Dec 122013
 

For the third consecutive December, the Nationals have had a player taken in the MLB phase, as the Chicago White Sox selected catcher Adrian Nieto with the No. 3 pick.

The selection is the classic gamble with that the Nationals were able to pull off with Jesus Flores in 2006, as the White Sox will have carry the 24-y.o. as a backup on their 25-man roster for the duration of the season, unless the two teams can work out a trade.

Nieto has yet to play above High-A during the regular season and has only had one year with more than 80 games played (2013), so it’s also a gamble that Nieto’s development won’t be thwarted should he not be returned before the minor-league season begins, which was the case for both of last year’s selections (Danny Rosenbaum, Jeff Kobernus).

In the minor-league phases, the Nationals had no players taken but instead selected two during the AAA phase: OF Theo Bowe from the Reds and RHP Martires Arias from the Mets.

Bowe’s calling card is his speed, as the 23-y.o. rivaled Billy Hamilton for the designation of Fastest in the Organization, winning the title in 2009 when both players turned 19 late in the season. The 23-y.o. Delaware native stole 70 bases between Low-A and High-A in 2012, but posted an anemic .206/.260/.307 line with 13 swipes in 99 games for AA Pensacola.

As Doug Gray of RedsMinorsLeagues.com wrote:

Bowe found himself in a crowded Pensacola outfield and despite hitting very well in the 2012 season, he didn’t get consistent playing time and never really got going in 2013.

Very little can be found on Arias, aside from his statistics from five years in short-season ball — two in the DSL, one in the GCL, two in the Appy League, which is considered a half-step below the likes of the NYPL and the NWL — and his vitals of 6’7″ and 207 lbs and a November 10, 1990 birth date in the Dominican Republic.

Dec 112013
 

For the fourth time this year — and the sixth time since 2011 — Washington and Oakland have consummated a trade. This time, it’s 2013 Minor League Player of the Year Billy Burns headed for the Left Coast in favor of lefthanded reliever Jerry Blevins.

It’s hardly been a secret that the Nats have been pursuing a major-league southpaw for more than a year now, signing the likes of Fernando Abad and Bobby Bramhall last offseason, trading for and promoting Ian Krol, and claiming Xavier Cedeno and Tyler Robertson on waivers during the season. Only Cedeno and Robertson remain from that quintet (sextet, if you want to include the midseason dalliance with J.C. Romero).

As is common with Rizzo trades, Blevins remains under team control for another two seasons — like Doug Fister, who was acquired less than three weeks ago, he’s arbitration-eligible — as the A’s seemed willing to part with the 30-y.o. veteran as a cost-savings measure, despite having made 281 appearances over the past seven seasons for Oakland.

While it may appear that Rizzo has gotten his man, I wouldn’t rule out Washington acquiring one or more southpaws in tomorrow’s Rule 5 draft (don’t forget the PTBNL in the David DeJesus flip was a LHP), even if neither Matt Grace nor Danny Rosenbaum are taken.

Dec 112013
 

Like the bats, folks were overwhelmingly in agreement about the top three arms in the Washington Nationals minors. Unlike a year ago, though, the range was smaller — just 22 different pitchers versus 30 — and there were four guys that were named on every ballot.

OK, enough vamping. Let’s rock this, pitch:

                              1. Lucas Giolito
                              2. A.J. Cole
                              3. Sammy Solis
                              4. Nathan Karns
                              5. Jake Johansen
                              6. Aaron Barrett
                              7. Matt Purke
                              8. Austin Voth
                              9. Christian Garcia
                              10. Richie Mirowski

Others receiving votes: Blake Schwartz, Jefry Rodriguez, Taylor Hill, Hector Silvestre, Travis Ott, Erik Davis, Pedro Encarnacion, Brett Mooneyham, Wander Suero, Nick Lee, Neil Holland, Blake Treinen

Now the observations…

• Giolito was the top dog on 12 of the 13 ballots, with Cole getting the other first-place vote. Giolito was the #1 last year, too, despite coming off UCL-replacement surgery in August 2012.

• Cole was the Mary Ann to Ging, er… Giolito on 11 of the possible 12 second-place votes. It would have been interesting to see if that would have been true had Robbie Ray not been traded away.

• Voth and Garcia tied in raw points, but I broke the tie by the pitcher who was named on more ballots (nine vs. seven).

• Two of the top three old maids (i.e. the near misses) were righthanded control artists who don’t throw in the mid-90s. Not sure if the bias is against the lower velocity, the low K rate, or the soap-opera first name (just kidding).

The list continues to skews older (five are 25+) and upper minors (also five), which has been a consistent bias since this experiment in crowdsourcing began in 2011. But like all things hot stove, the point is to pass the time — none of this is really significant, statistically or otherwise — while winter sets its claws in and local schools overreact to snowfall that wouldn’t get a chihuahua’s belly wet.

Next up: The Rule 5 draft, which for the Nationals, has become an exercise of wondering who’s going versus who’s arriving.

Dec 092013
 


I’m suspecting we’ll have better participation, as some of you may be off work, trapped at home with kids, or telecommuting thanks to last night’s snowstorm (our official opinion remains the same).

As before, send your Top 10 list to enfieldmass-top10arms[at]yahoo[dot]com (link will open your preferred email client) or post them in the comments. The plan is to write the post on Wednesday morning.

Same methodology… I’ll compile the selections, weight them in reverse order (#1 = 10 points, #2 = 9 points… #9 = 2 points, #10 = 1 point) and then post the results along with my observations.

The only restriction: You can’t vote for anyone who is not a prospect (defined as having a rookie status, which is less than 130AB, 50IP, or 45 days of service during the 25-man roster limit period). Sorry, but that means Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark aren’t eligible. Likewise for Xavier Cedeno, who has a low IP total but too much service time.

Nathan Karns, Erik Davis, and Christian Garcia are eligible, but are 26, 27, and 28 respectively. For some folks, their advanced age renders them non-prospects, though others will surely disagree. Not influence the results, but there were some much younger arms in the GCL that might merit your consideration.

Dec 072013
 

This seems to be a trend… for the second straight year, there was a consensus at the top of the list… then a free-for-all afterwards.

The two of the top three guys were each left off at least one ballot, while the number two guy was unanimously named, enabling him to garner the no. 2 spot without a single first-place vote.

A total of 24 players were named on 14 ballots, some of which had less than 10 names and/or an ineligible player. While I adjusted the points accordingly (e.g. #1 on a nine-player ballot = 9 pts vs. 10 pts. on a ten-player), it did not affect the rankings.

Without further ado, ze list:

                              1. Brian Goodwin
                              2. Matt Skole
                              3. Steve Souza
                              4. Billy Burns
                              5. Michael Taylor
                              6. Jeff Kobernus
                              7. Zach Walters
                              8. Drew Ward
                              9. Tony Renda
                              10. Adrian Nieto

Others receiving votes: Corey Brown, Eury Perez, Justin Bloxom, Randy Encarnacion, Narciso Mesa, Pedro Severino, Isaac Ballou, Brandon Miller, Cody Gunter, Rafael Bautista, Josh Johnson, Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, Bryan Mejia, Caleb Ramsey

Some observations:

• Goodwin received ten first-place votes, similar to how he was the near-consensus at #2 last year behind Anthony Rendon.

• This year’s #2 is a bit of a shock: Matt Skole was hurt all year long and struggled some in the Arizona Fall League, but moved up a spot from #3 to #2 nevertheless.

• Souza’s strong AFL campaign and addition to the 40-man roster seemed to stick out in many voter’s minds, vaulting him from an also-ran in 2012 to #3 with three first-place votes.

• Burns and Taylor nearly tied despite Taylor being left off two ballots, nearly closing the gap in points by receiving a pair of second-place votes (Burns’s highest was a third-place spot).

As it traditionally has, the list skews towards the upper minors; this year’s exception: Ward, who might have missed the cut — like Skole did in 2011 — were it not for the GCL Nationals’ championship run (likewise for his teammates that were in the “also-rans”). Still, I think a lot of this is simply the bias of familiarity, which also explains why a couple of players aged 27+ players received votes.

Next up: the pitchers, which is always contentious thanks to folks’ biases of starter vs. reliever, lefty vs. righty, fireballer vs. junkballer, floor wax or dessert topping, etc. Plus, with one less no-doubt pick (Robbie Ray), the last couple of spots ought to be closely contested.

Dec 052013
 


Since this has worked well for the past two years, I’m going to do it a third time and ask for folks to send me their votes for the Top 10 Position Players in the Nationals organization. Bear in mind that I use the term “Bats” as shorthand for non-pitchers, completely aware there can be a huge gap between a major-league hitter and a major-league defender [insert Adam Dunn reference here], but do please consider both offense and defense in your selections.

The deal is pretty simple: Send your Top 10 list to enfieldmass-top10bats[at]yahoo[dot]com (link will open your preferred email client). I’ll compile the votes and weight them in reverse order (#1 = 10 points, #2 = 9 points… #9 = 2 points, #10 = 1 point). When I hit a sizable number of submissions, I’ll update this post to let people know I’ve got enough to write the “Top 10″ post.

For those unfamiliar, this solicitation for information is based on a famous book by financial writer James Surowiecki, who argued that the aggregation of information in groups produces a more accurate estimation or decision than any single individual within the group (naturally, there are some folks who might disagree).

If nothing else, it’ll help fill the time between either the next trade or the winter meetings next week.

UPDATE: I’ve got enough votes to write the post (hey, that rhymes!)

Dec 032013
 

In a trade reminiscent of two Decembers ago, the Nationals have traded LHPs Robbie Ray and Ian Krol along with utilityman Steve Lombardozzi for Tigers RHP Doug Fister.

Fister, who was not drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks but rather the Seattle Mariners in the 7th Round of the 2006 Draft, turns 30 in February but is only in his second year of arbitration eligibility. He cannot become a free agent until after the 2015 season, providing Washington with a in-his-prime pitcher who’s exceeded 200 innings twice in the past three seasons and averaged more than six innings per appearance for his career.

Trade reaction is generally in the direction of adulation (trust me, I wanted to use a stronger word than that; think Apple fans and Jobs) for Washington GM Mike Rizzo’s latest trade or disdain for Detroit GM Dave Dombrowksi.

Then there are those who take the contrarian point of view:

Have to believe Tigers know something about Fister the rest of us don’t. Dombrowski isn’t dumb.
— David Laurila, Fangraphs via Twitter (@DavidLaurilaQA)

Of course, like a hermaphrodite’s knife, this cuts both ways: maybe Rizzo knows something about Ray or Krol like he presumably did with Brad Peacock, who has underwhelmed relative to the expectations set from his rise from AA to the majors in 2011. This is de rigeur with any trade that seems lopsided at first blush, though ultimately, it’s really hard to say that Rizzo “won” the Gonzalez trade. Oakland GM Billy Beane did get a cost-controlled pitcher and catcher and used Peacock to acquire an underrated everyday third baseman, fulfilling his mission to get talent on the cheap [insert “Moneyball” reference here].

From our perspective, it’s yet another reminder that for all our yearnings to see “our guys” with a curly W cap in DC, there’s always the chance that they’ll make The Show elsewhere. While that may be disappointing to some, it’s the reality of a system that’s not been highly regarded in the aggregate in the past couple of years, yet has been generating major-leaguers nevertheless.

This is actually a good sign, evidence that the organization is in the “Replace/Reload Mode” that ultimately is the most important measure of a system: generating players that can play in MLB.

Dec 022013
 

2014 Watchlist
Perhaps the thing I’m most glad about when looking at this iteration is that the M*A*S*H category could very well be ditched in favor of breaking up the DSLers into arms and bats (yes, design does have an influence). There’s a certain sardonic timbre to it as I take a step back and look at this first pass that’s just not as applicable as it was a year ago. But some of the point of this exercise is to share the thought process (hence the previous parenthetical) before changing the “Watchlist and Player Reports” tab above.

Thus, I can tell you that I’ve already changed my mind of some these selections and those of the previous post, which I prefer to treat like a print publication that’s already left the building rather than editing the previous post. That may seem quaint, but it’s a byproduct of my professional training and experience as a Journalist and a newspaperman, respectively. Too many other sites — news or gossip — have the “get it first, fix it later if we have to” mentality. I’d rather be honest and finish the list as if it were done all at once. Besides, I’ve already copped to splitting it into two to maximize traffic ;-).

As always, let me know what you think in the comments…

RHPs LHPs DSL Guys M*A*S*H Notables (Bats) Notables (Arms)
Karns Ray Corredor Garcia Hood Rosenbaum
Barrett Solis Gutierrez W. Estevez Oduber E. Davis
Cole Purke Ortiz Kieboom Keyes Holland
Schwartz Mooneyham Mota Anderson Ramsey Grace
P. Encarnacion Lee Florentino Manuel Rauh
C. Davis Orlan Sanchez Gunter Dickson
Mendez Silvestre Yrizarri Masters R. Pena
Johansen Ott Reyes Yezzo Bacus
Voth Torres Franco Spann
Pivetta Valerio
Giolito
Hollins
Simms
Suero
K. Rodriguez
P. Valdez