Dec 192014
 

Baseball America for NPP
Having confirmed the new list via Twitter, here’s the new-and-improved Washington Nationals Top 10 list from Baseball America (Last year’s ranking in parentheses):

1. Lucas Giolito, RHP (1)
2. Michael Taylor, OF (7)
3. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP (–)
4. Erick Fedde, RHP (’14 Draft Pick)
5. A.J. Cole, RHP (2)
6. Wilmer Difo, 2B/SS (–)
7. Drew Ward, 3B (17)
8. Brian Goodwin, OF (3)
9. Nick Pivetta, RHP (22)
10. Austin Voth, RHP (15)

If you’re a TCU an A.J. Cole fan, you’re probably wondering what he did to drop three slots, but I think the better way to look at it is that the three guys ahead of him simply have either more upside (Fedde) or were in stratosphere this past summer (Taylor, Lopez).

Steve Souza was originally the #5 prospect on this list, though I think most most folks already knew this as the top 10 list was leaked (tweeted) earlier this week.

I’m a bit curious as to why Brian Goodwin remains ranked so high, given this tidbit (italics added):

They pushed him to Double-A Harrisburg by the second half of 2012, but he followed a lackluster 2013 with a horrific 2014 campaign at Triple-A Syracuse that ended on July 1 when he tore the labrum in his left shoulder sliding into second base.

Granted, Goodwin throws righthanded, but injury experts have long held that the torn labrum is baseball’s most fearsome injury, not to mention the conventional wisdom that shoulder injuries in general are what ends or alters baseball careers.

Unfortunately, BA did not weigh in on Difo’s defensive prowess so the SS vs. 2B debate will have to wait until the book is released or perhaps John Sickels’s book is released. They did, however, note that Drew Ward may outgrow 3B, pointing to his size-16 cleats and describing his footwork as merely adequate while noting his arm was strong and accurate.

BA’s projections for 2015 were as follows:

AAA –Taylor, Cole, Goodwin
High-A — Giolito, Lopez, Difo, Ward, Pivetta
Not specified — Fedde, Voth

I still believe Giolito will be jumped to AA (and would love to be wrong) because the Nats have not been keen on letting high-profile prospects play at Potomac (see: Strasburg, Harper, Goodwin). Voth is a near-lock to return to Harrisburg, while I’d expect Fedde to follow the track of Giolito and start out at the GCL and perhaps make an appearance with Auburn late in the year.

Dec 132014
 


As I expected, participation would be robust on this one — 15 ballots — and the top dog was the unanimous choice. A total of 24 pitchers were named, with four of the top five named on every ballot.

Before I continue, here’s the list:

                              1. Lucas Giolito
                              2. A.J. Cole
                              3. Reynaldo Lopez
                              4. Austin Voth
                              5. Erick Fedde
                              6. Matt Grace
                              7. Taylor Hill
                              8. Jefry Rodriguez
                              9. Felipe Rivero
                              10. Jake Johansen

Others receiving votes: Sammy Soilis, Nick Pivetta, Travis Ott, Rafael Martin, John Simms, Gilberto Mendez, Jake Walsh, Robert Benincasa, Wander Suero, Robbie Dickey, Luis Torres, Matt Spann, Matt Purke, Eric Fornataro

Now, the thoughts…

• This is the third straight year Giolito has been named the #1 pitcher, so no pressure to come to DC in 2015, right?

• Cole was also #2 for the second straight year, but turns 23 next month and we’re already seeing speculation as to when he’ll make his MLB debut. I’ll be the jerk who will note that he’d be an awfully good trade chip (see: Karns, Nathan).

• Lopez went from zero ballots in 2013 to the #3 pitcher in 2014. Saw him twice this past summer and this kid can deal. He got my #2 vote, one of two that Cole did not get.

• The other went to Fedde, who makes the list despite being in recovery from UCL replacement surgery. I’d scoff but Giolito is the knee-jerk “Yeah, but” and being the Nats top draft pick is going to carry some weight no matter what.

• As some of you noted, the list breaks down rather quickly after the first five or so names. The gap between #7 and #12 was just seven points. Until the last three or four ballots came in, there was basically a five-way tie for the last three slots.

• Grace’s addition to the 40-man is being read by quite a few of you as the lefthanded analog to Aaron Barrett from a year ago (OK, fine maybe that’s just me)

• Hill made the list despite getting hammered in two MLB starts and giving up five HR in his last 10 starts at Syracuse. He and Grace will be 26 in 2015, thus continuing the tradition of the old-guy skew

With the close of the winter meetings, which also saw the Nats go Yukon Cornelius on the Rule 5 draft, we’re now at the point where we wait for trades and transactions. In between, and as always, feel free to discuss in the comments.

Dec 112014
 

PairofRangers
Guess it wouldn’t be December without a trade by the Nationals.

Multiple online sources are reporting that the Washington Nationals have traded LHP Ross Detwiler to the Texas Rangers for a pair of minor-leaguers, 2B Chris Bostick and RHP Abel de los Santos.

Bostick is a (*spoiler alert*) former Oakland A’s farmhand who has now been traded twice in two offseasons, going to Texas last year as part of the Choice-for-Gentry swap. He spent 2014 in the Carolina League with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans where he posted a line of .251/.322/.412 with 11HR and 62RBI, but alas, 116 whiffs in 130 games.

Defensively, he’s considered a project despite being a former shortstop, committing 55 errors 305 games at 2B, though scouts believe his range is decent and his arm strength adequate. As Sickels pointed out in his most recent prospect book, this is hardly unusual for someone his age (turns 22 in March). Between Wilmer Difo and Tony Renda, the most logical deductions are that Bostick may be forced to repeat High-A or change positions for 2015.

De Los Santos is a 22-y.o. Dominican just finishing up his fifth professional season. The 6’2″, 180-lb “northpaw” converted to relief in 2013, and has averaged 10.4K/9IP the past two seasons with 113K in 97⅔ IP. Scouting reports are scarce as he was not profiled by either Sickels or Baseball American in their 2014 editions (it also doesn’t help that Texas has a Miguel de Los Santos and Cincinnati has a RHP by the same name, too).

De Los Santos went 5-2 with eight saves in 33 appearances with High-A Myrtle Beach and one would think that the Nationals would like to pair him with Gilberto Mendez in the back end of the Harrisubrg bullpen in 2015.

Dec 102014
 


Let’s hope the participation is better for this one… I had to make the call because I’m trying to still follow in my digital size 13’s from last December as best as I can, plus if I give this three days, it’ll fall right into my (new) normal publishing timeframe (Saturday or Sunday).

As in previous polls, 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.

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 and snark.

I don’t think I’m going to need to get pre-emptively medieval on anyone’s buttocks by pointing out who’s on the older side or ineligible this year, as I did last year with the likes of Davis, Garcia, Jordan, and Karns. I only ask that if you name a pitcher who’s two of the three archetypes — old, young, and hurt — that you side towards the arm with less mileage and more upside.

Next up — barring a trade with the A’s — the Rule 5 draft.

Dec 092014
 


While the participation wasn’t what I hoped it would be, it was enough to assemble a semi-decent Top 10 list.

One interesting trend is that youth seems to be getting served by virtue of Jakson Reetz as well as Dominican imports Wilmer Difo and Rafael Bautista, both of whom had breakout seasons with Hagerstown, with the former being added to the Nats 40-man roster.

Of course, some of that is attributable to three of last year’s Top 10 bats being traded away (Billy Burns, Zach Walters) or taken in the Rule 5 Draft (Adrian Nieto). And some of that is attributable to the “girl-watching” nature of prospect following (the prettiest one is the one that just walked by).

Anyway, a total of 15 players were named on the eight ballots received or submitted, which does include mine. I don’t find the 15 number all that disturbing since, as some put it, the bottom part of the list isn’t as clear-cut as the top, which was a near tie (77 points to 75 points) with Steve Souza the top pick on five.

And with that “said,” I present the list:

                              1. Steve Souza
                              2. Michael Taylor
                              3. Wilmer Difo
                              4. Drew Ward
                              5. Jakson Reetz
                              6. Brian Goodwin
                              7. Matt Skole
                              8. Spencer Kieboom
                              9. Rafael Bautista
                              10. Pedro Severino

Others receiving votes: Tony Renda, Drew Vettleson, John Wooten, Stephen Perez, Raudy Read

I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that half of these names won’t be on this list next year, given proximity to the majors, age, or “trade baitiness.” It’s tempting to conclude that that means we’re about to swing Broadway backward, but if past is prologue, those that move on will be replaced with players who had breakout seasons.

Next up: The pitchers, which always leads to much more discussion (dissension?)…

Dec 062014
 


Since this is a popular feature — and it’s rather quiet on the minor-league front, unless you’re into start times and hot stove guests — let’s do this again.

For those unfamiliar with the drill (and obviously good at brushing and flossing), send me your Top 10 list of minor-league position players (40-man guys are eligible as long as they have rookie status) to enfieldmass-top10bats[at]yahoo[dot]com (link will open your preferred email client) or submit them in comments.

After I get enough submissions to work with, I’ll update this post to close the polls and weight the lists in reverse order (#1 = 10 points, #2 = 9 points, yada yada yada, #10 = 1 point).

Then, I’ll present the fifth annual NationalsProspects.com Top 10 Bats. Now, bear in mind that I use the term “bat” as a shorthand for a position player. As we all know too well, some folks will make it to the majors despite being poor on defense. Nevertheless, I would like you to consider both offense and defense in your selections, if for no other reason than the National League still does not have the designated hitter [insert troll remark here].

In addition to being an exercise that reinforces our sense of community on this site, I think it also produces a better list than if I were to pick it myself, which I did the first year. While there are some obvious exceptions, this is based on the “Wisdom of Crowds” theory that the collective opinions of many is usually more accurate than the opinion of one, which is an old idea (think Aristotle) that’s been given new life by a 2004 business book by James Surowiecki.

If nothing else, it’ll give us something to discuss until the Winter Meetings begin tomorrow.

UPDATE: I’m calling it and writing the next post.

Nov 302014
 


Welcome to the first pass on what will become the fifth watchlist in this site’s history. For folks unfamiliar with what we’re trying to do here, here’s a quick reminder. I can’t stand Top 10/15/25/6/4 lists (I get that they drive traffic, but so do cheesecake pics, a.k.a. “The Other Rule 5″) because I feel they just lead to pointless arguments over whether Prospect A should be ranked above or below Prospect B.

So I created a list of prospects, broken down by position, that were worth keeping an eye on — a watchlist. It’s not a list of guys that are on the verge on becoming major-leaguers. It’s a list of players that have shown some promise. That’s it.

The watchlist used to be quite large — nearly 90 players, but I’ve since learned to be less inclusive as I’ve become more experienced in prospect following. While I see most of these guys for at least part of one season as a season-ticket holder to Potomac, Washington’s High-A affiliate, until then I have to scout by boxscore or extrapolate from other first-person accounts, which ranges in quality from amateur to semi-pro.

I don’t put very much credence into draft position. That’s like expecting honesty in personal ads*. Certain names get brought up ad nauseum because of when they were drafted or how large their bonus was. I don’t care. I understand that a higher draft pick will get more chances and lower one will not. How players are acquired is beast unto itself that I understand is an art; it just doesn’t interest me and I’ll defer to those that do. Don’t make me paraphrase Eddie Murphy’s drunken father (NSFW).
* Still waiting for “Gold Digger Seeks Sugar Daddy”
Before I go any further… let’s review the caveats:

It’s not a depth chart… Obviously, when you arrange it the way I have — by the highest level played to date — it’s going to look like it at first glance. That also doesn’t mean that the guys near the top of a column are “better” than the guys at the bottom; it just means they’ve played at higher level.

It’s (mostly) based on 2014 usage… The Nats have a habit of rotating guys between 2B, 3B, and SS which makes it a little difficult to slot guys, especially at the short-season levels (DSL, GCL, NYPL). So sometimes I have to be arbitrary and pick the slot based on usage or aesthetics.

It’s preliminary… I like prospect gurus like John Sickels who solicit comments and feedback. While I’m aware that will include some complaints, it’s worth it if that’s what it takes to get some thoughtful feedback and/or suggestions.

Sadly, the M*A*S*H category has returned. I had hoped it wouldn’t, and as you might expect, it’s mostly pitchers. I had thought about putting both Brian Goodwin and Drew Vettleson there, but opted not to because the list of outfielders is already pretty short (maybe an overcorrection to last year’s list of OFs).

Consequently, I have combined the notables into a single column for layout purposes. As aforementioned, I was more judicious (or capricious) this time, choosing just 10 names versus 18 a year ago and 16 two years ago. It’s worth noting that very few of the notables have reappeared in subsequent watchlists — just six, not counting guys that have reappeared via the M*A*S*H category.

As always, feel free to discuss in the comments… just keep it civil. The players, their families, and their agents are reading, too. ;-)

C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Severino Skole Renda S. Perez
Ward Souza
Kieboom Wooten Davidson Difo Gunter Taylor
Read Yezzo Mejia Abreu Gutierrez Goodwin
Reetz Marmolejos-Diaz T. Alvarez
Lora Aguero Vettleson
Ballou
Bautista
Carey
Corredor
RHPs LHPs DSL Bats DSL Arms M*A*S*H Notables
Hill Grace Pimentel Baez Rosenbaum Kobernus
Cole Br. Harper
Agustin Fuentes F. Rivero Leon
Voth Spann Robles Cespedes Purke Dykstra
Simms Silvestre Mota Y. Ramirez
Solis Benincasa
Dickson Thomas A. Martinez
Bermudez J. Rodriguez
Self
Mendez Walsh Fedde Pleffner
Giolito Ott Turnbull
Suero Reynoso Johansen
R. Lopez
Pivetta
Dickey
M. Sanchez
McDowell
Je. Ramirez
L. Reyes
Valerio
Morales
Nov 262014
 

OK, so I’m a day early… but in this new world order, I post what I can when I can.

Folks in Hagerstown are rejoicing — as predicted here previously — that the deal for the Suns to move to Fredericksburg has fallen through. It’s not too hard to figure out why. Most likely: The deal was for the Suns to get a new facility, and then the sale of the team would be consummated.

Of course, the Suns ownership now faces a tall task of trying to win over the fans who have been staying away in droves despite fielding playoff-caliber teams (and providing more evidence that winning and attendance in the minors aren’t connected, which probably still won’t kill a lazy popular narrative). Early indications are that they’ll be playing up their 35-year history, but the site’s opinion remains that it will probably require, at a minimum, a change of ownership and probably a reversal of the stance that Municipal Stadium cannot be upgraded.

Switching to the original purpose of this post, I’d like to express the thanks to people for bearing with me while the site has transitioned from a (near) daily to a (mostly) weekly. I still hope to do some of the things I’ve done in past offseasons, but it’ll have to be shorter and some things will have to be skipped. My offline life is still very busy and chaotic but there’s some hope to get both some sanity and normality on certain fronts.

As always, stay safe, show some plate discipline, and call your mother!

Nov 232014
 

Monday Morning Box Scores
Time for our first update on how the Nationals’ minor-leaguers (and a couple of 40-man guys, natch) are doing in the winter leagues.
All statistics as of 11/23/2014, 12:22 a.m. EST.

BATTERS

PLAYER LG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Emmanuel Burriss DWL 15 47 3 13 1 1 0 4 2 6 .277 .346 .340 1
Tyler Moore DWL 22 77 19 22 4 0 6 17 18 20 .299 .429 .584 2
Jose Lozada PWL 11 35 2 8 3 0 1 5 2 10 .229 .270 .400 0
Sandy Leon VWL 23 72 3 13 2 1 0 6 8 17 .181 .259 .236 0
Adrian Sanchez VWL 5 6 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 .000 .000 .000 0

PITCHERS

PLAYER LG W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Manny Delcarmen DWL 1 0 0 5.00 11 0 9 10 5 5 1 5 5 1.67
Rafael Martin MWL 0 0 5 3.00 12 0 12 12 6 4 0 2 10 1.17
Paolo Espino VWL 3 0 0 3.74 8 8 33⅔ 34 14 14 3 11 34 1.34
David Ramos VWL 0 0 0 0.00 6 0 9 7 0 0 0 2 4 1.00


One of the first things that strikes me is that this easily the smallest winter contingent since I began this feature in 2010 — and a couple of these names may already be done for the season, as it’s been a week or more since they last made an appearance.

We’ve already heard some rumblings about how Tyler Moore is doing, though without the caveat that he’s facing pitching that ranges from Low-A to AAA.  Obviously, vice-versa for the pitchers, which is why I’m not impressed by either Martin or Ramos. I tend to get more concerned by particularly poor showings like Sandy Leon’s, even if I know the sample size is unreliable.

So take these numbers for what they’re worth: A chance to look at some stats when (ordinarily) it’s cold and bleak and not much else is going on in minor-league baseball.

Nov 212014
 

Confession: This is a reclamation of a post that I began yesterday and couldn’t finish by the time the moves were made
With the additions of A.J. Cole, Willem Dafoe, Wilmer Difo, Brian Goodwin and Matt Grace, the focus now turns to who is now exposed to next months Rule 5 Draft. Grace is an outlier; usually once a guy is exposed to the Rule 5 draft at his age, he makes it through subsequent drafts. So let’s look at the Nats draftees who appear to be eligible for the first time (H/T to SpringfieldFan for her efforts in keeping the Draft Tracker updated):

DRAFTEES ELIGIBLE FOR THE FIRST TIME

Matt Skole* Caleb Ramsey* Khayyan Norfork Shawn Pleffner* Kylin Turnbull
Brian Dupra Manny Rodriguez Nick Lee* Travis Henke Bryan Harper
Richie Mirowski*


Asterisks are for 2014 watchlist players. Notable IFAs believed to be eligible include Wirkin “For The Weekend” Estevez, Wander Suero and Kelvin Rodriguez.

Bear in mind, this is for the MLB phase. The AAA and AA phases are impossible to guage because the protected lists aren’t made public. Organizational soldiers tend to go in those phases, and if folks will recall, only one player acquired by Washington last December played in the minors last season: 23-y.o. Martires Arias, who was returned to the Mets and pitched 57 innings in short-season ball. (Theo Bowe was the other and all indications are that he retired).

I had planned on predicting that either Matt Skole or Brian Goodwin would be exposed, as it seemed likely that either the former’s struggles or the latter’s injuries would be enough to take the risk. Had I been pressed in the comments, I would have leaned towards Skole because Tyler Moore is out of options while the ascendance of both Michael Taylor and Steven Souza could cushion the “loss” of Goodwin.

Another theory/explanation is that the Nats brass believes that Souza can still function as a 1B/OF type (defensively, he’s head and shoulders above Moore anyway). Viewed through that prism, the decision not to protect Skole makes sense.

Grace is a small surprise, until you consider that he’stough on lefthanded batters (.371 OPS in ’14) and generates ground balls (3.23 G/F ratio). He’ll get an audition in spring training and if he loses the numbers game, sent back to Syracuse to await a callup, perhaps assuming the role of out-of-options Xavier Cedeno.

I believe the selection of Difo says less about him — despite an MVP season in the South Atlantic League, including 14HRs, 90 RBI and 49 SB’s — and more about the other middle-infield options available at the upper levels and the fringes of the 40-man. With no offense to Jeff Kobernus, but it would seem he’s a candidate to get cut loose when the Nats are next looking to clear room.

Finally, there’s little to be said about the protection of A.J. Cole. Even F.P. Santangelo could have predicted this; it was that obvious. Conventional wisdom has always been that hard-throwing pitchers can be hidden in a bullpen, especially for a team that’s budget-conscious or realistic about its chances of contention.