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          
Nov 272012
 

With the season reviews complete, the Arizona Fall League finished, and the Rule 5 draft upcoming, it’s time to start looking towards the next iteration of the watchlist. I use the word “iteration” because I prefer to see this as something that’s evolving; Last year, I decided to be more exclusive. This year, I decided to change some of the categorizations to balance both workload and utility.

The changes will be much more visible in part two and thus I’ll go into it in more detail then. In the meantime, here are some of the usual caveats…

It’s not a depth chart… Obviously, when you arrange it the way I have — by the highest level played to date — it’s going to look like it at first glance. But when there’s a “tie,” I can either go alphabetical order or (for the most part) list the player that played more games at the position/level.

It’s based on 2012 usage… Yes, there’s one rather big (6’3″, 225) exception at first base, but that’s more of an acknowledgment of the certainty I feel about Keyes’s position switch in instrux vs. Skole’s usage in the AFL (i.e. there’s a better chance of Skole still playing at 3B than Keyes returning to the OF).

It’s preliminary… I like how Sickels takes feedback with his prospect lists, so part of the purpose of these posts is to listen to your comments (the other part is to keep the traffic coming, *wink, wink*).

As I’ve written previously, let’s not forget players and their families (and their agents) are readers here, too. It’s okay to be critical, but let’s keep it as civil as we can and focused on what the players do (or don’t do) on the field.

C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Leon Marrero Kobernus Walters Rivero E. Perez
Kieboom Bloxom Sanchez Hague Rendon Goodwin
Manuel Keyes Renda Martinson Skole Hood
P. Severino Pleffner Foat Difo D. Eusebio Taylor
    Lippincott     Oduber
          Souza
          Burns
          McQuillan
          B. Miller
          E. Martinez
          W. Ramos
          Piwinica-Worms
Nov 212012
 

Waiting deep into the night to make the announcement, the Washington Nationals added RHPs Nathan Karns and Erik Davis to the 40-man roster in preparation for next month’s Rule 5 draft.

Karns, of course, was the expected selection — the Nationals Minor-League Pitcher of the Year, leader in minor-league wins, strikeouts, WHIP, and opponent batting average, not to mention the mustache. Injuries delayed the 2009 12th-Rd. pick’s ascent, with shoulder surgery sidelining him for 2010 and limiting him to 13 appearances in 2011, in which he went 3-2 with a 2.28 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and 59K in 55⅓ innings. This past season he went 11-4 between Hagerstown and Potomac with a 2.17 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and 148K in 116 innings. The Texan native turns 25 on Sunday.

Davis was the wildcard pick. Even with the benefit of hindsight (i.e. Rizzo’s habit of favoring guys that he acquired), this is still a mild shock. As many of the beat writers pointed out, Davis’s strong showing in the Dominican Winter League — 3-0, 0.56ERA, 16K in 16IP — was likely a predicating factor for the move. After finishing 2011 with a demotion from Harrisburg to Potomac (and even worse numbers in High-A than AA), Davis turned it around in 2012 with a 8-3, 2.71, 1.247 pitching line overall, with 40 appearances for Harrisburg and eight in Syracuse. The Stanford grad/native turned 26 last month.

Nov 202012
 

Today is the deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters in preparation for the Rule 5 draft on December 6th. Like the Kardashians, this gets WAY more attention than it deserves, but people can’t help themselves from writing about it, largely because we’re in a dead zone between the end-of-season awards and the Baseball Winter Meetings.

Unlike years past, the Nationals are more likely to “lose” a player than get one (at least in the major-league phase). Quotes because both players lost last December — Erik Komatsu and Brad Meyers — were eventually returned, both undergoing surgery during the season.

The rules are pretty simple: Players that signed at 19 or older and have been in the organization for four years or players that signed at 18 or younger and have been in the organization for five years — if they’re not on the 40-man by tonight, they’re eligible. As noted in the comments, this basically boils down to 2009 college picks and 2008 HSers and IFAs.

ELIGIBLE FOR THE FIRST TIME

Pat Lehman* Destin Hood* Paul Applebee* Graham Hicks
Jeff Kobernus* Sean Nicol Matt Swynenberg* Dean Weaver
Danny Rosenbaum* Justin Bloxom J.P. Ramirez Bobby Hansen Jr.
Paul Demny* Nathan Karns* Adrian Nieto* Shane McCatty
Trevor Holder Rob Wort Taylor Jordan Andruth Ramirez

Asterisks are for the 2012 Watchlist players and italics are for players that were either hurt, had surgery, or are believed to have had surgery. I’m italicizing both Karns and Jordan to illustrate the more salient point that other organizations may deem their health as suspect. I’m focusing on the first-timers because picks on subsequently eligible players are uncommon (you can look at last year’s list if you need further convincing).

As you can see, there aren’t very many players that were both healthy and high-profile — just five of these 20. Of those five, just two played at AA (Demny and Rosenbaum) and one at AAA (Lehman). Teams picking anyone else are going to be gambling that the player’s injury is healed and didn’t impede their development.

As of this writing, there are only four spots available on the 40-man roster. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Nationals will both add players and outright players to preserve space for free agents and waiver claims. I’ll admit to being fuzzy on the precise rules, but there doesn’t appear to be any restrictions on waivers made prior to the November 30th non-tender deadline.

I believe we’ll see two players protected: Karns and Rosenbaum. While both are starting pitchers currently, both could be hidden in a losing ballclub’s bullpen. Here’s why I’m not convinced on the others at the AA level or above. This is not an indictment of the player, just an interpretation of how/why the Washington Nationals will decline to add him to the 40-man roster…

…Lehman, like Josh Wilkie before him, is probably going to be exposed to the draft because he doesn’t throw hard enough for the organization’s tastes.

…As mentioned yesterday, scouts have noticed a drop in Demny’s velocity, which, coupled with his struggles at Harrisburg, might be enough for most teams to pass.

…The signing of Will Rhymes is a hint (to me at least) that Washington may risk losing Kobernus, not to mention his injury history overall.

…Hood is just too unaccomplished at AA and lacks the Eury Perez-like defensive/pinch-running tools to be stashed on an MLB bench.

Nov 172012
 

You might be surprised to learn that my mother hardly ever made these…

While we await this afternoon’s AFL Championship game — sorry, not likely to live-tweet; I’m in charge of the animals today, plus the dogs — let’s take a look some Nats-related stuff as we ease into that ugly time where everyday news is not a guarantee…

ANOTHER SIX-YEAR FREE AGENT SIGNING
The Rocket broke it: The Nationals have signed Caleb Clay, a 24-year-old six-year free agent from the Boston organization. Clay has already undergone Tommy John surgery (2007) but has stalled at AA for the past two years as a reliever after starting his first four seasons. SoxProspects pegs him thusly: “Over-the-top, fluid delivery. Lanky frame, still has some projection. Fastball sits between 88-90 mph with good sinking movement. Can induce a lot of groundballs, but he can also give up a lot of hard contact.”

His hallmark has been control, with a career rate of 2.9BB/9IP and season-best of 1.8 per in 2010, and since switching to relief he’s been able to get strikeouts — 8.2K/9IP the past two seasons with Portland. I was unable to confirm if he is still rocking this Balester-esque ‘stache. Best guess at this point: relief inventory for Harrisburg.

SPRING TRAINING SLATE UNVEILED
Mark Zuckerman is back on the beat and characterizes the Nationals 2013 spring schedule as a case for the Nationals to leave Viera, perhaps going to Ft. Myers. Negotiations have been ongoing for most of 2012, with the Nationals reportedly asking for millions of dollars’ worth of upgrades and Lee County trying to whittle down the price tag.

OPTIONS AND SERVICE TIME
Todd Boss over at NationalsArmRace.com has done the hard work on trying to break down the options and service time of the current Nationals roster. With the Nationals ascendancy, this has become less of an issue than it was a few seasons ago, but as we saw with the likes of Ryan Perry (today’s starter in the AFL championship game), it hasn’t gone away. You might want to bookmark this one as I anticipate we’ll be revisiting this issue in the next couple of weeks as we may see some moves that can be explained with this information.

Sep 232012
 

A little bit of a lull here, with not quite enough material for a full-fledged post or even a hold-me-over “Morning Reading.” But I’m going to be away for a few days, so I think it’s best to put something up here until I have a better news peg.

My friend Shawn attended the tour at Municipal Stadium, which is a rather bold move. Not because it’ll threaten the extension of the PDC — once Lexington signed with Kansas City, Hagerstown became the last man standing in the South Atlantic, all but ensuring that Washington will renew since it’s extremely unlikely the Nationals will leave for the Midwest League — but because it boxes them into new stadium or bust. (For those interested in some of the details of what’s known as the affiliate dance, Bluebird Banter had a story about it last week).

As we discussed earlier this year, events in Wilmington, NC and Lynchburg, VA bear watching. Wilmington has approved the lease for a new stadium, but not the means to pay for it, which goes to the voters in November. The Braves have reportedly promised to help with City of Lynchburg replace the Hillcats, which of course creates an opening. Kinston did not replace the Indians with a collegiate summer league team, so it doesn’t take too much imagination to envision a scenario where one or both of those cities could be a destination for the franchise to be moved — especially if they have two full years to work on it.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Sep 202012
 

For the past three seasons, a lot of the excitement of the Nationals farm system has been the presence of “generational talents” like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, and now lies in the Draft Class of 2011: Alex Meyer, Anthony Rendon, Brian Goodwin, Matt Purke and Kylin Turnbull, which, amusingly has been pictured on the header graphic for the Auburn Doubledays since last summer despite only one of the five ever setting foot on Falcon Field (on a rehab stint, no less).

There’s buzz about Rendon switching over to 2B during the AFL, with the not-so-subtle implication that he’ll be sending Danny Espinosa packing or to the bench. If Goodwin rakes in Arizona next month, I’d expect the same kind of talk with the more astute folks acknowledging that Eury Perez might make the club first, then step aside.

After that? It gets fuzzy fast.

The point, as I touched upon in “The State of the Nationals Farm,” is that the era of sure-fire, fast-rising replacements is coming to an end and the system is shifting gears towards (what we hope will be) producing a steady stream of players that may or may not play for Washington. Before you start scrolling down and berating me for not mentioning Alex Meyer, Nathan Karns, et al: The rules are always different when it comes to pitchers (see: Bundy, Dylan).

Which brings me to my biggest dilemma regarding the 2013 watchlist: How to handle folks that stalled or underperformed in 2012.

I made a conscious effort last year to be be more selective than in 2010, which reduced the overall number of guys from 89 to 69. A lot of this came from being more aggressive with cutting off older players, guys that were hurt, GCL gambles, and Rule 5 pickups. I still made some mistakes, particularly in the DSL, which I can live with because ignoring them entirely — as some prospect gurus would prefer, though mainly out of despair of being unable to answer questions about them — deprives us of some of the fun of being able to say “I had my eye on this guy before even he made it to Low-A,” not to mention the chance to make up a nickname like “Orange” or “For The Weekend” ;-)

So while I don’t have a set number in mind, I will do my best to make sure it’s above 50 — but I’m not terribly likely to rank them 1 to 50-something since that only leads to pointless arguments about why X is #Y instead of Z.

Graduating from the 2012 Watchlist are Harper, Steve Lombardozzi, and Tyler Moore. As I wrote last year, I don’t think serves much purpose to name who’s probably going to come off the list. I’d like to think most are fairly obvious, though I have some tough choices to make for the 2013 list when it comes to pitchers coming back from surgery and/or injury. I may even need to create a new category or two (*hint*).