Jan 242012
 


Iconoclastic prospect guru Kevin Goldstein has weighed in on the Nationals system as part of his regular “Future Shock” series. In addition to ranking the Top 11, he breaks them down into the more aesthetic star system (two-star, three-star, etc.), then names nine more. In short, the four- and five-star guys are like Sickels’s Grade-B or better. Without further ado:

1. Harper *****
2. Rendon *****
3. Purke ****
4. Goodwin ***
5. Meyer ***
6. Hood ***
7. Taylor ***
8. Lombardozzi ***
9. Ray ***
10. Solis ***
11. T. Moore **
12. Marrero
13. E. Perez
14. Walters
15. Jordan+
16. Smoker
17. Martinson
18. Skole
19. Leon
20. Freitas
+I asked him via Twitter regarding Jordan and he replied that pre-surgery, Jordan might have been #11.

Like most of the prospect gurus, Goldstein points to the Gio Gonzalez trade as “thinning” to the system but believes the ’11 Draft could eventually replace the players lost. As many of you have noted in the comments, the GG trade has knocked the system back, but perhaps only to where it was a year ago.

Still, let’s not forget that as the parent club improves, the job of reloading becomes more difficult. The new CBA also will be a factor, though I think a lot of the early “Omigod, we’ll never get another Bubba Starling!” screeching analysis was overwrought.

Click through on the link above to read his quick takes on the “Nine More” and for you Harper fanboys, Goldstein included the writeup on him. The rest, alas, is for the paid subs (sorry).

Jan 242012
 

As mentioned in the comments, Sickels has done his first ranking of the farm systems and the Nationals came in at #14. This sounds about right to me, given how the system thins out considerably after the top-line talent.

First base, shortstop, and LHRPs are three areas of particular concern to me. Yes, there is Moore and Marrero, but it’s a chimera to think that both will make it to DC. Rick Hughes fans will shout me down, but he’s coming off a shoulder injury and has a lost a year of development time. Josh Smoker is the best LHRP candidate and has zero AA innings. Of course, any complaints about minor-league relievers is mostly academic anyway; roles and usage should be secondary to the primary concern of developing the arms themselves.

The low-level rumblings in Western Maryland and the Shenandoah Valley are becoming louder, as details and logistics start to come to light. I’ve already admitted that my bias is towards keeping things in place, but obviously keeping the affiliate within reasonable driving distance of DC is my second choice. I can’t promise to follow this story all season long (the focus is on the players first), but I can direct folks to the blog that is dedicated to that purpose.

As others have mentioned, this is par for the course in the minors. Ownership groups routinely play one city off another in hopes of a better deal, a better facility, etc. It’s their right because the team is, after all, a business. Municipalities also have the right to say no, because it’s their duty to decide what constitutes a fair use of public monies.

My only admonition is that it’s usually a downward trend. A double-A team leaves, a single-A team might replace them. An affiliated team goes, an indy team — which doesn’t have to follow territorial rules — might move in. An indy team leaves, a collegiate wood-bat league might come to town. But with each step down, there are fewer dates the ballpark is used, fewer opportunities for the public to enjoy the facility, and less revenue generated to maintain it.

Stay tuned for a look at the latest Nats Top Prospect list, as Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus has weighed in.

Jan 202012
 

Three days after releasing his initial Top 20 list, the Nationals traded four of their Top 10 to the A’s for Gio Gonzalez. Today, Sickels has revised the list.

Thankfully, this is in print, so I don’t have to channel my bad Casey Kasem impersonation (click for a better one), but with everybody moving up four spots on the countdown, here are the four new names on his Top 20:

20) Justin Bloxom — C

19) Jeff Kobernus — C

18) Eury Perez — C

17) Tyler Moore — C

Moore, of course, has gotten some attention lately with Byron Kerr’s profile that has him being tried in the OF during Spring Training. This is, of course, being tried to give the Nats options besides DH if/when both he and Chris Marrero are in the same lineup at Syracuse.

Kobernus and Perez could easily be flip-flopped, but I, too, would rate Perez ahead of Kobernus because he can hidden on a bench as a defensive replacement/pinch-runner, not to mention he’s two years younger. Both have the same impediment for the long haul: impatience at the plate (4.0 and 4.7% BB rates, respectively).

Bloxom was one of the overlooked that I listed when Sickels put the call out to the community (first comment), but it’s still a bit of a surprise to see him get the nod when you look at the list of “Others” — folks that most likely will make the book, which is due out next weekend.
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And for today’s copyeditor’s nightmare (and non-sequitur?)… the sole signing last week by the Nationals was for Austin Bibens-Dirkx, a candidate for the Syracuse staff. He turns 27 in April and another Venezuelan League signee. One might also think, given this article, that he’s a project for the coaches to make a mechanical adjustment.

Jan 182012
 

As referenced in our previous post, the authority when it comes to minor-league facilities has weighed in.

Here’s the key graf in that story (bolding mine):

Now, we’re not talking the world’s greatest market: its population in 2009 was 26,322, its median income is lower than the rest of Virginia, and it’s the county seat of a relatively small county (Frederick County’s population is only 78,305, but it is growing). Indeed, to reach a 100,000 population within a decent driving distance of any Winchester ballpark, you need to include the entire county and all of Martinsburg, W.V., some 25 miles up I-81, as well as rural residents in the Martinsburg area.

I’ve been reading Kevin Reichard for the better part of a decade, which is not to say I’m slavish devotee. We’ve actually butted heads via e-mail, particularly when he correctly predicted the demise of my former hometown team, the North Shore Spirit. But I will say that he knows his [stuff] and have come to respect him.

I don’t think you can overestimate the value of a suitor that has a ballpark in place vs. that one does not. Kinston is the contender that folks in Hagerstown should be fearing. And look more carefully at that last line, it echoes what my friend Shawn wrote nearly a month ago (also worth another look).

He’s spot-on in the assessment that most people will blame the ownership vs. elected officials if the Suns were to leave. Indeed, when the North Shore Spirit folded its tent, there were folks praising Mayor Chip Clancy for “standing up” to the team’s mercurial owner, Nick Lopardo. My bias is obvious: I don’t care who “wins” in that battle; I just want the team to stay in place.

I’m guessing most of you feel the same way.

Jan 162012
 

It’s that dreaded dead time again.

No, not in that annoying, overrated Jerry Garcia kind of way.

It’s the post-holiday malaise where it’s the waiting game. Last year, that empty space was filled with a trade (Gorzelanny). Well, we’ve already had that trade (G. Gonzalez) and the next one might simply be the unloading of spare parts, should a free-agent signing occur.

The takeaway I have from the GG extension is that the Nationals have locked down their Big Three in the DC rotation, so any excess is bound to be trade bait. That could be Lannan or Detwiler now, or Solis or Ray later (it does not escape me that those are all lefties).

Meanwhile, the low-level rumblings from the lower full-season affiliates are registering like last August’s earthquake.

A blog has been established to watch the goings-on from Winchester, a rumored relocation spot for Hagerstown. Kevin Reichard at ballparkdigest.com has yet to weigh in, but my take is that if privately funded efforts in more affluent counties (i.e. The Loudoun Hounds) are having trouble getting off the ground, how will a publicly funded effort possible do better (and faster)? Not to mention, the most likely destination (Bridgeforth Field) would need a massive renovation. I’ve seen it done before, but only at the indy level (Lynn, Nashua, Worcester), where the 1991 NAPBL stadium standards don’t apply.

Meanwhile, in Woodbridge the quest for a new stadium for the Potomac Nationals remains a windmill in the distance continues. The latest dispatch has a county official citing a nonspecific setback over a parking garage of undetermined size is delaying a future announcement for the building of a facility located somewhere along the I-95 or I-66 corridor. Apparently, I’m not the only writer desperate for a news peg.

Of course, now that I’ve done a post-to-keep-the-site-fresh, something else minors-oriented might happen today…

Jan 122012
 

With the latest BA transaction update comes the news that we had been expecting: Eight Nine Nationals minor-leaguers were released last week (or early this week).

  • RHP Mark Herrera
  • LHP Chad Jenkins
  • 1B Russ Moldenhauer
  • OF Chad Mozingo
  • OF Wander Nunez
  • C Wilfri Pena
  • 2B Roberto Perez
  • RHP Manuel Rivera
  • OF Connor Rowe

Five of the eight nine were Watchlist players in 2011 or 2012, but only three played above SS-A — Jenkins 9IP and Moldenhauer 50PA for Hagerstown in ’11; Pena appearing in eight games (23PA) for Potomac in ’10.

Jan 112012
 


It’s the slow season here but while we await the slow whine wait for the Prince Fielder presser, the Nationals have made the following minor-league signings since our last update:

  • C James Skelton
  • C Devin Ivany
  • RHP Jimmy Barthmaier

Now before everyone starts plugging them into their personal spreadsheets, don’t forget that it’s not uncommon for teams to sign catchers for camp purposes then release them as camps thin out.

Many of you have lamented about the state of the AA and AAA rotations. Well, it appears the Nats are willing to bring back known quantities as they await the next wave of SPs to make it there.

Jan 092012
 

I’ll spare you guys a NKOTB pun for a pic and pass along the following Top 15 list from Bullpen Banter:

Jeff Reese Al Skorupa
1. Bryce Harper, OF 1. Bryce Harper, OF
2. Anthony Rendon, 3B 2. Anthony Rendon, 3B
3. Brian Goodwin, CF 3. Brian Goodwin, CF
4. Alex Meyer, RHP 4. Alex Meyer, RHP
5. Sammy Solis, LHP 5. Matt Purke, LHP
6. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B/SS 6. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B/SS
7. Matt Purke, LHP 7. Sammy Solis, LHP
8. Destin Hood, COF 8. Destin Hood, COF
9. Michael Taylor, CF 9. Matt Skole, 3B
10. Chris Marrero, 1B 10. Michael Taylor, CF
11. Tyler Moore, 1B 11. Robbie Ray, LHP
12. Robbie Ray, LHP 12. Eury Perez, CF
13. Matt Skole, 3B/1B 13. Cole Kimball, RHR
14. Eury Perez, CF 14. Dan Rosenbaum, LHP
15. Kylin Turnbull, LHP 15. Tyler Moore, 1B

I’m not gonna say much more except to go and take a look at their commentary. I think you’ll find their comments on Steve Lombardozzi particularly interesting, as well as their thoughts on Rendon, Ray, and Solis. As frequent commenter SoulDrummer is fond of remarking: “It’s important to pay attention to how folks outside our little bubble are viewing the guys.”

Jan 092012
 

As mentioned in the comments, I’ve been plugging away at the Player Reports for the 2012 Watchlist and am now done with the first pass. Once I receive the books from Baseball America and John Sickels, I’ll complete the “Report Not Yet Written” and amend/rewrite the others as needed.

I’ve also created pages on Facebook and Google+ to give folks more avenues to here, expanding from just an RSS feed and Twitter. I also want to remind folks that you can subscribe to comments to get alerts. Essentially, I’m trying to give folks an array of tools to keep tabs on the site with as little effort for both you and me alike.

Finally, I’ve also updated my “About” page to include the site’s email address (warning: I only check it about once a day; a DM on twitter, or a shout-out in the comments gets to me faster). Suggestions, comments, offline conversations, offers to volunteer with daily “News & Notes” during Potomac homestands, etc. can be sent there. I’d love to expand my network of spies to Pennsylvania, Florida, and New York, and of course, anyone with a hankering to write about the Draft is welcome (just not my thing; too knee-deep in providing day-to-day coverage).

Otherwise, enjoy this unusually warm weather while it lasts. If nothing else, it’s certainly helping with the new field at the Pfitz.

Jan 062012
 

Baseball America released its update on transactions from the period of December 15, 2011 to January 3, 2012. As the pic suggests, not a whole lot of excitement. All but three names were covered in our previous transaction-related post.

Those names were:

  • RHP Dan Cortes
  • LHP Michael Ballard
  • RHP Kyle Winters

Cortes is right-handed and throws hard, which Rizzo favors like Hugh Hefner does buxom blondes (OK, I’ve said too much). He turns 25 in March and has had two cappuccinos with Seattle the past two seasons.

Ballard is soft-tossing southpaw but works from a four-pitch arsenal. He turns 28 next month and pitched in both AA and AAA for the Baltimore organization last season.

Both pitchers appear ticketed for Syracuse, which lost one of its relievers yesterday with the suspension of longtime Nats farmhand Zech Zinicola for what he said was the use of synthetic marijuana.

Winters is a RHP that lost most of 2009 and 2010 to shoulder problems but turned in 19 starts for Greensboro of the Sally League. He turns 25 in April and the early guess is that he’ll be the #5 SP for the Potomac.

Two former, longtime Nats have hooked on elsewhere:

  • UT Leonard Davis signed with Colorado
  • C Brian Peacock signed with Cincinnati

As always, discuss in the comments while we, well, while away the winter.