Oct 242015
 
Yes, I know Santos pitched Thursday, but folks like Lee's pics!

Yes, I know Santos pitched Thursday, but folks like Lee’s pics!

Four strong innings from John Simms and a pair of two-run rallies early helped the Rafters eclipse the Solar Sox, 5-1 and stop a three-game slide.

Simms allowed the lone Mesa run on a solo shot in the 3rd and three hits total. He walked one and struck out four and threw 57 pitches during the outing, his second for Salt River.

Christopher Bostick returned the lineup and played second base. He batted ninth and reached base twice with a single in the 6th and drew a walk in the 8th to go 1-for-3 overall. Defenisvely he had a putout and four assists.

Salt River wraps up the week with a day game today at home vs. Mesa.

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It’s a two-fer today, so let’s jump into the usual weekly post…

WINTER LEAGUE SIGHTINGS
The following players have appeared in Mexican Pacific League and the Dominican Winter League:

Rafael Bautista, Bruce Billings (Escogido, DWL)
Pedro Severino (Cibao, DWL)
Richard Bleier (Oriente, DWL)
Paul Demny (Culiacan, LMP)

THE POTOMAC NATIONALS
Like the Hagerstown Suns, Potomac went from contender to pretender to post a losing season for the first time since 2012. It’s tempting to compare this team to that team, but there are two key differences: (1) this team did no better on the road than it did at home (2) this team didn’t feel like it had underachieved. Obviously, #1 is objective — to paraphrase the grossly overrated Bill Parcells, your record is your record. And #2 is subjective — part of underachieving is a disconnect between expectation and actual performance, perceived or actual.

Lucas Giolito and Wilmer Difo were “as advertised”; Reynaldo Lopez was not. Drew Ward was a mixed bag. Rafael Bautista was hurt. This can be argued (and probably will be in the comments), but most of the other names either weren’t as highly regarded outside our bubble or there were reservations already about their prospect status.

The 2015 crew felt to me very much like the first couple of seasons I watched this team (2006, 2007): A couple of true prospects and a handful of maybes mixed in with “OGs” (organizational guys). This may be “old world order” returning, and with the parent club now drafting in the lower third, it might not be all that surprising.

And with that, I present the obligatory Top 5’s:

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Christopher Bostick, 2B, .253 GPA, .344 OBP 1. Lucas Giolito, RHP, 2.71/1.96/1.22, 11.11 K/9IP
2. Spencer Kieboom, C, .241 GPA, .346 SLG% 2. Tyler Mapes, RHP, 2.38/2.78/1.22, 8.54 K/9, 4.18 K:BB
3. Drew Ward, 3B, .237 GPA, 29E in 95G 3. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, 4.09/2.95/1.22, 5HR in 99 IP
4. Estarlin Martinez, OF, .238 GPA, .711 OPS in 2nd half 4. Austen Williams, RHP, 2.59/3.22/1.09, .215 OBA
5. Rafael Bautista, CF, .224 GPA, 23SB in 52G 5. Phillips Valdez, RHP, 3.77/3.26/1.44, 58.1 LOB%


No honorable mentions as we’re now well past the point of ignoring a player’s age or having repeated the level. Folks interested in seeing the entire team’s stats, can find them here.

Oct 172015
 

With yesterday’s game between Salt River and Peoria rained out, we turn to the weekly post to fill the time…

TRANSACTION UPDATE
Again, still quiet on this front — just the election by Emmanuel Burris for free agency, a move that will only shock the MASN Commenters of the Natmosphere.

BA TOP PROSPECT LISTS
Trea Turner, who was the #4 guy in the Texas League after 58 games, was also #4 in the International League despite having played just 48 games there. Turner is obviously an unusual case and will be expected to take over the starting SS duties from Ian Desmond in 2016. As we saw this year, the Nats aren’t afraid to go with rookies who have graduated AA. It should prove to be interesting, however, should Turner struggle in the spring while incumbent infielders do well.

THE HAGERSTOWN SUNS
The four-year run of winning baseball and three-year streak of making the playoffs ended with a sub-.500 campaign of 68-70 — 35-33 in the first half, 33-37 in the second. The Suns’ status as the worst draw in the Sally League continued, though the claimed attendance improved nearly 10% [insert joke about extra Thirsty Thursday here] from 979 to 1,073 per date. The next-worst team averaged 1,962. SSDY.

The offense was slightly better than the league average (4.49 R/G vs. 4.39) but the pitching was worse: 4.70 vs. 4.39. The team was fourth in defense on the basis of fewest errors and fielding percentage, while the catchers were tops in the league at CS% at 38% – 3% better than the second-best team. Like many of the teams reviewed thus far, the contingent from the D.R. helped to offset the older players, but as a team they were older than the league average for both bats (22.5 vs. 21.5) and arms (22.4 v. 22.0).

Now, for the comment fodd..er, Top 5’s:

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, 1B, .285 GPA, 11HR, 87RBI 1. Austen Williams, RHP, 2.10/2.81/1.10, 4.5 K:BB ratio
2. Bryan Mejia, 2B, .305 GPA, .924OPS 2. Andrew Lee, RHP, 2.15/2.19/0.92, 10.43K/9IP
3. Osvlado Abreu, SS/2B, .264 GPA, 30SB, 30E 3. Koda Glover, RHP, 2.25/2.19/0.92, 10.13K/9IP
4. Andrew Stevenson, CF, .239 GPA, 16K in 35G 4. Philip Valdez, RHP, 1.47/4.08/0.93, .189 OBA
5. Alec Keller, RF/CF, .255 GPA, .995FA overall 5. Connor Bach, LHP, 3.85/4.08/1.49, 5.65 BB/9IP


Honorable mention to Andrew Stevenson, who put up a .242GPA in 35 games as a 21-year-old in his first pro season. For the pitchers, there just wasn’t one who had both good production and was closer to 22 than 26. For those who’d like to see the full team stats, click here.

Oct 102015
 

It’s been an interesting week to say the least. And as much as I’d like to say there’s been a lot of news, if you look more closely, there’s a hell of a lot more smoke than fire. The entire Nats coaching staff — many of whom have been mainstays in the organization before the current GM assumed his role — was “informed their contracts would not be renewed” while the Nats have reportedly “offered several jobs to several of our former major league coaches in our system.”

I’d like to know which coaches were offered which jobs. Not that for a minute would I actually believe that Rizzo or the Nationals would answer that directly or honestly, but it would nice if somebody, somewhere would ask such an obvious (and necessary) question. Maybe it was asked, but I doubt it.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

Perhaps biggest “news” is that Trea Turner won’t be playing on the taxi squad after all. This never made much sense and sounds like a (yet another) tone-deaf PR maneuver. Meanwhile, Christopher Bostick replaces Wilmer Difo, who was injured last weekend. Games start up on Tuesday the 13th.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
Three Nats made the Carolina League Top 20: Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Austen Williams. Not much argument about Giolito, but the previous accolades and perhaps a weak year seems to account for the picks of Lopez and Williams respectively. Giolito as the top dog in the Eastern League also reeks of laziness, as does the naming of Joe Ross — who is no longer an MLB rookie — at No. 8.

Let me be clear: I’m criticizing Baseball America here. Yes, we get that Giolito is a great talent, but double-dipping means that another guy elsewhere doesn’t get named. And a pitcher that made 13 starts for a second-place team might be a major-leaguer someday?
Even F.P. Santangelo could make that call.

TRANSACTION STUFF
Still fairly slow, as P.J. Walters was re-signed. That’s it.

WINTER LEAGUES
A look over the rosters of the Venezuelan Winter League, which started up on the 7th, has turned up two pitchers and two position players who were with the organization at the end of the 2015 season:

  • Reegie Corona
  • Mario Lisson
  • Paolo Espino
  • Mario Sanchez

So far, no Nationals have been listed on the Mexican Pacific League teams, which began last night.

THE AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS
In 2011 and 2012, the Doubldays were contenders to win the NYPL league. In 2013, they bottomed out with the league’s worst record and worst pitching. The past two seasons, it’s been a slow climb to the .500 mark. It’s worth noting that the first two teams were among the league’s oldest while the last three have been edging towards the average, falling below this year (20.6 vs. 21.1 for bats; 21.1 vs. 21.3 for arms) with the influx of more players from the D.R.

Just two of the seven Washington affiliates surpassed the league average runs scored per game. Not coincidentally, both clubs — Auburn and Hagerstown — were the closest to a winning record. Funny how that works. The Doubledays scored 4.82 R/G (vs. 4.25), which was good for second-best in the league. The pitching and defense let in 4.88 R/G which was third-worst in both categories. Thus, the 36-38 mark is only one off from the Pythagorean projection (for the folks who still mindlessly lament the “collapse” of the 2005 parent club, look at the second paragraph under “Justification”) of 37-37.

Before I unveil the Top 5’s, a note: I’m not listing Victor Robles twice, even though he was head and shoulders above the rest (.311 GPA). If that doesn’t make sense, re-read “BA Top Prospects” above 😉

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Max Schrock, 2B/SS, .272 GPA, .308 BA 1. Erick Fedde, RHP, 2.57/2.60/1.31, 9.26 K/9IP
2. Dalton Dulin, 2B, .273 GPA, .410 OBP 2. Mariano Rivera III, RHP, 5.45/2.70/1.64, 0.82BB/9
3. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B, .265 GPA, 21 doubles in 62G 3. Tommy Peterson, RHP, 2.66/2.83/1.23, 1.8 BB/9
4. Edwin Lora, SS, .238 GPA, .414 SLG% 4. Taylor Guilbeau, LHP, 3.88/2.89/1.39, 1.6 BB/9
5. David Kerian, 1B, .236 GPA, .995 FA 5. Grant Borne, LHP, 3.59/2.99/1.26, 1.3 BB/9

Honorable mentions to Rhett Wiseman and Matt Crownover; the former was just a tick below Kerian, the latter because he finished very strong — 2.22 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in August. And it pained me to have to include Mariano Rivera III because I am really not a fan of legacy picks (*cough* Shane McCatty *cough*) but like Crownover, getting pounded early skewed his stats.

This is why I like FIP and include it as a “pitcher’s triple slash” because it’s less volatile. Indeed, you’ll see that a lot of the pitchers listed had one thing in common: they didn’t issue walks. We can complain that they didn’t strike out many, either, but that’s a conversation for the comments section.

As always, folks who want to see the numbers for the full team can find them here.

Sep 252015
 

Now I can follow last year’s digital size 13’s, so here goes…

THE STATE OF THE FARM

All seven affiliates had losing records and missed the playoffs. Obviously, that’s not the only measuring stick or even the most important one. But I’ve long felt that the reflexive, “stats are meaningless in the minors” trope by baseball folks to be disingenuous. I’m sure many of you had this reaction at least three times a week when looking at the daily rundown. Like a taxi on a rainy night, offense (age-appropriate or not) was hard to find. A lot of you are pinning your hopes on the influx of talent from the D.R. and I have little reason to disagree.

BA TOP 20 LISTS
Victor Robles was named the #2 prospect in both the GCL and the NYPL (remember Baseball America loves to double-dip) and was joined by Erick Fedde (#4). That, of course, means there’s a small chance that Fedde will make the cut for the Sally Lg., too. Aside from Lucas Giolito, I have little confidence we’ll see many more.

THE 2015 WATCHLIST
The logical inference from the previous two items is that the watchlist has become a depth chart. This has always been my worst fear, and it makes me less interested in creating a 2016 edition. This is not necessarily a result of a disappointing season; a year ago I wrote that I knew the list will become smaller and less comprehensive, but I was hoping not to scrap it altogether. Perhaps I’ll feel differently in a few weeks, or someone can make a case in the comments for a way to preserve this.

THE DSL NATIONALS
After years of being one of — if not the — oldest teams in the DSL, the 2015 edition had the youngest set of position players in the league (average age: 17.6 vs. 18.3) and the fourth-youngest pitching staff (18.3 vs. 19.0). But being young is only a part of the equation; were they any good? In the 38-team DSL, the bats were 29th (4.46 R/G vs. 5.02) and the arms were 33rd (5.74). The defense was also below average with a .947FA (.952).

So, no, not really.

The million-peso question is how many of these guys will repeat, with the follow-up of how many will be let go. We won’t know until next May. But the hope is that those that do repeat — and are still age-appropriate — will improve dramatically.

Without further ado…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Aldrem Corredor, 1B/OF, .289 GPA, 39 BB 1. Pedro Avila, RHSP, 2.26/1.87/1.06, 13.1 K/9
2. Luis Perdomo, LF, .275 GPA, 16 2B 2. Francys Peguero, RHRP, 1.82/1.99/0.84, 13.5 K/9
3. Edwin Ventura, RF, .265 GPA, 15SB 3. Yonathan Ramirez, LHSP, 2.75/2.91/1.12, 1.7 BB/9
4. Roberto Medina, C, .278 GPA, .442SLG% (34G) 3. Gilbert Chu, RHRP, 2.55/2.90/1.09, 11.0 K/9
5. Juan Evangelista, CF, .258 GPA, 108 TB 5. Warner Duran, RHRP, 2.67/2.35/1.22, 0HR in 33⅔ IP

 

Honorable mentions go to 17-y.o. Omar Meregildo, who led the team in slugging at .443 (but also faded badly, .450 OPS in August vs. .643 in July and .885 in June) and 18-y.o. RHRP Angel Guillen, who had a very respectable 3.02 FIP and an extremely unlucky .423 BABIP, which can be obscured by his ERA (6.08) and H/9IP (10.8). Folks interested in seeing the entire team’s stats can find them here.

Sep 172015
 

Uninspired for NPP
We’re in a weird place right now. Whenever I would hit a lull like this, I would quite literally see what I posted this time a year ago. Well, can’t really do that since a year ago today I made the decision to dial back (if not off) this site.

I appreciated the kind thoughts at the season’s end. I’ve also appreciated the break from the daily grind over the last week and a half. So even though I plan to resume covering the Arizona Fall League — which doesn’t start for nearly a month — I will need to resist the temptation to do more than that.

Hence, today’s post to reset the hot stove comments and let folks know we’re still here; we’re just back to weekly (or semi-weekly) posts.

Now, for a couple quick hits…

• For those that missed it, Byron Kerr posted a list of who’s been assigned to the Fall Instructional League. Like the Rule 5 Draft, this mole hill becomes a mountain when the parent club isn’t doing well and we’re desperate for discussion fodder. The first year of this site a commenter broke it down. Five years later, I see little reason to disagree.

• Our Hagerstown guy has his takes on the Suns’ hitters and Suns’ pitchers. The only thing I have to add or object to is the characterization of Raudy Read’s defense as being anything other than subpar. The kid can hit, but a catcher he is not.

Until next time…

Feb 282015
 

With the news that John Sickels’s 2015 Baseball Prospect book may be further delayed, I decided to finish the remaining player reports rather than wait any longer — just as I did last year.

We’re still in a dead period of sorts while we await the beginning of spring training games. For the second straight week, the Baseball America transaction report has seen nothing — no comings or goings — for Washington.

No news or not, it’s always a big deal when we close the books on February. It means baseball will be played next week, not next month, and April doesn’t seem quite so far away.

Well, at least until the next time it snows or sleets…

Feb 082015
 

Plugging Away
Having reviewed the Baseball America Prospect Handbook, but knowing the Sickels version is still another couple of weeks away, I’ve spent this weekend making another pass through the player reports. There’s a good chance that many of the guys I’m holding out on won’t be covered, but I’d rather be sure than just assume that.

Yesterday’s transaction post from Baseball America had but one name, Tim Alderson, a 26-y.o. RHP who began 2014 as a reliever for Baltimore’s AAA team in the International League and finished with seven starts in eight appearances for Oakland’s High-A entry in the California League.

(Yeah, the news is still slow).

So after you’ve enjoyed the brief respite from the winter weather, feel free to take a look at the player reports while we await the start of spring training.

Feb 062015
 

Picking up where we left off, here are Washington’s nos. 16 through 31 in the 2015 Baseball America Prospect Handbook:

16. Taylor Hill 21. Spencer Kieboom 26. Drew Vettleson
17. Jake Johansen (8) 22. Raudy Read 27. Hector Silvestre
18. Felipe Rivero 23. Matt Grace 28. John Simms
19. Jefry Rodriguez (21) 24. Matt Skole (4) 29. Robbie Dickey
20. Rafael Bautista (28) 25. Victor Robles 30. Nick Lee (26)
31. Wander Suero


One of the things that struck me was how some of the prospects remained on the list despite injuries and/or poor performance, which may be acceptable for a younger player, but not so much for the older player. Yes, the Nationals skew older because they draft older, but it sometimes feels like incumbency (or dexterity) is given far too much credence.

Almost half of the 2015 list was not on the 2014 list, which is not unusual given the nature of the beast. Let’s take a look at how the newcomers break down:

2014 Draft — Erick Fedde (4), Jakson Reetz (14), Robbie Dickey (29)

2013 Draft — John Simms (28)

2012 Draft — Spencer Kieboom (21)

2011 Draft — Taylor Hill (16)

2010 Draft — Matt Grace (23)

Int’l Free Agent — Reynaldo Lopez (3), Wilmer Difo (7), Raudy Read (22), Victor Robles (25), Hector Silvestre (27)

Trade — Felipe Rivero (18), Drew Vettleson (26)

As alluded yesterday, there seem to be some returns coming out of the Dominican Republic five years past the “Dark Times of 2009,” with five of the newcomers and nine overall signed by the Nationals from the Caribbean nation, all since 2010. That may not be enough to satisfy the tastes of the folks who want Puig-like spending, but perhaps aren’t aware of the gamble that entails (3rd graf).

BA’s pandering to fantasy baseball fans three-year projection is back, but before I reveal it, a reminder of what BA projected in 2012* about the 2015 Washington lineup:
* The 2012 book went to press before the Gio Gonzalez trade; originally the nos. 3-5 pitchers were Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole, and Matt Purke.
C – Wilson Ramos
1B – Michael Morse
2B – Anthony Rendon
SS – Danny Espinosa
3B – Ryan Zimmerman
LF – Jayson Werth
CF – Brian Goodwin
RF – Bryce Harper
#1P – Stephen Strasburg
#2P – Jordan Zimmermann
#3P – Gio Gonzalez
#4P – Matt Purke
#5P – Sammy Solis
CL – Drew Storen

And what we could see in 2018 (pay no attention to injuries, trades, or free agency):

C – Wilson Ramos
1B – Ryan Zimmerman
2B – Tony Renda
SS – Ian Desmond
3B – Anthony Rendon
LF – Steven Souza** Brian Goodwin
CF – Michael Taylor
RF – Bryce Harper
#1P – Stephen Strasburg
#2P – Jordan Zimmermann
#3P – Lucas Giolito
#4P – Doug Fister
#5P – Gio Gonzalez
CL – Reynaldo Lopez
** Same logic applied as in 2012 edits: Goodwin selected because he was the next-highest-rated OF

Jan 312015
 

Morning Reading 2If you’re here to find out which team Kim Kardashian’s favorite prospect thinks will win the Super Bowl, well then maybe the SEO ad partner I hired isn’t so bad after all.

As the post title and pic suggests, here are few items to stew on while the dreaded month of January comes to a close.

Keith Law has ranked the Nationals farm system 9th overall, up from No. 18 last year, and the highest he’s ever ranked the Nationals (H/T Todd Boss, who lays down some more Law in his latest post).

MLB.com, who seemed to know that its audience was probably home, unveiled its Top 100 prospects last night on the MLB Network. Lucas Giolito (6th), A.J. Cole (52nd) both moved up from last year’s rankings (44 and 69 respectively), while Michael Taylor debuted at No. 42 and “San Diego” shortstop Trea Turner came in at No. 62. Baseball Prospectus has yet to reveal its Top 101, while Law put six Nats in his Top 100.

In transaction news, Baseball America notes that the Nationals have signed former Reds OF Derrick Robinson, who missed 2014 due to shoulder surgery, and IF Grant DeBruin, who spent the past two seasons in the Frontier League after going undrafted in 2012 after playing for Div. II Univ. of Alabama-Huntsville.

Finally, MASN has announced there will be seven games broadcast this year (all times 1 p.m. except March 26, which is at 5 p.m.):

• Sat., March 7 vs. Cardinals • Mon., March 9 vs. Braves • Wed., March 11 vs. Tigers • Mon., March 16 vs. Astros
• Mon., March 23 vs. Yankees • Thu., March 26 vs. Mets • Sat., April 4 vs. Yankees  
Jan 252015
 

Somehow, we almost made it through January without having to do this annual “feature” about how (almost) nothing’s going on.

How bad is it? Beat writers have resorted to noting that the Rangers now have two former Nationals pitchers named Ross

We’re also at the point where the signing of non-roster invitees is over-reported. If the Rule 5 Draft is the most overblown aspect of the offseason, the annual parade of has-beens, never-weres, and favors-to-the-agents through camp is a very close second.

The latest BA transaction post refers to those two along with the re-signing of C Brian Jeroloman while noting the releases of RHP Pedro Encarnacion, LHP Elisaul Gomez, and C Kyle Bacak, who was released shortly before being suspended for 50 games for testing positive for amphetamines which will probably end his career if his 4-for-30 effort in 12 games between the GCL and Auburn did not.

Aside from the shocking* news that the Hagerstown Suns haven’t been able to get a naming-rights partner, there’s not much else.
* Well, no, not really