Nov 302012
 

Like last year, I’ve decided to solicit your input to compile the NationalsProspects.com Top 10 Position Players. I use the terms “bats” as shorthand for that, which lends itself much better for formatting and keeps the visual puns PG-rated, so please consider both offense and defense when you vote.

Here’s the dealio: Send your Top 10 list to enfieldmass-top10bats[at]yahoo[dot]com (link will open your preferred email client).

As I did last year, I’ll compile them, weight them in reverse order (#1 = 10 points, #2 = 9 points… #9 = 2 points, #10 = 1 point) and we’ll have fodder for discussion. When I hit a sizable number of submissions, I’ll update this post to let people know we’ve hit a critical mass.

I felt like this went well in 2011, producing a better list than if I were to pick it on my own as it I did in 2010. It’s based on James Surowiecki’s “Wisdom of Crowds” theory that the aggregation of information in groups produces more accurate estimations or decisions than would any one member of the group.

Let’s see how it goes in 2012…

Nov 292012
 

After coming up short in the postseason, the Nationals have traded RHP Alex Meyer to the Minnesota Twins for the long-coveted CF Denard Span.

The deal is being described early as a “win now” move and perhaps an indication that free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche may not be re-signed. Also possible, but less likely: a trade involving Michael Morse (if LaRoche does sign), Brian Goodwin or Eury Perez (Span is signed through 2014 with an option for 2015).

Centerfield, of course, has been craptastic (sorry to use the technical term) for the franchise for more than a decade.

Perhaps more important: Span gives the Nats a more traditional leadoff hitter, which enables the team to drop Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth lower in the lineup and slot them into more traditional run-producing roles. Defensively, Harper will most likely slide over to left field, though it’s possible that Harper will see time in right from time to time.

The 2012 Watchlist, which is technically inactive, has been updated nevertheless to reflect the trade.

Nov 292012
 

The offseason Top 10, 11, 15, 20, 25 or 6 to 4 list season has begun, and it starts with Bullpen Banter’s Washington Nationals Top 15 List:

No. Player Pos.
1. Anthony Rendon 3B
2. Lucas Giolito RHP
3. Brian Goodwin CF
4. Alex Meyer RHP
5. Matt Skole 3B
6. Tony Renda 2B
7. Eury Pérez OF
8. Brett Mooneyham LHP
9. Brandon Miller OF
10. Matt Purke LHP
11. Michael Taylor OF
12. Stephen Perez SS
13. Sandy Leon C
14. Jason Martinson SS/3B
15. Cutter Dykstra IF

I strongly recommend that folks read their commentary (plus there’s scouting video) because it’s important to read the opinions outside the Natmosphere. Not to mention, these guys do good work.

As you’ll see in my comment there, I was glad to see them agree with my assessment that the system isn’t nearly as good as we keep hearing from the local media. Jeff Reese said precisely what I believe was first put out there by Brian Oliver; that the system is five or six strong prospects, and then it drops off with a razor-thin difference between the next 14-15 in a Top 20.

I’m intrigued, of course, by the inclusion of the likes of Stephen Perez and Cutter Dykstra — enough to reconsider their placement on the 2013 Watchlist. I’m not surprised by the exclusion of Nathan Karns, who made Reese’s Top 10 (sadly, the two lists are combined versus broken out as they did previously), as his age is going to be held against him, regardless of the injury/surgery situation.

This, of course, also reminds me that I need to get on the horse about soliciting votes for Top 10 position players (bats) and pitchers (arms), which will most likely be tomorrow’s post.

Nov 282012
 

Picking up where we left off, now you can see how I’ve decided to change things a bit. Obviously, the most disturbing is the long list of pitchers that have been hurt or had surgery. And it’s by no means comprehensive. But right now, it’s impossible to ignore them (the term “Nationals elbow” proffered in the comments would almost work, too) since a great deal of the system’s perceived value is predicated on their recovery to pre-surgery expectations.

Secondly, you can see that I’ve decided to group the DSL guys together. In fairness, I probably ought to do the same with the GCLers for much the same reasons — it’s purely numbers-based on small sample sizes. I’ve also had a spotty track record picking these guys, which reminds me of what the prospect gurus warned about getting too excited about the short-season guys.

Finally, the last two columns are a means of acknowledging the ones that don’t quite merit full-fledged watchlist treatment, but are often discussed or mentioned (e.g. Jhonatan Solano). Perhaps it’s a pre-emptive strike (“Hey, what about __________?”), or maybe it’s a nod to the “fan” compartment of the site. As a former newspaperman, I’d like to think the age-old axiom about names (“good or bad, people like to see names in the paper”) translates online.

Hope folks like the changes. Let me know in the comments.

RHPs LHPs DSL Guys M*A*S*H Notables (Bats) Notables (Arms)
Garcia Rosenbaum O. Abreu B. Meyers Brown Lehman
E. Davis Ray Bautista Selik Komatsu Kimball
Demny Grace Diaz Solis Solano W. Estevez
A. Meyer Meza E. Gomez Applebee Ramsey Schwartz
Karns Lee Novas Purke Nieto Pineyro
Wort Mooneyham Read Jordan Mesa C. Davis
Holland Barrientos Je. Rodriguez McGeary S. Perez I. Heredia
Barrett   Ruiz Anderson Jennings Williams
Rauh   Silvestre M. Rodriguez    
Encarnacion   Valerio Giolito    
Hudgins          
Mendez          
Vasquez          
Nov 272012
 

With the season reviews complete, the Arizona Fall League finished, and the Rule 5 draft upcoming, it’s time to start looking towards the next iteration of the watchlist. I use the word “iteration” because I prefer to see this as something that’s evolving; Last year, I decided to be more exclusive. This year, I decided to change some of the categorizations to balance both workload and utility.

The changes will be much more visible in part two and thus I’ll go into it in more detail then. In the meantime, here are some of the usual 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. But when there’s a “tie,” I can either go alphabetical order or (for the most part) list the player that played more games at the position/level.

It’s based on 2012 usage… Yes, there’s one rather big (6’3″, 225) exception at first base, but that’s more of an acknowledgment of the certainty I feel about Keyes’s position switch in instrux vs. Skole’s usage in the AFL (i.e. there’s a better chance of Skole still playing at 3B than Keyes returning to the OF).

It’s preliminary… I like how Sickels takes feedback with his prospect lists, so part of the purpose of these posts is to listen to your comments (the other part is to keep the traffic coming, *wink, wink*).

As I’ve written previously, let’s not forget players and their families (and their agents) are readers here, too. It’s okay to be critical, but let’s keep it as civil as we can and focused on what the players do (or don’t do) on the field.

C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Leon Marrero Kobernus Walters Rivero E. Perez
Kieboom Bloxom Sanchez Hague Rendon Goodwin
Manuel Keyes Renda Martinson Skole Hood
P. Severino Pleffner Foat Difo D. Eusebio Taylor
    Lippincott     Oduber
          Souza
          Burns
          McQuillan
          B. Miller
          E. Martinez
          W. Ramos
          Piwinica-Worms
Nov 212012
 

Waiting deep into the night to make the announcement, the Washington Nationals added RHPs Nathan Karns and Erik Davis to the 40-man roster in preparation for next month’s Rule 5 draft.

Karns, of course, was the expected selection — the Nationals Minor-League Pitcher of the Year, leader in minor-league wins, strikeouts, WHIP, and opponent batting average, not to mention the mustache. Injuries delayed the 2009 12th-Rd. pick’s ascent, with shoulder surgery sidelining him for 2010 and limiting him to 13 appearances in 2011, in which he went 3-2 with a 2.28 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and 59K in 55⅓ innings. This past season he went 11-4 between Hagerstown and Potomac with a 2.17 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and 148K in 116 innings. The Texan native turns 25 on Sunday.

Davis was the wildcard pick. Even with the benefit of hindsight (i.e. Rizzo’s habit of favoring guys that he acquired), this is still a mild shock. As many of the beat writers pointed out, Davis’s strong showing in the Dominican Winter League — 3-0, 0.56ERA, 16K in 16IP — was likely a predicating factor for the move. After finishing 2011 with a demotion from Harrisburg to Potomac (and even worse numbers in High-A than AA), Davis turned it around in 2012 with a 8-3, 2.71, 1.247 pitching line overall, with 40 appearances for Harrisburg and eight in Syracuse. The Stanford grad/native turned 26 last month.

Nov 202012
 

Today is the deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters in preparation for the Rule 5 draft on December 6th. Like the Kardashians, this gets WAY more attention than it deserves, but people can’t help themselves from writing about it, largely because we’re in a dead zone between the end-of-season awards and the Baseball Winter Meetings.

Unlike years past, the Nationals are more likely to “lose” a player than get one (at least in the major-league phase). Quotes because both players lost last December — Erik Komatsu and Brad Meyers — were eventually returned, both undergoing surgery during the season.

The rules are pretty simple: Players that signed at 19 or older and have been in the organization for four years or players that signed at 18 or younger and have been in the organization for five years — if they’re not on the 40-man by tonight, they’re eligible. As noted in the comments, this basically boils down to 2009 college picks and 2008 HSers and IFAs.

ELIGIBLE FOR THE FIRST TIME

Pat Lehman* Destin Hood* Paul Applebee* Graham Hicks
Jeff Kobernus* Sean Nicol Matt Swynenberg* Dean Weaver
Danny Rosenbaum* Justin Bloxom J.P. Ramirez Bobby Hansen Jr.
Paul Demny* Nathan Karns* Adrian Nieto* Shane McCatty
Trevor Holder Rob Wort Taylor Jordan Andruth Ramirez

Asterisks are for the 2012 Watchlist players and italics are for players that were either hurt, had surgery, or are believed to have had surgery. I’m italicizing both Karns and Jordan to illustrate the more salient point that other organizations may deem their health as suspect. I’m focusing on the first-timers because picks on subsequently eligible players are uncommon (you can look at last year’s list if you need further convincing).

As you can see, there aren’t very many players that were both healthy and high-profile — just five of these 20. Of those five, just two played at AA (Demny and Rosenbaum) and one at AAA (Lehman). Teams picking anyone else are going to be gambling that the player’s injury is healed and didn’t impede their development.

As of this writing, there are only four spots available on the 40-man roster. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Nationals will both add players and outright players to preserve space for free agents and waiver claims. I’ll admit to being fuzzy on the precise rules, but there doesn’t appear to be any restrictions on waivers made prior to the November 30th non-tender deadline.

I believe we’ll see two players protected: Karns and Rosenbaum. While both are starting pitchers currently, both could be hidden in a losing ballclub’s bullpen. Here’s why I’m not convinced on the others at the AA level or above. This is not an indictment of the player, just an interpretation of how/why the Washington Nationals will decline to add him to the 40-man roster…

…Lehman, like Josh Wilkie before him, is probably going to be exposed to the draft because he doesn’t throw hard enough for the organization’s tastes.

…As mentioned yesterday, scouts have noticed a drop in Demny’s velocity, which, coupled with his struggles at Harrisburg, might be enough for most teams to pass.

…The signing of Will Rhymes is a hint (to me at least) that Washington may risk losing Kobernus, not to mention his injury history overall.

…Hood is just too unaccomplished at AA and lacks the Eury Perez-like defensive/pinch-running tools to be stashed on an MLB bench.

Nov 192012
 

First, the stats…
BATTERS

PITCHERS
Now, the thoughts

  • Goodwin’s alleged baserunning gaffe not withstanding, the youngest of the AFL entrants acquitted himself just fine overall. He showed a lot more power than anyone might have expected — hitter-friendly environment or not. I still expect him to return to Harrisburg next year to work on his defense and refine his game.
  • Rendon fulfilled the lofty expectations placed upon him by both the prospect cheerleaders gurus and the casual Nats fans, who are already converting Ryan Zimmerman to first base before he turns 30 to make room for 2011 first-round pick. My inclination is to predict Harrisburg as his 2013 starting point, but can see him in Syracuse next April with a strong spring.
  • The party line is that Skole played first base merely to accommodate Rendon in the AFL, but that seems hard to believe that he’ll go back, given how well he played there and who’s ahead of him on the first-base path to DC (just Bloxom and Marrero). If the knock on his gaudy offensive numbers was that he was playing a level too low, then making him the Senators first baseman can kill two birds with one stone.
  • Martinson started horribly and finished strong. Will it be enough for him to not repeat Potomac? The Zach Walters experience suggests that he’ll sent back but Martinson is much older and played much more High-A ball. Keeping him at Potomac means keeping someone else at Hagerstown, much the way he was made to repeat to make room for Ricky Hague and Walters.
  • Options or not, Perry did not make a strong case to account the hype that he can be the #5 starter for the parent club. He’s likely to stay on the 40-man for now, but don’t be surprised if he’s returned to the bullpen next spring.
  • Demny is a Rule 5 possibility and as much as Rizzo covets hard-throwing righties, the bet here is that he won’t be protected. Demny’s future is in the bullpen and the whispers that the velocity has slipped are other reasons to believe he’ll be exposed.
  • Kimball may still be recovering from injuries, but it’s hard not to see him getting dropped from the 40-man today or tomorrow (if he hasn’t already) in the hopes that he’ll pass through waivers. What we’ll never know is whether that was the plan all along.
  • Barrett came into the AFL with a built-in excuse of inexperience (17 innings of High-A) but instead was used in the 7th and 8th innings and had seven scoreless outings out of ten. Alas, it probably won’t be enough for him to not repeat Potomac in ’13.
  • Next up: A look at the Nationals Rule 5 eligibles.

Nov 182012
 

A little bonus coverage, courtesy of Lee Magenheim, who’s been supplying us with this year’s photos.

And then I told the bartender: Shaken, not stirred…


First pitch from Ryan Perry.


Finishing up the fifth, Matt Skole makes the second out on the second pitch Aaron Barrett threw.

Cole Kimball, winner of the
2012 Dernell Stenson Award.

Before the fateful appeal play in the 7th.


Out at the plate in the 8th.

Presumably, awaiting the protest decision.