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

Jan 182015
 

Watchlist Added3The first pass at the player reports for the 2015 Watchlist is now done. Basically, I write up the Top 10 guys, the players I saw this past season at Potomac, the short-season guys, and the essays for the M*A*S*H and Notables.

The Baseball America handbook and John Sickels’s prospect PDF have been ordered, so now we wait until they arrive to fill in the gaps, which I’ve labeled “Report Not Yet Written,” because I believe one or the other will cover the player.

The latest BA Transaction post only covered two players that hadn’t been previously reported: 1B Mike Carp, another 4A non-roster invitee; and RHP Williantony Uribarri, presumably an IFA destined for the DSL.

As always, feel free to discuss in the comments.

Jan 102015
 

This morning John Sickels released his Washington Nationals Top 20 list. Here’s a look at how it breaks down by letter grade:

A Lucas Giolito
B+ Michael Taylor, A.J. Cole
B Trea Turner, Joe Ross
B- Wilmer Difo, Erick Fedde, Reynaldo Lopez, Drew Ward
C+ Brian Goodwin, Austin Voth, Rafael Bautista, Jakson Reetz, Felipe Rivero, Pedro Severino, Raudy Read, Spencer Kieboom, Tony Renda, Chris Bostick
C Nick Pivetta

Let’s revisit my explanation for the layout…

The primary focus here is on letter grades, not numerical rank, which you can get by going top to bottom, then left in each row. Lucas Giolito is #1, Michael Taylor is #2, A.J. Cole is #3… Chris Bostick is #19, Nick Pivetta is #20.

The secondary focus is on improvement by letter grade, which you can see by the color red. Because Sickels only ranks Grade C or better, that means becoming a C+ or better guy after being previously identified as a Grade C.

Top 20 guys from 2014 are in bold while guys that played their way onto the list are in italics. Like last April, I chose not to italicize the players acquired by trade but did indicated if they improved (Joe Ross).

My apologies in advance if I misled anyone with the earlier post; I was unaware that Nick Melotte and Sickels were both doing Top 20 lists. That said, it is interesting to see, as others have noted, the differences between the two. Sickels is much higher on Goodwin while lower on Lopez. But you should click the link above to see for yourself as Sickels has a comment for each and every one.

Jan 092015
 


A little later than in years past, but five affiliates announced their 2015 coaching contingents yesterday (new hires in red):

SYRACUSE
Manager – Billy Gardner, Jr.
Pitching Coach – Bob Milacki (new hire)
Hitting Coach – Joe Dillon

HARRISBURG
Manager – Brian Daubach
Pitching Coach – Chris Michalak
Hitting Coach – Mark Harris

POTOMAC
Manager – Tripp Keister
Pitching Coach – Franklin Bravo
Hitting Coach – Brian Rupp

HAGERSTOWN
Manager – Patrick Anderson
Pitching Coach – Sam Narron
Hitting Coach – Luis Ordaz

AUBURN
Manager – Gary Cathcart
Pitching Coach – Tim Redding
Hitting Coach – Amaury Garcia

For those of you who are thinking “WHERE’S PAUL MENHART?!” worry not — the Nationals have made him the minor-league pitching coordinator while shifting longtime official Spin Williams to “senior advisor for player development.”

Byron Kerr, as usual, has the details on what’s largely a story of “It ain’t broke, so we ain’t fixin’ it.” Well, except maybe the hiring of Rick Ankiel to “life skills coordinator” (dutch uncle was perhaps too harsh?) to mentor players in the system.

Jan 072015
 

Yesterday, John Sickels’s protege Nick Melotte released his Top 20 Nationals Prospects.

Melotte does the star system — 2.5 to 5, which roughly equates to Sickels’s C to A rating, with a 2.5-star player being an organizational guy and an five-star being a future superstar. The hyperlinked article explains the gradations before getting into the list.

As I’ve done the past few years, I’ll break it down by the star (letter) system while noting the players who have improved (by grade, not numerical rank), declined, and the newcomers. It’s not a perfect translation — Melotte may have been higher/lower on a Prospect A than Sickels was in the first place, so he may not have actually improved/declined — but it’s what we have to work with.

★★★★★ Lucas Giolito
★★★★½ Michael Taylor, Reynaldo Lopez
★★★★ Trea Turner^, A.J. Cole, Erick Fedde+, Joe Ross^, Drew Ward, Austin Voth, Wilmer Difo, Jackson Reetz+
★★★½ Rafael Bautista, Tony Renda, Taylor Hill, Raudy Read, Felipe Rivero, Chris Bostick^, Robbie Dickey+, Abel De Los Santos^
★★★ Gilberto Mendez
Honorable mentions Derek Self, Brian Goodwin, Pedro Severino, Spencer Kieboom, Anderson Franco, John Simms, Steven Fuentes, Neil Holland

+ Newcomer by draft ^ Newcomer by trade

Now for some quick thoughts…

…There are only seven holdovers (bolded) from the 2014 list, and while we can’t assume the honorable mentions are nos. 21-28, it’s telling that of the 15 eligibles (four were traded, one graduated to MLB), just eight remain in the “Top 28.”

…According to the article, the honorable mentions are all three-star players; I separated from Mendez to make it easier for the list-obsessed folks to figure out who was #20 😉

…Just five guys played their way onto the list; the other eight were either traded for or drafted (hence the superscripts).

…Since B-/C+ guys aren’t delineated, it’s difficult to say that there are more “better than marginal” prospects, which was always something that I would look for; we’ll have to wait until next month to see how that pans out

…With the exception of Fedde, looks like Melotte takes the Weaver-esque approach (“I only deal with the living”) to prospects, which I actually prefer because the opposite leads to too much wishful thinking

As I did last year, I encourage folks to click through to read Melotte’s thoughts on Giolito, Taylor, and Lopez.

Jan 032015
 

Winter Baseball Update
With the close of the Venezuelan Winter League last night, here’s the last look at how players in the Nationals organization did in the 2014-15 Winter Leagues.

BATTERS

PLAYER LG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Tyler Moore DWL 22 77 19 23 4 0 6 17 18 20 .299 .429 .584 2
Emmanuel Burriss DWL 17 55 4 16 4 1 0 4 2 6 .291 .350 .400 1
Estarlin Martinez DWL 2 7 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .143 .250 .143 0
Wilman Rodriguez DWL 1 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .500 .500 .500 0
Jose Lozada PWL 29 99 11 23 8 0 2 7 5 23 .229 .295 .429 0
Sandy Leon VWL 46 147 13 31 8 1 2 14 17 27 .211 .290 .320 1
Mario Lisson VWL 32 112 11 26 5 1 4 13 18 20 .232 .372 .402 2
Wilson Ramos VWL 18 67 4 15 2 0 1 6 2 17 .224 .257 .299 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
Richard Bleier DWL 1 3 0 5.23 7 4 20⅔ 26 14 12 2 4 12 1.45
Manny Delcarmen DWL 1 0 0 8.71 14 0 10⅓ 15 10 10 2 6 7 2.03
Gilberto Mendez DWL 0 0 0 0.00 3 0 2⅔ 0 0 0 0 0 1 0.00
Rafael Martin MWL 1 0 10 1.90 24 0 23⅔ 22 8 5 1 4 22 1.10
Jose Lozada PWL 0 0 0 0.00 1 0 0⅔ 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Paolo Espino VWL 3 0 0 3.74 8 8 33⅔ 34 14 14 3 11 34 1.34
Mitch Lively VWL 1 2 0 3.38 6 2 18⅔ 21 8 7 2 5 18 1.39
David Ramos VWL 0 1 0 2.95 6 0 18⅓ 19 6 6 0 6 7 1.36


As usual in early January, there’s very little to report on the minor-league front. Earlier this week, the Nationals signed another veteran catcher: 33-year-old Omir Santos, who appeared in just 11 games last summer with Pittsburgh’s AAA affiliate due to a concussion and an ankle injury. Santos was orignally drafted by the Yankees in 2001, but made his MLB with Orioles in 2008. Since filling in for former Nats catcher Brian Schneider for 96 games with the Mets in 2009, Santos has played sparingly — just 226 games across five seasons for the Mets, Tigers, Rockies, Indians, and Pirates, with only 15 games played at the MLB level (14 for Detroit in 2011 and 2012, one for Cleveland in 2013).

Dec 282014
 

Top 10
In keeping with the new world order, I’m dropping back down to the more prototypical ten stories in the fifth annual edition of this piece. Naturally, they’re not ranked; I went through each month and started writing down ideas until I got there.

I’m sure I may have overlooked something or somebody; 2014 was a tough year for me personally, though I believe this site was something that helped distract from that fact, which is why I’m still holding on to it.

Without further vamping, here are ten stories that marked 2014 for the Washington Nationals minor leagues…

Long-Term Extensions For Syracuse, Harrisburg
I’m cheating a little here (Syracuse re-upped in December 2013), but instead of the usual two-year extensions, Washington doubled that with its AAA and AA affiliates. This will ensure an eight-year run for the top five rungs on the ladder after four switches in the first six seasons (two at AAA, one at Low-A, one at SS-A), which helps to offset the tiresome threat of relocation in Hagerstown and the tedious talk of a new stadium in Potomac.

Steven Souza
After years of tumult and torment, Souza put up a career year in 2014 and earned the International League’s MVP and Rookie of the Year awards at the not-so-tender age of 25. However, with only a bench spot open for 2015, GM Mike Rizzo horned in on a three-way (trade) and sold high on Souza, who will be remembered for a good catch and not his 3-for-23 mark over 21 games last summer.

Michael Taylor
Taylor wasted no time making it known that his time had come, smacking the game-winning triple in the Grapefruit League opener and then putting together an amazing campaign at AA — a .313/.396/.539 line with 22 homers and 34 steals while racking up 10 assists in CF. However, it did come at a cost of 161 whiffs over 127 total games. With just 12 games of AAA experience, the smart money is on him returning to Syracuse for more seasoning.

Reynaldo Lopez
Perhaps I’m giving short shrift to fellow Dominican Wilmer Difo, or taking his teammate Lucas Giolito for granted, but the ascendance of Reynaldo Lopez in 2014 is simply a better story. He signed for just $17,000 in 2012 and missed most of 2013 with arm soreness, reportedly due to bone weakness. After two poor starts in late May for the Suns, Lopez dropped to Auburn and dominated the NYPL for a 3-2, 0.75 mark over seven starts before returning to Hagerstown and dominating (15H, 1ER in 39⅔ IP).

Hapless In Harrisburg
They barely escaped being the worst Senators team ever in terms of wins and losses, but considering that they opened the season with six Top 20 prospects according to Baseball America, a dead-last finish seemed rather unlikely. Obviously, injuries were a factor all summer long it felt like watching a demolition in slow motion with each boxscore.

Matthew Purke
After finally putting in a full season in 2013, the hopes were high for Purke to build upon it and start producing. Instead, his season ended in May after just eight starts. He joined the legion of Nationals pitchers to undergo Tommy John surgery and was ultimately released in November to make room on the 40-man roster. While he re-signed and will perhaps make a handful of starts in 2015, thus far he represents a Mike Rizzo injury gamble that didn’t pan out.

John Simms, Austin Voth Rise From Low-A to AA
In general, 2014 saw the Nationals promote early and often. A lot of this was necessitated by injuries and ineffectiveness, but two pitchers who could have arguably been kept to just two levels made it from Hagerstown to Harrisburg with a stay at Potomac. John Simms spent April in the Suns bullpen but then started 10 games for Potomac before finishing up in Harrisburg. Voth, who is six months younger, stuck around longer in Hub City (13 starts), but blew through the Carolina League before joining Simms. Neither pitcher was effective at AA, which begs the question: were they pushed up too soon? How they do in 2015 could be the answer.

Potomac Wins The Mills Cup
After dominating wire-to-wire in 2013, Potomac matched the feat in 2014, taking the first half crown by 4½ games and the second by seven games. Still, their counterparts in the Southern Division, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans also won both halves and dominated them in their final two series, taking five of six games. Unlike 2013, the bats did not go dead and the team fired on all cylinders to win three straight after dropping Game One, 2-0.

Chiefs Make The Playoffs
For most of this site’s existence, Syracuse has been an also-ran with few homegrown players. In 2014, the Chiefs put up the league’s best record and made the playoffs with an 81-62 mark. Alas, the parent club called up six players including Souza and Blake Treinen while shutting down A.J. Cole as they were swept in the first round, losing 2-1 in 10 innings, 8-2, and 7-6.

Suns Fall Short In Sally League Finals
Hagerstown and Greensboro tied each other in wins and losses over both halves, with the Grasshoppers winning the first half and the Suns taking the second. After rallying for three in the 9th in Game One of the semis, Hagerstown took the series with a 6-2 win in Game Two. In the finals, the Suns were pounded 16-7 in Game One but battled back to tie the series twice before falling 4-1 in Game Five, the second straight year Hagerstown lost the Sally League Championship.

Dec 242014
 

Xmas-2014-SpikeNo, really — we wish you the best for whatever holiday tradition you observe, be it religious or secular (and if you’re American, it’s probably both). More importantly, my hope is that by the time you read this, you’re at your desired destination and spending time with who you want to be with, or who wants to be with you.

Remember that the rituals and traditions that you do this time of year are what those who love you will remember you by. Like getting pizza on Christmas Eve, which was a big deal because we rarely got takeout food. Yet what I wouldn’t give to have one of my Mom’s semi-homemade efforts.

Anyway, be safe and be happy today, tomorrow, and always.