Jan 262012
 

The good news is that my copy of the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook came in the mail yesterday. The bad news is that the four prospects traded away for Gio Gonzalez were still there. I’d go all whiny-complainy on you, but I’m old enough to remember when cut&paste was done with an Xacto and a wax machine vs. Ctrl-X and Ctrl-V. It may be easier to get the words onto the galleys, but it still takes time to publish and bind on paper.

It’s also a slight surprise to see that the pre-trade ranking of the system was #1. That may be as meaningful as winning Dixville Notch in the big picture, but I suspect if GG wins 15 or so games, it’ll be forgotten everywhere but here.

As the headline suggests, I’m breaking up the list to have multiple posts and discussion fodder. But before I do that, let’s take a look at what happened to last year’s Top 28 (remember, Michael Burgess and A.J. Morris were also traded prior to the book release):

Graduated (3) — Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos, Yunesky Maya (exceeded IP limit).

Rule 5 Draft (2011), Taken (1) — Brad Meyers

Rule 5 Draft (2010), Returned (1) — Elvin Ramirez

Traded (4) — Derek Norris, A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone

Dropped Out (5) — J.P. Ramirez, Ryan Tatusko, Trevor Holder, Adam Carr, Hassan Pena

Like last year, roughly half the list is new. Also, like last year, BA is effusive in its praise for Washington spending big. Naturally, no mention was made that much of the impetus for the 2011 spree — unlike the expenditures on uber-prospects Bryce Harper in 2010 and Stephen Strasburg in 2009 — might possibly have been because of the new CBA or that a Top 10 pick in 2012 was highly unlikely. Time will tell how well Rizzo really did with his unique 2009-2011 window, but for now it’s 17 of these 26 were drafted then.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at Nos. 16-30, but I’ll leave you today with the Top 15 per the book:

1. Bryce Harper, OF
2. Anthony Rendon, 3B
3. Brad Peacock, RHP
4. A.J. Cole, RHP
5. Brian Goodwin, OF
6. Alex Meyer, RHP
7. Matt Purke, LHP
8. Sammy Solis, LHP
9. Derek Norris, C
10. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B
11. Destin Hood, OF
12. Chris Marrero, 1B
13. Tommy Milone, LHP
14. Michael Taylor, OF
15. Rick Hague, SS

Jan 252012
 


Leading up to his annual book, John Sickels has released his Top 50 batters and Top 50 pitchers to the folks that pre-ordered it.

For the second straight year, Bryce Harper ranked #1. Coming in at #2 was Mike Trout, who I would have not have been surprised or upset if he had ranked #1 (OK, maybe that second qualification is akin to my giving up skydiving for Lent). Sickels ranked just five batters with a Grade A, with four others getting the Grade of A-.

The last of those four, coming in at #9 overall, was Anthony Rendon. That’s mighty high praise when you consider that there are a few dozen more than 2,000 batters in the minors. For those wondering, Derek Norris still made the list, but dropped from #25 to #45 and in letter grade from B+ to B.

As you might have guessed, there are no Nationals pitchers in the Top 50. Former farmhands A.J. Cole (#23) and Brad Peacock (#39) made the list for Oakland, which was one of the top organizations in terms of total players making the two lists:
BATTERS

Zero Arizona, Chicago (A), Los Angeles (N), Milwaukee, Philadelphia,
One Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Miami, New York (A), New York (N), San Francisco
Two Baltimore, Chicago (N), Cincinnati, Houston, Los Angeles (A), Oakland, Pittsburgh, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Texas, Washington
Three Boston, Colorado, Kansas City, Minnesota, Toronto
Four San Diego

PITCHERS

Zero Cleveland, Chicago (N), Cincinnati, Houston, Miami, Minnesota, San Francisco, Washington
One Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles (A), Texas
Two Chicago (A), Colorado, Los Angeles (N), Milwaukee, New York (A), Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay
Three Arizona, Atlanta, New York (N), San Diego, Seattle
Four Oakland, St. Louis
Five Toronto

Double-crunching it, the Toronto Blue Jays are this year’s “it” organization with eight players on the two lists, followed by San Diego with seven, and Oakland and St. Louis (six apiece). Unlike last year, no organization was shut out, but Cleveland, Miami, and San Francisco each had but one player on either list. Washington is one of nine organizations with two players on either list.

Jan 242012
 


Iconoclastic prospect guru Kevin Goldstein has weighed in on the Nationals system as part of his regular “Future Shock” series. In addition to ranking the Top 11, he breaks them down into the more aesthetic star system (two-star, three-star, etc.), then names nine more. In short, the four- and five-star guys are like Sickels’s Grade-B or better. Without further ado:

1. Harper *****
2. Rendon *****
3. Purke ****
4. Goodwin ***
5. Meyer ***
6. Hood ***
7. Taylor ***
8. Lombardozzi ***
9. Ray ***
10. Solis ***
11. T. Moore **
12. Marrero
13. E. Perez
14. Walters
15. Jordan+
16. Smoker
17. Martinson
18. Skole
19. Leon
20. Freitas
+I asked him via Twitter regarding Jordan and he replied that pre-surgery, Jordan might have been #11.

Like most of the prospect gurus, Goldstein points to the Gio Gonzalez trade as “thinning” to the system but believes the ’11 Draft could eventually replace the players lost. As many of you have noted in the comments, the GG trade has knocked the system back, but perhaps only to where it was a year ago.

Still, let’s not forget that as the parent club improves, the job of reloading becomes more difficult. The new CBA also will be a factor, though I think a lot of the early “Omigod, we’ll never get another Bubba Starling!” screeching analysis was overwrought.

Click through on the link above to read his quick takes on the “Nine More” and for you Harper fanboys, Goldstein included the writeup on him. The rest, alas, is for the paid subs (sorry).

Jan 242012
 

As mentioned in the comments, Sickels has done his first ranking of the farm systems and the Nationals came in at #14. This sounds about right to me, given how the system thins out considerably after the top-line talent.

First base, shortstop, and LHRPs are three areas of particular concern to me. Yes, there is Moore and Marrero, but it’s a chimera to think that both will make it to DC. Rick Hughes fans will shout me down, but he’s coming off a shoulder injury and has a lost a year of development time. Josh Smoker is the best LHRP candidate and has zero AA innings. Of course, any complaints about minor-league relievers is mostly academic anyway; roles and usage should be secondary to the primary concern of developing the arms themselves.

The low-level rumblings in Western Maryland and the Shenandoah Valley are becoming louder, as details and logistics start to come to light. I’ve already admitted that my bias is towards keeping things in place, but obviously keeping the affiliate within reasonable driving distance of DC is my second choice. I can’t promise to follow this story all season long (the focus is on the players first), but I can direct folks to the blog that is dedicated to that purpose.

As others have mentioned, this is par for the course in the minors. Ownership groups routinely play one city off another in hopes of a better deal, a better facility, etc. It’s their right because the team is, after all, a business. Municipalities also have the right to say no, because it’s their duty to decide what constitutes a fair use of public monies.

My only admonition is that it’s usually a downward trend. A double-A team leaves, a single-A team might replace them. An affiliated team goes, an indy team — which doesn’t have to follow territorial rules — might move in. An indy team leaves, a collegiate wood-bat league might come to town. But with each step down, there are fewer dates the ballpark is used, fewer opportunities for the public to enjoy the facility, and less revenue generated to maintain it.

Stay tuned for a look at the latest Nats Top Prospect list, as Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus has weighed in.

Jan 202012
 

Three days after releasing his initial Top 20 list, the Nationals traded four of their Top 10 to the A’s for Gio Gonzalez. Today, Sickels has revised the list.

Thankfully, this is in print, so I don’t have to channel my bad Casey Kasem impersonation (click for a better one), but with everybody moving up four spots on the countdown, here are the four new names on his Top 20:

20) Justin Bloxom — C

19) Jeff Kobernus — C

18) Eury Perez — C

17) Tyler Moore — C

Moore, of course, has gotten some attention lately with Byron Kerr’s profile that has him being tried in the OF during Spring Training. This is, of course, being tried to give the Nats options besides DH if/when both he and Chris Marrero are in the same lineup at Syracuse.

Kobernus and Perez could easily be flip-flopped, but I, too, would rate Perez ahead of Kobernus because he can hidden on a bench as a defensive replacement/pinch-runner, not to mention he’s two years younger. Both have the same impediment for the long haul: impatience at the plate (4.0 and 4.7% BB rates, respectively).

Bloxom was one of the overlooked that I listed when Sickels put the call out to the community (first comment), but it’s still a bit of a surprise to see him get the nod when you look at the list of “Others” — folks that most likely will make the book, which is due out next weekend.
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And for today’s copyeditor’s nightmare (and non-sequitur?)… the sole signing last week by the Nationals was for Austin Bibens-Dirkx, a candidate for the Syracuse staff. He turns 27 in April and another Venezuelan League signee. One might also think, given this article, that he’s a project for the coaches to make a mechanical adjustment.

Jan 182012
 

As referenced in our previous post, the authority when it comes to minor-league facilities has weighed in.

Here’s the key graf in that story (bolding mine):

Now, we’re not talking the world’s greatest market: its population in 2009 was 26,322, its median income is lower than the rest of Virginia, and it’s the county seat of a relatively small county (Frederick County’s population is only 78,305, but it is growing). Indeed, to reach a 100,000 population within a decent driving distance of any Winchester ballpark, you need to include the entire county and all of Martinsburg, W.V., some 25 miles up I-81, as well as rural residents in the Martinsburg area.

I’ve been reading Kevin Reichard for the better part of a decade, which is not to say I’m slavish devotee. We’ve actually butted heads via e-mail, particularly when he correctly predicted the demise of my former hometown team, the North Shore Spirit. But I will say that he knows his [stuff] and have come to respect him.

I don’t think you can overestimate the value of a suitor that has a ballpark in place vs. that one does not. Kinston is the contender that folks in Hagerstown should be fearing. And look more carefully at that last line, it echoes what my friend Shawn wrote nearly a month ago (also worth another look).

He’s spot-on in the assessment that most people will blame the ownership vs. elected officials if the Suns were to leave. Indeed, when the North Shore Spirit folded its tent, there were folks praising Mayor Chip Clancy for “standing up” to the team’s mercurial owner, Nick Lopardo. My bias is obvious: I don’t care who “wins” in that battle; I just want the team to stay in place.

I’m guessing most of you feel the same way.

Jan 162012
 

It’s that dreaded dead time again.

No, not in that annoying, overrated Jerry Garcia kind of way.

It’s the post-holiday malaise where it’s the waiting game. Last year, that empty space was filled with a trade (Gorzelanny). Well, we’ve already had that trade (G. Gonzalez) and the next one might simply be the unloading of spare parts, should a free-agent signing occur.

The takeaway I have from the GG extension is that the Nationals have locked down their Big Three in the DC rotation, so any excess is bound to be trade bait. That could be Lannan or Detwiler now, or Solis or Ray later (it does not escape me that those are all lefties).

Meanwhile, the low-level rumblings from the lower full-season affiliates are registering like last August’s earthquake.

A blog has been established to watch the goings-on from Winchester, a rumored relocation spot for Hagerstown. Kevin Reichard at ballparkdigest.com has yet to weigh in, but my take is that if privately funded efforts in more affluent counties (i.e. The Loudoun Hounds) are having trouble getting off the ground, how will a publicly funded effort possible do better (and faster)? Not to mention, the most likely destination (Bridgeforth Field) would need a massive renovation. I’ve seen it done before, but only at the indy level (Lynn, Nashua, Worcester), where the 1991 NAPBL stadium standards don’t apply.

Meanwhile, in Woodbridge the quest for a new stadium for the Potomac Nationals remains a windmill in the distance continues. The latest dispatch has a county official citing a nonspecific setback over a parking garage of undetermined size is delaying a future announcement for the building of a facility located somewhere along the I-95 or I-66 corridor. Apparently, I’m not the only writer desperate for a news peg.

Of course, now that I’ve done a post-to-keep-the-site-fresh, something else minors-oriented might happen today…

Jan 092012
 

I’ll spare you guys a NKOTB pun for a pic and pass along the following Top 15 list from Bullpen Banter:

Jeff Reese Al Skorupa
1. Bryce Harper, OF 1. Bryce Harper, OF
2. Anthony Rendon, 3B 2. Anthony Rendon, 3B
3. Brian Goodwin, CF 3. Brian Goodwin, CF
4. Alex Meyer, RHP 4. Alex Meyer, RHP
5. Sammy Solis, LHP 5. Matt Purke, LHP
6. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B/SS 6. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B/SS
7. Matt Purke, LHP 7. Sammy Solis, LHP
8. Destin Hood, COF 8. Destin Hood, COF
9. Michael Taylor, CF 9. Matt Skole, 3B
10. Chris Marrero, 1B 10. Michael Taylor, CF
11. Tyler Moore, 1B 11. Robbie Ray, LHP
12. Robbie Ray, LHP 12. Eury Perez, CF
13. Matt Skole, 3B/1B 13. Cole Kimball, RHR
14. Eury Perez, CF 14. Dan Rosenbaum, LHP
15. Kylin Turnbull, LHP 15. Tyler Moore, 1B

I’m not gonna say much more except to go and take a look at their commentary. I think you’ll find their comments on Steve Lombardozzi particularly interesting, as well as their thoughts on Rendon, Ray, and Solis. As frequent commenter SoulDrummer is fond of remarking: “It’s important to pay attention to how folks outside our little bubble are viewing the guys.”

Jan 092012
 

As mentioned in the comments, I’ve been plugging away at the Player Reports for the 2012 Watchlist and am now done with the first pass. Once I receive the books from Baseball America and John Sickels, I’ll complete the “Report Not Yet Written” and amend/rewrite the others as needed.

I’ve also created pages on Facebook and Google+ to give folks more avenues to here, expanding from just an RSS feed and Twitter. I also want to remind folks that you can subscribe to comments to get alerts. Essentially, I’m trying to give folks an array of tools to keep tabs on the site with as little effort for both you and me alike.

Finally, I’ve also updated my “About” page to include the site’s email address (warning: I only check it about once a day; a DM on twitter, or a shout-out in the comments gets to me faster). Suggestions, comments, offline conversations, offers to volunteer with daily “News & Notes” during Potomac homestands, etc. can be sent there. I’d love to expand my network of spies to Pennsylvania, Florida, and New York, and of course, anyone with a hankering to write about the Draft is welcome (just not my thing; too knee-deep in providing day-to-day coverage).

Otherwise, enjoy this unusually warm weather while it lasts. If nothing else, it’s certainly helping with the new field at the Pfitz.

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.