Dec 192011
 

Yesterday, John Sickels released his preliminary prospect list — a precursor to the release of his Top 20 list, which should come this week.

Since last year he released his preliminary list prior to the selection of our 2012 Watchlist, I’ll list the omissions instead of the overlap:

Paul Applebee Joel Barrientos Corey Brown
Paul Demny Wilmer Difo Diomedes Eusebio
Marcos Frias Matt Grace Junior Geraldo
Neil Holland Greg Holt Hendry Jimenez
Taylor Jordan Nathan Karns Jose Marmolejos-Diaz
Estarlin Martinez Gilberto Mendez Narciso Mesa
Christian Meza Justin Miller Adrian Nieto
Bryce Ortega “Fred” Ortega Arialdi Peguero
Ivan Pineyro Wander Ramos Caleb Ramsey
Manny Rodriguez Adrian Sanchez Steve Souza
Hector Silvestre Matt Swynenberg Jean Carlos Valdez

Not too difficult to see the pattern here: Too old for the level by his standards or players from the Dominican Republic that haven’t played north of Florida. Omission may also be too strong a word — if I were to slice our watchlist in half, I’d probably do the same, especially if I had to put a few hundred of them in a book that’s going on sale next month.

The only name that was on his list but not ours was Deion Williams, a.k.a. the lone HS position players signed from the Nats 2011 draft.

This year, you’ll recall, I made a conscious effort to be more exclusive than inclusive and one of the areas in which I thought that I was too “easy” last year was the three-letter leagues (DSL, GCL). It’s a balancing act between identifying guys that caught my eye while doing the season reviews and being a homer. So if I get kudos for picking out “For The Weekend,” I deserve the Red Foreman treatment on the likes of Nick Serino.

I did, however, make the case on his board for the Adrians (Nieto and Sanchez) and Taylor Jordan, with an honorable mention for Justin Bloxom. I’m sure most of you can make the case for others, and encourage you to comment both here and there.

Dec 182011
 

It’s mostly quiet on the minor-league front, but since our last post there have a been a few signings:

  • UT Andres Blanco (Texas)
  • RHP Jeff Fulchino (Houston/San Diego)
  • 2B Manny Mayorson (Toronto)
  • OF Jason Michaels (Houston)
  • 1B/3B Tim Pahuta (re-signed)
  • RHP Luis Chirinos (McAllen, NAL)
  • RHP Marcel Prado (Margarita, VWL)
  • IF-OF Chad Tracy (Japan, ’11; Cubs/Marlins, ’10)
  • OF Xavier Paul (L.A. Dodgers, Pittsburgh)

As you can see, most of these moves fall into either the category of roster-filling or spring-training competition. Unfortunately, I am also awaiting the inevitable BA transaction post in which we’ll learn about some of the releases and retirements.

In other news…

Byron Kerr has tweeted that he expects an announcement regarding the minor-league coaching staffs early next week. I’ve heard nothing definitive elsewhere.

Lastly, there are rumblings from Hagerstown about upgrading Municipal Stadium (or else). Our favorite Hagerstown blogger makes some very good points in his latest post (and open letter) to the county officials.

UPDATE: Baseball America has issued its latest transaction update, and in red are two names that were added. Both pitched in the Venezuela Winter League on the same pitching staff as Ryan Tatusko this offseason. Chirinos pitched in the independent North American League this past summer, while Prado pitched in the Golden Baseball League in 2010.

UPDATE #2: A few more minor-league signings in blue, with the requisite invite to spring training (plus Brett Carroll), which was also extended to Sandy Leon, Cory Brown, and Rafael Martin.

Dec 152011
 

As predicted yesterday, multiple sources are reporting the Nationals have made a couple of minor-league free agents: RHP Waldis Joaquin and IF Jarrett Hoffpauir.

Naturally, you’re as shocked as I am that both are formerly of N.L. West organizations — Joaquin from the San Francisco Giants, Hoffpauir from the San Diego Padres.

Joaquin is a hard-throwing righthander (95-98 m.p.h.) from the Dominican Republic that was a B- prospect for John Sickels in 2010, but has struggled in his three September callups (5.40 ERA, 1.800 WHIP) despite having modest numbers at AAA the past three seasons (3.63, 1.580), though his K rate drop from ’10 to ’11 (8.6 to 4.9) is definite red flag. He turns 25 on Christmas day.

Hoffpauir was originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004, rising to AAA by 2007, where he has languished ever since despite a career .287/.365/.445 line at that level for St. Louis, Toronto, and San Diego. The catch, you may ask? The 28-year-old doesn’t, as he’s been described by FutureRedbirds.net as a “glove o’ lead.”

Dec 142011
 

Our semi weekly look at the Nationals players in the Winter Leagues, with all statistics as of 12:59 a.m. on December 14, 2011.
DWL HITTERS

DWL PITCHERS

VWL HITTERS

VWL PITCHERS

MWL PITCHERS

PRWL PITCHERS

PRWL HITTER

The past few days have reminded me of what it was like to be a small-town sports reporter during mud season (March) in New England: nothin’ going on and nowhere to go. (Don’t ask about basketball; this was a football town that fielded a hoops team to keep the WRs and DBs in shape).

This, unfortunately, got lost in the holiday shuffle and doctor’s appointments (not to worry, Spike is fine).

A few names have gotten dropped, since it appears they’ve either gone home or been cut. One notable addition is the recent Rule 5 pickup Matt Buschmann, pitching in the Mexican Winter League.

I’m still hopeful to report on some new Nats signings and to get an announcement regarding the coaching staffs, which came last year almost immediately after the Winter Meetings wrapped up. Sickels, Baseball Prospectus, and Bullpen Banter have all yet to name the 2012 top prospects lists for the Nats, and as much as I hate the bickering over who got ranked higher than whom, it does light the proverbial hot stove.

And if the past is prologue, posting today will mean that a flurry of news items will surface in the next 12-24 hours ;-)

UPDATE: Top Prospect Alert Minor League Blog has posted its Top 15 for the Nationals. It’s a curious list, but the disclaimer goes a long way towards explaining inclusions of Matt Skole and Taylor Hill.

Dec 092011
 

It’s been a little more than three weeks since we last checked in, so here’s a recap of the transactions of note since then. Basically, one acquisition and a few departures:

  • OF Brett Carroll has signed as a minor-league free agent. As noted in the comments, he’s likely bound for Syracuse.
  • RHP Luis Atilano has signed with the Cincinnati Reds
  • RHP J.D. Martin has signed with the Miami Marlins
  • RHP Garrett Mock has signed with the Toronto Blue Jays
  • RHP Shairon Martis has signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates

If last year is any guide, we should a see a few more of these next week.

Dec 092011
 

Here it is, kids.

Now that the Rule 5 draft is over, this can be finalized. I was expecting not to add any names; drafting 16th in a crop that nearly every prospect guru said was thin, that seemed obvious. I was hoping not to drop any names, but the Yankees and Cardinals seem to think that a couple of our guys might be worth a flier next Spring.

So let’s review the caveats before folks go willy-nilly, pell-mell, or helter-skelter to the comments:

  • Not a depth chart — players drafted prior to 2011 are ordered by where they finished in 2011
  • Not a prediction of 2012 placement — 2011 draftees are slotted by my best guess
  • Not a prediction of 2012 usage — If it didn’t look so ugly, I’d clump the RHPs and LHPs like the OFs
  • Not responsible for injuries or accidents — I’m keeping Marrero and Solis on the list for the time being

Next steps? Building the new watchlist over the next few weeks (why, yes I am beginning with the Potomac players), as I await the BA and Sickels books to hit the streets (and in the case of the latter, e-mail — this year, he’s doing a PDF version.

C 1B 2B SS 3B
Derek Norris Chris Marrero Steve Lombardozzi Zach Walters Justin Bloxom
Sandy Leon Tyler Moore Jeff Kobernus Jason Martinson Blake Kelso
David Freitas Steve Souza Adrian Sanchez Rick Hague Anthony Rendon
Adrian Nieto Justin Miller Hendry Jimenez Bryce Ortega Matt Skole
Arialdi Peguero “Fred” Ortega Wilmer Difo Jean Carlos Valdez
Jose Marmolejos-Diaz Junior Geraldo Diomedes Eusebio
OF RHSP RHRP LHSP LHRP
Corey Brown Brad Peacock Rafael Martin Tommy Milone Josh Smoker
Bryce Harper Paul Demny Pat Lehman Danny Rosenbaum Matt Purke
Eury Perez Alex Meyer Marcos Frias Sammy Solis Kylin Turnbull
Destin Hood A.J. Cole Neil Holland Robbie Ray Paul Applebee
Brian Goodwin Taylor Jordan Matt Swynenberg Matt Grace
Kevin Keyes Wirkin Estevez Greg Holt Christian Meza
Michael Taylor Taylor Hill Joel Barrientos
Billy Burns Brian Dupra Hector Silvestre
Randolph Oduber Nathan Karns
Caleb Ramsey Manny Rodriguez
Narciso Mesa Gilberto Mendez
Estarlin Martinez Ivan Pineyro
Wander Ramos
Dec 082011
 

Just 12 players were taken in the major-league phase of the Rule 5 draft, but two of them were Nationals — RHP Brad Meyers and OF Erik Komatsu.

The Nationals passed with the 16th pick.

Meyers was the expected choice, but Komatsu was the wildcard and was actually taken ahead of Meyers by the Cardinals with the 22nd pick. The Yankees took Meyers with the 29th pick.

Gut reaction: We’re going to see at one of these players returned in early March (Komatsu), the other by late March (Meyers). For their sakes, I hope I’m wrong, but the odds are in my favor.

In the AAA phase the Nationals acquired C Beau Seabury from the Colorado Rockies, a 26-year-old that has never played above High-A. Much will be made of his UVA connection. Offensively, Seabury has been a late bloomer, having cracked the plateaus .250/.300/.400 just twice in his career: his rookie season as a 22-year-old in the Pioneer League and this past season as a 26-year-old in California League (the minors’ equivalent to Colorado).

In the AA phase, the Nationals selected RHP Matthew Buschmann from the San Diego Padres, a 27-year-old that has languished in AA and AAA for the past three seasons, bouncing between the bullpen and the rotation. Buschmann was originally drafted in 2006 out of Vanderbilt.

At first blush, these two picks resemble a replacement for Brian Peacock and a Erik Arnesen-like swingman. As stated in the reviews, the Rule 5 draft is not what it used to be, But thankfully for the Nats, its importance has changed from being a hope of getting someone for the bench in the majors to someone to plug a gap in the minors.

Dec 072011
 

Picking up where we left off yesterday (sorry, but this time of year, whenever I can break up a post idea to keep the site fresh, I’m gonna do it), Baseball America has listed its potential targets for the Rule 5 draft.
I’m passing along the 21 non-Nationals named, grouping them by type…

Blaine Hardy, LHRP (Royals) — Turns 25 in March, features an average slider that’s deceptive due to a short-arm delivery. Pitched mostly at AA in ’11 with 1.109 WHIP in 39⅔ IP before making like a narc at biker rally in 29IP at Omaha (1.966).

Brandon Sisk, LHRP (Royals) — Unlike Hardy, Sisk went from AA to AAA and did even better, dropping his WHIP form 1.047 to 1.000 on the nose, despite a rise in his walk rate (2.2 to 4.5). Features average FB and CU and a “fringy” CV. Turns 27 in July 2012.

Joseph Ortiz, LHRP (Rangers) — Just turned 21 (August), Ortiz’s best offering is a slider which is tough on lefties (.200/.243/.308 in the Carolina League) considering the low plane that the 5’7″ southpaw works with.

Trevor Reckling, LHSP (Angels) — A drop in velocity (from 91-94 to 86-89) is BA’s explanation for his exposure but has a deceptive delivery and a killer curve that could make him a LOOGY project. Turns 23 in May 2012.

T.J. McFarland, LHSP (Indians) — A solid starter in his days at Kinston (11-5, 3.13 in ’10) that features a sinker, slider, and change but rarely cracks 90. Keeps the ball the ball on the ground (2.5:1 GO/AO in ’11 for AA Akron). Turns 23 in June 2012.

Diego Moreno, RHRP (Pirates) — High-90s FB to complement a sinker/slider but has durability concerns (never thrown more than 50IP as a pro), not to mention the 25-y.o. Venezuelan has just 14IP at AA.

Bryce Stowell, RHRP (Indians) — An elbow injury, which shortened his ’11 to 38⅔IP and dropped his velocity from high 90s to mid-90s and fringy secondary pitches are the “yeah, buts” for this just-turned-25-y.o. that BA thinks could be a setup man.

Johan Yan, RHRP (Rangers) — A converted infielder, this recently turned 23-y.o. Dominican throws from a sidearm angle to deal low-90s two-seamers and sliders. Limited AA exposure (26⅔ innings) but BA considers his ceiling as a setup man.

Brett Lorin, RHSP (Pirates) — Had hip surgery in 2010 but put in 117⅓ IP for Hi-A Bradenton. A sinker/slider/command pitcher without AA experience but has the size (6’7″, 245) that most folks covet.

Ryan Searle, RHSP (Cubs) — Dominant at Hi-A (1.59 ERA, 1.165 WHIP) but less so at AA (3.51 ERA, 1.465), this 22-y.o. Aussie has had both command and attitude problems. Throws classic repetoire (FB/CH/CV/SL) but has had trouble vs. LHBs (.336 OBA).

Justin Fitzgerald, RHSP (Giants) — Turns 26 in March, and has moved up the ladder steadily. A college closer but has started the past two seasons at Hi-A and AA, using a cutter, slider, change. Mostly worked in 87-91 range, but could occasionally hit 94/95.

Caleb Brewer, RHSP (Braves) — A roll-the-dice candidate per BA, given his career 5.7BB/9 and his mid-90s FB and sharp low-80s SL. Turns 23 in February but has just 21IP above Low-A — four starts for the Lynchburg Hillcats (5.14ERA, 1.857WHIP).

Dae-Eun Rhee, RHSP (Cubs) — Missed most of ’09 with TJ surgery but is coming off two consecutive 100+ IP seasons in the FSL with strong ratios (8.25K to 3.0BB) and utilizes the aforementioned classic arsenal. Turns 23 in March 2012.

Abraham Almonte, OF (Yankees) — A switch-hitting Dominican speedster (30SB in ’11) who lost most of ’10 to injury. Has yet to play in AA but is considered defensively advanced. Doesn’t turn 23 until June 2012.

Eduardo Sosa, OF (Yankees) — A 20-y.o. Venezuelan that, like Almonte, has the legs and glove to be stashed on a deep A.L. bench and then returned to the minors for further development.

Jiwan James, OF (Phillies) — Drafted as a pitcher, but converted to hitting when shoulder problems arose. At one point Philadelphia’s #9 prospect, BA says he’s a tools guy learning to develop skills.

Jordan Danks, OF (White Sox) — Yes, he’s John Danks brother. Has spent the past two seasons at AAA Charlotte putting up a modest .251/.329/.400 line and could be drafted to be a platoon OF, though he’s a defense-first player despite 6’4″, 210 size.

Ryan Flaherty, UT (Cubs) — Could be this year’s Michael Martinez due to his comp as a LH version of Mark DeRosa with his five-position defensive skills and .809 OPS in 450 games. Turns 26 next July.

Justin Henry, UT (Tigers) — Zero power but another can-play-anywhere type (has played every position but catcher) and gets on base (career .373 OBP). Turns 27 next April.

Drew Cumberland, MI (Padres) — Spent 2011 on the DL with bilateral vestibulopathy (a.k.a. vertigo) Allegedly he’s been given medical clearance to resume playing. Prior to his spin, er, stint on the DL, he put up a .350/.385/.430 line over 75 games in 2010. Turns 23 in January.

Beamer Weems, SS (Padres) — A defense-first SS with a strong arm and good hands, but bats from the right side without plus speed = harder to carry him as a reserve. Turns 25 in July.

Dec 062011
 

As we’ve discussed previously, the Rule 5 draft is no longer what it once was, thanks to the rule changes that have effectively turned it into an exercise of roster-filling. Sadly, that’s a reference the minor-league phase, for which the information is sorely lacking. As I summed up last year (dates adjusted, of course):

There are also two other phases, the AAA and the AA, which are something of a misnomer because there’s no requirement that the player has played or will play at that level in 2011 or 2012. Basically, it amounts to teams being able to protect up to 38 players in the AAA phase and up to 37 players in the AA phase. Who is or will be protected is anyone’s guess. This information simply is not released to anyone outside of baseball.

If you’ll recall, the Nationals chose Elvin Ramirez and Brian Broderick in the major-league phase and Michael Allen in the AAA phase. None of them “stuck” with the club, with Ramirez spending the season on the DL, Broderick famously flaming out in early April (and struggled for AAA Memphis), and Allen was released in late March.

Two Nationals were named in the BA stories that previewed the potential targets: Brad Meyers and Josh Smoker. As we mentioned yesterday, Smoker is considered the most viable by the prospect pundits. Here’s the upshot from BA:

His fastball touched 98 at times and sat in the 91-94 mph range, and his curveball and changeup have their moments, with the curve flashing plus. He’ll never throw a ton of quality strikes; as one scout put it this summer, “(The Nationals) have told him, ‘To hell with teaching you to throw, just let it all hang out.’ That’s what he’s doing.”

Brad Meyers was listed among “Other Possibilities” without comment. A recently discovered list of Rule 5 eligibles, describes Meyers thusly: “6’6″ 195 LBS with Deceptive Delivery, Above Average Command of 87-92 MPH Fastball, 3 Average Offspeed Pitches; Career 2.86 ERA, 3.60 K/BB” It bears repeating that just five of the 19 players drafted last year stuck: four relievers, and former National Michael Martinez. As much as we may value Meyers, the odds are overwhelming that he’ll either not be drafted or be returned before the season starts.

So who are the other potential targets for the Nationals and other teams on Thursday? That’s the subject for Part 2 ;-)

Dec 052011
 

Our weekly look at the Nationals players in the Winter Leagues, with all statistics as of 12:59 a.m.
on December 4, 2011.
DWL HITTERS

DWL PITCHERS

VWL HITTERS

VWL PITCHERS

MWL PITCHERS

PRWL PITCHERS

PRWL HITTERS

In lieu of a morning reading post unto itself, I’m passing along the following…

…Federal Baseball writes about how Josh Smoker is one of the most viable Rule 5 targets the Nationals could lose. Lefties that can consistently throw 94-96 are always valuable commodities; my concern is that it’s come at the cost of control (6.6 BB/9 in ’11, 5.5 in ’10) not to mention he was starting to tip his pitches down the stretch for Potomac.

…Garrett Broshuis writes about how the new CBA [fudges over] the minor leaguers (again). Like I tweeted to one of my twitter followers, there was a reason why I chose the cartoon that I did for the CBA story, and that’s that the MLB owners aren’t terribly different than the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age.

…Finally, there’s a certain amusement to seeing where Jim Riggleman ended up. I’ll let NatsNQ bring the snark.