Dec 212011
 

The Washington Nationals have claimed SS-3B Carlos Rivero on waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Like Baltimore’s Billy Rowell, Rivero has been stuck at AA for the past three seasons with the obligatory “but he’s still young” caveat attached to him. This past season Rivero finally did well enough (.270/.326/.440) to get a cup of coffee at AAA where hit hit just .185/.233/.444 in seven games.

The knock on Rivero is that his defense has been suspect (.949FA in 497G as a SS) despite having a strong throwing arm. The shift to 3B has been unsuccessful (.908FA in 142G) and to paraphrase the pholks at Phuture Phillies: “It’s a loss after a good rebound season, but he remains a deeply flawed prospect.”

Rivero coincidentally was the subject for PhuturePhillies.com’s look at the flip side of drafting international talent.

Dec 202011
 

I’ll expand on this later, but I wanted to put this up ASAP so folks can discuss in the comments. Here’s the summary:

A Bryce Harper
A- Anthony Rendon
B A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock, Brian Goodwin, Derek Norris, Alex Meyer
B- Matt Purke, Tom Milone, Steve Lombardozzi, Sammy Solis, Destin Hood, Robbie Ray
C+ Chris Marrero, Danny Rosenbaum, Michael Taylor, David Freitas
C Rich Hague, Matt Skole, Jason Martinson

That’s 13 of 20 prospects graded B- or better. Last year, it was 12 of 20 that were C+ or C. This is huge because Sickels is a notoriously tough grader.

I’ve bolded the 2010 Top 20 picks that improved their standing and italicized the prospects that played their way on to this year’s list. The point? This isn’t just Bryce Harper and the 2011 Draft — 40% of this list are guys that were already in the organization and got better.

UPDATE: As promised, some thoughts on the Sickels Top 20.

…Now I’m rooting for Rendon to make it to Potomac next summer. Sickels downgraded the likes of Purke, Solis, Hague due to injury concerns and while he undoubtedly did here, too, it’s clear that he fell from Harper heights, whereas I would have guessed dropping from a B+ to a B.

…Naturally, I am psyched that he has become a Milone believer and thinks Rosenbaum could be following the same path, with Dupra, Hill, and Turnbull the possible next wave

…Not surprised that Kobernus, Moore, or Perez didn’t make the cut. All three aren’t much for walking. Moore didn’t get filleted at AA, but his walk totals have fallen each of the past two seasons while the strikeouts have risen. Kobernus and Perez don’t have the power to make you look the other way, and while both have speed, Perez is still one of the system’s true CFs.

…Pay attention to the “needs to show skills higher than” caveat that keeps recurring; seems to apply to nearly all of the Suns contingent and Skole. Luckily, we do have some coverage at Potomac *rimshot!*

…Sickels still believes in Norris, but downgraded him from B+ to B. The comp to Mickey Tettleton and/or Mike Napoli seems to be de rigeur nowadays, though I think that underrates his throwing arm, not to mention that he’s athletic enough to transition to 1B or LF in a very short time.

…Cole is likely to get the bump up to B+ per Sickels himself in the comments to his article: “I’m about 90% sure Cole is going to get a B+ when all is said and done. I got some mixed reports about his changeup and some velocity fluctuations but overall I love the guy. I want to do some comparisons with other guys in the same grade range and see who I like better.”

…Last but not least, Sickels hinted that the system itself may be entering the Top 10 for all of MLB. I know some folks get pumped over that whereas I’m more likely to remember the #10 ranking from early 2008 by BA after the Detwiler/Smoker/McGeary draft that dropped right back to #21 in early 2009.

Dec 202011
 

Yesterday, the Nationals finally announced the 2012 lineup for their affiliates’ coaching staffs:

SYRACUSE
Manager – Tony Beasley (promoted from Harrisburg)
Pitching Coach – Greg Booker (returning)
Hitting Coach – Troy Gingrich (promoted from Harrisburg)

HARRISBURG
Manager – Matt LeCroy (promoted from Potomac)
Pitching Coach – Paul Menhart (promoted from Potomac)
Hitting Coach – Eric Fox (new hire)

POTOMAC
Manager – Brian Rupp (new hire; managed Wilmington ’09-’11)
Pitching Coach – Chris Michalak (promoted from Hagerstown)
Hitting Coach – Marlon Anderson (promoted from Hagerstown)

HAGERSTOWN
Manager – Brian Daubach (returning)
Pitching Coach – Franklin Bravo (promoted from Auburn)
Hitting Coach – Mark Harris (reassigned from Potomac)

AUBURN
Manager – Gary Cathcart (returning)
Pitching Coach – TBD
Hitting Coach – Luis Ordaz (returning)

GCL
Manager – Tripp Keister (new hire; previously coached at Wesley College)
Pitching coach – Michael Tejera (returning)
Hitting coach – Amaury Garcia (promoted from DSL)

DSL
Manager – Sandy Martinez (returning)
Pitching Coach – Pablo Frias (returning)
Hitting Coach – Jorge Mejia (new hire)

The coordinators are nearly all the same with the exception of Calvin Minasian, who replaces John Mullin as the Clubhouse and Equipment Manager. The most significant changes come at Potomac, where Brian Rupp was lured away from the Kansas City organization to become the P-Nats field boss and Mark Harris was sent to Maryland to assume the hitting-coach duties for Hagerstown. Most of the other moves are promotions from within.

As was the case last year, most of this was not a mystery, given the early news on the AA and AAA staffs last month, and a commenter in the know (Get 42 Off 1st) informing us in September of the removals of Jerry Browne (AAA hitting coach), Bobby Williams (DSL manager), and Sergio Mendes (DSL hitting coach). I’m sure we’ll get some opinions as to why Harris and Anderson swapped spots, though my first inference is that they wanted to keep him and Michalak together.

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.