Dec 142012
 

International SignWith a H/T to Marcus for bringing this to my attention, the Nationals have signed a 16-year-old third baseman Neivy Pilier for $225,000 — the second-largest spend since the infamous 2006 signing of 16-year-old Esmailyn Gonzalez 20-year-old Carlos Alvarez.
(Centerfielder Luis Guzman was signed this past July for $385K).

Baseball America broke the news first, describing him as:

At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Pilier has a quick bat with lift and occasional power in his righthanded swing, though he’s at his best when he stays with a line-drive approach and uses the middle of the field. He has a strong arm that fits well at third base, though with his youth and size he’s still trying to improve his footwork.

Pilier reportedly turned 16 on August 1st, and according to Adam Kilgore’s post, must still undergo MLB’s vetting for age and indentity.

In other news, the Nationals continue to stockpile minor-league veterans with the signing of 27-year-old Brian Bocock, who is most likely going to see time in Syracuse next summer.

Dec 112012
 

Now that the Rule 5 draft is over, it’s time to finalize the 2013 NationalsProspects.com Watchlist.

Most of the changes I made from when we discussed this a couple weeks ago are fairly obvious — players lost to the Rule 5, Denard Span trade have been removed; a couple of switches from one column to the next based on the comments that persuaded me. There were no major changes to the position/pitcher categories; I was not convinced to make a change.

So what’s next?

Well, I’m in the process of cleaning up the original 2011 watchlist — when I was forced to switch WordPress themes last summer, I never got around to reformatting the player reports — and renaming pages to make it easier to navigate. Just a heads up in case you’re searching through the player reports, which of course, a post like this may inspire. (Typos will still be blamed on the either the current copyeditor or the previous one)

Once that’s done, I’ll start to write the player reports that I can (i.e. the Potomac players) while I await the Baseball America and John Sickels books to hit the streets and/or e-mail in January.

In the meantime, I’d recommend folks take a peek at the idea I will steal from him next year excellent work Todd Boss has done aggregating Sickels’ opinions on the Nats’ 2012 draft along with his own work detailing how the entire class did in their first pro season.

C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Leon Marrero Sanchez Walters Rivero E. Perez
Kieboom Bloxom Renda Hague Rendon Goodwin
Manuel Keyes Foat Martinson Skole Hood
P. Severino Pleffner Lippincott Difo D. Eusebio Taylor
Oduber
Souza
Burns
McQuillan
B. Miller
E. Martinez
W. Ramos
Piwinica-Worms
RHPs LHPs DSL Guys M*A*S*H Notables (Bats) Notables (Arms)
Garcia Ray O. Abreu Meyers Brown Lehman
E. Davis Grace Bautista Komatsu Solano Kimball
Demny Meza Diaz Selik Dykstra W. Estevez
Karns Lee E. Gomez Solis Ramsey Schwartz
Wort Mooneyham Novas Applebee Nieto Pineyro
Holland Barrientos Read Purke Mesa C. Davis
Barrett Je. Rodriguez Jordan S. Perez I. Heredia
Rauh Ruiz Anderson Jennings Williams
Encarnacion Silvestre M. Rodriguez
Hudgins Valerio Giolito
Mendez
Vasquez

Maroon = Top 10 Position Player
Indigo = Top 10 Pitcher

Dec 072012
 

Of course, the big news this week in transactions were the signing of Dan Haren, pending a physical (best guess: announcement made tonight during the five o’clock hour for the benefit of talk-radio chatter) and the selection of four Nationals in yesterday’s Rule 5 draft.

A couple of, well, minor signs have also been made in the past couple weeks, which I’ve neglected to report in the hopes that this week’s transactions post from Baseball America would have more (it did not).

• LHP Bobby Bramhall — A former Miami Marlin (2012) and Milwaukee Brewers farmhand (2007-2010), who, of course, has had Tommy John surgery, which is why he did not pitch in 2011. According to this scouting report, he’s a soft tosser that’s best suited to becoming a LOOGY.

• LHP Bill Bray was brought back into the organization after he elected free agency in early November, refusing to report to the minors after injuries (groin, back) limited him to 14 appearances for the Cincinnati Reds in 2012. Bray was a first-round pick in the 2004 draft for Montreal and was traded away in July 2006 as part of an eight-player deal that brought journeyman Austin Kearns and the immortal Felipe Lopez to Washington.

As mentioned in the comments, the Nationals are very likely to sign more MLFA pitchers over the next few weeks, in part to replace those “lost” yesterday as well as what appears to be the modus operandi of the Nats this time of year.

Dec 062012
 

For the second straight year, two Nationals were selected during the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft — LHP Danny Rosenbaum and 2B Jeff Kobernus.

Rosenbaum was selected third by the Colorado Rockies. Colorado Rockies blog Purple Row describes the selection:

Rosenbaum will compete for a bullpen job vacated by Matt Reynolds. Josh Outman had been penciled in as the second lefty in the bullpen, joining Rex Brothers, but this move allows Outman to start, or for Colorado to have three lefties in their pen.

Kobernus was taken seventh by the Boston Red Sox, then subsequently traded to the Detroit Tigers for 28-year-old AAA utilityman Justin Henry. Not coincidentally, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski was quoted via MLB.com’s Justin Beck:

We not only like his ability to play second, but we think that perhaps — and he hasn’t really done much of it — he could have some versatility where we might be able to move him to the outfield and get some playing time there

In the 1st round of the AAA phase, the Red Sox “struck” again by taking Boston native Jack McGeary, while Hector Nelo was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round. Unlike the MLB phase, these players do not have to be offered back to the original club.

McGeary had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and has only pitched 25⅓ innings in 2011 and 2012 — all but 7⅔ innings in the GCL. He was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2007 draft.

Nelo was signed as a minor-league free agent in April 2011 after being released by the Texas Rangers. While capable of throwing in the triple digits, the 26-year-old Miami-born Floridian had a radar-gun strike zone, meaning the higher the number the more likely it was a ball if the batter did not swing.

As expected, the Nationals did not make any picks in the MLB phase. A slight surprise: They also passed in the AAA and AA phases as well.

The 2012 Watchlist
has been updated to reflect the selections.

Dec 062012
 

The Rule 5 Draft is this morning, the anticlimactic denouement to the 2012 Winter Meetings.

As written last month, it’s nearly certain that the Nationals will not be taking anybody in the major-league phase, which is rather typical for first-division/contenders. Instead, there’s a chance that a couple of farmhands may be taken as they were a year ago.

However, there’s a difference between players selected and actually being gone for good. Both picks last year — Brad Meyers and Erik Komatsu — were eventually returned.

Here’s another pass at who might get taken, filtered through the lens of the most common categories of players selected in the MLB phase:

Relievers 4th OF Utility IF
Pat Lehman Destin Hood Jeff Kobernus
Paul Demny    
Pat McCoy    
Rob Wort    

Of this group, only Lehman has AAA experience, which makes him the most likely to get selected, followed by Kobernus. But both are longshots in the big picture. There’s probably a better chance of the Nationals having players taken in the AAA and AA phases (and vice-versa), but as written previously, it’s impossible to even guess who because the protected lists are not publicly released.

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.

Dec 032012
 

Let me get me this out there and put a more clear deadline. Like we did for the Nats bats, I’m soliciting votes for the NationalsProspects.com Top 10 Pitchers.

The plan is to do the post on Wed., so send your Top 10 list to enfieldmass-top10arms[at]yahoo[dot]com (link will open your preferred email client) before 3 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, Dec. 4).

Same methodology… 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.

The only restriction: You can’t vote for anyone who is not a prospect (defined as having a rookie status, which is less than 130AB, 50IP, or 45 days of service during the 25-man roster limit period). Ordinarily, this isn’t necessary to point out, but with Ryan Perry getting so much press, it needs to be.

This, in conjunction with the better timing, ought to produce more participation, though we’ve long seen that pitchers produce the most passion, emotion, and discussion — here and elsewhere.

UPDATE:
Still taking votes… Also, to preserve what little statistical relevance this exercise has, I have to discard lists of less than ten. Thanks!.

Dec 022012
 

Compiling these was an interesting exercise this time around. The turnout was a little lighter, which is probably my fault for waiting so late on Friday to make a call for submissions, but I think there’s enough here to go on and make a post.

The No. 1 guy was unanimous: Anthony Rendon. Like fans of Gus Johnson, this was a no-brainer.

Our No. 2 was pretty close, too: Brian Goodwin was named on all the submissions and was #2 on all the ballots but one.

After that, things get fuzzy. No. 3 (Matt Skole) was significantly ahead of No. 4 (Eury Perez) in terms of weighting (74-53) but was left off one ballot. Perez was omitted from two. Leon, the No. 5 guy, was omitted from four.

In some ways, it’s a microcosm of the system itself: Most folks can agree on the top few, but after that, it’s a free-for-all. That’s why I decided to post now versus waiting one more day (well, that, and years of research that shows that sometimes you can cut through the noise by taking advantage of how slow it can be on a Sunday).

Without further ado, here’s the list:

1. Anthony Rendon
2. Brian Goodwin
3. Matt Skole
4. Eury Perez
5. Sandy Leon
6. Jason Martinson
7. Zach Walters
8. Chris Marrero
9. Corey Brown
10. Tony Renda

Others receiving votes: Michael Taylor, Estarlin Martinez, Destin Hood, Ricky Hague, Jeff Kobernus, Brandon Miller, Wander Ramos, Erik Komatsu, Steve Souza, Carlos Rivero, Spencer Kieboom, Jhonatan Solano

The list certainly tilts towards the upper minors, with the exception of Renda. A lot folks gave props to players on the verge — Nos. 7-9 in particular, Komatsu, Rivero, and Solano in the “Others” — but injuries were punished severely (Kobernus, Hood) and defense, aside from catcher, didn’t seem to carry much weight (Taylor, Hague).

Unlike last year, there really aren’t any surprises about who missed the cut. Renda gets the benefit of the “new car smell,” while [troll]Taylor suffers from the gap between the offseason hype and the in-season performance, regardless of his age.[/troll]

Next up: The pitchers, which should be especially fun now that the best prospect without a sling in his wardrobe has been traded.

Nov 302012
 

Like last year, I’ve decided to solicit your input to compile the NationalsProspects.com Top 10 Position Players. I use the terms “bats” as shorthand for that, which lends itself much better for formatting and keeps the visual puns PG-rated, so please consider both offense and defense when you vote.

Here’s the dealio: Send your Top 10 list to enfieldmass-top10bats[at]yahoo[dot]com (link will open your preferred email client).

As I did last year, 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.

I felt like this went well in 2011, producing a better list than if I were to pick it on my own as it I did in 2010. It’s based on James Surowiecki’s “Wisdom of Crowds” theory that the aggregation of information in groups produces more accurate estimations or decisions than would any one member of the group.

Let’s see how it goes in 2012…

Nov 282012
 

Picking up where we left off, now you can see how I’ve decided to change things a bit. Obviously, the most disturbing is the long list of pitchers that have been hurt or had surgery. And it’s by no means comprehensive. But right now, it’s impossible to ignore them (the term “Nationals elbow” proffered in the comments would almost work, too) since a great deal of the system’s perceived value is predicated on their recovery to pre-surgery expectations.

Secondly, you can see that I’ve decided to group the DSL guys together. In fairness, I probably ought to do the same with the GCLers for much the same reasons — it’s purely numbers-based on small sample sizes. I’ve also had a spotty track record picking these guys, which reminds me of what the prospect gurus warned about getting too excited about the short-season guys.

Finally, the last two columns are a means of acknowledging the ones that don’t quite merit full-fledged watchlist treatment, but are often discussed or mentioned (e.g. Jhonatan Solano). Perhaps it’s a pre-emptive strike (“Hey, what about __________?”), or maybe it’s a nod to the “fan” compartment of the site. As a former newspaperman, I’d like to think the age-old axiom about names (“good or bad, people like to see names in the paper”) translates online.

Hope folks like the changes. Let me know in the comments.

RHPs LHPs DSL Guys M*A*S*H Notables (Bats) Notables (Arms)
Garcia Rosenbaum O. Abreu B. Meyers Brown Lehman
E. Davis Ray Bautista Selik Komatsu Kimball
Demny Grace Diaz Solis Solano W. Estevez
A. Meyer Meza E. Gomez Applebee Ramsey Schwartz
Karns Lee Novas Purke Nieto Pineyro
Wort Mooneyham Read Jordan Mesa C. Davis
Holland Barrientos Je. Rodriguez McGeary S. Perez I. Heredia
Barrett   Ruiz Anderson Jennings Williams
Rauh   Silvestre M. Rodriguez    
Encarnacion   Valerio Giolito    
Hudgins          
Mendez          
Vasquez