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 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 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 022011
 

Fear not, seamheads. The list will be here before the weekend.

The turnout the second time around was a little less — 17 vs. 19 — and lot closer. Twenty different hurlers got a vote, with four named on every ballot. No perfect score this time, which was not a surprise. Without further ado, the results in reverse order with points in parentheses:

10. Rafael Martin (14)
9. Danny Rosenbaum (28)
8. Brad Meyers (44)
7. Robbie Ray (68)
6. Alex Meyer (90)
5. Matt Purke (106)
4. Tommy Milone (110)
3. Sammy Solis (114)
2. A.J. Cole (142)
1. Brad Peacock (166)

Others receiving votes: Kylin Turnbull (13), Wirkin Estevez (11), Taylor Jordan, Josh Smoker, Paul Demny, Taylor Hill, Atahualpa Severino, Marcos Frias, Cole Kimball, Pat Lehman

As you’ve probably already surmised — and the mathmetically inclined, deduced — Peacock, Cole, and Solis were the every-ballot picks; Ray was the fourth. Purke, Milone, and Alex Meyer were named on 16 of 17 ballots. After that, it’s scattershot.

Unlike the bats, I think this list shows our biases, Brad Meyers and Rafael Martin in particular. I called out the votes for Turnbull and Estevez because you can see that just one or two more votes would have put them in the list. I voted for “For The Weekend” because he’s one of the handful of Nats’ teenage pitchers that have pitched north of Viera, but didn’t for Turnbull because he’s thrown less than a 100 innings since H.S. and the guess is that he’ll be used as a reliever not a starter.

Unfortunately, the starter vs. reliever bias is probably hurting Josh Smoker the most, but like favoring youth, it’s prospect prejudice that’s right more often than it’s wrong. I’d have probably voted for Jordan if he’d finished the season at Hagerstown, but fair or not, my inclination is to hold injuries against a pitcher until he proves that he’s healthy. And I write that having had some of the problems (back, hip, knee) that come with the pitcher’s physique without any of the incipient stress (or talent) of actually throwing a baseball.

Have at it in the comments. The winter meetings start next week and finish with the Rule 5 draft. Yesterday, we got a little touch of the hot stove and let’s hope it burns steadily for the next two months.

Dec 012011
 

What began with the promotion of Randy Knorr from Syracuse Chiefs manager to Washington Nationals bench last month continued with the promotions of Tony Beasley and Matt LeCroy today.

Beasley was named the Syracuse manager after a single season at Harrisburg, one in which the 44-year-old led the Senators to the Eastern League’s best record at 80-62. This will be Beasley’s first stint at the AAA level. According to Patriot-News beat writer Geoff Morrow, he will be joined by longtime Harrisburg hitting coach Troy Gingrich.

Taking Beasley’s place will be Matt LeCroy, who also managed just a single season at Potomac while guiding his club to a second-half playoff berth. The almost-36-year-old LeCroy will be joined by longtime Potomac pitching coach Paul Menhart, who will replace Randy Tomlin as the Senators pitching coach (Tomlin has left the organization voluntarily for personal reasons, see first link for more details).

Washington Post beat writer Adam Kilgore is reporting that replacements for the Potomac coaching staff will be made within a few days.

Nov 292011
 

Last year, I wrote “The people have spoken,” referring to the poll for next steps regarding rankings and watchlists. This year, the sentiment’s the same but this time, it’s a little more literal.

That’s because this year’s list is based on the opinions of those that wrote in to my query for submissions, not just my own. Is it scientific? Hell, no — it’s subjective. But the theory is that a bunch of like-minded seamheads are going to produce a better list than this one did last year.

The methodology is pretty simple: I took the submissions, put ‘em in a spreadsheet and then added up the points in reverse (#1 vote = 10 points, #10 vote = 1 point). Top vote getter is #1, second-most is #2, etc. A couple of ballots mixed in pitchers and I tried to count them anyways but that actually produced a couple of ties, so I tossed ‘em and that worked to break the ties.

The sample size isn’t terribly big (19) but it was about what I was hoping for (20). So here are the results, in reverse order with points in parentheses. A perfect score was 190 and I’m sure you’ll be *shocked* to learn that it was achieved.

10. Eury Perez (28)
9. Michael Taylor (33)
8. Tyler Moore (56)
7. Chris Marrero (74)
6. Destin Hood (87)
5. Steve Lombardozzi (95)
4. Brian Goodwin (103)
3. Derek Norris (150)
2. Anthony Rendon (152)
1. Bryce Harper (190)

Others receiving votes: Zach Walters, Jeff Kobernus, Rick Hague, Kevin Keyes, Jason Martinson, Jhonatan Solano, Matt Skole, Chris Curran, David Freitas, Corey Brown, Erik Komatsu, Blake Kelso

That’s 22 players receiving votes. You’ll note that I used “position players” instead of “bats” this year in the headline. Some folks took that to mean strictly hitting prowess, even though I tend to use it as a synonym like “arms” for pitchers. But I stuck with bats because I like the picture, opting against a visual pun (this time; I’ve been saving that one since last winter).

I think you can see from this variety of names that some folks are factoring in defense (e.g. Curran) some give props to knocking on the MLB door (Solano) and some give props to raw tools (Keyes). Three players appeared on all ballots: Harper, Rendon, and Norris. Goodwin was left off one; Moore, two; Lombardozzi, Hood, and Marrero: three; Perez, eight; Taylor, ten. The others receiving votes are in order of points, but it wasn’t close: Walters received 15 points.

The two names that missed that kind of surprised me were David Freitas and Rick Hague. Say what you will about his defense, but an .858 OPS over two years might have gotten a little more respect. Conversely, a season-ending shoulder injury didn’t dissuade folks from voting for Hague, even though as the votes for Martinson and Walters attest, he’s no longer the shortstop in waiting that he was this time last year.

Ultimately, like all things hot stove, this is an exercise that mainly serves to pass the time and the winter. But that’s going to stop me from soliciting votes for the pitchers as my next project ;-)

Editor’s Note: This was largely written prior to the news that Chris Marrero had torn his hamstring. Clearly this is a blow to both the prospect and the organization. It may also open the door for Tyler Moore. But one has to also wonder if this makes Lombardozzi the trade chip in lieu of Marrero, given the interest in Mark DeRosa.

Nov 262011
 

Of course, the events of the past 24-36 hours belie the idea that there is such a thing as the wisdom of crowds. But since we have an interesting convergence of both a lull before the winter meetings and only one major prospect ranking thus far this offseason, I think there’s an opportunity to tap into our own community of seamheads to do this year’s Top 10 lists and see how we do when the big boys weigh in next month.

So here’s the deal. We’ll try the position players first. Send your Top 10 position players to natsprospects[at]gmail[dot]com (Link opens your preferred email client).

I’ll compile them, weight them in reverse order (#1 = 10 points, #2 = 9 points… #9 = 2 points, #10 = 1 point) and we’ll have fodder for discussion. When I hit a sizable number of submissions, I’ll update this post to let people know we’ve hit a critical mass.

Like the headline says, it’s an experiment. I’m intrigued to see how we rank them vs. the others. If it goes smoothly, I’ll repeat the process for the pitchers. I’m hoping to do the results post early next week.

UPDATE:
I’m declaring victory and tabulating the votes. Thanks to all that participated. Your punishment reward is that you’ll be asked to do it again ;-)

Nov 232011
 

Yesterday, we looked at the infielders and the catchers. Today, the pitchers and the outfielders. The same caveats apply.

When I reviewed the 2011 watchlist a little more than two months ago, I made a vow to be a little tougher this year. Eighty-nine names made it last year, as of this writing, it’s 72 — nearly 20 percent fewer. There are still some names here that I’m fence on — mostly near the top, which invariably makes them fan favorites and, by definition, a case can be made for them if they’ve risen to AAA.

I’m quite well aware that there are some names from last year’s list that are still “young enough” but had mediocre to subpar years, or were hurt. As I mentioned in the 2011 watchlist review, they’re going to have to play their way back onto the 2013 list, just as they’re going to have to outplay the next wave of players making their way up the ladder.

So when you make your case for someone’s inclusion and/or exclusion, bear these things in mind. I’ve already cut some slack for some older guys at the expense of leaving off a couple of names from the DSL, a decision I can justify given my own track record about picking names from the DSL (of the two “Top 5’s” in the 2010 DSL Review, five repeated the level, four were promoted, and one was released) as well as my decision to only rank five names total from the GCL.

OF RHSP RHRP LHSP LHRP
Corey Brown Brad Peacock Rafael Martin Tommy Milone Josh Smoker
Bryce Harper Brad Meyers Pat Lehman Danny Rosenbaum Matt Purke
Eury Perez Paul Demny Marcos Frias Sammy Solis Kylin Turnbull
Destin Hood Alex Meyer Neil Holland Robbie Ray Paul Applebee
Brian Goodwin A.J. Cole Matt Swynenberg Matt Grace
Kevin Keyes Taylor Jordan Greg Holt Christian Meza
Michael Taylor Wirkin Estevez Joel Barrientos
Billy Burns Taylor Hill Hector Silvestre
Randolph Oduber Brian Dupra
Caleb Ramsey Nathan Karns
Narciso Mesa Manny Rodriguez
Estarlin Martinez Gilberto Mendez
Wander Ramos Ivan Pineyro
Nov 222011
 

Now that the season reviews are done and the Top 10 (or 11, or 15, or 20) lists are around the corner, I’ve decided it’s time to start looking towards building the 2012 Watchlist. I’ve gone through this year’s season reviews, the Florida Instructional League invitees, and put them in a format similar to last year’s.

A few caveats…

It’s not a depth chart — I’ve arranged this by the highest level played thus far, with some exceptions (Anthony Rendon, who may not even stick at the position). Clearly you can see some gaps, but the point here is to list the players we’ve got our eye on — organizing it by position is just a logical extension.

It’s based on 2011 usage — We’ve already begun speculating about position changes, but until they actually occur, we default to how they were last used. I don’t think, for example, that Justin Bloxom will be the starting third baseman for the Senators, but I do think he’ll be on the roster.

It’s preliminary — Before John Sickels finalizes his lists, he takes feedback from his followers and I’m no different. I’ll listen to pitches for and against inclusion before I finalize it, but I also want to keep the list a manageable size (though easier than last year, I’m still going to have write reports for everybody).

It’s broken into two parts — So I can get in two posts before the Thanksgiving throngs hit the roads, the malls, and the liquor cabinet (preferably in that order). It’s infielders and catchers today, pitchers and outfielders tomorrow.

A couple final reminders: One, I tend to favor performance and a track record over reputation and youth. Two, remember that players’ families and friends are reading here and most are not like Dirk Hayhurst’s grandma*. You don’t have to be relentlessly positive, but try not to be needlessly negative (yeah, yeah: pot, kettle).
*I finished my master’s degree while renting out a room from a retired IRS agent just like her; I’m fairly certain he’s not exaggerating.

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