Mar 052015
 

The impending snowstorm — which will undoubtedly cancel school tomorrow as well as today — begs to differ, but the 2015 campaign begins tonight as the Nationals host the Mets in Viera.

We’re done with the eyewash that is the first two weeks after pitchers and catchers report. In many ways, social media has made what we do easier, if not possible. It can enhance the experience of being a fan.

But it comes along with stuff like this and this. However, it also enables folks to mock Washington’s current manager (pic to the right), so I guess it’s not all bad ;-)

As I wrote last month, spring training coverage this year will be focused on determining what can be done in the time I now have available. If we’re honest and objective, we already know that the odds of a minor-leaguer breaking camp is extremely low, if the slew of non-roster invites wasn’t already a clue.

In the meantime, as the headline says… Let The Games Begin.

Feb 282015
 

With the news that John Sickels’s 2015 Baseball Prospect book may be further delayed, I decided to finish the remaining player reports rather than wait any longer — just as I did last year.

We’re still in a dead period of sorts while we await the beginning of spring training games. For the second straight week, the Baseball America transaction report has seen nothing — no comings or goings — for Washington.

No news or not, it’s always a big deal when we close the books on February. It means baseball will be played next week, not next month, and April doesn’t seem quite so far away.

Well, at least until the next time it snows or sleets…

Feb 262015
 

accelerated-camp
For the minors fans, the news is sparse this time of year, but thanks to MASN’s Byron Kerr, we can at least discuss the annual list of minor-leaguers who’ve been asked to come to camp early, a.k.a. “accelerated camp.”

This is the analog to the Fall Instrux, as prospects are given extra time for instruction and rehabbing players can be monitored. And, of course, it’s a chance for the coaches to make sure everyone’s moving in the right direction.

As much as you might want to draw inferences from who’s been selected and who hasn’t, you really can’t, beyond what’s usually true: almost all of these guys are on the latest watchlist…

PITCHERS CATCHERS INFIELDERS OUTFIELDERS
Dakota Bacus Cole Leonida Osvaldo Abreu Isaac Ballou
Joan Baez Raudy Read Chris Bostick Rafael Bautista
James Bourque Jakson Reetz Austin Davidson D.K. Carey
Abel de los Santos Jorge Tillero Anderson Franco Jeff Gardner
Robbie Dickey Cody Gunter Derrick Robinson
Ian Dickson Kelvin Gutierrez Victor Robles
Paolo Espino Mario Lisson Drew Vettleson
Erick Fedde Edwin Lora
Lucas Giolito Jose Marmolejos-Diaz
Jake Johansen David Masters
Nick Lee Stephen Perez
Reynaldo Lopez Shawn Pleffner
Anderson Martinez Tony Renda
Ronald Pena Drew Ward
Nick Pivetta
Brian Rauh
Luis Reyes
Jefry Rodriguez
Joe Ross
Hector Silvestre
John Simms
Matthew Spann
Wander Suero
Kylin Turnbull
Austin Voth
Austen Williams


Unlike past years, there aren’t really any unfamiliar names for regulars of this site. Maybe Mario Lisson or Derrick Robinson if you missed when the Nats signed them in December and January respectively.

The presence of some veteran names removes some doubt as to who will be back in 2015, though looking over previous rosters you can always spot one or two names that haven’t been seen much since.

Until the next time — or the games begin…

Feb 202015
 

lucas-giolito
Spring training has only just begun but the prospect-ranking season, which never seems to end, culminated last night as Baseball America unveiled its 2015 Top 100 List.

Lucas Giolito, the undisputed* #1 Washington Prospect, came in at #7 this year. Joining him on the list are Michael Taylor (#32), Reynaldo Lopez (#49), Erick Fedde (#90), A.J. Cole (#91), and Joe Ross (#96).* Not counting parents, significant others, and agents, natch

The six prospects on the list is indeed the most ever for the franchise since it relocated from Montreal prior to the 2005 season. The previous high was four in 2011 when Bryce Harper (#1), Danny Espinosa (#66), Derek Norris (#72), and Wilson Ramos (#96) were all ranked. Four times the Nationals had just one prospect ranked in the annual preseason ranking (2005-2007, 2009).

Giolito is marking his third year on the list, having been ranked #21 last year and #67 in 2013, which are the bookends for the Tommy John surgery he underwent in August 2012 shortly after making his pro debut. In 2014, his first full season, he won 10 of 20 starts and turned in 98 innings, with a three-start layoff in May. He struck out 110 while walking just 28 for a robust pitcher’s line of 2.20/3.16/1.00, though he did give up seven HR’s (hence the just slightly better than league-average FIP).

The $64,000 question for 2015 is whether or not Giolito will progress to High-A Potomac after winning 10 of 20 starts made for Low-A Hagerstown in 2014. It lingers because the Nats do have a history of skipping top prospects from Low-A to AA, most recently with Brian Goodwin (2012) and previously with Bryce Harper (2011) and to lesser extent, Stephen Strasburg (2010) as it’s not as unusual for a collegiate “1-1″ prospect to debut at that level.

The hope here is that the Nats handle Giolito much like Jordan Zimmermann (2008) or Taylor Jordan (2013) and give him 5-6 starts before sending him on his way to Harrisburg. Potomac opens at home this season, but a case of Hellenic flu could delay his debut for a week and allow for him to start on the road on normal rest four times, should the Nationals decide to split the difference while keeping him away from the DC area, as they’ve also done with high-profile pitchers (Matt Purke, 2012-2013).

On that note, here are the expected assignments for the rest of the Nats Top 100 guys:

  • Taylor — AAA Syracuse
  • Lopez — A+ Potomac
  • Fedde — GCL Nationals
  • Cole — AAA Syracuse
  • Ross — AA Harrisburg

Feel free to discuss in the comments (and stay warm).

Feb 142015
 

Pitchers and catchers report next week, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re like Tampa Bay pitcher’s Kirby Yates’s bulldog* — ready to go, but not all that excited.
* Well, maybe not; the guy lives in Lihue, Hawaii.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m talking about the prospect perspective. Fans of the big club have every reason to be thrilled because the Nationals are World Series contenders.

Sure, there are worries about things like health (Jayson Werth), adjusting to a new position (Ryan Zimmerman), fears of regression (Tanner Roark), an uninspiring bench (Kevin Frandsen), etc., but we’ve seen time and time again that the current GM and manager will give preference to the veteran over the younger player.

Of course, I’d love to be wrong. It would be exciting to see Michael Taylor in right field to cover for Werth if he’s not ready by Opening Day or Matt Grace becoming the third lefty out of the ‘pen. But it’s more realistic to expect Nate McLouth or Frandsen in the case of the former and Xavier “Carry On” Cedeno in the case of the latter.

In fact, there’s arguably more drama about where next year’s spring training will be or perhaps how that will affect the GCL in the future (lots of angles there; not surprised no one has written that story yet, given that’s it not a done deal yet).

The lack of a prospect angle does, however, dovetail nicely with my change in direction for the site. For the last three springs, I’ve been writing less and stopping coverage sooner than the year before. That’s obviously going to continue.

I’ll still use it to get back into the rhythm and flow of writing more often than I have been, but the new focus will learning what I can do in the time I now have available, then figuring out how to approach the regular season.

Feb 082015
 

Plugging Away
Having reviewed the Baseball America Prospect Handbook, but knowing the Sickels version is still another couple of weeks away, I’ve spent this weekend making another pass through the player reports. There’s a good chance that many of the guys I’m holding out on won’t be covered, but I’d rather be sure than just assume that.

Yesterday’s transaction post from Baseball America had but one name, Tim Alderson, a 26-y.o. RHP who began 2014 as a reliever for Baltimore’s AAA team in the International League and finished with seven starts in eight appearances for Oakland’s High-A entry in the California League.

(Yeah, the news is still slow).

So after you’ve enjoyed the brief respite from the winter weather, feel free to take a look at the player reports while we await the start of spring training.

Feb 062015
 

Picking up where we left off, here are Washington’s nos. 16 through 31 in the 2015 Baseball America Prospect Handbook:

16. Taylor Hill 21. Spencer Kieboom 26. Drew Vettleson
17. Jake Johansen (8) 22. Raudy Read 27. Hector Silvestre
18. Felipe Rivero 23. Matt Grace 28. John Simms
19. Jefry Rodriguez (21) 24. Matt Skole (4) 29. Robbie Dickey
20. Rafael Bautista (28) 25. Victor Robles 30. Nick Lee (26)
31. Wander Suero


One of the things that struck me was how some of the prospects remained on the list despite injuries and/or poor performance, which may be acceptable for a younger player, but not so much for the older player. Yes, the Nationals skew older because they draft older, but it sometimes feels like incumbency (or dexterity) is given far too much credence.

Almost half of the 2015 list was not on the 2014 list, which is not unusual given the nature of the beast. Let’s take a look at how the newcomers break down:

2014 Draft — Erick Fedde (4), Jakson Reetz (14), Robbie Dickey (29)

2013 Draft — John Simms (28)

2012 Draft — Spencer Kieboom (21)

2011 Draft — Taylor Hill (16)

2010 Draft — Matt Grace (23)

Int’l Free Agent — Reynaldo Lopez (3), Wilmer Difo (7), Raudy Read (22), Victor Robles (25), Hector Silvestre (27)

Trade — Felipe Rivero (18), Drew Vettleson (26)

As alluded yesterday, there seem to be some returns coming out of the Dominican Republic five years past the “Dark Times of 2009,” with five of the newcomers and nine overall signed by the Nationals from the Caribbean nation, all since 2010. That may not be enough to satisfy the tastes of the folks who want Puig-like spending, but perhaps aren’t aware of the gamble that entails (3rd graf).

BA’s pandering to fantasy baseball fans three-year projection is back, but before I reveal it, a reminder of what BA projected in 2012* about the 2015 Washington lineup:
* The 2012 book went to press before the Gio Gonzalez trade; originally the nos. 3-5 pitchers were Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole, and Matt Purke.
C – Wilson Ramos
1B – Michael Morse
2B – Anthony Rendon
SS – Danny Espinosa
3B – Ryan Zimmerman
LF – Jayson Werth
CF – Brian Goodwin
RF – Bryce Harper
#1P – Stephen Strasburg
#2P – Jordan Zimmermann
#3P – Gio Gonzalez
#4P – Matt Purke
#5P – Sammy Solis
CL – Drew Storen

And what we could see in 2018 (pay no attention to injuries, trades, or free agency):

C – Wilson Ramos
1B – Ryan Zimmerman
2B – Tony Renda
SS – Ian Desmond
3B – Anthony Rendon
LF – Steven Souza** Brian Goodwin
CF – Michael Taylor
RF – Bryce Harper
#1P – Stephen Strasburg
#2P – Jordan Zimmermann
#3P – Lucas Giolito
#4P – Doug Fister
#5P – Gio Gonzalez
CL – Reynaldo Lopez
** Same logic applied as in 2012 edits: Goodwin selected because he was the next-highest-rated OF

Feb 052015
 

I might not have been waiting by the mailbox as I did in years past, but the arrival of the Baseball America handbook still merits the stop-drop-and-read treatment. Over the next couple of posts, I’ll pass along my thoughts.

You’ll not be shocked to learn that — yet again — the moves the Nats made in December were not reflected in the book. As much as I understand it, I do have to wonder if the folks in Durham are doing enough to account for this. In the meantime, you’ll have to adjust your reactions to some of the rankings.

Without the Souza trade, the Nats were still ranked 12th — up from 21st in last year’s book. As you might imagine, a lot of weight is given to yet-to-throw-a-professional-pitch Erick Fedde, viewed through a prism of praise for past gambles on injury-risk players that have paid off (Anthony Rendon) or seem about to (Lucas Giolito). Obviously, the additions of Trea Turner and Joe Ross would have to improve that ranking; how much is the stuff that comment sections were made for ;-)

Let’s review how last year’s Top 30 fared:

Graduated (2) — Aaron Barrett, Blake Treinen

Traded (3) — Robbie Ray, Nathan Karns, Zach Walters

Rule 5 (1) — Adrian Nieto

Waived (1) — Eury Perez

Released (1) — Christian Garcia

Dropped Out (5) — Matt Purke, Jeff Kobernus, Brett Mooneyham, Robert Benincasa, Erik Davis

Perhaps the most encouraging trend is that we’re finally seeing a Top 30 with only “one hand” of 25-or-older guys (including Souza), though eight of them will turn 24 by the end of July. So this might be a hiccup unless we see more guys from the D.R. bubble up (hey, that rhymes!) the way eight of the top 30 have over the past two years.

With that, I’ll close with the Top 15 from the book and pick up on nos. 16-31 in the next post. Last year’s ranking, if applicable, in parentheses:

1. Lucas Giolito (1) 6. A.J. Cole (2) 11. Austin Voth (15)
2. Michael Taylor (7) 7. Wilmer Difo 12.Tony Renda (13)
3. Reynaldo Lopez 8. Drew Ward (17) 13. Pedro Severino (16)
4. Erick Fedde 9. Brian Goodwin (3) 14. Jakson Reetz
5. Steve Souza (10) 10. Nick Pivetta (22) 15. Sammy Solis (6)
Jan 312015
 

Morning Reading 2If you’re here to find out which team Kim Kardashian’s favorite prospect thinks will win the Super Bowl, well then maybe the SEO ad partner I hired isn’t so bad after all.

As the post title and pic suggests, here are few items to stew on while the dreaded month of January comes to a close.

Keith Law has ranked the Nationals farm system 9th overall, up from No. 18 last year, and the highest he’s ever ranked the Nationals (H/T Todd Boss, who lays down some more Law in his latest post).

MLB.com, who seemed to know that its audience was probably home, unveiled its Top 100 prospects last night on the MLB Network. Lucas Giolito (6th), A.J. Cole (52nd) both moved up from last year’s rankings (44 and 69 respectively), while Michael Taylor debuted at No. 42 and “San Diego” shortstop Trea Turner came in at No. 62. Baseball Prospectus has yet to reveal its Top 101, while Law put six Nats in his Top 100.

In transaction news, Baseball America notes that the Nationals have signed former Reds OF Derrick Robinson, who missed 2014 due to shoulder surgery, and IF Grant DeBruin, who spent the past two seasons in the Frontier League after going undrafted in 2012 after playing for Div. II Univ. of Alabama-Huntsville.

Finally, MASN has announced there will be seven games broadcast this year (all times 1 p.m. except March 26, which is at 5 p.m.):

• Sat., March 7 vs. Cardinals • Mon., March 9 vs. Braves • Wed., March 11 vs. Tigers • Mon., March 16 vs. Astros
• Mon., March 23 vs. Yankees • Thu., March 26 vs. Mets • Sat., April 4 vs. Yankees  
Jan 252015
 

Somehow, we almost made it through January without having to do this annual “feature” about how (almost) nothing’s going on.

How bad is it? Beat writers have resorted to noting that the Rangers now have two former Nationals pitchers named Ross

We’re also at the point where the signing of non-roster invitees is over-reported. If the Rule 5 Draft is the most overblown aspect of the offseason, the annual parade of has-beens, never-weres, and favors-to-the-agents through camp is a very close second.

The latest BA transaction post refers to those two along with the re-signing of C Brian Jeroloman while noting the releases of RHP Pedro Encarnacion, LHP Elisaul Gomez, and C Kyle Bacak, who was released shortly before being suspended for 50 games for testing positive for amphetamines which will probably end his career if his 4-for-30 effort in 12 games between the GCL and Auburn did not.

Aside from the shocking* news that the Hagerstown Suns haven’t been able to get a naming-rights partner, there’s not much else.
* Well, no, not really