Sep 242013
 

lucas-giolito
For the first time since 2009 (Destin Hood), a Nationals player has been named the Baseball America Top 20 prospect list for the Gulf Coast League… 2012 1st Rd. pick, Lucas Giolito.

The 19-year-old entered 2013 with the twin burdens of being the team’s top draft pick and proving himself to be healthy after UCL-replacement surgery. Early on, he exhibited the most common side effect of pitchers coming back from TJ: shaky command, which was so bad he was lifted in the first inning. Twice.

However, after allowing nearly two baserunners per inning in his first five appearances, Giolito hit his stride over the next three, as he earned his first win and began hitting the five-inning mark instead of his pitch limit. He was promoted to the New York-Penn League in mid-August and continued to give out donuts for a total of 20 consecutive scoreless innings before giving up a home run in his final start vs. Mahoning Valley.

Scouts clocked the SoCal native in the mid-90s, with some claims of triple-digit velo, with mid-80s speed on his curve that seems to vary between 12-6 and 11-5 action but late bite that earns the “plus-plus” in scout lingo. BattingLeadoff.com had this to say about his mechanics:

Has present stuff, but needs to clean up arm action. His delivery has some effort to it with a long arm circle and pronounced stab. He gets caught with his arm behind his body and arm will drag.

There’s also some disagreement about whether his changeup is back to where it was pre-surgery, but odds are pretty good that it varied from start to start (see above, command).

Of course, the million-dollar question for 2014 is where will Giolito start? The Nats have been careful with healthy HS arms and holding them back from full-season ball until early May, which they did with Robbie Ray in 2011 and 2012. Pitchers coming off surgery or shoulder problems, it’s been more towards Memorial Day (see: Purke, Matthew in 2012 and 2013).

A year ago, I probably would have written — they’ll be conservative and hold him in Viera until the NYPL starts up; he’s only had 14 innings at the level. Now, after a year of semi-aggressive promotions, I’m inclined to think he may actually be challenged to go to Low-A, perhaps even starting up as soon as the third week of April (i.e. the Suns first road trip south of Maryland).

Next possible BA Top 20 mention: Friday, when they rank the NYPL, though I’m not holding my breath…

Aug 162013
 


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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 59-68, 6th place I.L. North, 10 games behind

Good Tyler Moore .366/.449/.653, 6HR, 30RBI since All-Star Break (27G)
Bad Ryan Tatusko 5.78 BB/9IP (64 in 99⅔ IP)
Interesting Josh Johnson .328/.458/.478 in 28G



HARRISBURG SENATORS 66-58, 1st place E.L. West, 1 game ahead

Good Billy Burns .312/.429/.319, 5SB in 12G since promotion
Bad Rob Gilliam 0-4, 5.15 ERA, 1.34 WHIP since All-Star Break
Interesting Tyler Herron 0-1, 3SV, 1.50 ERA in last 10 appearances



POTOMAC NATIONALS 31-20, 1st place C.L. North, 8 games ahead (73-47 overall)

Good Colin Bates 2.10 ERA/3.02 FIP/1.01 WHIP in 30 appearances
Bad Mike Gilmartin, bases empty: .313/.425/.493
Gilmartin, RISP: .167/.258/.241
Interesting Greg Holt 4-0, 2.33 ERA, 1.26 WHIP since All-Star Break (15 appearances)



HAGERSTOWN SUNS 33-20, 2nd place Sally North, ½ game behind (71-49 overall)

Good Nick Lee 10.2K/9 (93K in 82IP)
Bad Wes Schill .160/.323/.160 in last 10G
Interesting 1st in runs scored, T12th in home runs (50, 18 by Brandon Miller)



AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 18-36, 6th place Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 15 games behind

Good James Yezzo .294/.306/.412 in August
Bad Mike Mudron 1.75 WHIP, 6.38 ERA in 15 appearances
Interesting 38 of 69E committed by 3B or SS



GCL NATIONALS 41-7, East Division Champions, 20½ games ahead

Good Lucas Giolito 0.64 ERA, 0.86 WHIP in August (3GS, 14IP
Bad Luis Guzman 17-y.o. .219/.281/.257 in 32G
Interesting Need to finish 7-5 to set GCL record for best W% (1994 Royals, 47-12)



DSL NATIONALS 34-28, 4th place Boca Chica South, 10 games behind

Good 17-y.o. Israel Mota .361 OBP
Bad 18-y.o. Jonathan Aquino 1.58 WHIP in 19⅔ IP
Interesting Pitchers T2nd with 8 shutouts in DSL
Mar 272013
 

Baseball America for NPPLike slideshows of cheerleaders and WAGs for Bleacher Report*, Baseball America can’t resist another chance to re-issue a list, which it did today with the 2013 Organizational Talent Rankings.
*Full disclosure: I can’t resist bulldogs or visual puns.

As a system, the Nats came in at #13 — up three spots from the #16 ranking last December — but perhaps of more interest is the “new” Top 10 list, which is as follows:

1. Anthony Rendon, 3B (AA)
2. Lucas Giolito, RHP (XST)
3. Brian Goodwin, OF (AA)
4. A.J. Cole, RHP (A+)
5. Matt Skole, 1B-3B (AA)
6. Nathan Karns, RHP (AA)
7. Christan Garcia, RHP (MLB D.L.)
8. Eury Perez, OF (AAA)
9. Sammy Solis, LHP (XST)
10. Matt Purke, LHP (XST)

In a nutshell, A.J. Cole was inserted at #4 and the “old” nos. 4-9 were moved down one spot. Zach Walters was the “bumped” #10 prospect. My projected destinations for where they’ll be for Opening Day are in parentheses.

The Washington farm was ranked #12 last year in this revision, following a brief moment on paper when the system was rated #1 prior to the Gio Gonzalez trade.

Jan 302013
 

Mayo 2Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com has released his 2013 Top 100 list and four Nationals farmhands were among the spread.

At #28, third baseman Anthony Rendon was the highest ranked Washington prospect. He actually moved up from #33 on last year’s list despite an abbreviated 2012 campaign. The 22-year-old is expected to begin the season for AA Harrisburg, but as a member of the team’s 40-man roster, Rendon will being spring training with the big boys in Viera.

Next on the list at #52 is centerfielder Brian Goodwin, who is also due to begin ’13 for the Senators. Such is the capriciousness of prospect ranking that Goodwin, who missed five weeks early in the season but was still jumped from Low-A to AA last July, rose from a #67 ranking in 2012.

The Nationals top pick in the 2012 draft, Lucas Giolito, was ranked #74 but is unlikely to pitch in a competitive game this season, thanks to having Tommy John surgery last August. Prior to suffering an elbow injury in the spring, Giolito was on track to be a “one-one” with a triple-digit fastball and a pair of plus breaking pitches.

Finally, recently re-acquired A.J. Cole was #91, dropping a spot from the 2012 list. While it’s possible for Cole to join Rendon and Goodwin on the AA squad, the smarter money is on Cole beginning ’13 with Potomac, given his struggles in High-A last season as well as Rizzo’s more conservative tendencies. Cole effectively replaces Alex Meyer (ranked #40), who went to Minnesota to acquire CF Denard Span.

Dec 192012
 

Only a couple of surprises here, but let’s cut to the chase before we discuss…

1. Anthony Rendon, 3b
2. Lucas Giolito, rhp
3. Brian Goodwin, of
4. Matt Skole, 3b
5. Nathan Karns, rhp
6. Christian Garcia, rhp
7. Eury Perez, of
8. Sammy Solis, lhp
9. Matt Purke, lhp
10. Zach Walters, ss

For me, the surprises are Christian Garcia, Nathan Karns, Matt Skole and Matt Purke. My bad on overlooking Garcia — in my head, he’s already “graduated” and will be a bullpen fixture; clearly I’m getting ahead of myself — which, along with Skole and Karns, is a bit of a departure from the slavish devotion to youth. Of course, that Skole and Karns have been getting so much virtual ink may also have something to do with it.

Purke surprises me for the same reason I was sure that Solis would make the list: His surgery wouldn’t be held against him. Indeed, BA did not deviate from its norms of hyperbole when selecting Lucas Giolito as having the organization’s “Best Fastball” and “Best Curveball” despite his UCL replacement (yes, TJ surgery has a high success rate, but it’s not 100%). Still, it’s a little odd that Purke fell beneath Solis in the rankings despite having a less invasive procedure done.

The free article focuses on the parent club and how the system produced the talent that fueled the unexpected (for the honest, at least) playoff run in 2012. And of course, BA is effusive in its praise for the selections of Strasburg and Harper in ’09 and ’10 as well as Rendon in ’11 and Giolito in ’12 (as for the rest of the 2012 draft, BA was like the lawyers responding to Billy Ray Valentine’s plea for help in the men’s club in “Trading Places”).

The projections for where the 2013 Top 10 will start the year were as follows:
MLB — Garcia
AAA — Perez, Walters
AA — Rendon, Goodwin, Skole, Karns
Lo-A — Purke
XST/Rehab — Giolito, Solis

Again, no big shocks — though the verb for Skole was “reach,” not “start” and they also qualified his placement with “his hands are sure enough to play at either corner,” which I can’t fault them for since everybody outside the organization sees him as a 1B but the Nationals have yet to fully commit to the position switch. Likewise, they projected Solis to start in XST and then head north on a rehab tour. My guess would be that he goes to Hagerstown for the three-inning stints and then moves up to Potomac for when he’s given the five-inning limit, then moved to Harrisburg if/when the coaches like what they see (that’s my CYA if/when he gets the bump despite poor nos.)

Dec 052012
 

The pattern of a (near-)unanimous few then the biases of the many continues with the votes for the Nationals’ Top 10 Pitchers. Thirty different pitchers received votes, but only two appeared on each of the thirteen ballots cast (Lucas Giolito and Nathan Karns) while two more were named on all but one (Sammy Solis and Matt Purke).

1. Lucas Giolito
2. Nathan Karns
3. Matt Purke
4. Sammy Solis
5. Christian Garcia
6. Erik Davis
7. Danny Rosenbaum
8. Aaron Barrett
9. Brett Mooneyham
10. Robbie Ray

Others receiving votes: Rob Wort, Rafael Martin, Neil Holland, Paul Demny, Pedro Encarnacion, Taylor Jordan, Christian Meza, Jeff Mandel, Cole Kimball, Brad Meyers, Wirkin Estevez, Pat McCoy, Ryan Tatusko, Robert Benincasa, Derek Self, Hector Nelo, Josh Smoker, Jack McGeary, Nick Lee

Perhaps more disturbing is that we don’t see a pitcher who hasn’t had shoulder or elbow surgery until the #6 hurler, Erik Davis, who instead has had knee problems, according to MASN’s Byron Kerr.

Close behind is the realization that half of this list is 25 or older. Put another way: just 10 of these 30 pitchers voted for were born after 1990.

As I wrote back in September in discussing the Nationals farm, it’s pretty clear that the organization’s strength has shifted away from developing pitchers to position players. Perhaps more evident: surgery and long periods of rehab seem to be the gamble the Nats are willing to make — regardless of a pitcher’s age or ailment — to get pitching potential. What remains to be seen is whether this approach will pay off frequently enough to warrant the shifting of innings or roles away from healthier and/or lower-ceiling guys.

I hope folks enjoyed this experiment in crowdsourcing. Next up on the minor-league calendar is the Rule 5 draft. The Nats are nearly certain not to be takers in the MLB phase (thus, no preview this year), and may even have a player or two taken, though the odds are extremely short that any player taken will be gone for good.

Aug 132012
 

It’s the post you’ve been nagging asking for — a look at who might get sent to the Arizona Fall League.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that as the parent club improves, this kind of information becomes pushed to the periphery by the mainstream media. In other words, there’s going to be a lot more written about who might get called up in September than who’s going to play in the greater Scottsdale area in October. It’s already happening in the comments here, a niche site devoted to the future Nats, not the present Nats, as much as some folks want to bridge that gap like Evel Knievel with the Snake River Canyon.

Like last year, there is one clear choice: Brian Goodwin. Leapfrogging him from Hagerstown to Harrisburg has to have an AFL angle to it, which is not to say the only reason why the move was made. The next choice with little doubt is Anthony Rendon, assuming he doesn’t get hurt between now and then. A little less certain is Jeff Kobernus, though there is some question as to whether he’ll be healed by then (fractured rib).

As discussed previously, Zach Walters seems like a candidate to go back after being added to the taxi squad last fall, but repeats in the AFL aren’t very common. Likewise for Chris Marrero, who’s the right age and could use the playing time, especially since it’s unlikely he’ll be playing winter ball this year.

Less clear is whether Destin Hood or Justin Bloxom gets the call. Hood has been beset by injuries for a good chunk of this season, leaving some doubt as to whether his struggles at AA have been a matter of health or having hit a bump in the road developmentally. That kind of uncertainty is precisely what GMs want when it comes to the Rule 5 draft, which Hood will be eligible for in December. Bloxom might not get sent simply because the other teams responsible for filling out the roster of the Salt River Rafters have more attractive candidates (e.g. Matt Davidson, Toronto) at first base.

If Rendon is indeed the Single-A exception, then it might be safe to say that Nathan Karns and Alex Meyer might be held back, especially in the name of limiting innings with both in their first full professional season. I’ve heard whispers that Ricky Hague might be this year’s Zach Walters (taxi squad player), though that was when Hague was on a hot streak and has since cooled some.

With the new CBA, there just aren’t the late-sign, high-profile pitchers that would make obvious choices (e.g. Stephen Strasburg, Matt Purke). Folks suggesting Lucas Giolito need to share what they’re ingesting (tomorrow is his first outing, and I suspect it’ll be limited to one inning or 20 pitches, whichever comes first). We were surprised last year at the selections of Rafael Martin and Pat Lehman, neither of whom was on the verge of Rule 5 eligibility, but there just aren’t any pitchers that fit that mold at AA or AAA.

Perhaps we’ll see one or two out of the trio of Trevor Holder, Pat McCoy, and Paul Demny. That’s the safest guess at this point (and to be clear, without knowing which pitchers the other five organizations are likely to send, it’s a guess). Like last year, the only thing I’m sure of is that somebody, somewhere is going to be disappointed with the selections.