How good were the 2013 GCL Nationals?
It’s tempting to fall into the football mindset, where specious aphorisms such as “you are what your record says you are” come twelve for ten cents. This precise question was asked of Baseball America in a recent “Ask BA” column. After a breathless paragraph about Lucas Giolito, J.J. Cooper’s answer was:
Overall, the GCL Nationals impressed with a group of solid if not spectacular prospects having very good years. They had a deeper lineup and pitching staff than anyone else in the league. Many of these same players were on the Nationals’ Dominican Summer League club that went 38-32 in 2012, failing to make the playoffs. Seven of the nine regulars in the lineup came from that club, as did six of the club’s top nine pitchers. Given another chance to play together, they dominated the competition.
As I’ve written in the comments, the only thing we really do know is that the G-Nats were dramatically better than the other three teams in the GCL East. They probably would have still done very well in a more balanced schedule, but it’s hard to believe they would have won at the same clip. Ultimately, it’s a moot point. The schedule is primarily drawn up to minimize travel, not to determine who’s the best.
Cooper’s answer — aside from incorrectly implying that David Ramos was one of the the team’s best pitchers — correctly gets to what was brought up in the previous season review: It looks like the DSL Class of ’12 was pretty good, even if some of the guys were a little older. Given the organization’s poor record in developing talent from the DSL since 2006* (thus far: Eury Perez, Atahualpa Severino, and Sandy Leon have seen MLB playing time), this is the key takeaway from the 2013 edition.
* That’s the earliest roster available on baseball-reference.com
In keeping with the format, let’s take a look at how they compared to the average GCL team:
* GPA = Gross Production Average
If you’re looking for nits, the G-Nats didn’t lead the league in pitching strikeouts, fewest home runs allowed, fewest wild pitches thrown, doubles, triples & home runs hit, walks drawn, and total bases. They were first or second in the league in just about everything else. Ordinarily, this is where the highs and lows of the team in the aggregate are discussed, but it’s pointless in this case. There are only highs and mediums here.
Let’s drill down a little further, and take a look at the Top 12 batters in terms of plate appearances, listing their position(s) in terms of games played. Players with an asterisk played in the DSL in 2012 or 2013; Players with a double asterisk are GCL repeats from 2012; the player with a carat(^) is an IFA; The full statistics for the team can be found here.
|Name||Age||PA||Position(s)||G @ Pos||Fld%||Err||GPA||ISO|
What stood out to me among this group — aside from the DSL connection — was the amount of continuity here. Injuries, promotions, demotions, bad food at Panera Bread — these are things that usually cut into playing time. Instead, nearly 87 percent of it went to the to the top 12, instead of the usual 79 to 82 percent. None of the top 12 was promoted. The two significant repeats received less playing time in 2013 than in 2012.
Drew Ward also sticks out like a sore thumb. Under Rizzo, the Nats haven’t drafted many teenagers. When they do, they usually don’t get this much playing time period, never mind at one position. As if all of that weren’t compelling enough, Ward outhit all but a couple of his teammates, both of whom were either significantly older (Bautista) or more experienced as a pro (Encarnacion). If you haven’t read Ryan Kelley’s 2013 draft post, which I also have in the right sidebar, then check it out. Not too often you see a kid live up to the hype, especially with a fair amount of doubters, thanks to the level of competition he faced as a schoolboy.
Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself, but I’m sure folks are wondering right now: “So how many of these guys will be challenged with Hagerstown in 2014?” I’d like to think at least half of them. Three reasons for this: 1) The Nats have been more aggressive lately 2) The Auburn guys were, by and large, disappointing 3) It’s been a long time since there’s been group this young that won so readily.
But I also can’t help but think that with so much youth there is time to err on the side of caution (so maybe just three, no more than four). It’s a lovely dilemma to have, and it’s part of what helps pass the offseason: wondering who moves, stays, and goes from the 2013 finish to the 2014 opener.
On to the pitchers, the Top 12 listed by innings pitched…
|Hector Silvestre*||20||13/8||7-0, 0||1.82||49⅓||33||8||40||0.831||2||1|
|Wander Suero*||21||13/3||8-1, 0||1.65||49||27||13||46||0.816||2||7|
|Jefry Rodriguez*||19||12/12||3-0, 0||2.45||47⅔||40||20||43||1.259||6||7|
|Phillips Valdez*||21||14/3||3-0, 2||1.95||32⅓||16||12||27||0.866||2||4|
|Kelvin Rodriguez*||19||13/1||5-0, 0||3.07||29⅓||31||6||15||1.261||8||3|
|Travis Ott||18||10/7||3-0, 0||4.03||29||24||12||32||1.241||4||2|
|Matt Derosier||18||7/0||2-1, 2||2.67||27||24||5||20||1.074||0||1|
|Lucas Giolito+||18||8/8||1-1, 0||2.78||22⅔||19||10||25||1.279||5||2|
|David Ramos*||21||14/0||5-3, 1||6.95||22||23||10||16||1.500||2||3|
|Jake Walsh+||22||16/0||0-0, 8||1.40||19⅓||10||5||17||0.776||1||1|
|Joey Webb||22||12/0||2-0, 2||1.89||19||13||6||25||1.000||0||0||Elliot Waterman-||22||12/0||0-2, 0||1.53||17⅔||17||9||9||1.472||2||2|
In 2013, there was quite a bit of movement in both directions between the GCL and Auburn — nine guys sent up, four sent down. Most of the guys that were reassigned upwards went fairly quickly: two after just one appearance and seven after pitching less than 13 innings. The most notable, aside from that Giolito kid, were Nick Pivetta, Ryan Ullmann, and Austin Voth as that trio would form the majority of the Auburn rotation for the season, with Voth getting a second bump to Hagerstown.
Some of this, no doubt was by plan: the trip to Auburn delayed, for example, for coaching purposes. Or there were some guys that the organization misjudged. In either case, with the exception of Deion Williams — who, as a conversion project was clearly given every opportunity to
fail learn — the decision was made quickly and the demoted pitched fairly well. But only one pitched enough to crack the top 12 in terms of innings pitched.
There were no repeats from last year’s GCL squad who received significant innings. Like the batters, there were a significant contingent from the DSL. If there is any cause for concern, it’s this: four of those top five pitchers spent mutiple seasons in the DSL, with the three 21-year-olds all turning 22 before the end of this year. As with the batters, this may be nitpicking, but that’s part of the point of why I do a season review: to take a closer look and point out these things, which is important whether the team is the windshield (this year) or the bug (most other years).
OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
Thankfully, it’s plural for a second straight year.
Top 5 Batters
1. Drew Ward
2. Rafael Bautista
3. Randy Encarnacion
4. Osvaldo Abreu
5. Jose “Orange” Marmolejos-Diaz
HM: Diomedes Eusebio, Bryan Mejia
Top 5 Pitchers
1. Lucas Giolito
2. Jefry Rodriguez
3. Hector Silvestre
4. Wander Suero
5. Kelvin Rodriguez
HM: Phillips Valdez, Travis Ott