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.

Jan 282013
 

no25John Sickels has released his second annual farm system rankings, and if you haven’t guessed where the Nats came in by now… have I got some real estate in Florida for you!

All kidding aside, you can tell from his lengthy intro that this is something he’s doing mostly to appease his readers, but also to make the point that things change rapidly — the James Shields trade for Kansas City and Justin Upton trade for Atlanta, for example, dropped them from Top 10 systems in 2012 to No. 21 and 27 respectively. It’s nice to have a top-ranked farm system, but it’s not as important as developing talent that can play for your major-league team — now and in the future.

From that perspective, the Nationals have obviously succeeded, which I’ve mentioned before.

Sickels ranked the Nationals #14 last year. They’re now ranked #25, right about where I would have guessed, even if the recent Baseball America book had them at #16. No sense paraphrasing his short comment, as this will sound awful familiar:

Strengths: Anthony Rendon and Brian Goodwin have star potential. Considerable raw material for a pitching staff. Weaknesses: They are banking a lot on injured pitchers recovering well. Many prospects are too old for their levels.

Rankings like these are by their very nature subjective — some folks put a premium on having multiple prospects with high ceilings, others prefer a system to have both depth and diversification. Never mind the philosophical differences about when and how to draft and/or develop pitchers vs. position players.

Take it for what it’s worth — something to talk about for a while in late January that most folks will forget by mid-February.

Jan 262013
 

Picking up from our last post, here are nos. 16 through 31 in the 2013 BA Prospect Handbook…

16. Ricky Hague, SS/2B (15)
17. Destin Hood, OF (11)
18. Robbie Ray, LHP (17)
19. Brett Mooneyham, LHP
20. Corey Brown, OF
21. Estarlin Martinez, OF
22. Brandon Miller, OF
23. Chris Marrero, 1B (12)
24. Carlos Rivero, 3B/SS
25. Steven Souza, OF
26. Billy Burns, OF
27. Ivan Pineyro, RHP
28. Paul Demny, RHP (29)
29. Wirkin Estevez, RHP
30. Jhonatan Solano, C
31. Shawn Pleffner, 1B

As mentioned previously, a sizable portion of this list is what prospect followers would call “old” — others might call them 4A, some folks would have an entirely different opinion — which is what happens with the draft tilting so heavily towards collegiate players. Drafting last in the Rule 4 draft, in a year that is considered one of the weakest in recent memory (insert “Girlwatching” joke here), one has to wonder if this is when Nationals GM Mike Rizzo finally starts to roll the dice on some HS guys.

Let’s take a look at how the newcomers to the BA list were acquired:

2012 Draft — Lucas Giolito (2), Tony Renda (12), Brett Mooneyham (19), Brandon Miller (22)

2011 Draft — Billy Burns (26), Shawn Pleffner (31)

2009 Draft — Nathan Karns (5)

2007 Draft — Steven Souza (25)

Int’l Free Agents — Estarlin Martinez (21), Ivan Pineyro (27), Wirkin Estevez (29), Jhonatan Solano (30)

Domestic Free Agent — Christian Garcia (6)

Waiver Claim — Carlos Rivero (24)

Trade — Corey Brown (20)

That’s quite a hodge-podge, with two of the team’s Top 10 coming out of nowhere to the casual fan. I’m tempted to lump in “fantasy” with “casual,” but I’m aware that there’s a subset of folks that are into prospects for the purposes of getting a Christian Garcia or Nathan Karns onto their team. If only there were a way to make a buck off ‘em the way BA can…

The better news, of course, is that 27 of these 31 are homegrown. In addition to spending big and taking risks, I believe BA rewards this in terms of ranking the organizations (#1 St. Louis is 30 of 31). Four more tidbits before we close out with a look at the 2016 Nationals…

…Taylor Jordan is their breakout prospect for 2013, citing the return of his 96 mph heater. Having seen him in 2010, I can understand the hype if indeed he’s fully recovered from TJ surgery and progressed accordingly.

…Perhaps not coincidentally, Karns is listed second and Jordan third in the RHSP depth chart behind, of course, Giolito

…Shawn Pleffner is their sleeper for 2013, noting that 2011 was lost to injury (sports hernia), which somewhat validates my decision to include him on the watchlist.

…With Matt Skole still not officially recognized as a 1B, Chris Marrero is still the top-rated 1B in the organization (which in part is why I included Pleffner and Kevin Keyes)

The 2016 Nationals (pay no attention to injuries, trades, or free agents)
C – Wilson Ramos
1B – Ryan Zimmerman
2B – Danny Espinosa
SS – Ian Desmond
3B – Anthony Rendon
LF – Brian Goodwin
CF – Denard Span
RF – Bryce Harper
#1P – Stephen Strasburg
#2P – Lucas Giolito
#3P – Gio Gonzalez
#4P – Jordan Zimmermann
#5P – Ross Detwiler
CL – Drew Storen

Like your rural pothead, BA likes ‘em homegrown — 12 of those 14 to be exact. I can buy Giolito’s ceiling, but the #2 SP after what will undoubtedly be two innings-limited seasons? Sure, and that’s just a lamp…

Jan 252013
 

2013-BA-Prospect-HandbookThe 2013 Baseball America Prospects book is here and the staff is reviewing it. As much as I like to bash BA, I can’t ignore them, either. Like it or not, when it comes to prospects, the conversation starts with them. Fine by me, because I think the recent anointing of the Brothers Upton is proof positive that baseball fans are desperate for winter to end (that, and lately, narrative in sportswriting has been cheap and easy).

Like last year, I’m doing multiple posts to spread out the material and have fodder for discussion.

As mentioned in the comments, I was shocked to see that the system came in at #16 — I was expecting somewhere in the mid-20s. And this does not include the return of A.J. Cole. Much like 2011, the folks in Durham really approved of the gamble taken with the drafting of Lucas Giolito.

Let’s take a look at what happened to last year’s Top 26 (remember, the Gio Gonzalez trade happened after the book went to press).

Graduated (3) — Bryce Harper, Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore

Rule 5 Draft, Taken (2) — Jeff Kobernus, Danny Rosenbaum

Traded (2) — Alex Meyer, David Freitas

Dropped Out (4) — Kylin Turnbull, Cole Kimball, Kevin Keyes, Adrian Sanchez

So a little more than than half (15/26) of last year’s list is the same. Half of it has been signed since GM Mike Rizzo has become GM. One-fifth (6) are IFAs signed by the Nationals. A bit more of a mild surprise: six of the thirty will be 25 or older by midseason, which is somewhat of an indictment of Washington’s collegiate drafting bias, but one would have thought that more these guys would have been passed over in favor of 2012 draftees.

Today, I’ll leave you with the Top 15 Prospects listed in the book, then pass along 16-30 in Part Two. Where applicable, last year’s ranking is in parentheses:

1. Anthony Rendon, 3B (2)
2. Lucas Giolito, RHP
3. Brian Goodwin, OF (5)
4. Matt Skole, 3B (21)
5. Nathan Karns, RHP
6. Christian Garcia, RHP
7. Eury Perez, OF (22)
8. Sammy Solis, LHP (8)
9. Matt Purke, LHP (7)
10. Zach Walters, SS (19)
11. Michael Taylor, OF (14)
12. Tony Renda, 2B
13. Taylor Jordan, RHP (31)
14. Jason Martinson, SS/3B (25)
15. Sandy Leon, C (24)

Jan 222013
 

Morning ReadingYikes. Between the cold, the forecast of snow this week, and the dearth of news, it’s been a rough January.

For the newbies, when you see the kid with the newspaper, it means things are slow here and I’m just doing a post to keep the site fresh, passing a couple of baseball-related tidbits. It’s also a reference to my days as a small-town reporter (How small? Let’s just say the expression “Everybody knows what everybody does ’round here; we just read the paper to see who got caught” isn’t that far off).

Our friend Shawn in Hagerstown has been doing one of his winter staples: Interviewing some of his favorite ex-Suns, which unfortunately, at this time, is also an ex-Nat: Danny Rosenbaum. Check out the first(1) three(2) parts(3) of his interview. Part four should be coming soon.

The subject of attendance came in the comments, specifically to Syracuse most recently, but a staple of discussion from time to time. Someone with too much time on his hands (no word on the bar stool), David Kronheim of NumberTamer.com, has released his annual minor-league attendance analysis. A few of things I found interesting:

  • 2012 was the best year ever for the Carolina League in terms of total attendance and average per date (though all of that is attributable to Carolina replacing Kinston; the other seven teams had a net decline of 1.5%)
  • Attendance in the International League fell the most (159,620) continuing a three-year trend since breaking 7M in ’09
  • Harrisburg topped 200,000 for the 25th time in 26 seasons, posting its 3rd best season since 1991
  • Hagerstown’s attendance was its lowest since 1981, dropping 36,164 total and 565 per date.
  • Auburn’s attendance increased 15.2% from 2011, begging the question (not answered) — how much of that was attributable to winning (unlikely) vs. the economy (likely)

Last, but not least, in my quest to find a worthy competitor to Rutt’s Hut or The Root Beer Stand there is a new quest: The Big League Hotdog Company.

Jan 152013
 

More ST cutsIt’s a weird world we live in when a mere tweet can be the peg for a news story.

Such was the case yesterday when Jake Skole, the younger sibling of Matt Skole, congratulated his brother on his invite to Washington Nationals spring training, prompting this story from Byron Kerr, who confirmed it independently. The younger Skole’s feelings were echoed by teammate Jason Martinson (both of which I retweeted).

Hours later, Ryan Tatusko gave out the props to his AAA teammate Zach Walters for the same honor. Neither invite has been officially confirmed as of this writing, with the Nationals PR Twitter account dark since Friday.

Like most non-roster invitees, Skole and Walters do not have a strong chance of making the parent club this spring, but the invite is significant nevertheless because it means more time spent in Viera with the major-league coaches.

The logical inference is that both will spend time working on their defense. Walters has been pegged by some as having a future as a utilityman, and if so, will need to refine his defense at the non-SS positions and learn the OF, a la Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore last year.

Skole spent time at 1B in the Arizona Fall League and it’s probably fair to deduce he’ll spend more time learning the position, given that No. 1 prospect Anthony Rendon also plays 3B (and some other guy in DC).

Finally, in keeping with the theme of news-by-Twitter, MLB.com beat reporter Bill Ladson is reporting that former Dodgers/Pirates UT Delwyn Young has been signed to minor-league deal with no invite. The 30-year-old Young, perhaps most famous in Nats lore for hitting a two-run HR in Stephen Strasburg’s MLB debut in 2010, played just 35 games in 2012 with the Camden Riversharks after failing to make the White Sox out of Spring Training.

UPDATE:
This afternoon the Nationals officially announced the spring-training invites of LHPs Fernando Abad, Bill Bray, Brandon Mann, RHP Ross Ohlendorf and IF Will Rhymes, which were previously reported here, here, there, and everywhere, along with the official announcements for Skole and Walters.

They also extended non-roster invitations to C Carlos Maldonado, LHP Pat McCoy, and RHP Tanner Roark and officially announced that pitchers and catchers are due to report on February 12, position players on February 15.

Jan 132013
 

As Spike used to say... mehPerhaps the most depressing thing is that this is the third time I’ve had to write this kind of post, thanks to the news slowdown. Today’s spring-like weather certainly won’t help because, like the first full week after a long weekend (or, say, a winter break), when it gets cold again (it is January, after all,) it’ll seem just a little worse.

Just like last January, there’s blather chatter from the “A” ball affiliates regarding new facilities. In Hagerstown, a grandstanding city councilman suggests putting out a bid for ballpark proposals, which sounds reasonable to folks unfamiliar with how minor-league baseball operates. Ballpark Digest explains why that’s a chimera.

Meanwhile, in Potomac, the filet mignon that’s going to be tomorrow night’s special at the diner is scheduled to be one of the highlights of the P-Nats’ Hot Stove Banquet next week. If that sounds familiar, well, perhaps that’s because you’ve seen it before. (For those wondering, the Senators’ event is on the 26th, the Chiefs hold theirs on February 1st, while Doubledays are on the 2nd.)

Not much else to report, unfortunately. Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Jan 102013
 

Big In JapanUnfortunately, he’s an American returning back to affiliated baseball for the first time in three years. Sorry.

Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com has reported that LHP Brandon Mann has signed a minor-league deal with the Washington Nationals. The deal also includes an invite to spring training.

The 28-year-old southpaw has spent the past two seasons in Japan with the Yokohama BayStars, going 1-1 with a 1.16 ERA in 12 relief appearances in 2011, but just 2-8 with a 5.32 ERA (though a decent 1.357 WHIP) in 15 starts in 2012. He was originally drafted by Tampa Bay in the 27th Rd. of the 2002 draft as a HS pick from Des Moines, WA.

Mann reached as high as AA in 2009 when he went 7-9 with a 4.44 ERA in 27 appearances (21 starts) with Montgomery. As a MLFA, he hooked on with the L.A. Dodgers in 2010 but was dropped down to High-A and released after 37 games in relief, going 3-0 but posting a 4.12 ERA and a 1.833 WHIP. He was picked up by the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs later that season and made five starts for a 1-2 record and a 5.14 ERA, 1.643 WHIP.

Jan 092013
 

As the previous post indicated, I’ve been working on the player reports for the 2013 Watchlist and have completed the “first draft,” if you will. After the book from Baseball America and the .PDF from John Sickels are received and reviewed, I’ll fill in the “Report Not Yet Written” entries and revise/rewrite the others as needed.

With the signing of Adam LaRoche, we can hope that the dominoes will begin to fall elsewhere in baseball, eventually rippling down to the AAA and AA levels. Invariably, folks are talking trade for Michael Morse, which GM Mike Rizzo can deny isn’t inevitable with all the sincerity of a college basketball coach.
Personally, I’d much rather write a story about “the new guys” than run another pic of Spike forlornly looking out the back window, but I digress.

As always, feel free to discuss in the comments while we wait out the winter.

Jan 062013
 

Plugging AwayAs mentioned previously, we’re in a slow stretch here… typical of this time of year, but still a bit painful.

I know the casual fans are dying for new on if/when/whether Adam LaRoche will re-sign, a drama which is playing out elsewhere in MLB — most notably in St. Louis, where Kyle Lohse must wonder if he’s a convertible in an Alaskan used-car lot. For those confused by the bad metaphor, Lohse is one of a handful of free agents, along with LaRoche, who received a qualifying offer that requires the signing team to lose a draft pick and a share of their 2013 Draft bonus purse.

Confused? Well, there’s a reason why front offices can have more law degrees than baseball pedigrees. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold outlines the added cost of signing such a free agent, which might explain this tortoise fight.

As the headline says, I’ve finished the final two essays — DSL Guys and M*A*S*H — and have done what I can (sans the prospect books for the guys I haven’t seen) for the catchers, first basemen, LHPs, and RHPs.