Dec 092013
 


I’m suspecting we’ll have better participation, as some of you may be off work, trapped at home with kids, or telecommuting thanks to last night’s snowstorm (our official opinion remains the same).

As before, 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. The plan is to write the post on Wednesday morning.

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.

The only restriction: You can’t vote for anyone who is not a prospect (defined as having a rookie status, which is less than 130AB, 50IP, or 45 days of service during the 25-man roster limit period). Sorry, but that means Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark aren’t eligible. Likewise for Xavier Cedeno, who has a low IP total but too much service time.

Nathan Karns, Erik Davis, and Christian Garcia are eligible, but are 26, 27, and 28 respectively. For some folks, their advanced age renders them non-prospects, though others will surely disagree. Not influence the results, but there were some much younger arms in the GCL that might merit your consideration.

Dec 072013
 

This seems to be a trend… for the second straight year, there was a consensus at the top of the list… then a free-for-all afterwards.

The two of the top three guys were each left off at least one ballot, while the number two guy was unanimously named, enabling him to garner the no. 2 spot without a single first-place vote.

A total of 24 players were named on 14 ballots, some of which had less than 10 names and/or an ineligible player. While I adjusted the points accordingly (e.g. #1 on a nine-player ballot = 9 pts vs. 10 pts. on a ten-player), it did not affect the rankings.

Without further ado, ze list:

                              1. Brian Goodwin
                              2. Matt Skole
                              3. Steve Souza
                              4. Billy Burns
                              5. Michael Taylor
                              6. Jeff Kobernus
                              7. Zach Walters
                              8. Drew Ward
                              9. Tony Renda
                              10. Adrian Nieto

Others receiving votes: Corey Brown, Eury Perez, Justin Bloxom, Randy Encarnacion, Narciso Mesa, Pedro Severino, Isaac Ballou, Brandon Miller, Cody Gunter, Rafael Bautista, Josh Johnson, Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, Bryan Mejia, Caleb Ramsey

Some observations:

• Goodwin received ten first-place votes, similar to how he was the near-consensus at #2 last year behind Anthony Rendon.

• This year’s #2 is a bit of a shock: Matt Skole was hurt all year long and struggled some in the Arizona Fall League, but moved up a spot from #3 to #2 nevertheless.

• Souza’s strong AFL campaign and addition to the 40-man roster seemed to stick out in many voter’s minds, vaulting him from an also-ran in 2012 to #3 with three first-place votes.

• Burns and Taylor nearly tied despite Taylor being left off two ballots, nearly closing the gap in points by receiving a pair of second-place votes (Burns’s highest was a third-place spot).

As it traditionally has, the list skews towards the upper minors; this year’s exception: Ward, who might have missed the cut — like Skole did in 2011 — were it not for the GCL Nationals’ championship run (likewise for his teammates that were in the “also-rans”). Still, I think a lot of this is simply the bias of familiarity, which also explains why a couple of players aged 27+ players received votes.

Next up: the pitchers, which is always contentious thanks to folks’ biases of starter vs. reliever, lefty vs. righty, fireballer vs. junkballer, floor wax or dessert topping, etc. Plus, with one less no-doubt pick (Robbie Ray), the last couple of spots ought to be closely contested.

Dec 052013
 


Since this has worked well for the past two years, I’m going to do it a third time and ask for folks to send me their votes for the Top 10 Position Players in the Nationals organization. Bear in mind that I use the term “Bats” as shorthand for non-pitchers, completely aware there can be a huge gap between a major-league hitter and a major-league defender [insert Adam Dunn reference here], but do please consider both offense and defense in your selections.

The deal is pretty simple: Send your Top 10 list to enfieldmass-top10bats[at]yahoo[dot]com (link will open your preferred email client). I’ll compile the votes and weight them in reverse order (#1 = 10 points, #2 = 9 points… #9 = 2 points, #10 = 1 point). When I hit a sizable number of submissions, I’ll update this post to let people know I’ve got enough to write the “Top 10″ post.

For those unfamiliar, this solicitation for information is based on a famous book by financial writer James Surowiecki, who argued that the aggregation of information in groups produces a more accurate estimation or decision than any single individual within the group (naturally, there are some folks who might disagree).

If nothing else, it’ll help fill the time between either the next trade or the winter meetings next week.

UPDATE: I’ve got enough votes to write the post (hey, that rhymes!)

Dec 032013
 

In a trade reminiscent of two Decembers ago, the Nationals have traded LHPs Robbie Ray and Ian Krol along with utilityman Steve Lombardozzi for Tigers RHP Doug Fister.

Fister, who was not drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks but rather the Seattle Mariners in the 7th Round of the 2006 Draft, turns 30 in February but is only in his second year of arbitration eligibility. He cannot become a free agent until after the 2015 season, providing Washington with a in-his-prime pitcher who’s exceeded 200 innings twice in the past three seasons and averaged more than six innings per appearance for his career.

Trade reaction is generally in the direction of adulation (trust me, I wanted to use a stronger word than that; think Apple fans and Jobs) for Washington GM Mike Rizzo’s latest trade or disdain for Detroit GM Dave Dombrowksi.

Then there are those who take the contrarian point of view:

Have to believe Tigers know something about Fister the rest of us don’t. Dombrowski isn’t dumb.
— David Laurila, Fangraphs via Twitter (@DavidLaurilaQA)

Of course, like a hermaphrodite’s knife, this cuts both ways: maybe Rizzo knows something about Ray or Krol like he presumably did with Brad Peacock, who has underwhelmed relative to the expectations set from his rise from AA to the majors in 2011. This is de rigeur with any trade that seems lopsided at first blush, though ultimately, it’s really hard to say that Rizzo “won” the Gonzalez trade. Oakland GM Billy Beane did get a cost-controlled pitcher and catcher and used Peacock to acquire an underrated everyday third baseman, fulfilling his mission to get talent on the cheap [insert "Moneyball" reference here].

From our perspective, it’s yet another reminder that for all our yearnings to see “our guys” with a curly W cap in DC, there’s always the chance that they’ll make The Show elsewhere. While that may be disappointing to some, it’s the reality of a system that’s not been highly regarded in the aggregate in the past couple of years, yet has been generating major-leaguers nevertheless.

This is actually a good sign, evidence that the organization is in the “Replace/Reload Mode” that ultimately is the most important measure of a system: generating players that can play in MLB.

Dec 022013
 

2014 Watchlist
Perhaps the thing I’m most glad about when looking at this iteration is that the M*A*S*H category could very well be ditched in favor of breaking up the DSLers into arms and bats (yes, design does have an influence). There’s a certain sardonic timbre to it as I take a step back and look at this first pass that’s just not as applicable as it was a year ago. But some of the point of this exercise is to share the thought process (hence the previous parenthetical) before changing the “Watchlist and Player Reports” tab above.

Thus, I can tell you that I’ve already changed my mind of some these selections and those of the previous post, which I prefer to treat like a print publication that’s already left the building rather than editing the previous post. That may seem quaint, but it’s a byproduct of my professional training and experience as a Journalist and a newspaperman, respectively. Too many other sites — news or gossip — have the “get it first, fix it later if we have to” mentality. I’d rather be honest and finish the list as if it were done all at once. Besides, I’ve already copped to splitting it into two to maximize traffic ;-).

As always, let me know what you think in the comments…

RHPs LHPs DSL Guys M*A*S*H Notables (Bats) Notables (Arms)
Karns Ray Corredor Garcia Hood Rosenbaum
Barrett Solis Gutierrez W. Estevez Oduber E. Davis
Cole Purke Ortiz Kieboom Keyes Holland
Schwartz Mooneyham Mota Anderson Ramsey Grace
P. Encarnacion Lee Florentino Manuel Rauh
C. Davis Orlan Sanchez Gunter Dickson
Mendez Silvestre Yrizarri Masters R. Pena
Johansen Ott Reyes Yezzo Bacus
Voth Torres Franco Spann
Pivetta Valerio
Giolito
Hollins
Simms
Suero
K. Rodriguez
P. Valdez
Nov 302013
 


I’m not sure why, but in assembling this first pass I had the distinct feeling that some of these names probably ought not to be listed, but are because either (A) I’m following the guidelines I’ve set up in years past (B) listing an established guy in a given position feels less disingenuous than slotting in a recent draft pick from a short-season simply because he’s new. I still believe that performance means something — though a lot less than most of us are willing to admit — and if he didn’t do well in Auburn or the GCL last summer, I need (want?) more evidence than merely being drafted.

Part of my ambivalence is knowing that I have two “Notable” categories in which to put such conundrums, though most of these guys are position players. As I wrote last year: They’re a means of acknowledging the ones that don’t quite merit full-fledged watchlist treatment, but are often discussed or mentioned. I guess the real question is whether that’s more appropriate for the “old” guys or the “new” guys. I’m open to a discussion of that, with the reminder that we’re talking about people here and the players, their families, and their agents are reading.

Now, let’s revisit 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. 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 (mostly) based on 2013 usage… I think folks can see that I’m playing a little fast and loose on this one this year… Jeff Kobernus actually played more outfield than infield, but second base has suddenly become a thin position in the minors, in large part because the Nats have been rotating IFs between 2B, 3B and/or SS

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 site fresh and visitors coming, duh).

C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Leon Bloxom Kobernus Walters Skole E. Perez
Nieto Pleffner Hague Martinson Dykstra Goodwin
P. Severino Marmolejos-Diaz Renda Difo J.C. Valdez Souza
Reistetter D. Eusebio Mejia Abreu Ward Burns
Taylor
B. Miller
W. Ramos
E. Martinez
Wooten
Ballou
Lippincott
Zebrack
Bautista
R. Encarnacion
Nov 282013
 

Apologies for the lack of posts lately, but that’s the nature of the offseason in the minors… sometimes there’s something to write about every day, and sometimes it’s like trying to find intelligent conversation on sports talk radio. (And as we saw this week with the Let’s Put A Roof On Nationals Park “story,” this kind of dead zone can be found in the majors, too).

My offline life has also been ultrabusy lately, though I’m expecting a bit of a lull for which I’ve been waiting to attack the next few projects… the 2014 Watchlist… the obligatory Top 10 lists… thoughts on the Top 10/20/25-or-6-to-4 lists of other prospect followers… and cover the Rule 5 draft (which is also a week later than last year).

Despite how much harder it’s been than in years past (see “ultrabusy” above), I still appreciate the opportunity to pass along information and commentary with the kind flair (perhaps not 37 pieces, but I digress) that I wouldn’t be allowed to do elsewhere (i.e. a mainstream newspaper or website). I’m thankful that people somehow like (or tolerate, if you ask my wife) this and appreciate the folks who visit, read, and comment.

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

Nov 252013
 

Less than a week after being designated for assignment, LHP Fernando Abad has been traded from the Washington Nationals to the Oakland Athletics for OF John Wooten. It’s the third trade involving the two teams in 2013 (Mike Morse, Kurt Suzuki) and the fifth since 2011 (Suzuki in 2012, Gio Gonzalez in 2011).

As you might imagine for a 37th Round Draft pick, there is very little information on Wooten, aside from his bio from East Carolina University and his collegiate and minor-league statistics. He was not written up by either John Sickels or Baseball America in their 2013 prospect books.

He’s a former teammate of Dakota Bacus — acquired in the previous Washington-Oakland trade — at Beloit, where he hung a line of .257/.333/.430 with 20 HRs (4th best in the league) and 69 RBIs. With the Nats starved for power-hitting OFs (he’s 15 months younger than Brandon Miller), it seems likely that he’ll progress to Potomac and play one of the corner outfielder positions, presuming that he’s not shifted to 1B or slotted behind Estarlin Martinez or Shawn Pleffner on the organizational depth chart.

Nov 242013
 


While perhaps stealing the thunder from the next Baseball America transactions post, its primary author Matt Eddy relayed the following signings via the twitters yesterday:

  • RHP Daniel Stange
  • IF Melvin Dorta (re-sign)
  • RHP Chris Young (re-sign)
  • C Jeyner Baez
  • RHP Gabriel Alfaro

OK, now put down your beverage because Stange was originally drafted by… wait for it… the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 7th round of the 2006 Draft. He spent 2013 in the Angels organization, making 26 appearances for AAA Salt Lake with a record of 4-1 with five saves and an ERA of 5.06. He allowed 16 runs on 31 hits over 26⅔ innings while while walking 13 and striking out 30. He made three relief appearances for the Angels in his second MLB stint (the first was in 2010), and was hit hard in his first outing, walking a pair and giving up a walkoff blast in a 14-11 loss to Texas. His second and third outings were scoreless, pitching an inning in an 8-2 win and getting the last out in the top of the 9th in a 6-5 loss (both games vs. Toronto).

Dorta, like Sean McCauley last week, was a player-coach for the Senators in 2013 and looks to be re-upping for the same duty in 2014.

Young, who was signed to a similar deal last offseason, made seven starts for Syracuse and was pounded like a drum to the tune of 31 runs on 50 hits (including nine HR) over 32 innings before going on the DL for most of the season (he made one appearance in the GCL and one in the NYPL in August and September respectively). He reportedly has had surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition in which nerves and/or blood vessels become compressed in the space between the collarbone and the first (thoracic) rib and causes pain and weakness in the shoulder.

Finally, as noted by Eddy first, the Nationals have released RHP Yunesky Maya after four less-than-stellar seasons. Signed as an IFA in July 2010 to a four-year/$6M contract, Maya made just 16 appearances in the major leagues, 15 of which came in 2010 and 2011. He made 76 of his 79 starts in the minors for Syracuse over the past four seasons and went 24-28 with an ERA of 4.13 over 453⅓ innings with 456 hits and 44 HRs allowed.

UPDATE:
The latest BA transaction post was published on Monday. Additions are in blue

…The presumption is that Baez is an IFA, given the surname and the lack of an entry on baseball-reference.com.

…WaPo Nats beat writer Adam Kilgore had the story on Alfaro last week, along with details on the Young contract.

Nov 232013
 

Monday Morning Box Scores
Time for our semi-weekly update on how the notable Nationals minor-leaguers are doing in the winter leagues. All statistics as of 11/23/2013, 1:19 a.m. EST.

BATTERS

PLAYER LG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Francisco Soriano DWL 5 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000 1
Jose Lozada PWL 4 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 0
Michael Taylor PWL 15 57 7 24 3 1 2 5 4 15 .421 .476 .614 2
Adrian Sanchez VWL 20 46 4 11 3 0 0 2 1 8 .239 .271 .304 0
Sandy Leon VWL 18 60 9 17 1 1 1 5 9 16 .283 .377 .383 1
Zach Walters VWL 15 50 6 12 1 0 3 6 6 19 .240 .321 .440 0
Corey Brown VWL 9 27 5 8 3 0 0 5 8 10 .296 .472 .407 0

PITCHERS

PLAYER LG W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Yunesky Maya DWL 2 3 0 3.45 6 6 31⅓ 33 15 12 2 5 25 1.21
Rafael Martin MWL 1 1 0 5.28 12 0 15⅓ 17 11 9 3 4 13 1.37
Christian Garcia MWL 0 0 0 2.16 5 0 8⅓ 4 2 2 0 6 8 1.20
Tyler Herron PWL 0 0 7 0.00 9 0 9⅓ 3 0 0 0 4 10 0.75
Danny Rosenbaum VWL 2 2 0 4.28 7 6 27⅓ 36 14 13 3 8 15 1.61