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 232012
 

The Nats’ stockpiling of free-agent pitchers continues with the latest transactions post from Baseball America:

  • RHP Randy Consuegra
  • RHP Deibi Yrizarri
  • LHP Fernando Abad

Consuegra is another former Boston farmhand, signed after pitching for the Colombian WBC team. He’s been out of professional baseball for the past two seasons. The logical inference is that Yrizarri is also an international free agent; the only clear reference to him that comes up in web searches is in the BA post.

Abad is the sole pitcher among this group with major-league experience, albeit with the Astros. He’s appeared in 88 games the past three seasons with Houston with career marks of 1-11, 5.10 ERA and a 1.559 WHIP. Scouting site 60ft6in.com describes him as “a junk-balling left-hander with a high major league walk rate. He throws tons of soft changeups to RHs and sweeping curves to LHs. The Dominican would rather walk a batter than give in with his 90 mph BP fastball.”

Thus far, two Nationals farmhands have signed elsewhere — Jim Negrych with Toronto and Atahualpa Severino with Kansas City. Severino was one of the last remaining players left from the Expos era still with the organization, a list believed to be now down to two: Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina.

Nov 222012
 

We’re about to hit a lull here, especially with (American) Thanksgiving coming as early as it can. That throws me off a little bit because I tend to look back at what I did a year ago and follow those digital size 13’s (47½ European).

With the end of the season reviews, it’s time to start building the 2013 Watchlist, which leads to the obligatory Top 10 lists, then the Rule 5 draft, and then the hot stove. Baseball America won’t be ranking the Nats until shortly before the winter solstice, and Sickels doesn’t appear to be ranking the teams in any particular order, so I can’t predict when we’ll see that. I try my best to have a rough idea of future posts, but the nature of the blogging beast is to react to news events (not to mention my schedule).

Of course, I’m still thankful for the opportunity to run this little website and pass along news, opinion, and information and still glad for everyone who visits, reads, and comments. As always, stay safe, use your trash can instead of your sink, show some plate discipline, and call your mother!

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.

Nov 172012
 

With a controversial appeal play in the 7th, the Salt River Rafters were unable to catch the Peoria Javelinas, losing the AFL Championship Game by a score of 4-3.

As the picture above shows, it was a very close call. Brian Goodwin was ruled to have left early on a would-be sacrifice fly. Equally unclear: Whether or not the umpires erred in the appeal play itself when it appeared that Peoria was allowed to appeal twice with the Javelinas tagging both home plate and third base. As of this writing, the game is under appeal, but chances are it will be denied.

Goodwin had tripled to lead off the inning and went 2-for-3 with a walk overall as the Rafters’ designated hitter. The next inning, Anthony Rendon also smacked a leadoff three-bagger, with speedster Billy Hamilton slamming into the outfield wall trying to track the ball down. Hamilton would leave the game with an injury but was spotted on the field during the postgame celebration, so it’s likely the injury is not as serious as it initially appeared.

Rendon’s hit was his only one in four at-bats. Defensively, the 22-year-old caught a foul pop and started a 5-4-3 DP in the 9th.

Matt Skole was third Nats position player to make it into the game, but was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts (both swinging). The 23-year-old was busy at first base with 11 putouts and two assists, including a 3-6-1 double play, but did show his inexperience on a bunt by Hamilton in which Ryan Perry pounced but had to eat it because Skole had strayed too far from the bag.

Perry got the start but was as sharp as a knife. A butter knife. The 25-year-old labored through three innings and gave up all four Peoria runs on eight hits and two walks to suffer the loss. He had zero (0) strikeouts and just 34 of 57 pitches went for strikes.

Aaron Barrett appeared for two batters and was 25 pitches short of a Bill Lee perfect game with two outs on two strikes thrown.

With the loss, Salt River finishes the 2012 AFL campaign with 17 wins 14 losses and two ties.

Nov 172012
 

You might be surprised to learn that my mother hardly ever made these…

While we await this afternoon’s AFL Championship game — sorry, not likely to live-tweet; I’m in charge of the animals today, plus the dogs — let’s take a look some Nats-related stuff as we ease into that ugly time where everyday news is not a guarantee…

ANOTHER SIX-YEAR FREE AGENT SIGNING
The Rocket broke it: The Nationals have signed Caleb Clay, a 24-year-old six-year free agent from the Boston organization. Clay has already undergone Tommy John surgery (2007) but has stalled at AA for the past two years as a reliever after starting his first four seasons. SoxProspects pegs him thusly: “Over-the-top, fluid delivery. Lanky frame, still has some projection. Fastball sits between 88-90 mph with good sinking movement. Can induce a lot of groundballs, but he can also give up a lot of hard contact.”

His hallmark has been control, with a career rate of 2.9BB/9IP and season-best of 1.8 per in 2010, and since switching to relief he’s been able to get strikeouts — 8.2K/9IP the past two seasons with Portland. I was unable to confirm if he is still rocking this Balester-esque ‘stache. Best guess at this point: relief inventory for Harrisburg.

SPRING TRAINING SLATE UNVEILED
Mark Zuckerman is back on the beat and characterizes the Nationals 2013 spring schedule as a case for the Nationals to leave Viera, perhaps going to Ft. Myers. Negotiations have been ongoing for most of 2012, with the Nationals reportedly asking for millions of dollars’ worth of upgrades and Lee County trying to whittle down the price tag.

OPTIONS AND SERVICE TIME
Todd Boss over at NationalsArmRace.com has done the hard work on trying to break down the options and service time of the current Nationals roster. With the Nationals ascendancy, this has become less of an issue than it was a few seasons ago, but as we saw with the likes of Ryan Perry (today’s starter in the AFL championship game), it hasn’t gone away. You might want to bookmark this one as I anticipate we’ll be revisiting this issue in the next couple of weeks as we may see some moves that can be explained with this information.