Dec 192014
 

Baseball America for NPP
Having confirmed the new list via Twitter, here’s the new-and-improved Washington Nationals Top 10 list from Baseball America (Last year’s ranking in parentheses):

1. Lucas Giolito, RHP (1)
2. Michael Taylor, OF (7)
3. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP (–)
4. Erick Fedde, RHP (’14 Draft Pick)
5. A.J. Cole, RHP (2)
6. Wilmer Difo, 2B/SS (–)
7. Drew Ward, 3B (17)
8. Brian Goodwin, OF (3)
9. Nick Pivetta, RHP (22)
10. Austin Voth, RHP (15)

If you’re a TCU an A.J. Cole fan, you’re probably wondering what he did to drop three slots, but I think the better way to look at it is that the three guys ahead of him simply have either more upside (Fedde) or were in stratosphere this past summer (Taylor, Lopez).

Steve Souza was originally the #5 prospect on this list, though I think most most folks already knew this as the top 10 list was leaked (tweeted) earlier this week.

I’m a bit curious as to why Brian Goodwin remains ranked so high, given this tidbit (italics added):

They pushed him to Double-A Harrisburg by the second half of 2012, but he followed a lackluster 2013 with a horrific 2014 campaign at Triple-A Syracuse that ended on July 1 when he tore the labrum in his left shoulder sliding into second base.

Granted, Goodwin throws righthanded, but injury experts have long held that the torn labrum is baseball’s most fearsome injury, not to mention the conventional wisdom that shoulder injuries in general are what ends or alters baseball careers.

Unfortunately, BA did not weigh in on Difo’s defensive prowess so the SS vs. 2B debate will have to wait until the book is released or perhaps John Sickels’s book is released. They did, however, note that Drew Ward may outgrow 3B, pointing to his size-16 cleats and describing his footwork as merely adequate while noting his arm was strong and accurate.

BA’s projections for 2015 were as follows:

AAA –Taylor, Cole, Goodwin
High-A — Giolito, Lopez, Difo, Ward, Pivetta
Not specified — Fedde, Voth

I still believe Giolito will be jumped to AA (and would love to be wrong) because the Nats have not been keen on letting high-profile prospects play at Potomac (see: Strasburg, Harper, Goodwin). Voth is a near-lock to return to Harrisburg, while I’d expect Fedde to follow the track of Giolito and start out at the GCL and perhaps make an appearance with Auburn late in the year.

Dec 092014
 


While the participation wasn’t what I hoped it would be, it was enough to assemble a semi-decent Top 10 list.

One interesting trend is that youth seems to be getting served by virtue of Jakson Reetz as well as Dominican imports Wilmer Difo and Rafael Bautista, both of whom had breakout seasons with Hagerstown, with the former being added to the Nats 40-man roster.

Of course, some of that is attributable to three of last year’s Top 10 bats being traded away (Billy Burns, Zach Walters) or taken in the Rule 5 Draft (Adrian Nieto). And some of that is attributable to the “girl-watching” nature of prospect following (the prettiest one is the one that just walked by).

Anyway, a total of 15 players were named on the eight ballots received or submitted, which does include mine. I don’t find the 15 number all that disturbing since, as some put it, the bottom part of the list isn’t as clear-cut as the top, which was a near tie (77 points to 75 points) with Steve Souza the top pick on five.

And with that “said,” I present the list:

                              1. Steve Souza
                              2. Michael Taylor
                              3. Wilmer Difo
                              4. Drew Ward
                              5. Jakson Reetz
                              6. Brian Goodwin
                              7. Matt Skole
                              8. Spencer Kieboom
                              9. Rafael Bautista
                              10. Pedro Severino

Others receiving votes: Tony Renda, Drew Vettleson, John Wooten, Stephen Perez, Raudy Read

I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that half of these names won’t be on this list next year, given proximity to the majors, age, or “trade baitiness.” It’s tempting to conclude that that means we’re about to swing Broadway backward, but if past is prologue, those that move on will be replaced with players who had breakout seasons.

Next up: The pitchers, which always leads to much more discussion (dissension?)…

Nov 212014
 

Confession: This is a reclamation of a post that I began yesterday and couldn’t finish by the time the moves were made
With the additions of A.J. Cole, Willem Dafoe, Wilmer Difo, Brian Goodwin and Matt Grace, the focus now turns to who is now exposed to next months Rule 5 Draft. Grace is an outlier; usually once a guy is exposed to the Rule 5 draft at his age, he makes it through subsequent drafts. So let’s look at the Nats draftees who appear to be eligible for the first time (H/T to SpringfieldFan for her efforts in keeping the Draft Tracker updated):

DRAFTEES ELIGIBLE FOR THE FIRST TIME

Matt Skole* Caleb Ramsey* Khayyan Norfork Shawn Pleffner* Kylin Turnbull
Brian Dupra Manny Rodriguez Nick Lee* Travis Henke Bryan Harper
Richie Mirowski*


Asterisks are for 2014 watchlist players. Notable IFAs believed to be eligible include Wirkin “For The Weekend” Estevez, Wander Suero and Kelvin Rodriguez.

Bear in mind, this is for the MLB phase. The AAA and AA phases are impossible to guage because the protected lists aren’t made public. Organizational soldiers tend to go in those phases, and if folks will recall, only one player acquired by Washington last December played in the minors last season: 23-y.o. Martires Arias, who was returned to the Mets and pitched 57 innings in short-season ball. (Theo Bowe was the other and all indications are that he retired).

I had planned on predicting that either Matt Skole or Brian Goodwin would be exposed, as it seemed likely that either the former’s struggles or the latter’s injuries would be enough to take the risk. Had I been pressed in the comments, I would have leaned towards Skole because Tyler Moore is out of options while the ascendance of both Michael Taylor and Steven Souza could cushion the “loss” of Goodwin.

Another theory/explanation is that the Nats brass believes that Souza can still function as a 1B/OF type (defensively, he’s head and shoulders above Moore anyway). Viewed through that prism, the decision not to protect Skole makes sense.

Grace is a small surprise, until you consider that he’stough on lefthanded batters (.371 OPS in ’14) and generates ground balls (3.23 G/F ratio). He’ll get an audition in spring training and if he loses the numbers game, sent back to Syracuse to await a callup, perhaps assuming the role of out-of-options Xavier Cedeno.

I believe the selection of Difo says less about him — despite an MVP season in the South Atlantic League, including 14HRs, 90 RBI and 49 SB’s — and more about the other middle-infield options available at the upper levels and the fringes of the 40-man. With no offense to Jeff Kobernus, but it would seem he’s a candidate to get cut loose when the Nats are next looking to clear room.

Finally, there’s little to be said about the protection of A.J. Cole. Even F.P. Santangelo could have predicted this; it was that obvious. Conventional wisdom has always been that hard-throwing pitchers can be hidden in a bullpen, especially for a team that’s budget-conscious or realistic about its chances of contention.

Nov 202014
 

For the first time since 2011, the Washington Nationals have added more than a couple players to its 40-man roster in preparation for next month’s Rule 5 draft. RHP A.J. Cole, IF Wilmer Difo, LHP Matt Grace, and OF Brian Goodwin were added this afternoon while RHP Ryan Mattheus (released) and IF Pedro Florimon (waived) were removed. Earlier this week, LHP Matt Purke was also released as was longtime backup backstop Jhonatan Solano.

Even F.P. Santangelo could have predicted the inclusion of Cole; that’s how obvious it was. A hard-throwing RHP is relatively easy to bury in an MLB bullpen, not to mention that GM Mike Rizzo traded for him in January 2013 some 13 months after dealing him away as part of the Gio Gonzalez trade. Cole figures to begin 2015 in AAA, but if history is any guide, a strong spring and/or injuries could have him making his MLB debut before Memorial Day.

Perhaps it’s more of an indictment against the other MI options than an endorsement of his future viability, though Wilmer Difo did about as much as a Low-A prospect could do in 2014, winning South Atlantic League MVP while earning the second annual Bob Boone award. The 22-y.o. posted a .315/.360/.470 line while showing both power (14HR) and speed (49SBs). Difo figures to begin next season in Potomac, though I’m sure his inclusion on the 40-man will spur speculation of a two-level promotion.

As noted in the previous post, Grace’s 2014 season earned him a place as a situational lefty and could be the next Aaron Barrett. He may not throw 95 mph but does generate a lot of ground balls (3.23 G/F ratio) and is tough on left-handed batters (just a .371 OPS). If he doesn’t make the 25-man roster, look for him to return to Syracuse in 2015 and have a carry-on bag ready to go.

Brian Goodwin was once the heir apparent to Denard Span but now has Michael Taylor breathing down his neck. Injuries limited Goodwin to just 81 games last season, but having turned just 24 less than three weeks ago, it would seem that the Nats brass seem willing to let him get healthy in 2015 while also serving as insurance should Taylor falter. It will be interesting to see how the two (Goodwin & Taylor) will be used when they appear in the same outfield, though I’d be more surprised about seeing Goodwin in LF than Taylor in RF, given the latter’s cannon right arm.

Aug 152014
 


Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 71-53, 1st place I.L. North, 1 game ahead

Good Brandon Laird .372/.386/.744, 3HR, 14RBI last 10G
Bad 787 pitching K fewest in I.L.
Interesting Six weeks without any news on the health or status on Brian Goodwin



HARRISBURG SENATORS 49-74, 6th place E.L. West, 20½ games behind

Good Tyler Herron 0-0, 2SV, 0.73 WHIP last 10G
Bad 60 of 123 games started by Washington-drafted pitchers
Interesting Bullpen ERA is 2.89 since July 1 (H/T Sens PR staff)



POTOMAC NATIONALS 26-22, 1st place C.L. North, .004 W% ahead (64-53 overall)

Good Randolph Oduber .350/.366/.600, 2HR, 11RBI in last 10G
Bad Travis Henke 7HR allowed in 52⅓ IP
Interesting Tied with Lynchburg for fewest CGs, SHOs (0)



HAGERSTOWN SUNS 35-19, 1st place Sally North, 1 game ahead (79-45 overall)

Good Wander Suero 0-0, 2SV, 1.52 ERA, 0.74 over last 10 appearances for the Suns
Bad David Masters .188 BA last 10G
Interesting 212 Team SBs = Most since becoming Nationals affiliate in 2007



AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 26-32, 5th place Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 8 games behind

Good Bryan Mejia .367/.406/.533 in last 10G
Bad James Bourque 1.75WHIP, 5HBP in 28IP
Interesting 384 pitching K = 13th in 14-team NYPL



GCL NATIONALS 25-24, T2nd GCL East, 4 games behind

Good Jean Ramirez 3-0, 1.95 ERA, 1.30 WHIP in 11 appearances
Bad Conor Keniry .035 ISO
Interesting 19-y.o. Thomas Alvarez .407 SLG%



DSL NATIONALS 37-27, 4th place Boca Chica South, 8½ games behind

Good 18-y.o. Israel Mota 8HR (T1st, DSL), 47RBI (4th)
Bad 17-y.o. Malvin Pena 5.84 ERA, 1.66 WHIP in 12 appearances (24⅔ IP)
Interesting Avg. Pitcher Age = 18.4; League Avg. = 18.9
Jun 272014
 

GBI for NPP 2Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 49-31, 1st place I.L. North, 6 games ahead

Good Aaron Laffey 4-0, 1.95ERA, 1.18WHIP in June (5GS)
Bad Brian Goodwin .147/.237/.235 in last 10G
Interesting Six-game division lead the largest since August 12, 1998
(H/T Kevin Brown, Syracuse Dir. of Media & P.R.)



HARRISBURG SENATORS 30-47, 5th place E.L. West, 16 games ahead

Good Matt Skole .299/.409/.571, 5HR, 24RBI in June (22G)
Bad Neil Holland 1-1, 6.60 ERA, 1.53 WHIP in last 10 appearances
Interesting Tyler Herron 1-0, 2SV, 1.88 ERA, 1.26 WHIP in last 10 appearances



POTOMAC NATIONALS 5-2, T1st place C.L. North, 1½ games ahead (43-33 overall)

Good Gilberto Mendez 3-1, 3SV, 1.80 ERA, 0.60 WHIP in last 10 appearances
Bad Estarlin Martinez .157/.228/.196 vs. RHPs (.261/.292/.391 vs. LHPs)
Interesting Will Piwnica-Worms .324/.366/.432, 1HR, 16RBI in June (21G)


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 6-2, T1st place Sally North, 1 game ahead (50-28 overall)

Good Isaac Ballou .310/.365/.448, 2HR, 15RBI, 6SB in June (24G)
Bad Hector Silvestre 2-3, 6.49 ERA, 6HR allowed in June (5GS)
Interesting Rafael Bautista 33SB since May 1 (54G)


DSL NATIONALS 13-10, 3rd place Boca Chica South, 2 games behind

Good 17-y.o. Davinson Pimentel .362/.448/.517 in 17G
Bad 18-y.o. Jose Nunez 7.71 ERA, 2.49 WHIP, 11BB in 11⅔ IP
Interesting 17-y.o. Victor Robles 13SB in 18G
Jun 242014
 

Outfielder Michael Taylor and pitcher Lucas Giolito were among those named to the US team for the 2014 Futures Game, which will be held on the Sunday prior to the MLB All-Star game on July 15 in Minneapolis.

Taylor has been having a monster season for the Harrisburg Senators, prompting chatter about his becoming the heir apparent to CF Denard Spa. This is despite the presence of Syracuse Chief Brian Goodwin, who was more highly rated during this past offseason and famously leapfrogged Taylor two years ago on the organizational ladder. Or more accurately, perhaps it’s because while Taylor has flourished at AA (.333/.413/.584, 17HR, 52RBI, 19SB) Goodwin has floundered at AAA (.219/.351/.339, 4HR, 30RBI, 6SB).

As the game’s name suggests, Giolito’s selection is more about his potential than his production, though his line of 2.59/4.14/1.09 with a 2-2 record and 52 strikeouts in 48⅔ innings for the Hagerstown Suns isn’t so bad, especially for teenager in his first full professional season who’s two years removed from Tommy John surgery. Giolito has also been very carefully managed in terms of workload with just one start that lasted six innings — perhaps not coincidentally, the last one before he was skipped for several turns from mid-May 11 to early June — and five starts that have lasted less than five innings.

May 162014
 

GBI for NPP 2

Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 20-20, 4th place I.L. North, 1 game behind

Good Taylor Jordan 0.82 ERA, 0.82 WHIP in first 2GS since demotion
Bad Will Rhymes .164/.230/.274 in May (13G)
Interesting Brian Goodwin 45K, 31BB in 40G



HARRISBURG SENATORS 11-26, 6th place E.L. West, 14 games behind

Good Quincy Latimore .371/.425/.514 in 18G
Bad Blake Schwartz 0-7, 7.04/5.47/1.83 in 8GS
Interesting 7-8 at home, 4-18 on the road



POTOMAC NATIONALS 20-16, 1st place C.L. North, 3½ games ahead

Good Bryan Harper 1.72/2.36/1.09 in 9 appearances, 14K in 15⅔ IP
Bad Narciso Mesa .342 OPS in 9 games
Interesting 58 team doubles, 8th in 8-team Carolina League



HAGERSTOWN SUNS 30-8, 1st place Sally North, 9 games ahead

Good John Wooten .396/.411/.698, 3HR, 9RBI in May
Bad 600 per game attendance, 14th in Sally Lg.
Interesting Sally Lg. 13th place team = 1,585 per game.
Apr 252014
 


Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 10-10, T3rd place I.L. North, 1 game behind

Good Brian Goodwin 13BB in 20G, .388 OBP
Bad Josh Roenicke 0-2, 9.00 ERA, 1.75 WHIP
Interesting Syracuse pitchers, I.L.-best 42BB in 20G


HARRISBURG SENATORS 4-14, 6th place E.L. West, 6½ games behind

Good Relievers 3.44 ERA / 2.00 FIP / 1.26 WHIP
Bad Starters 2-11, 6.93 ERA / 4.63 FIP / 1.83 WHIP
Interesting 25 errors leads the Eastern League


POTOMAC NATIONALS 12-8, 1st place C.L. North, 3 games ahead

Good Khayyan Norfork .295/.367/.477, 4 triples (T1st C.L.) in 11G
Bad Travis Henke 9.35 ERA, 2.42 WHIP in 8⅔ IP
Interesting 99 runs scored, 99 runs allowed


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 15-5, 1st place Sally North, 4 games ahead

Good John Simms 0.98 ERA / 1.67 FIP / 0.82 WHIP, 3 saves
Bad Drew Ward 4E in 11G (yes, I’m reaching)
Interesting Six of eight saves, which leads the Sally League, have been 3 or more innings
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.