Feb 062014
 


We’re a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting, and if aging veteran minor-league backup catchers are getting this much press, then it’s safe to say that folks are wee bit desperate for spring training to start.

In that spirit, it’s time for my annual humbling as I guess how the rosters (position players) for the middle minors (Low-A, High-A, AA) will shake out in about eight weeks and review how I did a year ago.

Without further ado, my predictions for the 2013 Hagerstown Suns:

CA – Kieboom
1B – Pleffner
2B – Renda
SS – S. Perez
3B – C. Lopez
OF – E. Martinez
OF – Ramos
OF – Mesa
DH – B. Miller
BCA – Manuel
BIF – Norfork
UT – McQuillan
BOF – Ramirez

Before folks accuse me of being falsely modest, I was wrong on five of 13 names being on the Suns roster in 2011 and 2012 and was incorrect on predicting the usage four times and once, respectively. Since DH is used in the minors differently than in the majors, it’s hard to be “right,” but Miller played 102 of 103 games in the field so I can’t let that slide. I will take credit for getting Pleffner right because it’s doubtful that even a healthy Carlos Lopez (presuming he was actually hurt, which is never a given with the DL) would have prevented him playing there.

So what’s the forecast for 2014? Well, this was not easy. Some folks may be disappointed that I didn’t project more GCLers leapfrogging a lackluster Auburn squad, but I’m (mostly) staying conservative (but taking a couple of chances):

CA – Spencer Kieboom
1B – James Yezzo
2B – Cody Dent
SS – David Masters
3B – Drew Ward
OF – Rafael Bautista
OF – Isaac Ballou
OF – Bryan Lippincott
DH – Estarlin Martinez
BCA – Matt Reistetter
BIF – Wilmer Difo
BIF – Khayyan Norfork
BOF – Greg Zebrack

Feb 032014
 

Picking up where we left off, here are Washington’s nos. 16 through 31 in the 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook:

16. Pedro Severino 21. Jefry Rodriguez 26. Nick Lee
17. Drew Ward 22. Nick Pivetta 27. Robert Benincasa
18. Aaron Barrett 23. Blake Treinen 28. Rafael Bautista
19. Jeff Kobernus 24. Christian Garcia (6) 29. Erik Davis
20. Eury Perez (7) 25. Brett Mooneyham (19) 30. Adrian Nieto
31. Anderson Franco


As mentioned in the comments, Severino’s defensive prowess has been noticed outside our little bubble. It’s encouraging to see some “love” shown for the GCLers, beginning with Ward at #17 and continuing with Jefry Rodriguez at #21 and Bautista at #28.

Ward and Pivetta are two of the four on this list who were drafted in 2013, leading us to the breakdown of how the Top 31 was “built.”

2013 Draft — Johansen (8), Voth (15), Ward (17), Pivetta (22)

2012 Draft — Giolito (1), Renda (13), Mooneyham (25), Benincasa (27)

2011 Draft — Goodwin (3), Skole (4), Purke (11), Burns (12), Lee (26)

2010 Draft — Cole* (2), Ray (5), Solis (6), Barrett (18)

2009 Draft — Taylor (7), Karns (9), Kobernus (19)

2008 DraftNieto (30)

2007 Draft — Souza (10)

Int’l Free Agents — Severino (16), Perez (20), Rodriguez (21), Bautista (28), Franco (31)

Domestic Free Agent — Garcia (24)

Trade — Cole* (2), Walters (14), Treinen (23), Davis (29)
* Take your pick: the Nats originally drafted Cole, traded him away, then reacquired him via trade

The five IFAs represents a high-water mark in the five seasons I’ve been running this site. Four of them were co-signed by Johnny DiPuglia, the veteran scout the Nationals signed after the 2009 season, or more importantly, roughly six months after “Smiley-gate.” That may not be enough for some folks’ tastes, but it’s more than it’s been in several years.

Perhaps more encouraging is that Rodriguez is BA’s breakout prospect for 2014, which may have some significance for the folks who recall that Taylor Jordan was given the same anointment in 2013. Likewise, they’re tabbing Franco as a “sleeper” (same as Pleffner last year) despite the Dominican having signed for $900,000 on his 16th birthday last August.

BA has ditched the three-year projection of the parent club’s starting lineup, which may be just as well because it always seemed a bit pie-in-the-sky (e.g. Cole & Solis were projected to be this year’s nos. 3 and 4 SPs in 2011, with Derek Norris at 1B and Eury Perez in CF) and basically ignored trades, age, and/or diminished skills (i.e. next year’s projected 1B Michael Morse)

Instead, I’ll leave you with the top unranked guys on BA’s minor-league depth chart at position/role. Call them nos. 32-43 if you want ;-)

C – Jhonatan Solano SS – Jason Martinson LHSP – Danny Rosenbaum
1B – Shawn Pleffner LF – Estarlin Martinez LHRP – David Napoli
2B – Ricky Hague CF – Narciso Mesa RHSP – Blake Schwartz
3B – Cody Gunter RF – Brandon Miller RHRP – Taylor Hill**

** Hey, that’s what BA “said”… Treinen and Lee were also listed as a relievers

Feb 022014
 

2014-BA-HandbookAs those of you on the Twitters already know, the 2014 Baseball America handbook did indeed arrive in yesterday’s mail. The staff has been reviewing it and so over the next couple of days, we’ll discuss what they found.

Like two years ago, the moves made in November and December are not reflected in the book. This is frustrating, but understandable given how long it takes to produce, edit, and publish a 500+ page book. Therefore, Robbie Ray, Billy Burns, and Adrian Nieto were included in the book.

Folks with the fetish interest in how the Nationals were ranked relative to the other 29 teams, will probably not be surprised that the folks from Durham placed Washington 21st. What is a bit surprising is that this is with fifteen different names than a year ago. It’s debatable how much further that would have dropped the Nationals, but given the conventional wisdom that the system is top-heavy, one or two spots sounds about right (H/T Brian Oliver for asking the question).

On that note, let’s take a look at what happened to last year’s Top 30:

Graduated (2) — Anthony Rendon, Taylor Jordan

Traded (4) — Ivan Pineyro, Robbie Ray, Billy Burns, Corey Brown

Free Agents (2) — Chris Marrero, Carlos Rivero

Dropped Out (9) — Jason Martinson, Sandy Leon, Ricky Hague, Destin Hood, Estarlin Martinez, Brandon Miller, Paul Demny, Wirkin Estevez, Jhonatan Solano

Unfortunately, the ratio of players who are or will turn 25 by midseason hasn’t improved. In fact, it’s gotten worse — eight this year versus six a year ago, as only four 2013 draftees were added. The cynic in me is now starting to wonder how much of this is influenced by BA trying to market the book towards fantasy baseball folks by including some of edge-of-the-40-man types in the last third of the list. When you see #31 in the next post, you may understand why I might suggest something like that.

Without further ado, here are the Top 15 from the book, with last year’s ranking in parentheses. In the next post, we’ll look at nos. 16-31:

1. Lucas Giolito (2)
2. A.J. Cole
3. Brian Goodwin (3)
4. Matt Skole (4)
5. Robbie Ray (18)
6. Sammy Solis (8)
7. Michael Taylor (11)
8. Jake Johansen
9. Nathan Karns (5)
10. Steven Souza (25)
11. Matt Purke (9)
12. Billy Burns (26)
13. Tony Renda (12)
14. Zach Walters (10)
15. Austin Voth

Feb 012014
 

Transactions for NPP 2

February has finally arrived… and so has the latest transaction post from Baseball America (and with any luck, my copy of the handbook is in the mail truck I can hear going by; yes, I’m that pathetic).

The Nats have recently signed the following players:

  • LHP Zach Jackson
  • RHP Juan Bermudez
  • RHP Warner Madrigal
  • OF Luis Perdomo

Jackson, who turns 31 in May, is among the plethora of LHPs that the Nats are stockpiling this season. He was originally drafted by Toronto in 2004 and has spent the majority of his career as a starter, making a total of 17 starts for Cleveland and Milwaukee in 2006, 2008, and 2009. He pitched exclusively as a reliever in 2013, making 33 appearances in AA and two in AAA in the Kansas City organization for a total mark of 2-1 with a 1.32 ERA and a WHIP of 0.98.

Bermudez appears to be an IFA, given his surname and the lack of an entry on any of the major baseball stats sites.

Madrigal, 30 next month, is returning to the U.S. after having been sold to the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Central League by the Arizona Diamondbacks last summer. He made 31 appearances and had a 2-0 record with a 3.23 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP He was originally signed by the Angels in 2001 as an outfielder and converted to pitching in 2006.

Presuming that BA did not misidentify the 29-y.o. RHP Luis M. Perdomo who pitched in AAA for Minnesota last season or the 20-y.o. RHP Luis D. Perdomo of the St. Louis Organization, then this one would also appear to be an IFA.

Jan 292014
 

Morning Reading 2As I get older, I’m convinced that Januaries are like watching your preferred gender walk on by… but in reverse. Each one seems uglier than the last.

Now that we’ve dispensed with the obligatory comment on the weather, here are a few items to pass along as we wait out this [expletive deleted].

Keith Law has ranked the Nationals farm system 18th this year, moving up from 21st last year despite the graduations of Anthony Rendon and Taylor Jordan and the trading away of Robbie Ray (hey, that rhymes!). As others have noted, the improved health of Lucas Giolito along with the rebound of A.J. Cole and the 2013 Draft class has boosted the system’s perceived depth. Giolito, Law revealed, was among his Top 50 due out today.

Baseball Prospectus ranked three Nationals in its Top 101, placing Giolito 13th, Cole 53rd, and Brian Goodwin 86th (Ray did not make this list). Jason Parks, who took over as the chief prospect guy when Kevin Goldstein was hired away by the Houston Astros (the #1 system according to Law), had ranked Giolito 70th and Goodwin 74th last year (Rendon was #35).

Finally, the Hagerstown Suns have announced the game times for this season with all 10 Sunday games scheduled for 5:05 p.m. and weekday games beginning at 6:35 p.m. in April, then moving back to 7:05 p.m. for Thursday and Friday games beginning in May. Clearly, the latter is a concession to the common complaint about the cold while the former addresses the problem with the heat in the summer, if not the traffic on the major highways that many teams choose to avoid with the twilight start time.

Jan 242014
 

2014 NRIs
With the announcement today of the full list of 2014 non-roster invitees (NRIs), we now have a good sense of the minor-leaguers who will begin spring training next month with the big boys.

Suffice it to write, the vast majority of these guys won’t make the Opening Day roster. But with a new field manager*, camp is going to be a bit bigger than under his predecessor, so it’s possible that a couple more minor-leaguers will be brought up.
* [rant] Can we please not call him Matty? The man is 48, not 15. It’s only three extra characters on Twitter and can shortened to Wms. [/rant]

For us, the X factor is how many of the first two groups will wait in Syracuse… or be offered the opportunity. Folks are already drawing up the full-season affiliates’ rosters in their heads, if not on paper (don’t worry, I’ll do the same next month when I review last year’s roster/staff predictions) but absent that information, we’re all just guessing.

Without further ado, here’s how it breaks down…

MLB VETERANS
IFs Jamey Carroll, Mike Fontenot, RHPs Chris Young, Clay Hensley, Manny Delcarmen

MiLB VETERANS
IFs Josh Johnson, Will Rhymes, RHPs Daniel Stange, 1B-OF Brock Peterson

40-MAN GUYS
OFs Steven Souza, Michael Taylor, Eury Perez, LHPs Sammy Solis, Matt Purke, RHPs Nathan Karns, Aaron Barrett, SS-3B Zach Walters, UT Jeff Kobernus

TOP PROSPECTS, NOT ON 40-MAN
RHP A.J. Cole, OF Brian Goodwin, 1B-3B Matt Skole

CATCHERS
Chris Snyder, Brian Jeroloman, Sandy Leon, Jhonatan Solano

AAA LHPs
Tyler Robertson, Danny Rosenbaum

AAA RHP
Blake Treinen

THAT GUY FROM THE MEXICAN LEAGUE
RHP Gabriel Alfaro

Jan 242014
 

Mayo 2Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com has released the 2014 edition of his Top 100 prospects with two Nationals making the cut.

Coming in at #44, it’s a kid from Southern California, and the Nats’ #1 pick in the 2012 Draft, Lucas Giolito(sorry for the Casey Kasem lead-in; kids have been watching Scooby Doo a lot lately)
He was ranked #74 last year despite having thrown just two innings and was in recovery from Tommy John surgery. As reported by MASN’s Byron Kerr earlier this month, Giolito is expected to begin 2014 in Hagerstown, though it’s less clear that he’ll pitch immediately. Previous HS picks Robbie Ray and the next guy were held back until May at the same age/stage without having had surgery. Taylor Jordan did start his second season after TJ surgery in April 2013 though he was much older (24 vs. 19) and much more experienced (248⅔ IP vs. 38⅔ IP).

A.J. Cole moved up 22 spots from #91 to #69 after the Nationals re-acquired him a year ago in the Michael Morse trade. Cole had gotten lit like a sailor on leave (7.82/4.99/1.84) in the High-A California League the previous summer, forcing a demotion to Low-A Burlington (IA) where he rebounded to a 2.07/2.74/1.01 line and a 6-3 record. Cole fulfilled Washington GM Mike Rizzo’s assertion that the Nats “pitching people will straighten out his delivery” as the 22-y.o. made 18 starts for Potomac and seven for Harrisburg for a combined record of 10-5 with a line of 3.60/2.91/1.12 and peripherals of 2.1 BB/9 and 9.5 K/9. Cole will most likely return to Harrisburg for more seasoning, as scouts believe his secondary offerings (CH, CV) still need further development.

Last year, four Nationals were ranked. Anthony Rendon (#28) graduated to the parent club while Brian Goodwin (#52) fell from the list, which saw 35 new names thanks to injuries, underperformance, and of course, the next wave of draftees.

Jan 212014
 


With snow expected to cripple the DC area (and extend kids’ three-day weekend into five), now’s as good a time as any to take a look at the broadcast schedule for the 2014 Nationals spring training. For the folks who have subscriptions to MLB.tv and MLB Radio, there will likely be some road broadcasts (personal favorite: St. Louis’s radio guy Mike Shannon, who sounds like Jeff Bridges after three or four shots of bourbon), which I’d include except they’re yet to be posted. Likewise for the MLB Network.

Sadly, there are just four FM broadcasts this year, and only two that don’t coincide with a MASN broadcast. That’s offset slightly by just two broadcasts that are only on 1580 AM, which is significant if you live outside of its Daisy air-rifle range broadcast radius, and the addition of 1500 AM as an option for four of the AM-only dates.

Happily, there is no Baltimore broadcast or game this spring. Gluttons for punishment will just have to wait until interleague play.

The dates with an asterisk will be split-squad games, which for us means a better chance of seeing “our guys” for more than inning or an at-bat or two. As I have in the previous four springs, the plan is to write up the games from that point of view for as long as it’s reasonable.

Day Date Time (ET) Opponent Network
Fri. Feb. 28 1:10 p.m. @ N.Y. Mets 1500 and 1580 AM
Sun. Mar. 2 1:05 p.m. Miami MASN
Fri. Mar. 7 1:05 p.m. Houston 1500 and 1580 AM
Sat. Mar. 8 1:05 p.m. Atlanta* 1500 and 1580 AM
Sun. Mar. 9 1:05 p.m. St. Louis MASN, 106.7 FM, 1500 AM
Mon. Mar. 10 6:05 p.m. Houston 1580 AM
Tue. Mar. 11 1:05 p.m. N.Y. Yankees MASN
Sun. Mar. 16 1:05 p.m. Detroit* MASN
Wed. Mar. 19 6:05 p.m. Houston MASN
Thu. Mar. 20 1:05 p.m. Detroit 1500 and 1580 AM
Sat. Mar. 22 1:05 p.m. @ N.Y. Mets 106.7 FM, 1500 AM
Sun. Mar. 23 1:10 p.m. @ N.Y. Mets 106.7 FM, 1500 AM
Tue. Mar. 25 1:05 p.m. N.Y. Mets MASN
Wed. Mar. 26 1:05 p.m. @ St. Louis ESPN
Thu. Mar. 27 12:10 p.m. @ N.Y. Mets ESPN
Sat. Mar. 29 2:05 p.m. Detroit
@ Nationals Park
106.7 FM, 1580 AM
Jan 182014
 

Transactions for NPP
With a second transaction post this week from Baseball America (H/T to Ben Meyers for alerting me via Twitter), we have a few more moves to pass along:

SIGNED
• LHP Tyler Robertson
• IF Jamey Carroll
• IF Mike Fontenot
• OF-1B Joe Dunigan

RELEASED
• RHP Ben Grisz
• 2B Matt Foat

As noted in the comments, Robertson is a re-sign, having been waived to make room for Rule 5 additions in November. He was picked up on waivers from Minnesota as part of the Nationals’ spaghetti-on-the-wall attempts to find a LHRP last summer.

Carroll and Fontenot are veterans who will compete for bench roles as backup infielders. Both will be non-roster invitees to spring training, according.

Dunigan is a longtime Seattle farmhand who finally made it to AAA in 2013, only to lose nearly three months of the season to a broken jaw. He will most likely compete for a 1B-DH-LF role on the Chiefs.

Grisz and Foat were NDFAs signed in 2011 and 2012 out of Duke and USC, respectively. Grisz missed all of 2012 after developing Nationals elbow and made five scoreless appearances for Auburn in 2013. After an impressive 2012 in the GCL, Foat split time between Low-A Hagerstown and Auburn, compiling a combined line of .215/.295/.283 in 64 games.

Jan 152014
 

The Harrisburg Senators and Washington Nationals have announced a four-year extension of their player development contract through the 2018 season. This is the second affiliate to extend during this offseason, both months in advance of the September deadline to renew before open negotiations (typically the last two weeks of September).

The Senators have been a Nationals affiliate the longest of the five teams located north of Florida, having been an Expos affiliate since 1991, and should effectively quash any idle talk of the Nationals switching to the Richmond Squirrels, which is usually an indication that such folks have never been to both places for a game.

The PDCs of the Nationals’ “A” teams — Auburn (SS), Hagerstown (Low-A), and Potomac (High-A) — expire after the 2014 season. Two years ago, the Nationals extended three* affiliates during spring training, and renewed with Hagerstown in October 2012.
* or four; there’s conflicting information regarding whether the 2010 extension for Potomac was for two or four years

As passed along yesterday, there is turmoil in Hagerstown (plans to relocate to Fredericksburg) and Auburn (five GMs since 2010) which makes their PDC renewals less-than-certain. Potomac, which has been planning to build a new ballpark for more than since last decade, seems a little safer given its proximity to DC and strong attendance despite playing in one of the worst facilities in affiliated baseball.