is seen as a defense-first receiver at the upper levels.

Stephen Vogt, C-1B-LF (Tampa Bay) — Dominated A+ with a .345/.399/.511 line but turned 26 in early November and is valued for his versatility on defense more than his defense itself.

Matt Sweeney, 3B (Tampa Bay) — Turns 23 in April, but suffered a knee injury in ’08 that axed that year and limited him to 68 games in ’09. Struggled in AA in ’10 but remains lefthanded and scouts like his mechanics.

Dec 062010
 

After a crazy weekend that saw the Red Sox acquire Adrian Gonzalez, a deal that we know the Nationals can’t make and then the long-awaited (and longer complained about) big free-agent signing, Jayson Werth, that a fellow reporter-turned-blogger called, we’re way, way, way back on the burner of the hot stove.

But as the headline says, our focus turns to the Rule 5 draft.

As you might imagine, the majority of information out there is organization-focused (*ahem*) but a common thread among many folks is the lament that no “impact” players will be taken. That’s because in the last CBA, the “Rule 5 rules” were changed to, in a nutshell, give organizations another year to evaluate talent… and drain the talent pool. Baseball America discusses this trend in a story published last week.

Sadly, another trend is that the lion’s share of information out there is focused on the major-league phase of the draft. There are also two other phases, the AAA and the AA, which are something of a misnomer because there’s no requirement that the player has played or will play at that level in 2010 or 2011. Basically, it amounts to teams being able to protect up to 38 players in the AAA phase and up to 37 players in the AA phase.

Who is or will be protected is anyone’s guess. It appears that this information simply is not released to anyone outside of baseball. Last year, the Nationals “lost” Zech Zinicola in the major-league phase, Ruben De La Rosa and Terrence Engles were taken in the AAA phase, and Johan Figuereo went in the AA phase. On the plus side, the Nationals acquired Jamie Hoffman from the Dodgers and traded him to the Yankees for Brian Bruney in the MLB phase, while Nick Moresi and Arismendy Mota got picked up in the AAA phase, with Mota traded to the Chicago Cubs for cash considerations.

In all phases, the Rule 5 draft has become primarily an exercise of looking for bullpen help (e.g. Zinicola), secondarily an act of plugging holes in the roster (e.g. Moresi). Baseball America has done a preview of who might be taken, which will be the focus of our next post. Unlike the past two years, it’s not a matter of who’s the best guy to take, but who will be available when it’s the Nationals’ turn to pick.

Dec 032010
 

It’s not supposed to be a depth chart, but if you choose to see it that way… I’d understand because I did arrange the top-to-bottom based on where they finished in the regular season, with the rather obvious exception of Bryce Harper. Then, I slotted guys based on either their usage in 2010 or their expected roles in 2011 (I’m not making predictions about where they will start… just yet).

This methodology also makes for two tables of five columns, which lays out better on the page. I’ve bolded the Top 10 position players and pitchers, italicized the Nigels and Honorable Mentions. Eventually, these names will be highlighted on the big board — green for the Top 10s, yellow for the rest.

C 1B 2B SS 3B
Wilson Ramos Chris Marrero Josh Johnson Danny Espinosa Stephen King
Derek Norris Tyler Moore Steve Lombardozzi Rick Hague Steven Souza
Sandy Leon Justin Bloxom Jeff Kobernus Adrian Sanchez Blake Kelso
David Freitas Mills Rogers Michael Taylor Jason Martinson Bienvenido Valdez
Jeremy Mayo Jean Carlos Valdez Roberto Perez Wilmer Difo
Paul Chacin “Fred” Ortega
Adderling Ruiz
OF RHSP RHRP LHSP LHRP
Michael Burgess Yunesky Maya Josh Wilkie Tom Milone Joe Testa
Bryce Harper Brad Peacock Adam Carr Danny Rosenbaum Paul Applebee
Chris Curran Ryan Tatusko Cole Kimball Evan Bronson Josh Smoker
J.P. Ramirez Tanner Roark Rafael Martin Jack McGeary Ryan Demmin
Eury Perez Brad Meyers A.J. Morris Sammy Solis Christian Meza
Destin Hood Adrian Alaniz Rob Wort Graham Hicks Nick Serino
J.R. Higley Marcos Frias Dean Weaver Matt Grace Jesus Guzman
Randolph Oduber Trevor Holder Ben Graham Robbie Ray
Wade Moore Pat Lehman Mark Herrera Chris Manno
Russell Moldenhauer Paul Demny Neil Holland
Rick Hughes Billy Ott Wander Suero
Victor Chavez A.J. Cole Andy Santana
Chad Jenkins
Taylor Jordan
Tyler Hanks
Wirkin Estevez
Anthony Marcelino
Dec 012010
 

This is a more difficult list to compile because, as noted in the comments recently, this system does not have much in the way of front-line starters poised for the near term. Of course, I’ve just described at least half the other organizations in MLB. That may not be much comfort, but the lament is common one. There’s a reason why you rarely see a position player traded for a starting pitcher, one for one.

What the Nationals do appear to have is a group of relievers that could make the jump in the next year or so. There’s something to be said for that. Some of you may have seen the MLB Network’s Prime 9 episode “The Most Lopsided Trades in MLB History.” Two of those nine involved relievers (oddly enough both trades involved the Red Sox) and it’s not hard to recall other past trades, particularly in late July, that involve uneven swaps of relievers for prospects.

Last year, the Nats appeared to have pulled off just such a trade (though in fairness to Minnesota, Wilson Ramos was blocked by a perennial All-Star). If just a couple of these prospects pan out, it could give Washington G.M. Mike Rizzo the chips to make another deal… or better yet make one of the team’s few strengths even stronger.

So with that in mind, I’m presenting our Top 10 List of Pitching prospects, a.k.a. “arms”…

  1. Sammy Solis — Struggled some in the AFL, but scouts are nearly in agreement that he can and will rise rapidly.
  2. A.J. Cole  — Tall (6’5″) wiry (190lbs) H.S. RHP but said to possess a plus FB (91-94, top 96) that will likely gain velocity as he gains weight and grows into his frame.
  3. Robbie Ray — A “pitchability” lefty that is projected to command three pitches for strikes (FB, CU, CH).
  4. Adam Carr — Hard-throwing RHRP that had strong finish in AAA and a good AFL and has proven he can throw multiple innings regularly.
  5. Cole Kimball — The surprise of the AFL with outstanding numbers and an improved fastball but lack of AAA track record gives Carr the higher ranking.
  6. A.J. Morris — Noticeable increase in velocity, sharpness, and effectiveness after converting from starting to relief in the last month of the season.
  7. Tom Milone — Outstanding control and plus breaking pitch, but scouts worry it won’t translate to the next level. This has been the refrain since 2008.
  8. Brad Peacock — Hard-throwing RHP that needs to have his changeup working to succeed. When it is, he’s very effective. When it’s not, he can and will get hit hard.
  9. Brad Meyers — 2010 was a lost cause, but folks much more experienced and knowledgeable than I am in prospect-rating still believe in him, so he gets the nod.
  10. Danny Rosenbaum — The sizable gap between his ERA (2.09) and FIP (3.27) is a cause for concern, but like Milone, has a good feel for pitching and can survive on the nights when his breaking ball isn’t working.

The “Nigel Tufnel” goes to Rob Wort. This is a pure “gut” pick based on what I saw down the stretch from him in Potomac: A tendency to pitch remarkably better with runners on base versus the bases empty.

Honorable Mentions go to Tanner Roark and Ryan Tatusko. If I had done Top 10s for both relievers and starters, there’s no doubt they both would have been mentioned. I decided not to include Yunesky Maya because of his advanced age, his international experience, and the small sample size of work, which was less than stellar (e.g. 21BB, 4HR in 46⅓ IP majors and minors combined). All three will be on the watchlist.